Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Ice Cave Trail

So my finger puppet mascot ... Stinky [and I] arrived finally at the Ice Cave Trail. I did this trail last year with my neighbors. The condition of the trail at that time was something I'd call very difficult. It was snow and ice covered and very slippery.

I figured it would not be easy for me. However, I was pretty surprised. The trail was not compacted with snow and ice. In spots it was slippery but it was very easy to negotiate around each bluff.

The ice caves were there. I'm sure they had been spectacular during our subzero weather. This is the result of two major melting events.
Since I have access to an incredible ice cave near home, I merely glanced at these as I passed them.

I was able to walk out near one portion of the trail and glance down on the river.

Sometimes funny things occur on the trail. I was coming up past a curve around a dry run I thought I saw something quite odd.

 Hand made pants hanging in the tree. Amish trousers.

I went on and soon I came around another bend in the forest and saw something green hanging in the tree. A doggy coat.

I looked at it and all I could think of was to keep my eyes open for a pant-less bearded man and a Nekked Dog.

I stopped at a point where I could see out over the valley and down towards the river.
I thought it would be fun to set up my pocket camera on a stump and put it on time lapse.

After doing that I reached in my pocket to take out my finger puppet mascot.
Stinky...was missing.
In a panic I tore apart my backpack, turned out my pockets and then did it again.
Sure I could buy another one, but somehow that would not be right. I had intended on this particular mascot to carry me through this Challenge.
I simply needed Stinky.

And then I did something I thought I'd never do. I shouldered my stuff and hiked/jogged back the way I'd come. Past the doggy coat, the pants, the ice caves, the overlooks, and nearly all the way back to marker #5. The further I went the more I berated myself for back tracking.

Imagine my relief when I saw....


I scooped him up and held him tightly.
Two stinkers on the trail.

And since there was only one way back out towards the car, I resumed my hike racing back to the place I'd discovered I'd lost him.
At this point I thought I'd just merely be happy to finish the trail and get home.


Sometimes you just have to goof around a bit.

I knew I was getting towards the end of the trail so I started amusing myself by interpreting the signs on the trees.

Watch for Bucking Horse.

Horse sees bicycle and bucks.

Bucking horse kicks bicycle and breaks it.

Watch for fallen bicycles.

I crossed Bridge 15 again and decided to take the "Hikers Only" trail along the river.

Remember I said in the previous post that I'd taken a shot down towards Camp "I"?
Here is a shot from Camp "I" towards the bluff I had been on.
Pretty cool isn't it?
And a view of the river.

Just a bit to go and ...

We made it.

The hike was fun and incredible. I made fairly good time except for those times I back tracked. I even feel good two days later.
Maybe I am in a little better shape than I thought I was?
This one supposedly was 6.4 miles. The MapMyHike app lost me a few times in the deep woods and the valley, but that is okay.

I've already plotted out the next 3 hikes.

On a few of my hikes I will need someone to drive there with me and let me park my car at the end of the trail I plan to do.
I'm still working on that.

I'm also cleaning up a large dog crate to put in the back of the Subaru. I think Dixie would enjoy this as well as I do.

Monday, January 29, 2018

KVR ~ Trail Challenge ~ Little Canada ~ Part One

I hiked Little Canada, The Ice Cave Trail, and the trail to campsite "I" just below Little Canada and along the Bridge 14 Trail.
I'm going to have to divide things up.

Little Canada:

I picked Sunday because the temperatures would be in the higher 20's and the winds would be light.
I didn't want to walk on the warm days. The trails would be mushy and slippery.

A light snow had come down overnight and had coated the world with a fresh blanket of white. That is, a fresh blanket of snow over the icy surfaces below the snow!

I pulled up into the small parking area on County P and put on my Yak Tracks.
Under the car, it was glazed ice, slippery even with the Tracks on.
I headed south on Old 131 trail towards the trail head for Little Canada and the Ice Cave Trail. I'd suspected that there was a Hiking Only trail that wasn't marked on my map. I'd seen it indicated on the route for the Dam Triathlon, as part of the 3 mile running course. I thought I'd keep my eyes open for it.

I suspected that it was part of the trail that ran near the bluffs above the river that we used to ride years ago. It was deemed too dangerous for foot traffic and equestrian traffic.

