|Off we go!|
The weather was glorious, but the forest is definitely greening from the bottom on up. There's some ground cover, but not much in the way of flowers or leaves on the trees. Thanks to this we had some great views, but I also wound up with a little sunburn from the lack of shade.
|Blue skies, no leaves yet|
There was quite a bit of early Spring wildlife out there. Some of the highlights were several kinds of butterflies (Spring Azure, Red Admiral, and a few that were too far away to identify), a garter snake that squiggled across our path, dragonflies, and lots of ants marching around. We also came across a dead deer - Thunderdog was very interested - and we stopped to watch trout trying to jump up a small waterfall, which did not interest Thunderdog at all.
|How do trout get upstream with waterfalls?|
Thunderdog and I did the Split Rock Loop last year...on April 4th! I'm pretty sure that we were out there not long after snowmelt in 2012...it's amazing how much longer it took for the trail to be hike-able this year. We signed the Trail Register again and huffed and puffed on the steep inclines again. I'm a bit worried about our upcoming trip to Colorado...will I be able to handle mountains, if I get winded by little old Split Rock?? I think that there were several factors at play. It was the first warm day of the year, it was the first big hike of the year, and there IS a lot of up-and-down. Thunderdog was also feeling the heat...luckily, we found a patch of snow hidden in a shadowy spot. She immediately flung herself onto her beloved snow and rolled around for a while.
|Thunderdog LOVES snow, and this will probably be the last of it for the year|
The Split Rock Loop is five miles long. The first half of it (from the trailhead to the bridge) is more difficult than the second half. The first half follows the river pretty closely - lots of up and down, lots of listening to the roar of the water - but the second half veers away from the river and goes through the woods. The path levels out a bit and, after a while, I couldn't even hear the river. Instead, I heard the tweeting of birds, singing of Spring Peeper frogs, and maybe the drumming of a Ruffed Grouse.
And the smell! The smell of spring and summer on the North Shore is so distinctive, so heavenly...I wish I could bottle it and keep it year round. It's a strange mixture of pine needles that have been heated by the sun and the bacteria emanating from the leaves and dirt that are thawing out in the warm weather. It's sort of a spicy, earthy smell. Believe me, "Spicy Bacteria Smell" doesn't SOUND that great, but to me it's a smell that takes me back to childhood summers and warm nights in the woods.
|Self portrait with the rocks, pines, and river|
One more note: yesterday was Thunderdog's fifth birthday. She (and her littermates, and mom-dog) were found in the woods near Bemidji when the pups were about two days old. They were all taken to the Beltrami County Humane Society. I went up to visit when the pups were about 7 weeks old, picked out my favorite, put in a deposit, and went home to wait for my pup to be old enough to take home. When I returned to get my pup, I discovered that the Humane Society had given her to somebody else! I was devastated. They said, "Well, there's one puppy left from the litter, we'll give her to you for free if you want." I was worried that it would be a bad idea to bring a different puppy home when I was mourning the one that was given away, but I took the puppy anyway.
Best decision I ever made. Fate stepped in and - while I'm sure that the pup I was supposed to get would have been an awesome dog too - I wound up with the one that I was supposed to spend my time with. I love ya, Thunderdog!
|Five mile hike on her fifth birthday!|
We never see pictures of me and Thunderdog together, probably because either I'm holding the camera or I'm holding her...or both. Well, here's a self-portrait that she photobombed: probably just one of a handful of pictures of the two of us.
Total miles hiked today: 5
Total miles hiked in 2013: 13.2
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2013: 6.8
Total ticks today: 0
Total ticks in 2013: 2 (I found two last week, a few hours after putting up the post)