Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail ~ Part 4


Walking out of Birchwood along a county road, a couple by the names of Judy and Mike pulled over to ask if we would like to spend the night at their home on the lake. Mike used to volunteer for the Ice Age Trail and so they knew that we were thru hikers. We were in heaven. Their home was paradise. We washed our clothes and they proceeded to take us out for pizza where Don Erickson treated us for the night. Thanks to Judy, Mike, and Eric for the great discussions, your hospitality, and of course for the ice cream and an amazing breakfast. 

This morning Stacey was excited to have found a baby pond turtle in the grass to play with in contrast to a very large snapping turtle we witnessed resting on a log in a pond. I too played with a garder snake as well as a green colored frog as well as a tree frog hopping across the trail. Although the heron rookery was abandoned, we would occasionally see a great blue heron flush off or fly ahead of us in the near distance. Bluejays too splashed color often in our eyes. Interestingly, a yellow bellied sapsucker was drilling sap wells in a Birch tree. Immediately afterwards, a red squirrel went to suck the sap out of the holes in the tree for some easy desert. A female mallard flushed from her down lined nest along Hemlock Creek. She was sitting on 9 large white eggs. I would like to nominate the beavers who made a good trail that doubles as a dam as the most improved Ice Age Volunteers of the year. 

Something that looked like a Rail flushed from a marshy area, while Trillium began to bloom almost everywhere. Small Spruce and Firs also began showing up along the trail in isolated pockets. What appeared to look like May Lilies and arnica also began to rise up and unfold from the ground. The mosquitoes too made their debut as they buzzed their way into the spring season. Have you ever noticed that a Kingfisher sounds like a mad and grumpy old man who got interrupted while peacefully fishing by some young whipper snappers? 

During the early evening hours, I was awoken by rain drops falling on my face. So up went the tarp where we listened to the lovely dripping of water throughout the night. With the trail now thoroughly soggy, we noticed a shift in the few conifers we do encounter. Typically, we had been seeing eastern white pine. However, now eastern hemlock has joined the mix. With a three mile road walk into the small town of Weyerhaeuser, the Whistlestop Cafe called us in for a satisfying breakfast. 

With 18 miles of road walking ahead, we started our journey towards the Ice Age Interpretive Center where the tread would resume. Red Winged Blackbirds lined the route who were gathering grasses and nesting material to lay their clutches of eggs in the cattails and marshes along our route. I even raced a muskrat along a drainage ditch filled with water. The Backwoods Bar and Grill offered us iced water to cool us down while an offering of free books was granted to us at a house side library kiosk. Even a sandhill crane gave us a photo opportunity while loons hauntingly laughed as sunset and an evening thunderstorm struck the region. 

At the Interpretive center, we had to wait for them to open so that we could stock up on water. A County worker showed up early, and so Stacey mentioned that we would have to treat and drink beaver water if it wasn't for the water available at the center. Later that day, about 12 miles to the east of us where we crossed a dirt road, we found two individual liters of water labeled for us to drink so that we wouldn't have to share water with the beavers. 

A red headed woodpecker highlighted our path, as well as a rookery of great blue herons nesting in dead trees created by a beaver pond. There were over 25 nests. I even saw a wood duck come down out of the woods and pinpointed a dead snag with holes where it was most likely nesting. An ultra runner wished us well, as she was training for a 100 mile race at Kettle Moraine this Fall. Interestingly, two fly catchers swooped down about five times each into a lake and retreated each time to a branch where it was washing and preening their feathers. The Chippewa River was a beauty to behold as it became our gateway into the town of Cornell where we resupplied for the long trail ahead. Big T's Bar and Grill is treating us well as we rest up for a long road walk ahead of us.


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