NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Visiting The Western Terminus

One of the things we did while camping at Willow River State Park this weekend was take a daytrip to Interstate Park, home of the Western Terminus of the Ice Age Trail.

Wild Mint at the trailhead

Interstate Park is located in St., Croix Falls and we had reservations there for May 2014 but cancelled them to go to Newfoundland instead.  After a quick look around we decided we'll make the effort to try to camp there again, though maybe not in summer since there were more mosquitoes at Interstate Park than at Willow River.

lichen everywhere

The Potholes Trail was recommended as the "must see" by the gatehouse attendant, and it just happens to be where the Western Terminus is located so Wayne got tricked onto the IAT.  The trail is a loop that is under half a mile but there was a lot to see.

Northern Bedstraw growing on top of the rock formations
how the potholes are made

The potholes were made by rolling stones wearing grooves into the outcrop of rock above the river gorge.  Nature is so cool.

rocks did not wear away the hair on top of Wayne's head, though it also happened over time

We even saw a lizard of some kind while we were looking out over the river, and if it hadn't been so darn hot outside we could've hung around all day playing in such a neat place.

The trail overlooks the Dalles of the St. Croix River gorge, a place that looks like it would be fun to explore in the kayaks.  I hope Wayne's back is doing better next year, I think this year we've kind of given up on the kayaks in case it aggravates that situation.  Better safe than sorry.

Having Wayne with me meant I didn't have to set up a monopod for a picture at the Terminus, which is a good thing because there wasn't any dirt to plant it into on top of all that rock!

I might look "cool", but Baby, it's Hot Outside!

I conned Wayne in to crossing the road to the Horizon Rock Trail which ended up being the continuation of the Ice Age trail, but when we got to Horizon Rock he wouldn't go any further.  That's okay, it was so hot outside that we left the park and headed straight to Walmart where I had to buy running shorts to put on because I felt like I might just die in the jean capris that I was wearing.  Spandex jeans do NOT breathe.

We did a lot more exploring in the area, a sampler if you will, getting ideas for our eventual return...I'm thinking in the fall this year or next year maybe when the trees will provide a show along the many rivers found here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dancing on the Ceiling

On Saturday we decided we'd act like tourists for a change and drove around in the truck checking out the local attractions.  The place everyone seemed to want to go was a town just over the border in Minnesota called Stillwater, claimed to be the birthplace of Minnesota.

Shops and shoppers in historic Stillwater

The traffic was insane and parking lots and street slots alike were full.  We were hungry after a morning of motor touring and went in to the Water Street Inn to have lunch in Charlie's Irish Pub.  Most folks were seated outside to enjoy the summer weather and the people watching, but I was content with the show I was getting by looking at the ceiling.

Dancing girls circled the room, echoed off the wallpaper border along the top.  I looked at quite a few of their faces to see if the artist had hidden anything in their expressions but they looked pretty serious about the business at hand.

The business that had Stillwater booming in the mid 1800's was lumber, but these days their business is catering to folks cruising up and down the St. Croix River or cruising up and down the small town's streets to spend money in the shops.

The other rooms on the ground floor of the Water Street Inn had painted ceilings inspired by their wallpaper borders too.  And one of them had the original tin ceilings...painted pink.

The town reminded me of Lake Geneva, flooded with people who have nothing better to do on the weekend than wander around aimlessly trying to find something to spend money on.  And while the ceilings were fun to examine, I wasn't as thrilled when I examined our lunch tab.  I ordered a chicken salad wrap that cost $15.95 and it wasn't even filling.  The ingredients were fresh and of good quality, but $16 for a sandwich? We paid $43 for lunch and that was with two glasses of water, no drinks or appetizers or desserts or anything extra.  I don't know about you, but I got a lot of things I'd rather spend $43 on and they last longer than a sandwich in my stomach does!  It did inspire me though to make up my own batch of chicken salad with fresh chicken breast, grapes, dried cranberries and almonds in it when I got home today that was just as tasty and much more economical.

Linking up to Monday Mural.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dewy Daisies and More at Willow River

I don't know if I've mentioned it before but my new plan when Wayne and I are traveling together is to get up in the morning and get out for some exercise by myself and let him sleep in.  He works a lot of hours on varying shifts and his focus on our trips is to "relax" and mine is to get out and go.  With that in mind I got dressed for a run on Thursday morning and couldn't wait to kick up the endorphins.

Dewy daisies

I jogged along the road down to the 300 campground area and then turned on to the yellow trail which entered the woods.  I was a little leery at first and kept checking for ticks, but they never appeared and I doubt it was because I was so fast that I outran them!

