Monday, June 17, 2013

Ice Age Trail: Plover River Segment

On Saturday, June 15th we tackled the Plover River Segment! Charlie and I practically RAN through the trails on this hike in order to escape the mosquitoes! They were very dense and unforgiving. Most of my pictures are blurry because we had to keep moving. I also had to wear my pink rain jacket with the hood up over my hat to keep them from buzzing my head. It had been raining the night before and through the early morning so everything was wet. And even though it was a mild 68 degrees when we started hiking, it was 100% humidity, making it feel like a tropical rain forest.

Everything was so green in the woods that it seemed to glow green everywhere. The new plant growth was beautiful but we barely had a chance to stop and enjoy it because of the mosquitoes. We started out at the Highland Rd. entrance because I wasn't sure if the segment to Hwy 52 was finished. Apparently it was finished because we came to a fork in the path and I wasn't sure which way to go. It seemed like I chose the right direction (and honestly, if I'd looked at the sign post more closely I would have known otherwise) but after hiking for 20 minutes, we emerged onto Hwy 52. We turned around and backtracked to the other trail and that's when I noticed the sign post had arrows with street names pointing down the paths. Duh. That was okay though since we got to see the new trail.

Charlie was doing a great job staying ahead of me a little ways so I wasn't tripping over her and not pulling too hard to cause me to fall. She listened great when I told her "this way" or "wait for Mom" and we really seemed to be in sync!

We got a little lost when we reached the Plover River because I didn't realize the boulders in the water were the continuation of the trail. I stumbled around in circles for about 5 minutes before it became clear that we were going to have to go over the boulders - which looked harder than it was. Honestly, it was kinda fun! The humidity was so high that there was steam over the river, giving the illusion of a tropical rain forest even more. I almost had to pinch myself to believe the beauty I was seeing.

The trail is a bit muddy from the marshy terrain along the river, but there were always rocks or tree roots to step on in the mucky spots and these cool little wood plank bridges in the really wet spots. Charlie wasn't very graceful on these planks and her feet would slip off occasionally, but she regained her balance and continued on with no problems.

The river is absolutely crystal clear and lightly babbles over the moss-covered rocks; the landscape can only be described as LUSH. It seemed shallow enough that you could walk across it at any point and only be knee-deep. If the mosquitoes hadn't been so ruthless, I might have actually dipped a toe in to see how nice the water would feel.

The trail began to lead up and away from the river and I started noticing some of the glacial formations that I read about in my Companion Guide. It's so cool to actually know what you're seeing while out on a hike... they're not just hills, valleys and rocks - these are here because of glaciers!

We stopped to take a quick break to rehydrate. Charlie was definitely panting quite a bit from keeping up with my quick pace and I had sweat dripping down my arms as a result of wearing my rain jacket. I definitely would have liked to have taken it off, but didn't think the trade-off of countless mosquito bites was worth it. Even though I had put bug spray on at the beginning of the trail, most of it had either sweated off or was washed away from the wet foliage.

I couldn't help but think of how many people drive by on the roads surrounding this area and never know what magical landscape lies within. It's crazy to think this trail is in my own "backyard" and I can come here whenever I want.

The natural beauty and peaceful quiet is so intoxicating... or maybe that's just all the oxygen going to my head from getting a good workout while surrounded by lush trees and plants. Who cares - it's absolutely exhilarating! The adventure of seeing something new and not knowing what to expect, of pushing on even when conditions aren't ideal and believing in myself - priceless.

We finally emerged from the woods onto a wide open prairie. The trail markers were now painted on rocks along the path rather than the trees, so it's still easy to see the trail. The glacial landscape is still evident here and we ran across a few of the glacial rock deposits too.

It was at this point, however, that I realized Charlie was covered head to toe with HUNDREDS of ticks! I started picking them off of her as fast as I could and quickly realized this was going to be an impossible task since they were just crawling right back on. We had escaped the mosquitoes, but continued to run through the last of the trail to get to the parking lot where my ride would be waiting so I could de-tick my dog more effectively.

I spent 30 minutes in the parking lot removing ticks from Charlie with the plastic tweezers from my first aid kit, getting most of them off. My passenger and her dog were also de-ticking since they had picked up quite a few just by sitting in the gravel parking lot. We finally gave up and piled in the car for the drive home. Once home, both dogs were put in the bathtub and the de-ticking process continued. All clothes, towels, leashes and collars were thrown in the washing machine. Ticks continued to be removed from all of us (humans too) throughout the evening. By the following night, we found only a few more on the dogs and they appeared to be dead (from the tick medicine applied monthly). However, when I got in my car to run a quick errand, I ended up picking up a tick that was still in the car from the day before, which I found embedded in my thigh an hour later. I guess I'm going to head out and proceed to remove ticks from the car now. I truly hope that we don't continue to run into this tick problem on other area trails or this will really put a damper on our hiking plans this summer.

Be careful out there.