The Keepers of The Springs

John and Sue Hrobar have been coming to The Springs for a long time.  They have a feel, and a feeling, for this “world class site”.  They watch closely as nature tries to heal the anthropogenic wounds inflicted at the headwaters of the Scuppernong River and amateur naturalists, like The Buckthorn Man, have their way.  It wasn’t long after I returned to work at The Springs in May of 2011, (I had worked there for approximately 6 months back in 2004, cutting buckthorn on the hillside between the river and highway 67) that I first met John and Sue on one of their frequent visits.

Sue takes most of the pictures and John does most of the talking and, together, they began to teach me about the flora and fauna — the biota — of The Springs.

John and Sue with Trail Boss, Don Dane.


I started this blog back in June 2012 and asked Sue if I could post some of her pictures.  Well, sorry it took me so long Sue… here is a sampling of what you gave me over two years ago: The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, 2012, through the eyes of The Keepers of The Springs (take your time browsing this collection, and don’t forget you can click any picture to expand it to full size.)


The bend in the trail along the northeast perimeter of the loop. eastern side of trail

Buckthorn still lined the riverbank near the old hotel site.near old hotel

Sue getting ready for a polar bear plunge.

Sue cattails

John near the Hatching House Springs.


phragmites A

Unfortunately, we rarely see trout like this at the Emerald Spring since Lindsay and I pulled out the watercress and disturbed their habitats in the spring of 2012.  The restoration of the headwaters of the Scuppernong River to it’s pre-settlement condition is a work in progress.

2 trout close-up A

5 trout

John at the Scuppernong Spring.

John at spring wateracress at spring

The south end of the sand prairie.

burning buckthorn A

You can see the buckthorn thicket on the far side of the Indian Springs outflow channel.Indian springs A

Lindsay Knudsvig, John Mesching and I burned 185 brush piles down on the flat below the Indian Campground.

Lindsay, Paul & John Paul, Lindsay, John Paul burning piles

It was a mild winter.

wall ruins John & wall



Smoke drifts from brush pile fires on the south end of the loop trail.smoke from piles burning pile Paul & John

The flats below the Indian Campground.  Heh, where’s the snow?burning by bridge ash remains

A nuthatch near the marl factory kilns.

nuthatch by kiln ruins


Life returns to The Springs.

Skunk cabbage.

skunk cabbage bird tracks ice patterns

Pussy Willows.

pussy willows



large catkins A

redwing blackbird


hepatica hepatica C hepatica D


blood root A


Sweet springtime at The Springs.



Marsh Marigolds.

.Marsh Marigolds


.Anemones B

Garter Snake.

garter snake

Brown butterfly?

brown butterfly

Birds-foot Violet.

.bird-foot violet

Wood Betony.

wood betony A

Red Admiral Butterfly.

red admiral butterfly 2


first Jacks A

Hoary Puccoon.

Hoary Puccoon B

Butterfly and Pussytoes.

butterfly & pussy toes

Northern Water Snake.

northern water snake 04:14:12 Northern water snake 04:14:12 close-up  snake head




dewberry A

American Lady.

American Lady 04:17:12

Juvenal’s Duskywing.

Juvenal's Duskywing 04:17:12

Eastern Tailed-blue Butterfly.

enhanced Eastern Tailed-Blue 04:17:12

White Sarsaparilla.

wild sarsaparillla 04:17:12

toad trilling 04:17:12

Cow:tuft Vetch.

cow:tuft vetch 04:24:12 A Sue Scuppernong 04:24:12


Robin Scuppernong 04:24:12 A

fleabane 04:30 wood betony, wild geranium, horsetail. 04:30JPG

Kittentail and Horsetail

kittentail & horsetail A

Swamp Saxifrage

swamp saxifrage 04:30

Golden Alexander

golden alexander 04:30

Solitary Sandpiper

solitary sandpiper 04:30


goldfinch 04:30


sparrow 04:30


Mystery Flower

Scuppernong mystery 05:03

Blue-eyed Grass.

blue-eyed grass 05:03


toadflax 05:03

Brown snake.

little brown snake C

Sulfur Butterfly

sulfur 05:03

Kitten Tails

kitten tails

Watercress was choking the river.

with watercress A 05:03 downstream with wataercress 05:03

Areas where we pulled the watercress.

towards spring without watercress 05:03 clear at spring 05:03watercress removal 05:19 A


goldfinch 05:03



Notice the thick buckthorn on the north/right side of the river.

Scuppernong east to west A 05:07

White pea:pale vetchling

white pea:pale vetchling 05:07

Small-flowered crowfoot

small-flowered crowfoot 05:07

Monarch butterfly



Scuppernong lupine 05:07

lupine 05:19

Bellwort and starry false solomon’s seal

bellwort & starry false solomon's seal 05:07

Yellow Umbel

yellow umbel

Shooting stars

shooting stars B

shooting stars Use gray dogwood?  viburnum?