It soon became evident that I was the only hiker in the area. I'd seen cars parked near Mule Trail and Camp J on 131. But mine were the only tracks.
And they were the only tracks made on these trails.

The old road bed was a bit slippery so I chose to walk alongside the road in tufts of grass. This was to be the strategy for the entire hike.
I got to Bridge 15 and wanted so badly to walk along the river as I'd done last year to see what had changed.
I reminded myself that I was doing a hike.
I had a route to take.
For this trip, I had my pocket camera and my Olympus stuffed in the back pack. I used the pocket camera mostly. I was here to hike and not spend hours taking photos.

The view from Bridge 15 always makes me stop and admire it. See the ice 'shoves' on the banks? That was from our 50 degree day.

Past Bridge 15, I found the Trail Head for Little Canada.

The Hikers Only trail was clearly marked and I knew that it should join up with the Little Canada Trail at marker #6.

The trail was rather easy and it went alongside the river through a huge stand of pines.
It was eerily quiet and sometimes a bit dark and foreboding on the trail.

I was able to find the old equine trail we used to ride about 20 years ago.

I could see the faint path of the trail still and I wondered how in the heck I was ever brave enough to ride that.
The old timers scoffed at the closing of this trail. Looking back, I applaud it.

I moved along the "Hikers Only" trail and saw a few places where I could see through to the multi use trail.
I stopped at Marker 6 and had a snack. I'd hiked for an hour and had done some back tracking and exploring. I didn't get close to the bluff. The footing was too iffy, but I used the long lens to grab a shot looking down on Camp "I" for reference later.

I don't know how people rate trails. I've read in Wisconsin Explorer the only trail they cover it the Billings Creek trail and they say it is a 4.5. I am not exactly sure what that means.

I do know that this trail can be challenging if you are not used to this sort of terrain. In areas it is wide and easy. Then it gets steep and narrow, sort of a single track horse trail. It winds back and forth and goes down to the river before climbing again to the bluffs and winding around the areas where the dry runs form ice caves in the winter.

I found marker #3 and had a moment of confusion. The trail didn't seem correct after such a narrow track. I consulted the map and then figured out that this section was also used as a snowmobile trail.

However I did get back down to the river and took a shot towards Camp "G".

Things got a bit more interesting when I got to marker #5.
To be ...

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Take a walk on the wild side.....

It was nearly 4 pm when I got back from the MIL's apartment. I'd been cleaning her place most of the afternoon. I helped her pack up her Christmas Decorations and had taken her trees and about 5 plastic tubs of florals down to her storage room.

I kept looking out her balcony window. The temperatures outside had risen to almost 50 degrees. Unheard of in January. I knew the waters would be running off the ridges.

When I got home, I told Rich that I was running off to the creek. The Big Melt was occurring. I had to be there.

And off I went with knee high water proof boots.
Even though the temperature had reached 50 degrees, those areas that had been rained on .. and were on hillsides or deep in the valley had now become pure ice with water on them. I hurried down from the house towards Awesome Creek. I could hear the water pounding the rocks below. It was the January Run Off.
After so many years of observing the creek and the weather, I knew that I'd find brown water and foam in the creek.
Though the creek wouldn't be rising this year as it had in the past. Our snow and moisture level had been low this winter.

Trying to find good spots to take photos got to be tricky. Our cold spells had frozen the creek in some spots. The water was running over ice in those places.
This is a spot where it ran over the ice and back into waters. It looked like a huge foam brill cream type of thing??

I negotiated my way downstream and just had to be amazed.
In some places it wasn't deep, in others, it was too deep to cross.

This area was unique as the water ran over the ice. I had to cross it more than once and I wished I'd stopped to put my Yak Tracks on. Ice Cleats.

In other spots I had to negotiate water and depth. But since I know this creek fairly well, I grabbed a long stick and checked water depth before attempting a crossing.

It took some time, but I was able to find a spot that I could shoot from. I didn't use any filters as evening was coming on and I used the diminishing light as a filter.
For those interested, I used a tripod. ISO of 100, and a 2 second exposure. It caught the water coming downstream as well as the waters coming down the dry run [right hand side of the photo]. The top left is an active part of the creek. Normally the water runs through those rocks and creates a very small waterfall. However it was frozen so the water bypassed it.

