Is there a better setting for a classic summer family vacation in the midwest than a lakeside cabin up north?
A wonderful Christmas gift from Ramona’s brother and his family brought the two of us and her clan up to English Lake, a small body of water outside of Morse, WI, nestled at the edge of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Arriving during the middle of the week was a stroke of brilliance, providing relaxing days of kayaking and pontooning on the small lake, with virtually only bald eagles, fish, and frogs for company. Eventually as the weekend began, vacationers filled in a few of the other cabins along the lake, but generally English Lake is one of the least crowded and serene lakes I’ve experienced.
Away from the lake, a short hike in Copper Falls State Park stoked in me the hiker’s itch (no known treatment), requiring some research to discover a neighboring trail to split off to for a solo hike during the next day. Backpacker Magazine directed me toward the Penokee Mountain Ski Trail, which at just a 15 minute drive from the cabin, seemed to be a perfect fit. Designed for cross-country skiers, the trail features several loops of varying distance, and is purportedly quiet and infrequently used in the summer.
- 3.2 km (1.99 miles)
- 5.1 km (3.17 miles)
- 8.6 km (5.34 miles)
I drove to the trailhead, and sure enough, rolled up to a completely empty parking lot. There are actually three trailheads that begin at this lot: the Penokee Mountain Trail, the North Country National Scenic Trail, and a boardwalk path to a scenic overlook. After registering my vehicle and paying a $5 fee to use the Penokee trail for the day, I was off.
Less than half a mile after meeting the road, I came across the Adirondack shelter indicated on the map.
The ability to sit back and build a fire would be especially welcoming on a cross-country ski jaunt in the middle of winter.
On one of only several occasions on the trek in which I was startled by a loud noise, it was always a deer galloping away, spooked by my presence. Other than the deer, it was fairly quiet on the wildlife scene: a few squirrels, some frogs, a hawk perched above, and numerous mosquitos. Supposedly there are some black bears out in these parts, and I did pass an instance of bear scat on the edge of the path, so I’d believe it.
Eventually I intersected with my original route, and looped back around the first 0.6 miles, reaching the trailhead. Mosquitos quickly swarmed as I hopped in my car for some respite and air conditioning. After covering almost 5 and a half miles in total, I decided against attempting the scenic overlook, and headed back to the English Lake cabin for dinner.
In total, I rate Penokee Mountain Trail as an interesting enough trip through some green, northern-Wisconsin forest (despite the expected mid-summer mosquito troubles), and it piqued my curiosity about the adjacent North Country National Scenic Trail…perhaps a future trip!