Black Bear Sighting: A Twitter Story Thread

Photos from a recent prescribed burn at Riveredge Nature Center

To quote the Riveredge Instagram post I wrote…

Prescribed burning is a time tested practice for prairie and savanna rejuvenation that existed in the Americas centuries before European settlement. We embrace this practice across appropriate Riveredge habitats.

Prescribed burning spurs prairie seeds to sprout, consumes encroaching invasive species, and expends potential wildfire fuel in a safely controlled situation.

Thanks to our wonderful burn #volunteers for helping keep everyone (and everything) safe!

A perhaps unorthodox building portrait.
Lines of fire are strategically placed with a drip torch to collide and extinguish together.
Riveredge School students were able to learn and observe from a safe distance.
This shot is probably my favorite, the combination of high-leaping flames and indecisive sunrise.
For all the technology in the world, the best burn tools are still a flat piece of rubber to suffocate any flare-ups and a backpack full of water with a hose.
I was even able to participate in a burn later in the day (photo by my colleague Matt Smith). I should probably clarify…the fire is moving slowly, for this picture moment, I’m in a safer landscape than this may appear.

Golden Hour Sun Slips Down While Climbing the Trees

During an event at Riveredge I was taking pictures at one of our satellite locations to promote future installments. I walked back to the main building to pick up some sort of forgotten tool for the program and for all of about 10 minutes the light was still coming through the trees but had already darkened across the land. As the sun went retreated, the remaining light gradually crawled up the forest.

Experimenting with Yashica TLR Medium Format Photography

I picked up a Yashica twin lens reflex camera and this is the first roll. I’m getting the feeling it might be smart to use an external light meter.

Not bad, except for that dang lens flare. And that speck of dust…

I’m curious to hear other people’s experiences and suggestions. Do you use a phone app? A separate light meter?

Darker, no lens flare

Also, dangling 15-feet up while leaning over a deer hunting tree stand is probably not the ideal situation to acquaint taking pictures backwards. But, hey, lots of sitting around and waiting time…

The color saturation in film vs digital is palpable

I’d appreciate any guidance fellow photographers have to offer. Thanks.

Thoughts about happening upon a moment and stopping to take that picture

Who ever needs that? And more?

Came up in my f-book memories from a decade ago and continues to be head-shaking laughable.

This is one of the first times I recall trying to compose a photograph with intention. Shot it with a hybrid smart/flip phone that featured a full keypad.

Years removed, looking at this picture, for me it’s not about how crisp or precise the image is or isn’t. It’s about having stopped with the decision to attempt to take an intriguing or entertaining photograph. Taking the time to practice, regardless of however inefficient it might be for the rest of the world – our coworkers and friends and family members – to slow time to take a photograph.

At the time I was selling Christmas trees in Florida. My employer waited a minute or two for…

“Hold on – we’ll be there in a minute…Eddie’s taking one of his pictures. Of a bad cock. Yeah, a BAD COCK! Two bad cocks! And MORE!”

Always stop to take the picture/write the poem/phrase of what captures your attention/ire/amazement/laughter.

And granting the people in your company the luxury to do so is a grand form of patronage.

Random Black and White Photography Fun

I stopped for coffee and noticed how this bent sign and resulting shadow somewhat warped perception when considered. Like an outdoor funhouse effect.

I find that so much of both photography and writing is just stopping to notice what you notice as intriguing and then taking the time to document it. Phones are pretty handy. Took this picture with my phone and many of my first drafts of poems take place on my phone too. The tool you have available is often the best tool.

Autumn Kaleidoscope and Howling Wolves: A first Chequamegon Bikepacking Experience on a Fat Bike

Alright, let’s just get this out of the way because being from the Midwest it would be rude to not first talk about the weather. We lucked out. The October colors were at peak floristic phenomenon, one of the days approached summertime temperatures, and it didn’t rain the entire time we were on out the trail. All that considered, bikepacking the Chequamegon is a marvelous slog, which becomes near graceful the more days one is seated (and standing) in the saddle. 

