day trip: black river state forest

Black River State Forest

This day was so important and, really, very surreal. It is a shame that I have waited more than a month to journal about it. I hope that I can recapture the strangeness and wonder of it all.

On June 25th, my daughter and I headed to Black River Falls and Black River State Forest. It is one of her favorite places. I think that it is pretty swell too. (In fact, my Scandinavian ancestors first settled near there in Jackson County, only I forgot about this until we came home, so on the next trip I’m going to find the old homesteads, or at least the land on which they resided.) We last visited the Black River Falls area two years ago and I shared a bit of info HERE, but even then I couldn’t find the words to describe the experience.

Since that time, so many people have landed on my site because they were searching for information on the Black River Falls dam or the dyke 17 tower. I always wondered why, because when I searched for those things online, there just wasn’t any enlightening information.

While there, we always visit the cemetery and the Dairy Way and the dam and the forest, especially the dyke 17 observation tower.

On this particular Saturday, we first headed to a shop-cafe that we like called Molly’s Rude Awakening. While the drive-thru coffee stand was in operation, the store was in the midst of a grand reconstruction. (Strike one.) After that, we hit the cemetery for a bit and then headed to the dam, or where I used to go to see the dam. Um, it wasn’t there anymore, but there was a temporary one next to the previous version. (Strike two. We stopped by the Chamber of Commerce, who informed us that a new dam will be constructed in the future. The old one was just that… old.)

Next on my creepy list was the motel where we stayed last time. It had been super eerie, especially the pool. Um, so, all of it was completely gone. Where the pool was in the ground? Grass. Where we slept? Concrete. (Strike three.) There had been a lot of houses in shambles and a burnt-out building on that street, but they were all gone too, either dozed or completely remodeled. (I guess that’s a good thing, so no strike.)

Thank goodness that the Dairy Way was still there.

unknown native

We bummed around town a bit more and then set off for the forest, specifically… dyke 17 observation tower. I couldn’t recall how we got there in 2009, but I took a chance and wound up on the right roads ruts. The vehicle trails throughout the woods are pretty sketchy. I spend a lot of time saying “oh, goodness” while I slowly rode the tops of the very deep ruts in the road. It was incredible; I loved it. Every so often, I would stop and take a little video. The sounds of insects was deafening, but they were completely revolted by both me and the vehicle. One flew inside and darted back out quite quickly.

I was so happy when I saw the sign for dyke 17. I grabbed my heavy-duty tripod, a mid-size video camera (Canon GL2), and my photography equipment. I then began the short hike to the observation tower. And then I hiked some more. And some more. And then I walked back to the parking area and checked the map. The tower was right there on the map and it should have been within my view. It was not there. (Strike four?) I was clearly bummed, but more so confused.

To make things just a little bit weirder, on the way back to the vehicle, we encountered an Eastern Hognose Snake that was displaying like a cobra less than two feet … from our feet. Of course, my daughter didn’t flinch. I startled and then knew that this was no cobra. In Wisconsin. I immediately put that on the weird-things list that I keep in my head, right before noticing that I was covered in ticks from walking through the grass. Not like five ticks. Like 50 ticks. I picked them off for hours. I continued to pick them off for the next day. (Strike, strike, strike, strike, strike.)

(I know that people are skeeved out by ticks, but I grew up in the country and if I’ve had one tick bite, I probably had 500 before the time that I was 18. I mean, I ate squirrels and stuff too, and I’m good with my history.)

It was time to get the heck out of Dodge, but not before encountering my first ever porcupine in the wild. I mean, dead-in-the-road wild, but still.

Since I can’t put into words the delightful queerness that is Black River Falls and Black River State Forest, I simply must remember it all. And visit again.

[Oh, gosh, I forgot to add that I contacted the forest administration and they sent me a very nice reply, explaining that the tower had deteriorated to a dangerous point and was deconstructed. The warden suggested several other lookout spots, so if you’re here looking for BRSF information, send me an email or leave a comment. I’d be happy to share the information.]

[Addendum: If you are looking for the dam-building cam, click HERE. Make sure to click on the time-lapse view as it is pretty awesome.]



somewhat back from holiday

I thought that I’d come back from Black River Falls and do a nice little post about the adventure, or maybe five long posts, but I can’t even begin to sum it up in words nor photos nor video.  I see many daytrips back to there in my future, and in X’s future, as she fell in love with the queer little town.

In the meantime, HERE is a video from the observation tower near dike 17 in Black River State Forest.  More videos to come, more photos to come, and a few more words on the whole experience … if I can find them.

[Note: Follow-up post, including the removal of the observation tower and the building of a temporary dam HERE. The following links lead to additional videos from 2009: Dairy Way, Black River Falls Motel, old dam, dyke 17 observation tower (since destroyed)]


on weekend holiday

We’re on a weekend holiday — the Black River, Black River State Forest, and staying in the town of Black River Falls (upon which “Wisconsin Death Trip” is based). 

More in a few days.