Week 4- So Many Lakes, So Little Time

Week 4 (July 17- July 23, 2016)

We begin on Sunday with roadwork after the usual breakfast and cleanup, lunch making, meeting of the minds, a look at the map, getting needed tools and other items from the storage room, and receiving GPSs and walkie-talkies. The Gogebic County Road 535 is a boundary between wilderness and non-wilderness, so it is important to take out invasives along it. The invasive weeds we target tend to take hold in areas where soils disruption happens. This can be due to human factors, such as new roadwork, or natural causes, such as tree blow downs creating a new sunny space in the forest, with relatively little competition between trees and weeds. The seeds can also be passively carried into disrupted soil areas with animals or humans or winds. If the soils are disrupted, the seeds have a better chance of taking hold and sprouting and continuing their life cycles.

Victoria and I set up a “Men Working” sign at the west end of our work zone. Carrie, She and Sean set up the other sign at their point, facing their oncoming traffic. We work opposite sides of the roads, crossing to help each other when big bad patch require more hands. The area is grossly infested with spotted knapweed, Canada thistles, and European Marsh thistles. It is already very hot and the thistle fuzz is full and delicate. Dan says ok to switch tactics and just de-head the thistles, as they are already on the death march in their 2-year life cycle. It will save a lot of time to simply remove the seeds, without dealing with the entire plant. It is not practical to do this at high growth phases, and damaging these plants while on a steep growth curve can actually make them intensify their seed making capability. We have seen this as giant multistemmed thistles. Shoe gets a bee sting on her cheek late in the day. The swelling resolves over the next few days, without intervention besides ice.

On Monday, We entered Sylvania from the south at a private residence, with permission. We split up into canoe teams of two persons, and finished Deer Island Lake. Sean and I were working together and we began with a small-unnamed boggy lake near Deer Island Lake. We met up with Shoe and Carrie to finish the shoreline and then we all paddled to the large, steep island in the center of the lake. From previous years, we knew that we would likely find massive thistle infestations at the top. Dan had us use the GPS tracking feature so that we could monitor our individual paths. When compared later, we did a very good job of group scouting, as our tracks showed up on the GPS maps as various colored lines. Putting the GPS units together side by side, one could see the zones that we each covered. There was huge thistle patches on the top as expected and we pulled hundreds of Canada and European Marsh thistles, and many dozen Bull thistles. On the way back to the campsite, we stopped in LandOLakes, WI, for a small supper and ice cream, since we worked a very long day, and we were very far from the campground.

Tuesday. We drove back to the LandOLakes area, where we had left our canoes, and conquered Big Bateau Lake, with the same 2 person teams as the day before. The shoreline was very clean for the most part, and there were only a few patches of thistles with large numbers. Most waypoints had had very few or no thistles found. The islands were left for last, and now that it is past July 15, it is ok to go onto the islands in Sylvania, Before July 15, the loons are still nesting with newborns. We all ended at the same island. We paddled back to the residence, thanked them for their hospitality, and went into LandOLakes again for dinner and swimming at Gateway Lodge.

On Wednesday, we drove to Crooked Lake landing to put in. This day I was paired with David Sherrill. He paddled in the stern and I removed weeds and recorded in the logbook as per GPS waypoint. I got stuck in the muck over my rubber boot tops going after curly dock, and I was not alone. Curly dock can grow much taller than I am, and its roots form a dense mat in water/muck, very difficult to pull out. With the water levels so high, there is not always dry area to secure yourself. The boggy shorelines are deceptive and some spots appear solid, but cannot reliably hold weight. If you drop in, there will be a strong suction formed, and hopefully only 1 leg gets trapped temporarily at a time, and hopefully, one doesn’t sink too deep or fall sideways. We continued as close to shore as possible, while paddling slowly and always searching for invasives. We had lunch with Carol Sherrill and Dan on a hill near Corey Lake portage. The Sherrill’s had other commitments for late in the afternoon, so Dan and I worked together on the side of the shoreline he and Carol S had been doing. We continued as before, sticking close to shore, going around logs and such that we could not float over, but paddling over debris fields when possible. He went into a wild rice area on foot while I remained in the canoe and watched the fishermen and checked the GPS. We took turns at removing the curly dock, as it is requires so much energy and time to remove relatively few plants.

We ended the day at the Mink campsites. It was my turn to hit the point, and there was a large patch of second year CP in a raspberry patch sporting bees and berries and a handful of CV. The first year CP had to be left. It was a calm day for the long paddle back up Crooked Lake to the boat landing. Dan was kind in that he did not overpower my paddling. He gave me a name for the stroke I used to replace the left sided draw, which I can’t do very effectively due lack of strength after my rotator cuff surgery. Apparently, I have doing a left cross-bow stroke to compensate, and I didn’t even know it was an actual stroke until he mentioned it that day.

Thursday was destined to be another hot, late summer day. We decided to make it a short day and work on the county road 535. The thistles are tall, and there are spotted knapweed and goat’s beard, along with patches of white and yellow sweet clover, and occasional Mullen. It is very hot on the side of the road, especially if you are in the sunshine. We had refreshing lunch break at Jays Resort on Thousand Island Lake. At 3 pm, most of us ended the day’s work. Shoe and Dan worked another couple of hours. Power was still out. Victoria and I drove to Watersmeet to get ice and water so we could open the frig and move our food to coolers. With no power for the computer and working late nights near LandOLakes, we had not done any data entry all week.

On Friday morning, we discovered that the electricity was back on. That was good news. We had some volunteer help from the Clarks and the Sherrills. Victoria and Carrie headed off to Mule Lake. Shoe and Carol were paired and we returned to Crooked Lake. We started at the other side of the Mink campsite, which had a horrible patch of second year CP, many in fuzz, many seven feet tall, with many multiple branches producing copious seed. That first patch was the only point we did till lunch. After lunch, the shoreline was very clean, and few invasives were found. We parked the canoe off the trail, walked the portage to Mountain Lake, and got the waypoints at the Bear campgrounds. The Sherrills and Sean met us for a break at the portage. At that point, the shoreline of Crooked Lake was complete, save for a small island, which we inspected as we paddled by. We paddled up Crooked Lake for the last time to the boat landing. It is quite a production every day to get our gear, canoes, food, and water in and out of the lakes. Additionally, we haul out many pounds of invasive seeds every day. I think our largest haul is an estimated 85 lbs. in one day.

After the day’s work, one of us still has the responsibility to make dinner for all of us. Tonight it was Shoe, and we are being well fed with yummy food again. The Sherrills and Clarks stop by with a DVD movie “Blast from the Past” directly after dinner. We had some pie from Hubbard St Diner and some new ice cream from Nordine’s in Watersmeet. It was very funny show to watch. We need to project it onto the screen using the laptop. Data entry will have to wait, as our movie runs until 11 PM.

Saturday. Anne has joined our group during the night. Today we are doing roadwork rechecks and have a drop-dead time of 12:30. Anne and I start at Clark Lake boat landings. It can take some time to get into the swing of things as the scope of work and personnel change day by day, but we take what the day brings and this is the last day of a long hot week. We finish our respective sides of the boat landing road and work toward the campground, ending just beyond the most excellent transfer station. We take our equipment back to the day use building, hose off the hand tools and buckets, put the paddles and life jackets away, empty remaining food from the fridge, park the tools, pack up personal items and go home to our other lives for a week.

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