2014 - Biking and Hiking in Northern Wisconsin
My favorite time of the year - Fall in the Midwest. Nothing beats the amazing colors, and the fresh clear days. So it was time to once again make my journey to Northern Wisconsin and enjoy some biking and hiking in the forests of the Northwoods. This trip would encompass 4 days - 3 biking, and one hiking, around Rhinelander, Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters.
Day 1 - Biking near Rhinelander
The area I selected had many ATV trails and forest roads to explore. Being the weekend, there were several others out on their ATVs enjoying the beautiful afternoon (clear, calm and 78 degrees) along with me. The path I chose was forest/county roads, which were generally level for most of the ride... until the end. To get back to my vehicle, I had to traverse a portion of Hiway 17 near Pine Lake. You know how while you are driving, you pass thru some rolling countryside and don't think a thing of it? Well, next time think of doing those hills on a bike, and add to it doing it on the gravel shoulders! Suffice to say that my first ride of this Fall getaway "broke me in".... 29 miles and some good hill climbing!
Day 2-Biking Boulder Junction & Sayner
|Link to Google Map|
The asphalt bike paths are wonderful! Generally easy rolling terrain, but a few good dips and hills to add some excitement. Riders and walkers of ALL ages will enjoy these. They wind thru the beautiful wooded areas along County Hiways M & N, and take you along the shoreline of Trout Lake, Crystal Lake, and Plum Lake. Rest Rooms are available along the route, and with the towns of Boulder Junction and Sayner on either end, you have the opportunity to stop and grab some refreshments in the local stores.
Along the Trout Lake portion of the trail I came upon a man and woman, with the man carrying a camera. As background, I have always enjoyed photos of the Northwoods and its natural beauty. One of the premiere photographers of this area is Michael Crowley, who's web site "LifeintheNorthWoods.com" and Facebook Page "LifeintheNorthwoods", have amazing photos of the wildlife and natural beauty. Well, this couple walking the trail looked awfully familiar. I stopped to say hello, and sure enough, it was Michael and his wife Marshia! Both had on their "Packers Green and Yellow", and were enjoying the beautiful Sunday morning before heading home to "watch the Packers game". So great to finally meet Michael. He has been a great resource to me for finding places to explore on my journeys to the Northwoods.
On the return ride, I jumped on to a snowmobile trail approximately a mile from the County Hiway M and N junction, taking shortcut up to Big Muskellunge Lake Road. Some breathtaking colors along this remote path!
The next portion of the ride followed the Big Muskellunge Lake Road and Nabish Lake forest roads before turning North again on a forest road leading to Stevenson Creek and surrounding marsh area. Although no deer or bears were spotted, the marsh area had its fill of water fowl enjoying the remoteness of this body of water.
Crossing over the land bridge, I started the final leg back to Boulder Jct. By now, my legs (and more importantly my rear end) had logged approximately 35 miles... Of course, at this point of the route, the hills began to get a bit longer and steeper. After a couple miles on a sandy forest road, I reconnected with the bike path back to Boulder Jct. Woo-Hoo... a nice smooth ride for the last few miles.
Day 3 - Hiking Mann Lake
|Link to Google Map|
Mann Lake is home to a family cabin, albeit now abandoned. I have made it an annual ritual to come visit the cabin, checking out its condition, and to enjoy the serenity and beauty of Mann Lake. With the lake primarily surrounded by state forest land, my hike would follow forest roads, snowmobile trails and a bit of pure forest trail blazing.
Starting out from the North shore of the Lake, the path along the West side of the Lake to the cabin were primarily snowmobile and forest road trails. As you can see in the photo, the lake was shrouded with a light mist.
After my cabin visit I located a rarely used forest trail which took me East, thru the woods on the South side of the lake. The only sign of any civilization along this route was a surveyor's marker.
Soon the seldom used path began to disappear. At this point, I forged on, in what I believed was the direction that would lead me to intersecting a snowmobile trail that would lead me up the East side of Mann Lake. If you look at the map, and notice a loop around a small lake on the SE side of Mann Lake, its clear that my trail blazing skill in a dense forest leaves alot to be desired. It was at this point the use of my cell phone GPS and Google Map became a VERY valuable asset. I regained my bearings, and began the trek North.
