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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Seeker

I've looked under chairs
I've looked under tables
I've tried to find the key
to 50 million fables
they call me the seeker
I been searching low and high
I won't get to get what I'm after
'till the day I die. . . .

- P. Townshend

About a month ago, on Saturday, I had the opportunity to accompany one of UWEC's Geology professors, Doctor Grote, and her group of assistants on a project to find an old, abandoned iron mine entrance. This involved a trip to a site near Baraboo, Wisconsin, which is about 2 1/2 hours east of here. She sent out an e-mail to all the undergrads with geology majors asking for volunteers, giving a brief description of what was planned. I was interested because I'd like to get involved with some of the "hands-on" aspects of my chosen major as soon as possible. That, and I'd been through the area in question before and wanted to return - it's very interesting, geologically, and also very scenic. Plus, I thought that it would be fun. I contacted her and was told that I could come along with and help out any way I could. This is the story of that day.

We left Oak Lair (not its real name) in the morning in two vehicles stuffed with high-tech gear. It was snowing when we left but quickly cleared as we proceeded eastward. A few hours later we arrived at our destination without incident. We met the landowner for a preliminary information-sharing meeting. He had some old maps and some other reference sources. The maps were used to get a good "ballpark" area for what we were looking for. Then, we broke out the equipment and assembled the necessary machinery for the next phase.

What we did, for the most part, was use a ground-penetrating radar device to find the long-buried mine entrance. The GPR has the ability to "look through" the surface features and find the interface between the soil layers and the actual bedrock. Basically, what we were looking for was a bedrock/soil anomaly that would indicate the mine entrance. If multiple runs with the detector showed the anomaly in one specific area, and that area coincided with the map, we probably had what we were looking for. All that would be left would be to dig to remove the topsoil and uncover the entrance. That part would be left to some other group, at some other time.

The actual survey was done by first laying out some tape measures and then making a dry run to get a good idea of what the average topsoil layer depth was. Once that was done, we shifted our focus to the "ballpark" area found on the map. We made several runs with the GPR, sometimes switching jobs between the assistants and once taking a short break for lunch. After a few hours our electronic investigation was finished.

At the end, according to Dr. Grote, we think we found what we were looking for. There was a consistent anomaly in one area of our survey. This also jibed with the old map for the location of the mine entrance. We passed our knowledge on to the landowner, and the rest is up to him.

About the time we were finishing our search, the local geology club arrived, and we had an impromptu meeting with them. Doctor Grote explained how and what we were doing, as well as our success. Everybody pretty much hung out together for awhile, while our group from UWEC began disassembling the GPR and other equipment for our return trip. The landowner then took us all up to another area to show us what is thought to be an air/equipment/access shaft for the mine, currently filled with groundwater.

All-in-all, I had a great time, and I learned a lot. Plus, yes, it was fun. :) I really enjoyed the day; and, for all of my readers out there, I took a few photos of the event. They're captioned below. Enjoy! I did.

Shane, Brian, and Roseanne at the area in question. The anomalous spot was just to the left of Roseanne's feet in the photo.

The air/equipment/access shaft of the mine. The green stuff is algal growth on the groundwater now filling the shaft.

These next three photos are Dr. Grote, Roseanne, Brian, and Shane operating the GPR system on-site. High-tech work!

The local geology club that came to visit. Nice people!

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Saturday in the Park

Slow motion riders
fly the colors of the day
A bronze man
still can
tell stories his own way
Listen children
all is not lost
all is not lost
ohh no no. . .

Funny days in the park
Every day's the Fourth of July
Funny days in the park
Every day's the Fourth of July
People reaching
people touching
a real celebration
waiting for us all. . .
If we want it
really want it
Can you dig it?
Yes I can
and I've been waiting such a long time
for the day. . . .

- R. Lamm

Hello once again! Yes, I'm still alive - I know that some of you were concerned. Well, maybe one or two of you. Maybe. :) Ya ya, I missed you all too.

