Saturday, July 30, 2011

Perch Lake to Point Detour

I actually slept pretty well at the Perch Lake Campground. It was funny to hear, as I went to bed, frogs hoping around the site foraging. I had seen a lot of frogs in the area, mostly green frogs but some tree frogs too, and it seems they have no qualms about hoping into a campsite looking for bugs. I figured with so many frogs, there wasn't much chance that there were raccoons or bears in the area, since I would think the frogs would make easy prey.

I awoke to the call of a loon over the lake. I got up, ate breakfast, finished up my trip report from the previous day, and hit the road a little late, around 8:30 or 9. It was about 5 miles to Delta, where I saw the famous Delta Diner. But I had JUST eaten breakfast, plus I still wasn't feeling well, so I didn't have an appetite for anything at all.

Shortly there after the pavement ended and I rode off into the "north woods". The thing is, I never felt like I got to the north woods. I think because the whole place has been cut over, in most cases a couple times, and all the trees are small, most below 12" DBH, none more than 24" in diameter, I never felt like I was in a mature forest. It seems that the Northwoods are more legend anymore than real place, something that was and that will hopefully be again.

At one point in the morning I was trying to take a photo of the road ahead of me when my camera battery died. This was unfortunate because it means that the rest of the photos for today will have to be taken with my crappy iPhone camera. But it was fortunate in that after stopping I looked off to the side of the road and found some twayblade orchids! I did the best I could photographing them with the iPhone, it took me about 15 mintes to get 2 or 3 passable shots (at least I'll be able to identify them to species later).

So anyway, I'm riding through the woods, and things start to change. No more wetlands, streams or lakes, and the soil gets very sandy. A lot of the trees are scrubby black oaks and the pinyon-like jack pines. It turns out there is a large are up here of very dry upland forest. There were a few aspen and long-needled red (and possibly Austrian?) pine mixed into, especially in plantations and wildlife pots. It was really reminiscent of northern Arizona, and if someone had blindfolded me and dropped me off back there and told me I was in the White Mountains at 8000 ft, I would have believed them, for a while.

With the sand came challenging roads, but these sand roads were pretty fun actually. Sure there were some washed out corners and climbs I had to walk up, but most of it was ridiable, and it kept me on my toes. I know I'm being repetitive but it really was like one of those rides on the dirt backroads of the Coconino National Forest. This is the most remote feeling area I have ever been in in the midwest. I went hours without seeing any sign of civilization (other than the roads of course). I was feeling good and having fun, and I was regretting less having to skip so much trail the previous day.

And there was almost no one out there. I didn't see anyone for hours. Then all of the sudden I saw 6 bear "hunter's" trucks in 15 minutes.

The truck parked next to this one had 3 VERY bored looking hounds in it.

I will spare you my rant about bear hunting with hounds, but suffice it to say it is the most cowardly and unsportsman-like form of "hunting".

A while later I was still cruising along with my headphone in when I heard the ravens making a ruckus in the woods not 50 feet away from me. So I got off the bike to have a look-see. I never found anything, but when I was walking out I heard a large animal moving away. IT could have been a deer, but why would the ravens be mobbing a deer? I'm guessing it was a bear.

Not two minutes later I'm looking down the road and I see a canine. A wolf?!?!? No, too small, just a coyote. Before I can figure out how I might get a photo using my iPhone of a coyote that's 50 yards away he sees me and bolts off into the woods. His fresh tracks were pretty small and didn't make much of an impression in the hardened sandy soil:

Just a mile or so later I'm pondering tracks when I look down and see wolf tracks!

The only other thing that could make tracks like that would be a large dog. They were not particularly fresh since they had been driven over by an ATV, but still very cool to see. And I do suppose that a guy could have been out with his big husky running ahead of his ATV, but, the next set of tracks would be harder to explain away. A few minutes later I remembered that I have a Scat and Tracks of North America iPhone app, that would have come in handy, doh!

So I finally get to a short stretch of paved county highway, I have to admit I was getting a little antsy about being alone in wolf territory with no-one around for miles.  But before long I was back on remote back roads. Here the soil was more of a sandy clay, and the foliage reflected the soils increased water holding capacity, I was back in forest with a mix of broadleaf trees (mostly maple and big-tooth aspen) and tall pines. This soil type made for very rutted roads with multiple truck and ATV tire tracks preserved like ancient dinosaur tracks in the stones of Utah. Challenging riding for sure, I'm just glad it wasn't wet, since it would have surely been impossible.

My first view of Lake Superior.

This soil also made for good animal track impressions. I was looking down at a set of coyote tracks, when I noticed that a bear had crossed the same path!

A mile or two later, I found these:

There's no other explanation for these, they are definitely wolf tracks! According to my iPhone app these were laid out in the "side trot" pattern.

I finally made it through all of these rolling rutted roads and onto the state highway for 2 miles before turning north once more on the final run to the lake. This area definitely reminded me of the Traverse City region with a lot of nice homes and vacations houses scattered in a mixed environment of forest and agricultural land (mostly hayfield and old pasture).

The road slowly graded downhill for a while, and then I was finally at Point Detour, the northern-most point of mainland Wisconsin!

Dipping my tire in Lake Superior so that I had completed the ride across every inch of the state. It was a lot of effort to get the bike down to the water over the big rocks along the shoreline, but this was, of course, absolutely necessary to complete the journey.

Happy camper, with an Aposole's island in the background.

Speaking of camping, there is a "primitive" campground right at point detour, I think its part of the Red Cliff Indian Reservation. Its kind of an odd place, some sites have picnic tables but not all, some have fire pits, and most are mowed. Only a half dozen or so about of the 2 dozen sites have all these amenities, and then there are some picnic tables randomly placed near the one pit toilet, cause people love to picnic next to outhouses.

I picked a spot with 2 trees and a picnic table and set up camp.

Having gotten there around 7pm, I though I was coming in kind of late, and there were only 2 other groups in the whole campground, but before I went to bed another 6-8 groups arrived. I guess since its Friday people got off of work and got here as soon as they could.

I have been seeing this butterfly a lot for the entire trip, but I can't find it in my Butterflies of WI iPhone app. I saw one in my campsite so I took a photo of it. Anyone know what it is?

Total of 62 miles ridden today, despite the sand, rocks and ruts, it felt pretty east.

Now one leg of this journey is over. Tomorrow I head to Ashland, where I will meet up with Carol for a half-day off and she will resupply me for my ride across Michigan's upper peninsula.

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