Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Sea of Rocks"

Felsenmeer...... German for "Sea of Rocks"

The first time friend Bruce mentioned it, he had to repeat the word and it took more than once.  It's a weakness of mine; needing to see a word's spelling to actually 'hear' it and to be able to remember it.  Not until he sent me the email did I really visualize, remember and understand the word.

Bruce has led many geology groups and interested parties there; the UW professors as well as others are all good friends of his.  Bruce has a craving curiosity and with much help from the geologists that know, he could teach a class or two himself I'm sure.  In lay terms, the rocks are in a unique formation, eons of freezing and thawing have created a small area with its own ecosystem.  The science is here but read on to see the area for yourself.

Bruce and I met in an odd way, over the sale of a piece of equipment that our shop was selling.  We became fast friends and quickly learned of things we had in common.  When Bruce suggested that I join him on one of his hikes to the Felsenmeer, I had to find out what this unique place was about.

Of the many things Bruce is involved in, and there are many, one that especially caught my ear are the hikes he leads from time to time in the Blue Hills of Rusk County, Wisconsin.  For all of the things I DO know about Wisconsin, there are of course many more to learn, even in areas that were assumed to be 'knowns'.

It took a number of invitations before Bruce's arranged walks matched up with a free weekend of mine (too many rides) but in April of 2010, we finally Bingo'd.  A group of us met for an early breakfast at a small country diner, then we followed Bruce's truck to the remote location.

More folks had been invited;  Bruce, Dawn and Lee plus myself made the small group of 4 hikers.

Not far from the parking spot we encountered this young bear, sharing the trail with us.  Bruce guessed a yearling...

Almost to the upper end of the small canyon...

At the rim, above the "sea of rocks"......

We're going to continue on, along the rim and canyon's edge, following the rim's descent, then loop back, in the crevice of the canyon to be right below.

Lee standing in front of one of the exposed areas, showing the tipped lean.  

Here Bruce's walking stick points to the "Ripple Rock", seemingly waves in the rock.  These waves were commonly seen throughout the formation, though it often took the ambient light to be just right for detecting the tell-tale shadows.

Down into the lush, wet and drastically cooler canyon, snow still present with various and new-to-me ferns everywhere.

Careful walking required, Lee found deep snow between the rocks and as always, much steeper than it appears on film.

Princess Pines, so delicately beautiful......

More snow...

Wild onions along the brook, the fresh aroma thick in the valley....

A nearby, abandoned cabin.  I can't remember if it was just outside of county land or inside of... Don't worry, we'll get back to the Felsenmeer.  This valley, brook and cabin are directly below the U-shaped "sea of rocks" canyon.

Bruce knows the Who's and Why's of the cabin, but I don't remember

Now we're looping back to the base of the Felsenmeer....

There's a young couple, on the rocks above, stopping to eat their lunch.  We stopped for ours here at the base of the crevice..

Lunch would have been perfect with a Leinnie's, some sausage, cheese and chips but that wasn't QUITE what I had in my daypack....

Bruce called his friend Mike, one of the potential group that "had to stay home and wash window screens or something"......Bruce needed to remind his bud of what he was missing on that fine spring day.

More ferns.....

Ice and snow deep beneath the rock, part of the reason we lost what felt like 15 degrees once we were in the canyon.  According to those that know....."Boreal and Tundra affinities are present..."  Bruce showed us plants that belong in northern Canada.

Definitely not a place to "step and then look".......

From whence we'd come....

Approaching the upper reaches of the exposed formation.....

There's a deciduous tree in this area that's lost its way and belongs a distance north of Lake Superior.

Another view of where we'd come......

Dawn was beside herself with the ferns and I think she just wanted to lie down and stay there.....

We hiked back out to the cars, moved a couple of miles to another remote spot and walked in so that Bruce could show us Steamship Rock.  Literally oceans of wild onions there as we crossed back and forth across the brook....possibly too much of a good thing for some...I was in heaven.

Steamship Rock....

I could have spent the rest of the afternoon here.....the small waterfall as soothing as silk.  I seriously wondered if we'd get Dawn back to the cars.

After climbing back into our cars, it was off to stop #3, the once used Pipestone Quarry.

No, we didn't start driving on the wrong side of the road......

The cave entrance had recently been filled in.  This site and its contents are considered more holy by some than by others.....we treaded lightly and I hope, respectfully.

Flat red rock was everywhere.  Unexposed to the air, the Pipestone is soft and malleable; once out in the elements it gets hard.

It had been an incredible day; my feet a bit blistered and that very seldom happens.  Knowing how well Bruce knew this north central area of Wisconsin, throughout the day other historical events, locations, etc. had been discussed....between us we knew quite a bit if I say so myself.  One of the 'discoveries' (and always something a bit haunting in the back of my mind) that our family had stumbled upon had been an event that had happened back in the '60's.

