Autumn in the North Woods: Part Two

When we broke camp in the Chippewa National Forest on Tuesday morning, the condensation on our tent fly froze instantly. Time to head south to Wisconsin!

 Our destination was Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Along the way, we stopped at Amnicon Falls State Park. The river was high and rushing mightily, churning up tannin-colored water into thundering root beer cascades. 

We told the WDNR ranger that we were thinking of heading towards the western section of the Nicolet-Chequamegon National Forest to camp and to Bayfield to visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. She directed us to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center for more information. Now, you might not get excited about Visitor Centers, but this one is truly amazing. First of all, it’s a quality museum facility featuring interactive exhibits, a National Park Service film, an historical archive library, a bookstore, and an observation deck – three floors of cool stuff! Outside, there’s a nature trail and research nursery. I’m pretty sure the building itself is LEED certified. BEST OF ALL, it is a collaborative effort of the local community (Friends of the Center), the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and University of Wisconsin Extension – which means that staff members from each of those entities are present to answer questions and amplify your understanding of the area. The two we talked to spent considerable time with us, giving us numerous maps and tips and sharing the vision of the Center, its history and unique features. If it hadn’t been so late in the afternoon, and if we didn’t have the urgency of finding a campsite before dark, we would gladly have stayed until closing. Did I mention that admission is completely free? Your tax dollars at work. I took a picture on each floor before heading out with an armload of information.

We camped at an old CCC site in the forest and planned our Bayfield outing. We rose to temperatures in the 20s and headed out for the Grand Tour of the Apostle Islands. The sun was shining, the air was cold, the eagles soared overhead, and I couldn’t have been more invigorated and elated! 

We headed southeast from Bayfield to revisit a favorite dispersed camping spot in the town of Three Lakes, WI. Across the forest service road from this site is the Headwaters Wilderness, a true, federally designated wilderness. We first camped in this private paradise seven years ago. It’s in National Forest, so the site is “first come, first served”.  I was leaning over the dashboard hoping no-one else was there. We were in luck, and this glorious day had a perfect ending. 

The weather turned damp and drizzly the next day, so we only stayed one more night. Our privacy was disturbed once by a sole fisherman who had been tipped off to the spot and came to check it out. We had a pleasant conversation, and he left. We walked the fire service roads and revisited another spot where we’d camped one year when our favorite place was “taken”. 
By this time, we hadn’t showered for eight days. I began to picture Steve as Sasquatch emerging from the forest…  …which he found rather funny. On our way back to camp from our after-dinner walk, Steve suddenly told me to hold very still. A skunk was foraging at the side of the road. We waited. He crossed the road and began to forage on the other side. We waited. Then, he turned and headed straight for us. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I was barely breathing. The skunk stopped four feet from us and looked up. He turned tail and hustled away from us as fast as his short, furry legs could go! What a relief…what a delight!

Our sojourn in the forest was punctuated by encounters with wildlife of many kinds besides the skunk: beaver, deer, bald eagle, red squirrel, vole, grouse, spider, leech and slug, to name a few. Also hunter. Gunshots rang out near our campsites occasionally. Road hunters in blaze orange cruised by. We found the remains of a grouse at one trailhead.
I am almost entirely ignorant of gun culture, mostly by choice. The relationship that Steve & I want to have with the world is non-violent, following the Buddhist koan “do no harm”. Our culture is, however, complex. There’s a lot that I will never understand, and I don’t want to judge. I am grateful that we were able to experience long stretches of silence and peace on this trip, in which we could contemplate our place in the cosmos. Perhaps we are atypical of Wisconsinites, or of Americans. “What do you do out there in the wild if you’re not hunting, or fishing, or riding a motorized vehicle?” We sit. We walk. We sleep. We listen. We look. And I take pictures.

I am very grateful for the land around me and for the people who work to protect and preserve it. I do my best to join in the work. I invite you to as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photo journal.

 

Odds and Ends…and Beginnings

Since I now have a Facebook account, I have been posting many of my photographs there to share with my immediate family instead of on my blog. I feel like I have rather neglected my Blog family, though, so I thought I’d catch you up with some of my favorite shots.

This one is simply a prairie beauty, the Fringed Gentian. Take a moment to read D.H. Lawrence’s poem Bavarian Gentians – he captures the dark, sensual mystery of this flower quite well. 

I found the gentians while on a walk with my son and future daughter-in-law. They represent the Beginnings in the title of this post. 

My son has asked me to do a special photo shoot of them next month down at Starved Rock in Illinois. I’m excited (and a little nervous!) about that.

