On a brisk but sunny fall morning, about 25 participants of the PLATO hiking group enjoyed this informative walk reflecting on the history of the mound builders in the Preserve as well as learning about birds and bird migration. The group was led by Gisela Kutzbach and Chuck Henrikson of the Friends, and the walk was organized by Michael Di Iorio of PLATO--a Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization that promotes opportunities for intellectual and cultural enrichment for the senior community.
The 3.0 mile walk began at Frautschi Point, along the new path toward the Biocore Prairie. At our stop at the picnic table overlooking the lake, Chuck explained the function and structure of bird feathers. He passed around aerodynamically-shaped flying feathers as well as soft down, and feathers in between the two kinds. From there the walk led through the woods toward the Picnic Point trail and the effigy mounds along that path. We had to avoid some flooded areas, still under water from the torrential rains in mid-August. Gisela explained the story of effigy mounds in Wisconsin, their distribution, shapes, construction, use and cultural significance, as well as the information they provide about the societal structure and history of the mound builders. The Preserve has 13 mounds, including animal shaped, cone and long mounds. The 6 mounds along the Picnic Point path are cone and long mounds. 87% of all mounds contain burials, ranging from the bones of a single person to bundled-bone burials of a dozen or more people—implying a non-egalitarian societal structure of the Late Woodland mound builder more than a 1000 years ago..
During the welcome break at the Picnic Point fire circle, the group enjoyed the gorgeous views in all directions as well as Chuck's informative stories about birds and his demonstrations of their calls. He also passed around owl pellets he had collected, showing tiny bones. All along the way he helped participants spot birds, including residents such as the Downey Woodpeckers, as well as warblers and other migratory birds taking a break in the Preserve on their journey and fattening up on abundant berries and seeds. Photos Chuck Henrikson and Gisela Kutzbach