Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blue Trail offers scenic day hike thru woods

Balsam Branch Cross Country Ski Trails

Balsam Branch trails beautiful during autumn as leaves color

Cabin-goers can truly get back to nature by hiking the Blue Trail of Balsam Branch Cross Country Ski Trails.

Located south of Balsam Lake, Wis., but conveniently close to the nearby towns of St. Croix Falls and Amery, Balsam Branch’s trails can be used for day hiking once the snow disappears. The area is virtually all forested with Northern hardwoods and so is quite beautiful in autumn during when leaves change color.

The trails cross three recreational areas – the D.D. Kennedy Environmental Area, Lake Wapogasset Bible Camp, and the Garfield Recreation Area. Nordic Ski Club of Amery manages the trails in winter.

Good shade
The ski trails consist of a number of meandering loops of varying lengths and grades. Of the three general trails that the loops break into, the Blue Trail is in middle as far as difficulty is concerned.

To reach the trail, from U.S. Hwy. 8 in Polk County turn south onto 150th Street then east onto 120th Avenue. East of Kennedy Mill Avenue, take the next right to the parking lot.

From the lot, head straight south for 0.37 miles. You’ll notice right away that the trail is nicely shaded. Maple and oak predominate, but as the terrain closes on lower-lying, wetter areas in Balsam Branch, you’ll see birch and tamarack.

At the first junction, go left for 0.12 miles, beneath a power line. Large and small game abound in Balsam Branch. You’re very likely to spot white-tailed deer here, as well as squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits.

Upon reaching the next trail junction, go right, then wind south and west for 0.68 miles. At the next T-intersection, go left for 0.5 miles.

Add trail length
As recent as 12,000 BC, Balsam Branch sat under the front edge of a massive glacier. As the glacier melted and retreated, outwash covered this region.

At the next trail junction, beneath the power line, go right/north for 0.25 miles. Many of the boulders and stones covering the ground in this area were carried and left here by that glacier.

Upon reaching the next trail junction, the route rejoins the Green Trail; go left for 0.19 miles. At the T-intersection, go right for 0.25 miles to parking lot.

The Blue Trail runs about 2.36 miles. Different loops and connectors can be combined to add to the trail length.

Read more about family friendly day hiking trails in my Headin' to the Cabin guidebooks.