A Botanical Field Trip

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Andy and I took a botanical field trip down the lake yesterday. Last week, I'd received an inquiry at work from an individual who'd discovered a small structure while camping on the lake a few weeks back. The individual who "found" the structure (I'm sure people have been finding this at least a couple times a year for the last 70 or so years) seemed to think it might be part of a trapper's shack, while I was more inclined to think it was a root cellar left behind from a resort that closed down in the early 1950s.

After visiting the site myself, I'm still leaning towards root cellar and also maybe bear den? The entrance seemed really wide open for a structure that's mostly sunken into the side of a small hill for a good 70 years, which makes me think "somebody's been sleeping in my root cellar." The inside of the small structure (which is maybe 8x6x6 - I could stand up in it) is filled with sheet metal and other scraps - maybe an easy way to clean up the site without actually having to bring all the junk from the old resort operation down the lake to dispose?

We also found a stone retaining wall that was probably part of the resort and it seemed pretty obvious where the main lodge building would have stood. 

Another reason I wanted to visit the site was because I'd always heard about the domesticated flowers that still bloom there, decades after the last permanent residents packed up. I'd heard that tea roses bloom in the mid-summer and the person who reported the structure above also mentioned daffodils blooming. After poking around the site a bit, I wonder if he didn't confuse daffodils with dandelions. There were plenty of dandelions to be found (which are too common of a weed to indicate any sort of civilization, I think) and I also think we found the tea roses, although they were just leafing out and appeared to be covered with some sort of fungus.

In our haste to find the structure once we got to shore yesterday, Andy and I breezed right past the shrub above. Yep, that's a ginormous lilac bush - a shrub that thrives into the Northwoods but which doesn't get here unless someone plants it.

There were also domesticated lily of the valley (easy to distinguish from the "false lily of the valley" wildflower that are very common in this area) and forget-me-nots galore which may or may not have been intentionally planted. Technically a wildflower is any flower that's not intentionally planted.

As I poked around looking for botanical signs of civilization, I actually happened upon a wildflower I'd never seen before. At first I thought it was some sort of orchid, but it's actually a type of milkwort known commonly as Bird-on-the-Wing. Google failed me completely for identifying it when I got home and I actually had to use two books (shocking, I know) to figure out what it was. It's just budding out - usually it has two petals that stick out perpendicularly from the center of the flower so it looks like a bird in flight.

We also found plenty of blueberry bushes loaded with blossoms. Another good picking season ahead. :)
If you're in the woods on a still morning or evening this time of year, you get a heady whiff of something floral. Turns out that wonderful intoxicating aroma comes from the red osier dogwood blossoms. I will be sad when the dogwood blossoms start to fall - they've been making my morning runs pretty delicious.



  1. What a fun read! Would love to have been with you for that sleuthing adventure. Will you back?

  2. Neat! Reminds me of my trip to Crow Wing State Park (which I wrote about on my blog). There was a big lilac bush there - the first bright purple clue that someone had settled there long ago.


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