Sunday, October 4, 2015

Being Seen @ Plover River

Can you find Charlie in this photo?

Charlie and I hiked a lot this past weekend. I had some time off work and the weather was crisp, cool and perfect for being active outdoors. We mostly stayed close to our home turf and revisited several of our favorite trails and parks.

The Plover River Segment of the Ice Age Trail is a must-see this time of year. The bugs and ticks are gone and the foliage has thinned out just enough for some spectacular views of glacial landscape and the beautiful crystal clear water of the Plover River.

The only caveat to this little piece of heaven is that it is also home to public hunting and fishing grounds, which means we need to be seen in the woods so we're not mistaken for something to shoot at. Although it's only bow season right now and hunters rarely mistaken people or dogs for deer, it's still best to be safe.

So Charlie and I wear blaze orange. It's not much of a fashion statement, but up here in the Northwoods, it's kind of a wardrobe staple this time of year.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Turtle Rock 2015

The Turtle Rock Segment of the Ice Age Trail has quickly become our favorite trail for September hiking. Typically this trail is extremely vegetated and full of mosquitoes and deer flies in the summer... don't get me wrong, it's beautiful that time of year, but it's challenging as well! Fall weather thins out the vegetation a bit making for nice views and the bugs are nowhere to be found.

We haven't been back here since last September (almost a year ago to be exact) and I was curious to see whether the beavers and their beautiful beaver dam would still be there. Unfortunately it looks like they are gone. The water level of the little pond was very low and looked more like the marsh that it was 2 years ago.

It's pretty cool to see how this trail and the landscape surrounding it change from year to year depending on weather and other conditions, but the glacial features remain the same.

I let Charlie off-leash briefly for some photo-ops in the beautiful "Hall of Birch" that I photograph every year.

And off-leash once again to allow her to explore the little creek that runs into the Wisconsin River.

The fall colors weren't as beautiful as they were last year, but it was a great day for a hike and we had an awesome time!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Monday at Mondeaux (Ice Age Trail)

So I took off work on Monday for a long weekend full of day-trips exploring new areas and Monday was slated for hiking the Mondeaux Esker Segment of the Ice Age Trail!

I am SO excited to tell you guys about this adventure, because it was So.Much.Fun! I loved every minute of it including the scenic drive to get there.

It was 70 degrees and sunny with a strong breeze... one of those perfect fall days! This part of the Ice Age Trail winds up one side of the Mondeaux Flowage through the Chequamegon National Forest and back down the other side and you cross through four different campgrounds all nestled along the shoreline.

The part of the trail that we hiked followed along the top of the Mondeaux Esker which allowed beautiful steep views down to the water on one side and obvious glacial topography along the other side, all within a swaying forest of all different types of trees.

The sun filtered through the yellowing leaves of the canopy above making the forest glow. A warm breeze swirled around us and shadows of the swaying branches danced on the sun-dappled forest floor.

Charlie and I moved as a team up and down the difficult terrain, both of us with beaming smiles as the energy of the woods infiltrated our spirits and our deep breaths brought rich oxygen all the way to the bottom of our lungs. It was exhilarating! I haven't been so excited to explore a trail in a long time. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We took short breaks along the shore to let Charlie go swimming and fetch sticks out in the water while I gazed at a circling bald eagle above and watched falling leaves drift to the water's surface and float away like little autumn boats.

Campsite in Eastwood Campground.

All of the campgrounds were rustic but in a very comfortable way. My idea of camping is getting away from noise and crowds and feeling like I'm a part of the wilderness. These campsites let you feel like that. They have tons of vegetation surrounding them and between the sites for good privacy.

The bathroom "facilities" are simple pit toilets (but very clean!) and there are narrow trails leading to a "well" for water. Some of the campsites have waterfront access and all of them have great views of either the water or the forest. The Ice Age Trail even goes past some of the campsites so you could literally camp "on the trail" here.

Ice Age Trail next to campsite 10 in the Eastwood Campground.

Firewood is available for purchase and one of the campgrounds has a concession stand that sells ice and has a weekly buffet dinner as well as other homemade hot food! The camp hosts highly recommended the food. There were also boat rentals - canoes, rowboats, paddleboats and pontoons!

