high cliff escarpment state natural area is inside high cliff state park in calumet cty, wisconsin on the eastern shore of lake winnebago. here is a fantastic length of exposure of the niagra escarpment, the dolostone rock formation that arcs from southeastern wisconsin to niagra falls.
a hardwood forest atop the escarpment contains a number of effigy mounds, mostly water panthers and a set of twin buffaloes. the combination of the gloaming, shagbark hickories, mounds, and limestone was exquisite. three lunes here to celebrate.
three generations of riyeffs up and down the cliffs. last sna in calumet cty!
the christmas vacation almost over, i made a brash decision to head up to calumet county for two sna’s, converging on lake winnebago with three generations of family.
stockbridge ledge woods was the first stop, a mature forest atop the niagra escarpment, according to the wdnr website. lots of sugar maple, beech, and oak. though it’s january, it was in the upper 30s so felt like a thaw. some snow still clinging, but lots of places bare too. lots of moss and lichen, but also some liverwort coming up (or hanging on?), and some grasses still green. woodpeckers briefly the only sounds aside from upright primates.
the niagra escarpment, made of ordovician-silurian dolomite, is the edge of an ancient sea with exposures from new york thru southeastern wisconsin. the exposures in this part of wisconsin are known collectively as “the ledge.”
point beach ridges is, according to the wdnr website, a series of 11 swales and ridges parallel to the current lake michigan shoreline in manitowoc cty. the ridges and swales are former beaches of the last eight millennia that used to border glacial lake nipissing. open blowing sand near the lake to juniper/bearberry dunes to swampy swales to fully forested ridges give this site a tremendously varying quality. super fun to hike, and we had a gorgeous late-autumn day for it.
last visit to walk all of manitowoc cty’s snas.
first id’s of bearberry, bunchberry, birch polypore, and dune goldenrod! first non-bog id of sphagnum moss. (thanks to twitter folks for help with recent ids)
nipissing swamp is, according to the wdnr website, the largest remnant hardwood swamp in northeastern wisconsin. fascinatingly, the swamp is in a wetland basin that was formerly a lagoon of glacial lake nipissing (which name refers to an indigenous nation in canada). the beach can still be seen in remnant dunes and barrens.
it was gun deer hunting season last weekend, and our blaze orange was in the other vehicle, so we didn’t go in deep. but even getting off the road a bit was a delight. across the first swampy swale and onto the first ridge, balancing on downed logs across the mud. the club moss was out in droves and soaking up the late-autumn sun. gorgeous swamp weather with birch and cedar swaying above.
lions park is the area around 12-acre seepage lake lions park pond. used to swim here when i was a kid, and used to spend a lot of time on these sand bluffs across from the beach as a teen. the area to the north of this site is the neighborhood i grew up in, perched on the edge of the outwash fan from the last glaciation that stopped on the other side of town between janesville and milton. the area between the house i grew up in and the pond is made up of gullies and hills between the houses that i didn’t realize are probably millennia-old sand dunes covered over with soil and now roads and mid-century houses. all angling down to the rock river valley and spring brook, which empties into the rock not a half-mile from this spot.
a wonderful twilight visit. lots of waterfoul, cool breeze, and a muskrat who paddled along the bank, watched my dad and me for a moment, then dipped under the surface and swam out of range. pond just icing over. spirit place.
Today Macrina Magazine published the first part of a two-part essay of mine entitled “We Are the Dreamer: Earth and Body in Times of Plague.” The essay is a longish meditation on encountering land and other species, my sna poems series, problems with the concept “nature,” contemplative anthropology in a Christian context, my own anxieties during the heights of the pandemic, death, and the unparalleled Middle English poem Pearl.
It’s got a lot more “me” in it than most of my essays, and I’m very grateful to Macrina for bringing it out. The essay is set at Waterloo Quartzite Outcrops SNA, and my sna poems entry for that spot can be found here.
I hope you might take a look and see what else Macrina is publishing too. And stay tuned for the second installment next week!
a shallow seepage lake according to the dnr’s website, grassy lake is situated low with wetlands around it. a road cuts thru the area and allows access without a boat, water on either side. many aquatic and wetland plants make the area home, as well as many water-associated birds—we saw an abandoned bald eagle’s nest across the road first thing.
this was a short stint, letting the kids take turns with the rubber boots to poke around in the wetland area by the lake proper. fun stop with a picnic before pressing on to lodi for the corn maze.
treinen farm is a third-generation 200-acre farm outside lodi, wisconsin in columbia cty. since 2001 they’ve been building up a corn maze and all-around festive fall deal that is seriously impressive. all the riyeffs have been meeting up there once a fall going on 8 or 9 yrs now. the hills all around the area are just gorgeous, and the valleys are rich.
they have a bluff flanking the back of all the lower farm area, and we finally took the chance to climb up. not disappointed—oaks and bolted forbs in the moderate driving wind as the sun began to set behind the hills across the valley. this is fall in wisconsin, folks.