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Further Adventures

It’s been a while since you heard from me, eh?  It’s not because I haven’t done anything interesting, it’s because I haven’t had time to sit around on the

An old-growth sugar maple in the Archibald Lake unit of the Nicolet National Forest

computer and tell you about it!  It’s time to start getting caught up, though, because the stories are piling up!  What better place to start than this past weekend, which included a lot more “adventures” than I expected…

 

 

 

It seemed like a simple weekend excursion – meet a friend, find a campsite, enjoy nature.  Of course, I always have to complicate things.  See, last time I was down on the Lakewood-Laona District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, I meandered my way home, with an intermediate destination of a cool secluded lake surrounded by a bog full of great plants.  Along the way, I happened upon a campsite, investigated, and found that it was lovely and rarely used.  So naturally, I suggested that we go there.  Unfortunately, all I could remember was that it was on the North Branch of the Oconto River, on public land near private land, somewhere between Mountain and Townsend, east of the highway (it doesn’t narrow down that 40-square-mile area very much).  Even less fortunately (for him), my friend got there before I did, and he dutifully started looking for it.  By the time I got there, he’d traveled half of the country roads in that vicinity and had been compelled to break into that evening’s beverage-based entertainment in mid-afternoon.  Which is to say that he was mildly frustrated.  We checked out a few more spots, but with no luck, and ultimately we found a decent place to pitch our tent off of a rarely-used forest road, behind a berm so that no bear-tracking trucks would come roaring out of the woods and run us down in the early morninghours.  Adventure #1 down.

 

Despite a little drizzle, the night was relaxing and enjoyable, we heard the sounds of nature around us and not trucks and ATV’s.  After a lazy morning involving some reading, bike riding on forest trails, and dog-walking, we went to really start the day.  At which point I discovered that I had locked my keys in my car.  This would be Adventure #2.  We tried for a while to break in to it, but apparently all of the curves in the metal and tight weatherproofing that has kept my car dry (and theft-free) for twelve years was not corruptible with sticks and screwdrivers.  Finally, opting not to damage my car further, I decided that we should drive into town (in the friend’s car) and call a lockout service.  So we did, and even got an ice cream cone (and fried green beans!) while waiting for the mechanic to show up.  The kid who got roped into working lock-outs on Sunday morning met us at the gas station in Lakewood, and followed us back to the car, probably wondering where exactly we were taking him, as we got over a mile down this heavily-rutted road.  However, he got me into my car in five minutes, and we finished packing up and went to spend what was left of our day in pursuit of nature in the Northwoods.

We went west of Lakewood a few miles, to the Cathedral Pines, a stand of never-logged pines that were “saved from the axe” by a lumber baron’s wife who, according to legend (and the informative sign at the site), plead with him to save the area where she took her children to learn their bible verses.  The trees are amazingly tall there, though their bases aren’t as wide as some others in the area.  We hiked around a bit through some old growth forest in the area, and checked out a nearby heron rookery.  The Great Blue Herons were all gone for the year, their young having fledged, but we found traces of their presence in the woods.  We ambled around for a couple hours, enjoying the woods and exploring.  Adventure #3 was enjoyable, if shorter than originally intended!  The time came for us to part ways, though, and my friend headed home, while I went off to find another campsite for the night (hooray for a Monday off!).

A Great Blue Heron nest in a tall pine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Blue Heron, hanging in a tree. Was this bird killed in a dispute and thrown to the ground?

 

 

An eggshell on the ground under the heron rookery.

 

 

Old trees. My (65-lb) dog poses to the left of a hemlock, for scale, with the larger white pine on the right.

Burls in maples – will the one just getting established in the foreground ever rival the monster above it in back?

When forests are managed for old growth, larger trees are allowed to fall over, rather than simply being harvested. The resulting “tip-up mounds” are sometimes a good way to recognize a forest that has had this less-intensive management.

 

A beech tree spreads out in front of a white pine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mind was still on that elusive site on the N. Branch Oconto, but I didn’t want to drive back south to explore that area more.  There was one more possibility to the north east, a long shot, but there were established campsites on the map in that area, so I knew that even if my search didn’t pan out, I’d be able to find a spot to lay my head.  Well, turns out that Adventure #4 took all of 10 minutes!  Before I even found the turn-off, I recognized some signs on private land in the area and let out a yelp of success!  I followed a couple of dirt roads in to a small turnaround on the south side of the river, carried my gear in, and pitched the tent.  I sat near the fire on a cool fall-like night, listening to the riffling and clumph-ing of the water over the rocks and around fallen trees, and woke up in the morning to do a bit of (completely unproductive) fishing.

I don’t know that the site is currently being maintained by the Forest Service (there’s another, newer site just down the road), and the fishing isn’t great,  but I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a secluded night in the Northwoods.  But you think I’m going to tell you where it is???  You’ll have to have that Adventure for yourself!