Spring on the Prairie – April edition

After the thaw and the melt I went back to my favorite section of Prairie river so far. First in April and then again in May. April one side, May the other. Both required bushwhacking and thankfully I won’t have to do it again on either side. Because of the wild nature of the banks, there are a limited amount of places you can safely set up with a tripod and so it was kind of fun to visit some of the same locations.

But there were some new places to stand as well. It’s so much easier to tell what’s safe and what’s not without all the snow cover. I played with different shutter speeds and I think I had the camera over my head for this –

The last time I stood here it was all ice and snow and the zig-zag illusion of the river wasn’t very obvious. In April it jumped right out at me on my way back to the car. I got the tripod on a big rock for extra height which it really needs to show the water courses.

The land on the right in the shot above is a small island that I crossed to for this next photo. I stood on a boulder in the main stream to get this and it was really splashy. Lately I’ve slowed down my moving water images to bring out more texture and dynamic change and I like how that worked here.

Snow-covered rocks and now, moss-covered!

Before I got any of those images though, I bushwhacked right past them. Basically to see what was downstream and to see how far I could get. A big section of the bank changes to alder thicket which is really hard to walk through, especially with a tripod so I left it packed. The trees are close together and tangled so it’s slow going. Plus it’s pretty muddy. I didn’t come away with any landscapes from over that way, but I took a good look at the opposite bank. It’s mixed forest, not alder thicket, so it might work better for landscapes and make for easier walking. Theoretically. While on this bank though, I found skunk cabbage flowers all over. Something has come along and eaten the leaves –

While making my way back up river, I found a branch with this amazing lichen formation on it. Roughly 1/2 inch across, it’s a multi-image stack. I had to put the branch behind some suckers that were at the base of a tree to hold it steady in the breeze. It worked pretty well and allowed me to get it in front of some moss, but distanced far enough to keep it quite blurry. The detail in these little patches of lichen fascinate me like crazy. The colors and the shapes and the surprising features that you can’t see with the naked eye. Check out the dark little fringes at the bottom – what on earth are those? No idea, but they’re cool.

Moving onto a different day, here’s a spot at the Prairie Dells park that I haven’t shot before. It was supposed to be cloudy, but –

From this side I saw a bench on the other and since I’m familiar with the trails over there, I think I can get there for a shot of the cascades when they’re roaring. Next spring most likely. Kayakers love this part of the river.

So while the light wasn’t the best for the river itself some days, I did find other things to keep me busy. Like this owl pellet. It was with a few others under a hemlock. Either there were some fledglings in the tree for a while or an adult used it a couple of times. There’s a whole industry out there that supplies these things to scientists and students who dissect them to study owls and their prey. They even try to reconstruct the skeletons of whatever creature got eaten. A little gruesome maybe, but what the heck. I liked it enough to take pictures so it’s a sliding scale. I didn’t move it though, the light coming through was serendipity.

In real life it’s about 1 1/2 inches long and while you could tell there were tiny bones in it, I didn’t realize one was a skull and it was facing the right way. Just more serendipity.

More skunk cabbage, too. The flowers look like they’re tough and waxy, but they’re not. They feel just like any other flower petal. I think it is one large one shaped like a paper boat –

Like hepatica, the flowers bloom before the new leaves are sent up and the leaves last all summer.

Cinnamon ferns were coming up all over and you could hardly step around them safely –

And the occasional visitor came by just for a look-in –

Well I’ll leave it here for now. I went back to this section in May and bushwacked the other side. Adventures ensued. One left a mark. Luckily I don’t have to do it that way ever again.

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