Sunday, June 29, 2014

So Much More Than Flowers

Back on that Saturday hike through the forest, I found a whole lot more than flowers. There's a saying that most people know. "Can't see the forest for the trees", but I think I suffer from the opposite affliction. I can't see the trees for the forest. My eyes are constantly scanning the forest for little pops of color or form. 

From grapevines taking up a strangling position to fuzzy little seeds, it all grabs my attention. 
Even flies look better sitting on a bright green leaf in the under story of my favorite forest.
 Does anybody else remember popping these little seed pods as a kid, or was I just strange?

 This ecosystem is remarkable. After the winter we have just endured, the forest has risen from its slumber and burst into an all too brief explosion of life.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

But Who Tends the Wildflowers?

So if you read my post yesterday, you already know that flowers are on my mind. It's very early summer here in southern Wisconsin, and I realized that I had not been down any of my favorite trails since spring arrived. Shame on me. I got up early, grabbed my new lens and drove across town to Viking Park.

Wouldn't you know it. I was all pumped up about my flowerbed and then I find a whole forest full of perfect little jewels. 

Nobody mulches these flowers. Nobody pulls the weeds that steal their water and block their sun. It hardly seems fair that I spent hours covered in mud.
Oh well. I decided to enjoy the show. Then I stumbled upon this new flower (at least new to me). The flower spike was about four feet tall (1.1 meters). At first, it just looked like most other wildflowers, but the striking color combination drew me closer.
Strangely the yellow "petal" is a single piece so that tells me it is not a petal, rather a bract. It would seem the fuzzy purple center is the true flower.
I would like to know what kind of plant this is. Notice how prominent the purple flower is, and how about the stubbly little stalks on the flower spike. 

Even the bud is dotted with the strange little white pearls. This is not dew, but I don't know what it is. 

I like the odd, love the unique, and find inspiration in nature. This is just the kind of thing that eventually ends up in my novels. So here I am documenting the day, and this interesting wildflower. 

Flowers of My Labor

I'll admit it. I'm not much of a gardener, but I do admire flowers so if I am to have some colorful petals to call my own, I need to spend some time with dirt under my nails. 

It has been a mulch year. You know when the weeds are starting to take over the beds and the ground is drying far to fast. With 4 yards of cedar mulch to spread, I had my work cut out for me. Weed by weed, root by root, and bed by bed, I was slowly winning the battle for the flowers. 

Now, several weeks later, a field of lilies surrounds my birdbath.
And it isn't only the flowers I appreciate. Below are columbine heads swirled in upon themselves. 

I'm just glad to have the mulch spread and the weeds under control, but it's sure nice to have some colorful flowers to reward my efforts.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Back to the bluff. It was a harsh winter, and I'm sure it was even worse at the top of an exposed pile of rocks. The highest point around, even the winds have forced life to specialize, but beauty can be found everywhere. 

While I admired the view, I was entranced by the smaller nuggets.
Most people forget that trees have flowers, and I'm not talking about fruit trees. When the spring comes, all you have to do is look for them.

Not yet ready to show their face, these may apples were just beginning to celebrate. The look yellow now, but they will be a soft white when they are ready to show their faces.

Up on that bluff, I saw some wildflowers that I had not seen since I was a child running through the woods near my home.
Bloodroot, I think, (but I'm no expert) so named because if you pick the flower, a thick red substance oozes out and stains everything it touches. Native American's used it extensively.

Dutchman's Britches were everywhere. 

Plants had taken root in every crevice. 
In a stunning variety of forms.
Lichen colonizes stone and covers the lifeless rock with an almost alien life form while ferns take root in the cracks. One day this massive boulder will the soil for a future generation to traverse. 

Beauty is everywhere. Just remember to open you eyes.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Proving Ground

Where does the time go? Work has been a source of extreme stress for the past 7 months, and during that same period I have written the second installment in the Legends of the Aurora series. (More on that in the coming days) But my blog has been static. Well, the pressure is finally starting to wane at the office, and I am in the final stages of editing the book. Don't get me wrong. I have managed to seek in an adventure this spring, and it's time to share it with my readers.

Devils Lake State Park is a short distance from my home. Very near the natural arch I shared last year, Devils Lake is a geologic artifact of the same forces that make this part of Wisconsin unique. I could go on for days about that incredible slice of the earth, but I think it's time to share some photos. 

Camping with my husband and the two dogs, Winston and Tasha, we decided to hike the loop that takes the hiker both high above the lake, and along the boulder strewn shore. We decided to go up first. The mid-May morning was cooler than what promised to be a 78 degree day.

The trail was West Bluff, and it's not for the casual hiker. The bluffs tower over the deep lake, and although the trail is paved with asphalt for some strange reason, it's also full of steep, seemingly endless steps. But the view is incredible.
My husband is not as interested in hiking, but with a very active vacation planned for later this year, he was giving it his best. He just need to figure out his rig.
It was an interesting day up there. Several boy scout troops were power hiking by as they worked to prove themselves to gain a seat on a trip to Wyoming later this year. We had a wonderful conversation with a scout leader who explained that they had to hike the same circuit we were walking in 90 minutes or less, all while carrying a heavy pack. No assistance, no do overs. That would not be easy, but they were young and ready to prove themselves. But boys will be boys, and the scouts were breaking into smaller groups as the difficulty of the trail took its toll. 
Just about every year somebody falls from the bluffs. Can you smell the testosterone? A woman, not with the troop was screaming at this child (maybe 12) and he callously laughed at her. This photo is called Stupid Kid.

At this point, my old dog, Winston started to slow. It was a test for him as well. He needed to prove that his new pain medication would enable him to traverse the trails of the rocky mountains. He went up just fine, but coming down was obviously painful. His pain is in his front legs, and that steep trail was putting too much stress on his arthritic legs. We stopped frequently, and slowly made our way down, but on the way we encountered a sight that broke my heart. 

A woman, in full pack was sitting on a step, sobbing. You see, the scout leaders were enduring the same grueling test, and she was unable to continue. We asked if she needed help, but the man with her declined. He couldn't help her, and the clock was ticking, her dreams of a great adventure fading away. 

We got Winston off the bluff and he soldiered on, always happy to simply be with us. The returning trails lay before us. A half mile hike weaving between the rare red granite boulders of Devils Lake. Its fairly level and very beautiful. It's one of my favorite hikes.
We made it back, although Winston and the hubby took a short cut while Tasha and I retrieved the car. All I can say is I'm glad I'm paying for my own trip to the Rockies. I never would have passed that boy scout test. 

I'm happy to report that I didn't find a battered body, dressed in a bright red shirt, broken against the rocks at the base of the bluff. But he's still a Stupid Kid.

I took more pictures and I'll be sharing them soon.