Saturday, March 26, 2016

Logging-era remains visible on Ice Age Trail

Map of Deer Fly Trail Area segment, courtesy
Chippewa County, Wis.
Day hikers can enjoy a walk along the famous Ice Age National Scenic Trail in northern Chippewa County.

More than 20 of the trail’s proposed 1200 miles rambles through the county. A particularly good county section to hike is the 2-miles round-trip Deer Fly Trail area segment in the Chippewa County Forest’s Deer Fly Trail area.

To reach this segment, from Bloomer, drive east on Wis. Hwy. 64. Turn left/north onto County Road E then left/north on 180th Street. This road curves west to become 205th Avenue and then north to become 175th Street. When the road turns west and becomes 225th Avenue, go right/north on Hay Meadow Flowage Trail. Then go right/northeast onto the gravel Deer Fly Trail. When the narrow Ice Age Trail crosses the road, park on the shoulder (If you pass the junction with High Ridge Trail road, you've gone too far).

The trail meanders through a mixed hardwood forest. Be careful not to turn off onto crossing logging trails, which will be much wider than the Ice Age Trail. Yellow blazes mark the main trail.

Statewide, the trail roughly marks the advance of glaciers during last ice age. Those glaciers entirely shaped the terrain throughout this entire area.

While 11,000 years ago ice towered high above the ground, today the area consists mainly of tag alder swamps, swamp conifers, swamp hardwoods or a mixture of these. The upland areas, however, consist of aspen, oak or northern hardwoods.

When the trail passes wetlands in about a half-mile, you're close to Birch Creek. The trail largely parallels the stream until veering southwest to the Harwood Lakes.

Along the trail, you’ll likely spot deep ruts. They are a testament to man’s impact on Mother Nature, for they date to the late 1800s when sled runners pulled by horse teams hauled large loads of white pine logs out of this forest.

The Deer Fly Trail area is fairly secluded, so you won’t likely see other hikers out here except maybe on weekends. The Chippewa County Forest covers 33,653-acres, and the Deer Fly area makes up about a quarter of that at 8,589 acres.

About a mile from the trailhead, the trail crosses a narrow spot in the widening creek via a log corduroy. These are logs sand-covered logs that were placed perpendicular to roads that crossed swampy areas. While an improvement over muddy roads, they still made for a bumpy ride and when loose logs shifted could injure horses.

The crossing marks a good point to turn back.

Learn more about Chippewa Valley day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of the Chippewa Valley guidebook.