Sunday, October 4, 2015

Day 35: Centuria to the Western Terminus!

Friday, Oct. 2, 2015

This morning I met the Gray Ghost at the small parking lot near the Pothole Trail, on which the western terminus marker lies. We dropped my car, and then he took me to Centuria and I was off.

Another great day for hiking. I overdid it with the running yesterday – the tendinitis flared back up – so no more jogging for me. Knocked off the mile from Centuria, then did the road walk to the St. Croix Falls segment. The path along the river was pleasant. There were some soggy parts, and you had to creatively jump across some streams, but nothing too difficult. I spotted some bones laid out on a picnic table in one spot. Interesting!

Mindy Creek was as pretty as always, and then I got to hike the new Zillmer section. Boy, the IATA did a great job on that! The Gray Ghost met me in the middle of this section to hike me in, something he likes to do (start off or walk in thru-hikers). We had great conversation along the way, and he showed me a unique blaze holder he created on a fence post (see photo). And then, we were there! Chet took some pix of me, congratulated me and then we looked at the potholes and the "old man in the rock," or whatever that formation along the bluff is called.

I dropped off a trail journal in the office; Chet and Dean will be creating some kind of holder for it that will be placed along the trail in the park. The intent is for section- and thru-hikers to sign in.

I had to pay a fine on my way out! Rats. I thought I had this year's park pass on my windshield, but apparently I had last year's. So I had to buy the 2015 sticker (not a big deal), but I was also charged $5 for not having a pass. Actually, I don't understand that. The park office wasn't open when I arrived in the morning, so even if I'd known I needed a pass and tried to buy one, I wouldn't have been able to do so. But I don't mind, since it's a good cause.

Oh, I did happen to look at my watch when I ended. My friend, Jason Dorgan, who has the thru-hike record (22 days and 6 hours, I believe), finished at 12:34 p.m. on May 6, 2007, giving him the distinction of finishing at 1234567. I didn't get such a fun finishing time, but I was happy to see I covered the trail in 34 days, 4 hours and 44 minutes. 34-4-44 has a nice ring!

Yes, I'll make my conference in Las Vegas that starts on Sunday. I'll post again once I have time to gather my thoughts about this trek.

Day 34: McKenzie Creek to Centuria

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015

Today was another beautiful sunny, cool day. I love the fall! Began the day hiking the last part of McKenzie Creek, which was just as lovely as the prior sections. From there I moved into Pine Lake and then Straight River; I think it was in the latter where I had one misstep when I picked my way across a swampy area only to find no blazes or trail. I backtracked over it and finally saw that a directional arrow had fallen off a tree and was lying arrow-side down in the mud. I set it right-side up at the base of the tree, then veered off to the right. That path pops you out into a big meadow with a deer stand; you cross the meadow, climb over a gate (I couldn't open it) and continue on.

I love the Straight Lake segment, accessed through a weighted gate. This is another enjoyable hike with lots of views of the water while being tucked in the shaded, pretty woods. 

Trade River surprised me. I do remember passing the "big basalt rock" indicated on the IATA map back in 2013, but I totally forgot all of the other cool rock formations inside this segment. The ski hill area of Trade River, which lies down a short connecting route, was well-trimmed and easily navigable.

I've been fighting tendinitis in my left leg ever since the day I had to hike in the rain in my hiking boots all day, when my older sister crewing me lost me until 8 p.m. Today it felt better, so I did a bunch of jogging when I hit the Gandy Dancer trail and made it all the way down to Centuria, where Dean was waiting to drive me back to my car. Can't believe tomorrow's the end!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 33: Grassy Lake to McKenzie Creek

Today's first segment was Timberland Hills, a ski area. There was some standing water here, but nothing too bad. I saw the famous mermaid carving, but I missed the skull nailed to the tree (maybe it's only visible hiking west-east). Saw a lot of deer here, and they were running away faster than any deer I've ever seen. Most stare at you a bit, then scamper away. These acted like I was shooting at them.

Sand Creek was sandy. There also seemed to be a lot of either logging or some kind of construction going on. A lot of signage indicated I was now in Polk County.

Indian Creek was just gorgeous. It was the perfect kind of trail, meandering through the woods, passing a burbling creek, nothing too strenuous.

I ended the day doing about half of McKenzie Creek, which was just as pretty as Indian Creek. I could see the creek much more clearly than during my 2013 hike, when I passed it at the end of August and there was a lot more foliage around. There are some steep hills in this one. I think I was climbing an esker or two.

Tonight Dean Dversdall of the Indianhead chapter gave me a lift back to my car. Dean will shepherd me to the end, which is right around the corner!

Day 32: Hemlock Creek to Grassy Lake

Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015

Today was the first beautiful hiking day, meaning sunny and cool (highs in the 50s). I started the day with the cute-but-short Blueberry segment, which I'd missed in 2013 (there wasn't good signage going west-east back then). It's just a sliver of trees in between Highway 8 and a gravel road, but it's fun to walk.

Next up was the Tuscobia rail-trail. I thought it was much prettier than in 2013, when I thought it was pretty ordinary. Then I realized all of these scenic "lakes" on the sides of the trail were likely just standing water; this part of the state apparently got a ton of rain all summer, plus 7 inches last week. (Down in the Madison area, we had less rain than normal.)

