Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day hike pass centuries-old trees on trail

You can see trees that are more than 200 years old on the Cedar Interpretive Trail in Governor Knowles State Forest.
Location of Governor Knowles
State Forest in Wisconsin.

To reach the trail, from Grantsburg, Wis., take North Pine Street/County Road F north through Crex Meadows. In about seven miles, the road curves east. After the curve, turn left/north onto Norway Point Landing Road. Park in the lot before the road ends at Norway Point Landing. The trailhead is east of the parking lot.

You can’t get lost on the trail, as the 1-mile round trip is on a boardwalk. It partially crosses the 330-acre Norway Point Bottomlands State Natural Area and the state forest.

The trail is named for the stately eastern white cedar, which here are at their northern limit in Wisconsin. Cedars can live for up to 400 years; the cedars you pass that are a foot in diameter were mere saplings during the War of 1812.

The cedars sit in a floodplain forest. Though you’ll only walk a half mile one way, you’ll head through an impressive five major lowland plant communities:
g Northern sedge meadow – Sedges and grasses dominate in depressions and the margins of nearby Iron Creek. This plant community occurs in several locations across northern and central Wisconsin.
g Shrub carr – Tall shrubs, including meadowsweet, red-osier and silky dogwood, and willows run through the forest. Though a common wetlands ecosystem in Wisconsin, it usually occurs farther south.
g Northern wet-mesic forest – You’ll know you’re walking through this ecosystem once mosses, lichens, ferns and wildflowers dominate the forest floor. The mineral-enriched groundwater from seepages helps support these plants.
g Southern wet-mesic forest – When maples, elms and ash trees with an open understory appear, you’re walking through this community in the floodplain. This is the northermost reach of the ecosystem in Wisconsin.
g Iron Creek – Near the trail’s end, you’ll come alongside Iron Creek, a minnow stream and tributary of the St. Croix River. The creek’s waters generally are acidic and infertile.

Each of these plant communities are fragile ecosystems within the bottomlands, so don’t step on or remove plants, many of which are rare.

Also, be forewarned that the boardwalk can be a bit uneven as roots break through the wood and as springs and seeps feed Iron Creek to the north. Because of this, you should wear waterproof hiking boots, even on the boardwalk. Insect repellent also is a good idea.

If you have a little extra energy, when the boardwalk ends, continue on the Kohler Peet Hiking Trial. Keep track of your distance so that you don’t go too far on this backcountry trail, which runs another 5.5 miles.

Read more about day hiking the scenic riverway in my guidebook Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.