The northern reaches of the Navarino Wildlife Area are just south of Highway T, where Jerusalem Lutheran Church still stands, an immaculately maintained, white, wooden, steepled-structure with a footprint no bigger than a two-car garage. But narrower. With a gated cemetery. The land begins to rise north of Highway T as ridges and hills – a mini-driftless area. But Navarino begins to the south as flat, wetland forest. The map says cedar forest, though I only saw a few cedars. The trails, logging roads compacted by tree-eating machines, are rivers; the woods are swamps. I headed south from the northernmost parking lot for 45 minutes, leaping from one mossy mound to the next through deciduous woods. I grew tired of it. Relentlessly impassable. On the way back to the parking lot, I was impatient for the two dry stretches of the trail, wondering exasperated: will I ever get back?
I drove east, and at two of the three other northernmost parking lots, it was the same story. I walked south from higher ground deep into wooded swamps. The system of trails at the third parking lot was the most extensive. I needed to mark my way with arrows made of broken sticks arranged at intersecting trails. I headed mostly south, but also west when I could, to try to reach the rest of the Navarino trails that are on one of the maps, trails that traverse the sedge meadow I was in last week. I felt like the 15th century explorers looking for the Northwest Passage. Which took 300 years.