Category Archives: Hiking, Biking and Exploring

Feb 2017 – Shed Hunting

A few weekends ago my husband loaded the children up for the YMCA as we go most ever Saturday during the winter months, but on this particular day I didn’t feel like going. He proceeded as planned and I had the morning to myself at home. I completed a few necessary chores before taking a hike out on our 20 to look for deer sheds. Now to be clear I have never found one, I have never gone out looking and had little knowledge of what I was looking for.

I mean I did a Google search and read a few blogs before going out, but it was more or less just a hike. I found a den in the side of a hill where I think the raccoons have been living…..we’ll take care of them now that we know where they are living. I found a lot of deer scat, but not a single shed. We also don’t have many bucks around here as a few of our neighbors shoot anything with horns regardless of size. Jerks.

Anyway, I just realized with my lack of 2016 posts you were not aware I went out deer hunting for the first time in my life! Okay so now I’m going to take a quick detour from my original post and tell you about it. I don’t know if many of you know this, but I’m a U.S Army veteran. I’m obviously highly trained on how to sight in and use a gun, but have never killed anything in my life. Last year in like March I announced to my husband that I was going to go deer hunting in the fall.

I didn’t do much to prepare. I went out the night before opening day and sighted in an old rifle. I grouped in my first three shots so I went with it. We don’t have any deer stands on our property and I hadn’t scouted where I would sit. Also, and probably my biggest issue is I’m terrified of the dark. So opening morning I got up early, thew on my gear and headed out. It had rained the night before so the ground was wet, it was crazy windy and the rain was turning to snow. Well it was trying to snow, but the temps were right around 32 so it was just sleety nasty. I got out in the woods in the dark and found a downed tree that I decided to sit under. I’ll have to head out there one night and get a picture for you.

Anyway, so there’s this down tree….it’s snapped like 7 feet off the ground and the top part makes like a teepee to the ground. Then immediately in front of this tree is a living larger tree and to my right a bunch of thick buckthorn. I get settled in, pour my coffee and get on my phone. I fully intend to just sit outside and drink my coffee in piece and quiet and claim to not see anything. Once I hit shooting time I put my phone away and try to listen for movement. With the crazy swirling winds it was impossible to hear myself think, let alone hear if anything was coming.

Off on the tree line I see three deer moving out to the field to eat. I think to myself that I set up in a dumb place and wish I had stayed tight to the field just for that reason. Too late now.

Awhile later I spot a small buck off to my right heading down into our cofferdam damn to get a drink. I text my husband about his arrival and ask him if I should try to “advance” on the deer. At this point I think he realizes that I’m crazy and should not have been allowed out on my own to hunt. We continue texting about how I’m going to sneak up and shoot this deer. Between texts I look up and it appears I’m sitting right on a deer run and there are three dear like twelve feet in front of me. I pull up and it seems that time slows down to a crawl. I have her in my sights, but fear this is the doe and her two fawns that I enjoy watching from my kitchen window on weekends.

I still have her in my sights, I slide the safety off and squeeze. KABOOM!! Jesus, my ears are ringing, should I have worn earplugs. I see the other two deer look up and I have the second one in my sights, I think about pulling the trigger, but refrain.

Meanwhile, the deer I “shot” jumps over me on my left. Great, I missed it all together. I feel like an ass and am glad I didn’t shot any more than I had. By now my phone is blowing up as my husband wants to know if that was my shot and if I got anything. I respond to him and then turn to see if there is anything to track. I take a couple steps and see the deer laying on the ground a few feet behind me. “That’s silly.” I think to myself. Why is she……out of no where I get these crazy, uncontrollable shakes. I hit her, OMG what have I done. I start to walk towards her. At this point I’m in shock, she gets up and jumps.

My husband is coming out now and is upset that I jumped her…..I don’t know what I’m doing. I never thought I would actually shot anything. I just wanted to drink my coffee. She didn’t go far so we go in the house. We come out a little while later as we can see the area she fell inside the cofferdam from the kitchen window. She’s dead. My husband wants a picture of me with her, but I’m sobbing. I’ve never killed anything and man was it sad, but I know we’re going to eat her and she’ll be tasty.

I compose myself and did end up getting a picture with her. My husband was kind enough to field dress her, as one of us had to stay with the children or I would have been out there helping. Turns out I even shot her right and exploded her lungs.

I went out most all of the other nights and had two other chances, but they were nothing like that first shot and I really didn’t want to track a deer so I let them go….I think this is how deer hunting stories go lol.