Autumn splendor

For me, this trip started in springtime with covid restlessness. Dave Schlabowske, Bike Czar now retired from working with the Wisconsin Bike Fed, had documented this trip in generous detail for any other swashbuckling wanderers to follow in his pedal strokes. I was intrigued and started planning, even bought gravel tires for my regular road bike, which I ended up not using anyway. A last minute choice led to riding trail bikes instead of retrofitted road bikes, which proved favorable. 

I picked up this Farley Trek fat bike because I want to ride off-road in every season and refuse to store and maintain more than two bicycles. I’m not a huge fan of obsessing about gear and weight and overthinking packing strategies, but sometimes it has to be done to get where you want to be. This bike ticks all of those mountain biking boxes and handles more. It’s a remarkable general practitioner of sorts, which I admire in anyone and anything. 

Our chosen rigs taking a rest. Us too.

My friend Philip Salamone agreed to join on the trip, this being his first experience with any kind of bike touring. This detail didn’t concern me as he’s the kind of guy will nonchalantly observe, “Yeah this weekend was great. Did like 30 miles of single track on Saturday.” Phil is a fantastic artist and teacher and chill, engaging company. Phil brought his mountain bike, a hardtail with 29” tires.

Before embarking, we stopped for breakfast at The Brick House for breakfast and coffee. I struck up conversation with a couple of guys who looked like riders and were walking a dog. One of the guys was of the lanky and sleek cyclist variety and the other made me think of who you’d expect to see on a 1970’s baseball card in the position of Pitcher. He sported a generous bushy mustache and a quietly unflappable manner while wearing shorts and a t-shirt as we all sat breakfasting at windy 52 degree picnic tables. “I wonder what they’re doing here, dog and all,” I thought. “Maybe they’re locals.” Turned out they were from Madison and had the same plan as us.

The morning after camping at Moose Lake.

We began outfitting our bikes with bags and I noticed and one of their rides was of the European porteur-style featuring a massive rack and 20-inch front wheel. It became clear the dog was a part of the crew and sat shotgun. “Huh. That guy is screwed,” I thought to myself. 

Finally, we locked up the truck and made our way out onto the first of many, many gravel roads. Up the first steep incline we witnessed the snaking slides of skinnier-tire equipped gravel or road oriented rides, and we immediately knew we’d made the right choice in bikes. Well…I should say Phil started talking about that, I inhaled and exhaled with purpose and every once in awhile saved up the additional breath to respond, “Uh huh.”

The winding wilds of Wisconsin. This is the easy going terrain.

Moving Southeast from Cable, within the first hour we encountered a handful of singletrack and ATV trails laden with deeply exposed roots and basketball-sized rocks like the throat gullet to bouncing hell if everything on your bike isn’t tightly affixed and tightened to a gentle creak. We stopped for lunch about a dozen miles in alongside the winding road, our bikes leaning against the incline of a roadside moraine. Realizing we were only one-third of our way to the campsite, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. 

That said, my bike handled everything quite well. I ran with 19psi in the rear tire and 17psi up front. It was faster on the smooth gravel while still somewhat forgiving. When not on rough single track portions I had my fork locked out for less bounce=greater climbing efficiency.

We encountered a recently retired gravel bike rider who had years ago bought a cabin in the area for a love of the Birkebeiner Ski Race. He said there are two types of people who ski in the race: Those who participate once and decide that’s enough, or those who become hooked and want more. He was smilingly of the latter. 

A breath with a tapestry of Tamaracks.

The road gradually relented to often being an actual gravel road versus a collection of potholes and granite bowling balls to dodge, but still with remarkable ascents and descents. I realized that on the ascents, I finally knew the reason it was so hard to find pants that fit my bubble butt in high school. It was to propel saddlebags bouncing on 3.8” tires up rocky inclines. Finally, halfway through life, this big ass has purpose other than shredding jean crotches when squatting. 

