Monday, September 2, 2013
The storm yesterday evening ushered in a cold front and I had to go about closing windows this morning. The temperature didn’t get above 60 all day. Still a lot of clouds in the sky and we had drizzle and mist on and off all day.
A pair of pileated woodpeckers have been playing in our woods all weekend. We’ve been able to hear them and even catch a quick glimpse a few times, but finally this morning they landed on a dead tree within view. I snuck outside with my camera and tried to stealthily creep closer to get a good shot. One of them flew further into the trees, but this one stuck around industriously enlarging his bug hole.
He was still a bit far into the woods for my camera. I find myself longing more and more often for a better camera with a bit better zoom, and then I feel guilty because there isn’t anything wrong with the camera I’ve got, it’s nice for what I do. I’m not a photographer. It seems greedy to want better and more all the time. Anyway, I tried to get a little too close, stepped on a branch that cracked under my slipper, and the pileated took off to join its mate deeper into the woods.
We had a rather slow start to our day. Mark had programming work to do for his job and I had housekeeping duties to take care of. (Dust insists on settling on things even in the northwoods!) We also wanted to see if the weather would clear a bit.
The plan for today was to find and climb Rattlesnake Hill. Rattlesnake Hill makes the local paper – The Montmorency County Tribune – at least once a year because of someone climbing it and having a heart attack or breaking a leg or some other such tragedy that happens at the top. There is zero cell coverage in that area and access to the top is difficult. In all our years here, we’ve never climbed it, so today we wanted to change that fact.
The rain was stilling misting on and off but nothing heavy, so we set off to find the trail. On our way, as we drove down Meaford Rd. we came upon a large convoy of pickup trucks parked along the edge of the road, all of them filled with dogs, many with radio collars. We assumed they were all bear running dogs, although it seemed a bit late in the year to be running bear dogs for practice. As we drove on, more trucks passed us, on their way to join whatever event was happening back there. Mark laughed and called it the Great Labor Day Bear Dog Jamboree. I actually have issues with hunting bear with dogs. I don’t like the practice, it seems very unfair to me, but I won’t go into that right now.
Rattlesnake Hill is really not a single hill, it’s a ridge or a series of hills, ringed by a dirt track called Rattlesnake Creek Rd. There are no signs to mark the road and nothing to let you know you’ve arrived at Rattlesnake Hill. The only way we knew we were there was due to all the obstacles the DNR has placed in the way to keep ATVs and motorcycles from climbing the trail to the top. There were gigantic boulders placed close together and then felled trees over the trail almost all the way to the top. At first I thought the trees were just windfall, until Mark pointed out that they were cut with a chainsaw at the base. I couldn’t help but think of all the people who have gotten hurt at the top and they had a hard time getting to them, because the DNR has made it that way! I know they are trying to protect the area from erosion and from being destroyed by the ATV’s. Unfortunately, one things I’ve learned about most ATVers is that they have very little respect for the land.
The hill is really not all that high compared to mountain standards. I think Mark said the elevation is only about 900 feet, but it’s a very steep climb – made harder by all the obstacles. The view from the top was beautiful, even with the cloud cover. We didn’t actually make it all the way to the tippy-top.
We stopped at this small plateau and then there was another short downhill climb and then a very steep, very sandy uphill climb that was a bit higher at the summit than where we stopped. But, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I can hike all day on flat land but going uphill makes my lungs feel like they are exploding. Since the last hill was so steep and so sandy, we decided to be happy with where we were! We might have been able to make it without the dogs, but it’s hard to climb a steep hill and hang onto leashes at the same time! I have to say, even as old and overweight as Milo is, he climbed that hill like a champ!
We meandered our way back down the hill and then drove the loop of Rattlesnake Creek Rd. The High Country Pathway cuts through the area and we stopped and walked a short portion of the trail. Scared up a big covey of grouse on the way. The trail was very well maintained there and we vowed to go back and hike it again sometime. I bet it will be really pretty in the fall.
It was nice to sit down and eat lunch for the first time all weekend. The clouds/rain/mist continued on and off throughout the afternoon. We whiled away the day doing a bit of this and that, including going to see if we could find this cabin for sale on the Thunder Bay River – which we never did find – and gathering more rocks for our fire pit area. After dinner we took the dogs and went for a drive. Saw 9 deer as we drove around. All the Labor Day crowd had gone home, so we had the trails to ourselves. Mark parked in an area that had been clear cut this summer and as we walked into the field, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I asked Mark if it was an elk, and sure enough, it was! We moved a bit closer and could see 3 of them. When they raised their heads we could just make out that 2 of them had racks of antlers. They spotted us and quickly disappeared into the aspen saplings. We continued on our hike with the dogs and when we returned, the elk were back in the same spot and this time we saw not 3 of them, but 5! So that was very exciting. Mark asked if I had my camera, but I had left it in the car. It didn’t matter anyway because with the gloom (it was dusk by this time) and the rain and the distance, I never would have gotten a decent photo anyway. That’s a bit disappointing, because the opportunity for pictures doesn’t come around very often. We have a feeling there may have been more elk hiding in the aspens. It’s amazing, considering how big elk are, how quickly they can disappear into the trees and brush!
Dishes were waiting when we got home. The dogs were worn out from all their hiking today and from conquering Rattlesnake Hill. We have one more big adventure planned for tomorrow!