199: An interesting 5kPosted: April 10, 2011
Well, I have to say… that was a rather interesting (and sometimes strange) 5k. M and I, in our quest to better know the area in which we live (filed under “local tourists”), decided to take a 5.1 mile hike at Portage Lakes State Park. We have driven past it on the highway numerous times, always with one of us remarking, “We ought to go hiking there sometime.”
I guess we can check that one off of our list.
(Note: We were hiking a 5k as participants in Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5k.)
Someone turned up the heat today. They turned it WAY up. Even now it is still in the 80s and incredibly humid. It feels more like August than April. We started our hike around 11:30am, and it was warm and humid then. As someone I overheard remarked, our blood thickens in the winter. We’re not quite ready for this kind of heat. It felt good for a little while, especially since the sun was shining on us. It didn’t take long, though, to work up a good sweat.
There were plenty of signs of spring, some of which seemed to be bursting out as we watched, as if this warm-up suddenly brought everything to life. I half expected to see flowers push up out of the dirt and unfurl themselves in a time-lapse photography way. Thankfully that didn’t happen, as things were odd enough at the beginning of our hike.
We didn’t see much shoreline in that first mile or so. And things were a bit confusing regarding the map and where we actually were at the start, but we soon figured it out. We were taking the trail in the opposite direction than originally planned. No problem. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. The thing is, I carry a walking stick with a compass. You’d think we’d check that first. But in our excitement to start hiking, we find a trail, start walking, and then someone looks at the map and says, “hmmm.”
We had several companions along the way, the first being a crow who wanted to show us the way to the lake. After listening to the crow caw at us for a little while, I finally asked it to show us the way and oddly enough, it flew off in that direction. Thank you, Brother Crow. (We would have found it on our own as there was no other way to go at that point, but I think it’s more fun, and appropriate, to give the crow credit.)
We also encountered planets on our hike, placed at what appeared to be odd spots, but there might be rhyme or reason behind it I don’t know about.
After passing Uranus and Neptune, with M ahead of me as usual (because I had been stopping to take photos of the planets), I heard a rustling in the grass just to the right of the path I was walking. I thought it might be a squirrel or a chipmunk.
It was a nest of snakes. None of my photos managed to capture the true slinky, slithering, winding, mass of snakes (garter snakes, I think) balled together. If I’d been thinking, I’d have used video because it was pretty cool to watch. The warm weather must have woken them up.
Look towards the right, in the center, of the above photo and you’ll see one of the snakes looking right at the camera. Or at me. Same difference, I suppose.
So. That was cool and something neither M nor I had ever seen before, but I have to admit that it was also a little bit creepy. I’m not afraid of snakes, really. Seeing them slithering around in a ball like that, though… a little creepy in an Indiana Jones film kind of way.
We knew we were getting close to a lake when we encountered geese. They walked with us for a little while, honking at us occasionally, either to make sure we were still with them or as a way of asking us to leave. I’m not sure. I suspect the latter.
Things took a really strange turn after that. The trail would veer off onto loops that would take us near the lake and then away from it again, making us feel like we were going in circles. We probably were at times. Given how well marked the trail was (either with posts or blazes) in some spots, I’m surprised they didn’t have some signage at the junctions. It would have helped. No matter. We plodded along on the mushy, muddy trail, and got where we needed to go.
We could hear geese fighting out on the water (lots of splashing and honking going on), but couldn’t see them. And then…
Let’s look at that from the other side, shall we?
(SL = Shoreline, a trail marker.) M and I both guessed deer skull. I’m not sure what else it could be. It surprises me that no one has walked off with it, and taken it home. I’m pretty sure it’s not attached to the post.
The plot thickens. Not really. The air did, humidity rising with the temperature. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the trail where we found the skull with the white balance set to open shade and the exposure low enough to make things look dark and spooky. Snakes and skulls deserve a little spookiness, don’t you think?
We finally reached one of the lakes, and the hike lightened up after that. No more skulls or snakes (that we were aware of) and we started seeing other people out and about, especially on the lake where there were plenty of boats and folks fishing.
The trail became greener, as well. At this point we were only about 15 minutes away from completing the 5k portion of the hike.
We made our way up a hill and then back down to the beach, where we met our next companions on the hike:
M checked the pedometer when we sat down at one of the picnic tables and we had gone exactly 3.1 miles. Mission accomplished. We couldn’t rest on our laurels, though, as we had to make our way back to where we parked the car which meant another 2 miles of hiking.
After having a small snack and resting our legs a bit, the male mallard reminded us that we needed to be on our way so off we went where we encountered…
Well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that. It’s nearly dinner time and I really should be taking care of that instead of blogging.
Have a seat on a bench here at the beach and I’ll see you again tomorrow with the rest of the saga. It probably won’t be nearly as interesting as today’s chapter. Don’t say you weren’t warned.