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.

a.

cleared forest, lamb’s ear

and nettles

a new world from rot

b.

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.

sna poems, #116: pine hollow

a winding rural road up one of the baraboo hills out past baxter’s hollow took us to the top of pine hollow. pine hollow sna is a sandstone and baraboo quartzite gorge roughly 300 ft deep w/ flanking cliffs as high as 80 ft (according to the dnr’s page). a wide variety of life here, as the deep gorge affords a variety of habitats. hemlocks and white pines tower over the cliffs.

moss and ferns lie thick on the ground along the stream bed. there’s also a sedge meadow at the bottom of the hollow, but we spent our time up in the stony heights.

a late spring snow was falling and swirling up and down the gorge while icicles hung off the outcrops along with the moss and liverworts. trackless and gorgeous (pun very much intended). also, a first id of rattlesnake plantain.

a.

spring snow in the pines

bare sand stone

and conglomerate

b.

outcrop icicle

pudding stone

ferns matting gravel

sna poems, #115: baxter’s hollow

our day in the baraboo hills started in earnest at baxter’s hollow, a broad gorge formed in the bluffs by otter creek with the largest stretch of unbroken forest in southern wisconsin—almost 6,000 acres, some still held in private hands. a rugged path marches thru the main site, but it feels very remote inside.

snow fell much of the time, but the sun peeked out toward the end of our hike. then we spent some time down by otter creek as we made our way out. a serious sanctuary for many aquatic insects, wildflowers, mammals, and especially birds who live away from edges. we exulted in the quartzite.

first id of hermit thrush—saw a few!

a.

marsh marigold fresh

into bloom

along the spring run

b.

under a light snow

moss growing

on tumbled quartzite

c.

in the leaf-bare wood

hermit thrush

flits from branch to branch

d.

reaching out fair limbed

under clouds

the oak against time

e.

below the white pines

the otter,

a wary spider

you can’t see her from this the distance my wife took this picture, but the spider named in the lune above was trepidatiously crawling on my knee here.

and now, the liverwort we found by otter creek, up late this year it seems:

sna poems #114: pewit’s nest

pewit’s nest is a sandstone gorge thru which runs skillet creek. it appears the gorge was formed when glacial lake wisconsin burst its shores and carved out all manner of getaways in the surrounding terrain. it’s a beauty with several low waterfalls and a small forest surrounding.

on this trip, some titmice welcomed us onto the path, virginia waterleaf was getting going, and we had the pleasure of meeting a barred owl just hanging out in the top of a conifer growing on the northern side of the gorge.

the site was being abused by folks leaving garbage and tromping off the trails a while back, and i was glad to see that it looks like things are going better now, and that it’s because the dnr enabled access rather than denying more access. that is, they made more deliberate paths, put up wooden fences to steer folks thru the site and off the bluffs etc. good stuff and a welcome end to easter sunday 2022.

a.

the grey titmouse crest

on iron

flash of rust away

b.

here the weeping ferns

the moss rows

cool below the falls

c.

perched above the slope,

the pine bough:

brown and white cascade

so many woodpeckers knocking on wood on these hikes. all over.

sna poems #113: milwaukee river and swamp

milwaukee river and swamp sna is a mixed site with lowland forest, conifer swamp, and shrub zones. the east branch of the milwaukee river flows thru the site, and it hugs mauthe lake. the lake, river, and wetlands make the site a popular home and migration corridor for birds. we saw a song sparrow, common mergansers, buffle heads, a bald eagle, and downy woodpeckers, along with several more common species. my wife spotted the eagle standing on the lake ice a few hundred yards off and then it took off and flew right over us, as cranes called from further afield.

the walk thru the lowland hardwood forest was full of life, even at this early part of the year. so much to hear and smell and see and touch. we didn’t make it far enough to get to the swamp, but there’s always next time.

a.

common mergansers

with brilliant

red bills, just floating

b.

soft thumb of willow

wild array

song sparrow on branch

c.

bald eagle over

east branch’s

sand and gravel bed

d.

the geese will not stop

their honking—

the witch’s butter

sna poems #112: spring lake (now w/ video!)

spring lake is an alkaline lake surrounded by fen and northern wet forest. the wdnr says the shoreline is a bog shelf and that plants characteristic of fens and bogs live together in the mats of vegetation surrounding, an odd combination.

we were game for it, and the area was inviting (especially with rubber boots). we were welcomed most prominently by two (then three) sandhill cranes making regular calls the whole time we were there, with the echoes of another pair somewhere beyond the tamaracks sounding in between.

the year’s first sighting of skunk cabbage!

a.

cranes stand on the ice

calling out—

here in the cattails

(you can hear the cranes calling here. a couple a half mile away or so kept calling back.)

b.

a single oak leaf

under ice

cool breeze between trees

c.

over tamaracks,

skunk cabbage,

polypores: grey sun

sna poems #111: spruce lake bog

spruce lake bog is classic bog territory. a (relatively) undisturbed bog lake in a kettle, very diverse flora more characteristic of northern sphagnum bogs, according to the wdnr’s description.

i was grateful for the boardwalk that allowed for a walk all the way thru the bog to the lake thru the sphagnum and the bog forest of tamaracks and black spruces and some hardwoods. a light rain was falling and just warm enough not to bundle up.

highlight for sure was the pitcher plants thick on the ground (first id). amazing.

a.

red floral fingers

in the rain

spiders in and out

b.

tumbling tangle

sprawled beneath

the bare tamaracks

sna poems, series supplementum #32: cedarburg environmental study area

the cedarburg environmental study area is a rehabilitated parcel of 38 acres in ozaukee cty wisconsin. conifer forest, hardwood forest, a stream, ponds, and wetlands, the area was rehabbed by a local family from agricultural fields. amazing what a few decades and some devoted humans can do for the land and the many creatures who live here (seeing a good many even before spring really gets moving in wisconsin).

fungus and ice and pond bank life and many many trees.

a.

a single pine cone

held aloft

by shrubby fingers

b.

long cracks and hollows

crevices

the sheer edge of ice

c.

willow gnarled with growth

on bog ice

goose honks fill the air

d.

duckweed swarms the bank

as snailshells

bask in golden light

if you made it this far, here’s a sequence viewing some serious fungal work on a tree:

sna poems, series supplementum # 31: shannon preserve

shannon preserve is 34 acres down the road from the cedarburg bog sna on hwy 33 in ozaukee cty. marsh, shrub carr, lowland hardwood forest, wet and upland meadows. no trails to speak of, which was nice. an unnamed stream meanders thru the site on its way to one of the lakes in cedarburg bog. its ice shelf was precarious and fun to admire.

we hung out with a white breasted nuthatch, and came out of the woods to meet two sandhill cranes flying across the meadow singing away—our first sandhill sighting of the year. it was our first hike outside the city in weeks, the first with warm sun in months. it was a good day.

a.

the curling moss fronds

reflecting

march’s late-day sun

b.

white breasted nuthatch

chirps over

marooned feather flumes

c.

sandhills—necks like waves—

skirt meadow

past wind-blasted oak

sna poems, series anthropocenum #15: north mendota wildlife area, prairie unit

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.

a.

burred balls and seedpods

reaching out

to subdivisions

b.

all this wonderful

tangled mess—

cellulose soil-helm***

(***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…)