It’s been a long winter and folks are starting the think (wishing for) spring. This Round Lobed Hepatica was featured on the US Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers website. It will also be featured in an upcoming issue of the Wildflower Association of Michigan Newsletter.
One of the subjects I enjoy photographing are leaves in the water particularly when there is water tension involved. On a fall trip to the Ice Age Trail I found a small stream with fall leaves floating down the stream. I spend a little time processing them in Photoshop to give them a little different look.
My wife and I spend a few hours this fall hiking along the Hemlock Creek Segment of the Ice Age Trail. We were returning from a multiday fall leaf tour and just happened to drive by the area and decided to stop and take a break from the long car trip. The trail runs along Hemlock Creek for 1.5 miles before crossing a bridge and returning to the parking lot. The hike offers a variety of scenery and is a great hike to take with young kids.
It’s been cold around here. On Tuesday it was -15 degrees but today it was a relatively balmy 10 ten degrees. Earlier in the week my wife and I were trying to decide which day to take off and go for a hike. Since the warmest day of the week was going to be Wednesday we decided to try and fit in a hike.
Most of the hiking areas around home are ski trails in the winter and are closed to hiking so we decided to drive up the Chippewa Moraine Segment of the Ice Age Trail. Its located just north of Bloomer, Wisconsin. It had snowed a little overnight and the roads were a little slick on the drive up.
As we drove up to the visitors center we noticed quite a few cars in the parking lot. This was a little surprising since it was so cold out. Along the road a bunch of kids were playing in the snow. When we went into the visitors center it was packed with kids all working of a project to see who could find the most things listed on a list they had been given. We talked to the ranger a bit and he said that students usually come if the temperatures are above zero. We are a hardy bunch in Wisconsin.
It was supposed to be cloudy in the morning but when we reached the visitors center it was a beautiful crisp sunny day. There was not a lot of snow on the trails and we figured they might be icy so we both wore ice grippers on our feet. Turns out that the week before all of the trails were glare ice but a light snow and some thawing provided good traction. However, if you are considering hiking in this area ice grippers are a good investment.
It was supposed to be sunny in the afternoon but by the time we were half way around the 4.5 mile loop it had clouded up and started to snow. The wind picked up making the wind-chill around -2 degrees. Nevertheless it was a great day to be out hiking and getting some exercise.
The past couple of weeks my wife and I took the opportunity to hike several sections of the Ice Age Trail. The weekend weather has been great with nice temperatures and lots of sun. It provided the last chance to get into the woods before deer hunting season starts. Both segments of the trail are open to deer hunting.
The first weekend we hiked the 4.5 mile loop on the Chippewa Moraine Segment north of Bloomer, Wisconsin. It is always a great place to visit because they have an outstanding visitors center. The same ranger is normally on duty on the weekends and he is very helpful and friendly. The visitors center has lots of activities for kids and lots of things to see. This time the highlight was a soft back turtle that had turned its back up into a strange configuration with the edges of the shell pointed toward the sun lamp in the tank. Neither the ranger or I had ever seen anything like it.
The following weekend we were headed to Duluth so we took the opportunity to stop and hike on the Hemlock Creek Segment east of Rice Lake. This is a three mile loop that starts at Murphy Flowage and follows hemlock creek before crossing the creek on a footbridge and returning to the parking lot. The highlight of this segment was a large beaver dam across Hemlock Creek. It had not been there earlier in the summer so this was a large summer construction project. We could see where the beavers had been cutting trees and brush in the area. They also had a large reserve of branches stored in the pond in back of the dam. It looked like they planned to use them to repair the dam. The beaver lodge itself was next to the shore and was quite large.
We were in the Madison, Wisconsin Area over the weekend visiting out son who has transferred from Michigan Tech to U.W. Madison. We also took the opportunity to visit a number of local photography locations including Gibraltar Rock. Gibraltar Rock is located near Lodi, Wisconsin. It rises 200 feet above the surrounding landscape and offers panoramic views of the Wisconsin River Valley and Lake Wisconsin. It is one of the Wisconsin State Natural Areas.
I’ve visited on a number of occasions but have never seem to be there during the best time for photography which would probably be mid to late morning in order to capture the best light. Photography from the bluff usually involves a high dynamic range so I’ve done a few HDR shots to try and capture the full range. The trees are very interesting as is the valley below the Rock. On this trip the trees were not in peak fall color, the sky was not very interesting and there appeared to be a haze over the valley. The last three photos are from an earlier visit to the Rock when the conditions were better.
Additional photos of Gibraltar Rock can be found on my website.
Late last week I made the trip up the Ice Age Trail east of Rice Lake to hike the Hemlock Creek Loop. The weather was overcast and I was hoping to get a chance to photograph a few wildflowers. Much to my amazement I found over twenty different wildflowers in bloom. Large Flowered Trillium were the most common but there were lots of wild strawberries, a variety of anemone, violets and many more. If you have never hiked this segment of the ice age trail now is a great time to do it.
On the down side there were a few mosquitoes out.
Common Blue Violet
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.
I spent yesterday hiking on the circle trail north of Bloomer, Wisconsin. I started at the visitor’s center and hiked the trail counterclockwise. It started off as a cold cloudy overcast day but changed to partly cloudy and warm by the end of the day.
The water levels in the small ponds along the trail were the lowest I’ve seen since I started hiking in the area. Northern Wisconsin is in the midst of a 7 year drought which doesn’t seem to be ending.
My intent was to photograph birds and flowers but as it turned out I saw few birds because of the dense foliage. I hopped to photograph the Blue Herons at their rookery but the overcast and lack of activity didn’t present anyopportunities. The rookery is just north of the parking lot on county M. The prime location for photographing them is at the edge of a small pond but it has become more difficult to photograph them because many of the trees along the edge of the pond have died and blown down in recent years so they are nesting further away.
On the other hand there were lots of flowers out along the trail. Large-flowered Trillium Downy Yellow Violets, Ferns, Early Meadow Rue, Large-flowered Bellwort, Pussytoes, Wild Oats and Star Flowers were common. Between the strong wind and the changing light conditions it was difficult to get many good photographs.
There were also large numbers of dragonflies along the trail.
My wife had a meeting in Rice Lake so I rode along and then went out to Murphy Flowage and hiked the Hemlock Creek Loop on the Ice Age Trail. The loop is only three miles long but it makes a nice short walk. There were a few Geese and ducks in the creek and one Osprey searching for food but not that may birds around.
There were a variety of wildflowers blooming but it looks like next week might be better for flowers. Some flowers were out but more coming. The flowers should really start blooming if we receive rain this weekend.
The Nice thing about the loop is there are benches along the way so allow you to sit and watch the wildlife. I sat for quite a while watching some painted turtles.
There were also a variety of butterflies along the trail.
More Photos on my website.