Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Busy Beavers @ Turtle Rock


So a couple of weeks ago, Charlie and I *attempted* to hike the Turtle Rock Segment of the Ice Age Trail. We hadn't been there since last September and this is the absolute BEST time of year to hike this particular trail.

But after receiving heavy rains over a couple of weeks, we found that the trail was washed out shortly into our hike, and without water sandals (or a swimsuit), there was no way to get through.

Dejectedly, I turned around and slopped my way back through the muddy trail to the car and then drove to the other side of the Wisconsin River and hiked the Grandfather Falls Segment as Plan B - which was actually quite amazing!


But I really wanted to hike Turtle Rock.

So the following weekend, we ventured back - armed with my water sandals and a towel this time! But when we got to the spot where the trail was washed out, we found everything was neatly repaired.

By beavers.

Yep. This was my first time seeing firsthand the awesome construction ability of beavers. Pretty cool.

In the photo below, you can see the mowed trail on the other side of the beaver dam; the shore of the pond has "moved" into the trail about 10 feet and now you have to detour through the little creek on the other side of the dam. It's really quite incredible, since this "pond" was more like a marshy lowland last year; we've gotten a lot of rain this year!


I'm really glad I went back because the fall colors were absolutely gorgeous and well-worth the second trip.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Wooden Water Tubes

A cool feature of the Grandfather Falls Segment is the wooden water tubes that transport water from the reservoir down to the hydro dam.

This is what the Ice Age Trail Companion Guide says about them:
"Follow two large parallel pipelines that carry water down hundreds of yards from a man-made reservoir upriver. These pipeline "tubes" are made of wood banded with steel. Wood was used for these pipelines because it does not corrode or rot under the constant water pressure. However, the water pressure does create a fascinating tubular fountain effect. Water shoots from hundreds of small leaks occurring in knotholes in the wood."

The first time I saw them, they were nothing like what I expected. They were much larger and also much longer! It's really quite incredible that you can walk along right next to them. In fact, it's downright amazing that you can have access to the hydro dam property through this segment.

The tubes are so large, you can even see them on Google maps...


I've tried to capture the enormity of these tubes with photos, but it doesn't quite look the same. You have to feel what it's like to be in their presence, to hear the water cascading from the leaks.

So here's another quick video of the end of our Grandfather Falls hike as we walked past the tubes on our way to the parking area at the hydro dam:

(Just a reminder that if you have trouble viewing videos on this blog, you can try using a different browser like Chrome. Internet Explorer is not compatible with some features.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Choosing Grandfather Falls (with video)


Earlier this year, when I was being interviewed for an article in Dog Fancy magazine, I was asked what my favorite segment of the Ice Age Trail was. That was a really tough question for me and since I knew it would be the basis of the article/interview, it was a really important question too.

I chose the Grandfather Falls Segment.

The article came out in the May issue and I was thrilled to see myself and Charlie in such a big publication... and representing "The Midwest" too!

But every now and then I questioned whether I chose the right trail for this article. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE the Grandfather Falls Segment, but there are so many great segments of the Ice Age Trail that it really is almost impossible to choose a favorite.


Charlie and I revisited Grandfather Falls on a recent weekend and I was pleasantly surprised to feel justified in my choice. It really is a spectacular segment, and on this particular day the river was roaring with all the recent rainfall we've received and the trail was full of intoxicating smells of earth and leaves.

I brought along my GoPro camera to share the experience with anyone who wants a taste of one of the Midwest's best hiking trails.

Enjoy ~

(For those of you who are curious about Charlie's hiking gear, I use the Ruffwear Web Master harness in size Medium and the Ruffwear Roamer Leash in size Large. Charlie is a 42-lb. yellow lab/border collie mix. The Ruffwear gear is pricey, but worth it! I couldn't imagine hiking without this setup and it's so well-made that it will probably last Charlie's lifetime.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to School + Book Reports


I don't have kids but I've noticed the neighborhood grow much quieter over the past few weeks as children are now back in school and not riding their bikes in circles around the block. And as September marches on much more quickly than I'd like it to, this time of year always brings back my own memories of childhood and heading back to school.

New clothes, crisp folders, clean paper and sharpened pencils. And books. Lots of books!

I've always been a "reader" and always seem to be reading a couple of books at a time. I carry books with me in my purse (you never know when you'll have a minute to read!), a couple on the nightstand next to my bed and I subscribe to an assortment of magazines which pile up all around the house. You get the picture - I like to read!

So when Tim Fox contacted me about his book, Journeys: An Ice Age Adventure, I was excited to accept a complimentary copy. And although this book is aimed more at the middle-school age bracket, I read it from front to back and loved the story.

And since I have actually been to Natural Bridge State Park, where the story takes place, I could imagine being there in the story as I was reading.

If you have kids or nieces and nephews or grand-kids, I highly encourage you to get the kids in your life excited about reading... and there's no better way to do that than to take them on a field trip where they can experience the setting of a book in person! Children are encouraged to explore and really dig into a story when they can have a hands-on experience to bring the story to life.

If you haven't been to Natural Bridge State Park, I recommend taking a road trip and checking it out. It's an easy hiking adventure for kids of all ages and comes with some really interesting history of Wisconsin. This is an experience you can share with a child that both of you will cherish and reminisce about together.

Get outdoors, get active and find an adventure in your area. You won't regret it.



Tim's inscription inside my book sums it up perfectly... "Enjoy the adventure!"


Check out Tim Fox's website www.journeysiceageadventure.com to learn more about the author and his book. Tim is also available for classroom visits to bring the journey to life!


I was provided a free copy of this book but the review and my opinion are all my own.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Merrimac Ferry

The correct name for the only moving section of the Ice Age Trail is the Colsac III Ferry, but most people refer to it as the Merrimac Ferry.

I have several childhood memories riding this ferry across Lake Wisconsin on our way from Madison to Devil's Lake or Parfrey's Glen.

It's funny how this ferry ride always seemed longer to me as a child, and perhaps it was. I'm not sure if any modern changes have been made to the ferry in the past couple decades, but the trip I took across the ferry last weekend seemed to be only a few minutes; barely time to get out and stretch and take some photos.

If you're curious, or want to relive childhood memories through my lens, here's a video for you: