Saturday, April 13, 2013

Trail Update: Big Eau Pleine

We had to deliver dog treats in Stevens Point today so I decided to reward Charlie for being a good girl in the car all morning by hiking at Big Eau Pleine County Park near Mosinee on our way home. We hadn't been there in awhile... actually I think the last time we were there I was almost in tears from the frustration of hiking through knee-deep snow. That was over two months ago; I figured there had been enough snow-melt this month that the trails would be in better shape.

The trails may have been in better condition, but the road into the park was NOT. Apparently they've decided not to plow the road any longer since "spring has arrived." The icy-slushy ruts were deep and kept pulling the Jeep all over the place. I finally put it in four-wheel-drive just to be on the safe side. It's a long drive in and there's really no place to turn around, so once you enter you have to keep going. We were just about to the boat launch where our favorite trail head is located and there was a tree laying across the road. It had already been driven over a few times and was smashed up a bit, so we proceeded across it slowly. I advise that if you don't have four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive to hold off on visiting this park until ALL the snow melts.

There had been news reports recently that the low water levels and insufficient oxygen in the reservoir over the winter had caused a big fish kill this spring. I was prepared for a massive amount of fish along the shore and braced myself for the fishy smell. But actually, we only saw a few dead fish (Charlie is sniffing one in the photo above) and there was no smell near the trail we were on. That's not to say that conditions might differ on another part of the lake. Because of the dead fish scattered around, there are quite a few scavengers in the area - hawks, eagles, crows... and raccoons.

This raccoon had already started climbing up the tree before Charlie even noticed it. I watched, stunned, as Charlie ran within two feet of it and didn't even see it! It clung to a branch about 50 feet up in the air (I really have no clue how high, but it was high!) waiting for us to pass by.

All the tree branches were covered in a thin layer of ice from our rain/sleet/snow day yesterday and glittered in the sun as the branches swayed in the breeze. I had been admiring the trees along the highway during our road trip earlier this morning and was mesmerized by the sparkle now that I was in amongst them. But we were on the windy side of the lake and as the temperatures warmed, the shards of ice started breaking free from the branches. Tiny grenades of ice were raining down on me every time the wind blew!

There were branches down everywhere, some laying across the trail; winter has not been easy on these woods. Charlie loved it though... plenty of sticks! She could have a part-time job turning sticks and branches into mulch. Hmmm.

The snow on the trails wasn't too deep. In most spots it was only an inch or two of compacted snow/slush. There were a few isolated areas where the snow had drifted and it was over the top of my boots, but also some bare spots where the snow-melt was running down the hill in tiny rivers.

Charlie, being part Lab, can't resist water when she's near it. Never mind that there's still ice on the lake... she had to go swimming. Good thing I always carry towels in the Jeep - a prerequisite for owning a water dog.

We hiked for about an hour today and thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine that made a quick appearance for the first half of the day. The gray clouds of the next snowstorm were just arriving as we returned to the parking lot. Charlie had that pleasant glow of a dog who has run freely in the woods and was thoroughly tired out. We had a quick snack and drink of water before heading home. On our way out of the park, we had to stop twice - once for deer crossing the road and another five miles down the road for some turkeys. It was a great day for wildlife watching!

I can't wait for the rest of this snow to melt so we can log some more miles in the woods and explore new trails. But for now, Charlie is napping peacefully.

Happy Hiking!