The yellow loop passes the trail to the falls and ends at the north overlook but the woods obstructed the view so I went back to a footpath I had passed to see if I could find a way down to the river.

I kept an eye out for poison ivy on the narrow path which soon started descending into the fern lined gorge.  Best of all, still no ticks or mosquitoes!

Hanging on to tree limbs and exposed roots I scrambled from one switchback to another, loving the adventure and the runner's high.

With the river finally in sight I walked out onto the old Willow Falls Dam water transfer pipe.  Two dams were removed on the Willow River in the 1990's when it was decided the hundred year old dams were too costly to repair.  

Removing the dams was initially an economic decision, but the waterfall and limestone gorge that were restored in the process has increased the natural attractions of the park for visitors, and after the stream bed habitat was repaired a thriving trout population now resides in the cool waters.

I took a picture from the bridge but the light was all wrong, giving me a reason to return and share it with Wayne in the evening.

Another reason to return was the Pyrola peeking out on the hillside above the main path down to the falls.  My iPhone just wouldn't focus and after 15 minutes of Achilles straining attempts I moved up the steep trail to wake up Wayne.

Wayne and I took the steep path down after dinner to find the river and falls full of people cooling off, including some kids walking along behind one of the cascades.  The falls have a drop of 45 feet and a width of 100 feet so there was plenty of room for frolicking.

Not everyone was in the water, some were scaling the walls, not the falls.

A few folks were fishing on the other side of the bridge but I was happy to leave with my photos and my memories of a great run that turned in to an adventure and then ended with a stroll with my honey.

More harebell

Bird's Foot Trefoil 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Repellent Free at Willow River State Park!

Yes, that is an exclamation point in the title!  Wayne and I arrived at Willow River State Park on Wednesday evening and my first question at the visitor center was about ticks and mosquitoes.  The gal assured me no one has been complaining, but I was skeptical.

Bug free at site 145

Just because no one was complaining didn't mean I could expect miracles.  If folks were covered in DEET they might think it was fine, right?  But after we pulled in to our gigantic pull through site I waited for the mosquitoes to descend...and they didn't.  Well, I thought I'd take a little walk since we'd been in the truck for 6 hours and was delighted to discover the trails are wide and sandy and tick free too!

Now, that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of natural beauty to enjoy.

When I got back from my half hour walk we decided to drive through the park and get the lay of the land.  We are staying in the 100 loop closest to the entrance and it's definitely got the larger more modern sites going for it.  The 300 loop is heavily wooded (ticks? mosquitoes? Maybe!) and the access road is very curvy and the sites are small and tight.  Most likely it was an older section of the park that was designed before our modern campers came along with half their belongings in tow!

Past the 3 campground loops is a boat launch and beach and access to the dam.  We got here just in time as it appears they are planning on draining the lake to do repairs on the aging dam.

The lake will be emptied in a controlled fashion with an eye for impact on wildlife and for sediment management.  Trout fishing is supposed to be good in the area, and I even saw something about mussels being plentiful along the St. Croix River which is what the Willow River empties into a little further along.

There are 13 miles of trails in the park that wind through woods and prairies and I can vouch for an abundance of deer and bunny rabbits.

Leafy Spurge lines the Yellow trail

The shower building in the 100 loop is modern too, with 5 unisex private shower areas and the ladies room had 5 stalls, and plenty of mirror and outlet space.  And all this for only $20 a night (after you buy your sticker, of course), electric included at the site.  I love Wisconsin state parks, especially when they are pest-free!

Each shower is roomy, has a bench and hook outside the shower area, the water gets hot and best of all it STAYS ON!  No pushing the button every 10 seconds or so to get some water.  Luxury!

I've found a few new wildflowers including just one specimen that I haven't seen before and can't find on my Minnesota Wildflowers website I usually use. It was at the edge of a mowed section of a campsite so I'm assuming it is native like the other prairie plants but is shorter than the others so hard to see.  Does anyone recognize it?

With my luck it's a weed!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mecan Segment Part 2 - Tick Tales and Rural Roads

When I crossed County Road GG I was almost at the halfway point for the Mecan segment of the IAT on Saturday, and I got a glimpse of something I don't usually see along the trail.

Of course I got glimpses of things along the trail that were plentiful as well.

When I saw a footpath going down to the Mecan River I took the risk of ticks to climb down the hill and have a quick look but all there was to see was mosquitoes.

Well, there were some dragonflies too.