So, now I’m hopelessly addicted and will probably go out this season and do it all again. Crying included as it’s still sad to me.

Anyway, back to the post at hand. (Shed hunting) I went out for something like two hours and found nothing. I managed to slide down a hill and wrap myself around a few trees resulting in some nasty bruises on my forearm and knee. Oh well, maybe someday I’ll stumble upon just one shed, that’s all I need to make this wreath I want for our home.

Alright, enough for one evening. I’ll try to come back and share with you more often as this was nice.

Amos

First Hike of 2017, Green Coulee Park

Well hello! It’s been entirely too long. So as some of you know my family and I live in Wisconsin. This spring (?) we have had some crazy warm weather. Today March 5th it was 60 degrees and my family and I went out on our first hike in what feels like forever.

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We decided on the Green Coulee Park in Onalaska, WI. So it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. First of all you drive through this posh subdivision and park in a small lot right in the middle of this neighborhood. We selected the Pierce Path, anticipating to hook up with the Humfeld Summit Trail going out the the Highest Point. Well, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

The trails started out clearly marked, but somewhere along the way we lost the trail?! Or need up on an area that is not on this map. We ended up on top of a coulee next to our end point. The view was still amazing, but with three littles the path left me with high anxiety. I say path as it didn’t resemble much of a trail, but more something that a herd of deer have carved into the landscape. Then on either side it was basically a steep grade with buckthorn and under brush. My husband had our youngest in the Kelty backpack, I had my three year olds arm and our oldest, well she was being her usual sweet self. Not really, she’s basically 7 going on 15 and knows everything….I don’t remember being as emotion as her at this age, but whatever it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

Anyway, there was still a significant amount of snow up on the trail which had been packed down and was rather slick in some parts. While other parts were mud and just as slippery. There was a portion of the trail where a rope had been secured to a tree and was essential to hold onto to proceed up the trail. I’m still not entirely sure how I managed this part with a child literally under my arm. I’m thankful I made it up and down in one piece. I guess my daily workouts are really paying off.

All-in-all the trail was okay. I don’t think we would go there again as I prefer some place a little more off the beaten path where the children can burn off some energy. It was nice to just get outside and out of the house.

We were discussing places to go on hikes today and I pulled out my log book, there are still a fair amount of hikes that I haven’t document. Also, there are a great number of trails we have planned for this year. Now that our youngest is 15 months we have a few more options and don’t need to be quite as careful. I’m sad to not have anymore babies in our home, but thankful to get out and explore more as a family. I guess it’s double edged.

Until I feel the urge to share again.

Amos

Emerald Creek Garnet Area (Clarkia, Idaho)

Alright, so I have family in Northern Idaho and my family and I have made several trips. I think we’ve been there a few Christmas’s and at least two summers. The two times I have been there in the summer we have drove to Clarkia, Idaho to the Emerald Creek Garnet Area and have not been disappointed.

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For $10 an adult can purchase a permit to dig “star garnets.” These particular garnets have only been found in two locations in the world. At this location in Idaho and in India.

So you park down near the river in the parking lot and “hike” up to the site.

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It’s about a quarter mile, slightly up hill, but beautiful. When you reach the site you stop at the ranger shack and purchase your permit prior to digging. Here at the shack they will show you examples of what you are looking for and talk you through the entire process. They are very friendly and knowledgable.

What they have done is pulled the sand and silt from the river up to the site and everything is done up here to prevent damage to the river from individuals “mining.” So you grab a bucket or two and head to the digging area.

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It really is just a big pile of dirt and you are welcome to dig where ever you desire. You then carry your bucket(s) to the shifting area. Please keep in mind I have only done this twice in my life and do not know if I am utilizing the proper terminology.

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So here you dump your bucket into a wire mesh box (sluice box) and shake vigorously. This process assists in removing small rocks and sand/silt. It makes utilizing the sluice easier as there will be less dirt to remove from your rocks.  You then carry your bucket(s) to the sluice and proceed to shift the remaining dirt off.

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When we were there in the summer months this was a hot and dirty process. The water is pumped into the sluice at the top and gravity flows down the sluice and the hill. So ideally you would like to be the individual at the top of the sluice so that you have the clearest water, but usually it’s so busy out there that you just take what you can get.

