The Trail Less Traveled

Northwoods Journal

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mark and I and the beagles arrived at our northwoods hideaway Thursday evening.  He managed to get out of work a little early and we were on the road by 3:30.  We didn’t stop at all on the way up so made great time.

We were a little concerned about finding damage or trees down when we arrived because there was a very bad storm in Atlanta about 3 weeks ago that took down a lot of trees.  Thankfully, all was well.  The worst thing we found was that I forgot to lock away the toilet paper when we left last time and the mice had a field day.  There was torn up TP all over the place!

Not much time to do anything but unpack and take the dogs for a quick hike.  We just made the small triangle – up Stevens Spring to the ATV trail and across to Voyer Lake.  We both agreed that it felt too much like fall already.

The barred owl hooted us a bedtime story as we tucked ourselves under the covers.

Today we had a lazy morning.  Mark made us Spam and eggs for breakfast.  After we ate I made myself a second cup of coffee and stuck my nose in a book.  I bought this new 3-book series set during WWII and I’ve been dying to dive into book 1 but was waiting until I finished my own novel.  So far it’s very good and was hard to put down.  Eventually, I washed my hair and got dressed so we could get started on our day.

We wanted to take the dogs for a nice hike but couldn’t drive anywhere without first going into town for gas so we decided to hike the “loop” from here.  Mark asked if I thought Milo was up to it and I said I thought he was since the temps were cooler.  The sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning. The woods were quiet.  We went up Stevens Spring to the two-track that leads back to Sportsmens then straight to the dam.  I had started out wearing a jacket but by time we got to the dam I was hot.  We saw a bunch of these common tansy flowers along the shore of Sportsmen Dam.

Common Tansy

Common Tansy

Here is a view of the lake.  I know, not all that impressive.  The lake is fairly shallow and doesn’t have a lot of fish, but it’s a very pleasant spot.

Sportsmen Dam Lake

Sportsmen Dam Lake

As we walked on across the dam, we saw several of these fritillary butterflies munching on thistle.  I believe they are Edwards’ Fritillary butterflies, but it’s a little hard to identify butterflies!  They were kind enough to pose for pictures and I got several good ones.

Edward's Fritillary Butterfly

Edward’s Fritillary Butterfly

When we got to Sportsmen Dam Rd. and headed toward Voyer Lake, Mark mentioned possibly cutting across the power lines.  (We did this back in May coming from the opposite direction.  It gets pretty boggy in there but we thought it had been dry enough that we could make it through.)  We stopped at the top of the hill to give the dogs a drink and to enjoy the view of the watershed where we saw this Kingfisher.



Not the greatest photo.  He was a bit beyond the reach of my lens.

Milo also found this carcass.  Anyone want to take a stab of what it might be from?

Unidentified carcass

Unidentified carcass

Here is the picture of the area we had to traverse to get to that dirt trail on the other side. (Click on any photo to see a larger view.)

The trail less taken? Is there a trail?

The trail less taken? Is there a trail?

It looks benign enough, doesn’t it?  Yeah, we thought so, too.  It’s impossible to tell from this photo that once we got down in the boggy area, the swamp grass was over my head in some places!  We had to cross three creeks.  The first one we all got across with no trouble.  The second one, Daisy jumped right in and promptly sunk to her belly in black muck and had a hard time getting out.  Then she couldn’t get up the bank on the other side.  I finally got her up on our side of the bank, handed her leash to Mark and jumped across.  Well, I almost made it!  My left foot slipped back and right down into the muck.  My left hiking boot was encased in black gunk and I had mud up to the knee of my jeans.  Ruby did this stunning acrobatic jump over.  Wish I could have gotten a picture of that!  Since she is the smallest, she had the hardest time cutting a trail through that tall swamp grass, but she was a real trooper.

