Raymer’s Cove on Lake Mendota, near the western end of the Lakeshore Preserve, always feels wild and remote to me. This is pure illusion: a couple of hundred feet away is a parking lot, and beyond that Lake Mendota Drive and many blocks of grad student housing. I usually get there the long way around, though, from the Picnic Point entrance bike-rack, up through Bill’s Woods and around the Biocore Prairie, and then along a winding lakeside trail, through Tent Colony Woods (where, for many decades, students lived in tents over the summer, before more permanent housing got built), to where a wooden staircase descends the side of the sandstone bluff to the cove’s sand. Only trail-runners and the odd motorboat are reminders that you’re still in the heart of a city.
In this way that stretch of the Preserve reminds me of Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit, which likewise always feels like a wilderness – when the protagonist of Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine went there to meet her sea-monster mother, I wasn’t surprised in the least – but any place made of construction debris is ipso facto not wild. All the same, you hear the wind and the waves there rather than traffic, and the little automated lighthouse at the end can seem like an ancient ruin. In fact it is a little younger than me.
Down at the bottom of the stairs, cool lake-water around your feet, you can see how the sandstone bluffs are being etched away from underneath by the same gentle yet persistent lapping. The crumbly, calcium-rich stone, hanging right over the water, is good fern habitat; there was bulblet fern (Cystopteris bulbifera):
and cliff-brake (Pellaea sp.; to determine the species, I would have needed to take note of whether the stems were smooth or hairy, something I only learned on getting home and consulting the field-guide):
and clinging to the rock-face, among the moss, is a profusion of liverwort:
Incidentally, over time I’ve noticed that the most common search-terms that find my online pictures are ‘espresso’ and ‘liverwort’. I almost wish I’d known this a year and a half ago; “Espresso and Liverwort” would’ve been a great name for this blog. (Now that I have some slime-mold pictures up, due to overzealous stemming on Flickr’s part a lot of people are hitting those pictures with the term ‘slimed’, and then probably clicking away in irritation from images with no connection to Ghostbusters or You Can’t Do That On Television. Or other things I’m not going to speculate about.)
I had no espresso on this jaunt, but there were grad students nearby, so no doubt the nearest shot was only a stone’s throw distant.