Sunday, May 31, 2009

A new sense of order, just in time for summer

As I sit down to write this Sunday evening, the last of May, I’m looking forward to time of more order and focus. The past few weeks (months, really), we’ve lived amid chaos. There has been a hectic travel schedule for work, the break-in, and the “living out of cardboard boxes” that comes with any move.

My work schedule remains intense, but I’ll not complain. (I know there are many, many people who long to have a job, especially one as rewarding and stimulating as mine is.) But on the home front, the majority of our things have found a place in our new home (thanks to Julie). And another significant point of stability: Tonight, I write on a laptop which replaces one that was stolen back in mid-April.

I’ve spent some time “training-in” this machine, loading it with files, photos and maps that were on various back-up disks. (I was able to recover most—but not all—of our work.) It is strange how my old laptop became the intellectual epicenter of this project… the place we blogged from, the place we stored dozens of maps, hundreds of GPS waypoints, and thousands of digital photos. This experience has been a testiment to the importance of backing-up your machine(s)… and store at least one back-up in a different location than your machinery. (In this case, we were fortunate to have both disk and hard-drive back-ups… as one of the back-up drives was also taken!)

Yet to be replaced… a couple of GPS devices that were also taken. (The challenge of this process is in finding units which are as identical to the stolen devices as possible, as called for in our insurance policy.) I’m hoping to get my hands on the GPS gear this week… and resume my on-water work. I have some big plans for summer, now that the turmoil of the move is behind us. More on that soon.

© 2009 Mike Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We're pleased to be found in MN Trails

Our project has received nice coverage from a wide variety of publications, blogs and broadcasters. (See the top right-hand navigation bar for examples.) Most recently, our efforts have been covered by Paula Wojcik, a writer for MN Trails magazine.

Months ago, Paula called me to begin researching her story. I must tell you that, while it is the job of any journalist to be a dispassionate reporter of observed events and activities… she wanted to let us share the deeper story of river restoration. As she asked questions about our pollution recovery efforts, I implored her to also share the positive side: That she should write about the beauty, as well as the beast. (I asked her to show at least one or two photos of a pristine stream, wildlife and backwaters, as well as the trash we have seen. People need to see the payoff for responsible conservation efforts!)

Paula did just that, by sharing a few of our photos and through the pictures created by her words. That is something Julie and I very much appreciate… and we thank Paula and her editors for sharing the goods news as well as the trash talk!

If you'd like to see the story, click on this link to download a re-print (three pages, 10 MB). Or of course, you can pick up a copy of the Summer 2009 issue of MN Trails magazine at any Minnesota State Parks or Explore Minnesota tourism facility. You can also grab a copy at any sponsor location (to see who their sponsors are, just visit the MN Trails web site).

Paula, thank you. If people saw only the trash we have seen, and if they only heard about the bad stuff, they would become discouraged. But allowed to share the beauty of the St. Croix River Valley, the Mississippi, and other waterways…

It helps all of us realize why this is such a great place to experience life.

© 2009 Mike Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

With our relocation, a move to new waters

As nice as it would have been to find a place that was actually on the river, our new home in St. Michael comes with a different kind of access.

If I were to live on a specific shoreline, I can imagine myself staying close to that one body of water. For example, even though our Crystal home was five miles or so from the Mississippi, that became the river I most frequently explored. There are many other waterways waiting to be explored nearby, but human nature often drives us to the familiar, rather than the undiscovered.

From our new residence, I’m still less than ten miles from the Mississippi, but much farther upstream. I could choose from entry points at St. Cloud, Monticello, Otsego or Elk River. But we are also close to the Crow River… a quite paddle-able tributary which joins the Mississippi at Dayton. We are within driving range to a number of other streams, including the Elk and Sauk rivers. And of course, we will return to (and continue to maintain) our adopted stretches of the northern St. Croix River… as regularly as time allows.

