Hiking With Dirt by John Lawton

Ken Knight's Reprot | Andy Mytys' Report | John Lawton's Report

Hiking with Dirt 2003.

After picking up Ken, we headed out to Halfmoon Lake where we met Andy and Elwira at about 7:30 as planed. Upon arriving, I realized I had forgotten the old tennis shoes I was going to use for the wet areas. The sun was just getting above the trees, with the last bits of fog being burned off of the lake, temperature was about 47 degrees. An absolute perfect day for a hike (or run). The trail started at the west side of the parking area and followed the road to the boat launch for a short way, before heading off across a small field, into the forest and across Glenbrook Rd. The trail very quickly came to the Potawatomi trail, which we followed to the north toward Hell.

The trail followed and then crossed (on a Bridge this time) the Portage River and then after a short while, crossed Paterson Lake Rd. continuing up the access drive to Gosling Lake, where the trail crosses a marsh on a boardwalk. Continuing to follow the Potawatomi trail east along a small ridge and down across a second boardwalk. We soon came to the spot where the Potawatomi trail turned north again, but we headed "off trail" and continued east just past a small open area where we heard several sandhill crane, to Kelly Rd. As we turned off the Potawatomi trail, several runners came up behind us and almost missed the turn, something that would be common throughout the day at this type of turn off. We then followed Kelly Rd. and Paterson Lake Rd. into Hell, arriving at about 9:00, where we waited at the store for Mike.

Starting out from Hell, we crossed to the north side of Paterson Lake Rd. and down off the roadway and into the forest again. We were starting to see more and more runners, the first of which passed us just after Gosling Lake. After crossing a small creek we turned north, walking through a small planted pine grove, along a ridge and down to our first river crossing of the Portage River. Since there was no easy way to keep my boots dry while crossing, and I had forgotten to bring some "river shoes", I had to take off my boots and socks, and we all waded across. There was a small muddy area right at the start, but there was gravel on the river bottom for most of the crossing. After everyone was across, we continued to the north, almost losing the "trail" for a moment, but picking it up quickly again. When we came to a log across the path, we stopped long enough for people to put on their shoes again. After a short distance further we came to the Horse trails west of Hell Creek Ranch.

Following the horse trail to the east, we came to the side trail, which would lead to the bridge across the same river we had just crossed. The park service has been out putting signs up in this area since I last hiked here, so most of the trail intersections are now marked. We continued along the horse trails toward the Hell Creek Ranch and the end of leg 5 of the course.

Rather than entering into Hell Creek Ranch, we turned and continued to follow the horse trails from near Hell Creek Ranch to the north and west passing through hardwood forest and up and down the many hills in the area. We crossed Monks Rd and again entered the forest. As we were hiking down one of the ridgelines, all of a sudden, the path we were to take left the horse trail and went down a steep hill. Andy had hiked right by it without seeing it. Several runners were coming up behind us and I pointed them in the right direction, down the hill while Andy hiked back up to the turn-off. After the runners had passed, we all started down after them. Following at the bottom of a small ravine we slowly came back up to the top of a hill past some small pine trees, through a small clearing and out to connect up with the horse trails again.

Following an old two track down hill past several ant hills toward a parking area on Kelly Rd. We did not quite reach the parking area before turning to the north again, still following the horse trails.

After a few small hills and a small hilltop field we came to the point where we were to head off trail again. I must say that when I looked at the map for this part, I thought: "this will be interesting." I was not disappointed. Heading east, we followed along the base of a hill and then down through some fairly dry marsh areas, which seemed to bounce when stepped on, and finally coming to the first of four crossings of Honey Creek. Fortunately, runners were still passing us, so we could see where the Deep spots of the crossing were. This added much humor to the hike, to see the runners try (and often fail) to make quick judgment on where the best crossing point would be. Many went in and would trip, or hit the deepest spots. Several made the comment "and we paid for this too." Off went my shoes and socks, and after watching a few of the runners, decided it was not going to get any better, so in I went, to check things out with my hiking staff. The river bottom was fairly solid for the first half, and I found a small board that helped me across the deeper muck. The second crossing was not too eventful, and for some reason cannot seem to recall it. There were also several groups of cardinal flowers through this section, and along the creek, adding to the hike.

Hiking along the "trail" through the ankle deep muck in bare feet, we could hear the shouts and cries of the runners ahead of us, indicating another river crossing. Only this time it was wider, deeper, and did not seem to have any bottom. Mike decided to head down stream to see if there was a better place to cross, while I probed a little way up stream. In this area there were stinging nettles, and I brushed against some while trying to find a place to cross. There was a log that crossed the stream, but with wet and muddy bare feet, I did not want to slip and injure myself. Fortunately, I was able to find enough semi-solid spots to get across without going in much past my knees. This was done partially by walking on a submerged stick, which kept me from sinking in. my hiking staff again helped to find a good place to cross. Then it was hiking through ankle deep muck to get to the last of the river crossings.

