Friday, May 28, 2021

Sneaky, sneaky....

I pride myself in making good geocaches.  Some are whimsical.  Some are difficult.  Some are both.  And on occasion they actually get better with age.

I've done several using plate fungus as a base.  Now, I'm not saying where this one is, but if you were to look very closely at it you might just see the bit of black plastic that holds it to the piece of dead wood below.  But it's not as easy as it was on first deployment.  Because the plate fungus has dropped spores that are now growing on the supporting structure!

I've given this one five stars for difficulty.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

CCC Camp Delta - Faces from the 1930's

Because they should be remembered, lets have a look back in time at some of the men who worked at CCC Camp Delta.  All photographs courtesy of Bob Scheulke.

The bugler and one of the cooks outside the Kitchen.  Interesting to see construction details.  In an era before widespread use of plywood this building seems to be made of individual long planks, probably sawed on site.  The current premium we pay on construction materials makes this quite a lot of 2021 money on display!

John Scheulke with snow shoes on Bass Lake.

Donald Bidgood.  He looks as if he might be dressed up to go to town.

Probably taken for comedic effect.  Eating ice cream in the snow.

John Scheulke, someone named Thyer, and a pet.

The Camp Delta Ice Cutting Crew 1934

A photo labeled Foreman and Forester 1938.  Titles not names one supposes.

And a photo simply titled "Hang - Er - Up Time. Camp Delta 1938".

I can't fit this into any known geography of the camp so I assume this was a job site photo.  Possibly taken the same day as the ice cutting photo, the man in the foreground is not carrying a rifle but some sort of complicated grabber.  Maybe for ice, maybe a Cant Hook used to maneuver logs.

Monday, May 24, 2021

CCC Camp Delta - Then and Now

A while back I posted a brief survey of CCC Camp Delta.  The remains of the camp are near the tiny hamlet of the same name.  Given the nature of the Internet it was just a matter of time before somebody contacted me saying his father had been one of the "CCC boys" there.  And better still, there were photos.

This prompted a second look at the site hoping that John Schuelke's photos can help bring it back to life.  All black and white photos are John's courtesy of his son Bob.  Let's start with the obvious, the front gate posts.

1938:  John Schuelke strikes a pose.

 And 2021:

There are always little details that you only notice on careful study.  See how the "castle" top of the pillar has been filled in?  Also, that little "birdhouse" niche on the front of the pillar has lost its roof.  I think this was a vent, suggesting that the pillar is or was hollow.  The two sets of larger round holes would have allowed poles for signs to be mounted on both front and side.

The next image is from a vantage point I can't reach without a boat, but helpfully shows the general layout of Camp Delta:

Boat landing on the right.  Main buildings of the camp in a line overlooking the lake.  Water tower straight back from that.  Here's the rather unimpressive remains of the long row of buildings seen above:

Not much really.  Just a long rectangular area of slight depression where leaves have accumulated.  These barracks like buildings did not have much for foundations or cellars I guess.  Next is a walk straight back to find the water tower.  Logically it is at the highest point of elevation.  Here's one of the "Boys" pretending to leap from it in 1938.  In reality he must have only been only a few feet off the ground.

And today?  Well I think this pattern of four cement blocks supported the feet of the tower.

There are a number of photos in the Schuelke collection showing the Forest Service garage.  Forestry work was a big part of what was done out of Delta, and I suspect Mr. Schuelke might have had a specific assignment in this area.  It appears to be on the back side of the hill.

Given the various adverse weather conditions they'd encounter it would only make sense to have a solid cement footing under this parking area.  In fact I think you can see the edge of it in front of the line of trucks.  The man in the photo by the way is John Skylondz.  And, in 2021...

There are two unusual features near this slab.  My first take on them was that they were privy or cesspool pits.  But something was just a little bit wrong with this.  I've seen other "facilities" at CCC camps and they were always something much less formidable.  Simple sunken pits or oil drums buried in the ground.  This is some serious cement.

I think the answer can actually be seen in the picture with the trucks.  Here, I'll cut out the relevant section:

It appears to be in the correct I think the cement slab was to support this gas pump!  With magnification it has a No Smoking sign on it.

