You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Eight months sequestered in a Virginia condo, loosed now into the wilds of the Northwoods
Kristin's cottage on Mussent Point: Our annual pilgrimage to the Wisconsin Northwoods, covering a week of Interstate highways with a few days of hiking in Kentucky, brings us to the little lake at the northern end of the state.
And the lake is still here -- a bit more than two miles long, north to south, and one mile across at its widest, with 6½ islands, several bays and coves, and even an overgrown canal into a larger lake to the east.
The boathouse out on Mussent Point
More of the cottage, grown larger in bits and pieces over the years
We're unloading the car and turning loose the little felines.
After a week snoozing on the Interstates, Choupette feels more at home in the car and needs to be coaxed out of it again.
Melvin the Doge, on the floor, and little Choupette, staring out the window of the back porch -- it all must seem vaguely familiar.
Assuaging their doubts, preparing to brave the new environment
-- Do we have to walk right on this grass?
The old fascination with authentic foliage returns.
The geese families are back, too.
Moving on to a more cat-free property
One of last year's fallen trees in the lake has kindly been chainsawed up a bit.
So has the other one, down by the boathouse facing 'Frog Bay'.
Melvin wants to know what's up.
-- None of your business.
Off for a satisfying trampoline session
A jubilantly bouncing cat
The family dock at Mussent Point on a first hydrobike test run
Choupie's a little disconcerted by her newfound freedom (eight months locked up in a condo can do that to anyone).
Hide-and-seek round the flower pot
Choupette's bored now and off to eat some more grass, but . . .
. . . nothing disturbs Melvin's meditations.
A drizzly rain, and we're reading our improving book about The Habsburgs out on the pontoon boat by the boathouse.
The heavens begin to unload on us again; we stick our companion Melvin under a overshirt and scramble for the cottage.
A mini-hurricane on the lake . . .
. . . can be fascinating, even for a young cat who hates water.
The insect hunt is officially on.
Cooperation -- Choupette herds the insects northward through the foliage, and Melvin is ready.
A practiced team of insect hunters. But toward the end of last summer, Choupette graduated to a few little voles or shrews, yuck.
Some sort of feline ritual dance is taking place on this crumbled old picnic grill dating from before several US wars.
This is the tricky part of the dance, the coordinated backing-up step.
But another meditative state comes upon Melvin, and Choupette loses patience.
Now what's Choupette got up to?
Uh oh, it's a bird in the tree. That's not good.
A first sally out, 22 June 2021, of the Three Hydrobiketeers, Oscar, Rob, and the fellow with the camera.
Across the lake, a palatial shoreside facility with, apparently, new owners, who by the well-known indicators are very patriotic.
One of the good things about that place now is that, directly under the garish patriotic symbol flapping in the breeze, is what appears to be a beautiful old-style dory, under the blue cover.
We're taking a brief pause on Stephanie and Tommy's dock so that kindly Rob can dismount his bike and clear the weeds out of our propellers.
Cousin Rob lives to serve. We depend upon his long hydrobike experience and maintenance skills.
Oscar's got to peel off for home on the far side a little early -- visitors are expected.
Choupette snoozing rolled up like a danish pastry with fur on it.
The time has come -- we're renewing our acquaintance with the canal, dug through to the larger lake near the end of the 19th century to float the tree trunks from over there to the sawmill over here. It was more or less useless, because the water level turned out to be higher on our side.
This is the mid-lake, sometimes called Mirror Lake (for obvious reasons) -- the first part of the canal to the lake is about 180m long, the lake is about 150m, and the second part to the end is about 400m long. The whole distance from start to end is just over 700m (2,350 ft, a bit less than half a mile).
He's there. One wonders where he spent the year, but he's back on post again this summer. Not many years ago, there were many sun-basking turtles on these complicated shores and elsewhere round the lake, but for the past few years we've been lucky to surprise this fellow before we make him nervous and he splooshes.
Whenever he does sploosh (as in fact he did just after this photo), he has no trouble climbing back up when we've gone, who knows how. (Just recently, on a visit to the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University, we ran into a lake of about this size with hundreds of little turtles exactly like this poor lonely old guy.)
We continue into the second part of the canal.
So depressing; we'll all come to something like that someday.
A new bench installed last summer, wisely chained to the tree. (We discovered subsequently that it was provided by the Northwoods Land Trust and the 'Pottawattomie Colony' here at one end of their 'Canal Trail' running through the undeveloped forest, threading around swamps, over a mile northward, a brilliant leisurely hike.)
More lonely, pretty dejected patriotism, stuck out here for no apparent reason
Through the culvert under the only road between the two lakes
The longer and rougher stretch of the canal
The spillway looking out at the larger lake. When we first joined Kristin here in her ancestral stomping grounds, some 25-odd years ago, there was a boat-lift here for winching small boats up over the dam and back.
Starting back through the canal. The real trick is getting the hydrobikes turned around, because they can't be steered unless they're already on the move.
Someday these will all have fallen into the canal.
He's got back up; we predicted that. Good chap!
Back out to our lake
There are several merganser families on the lake this year, and this is one of them.
We sneak up for a photo zoom, trying not to frighten the mom and have her flap them off, wasting energy.
Oddly, a week or so after this photo, we encountered a merganser mom leading two chicks about, and another mom with sixteen of them. Seven to nine each is more normal (until the eagles get at a few of them, perhaps, over the course of the summer).
This is a little hidden cove in 'South Shore Drive Bay' (unfortunately, mapped as Indian Bay) that we'd like to get back into, but for years of low lake levels the entrance passage has been blocked by youthful tag alder trees.
Since the lake level came back up some five years ago or so, the tag alders have been swamped and dying off, but they can be persistent. But Innovative Rob has fashioned a stick for helping to pull them up, roots and all (as here), and flinging them into the forest.
A good day's work (or ten minutes' work), and a lot have them have been cleared from the entrance passage. We'll come back for another go at them soon (stay tuned).
So now we'll call it a day (whatever that means) and turn northward 3½ km or so and see what's for dinner.
Back up the lake -- somebody's stuck up a marquee tent outside our bedroom window. Maybe we'll get to see a wedding.