Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dead dog or Our Energy Future

(No dogs were harmed in the writing of this blog)

MDM and I left Black Friday for Western Minnesota and a couple of State Parks that we haven't yet hiked, in this case, the Upper Sioux Agency and Blue Mounds. We drove out on highway 212 to just about Granite Falls and then south to the Upper Sioux Agency park. This is a beautiful park where the Yellow Medicine and Minnesota River meet with bluffs from both rivers creating hills and valleys aplenty. This hike keeps you up on the bluff where the Agency once stood and then drops you down into the Minnesota River valley. Vistas of river bottom farms, old oak forests up the sides of the bluffs and the sloughs around the confluence of the two rivers make this quite scenic.

We were the only people at the park so we decided to leave Sheila off her leash and see how she behaved. Our faith in her was rewarded as she skipped in the tall grass and shuffled from behind us to ahead of us nose down. The hike is listed as 4.5 miles and I bet she must have gone six with her weaving on and off the trail and the back and forth chasing mice in the grass. We did leash her up as we descended to the river as there deer and we wanted to make sure that she stayed with us. I don't think that I can overcome several millenniums of hunter that has been ingrained into my sweet puppy.

After that, we took State Highway 23 (which reaches from Duluth in the Northeast to Southwest corner of the state where Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota meet) through the Buffalo Ridge windmills. What a sight -- it was like looking at the future. Windmills turning as far as the eye could see, and in Western Minnesota that's a long way...

We made it to Blue Mounds and hiked on the top of the ridge between the buffalo range and the cliffs themselves. The wind was, ah, noticeable. It was chilly, but it didn't stop us from walking or the dog from a repeat performance of the up and back and the tall grass bounce. She caught the scent of a herd of deer, but they were a good 500 meters from us and they sprinted out of sight as soon as they saw her leap in the grass. As we made out from the Interpretive Center at the south end of the park, we came across a fresh deer carcass -- and I mean fresh. At first Sheila didn't quite figure out what she had there, but the nose told her what to do. She's really good and when we called her away from what was surely the most tempting thing she's seen in a long, long time, she reluctantly followed us down the path.

This hike is a 6.2 miler that is deceptive in that it is two loops, the main part of the park and then the Northern loop that takes you around the dammed up stream and through the slough by the campgrounds. I had thought that we'd get the Hiking Club word and head out in the Southern loop, and when we forced to do this second loop, I started to get mad. By this time, my knees were aching (due to a 5 hour pre-Thanksgiving day stint at the liquor store) and my ankle was beginning to seize up. I was also starting to bonk. We didn't bring our fanny packs, so there was no water and Cliff bars and when I bonk, I get cranky. It was also beginning to get dark and we didn't want to be looking for the path at night. So I just did what I do on my bike; I put my head down and was gonna finish this damned trek and get to the car and the Ibuprofen. We got to the word sign and saw that we had to go around a slough to get back to the car and I was really pissy by this time.

We made it back to the car eventually, we got water, I got Ibuprofen and we noticed we hiked the entire 6.2 mile loop in two hours. We had hike this park several years earlier when we were in considerably poorer condition and it took us all day. Two hours! Mrs Yam was ecstatic. Looking back at the GPS, we were hiking at around 3.5 - 3.7 miles per hour. No wonder my knees and ankle hurt. We headed into town and the dog hopped in the rear of the wagon and curled up in the jackets. She was wiped out completely.

As a reward for our daily triumph, we had dinner at Magnolia's, an absolutely fantastic steak house in Luverne. A couple of beers, a lovely pork chop and my spirit was back and we were ready to go home. We let the dog out for one last potty break before leaving and she was so sore she could barely get out of the car and couldn't get into the car without help. We saved her half of a baked potato and the bone from the pork chop as a treat for her, but she was eating without a lot of enthusiasm.

We crossed a moonlit Minnesota on the way back -- a "Bomber's Moon" is what I think they called it. We went to Worthington on 90 and then up 60 to Mankato. They need to call State Highway 60 the Ethanol Highway since there must have been half dozen to ten "Biorefineries" on that road. I'm not sure that I think that ethanol is a good idea and I really wonder about a country that is more interested in growing crops to feed their cars than to feed their people. Big Corn isn't any better then Big Oil since you can't have corn without oil, at least the way that modern farming is done and feeding cars corn doesn't solve the problem.

Sheila spent the next couple of days going out to go potty and going back to the bed upstairs or her bed in the living room, where ever the people were. Limping and sleepy, she still looked happy and like it was worth it for her. My joints are better and I know it was worth it for me...


Anonymous said...

Think again about ethanol. When used as E85, it reduces four tons of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from every vehicle, every year. It is largely renewable, cheaper than gasoline and (largely) Minnesota made. Perfect? No. Better than gasoline? Absolutely, which is why my organization strongly supports the cleaner-burning alternative fuel.

In the meanwhile, keep on biking and hiking...

Bob Moffitt
Communications Director
American Lung Assoc. of Minnesota

bother yam said...

I like that it is cleaner burning, but the problem I have with ethanol is that the amount of hydrocarbons needed to grow and process it. The amount of nitrogen that is needed to grow corn is tremendous and that fertilizer mostly comes from natural gas. It is less energy dense than petroleum so you need more of it for the same amount of energy.

I'm not against it (yet), but I'm not sure I'm for it either. I'm still looking into the science of it all.

iMotor said...

There's a huge wind farm between Trimont and Jackson that I pass pretty much every time I go to pick up the kids. New turbines seem to be added monthly.

Biofuels from algae gets my vote.

Fritz said...

Sounds like you all had a nice time. We had our own hiking adventure on "Black Friday" -- up in San Francisco.