That's about all I could manage with respect to linking the historic photos with their current locations.  But there's more to see.  Next time we'll spend a little time with the men of CCC Camp Delta at work and play.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Strange Fishing Challenge Day Five

Well it has been a while since I launched the Strange Fish Challenge.  To review, my whippersnapper of a grandson (age 5) has a longer list of fish species caught than I do.  I decided to try and show him a thing or two.  I mean, it has to work out better than when I showed him the correct way to do a cartwheel, right?

So I said I'd see if I could catch 20 different species of fish in seven days of fishing.  Having started this fairly late in the fall I got in four days....and 11 species.*  Do the math, I need three per day to pull this off.

I'd been out for a few recon missions as the water warmed up and the fish got frisky.  On one of them I caught a couple of sturgeon.  This little guy was just so cute!

His great grandpa took my line an hour later.  All I saw was a flip of a huge, prehistoric tail as he ripped the 20 pound test line off my reel.  Watching it spin off I had no choice but to bring the rod tip back and take a stand.  SNAP!  Fun, but as it was not an official Fishing Challenge Day sturgeon are not on my list.

Recently I had a day to kill.  The usual schedule of helping out with the grands was off for me as I waited, like a condemned man, for a root canal.  Time for distraction.  I went to a small stream called Muddy Creek.  And in the first hour I got this guy:

This is a White Sucker, and a rather fine specimen at that.  And just a few minutes later, look who turned up:

A cute little brook trout!  This was only the second one I'd ever caught, and the White Sucker was an entirely new species for me.  It was only 10 am and I figured my odds of getting another species were excellent.  I went to where the sturgeon had been a few days earlier...

Nothing.  Picturesque, dead water.  I tried a couple of little streams on my way back to Eau Claire.  Nothing.  I tried a spot on the river in Eau Claire where I'd had luck.  Same.  Half Moon Lake, allegedly home to bowfin, bullheads and other Strangies....just a few bluegills.  I even tried my last ditch spot on the Chippewa River near home.  My son and grandson had caught catfish there.  No fish.

So for the day only two novel species.  So far five days, 13 species.  I'm falling behind.  I think the problems are several.  Certain species are just so common that they crowd out the odd ball fish.  Strange fish are often in strange and hard to get to places.  In fast current.  Or heavy brush.  Or in the middle of swamps.  In particular the minnow sized fish are very hard to catch.  You go through life as a potential snack to all manner of fish, mammal and bird species and you dash for cover when anything approaches.

Well we'll see.
Fish list as of this posting.  Small and largemouth bass. Northern and Walleye pike.  Yellow Perch.  Creek Chub.  Common Shiner.  Bluegill.  Silver Redhorse, Smallmouth Buffalo, Shorthead Redhorse.  Brook Trout and White Sucker.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Cats of Rome

A Facebook friend of mine recently posted pictures of cats sulking about in ancient ruins.  I recognized at least one site, the Torre Argentina in the middle of Rome.  The little slinkers have free run of the place.  And I know exactly what they are thinking....

"Before Man there was Cat.  After the day of Man has ended we shall endure unchanged.  Behold the Works of Man.  Once the heart of his greatest city, now our litter box.  So it is with all he builds.  The claws of The Great Cat will take down his cities one by one.  His vaunted technology is mere foolery, suitable perhaps for the entertainment of Dog."

"We disdain it all.  Except for the can opener, that was actually pretty cool.  And the mysterious Red Dot of Light.  As soon as we figure that one out we are totally done with the clawless, bipedal stooges."

Monday, May 17, 2021

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Rochester Minnesota

As I mentioned in the recent series on Mayville Wisconsin brewery caves, off site storage caves are the toughest to research.  Breweries are relatively visible, well documented and usually in predictable locations.  But what if the brewery had a cave somewhere on the edge of town?  There would be nothing on the maps and if you think about it they would not want to advertise that there was a cellar full of beer tucked away out of sight!

