Moving from NH to Wisconsin means there’s lots of new territory to explore. Being a nature nut, one of the first areas to get my attention was Door County, but I didn’t get there until this year. Ok so it wasn’t that long a wait, but I knew I’d need an overnight trip at least and I was right. Next year it will probably be a couple of nights. There’s a lot of conservation land even on this relatively small peninsula on Lake Michigan.
First I started with The Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor. It is very easy to get to and although parking is tight, I got lucky both times I visited. The organization was founded to protect 30 fragile ridges that formed on the lake over 1000s of years and created subtle, yet distinct, micro-environments. That effort expanded and now the group protects 1600 acres in and around Bailey’s Harbor. Mainly I went for the wildflowers!
Wisconsin is host to many native orchids including coral root which is a saprophytic flower and you know how much I love that! Alas they weren’t blooming quite yet when I visited because the spring was so cold and rainy everything was late.
Even though the bigger and showier flowers are what get most of the attention here (like lady slippers), I found plenty of shy retiring types that were just as lovely, including twin flower which I’ve wanted to photograph for years, but never found any.
It was raining very slightly when I shot the twin flower. I’d hidden out in my car while a small thunderstorm cell came though then went right back out. It was fresh and lovely and there were even fewer people around than before the rain.
Being a photographer of very small things, I often have to wait quietly while the wind dies down or the light shifts and while often not exciting, things can surprise you. While I was hunkered down waiting out the breeze I heard a persistent scuffling just in front of me. I didn’t move, but kept trying to see what was making the sound. Lo and behold, a porcupette climbed down one tree, moved to another and made its way up. I didn’t see mom, but she was around as a later conversation with a fellow visitor would bear out. She was on the same path and saw them both. Very cool. I also spotted this lovely water snake when many people just rushed past or gave me a strange look wondering why I was taking a picture of ‘nothing’.
My second day in Door County brought me to another of the Ridges properties, Logan Creek. I didn’t shoot much, but enjoyed my time there and on my way back to the car ran into another photographer who suggested I visit Toft Point for my final stop as it has tons of wildflower, is right on Lake Michigan and was easy to get to. Good suggestion and I got a few more shots I like despite the harsh light in some of them.
Toft Point is a State Natural Area and covers a bit over 700 acres which is amazing in this part of the lake where you just know if it hadn’t been set aside, would be covered in houses. It was given to Kersten Toft in lieu of money for work done at a local limestone quarry. The family loved it so much they didn’t clear it of trees or exploit its natural resources or beauty. Yes they did live there, but lightly. While many outbuildings survive and have been restored, the original Toft house is only a bit of foundation. The meadows are beautiful and there’s even an old kiln made of stone. Many of the cabins look habitable and I don’t know if they’re rented out, but I think they were previously used by students conducting various studies and projects.
It is a haven for flowers. You do have to go off trail to find them, but they are there.
So there you have it – my first, but not last, trip to Door County.
If I’m organized and I get my brain in gear, an overcast day is a terrific time to find a woodland stream and take some of my favorite pictures. Again I headed to Ripley Creek because it’s accessible, close and pretty, but this time I decided that I’d get into the water. What with it not being winter it’s doable and so sandals it was. It wasn’t even that buggy.
This first shot though is up a steep-ish bank at the base of an enormous tree that is down over the water. There wasn’t much choice as to where to put the tripod, but I got it set and it’s probably 12-15 feet off the ground for a sweeping view upstream. If you click the link to the winter post up there, the first image there was shot just where the log is in view here –
Not only did I get the view I’ve wanted for a while, but I used a few subtle processing touches in Lightroom and I think it sings. It’s a 10-second exposure and because the clouds were thick and the light low, I only had to use a polarizer.
This one got my feet wet! And I discovered I need a carabiner to be better able to hang my camera bag from the bottom of the tripod legs to keep it steadier in moving water like this. It’s a tight fit right now and a bit of a pain to get it hung, but it helps to keep the vibrations down.
The flow this time of year is amazing because of how much rain we’ve had – 17 inches in 90 days! So it was deep and swift and made for some lovely compositions.
If you compare that shot with the black and white below you’ll notice some of the same rocks, but the feel of the image is completely different in monochrome. The light in the leaves is almost like an infrared photo, but not quite. I think it’s a surprisingly dreamy image for B&W and I’m glad I gave this type of processing a try instead of leaving them all in color. It never hurts to experiment.
I nearly had to break out the neutral density filter for that one, but instead I stopped down a little more and could keep a 6 or 8 second exposure. The contrast between textures is pretty great.
