Those of you who know me, or have followed this blog, know that I love to recant old stories. That in and of itself, is I suppose a sign of getting older. The supposition does exist that old Uncle Harry, or Aunt Tammy, insist on living in the past and continue to bore us with the “olden days” to prove it. While that echoes with a ring of truth, I believe every experience in life prepares us for our next journey. There is little that happens, that doesn’t teach a lesson. Looking at experiences from the past, helps us to understand who we are today.
Any of you who live in the Wisconsin/Illinois, or possibly even the Minnesota/Iowa areas, probably knows of Devil’s Lake State Park here in Wisconsin. It is certainly one the Upper Midwest’s most beautiful state parks. Incredible mountain like bluffs surround the beautiful lake with no bottom….or so the original natives believed anyway. My very first (away from home) outdoor adventures began there as my family chose this wonderful location, for our first camping trips. I was round about five years old the first time.
Not only was some of my first camping experiences had at Devil’s Lake, but my first “deep into nature” hikes also came at this wonderful place. Those bluffs that rim the lake, have hiking paths. They also had bridal paths. Yes at around five years old my first horseback riding experiences occurred. Only one of the several riding stables in the area had the legal right of way to those paths. That was (of course) the stable where we rented horses.
As I got up (I was probably helped up) on my noble steed, it seemed like I was sitting on top of the world. The very top. Realistically, my horse was probably around 13 hands, just beyond that of a pony. Our troop consisted of my mother, father, sister, my aunt and uncle and cousin, and of course a trusty guide. Only my father (and hopefully the guide), was an experienced horseman. I liked it. I loved western movies and in my mind, I was Roy Rogers or The Lone Ranger. Neither Trigger or Silver was any more worthy of a day in the saddle than my new-found friend. We rode for a while when I realized we were climbing. This would be my first experience at the top of the bluffs. We climbed to the top of the bluff and stopped at a nice clear opening. We sat on those noble steeds and looked down at the lake. Way down. It was beautiful and was my first “mountain” experience. I trusted my horse. This is when I first learned that horses….like to eat. It is like if you and I, lived our life in the middle of fields of pizza. There is food for a horse everywhere. As my version of Trigger ate, he traveled closer and closer to the edge. I remember being thankful my horse was experienced. Finally Trigger, or whatever his name was, decided that the best piece of grass on the mountain (well, bluff) was growing just over the edge. A cowboy hero came to the rescue. My older cousin, while meaning well, made the less than wise decision to violently jump off of his horse to stop mine from tumbling over the edge. He scared my horse, and my family half to death causing Trigger to begin to bolt in the only direction left…..towards the tiny (from up there) Devil’s Lake down below. Now my horse was neither crazy or suicidal. He stopped immediately. Just the same, my first trip to the top of the Devil’s Lake bluffs, and my first ride on a horse, taught me that what seems like a good idea at the time, just might be a mistake for those who don’t remain cool and calm. It also taught me that horses pretty much know what they’re doing. Both lessons served me well, later in life. Enjoy life, including its thrills and dangers, but common sense and careful thought will allow you to enjoy it for a long time.
We went on to camp at Devil’s Lake many times. Eventually I started bringing best pal Mike with us. We hiked those bluffs several times. We swam in the lake, and we had sodas at the old pavilion building. That building has a great history. Long before my time, big bands like that of Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington drove into to the semi-wilderness to play there.
The years wore on and I took my (then) new wife to explore Devil’s Lake. When my wife became my ex, I took my girlfriend there. A few years ago my sister and I made my final trip to DL. The camping areas have been expanded, but that lake, those bluffs, and that historic old building sit just as they did when I was five years old. Change can be good but it is nice to know that sometimes things don’t change at all. It’s hard to improve perfection.
As strange as it sounds, I have never taken a picture at Devil’s Lake. As much as I have loved photography, and the act of capturing the feeling and mood of a location, the essence if possible, in pictures, I like the fact that at this one location, only my memories live on.
The images below have nothing to do with Devil’s Lake. I share them only because it is a joy to do so.
Swallow Hotel. Tree Swallows.
My favorite time of day. Sunrise.
Out for a walk. The magic of Yellowstone N.P. Rocky Mt. Elk
Having something to say. Male Red-winged Blackbird
For the love of winter.
God Bless, Wayne