Birkie Hike: We Finish!

Just to clarify – I have two Gwens in my life. One is my mother and the other is the friend who has been hiking the Birkie with me. Some who know us have been asking…

November 3, 2021. North End TH to Timber TH, loop. 6.5 miles, 14,828 steps

I asked, “Do you think we really need to go down this hill and touch that road?”

“Yes, of course we do,” Gwen told me. And so we walked down that last hill which marked the completion of our 34 miles of Birkie trail, stuck our poles in the sand, took a picture and started back up the hill. We had walked on the skate side of the Birkie and were looping back to the car on the classic side.

Today was cloudy and cold enough for gloves and hats, but we did end up shedding our outer layer of jackets. At one point near the end, we saw several large white snowflakes falling in the forest so we knew it was in the low 30’s for temperature.

I had spent time studying the map of our remaining section and had printed it out. That meant we only had to question ourselves at a couple intersections where fresh logging roads had added to the confusion.

Rocks and trees are the main features of this forest trail and the subjects of most of my photos. I’ve also started a collection of “meaningful” rocks to mark different hikes I’ve done, so I was on the lookout for a rock. The one that caught my attention was a bit bigger than the pebbles I usually pick up, but it had a pattern to it, and I liked it. Gwen doesn’t stop me from doing stupid stuff, she even carried the rock for me when I needed a rest. We had guesses as to how much it weighed. She won. Thirty-five pounds.

Good job Gwen. This rock will show its pattern more after I wash it up a bit.

Our last stop before leaving Cable, Wisconsin and the Birkie Trail was the Brick House Cafe. It wasn’t that we were hungry, or needed the calories but more that I needed to see if the Chocolate Tower cake was as good as Gwen said it was. I figured we should mark our accomplishment with some kind of splurge, even if we ended up taking it home to put in the freezer (which, by the way, didn’t happen). This cafe is known for its lunches and desserts as attested to by the dozen hunters, and huntresses who trooped in shortly after we were seated.

What I really feel good about, in addition to feeling very exercised, is that I got to be a tourist in my own backyard. I would feel sad not to know what this internationally famous trail was like. Now I know where the trailheads are, how difficult and hilly the terrain can be, and how many more paths are there yet to be explored. I have that sense of ownership that comes with familiarity, and that feels good. The chances of me ever skiing this trail are almost nonexistent, well, they are nonexistent. Really nonexistent. But I have walked it. That’s good enough for me.

Hiking the Birkebeiner: Part 2

Most of the leaves are on the ground now and walking in them is fun and “autumn-ish”.

Tomorrow Gwen and I will finish the last section of the Birkie Trail, and it’s good timing because we are starting to get snow flurries and temps in the teens. Hiking this northern section of the trail has been quite different because we have used the actual Birkie trail rather than the single track bike trails. Another difference is that it’s about the busiest place “out in the woods” that I’ve ever seen. We are always crossing ATV trails, bike trails, logging trails and fire lanes and more than once we have been confused. Often we are telling ourselves to just enjoy the walk in the woods and see where we end up, because we have no clue where we are. Backing up, here are the finished sections.

September 12, 2021 Hatchery TH to Hwy 77 Bridge

I explored this short section myself one afternoon because I’ve been curious about the bridge ever since it went up. For years the Birkie ski race used to cross Hwy 77 near this spot and the road actually had to be covered with snow and closed while thousands of skiers crossed it. There was even talk of tunneling under the road, but the eventual decision was to put a bridge over it, making it much more convenient and safe. I’ve gone under this bridge countless times, and now I’ve also gone over it.

September 17, 2021. OO TH to Firetower TH. 5.53 miles, 12,410 steps

We had some logistical help when we hiked the section of OO to the Fire Tower trailhead. My brother dropped us off at the Fire Tower warming cabin and picked us up a couple hours later at the Johnson Center on OO. He rode mountain bike trails in the area while we hiked. In fact, there were quite a few bikers riding the trails that day. I guess some of them got hot and sweaty and had to change clothes, at least that’s the story we told ourselves as we passed the warming cabin at Boedecker Road where a guy was standing naked by his car. The things you see in the woods… I did not take a picture. It was a beautiful fall day in all respects!

September 30, 2021 Firetower TH to Timber Trail TH 6.9 miles, 15,484 steps

A couple weeks later we did the next section ourselves, doing a loop from the Fire Tower TH to Timber Trail warming cabin on the classic trail and back on the skate trail. It was another beautiful afternoon, but we had a later start. We didn’t make it back to the car until 6 pm and the sun was nearly down. Our days are getting noticeably shorter. This one got us a little tired. We did extra steps looking for trail signs and my real step count for that day was 19,172.

This map does not include logging roads and single track bike trails. We were often surprised to find out where we were. Thankful for the red arrows.

