29-Sep-2001 -- September 29th, 2001 looked like it would be the perfect day to try for three confluences. Clear, warm weather across the state and fall colors were starting to appear.
It was a great excuse to get out of town on a perfect fall day. I started later than I planned from my home in Minneapolis and a long, poorly-marked detour on MN highway 6 added another hour to the three hour drive. Still, I thought there would be time for two confluences as I turned west on to Cass County 7 and north on a grassy, minimum-maintenance road near the confluence. I parked where the road widened at a crossroad and hiked west. (Picture#2 - looking West from the intersection) The temperature was around 75 (24 C), with a light breeze, no clouds, and no insects. After few hundred meters the path turned southwest and became swampier. I wanted to go west north-west, but I followed the path hoping it would bring me closer before I had to head into the woods.
The ground was soft, but there was enough vegetation so that I didn’t sink into the mud, or even get my boots wet. There were scattered small tree stumps. Probably this area is cleared in the winter for snowmobile trails, as they didn’t seem big enough to be worth commercial logging. After half a kilometer the path turned back northwest, but kept getting softer and the chest-high grass thicker. Another half kilometer and the path opened into a large area filled with swamp grass extending to the west and north.
Lining the northwest edge of the open area was a two meter tall, eight meter deep pile of tree branches. Most likely the dump from when the area is cleared for snowmobiles. There was no obvious way around, so I climbed over the pile which was rubbery from sitting in the damp, but solid. On the other side I faced a mass of branches, the crowns of blown-down trees. (Picture #3 - blown down trees). All fell south and lay diagonally across my path. The only way through was to walk along the tree-trunks. Eventually I reached a relatively clear area, filled with head-high aspen saplings. The trunks were thinner than someone’s finger, and easy to push through.
My GPS led me into a thick stand of pine trees, carpeted not with pine needles but a foot-thick (30 cm) faerie-blanket of moss. Unfortunately for my boots, under the moss lay not solid ground but a dense mass of decaying pine logs, as they discovered when I stepped on a gap between the logs into the muck below. Picking my footing with care, I found the confluence half-crouched under a cluster of dead trees. Unfortunately, in the excitement I forgot to adjust the focus on my digital camera, but I have a nice picture of the ground cover. (Picture #1 - looking North.) (Picture #4 - looking West.) (Picture #5 - looking South.) (Picture #6 - looking East.)
From the confluence point I headed straight back, using the GPS to go through the woods and avoid the detour through the swamp. It was difficult slogging over fallen trees and through thick moss, and I was happy to make it
back to the dry path, (Picture #7). I was humbled to calculate that my grueling 2.5 hour hike had covered less than two miles of ground. Even though I no longer had time for even a second confluence today, I was glad to have this one