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

black giant swallowtail A

Yellow woodsorrel

yellow wood sorel 05:11

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

tiger swallowtail 05:11

Carrion Flower

carrion flower

Wild Columbine

Columbine 05:19

Turtle tracks

turtle tracks 05:19

Hoary Puccoon

Hoary Puccoon 05:19


Thimbleweed 05:19 A

Wild Sarsaparilla

wild sarsaparilla 05:19 A


blackberries 05:19 yellow mystery 05:26 marsh marigo.d 05:26 A  white mystery 05:26 A

Solomon’s seal

solomon's seal 05:26

Blandings Turtle

turtle 05:26

False Solomon’s Seal

false solomon's seal 05:26

Sand Hill Cranes

Sandhill 05:26 AA sandhill 05:26 AAA sandhill 05:26

Blue Flag Iris

blue flag iris 05:28

Brush piles near signpost #1

brush piles 05:28

Ripe Dewberry

dewberry - ripe 05:30

Female Robin

redwing femaile 05:30 A

White Avens

white avens 05:30

yellow mallow? 05:30

Black-eyed Susan

black-eyed Susan 05:30


spiderwort 05:30

spiderwort 05:30 A

spiderwort & hoary puccoon 05:30 white butterfly 05:30

Prairie Rose

prairie rose 05:30


nine bark 05:30 A

Tall Meadow Rue

tall rue 05:30

Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler 05:30 A


Some of Sue’s best work.

sandhill & chick little black butterfly 06:02 C

Brown and white dragonfly

brown & white dragonfly 06:02 A

Yellow Avens

yellow avens 06:02 B


plantain 06:02

Cloudywing Butterfly

cloudywing butterfly 06:02


goldfinch 06:02 white dragonfly 06:02

Viceroy Butterfly

viceroy butterfly 06:04 A insect 06:04 B


hummingbird 06:04


bluebird 06:04


kingbirds -two 06:04


sparrow 06:04 chipmunk 06:04

Green Frog

green frog 06:15 A

New Jersey Tea

new jersey tea 06:15 A

Blandings Turtle

blandings turtle  06:12


elderberry 06:15


yarrow 06:15

Baltimore Checkerspot

baltimore checkerspot 06:15

Scarlet Tanager

scarlet tanager 06:24 B

Cedar Waxwing


Spring Keeper

cooling feet 06:24

Goldfinch at the hotel spring

goldfinch 06:24

Angelwing Butterfly

anglewing butterfly 06:24

Culvers Root

Culver's root 06:24

mowed boardwalk 06:24 A

Michigan Lily

michigan lily 06:24 B michigan lily 06:24 E

Sue contemplates the lilies of the field

michigan lily & Sue 06:26

Hognose Snake

hognose snake 06:24

Ninebark fruit

nine bark fruit 06:24

New England Aster

new england asters 06:24

Mystery Bird

mystery bird 06:26


sparrow 06:26

Scarlet Tanager

scarlet tanager A 06:26 scarlet tanager 06:26 B


lead plant 06:26

Downy Woodpecker

downey woodpecker 06:26


michigan lily 07:01


catbird 07:01

John and Sue do a lot of bird watching at the Hotel Spring.  The big willow is still there thanks to John pleading with me not to cut it down.female goldfinch wading 07:01 goldfinch 07:01 splish splash 07:01 cedar waxwing 07:01


lead plant 07:01 michigan lily 2 07:01


killdeer 07:01 B toad 07:01

Northern Water Snake.

water snake hunting from log 07:01

Common Agrimony

common agrimony 07:02 A

Green Frog

green frog 07:02

The Buckthorn Man working in the thicket across from the Indian SpringPaul 07:02

Lindsay Knudsvig in the thick-of-it

Lindsay 07:02

Prairie Crayfish burrow

prairie crayfish burrow 07:02 A

Mourning Doves

mourning doves A 07:07

Hognose Snake

hognose snake 07:09


sumac 07:31


jewellweed 07:14 A

Woodland Sunflower

woodland sunflower 07:14 A

Lindsay and I cut the catails and phragmites in the entire river valley.observation deck 07:14 A little bridge area 07:14 B

Mountain Mint

mountain mint A  indian spring prairie 07:14 A

Views of the prairie just west of the buckthorn thicket that Lindsay and I were cutting shown above.

John in prairie 07:14

Note the buckthorn thicket on the north side of the prairie

prairie northeast view A

Looking south

prairie southeast view 07:14

Prairie Swamp Milkweed

prairie swamp milkweed 07:14

Wild Bergamont

prairie bergamot 07:14

Angelwing Butterfly

anglewing butterfly 07:15 A


liatris 07:15

Evening Primrose

evening primrose 07:31

Trumpet Yellow Flower

trumpet yellow flower 07:31

Joe-pye Weed

joe pyeweed 07:31 B

Leopard Frog

leopard frog 07:31


elderberries 07:31 A

Flowering Spurge

flowering spurge 07:31 A

View west from the Indian Campground

Indian springs hill 07:31

White Wood Aster

white wood aster 07:31 B mushroom A 07:31

west view from bridge 07:31 A east view from bridge 07:31 A

Sawtooth Sunflower and Brown-eyed Susan

sawtooth sunflower 07:31 B browneyed susans 07:31 A

Blue Vervain

blue vervain 07:31 C

White Vervain

white vervain 07:31 A


Light Purple Aster

light purple aster 08:28:12

Shelf-type Mushroom

shelf-type mushroom 08:28:12


lettuce family 08:28:12 A

Goldenrod and bug

goldenrod & bug 08:28:12


sandpiper? 08:28:12 A


elderberries 08:28:12

White Asters

white asters 08:28:12


goldenrod? 08:28:12

Asters and Goldenrod

asters & goldenrod 08:28:12


mint? 08:28:12 A


pokeweed 08:28:12 B

Mystery stalk (Bush Clover?)

