Lost in the Woods
I spent about 2 hours lost in the woods and wetlands yesterday. I was out for my afternoon walk with the dogs when I decided to tack on a loop around the tamarack swamp. The tamarack swamp is a beautiful little ecosystem nestled in a 1/4 mile diameter bowl perched on the heights across the valley to the South of the cabin. It’s got pitcher plants and in the Fall the needles of the tamarack form a glowing turmeric-colored cloud.
The land around The Pad has some of the youngest natural landscaping on Earth – 10,000 years since the Wisconsin glacier scraped the surface raw and melted down tons of gravel and rocks in hummocks and scoured out mini-valleys and bowls. It’s got a cool, complex, small-scale topography.
Walk 100 yards in a straight line around here and you might on average cross 2 small valleys, a pocket wetland, a ridge, a stream, and a mini-mesa like The Pad sits on. My lake of 40 acres has 5 islands. With my handicap the landscape is perfect for walking – nothing is too steep or too big. It’s all forested so there are few vistas except across lakes.
Last year I laid out a 2/3 mile trail that takes a meandering line along the heights around the perimeter of my 11 acres. I walk it as often as I can – it’s my main exercise. My favorite part of the trail is a ridge that runs along the tamarack swamp for about 100 feet. Yesterday I decided to add some distance to my afternoon constitutional by walking around the swamp.
The woods are wide open this time of year; you can bushwhack in any direction. It’s easy to pick up a deer trail or just cut through the brush. The tamarack swamp is in a bowl so there is a deer trail along the ridge surrounding it.
On the south side of the swamp the ridge becomes a series of hills and at that point I chose a deer trail that swung wide, rather than hugged the swamp. Twenty minutes later I knew I was lost, but wasn’t worried since I was sure I had my bearings. I “corrected” my path and got a little worried when I started seeing hills and valleys I’d never hiked.
The sky was very grey so I couldn’t even get a general North bearing. When I finally hit a recognizable landmark I was baffled. I hiked up a little hill and there was the Maple Sugar Shack – whoa, how’d that get here? About 1.5 miles from the cabin across Lake Almira it’s a place I’ve only walked to in Winter when the lakes are hikable.
I should have spent a few more minutes at the shack getting my bearings but thought I had my route nailed. Half hour later I wound up on the edge of a farm field with a pair of Sand Hill cranes racketing at me. I guessed that the field was one near me but when I got to a high point I saw I was lost, but near civilization. As I hiked to a farm house I figured out I was still about 1.5 miles away from the cabin, much farther east than I thought I should be.
At the farmhouse they confirmed my location. I told them I was going to stick to county roads on the way home but the farmer said “That’s foolish. That’s over 3 miles and your only 1.5 miles away. Just take the road along my field, you’ll come to a deer stand, and there you’ll see Miller Camp Lake.” I’d know my way home from there – that lake is just uphill from mine.
I studied the clouds and learned that clouds to the south has a lot of contrasting light and dark greys while clouds to the north were more middle-toned greys – gave me enough confidence to take his advice and hike back toward the woods. Where I proceeded to walk in curlicues as I blundered my way back home, getting stuck on the wrong side of wetlands until at the last one I decided to hike straight through the bog.
The dogs were beat by the end of the hike. Mika, the horrible husky, usually pulls with all her 35 pounds against the leash, but was walking at my side the last mile. Travis, who usually ranges far afield in his quest for squirrels and deer, kept right with us.
We all slept well last night and the dogs are still out of it. My legs are sore, but I am really upbeat. The exercise has made me really chipper. I am going to put in a good day of programming ChipWits and get a build done for tomorrow.