Some recent logging had opened up a large area on the NE corner of the lake. Figuring I could use this open area as a shortcut, I began cutting across. The ground in the logged area was now covered with a "vine like" vegetation. Should be easy to walk thru... NOT! It was about 12-16 inches deep, making it tough to walk, and also hiding objects that were prime for tripping over (yes, I tripped more than once). Looking again at the map above, you'll see a 2nd loop in my hiking route. This is the result of me deciding this "shortcut" was NOT a shortcut. I headed back to the snowmobile trail.. and MUCH easier hiking.
Approximately 9 miles into my hike, I was ready to take on the final leg. I decided to see if I could find a path thru the woods back to the North shore of Mann Lake, where the cabins and my vehicle were. The snowmobile path I would normally take runs close to the County Hiway N & M roads. I located a rarely used forest path that followed the North shoreline of the lake. Knowing my legs were getting tired, and this path could save me possibly an extra mile of hiking, it was time to explore the new path. Sure enough, despite having to climb over some fallen trees and traverse thru some dense ground cover, the North shore homes appeared... and my vehicle.
Despite some wet feet and soggy socks and boots, Day Three's 11.5 mile hike around Mann Lake was a great success! One day left in this Fall getaway - bike ride to Manitowish Waters from Boulder Junction and back.
Day 4 - Biking Boulder Junction to Manitowish Waters
My final bike ride up North was to check out the new bike trail opened this Summer (July, 2014) between Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters. This is a paved trail similar to the one I rode Sunday between Boulder Jct. and Sayner. This path winds thru the woods and marsh areas along County Hiway K.
Of course, having had great Fall weather for most of this trip, Mother Nature decided to remind me that Winter is not far off. The temperature when I left Minocqua was 36 degrees. As I drove into Boulder Junction, the temperature had climbed to a "balmy" 40 degrees. No problem... I just added another layer, and some camo work gloves (picked up at Wal-Mart the day before in anticipation of the cold), and I was off!
Riding thru Boulder Junction, I came upon some visitors enjoying breakfast at one of the homes in town. It appears that not only do people put out bird feeders up here, but also deer feeders!
A short distance outside of town, I picked up the new trail. Boy, if you want to bike the North Woods, this is a great trail to do it on! The path winds thru the woods far enough away from the hiway so you hardly notice any traffic that might pass by. The path is generally flat, but occasional dips and hills will keep you working during the 17 mile journey.
As you can see from the photos, there were some fabulous sights, despite the cold, overcast morning. The cold temperature kept me moving, other than to make a brief stop for a photo or to look at the maps posted along the trail. The ride to Manitowish Waters took approximately two hours. The local convenience store was a perfect place to grab some hot coffee, and to relax a bit before the return trip.
I left the the new bike trail just East of the Manitowish Waters Airport, and headed South around Little Star and Manitowish Lakes. Some REALLY NICE homes and cabins in this area. This area is also relatively flat, making the riding very relaxing. This flat land is also prime for cranberry fields. It appears that I was probably 1-2 weeks late for the cranberry harvest, but was able to check out the field close up, and even sample a few cranberries that were sitting at a roadside stand.
On the final leg of the ride back to town (North Creek Road), the flat road riding now became more like a roller coaster ride. With 30 miles behind me (and 3 previous days of riding and hiking), the remaining ride back to County Hiway M was ALOT OF WORK! Coming upon the bike trail running along side County Hiway M was a sight for sore eyes (or, in this case - sore legs)! The final 3 miles of my ride back into Boulder Jct. was in sight!
My 2014 Fall Wisconsin biking and hiking trip had come to an end with a great 38 mile ride. Hats off to the folks of the Rhinelander, Minocqua/Woodruff, Boulder Junction, Sayner and Manitowish Waters communities. They take pride in their towns, and welcome visitors with open arms.
You can be sure that I will be back again!
If you would like to view other photos taken during this trip check out my Web Album