What you are looking for is:

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The above are raw garnets as found at Emerald Creek Garnet Area. I have four ziplock bags of them now and I have yet to take any of them to the jeweler to be cut or made into jewelry. My husband and I have talked about it for a couple years, but have been unable to find anyone in Wisconsin that we trust to cut and polish the stones. I know it’s a weak excuse, but all in due time.

If you ever get the opportunity and are near Coeur D’Alene, Idaho I strongly suggest that you make the short trip to the Emerald Creek Garnet Area. I don’t think it’s possible to go there and not find at least one garnet.

**So my absolute favorite part about heading to this area! There is a little creek just below the parking lot with the clearest coldest water. It’s amazing! It’s not the water that I’m fascinated with but rather the purple garnet sand that covers the bottom of the river. The last time I was there I took a baggie full which I have displayed in a vase in my bathroom. It’s a beautiful reminder of the full trips our family has had at this location. I have several pictures of the sand in the river, but have been unable to locate them. As soon as I locate them I will be sure to update this blog.

You know what? I think I will also take a few of the garnets in to be inspected, cut and turned into something or other and I will update with this information as well.

Faith, Hope, Luck and Love

So this has been the summer of transition and learned patience. Things are slowly starting to fall together. This upcoming Monday (tomorrow) we close on our old house. We moved all of our personnel effects out this past week and I did not shed a single tear. I’m beyond tears…I am ready to be out of this apartment and back in our own home, sleeping in our own beds for the first time in 10 months! 15 days and we close on on our new home!! We are so excited.

In all our summer adventure’s I have been extremely fortunate. I have managed to find a total of 20 four-leafed covered believed by many to bring faith, hope, luck and love. You are welcome to believe this idea or that I live in an area of mutation, haha! Regardless, it has been a pleasant summer of quality time with our children. I realize I haven’t put the time into this blog as I had planned, but life had other ideas for me and my family this summer.

I came to the realization that my children are only small a short amount of time. That the time we spend with them actually wanting to hang out with us and thinking we are cool is a small window of time. There will always be housework to be done, but honestly my children are not going to remember the house being a little out of sorts, but the fun we had together exploring, hiking, biking and being together.  This will all happen, but as I have learned this summer I must have patience (and a sense of humor).

Thanks for following 🙂

Summer Buggin’

Last Christmas my oldest daughter received a bug vacuum and a critter case to provide a home for special catches.

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Needless to say this summer has brought a plethora of fun bugs into our home. I have to admit that I have even found the bug vacuum to be handy when trying to catch a rogue spider here and there. It sucks the insect up and puts it into this small vile with a built in magnifying glass for your viewing pleasure.

To date she has hatched on moth and one Monarch Butterfly. Presently, we are awaiting two additional Monarch Butterflies to hatch. If you are looking for an fun gift to give a young child I would highly recommend this combination as it has provided our family so much fun. It’s also a great learning experience for our girls who happen to be into science and the environment. Imagine that!

**Quick Update: Since my original post the two additional Monarch Butterflies that we were waiting on have hatched and were successfully released into their natural habitat. I won’t get around to posting much about this in 2015, but at our new house next spring/summer my girls’ and I are going to be putting in a “Butterfly Garden.” I have been doing some research and trying to get a good list of the plants/flowers that would do best for our region and will work to put together a section on this in the month’s to come! Stay tuned…

Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival

I’m not going to blog about this trip tonight. I just really wanted to get these photos up. The story will come at a later time…..the suspense is building I know.

UPDATE: So, I completely forgot I was going to finish this post. So before my husband and I were married we made a trip to Holland, Michigan for the Tulip Festival. If you have not made the trip, I would recommend this destination and encouraged you to go at least once. You will not be disappointed. It looks like the 2016 Festival is scheduled for May 7-14 and is free to the public.

The entire town lives for this one week a year. There is Dutch everything. There is a wooden clog store where you can purchase custom clogs or opt for the stock items. The same store carries the blue and white porcelain Delftware. There are several windmills (as pictured below) that are in a sea of colored tulips. The tulip fields are available to walk through and then purchase flowers as you like.

If you are anything like me, you like to make the most of each experience when traveling. While on this particular trip we also stopped at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI. I would hope that there have been additions to the Gardens since our 2008 visit, but at the time we were there my favorite part was the butterfly gardens.

Lastly, while in MI we made the short drive out to Big Red Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. The particular afternoon we made the trek it was over cast and raining, but I find the pictures to be just as rewarding as if it had been a sunny day. The rain also turned out to be beneficial for me, because there weren’t any other people to try to crop out of my photos! haha.

