Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oct 26, 2014 - Silver Creek

In the morning we had a nice fireside breakfast of eggs with potatoes and left over brats.  Sybille left me off near shelter 1 so I continue south on the Milwaukee River segment while she drove to the end of the West Bend segment and road her bike to meet me at the north end of the Southern Kewaskum segment.

The trail traveled through the middle of corn fields, farms and on the ridgeline in a treed band between farmland, crossed marsh areas on wonderful boardwalks, and then dropped down to cross under route 45 through a tunnel.

At Sunburst Ski Hill I lost the way.  The last marker I could find pointed up the ski slopes and I could find nothing going off to the far west as I had expected.  Finally I made the assumption that I had to climb the ski run but never found a marker.  At the top I searched until I found a white blazed trail which I took back to the west and finally crossed the Ice Age Trail not far from where the whole search started.  Back on trail it turned into a nice section, followed by a short road walk to where Sybille met me on her bike.

From here the Kewaskum and West Bend segments travel through the Glacial Blue Hills Rec area, Albecker Natural area, and Ridge Run County park.  The trail follows along the Silver Creek with boardwalks and a major bridge crossing of the Silver Creek and around Lucas Lake and past an artesian water well.  The trail segments ends in a wonderful well used wooded pathway after Lucas Lake.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 - Mushroom hunting in the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest

Sybille and I head headed down to the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest this weekend to hike another 30 miles of the Ice Age Trail.   Couldn't secure a reservation for the Ice Age Trail shelters so we joined the Fox Cities Backpacker Meetup Group Friday night to camp at shelter 5.   Nice dinner of German bratwurst by the campfire.  

On Saturday morning we secured a campsite at Mauthe Lake where we stashed a bike and then drove to near Shelter 1 where we hiked north on the Milwaukee River segment of the trail through Washington and Fond du Lac county.  The trail follows along a mix of kettles, eskers, drumlins and glacier-formed kames.  A wonderland of glacier topology.  Lots of mushroom finds including some boletus, honey and hen of the woods.  We collected some boletus mushrooms to add to our dinner menu. 

At Mauthe Lake Sybille rode the bike back to the car as I continued on into the Parnell segment to Shelter 3 where we left off on our last backpack in the Kettle Moraine. 

We spent the night car camping on this great campsite on the top of a hill overlooking the campground and Mauthe Lake.  You could see all the lights from the Halloween decorations around the campground as we enjoyed a campfire and stir fry dinner with our mushroom find. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

16Oct2014 - Alta Junction and Underdown Segments on the way to Tug Lake

The next section is the Alta Junction segment named after the junction of two rail lines at the village of Dunfield (now a ghost town).  Following an old 1908 logging rail grade I found remains from the rail line.  

The final wooded section for the day was through the Underdown segment which is part of a popular recreation area with hiking, mountain bike, equestrian and cross-country ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile trails.  Had to really pay attention to the blazes and missed two or three turns that required backtracking.  The Underdown area is part of the Harrison Moraine with lots of glacial debris in the form of hummocks separating deep kettles.  Lots of up and downs on this roller-coaster route that really slowed your progress.  This section really gave you a feel for the way the glaciers edge changed the land.  An interesting foundation was found at the intersection with a trail sign that I assume means "Moonshine" horse trail, then into the Enchanted Forest and past Dog and Mist lakes.

The last part of the day was a 10 mile road walk.  It started out very nice hiking down the dirt Horn Lake Road past many lakes and ponds.  Then a road walk to Tug Lake Recreation Area.  Along the way I met a farmer on a tractor that stopped to talk with me.  Said he sees lots of thru-hikers but that I was very late in the year if I wanted to finish.  I told him I was only section hiking and would likely not finish this year but it was fun to talk with him.  Guess there are more thru-hikers of the IAT then I was aware of.