mystery stalk 08:28:12

Wood Asters (Forked Aster?)

wood asters? 08:28:12

Tall Sunflowers

tall sunflowers 08:28:12

Goldenrod along the marl pit trail

goldenrod & brown-eyed susans 08:28:12

Goldenrod and Bee

goldenrod & bee 08:28:12

Fringed Gentians along the marl pit trail

fringed gentians 08:28:12 A fringed gentians 08:28:12 fringed gentians & goldenrod 08:28:12A fringed gentians & goldenrod 08:28:12fringed gentians & cinqfoil 08:28:10

The view towards the sand prairie from the marl pit trail (note the buckthorn thicket)


marl pit & indian springs trail 08:28:12

The marl pit trail is a great place to see flowers!marl pit & goldenrod 08:28:12  new england aster 08:28:12 leopard frog 08:28:12

marl pit & old bridge 08:28:12 B

That’s it for the year 2012 in review, courtesy of Sue and John Hrobar.  Here are a couple of bonus pics that Sue took in September, 2013, of a watersnake capturing a grass pickerel.  I wonder what happened next?

watersnake & grass pickerel 09:01 watersnake & grass pickerel 2 09:01 watersnake & grass pickerel 1 09:01

I would love to share your photos of The Springs here, so contact me if you have some good ones.

See you at The Springs!

Weeds “R” Us

Back in the days when I used to stand on street corners passing out dvds and flyers in an attempt to get people to re-examine what really happened on 9/11, I would often hear, “Get a life”, mumbled or shouted at me.  “I have a life”, I thought, in which the truth matters and starting wars based on tissues of lies is deadly serious.  Nevertheless, the insults stung and dumbfounded me.  Why don’t they care?  Why are they choosing to remain ignorant?  Is ignorance really strength?

Although no one that passes by as I cut and burn garlic mustard, or pull and dig weeds on the sand prairie, says “get a life”, I wonder sometimes if it is the best use of my time.   Maybe I should be trying to make some money?  And, isn’t the definition of what is, or is not, a weed, a bit arbitrary?

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope you don’t mind me baring my soul like this.  I’m volunteering my time — spending my spiritual currency — working at The Springs, and trying, one weed at a time, to make the world a more beautiful place.


Since meeting Jason Dare on the trail last summer, I’ve adopted the approach of following the phenology of the weeds and timing my efforts accordingly; it feels like playing Whac-A-Mole.  There are so many weeds out there, and so little time, and I’m just one Buckthorn Man!

Paradoxically, I really enjoyed working on the daunting task of eradicating the invasive, non-native plants, infesting The Springs this past week.  I can see the progress being made and I got help from Andy Buchta and Ben Johnson, which was great.

On Tuesday, June 24, I pulled into the DNR 2-track on the south end of the property, and found someone hard at work grinding up the slash from the black locust trees that were recently harvested there.  They did the same on the north end of the property last week.  Thanks to Paul Sandgren, the Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit, for making it happen; this is a huge improvement to the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve.

IMG_3338 IMG_3339

I re-girdled some of the aspen trees just west of the Indian Springs and, hopefully, that clone will shrivel and die.  Then I pulled the flowering seed heads from smooth hawkweed and annual hawksbeard.  Unfortunately, the sand prairie is threaded with poison ivy, and I got another dose of it on my ankles and legs.

I mentioned last week that I did a little engineering at the Indian Springs, removing a dense mass of peat/clay that was blocking the channel and creating a little dam.  Here is how it looks now.


When the stream bed settles down into its new profile, we’ll transplant some native plants to replace the quack grass and watercress that previously flourished here.

The late afternoon was spent pulling and digging spotted knapweed.  I contacted the Weedbusters and got in the queue for batches of root and flower weevils, which should be available by early August.  The Kettle Moraine Natural History Association is going to cover the costs!

I’ve been watching the area around the deck at the Emerald Springs for signs of life; it’s been a dead zone since I sprayed imazapyr there last year.  It looks like some brave grasses and sedges are finally starting to return.  I’m really glad I stopped spraying herbicide at The Springs.



I missed the summer solstice sunset, but this is pretty close.
IMG_3340 IMG_3345

On Thursday, June 26, I was back at it and, while I worked on the south end of the property, Andy Buchta was piling buckthorn near the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ.  Thanks Andy!


