Monday, July 26, 2010
End of the Trail
Leaving the Baldhead River behind we continued to climb back up towards Orphan Lake. The trail passed through some marshy terrain, and we carefully navigated the slippery boardwalk.
The trail led back to Orphan Lake, now at the north east corner, where a small creek drains the lake into the Baldhead River. The shore was strewn with logs and debris, and I could hear the creek water trickling. I walked out along a berm-like structure before I realized I was walking along a beaver dam!
I went back to shore to get a shot of the dam. What amazing creatures to pull off such engineering feats.
We walked along the shore, and I stopped at another break in the trees to admire the stony bottom while Karin went on ahead.
When I caught up to her, she mentioned that a loon had just taken off from farther down the lake. I had my short lens on the camera but got a few shots as it flew past.
Loons are large birds, two to three feet in length with a wingspan up to four and a half feet and weighing up to 13 pounds. I expected the bird to continue in the direction it was headed and fly off over the trees, but it apparently didn't have enough speed yet. As we were turning to leave I heard wing beats behind me and the soft, whistling grunt of this heavy-bodied bird straining to take to the air. Karin and I both turned back to the lake just in time to see, not more that 10 feet away, the the loon fly past the opening in the trees as it banked along the shore.
For that brief moment time seemed to go into slow motion as the loon filled up the space before us. Like in a snapshot I could see every feather on its breast. Its huge paddle feet were tucked under its tail and I could hear its breath and the air beneath its wings. We stood there with our mouths hanging open long after the loon had vanished, hardly believing what we'd just seen.
Even though the terrain had started to even out as the loop neared the trail back to the parking lot, we were both getting tired. I sat on a log to rest a moment and Karin snapped this picture of me.
We were both kind of dreading the hike back to the car. The last leg is always the worst as it often feels like the hike is already over and you're just trudging along, ready to be done.
But as we picked up the last leg of the trail we both noticed prints in the mud that had not been there that morning. MOOSE!! Here's my foot for scale. We found other tracks that indicated it was a cow with a calf, so we kept a close eye out for the pair as we really didn't want a confrontation with a protective moose mother. No matter how badly we wanted to see a moose, we didn't really want it to be in the middle of the woods! However, while the tracks lead all the way to the parking lot, where we lost them, we never did see the moose, but the lookout did keep up occupied for the return hike.
There's no question this was one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever taken. The terrain is so varied; thick woods, marsh land, rocky overlooks, waterfalls and the Lake Superior shore. What a spectacular place.
Next: The South Old Woman River Trail