Monday, October 24, 2016

Decorah, Iowa

We headed south into Iowa for our little adventure today; Noelle, Sierra, Mom and I. Our first stop, when we had reached the quaint town of Decorah, was for lunch at a barbecue place. Then we set off to find the famous Decorah Ice Cave on Ice Cave Road. We parked the car in a small gravel lot
and then headed up a flight of stone stairs to the ice cave.
Sierra and Grandma headed to Ice Cave
at ice cave entrance
I was the only one who went very far inside. I used the flashlight on my cell phone to see inside, but there was no ice to be seen. I quickly made my way back out to a waiting Noelle and Sierra
looking out
and we headed back down the stairs
coming down
and moved on to our next destination: Dunning's Springs.

We parked the car along a creek,
at the river
crossed the road near an old root cellar
root cellar
and walked a closed road to the cascading waterfall at Dunning's Springs.
Dunnings Spring
A metal plaque on a rock told a little bit about the history of the place.
Wanting to see a little bit more, Noelle, Sierra an I walked past some gentlemen working on a neat looking stone bridge
and headed up some stairs
headed up
to get a different view of the cascade.
view from above
At the top of the stairs the water emerges from a crack in the rock. We admired the view and then headed back down to Grandma and the last stop of our trip: the Toppling Goliath Brewery.
beer at Toppling Goliath

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hiking the Hass Tract in La Crosse, Wisconsin

When we were walking around La Crosse yesterday, we found the visitor information center along the Mississippi River was open. We looked around inside a bit and I found some information about hiking and canoe trails. The brochure that I grabbed for the Hass Tract, a Mississippi Valley Conservancy property, seemed interesting.

We began our hike in beautiful fall weather on this quiet Sunday morning. The trail immediately started a climb up to a ridge.
Noelle on the trail
There were a few broken views through the tress up on top of the ridge, but the views mostly led out across the sprawl of Wal Mart and other big box stores. Soon enough we came to a section of the property that approached private property.
MVC sign
Here the trail made a sharp right turn which we followed to an opening created by a power line cut. There were views of the surrounding city, bluffs, and power lines.
view of bluffs
At the end of the trail was a bench which Noelle and I rested on for a short time
Noelle relaxing
before heading back down the trail.

It was a short hike of about 2 miles round trip. Since we had some time, we decided to head over to the Turtle Stack Brewery for some beers,
before lunch and running some errands in Onalaska.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Couple of Days in La Crosse, Wisconsin

We've headed down to Galesville to visit with family and decided to take advantage of a pair of beautiful days by exploring La Crosse a little bit.
LaCrosse symbol
For all the time that we've spent visiting family in Galesville, it's hard to believe that we haven't spent more time in La Crosse. It's a nice city with some interesting things to do in the outdoors.

Our first stop yesterday was the well known Grandad Bluff Park. We've been there before, but it had been a while and we were all impressed with the improvements that have been made to the park. The views on the beautiful fall day were pretty awesome. There was a nice view across to the University of Wisconsin La Crosse
LaCrosse from Grandad
and out across a golf course from the main viewing platform.
another view from Grandad
Then there is another viewing spot that sits out on the edge a narrow section of bluff.
viewing platform
We checked the view out from there and then headed back towards the stone shelter and the car.
walkway at Grandad

From Grandad's Bluff we headed through downtown La Crosse and over to the Mississippi River. We found and explored the very pleasant Riverside International Friendship Gardens. After walking through the entrance arch
walking through arch
we explored the Chinese,
Sierra looking in water
Sierra walks around
friendship pavilion
and Norwegian gardens. We even got to see a barge make its way up the river.

Then we walked along the mighty Mississippi,
Mississippi bridges
walking river trail
past statues of Hiawatha,
Hiawatha (2)
an eagle,
eagle sculpture
and some kids waving to a passing boat on the Riverwalk.
children sculpture
On the way back, I noticed a forgotten seeming memorial to the USS Maine.
USS Maine memoria;
Then we made our way back to Galesville.

Today we headed back to La Crosse for the Enchanted Forest, a Halloween event for children. The whole family donned our owl hats that Noelle had crocheted.
Happy Halloween from the Enchanted Forest.
The walk was set up in Myrick Park and featured lots of great views across the wetlands there.
It looks like a place that we will definitely have to return to to explore in the future. Sierra got plenty of candy loot.
Enchanted Forest
We even saw a little wildlife!
At the end there was a fun obstacle course that Sierra had fun running through.
coming out of obstacle course

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Voyageurs National Park: Kab Ash Trail Salmi Road to Ash River Trail

This was a section of the Kab Ash Trail that lived up to its billing as "the place where hikers go to get lost." I made the short drive down to Salmi Road and promptly hit the trail
entering a maze of old logging roads. Surprisingly, there were a few asters still in bloom.
Overall, its starting to look like the start of our long, northern Minnesota winter.

Though there were lots of roads leading in every which direction, I discovered that if I looked hard enough I would find a blue Kab Ash Trail marker to point the way.
trail marker
Soon I headed into some of the thickest, darkest forest I'd been into in a long time. It reminded me of some of the forests I would see up in the mountains of North Carolina. Then, I left the deep mossy forest and entered into a bright, grassy beaver meadow.
beaver meadow
From there the trail led into a cedar glade.
hiking through cedars
I crossed the Arrowhead Trail,
arrowhead trail
a snowmobile trail and then into a recently logged area.

Finding the trail through the logged area was simply a guessing game on my part, but soon I found a gate across an old road. The gate was marked with National Park Service boundary signs. I would finally cross into the park and immediately found a rusty stove
old stove
and some debris alongside the trail. Perhaps, this was what was left of an old logging camp or hunting camp. I headed back into some cedars
between cedars
and then the trail got really swampy. Just like during yesterday's hike at Franz Jevne State Park, lots of colorful fungi decorated the forest floor.
colorful fungi
mushroom on log

Soon I came to the most interesting part of the hike. It was a large, active beaver pond.
beaver pond 1
There were chomped down trees everywhere near the trail
beaver chewed tree
massive chewed down tree
and one of the most massive beaver lodges I've ever seen.
beaver dam and lodge
A lot of the fallen trees had fresh piles of wood chips alongside, but I never did see any of the resident beavers. As I headed further east the trail soon reached a long section of boardwalk.
boardwalk again
A lot of time and effort went into this trail, yet the trail was in terrible shape. It was very overgrown.

After splashing through more wet areas, I found myself at a stream, Daley Brook.
daley Brook 2
The trail followed along the banks of Daley Brook, crossed it on a snowmobile bridge and then followed the banks again on the other side.
Daley Brook from bridge
I knew I was nearing the park boundary when I saw a sign that said "No hunting or trapping". Sure enough, I soon found myself outside the park
park boundary
and followed a trail to the parking lot on Ash River Trail. I did not have a fun experience on this section of the Kab Ash Trail and decided that I did not want to walk it back to the car. Instead I walked a portion of the Ash River Trail past some golden tamaracks,
and then turned right onto the Arrowhead Trail
trail view
(which wasn't nearly as swampy as the Kab Ash Trail) to make my way back to the car.