Promoting quiet recreation in Wisconsin.
Opposing the coming attempts to sell off Wisconsin's natural heritage.
Fighting denial about climate change. When are we hitting the streets?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Albino pic number two...

Here is another...sorry the quality isn't so good, there wasn't much light at the time.

Albino Deer passes through....

Albino deer passing through the yard. It is hard to see (part of the point, maybe?), but look in the center of the photo.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More on the Bond Falls-WPS Betrayal

lets see if publicity can do anything on this one.

Link of the week...North Lakeland Discovery Center

I thought I would make one post a week to sites dedicated to quiet recreation and education in the northwoods.

Haven't skied at the Discovery center yet this year-This is a great place to take people who haven't skied a lot.


Those of you who ski Escanaba-Pallette know it is the queen of Vilas County trails. I skied the trail on Sunday, using my waxless skis instead of my favored old-school wooden skis for a highly technical reason-I brought the wrong skis with me. At first, I was sticking a bit but the wind came up, and the tempurature dropped a bit, and my waxless skis worked like a dream.

Remember those old brio train sets, with the wooden tracks? That was what the tracked trail reminded me of after skiing most of the winter on non-groomed trails. I had forgotten how fun it is to really kick out and glide once in a while, though my kicking and gliding might really be described as "flailing" to people who really know how to do it. Someday I am going to take lessons. Or maybe not.

Escanaba-Pallete offers many vistas and turns. The forest is mostly mature hardwoods at the beginning, but the trail rolls down into spruce forests and along the lakes, some big pines. This is a wonderful area. I heard some snowmobiles in the distance from time to time, but it was generally quiet. (I wonder if silent sports folks will develop the equivalent of the "wind-chill factor"- "We predict moderate noise in the northwoods this weekend".)

Have you ever noticed how much noise you create in your own head when you are in the woods? Sometimes, I find myself thinking about the future, thinking about the past, debating some abstract idea, solving the world's problems. Then, I notice myself doing this, and for a moment, I stop and just pay attention to what is around me.

I found this happening over and over again on my trip. Fortunately, the beauty of the trail always pulled me back to the present.
Donald Mitchell forwarded a post by Daryl Christensen to the Wisbirdnet listserve that he thought might be interesting to readers of quietnorth. I recieved permission Daryl to post excerpts from his post. I am actually going to post the second half of the post as it concerns the Vilas County area...

"....It was now getting late, so we drove up to Fire Lane Road north of Conover hoping for a spruce grouse. Stopping at the usual spot about 3/4 of a mile east of 45, we walked the road toward a spruce thicket when a commotion caught our attention. A spruce grouse blasted out of a nearby tree with a northern goshawk right on its tail. Clearly, the most exciting part of the trip and a great end to a slow day.
Snowmobilers were everywhere, with the racing event going on at Eagle River. Just about every service road had snowmobiles roaring down them at stupid rates of speed. I'm sure that most of the birds anywhere near these roads were well back in the forest. We couldn't stop anywhere without almost being run over or at least hearing approaching snowmobiles.
From there, we decided to drive to Ashland and spend the night, then look for the gyrfalcon in the morning.
At dawn, we watched the ore dock for about an hour, when I decided to drive out on Lake Superior to get a better look at the end of the ore dock. Ice fishermen were everywhere, so I drove out to where they had stopped to fish and glassed the vast ice sheet beyond them. Suddenly, I saw a rapid movement and there was the gyrfalcon, dive-bombing a snowy owl: the second most exciting part of the trip.
From there, we decided to head up to Bayfield county. Lots of snow, but not many birds. A surprise was a singing cardinal just north of the city of Bayfield. We saw several flocks of pine siskins in this same area as well. There were quite a few gulls at Cornucopia and Port Wing, but precious few other birds, save pine siskins. We then went south to Iron River on A and continued south from there through the National Forest, hoping for some more birds. After four hours of driving, stopping, walking, we saw very little: one shrike, several siskins, a large flock of redpolls.
My son ended up with 4 life birds. What surprised me, was how we whiffed on gray jay, boreal chickadee, Bohemian waxwing, evening and pine grosbeaks and crossbills. I know these areas quite well and hit six almost sure spots for boreal chickadees and saw none. At the same time, we saw at least 50 red-breasted nuthatches!
I know that I will NEVER do a birding trip in the Eagle River area again the second weekend in January. I had never heard the northwoods so noisy and seen so many people. Many of the forest service roads were glare ice from being backed down by snowmobiles, making driving interesting at times. The Clam Lake area was much quieter, but we didn't get there until later in the day. In retrospect, we should have gone there right after seeing the gyr instead of up in Bayfield County. Although we did see a half-dozen bald eagles on hwy. 13 along the lakeshore drive between Ashland and Bayfield."
-Daryl Christensen

Thanks to Daryl and Donald for the post. I have just started to learn about birding, and this post makes me want to learn more. The post is also a warning. If the northwoods wants to increase tourism, motorized sports will have to become quieter.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dennis McCann: Devil's lake in Winter...

Dennis' article reminds me of other places that are popular in some seasons, but isolated in others. I have been out to picnic point in Madison, a very popular place when the weather is good, but totally isolated during a big snowstorm. (I have always been fascinated with finding isolated places in populated areas)

So....what is your favorite seasonally isolated spot?

News Alert: Wisconsin Public Service sells out the environment

An important letter by Joe Hovel on WPS proposal to sell flowage land in the Upper Peninsula.

