A kind of unwieldy name, but an easily accessible spot due to the public camping grounds and the easy, flat trail.
There are two campgrounds near the State Natural Area and the one with the trail is the one at the end of Campground road. The other is not directly on the river and the gate was closed, so I got lucky that the one I wanted was still open although you could park on the road and walk in from there. Also lucky that the bathrooms were still open!
At first I was a little disappointed that the trail didn’t leave the river bank, but then I got over it and just enjoyed a perfect fall day – sunny, mid-60s with a breeze and no biting hordes of insects. While the color wasn’t at peak, there was still some around (mostly birches).
There aren’t many places to see the river in a wide open view at first, but little peeks were kind of tantalizing.
The DNR describes this river as – “one of the longest stretches of undammed and essentially undeveloped river corridors in the southern 2/3rds of Wisconsin.” – and it’s popular with paddlers. I’m tempted to try, but I’d need a shuttle back to my car since the current is too swift to paddle against. Not that it looks it in these shots, but there were some rock gardens for sure!
Soon enough there was the first big outcropping where I could get into the open with the river –
That is looking upstream. The view down wasn’t too impressive, but I did enjoy sitting and taking it all in. After a bit I headed back to the trail.
All the while I was looking for what might be good views of the river and eventually I found this little scene at a bend.
And soon after, I came to this –
Although there isn’t a new trail established, it’s clear many others have gone past. You have to make your way through plants on the river bank, but it’s easy. And being an SNA, there aren’t restrictions on where you can go. Most of them don’t even have trails at all, so this one, as short as it is, is an exception. Here’s a view a little down from the bend looking back at it.
And speaking of bend –
I stopped here for a while to have some water and a snack. It was so peaceful and since there aren’t any rocks or rapids, the sound of the water was almost too quiet to hear. As I looked around, I found things large and small worth my attention. I think this is a type of spider wasp, but I’m not sure. The head and the end of the body don’t look right even if the size and color does. I think it’s a fly and that I need a better bug book.
I could see this clearing from the riverbank and climbed up a few feet to get this shot of the sun lighting up the leaves.
When I got back on the path, I couldn’t help taking a lot of shots. To shake things up a bit, I processed a few differently.
I also switched to the 35-100mm lens. It works remarkably well for landscapes and slices so long as I remember that I can’t be on top of things.
And then there was the witch hazel!
It’s a bit of an oddball since it blooms in October. This shot shows all the stages of that blooming – the tightly curled petals inside the little cup (base of the leaf), the bloomed flowers on either side of it and the spent cup up at the top. My patience with the wind was sorely tried, but I told myself to calm the heck down (where did I have to go in such a hurry??) and waited for the scene to give me a break. So glad I did.
I think this is a type of mosquito in this next shot. With the wind it took forever while I waited for semi-stillness again. And there were a lot that ended up in the trash, but it’s only 1s and 0s so it doesn’t matter. The light was so amazing that I stayed a long time among the flowers.
While marveling at it all I nearly blundered into this girl’s web, but luckily I noticed her (with her lunch) before I did. Great save!
These are very common in northern Wisconsin and I was happy to find her and even happier that she stayed in the middle of her web with her meal. Most of the time when I try to photograph them, they scurry away and hide. It’s possible the constant wind played to my advantage; her web was already swaying and vibrating and my presence could have been masked. Or she was still trying to deal with preparing lunch. Whichever, I was VERY glad to have my new Leica macro for this situation. I couldn’t have dealt with the conditions with my manual focus Olympus macro. In any case I still had to force the lens to focus close and not on the background beyond her web with a combination of manual focus and using other objects like leaves that were in the same distance range as the spider. A little frustrating, but ultimately it worked.
I love her markings – in this environment you can see how perfectly she could blend with the flowers and the dappled light. No wonder I almost ran into her. As it was I lost sight of her as I moved around the bush her web was in. I had to hunt for her a couple of times.
Eventually I left her in peace and picked out some details along the way back to the car.
And because the light was so fantastic, more trail shots.
I’m not sure I’ll visit again (unless I find a canoe/kayak tour to join), but once I got over my self-imposed bad attitude, I enjoyed my time by the East Fork of the Black River. The day was absolutely perfect and it would have been a crime to do otherwise.