I knew ahead of time that the highlight of today’s hike was going to be Grandfather Falls, the highest waterfall on the Wisconsin River. I was excited to discover this gem.
The day began with a nice, short drive to the trailhead – just 25 minutes. For the last few days, our lodging has been about an hour away. There just aren’t a wealth of places to stay near the trail up here. So the short commute was a luxury.
I began the day at the Averill-Kelly segment, which features two creek crossings within the first mile-plus (2 km). I’ve got some blisters I wanted to pamper, so I wasn’t keen on getting my feet soaked first thing in the day. But the trail is the trail. The first creek was up to my knees in the middle, the second only calf-high. The bulk of the trail was a wide, grassy bridle path – pretty nice.
Back at the car and Maura, I changed socks and shoes, then attacked Turtle Creek. This was another pretty nice trail in general. But my feet got wet again from dewy grass, so another sock/shoe change ensued.
Reaching Grandfather Falls
Grandfather Falls was pretty interesting. The trail goes up and down both sides of the Wisconsin River, where Grandfather Falls’ 89-foot drop is used for hydroelectric power. In many parts, the trail is full of huge boulders and roots. The going is very slow. It reminded me of Devil’s Lake. The trail offers some glimpses of the falls created by the dam; it was quite pretty.
The second part of Grandfather Falls is an out-and-back along the Merrill School Forest trail. Then there’s a long connecting road route. Some hikers say they just bushwhack after the trail ends; it’s only a half-mile to a road that shortens your hike considerably.
Now, I know it wasn’t wise to consider bushwhacking in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. But I figured I’d basically bushwhacked my way on so many of these segments, I’d be fine. WRONG. I can’t even begin to explain how difficult this was. Suffice it to say after bashing through trees and shoulder-high plants, I finally saw a grassy meadow in the distance. Yay! But when I was trying to make my way to it, I got snagged in barbed wire – the meadow was a farmer’s field, and the fence was his property marker. After panicking for 30 seconds, I untangled myself, hopped over the wire, trotted through the field and found the road. I’m not bushwhacking again!
Next was an eight-ish mile (13 km) jog along a connecting road route. It had been hot and humid all day, but now clouds moved in. By the time I hit Underdown Recreational Area, it began to rain. I did about half of the trail in there before quitting for the day.
By the way, the bottom of one of my feet was really bothering me by the time I ended. It’s been hurting for a few days now, and two nights ago I thought I saw signs of infection. So I’ve been slathering it with Neosporin. I wish it would clear up.
On the way to our hotel in Antigo, the lovely Holiday Inn Express, four bears crossed the road in front of us! It looked like maybe a mother and three cubs, although I think that would be unusual. It was pretty cool, but I hope that’s my only bear sighting.
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