Our home is situated in the extreme southwest corner of town. In fact, you look at the town from our front window, but at the country from our rear window. The patio door literally opens to a unique grass and wetland. There is a small country highway about a half-mile to our south… and a set of power lines perhaps a half mile to our west. But aside from that, there is little but grass, short brush, and a few ponds. So far, we’ve seen blackbirds, yellow finches, a pheasant, geese, ducks, and a muskrat. With these kinds of critters so plentiful, fox and perhaps even coyote cannot be far behind. Surprisingly, I have not yet seen deer, but I am confident we will.

Three or four miles to our west/northwest, on a casual drive, we discovered a different kind of water that I intend to spend some time on. It is a slough… just small enough to remain nameless, uninhabited as far as powerboats and jet skis are concerned. But big enough to paddle, and inhabited by pelicans, egrets and beaver (and much more, I am sure; these are just what we saw from the road). Millions of people explore popular lakes here in Minnesota, and thousands more traverse its well-known rivers. But few will see these less traveled waterways… which makes them all the more inviting.

Anyway, there is much exploring to be done, now that we have a new home base. Instead of lamenting that I could not own a specific stretch of waterfront, perhaps I should be pleased that I am not confined by one.

© 2009 Mike Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Change of address

I hope regular visitors to this site will forgive the time since my last posting, but much has been going on. First, there was been the challenge of losing several tools we use in writing and maintaining this blog (I’ve written about the break-in and burglary). Then, there has been a frantic few weeks of travel related to work (it has calmed down of late). But on top of it all, there has been the matter of relocation.

Months ago, Julie and I decided to speculate a bit in the real estate market. Our goals were simple; perhaps our house would fetch a reasonable sum due to its rather central location in the city. If so, we would be in a position to upgrade a bit, buying a newer/nicer home a little further out. As it turns out, we were right. After a stressful several months (the current economy has made buying and selling real estate a very interesting proposition), we have moved to St. Michael, Minnesota.

We sold our house in February, accepting the deferred closing our buyers had requested. We closed on the sale of one house and the purchase of another just this past Friday, and moved in to our new digs on Saturday.

In addition to getting out of the city, one of my hopes was that our new home would be on the river. In my wildest dreams, we’d have found a place on the St. Croix… but we scratched that plan early on, as land on that national treasure is far too expensive for our blood. So, I tried everything in my power to find something on the Mississippi, the Crow, or the Elk River. But economics and timing worked together to prevent that dream from coming true. So, I’ll have to be satisfied with the roof rack that secures the kayak to my truck, and the camping set-up Julie and I invested in a few years ago.

When it comes to our modest little camper, I like to tell people we own a lake home… it just didn’t come with a lake. But enjoying the bounty of state parks and camp sites in this part of the country is one way of living close to the lake or river… one weekend at a time.

This week, I have taken some time off from work to settle-in after the move, and catch up on our river work.

© 2009 Mike Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A look at the MPRB map to cleaner waters

As I reported last March, I’ve spoken with Tim Brown at Minneapolis Parks and Recreation about the restoration of shorelines within Minneapolis parks in the north metro area. As the story explained, we’ve taken an extensive inventory of the trash and debris that sits in this part of the Mississippi River, including photos and GPS waypoints of where those items are sitting. (Click here for a glimpse, or see the thumbnail below.) Tim suggested that if we could provide him with ARC-compliant versions of our GPS target maps, he would attempt to involve contractors in clean-ups as they re-develop park lands.

Well, here is a look at what those maps look like. Note: These are graphically rich documents which are as large as 12.8 MB. If you’re on dial-up, it might take a while.

Overview map.
Lowery to Boom Island map.
North Mississippi Park map.
N Mississippi to St. Anthony Park map.

As seen here, the maps look not much more robust that an image from Google Earth. But to Tim and his team, the .gis and .gpx versions of these files can be “layered” to include only the information sought by its’ user. So, if a contractor wants to drill-down on just a certain type of debris, they can do that.

I just thought you might like to see what this project, and the progress, looks like. Our more complete (but less complex) Google Maps version of the inventory list is shown here.

View Combined Mississippi Trash Targets 3-1-09 in a larger map