young prairie is a sizable remnant wet-mesic prairie in the southern kettle moraine area, though it was pretty dry given our general lack of rain the last while in this part of wisconsin.
dthis early, there was little flashy growth to call our attention, but seeing the very beginnings of this year’s prairie grass was a subtle excitement. just the muffled crunch of last year’s vegetation and an open-air walk were enough to make the early trip worthwhile.
this trip also marked our last sna in walworth county!
kettle moraine oak opening is very much what it sounds like, though there’s plenty of oak woods too. another sna in the interlobate moraine area between two fingers of the last glaciation (the lake michigan lobe and green bay lobe), the rolling and tumbling topography between steep ridges and kettle holes is always a delight to meander thru. maintaining the oak opening and small prairies on the knobs takes some doing, and we visited (it looks like) a week or two after a prescribed burn. the smell was fertile.
saw our first round-lobed liverwort too—the hairs on the scape don’t come across in the photos, but they were thick with white hairs, and heavy-laden with pollen.
lapham peak is the highest point in waukesha county and is part of the kettle moraine state forest. it’s named after wisconsin’s first serious naturalist and scientist, increase a. lapham. as the sign pictured below notes, lapham made the first national weather service forecast from here in 1870. not bad.
a nice spot, even if the observation tower usually accessible here was closed for the winter.
lapham peak is a unit of the kettle moraine state forest in south eastern wisconsin. this unit of the heavily glaciated forest is named after wisconsin’s first serious naturalist and scientist, increase a. lapham, and contains the highest point in waukesha county.
anyway, it was about -4 F when i arrived for a ski this morning, with the usual blessings of early-morning skiing in sub-zero temperatures: eyelids freezing to one another, toes that go numb if you stop for more than a minute or two, biting cold on the skin during downhill runs. the kind of stuff that a certain kind of cross-country skier actually thinks is kind of fun. my only regret is that i had trimmed back my full beard a week ago; i would have had an amazing ice-beard by the end had i kept it until today. oh well.
johnson hill is a “moulin” (French for “mill”) kame, a conical hill formed from the action of melt-water pouring into cylindrical holes inside a glacier. the swirling action of the water deposits the sediment in a stark cone on the surrounding lowlands. it’s really a strange thing. but we hiked across the field and braved the bit of forest that stretched between us and the kame (the shrub layer thinned out after a bit), and enjoyed an afternoon playing and climbing and sliding over this bizarre hill. northern and southern mesic forest set the scene. the loose rock at the foot of every tree made clear the glacial nature of the hill.
thanks to the wisconsin dnr for tending this plot.
kettle moraine red oaks is a 2nd-growth southern dry mesic forest that got its second life back in the 1880s. the oak-maple-hickory forest is situated on high interlobate moraine with lots of deep, dry kettles. dramatic topography.
thanks to the wisconsin dnr for tending this land!
clover valley fen contains a series of 8-10 ft high peat mounds that began building around a set of springs 11,500 years ago(!). sedge meadow and woods surround the fen mounds, and whitewater creek runs thru it all. the iced-over wetland was a maze of frozen tussocks, some a foot over the ice. the fen mounds were spectacular, with spring water still visibly running off below the ice.
clifford messinger dry prairie and savanna is, as the last post noted, actually thirteen different sites, with prairie and oak opening habitats. this one in walworth county is undeveloped and gorgeous. lots of burrs though!
eagle oak opening has kettle hole (the ponds) moraine (the hills) topography, along with open grown oaks that now mostly reside in mesic forest. though there are still a few open prairie sites. we had forgotten how pleasant and homey the kettle moraine state forest area is.