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Stars and Bucks 11/09/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, History, Photography, Weather.
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Glacial Lakes ephemera: After a run of not-quite-hot but very muggy days, the weather regime shifted just in time for a planned several days out of town. We headed west and a bit north to the Minnewaska area, about one hundred and twenty miles from home, as the crow flies.

There’s a good-size lake by that name there: the name made, by early settlers, from two Dakota words, minne (“water”) and washta or waska (“good”). For a while it was called by an Indian name meaning “Dish Lake,” because it lies in a basin. At other times it was called White Bear Lake, apparently because a Chief White Bear was buried in a high hill on the north shore; and Lake Whipple, after Bishop Henry Whipple, by many accounts a fair-minded man who courageously advocated for peace with the Dakotas when the bulk of the white population wanted to exterminate or at least deport all of them following the horrors of the Dakota Uprising of 1862. (The town of Mankato on the Minnesota River still holds the dubious distinction of having been the site of the largest mass execution ever in the United States of America, when thirty-eight Dakotas were simultaneously hanged on the day after Christmas that year. Many more sentences were commuted by President Abraham Lincoln.)

The view of and approach to the lake from the south is a dramatic prospect, since it is a long and finally steep slope after traversing part of the 120-mile-long and ten-to-nineteen-mile-wide band of territory known as the glacial lakes. While nearly all of Minnesota (not the southeast corner) was subject to glaciation, this area got special treatment that left behind a landscape characterized by hills, ridges and lakes that seem to belong . . .  somewhere else. 

Here’s one view within Glacial Lakes State Park:

GLSP_bowl

And another:

GLSP_bowl-closeup

The experience afforded by a bit of time atop this kame — hah! the computer’s dictionary doesn’t list the word, but the hefty paper one does: “a short ridge or mound of sand and gravel deposited during the melting of glacial ice” — was a rare and welcome one. The only sounds came from the unusually gentle breeze, grasshoppers, frogs (maybe) in the woods below, a few birds passing through the valley: nothing mechanical. And the quality of light shifted from moment to moment.

The day had begun, in the nearby no-stoplight town of Starbuck, with a full rainbow and a partial double spectrum of colors, which heralded half a day of overcast and showery conditions. By noon, the sky was clearing, and by early evening a local pileup of clouds was flashing lightning nearly every second and hurling hail at the ground. I wondered if I could have stood the times of tedium to witness, and photograph, such a remarkable variety of clouds and light on the land.

The following morning was quite clear, presenting an excellent view of the fading Moon along with Venus and Mars. (Mars is a tiny dot to the left, or north, of the Moon’s crescent.) Pretty good for a camera perched on a stack of magazines, looking out a dirty second-story-porch window. (It would be a long story.)

Mars_Moon_Venus-dawn

Below is the chart for the same moment: the time as recorded by my camera. Jupiter was about to rise over the horizon, though still too close to the Sun to be seen. But the chart shows graphically that excellent planetary viewing will be possible, clear weather permitting, over the next couple of weeks. The Sun lengthens the distance from Jupiter, and Venus and Mars close the distance from the latter.

Mars_Moon_Venus

How easy and glorious it would be to see the planets and stars if so many millions of lives weren’t based in urban centers like the overbuilt Twin Cities, with its excess of shade and decorative trees and its plethora of light pollution sources. Viewing across a prairie landscape like the Sedan Brook Prairie would be both simple and hypnotic.

Sedan_Prairie

But except for a few mostly small remnants, the prairies are gone. What is left, in small towns dependent on spillover money from Big Agriculture — where every stop sign or bend in the road represents an opportunity for a disastrous spill from a tank truck loaded with anhydrous ammonia — are rueful reminders of what once, and for eons, was.

Starbuck_ATM

-<zoidion>-

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Comments»

1. Mary Louise Turner - 12/09/2015

Now I want to visit your beautiful state after seeing these glorious pictures! I didn’t know that info on Mankato, and my planned trip next month will take on a different note – a soulful note. Thoroughly enjoyed your musings as always!
Mary Louise 🙂

zoidion - 12/09/2015

For me at least, even when I pass through Mankato on 169, it’s a somber moment when I go past the site. The local paper has a 2012 story on the event.


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