We arrived to Moose Lake, our first night campsite, and I was totally wrecked, delirious with exhaustion. My sentences trailed off into the beginnings of the next sentence while I wobbled around the campsite. We each prepared one of those just-add-boiling-water backpacking meals and I ate the whole two servings of Chicken Risotto, then began to again feel human.

Check out that hill as modeled by Luke and Beulah.

As we sat on the provided picnic table, one of our new Madison acquaintances pedaled on by. We shouted greetings and took them up on the invitation to join at their campfire. It turned out the bikes, the dog, the moustache – all arrived in a fine jumbled order. They’d left sooner than us and arrived in about as much time as we had. I decided that our new friend and hound Beulah were the combined patron saint of the Chequamegon Trail spirit. Do you have a bike? Are the tires wider than skinny? Do you want to smell lush pines and the humid sweet rot of autumn leaves? Then go north and embrace your unbuttoned collar flapping in the downhill Kettle Moraine wilderness!

The next morning was in the low 40’s as we headed out; I find temperatures in the 40’s-60’s are generally preferable to the mid-70’s of the day before. Keeps the muscles fresher, less sweat, or maybe it just wicks off of you. Anyway, I find the third day of any ride is when you really start to get into the groove. The second day you’re still getting there, and I was still getting there. 

We were stunned by the golden beauty of this forest – my phone pictures really don’t do it justice.
The sole “mechanical” of the trip.
Tightening this bolt.
I wasn’t kidding when I said
we lucked out.

We delighted in the golden tapestry of wetland habitats unfamiliar to me in Southeastern Wisconsin, surrounded by gatekeeping Tamaracks whose needles turn bright before dropping. In the sun they twinkle giving the golden Maples a run for their majesty. 

We pulled into Clam Lake to camp at around 4:30pm looking forward to the deep dish pizza we’d heard so much about from The Chippewa. We sat on picnic tables devouring slices and drinking beer, laughing giddily about our fortune to find such wonderful pizza pie in what might seem an unlikely home while drinking New Glarus gas station beer. Felt so good it was like we were cheating. 

Retrieving our deep dish pizzas from The Chippewa.

Overnight, back at our campsites at Day Lake (which – sidebar – if you run a campsite that caters to bicycle travelers it’s really handy for guests to be aware if the water pump is partially dismantled) we heard a massive howl of wolves and coyotes. We’d neglected to hang our food as it didn’t seem distant enough to attract bears – but I rose in the middle of the night to affix the saddlebag to my bike just in case. 

Summer and autumn colors commingling at Clam Lake.

Our third day started a little slow in a fog of pizza and beer, but we felt strong and replenished, rewarded with some of the most vibrant forests we’d seen the entire trip. About half of the roads were paved as we made our way back to Cable, which by comparison felt like a luxurious auburn-tinged carpet laid just for us. Streets wound through forested vacation estates with tumbling kettles and dramatic moraines. During lunch a guy whizzed by on a golf cart and asked if we were ok. We gave the thumbs up and, having seen so many mud-splashed ATVs and orange vested pickup driving hunters with bed-caged bellering hounds all looked at one another, “…a golf cart?” Turns out a golf course is nestled within all of that forest. 

Roadside lunch, Phil sketching as painters are known to.

We arrived to a ghostly empty town of Cable as the temperature dropped with winds that started mid-afternoon. The town was so empty we saw deer strolling casually down the middle of the streets. We counted our luckies that could no longer be seen twinkling through the grey and opted for a long drive rather than a wet tent in the morning. In saying goodbyes to our new friends, Sean and Luke, while I was closing the car door, Luke added the Wisconsin adage for universally sweet concern, “Watch for deer.” 

Phil and I filled up on Chinese food in Hayward, pounded gas station coffee, and each made it to Madison and Milwaukee respectively by 2am. I brought the bike inside, took a shower for the first time since Thursday morning, and laid awake for about about 30 seconds wondering when I’d do it again. Maybe next time for a week rather than a weekend?

Science Students on a Lovely Fall Day

I went out to snap a few pictures of a field trip at Riveredge this morning. Quite the lovely fall colors for catching frogs.