Steve & I had a wonderful late summer road ramble last Saturday. We’re planning a 12-day camping trip for next month, possibly to Superior National Forest in MN. I’m looking forward to photographing more Fall color, mushrooms, and another Great Lake. 

And work continues at the Conservation Foundation. I try to get outside locally to remind myself why it’s important to preserve the natural spaces around here. 

Thanks for visiting this blog and Happy Fall! I hope you get outside often to enjoy the changing season. 

All photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2017. All rights reserved.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Elemental

“Explore the classical elements of earth, air, water, and fire. How do you capture something invisible like air, or the movement of water? Or, more personally, is there a place you go to feel connected to the earth?”

Air, water and fire form a double rainbow touching Earth. 

Sitting on the ground beside a lake, the campfire behind him dancing in the air. 

Connected to the earth, from head to toe. 

Elemental

Weekly Photo Challenge: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Do you see something….unusual…in this photo?  

Blue ‘Shroom, I saw you standing alone….
It’s a lactarius indigo edible mushroom. The latex or milk that oozes from it turns from blue or blue/gray to green when it is cut open. I’ve only seen this one. 

And what’s wrong with this picture? 

Boys in shorts, green grass and blooming flowers, and…snow on the ground? 
Okay, I’m kidding. That’s not snow. It’s flower petals from the tree overhead. 

 

What about these? Anything ODD about this place? 

Yeah. It’s all weird. I don’t get humans. I’m sticking to Nature Photography. 😉  

Unusual

Weekly Photo Challenge: Order and Chaos

My photographic focus is on Nature. Here’s an interesting question: is Nature ordered or chaotic? I grew up hearing that God brought order out of chaos when He created the world. What might that mean? Do we see that evidenced in the world? There are certainly patterns in Nature, but aside from crystal structures, I have a hard time thinking of anything in Nature resembling a straight line. To me, Nature is one thing after another and never exactly the same. I see this in many examples, like my 4 children. 

And speaking of crystal structures, what about snowflakes? No two are alike, we’re told. Is symmetry the same as order?Pattern and repetition, if not exact, can be a kind of order, I guess…or it can be a kind of chaos. Are feathers orderly? Even when ruffled?

Nature is complex. I think that order is a human attempt to simplify Nature into something less overwhelming and easier to control. Sometimes this simplification has benefits. Evenly and consistently constructed stair steps are much easier to ascend than canyon rocks. 

Somehow, even though Order makes my life easier and tidier at times, I would not say that it’s better. I would not even say that it’s Divine. It’s just….orderly.  

Order

Weekly Photo Challenge: Security

My first thought on this subject is of Linus Van Pelt, the wise but neurotic younger brother of Lucy the fuss-budget in the Peanuts cartoons.  His blanket is rarely out of reach. He is aware of his dependence on it and unapologetic and creative in his relationship with it. He seems to be coping better than most adults. Aren’t we all neurotic in some way?

Now that I’m fifty-something, I’ve gotten to know my insecurities pretty well, mostly through the loss of things I relied on. I no longer depend on my husband for security, since he died 9 years ago. My kids all moved out of the nest and I sold the big, suburban house. Shortly after that, I stopped practicing belief in Christianity (and I had a serious practice). As all of these big pieces began to fall away, I began to realize that security was not about them, but about how I think about myself in the world.

You see, either I belong here, or I don’t.

If I don’t belong here, all of those things won’t help. If I do belong here, all of those things are unnecessary. I finally began to see that I am part of this natural world. I fit in it, just the way I am. And even when I die, all the bits of me will be reabsorbed into the earth and fit in just as well that way.

It’s pretty simple, really, but I have to say that I still get anxious and neurotic sometimes. The one who shows me what being secure in the world looks like is my partner Steve. We camped in the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. By the time we got to the place, he was pretty tired from driving. So he just lay down and fell asleep. No tent. No bug spray. No gear.

No problem. 


Security

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Match

A “satisfying pairing” you say? Oh, so many come to mind…

There are, obviously, the many combinations of happily mated people:

As well as deliciously married flavors, like cheese and truffles or herbs:

cheese

And then there are the natural cooperations of plants and animals, like the monarch butterfly that feeds on milkweed in the larval stage and then benefits from that toxin as an adult that is distasteful to predators and pollinates wildflowers:

monarch prince

Sometimes, though, it’s just as satisfying to put two things together that don’t seem to have much in common – just for the hell of it: 

prickly feathery cold

Even if you never liked all those essay questions you answered in High School that started with “Compare and contrast….”, you probably learned something by thinking about them. What I hope to learn in the Match Games I play is appreciation — because the world is full of fascinating examples of A Good Match. 

good-match
A Good Match