Monday, December 2, 2013

Unarmed hiking

Sorry readers, I'm waaaay behind on posts due to ten days of deer hunting among other things.  Here is one on hiking up on the Bayfield Peninsula.  Annual deer hunting post to follow shortly......
To the best of my recollection, this is the first hiking post that I've ever written.  It's not that I never hike but the whole concept of a hike is something I just don't spend that much time thinking about.  It's more like a walk in the woods, usually with some other purpose in mind rather than just a hike.  I hiked several miles yesterday, but with a shotgun in my hand as we hunted pheasants and chukar in a lovely little snow flurry.  Last weekend though, two true 'hikes' were completed. 

Both sisters and spouses were in town and the one thing that we all knew how to do was walk.  Kayaking, skiing, or biking would not have fit the skill set and motivations of this diverse group at all.  So we hiked, Saturday along the mainland sea caves and Sunday in the new Houghton Falls area.  We were led by Monk the puppy in all cases.  He's the only male dog I've ever had that doesn't immediately head for the hills when let off the leash.  For a lab/boxer, he is water shy, although he eventually splashed across the creeks, perhaps from peer group pressure if nothing else.  It was a bit of a drab, misty, sometimes rainy weekend in the low 40's F, but that was almost perfect for hiking.

In all my years up in the Bayfield Peninsula I had never hiked out to the mainland caves, although the VOR had with some women friends.  It was a bit of a sloppy slog with all the wet red clay and one had to be careful not to go on one's ass as the wet clay is 'slipperier than snot on a doorknob' as the old saying goes.  It's about two miles out to the lake view and the giant crack that we've all paddled up into.  It's an interesting perspective from above looking down rather than on the water gazing upwards.  The whole area appears to have suffered a major windstorm with lots of downed popple and balsam as well as the occasional large cedar tree.  The wind must have been accompanied by heavy rain as a couple bridges were washed out and laying on the bank downstream.  We could have continued on to the one mainland campsite but the rain was beginning and the siren call of the Snug was a powerful lure back to Washburn.

Sunday we did the short hike along the Houghton Falls trail out to the overlook of Chequamagon Bay.  This gem just became a public nature area a couple years back though the combined efforts of the township, state, and environmental groups including the Bayfield Regional Conservancy.  Its a short hike on an excellent trail and both the geology and the trees are spectacular.  Hemlocks pretty much end here, the western end of their zone, and there are some monsters interspersed with equally majestic white  and red pine.  Your reward when hitting the big lake is worth the short stroll as well. 
While I enjoyed the hike in this cusp season between kayaking, hunting, and skiing, I must admit to looking at the nice inviting lake and thinking about a last Lake Superior paddle.  I will be 'hiking' starting tomorrow, deer rifle in hand for nine straight days up at the deer camp.  A couple ski areas have opened and the rumor is that ABR in Ironwood has been tracking trails a bit already.  Hello winter, I hope you provide some outdoor fun for us this season and don't wait until March like you did last year.   

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