There are several places to hike near Forest Rt. 11, so when I had some extra time on Monday I decided to go for a little walk in the woods. Off to Otto Lake I went! I had read about it - a .5 mile portage to the lake, a 3 mile hike around the lake, and then back to the start of the portage. Technically, it's the Otto/Harris Lake Trail - the trail goes around Otto Lake, crosses over to Harris, goes around that, and then comes back. It's 8 miles total. I decided that 4 miles would be just fine for a sunny May afternoon.
|pretty sweet boardwalk...suitable for navigating with a canoe on your head|
I found the start of the hiking trail...marked by a sign that looked like it was being eaten by an evil tree.
|Om nom nom|
|I saw a really big toad. It was easily the size of my fist.|
|Starflowers: the only flower that (usually) has seven petals.|
Nature doesn't like the number seven.
|Tamarack needles growing in against an incredible sky|
Things I heard: A Red-tailed Hawk nest! I heard the unmistakeable call of a Red-Tailed Hawk and looked around. It flew overhead through the trees, and landed somewhere in the canopy. I heard a series of loud keeeeeeeeerrrrrs and chatters - a nest! Mama Hawk was bringing back some yums for her babies. Also heard: a Blue Jay that was imitating another kind of bird. I stared at the Blue Jay as it made its hawk-like sound, wondering if it were some other kind of bird...that just really looked like a Blue Jay? Apparently, they're very good mimics.
Things I saw, no picture: a Trout Lily (a normal one, not a Dwarf one). Fish jumping in the lake, a black frog that was about three inches long, plenty of poison ivy. I also picked 23 ticks off of my clothes and body: I more than doubled the season count in one day. Yay?
I mentioned that the forest was, in comparison to State Parks, less developed. This was most obvious in the trail itself. There were times in which I wasn't sure if I was actually ON the trail: in places, it just disappeared into the underbrush. Huge trees had fallen over the path, with no clear "alternate" path. It looked like I was perhaps the second or third person this year to take the Otto Lake Trail. I didn't mind - I liked being on a rarely used trail - but I would have been a bit nervous if I hadn't had the lake on my left. When I felt a bit uneasy about whether or not I was on the trail, I just looked for the lake. Was it still on my left? Yes? Good.
Now, I'm not a total fool. I always bring water, a granola bar, and bug spray when I hike. Sometimes I go with Joe, usually I bring Thunderdog, but there are times I really like to go out on my own. But at that moment, standing in the woods with nothing to protect me other than the rocks on the ground and an out-of-cell-range cell phone...I felt like the greenest of greenhorns than ever wandered into the wild.
But...what would I do if I had run into a bear? It's cub season, so there are probably cute (curious) cubs out there, being watched over by wary (nervous) mama bears. I was in bear territory, and I didn't have Bear Spray with me, or even a Bear Bell. I've also seen more and more coyotes near town: what if I ran into one of them? Or a pack of them? What if I had Thunderdog with me? She's a great dog, but she's a total chicken.
I suppose there will be an upcoming post about Trail Safety. I don't claim to know everything about hiking - in fact, wandering into the woods in Bear Country with nothing but my backpack and a granola bar kind makes it sound like I know very little about hiking. Sometimes it's good to be knocked down a notch...all of this Minnesota Beauty at my fingertips makes me kind of cocky.
I mean, seriously: of course I'm smug about it. This is what I was looking at at 4:00 on a Monday afternoon. What were most people looking at? Cubicle walls? Freeways? Piles of files? Neverending work emails? I was looking at this:
|there's a bear in there, I know it|
Total miles hiked today: 4
Total miles hiked (in 2012): 40.8
Total ticks today: Joe - n/a; Thunderdog - n/a; Elly -23
Total ticks (in 2012): 44