Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ice Age Trail fun

Flag tape along the Ice Age Trail's Old Railroad Segment demarks an infestation of invasive species.  He looks dangerous, no?  Well, he is.  He represents the most destructive invasive species this planet's interdependent web of life has ever produced.
Worst of all, he's hopelessly confused. He designates beautiful wild natural corridors, gives them lofty names like 'National Scenic Trail' and then allows this to be done to them.

I joined the Ice Age Trail at this rather unfortunate logging site along the 'Old Railroad Segment' in Langlade County.  It was a rocky start--just bad luck, I guess--a first impression that I soon found reason to revise.  Soon I was meandering on dedicated footpath through untroubled woods, passing lovely settings like Narrow Neck Pond and then Game Lake

And that's when I remembered how good it is to be hiking a famous trail--a place where avid hikers, the hiker community, and its many friends, concentrate their resources to provide wanderers like me a chance to touch that primal feeling of being immersed in creation.

Creation never was perfect, just "very good" (Genesis 1:31).  And it's good to remember that that is all that is required of us inhabitants/participants in creation -- to strive to live up to that wonderfully reachable standard.

Wow.  What got me so philosophical today?

Well, this blog is about 'Heart and Sole.'  That was from the heart - now back to the sole part.

In Langlade County I hiked two more "certified" segments after the Old Railroad segment, and then had a long road walk before reaching Marathon County.  The Ice Age Trail Alliance seems to have organized their local chapters by county; and the 'certified' trail within each county is split into named 'Segments' of roughly day-hike length.

On my way south through Langlade County, the next two segments I hiked were called the Lumbercamp Segment, named for a historic site, and the Kettlebowl segment, named for a small, public ski area that is in turn named for a geologic formation that the melting glaciers left behind.

Here's the GPS Track of my traverse through the Lumbercamp segment showing the distinctive topography that this trail seeks out--the deposits near the edge of the farthest advance of glaciers in the last ice age.  Note the flat terrain in the south and west part of the image.  That's land that the glaciers never reached.

Along this segment the woods is full of rounded granite glacier-moved rocks and boulders, and on one of these I found an interesting new-to-me type of lichen with distinctive 'funnel' structures.  I think it is a variety of Cladonia, commonly called a Cup Lichen.

The segment also had a number of open areas, including Peters Marsh Wildlife Area and the Lumber Camp itself.

In the distance above you can see a stand of young aspens.  Because of their network of roots, all of those trees make up a single organism.  This makes them among the quickest species to regenerate after logging.  These aspens had dropped all their leaves, leaving their winter color to dazzle the eye.

The Kettlebowl segment has the same sort of topography.

One of the most extreme examples of a Kettle-hole along the trail is Big Stone Hole--a deep pit full of boulders where the melting ice at the end of the last ice age was mostly free of embedded debris, so when it melted it left a big hole into which the big round rocks in adjacent areas rolled to fill the void.

Big Stone Hole isn't easy to photograph, nor was it easy to scramble around in it.   It reminded me of a one dimensional version of Appalachian Trail's Mahoosuc Notch.

In drier areas the glacier-moved rocks sported more interesting lichen communities. 

This seems to be a variety of 'Placopsis' - a Bulls-eye Lichen

This larger aspen in the woods was also sporting its winter colors

Kettlebowl ski area costs just $5 for a day of skiing.  The rope tow lifts are tractor-operated and all the staff are volunteers.

Yet they've recently built a very nice shelter complete with heat and electricity and a nice snack bar.

Beyond the Kettlebowl Segment I had a road walk of more than twenty miles.  I chose my own route to take me through the town of Antigo and past Peroutka's, a century-old, family owned and run one-off (no chain) independent butcher shop specializing in house-made old-fashioned Wisconsin (German/Scandanavian) sausages.

Their summer sausage was what I was after.  My family moved away from Wisconsin when I was tiny, but we never lost our taste for this special distinctive treat.  Grandparents would send us care packages, so I always had Wisconsin local butcher-shop summer sausage in my Christmas stocking.  Today's Health department regulations prohibit Peroutka's from offering the old style white-mold-covered sausage smoked and cured in natural gut casing, but Peroutka's summer sausage taste is as close as I could come.  It's twice as intense as the brand-name store-bought summer sausage and at half the price!

Other road-walk sights of note included this remodeled old one-room schoolhouse

and a very late-lingering Monarch Butterfly feeding on red clover.

There were a couple examples of the lingering fall color -- in road-side wild asparagus and in a well-chosen variety of red maple in someone's yard in town.

Also in town my route took me past the Antigo  Historical Society and Museum with this well-kept old steam engine in display.

Next for me came more pure foot-trail in the woods in Marathon County - several segments of thoroughly enjoyable Ice Age Trail hiking.  Keep an eye out for my next report.

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