Sunday, January 21, 2018

KVR Trail Challenge ~ Dam Trail ~ Wintergreen Trail

Here is a fuzzy looking map of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and its surrounding trails.
More about KVR here: Kickapoo Valley Reserve

There are links to the Reserve site and activities that go on there. There is a long and storied history about how the Reserve came to be including the Dam Project as the locals call it or the Flood Project that was going to make a huge lake and keep the towns along the Kickapoo from flooding.

I'm not going to write about that. It is a bitter story, but a very interesting one.

The Reserve or KVR as we now call it is located in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin.
They have something called the Trail Challenge. If you complete all the items on the list in one year and turn in the paperwork, you win a free pass to the KVR for the next year.
I'm not interested so much in the 'free' pass, but in the challenge itself.

I need a self challenge. Something to have as a goal. This looked like a good one.

So Friday I took the first steps.

Doing the challenge takes some pre-planning especially if you are by yourself. I can see that in order to do some of the trails it would be handy to be 'dropped' off at one area and picked up at the other end.
My first hike was on known trails that looped back to the Visitor Center.

For this 'project' I have acquired a little pal.

He is a finger puppet and I have a fondness for skunks anyway. He is small enough to fit easily in my pocket.

Why not?

I followed the Dam Trail to the Dam Tower.

Down the stairs...

Along the Old 131 Trail which is a groomed cross country ski trail in the winter. Hikers and snowshoers need to keep off the groomed trail.
Trail that leads alongside the dam to the Tower.

The Tower.
I wanted the photo of the tower to mimic the old files photos from the 1970's when the project was underway.

View of the river. See that rock bluff? That was part of the next segment I was going to do, it is straight across the Kickapoo River.

I can never get enough views of the rock formations along this river.
After finishing off the Dam Trail, I headed back past the Visitor Center and launched into the Wintergreen Bluff Trail.

I've done this trail twice before. So I was pretty sure I had allotted enough time to get it done.

Remember that bluff from the Dam Trail?
Here is a slightly poor panoramic shot of the view from atop that bluff.

This is an amazing trail in any season.

The photos below are towards the end of this trail which really does just end at a bluff.

There are a few spots on this trail that require paying close attention to footing.
The rock stairs can get slippery when wet, snowy, or icy.

You can circumvent these stairs and take a high path near the highway.

I generally chose to take the more difficult path, of course. But it can lead to more adventures.
Such as the ice flow over the trail.

It was easy to get around and the colors in the ice were amazing.

If I'd had no place to be, I could have spent hours along this trail. As it was, I'd told my husband I'd be home somewhere around 2 pm.

What can I say? Doing the Trail Challenge will be a challenge! My oldest son would wonder if I could actually hike and not stop all of the time to take photos.
I don't know. We will see.

I did use a cell phone app called Map My Hike.
It helped me move along by telling me how long each mile I did took and what my pace was.

The chart on the bottom explains your pace ~ blue line. And the red line is a chart of the elevation changes made during the hike.
I won't lie.
Hiking the Kickapoo Reserve is going to be tough. The only real flat trail is the Old 131 Trail which is the old 131 highway. Everything else will be very demanding.
Just up my alley!

My Stinky Skunk friend and I made it. I smiled all of the way home and then got out the map and plotted my next trail adventure.
Only 47+ miles to go!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dixie ~ How can I help you?

Morris watched me get dressed with only mild curiosity.
I sighed, I miss the little dog that would literally spin himself inside out any time he saw me getting ready to go outside and hike.

I dearly dread the day when he will leave us. However he still provides us with fun doggy dementia moments that we instantly feel awful for laughing at.

I gave up all thought of hiking with a tripod this time with Dixie. I wanted to just enjoy a nice hike along the creek after the recent snowfall. I took my Tamron lens on the older Nikon. It is like dragging a ton of bricks compared to the Olypmus Mirrorless OM-5 I normally take. Of course I had the Lumix pocket camera too. The Pink Fugly camera had been misbehaving since its last submergence in mud before deer season.

I headed out with Dixie who gave me one huge bark of joy and then began to walk alongside of me. She kept touching my gloves with her nose as if to make sure I was still coming.

We headed down into the valley. I admired Mother Nature's handiwork.

Dixie seemed to be all work. Her nose was on supercharge.

She did end up finding a mouse nest. I must say, that nose is incredible.
We admired the beauty of the creek and then came out into the open valley.

When I lifted my camera to take this shot it literally took my breath away. I was stunned. I guess you had to be there. But to me it was incredible. We'd just busted through a narrow tangled cluster of willows and thorn bushes to come out to blue sky and pure white snow.

I walked down to the snowmobile crossing. We haven't had enough snow this year for the snowmobiles to run at all. I stepped down next to the creek and took a shot of the water blasting through the culvert.

I then turned and made a huge mistake. I glanced up and behind me to look at the old cottonwood tree against the sky and my foot slipped. I have no idea how I did it but I landed on my left side with a horrid lurch and it was hard!
In my right hand I held the snow splattered camera aloft. It appeared that I saved the camera and lens but damn!

And then the pain hit me. My elbow burned and my leg hurt something awful. I did what any good woman of my age would do in that situation.
I let out a yowl and started cussing as loud as I could. I was hurt, I was angry at myself for not looking and I was really really mad!