As the light was fading from the day, I kept working my way downstream.

This is the 'dry' run. It only gets wet when there are hard rains or run off's like this. It is a gully filled with mossy boulders and challenging climbs all the way to the top of the ridge. The ridge is about 200 ft above this. When the rains or melts get too much for the land to absorb, the water flows into this 'run' and empties into the creek.

The creek flows down through the valley with more dry runs that increase the flow until the creek hits Black Bottom and heads towards the Kickapoo River.

I only had enough daylight left to go to our fence line and take a few last shots before packing up and heading home to make supper.
I really wished...that I'd had more time.
I had the knee high boots and...well.
It was so intriguing.

And there it was.
Taking a walk on the wild side.
Crossing icy boulders and a stream.
Listening to the thunder.

My heart pounding.
Wishing I could sit here and just take all that wildness in.

If this works, here is the video.

I love the Wild Side.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Can I pass the Flame? ~by Morris

I don't like exuberance any more. I used to have all of that and more. I used to jump and play and chase like a wild man.
Now I prefer the couch.

On nice days She let's me out with Dixie to hike or play in the yard.
What a nincompoop that young dog is!

Dixie races towards me and leaps over me. "Hey, you wacko, stop that!" I growl.
She shakes her jowls and slobber gobber flies.

"What? What? Hey, wanna play?"
"No, I just want to walk around with some dignity." I snap back. "And don't smell my butt!"
However when she gets close enough I do try and sniff hers.

"How come you don't want to walk anymore? Huh?" Dixie trots around me with those long legs of hers, I duck her tail.

"I can't. I don't want to." Tail wagging, who gave these dogs such long dangerous tails?
Things sort of get a bit serious. I need to train Dixie to watch over Her. I mean, now that I can't do those long hikes, She needs to have company.

"You know you have a new important job now that I can't go," I tell her, "She needs watching over. She needs to be taken care of. She needs A LOT of help in the woods you know."

I explain carefully to Dixie what her new duties will be.
Make sure she can find home.
Make sure not to leave her alone too long.
Help her find the right trails.
Dixie listens. I think.
We walk along and I hope Dixie is getting this. It is important I tell her.

She can lose track of time when she is out walking and hiking.

Dixie looks at me. "How come you won't go anymore?"

I sigh, "I am old Dixie. Very old. I can't hike. My teeth are bad, my ears don't hear well, I can't see hardly any more, and I am so tired all of the time."

"Oh." Dixie sits down. She thinks for a bit and then says, "Do I get your house when you leave? Can I have the couch?

"No Dixie, the year you spent in the house? It kind of was a disaster. I mean you never could get it through your head that you didn't just pee at the kitchen door whenever. You need to ask to go out. And believe me, I recall that She said you damn near flooded the place...a LOT!"

Dixie thought about this. "So I can't pee just whenever?"

I take a big breath. She is a big dog, but Dixie is a smart do too. After all she has learned all the sit, stay, heel, and come commands and excels at doing them. I refuse to do that stuff. Humans are to worship me, not the other way around.

"No you can't just pee whenever or where ever. Especially since the house is remodeled. Besides you have a nice house and you can go potty whenever! You don't have to wake up Her to go potty. That is a big bonus." I'm trying to convince her that a yard dog has its advantages.

"If you live inside, they pet you all of the time. Nag, nag, nag. They expect you to play with toys and entertain them with silly things. Then when they don't want to play any more you just are supposed to be quiet." I shake my head. "It is very complicated, Dixie. So many rules."

Dixie smells where I just marked a tree. "Oh that is interesting Morris, but I wouldn't mine the extra petting at all or being silly. Nope, not at all."

I roll my eyes. As Dixie starts to walk away I holler. "BATHS! She would give you lots of baths!"

"Oh, I wouldn't mind. She gave me baths when I was a pup."

I try again. "Um, I doubt you'd get the couch to lay on anyway. You are absolutely Humongous!"

Dixie ignores me and trots towards Her.

