The infernal cold will not let up, with temps permanently plunged way, way below zero the past couple of weeks. Making it tough to enjoy, or at least stay frostbite-free, being out there. But the deep is a siren song and I still squeezed in a short woods wander up north. Stuck close to base this time and made a quick loop on the Tomahawk Lake trail system, just northeast of Barnes, and a bonus day on the Brule Bog trail.
Tomahawk is a classic-ski track that serpentines through second-growth forest and the path's shoulders are wide enough to accommodate fat feet. I trailed off the main drag on an ancillary, and untracked, trail that curves back to the lake, then just a trek on the lake, cross a spruce-lined sandbar, and back to the trailhead. Nice loop, but just too cold to spend any extended time on the snow today.
Lo, the temp shot all the way up to about 12 the next day, with clear blue and sun above, so I jetted over to Solon Springs and jumped on the Brule Bog trail. In summer, this place is an emerald green incubator of primordial white cedar, spongy mosses, and dozens of rare plants like the Lapland buttercup. Still as the eye of a storm, 3,500 feet of boardwalk bisects the bog to the headwaters of the revered Bois Brule River and the centuries-old Portage Trail. On the ridge above are sweet views across the Brule Valley, a glacial shoehorn scoop shrouded in conifer swamp and northern hardwood-pine forest. Very cool stuff, and now it is all muffled in white powder, cemetery quiet, and thanks to the boardwalk, the path remains stable for good hiking. I stepped off the boards on a turn at one point and sunk to mid-thigh. What a great winter!
A heavily-traveled deer path spurs off from the main trail close to the start and leads up the ridge, too irresistible to pass by. Up top, the aforementioned views and the Portage Trail section of the NCT. From here it's an easy cruise downhill to the Hwy A trailhead. Good stuff.