it’s strange to me that i haven’t yet visited this site for the series. atlas pit (it was re-named ‘kiwanis pond’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that from long and early association) is a former gravel quarry a couple blocks from where i grew up in janesville, wi (rock county).
the old story goes that atlas sand & gravel dug until they hit a spring and then it filled in. i haven’t been able to fact-check that to my satisfaction, but the pieces of confirmation i’ve found have lined up with the general story. sounds like it filled up in the ’50s.
my childhood neighborhood was at the top of the quarry, and the pit was down the hill in a green corridor near a large wooded park, another pond, and a golf course. i learned in my research on wisconsin natural history during the pandemic that my hometown sits atop one of the outwash fans of the last glaciation, and my neighborhood above the rock river is at the edge of the fan. so it actually makes very good sense that there’d be a gravel quarry here, and there are other quarries in the area.
we used to come down here to play frequently, and back then it felt like a forest, a real wild place. it’s not quite so expansive now as an adult, but there are still pockets that feel more remote than it really is. when i visited the wind was blowing on a cloudy morning, and it smelled of childhood and good life.
oliver prairie is a remnant prairie perched on a hill made of dolostone, which is why it’s a remnant—no farming here! for its small size it has a large number of plant species, and is ringed round by trees, which gives being on the hill a strange, you’re-the-only-one-on-earth kind of feel. the sna has some narrow lanes coming off the main parcel, which were a treat to walk down as well with the junipers and the spider-web-bedazzled knapweed.
the fog was lifting by this time, and this was the last sna in green county i had to visit. another county accounted for. (photo credits on a couple of these go to my wife.)
in the morning light
and goat’s beard
dusting the blufftop
still crickets chirping
on dolostone ledge
if you made it this far… here’s the entry to a largish den (maybe a badger’s by the size of it? i didn’t get close enough to get a real good shot…); a finely grass-framed slab of dolostone; and a deer who was very surprised to find us there on her lane.
abraham’s woods is a remnant old growth southern mesic forest dominated by maple, linden, and red oak. the understory is fairly sparse due to the peak canopy, which allows for some spectacular attention to the sandstone outcroppings, moss, and fungi of this wood at this time of year. the sandstone is actually a slanting ridge that creates an eastward-facing amphitheater, with heavy fern growth down in the hollow. a great blue heron rookery inhabits the site, but they’ve gone for the year.
it was tremendously foggy the day we visited in the early morning, and the trees dripped rain in the quiet. this was a spectacular visit and i hope to get back next year.
thanks to the uw arboretum for maintaining the site and for permitting me to visit.
in from the fogscape,
pelts the leaf litter
bark in the hollow,
the mist making haze
loose slabs of sandstone
the guttating frill
if you made it this far, here are some miscellaneous things: a photo of one of the tree tags i’m very fond of, some serious fuzzy mold on scat, and the largest snag i’ve ever stood under:
kaszube’s is a pocket park (.15 acres) in milwaukee’s frightfully industrial harbor district. revitalization efforts are underway in different areas, but the concrete and salt and machinery encircle the body and loom over the mind, even as the ingenuity involved does inspire a reluctant awe at our sheer ability to make.
spots here and there are delightful respites though. kaszube’s park being one, it’s a memorial park that calls back to public memory the jones island fishing community (here’s the obligatory mention of the fact that it’s actually on a peninsula now). the kashubian population that inhabited the island in a fishing village came from pomerania and were finally forced out between the 1920-40s for greater industrial exploitation of jones island. today it’s a site of salt processing and storage, waste treatment, and lots of concrete and metal.
the park is built on the site of one of the last residents’ home and tavern, capt. felix struck’s harbor inn. amid all the industrial blight, a few trees (the larger a willow, i think), grass, and a few ornamentals survive here. a small berm just across from the park has longer grass and a small but sturdy representation of the area’s most common city wildflowers. hanging on.
we stopped by on a meander thru the harbor district trying to locate a pile driver.
