Trails: A walk down memory bluff
(Editor's note: This is the 13th and final story in a summer-long series by Post-Bulletin outdoors writer John Weiss about off-the-beaten-path unpaved trails to hike in the region. All have some human or natural history connected to them.)
WEAVER — A century ago, the Whitewater Valley was home to many small farms both along the Whitewater River and on the ridges overlooking it.
Poor farming methods, however, soon depleted the land and nearly all farmers are gone from the valley that is now mostly part of the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area. One of the only things left of those farms is memories of those who once lived there and names given to ridges like Melcher and Kronebusch. Perhaps the best known, however, is Siebenaler that was once home to the Siebenaler family that farmed the blufftop.
The family, like so many others, left more than six decades ago and their farm is now wild land. Part of the farm is a blufftop that's a bit unusual because it's nearly straight for a mile, while most blufftops meander wildly. And there is a road to it where I often go to see wildflowers and wildlife, enjoy the view and sit at my mother-in-law's rock.
I've gone there in all seasons, from winter when the wind felt like it was going to tear off my cold-numbed face (deer were smart enough to stay in shade but out of the wind) to summer when it's heat also stuns me.
Siebenaler faces mostly west and it's goat prairie, which means it's steep, rocky and historic. Much of the region was goat prairie before Europeans stopped wildfires that rejuvenated the land and kept out trees. Now, like most other goat prairie, it's getting overgrown.
But the view hasn't changed. I've seen small herds of deer feeding in fields below me and about a dozen walk up the bluffside just as I passed. Each picked up my scent and bolted into the woods. I've heard sandhill cranes and geese up there, come across a flock of young turkeys that were dumb enough to run up to me when I gave a short yelp. Songbirds, of course, and butterflies like the prairie flowers.
I've hiked there alone, with Cub Scouts and friends and don't tire of the view, the feeling I'm walking through history and sitting at my mother-in-law's rock. Angie Hubbard was my mother-in-law and was great. But about a decade ago, her fight against cancer was coming to an end. I was sitting at her rock, eating supper one evening and the next day, I learned she was airlifted to the Twin Cities because of the cancer.
A week later, I was again there and the next day, learned she was taken off life support.
Like many of the places I've written about in this series, the place has a lot of memories for me, such as the deer, scouts and Angie. This series has been only a brief look at some of the unpaved trails there are in the region, seen through my eyes.
There are many more out there, all ready to help you make your own memories.