Enjoying Priceless Beauty At State Parks And Reflecting On The Need For Radical Positive Change

CS Sherin, August 6, 2018, updated 3-25-2019

Living in the Midwest, where weather has always been changeable (even before climate change), the summer always seems to go by way too fast. We savor the long days of sunlight, and make the most of it, to be sure. One of my personal priorities is to spend plenty of time in nature. I do this most often by walking far and wide, hiking trails, and biking around the city too.

In the evenings, on weekends, and during family vacation time, we enjoy and appreciate all of these: organic gardens, trails for biking, walking, and hiking; beaches, and state parks. Each time we come away from each of these places, we find ourselves nourished and recharged. But, we don’t always leave feeling completely content.

This is because we realize that endangered species, water, air, and ecosystems in the US are under constant attack by our own government. The constant barrage of bad news on all fronts of health, equity, common sense, and environment — initiated by the current Republican administration — is so horrible that it is difficult to accept as reality. That is one of the stages of grief, finding the loss(es) hard to accept as real. There is no easy answer. Other than, to take care of self and others best we can, and take action in the most constructive, healthy, and productive ways we can.

The soothing conserved beauty we have witnessed this summer has been most notable at state parks and other conserved areas. For those feeling apathetic or that “resistance is futile”, I will say the following. It all matters. Every good, conscious, kind choice we make contributes to positive change with accumulating impact and probable legacy. This is true whether it is or is never seen or shared on social media and news outlets.

Whitefish Dunes Beach

In July, we spent quality time at Whitefish Dunes State Park on the south-central side of the Door County peninsula (in Wisconsin) for the first time. Not only did we luck out with weather, we also enjoyed one the most beautiful beaches in the state…and, it was dog friendly!

We entered the Whitefish Dunes State Park with our yearly pass sticker on our car, and walked the winding trail in the forest that leads to the woodsy sand-stepped entrance of the dog-friendly area of the beach. The forest is gorgeous, the park facilities are clean and cared for, and on the trail we saw so many dragonflies and butterflies — particularly monarchs. I was amazed and happy to see them. Along with current news of the serious decline of monarch butterflies, I have noticed (in the past decade) a drop in the bee and butterfly presence locally, despite many more people providing milkweed in the wild and in yards. So, it was heartening to see an area filled with butterflies, like I remember seeing when I was young. The large gathering of dragonflies dancing in the air at the entrances to the beach areas was enchanting as well.

The water of Lake Michigan is so surprisingly clear, with mesmerizing aqua colors usually only seen in tropical areas of the ocean. Even though the beach and Lake Michigan are free of visible litter, I stood there knowing that it, and all the Great Lakes, contain microscopic plastic pollution saturated with persistent toxic chemicals. With awareness of this, I looked upon the shining water with love and hope, envisioning a solution for our overwhelming and complex problems — and the joy what would accompany that. I went into the water with gratitude, for all the natural vibrant energy it transmitted to me simply in being on a summer day. I had my “Blue Mind” on. Yes!

We reached a level of bliss and relaxation on that beach that I haven’t felt in a long time. Water is healing. Water is, indeed, life — and rejuvenation.

This is the view from the edge of Cave Point. The colors are stunning, and the first day we were there, the water was calm. After a few days we realized that usually that view is obscured by busy waves.
Photo by CS Sherin
The gorgeous clear water and rolling waves of Lake Michigan at Whitefish Dunes beach, July 2018.
Photo by CS Sherin
Me and Samantha, in super chill mode, on dog beach, part of Whitefish Dunes State Park, July 2018.
Photo by Jeff Sherin

To weather the beach and forest well, we brought organic, toxin-free bug spray and sunscreen; hydrating snacks of organic cherries, grapes, and cucumber in reusable tins, and reusable water canisters. We added a slice of lime to the water, which made it enlivening even when it wasn’t cold anymore. We also brought along a small bowl for Samantha, so that she could take drinks in the hot weather when she needed to — very important when traveling and hiking. We also made sure that she didn’t overheat by giving her a swim in the water, as needed. Sadly, she hates being in water, but she put up with what she considered unwelcome drama (swimming) pretty well.

