Challenging backwoods journey

To keep from becoming bored I have to challenge myself, and quite often my challenges are both physical and mental.

This past week I hiked from my hunting camp, which is near the Juneau/Jackson/Wood county lines, to my house which is near the Wisconsin River dam at Necedah.

By car this would be a 23-mile drive. My path was not a path but a trek. Through marsh and forest with constant issues, with weak ice and thousands of deadfalls that I feel made my journey closer to 35 miles.

Saturday, March 10

High 35, Low 19

My golden retriever pup Ruby would be my companion. I would be carrying a backpack that weighed about 50 pounds and wearing hip boots as I knew that I would be in 2-16 inches of snow and had lots of water crossings.

I had planned on doing this trip over three days but the morning that I left I realized that I had a KAMO meeting that cut my adventure down to two big mile days.

At 56, hiking where there is not a trail with 50 pounds on your back is a constant challenge, and some of my goals for this trip were to not fall, not go under the ice, not to get injured and to make it to my house.

This part of Wisconsin was at the end of its safe ice-crossing season and today I had at least 100 experiences where I had to make the choice – walk on it and save miles or walk around it and possibly save my life. In most cases I chose to walk on the ice.

My crazy pup Ruby has zero brain capacity when it comes to walking on bad ice but an excellent ability to pull herself out when she falls through.

What was really cool today was that I was walking in the same country that Selina and I run our bear baits. With the aid of my compass, after traveling about six miles I walked right up to the tree that she hunted in and harvested a bear from last September.

Back to the bad ice. In a lot of cases I would use deadfalls that went from one side of a dike to the other and what a crazy test of your balance that is.

My goal for the day was to make it to Highway 80 somewhere in the Finley area and then sleep on the ground. I made that and built a camp about two miles southeast of Finley.

My camp was simple, two sleeping bags stuffed into a piece of plastic “like a trash bag.” I cut a bunch of marsh grass for padding, and my supper was Gatorade, a Leinenkugels, Ritz with bacon cheddar spread, sausage sticks and an orange.

Sunday, March 11

High 38, Low 21

My pup wanted to be in my sleeping bag last night and the two of us breathing inside of a sleeping bag that was inside of a plastic tube caused so much condensation that my sleeping bags were soaked when I got up at sunrise. That experience should remind you of how important it is to always rehydrate.

Much of today would be spent hiking near the Yellow River and the many small tributaries that enter it. All of this trip was 100-percent remote and today the ice crossings were literally insane with lots of extra miles to insure survival.

It may seem a bit lame but I chose to cross deadfalls on my hands and knees when going over open water instead of walking.

When it comes to wildlife there are a lot of wolves and the more wolf sign that I saw, the less coyote sign as wolves like to eat coyotes. At times deer sign was plentiful and then it would be non-existent for a mile.

Though many people are aware of this fact, many are not. The most wildlife sign was in the clear cuts where daylight hits the ground and young aspen grows along with grass. The second largest wildlife traffic is where there is some form of grass.

Mature forests, especially pine, have close to zero sign of wildlife in the late winter.

The last five miles of this journey came in the late day. To be perfectly honest, I was in pain from my shoulders where the pack straps were attempting to pull my shoulders off all the way down to the bottom of my feet where my hip boots that were offering next to zero foot support seemed to be taking off the bottom quarter-inch of each foot.

This entire trip was done by compass. I made it home without a single injury. I was so tired my wood stove and recliner became my true love for the night.

Push yourself!


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