When I was growing up, it looked so much like we were going to lose the Bald Eagle to human stupidity. When I was nine years old, there were only four breeding pairs in Ohio, where I was born and raised. I knew there were people working hard to hold this species back from extinction. I knew they were having some success. But I never dreamed I would see any for myself. So it has been really cool to live here in Minnesota. Twice while driving to work, I have seen a bald eagle in flight. Yesterday we went to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN. http://www.nationaleaglecenter.net/
This place is amazing. It is located along Lake Pepin, which is essentially the Mississippi River choked off at one end of a valley by the silt brought in by the Chippewa River. The area is home to 40 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles. But it is also a stop along migration routes for others as well as a popular wintering destination for eagles from the far north due to the swift flowing waters which do not freeze over. The Center itself is home to four Bald Eagles, and one Golden Eagle. These eagles have been injured in various ways, and would not be able to survive on their own in the wild. They are still amazing creatures. And they are not kept behind glass, but rather tethered, so that visitors can get within a few feet of them, while volunteers sit with the eagles, attending to their needs and answering questions from the visitors. This is all stuff you can get from looking at the website. What you won't get from the website, and what I am finding it hard to describe is how overwhelming, how wonderful, how superlative an experience it is to be in the same room with them, to find that there were 164 breeding pairs in Ohio in 2008. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/bald_eagle/report/
In Minnesota that same year there were 1,312 - that's two and a half times more than the 487 in the entire Lower 48 back in 1963. We humans, we Americans, we've done some pretty crappy things over the years, by this is one thing we got right. Realizing that, together with the amazement from being so close to some of these animals overwhelmed me so much that I wept. Got all snuffly and whatnot, had to step outside for a while.
We also stopped at an orchard which had MacIntosh apples that tasted exactly like the ones on the tree in the backyard of the house I grew up in. Daniel has always been underwhelmed by MacIntosh apples (though a big fan of the computers), but even he said these were wonderful. Soil conditions, I guess. I long ago swore off buying them in stores, because they were always so bland and sad and bleh. Last year I found some at a local orchard which has some fabulous apples of other varieties, including my new favorite, Zestar; but, even those Macs were only okay. So we have really been enjoying the ones we just bought, as well as the tang of nostalgia.
Another place we made time for was the Laura Ingalls Wilder birthplace wayside. http://lhotp.homestead.com/pepin_mansfield_trip2.html
There is an accurate replica of the house the family lived there. It is remarkably similar to the style of house as depicted in the "Little House on the Prairie" show, only smaller in scale. And the loft where Laura and Mary slept did not have so much as a railing. There was a family with small children there at the same time. Someone had lifted the four-ish year old girl up to the loft where she was entertaining all of us with cow imitations.