This is our lovely dog, who actually has webbed feet, but hates to swim. Oh well. The view is gorgeous though. Samantha cooled off in the water with us briefly, and then happily went to lay on a towel with me in the summer sun. Lake Michigan, Whitefish Dunes State Park, July 2018. Photo by Samara Sherin

Cave Point County Park

We also visited nearby Cave Point County Park after that, which is just above Whitefish Dunes, and just a couple minutes away.

This is the view from the edge of Cave Point County Park in Door County, Wisconsin. The colors are stunning, and we were so fortunate to first see it with completely calm waters. After a few days we realized that was a rare glimpse, as this view is usually obscured by restless waves. July 2018, photo by CS Sherin
Another view of the underwater flat rock shore below Cave Point County Park in Door County. There were swimmers, kayakers, picnics, hikers, and other nature lovers all enjoying this place immensely. Above and along this shore is a smooth dirt trail underneath cedar trees. Photo by CS Sherin
Cave Point County Park shore, Door County, July 2018. Photo by CS Sherin

The priceless beauty and diversity of the many ecosystems within our country is staggering! The irreplaceable legacy of state, county, national parks and other areas considered sacred, need to be preserved and protected always — and the biodiversity within it. All the land that we borrow from future generations is both a tremendous gift and responsibility.

Perrot State Park

Back to our own region, we visited a beloved and often visited state park, Perrot. At the top of Brady’s Bluff in Perrot State Park, we read a sign that we had never taken the time to read before.

Perrot State Park, top of Brady’s Bluff, in Trempealeau, Wisconsin — a tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corp that built the trail and shelter on that bluff during the Depression. July 2018, photo by CS Sherin

This story really struck us as emotionally stirring, and so timely. What an ingenious and wise way to provide paying jobs during the Depression, while also preserving ecosystems and precious resources! The unbelievably hard work that went into creating steps up bluffs, mountains and other terrain was not lost on us, especially after hiking up to the top! These are priceless legacies in our care to this day.

A view of the bluff that Trempealeau was named after, from the top of Brady’s Bluff, Perrot State Park, July 2018. Photo by CS Sherin

La Crosse Wisconsin, Part Of The Driftless Region

Back at home, at a trail on top of one of the many bluffs in our city, we encountered beautiful full fields of prairie flowers, filled with birds, insects, and other pollinators. That was striking to see, as down in the coulee — where most of the city is — the yards are predominantly dry, the birds and squirrels are thin, and the flowers are thirsty and smaller than usual this year — with the exception of places that go out of their way to water quite regularly.

Top of a bluff, prairie flowers in La Crosse, Wisconsin, August 2018. Photo by CS Sherin

We walk along the marshes and three rivers (La Crosse, Black & Mississippi) that merge together in our city with respect and appreciation. All of it is precious. All of it requires our attention, care, and stewardship. Unexamined habits and pastimes may result in unintended harm, like gasoline powered vehicles on the river, or pesticide-laden lawns, and large amounts of garbage that finds its way through storm drains into local bodies of water where wildlife seeks to thrive. So many species of insects, plants, and animals need our cooperation, in the form of protection and renewable, sustainable long-term stewardship.

A Time For Accountability And Radical Positive Change

Every week this summer, my email inbox has been crammed with new announcements and alerts from organizations who work hard to protect nature, species, education, children, health, resources and other rights — asking for donations and action for petitions, in order to deal with the current administration’s constant attacks to remove and strip standards and protections. To be clear, it is not simply the current person standing as president who is responsible. He and every person in the administration that does nothing, or worse — actively supports the complete and total attack on standards for water, air, protected land, health, equality, freedom, diversity, and quality of life for all — is responsible, and needs to be held accountable.

Will there be accountability and radical change for the better in the coming years? There must be. It is accumulating and pending.

It all matters. Every good, conscious, kind choice we make contributes to positive change with accumulating impact and probable legacy.

CS Sherin

Our health and well-being is inextricably linked to nature, conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable stewardship for the long-term. This is not the time to give up, that is for sure. This is the time to respond, act, and persevere.

This the time to build our core muscles via resistance.

This is the time to stand together for all that is kind, equitable, healthy, and decent. This is the time to make our daily habits and choices count.

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