Beauty of bogs…but they can get ya

This morning we met at the park headquarters and mixed up a batch of herbicide to spray for invasive Cattail and Reed Canary. After loading up our sprayers and numerous bottles of herbicide we piled in the truck and made our way to the site. We started off driving on HWY 12 along the stretch that wraps around the southern region of Lake Michigan.

Looking out the window I noticed more and more vegetation as we neared the site. Soon we pulled off onto a smaller road where NPS workers let us through their secret gate and we parked along the side. Sweet! When we arrived, our leaders had selected a site for us to work from for the day and so we set up our base camp within the trees and out of the hot sun.

Before seeing this wetland I would not have guessed how beautiful the area was as it was my assumption that bogs were desolate, smelly, lifeless areas. However, I was wrong. The area was very green with ferns, skunk cabbage, lizard tale, and Carex lucustrus in abundance. In the end my pre-conceived notion of a “Bog” was crushed and I became a happier man.

Our fearless NPS leader John Dollard has flagged multiple areas along our section of the great marsh. With each new zone that we plant I noticed more and more cattail in the vicinity threatening our hard work, but today we put an end to this threat. Our team sets out at oh seven hundred hours before the heat has a chance to set in. The air is moist and my back is sweaty from the sprayer that is strapped to my back. I turn around to check on the rest of the team and I can see the fire in their eyes, like a pack of hungry wolves in winter. I know that we are ready!

With each step I can feel the suction of the bog on my feet; not sure if my boots will stay attached to the waders that extend high up my legs. Slushhhhh!! I hear a scream not far behind. Our leader Jessica has disappeared. Frantically I follow the sound of her voice racing back to where the crew was following. I find her low beneath the grass, crouched over in a tripod but with both legs missing!

It takes a second to gather myself when I realize that her legs are still intact only submerged under the muck that lies beneath. We try to pull her out but it’s useless, she has to do it on her own! Slowly, and surely she begins to move, wiggling her body, then her hips, and then her legs until both of her feet find an area of peat where she can rest safely above ground.

We take a minute to rest but in our distress realize that we are completely surrounded! We have to act quickly! Cattail to the left! Cattail to the right! In a blaze of fury sprayers go off around me, blue streams cloud my vision and then finally there is silence. The cattail have fallen.