There have been a few changes in my life once again. I now live in a new town - "Oak Lair", Wisconsin. I'm still unemployed, but now I'm attending the local university and studying for a geology major.

This winter, in both Black River Falls and here in Oak Lair, it snowed like a sunofabitch this year, prolly at least, oh, lessee, umm, 'bout 35-40 feet of the white shit, total. It's like it snowed every damn day! That made life a real pain in the butt for me and the others around here. However, it's now April, and all of that winter nonsense is now DONE WITH! Today was the first 60 F day of the year, and a Saturday, so I was one happy camper. :) :) :) :)

I anticipate doing a significant amount of fishing this year, so today I planned on getting a Wisconsin fishing license. The Wisconsin DNR is just down the road from the campus, so I figured I would walk over there and get one. This would also allow me to take photos of my relatively new hometown along the way. I guess that I wasn't the only citizen with cabin fever - it seemed like the whole city was out and about today. It was worth it.

I'm finding out that Oak Lair is a very nice place, and I'm enjoying myself here very much. So far, in college, I'm taking one chemistry course and two geology courses. I'm doing good in all three; but, as usual, I know that I can do better - so that's what I try to do.

The people here are really nice - both at and away from the university. In just a few months I've made a lot of friends. I also have a local tavern that I frequent (the burgers there are excellent) where I have even more friends. It helps that I cheered for the Packers when they made a pretty good showing in the playoffs and also pulled for the Badgers in the recent NCAA basketball tournament.

The only bad thing of late has been the absolutely atrocious weather this winter. There was more snow this year than any I'd seen since I was a wee teenager back in central Minnesota; circa ummm errrr, never mind. :) A while back, anyway. The point of this blog-entry is that that season has now passed on to something far more pleasant. People, it was a gorgeous day out there today and IT'S ABOUT FUCKING TIME!!!!!!!!!!!

To provide a little historical background, Oak Lair (not it's real name :)) was founded as a logging town on the confluence of two rivers, the Chippewa and the Oak Lair. The Chippewa is a pretty good-sized river, and it's a pretty easy run down to the Mississippi. Business was good, and the city prospered and diversified. It was one of the first cities in Wisconsin with a university. The city is also pretty close to the Minnesota border, so some of that good stuff rubbed off on Oak Lair. :) :) :) Anyways, it was recognized that this was a nice place way back when, and it still is today.

Well, that's enough verbosity. Like I wrote, it was a nice day, this is a nice place, here are some nice pictures. :) Enjoy!

A creek runs through the university campus and flows into the Chippewa, here. As you can see, there is still some snow and ice around. Hopefully not for long. :)

This is a photo of the Oak Lair River, looking upstream from a bridge downtown. The recent snow melt has really raised the level and flow of both rivers in town.

This photo is a close-up of the right-hand bank of the above photo. Notice how far the water is being pushed up the downed tree (about a foot, by my estimate). Quite the flow!

This is a picture of the Chippewa River from the UWEC campus. The confluence with the campus creek is just off the photo to the left. Notice the people in the boat fishing.

This is a shot from the footbridge over the Chippewa at the campus. The students like to make sculptures along the bank with the rocks, and you can see that some of that is covered up by the swollen river.

This is one of the residence halls on campus. In the foreground is a basketball court chock-full of students enjoying today's pleasantness.

Towards the end of my walk I encountered a nice lady who was busy making art with sidewalk chalk. We started talking and were soon joined by a few other people.

The next thing I knew there were about a half-dozen people busy making art while I spectated. :) Nice people, nice time!
Well, I sure did enjoy myself today. I do hope that I conveyed some of that enjoyment to you people out there in cyberspace! I am sorry that it's been awhile since my last post. Oh - and I almost forgot to tell you - that DNR place where I was going in the first place? It's closed on Saturday. Did that bother me? Not today. . . .

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