Some of the great places that make for powerful landscape imagery are never really too far from where we live. A few years back, with the help of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship fund, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was able to make another great addition to Rib Mountain State Park. Years ago, 3M mined quartzite from Rib Mountain before developing a much larger quarry north of Wausau in the Town of Maine.
When the Wisconsin DNR purchased the old quarry on Rib Mountain, The Friends of Rib Mountain State Park immediately went to task to develop new hiking trails to add to the existing 4 miles of trail already in the park.
In doing so, they also added history as one of the new trails passes through the site of the Knopf family homestead where Rib Mountain”s first settlers lived. There is also the remains of an old dynamite shack where explosives for blasting out huge seams of quartzite were stored.
The trails have become immensely popular for park visitors. The Turkey Vulture Trail provides an alternative access route for hikers to the park, and yes, if you look up, you will see these vultures circling near the southern rim of the quarry looking for carrion to provide them with food. On one of my hikes, I had a turkey vulture pass over me by just ten feet.
With the influence of men like Ansel Adams or Galen Rowell in me, I could not resist dragging a camera to capture these views. The quarry is man-made and small compared to Yosemite or other far flung places, but it is still much worth the hike. The quarry takes on a different look with each passing season. The rocks reflect different hues and the water levels in the basin change with each season. 3M’s mining trucks no longer rumble up and down the haul road which remains as part of the Turkey Vulture Trail. The rocks now sit in silent witness to changing seasons.