I asked Bruce, "do you know anything about that B-52 that went down up by Stone lake?"

"My god, you know about that?"

I went on to tell him that from what I remembered, Gramp had told us of a friend that lived near the area and one night, back in the late 1960's, one night very late, there had been a "big noise and giant flash".  For a number of days, a huge effort had gone on as salvage crews literally made a road into the woods to retrieve what they could.  I'm guessing that maybe a year later, on a "road" that was well on its way to being overgrown, our family, with Gramp and Gram, hiked back in there to have a look around.  It was an incredible site, the wide path of sheared off trees, eventually lower and more narrow with the fuselage finally skidding to a stop.  It almost nosed into a small knoll, but managed to clear by a few feet, stopping on relatively level ground.  At the later date when we hiked in, the woods were recovering but there was still much evidence of debris,  disturbed soil, small pieces of sheet metal, "treasures" of all sorts that my brother and I poked around at.  A few pieces that were small enough and convenient enough to carry went home with us.

Bruce was amazed, Lee, our Felsenmeer hiking buddy was enthralled.  A few weeks later Bruce emailed, hoping I'd join the two of them on a re-visit to the site but that happened to be on one of my many M/C rally weekends so I didn't join them.  I later learned that they'd gone in, found only a few detectable signs of what had been.  I'm sorry that I hadn't gone with them.


  1. Fantastic post!! Both the Sea of Rocks and the B-52 crash!

    More b-52 info here....

  2. Hey Erik, thanks for doing my Reference work. I've seen 3 of these sites before, disturbing yet fascinating reading. I became very interested in the Barksdale AFB. I thought I remembered driving/riding past a site up in MI that had my curiosity up when I was looking online and I was soon digging harder into the fate of the Base than about the Stone Lake crash.

    When I last did my searches, the newspaper story hadn't been written yet, though it looks like the forester was in there not long after, possibly around the same time that Bruce and Lee had been. I do remember Bruce mentioning that he'd asked for and had or hoped to receive permission to visit the property. In the late '60's, we just went. I have no idea who owned it, if anyone besides the county had it or not.

    1. I remember now, there was confusion in what I was finding about whether it was in fact the Sawyer base in MI or Barksdale in LA. It was the Sawyer base in the UP that looked far too 'established' and large to be a regional airport.

    2. I think the old Sawyer AFB might be worth a drive by when I get time to visit the Tourist Trap in Ishpeming.!!

  3. Replies
    1. Hey Karen, it was quite a day. Bruce is full of stories, both true and on the edge of otherwise :)

      As you can probably see, early spring or after a freeze in the fall are probably the best times to visit, otherwise the undergrowth could be a bit overwhelming. It was certainly lovely and nice in April; in north central Wisconsin, it wouldn't have had to be.

  4. What a fantastic place. One more for my list. Funny, that bear looks like my 18 pound black cat.

    I just don't have time to spare for a job. I have to get to work on this list...

  5. Martha, when you get this "time for a job" thing to balance better, would you please share it with me....maybe one of the first??

    1. Well, I'll let you read the first chapter of the Best Seller and then send you a complimentary PBS DVD.

  6. Great post.

    I've loved your posts of late. I haven't posted often, because it just seemed all I could think of to say was, "Nice post." Since that seemed lame, I've just been lurking.

    Anyway, this is a great post. Thanks.

  7. Thanks Keith, I appreciate your comments.

    I too struggle sometimes with what to Reply with. I'm a rapid fire guy, normally what comes to me quickly and go with it. We've got some very well spoken friends and often I feel like my responses should be more thought out; their Posts deserving much more.

    I'll keep trying to'll get away with most anything here :)

    PS How was the concert the other night?

  8. Beautiful pictures and quite the hike! I need to throw on the boots and get out more. We have gorgeous places on the island to hike.

    1. Dar, I think I can appreciate the fine hiking that you've got access to. I'm very confident that we could all spend more boot time and would be the better for it.

  9. What a wonderful hike. I get always intrigued by geological features, and Felsenmeer is just so appropriate. I was not aware that the German word is being used to describe this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sonja, I'm half-German but of course had never heard of the word or knew of its meaning. Wisconsin has a 1000 mile-long trail that goes right through the area. Its east end starts over in Door County, not far from where our Blogging friend recently moved from.

  10. What a neat hiking day.

    To me the earth and what it has gone through in latest millions of millions of years is amazing. My high school was too small to have a geology class so I was able to take it as a correspondence course in my senior year. Rocks are cool and to be able to hike among a sea of them is a great day.

    1. Brandy, it was a day I won't ever forget. Having Bruce there to answer my questions in a format I could understand was treasure. It was such a beautiful day, the company made it even more special. I remember feeling as emotionally full on the two hour drive home as I was tired.

      I've told myself I need to go back in late autumn; I'd love to be there pre-snow.