Sunday, January 27, 2013

The sporting life

Rain is banging against the window this morning, but whether or not it will start start to freeze and turn the south of Iowa into a skating rink remains to be seen. I'm betting "no" since it's 34 degrees at 5 a.m. --- but we'll see.

The forecast --- a day or two of rain --- motivited me to do something I've been threatening to do for a while late yesterday: Drive down south of Russell to take a look at the new Sportsman's Cabin.

This is a project of the Russell Sportsman's Club, an organization that's been around longer than I have, and replaces the original cabin --- a long, low wooden structure that had deteriorated beyond the point of redemption.

The original cabin had what I remember as a huge (it most likely wasn't that huge; 55 or so years ago I was considerably smaller) brick fireplace in its north wall. Since the cabin always was available for public use, I have many memories of gatherings there, especially of those in the fall when leaves had turned in the surrounding timber and a blazing fire looked and felt good.

So it's nice to know that there's still a Sportsmen's Cabin, even though this incarnation is considerably spiffier than the one I remember.

The club, always a strong supporter of boy scouting, still owns a long finger of timbered land along the south bluff of the Chariton River Valley. This was modestly developed for scouting activities, including popular winter encampments. There was even a "ski slope," more accurately described as a big sledding hill since it takes a good deal of optimism to propose that downhill skiing is an Iowa sport.

Anyhow, a lot of work has been done recently, the shooting range was in use when I drove in late Saturday afternoon --- and I like continuity (some of the time).

I also drove into both the west and east units of the adjoining DNR-managed Colyn Area, somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 acres that now form part of the Chariton River Greenbelt, but didn't linger long because it was threatening to get dark and there was a "this gate is locked at 3 p.m." sign on the entrance gate to the west unit --- probably an idle threat, since it still was wide open, but who knows?

This pretty area was developed when I was a kid, swallowing the farm of Isaac and Minnie Colyn --- hence the name. Draconian shifts in the landscape that probably wouldn't be used today were buldozed through the area then, and the old wildly meandering Chariton River was ditched between dikes, cutting off a couple of miles of northerly meanders to create two artificial marshes, one north of the river and the other south. We used to skate on the south marsh in the winter (I grew up just south of it), when there actually was water there.

Erosion infill and drought have dried the marshes now and the whole prospect is a little unsettling if you think about how it used to be. But I'll go back another day --- when the sun's shining and there's no possibility of getting locked in --- and do more looking around.

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