Through the Lens: A Snapshot of the Wild Northwoods

As a mother deer and fawn ruffle through the dry November leaves in search of acorns along my crumbling driveway, the mother’s alert movements hint her awareness of my presence. How could she see me with the setting sun shining on her face from behind me? I stand still in this position for a few minutes to observe their behavior until a quick dark shadow catches my attention from the kitchen window to the right of me. Assuming it was likely a large bird, I scramble to a different window, this time facing the setting sun. A bald eagle guards over a piece of flesh. The flesh is probably roadkill from the nearby country road that the locals call “70”. If the river and lakes weren’t already frozen, I’d suspect it was a half-dead perch or bluegill. I gently and slowly step out my back door equipped with my Canon t6 Camera only to realize that the deer and eagle had fled the scene. A black squirrel and a few curious black-capped chickadees dance in the pine tree silhouette that formed between me and the disappearing sun to the west. I never did capture a decent photograph of wildlife from the windows or in the yard of that house. It didn’t bother me. The thought of these animals thriving here while I was alone in this house was enough to please me.

The end of a colorful fall and the most intense winter I have ever experienced was spent unaccompanied in this house situated in the town of Eagle River. This small town near the northern border of Wisconsin sits in the middle of the largest number of chained lakes on Earth. It is also adjacent to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest where five federally designated Wilderness areas are dispersed across the landscape. I lived in the town of Eagle River to assist the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in monitoring every aspect of the five Wilderness areas to help preserve their delicate qualities for many generations to come.

During this time, I captured the dramatic seasonal changes of the Wilderness areas and the curious wildlife within them. Enjoy this journey of the wild Northwoods from a vibrant fall to a snow-packed winter.

The lake reflections, red maple leaves, aspen bark, and green pine needles paint a vibrant image across the landscape.

A Forest Service road borders the Blackjack Springs Wilderness to the left.

This photograph was taken in a valley of the Blackjack Springs Wilderness that was once traveled by logging trucks. Can you estimate the year that this wilderness was designated?

A young buck in the Whisker Lake Wilderness is preparing for a long winter ahead.

A mid-morning frost on the muskeg displays a sure sign that winter is near.

Trumpeter Swans leave a lake in the Headwaters Wilderness early in the morning to continue their southbound journey.

A young deer’s curiosity distracts him from his task of searching for the last acorns before the snow arrives.

Three feet of snow separates the black squirrel from the forest floor.

A short trek downstream brought me to a 50-foot waterfall called Bond Falls. Although it is not in a federally designated Wilderness, it is located very close to the Blackjack Springs Wilderness.

A loud pecking sound led me to a spark of red in a forest of white. The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North American and one of the few birds remaining this far north in the wintertime.

Black-capped chickadees suddenly surrounded us after snowshoeing one mile in from the trailhead. As the chickadees came closer, a red-breasted nuthatch unexpectedly landed on my partner’s head.

Wilderness areas around the nation can provide wild and unexpected adventure. Discover these places near you to experience the highest level of federally protected land in America.

 

Jacob is a Wilderness Fellow working in USFS Region 9 working on 5 Wilderness areas in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Jacob grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and recently graduated from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Science in Park and Resource Management as well as a Master of Education in Environmental Education. He is passionate about migratory bird research, habitat conservation, and education. With that, he looks forward to applying his knowledge and experience in education and research to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to connect to the natural world. Jacob’s inspiration to help contribute wilderness stewardship this season stemmed from his undergraduate and graduate studies but more specifically stemmed from the combination of his urban-living experience in Pittsburgh and the deep connection he found to the nature southeast Alaska. While working with the Forest Service in Alaska during the summer of 2017, he spent most of his time camping and working in stunning wilderness areas. Aldo Leopold stated that “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Jacob is inspired by Leopold’s writings and his values closely align with this statement. If he is not outside hiking or searching for birds to photograph, you can find him in a quiet location drawing portraits of dogs.

 

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