We’re at Luigi’s in Two Rivers.
People from Wisconsin tend to know where Two Rivers is – it’s where two rivers – the East Twin & the West Twin empty into Lake Michigan.
They say that Two Rivers (pop. 13,000) is also the place of the first ever ice cream sundae. We’re not having ice cream sundaes. It’s cold – never made it above freezing today, even in the heat of the afternoon sun. And the sun has long dipped beyond the horizon. (Just across the street from Luigi’s, you can see the dusk settle in over one of the rivers. Significantly frozen now. No surprise. It’s really cold.)
Why Two Rivers? It was one of those early morning quick decisions, made while looking out from under bedcovers in a half waken stupor, thinking that perhaps we ought to seize the day. Or at least a portion of it.
It is indeed a fine day. Cold, but brilliant.
I canvas the state for hiking ideas. I’m willing to drive far, Ed – less so. Realistically, we can’t drive that far and hope to hike before the sun sets.
The Ice Age Trail segment hugging central Lake Michigan seems perfect.
Even though I am well aware of the fact that we are in the last two days of the deer hunting season in Wisconsin.
[On the way out, I pull into Wal-Mart. For blaze orange gear. Cap and vest $7.99. Sometimes I do like Wal-Mart.]
It’s a solid three hour drive to Two Rivers, so that it is quite late -- 1:00 -- before we reach the trail head. I know from yesterday that the sun sets at 4:15. And in the forest it tends to disappear even earlier. By 5:00 it will be dark. A four hour hike then, at most.
Still, I set out happy. It’s such a pretty trail!
And the topography is quite different here. Lots of sand. Pine, cedar, birch, yes, and then, when you think you’ve inhaled all the best that the hike has to offer, you come upon Lake Michigan...
We walk in the forest quiet. We do this so well, Ed and I. Perhaps this will be our epithet: they hiked well together, up and down the forested trails...
We are not alone of course. There are no other hikers, but there are quite a few hunters.
Hunting deer, hunting squirrels (don't look in his bucket! -- Ed tells me), just plain hunting.
At the very last segment of the return trail we see a posting announcing that this segment is closed during deer hunting season. Who knew! (I had checked on the website and I noted that during the deer hunt, much of the Ice Age trail that cuts through private land is off limits. But we are not on private land.) And how is one to return without hiking this last segment?
We continue. And moments later, I hear that quick movement through brush. Two deer, maybe three, zigzagging to the side of the path, then disappearing altogether. I want to think that these guys know to prance away quickly when there’s danger, but that’s being unrealistic. There are hunters everywhere. Blaze orange flashes constantly. This hunter is waiting, rifle ready at his side.
How easy it is to get used to guns... I’ve seen more in active use in the last month than perhaps in all years prior to this. So much do I take hunters for granted now that I hardly pay them heed. My eyes are focused on other things.
For instance, on the splendid lighthouse...
...and the never distant coastline.
Frozen now at the shoreline. Wasn’t it, on some days at least, warm in Wisconsin last week? The ice that I see here is a fraction of what we’ll see in a month, but still -- that's not a wave spilling out on the sand, that's a solid border of snow and ice.
The hike cannot be long. After two hours, we turn around and head back. By now, the sun comes through only in the frozen bogs and clearings.
And now it's just touching the tips of trees. Then it's gone. The forest is quiet, preparing for the night.
Finally. We reach the car at the side of the road. I’m glad I wore wool socks. I’m glad the heater works in the old Escort. I’m glad we had this one last hike that I could think of as belonging to fall. December will shift things for me. Today was still, at a stretch, autumnal. A cold and beautiful late fall day.