Tug Lake is a nice spot and the sun was shining.  This was my meeting point to have Sybille pick me up but I was a little early.  Hoping to get the rest of the road walk out of the way I was able to get a ride to the start of the Grandfather Falls Segment and hiked the road back to Tug Lake.  Arrived just in time to meet Sybille and complete my 100mile four day section hike.  The Grandfather Falls Segment looks interesting! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

15Oct2014 - Prairie River Crossing and Lookout Mountain Fire Tower

Lots of ups and downs today as I passed through the rest of the Highland Lakes segment and into the Parrish Hills Segment.  The trail traverses the Parrish End Moraine winding through hilly terrain and in and out of wetlands taking advantage of beaver dams and narrow ridges between wetlands.  Lots of wet crossings and flooded sections so I had wet feet all day.

Lots of wildlife including sightings of deer, grouse, turkey, squirrels and lots of signs of porcupines and beavers.   Lunch and a chance to dry my feet at a small wooden Adirondack-style shelter in a grassy field.

After lunch I came to the Prairie River crossing.  The bank was flooding over onto the trail as I came to the rivers edge.  Entering the water it quickly rose above my knees than almost to my hip belt.  Fortuitously the bottom was flat and it didn't get deeper as I crossed but I was worried until I made the other side.

 Next up the Harrison Hills Segment which really shows the topology of the Harrison Moraine.  Deep kettles and high relief hummocks of glacial till and sediments from mudflows and slides as the glacier came to a stop, and lots of lakes.  There were two nice fishing campsites around Chain Lake.  

Lookout Mountain, the highest point on the Ice Age Trail at 1,920 feet, was the highlight of this section.
On the climb up to the fire tower I met my first thru/section hiker.  The views from the fire tower were excellent.  No sign of the thriving wolf pack that lives in this area.

From here I passed many beautiful undeveloped lakes that are all uniquely shaped by the irregular ice chunks that broke from the glacier that formed them.  Lots of signs of beaver.  I found a nice campsite for the night beside a lake. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

14Oct2014 - Peters Marsh, Old Railroads, and Highland Lakes

No mice in the root cellar and after a warm breakfast I was on the trail early.  Light misting on and off rain but warm enough and enjoyable except for the flooding on the ATV portions of the trails.  Wet feet today and the slippery mud hidden under the leaves was an obstacle course.

The trail passes through the Peters Marsh State Wildlife Area then into the "Old Railroad" Segment that follows the grade from the early 1900's timber harvesting. 

During the day you could see a history of the Ice Age Trail signs with many variations that must have finally evolved into the current mammoth icon. 

Continuing past several lakes I came to Game Lake which included a floating bog, boardwalks, and the Game Lake Nature Trail.  There were two primitive campsites on my map which where as far from primitive as I have ever seen.  Multiple picnic tables, a sheltered leanto covering firewood, canoe and paddles, fire rings, and lake access.  Best free campsites I have ever seen in the back country.  I even heard loons calling at the second campsite called "Loon Cry Outpost".

The end of this section included passing the "Clearwater Stone Hole" and followed along Jack Lake Cross Country Ski trails.  Next up is the Highland Lakes Segment named after the numerous lakes forming the headwaters of the Eau Claire and Prairie Rivers.  The trail passes the 4-H camp on Lake Susan which was a former CCC facility.  The trail follows around Susan Lake and up onto the rolling ridge on an esker dividing the ares's lakes and wetlands on the 4-H camp nature trail with educational signs.

Between the Eastern and Western sections of the Highland Lakes segment is a short road walk that passes through the  Bogus Swamp Natural Area, a wetland located in the bed of an extinct glacial lake, and past a cool looking antique carrage wagon.

The western section follows old 1930's fire lanes which I followed into the dark through the Parrish Terminal Moraine, the outer side of the gravel, stone, and sand ridges deposited by the last glaciers.  At a
crossing of the west branch of the Eau Claire River I found the remains of a bridge but no dry crossing.  I made a wet crossing in the dark to be sure I was safely out of the private lands to camp on the gravely ground in a spot north of the crossing.