All in all the trip was memorable and one that we have referred to countless times. Whether you’re in your twenties like we were or in your fifties, I would recommend you experience the Tulip Festival in Michigan at a maximum of once in your lifetime.

**I just noticed I did not post any photos from the Gardens. I will work to upland and post my favorites in the near future, as always stay tuned….dun dun dun!

Wildcat Mountain State Park – Freshwater Lamprey

A few weeks back we travel to the Wildcat Mountain State Park in Wisconsin. We stopped at Mt. Pigsah Hemlock Hardwoods State Natural Area on the Kickapoo River. My oldest daughter really wanted to swim, but I had neglected to pack swimsuits or towels. To compromise we decided a walk in the river would work.

It really was a beautiful area and I was getting into taking pictures. Even though it seems extremely dangerous to have my camera in the river without a boat and our extra clumsy daughter standing by my side. I say this in the most loving way, but we can literally be standing still, not touching each other and she will fall over as though I shoved  her to the ground. Needless to say having her hold onto let alone near me in the river made me a bit nervous.

Our walk down river was easy as the current helped us along. It was on our way back something amazing caught my eye. I saw something long and silvery glint in the water, but was unable to make it out. I stood real still and reached down into the water and scooped it up. AHAHAH I barely got it out of the water when I threw it back in, what the heck was it.

By now my antics had drawn the attention of both my children and my husband. I’m not one to get too squeamish over nature so naturally they were curious. I mustered up my courage and found another creature. This time I held tightly to it and removed it from the river. The four of us held and examined the creature, not really knowing what it was we were looking at.

I snapped these shots and proceed to Google the creature on the ride home. It turns out it is a Freshwater Lamprey. I have lived in Wisconsin my entire life and I had no idea these fish were in our waters. It was a neat experience, but I’m not sure I would enjoy running into them again. The way they were coming together in the river almost makes me think they were spawning.

Lake Winnebago (Winnebago County)

For the past decade I have had the pleasure of living near Lake Winnebago. This lake is 131,939 acres with a maximum depth of 21 feet. Having grown up near water my entire life, this lake has been great for me and my family. In the summer there are various sailing regatta’s, fishing tournaments, white pelicans by the hundreds and para sailers. In the fall there’s duck hunting and the cool mornings where you can get up early and catch the fog on the lake. In the winter there is sturgeon spearing and breath taking moments. Regardless of the time of year I have fallen in love with the lake.

Here are some of the shots I have taken. I will post more at a later point. I recently got a new computer which doesn’t have a cd drive and a majority of my photo archives are on cd’s, guess this wasn’t one of my better executed plans huh?

I believe most of these initial photos were taken in Menominee Park in Oshkosh, WI. This park is 109 acres complete with a small zoo. In the summer it is enjoyable to take the children to the FREE zoo and check out the animals. In the park, but separate from the zoo there are a few small rides, paddle boats and a small children’s train that goes around a small body of water.

Lake Wazee (Jackson County)

A couple weeks back my family and I sought out a new hiking area. We ended up picking out Lake Wazee in Jackson County and we were not disappointed. We pretty much had the park to ourselves as it was a “nice” spring day, but not ideal for most hikers.

It was over cast and cloudy, but it was just nice to get outside after the long wither. It would appear that the water is a beautiful aqua blue and we will be returning on a sunny day to further explore.

On this particular trip we found a porcupine, several turkey vultures, a woodchuck, a rafter of turkeys and clear indication of a large population of beavers in the area. It has been awhile since I have been on a hike and witnessed this much wildlife, it was truly a memorable hike.

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We stared out on the William’s Ridge loop and took the Taconite Loop at some point, only because we didn’t personally find the blacktop surface of the William’s Ridge loop particularly ideal for hiking. When we go out, we prefer to fully experience the wild and allow our girls to explore.

On the southwestern side of the Taconite trail you walk along a lower ridge line. It is here where you can witness first hand the large beaver population that must inhabit the area as there are a lot of chewed down trees.

There were several signs telling about the area off the Fox Point Overlook. Please read them as they are informative.

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The following pictures are from our day out:

We have since returned to the park from our initial visit and tried out another hiking trail “Bobcat Loop.” This time it was a beautiful sixty degree spring day. While we did not witness the abundance of wildlife as we did on our first trip, we still were not disappointed. This lake has quickly become a family favorite. I would recommend checking it out, you will not be sorry.