A Clear Stream

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower (a flower of the John Muir Trail, CA) and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee; the logcock (pileated woodpecker) will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill.”
~ John Muir, 1869

Clear water in Brickyard Creek

As a naturalist I might ask, “When did you truly discover nature?” Famed naturalist John Muir describes his first mountain stream from his journal as if he had never seen one before.

There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature’s coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator. Lingered in this sanctuary a long time thanking the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in allowing me to enter and enjoy it.

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I find the wording “luxuriantly peopled” an odd thought from a man who avoided civilization to seek places that confirmed that “wildness is a necessity.” However he always said he was never alone. “Discovered two ferns, Dicksonia and small matted polypod on trees. Also a species of magnolia with very large leaves and scarlet conical fruit.” It causes me to wonder what if he was discovering the creek through Brickyard. Maybe he would write ‘Discovered a fern, Gymnocarpium dryopteris/Oak Fern and tiny liverworts clinging to a log. Also a species of conifers with a trunk two hugs in diameter and cones the size of small buttons.’

Muir goes on to say, “Near this stream I spent some joyous time in…a dwelling full of mosses, birds and flowers. Most heavenly place I ever entered…nobly adorned… Also towering clumps of beautiful hemlocks. The hemlock, judging from the common species of Canada, I regarded as the least noble of the conifers. But those here are as perfect in form and regal in port as the pines themselves.

Might we discover the woods as Muir did. Tucked into the forest alongside Brickyard Creek is a remnant neighborhood of leftovers from glacial times, including the hemlock. And through it runs a clear stream. Turn over a rock and find the fine stone houses of caddis fly, an indicator species of unpolluted water and a source of food for trout. At one time Coaster Brook Trout moved back and forth between streams like ours and the big lake.

Called “little salmon of the springs” prior to the 1920s, coasters depended on the cold spring-fed streams of the Bayfield Peninsula to spawn. Mossy logs, fallen trees and rocks provided cover to newly hatched fry and protection from being washed away during spring floods. Coaster Brook Trout no longer naturally reproduce. Few streams on the peninsula meet their needs: clean water surrounded by a healthy forest, a near shore lake habitat with abundant food, and human goodwill willing to steward their land for the sake of ‘wildness.’

Stewarding ‘wildness’ needs to be a forever thing, achieved through a community ‘luxuriantly peopled,” where nature exists as it always has and humans allow it to feed their souls and warm their insights.

Next time you walk the Brickyard Creek Trail discover something for the first time. Look for the bird that calls the hemlocks, or willows or mountain maple home. Find the plant whose genes date back to the glaciers, and imagine why this creek is fit for a coaster. Shut out the unnatural.


Write for the Boreal Forest Citizen

The BYC Vision Committee invites you to Check Your Pulse, consider these guiding questions, and share your responses with your neighbors on our BYC Community website.

  • What makes Brickyard Creek special?
  • What is the draw?
  • What is the hold?
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Do you need some inspiration? View the work shared by other community members found in the BYC Library.

If you are willing to share your responses to these original guiding questions with your neighbors, please send them to the BYC Manager, Jeffery Garrett for posting here on our BYC Community website.