This post is a bit late, as we completed our 100 mile goal last Saturday by hiking from Audubon Refuge to McClusky Canal, the longest hike of the year. With a limited number of available days until the end of the year along with the uncertainty of suitable weather, we knew we needed to push ourselves to try to reach the century mile mark. It’s good thing we did. A ‘polar vortex’ has the entire state currently in the deep freeze, with no reprieve for at least another week. Accordingly, I’m not sure if we’ll return to hike this year. Our ‘comfort limit’ is air temperatures in the teens (°F) with limited wind. Those weather days may be rare throughout December.
We started our drive to the trail with some trepidation. Our first snow of the winter was a whopper, with nearly two feet of snow extending from Bismarck to Washburn. We were certain we’d be trudging through deep snow for at least the first 2.3 miles into the refuge. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. The gravel roads were mostly open with snowpack only along the edges. The snow on the road allowed us to vary our walking surface, which was welcome considering the mileage. Snow is softer than gravel!.
We did an out-and-back from the entrance of the refuge to the terminus of our hike the previous week. It was a good way to warm-up our legs and lungs while watching and listening to the geese and ducks along the lake’s edge.
(First ice of the year on Lake Audubon)
After the out-and-back we drove to the McClusky Canal and leapfrogged our way back to the refuge entrance. Doing so allowed us to warm up in the truck every two miles.
(Today’s terminus… …The beginning of the McClusky Canal)
Today’s soil was another Haplustoll. Given that we’ve been hiking along the same landscape since Riverdale (rolling uplands), the lack of variation isn’t surprising. In fact, we’ll likely be hiking through Haplustoll’s for a while longer until we’re further into the Missouri Coteau.
(A rare irrigation pivot along the trail, and the site of today’s soil)
By mid-afternoon the sun was its most intense, resulting in us removing a few layers before heading out to hike another section of trail. Most of the trail was a straight shot along a gravel road, so we kept a decent pace and made good time.
(Open road on the way back to the refuge entrance)
It was a good feeling to complete our goal for 2016, as we weren’t completely certain we’d be able to reach 100 miles given our crazy schedules throughout the year. Winter hiking may be something we’ll do once reasonable temperatures return, as our schedules are somewhat open January through March. Perhaps Santa Claus will bring snowshoes for Christmas so we can continue our mileage along the North Country Trail. ☺