Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hiking to Buck Lake Tower

Buck Lake Conservation Area has several trails along the north side of Hwy 46, and today’s trip was the first of several to come as I explored this spot.  Today’s hike was only about 3 miles; it is good for hiking and would be just as good for biking.

Buck Lake - Pano

I started today’s hike at the western trailhead and my first destination was the tower that overlooks Buck Lake.  There has been a lot of rain over the past few weeks, so I was expecting to see some flooding.  Luckily the trails were dry though, so all I really had to think about was making it back before the afternoon storms started again today.

Buck Lake - Trailhead Kiosk Front

Buck Lake - Trailhead Kiosk BackThe western trailhead has a parking area just off the highway that includes a trailhead kiosk with a map of the area.  The smaller kiosk that can be seen in the first picture has information about the hunting seasons.

Plowed trail heading northThe main trail from this point is called “Forest Road 1”, and it is wide and clear as it heads to the east for about a mile.  The first landmark is a path that heads to the north shortly after passing the kiosks.  The trail looks like it has been cleared recently.  I took a look at this from Google Earth when I got home, and it doesn’t look like it goes very far.  This may be a spot intended for water runoff. 

Creek from Buck LakeBeyond this spot, the road is surrounded by fields of Pink Hibiscus that seem to go on for as far as the eye can see.  These plants grow to at least six feet tall, and love the wetlands.  The wetlands here are bisected with canal that appears to aid in draining Buck Lake into the flood plain to the south of highway 46.  Trailview - Forest Rd 5

After about .6 miles, there is an intersection where Forest Road 5 connects to the main east-west road.  The intersection is marked with a post identifying the direction (north) to the lookout tower and primitive campsite.  The road itself is covered in soft grass; this path is also easy to hike and would be fine for a bicycle too.

Buck Lake overlook tower

From here, the lookout tower is a short (about .4 miles) hike away.  Both sides of the trail are surrounded by forest, but there is still a nice breeze that keeps all of the bugs at bay. 

When I arrived at the tower, I was surprised to see a small boat that appeared to be in good shape sitting next to the lake, complete with an oar.  I suspect that this boat has been left here for anyone to use – I saw another photo taken back in 2011 that showed this boat and a canoe.  The view from the top of the tower is beautiful (take a look at the panorama photo at the top of this page).Primitive campsite

To the east of the lookout tower is a primitive campsite with a fire ring and a couple of picnic tables, and a good supply of firewood.  Near this campsite I noticed a couple of trees that were “tagged” with pink plastic ribbons.  This is a method that is normally used to mark trails before New trail comingsomeone comes in to clear the underbrush and blaze the trees, so I wanted to take a look to see how far this “possible trail” went.  After about 150 yards though, there didn’t seem to be any more ribbons to follow. 

Hydrological monitoring stationFrom here I headed back the way I came all the way back to the main forest road to resume hiking to the east.  The next spot I was looking for was the trail road that heads north about a mile from the parking area.  At this intersection there is a hydrological monitoring station. 

As I started to head north at this point the mosquitos and flies were thick, so I was about to spray myself with some Deep Woods Off until I looked off to the west.  All of the white fluffy clouds that I had been seeing today were being pushed away by a wall of very dark storm clouds, so this seemed like a good opportunity to head back before the thunder and lightning arrived.  All in all though, this was a nice short hike – with all of the trails in this area, I think I’ll be exploring this spot for a several more weekends.

Other Photos From This Trip

Trailview - Forest Rd 1 Surrounded by hibiscus Intersection marker

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