An Unexpected Enterprise (Part 1)

Or how I accidentally walked 8 miles. On snowshoes.

You’d think by now I’d know how to read a map.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, winter parking can be difficult for hiking so sometimes I choose groomed trails and don’t mind paying a fee for the access. In February I hit the Enterprise Winter Silent Sports Trail complex. Ostensibly it is for silent sports, but there are snowmobile trails that come very close and the parking lot is set up for their trailers and the trailhead located there for them, too. Not a big deal, but you can hear them even if they don’t share the trail with the silent folks – snowshoes, skis and fat tire bikes. I met a couple of folks doing just that on this little section below –

Isn’t it gorgeous?! I love hemlocks and within the larger trail system is the Enterprise Hemlocks SNA which is an old growth remnant. I didn’t find the big trees (because I don’t think the trail to them was groomed), but I did marvel at the ones I found.

The map clearly shows two four-mile loops. But I somehow got it into my head that it was a total of four miles with two two-mile loops. Yeah. Dumb. So when I got to the first cut off I decided to take the long one. Not knowing how long it would be.

The terrain changes from hemlock and mixed hardwood forest to a boggy landscape with what I think are black spruce. From time to time leather leaf and other small bog-loving bushes could be seen in the snowbanks. No tamarack pines though which surprised me. Even in the bog itself there weren’t any.

At this point I think I was in a bog proper. I don’t know if it’s possible to follow this same trail safely in the warmer months. I might go have a look and find out. You know how I love a bog. Plus I just read that there are wild orchids here including showy lady slipper! Woo hoo!

Back into mixed upland forest.

It was right along here somewhere that I met 4 guys on skis. Three could move right along, but the fourth was a bit slower and I could see a lot of places along the trail where he couldn’t make it up hills and took his skis off. That habit would help me in the near future.

The trail complex is part of a much larger swath of Oneida County forest and is actively logged as you can see. The shot above is denuded of large conifers and the shot below is popple.

Popple is a term for the aspen and poplar trees that take over a clear cut area. They are light loving, fast growing trees that proliferate like mad. They will take advantage of any area that get stripped of other trees, or any hole in the woods created by a fallen tree. I don’t mind little changes of scenery like this, but prefer the more balanced semi-natural forest landscape –

I say semi-natural because I don’t think there’s any woods left that haven’t been touched and managed by humans at least a little. Native peoples used fire to create open space for certain plants to grow and for deer, so it wasn’t just Europeans who manipulated these resources.

Around this time I thought I’d be getting close to the parking area again since I’d gone by mile marker 4. Unfortunately no. I was only halfway, but it wasn’t until I hit mile marker 5 that I knew I goofed.

I wasn’t too worried (I could always turn around), but didn’t have a map with me and so hoped I’d get back to the start soon. At one point I opened my phone to the Jeep app so I could find the thing to see how close it was and if I was making any progress toward it. I was, but it was slow. So I stopped worrying about it and enjoyed my extra time being out on a perfect winter day. And if I had taken the short loop I would have never found a surprise beauty. But that’s for Part 2.

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