I girdled a clone of little aspen that was spreading down the hillside in the vicinity of the Hidden Springs.  The mature aspen trees in this clonal colony were girdled last year, and its important to close the deal and get the little ones too.  The rest of the day was a repeat of Tuesday, only this time Ben Johnson joined me to pull and dig spotted knapweed.  We got a ton of it.

The highlight of the day was harvesting lupine seeds from the west facing slope of the sand prairie and sowing them along the trail above.  It will be sweet indeed if we can spread lupine across the sand prairie.


See you at The Springs!

SEWRPC Surveys The Springs

I love to landscape the landscape at the Scuppernong Springs.  This distinguished tract of land deserves our love and attention for the sake of its beauty.  So please, come out and help me dig a little spotted knapweed from the sand prairie!


The lay of the land at The Springs was evoked beautifully by John Muir, in his classic: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, and I had to pinch myself last night as I walked alone behind the Scuppernong Spring and thought: ‘this is my garden’.


I’m intrigued by how others experience my garden.

Here is a great image from Landscape Photographer Byron S. Becker: “The photograph was taken in the spring of 2008 along Suppernong River near sundown. The camera was a 4×5 with a 90mm lens, using TriX 320 film and the exposure was 2 minutes; the developer was Pyronal.”

45BW56-1 Scuppernong Creek

Below is an example of Kristen Westlake’s Fine Art Photography.  You can see more of her images of The Springs, and all of her other outstanding work, here.


I had a wonderful week of beautiful weather for landscape gardening at The Springs!  Last Monday, June 9th, I tried something new, per the advice of Jared Urban, and burned the first-year garlic mustard off the cut-off trail with my blow torch.  Below is where the cut-off trail joins the main trail at signpost #13.

IMG_3167 IMG_3168

And after…



I got the worst patches and now the trail is officially “burned in” as Don Dane would say.  I spent the afternoon digging spotted knapweed from the sand prairie and was glad to have Ben Johnson’s help with this seemingly Sisyphean task.  We focused on cleaning up the lupine patches.


On Friday, June 13, I was joined by Dan Carter, Senior Biologist with The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC).  Dan was continuing SEWRPC’s ongoing effort to document the vegetation at The Springs and invited me to come along.


SEWRPC has divided The Springs into 4 areas for their vegetation surveys:

1) The dry prairie at the springs (aka, the Indian Campground)
2) The dry woods
3) The springs, immediately adjacent wetlands, and upper reaches of the creek
4) The fen and sedge meadow in the vast open area immediately to the west (includes trench where marl was mined).

The first three areas listed above are located in the blue circle on the right below and the fourth is in the larger blue circle to the left.  Click the links above to view SEWRPC’s preliminary vegetation surveys.

SEWRPCScuppernongSpringsNAList Area

As we walked through Buckthorn Alley on our way to the hotel spring, Dan and I stopped frequently to make notes and take pictures.  Dan recently completed his PhD in Biology at Kansas State University and he has a wealth of knowledge, understanding and wisdom.  Here are just a few of plants he identified.

Lady Fern


Sensitive Fern


False Solomon’s Seal


True Solomon’s Seal


Be careful at The SpringsPoison Hemlock.IMG_3210 IMG_3211



Forked Aster, a state threatened plant!






We visited the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area and Dan showed me two new springs that I had never seen before.  They emerge from the east side of the wetlands and you can find them by walking across the fen from campsite #334 towards the north until you come across their outflow channels.

IMG_3245 IMG_3241 IMG_3242

IMG_3243 IMG_3244

Of course, there were lots of interesting plants here too.

Bracken Fern


Lake Sedge


And the carnivorous Pitcher Plant


Thanks Dan, for showing me around the place I love!


I spent the afternoon pulling and digging spotted knapweed on the sand prairie.  There is a bumper crop of this noxious invader!

A soothing sunset at Ottawa Lake.

IMG_3258 IMG_3261 IMG_3264 IMG_3267 IMG_3271

A “Honey” moon at the Lapham Peak Tower.


I had the pleasure of spending yesterday, June 14, at my favorite spot again.

IMG_3275 IMG_3279

The Indian Spring is being quickly overrun by quack grass and water cress so I spent the morning pulling these invasive plants.  Before…


… and after.

IMG_3284 IMG_3287

Then I moved up the hill to the sand prairie and continued pulling and digging spotted knapweed.  It’s going to take years to get rid of this stuff unless I get a whole lot of help.

Speaking of which, my good friend Carl Baumann, who has been harvesting black locust on the south end of the trail, split all of the logs in my woodpile setting the stage for some cozy fires at My Shangri-La.  Thanks Carl!


And Andy Buchta noticed the freshly cut buckthorn by the main entrance on Hwy ZZ and he has commenced to piling.  Thanks Andy!

IMG_3289 IMG_3290

It was a great week!

IMG_3295 IMG_3296

See you at The Springs!


Scuppernong Safari

Come along as Jon Bradley takes us on his recent amazing adventure at the Scuppernong Springs!

If you are receiving this post via email by subscribing to this site, you can click, or double click, the pictures to display them full screen; well worth it for Jon’s beautiful photographs. If you hover your mouse over a picture and a youtube link appears, follow it.