I can't wait to go back for a long weekend of camping and to explore the rest of the Ice Age Trail that we didn't have time to do today. If you get a chance to take another trip this fall, this is a MUST SEE!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ice Age Trail ~ Old Railroad Segment

September is my FAVORITE month of the year and we've been enjoying the cool seasonal days and crisp blue skies by hiking as much as possible on short day-trips around our area. This past weekend, we finally headed up to a recommended part of the Ice Age Trail in Langlade County.

Our adventure began at Veteran's Memorial Park in Deerbrook, WI. It's a beautiful campground nestled along the shore of Jack Lake. A sign informed us that Langlade County is known as the "County of Trails" which we found to be quite true! This campground had several nature trails, including the Old Railroad Segment of the Ice Age Trail, which was easy to find after a short hike on one of the park's connecting trails.

We took some time driving through the park and campground to learn about the facility for future camping trips. There are 48 campsites which are $20 per night, which seemed kind of steep to me at first, but when you see the facilities you know you are getting what you paid for. The bathrooms all have flushing toilets and running water as well as showers. There are a number of locations to get drinking water and the campsites are very well-spaced with nice vegetation separating them. A few of the campsites (42-48) are on a separate loop and are very secluded from each other - tons of privacy! 

In addition to the campsites, there are 3 cabins available to rent although, sadly, they don't allow pets. There is a disc golf course and beautiful beach and picnic area but again, no pets are allowed. Although pets are prohibited from some parts of the park, there is a tiny arboretum and many trails that offer access to the water and pets are welcome in these areas. We observed many campers walking their dogs in the park and utilizing the trails.

Charlie and I spent some time exploring the bog-walk structure on Game Lake and taking in the beautiful sky reflecting in the clear water. Take your time crossing the boardwalk as it is twisted and uneven in a delightful way that only nature could construct.

There are several signs of ice age activity along this segment including dry kettles and kettle lakes. Weaving through the twists and turns and ups and downs of the trail and taking in the sights of glacial activity eventually quieted my mind and brought a serene peacefulness to my spirit. 

The strong breeze blowing through the variety of trees was soothing, alternating from the loud rustling of oak leaves to the quiet whisper of pine boughs. 

I'm always somewhat amazed that we rarely pass other people on the Ice Age Trail. While I enjoy the solitude of being there alone and appreciate that the trail stays "rustic" and relatively un-littered, I'm a little sad that more people are not out enjoying this free and unique opportunity.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Steamy Sunday Morning Hike

Today is the last day of the run of recent "steamy" summer weather we've had. Charlie and I have been hanging out in the cool shade of the backyard lately and not doing too much hiking because of the hot weather, but I decided to go hiking really early this morning before the heat of the day got too bad.

We hadn't been back to this trail since our "Mother's Day Mishap" with all the ticks, so I was hoping that by this time of year they'd be gone. Luckily, we didn't find any ticks at all.

We hit the trail at 8:00 am and quickly immersed ourselves into the tropical feeling of the forest.

It was blissfully still and quiet with wafts of foggy steam floating through the tree canopy. The only sound was the alternating 'squish' or 'thud' of my boots on the varying terrain of mud and rocks. I hop-skipped along the rocks and roots protruding from the trail and started getting into a good hiking rhythm, enjoying our quick pace but still absorbing the beautiful landscape.

Foliage was dense and overgrown on some parts of the trail; dew-drenched fern fronds soaked my bare shins and provided cooling relief to the scratches received from raspberry bushes that were taking over the trail. The warm-moist heat released intoxicating scents of late-summer flowers and grasses, while the high keening sound of cicadas signaled the beginning of the end of summer.

We took several short breaks to throw sticks and splash in the stream, and while we didn't cover a lot of distance, we spent a good hour and half romping in the woods. As we back-tracked to our starting point, a delicious breeze picked up and swirled around me, rustling leaves in the treetop above.

Refreshed, invigorated but also tired, Charlie napped on the front seat on the drive home. We had a great time enjoying the outdoors early before the heat of the day took over, and now we can "veg" out and relax for the afternoon!