A Series of Bad Ideas

I decided to go trout fishing… in spite of the fact it was around 90 degrees out and it was humid. Bad idea.

I was dressed in long sleeves, long pants, and knee-high muck boots. Bad idea.

I went to a creek, where I though the fish might be more accessible than in my lake choice, but the banks were steep and overgrown, the woods were full of stinging plants and mosquitoes, and while I could see the bottom of the creek, I couldn’t see a single fish. Bad idea.

I decided to bail the location and brave the hot sun hiking back to the car. Good idea.

I found some wild strawberries, so I ate them. Good idea.

I got to the car, chugged water, cranked up the AC, and turned on the radio. Good idea.

6:30pm, I drove north to my original lake choice and trekked a mile or so into the buggy woods. Bad idea.

I set down my overpacked sack and swatted away the swarm that surrounded me. I snatched a couple of wild strawberries I found beneath me. Delicious. I enjoyed the Iris vericolor blueflags along the shore, and snapped a photo of the resident spider on one. Good idea.


I found the lake, which I had fished on an open shore earlier in spring, but the littoral water was now covered with a dense layer of watershield leaves. I began a clockwise navigation of the lake along the steep, overgrown banks. Bad idea.

I found a few areas where the littoral water was clear of pond lilies and watershield, but there was no clearance for backcasting along the steep, tree-covered banks. I continued navigating the steep, dense banks until I reached the third large pine, fallen into the water. It was near a beaver lodge. It seemed flat enough to walk. So as I continued swatting away at mosquitoes, I assembled my nine-foot rod, strung it and tied a fly, and began walking the coniferous balance beam out over the water. Bad idea.

I cast in large arcs forward and backward, occasionally snagging a white pine standing on the shore, occasionally snagging the dead branches father out in the water on the tree that I stood, and occasionally snagging the branch stubs and bark scales with the line slack drooping beneath me. Bad idea.

The bugs were barely a concern as I stood on my red pine bridge to nowhere in the breezy air over the water. Good idea.

Because my pine pier was near a beaver lodge, I was angering the tenants. As I fished, I could see the ill-tempered carpenters pacing out in the open water and regularly heard the slap of their paddle on the water. They didn’t like me in their neighborhood. Bad idea.


I teetered an maintained my balance as I cast my line, stripped it back in, and took frequent breaks in fishing to lean in various directions and unhook it from snags on my fallen tree. The setting sun was gorgeous and I could hear the drone of mosquitoes in the woods getting louder. It was nearing 9pm, and in the heat of the day, I’m sure the trout were deeper than my fly would go. So I packed up and headed out. Good idea.

As I hiked through the darkening woods and attempted to stay a few steps ahead of the mosquitoes and deer flies, I came across some more wild strawberries and some dewberries/dwarf raspberries. I nice treat, but almost suicidal to stop and squat for a moment and give the needle-nosed vampires a chance to subdue. Bad idea.

Out of the woods and hot, hungry, tired. Into the car, on with the air and on with Life 88.1. Into town. A stop at the grocery store. Felt something on my stomach. A deer tick. Attached. Got home. Found another tick. Attached. On my arm. Ticks removed. Mupirocin applied. Hobble to the couch. Butt down. Feet up. Beer in glass. Good idea.

Updated a week or two later, my bad ideas came to full fruition. I braved the humidity and mosquitoes to fish this lake deep in the woods. When I went to hop onto my fallen pine, however, I neglected to note the log might be slippery after a couple days of rain. I slipped right off the log, jammed my pinky, filled my boot with water, and later found my cell phone half-covered in muck and full-covered with water on the littoral lake bottom. A few hours later I had it submerged in a bowl of rice at home, hoping to revive it. Alas. We couldn’t save her.


Back to the Orchids

If you want to fully experience the phenological beat of the forest, it takes at minimum a weekly trip into the woods. Last weekend I had searched for orchids and found a few that I falsely assumed to be yellow lady’s-slipper. I returned to the same spot a week later to look for it in full bloom… but in that trip in the same general spot, I got distracted by an explosion of thumb-sized small yellow lady’s slipper blooms, and neglected to look again for the pink stemless slippers I had earlier found unopened.


But first– rewind to earlier in the day that Sunday, I headed to my usual spruce bog to see what I might find out there. White seems to be the color of spring, as variations in shape displayed the versatility of whie in so many ways: Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum), Wild Calla (Calla palustris), False Solomon’s Seal, Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata).

After trudging the bog and appreciated whatever blooms I could find, I did finally stumble onto some orchids as hoped. Some stemless/pinks were there in a lightly more white variation.

I always appreciate finding pitcher plants in the bog, and I had hoped to find some of their unique blooms, which I did, but they were yet unopened. Out of the bog and into some higher ground, I stepped around many Jack-In-The-Pulpit.

I came out of the woods and joined some family for lunch, and then some friends for supper. Come evening, it was back into the woods in a new area with a buddy.


The bluebeads (Clintonia borealis) were blooming, as were many bunchberry dogwoods (Cornus canadensis). Blueflags (Iris versicolor) were just beginning their display long the edges of a beaver pond.

We trudged around the woods, bog, and beaver pond for that wild, finding interesting plants, but not the orchids we were looking for. We departed those woods and drove to a location I had visited a week or so before, and found unopened stemless slippers. Almost immediate success, it seemed we had stepped into the slippers at their prime. Lesser Yellow Lady Slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum) were in abundance. In the mossy-floored cedar woods.

We cut through the cedar forest to make a quicker exit to the highway. Then, as we walked the shoulder back to the car, we saw clusters more of the Lesser Yellows. Again, it’s nice to see them, but just like Greater Yellows and Showy Slippers I’ve seen along the highway, it seems to slightly invalidate our bushwhacking attempts to find them deep in the woods and bogs. Regardless, working harder to find them in the woods makes it much more rewarding than finding in the ditches.

Would you believe it? A few days later a casual walk to a wooded area a few blocks from my house warranted a great find. Nearly a dozen stemless pinks were in pink bloom near the banks of the Mississippi, and I didn’t even have to brave the bogs and mosquitoes. Again,  it would seem to discredit the orchid safaris into the bush, but it’s good to see them anywhere. (Also, some Trillium cernuum were nodding their heads in the woods nearby.)

So while it is always nice to see a pretty bloom, I find the experience more rewarding when you have to encounter wet feet and swarming mosquitoes on the quest to see them.