A walk through Hoffman Hills Recreation Area gave me an opportunity to photograph some spring, blooms, buds and leaves. For most of the shots taken in the wetlands area I used my 500mm lens. This allowed me to get some close-ups while avoiding walking in the wetlands.
After photographing in the wetlands we hike up to the Tower at Hoffman Hills. I took a few shots of some backlit spring leaves, with my 300mm lens, on the way to the tower.
More spring photographs from Hoffman Hills can be found on my website.
Something really unusual happened on Saturday. The sun was shining. Since spring started I think we have seen the sun about three times. On most of the other days it has snowed. Since the sun was out my wife and I decided to take a walk on the Red Cedar State Trail.
The no walking signs have been removed so people can now walk on the trail but with all of the snow some diehard folks are still trying to ski. On Saturday the trail was 90 percent snow covered between Menomonie and Irvington. In the morning the snow was crusted and the bare spots were frozen. by late morning the snow had turned to slush and the bare spots were muddy. Most of the hike was along the side of the trail where the ground was solid.
We hadn’t gone three hundred yards and we saw a Sharp-skinned Hawk on a tree next to the trail. Of course, my camera was in the pack. He didn’t seem concerned about our presence so I started to get the camera out when I notice a large group of kids walking towards us. I figured they would scare the hawk away so we just watched the hawk until it finally flew away.
We started seeing large numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, Veerys, Brown Creepers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets along the trail. It was a great day for birding. We also saw a couple of Bald Eagles fishing along the Red Cedar River.
The first flower of the year was also starting to bloom. We found Skunk Cabbage poking through the snow several places along the trail.
Late in the morning we started to be plagued by what I think were snow flies. We could hardly open our mouths without getting a bug flying in. In some places the snow was almost black with them. The birds were having a field day. There were large groups of swallows flying above the river.
On Monday we hiked the trail from Irvington to the five mile marker. On Monday there was less snow but where there was snow it had turned to ice so waking was a little difficult. There were a lot fewer birds although we did see and hear a fair number of Sandhill Cranes and saw a few eagles. There were also quite a few of Buffleheads in the river.
We had another six inches of snow overnight.
With fall approaching I was reminded of some of the games we used to play on our fall hikes. It was usually difficult to keep the kids attention and interest in a long hike so we had a couple of games we played on the hike. One was the tripping game. We counted how many times a person tripped or stubbed their toe on the hike. The looser had to buy the ice cream at the end of the day. Of course there were always to arguments as to whether it was a trip or not. Just another way to keep everyone engaged.
Grand Portal Point Trail
My favorite was to try and catch as many falling leaves as possible as we walked along the trail. You could use your hands but mostly we all had caps that we used to try and catch the leaves. It’s harder than it seems. Again the looser had to buy the ice cream at the end of the hike. It was a great way to keep the kids occupied on the hike.
Needless to say the kids never had to pony up for the ice cream at the end of the day.
Last Friday we drove up to the Ice Age Trail for some hiking/snowshoeing. Our first stop is always the Interpretive Center to check on trail conditions and find out what is going on in the area. It is also a great place to visit if you have kids. They have live fish, snakes and turtles at the center as well as stuffed animals and birds. They also have a variety of activities for kids. In the winter they also have snowshoes available for use.
We happened to encounter Stanley at the visitors center. He is the unofficial hiking companion dog that will hike the trails with you at no charge. He resides in the area but spends a good part of his time walking the trails with hikers. His name is Stanley and he is kid friendly. He was on hand at the center on Friday but had just come back from a hike with someone else and didn’t seem inclined to go out again. This is a photo of Stanley taken last summer. Since I’m generally doing photography on my hikes Stanley usually becomes bored and heads off to do his own thing.
We generally take the 4.5 mile loop trail that starts from the visitors center. We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of trail conditions because the trail is heavily used snowshoe trail in the winter which means it could also be a little slippery after warm weather. We took along the snowshoes and traction devices for our boots just in case. As it turned out the trail was hard with some ice so we chose to use the traction devices. It was easy walking and we made good time. Also I didn’t stop to take any photos so that speeds things up. My recommendation for navigating the trail this time of year is to bring along snowshoes, traction devices and hiking poles so you are prepared for a variety of conditions.
It was one of the few bright sunny days we have had recently with temperatures in the mid 20’s. There was some strong winds blowing so it was cool on the ridges.
We followed up the hike with a stop at the Bloomer Cafe for some pie alamode.
There are more photos of this segment of the Ice Age Trail on my website.