The last time out, I was taking sunset photos from the marl pit canal and noticed someone hanging out on the bridge; it was Jon…

I had a blast at The Springs this past Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday morning. I hit the trail 5 times but only went through the whole thing once, I mostly stuck around the Marl Pits. Admittedly, I wanted to check out the new cut-off trail but couldn’t see a definitive trail.

As you saw, I installed the Tree Swallow house on Thursday afternoon. I saw a ton of Tree Swallows around that area, so it was definitely a fantastic place to put it. (Just an FYI there is a loose nail on the left side of the front, which can be pulled out to swing open the front if it ever needs to be cleaned out. It’s something I never really knew about before but read it online and figured I’d install it on that one since it’ll be at the trail, hopefully for many years to come.)


During sunset I saw this Snapping Turtle and Blandings Turtle on each side of the Marl Pit Bridge.



These Spiderwort plants were everywhere. They sure do have a nice color to them, don’t they?


I’ve never actually been to The Springs during sunset before, it was definitely worth seeing, and thankfully the mosquitoes weren’t too bad around the Marl Pit area, compared to to the first stretch of trail where they were swarming.




Friday morning at the Springs was fantastic. I hit the whole trail and enjoyed watching the springs from quite a few locations along the trail. It was a quiet day with no one on the trail and not too much traffic going by so it was a pretty relaxing stroll.



This muskrat was working all day long on its den in the largest Marl Pit.


I always have a good time hanging around the main spring, though the mosquitoes were so thick around it, I chose to continue on after a minute or two.

A few other photos I took at the trail include Sandhill Cranes at the entrance, another large Snapping Turtle in a Marl Pit (it’s markings seem to match up with the one I saw on the previous day), and a tiny Painted Turtle in the large Marl Pit.




I also got a few interesting photos at Ottawa Lake. I just missed out on this Snapping Turtle laying her eggs by the pier.



During one last bike ride around the park, I found this small Snapper by the beach parking lot and saved it from getting run over. Hopefully it headed straight back to the lake.


I’m already looking forward to my next trip out there!

(ed. note,

Just in, here is a great video tour of The Springs that Jon put together.

See you at The Springs!)

South Branch Scuppernong River

“I’m more ‘here’ when I’m here, partly because I’ve learned more about the river.”, that is how Milton Bates described his deepening present moment awareness in his fantastic book, The Bark River Chronicles. We drew inspiration from Mr. Bates to embark on our own Journey Down The Scuppernong River, and it has been a wonderful, enriching and, unfortunately, a bit disturbing, learning experience. From the pristine headwaters at the Scuppernong River Nature Trail to the final, completely degraded, drainage ditch, that passes through the mud farms west of Hwy 106, the journey has taught us a lot about natural history and the impact of white settlers with their insatiable, often short-sighted, desire to convert natural resources into money — which continues to this day.

On our journey downstream we tried to document all of the tributaries and water sources that feed the Scuppernong River but we missed one of the most significant; the South Branch of the Scuppernong River. I remember now exactly when we encountered it on the second leg of your journey, as we approached an abandoned farm just east of Hwy Z, and I assumed at the time that it was just an irrigation canal.


(full image here)

I even mentioned in a previous post the brook trout that were released into the south branch, but it did not register:


John and Sue Hrobar visit The Springs often, and we discuss, fish, flowers and the pros and cons of intervening to attempt to restore native habitats. Lately, our discussions have focused on what has happened to the brook trout in the stretch of river near the headwaters since we have begun clearing the springs and river. John concludes, because we don’t see trout in the river like we used to, that our efforts have disturbed a critical balance making the river unsuitable for trout. The major change being the removal of water cress, which was literally damming the river and causing it to overflow its banks, but which may have been providing the habitat for bugs and insects on which the trout depend. He suspects that our clearing of all the feeder springs has not increased the flow of water and has only released more mud and sediment into the river. I respect John’s ideas and I’m trying to understand what is going on with the fish. What is good trout habitat and what should a healthy, natural, spring-fed river look like? Here is what the WDNR considers suitable habitat for trout fishing on the Scuppernong River and its tributaries.


(full image here)

John and Sue enlightened me as to the existence of the South Branch of the Scuppernong River and I really appreciate that. The source is the Stute Springs, just south of forest headquarters. You can follow its course north and west by zooming into this map:

It was really peaceful yesterday morning when I arrived at The Springs and encountered this wind blown cherry tree blocking my access to the parking area at the terminus of a DNR, 2-track, access road at the south end of the trail.


Coincidentally, this happened to be an area where some black locust stumps where protruding in the road and I shaved these as well as removed the downed tree. I continued spraying first year garlic mustard seedlings on the south end of the loop trail using a 2.34% solution of glyphosate and then proceeded to the north side of the scuppernong river to girdle some aspen.


I spent the afternoon piling buckthorn between the north side of the river and the cut-off trail and made another dozen or so piles. John and Sue arrived to say hello and we had a great conversation regarding the restoration effort and then they lead me to this rare patch of kitten tails.