Similar to Mayville this story begins with a house for sale.  At this point it is probably best that I just turn this over to my friend Gabe, one of my Underworld Contacts.  His video is used with permission.  Feel free to skip over the parts that don't interest you.  Like the $500,000 price tag for the house.

Well.  It's hard to know what to make of that.  It is clearly in an area of previous stone quarrying.  But that's not a deal breaker...where else would you find the geology to build a storage cave?  The general configuration and the multiple vents make it difficult to buy this as say, a sand mine.  The visible pick work looks 19th century.  The water tower and the Plummer House above are 20th century.  It is a bit confusing to have the newer pipes running through but that's part of what makes this one interesting.

There were three breweries in Rochester during the 19th century.  There is, alas, little to point to one as a prime suspect for this cave.  My Google Earth fly through suggests that all three were on flat ground and would be candidates for off site caves.  By size alone I should think the Schuster brewery which was around from circa 1857 up to Prohibition would be the best candidate.  Alas, none of the maps of 19th century Rochester extend this far out into what looks to have been a dreary industrial area.

Now of course it is quite tony.  In fact this neighborhood having once been called Quarry Hill has become in local slang "Pill Hill" as it is where the physicians of Mayo Clinic have built and maintained some very nice houses over the years.  I'm out of that world now but there was a time when it was a major status symbol to own a home built by an early Mayo physician.  And near the pinnacle of social standing, and of the hill physically, was the Plummer House.

The property with the caves behind it was once the pump house for the Plummer Estate.  Dr. Henry Plummer built the house in the style of an English Manor house in 1924.  The water tower on the property is said to be earlier, circa 1919.  The pump house proper was built a couple of years later in 1926.  With the Plummer house being so over the top architecturally it is of course possible that they could have hand excavated a cave just for the heck of it in the mid 1920's, but the otherwise pointless side tunnels make it unlikely that it was simply a place to run pipes.  A much smaller service tunnel could have been drilled mechanically and with much less effort in the 20th century.  One small detail from the video that caught my eye was an abortive attempt to hand drill a vent.  It's something I've seen a time or two - Brownsville for instance - and has always struck me as very labor intensive.

A definitive answer?  We might not get one.  The enigma of the cave has attracted some attention and I did find a commentary that references information from the local historical society.  On the one hand a Plummer daughter opined that her father intended to grow mushrooms but never got around to it.  On the other hand the son of a man who helped design the house wrote in a 1980 letter that the cave was pre-existing.  I find this more plausible.

A couple of side notes.  Gabe is clearly a kindred spirit.  His Youtube channel shows a man having a great deal of fun in life.  I recommend it as a day brightener.

And I mentioned that the Plummer House was near the pinnacle of Rochester social circles.  At the very top of course was Mayowood, an elegant mansion built on 3000 acres by Charles Mayo in 1911.  In the Mayoverse this is something akin to the Vatican or the Pantheon.  Many years ago in an interesting phase of my career I was actually invited to a private reception at Mayowood.  I thought it was OK, they served some very nice wine.  I don't recall much else, in fact I found it rather boring.  But our friends employed by Mayo Clinic were astonished.  My blasé attitude aside a private invite to Mayowood apparently was an honor to which many aspired but few were accorded.  

Meh.  The wine was good.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Banks of the Rock River

Spring is an excellent time for spotting brewery caves.  Today's example is along the banks of the Rock River in southern Wisconsin.

Perhaps you did not spot it instantly?  Well don't feel bad it took me a moment and I knew it was there.  Stepping a bit further upstream and switching to my slightly better camera we can see..

A fairly typical small brewery cave, of the sort quite common in the 1860's and 70's.  Especially in an area such as this that lacks the geology for hard rock caves.  There is of course always something novel to the trained eye.  And it looks to me as if the structure directly above the cave is a vent hole that has been rebuilt a bit and repurposed as a decorative wishing well!

My policy on locations is to err on the side of caution when trespass and safety are concerns.  This does look like a place that passing canoers might be tempted to duck into, and my Underworld Contacts tell me that the cave in in danger of collapse.  So in a general sense just be happy to know that it is out there, at least for a few more years.

