Dogs, Rain, and Hike Don’t Mix


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North America » United States » Wisconsin » Ashland
July 5th 2018
Published: July 5th 2018
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Fleur and I On the Myers Beach Trail
Myers Beach Trail, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Cornucopia, Wisconsin

I can appreciate that forecasting the weather around the Great Lakes can be next to impossible. As they say, the Lake is the Boss, and when she decides to send some weather towards the mainland, well, there’s just no arguing with that. The recent storms at Houten are testimony to how angry she can get. So if the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies but no rain and it ends up raining cats and dogs, well, that’s just luck around the lake.

The forecast for the Fourth was really not too bad - the day was supposed to be cloudy, but rain wasn’t supposed to come in until six or so. We figured that would work in our favor, by putting a damper, literally, on the noisy fireworks. Smoochie normally goes into severe panic on the Fourth of July - someday she may shake herself to death. Rain would keep the fireworks in the campground to a minimum, and maybe she would make it through the evening.

And for the daytime, we decided to drive out to the mainland portion of the Lakeshore, about 20 miles or so, up
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Lush Vegetation, Everywhere
and around the Bayfield peninsula to the northwestern side. The National Lakeshore protects a small strip at the shoreline there. And there is a sandy beach, Myers Beach, as well as a trail that skirts the top of the cliffs. This portion of the cliffs is noted for some spectacular sea caves and the trail at the top offers some overlooks where you can look down and see them. These same caves, in the winter, fill with wonderful ice sculptures and many of the iconic, winter pictures of the Apostle Islands are taken on the ice in or near these caves. In July, we aren’t going to see much ice, but still we thought a view of the caves would be fun. And we wanted to take the girls with us on this hike, simply because they haven’t had much of a chance to get out over the last week and it was an opportunity to spend some quality time with them.

But the Lake had other ideas.

When we woke yesterday morning it was raining off and on, so the forecasters had already been betrayed by the lake. We discussed the situation, but decided that maybe it
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Wildflowers on Myers Beach Trail
would lift, since it wasn’t supposed to be there anyway. We gathered everything up and got the girls in the car - they were excited that they had somewhere to go. And we drove the twenty miles over to the trailhead. Sure enough, as hoped, the rain stopped, although the clouds hung around. So we paid the parking fee, got the water bottles and collapsible bowl for the dogs, and headed out to see what we could see.

The trailhead information sign said that the sea cave overlooks were 1.8 miles out. We figured that we could go that far, see the caves, and then return. A 3.6 mile hike is doable for all four of us. It would be exhausting for the girls (there short little legs have to go a lot faster than ours), but we figured they could use the exercise.

The first part of the trail is really interesting. It is a boardwalk built as two 3 x 12 planks next to each other positioned in a windy, and step-filled path over what is mostly a bog. Step off the boardwalk and you will likely sink an inch or two into wet, soggy muck. I must say this whole bog thing, up here in the North Country, is kind of fascinating. I knew there were lots of lakes up here, but I didn’t know that much of the land in-between the lakes is really one big, cold, swamp. The boardwalk takes you up and down ravines and in and out of forests and meadows of different kinds. It is as lush as the swamp down in Congaree or the Everglades, although the vegetation is entirely different.

Well, it may not have been raining when we started the hike, but the Lake is the Boss! And she sent periodic rain our way several times during the hike. That, plus the humidity meant we were just simply sopping wet within a short time after the hike began. The girls were thrilled with all the new smells, but they too were wet and occasionally, slid off the boardwalk because the wood was wet and slippery.

Still we plodded on. Finally, we arrived at a spot where there was actually a road. The boardwalk ended and this service road crossed the path. On the other side, there were no longer any boards. There was just a
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View from Bayfield Inn Restaurant
dirt path. Now, normally, dirt would be a good thing - hiking on dirt is normal and fun. But this is wet dirt and it is very fine-grained dirt. That means slippery mud. Joan and I had our hiking boots on and, although we slipped and slid a bit, we were OK - we could manage it.

But the girls had a different story. In the first place, they had a hard time maintaining traction. And the problem got worse as we started encountering relatively steep hills. In the second place, they were getting pretty dirty. Finally, they were getting tired, working a bit harder than normal just to keep up with us.

Realizing that we were still a mile away from the sea caves and faced with the prospect of very dirty dogs that I might just have to carry back (and I don’t think I can do that any more), we decided the better part of wisdom was to abandon the hike. We turned around and navigated the boardwalk back to the car. The girls, of course, didn’t know what they missed and were happy with the hike as it was. Joan and I, though, were
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A Red, White, and Blue Scallop Appetizer at Bayfield Inn
fairly disappointed. Our plans to see the sea caves were foiled by the mud, rain, and dogs. A little despondent, we drove back home.

To cheer Joan back up, I promised her that I would take her out for drinks and dinner at a nice place in Bayfield. We started with a couple of cocktails at one bar, and then were first in line for dinner service at the Bayfield Inn. Being there promptly at 5:00, we managed a window table overlooking the marina. There’s a sail boat regatta of some kind going on this week here, and so we were able to watch all the boats as well as folks celebrating the Fourth in the public park below us.

The predicted rain in the evening, of course, never happened. The Boss sent it several hours early

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