"Dixie. When you are out hiking with Her you have to be more patient. MORE patient. She says you come up and whine in her face a lot. You have to just watch her, okay?"

"I do watch her. I also lean into her and try to gobber smack her with slobber. That way she knows I am not running off after scents." Dixie stops what she is sniffing for a moment. "Morris, I can't be you. I am a different kind of dog."

I shake my head. Dixie is different, she is loyal to a fault, she will love with all of her heart. She will do anything she can to please. She will never growl at Her for disturbing her sleep. I take comfort in that because when my time comes SHE will need exactly that. A big dog she can hug and not one that dislikes that. She will need undying love and unbounded energy. She will need the laughs Dixie's flopping ears and jowls make when she runs.
She will need to Dixie to be a distraction from her broken heart. Ick, even if that big stinky dog needs a bath, She won't care.

Whew. All that done, Dixie and I go to the summer garden and hunt mice together. I don't see very well, but she finds a mouse and I grab it. I am happy for us things may just work out eventually.
I may be able to pass on the flame to Dixie.
She would be a good candidate for Her next full time hiking pal.

I get tired and go in the house to sleep on the coveted couch. I could see Dixie sprawled across the couch here...or perhaps at Her feet.
Yes, that could work.

Monday, January 22, 2018


I heard Morris's feet on the floor of the bedroom as he transitioned from the carpet to the hardwood floor.
Tick...tick...tick. Slight jangle of his dog tags.
That is how I wake up most mornings. Almost 5 AM sharp.

He stands quietly as he hears me get up. I'm pretty sure he can't see me in the shadows until I bump into him. But then he moves into action and heads towards the porch door.
And our morning routine begins.
He goes out and takes care of business with his little collar light on.
I prepare his breakfast with the canned dog food and kibbles softened a bit with water.
He comes in, scouts around, eats, and then goes back to bed on 'his' couch.

I have my coffee and pull up the weather on the internet.

Saturday before dawn, I grabbed a camera and went out the door. The weather was mild in the 20's. Not the bone chilling cold of the past couple of weeks.

When I got to the ridge the colors were barely appearing in the sky. The deep blues and purples of night were slowly beginning to fade.
I love predawn.
I decided to hike across last year's soybean field and peer down into the neighbor's land towards Riley Road.

The ridge-top glowed with leftover snow from this past week's snow. It is much lovelier with a lot of snow, but here I saw the rows of stubby soybeans poking up in rows. It made for an interesting pattern.

The sun would arrive around 7:30, I intended to be back home by then so I turned around and walked along the fence row of trees towards the gravel driveway that borders this field. It would be faster than back tracking over the soybean field.

I stopped and turned to look towards the south. Fog was beginning to form in the low lying areas.
And the sight was stunning.

The eastern sky was beautiful, but the southern sky was incredible with hues of pinks, blues, and purples contrasted by the reddish brown weeds. Sometimes the best views are not the predawn skies.

It is hard to describe the feeling I get when I stand solo in a field or on a roadside and watch the day begin to break.
Peace. Awe. Wonder.

"The Dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep." Rumi

Maybe that is why I enjoy it so much.

Sunday morning there was no sun. The fog kept dropping down and then lifting. I stood on the porch when I let Morris out and wondered if there was enough moisture to cause hoar frost on the ridge.

I made the coffee, had a few sips and headed out.

It was very thick and sort of spooky. As I went up the driveway towards the ridge it changed in color and thickness.
The fog undulated and changed.
As if it were alive.

I collected the mail at the box and looked around for any frost. Apparently it was too warm for it to develop, the temperature on the ridge was much warmer.

And the road simply disappeared.

It was eerie and pleasing at the same time. When I peered into the woods I seemed to be greeted by merely a bluish wall of fog.

It kept changing as I walked back home.

This morning I stood on the porch with Morris as we listened to the rain crash down on the roof. Eventually he ventured out and did his business.
I wondered how all of this rain was going to react with the cold gravel roads.
Instant Ice.

The run off will rush down the hillsides and down through the creeks. Instant flash floods.

And when Morris came back and shook off, I leaned down to pet his wet back and thought how nice it was not to be commuting 30 miles this morning.

I went back inside and enjoyed a nice quiet cup of coffee and listened to the rain.