Can you see me?  Look in the center of the photo.

Just ahead was a spur trail that led to an "overlook" for the river so I investigated that too.

There wasn't really a view of the river on top of the hill, but there was a bench that I sat down on to have a snack and let my sweaty shirt air dry.  I saw a geocache under the bench but didn't want to stick my hands down there to get it because it looked like a great place for ticks to hang out.

Moments later I noticed a tick crawling around on my hat that was on top of my pack.  Did I pick it up in the woods?  From the bench?

Lunch without a view, just a steep drop to the treeline beside the river.

As always seems to be the case lately I was glad to get clear of the woods and the tick habitat, and happy to see more open land where the grass wasn't tall and thick and the soil was sandy.  This is the kind of place ticks will be less prevalent as they prefer a moist shady environment.

Many people think ticks are only present in the woods. However, ticks can be found:

Where woods/fields meet lawn
Wooded areas
Tall brush/grass
Under leaves
Very small numbers on cut/raked lawns or sports fields
Under ground cover (plants) in yard
Around stone walls and woodpiles where mice & other small mammals live

Out of curiosity I googled tick populations and discovered that my obsession with the devils isn't as paranoid as I thought.  I took one look at this Lyme Disease risk map and about had a stroke!  Research shows that about 35% of ticks will be infected with the bacteria, regardless of where the ticks are located so the higher the "risk" the more dense the tick population is.  Apparently ticks think Wisconsin is a happening place to live.

The next section of the trail is where the ticks were the worst.  The field was scattered with previously felled trees and a few piles of cut wood, but it just goes to show that trees are not the only component when it comes to watching out for the little monsters.

I looked down minutes after entering the area and a half dozen were greedily making their way up my pants legs.

Let's take a moment to look at the lovely flowers again, shall we?  I mean, how much more tick drama can we take?

Once I made it as far as 9th Avenue I decided I'd had enough of the tick wars and would skip the last mile and make my way back to the car on the roads.  There were things to see and it was a shorter distance at 4.5 miles and easy walking for my tired feet.  Besides, even skipping the last mile I put in over 10 miles that day, a new record!

Only 6 vehicles passed me in 2 hours

I walked past farms on the outskirts of Richford, most buildings looking pretty rundown, but some were older but still charming.

One property had a neat iron fence, unusual for a farm area.

 A neighbor gentleman stopped to talk to me after he pulled into his driveway.  He had just come from a funeral and was dressed in his American Legion clothing.  He asked if I had been on the Ice Age Trail and we chatted about the tick population and whether or not rain was coming soon.

A few horses were spotted, and even some chickens.  I bet they were fighting the tick wars too.

I walked on the shoulder for awhile without incident but then started picking up ticks in the mown grass on the side of the road so had to get back out on the pavement.  Luckily there were other things to distract me until I made it back to the car.

Never had I been so happy to see my little red Vibe!  At the car I stood in the parking lot and removed my clothes as carefully as possible in case there were ticks hiding.  Let the neighbors gawk at me in my panties and sports bra, no way was I bringing ticks into my car.  Wouldn't you know it, one had gotten under my shirt and attached itself, making me angry at myself for not tucking my shirt back in after every potty break.  When I pulled off my socks I got a nasty surprise when I discovered welts and a rash on both legs where the socks that were still damp from the morning rain had been on my skin.  My only guess is that the last time I wore them was in Door County and perhaps some poison ivy got on them and didn't get out completely in the wash.  The socks went in the garbage, and luckily the rash didn't get worse but the next day when the hives had subsided the area looked bruised and the discoloration lasted a few more days.

Think the horror story ends there?  While driving to the store to find a tweezers I felt something on my forehead and found a tick had wandered there, I assume from my hair.  I screamed, I swerved, I flung it on the floor and then had to pull over to find it and get it out.  About fifteen minutes later I scratched my neck and found another one, repeating the screaming and swerving and hunting all over again.  What do you think the other drivers thought when I was standing on the side of the road screaming "You f*#*kers!" while bent over brushing my hair viciously?

I'm seriously considering going with a super-short pixie cut like Jamie Lee Curtis.  It'd be a lot easier to keep a hat on, and easier to keep the critters off my head too!  Wayne swears he'd change the locks on the doors but I'm pretty confident he'll love me no matter what I do to my hair....especially after he pulled ANOTHER tick off my scalp on Monday night.  Now how am I supposed to keep an eye out for a Lyme related rash underneath all this hair?  Maybe I should become a beach bum instead of hiking the Ice Age Trail?