October 26, 2021. American Birkebeiner TH to North End TH. No idea

I could hardly believe we had taken almost a month off. It didn’t seem like that long a time because both Gwen and I started going to Ski and Tea. It’s a ladies ski group coached by some amazing, experienced cross country skiers. We’ve been getting together nearly every week for training on the Birkie. Since there’s no snow, we practice various ski techniques while hiking – it works. On the afternoon of the 26th we drove to the far end of the trail, the Birkebeiner TH in Cable and walked in some kind of a weird circle until we got back to the car a couple of hours later. Too many intersections, too many maps, too many trails. I think we set foot on enough of the Birkie to say we did a good section. My total step count for the day was 15,464, about 7 miles. Have I mentioned that there are lots of hills? There are LOTS OF HILLS.

No, not confusing at all…

And as I wrote, tomorrow we will hike our last section, Lord willing. I hope to post about our triumphant finish. Excited! Check in to see if we made it (and find out about our planned reward).

Birkie Trail, Next 6 miles

This is the second weekend that we have put on our hiking shoes and taken to the trail. After a week’s work, we really enjoy a good long walk in the woods. We skipped a shorter section in favor of a longer hike than last week. We will go back and pick it up someday when we have less time.

The trees were still more green than colored. There were only a few brilliant ones, but that didn’t keep it from feeling like autumn.

I was a little obsessed with the fungi, but you’ll see why. Strange stuff.

Enough talk. I just want you to see what I saw.

Makwa Trail, here we come.

First spot of color.

The trail skirts this lake except for here, where it gets a little crazy. This is a single track bike trail.

Moss abounds. Lovely, right?

Time for some fungi.

More fungi.

And more…

And this one!

This little guy, about head high on the trunk of a tree, amazing!

Can you spot the camouflaged picnic table?

One more.

No, one more.

Some trail worker forgot their saw.

I spent a lot of time looking at the path because it was always so lovely.

About mile 6 we left the single track trail and did a mile on the larger ski trail. We (the girls) were getting tired and the ski trail was straighter and smoother.

Wonderful Day

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Every now and then, when I really need a wonderful day, one comes along. Of course, all days, even the worst of them, have something wonderful about them if you have enough energy to look for it. But this day, it was full of back to back niceness, the likes of which I have not seen in a while.

We went to the smallest and earliest of the three church services at Hayward Wesleyan, where we have started to feel at home. It was satisfying, encouraging, and did not make the husband cry (well, maybe a little, but he held it together…). The weather got beautiful so we went for a walk afterward, just the two of us. He felt good today, noticeably good.

Breakfast with the relatives after church. It’s a ritual. We go to Flat Creek Eatery for the fellowship more than the food and it’s always good to spend time with my aunts and uncles and Mom. Smiths, Boones, and lots of coffee.

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We are working on the Hayward Cluster now, soon to go on to Seeley, then Cable.

My brother, who is also a Dennis, his wife and I had planned a hike for the afternoon. By 2:30 we were out in the woods and it was perfectly gorgeous. We have a goal of hiking the complete distance from Hayward to the end of the Birkiebeiner trail near Cable, in sections. This was probably the shortest section, 5.7 miles on my counter, Hatchery Creek Trail to Mosquito Brook. I LOVE BEING IN THE WOODS. Enough said.

This is an  “intermediate difficulty” single track trail. The real difficulty is jumping out of the way when a fat tire bike suddenly appears, going fast!

This was midway. The signs are pointing to them, but those are not their names. 

 

Fungus fans, what do you call these gorgeous things? 

For some hard to figure reason, someone thought this lovely table should be chained and weighted. 

These are wintergreen berries, common on the forest floor “up north”. Tasty.

A “grandfather” of the forest in the piney section of the walk.

Several sturdy shelters have been built along the trails – used mostly as a warming house for winter skiers. 

Mosquito (“Skeeter”) Brook, running high through the forest.

The husband had time for a good rest while we were gone. We got back just in time for a cup of soup before heading off to the next fun thing. Choir.

I didn’t realize how much I have missed music – good, cooperatively produced music. Our community has formed a volunteer choir which has performed a Christmas cantata of some sort for the last 20+ years. This year the director is a … hmm, dynamic might be the word, young woman who is filled with the spirit of worship and loves to do this job. The two hours went so fast! I was impressed and I know I am going to love this time each week. The husband is going to love it too. I can tell. And it will be a great way for us to get to know some people in our new location.

Four fun things in one day has me worried that I may have used up my quota for the week. I’m kidding. There are enough good things “up north” to fill the whole week, I’m sure. And I will be looking for them.

The husband is trying very hard to stick to his keto diet, lose weight and figure out how to regard this Lewy Body Dementia thing. When he is feeling positive, the world seems a bit brighter and lighter in its weightiness. Today he walked and talked much like his old self. We are wanting lots more of this kind of day. Just sayin’, who wouldn’t?