After a full day of hiking in Shenandoah National Park, it was time to retire to our cabin and get ready for our evening meal. The only thing was that the forecast for the next day was for clouds and periods of rain and we had one hike left to do in our short time in Shenandoah – Lewis Falls Trail. This was the most important of our hikes in this great national park because it was the trail on our National Parks Monopoly board. It was decided then, another hike that was longer and covered more altitude than the others we had completed earlier in the day.
This trail is 3.3 miles round trip from our cabin and back again. It’s not the distance that makes it more challenging, it the 1,000 feet of altitude that you change from the start to the waterfalls and then you have to climb that 1,000 feet again on the way back. To make things a little more challenging, we wanted to get back before 9 pm when the nearest restaurant closes otherwise there is not really a place to get food after a full day of hiking in Shenandoah.
The trail starts out relatively flat and easy to hike but eventually that drop in altitude finds you and it starts going downhill quickly. Downhill is easier but remember to watch out for roots and rocks in the trail that could trip you. We made it to the falls in pretty good time passing only a couple of other hikers on the way.
Lewis Falls is a nice waterfall and one of the highest in the park at 81 feet tall but at the time we were there the stream going over the cliff is not very large compared to several other waterfalls in the park. Getting a good view during the summer is a little more challenging because parts of the waterfall are covered with leaves and the steep cliffs around it make for getting a different and better view difficult. Still, I enjoyed this waterfall and the adventure to get to it.
Due to time restraints and wanting to get back before the restaurant closes we didn’t spend much time at the falls taking it in. Also, we weren’t well prepared to be on the trail after dark so we needed to do the most difficult portion of our hike at a faster pace. Along the way back we encountered a deer taking the trail toward us which was kind of fun to see but delayed our return both because of wanted to observe the deer and not wanted to chase it. After awhile of watching it decided to meander off the trail allowing us to pass and continue our trek up the mountain. We were all really tired and hot after this hike but we did manage to get something to eat before total darkness enveloped the area.
Recently we stayed in Superior, Wisconsin while in the area for a wedding in Duluth, Minnesota. The wedding took place on Friday night allowing time on Saturday to do some exploring. While planning this trip I came across a state natural area about 15 minutes away from our hotel and thought it looked like a nice scenic drive during the peak of fall colors in that area. Saturday morning I was laying in bed awake and it was still dark out. Well, getting back to sleep was a near impossible task for me, why not take this opportunity to get to Pokegama Wetland State Natural Area around sunrise and see if there is anything wondering about. By the time I arrived daylight was already showing up. A windy and cloudy morning told me the likelihood of seeing much for wildlife was little but the scenery was still worth the effort.
While driving in this state natural area I came upon a couple of trails. this was a little unexpected as they didn’t show up while reading about this spot. The trails are more for skiing than hiking. Still, they are there so why not use them. Turns out, there are a number of trails going through this area I didn’t know about. I’m a sucker for a good trail with nice scenery and a chance to see wildlife. Someplace else to explore if I’m in the area again. The original plan was to drive through this state natural area, stop once and awhile to take pictures and be back at the hotel to grab breakfast with everyone else. Ahh, the best of plans.
Once on the trail I was making good time but the lure of what’s ahead kept motivating me to go further. Getting back in time to have breakfast with everyone else soon disappeared along with being back in about an hour. As I was making my way back to the car I took a wrong turn and did a loop back to trails I had walked earlier making the return that much later. Still, the fall landscape in Northern Wisconsin was more than enough to make this excursion worth while.
Experience Gained: Taking note of the time and direction at the start of the hike using a compass or GPS if there is signal makes getting back to that spot easier. Also, the speed of hiking easier trails is considerably faster especially when I’m the only one hiking. Not that hiking alone is my preference. Sharing the experience is important to me.
During the holiday weekend at the end of May we were camping in the Bluffs near the Mississippi River. Since it was a later spring the water temperatures were colder than usual, it was cloudy and cool so the fishing would likely be slower than we wanted. After a little research we found a couple of trails near by and decided to go for a hike in the bluffs and see if we could find an great view or two.
The forest was so lush and green with a number of beautiful wildflowers beginning to bloom.
This was a 7 mile trail so a little longer hike than we’ve been on before but without any gear should be achievable. Expecting we should be able to hike at a 1.5 mph pace it was expected to take about 4-5 hours total to complete this trail including time to eat and enjoy the views while taking pictures. Past experience taught us to bring along food for a meal as well as a few snacks and water.
As we arrived at the park we found out that this is mostly an ATV trail and very few people actually hike it. As a result the trail was quite muddy in places and we needed to keep a watch for ATV’s as there were many using the trail that weekend. The first half of the trail was lacking much for vistas that we were hoping to see and included a couple of steep hills both up and down to climb. Fortunately the blooming wildflowers and seeing a scarlet tanager made this part of the trail worth the effort. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a scarlet tanager.
Growing a little tired of hiking after walking up the bluff for a second time we were just hoping there were no more major hills to climb down and back up again. Shortly we came upon the first of a couple of locations that over look the Mississippi River and surrounding bluffs. It was at this point we achieved our main goals of this hike which was to see this amazing part of the country from within the top of the bluffs. Here was a view from an area we had not witnessed before.
After taking in the views it was time to head down off the bluffs to the trailhead. If time permits a trip to the locally famous Nelson Cheese Factory for some great ice cream was in order. With that motivation the pace was increased to get back to our cars and head towards our camping location.
For those who are curious, we did make it in time to get our ice cream.
Experiences Gained: Longest hike yet in one day gaining confidence to tackle more difficult hikes on Isle Royale and the Rocky Mountains someday hopefully soon, Saw several scarlet tanagers which are a beautiful, vibrant red bird that migrates to this area for the summer, and enjoyed views of the river and bluffs new to us.