Day 1 - Biking Lac du FlambeauThe timing of this year's trip worked out perfectly. Although I wasn't able to make the 49th Annual Beef-a-Rama in Minocqua, I did arrive the day after (September 29th), with clear blue skies, temperatures around 70 degrees, and the leaves at their peak color change. My plans called for two bike rides and one hike along the area forest roads and trails, before heading back home on October 2nd.
I arrived in the Minocqua area about 12:30pm, which was perfect for a bike tour around the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation. Since the drive from Waterloo, IA was approximately 6-1/2 hours, plans were for a nice 18 mile bike ride on the roads shown in red in the in the photo. However, when you are enjoying the sights more than the route you are traveling, you end up with a 30 mile bike ride, and only riding a portion of the intended route. But that was ok.. I got to explore some of the back roads and lakes of the area.
My journey started and ended at the Lake of the Torches Resort and Casino (good place to leave my SUV). Although my thighs and rear end were "feeling it", I couldn't resist a few slots before heading to the hotel in Minocqua. More good news... I came out even!
Day 2 - Hiking along the WI/MI Border
Monday morning I loaded up the SUV with my back pack and camera equipment, and traveled North on Hiway 51 thru Manitowish Waters and headed to the Wisconsin/Michigan (UP-Upper Peninsula) border. The area had several forest roads and ATV trails which looked perfect for exploring. My planned route would take me into the UP around Hook Lake, and then South around No Mans Lake and Bena Lake.
The initial portion of the trip was on ATV trails - gravel and sometimes grassy paths, This wooded area also had wetlands, which made some of the trails impassable. It was clear that the ATV riders knew this and made several alternative paths thru the woods. You'd think after missing turns on my biking route yesterday I would have looked my hiking route over a bit more closely to avoid missing the right trail. LESSON #1 - Make sure you know your route! (Yes, I ended up taking a different route, adding an extra couple miles). No problem... I had plenty of time to wander on the beautiful Wisconsin day.
Upon completing the 1st half of the hike I headed out on the southern portion of the route. This was mainly on gravel roads which property owners used to get to their homes and cabins. Should be a piece of cake completing this portion. LESSON #2 - Verify the Google Maps routes do still exist! About 3/4 of the way around No Mans Lake, the road I was on came to an end. Fortunately, there was a cabin, and a gentleman chopping wood. After showing him my "planned route", he pointed me to "the road" I wanted (see photo to the right). He informed me that the current property owner "wouldn't shoot me", but that the prior owner "probably would have. Time for about a half mile of cross country hiking to get to the main road.
After 10 miles of hiking, this added adventure took a bit of effort, but I made it to the road heading back to my vehicle. Along the cross country hike I came across an old Model T frame, obviously abandoned many, many years ago.
4-1/2 hours and 11.6 miles later, I made it back to my car. A successful hike completed!
Time to head back toward Minoqua and relax a bit. But not before a stop at Mann Lake, and a check of the old family cabin.
This cabin, built in the 1940's has been abandoned for the last 15 years... and it still stands prominently on a point of the lake.
Day 2 is in the books. Tomorrow brings one more bike ride, this time around the Boulder Junction area.
Day 3 - Bike Ride around the Boulder Junction area
The final day of my trip was to explore the roads and trails around the Boulder Junction area. The planned route would take me Northwest out of Boulder Junction, along forest roads, around Jenny and Sanford Lakes, back to the South to near Upper Gresham Lake, and then back East and North, returning to Boulder Junction. Boulder Junction has several paved bike trails along Hiway M, providing leisurely riding for those visiting the town. Leaving the bike trails I headed into the forest. Following some ATV/snowmobile trails, I once again found my planned route "disappearing". Using my phone's GPS, I was able to find the route, but it appeared that the portion I was on was no longer used as a trail (see photo). Not wanting to back track, I ventured on, and came upon a trail system which appeared to be a mountain biking trail system. Thinking I was back on track, I headed out... 1st thing I learned was I AM NOT IN SHAPE FOR TRAIL RIDING MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS! These trails had tons of hills to ascend/descend, and several alternative "trails" you could take. Not having this trail system on my map, I continued on, thinking I would soon intersect with the road I would take back to the South and West.
After probably an hour of following these trails, I came upon Sanford Lake. A small but beautiful lake, run by the Park Service for recreational use and fishing. I stopped to enjoy the view, and recheck my map on where to head next.
I hopped back on my bike and headed out, and shortly came to Jenny Lake. Like Sanford Lake, this is also a great spot to camp and fish. OK, now its time to get serious and find my route... besides, there was only one other way to go. I finally came upon a paved road. This must be my road.. so I followed it... ANOTHER DEAD END! The road lead onto some private property, which I was not about to attempt. Assuming this paved road must be here for a reason, I headed back the opposite way. Now into about 20 miles (~ 4 hours) of riding to this point, and my legs (and rear end) beginning to wear out, I decided it was time to find a way out and head back to Boulder Junction.
I followed the paved road back to the North, eventually running into County Road B. I began my 8 mile trek from there back to Boulder Junction. 33.4 miles and 5 hours later I made it back into town. A GREAT ride, but not the one I had planned. Suffice to say, by now, after three days of biking and hiking, my legs were telling me its time to call it a day.
The 2013 edition of my Fall escape to Northern Wisconsin was in the books. The beauty and tranquility of the North Woods is like nothing else. It so makes you appreciate how fortunate we are to have areas like this to enjoy.
As I write this, I am already exploring Northern Wisconsin and the UP with Google Maps for possible adventures for next Fall, or maybe even this upcoming Winter, using snow shoes!
If you would like to see more photos taken during my journeys, click on the link below. Feel free to share this blog and the photo albums with other who you think might be looking for an outdoor adventure in Upper Midwest!