This column originally appeared in the March 23, 2017, issue of the Portage County Gazette.
St. Patrick’s Day dawned with a thin layer of snow, the potential for icy roads, and the promise of fog, which threatened to put a serious damper on the quest to familiarize myself with more of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
I’d made plans with my friend Chris Sadler for a possible trip to Gibraltar Rock in Sauk County, which offers some of the most spectacular views in Wisconsin. But possibly risky driving, a small amount of road walking in potentially nasty weather, and the chance of poor visibility from the bluff made us decide to stick closer to home. Continue reading
(Author’s note: Continuing my attempts to archive my past Portage County Gazette columns. This one is from May 24, 2017.)
Bridge on Plover River IAT segment, Marathon County
When it comes to protecting our public lands, it’s easy to see recent developments as one step forward and three or four steps back.
Efforts to strip protected status from national monuments and sell off or otherwise allow desecration of Wisconsin public lands by greedy businesses seem to fill the news recently. These aren’t the best ways to start the summer outdoor season, but it doesn’t hurt to keep them in the back of our minds while we’re out having fun.
It seems the newest big thing in the theater is “A Quiet Place,” a film revolving around horrifying arachnid-like beings, their attraction to sound, and a bunch of actors who, needless to say, keep it zipped as much as possible.
No thanks – I’ll just head out to the silent North Woods to be surrounded by wolves when I need entertainment.
That’s only a slight exaggeration. A surprise early-April snowstorm sent hiking buddy Chris Sadler and me to the Alta Junction and Harrison Hills segments of the Ice Age Trail, a little north and east of Merrill. The IAT guidebook mentions a thriving pack of wolves inhabiting the Harrison Hills, and we may have seen evidence of them shortly after starting our hike on the Alta Junction segment.
That starts on Lincoln County Highway J about six miles east of Irma, which is so small it doesn’t even have a population listed on Wikipedia. The segment mostly follows an old railroad grade along the North Branch of the Prairie River.
But even getting there was an adventure.
Although a spring-break dream of losing myself in a few days of backpacking hasn’t materialized, it’s easy to be grateful for Wisconsin’s outdoor treasures and those who protect them.
I’ll content myself with a few scattered day trips, and several recent ones helped me add 30 miles to my Ice Age Trail total. Along the way, I got to see a mysterious and outsized figure in Iola, which is a good reminder to recognize some giants in Wisconsin conservation.
April 14 brings another Wisconsin Hall of Fame induction ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m. at Sentry Theater in Stevens Point. The ceremony is free, along with a coffee reception an hour earlier.
This year’s four honorees bring to 96 the total number of hall inductees. They are Door County naturalists Roy and Charlotte Lukes, former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources head and current Wisconsin Wildlife Federation director George Meyer, and former wildlife management professor Arlie Schorger.
author’s note: this is the original version of a piece I shortened for use in the March 9 issue of the Portage County Gazette
Deer tracks across the marsh
“How long do you think they can run like that?”
The question was posed by my frequent hiking companion Chris Sadler, who for the first time was filling the role of cross-country skiing buddy.
We were watching eight deer streaking across a flat, icy expanse of McMillan Marsh Wildlife Area, about a hundred yards southeast from where we glided along a low dike, heading back to Chris’ car.
The dike road ran between the marsh on our right and the forest on our left, where the Little Eau Pleine River winds about on its way toward an affiliated reserve, the George Mead Wildlife Area, before ultimately draining into Lake DuBay more than 20 miles to our east.
It was a perfect winter day. The midday temperatures were hovering around 10 degrees with westerly and northwesterly winds hitting no more than 10 miles an hour – enough to chill our faces thoroughly but not bring any substantial discomfort.