Sarah spent four days at Effigy Mounds National Monument last week working on a pair of master theses: her own and a fellow students. Last Monday, Dalla and I drove down to help her and bring her some equipment.

Before she left, Sarah and I loaded up the Saturn with various pieces of equipment and put the canoe on top of the car. Monday morning, I put my own camping equipment in the car, strapped the dog into her seatbelt, and hit the road.

It takes just short of two hours to get to the Monument from Madison if all is well. That day, it took me over two hours to get there. Between Dodgeville and Prairie du Chien, there is a windmill farm along US 18. Of course, that windmill farm is there for a reason: plenty of nearly continuous wind. So, it was no surprise when I had to slow down when I got near that area as the wind was pushing the car off the road. Normally, the Saturn wagon doesn’t have that problem, but when you strap a 17’ canoe onto the car’s roof, it’s like having a sail. So, that slowed us down. Then, when we hit Fennimore, I missed a rather well hidden turn because it was not only well hidden, but Dalla was literally howling in the back seat. Apparently, she was tired of riding in the car and wanted to get out and run around. So, we got out of town and I let her out on the leash for a few minutes. We got back in to the car and hit the road. It wasn’t until we arrived in Boscobel that I realized we were no longer on US 18, but rather a different highway and twenty miles out of our way. So, we had to double back on a little county highway that ran parallel to the Wisconsin river until we got back to US 18.

Finally, we arrived in Prairie du Chien. A quick jaunt across the Mississippi River, and we were in Iowa.

When I finally found the team of naturalists and botanists Sarah had assembled to help her with the coring she was doing as part of her thesis, I was a good forty-five minutes late. Sarah’s team was going to work on Founder’s Pond to core as far into the mud as they could. These cores would then be extracted in one-meter lengths and placed into plastic tubes. Sarah would then use these cores to help determine what plant life originally populated the National Monument. From this information, a vegetation management plant for the Monument could then be fashioned.

So, there were six naturalists there (the park’s conservation ranger, Sarah’s adviser, Sarah, another graduate student, the ranger’s seasonal assistant, and a volunteer that previously had worked as a naturalist at another national park) and six seats in the two canoes. It was obvious that Dalla and I would not contribute much to the coring operation, so while they paddled out into the Yellow River, we left to go hiking around the Monument.

By the time all was said and done, we hiked somewhere in the range of ten-fifteen miles. Some of the hiking was on nice trails while the rest was on some really unmaintained so-called trails. The temperature was hot and the mosquitos were out in swarms, but I used liberal amounts of mosquito spray (and a headnet, when necessary) and we both dranks a fair amount of water. Dalla, alone, drank two and one-half quarts of water. For a forty pound dog, that’s a good deal of water.

On our hikes we saw otters, deer, wood peckers, numerous song birds, fish, and the like. Dalla seemed to think that she would be able to take a deer if I’d just let her off the leash. I wasn’t buying.

Once the coring operation was completed, we met Sarah’s team back at the landing, where all the equipment was divvied up and stored. In all, the crew spent almost six hours on the water.

Sarah, Dalla, the other graduate student (Joie), and I went to their campsite at Pikes Peak State Park where we spent the night.

For dinner we cooked brats (in beer, of course), drank beer, and noshed on various junk foods. Dalla kept herself busy protecting our campsite from critters and other dogs and campers.

The most unique part of Pikes Peak State Park is the showerhouse. Now, Sarah and I got to see innumerable showerhouses as we camped our way from California to Wisconsin the summer of 2002 so we felt that we’d pretty much seen all there was to modern campsite showerhouses. Well, that thought was proven to be a lie.

The showerhouse has a weather radio that runs twenty-four hours a day in both the mens and womens areas. Even though I was thirty miles from the Boscobel airport, I probably knew more about the weather there than the residents of Boscobel did. We knew the up to the minute temperature, the forecast, the river level, and anything else the normally is reported on the weather radio. Taking a shower guaranteed that you would be exposed to at least two iterations of the weather radio’s information, if not more.

Dalla slept with us in our tent, and that’s something we need to practice. She spent half the night kicking me in my back and half the night sleeping on Sarah’s feet.

The next day, I took off for Madison as Joie and Sarah went back to collecting data for Joie’s thesis.