|Out the Front Door
Patricia Lake Campground is everything that lake George campsite wasn’t. It is dry, the woods around us have been thinned, so we get good light, and the facilities are spotless. And most of all, there is no mosquitoe infestation like we had at Lake George. The lake is one of the many spring fed lakes in the area. Its waters are crystal clear. The park has put in a nice beach and there is even the obligatory raft floating about twenty yards off shore.
After arriving in this northwood paradise we were anxious to try out our bikes. Monday morning was perfect for a long bike ride. The temperatures were moderate and with big puffy clouds floating by, the sunshine was benevolent. We checked our maps, scanned google earth, put Emily in our pack, and headed out the door.
Our plan was to go through Minocqua and find a road I used back in 97 to go to my friend Dave’s summer cottage. We only had to go alongside the highway for about a mile and then we would be able to use back roads for most of the rest of our adventure.
Riding along the lakeside roads in Minocqua was idyllic. The sun was sparkling off Lake Minocqua as we rode by one of the town parks. We passed an area where bleachers were set up facing the lake. We later learned that this was where the twice weekly water ski show took place. That event is now on our crowded social calendar.
We both noticed and commented on how clean and tidy the neighborhoods and rural areas are up here in the Wisconsin Northwoods. Minocqua was not an exception. The homes, big and small, are all well maintained and very tidy.
We passed a funky restaurant with a Paul Bunyon motif that was jammed with cars in their parking lot. We put that place on our social calendar as well.
At the south end of town we turned on to Country Club drive. The homes on this road were beautiful and set back from the road amongst plentiful natural greenery. So far on our ride, we are about four miles into the trip, we have passed three large lakes. These lakes, and a bunch of others are all joined together at one place or another along their lengths. Boaters can travel all day long and not cover all the lakes in this chain alone. This phenonomon occurs frequently in northern Wisconsin and creates a sportsman’s paradise.
After a mile or so we transitioned on to Thoroughfare Road and continued along the quiet road past another couple of small lakes. Our riding goal was to go past Dave’s place and continue on to Clear Lake State Forest Campground where I had camped in 1997, the last time I was in this area. There had been some new building gong on since 97 and I could not positively identify which place was his. We continued on through the green forest that was highlighted by sun filtering down through the canopy.
The forests around this neck of the woods are a great mix of tall Oaks, Sugar Maples, Birch, Poplar, and multiple varieties of conifers. We can't wait until the trees start their color change. Fall doesn’t happen all at once. It starts slowly, a few leaves on a tree, then a few trees with some changing leaves, then whole blocks of color and then whole forests of rioutous color. We have noticed that the forests here are in the first stage which is a few colored leaves on a few scattered trees.
We crossed Hwy 47 and got onto Clear Lake Road. We followed the road to a very new looking State Forest ticket booth and a few other official buildings. There was a large paved parking lot and all sorts of info boards. Man, the last time I was here, the campground was primitive, with the honor system in place for fee collections. We biked around checking out possible campsites that ‘the Neighborhood’ would fit in. We may come over here for a short period if we cannot stay the whole period at Patricia Lake. We only signed up for two weeks. We wanted to make sure that this was the area we wanted to hang around until Fall got going.
Clear Lake is also a beautiful spring fed lake, and not attached to the chains. There are a couple of sandy beach areas and boat launch areas. Most of the lake is in the state forest so there is little or no development on the lake.
We checked our map for a return route and elected to take a back road up to where it intersected County J and then on through the small town of Woodruff, following much the same path we used when we arrived on Sunday. As we were riding along the mostly deserted road we came to a turn off to a state fish hatchery. This was the very one that I had been searching for since we arrived in this area. When we were kids, my brother and I used to beg our folks to stop at the hatchery whenever we were in the area. I had fond memories of the place because at that time the fish were displayed out in the open in various ponds, pens, and best of all, running streams. The streams had several monster Sturgeon laying in the bottom that were really cool. Alas, the hatchery is still there, but has gone modern. All the fish are mostly indoors in pens and then old ponds and streams have been abandoned. It was still pretty cool to stumble upon the place.
From there on we had an nice cruise through Woodruff and over to Hwy 70 and on home. We used the old highway as far as we could because it went by the homes and lakes we passed on the way. We only had to negotiate a mile of new highway to our turnoff. The traffic is usually pretty light on the road, but we haven’t been here for a weekend yet. We are chugging along, close to the end of our 20 mile bike ride, our turnoff onto our county lane is just ahead, and BOOM!
Nancy goes out the front door on her bike and does a graceful bounce in the gravel alongside the highway! I am trailing and see the whole thing in slow motion. It freaks me out. I had dark visions pass before my eyes of her breaking a hip or hitting her head and getting seriously injured. I race up to her as she lay along the road. Nancy is checking herself over for broken bones or spurting gashes. Things aren’t too bad. She landed with her weight distributed enough to absorb the worse of the shock. She got off with a nasty bruise, swelling rapidly, just above her ankle, and a few scrapes and minor bruises. Her hip took the biggest hit, but it was not swelling or causing much pain.
Nancy is a real gamer, we got her up, dusted off, and remounted in no time. We continued our trip home and gladly turned down on one of the back roads to finish our day’s ride. I am so thankful she was alive and pedaling.
When we got back to base, we iced her leg several times during the afternoon and the swelling went down and the color wasn’t too bad.
We even managed to drive into town and get our laundry done and a trip to the new local WalMart.
Gee, we did a lot today, even for us.