Ice Age Trail Chronicles: Turtle Rock

Ice Age Trail Chronicles:
Turtle Rock Segment, Lincoln County
October 10, 2016

Another Federal holiday, another day to hike the Ice Age Trail. The Turtle Rock was our destination on this beautiful fall day. Kevin parked his truck on Burma Road, where we met that day. I picked him up and off we went to start on Highway E. When hiking a longer segment like this, it works best to have two vehicles. As it turns out though, we would only need one.

We started into the south, planning to complete the approximately four mile segment, and end at Kevin’s truck on Burma. Simple enough in theory, as long as you follow the clearly marked trail. Bright yellow spray paint illuminates the path thanks to Ice Age Trail volunteers.

A small creek, with a series of old beaver ponds, paralleled our route as we began. Rounding the corner, a wood duck took flight from his hiding spot. Here the creek crossed our path. Up the hill we went through my favorite portion of the trail. Young white birch trees grew thick on both sides to create a tunnel-like effect. Up ahead, the familiar sound of a ruffed grouse could be heard, trying to avoid us intruders. The creek, now on our left, created a deep, scenic ravine. Before long we arrived at it’s final destination. Flowing into the Wisconsin River, we paused for a moment. Another wood duck swam along the shore. Everything was familiar, yet different. As we glanced across the river, we looked at Hwy 107 where we have both driven dozens, if not hundreds of times. During those drives, we stared out across the water to the place we now stood. Same water, different perspective. On we went.

Here, the trail followed the river downstream until we reached the upper portion of the Grandfather dam system. Overlooking this area sits a Leopold chair, perfect for a midway break, thanks again to the faithful volunteers. The river diverges at this point, between the original riverbed and the carefully constructed waterway that now leads the water to two giant tubes, producing power at the lower portion of the Grandfather dam system. Here the two bodies of water converge once again to continue their journey downstream.

The water roared as it navigated the numerous boulders of the original riverbed. Our route followed this path. Before long we headed back into the woods, but paused shortly after we did. There was no sign and nothing indicating that this was the spot, but it was clear. Another one of boulders was located next to our trail, clearly the reason for the trail’s namesake – Turtle Rock.

After admiring the beauty of this mysterious creation and pondering awhile, we continued. Here, the trail was a well groomed network of old logging roads and snowmobile trail. That’s also what got us in trouble. For awhile, we watched for the yellow markers on the trees, but soon we were deep in conversation. Following the path of least resistance, we continued. Finally, Kevin stopped. “This area looks familiar and I don’t see any yellow markers,” he said. Sure enough, our original trail was right in front of us. Somehow, we had lost the path. We clearly missed an arrow, directing us off our nicely groomed trail. But, we made another discovery that we would have missed. At this point, we noticed a pond through the trees. We ventured to take a look, always wondering what is over the next hill. Ducks were everywhere – mallards, mergansers, and more of our wood ducks. It was a beautiful site. Amazing, how life is often like that. Go down a path you didn’t expect and find something better than you imagined.

At that point, we followed the path back and arrived right where we started. Kevin had to complete the segment and finished it that day. For me, that adventure awaits.

Published: April 28, 2017

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