It’s been a long two years since I’ve written a blog post. Amazing!
There is one good explanation. In the spring of 2021, I began writing a monthly column for the Northwoods Sporting Journal. My articles for “View from the River” are varied, covering paddling, wildlife, wilderness places, and even book reviews. The discipline of a deadline has been motivating and the writing itself rewarding. But with summer here, I want to blog, too.
Today, my parents and I explored the national monument parcel that lies south of Shin Pond. Not long after passing the monument boundary on the well-maintained American Thread Road, we had our first view of the mountains.
About a mile in was a sign for the Kimball Deadwater. Down the short trail shone the unmistakable brightness of water. Here was a place where I would like to return one early morning with my canoe. It looked moosey, and perhaps a half-mile long on the map.
The wildflowers along the roadsides were stunning in their sheer quantity. Our field guide yielded new discoveries: pink ragged-robin and large displays of yellow king devil, which looks much like orange hawkweed.
The large flowers and leaves of cow-parsnip gave us quite a scare. I was sure I’d seen the flower before, but Dad pointed out that it looked remarkably similar to giant hogweed. In the Adirondacks, we’d seen posters warning about this very toxic invasive plant. Its sap causes a dangerous skin reaction and even blindness if it gets in the eyes.
As it turns out, the two are closely related, in the same genus. Giant hogweed can get twice as large as cow parsnip (14 feet tall) and has stems mottled with red, while those of cow-parsnip are solid green. I am going to give cow-parsnip a wide berth as well, after learning that it can also cause a milder irritation.
We saw both a spruce grouse and this ruffed grouse with two chicks, rounding out a drive that left us wanting to return to this quiet part of the monument.