Monday, June 24, 2013

Ice Age Trail: Hartman Creek Segment

We didn't hike this entire segment since the temperatures were hot and humid and I wasn't sure how long Charlie could go yet. I think we did a total of 3.5 miles of the middle part of this segment between Stratton Lake Rd. and Hartman Creek State Park.

This part of the trail consisted of nice wide paths through rolling woods. The terrain didn't seem terribly challenging but the heat and humidity combined to create a steamy-sauna feel. We took off down the trail with the adrenaline of adventure pumping through our veins, jogging up and down the roller-coaster-like hills through the woods; Charlie happily leading the way.

Charlie started wilting about halfway through our hike. She drank water out of her portable water bowl for the first mile, but then she didn't seem interested in drinking anymore. Instead of wasting the water in the canvas bowl, I poured it over her neck and back to hopefully cool her off a little.

Unlike the Plover River Segment, there was nowhere along this part of the trail for her to go swimming and cool off - only woods. She was going to have to wait until we reached the state park to go for a dip.

There was a nice information board when we reached the savanna and I was hoping we'd be able to see the endangered Karner blue butterfly that frequents the dense patches of wild lupine, but we may have been too late in the season since the lupine were mostly done blooming. The grassy trail was mowed and easy to follow. Charlie acquired a few ticks in these grassy areas, but they were easy to pick off and there weren't as many as the Plover River Segment.

You can see the happy, although tired, grin Charlie has. She really enjoys the outdoors so much! These adventures are healthy and nurturing for both of us - mind and body. We get to see and smell new places while getting in a good workout. The next day we were both feeling a bit sore from the strenuous workout, but out on the trail we hardly noticed. That is the best kind of exercise - when you don't even know you're getting it!

We met a couple people heading in the opposite direction as we exited the savanna and headed back into the woods. Charlie was charming, of course. But only a short ways into the woods, Charlie started lagging behind me. We stopped to take a 10-minute break to catch our breath and cool off in the shade. Charlie wasn't interested in taking a break though, she wanted to turn around and go back. Oh sweetie. It's so hard to tell a dog that the shortest way out is to keep going.

The trail eventually became grassier and wider and we started to intersect some of the state park trails. At one point a white-tailed-deer startled only a few feet off the trail and bolted into the woods. This got Charlie's heart pumping and she was ready to take the lead again.

And then a really cool thing happened! I paused to take a picture of Charlie in the open grassy area and right on the edge of the trail I saw a turkey in the tall grass laying as close to the ground as it possibly could. It was watching me. In a second it burst up into the air and flew away from us - startling me and Charlie! You can even see Charlie's ear flipping upward as she snapped her head in the turkey's direction.

Curiously, the turkey began to flop around like it had a broken wing and even charged back toward us for a second before retreating again. Immediately I recognized this behavior and realized there must be a nest or young babies nearby. Just as I was turning back to the spot where it had been lying in the grass, two baby birds burst out of the grass - barely old enough to fly.


I wished I had gotten better pictures of the whole event, but it was so unexpected and happened so quickly. Charlie was really revved up by now and I was ever-so-grateful that she was on her Ruffwear Roamer leash! No harm was done to any wildlife and Charlie was safe too.

Elderon Moraine
We finally reached the parking area with a view of the Elderon Moraine. There was another great informational signboard at the parking lot which I studied while waiting for my ride then hopped in the car and drove around Hartman Creek State Park to learn about the amenities available for future camping trips, etc. Soon we found a great little spot for Charlie to go swimming and get cooled off.

We missed out on some of the trail highlights like the boardwalk over the marsh and swampy areas in the Emmons Creek area, the footbridge that crosses spring-fed Emmons Creek and the high point called Presentation Area (elevation 1,030 ft) offering views of distant glacial hills. But factoring in the heat and humidity, I knew we wouldn't be able to do the entire segment.

I have a feeling we'll be back for camping and more day-hikes in the future though! This was a really pretty area and the hike was a lot of fun.