Of course I had to stop in at the Haugen General Store and sign the guest register. Lots of hikers and cyclists stop through. I bought an ice cream sandwich, egg salad sandwich, some duct tape (to tape plastic bags to my shoes to keep out the water) and ibuprofen; the owner said a lot of us are looking for ibuprofen! I signed the register right below Rachel's name, the other thru-hiker I met a few days earlier.

The next segment was Bear Lake. I had a terrible experience in Bear Lake in 2013, when I was terribly lost and all of the blazes suddenly disappeared. Then, last summer, a woman got lost and spent the night in the woods before calling 911 in the morning. Bear Lake has been totally reblazed, and there's no way you can get lost now. Yay! It's very pretty, too, passing several lakes. About eight folks were out hiking there when I went by.

The last segment for the day was Grassy Lake. A local trail person warned me the first half had standing water. No problem; there was lots of that in the Blue Hills. Well, there was a lot of standing water. In one area, it was calf-high and akin to wading a creek. Then I came across either a new beaver dam or a broken one. It necessitated walking through waist-deep water to cross (luckily just a few steps). But wouldn't you know it -- it was late in the day and cool, so I was quite cold. Why couldn't this have happened on any of the gazillion hot days I've hiked this trek?! 

Luckily, I realized I had rain pants in my pack. So I stripped off my wet shorts and changed. Now, I'm in the wilderness and hadn't seen or heard anyone in hours. Just as I pulled my pants on, a truck drove by on a logging road! I dodged a bullet. I wouldn't want anyone to think that I was the nude hiker!

The day ended with Trail Angel Tim McGraith driving me back to my car. Thanks, Tim!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 31: Weyerhauser to Hemlock Creek

I'd heard the Blue Hills were a bit overgrown and soggy, yet beautiful. One man also said there was a phenomenal beaver dam crossing.

It had rained overnight, then again in the morning. So the trails were quite wet and flooded in many places. I've noticed in this northern tier that there seems to be much more beaver activity than in 2013. Many lakes and creeks have been dammed, and water levels are much, much higher than I recall from 2013.

Anyway, both the Southern and Northern Blue Hills were stunning, despite some overgrown areas that scratched me up a bit. It was a bit scary, yet thrilling, to walk over some of the beaver dams. I also saw (and heard) two beavers; I've never seen beavers in the wild before. I also saw a bald eagle and, best of all, a black bear sliding down a tree at the end of the day (I think I startled it).

I was able to hike on a new segment of the Northern Blue Hills, but when I went to hike Hemlock Creek I had problems. Apparently the 2014 map I have isn't quite accurate, plus there's an old Ice Age Trail sign on Highway F (and faded, but visible, blazes near that sign) that steered me in the wrong direction. I ended up hiking some access path to Hemlock Creek, then followed blazes back into the Northern Blue Hills! I didn't recognize the trail at all, or the fact I was hiking backwards, even though I'd just hiked it! I started getting suspicious when the time on my watch said I should be finished with Hemlock Creek, but the trail kept going on. And then I hit one of the major beaver dams again. Thank goodness I popped out on an access path to Stout Road, where my Trail Angels could easily meet me and take me back to my car.

Day 30: Harwood Lakes to Weyerhauser

Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015

Another gorgeous day on the trail. I had planned to finish my thru-hike today, but I'm several days behind schedule. So I have no one to crew me starting Monday. My hubby, Ed, drove my car up today so I'll have wheels the next few days, then rode back home with Doug. Then my son, Tim, crewed me for the day. 

Both Harwood Lakes and Chippewa Moraine are some of my favorite trails. They're typically not overgrown, aren't too steep and are just pretty. I really enjoyed hiking those.

The connecting route to Weyerhauser wasn't too bad to walk, as it passes many lakes and vacation properties, which are fun to gawk at. But Tim once pulled my car over on the shoulder of a country road to wait for me, and that particular part of the road had a steep drop-off that he didn't notice. Long story short, the car nearly tipped on its side. He flagged down a local to take him to a bar, where he tried unsuccessfully to contact AAA to tow the car out (AAA never answered his call). Some guys at the bar heard his story and drove out with their truck and pulled my car to safety. Gotta love Northern Wisconsin folks!

Day 29: Lake Eleven to Firth Lake

Sat., Sept. 26, 2015

Today dawned sunny and warm. I started on a +20-mile connecting route to Cornell. It wasn't too bad. At one point an Amish buggy passed, with the young driver singing a lovely song. Since it was hot again, and I haven't had ice cream in a while, Doug got me a cone in Cornell. It was good, but not as good at that place in Slinger! 

Doug explored the town, and said there were some nice coffee shops and artistic places, plus lots of cyclists. Wonder if there's a popular bike trail in the area? I enjoyed crossing the bridge and seeing the -- gosh, what was it? A historic lumber stacker or something like that? 

Hiked the Chippewa River segment while taking in views of Brunet Island State Park. I must visit that park sometime. It looks quite pretty.

The start of Firth Lake was a big difficult, as you go through a pasture where it's sort of hard to see the trail markers. Plus there was cow poop everywhere. And I mean everywhere. But the rest was nice.