Monday, August 25, 2014

North Wisc. trail crosses jack pine forest

Loon Creek Trail

Snowmobile trail makes
for great summer walk

A plethora of snowmobile trails crosscross Wisconsin’s northern Burnett County, and during summer many of them can be day hiked.

One good hub for these trails is the Burnett County Forest’s Loon Creek Trailhead. From it, the Loon Creek Trail (so christened here for convenience’s sake) runs about 4-miles round trip over snowmobile/ATV routes.

Sand plains
To reach the trailhead, from Danbury go east on State Hwy. 77. Turn south/left onto Bear Lake Road. At Lake 26 Road, go right/west, then at the next intersection, left/south onto Loon Creek Trail. A large parking lot is on the road's left/east side just before Deerpath Road. The trail leaves from the lot’s southeast corner.

Wide and fairly flat, the trail immediately curves north as it loosely parallels Loon Creek from a distance. This route appears on maps as Wisconsin Corridor Trail 41, which is a summer ATV route. About 800 feet from the parking lot, the trail splits; stay on Corridor Trail 41 by going left/east.

The trail takes hikers across a sand plains, formed when sediment from melting ice age glaciers washed over the area about 8000 years ago. Jack pine dominates, accounting for about a third of the trees on the poor soil. Aspen with its flashing leaves follows at about three out of every 20 trees.

In about a mile, the trail intersects another ATV route, the gravel Loon Lake Dam Lane. Go right/east onto it for a walk down a country lane. Here, the trees begin to vary more.

Raptors and rare butterfly
As you gaze up at the incredibly tall trees along the route, don’t be surpised to spot eagles and osprey. Loon Creek is home to several nests for the majestic raptors. A little closer to eye level, watch for the delightful appearing Karner blue butterfly, which unfortunately is on the brink of extinction.

The trail in about a half-mile passes the gravel Whispering Pines Road and then come to the top of Loon Lake, which Loon Creek feeds. A small dam controls the creek’s flow and maintains Loon Lake’s water levels.

Be careful with matches and sparks while hiking the trail. Because of the conifer trees and sandy soils, the fire hazard is high; in fact, motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail in April and May (Day hiking is permitted, though.).

Also, the best time to walk the trail is a nonholiday weekday. On weekends and during holidays, the trails are popular among ATVers and so can be loud.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.