Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hike through classic North Central Forest

Lichen grows on trees along Totagatic Ski Trail loops
north of Minong, Wis.

Totagatic Ski Trail loops
easy to reach via U.S. Hwy. 53

Multiple ski loops trail in winter serve as great day hiking paths in summer for visitors to the Minong, Wis., area.

Of the four Totagatic Ski Trail loops, try Loop A. At 2 miles round trip, it’s the shortest as well as the closest to the parking lot so is easy to locate.

To reach the trail system, head a little more than a mile north of Minong village on U.S. Hwy. 53. At the second, or northernmost, intersection with Lakeside Road, turn left/east into the parking lot.

A jeep trail runs west from parking lot for 0.25 miles. Most of the trail is mixed hardwoods, consisting of sugar and red maple and basswood. On other loops, trails head through groves of replanted trees.

At the first divide in trail, head straight (or left/west) to do the route clockwise. You’re now officially on Loop A.

The trails run through a border area between two ecosystems – the North Central Forest and the Northwest Sands regions. The major difference is the former’s soil is only 5-10 feet above the bedrock while the latter can have a separation of several hundred feet. In part because of this, the North Central Forest is better able to hold hardwood trees such as maples whereas the Northwest Sands consists of pine and shrubland.

In 0.25 miles, the trail comes to a junction. Go right/north on a section of trail shared with Loop B.

'Pleasant Valley'
The North Central Forest covers a lot of territory in Wisconsin; it can be found in 19 counties and stretches into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Often when thinking of the “Northwoods” in Wisconsin, an image of the North Central Forest is what comes to mind for most Wisconsinites and visitors.

The next trail junction comes in about 0.1 miles; at it, go right/north. The trail you didn’t take takes you onto Loop B, which in turn connects with loops C and D.

“Totagatic” is derived from the Ojibwa word “Totogan,” which means “boggy river.” The trails, however, don’t go near their namesake river, which is to the north by a few miles. In any case, the Native Americans’ name for the area that includes Minong village and these ski trails translates to “Pleasant Valley.”

After about 0.25 miles, Loop A veers east and gradually curves south. In little more than 0.9 miles, you’ll reach the access trail that leads to parking lot; go left/east back to the lot.

Learn about nearby trails in Day Hiking Trails of Washburn County.