Saturday, February 02, 2008

New Explorations off My Well-Travelled Trail

Today the *Friends of the Sherburne Wildlife Refuge* hosted Winterfest, in the Refuge. The Sherburne Wildlife Refuge is the 38,000 acre wild woods that I enjoy running through each and every day. Winterfest was held today from 10-2. They offer sled rides, guided walks through the refuge, brats and cake, bald eagles from the Raptor Center. I would have been interested in the video on animal droppings, but I just wouldn't have been able to stand seeing all of the visitors in *my* running area.

Topaz and I left before sunrise so that I wouldn't have to put up with the public. I LOVE running in the refuge, I LOVE that barely a soul every disturbs me out there, I LOVE that the bridges have been out all winter on the Blue Hill Trail so that nobody bothers me. I LOVE running solo, with only my pup to talk with.

Today I decided to run down to the lake, then investigate further down the never travelled fire path, or whatever type of pathway it is. I'm not sure what it is. I looked at my watch and ran along the path, being careful not to turn an ankle in the uneven frozen snow. I figured I'd run 2 hours down the path and turn around and hit Blue Hill on the way back to the car. I wanted to run a slow easy 4 hours. I didn't wear my snowshoes, they are still a crumpled broken mess from the Northwoods Snowshoe Marathon and I am in no great rush to snowshoe anyhow, so haven't sent them off to be fixed.

As the sun rose and the sky became lighter I could tell that it was going to be a cloudy, kind of hazy day. There was no wind, it was quite warm, 25F when I left home with a high today of 30. I could hear animals in the woods. In the darkness, it kind of freaks me out.

I didn't know where the path would lead me to and every once in a while Topaz would bolt off, doing his herding then, then circle back to me. It was still quite dark and I was wondering what it was he was herding. I heard pileated woodpeckers nearby and they were so loud I just knew there was a big group of them in a stand of oak nearby, feeding. I hoped they would still be around on my return.

Daylight arrived and all around me were dense oak stands. I was sure I was still in the Refuge, as I hadn't crossed any roads and I didn't see any sign of homesteads. It was kind of a weird feeling. I knew I wasn't lost, but I didn't know where I was, either.

I have been running in the Refuge for 5 years, but had never been down this pathway before. There were many off-shoot paths that went to the left and the right of the pathway that I was running upon. I will have to investigate further tomorrow. Eventually I came to a Refuge sign "Native Prarie Grass..Seeded 1996". At least I knew I was still in the Refuge! It was so quiet. Not a person or a sign of a human anywhere. No human prints, only animals.

Topaz spotted two coyotes. He began to tear after them but they were too far ahead of him for him to catch up. Eventually he looped back to me. I don't know what he would do if he were to get close to them. His hair was up on his neck, he didn't like the smell of them.

I looked at my watch and almost two hours had passed. As the path went through a big stretch of meadow, I told Topaz we'd go to the end of the meadow and turn around. Well, at the end of the meadow was a big hill that I couldn't see over. I had to explore further. What was over the hill? It looked like a deep ravine.

We ran along and holy moly! A big metal bridge crossing a wide frozen river. I couldn't believe it. There were Refuge signs on the riverbank, it wasn't closed to entry. I gingerly went through the bridgework and over the river. How exciting! It seems silly, but I really was excited to find this bridge and river. I had NO idea it was out there. Topaz and I explored a bit more, then turned around and headed back where we started.

By the time we approached the car the DNR had placed out parking signs labeled "WINTERFEST". I left the lot as quickly as possible!

I'm anxious to get back out tomorrow to investigate the trail and river further.

(My spell check doesn't seem to be working anymore)

1 comment:

Kim said...

Julie don't you ever get worried out there running all alone on unexplored paths? Sometimes just reading about your adventures makes me worry that someday you are gonna fall in some not so quite frozen river or fall thru some not quite so sturdy bridge - you are adventerous my dear! I wish I had your spunk!