sna poems #137: ableman’s gorge

a gorge cut into baraboo quartzite, cambrian sandstone, and conglomerate by the baraboo river. the scene here in the upper narrows is very interesting, with van hise rock (an outcropping that helped charles van hise of uw-madison geology fame articulate principles of structural deformation and metamorphism) popping up over the road along with old quarry scars and a public spring for drinking water.

a gorgeous, clear, unseasonably warm spring morning, me and the kiddos piled into the van and drove here from the dells where we were staying. we checked out the spring and van hise rock, then climbed a bluff to the southwest of the baraboo river.

couldn’t believe how game the kids were, going straight up the bluff, but the first really clear morning with sun and heat on the back and cardinals singing out over the valley—couldn’t resist. also, the first liverwort buds and trout lilies coming up. also took a moment down by the river to pay my respects. would like to get back here sometime.


skirting gorge’s ridge

cardinal call

atop the cherries


the upper narrows

at dawning

liverwort flowers


baraboo river

cut quartzite

here and gone a thief

sna poems, #129: south bluff/devil’s nose

just under 3,500 acres in the baraboo hills abutting the southern shore of devil’s lake, south bluff/devil’s nose is (by southern wi standards) a huge swath of oak and maple forest. according to the dnr’s website, it’s home to a number of rare birds and plants, and pine glen and messinger creek are found here, though we didn’t encounter these this trip. devil’s nose is the eastern end of south bluff, along where the railroad curves out and away from devil’s lake.

our trip was up the first, northwestern-most bluffside in the site, as the kids were along. but they had already hiked the east bluff and gone to ski-hi (apple orchard) by this time, so i was immensely impressed by their stamina and eagerness on this gorgeous, off-trail, up-bluff, windy, sometimes a little rainy hike. it was a fabulous time, and my first time on the south bluff after nearly forty years of visiting devil’s lake. will be coming back.

p.s. my camera was struggling w/ our starting to lose the light on an overcast midwestern day, so photos a little rough. i’ve taken a few sharper images from my wife’s too.


the maples blowing

are the bluffs’

evening offering


the yellowing oaks

keep secrets

above the south shore


under fall shower

the plantain

seeds stand just waiting


a quartzite fern-stand

lovely at none

over dead bear cone

sna poems #119: pan hollow

pan hollow is, as the dnr website tells us, a flat-bottomed gorge in the baraboo hills, tucked between baxter’s hollow and pine hollow. streams and glades, dry, dry-mesic, and mesic forests throughout. false mermaid, one of the spring ephemerals (and an annual!) lives here along with many bird species and an endangered sedge.

but, i’ll be frank. it was the end of a wonderful and long day of hikes, and i was simply too tired to go very far. so i had a very pleasant walk in a spring snowshower, but didn’t reach the hollow itself, walking along the bluff ridge and tramping a bit thru the woods before heading back. this hollow deserves another visit at some point too, but i was glad to walk it nonetheless.


a lone chickadee


the growing snowstorm


here the land descends

but too much

walking for one day


a gutted acorn

and branches

ready to come down

sna poems, #117: hemlock draw

hemlock draw is yet another gorge in the baraboo hills. the terms (“draw,” “hollow,” and “gorge” are used fairly interchangeably in the area.) this particular gorge has honey creek running along its bottom between sandstone and conglomerate cliffs.

the draw is named for hemlocks b/c this is another place in the hills where more northerly species of plants (including hemlock) grow in the southern part of wisconsin. it seems this is b/c of the species’ ability to linger along the microclimates of the gorges where cooler conditions have prevailed; communities that died out this far south with the retreat of the glacier were able to hunker down in spots that persisted cooler.

there are sea stacks here from when the whole area was under water, tho’ we didn’t catch them this time as the day was drawing on and legs were getting weary. next time.

first id of yellow-rumped warbler, and some more signs of forb life here than in other spots we walked that day. the bare cliffs are imposing and majestic.


cleared forest, lamb’s ear

and nettles

a new world from rot


yellow-rumped warblers

are chirping

wtih last year’s bear corn

if you made it this far: there was some burn along the top of one ridge, and this hollowed-out snag was still standing precariously, with the glossiest burn all around the interior. smell and touch are absent, but the view was fascinating too.

the rubble ’round the tree’s base.