Posted by: kerryl29 | November 2, 2020

North Woods Prelude: Northern Highlands American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

As I mentioned in the previous post, and highlighted in the UP introduction entry prior to that, I spent part of a day before hitting the Upper Peninsula in northern Wisconsin, specifically in the Northern Highlands American Legion State Forest, just a bit south of the border with the UP.  I had driven though this area several times in the decade of the 2000s on my way to the Upper Peninsula, but had never photographed there or really spent any time looking around.  I hoped to rectify that oversight, in a limited way given how little time I had.

This part of Wisconsin has one of the densest–if not the densest–concentrations of lakes anywhere in the United States and I hoped that would lead to some interesting image making opportunities.  And it did.

Lily Pads, Mabel Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Jag Lake Black & White, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Leaves in Water, North Trout Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

I arrived in northern Wisconsin late in the morning of October 2 after leaving the Chicago area at 4:30 AM.  With nothing more than a passing familiarity with the region, I kind of wandered around aimlessly, using the network of paved county roads that wind around the many bodies of water as a rough guide.

Pine Forest Color, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Autumn Splendor, Jag Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Birch Trio, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

The weather was not much of an asset.  The skies were cloudy almost all day long–there wasn’t even a hint of a sunset, for instance–and that was fine, but it was cold; the temperature rarely crept above 40 degrees (F) and there was on-and-off precipitation, mostly in the form of light rain but occasional sleet and even wet snow was in evidence as well.  There was a pesky wind blowing much of the time, too, unfortunately.  Still, I had seven or eight hours of daylight to explore and I tried to make the most of it.

Color Remnants, Mabel Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Birch Cathedral, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Autumn Dress, South Trout Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

The color in this part of Wisconsin, when I was there, was pretty good, but not great.  Some areas seemed past peak already, but others had scarcely begun to turn.  This was to prove an odd foreshadowing of my time in the UP itself, where similar disjointed color circumstances were also evident.

Cathedral Point, Trout Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Manitowish River, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Nichols Lake Reflections, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

With nothing like a formal itinerary or priority list, I mostly just drove around and stopped when I saw something interesting.  On several occasions I parked my car and wandered around on foot.  I did have notes on a few locations that I wanted to check out, but these were little more than glorified scouting opportunities, as I really didn’t know what I was looking for beyond the generic something-that would-catch-my-eye.

Between the Conifers, South Trout Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Autumn Aerial, Cathedral Point, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Nichols Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

One of the things I noticed fairly early on was that this forest–unlike what I’m used to seeing in the Hiawatha National Forest in the UP–has a lot of oak, much more than I expect to see in the North Woods, which is dominated by maple, birch and beech.  All three of those tree species were evident in this part of Wisconsin, but there was plenty of oak as well.  This made for an interesting mix of colors and leaf shapes but it also has the effect of dulling the colors a bit as oaks generally aren’t as bright and vibrant in fall as the other mentioned trees.

Nichols Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Cathedral Point, Trout Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Birch Reflections, Manitowish River, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

I also noted that the lakes here tend to be somewhat larger than those in the southern part of the Hiawatha, which means that they’re likely deeper and definitely more prone to rippling in even a light wind than smaller, often more sheltered, lakes and ponds.

One nice aspect of the time I had in the area was that I never saw anything that resembled a crowd anywhere.  Perhaps this was a function of it being a weekday (though a Friday); perhaps it was a function of the weather.  Maybe it was the pandemic.  Whatever the explanation, I had no objection to the lack of people around, and I often had locations entirely to myself and, regardless, never came within 20 feet of another person.

Jag Lake Reflections, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

Cathedral Point, Trout Lake, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin

When the day was over, as the late afternoon gloom settled slowly into genuine sundown darkness, I felt as though I had barely scratched the surface of what this region of Wisconsin had to offer and perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to more thoroughly explore the area, under better conditions, at some point in the future.

But now it was time for the main event: time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would commence the following morning.


Responses

  1. Most of our trees are bare now, so this is a delight. I love the Jag Lake scene with the leaves on the water on top of the water reflection and the Manitowish river as the frothy water stops at the rocks and flows over and around them.

    • Thanks, Jane!

  2. So beautiful – I just LOVE those lily pads!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. You caught the trees in their best colors.

  4. Beautiful fall pics, I really like how you used a HDR like approch, and flattened the shadows.

    • Thanks!

      I do want to point out that all but one of the images in this sequence were made in soft/even light. The only semi-exception was the Nichols Lake image with the docks, and even there the sunlight was partially diffused. The point is, there were essentially no shadows to suppress.

  5. […] could be brought with me from the outset.  The big question for me was the motel part and, in both Wisconsin and Michigan, I proved to myself that, with a bit of research, it was possible to find places that […]


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