From Cornell, there is a long road walk to the Lake Eleven Segment in Chequamegon National Forest. Dairy Air was ubiquitous. Rustic barns and old silos were more prevalent than not. A gigantic bald eagle nest filled the top of a tree next to a Creek as a northern harrier hunted for rodents in recently plowed corn fields. We called Otter Lake County Park our home for the night and drank coffee with the locals at the bait and tackle shop. There was a fish derby going on this weekend. Pubs lined our way alternating with sandhill cranes seemingly hunting for frogs. Killdeer and Robins flushed as if we were creating some unseen wake.
Interestingly, we saw an Amish farm with a horse buggy parked in the barn. However, his neighbor across the street was firing a modern gun for a long round of target practice. Oddly, the entrance and exit to the Polish Village of Lublin has Welcome to Lublin signs right in front of cemeteries. We have noticed that Wisconsin is filled with name places and surnames that often have the letter Z in them. I love the uniqueness of it all.
Reaching our first National Forest of our trek, we were immediately greeted by a beaver acting like a log. It then stopped playing Where's Waldo in favor of slapping the water with its tail. Soon after, we found a porcupines den which was filled to the brim with scat. Moments later we found the actual porcupine which got nervous and climbed a tree, just as a raccoon did a few days ago just before Cornell. The bogs here in the forest are often filled with the coniferous larch tree whose needles change colors and drop to the ground for the autumn and winter months. Other conifers such as hemlock and fir seemed to be more prevalent now and mixed in with the deciduous trees. As the sun began to set, the hermit thrushes, rose breasted grosbeaks, and a brown creeper sang their songs to wish us a good night's sleep.
It was the ovenbird, however, that was vocalizing all day. This un-shy little bird seemed to watch us with the same curiosity that we had for it. Today was also mother's day, and so while Stacey was talking on the cell phone as we walked through the woods, a white tailed deer ran directly across her path. Talk about Grandma getting run over by a reindeer. A few moments later, a black bear caught her conversation and bolted away from the trail.
Several groups of other hikers were also on the Ice Age Trail this weekend. The most curious group was that of a Wilderness Therapy Program where about ten troubled teenage girls were out and about in Nature, but with backpacks literally three times bigger than ours. The vacant stares from their faces as they picked off ticks said it all.
An accipter"s ka ka let us know that they might be sitting on a nest nearby while later in the day Stacey spotted a Cooper"s Hawk watching us from a tree. But the most interesting find of the day came from a Ruffed Grouse flushing from it's nest revealing eleven eggs. But now the winds are rolling in as a we are bracing for a storm to hit us overnight.
This national forest section has been a relief to the mind as the bugs have been minimal. It's as if the inclusion of conifers to the deciduous woods have created a greater balance for the whole. The Mondeaux Flowage felt like a haven for any Recreationist. The eskers or, ice sheet dumps, next to ancient glacial rivers are always a pleasure to walk upon. There are usually no muddy bogs to traverse through on these naturally created dikes. It's been wonderful to see new trees such as red cedars and aspens which have recently leafed out.
Our shoes have become a bit squishy from all the evening rain storms we have been having. We have been sleeping in to stay a bit dryer to start our days. It was the Winter Wren though that spurred us through the morning showers into the village haven known as Rib Lake where warm coffee and a good meal continues to keep us strong for our journey ahead.