Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ice Age Trail: Dells of Eau Claire Segment

So Charlie and I hiked this section on June 1st for National Trails Day... but I forgot to write a post about it! Life gets crazy sometimes... but then you get caught up! June 1st was also my birthday so even though I've hiked parts of the Eau Claire Dells Segment several times, I wanted to finally finish hiking this section all the way to the end. The weather was a combination of intermittent sun with ominous dark clouds and we were supposed to have isolated thunderstorms. I wasn't going to let a little rain keep me away from hiking for the whole day so we headed out anyway. The good thing about bad weather is that the trails were pretty deserted and we only ran across a few people - surprising for this popular park!

About 1/4 of the way down the trail, it started sprinkling a little bit. It was a very peaceful, light rain and I barely noticed it under the canopy of trees. The leaves were dancing with each rain drop and I felt like I was in a tropical forest. The mosquitoes flew away to their hiding spots to avoid the rain and the rest of the hikers disappeared. Charlie and I continued on.

There has been quite a bit of rainfall lately and the forest was getting lush. There were tiny rainwater pools on rocks and along the trail - perfect breeding ground for more mosquitoes, and the Eau Claire River was roaring. I think a lot of people turn back to Dells of the Eau Claire Park when they reach the "actual" beginning of the Ice Age Trail segment. The terrain gets a little steep along the riverbank here, but the views are really pretty. At this point, the rain was getting a little heavier and I could hear distant thunder. Charlie and I continued on.

The rain was really coming down now and I was wishing I had a hat and rain jacket. I realized I was not properly prepared for this weather, but we were already all the way out there and now had to hike back. Thank goodness the mosquitoes were hiding because all my bug spray got rained off. The thunder got closer (and louder) and I was glad that I had Charlie on her Roamer leash because every time she heard a loud crack she tucked her butt and rain forward like she was about to bolt into the woods. Even though we were getting soaked, the woods were still magical and I absolutely love the uneven terrain filled with moss-covered boulders and intertwined tree roots.

We hiked back as fast as we could; I knew Charlie was getting miserable - she hates to be wet, unless she's swimming. My hair and clothes were soaked and my boots were covered in mud, leaf debris and pine needles. We crossed over some cool little rock bridges with rain water washing down the hillsides.

Charlie paused long enough for me to snap a picture of her next to a giant tree sitting on top of ancient rocks overlooking Sandberg Island before I had to put my camera away to prevent water damage.

We emerged from the woods looking like two wet dogs - soaked from head to toe - and as we approached the parking lot, the clouds cleared and the sun peaked out. On the drive home we even saw a rainbow. Pretty perfect birthday hike.