North of Oswego, part 2

I didn't cross the lake, but drove to the other side and started my trip from there. This time, I made it up the little hill without falling. I see the timber sale goes all the way to the road, in view of the lake. This saddens me as well, especially if they take any of the pine growing along the lake. There is a very nice, inviting mixed forest to start out the trip.

I notice how basically, balsam is growing up underneath all of the aspen in the old-aspen part of the forest. I wonder how this will change, and if the occasional tall spruce and white pine will be left alone.

The main "trail" is basically a straight line going northwest, but there are numerous fun dead ends and side trails that will take you over lots of varied terrain. Today, I stuck to the main trail till I came to the older, white pine part of the forest.

Before that, I went by a red pine plantation that needs thinning. (see, I am not against logging)
Then, I take a dip down into a deeper, older part of the forest. The white pine here must be over 120 years old, not necessarily old.

The forester in charge of the timber sale says that most of the white pine will not be cut, but openings will be made for new white pine regeneration. I took some pictures of the area so we can post before and after logging photographs. I can't argue with more new pine growing, but I would like it to grow for a purpose-to make older pine forests! What is the purpose if we keep cutting them 100 years early?

If this forest looks so old and mysterious at 120 years , what would it look like at 200?
Secondly, I am worried about stressing the existing and remaining trees. If tall trees are vulnerable to wind, isn't it better technically to leave old trees, even if they aren't at their healthiest, to provide a windbreak?

I don't know the answer to these questions. The forester in charge of the sale is generally very open and reasurring, though some of these issues are philosophical, and not technical. I only know the feeling a place has, admittedly, not a very persuasive reason not to cut a forest. That feeling is going to go away. I encourage everyone to find their favorite "old" forest and document the feeling it gives you. It may be changed sooner than you think.

North of Oswego

This weekend I made two completely different ski excursions. The first was a "bushwacking" trip north of Oswego lake to the junction of High Lake and Partridge Lane along an old logging road. "Bushwacking" just means making your own cross country ski trail, ideally following old logging roads, and getting lost at least once. (For a bushwacker, the purpose of logging is to make old logging roads). The snow was perfect for this kind of skiing, there was enough snow to take me above most of the downed limbs, and not too much to make it a slog by sinking down. Some folks ask why I don't use snowshoes. There are times (like when I have to go around a bunch of downed trees in the middle of a balsam growth) that I wish I had snowshoes instead. But snowshoes means a lot of work both ways. With skis, I make a trail one way that I can glide back on my way home. And then there are those times when there is a crust on the snow, and you can glide through the forest magically...

More on the trip to follow...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Snowmobiles: slumming on the slopes

Kind of a snobby portrait of the sport from Slate magazine. I prefer to be generous and say that this represents 1/2 of the sport. Which side are you on?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Northwoods needs an architectural critic like this one

Someone once told me that we can't "regulate aesthetics". That person obviously doesn't live downwind from a pig farm. But if we are going to protect northern lakes from McMansions and lawns that go all the way down to the water, we need more than just regulation-we need education. Here is an example of "teaching" people how to look at good and bad "big houses". I think we need the same thing for northern Wisconsin. Since the Lakeland Times is so against government regulation, I would think they should sponsor an architectural contest for the best and worst lakehome design (home and landscape included). I would put an architect, a builder, a landscape designer, a representative from the Wisconsin Lake Association, and someone from the outdoor recreation community on the panel.

DNR "Outstanding Waters" Rule IS a job creation and protection act

OK, since I am on the DNR's case about logging my favorite parts of the forest, I suppose I ought to go back to defending them.

It is time to talk about the DNR's "outstanding Waters" proposal rule presented much too briefly here: and in usual distorted fashion in the Lakeland Times here:

Put simply, the "outstanding waters" rule says you cannot introduce contaminants into Wisconsin's unique and protected waters. Since northern Wisconsin depends on pristine waters for tourism, this is a jobs protection rule. Since ecotourism is going to be an increasingly important business in the future, this is a jobs creation rule.

Those of us supporting the environment cannot concede the jobs issue to special interests.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Backlash against Lakeside Castles?

Does society have a right to limit the size of lakeside houses based on aesthetics? Does a person have a right to build any damn size house they want if there is no reasonable evidence (except aesthetic) that their house is harmful?

This Boucher guy seems like someone who craps himself in a public library, then, when asked to leave, cries "hey, they are my pants! You can't regulate aesthetics!".

A larger question should precede questions of private vs. public property: Should we care about the environment we build in? Should that be built in to how we think about things?

Here is for the backlash!


I'm back...Lumberjack trail big trees to be logged

Hello, everyone-

I didn't mean to take such a long break from writing. A "perfect storm" of a long lasting bug, end-of-semester work, and some heartbreaking news kept me away from the blog.

Here was the heartbreaking news: Two favorite patches of the Northern Highland forest are going to be logged.

The first segment is an isolated area of forest south of Grassy Creek. From my correspondence with the forester responsible for the timber sale, it isn't going to be a selective cut. Rather, some large percentage of the big white pines located in the Grassy Lake area south of Partridge lane are coming out. These are older post-clear cut trees, maybe 120 years old.

I will go into the details of my correspondence with the forester later, not of course that there is anything to be done to prevent the cut. But it will be a good "case study" in reality, and maybe we can use it to start changing how forests are managed over the next 50 years.

Those of you who ski Lumberjack trail will also notice a cut is scheduled in the beautiful big pines in the first part of the trail. I encourage you to ski or snowshoe the trail to see what it looks like now. You can email Jim Wetterau from the DNR to let him know what you think.