Golden Alexander is in full bloom.


Spider Wort is prolific on the sand prairie.


Our good friend, the north wind, blew into The Springs and it was cool and cloudy most of the day, but when the sunshine finally broke through, it was glorious.





Another spring may have started flowing, check this out:

Views of the Scuppernong Prairie from the Sauk Campground…




… and the marl pit bridge.


My sweetheart, Pati Holman, road her bike the 40 or so miles from Milwaukee to join me and we took a nice walk around the loop trail before heading for home.


See you at The Springs!

Spring Pleasure

Thanks again for following the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail posts!

My everloving mate, Pati Holman, just returned from a 2 week road trip and we took a wonder-filled walk around The Springs yesterday evening. Unfortunately, she was not present to help with the burn, but I did my best to provide a glow by glow account of that exciting day.

The trees were fresh with myriad shades of soft greens and the air had a slight haze to it, so, in the late afternoon light, the images captured have a slightly unfocused, pastel-like quality.




Pati and I were hanging out on the marl pit bridge when, fresh from a mud path, my spirit brother Thomas Barrett, aka Saturn Tre Volte, and “AJ” approached from the south. It took a couple seconds for the recognition to crystallize. I met Thomas at Ottawa Lake in May of 2012. He saw me lamely trying to swim and, introducing himself, promised to return in a few minutes to give me a lesson. He was a triathlete before being struck by a road raged driver while on a training ride on his bike. Thomas sought refuge camping at Ottawa lake as his head injuries slowly healed and he often helped me pile brush and pull watercress. Was it just a coincidence that Pati and I happened to be at the bridge when Thomas and AJ arrived (he had been living in Florida fighting legal battles to get compensation)?


It is natural, yet miraculous, that the plant life is recovering so quickly from the fires. New life is emerging everywhere, soon to erase all evidence of the fires.

Geraniums push up from the black.


Shooting Stars are reloading.


Wood Anemone.


Wild Strawberry.


Views from the old barn site.




We saw this patch of May Apple last spring when we cleared the buckthorn from this area and it was thick with garlic mustard when it emerged. This year, we sprayed the garlic mustard before the May Apple came out with good results.


The Hatching House Springs area is delightful.




In the last post, I included a link to Wood Betony Stachy Officinalis (Betonica Officinalis), which I assumed was actually for the Wood Betony (Pediclaris Canadensis) that we see below at The Springs.


This case of mistaken identity could be dismissed as simply another one of my biological gaffes, if it were not for the fact that when I actually read the link to Wood Betony Stachy Officinalis, that I included in the post, and realized this was not the Wood Betony I had seen at The Springs, I thought immediately of my friend Thomas Barrett.

I first used Betony for a friend who suffered a closed head injury in a car accident.  Four months after the initial trauma she still experienced frequent dizziness, headaches and disorientation, and on a few occasions had up and keeled over.  She was unable to work or drive, which, as one might expect, made being a mother a rather difficult endeavor.  Although by nature not one to lean towards the use of herbs or natural therapies, desperation resultant from the lingering effects of the injury led her to accept my offer of herbal help.  I gave her three pellets of Homeopathic Arnica to address the impact related origin of the injury, and had her take a dropperful of Betony extract as needed when her head hurt, going on a traditional use of Betony to treat concussion.  I didn’t hear back from her, but saw her a couple weeks later, and to my dismay, her pained expression told that she was still suffering from the terrible headaches.  I offered her two droppersful of Betony tincture in a glass of water, thinking that perhaps a stronger dose was in order (strange, nowadays I’d tell her to take a smaller dose…).  In about 10 minutes she asked “What was that? My head doesn’t hurt anymore…”  When I told her it was the Betony I’d sent to her a couple weeks ago she replied, “Wow! I’m going to have to start using that.”  Doing so, she recovered completely.

Yes indeed, I did conjure up Saturn Tre Volte, and the very next day, one filled with dynamic choices, we did meet at the marl pit bridge in harmoniously synchronized serendipity.  Thomas, get yourself some Wood Betony stachy officinalis (betonica officinalis)!  Be well, my friend.

Here we see Bird’s-Foot Violets and PussyToes.

IMG_1544 IMG_1545

Pati really enjoyed the sights and sounds and I shared the feeling.


Check out this bunch of asparagus that Pati harvested.


Welcome home Pati.  Welcome home Thomas.




See you at The Springs!

Oaken Word

Siddhartha taught me to listen to the river. Time is an illusion; the “present” moment is an embraceable gift to us. Instead, we often treat time as a commodity to be spent, or saved, or wasted. The past haunts us, we fear for the future, all the while missing the gift of the present moment.


I was lucky to spend some time with the oaks this past weekend; paying attention, listening and feeling the gentle vibration of their subtle speech. The last few weeks I’ve been distracted with the burn, inmates and doctor visits but I found calm again in the present moment amongst the oaks.

On Saturday, May 11th, I joined Ginny Coburn and DNR Conservation Biologist Jared Urban for a workday at the Lone Tree Bluff Scenic Overlook to girdle some aspen trees. Jared leads the Endangered Resources (ER) team in southeastern Wisconsin. His crew varies in size from 3-5 people and they are responsible for approximately 20,000 acres.

