Bauer Brockway Barrens

After some technical issues, it looks like I’m able to upload pictures again so I can make another post. This is another one looking back to my recent camping excursion to Black River State Forest. While camping, I didn’t stay entirely within the forest boundaries. A nearby place I spend a sunny Saturday afternoon was Bauer Brockway Barrens State Nature Area. I love barrens. With their sandy soil and, well, barren look, they seem like they don’t belong in Wisconsin, but they are a native part of the state’s mosaic of natural beauty.

I did not explore much of the SNA as I did not know where the exact boundaries were. Turns out that at just over half a square mile the parcel is much larger than the part I stuck to. As I found plenty to experience within a short distance of my car, this was more of a post-lunch nature relaxation hour than a hike.

In one area I found several earth star fungi in various states of decay.

Much of the barrens was flat and open, the small jack pines (Pinus banksiana) having been controlled.

My “I’m in a barrens!” face

Closer to Indian Grave Creek, the landscape changed. The trees were denser and I had to part the branches as I made my way through them. The creek was in a tranquil ravine. Like much of the surface water in the area it was colored a rich orange with tannic acid from pine and moss. This is the same acid that causes the namesake dark water of the Black River (when the water is deeper it gets a dark appearance that reminded me almost of red wine). The creek was narrow and I jumped across it easily.

On the east side of the creek the trees were dense and the traveling was not as easy. A few wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) had gathered there and we had a Scooby-Doo style chase scene before I headed back west into the open.

The sun was beating down and I decided to take a brief rest. Sometimes when I’m in a beautiful place my strongest desire is to lay down and let nature do all the talking.

After a few minutes of looking up at plants and clouds I closed my eyes. When I opened them back up, I saw a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) circling close above me! I wasn’t dead and I didn’t want to see what would happen if it kept believing I was. I waved at it when it circled around another time but it came back again. I waved more furiously the second time and never saw it again.

I didn’t stay long after that. I still had more I wanted to do that day. Bauer Brockway Barrens SNA is just a little square on the map, hidden in the back roads of Jackson County, but it was one of the best places I found up there. I will definitely visit again so I can see more of it.

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