My five and seven-year-old grandsons take me out for a paddle boat ride on our cabin’s northern Wisconsin lake. The five-year-old spies a neighbor’s blown-up orange and yellow plastic raft that is also a trampoline. “Can we bounce on that?” he asks.
I have to explain that it isn’t ours and tell him no. His near tears tug at my heart. “What we can do, though,” I say, “is bounce around on quaking bogs.”
“On what?” the seven-year-old asks.
I tell them about the springiness of a bog mat, the sponginess of sphagnum moss, and our chances of seeing wildlife such as raccoons, loons, and beavers.
The next morning the boys, my daughter, son-in-law, and what we could call our bog monster, Cockapoo Josie, set out to explore two bogs. I don’t dare tell my grandsons who have active imaginations and could get scared that I’d once seen a bog body.
Bogs are unique because the water lacks oxygen so there’s little decay. Worldwide, scientists have been able to study creatures they’ve recovered from bogs, including the extinct whooly mammoth and the perfectly preserved bodies of ancient humans. They can even learn about early man’s diet from examining the contents of their stomach. The bog body I saw was displayed in a museum in Dublin, Ireland. I could see the man’s braided hair, fingernails, leather stringed satchel, and clothing.
Today, my grandsons’ clothing includes long shirts, pants, and tall boots. I had recommended protective gear because of the bogs’ scratchy leatherleaf and our need to navigate through a water-filled ditch to get onto one of the bogs. Only a few miles from our cabin, both bogs have something unique to offer.
At our first bog, the boys’ boots turn out to be too short. They’ll need to be emptied later. We’re thankful when we get through the water and make it to the fringe of the bog mat, which floats at the surface. The mat has been increasing and could cover a football field, but there’s still open water in the center. The adults are on guard for any holes or dangers.
I give my grandsons three bog riddles to solve. They figured out two of the three. See how well you can do.
1. Find the home of an animal that has special transparent eyelids that help it see while swimming underwater.
2. Find the plant that is shaped like a pitcher. This pitcher doesn’t hold lemonade, but bugs and maybe even a small frog.
3. Find the tiny plant that has octopus arms which are sticky as if made of honey. Its smell attracts insects but bugs should look out! Once they fly in, they’re stuck and the plant begins to digest them.
Almost immediately we find a stick with the end chewed off and a mound of twigs, mud, and sticks. It doesn’t take the boys long to figure out we’ve discovered a beaver lodge, but they are surprised to learn about the beavers’ third eyelid, a lot like the goggles they’d worn yesterday while swimming underwater.
The boys find the answer to riddle number two at our second bog which is a vast carpet with less open water. They delight in pointing out the unique green, pink and orange striped pitcher plants dotting the spongey mat. They run a finger down the pitcher part of the plant. Smooth like going down a slide. When they run their fingers back up, though, it’s scratchy like their daddy’s chin before he shaves. They peer inside and find the contents of partly digested bugs. Cool stuff!
We never do find the answer to riddle three, the sticky plant with octopus arms called sundew, because the five-year-old discovers an especially bouncy patch of springy moss.
He springs high, higher, still higher.
He’s found his bouncy trampoline.
If you want to see a Youtube video of me bog stompin’, visit https://bit.ly/2UvKySo.
If you want to know the location of an awesome bog in Eagle River or one near Land O’ Lakes, contact me at www.laundrie.com.