Sunday, October 2, 2016

My Birthday Girl

Today is Charlie's birthday! Hard to believe she's 6 years old already... where has the time gone! She's become such a part of my life that it's hard to remember what life was like before her.

I talk to her, she understands a lot of my words, we walk and hike together like a team, she snuggles with me at night, and waits by the door for me to come home from work. She's my baby and I love her so much.

Today, we visited Culver's for frozen custard and drove to Big Eau Pleine Park... one of Charlie's favorite places. It was a gorgeous fall day... sunny, blue skies, warm breeze and colorful trees. An awesome day for a birthday!

Waiting in line at the drive-thru for ice cream... so much anticipation!

It's almost here!

Ahhh... sweetness!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Parrish Hills Segment ~ Ice Age Trail

A couple of weeks ago, on September 11th, Charlie and I were going through our normal lazy Sunday morning routine... coffee and breakfast while watching CBS Sunday Morning and snuggling on the couch. It was turning into a beautifully sunny, blue-sky day and I definitely wanted to get outside to enjoy the sunshine!

Everything on t.v. was filled with images from September 11th fifteen years ago... a lot of sadness and disbelief; still after all this time. And with that, memories of my dad started surfacing. As anyone who has ever lost a beloved friend or family member knows, you miss them every day, but some days are harder than others.

I believe it's important to remember these tragic events and take a moment to honor lives lost, but I also didn't want to get mired down in sadness for the day, so I figured we'd head out to a brand new segment of the Ice Age Trail that we had never been to before and ignite a sense of adventure in honor of all those who are no longer with us. This was the kind of day my dad loved and I'm sure there's no place he would have rather been than hiking on a trail just like this.

We took a leisurely hour-long drive up to Langlade County to take on the Parrish Hills Segment, parking at a small wayside next to Townline Lake where the trail began along the steep banks of the lake amidst towering pine trees.

Recent rains had left large puddles and lots of mosquito-breeding grounds along the trail, but with a quick and constant pace we were able to avoid too many bugs. Charlie had one small tick on her after this hike, but that was to be expected with all the tall grass she was running through.

The variety of trail types available on this segment ranged from single-track dirt trail, 2-track dirt trail and wider gravel trail that was most likely a well-used logging road or ATV trail. Butterflies flitted about occasional meadows of wildflowers and the distinct sound of cicadas filled the air.

Towards the end of the hike, where the trail turned into a large puddle making it impossible to proceed, we took a short side trail that revealed a beautiful hidden lake filled with migrating cranes and geese. It was so rustic and wild, it took my breath away.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mondeaux Esker Segment, Part 2

Charlie and I hiked the Western side of the Mondeaux Esker Segment almost a year ago. I had meant to come back to hike the other side and do some camping earlier this summer, but life sometimes gets away from you. And here I find myself at the beginning of September and I still haven't done any camping this year!

I typically shy away from camping during Labor Day Weekend since the campgrounds are predictably packed with families trying to get in one last camping trip before school starts and fall sets in.

Rather than taking a chance not finding a campsite, I decided to just do a day trip of hiking at Mondeaux Esker. Amazingly, though, there were still several campsites available as we drove through the campgrounds! Good thing to note for next year, so if we decide to actually camp on this busy weekend, we will most likely be rewarded with an available spot. Even better - this is National Forest land which means fireworks are strictly forbidden, which is a huge relief when you have a noise-reactive dog like Charlie.

The East side of the segment was very different than the side we did last year. Much more challenging with several downed trees and swampy areas to navigate through.

Honestly, though, I don't enjoy an Ice Age Trail hike as much as when I have to crawl through obstacles or get a little dirty. That's the whole point of being out here - feeling like you're in a different environment! I absolutely loved coming upon a downed tree blocking the trail and figuring out the best way to get around it... which included going around, going under, going over and going through! (Going through is the most fun!)

Went "around."

Went "under."

Went "over."

Went "through." This was so cool walking along the trunk and using
the branches as handles as I made my way through this!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wood Lake Segment ~ Revisited

It's been a few years since Charlie and I have been on the Wood Lake Segment of the Ice Age Trail. Back in November 2013, we did a bit of the trail around the lake but didn't do the full segment.

So last weekend, after finishing up the last of my field editing for the Rib Lake Segment, I decided to check out Wood Lake again... this time in summer.

What a difference a season makes. The trail looks so different draped in green. Last time we were here everything was bare and brown; now the woods were full of life. Branches dripped with drops of rain and the undulating topography welcomed magical little streams and ponds at the bottom of each valley.

Varieties of mushrooms cover the forest floor but look like something that belong on the ocean floor. Everything was alive and green!

The new boardwalk/bridge is lovely and well-built. You can smell the freshly cut lumber well before you can see it. The volunteers who keep up with the trail building and maintenance are truly gifted!

We had a beautifully refreshing hike on a very scenic part of the Ice Age Trail with no one else in sight! How lucky are we to have access to these untouched parts of Wisconsin... for free! Truly amazing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Kettlebowl Segment - Ice Age Trail

Embracing my adventurous spirit, Charlie and I embarked on our longest hike of the year on Monday. Having taken a "mental health" day from work, I decided my time would best be served spending an entire day exploring a new trail.

Realizing that I have only done one other segment in Langlade County, it seemed only natural to head in that direction.

An hour later, we arrived at the trail head for the Kettlebowl Segment at the entrance to the Kettlebowl Ski Area; now closed for the season, but with a tiny little area to park outside the locked gate.

The sign on the tree behind Charlie says, "Sled Dog Trail"

It was 11am by the time we started hiking and the mild morning temps had risen to close to 80 degrees. A nice breeze joined us along the trail and the hilly terrain propelled us forward as we immersed ourselves in this new landscape.

By the time we reached Big Stone Hole, I realized that Charlie was slowing down quite a bit and probably wouldn't make it as far as the Kent Fire Tower as I had planned.

I let my inquisitive nature take over and bush-wacked my way back into the spur trail toward Big Stone Hole, which apparently no one had explored in a long time based on how overgrown everything was.

I was a little nervous climbing down into the hole filled with tons of moss-covered boulders, some as big as small cars. Rotted tree logs disguised themselves as rocks and I had to be careful where I stepped so I didn't end up falling down into a pit or crevice and getting myself stuck.

Being in a true wilderness area away from civilization where you can't get cell phone reception and no one would hear you scream if something happened is invigorating, albeit a little nerve-wracking as well.

I stood in this Big Stone Hole for a while, marveling at the quantity of rocks that the glacier deposited here thousands of years ago, imagining the distance that they traveled only to end up in a big hole where no ever goes.

Charlie hopped from rock to rock, exploring the crevices and trying to figure out what this place was all about.

Once my curiosity was satisfied, we back-tracked and enjoyed a slow, leisurely pace on the return hike to the parking area.

Charlie practically fell asleep the minute she got in the car. I watched her content little face all the way home, feet twitching to good dreams about hiking. We stopped for some ice cream and had ourselves a little mid-summer treat on our special Monday outing.

And once again, because of time spent in the woods, I can feel my heart and mind slowly healing.

This is a little video footage of a moment spent in Big Rock Hole... unfortunately it just does NOT do this place justice! Enjoy!