It was a real relief to finally make it to the sandy trail and then to the road.  Milo was pretty tuckered out by then and we weren’t sure he would make it back to the trailer.  We took it pretty slow and he did manage to soldier on to our place.  We had a heck of a time cleaning the dogs up with that black muck stuck to their legs and bellies.  After we took care of the dogs then I had to clean myself up.  I put my boot out in the sun to dry.  (Those boots really are waterproof.  The outside was caked in muck but the inside was dry and my sock wasn’t wet except for the cuff that was above the boot.)  Then I put my jeans to soak.  Eventually, once the mud was all good and dry, I was able to use a stiff brush and get most of it off.  It looks almost as good as the right boot!

Surprisingly, even after all that exercise, we weren’t really hungry for lunch so we ran into town to get some supplies and have a chat with the junktiques man.  Later in the afternoon we headed toward Hillman to find some garage sales.  We always manage to find a few treasures.  It was around 4:30 when we headed home and by then we were starving from not eating lunch, so Mark made us an early dinner so we could go for another hike before dark.

After supper we loaded up the dogs and headed over toward the Lookout Ridge area.  Mark drove past the ridge and on down the road until he found a trail that looked interesting.  The trail he chose cut right through the center of a cedar swamp.  It was one of those trails that we were both fairly certain was going to dead end at a bear bait hole, but it didn’t.  It was actually a very interesting area.  We saw this big tree that had blown over, with these rocks under the roots.  We both thought it looked kind of cool.

In the cedar swamp.

In the cedar swamp.

Eventually the trail did dead end – at a large creek.  The trail must be for people that go back there to fish, because we saw some fishing line in the water.  After looking it up on the map, I think we may have found Rattlesnake Creek, but I’m not positive.

Milo and I were both pretty tired by time we got back to the FJ but Mark had one more place he wanted to check out.  It’s an area that we’ve hiked before but we hiked the right-hand fork in the trail and he wanted to check out the left-hand fork.  Just as we headed up the trail, these two deer came out of the woods and posed for a few pictures.  Thankfully the dogs did not see them right away.  Unfortunately my pictures are a bit blurry because I had Milo’s leash in my one hand and he kept yanking, so I couldn’t really hold the camera completely steady.  I’m actually surprised these turned out as well as they did!

Deer in the woods.

Deer in the woods.

Of course, the dogs did spot the deer and started howling, which meant the deer quickly dashed off across the trail.  Turns out the left-hand fork pretty much dead ends at Thornton Rd., so it was a pretty short walk.  I think Mark was disappointed but I wasn’t.  I was tired and ready to stop for the day!  He drove through town coming home and we stopped for ice cream at this new place that just opened up, The Driftwood.  It was kind of funny because there were three bikers outside this place when we pulled up.  I had my 9mm on my belt and didn’t feel like taking it off, so I opened carried into the restaurant.  I don’t know if those bikers thought I was a cop or what, but they disappeared into the back room of this place and stayed there ‘till we left.

Dishes were waiting when we got back.  The beagles all plopped down and were soon snoring away.  Mark and I did up the dishes then I wrote in my journal, helped him with a jigsaw puzzle for a little while then picked up my book.  It was nearly midnight before we turned off the lights.  Another great day in the northwoods comes to an end, another great day of exploring the trails less traveled.

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4 Responses to The Trail Less Traveled

  1. The skull is definitely from a carnivore, either cat or dog, hard to tell from the angle. It could be a bobcat, or coyote.

    Those trails less traveled can turn into real challenges at times. 😉 I have a general rule of thumb that I go by, if frogs are the type of wildlife you see i the trail ahead of you, it’s time to turn around.


    • Haha, yeah, we kind of said at the top of the hill we better be sure we wanted to try it because it would be farther to turn around and go back than to muster our way through. I couldn’t believe how tall the grass was once we got down in there. We definitely couldn’t tell that from the top of the hill! Mark also thought the skull was from a coyote. There were other bones there, too, but they didn’t get in the picture. It’s weird because the last time we hiked there, back in May, we found 2 carcasses in the same area – one was a deer and the other was something smaller that we couldn’t identify.


  2. Bob Zeller says:

    I always enjoy reading your stories. This one is no exception. Great reading. 🙂


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