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Wild Side Column: Spring again and again for us this year

A female Florida River Cooter (Pseudymys conccinna) digging a hole to lay eggs in the Lower Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge. Dan Wilcox photo.

Carol and I spent the winter at our place in Cedar Key, Florida avoiding the brutal cold and snow here in western Wisconsin. We enjoyed watching the spring arrive there during February and March. Iris were blooming in the Suwannee River floodplain, soft green leaves of bald cypress emerged, sweet gum and maple leaves filled out, ferns unfolded, wildflowers bloomed, frogs were calling and turtles were nesting.

We left Cedar Key last Friday and drove through the Florida Panhandle where the damage from Hurricane Michael is still evident. Avoiding the larger cities of Montgomery, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, we drove on good country roads on a diagonal through the dense woods of Alabama and on to Columbus, Mississippi.

On Saturday we drove across Mississippi, Tennessee, crossing the flooding Mississippi River at Caruthersville. We crossed the Bootheel of Missouri north toward the Ozarks. It's a bit sad to consider that the Mississippi River Delta country was once densely forested with giant cypress and tupelo gum trees. Now it's a rather bleak landscape of soybean and cotton fields, all ditched and drained behind levees with almost no trees.

We drove north through the Missouri Ozarks, crossing the beautiful Current, Jacks Fork, Black, Osage and Gasconade Rivers. It was a white-knuckle drive for this flatlander with steep hills and lots of curves. What made it really memorable was that spring was happening there. The oaks and hickories were leafing out with many shades of green. White dogwood flowers reflected the sun and purple redbud trees were blooming.

We visited friends near Moberly, Missouri, took a pontoon boat ride across the lake where they live and had a feast with Cedar Key broiled oysters, grilled salmon, fried morel mushrooms and asparagus. At our friends' place the dogwoods had just bloomed and the tree leaves were starting to bud out.

On Sunday we drove through the hilly green pastures of northern Missouri, and through the rolling corn/soybean desert of Iowa and southern Minnesota. We passed some remnant patches of snow from Saturday's storm in northern Iowa. The trees became much less green as we drove north. For us acclimated to the warm Florida air, it was darn cold!

Now we look forward to watching spring arrive again here, with the trees greening up, ephemeral flowers and morel mushrooms in the woods.

Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at rfjsports@rivertowns.net

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