Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Magnificent Hike of Bond Falls after a Severe Thunderstorm

It had been almost 6 years to the date since I had last visited the Upper Peninsula. A torrent of memories rushed in the moment I crossed the state line. My last visit was during a very iconic time of my life when I was making a great trek from California to Maine to start grad school. Camping out on the shores of Lake Superior and hiking to the waterfalls of Pictured Rocks are scenes forever etched in my mind. Last time I had entered by way of Ironwood, this time I came up from the south. 

Back in paradise!
At the end of the summer or after a dry spell, Bond Falls is one of those pristine waterfalls that will certainly end up being a photographer's favorite. Cascading 50 ft down a fairly diagonal slope, the pictures I had seen prior to visiting made it look serene. However I visited the area after an extreme period of thunderstorms and it was far more turbulent! I could hear the roaring sound of the waterfall from the parking lot. Today I would not be getting a wispy, horsetail-like picture. In fact, it felt more like Niagara Falls in the Upper Peninsula.

The trail to the waterfall is neither steep nor difficult.  The scenic area has numerous boardwalk trails to help with exploration.  Bond Falls is encircled by these boardwalk trails below.  A small, partially paved trail ascends the right flank of the falls giving the viewer a chance to see the cascades above.  For a wilderness waterfall, it is remarkably accessible.

I have to admit, I was cautious and a little bit scared ascending the trail to the top of the falls. Normally I don't think that the waterfall runs down the trail itself but today it had covered one of the view points. The sound was deafening and the force was palpable. It almost felt like I was in an earthquake. What power!

Although Bond Falls is the centerpiece of the park, I did enjoy skirting around the smaller canyons and eddies above the falls.  The river above ran with a terrific temper as well. It's amazing how much can change with a night of severe thunderstorms. If you visit, plan for at least two hours of wandering and pondering.

Close to Bond falls is Agate Falls which I visited later in the same day.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mountain Biking the Raven Trail, Minocqua, Wisconsin

The Raven Trail is one of the finest mountain biking trail systems in the Northwoods. Flowing and sheltered, it’s a grand ride through the woods.

Mountain biking "up nort" in Wisconsin is serious business. Before visiting, I thought that there would be some quaint trail systems that were fun to poke around but I was not ready for what I encountered

Normally I'm a meticulous researcher when it comes to mountain biking. In this case the discovery of the Raven Trail was serendipitous. I was on my way to the famous Copper Harbor Trails of the Upper Peninsula but had forgotten my helmet! Fortunately, there was a great bike shop in Eagle River that illuminated the mountain biking opportunities of the area. After talking with a few of the shop people and some folks that happened to be there, it was clear that the Raven Trail could not be missed by anyone claiming to be a serious mountain biker. I took the detour and was glad I did!

The Raven Trail is just outside of Minocqua-Woodruff. This area is a hotspot for Wisconsinites and Midwesterners for essentially everything outdoors. Minocqua, Rhinelander, Eagle River and Three Lakes are etched into the memories of many a family, especially those who’ve grown up in the state. I regretted that I couldn’t spend more time up here. 

The trailhead for the Raven Trail is well marked and not far off Highway 47. In the summer, the parking lot is likely full of bikers and in the winter I’m sure it’s all snowmobilers and cross country skiers. The trails are laid out like a typical mountain biking system; there are numerous loops of varying difficulties and it is easy to combine them all into a day’s trip. I biked the red loop which is considered difficult but the blue (intermediate) and green (easy) trails were just as fun. 

I would describe the red trail as rolling and steep at times but not too technical. It ends up being a lovely ride through the woods for that reason. There are also fantastic views of Clear Lake and a seemingly uninterrupted wilderness. Riding in the morning of a weekday, I encountered no other riders. 

The blue and green loops had a mix of wide dirt sections and paved roads. Nevertheless, the tenor of both trails was serene and relaxing. I found the blue trail was about the same level of difficulty as the green trail. 

It’s a fine trail system that shouldn’t be missed by somebody looking for a relaxing ride that will get your pulse up from time to time. Hardcore riding devotees may find the trail lacking in features but I appreciated the views and quietude. Thankfully, it’s not the only trail system in the area and I’m sure I’ll be returning!