The last crossing had a nicely placed log for a bridge, the problem was getting to it, as one had to pass through or carefully around a knee deep mucky spot. This crossing had a nice solid bottom, and I stood and washed off my feet while waiting for Andy, Elwira and Ken. While waiting I was able to get my feet dry and put my boots back on. Mike had gone ahead of me at the second crossing, and came back to this last river crossing after taking a short nap.

While hiking away from Honey Creek for the last time through the bordering lowlands, I saw a beautiful specimen of Poison Sumac along the path, with its branches and leaves overhanging the trail at face level. The white berry cluster was a definite help in identifying this. (It was certainly nice of the event organizers to include this education in botany as part of the race. There was also the usual poison ivy throughout this hike too, the leaves on which in some areas were starting to become tinged with red.)

We then hiked up out of the swamp, and onto dry ground and onto an old railroad grade, which we followed toward the connection with the Lakelands Rail trail. This part of the railroad grade is interesting in that it was never actually used. When the railroad was being built, they changed the direction after this part was graded, but before it was completed to take advantage of an easier route. The finished railroad followed what is now the Lakelands Rail trail.

At the junction of the Lakelands Rail Trail, it was about 12:30, so we stopped to have lunch. During lunch Elwira found a small praying mantis out looking for some lunch as well.

After lunch we headed south back onto the horse trails, following leg 7 back toward the Hell Creek Ranch. The trail passed through an open field and then headed back into the woods. We continued to follow the horse trails to the south, with a small jog to the west as we climbed up a hill and then turning east and southeast, again passing through hardwood forest and bordering several small fields. The trail continued to go up and down over the many hills. We crossed Monks Rd again and eventually came to, and passed through the Hell Creek Ranch.

Once through the Hell Creek Ranch, we headed west along the horse trails for a short way, before heading off the main trails to the southwest. Passing through several low areas before going up and along the side of a hill, passed a small spring on the hillside and through a small area of planted pines. We eventually came to the trail which headed down to the bridge which crossed the portage river, and rather than getting our feet wet again, took this route. We quickly came to the river and picked up the race route on the other side. The trail went slowly up hill to the east and then turned south near the border of the state land. After a short way, our path turned west, first paralleling, and then coming out onto Paterson Lake Road and back into Hell where we stopped at the store again. While there I took off one of my boots to clean off my foot some more. I had been getting a hot spot between two of my toes where I had not cleaned the mud out well enough. As we were resting Mike strolled up, having taken the course route and river crossing.

We said our good-by's to Mike, and a short rest we headed out following the last section along Silver Hill Road to the south. It was not long before we again headed into the brush. This was a nice section for several reasons.

First, I have wanted to scout this area for "trails" in the state land to see if there was a connection that would minimize road walking, could be used to pass through Hell, and connect to the horse trails and eventually to the Lakelands Rail-Trail. The route we took would be about 1/ 4 mile of road walking.

Second, the path was narrow, went up and down a lot, was not level across the trail and very steep in places(my kind of "trail"). It also passed through some densely covered areas, making the trail more hidden. Andy made the comment that it was not a good trail to hike during hunting season, and I would agree. Eventually we came around the side of a hill and popped out onto the Potawatomi trail, and followed the trail up to the top of the hill north of the campground at Crooked Lake.

We followed the Potawatomi trail west and down the hill. As we reached the bottom of the hill we were passed by several mountain bikers, swerving and barely slowing as they passed. Crossing a small creek, we watched several leopard frogs and fish moving about in the stream. Still following the Potawatomi trail, we passed mile marker 37, and then the junction to the crooked Lake Trail. I responded to Andy's question on why it was mile marker 37 indicating it was marked for the combined Waterloo-Pinckney and Potawatomi trails (ninawkee trail), the 50 mile trail that the boy scouts used.

After hiking a while further our route headed off the very hard packed gravel of the Potawatomi trail and onto the softer tread of the DWD path. This section seemed to go on and on. The path headed west paralleling to the south of the Poto, going down through a low spot through spongy black dirt, and then back up and heading south along the side of a small ridge. We passed many large ferns growing in this area, which added to the beauty of this part of the path. Once we reached the end of this ridge, we turned and headed back north along the other side the same ridge before turning west again. The trail followed around the edge of and crossing another low area, and then headed east. We could hear the cars going by on Glenbrook Rd., seemingly just over the ridge to the south but when the trail went up onto the top of the ridge it turned west making another loop, before going south and crossing on Glenbrook Rd. and into Halfmoon Lake park area.

We all hiked down to the lake where we all took off our shoes to soak our feet in the lake, and watch runners finishing up the last leg come down the hill and cross the finish line to cheering crowds.

A very good hike.


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Last updated: September 10, 2003