Jared hobbled to the top of Lone Tree Bluff on crutches due to an ankle sprained while lighting a 90 acre prescribed burn at Lulu Lake on May 6th. This was after the ER team spent the bulk of the day helping to burn the Scuppernong. The expression “Still waters run deep”, was coined with Jared in mind; I calm down just being around him. But, you should have seen his face when he described the fires he lit at the Scuppernong; the tone vanished as his jaw dropped and I could see the 40′ flames reflected in his widened eyes. Below, Jared gives us a natural history lesson and explains the science behind girdling aspen trees.

When you contrast the billions and billions of dollars the government spends on the military, security industrial complex, versus what it spends to nurture the land, it recalls to mind TreeBeard’s lament in The Lord of the Rings that, ‘no one cares about the trees anymore’. The war mongers misleading us, our Saruman’s if you will, have propagandized us using the old divide and conquer strategy, demonizing Muslims, and distracting us from what our real priorities should be here in the homeLAND.

Whew, I’m ranting again. I’ll try to be more calmly passionate (sounds like something Joseph Conrad might have written, not to suggest I could have even sharpened his pencil). We had a lot of fun working together and I thoroughly enjoyed it.




In the back row Diane, Carol, SwordMan, Princess and Ginny and in the front row, Carol, Thayer and Jared.


I’m new to this area so I stayed to explore a little. Here are a few shots of the bluff.



The Bluff Creek Springs emerge from the north side of the moraine and feed Bluff Creek. I had to check them out.




I found another set of springs on the east side of the moraine.

I wanted to hear what the oak were saying up at Lapham Peak, where Mike Fort and the Lapham Peak Friends have been restoring the prairies, oak woodlands and oak savannas for over 20 years. They have perfected techniques for cutting, stacking and burning buckthorn that are models of efficiency. This past week they did a 75 acre prescribed burn in the area marked in white on the map below and they burned approximately 177 acres total in the park this spring burn season.


This huge swath of the north flank of the peak extends from “the big slide” cross country ski trail east to the tower hill road. I was in awe taking in the scope of the effort as I well remember this hillside was thick with buckthorn.





The oaks were swaying and singing gratefully with the blustery north wind, giving thanks for the tender loving care of the Lapham Peak Friends.

Approaching the tower.

A bird’s eye view from the tower (I need a wind screen for the camera mic).

If you haven’t visited Lapham Peak lately, or ever, consider paying attention to what the friends have accomplished and spend some present moments there.

On Sunday, May 12th, I was back at The Springs. Wow, I wonder how long it will take for the forest floor to become green again. I wonder if the native flowers and grasses will have enough strength in their roots to push up fresh growth this year; or next. I began the day spraying garlic mustard, which appeared in isolated patches that escaped the fires.


I was pleasantly surprised, and heart warmed, to see Lindsay, his wife, Connie and her granddaughter Sophia, arrive to pick up a load of wood.


When I talked to Don Dane after the burn he mentioned that this would be a great time to attack the spotted knapweed on the Indian Campground. Loaded with the recipe I got from Lindsay, I started that application. Spraying herbicide is my least favorite thing to do in the woods and I limit how much I do in a day. There is plenty more garlic mustard and spotted knapweed proliferating out there and I’ll be spraying for the next two months.



Some scenes from the Indian Campground.




Looking down into the river valley from the Indian Campground.



Next on the agenda was girdling aspen. I intended to continue working at the old hotel site, but I thought better of it as I was walking down the river valley, and I attacked a few isolated clonal colonies that were spreading into the valley.

A quick stop at the Scuppernong Spring.






Finally, I started piling buckthorn just north of the old barn site. I have been a cutting fool for the last couple months thinking that I would get a crew of inmates from the Sturtevant Transitional Facility to help me pile, but I don’t think that is going to work out, so I’ll be piling for the next few weeks to catch up. I made around 10 piles and it was very relaxing work with a great view down the river to the west.



DNR Visitor Services Associate extraordinaire Amanda Prange is leading an effort to install a new set of signposts to match the trail brochure.


The Hatching House Spring is looking great.


I followed the channel of the Indian Spring’s towards it’s junction with the Scuppernong River and caught this panorama video. The marl pit factory ruins are just to the right of the sun.


Speaking of which!




See you at The Springs!

Jon Bradley Tours The Springs

If you love The Scuppernong Springs and want to share your stories or pictures here, please contact me. Here is the latest from Jon Bradley (Thanks for the awesome pics Jon!).

Today (4/27) was one of the warmer days so far this year. I knew today could be a good day to find wildlife at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. From the moment I stepped out of the car I knew it would be a good day on the trail. Almost immediately I heard the call of a couple Sandhill Cranes. As I was walking along the Marl Pits I saw two cranes taking off about 200 yards away. Shortly after that I discovered this Common Garter Snake along the large Marl Pit, and two Painted turtles in one of the smaller Marl Pits.



Here is a photo taken at the Marl Pit bridge facing East.


