Returning to the Ice Age Trail from Rib Lake we found an active Robin's nest at a Trailhead Information Board as we were ducking out from the ongoing rain showers. She had two newborn chick's and one blue egg yet to be hatched. The mother must of been out foraging for she caused a ruckus when she returned. Ahead, on a road walk, we enjoyed seeing all the unique little vacation homes around the Harper Lakes. Did you know that horses are not allowed to swim in South Harper Lake?
Finding tread once more, we came to a hunters elevated blind with a ladder coming down onto the trail. To our astonishment, a turkey vulture came catapulting out of the box. We climbed the ladder to find two eggs without nesting material lying on the bottom of the blind. Wow, what a surprise the hunter will have having to clean up the mess and smell that the mom and chick's will make when he or she returns this autumn.
It was below freezing over night which has knocked back any sign of mosquitoes. This was two nights in a row we didn't have to put up bug netting. Some of the new plants and tree saplings however did suffer from the frost. Ferns such as maidenhair died back all together. Saplings such as the maples and some oaks looked wilted. However, the strawberries were blooming as well as bramble. A pilleated woodpecker laughed at us in the near distance around Wood Lake which had a hand operated well pump that allowed us to stock up on water. We have only had to treat water along the trail only once so far. The New Wood River looked dark, but looks foldable for tomorrow. Since we don't have a tent, we always have to take care to find a no tick zone to sleep at. Today was a challenge, and the tiny deer ticks are becoming more common too. We often try to camp under conifers which have Pine needles as duff.
In the wee morning hours I awoke and heard some stomping in the leaf litter coming our way. With flashlight in hand, we found that we had a skunk wanting to pass by us. This is to be expected often along a river corridor. With some coaxing, we persuaded her to turn around without spraying us.
The water flowing in New Wood River almost seemed black, so it was difficult at first to see how deep it was. We had read that one Hiker in June, probably after it rained, said the crossing was chest high, and had to go around. It turned out, however, to be only shin deep.
To our pleasant surprise, we flushed two different sets of woodcocks; one which had two chick's who were also big enough to fly. Along the Wisconsin River, we were witness to a male northern oriole dancing around a female who then presented her with an insect as if it were a chick. We also heard a birdsong that sounded like the wedding march. I can just imagine the writer getting the inspiration to create the melody one fine spring morning. The Wisconsin River and the edge of its banks were filled with interesting rocks. I have been actually surprised by their absence from the route up to this point.
It was then time for a 12 mile road walk which took us past a very small Sawmill that was operating, and an elderly gentleman planting seeds to grow a food garden at Tug Lake. He was actually trying to persuade us to hike the North Country Trail. There was even an Elk farm on our route. Amazingly, we arrived at the trailhead at dusk when it finally decided to shower on us once again throughout the night.
Suddenly, we were in what we can agree on to be Hill Country. Sometimes it feels as if we are going through an ongoing maze where instead finding cheese, we find pizza. There are twists and turns constantly connecting one dirt or grass road with another linked by a single tread track created solely by volunteers. Clematis and star flower were the latest and greatest blooming sensation just as the white crowned sparrows and swainson thrushes sang the newest of tunes. We were lucky enough to see yet another bear crash through the brush, snorting and grunting in apparent protest. Perhaps he was upset that we may have found his over wintering hibernation den, and that I had just tried it on to size. My first name means Bear after all.
The highlight of the day was reaching the top of Lookout Mountain, which was definitely not a mountain. There are two giant communication towers there, along with an old Lookout Tower. From near the top on the stairs, one could see for hundreds of miles. You could definitely see that the hilly section is a minority in the region. Only a few local farms could be seen in the near distance. However, our sights are now on the town of Rhinelander, where in the morning we shall hitchhike 15 miles into to have a near-o rest day.