the bureaucratically-named north mendota wildlife area, prairie unit is a 63-acre prairie restoration close to the northwestern shore of lake mendota, sandwiched between governor nelson state park and holy wisdom monastery (an ecumenical benedictine community) along cty highway m.
this is one of those natural areas that i am so grateful for and that also can be hard to be in at the same time. it’s fantastic that the good work of preservation is being done here, yet one also sees the new development with its box stores, massive houses, and roads named after the habitats destroyed in order to build (prairie kettle road etc.) immediately adjacent. it’s not the adjacency that bothers me, as if natural areas should be free of human activity and building (cronon taught us how problematic the very idea of “wilderness” is, and would that all human development retained prairies etc. right nearby!), but that clearly the area was prairie too or could have been restored just as readily as the parcel that was.
anyhow, it was the day of our only lasting snow so far this winter here in southern wisconsin, and my brother and i made the most of it. refreshing to visit in the brisk yet desolate winter air and sun, but looking forward to visiting in summer’s height too.
burred balls and seedpods
all this wonderful
(***couldn’t help but laugh out loud and announce my “brilliant” line reminiscent of old english half-lines to my brother after i wrote the last line of this one…)
with its legal preservation going back to the 1940s and 50s among wisconsin society for ornithology members and friends, the honey creek preserve has ballooned with partnership with the nature conservancy to multiple parcels including bog, marsh, dry prairie, sedge meadow, pine relicts, swamp, and sandstone gorge on almost 400 acres. all along honey creek’s valley.
this is the second patch of the preserve i’ve explored, and i can’t wait to get back to explore more. this was a short and steep hike along the sandstone cliffs with unreal thorn thickets. close and dense and hot and humid. the baraboo hills just can’t be beat.
audubon goose pond is a turbid pond with surrounding prairie in a marshy basin of ground moraine. we hiked the prairie in the year’s first good snow—a little dodgy at points, but piloted with grace and confidence by my brother.
the pond itself is not accessible due to the protections in place for the many bird species who make the area their home, but the prairie was lovely as the snow fell and wind blew. something about prairies in winter; i just love it.
two further notes: this plot and some surrounding parcels are further remnants of the formerly huge empire prairie that spanned swaths of these parts north of madison.
haskell noyes is an oak and maple wood in the northern kettle moraine state forest in fond du lac cty. it was an early very cold day when we visited, and the serpentine trail up the interlobate moraine reminded me of how impressive the topography of this area is: dramatic, steep drop-offs; lowly, quiet kettles resting below; surprising plateaus between ridges; meandering piles of glacier-moved and -crunched earth.
gorgeous even at the height of winter-dark days.
moss will hang on
oak leaves underneath
in the firmament
thru white spread feathers
[this lune was based on our spotting of a bald eagle soaring on our approach to the forest…]