Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hiking the Lists #2: Horicon NWR

Hike: #2
Title: Horicon National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Horicon NWR, near Waupun, WI
Hike list: Wisconsin
Difficulty: Mostly Easy
Duration of Hike: Walking straight through takes about an hour. Longer if you linger on the floating boardwalk looking for birds.

You can't go many places in Wisconsin without encountering somewhere affected by a glacier. When most people think about glacially influenced topography, they look up towards the eskers, kames, and moraines. However, it's not just rocky ridges that the glaciers influenced. Kettle lakes, bogs, and other wetlands were created by the retreating glaciers.

The wetlands of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge are the remnants of an ancient glacial lake. It one of only 22 wetlands in the United States that is considered a "Wetland of International Importance". It is home to thousands of birds living in its wetlands, prairies, and small tracts of woods, as well as temporary respite for many more thousands of migratory birds. If you are a avid bird watcher, this is somewhere you've probably either been, or wish to visit some day.

Horicon would be a great place to visit if wildlife viewing was all you could do there. However, there are several hiking trails to be found, especially near the auto driving tour on the north side of the refuge. It was here that I hiked three loops: Redhead, Red Fox, and Egret. 

To some, it may have been too dreary of a day to hike. For me, however, it was perfect, as the temperatures were in the low sixties and the sky clouded over, keeping the unshielded prairies from becoming too hot. A normal July day, this trail would not have been too fun to walk on, at least not the prairie side.

The prairie section of the trail, which was most of the Redhead and almost all of the Red Fox, teemed with wildflowers of many colors. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn the names of most of these plants, but the flowers were predominantly purple and gold. Alas, what made the day so enjoyable to hike also made it hard to get good pictures of the flowers. Overhead several types of birds, mostly tree swallows, darted down and around the tall grass, going into the small stands of trees or diving close to the water's surface in the marsh areas.

Without a doubt the highlight of the hike was the floating boardwalk, which let you walk out onto the water and see all the birds and animals that hang out there. Of course, there were plenty of Canada geese around. What a surprise to see them in their natural habitat, instead of sitting in ditches at a sewer plant or along retention ponds. Several terns floated in the water, or sat atop posts on the boardwalk. I'm pretty certain i saw a few gulls who may have made their way over from Lake Michigan, and at times saw larger birds flying farther out. Apparently in the summer White Pelicans hang out at the refuge, although I didn't see any. 

After the boardwalk, about half of the walking remained, but it couldn't match just being out on that water. Had I the time, i probably would have sat out there for a few hours, just to see what I might see. Instead, I had a three hour drive awaiting me, and a hike to finish. Unbeknownst to me, the actual length of my walk was longer than what the book said it was, mainly because they had forgot to add the boardwalk's distance to the total. Except for a few short climbs up prairie hills or down towards water (either the wetlands or the Rock River), it was a fairly flat trail. However, the back part of the Redhead trail had some weird footing which I found a bit difficult to deal with. The pitch of the path was pretty steep, as they had just mowed a path along the hillside.

Before I had read about this hike, I had no idea this place existed. I am glad that I found it, as I will be going back again. So far I've walked 2 of the 58 trails on the Wisconsin list, and can't wait to see what other natural wonders those Cheeseheads are hiding up there.

No comments :

Post a Comment