Just to the left a seasonal stream runs in and when I noticed this stump, I had to get a shot of it. The way it grew over the boulder and the different shapes and textures were too much to pass up. You can also see it on the left in the last color water image.
I was only out two hours, but I think I got several terrific images. One of them just might end up being one of the best of the year.
For many years now, we head to mid-coast California on vacation. Monterey, Big Sur, Carmel Village, Salinas valley, Paso Robles – we love this area, but now that Big Sur is basically an island it’s a little harder to get around.
If you haven’t heard, the recent landslides on the coast have taken out big sections of US 1 which is the only main road in and out of Big Sur. There’s a resort there we’ve been to that we love and when I got an email saying they were flying people to and from Monterey airport in a helicopter, we decided to go. When are we ever going to do this again? Fly over Carmel Valley or Big Sur just a few hundred feet off the ground? Never.
And it was worth it. I didn’t get many good shots because the movement of the helicopter was sometimes erratic and the reflections off the curved glass were a challenge. This first shot is taken looking toward the Pacific from Carmel Valley, basically the backside of Big Sur. The low clouds come in almost daily from the action of the warming air and the cool ocean. They played a little havoc with the helicopter, but our pilot was a pro and completely unshaken by the need to dance around a little.
When we landed on the lower lawn of the property we were greeted as warmly and attentively as usual and we had some snacks and champagne while we waited for our room to be ready. Here is the view from the room’s patio the next morning while I was enjoying my coffee.
Yeah, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. lol.
The resort was functioning, but in a little more relaxed style than usual. A rough road through the valley and hills was opened through the back of Big Sur on a military base near the 101. It’s VERY slow and dangerous going, but it is literally the only way to get supplies and people into the property and Big Sur as a whole. There is staff housing on property, but the people still had to hike 2 miles to a parking lot where they could get a ride out this road and to their homes and families. One night we noticed the sommelier was a bit roughly shod. He explained that he hiked in that day, but forgot his dress shoes so was wearing hiking boots in the restaurant. No one minded, everyone understood and we proceeded to help drink down the cellar. How can you get wine in with conditions like this? Crazy. But it seems to be working and we spent a couple of lovely days on the island of Big Sur.
For a bit we hung out by one of the pools and this was our only company –
Before we knew it, we were whisking off to Monterey airport again. Different helicopter and different pilot and wow, a different view!
That is the Point Sur lighthouse sticking out there and on the right is US 1 where it is still open and functioning. We’ve driven by this little point a bunch of times, but never dreamed we’d see it like this! Sometimes there are cows grazing in the fields between the rocky outcrop and the highway. It’s so beautiful. If they ever get US 1 open again, drive it while you can. You won’t be disappointed.
One of the big challenges is going to be to replace a bridge that got wiped out near the southern reach of Big Sur. There are many small creeks and rivers that wind through the hills and down to the ocean. Even though they are tiny, the hills and valleys are enormous and require substantial constructions to span them, like the Bixby Creek bridge here –
We’d never even thought of the chance to see it like this and so it was amazing. Those little specks are cars and trucks. The beach is nearly inaccessible, but I think there is a steep path leading to it. So amazing.
In my last post I mentioned I got turned around in the woods across the street from my house. Without a trail it’s very easy to do because it’s almost impossible to walk in a straight line in uncleared forest. Since the tract is hemmed in by roads on 3 sides I wasn’t worried. I could hear cars on one of them now and again so just headed in that general direction. On the way though, I had to stop and marvel at this section since it was so different and so beautiful from the rest of the acreage.
New England forests don’t look like this, but it seems to be a regular feature of Wisconsin woods up here in the north central part of the state. I don’t know how or why the grasses grow, but I do know a bit about the land here. It was logged probably 20 years ago. Pretty much all the large firs and other pines are gone, leaving only saplings.
So with all that open canopy, is that what lets the grasses take hold? Not sure, but it’s a hypothesis. It’s also very, very wet through the entire section because it’s basically a drain to the Wisconsin which is on the other side of the road behind my house.
Another thing I noticed is that maiden hair fern is absent across the street while there are small pockets over here. Also the round-lobed hepatica drop off almost immediately once you get a little ways into the woods. There are a few flowers, but not the blanket that is on this side of the river. We don’t have the grass here, either, not in big huge swaths like that.
I will try to find a book about riparian forests here in WI and see if someone can shed some light on how and why this grassy woods comes to be.
I REALLY hope those acres are never sold (they haven’t in over 15 years so the chances are slim) because it’s become a surrogate back yard for me and one that I’m sure I’ll be venturing into for years to come.