For a few days now I have put away my bicycle and instead have been taking long walks through the La Crosse River Marsh. The reason is that Manyu and I plan on taking a five-day trek along the French section of the Camino de Santiago in two weeks, so we want to get our legs and feet in hiking mode. I am sure I will write about the French trip upon my return, but I mention it here only because it has led to the change of pace from biking to walking. I’ve known pretty much my entire life that moving slowly is better moving fast, but the first day of switching from ten miles an hour to less than three is always a good refresher. I bike because it is a better workout than walking, but I miss observing much that is around me. This is especially apparent when the marsh is just waking up after a late spring. 

On my bike last week, I saw Canada geese, high water, and a few mallards. Yesterday on foot I saw the geese and mallards, but also muskrats, coots, painted turtles, blue-wing teal, and shovelers. There were even tree swallows, although I noticed none of the flying insects that usually bring them in. I didn’t see any red-winged blackbirds, even though they must be there. When I am on the move (and focusing on not hitting pedestrians or their dogs), I have a hard time differentiating buffleheads from hood mergansers. Yesterday I stopped and studied the birds. Even though they were at a distance and I hadn’t brought binoculars, I could easily identify the birds with big white patches on their faces as mergansers. I also heard frogs for the first time, but I think it is because the frogs only emerged since this most recent blast of warmer air. 

I miss my bike rides, but with all the preparation for our upcoming trip, I have time to either walk or ride, not both.  If I am going to put aside my bike for a couple of weeks, springtime in the marsh is a good time to do it. 

Steven Simpson