A brief history of the brewery will of course give clues for the more motivated to follow.  These clues being already in circulation I'll simply trust you to exhibit the same degree of sense and discretion that I have.

This brewery was started circa 1864 by a man named Grosskopf.  Never a big brewery it usually made about 175 barrels a year.  It seems to have been a rather rough place.  In 1878 a man was killed in a fight at the brewery, and in 1884 there was an attempted robbery by drunken railway workers.  That seems to have been enough for the Grosskopf family and the brewery went out of business soon thereafter.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Lost Jalopy Graveyard

In the woods near our Up North place there are scattered about rusty hulks of what appear to be vehicles from the 1930's.  How did they get there?  Are they de-commissioned from logging companies?  Were they left behind by struggling farmers who put together vehicles that worked from the parts of several and lit off for parts unknown?  Let's see what we can figure out.

This is the largest of the three junkyards.  By my count a minimum of four chassis and 14 big, bulbous fenders. 

 I actually can't tell heads from tails on most of these wrecks.  Is that an exhaust pipe?

The best preserved jalopy has some interesting features.  I mean in addition to the stuffed animal that somebody has put in the driver's seat.  Traces of yellow paint.  I'm sure that was not standard.

And of all things, a rear seat that has been rebuilt out of wood!

Unsurprisingly there have been a few artistic additions to the hulks over the decades....

I don't know how many more old cars lie under heaps like this.  Although it is public land I don't think digging these things up seems right.  I did poke around a little where there were exposed door frames, as I understand that's where you'll find identifying information.  Sometimes.  But I had no luck.

The people who owned these cars are long gone.  If my estimate of their age is correct even the youngest of them are no longer with us.  When they left, did they regret pulling up stakes and heading for a new life?  Would they recognize the place now, with the farms returned to forest?  Did somebody cry when they realized that their vehicle had also been left behind?

Monday, May 10, 2021

Old Cars in the Woods

Back in November, when setting up hunting stands, we came across the remains of an Old Car.  That's my youngest son taking a closer look.  As it turns out, this is not the only one.

I fear ownership is going to be impossible to trace.  In the 19th century this part of the world was mostly unoccupied public land which was bought up and clear cut by lumber companies.  It was then sold off to unsuspecting folks who tried without success in the early 20th century to start farms on land suited only for growing pine trees.  

The farmers, well the smart ones got out early, the stubborn ones were mostly wiped out by the Great Depression,  and much of the land reverted to public ownership.   So this story will have an uncertain conclusion.  Did these people cannibalize several vehicles for parts in order to have one solid enough to make it over the Rockies in the great Dust Bowl migration to California?  And how did they fare?

Next time we'll visit other spots in this Lost Jalopy Graveyard and learn what we can.  


Friday, May 7, 2021

Sustainable Food

Of late I've become acquainted with a California Person who usually does not eat meat.  Out of concern for the environment.  I consider that philosophically consistent, raising cows, pigs and assorted kine does require a lot of cropland for feed.  We could be growing People Food on that land.

This goes in parallel with various nonsense out of Washington DC which similarly suggests that for "sustainability" we should eat red meat only infrequently.  With a subtext of "if at all" from what one assumes is a think tank populated by wan, underweight, humor bereft vegans.

Diets change over time.  My peasant forebears in Germany were farmers and so likely had a bit of wurst with regularity but I'd say they rarely had anything like steak.  Even the menu of my childhood, as I imperfectly recall it, was different.  With much less in the way of air freight and no microwaves whatsoever we ate more stuff out of cans.  Spinach came out as a disgusting green glop.  Salmon was pink, seemed to have a bunch of small bits of bone and fins in it, and was equally disgusting.  Only the passage of time and the advent of higher quality versions has enabled me to overcome my early aversion to these foods.

An interesting sidebar here.  California Person having recently become acquainted with the blaze orange, red plaid, bearded aspects of Wisconsin life was asked about eating venison.  This was deemed to be OK because, well, its as sustainable as you can get.  Deer live on acorns and roadside weeds and I'm seeing big herds of them near our Up North place.