by a sea of salt
the harbor open
to the lake,
willow leaves hanging
if you made it this far: here’s the pile driver we were looking for, so my wife could take a picture of this project’s progress for my father-in-law.
mayville ledge beech-maple woods is very much what it sounds like, tho’ “ledge” in this case refers very specifically to the exposed niagra escarpment present on the site. the niagra escarpment is the exposed dolostone ridge at the edge of the niagra cuesta that stretches from new york state up thru canada and down into dodge county (and a smaller exposure in waukesha county) here in wisconsin via door county. in some places, it’s dramatic seaside cliffs, in others, it looks more or less like a pile of rocks.
no trail to speak of here, we followed deer paths up the glacial drift-laden section up to the top of the ridge and walked thru the ungrazed woods atop the ledge. with a steady wind blowing up onto the plain, we were able to enjoy a late-summer hike thru beech, maple, and ironwoods, with lots of mushrooms and moss growing all around the glades of tumbled dolostone. american beech grows here in its westernmost limit.
a welcome autumnal retreat north of the city yesterday. in washington county, we stopped at lizard mound park, where over 20 linear, conical, and effigy mounds are very well preserved. especially impressive are the water panthers, of which there is a pair face-to-face, and the “lizard mound” which has much more pronounced legs and feet than most effigy mounds. these woodland mounds are much taller than many i’ve visited.
the forest seems pretty healthy, with little clutter in the undergrowth. lots of fungus growing and the last late-blooming wildflowers hanging on. washington county parks is doing a great job keeping the grounds.
this also seems like a good time to acknowledge that this land and pretty much all the land i’ve been walking for this project (including where i live and work) are lands that were taken by force and/or chicanery from the ho-chunk, menominee, potowatomi, sauk, and meskwaki peoples. i/we are still guests on this land, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. #honornativeland
honey creek sna is a widely varying area along honey creek, with different soil types, bottoms, boggy areas, forest, rock escarpments and uplands. the dnr site claims over 500 plant species living in the area. the site was originally protected by the wisconsin society for ornithology, and many bird species nest here. go birds (or, as chaucer would have called them, brids).
i took a leisurely stroll up the creek in the southern section, walking up what’s known as “borns hollow.” (i’m a sucker for any area called a “hollow.”) a lovely creek community with springs and seeps, forbs and grasses hanging all over the banks. oh, and cows and cranes coolly noting my approach and retreat.
my first spot of lobelia this year, and first id of spotted lady’s thumb (heart’s-ease), a kind of knotweed.
took in an invigorating walk on a hot day with my wife and mom, while my brother hung out on the pond-shore.
flax pond is a kettlehole pond formed by a formerly submerged glacial chunk that melted, the ground above collapsing into the depression and water filling in. another pitch pine-oak wood by the looks of it, with lots of sand and, surprisingly to my midwestern eyes, lots of moss and fungus too. a beaut.
and my fond adieu to these fabulous lichen forests on so many tree limbs out there. couldn’t get enough.
first id of a new, yellow species of hawkweed, but not sure if it was new england or meadow…
we took a twilight walk at crowes pasture conservation area, which features pitch pine-oak woods bounded by quivet neck creek and cape cod bay. the moon and the sea air were fantastic, and all that lichen tangled along the tree limbs again…
at this site off of new boston road in dennis, ma, as you can see above, the first english colonial fort in the area was built. it’s now restored to a cedar forest and salt marsh off of chase garden creek. a beautiful walk, quiet and smelling sweet of cedar. one of the great barefoot walks, with all that sand and pine needle duff.
one of my favorite aspects of cape cod is the intricate and heavy lichen forests that cling to the tree branches; impressive here as elsewhere. also, you can see the ditches dug in the salt marsh that earlier generations used to try to kill off mosquitoes by making them bait for minnows…i don’t know how well it worked. special thanks to my wife for taking time out of our vacation to go on this walk with me. 🙂
also, on a formal note, while not committing to it wholesale, i’m starting to use the “lune” form more in these posts, the so-called “american haiku” of 3 lines at 5 syllables-3 syllables-5 syllables.