Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Camping Wisdom: Beware the USFS

     Mike-a-licious and I escaped way up to Northern Wisconsin for some camping last weekend, and as part of June's Special Promotion we are going to bring you some bits of wisdom that we learned during our trip.  Today, a demonstration of how the US Forest Service is a liar.

     Now, I am not saying that the United States Forest Service lies about everything.  In fact, they do a pretty great job of managing forests and promoting recreation, but man did they pull a fast one on Mike-a-licious and I.  I don't know if maybe it was the totem pole karma that did us in or what, but when we stopped at the State Line Recreation Area right where Michigan's Ottawa National Forest meets Wisconsin's Nicolet National Forest it was not what we thought it would be cracked up to be.  It started innocently enough, like many, many other National Forest Recreation Areas or Picnic Grounds or Campgrounds do, with a sign much like the one below.  In fact, the sign was exactly like the one below.  In double fact, this is a picture of the actual sign that we passed:
So all was well.  The picnic area featured a bunch of overgrown picnic sites with grills and picnic table and strangely lots of garbage can holders but no actual garbage cans.  What's with that?  So anyway, past the tables and grills and a fire ring or two, past the boat launch and the angle vehicle-with-trailer parking was a trail that led to the state line, the Zero Mile Marker, and the Treaty Tree.  It was pretty typical as trails go, as you can see.
The trail leads off into the forest between the large brown sign on the left and the two little whiteish ones on the right.  The large brown guide sign pointed us in the right direction, promising us a scant three-tenths of a mile to the end of the trail where we would find the "Treaty Tree."  That's only 1,795 feet.  Even Mike-a-licious and I can walk 1,795 feet, so we decided to check it out.  Plus then we could tell people in Michigan that we walked all the way to Wisconsin and see if they were impressed.  I have provided you with a close-up of the guide sign so you can read what it says and it will feel like you are there.  How do you feel about that?

The big brown guide sign pointed us directly at the sign above, which made a big song and dance about the things we were going to see along the trail.  You don't really need to know all the nitty gritty details about how Wisconsin got be Wisconsin and Michigan got to be Michigan, all you need to be able to read is where it talks about Mile Post Zero and the Treaty Tree at the top.  They have even provided us with a nice winter picture of the treaty tree, which you can see as the top of the two pictures on the right.That's a pretty typical scene along the trail to the state line, the Ottawa National Forest part.  Pretty nice if you ask me.  Nice path to follow through a neat little forest with some soft plants along the floor.  It looks tranquil.  It looks like a postcard.  What you can't see though is the malicious, rabid cougar waiting to leap out from behind that pine tree and eat the hell out of your insides.  I'm just kidding.  But what you can't see is the hell that lies beyond.
Okay, so this isn't hellish.  This is actually pretty cool.  I took this picture facing sort of northwest-ish.  Me left foot is in the Town of Alvin, in Forest County, Wisconsin, in the Nicolet National Forest.  My right nut is in Stambaugh Township, in Iron County, Michigan, in the Ottawa National Forest.  The rules governing my left foot are completely different from the ones governing my right testicle.  It's amazing if you really think about it.  If this sign wasn't here one wouldn't know the difference.  It's just an arbitrary line drawn by William Burt that makes things so different on the left from how they are on the right.  Wow.
The trail leads past the state line sign to this place, Mike Marker Zero.  The actual Mile Marker Zero is a little metal thing at the bast of the sign on the middle.  Right behind that sign the state line that we've been straddling plows into the middle of the Brule River, which it will follow to Lake Michigan, and which Mike-a-licious and I would swim across later in the the day so we could tell all our friends in Wisconsin that we swam to Michigan.  And by swam, I mean waded.  But that's not the most important part of the picture.  The important part is the little sign that is hiding behind the pine tree on the right.  Here's a close-up of it so you can see very clearly what it says:
That's right, Treaty Tree, 900 Feet.  It sort of guided us down a path leading into the depths of the Nicolet National Forest; promising more adventure.  And I can't stress enough that it clearly promises us some sort of tree monument only 900 feet ahead.  So of course we followed the path. 
First of all, the land that the path crosses can barely be called land.  It's definitely lowland that lies along the river, because it's wet and boggy and nasty.  Now, that being said, juxtapose this picture of the trail to the "Treaty Tree" to the one of the trail posted above.  Okay, first look up the word "juxtapose" and then go ahead and do it.  I will wait.
Here is another example of the type of obstruction over which we had to overcome in order to complete our quest.  I am pretty sure that there was a leprechaun living in that downed pine tree, but I can't confirm that as of press time.  Mike-a-licious continues to maintain that the sounds I heard were from the totem pole spirits.  Luckily for us, after this tree mess and over a rise was the treaty tree site.  And you are never going to guess what it looked like.

Yeah, that's right.  It was covered with downed trees.  Lots of them.  Just like the trail.  There's a bench in there somewhere, I promise you.  The river is standing directly behind me, and for the life of me at this point I couldn't tell where this infamous "Treaty Tree" was located.  I mean, it could have been one of any of the eleventy billion trees that were lying on the ground.  So I decided, against my best judgement, I was going to read the sign, which was not even in pictures.  So this was a big deal.  But Mike-a-licious and I slogged through the forest and the swampy lowlands to get here and I wanted to see the damn Treaty Tree that we had been promised for the last .34 miles.
I took a closeup of the sign so you could see that the very first line reads "This decayed tamarack stump is the remains of a tree..."   That's all the farther I read, because I think I had a brain aneurysm at this point.   Silly me, I thought, scratch that, assumed that, after being promised a tree for the last 1,795 feet or whatever I would actually get to see a tree.  But no.  Not at all.  We were treated to a "decaying tamarack stump."  Fan-freaking-tastic.  I mean, they only had the opportunity on what, four signs, to mention the word "stump."  Maybe it should have said Treaty Stump.  That would have been more representative.  I thought I was pissed off until Mike-a-licious told me to look down at the ground.  Here is what I saw:
THERE ARE THREE STUMPS THERE!  Oh yeah.  I know that this is not the greatest picture ever, but there are three.  There is one really covered one right under the wooden pole.  There is the one in middle.  And there is another partially buried one in the middle ground on the right.  So not only could they not deliver us a God-damned tree, but they couldn't even narrow it down to one stump for us to see.  How lame is that?  And why did they feel the need to string us along like that all morning?  My mom asked me if I had paid for this "attraction."  I sort of wish I had because then it would make sense to me.  If they were in it for the money, then sure they should have promised me a tree no matter what lay at the end of the trail.  But no, they just did it out of spite.  Seriously.  Someone got a kick out of this whole deal.  They had to have, because they had to carry all the parts of that sign down the same trail we had just come down to plant it there.  As far as I can see they lied, and they did so knowingly.  The actual Treaty "Tree" site was so bad that the highlight of the Treaty 'Tree" was the sweet pontoon that someone across the river in Michigan owned.
So that's it.  Here's the advice: Beware of the US Forest Service, because they will lie to you through their teeth to get you to walk their trails and see their tree-related sites.  I have some other proof of their shenanigans, but I am going to save that for another time.  Just do your research first, and by all means, please, avoid the Treaty "Tree."

1 comment:

Mikealicious said...

I told you, we shouldn't have burnt that totem!