Thanks to some great resources I found on Facebook and the web, I had several spot to choose from. Theresea at the Boulder Junction Chamber of Commerce suggested
Van Vliet Hemlocks area, or the Catherine Wolters Wilderness Area.
The Minocqua Chamber of Commerce suggested checking out Minocqua Winter Park, west of town.
Michael Crowley, author of "Life in the Northwoods" web site and Facebook site is a premiere photographer of the North Woods, and recommended checking out areas along the Manitowish River, as well as Bond Falls, just across the Wisconsin border in the UP of Michigan.
Given the choices, I decided to venture further north, and check out the Bond Falls area. I headed out Tuesday morning at about 8:00am, knowing I had about a 90 minute drive, and knowing that an additional 2-3 inches of snow fell overnite. Amazingly, the roads were great to travel on, even when taking some of the county back roads after crossing into Michigan. It might have been that I probably only saw 6-8 vehicles on the roads to Bond Falls too, that made the driving easy!
The countryside was amazing.. This is what you imagine winter in the North to be - trees covered with snow and frost, with snow at least a foot deep, So many times I was tempted to stop and take photos... but I knew it would take forever to get to Bond Falls if I did.
Bond Falls is a waterfall on the middle branch of the Ontonagon River, and part of the Bond Falls Flowage. The Michigan DNR manages this 90 acrea area, and requires a recreation passport to visit and view. Noone was at the site when I arrived, so I donned my extra apparel and cameras, hooked up my snowshoes, and headed out. The 1st thing I noticed was the additional snow. The snow depth in the Bond Falls area were at least 12-16". The area also required traversing some paths which had some substantial rise/fall in them. For a "2nd time snowshoer" this took a bit of getting used to, to avoid falling on my butt.. or even worse, into Bond Falls!
The area around the Falls has been improved with some walkways, to accommodate access by all, including special needs.
Te following photos are a few of the views I was able to enjoy on my snowshoe hike.
I made it back to the main road, and before heading back to the car, I decided to "off-road", and try wandering free style into the wooded camp area on along the flowage. You can see, by the photo to the left, there was ALOT of snow to walk thru. After about 15 minutes, the adventurist in me disappeared, and it was time to head back to the car. It was during this time, I kept thinking, why didn't I consider snowshoeing when I was 20 years younger!
My adventure to Bond Falls had come to an end. So glad I made the drive from Minocqua. Its absolutely beautiful up here in the Winter. I can only imagine what areas further North (Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula, Bayfield area and Apostle Islands, and the many, many forest trails throughout the North Woods). This is definitely a "must do" for anyone who enjoys the outdoors, and the amazing sights of Winter in the Northern United States.
Before I end, I would be remiss if I didn't list my recommendations and "lessons Learned" from these two days of exploration (I know, the "engineer in me" does not go away).
- Find connections thru the web (or Facebook) to areas you are interested in exploring, and ask for their recommendations
- Check out State/National Park requirements - many/most will require parking pass and hiking pass
- Plan hikes to your level of fitness - snowshoeing requires MUCH MORE effort than regular hiking!
- Find a friend or organization who will loan (or rent) snowshoes to you. Stores in the areas you are going will likely rent equipment. This will let you decide if investing in snowshoes is something you want to do.
- Use ski poles! These help with stability in areas with branches, rocks and enbankments. (it also amps up the workout to include your arms and upper body ... I know this 1st hand!)
- Wear a backpack that includes extra outerwear (jacket, gloves, mittens, stocking caps), and emergency supplies (whistle, flashlight, matches, compass)
- Carry a smart phone. It provides emergency contact capability if needed.
- Download apps on your smart phone that provides gps location and tracking, as well as compass (Cary an extra phone battery if possible)
- Dress in layers - its better to add/remove layers and store extra in backpack
- Bring both gloves and mittens - gloves work best with ski poles, but if cold, the mittens will work best for keeping hands warm
- Use "gaitors" to minimize snow on your pants and boots
- Take a camera. You'll want to capture the experience
- Take some snacks. The workout in cold weather burns alot of calories
- DON'T RUSH - take time to enjoy the beauty and mother nature at its finest!
Most of all, have a great time!
I have loaded many of the other photos I took during the Bond Falls Trip into a Picasa Album. If you are interested in viewing these, Click Here.