I would have sat in the cold snow next to the noisy creek for a long time ... but...

my screeching brought Dixie on the run. The next thing I saw was her big huge snow covered face with frozen slobber across her snout. She stood between my legs where I sat and wobbled her jowls while trying to decide if I should be licked or nosed. The look on her face was as if she were saying.

"You called? How can I help you?"

I started to laugh, still holding the camera aloft, ... now to keep the slobber nose off from the lens. Dixie started to wag her tail furiously. She shook her head and frozen gobbers flew across my glasses. I couldn't help it but laugh harder.

I eventually sorted it all out and decided that I hadn't broken anything or damaged myself too seriously.
I had frozen dog gobbers on my glasses, my upper leg hurt like hell and my elbow was protesting.

Dixie had given me a once over and decided I was over my fit. She went back to hunting interesting smells while keeping an eye on me.
I hobbled along the creek and to the old oak.

I decided to come back to this spot without Dixie next time and set up along exposure if we still had snow.

Then I turned and headed back towards the trail home. Suddenly going home seemed like a dandy idea.

No way to get lost on the trail home. Dixie retraced our footsteps and guided me as if it were now her duty.

I walked past the 'elevator' and decided to follow the creek upstream to another spot that I could climb out.

Dixie went ahead on our frozen creek through the fresh snow. I'm sure she was checking on the safety of the area, assuring herself that there were no obstacles for me to trip on again.

Monday, January 15, 2018


I knew the creek would change quite a bit with the new snow fall.
So I went out for a short excursion yesterday to photograph the incredible frost...before it disappeared.

Frost on the moss on a the creek...

Frost that built up on the moss growing on a sandstone wall...

Frosty grasses...

Frost on a pebble in the ice...

Frost on a leaf in the creek...

A shot of the place where all these photos were taken...

So much to see, large and small.

Selfie in tiny bubbles!

This also is the place where I like to sit and watch the trout flit back and forth...

And now the snow has fallen and the landscape changes again...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Out and About ~ Me Time

This past week has been a good one filled with ups and downs. A few warm days were wonderful. Morris was able to get out and walk with me for some nice romps. Dixie watched over her elder dog friend.

Then the weather went crazy. It was 45 degrees in the morning and pouring rain when the temperatures dropped to 15 degrees by noon and we had sleet and snow. By nightfall, the temperatures had gone to 5 degrees and the winds kicked up.

I was concerned that Mica one of our mules who seems to be effected by rapid weather changes would show signs of an upset stomach. She didn't. Other than frosty backs no animal showed adverse effects. Phew...

I knew that the rapid cool down would create some interesting views along the creek. So after the chores were done, I packed a bag and headed out. I wanted to get to the 'East' Dry Run to see if the spring had created an ice flow.
However to get there quickly I had to walk across the top of the ridge and across cropland which placed me in the cold north breezes.
The temperature was -7 with a wind chill of ... well, cold.

I am so grateful to have purchased these over the glasses goggles a few years ago, combined with a face mask, hat, hood, and scarf my face rarely gets cold even in subzero temps.
I also wore insulated coveralls over layered clothes underneath.
I know, most people would cringe at these temperatures and stay inside. Most sane people, that is. But dressed properly a person can enjoy the bitter cold.

I climbed down through the woods and was surprised and pleased to see that the spring at the top of the dry run had been busy!
As I was climbing down I heard some rather loud cracks and at first couldn't figure out what it was.
I've heard it on lakes but never on an ice flow like the one I was standing on.
The ice was popping in the cold!

In contrast, December 10th:

The spring has added at least two feet of ice in waves...

The sun was shining brilliantly onto the ice so getting a good shot of the ice flow would have to wait for an overcast day.
I sat on the ice to take some shots of the little spring.
The water comes up out of the ground and is much warmer than the air around it. I knew that this spring would be 'running' as well as the spring at the bottom of the dry run.

I packed up and hiked to the next spot. The Big Spring.

Here it comes out of a rock and clay are and flows towards the creek. This is the spot in the spring where the very first flowers appear, the marsh marigolds.
No flowers today. Just bone chilling cold. When I squatted down to take some shots of the incredible frost on the mossy rocks, I could feel the cold air caressing my face and it seemed to come right through my coveralls.

The excess moisture from the past week and then the plunging temperatures had an interesting effect on sticks, logs, and moss, a hoar frost effect.  I was really quite excited to see all the delicate frost clinging everywhere.

I should have worn my boots that would have allowed me to stand in the water and take some shots. However I didn't. So I walked down to where this spring water joined up with the creek.

To compare with December 10th....

I only took two shots before my fingers started to get cold. I opened some hand warmers and put my hunting mitten/gloves back on. It was time to head up the valley towards home.

All along the creek where grasses dangled, the frost had collected. I felt like I was walking in some sort of wonderland.

I know that each time I visit the creek, now dubbed *Awesome Creek* by the neighbor changes slightly. 

The old Mule Crossing. It changes constantly. This is the spot where we used to ride to cross the creek on the west end of the valley.

And then yesterday?

Different but similar. With the subzero temps, the ice is starting to form on the edges of the creek and extend out into the faster moving water.

December 21st 2017

January 7th:

January 11th:
 And then yesterday:

I love this place.

This morning after chores I raced out with my camera and no dogs to try and *shoot* some more hoar frost before the snow and wind change the creek again.

I was not displeased.
I told my husband that I'd only be gone for about a half hour.

I was gone longer than that.

The camera is still in its bag warming up slowly.

When I get the winter doldrums I just go out the door and make my way to the creek.
That's what I call Me Time.