Scuppernong Springs Refuge

Nature is my refuge, it’s been my Bridge Over Troubled Waters ever since I was a boy growing up in a family of 12, and now no less since I’ve become aware of the truth about how the world really works. I feel a bit selfish spending so much time at The Springs; shouldn’t I be doing something to stop the U.S. intervention in Syria, or, nurturing my gardens at home?

The world “out there” is never far from mind when I’m at my Scuppernong Springs Refuge. I felt comforted and protected there yester-Sun-day morning and, as the day progressed, I calmed down a little.


I started the day in the lower meadow cutting cattails and purple loosestrife. I have seen loosestrife eating beetles and their effects at The Springs; nevertheless, this will be a bumper year for the purple invader.


As I was walking along the south side of the river in the lower meadows heading back to my truck, I had to stop and appreciate how beautiful it was (sorry, the video is blurry for the first couple seconds, while the camera focuses.)

I’m cleaning up my “to do list” — last time it was girdling black locust — and there was some brush I cut back in the spring between the cut-off trail and the river that I needed to get piled (note, I mistakenly refer to the upper meadows at the beginning of the video, s/b lower meadows.)

There is one more place that needs piling and I’m chomp’in at the bit to start whacking buckthorn again. Meanwhile, I spent the afternoon pulling and digging weeds, mostly spotted knapweed on the sand prairie. I’m seeing tons of young lupine plants on the western slope of the north side of the prairie and, in many cases, I was able to dig out the knapweed leaving the lupine unmolested, which was very satisfying.

Later, I took a walk around the trail and captured these images of the lower meadow


After a cloudy day, the sun came out just in time for me to take a dip in the river and do a bit of yoga at the marl pit bridge. I got these parting shoots as the clouds thickened again.






See you at The Springs!

Scuppernong Summer

Usually you’ll find me in the mountains this time of year, when they are gentle and uncrowded.  This year I’m looking forward to experiencing the waning days of summer right here at home — at the Scuppernong Springs.


I’m taking liberties at The Springs including attempting to transition the cattail and phragmities dominated marshes that border the river into wet meadows, which will encompass a wider diversity of flora and fauna.  The upper meadows (shown in blue below) are along the river valley upstream of the sawmill site #12 and the lower meadows (in red) are downstream from there to the gaging station bridge #5.


The upper meadows


It was a beautiful summer day at The Springs yesterday and I got started with a project that has been on my mind for some time i.e., re-girdling the black locust trees on the south end of the loop trail.  Some years ago the DNR hired a person to girdle the trees in this area and they did approximately 200 of them before committing suicide (he did not mention the black locust trees being a motivating factor in his last note).  Unlike this unhappy forester, many of the trees survived despite being deeply wounded.  I re-girdled around 40 trees and added a new girdle to another 20 or so.


There is a vernal pool inside the south end of the loop trail just below the trees shown in the beginning of the video above that was filling in with phragmities, reed canarygrass and Japanese knotweed and I spent some time with the hedge trimmer cutting the flowering seed heads from these invasive plants. Then I headed over to the west edge of the lower meadows at the gaging station bridge to cut some cattails. Below are before and after videos, and again, I was able to cut above most of the flowering heads of the aster, golden rod and joe pye weed.

I almost finished before the hedge trimmer jammed. Then I headed up to the south end of the sand prairie and dug out spotted knapweed for a couple hours and finally finished the day pulling Japanese knotweed on the hillside just south of the Indian Springs. It was a great day to stop and enjoy the sky, the breeze and the summer flowers that are approaching their peak color.


Another Scuppernong Sunset









See you at The Springs!

Spring Meditations

I spent another blissful day at The Springs yesterday contemplating the age old question: “Why am I here?” It’s the labor of love, and I know who to thank.  Imitating Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations:

From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper.
From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character.
From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.
From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.

From Mike and Yvonne Fort (Friends of Lapham Peak), I learned what a labor of love is, and that has made all the difference.


I’ll never forget the time, almost 20 years ago, I was wandering the trails behind the Ice Age Trail Alliance storage barn at Lapham Peak, modestly intoxicated, playing The Battle of Evermore on Pati’s mandolin, when I saw Mike and Yvonne pulling sweet clover from a prairie they were restoring.  As Lau Tzu said, “The longest journey begins with a single step”, and their vision, manifest in the prairies and oak woodlands of Lapham Peak State Park, inspired me to take the first step in discovering my own labor of love.

One last thought from Marcus Aurelius — who was probably one of the most powerful men to have ever walked the face of the earth — I heard from John Taylor Gatto in The Ultimate History Lesson: “Nothing you can buy with your money is worth having, and no one you can boss around with your power is worth associating with.”

It was a misty morning and I lingered at the Hotel Spring before heading up the trail, past the old barn site, to meet a fallen red oak or two.  Keeping a trail clear can be challenging and is always gratifying.

IMG_0442 IMG_0443 IMG_0444 IMG_0447

This one wasn’t blocking the trail yet, and, since I was all geared up for it, I took it out too.  IMG_0449 IMG_0451

On my way back to the truck I passed by the bend in the river across from the old barn site and decided to cut the cattails in this area too, given the excellent results we see in the “upper meadows“.


Before and after video perspectives below.

Then I headed over to the Indian Springs to tangle with Japanese Knotweed, which, per Don Dane, is growing like crazy all over the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit.

I see the wisdom in Jason Dare‘s advice to focus on herbaceous weeds for as long in the growing season as makes sense.  I’ll be pulling Japanese Knotweed for another week at least and this is one that I definitely need to learn how to identify in the early spring when it first appears.

It was a cool evening and I was glad to leave the bug net in my pocket.

Sand Prairie Sunset

IMG_0461 IMG_0462 IMG_0463

Marl Pit Bridge Reprise

IMG_0465 IMG_0466 IMG_0472 IMG_0474 IMG_0478 IMG_0480

See you at The Springs!