MW Mobile Blog

For friends, family and the random search engine visitor. This blog started as an experiment in mobile blogging from my Palm TREO 600, 700, Prē, HTC Evo, Samsung 5, Pixel 3, Pixel 6 Pro. Now it serves as a simple repository of favorite activities. Expect bad golf, good fishing, great sailing, eating, drinking, adventure travel, occasional politics and anything else I find interesting along the way including, but not limited to, any of the labels listed here...

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Undiscovered Country

My grandparents bought the Shag Lake property in 1956. I was 3 years old. I have been to the lake almost every year since, often multiple times per year. Which all goes to say there is not much to surprise me (outside of weather and water levels) about Shag Lake.  But I was surprised by a close look at a google satellite map:

The map revealed a water feature at Shag Lake I wasn't aware of before. It looks like a good sized open water pond in the middle of a clearing, with no homes, roads or paths to get to it.  I was familiar with the closest point of the main lake to this pond. A shallow inlet, protected by fallen timber, favored by turtles, frogs and small fish. The question: With this record high water level, would it be possible to take a canoe or kayak into the pond?

 It was our last day at Shag before Dad and I would drive back to Chicago. There was no rush to get home, so Robyn, Jeff, Dad and I mounted an early expedition to see if we could find a passage to the pond. This meant tying the canoe to the pontoon boat, towing it over to the inlet, anchoring on a fallen log, and canoeing in search of access.

On our way to the inlet

Robyn and Dad held down the fort on the pontoon boat while Jeff and I proceeded into the Shag Lake heart of darkness.

 So, long story short, we couldn't find a water route to the pond. We did make our way into someone's drowned backyard, where I set off overland. More accurately, sloshing over swamp in my waders to find the secret pond.

And find it we did.

A lot of sarracenia purpurea here
This natural feature is a "Northern Tamarack Swamp" or "Poor Conifer Swamp" or a transitional environment that encompasses aspects of both. You can learn more than you ever want to know about either at the above links:
"Poor conifer swamps are characterized by a canopy of coniferous trees, low ericaceous, evergreen shrubs, a poor herbaceous layer, and a hummocky carpet of sphagnum moss. The canopy is often dominated by black spruce. Tamarack (Larix laricina) is also a frequent canopy dominant or codominant. Canopy associates include balsam fir (Abies balsamea), white pine (Pinus strobus), jack pine (Pinus banksiana), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), and American mountain ash (Sorbus americana). The shrub layer is dominated by low, ericaceous shrubs, with Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) being the most prevalent. Additional heath shrubs include bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula), wintergreen (G. procumbens), huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), sheep-laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), bog laurel (K. polifolia), low sweet blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Canada blueberry (V. myrtilloides), and small cranberry (V. oxycoccos). The tall shrub layer is less dense than the low shrub layer and is often restricted to the periphery of the swamp or adjacent to streams that may meander through the peatland."
You're welcome.

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