As I got down to the first Vernal Pond before the Indian Campground, I saw something move near my feet. I looked down and saw an amazing Eastern Hognose Snake. This snake is arguably the most unique snake in Wisconsin for many reasons. One of them being that it flattens its neck similar to a cobra.



I had heard that the Eastern Hognose Snake lived around the trail, but have never before seen one. It was hissing pretty loudly, though didn’t attempt to flee while I photographed it. Its important to say that all snakes at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail are harmless to people and most will do everything they can to avoid human contact.


Here are a couple of flowers (hepatica & marsh marigold) I found around the trail. Its nice to see color coming back!



A few more scenic photos:




There were a ton of birds at the Springs today. American Goldfinches, Red-winged Blackbirds, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, and Warblers of all kinds. Between the old barn foundation and hotel site, I saw this Yellow-Rumped Warbler.


On the way out, I stopped to check the water level.


It was a fantastic day at the Springs and I hope to be back at least few more times this year. I love seeing the progression of the restoration project. Its nice to see the woodland areas looking more like woodlands and less like “buckthorn alleys”. I have to imagine even some animals will appreciate being able to navigate through the woods better. I unfortunately didn’t get to the new cutoff trail this time but I definitely plan on it this summer.

Thanks Jon!

See you at The Springs!

Jon Bradley Loves the Springs

Here is a guest blog from Jon Bradley.

The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail is one of my favorite places. I started walking it when I was just a young child. I still grab a guide at the entrance of the trail every time I go, although I pretty much have the entire thing memorized. I’ve been to the trail at least once every year, and this year I’ve been lucky enough to visit it 6 times, and planning a 7th visit this October when the leaves change. In fact, last year, on October 8th, I came for the fall colors as well, and it was a fantastic sight along the crystal clear Scuppernong River.

Also some fall colors at the old Marl Plant.

One of the reasons I love this area so much is because it seems to be a good fit for a wide variety of animals and plants, some even threatened or endangered, and the common ones thrive. Snakes are almost a guaranteed sight along this trail in Spring and Autumn. Last autumn I found this young Common Garter Snake next to the main Scuppernong springs.

One of my favorite views (and with the recent efforts to clear out some trees, an even better view) of the Scuppernong River Habitat Area, is located at the old Native American campsite. This photo of the fantastic view was taken 8/27/12.

Last Autumn I found this large spider at the Native American campsite. I don’t know spiders, but I think its probably a Wolf Spider.

Here is a photo of the Hotel Spring that I took earlier this year, and I’d like to mention on my last trip there (2 days ago) I noticed one of the bricks had fallen off the wall and into the water.

Lastly, I have a few photos of the centerpiece of this trail, the Scuppernong River.
The first photo was taken on August 27th, in the morning before the fog rolled off. This is one of my favorite parts of the trail. There always seems to be a lot of bird life in this area such as Eastern Kingbirds, Cooper’s Hawks, Belted Kingfishers, American Goldfinches, and Great Blue Herons. I know its also a good place to find Garter Snakes, Hog-Nosed Snakes, and Northern Watersnakes. I love that the place is literally crawling with wildlife.

These two photos were taken just past the Marl Works, to the east. This area is listed as #5 on the guide and highlights fur trapping. The first photo was taken in the morning on August 27th, 2012, and the second was taken in the early afternoon on July 9th, 2012.

Finally, this area was recently cleared right near the old Hotel, and is listed #12 on the guide.

(ed. note, Thanks Jon for your story and great pics!)

Flora Update

Here is a guest blog from Ron Kurowski, retired DNR naturalist.

This is a photo of forked aster (state threatened plant),

which is found in only one location at the Scuppernong Springs at present.  It is found on the east side of the sand dune in the more open woods, towards the bottom of the slope (left of the boardwalk).

It appeared suddenly after several controlled burns. At times I have seen over 100 plants blooming in this general location. There is also a colony blooming at Paradise Springs, so I would suspect that it likes wet soils.

Lesser fringed gentian (state threatened plant).  The yellow flower is from
shrubby cinquefoil that is common to fens.

You will also find the larger gentian growing here too, probably reaching its peak, sometime around the middle of September.  (ed. note, the picture was taken along the Marl Pit)

This picture shows the large marl pit at its south end.

I have never seen the water level in the marl pits so low. The plant community to the left of the marl pit is part fen and sedge meadow. The fen is just starting to show its beautiful flowers, so people who walk along the marl pit in the next
couple of weeks will see several fen flowers including grass-of-Parnassus,
nodding lady’s tresses orchid, small fringed gentian (state threatened) Ohio
goldenrod, marsh thistle, and gerardia. Fens are springy wet grass lands
that very alkaline and the rich marl (calcium carbonate) soils make this a
very special site.

(ed. note Thanks Ron!  Regarding Purple Loosestrife and Tracy Hame’s recommendation that we introduce the Loosestrife Beetle, Ron explained that the DNR has been doing this for many years in this area.  I am following up with him on this to see if we should step up this effort.  The Purple Loosestrife appears to be getting the upper hand.)