So, to the presumed horror of various inside the Beltway think tanks I have concluded that the only appropriate thing for me to do in this regard is to purchase more deer tags and ammunition in the fall.  

I'm doing my part to save the planet.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Mayville Wisconsin

I know I've seen several of today's "Tree Shaped Tombstones" on an earlier trip to Mayville Wisconsin.  But I don't appear to have featured them in a dedicated post.  And there are a few oddities that warrant taking a focused look.

Here's a personal favorite, although I may be reading too much into it.  The name HENRY on the little projection at the bottom is unique in my studies of the subject.

And about that that odd little "stump" at the bottom.  Seen from the side...

It makes me wonder if Henry Bosin was a bit of a jokester.  That addition sticking out the front - we'll call it Lil' Henry - is suggestive.  The message on the placard is fairly pedestrian and is based on text from the Book of Hebrews.  Perhaps he'd have played the joke better with a quotation from Matthew 28-6.  "He is Risen...".

On a more somber note, these little tombstones with lamb and tiny tree are always for children.  

Here's a nice family grouping.  Main Tree and subsidiary markers.  The upright stump on the right is one of four such that defines the edges of the family plot.

There were several vintage examples of this "Tree and Book" style.

I was surprised to encounter this one.  It was in a newer part of the cemetery, an area I did not pass through on my previous visit.

A rare modern specimen.  Worth a few close up views.

It appears that Mr. Rhora is still with us, but has his spot reserved.  The inscription on the front of the trunk, 10-10-81 is their wedding date.  I have to assume that Becker, getting space on the back and down low, was a pet rather than a child.  Even in these callous times we'd do more to remember a young life lost.*  

These new version Trees are thought provoking.  I like to see the old forms survive.  They are probably made with modern computerized carving machinery.  The quality of stone looks to make them more durable than their classic predecessors.  But every time I see one I remind myself that I'll be needing something along these lines one day.  And I'm not ready to start shopping.


* Here is Ms. Rhora's obit.  I think it's Becker in the photo.  He must have been a Good Boy.


Monday, May 3, 2021

FIRST Robotics 2021 - Springing Back

After a Covid lockdown of 11 months we've been able to get the FIRST robotics team together for in person meetings beginning in February.  It's gone well.  New recruits have found us.  Old Hands have come back to work even though they are seniors and won't be around next year.  There is no competition this spring so it has all been development projects.

There was, is, and shall remain much to do.  With the move into the school we will not have the immediate shop access that has been so handy the last six years.  On the other hand we no longer have to figure out how to get students to our off site build HQ.

There will be changes.  Probably more "off the shelf" solutions.  But improvisation will continue to be a major force.  One crew for instance has been at work "designing the tools", and we will be 3D printing precise templates for drilling and riveting.

The best part of it all is that I don't know exactly what they are all up to.  There's a lot of them, we have other coaches on hand and more to the point the students are more self directed than in the past.  Maybe being in the school, which is home turf for them, has a subtle impact.

Anyway, we are standing down as of May 1st, giving members new and old a break.  Here's some pictures from our final spring session.

First order of business was sorting everything out.  We need to be able to find things when we start up again in a few months.

So many little widgets.  

We are also prepping our last competition robot for demos.  Here a brave volunteer is holding the target while the robot lines up its vision tracking on the reflective tape.  The ball shooter is not at full power.

They have worked hard enough, especially for spring time.  Snacks and a chance to relax.  The fancy hat has been handed down from the original team.  Tonight it got a new owner.  

Various game pieces and robot parts from previous seasons were available for anyone who wanted them.  Future dorm room decor perhaps.  Here an odd disc like game piece is being used as a hat.  With the hideous fluorescent lighting it does rather look like a halo....

Some work of course continues especially on the media/business side.  And we are gearing up for Robot School where we will break in a batch of new recruits.  Exciting times ahead.  

Addendum:  Because the students do many things better than I do, including photo/video work, here's a YouTube bit on our graduating seniors.  Some day I'll be bragging that I worked with them "way back when"...