Along with all the famous scenic and wild areas around Northern Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, there are any number of hidden gems that don't appear on all the tourist literature and top Google searches. These are great places to avoid crowds and for locals to seek new experiences. Tucked away within all the national forest lands in the tri-state area are a number of federally designated wilderness areas. Some of them are right down the road from many readers, since the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has several "pocket wilderness" tracts that are smaller and easily accessible without any special permits. One of them is right in our backyard between Delta and Drummond — the Rainbow Lake Wilderness.
Last summer I was camping at Perch Lake right across the road from this wilderness and was excited to explore it, but was thwarted by the completely drowned trail and the wrong footwear. So I figured this dry summer was a great time to get back in there. I entered the wilderness at the Anderson Grade trailhead across from Perch Lake with plans for an out-and-back destination hike to Rainbow Lake. The Rainbow Lake Wilderness is one of the oldest eastern wilderness areas and is crisscrossed by old narrow-gauge railroad grades used to haul logs over 100 years ago. In fact, you can still see a few old-growth stump mounds here and there, with some moss-covered spikes of wood still showing. The Anderson Grade trail follows one of these. Even if it's still dry, be prepared to get your shoes wet and muddy going in, as the first part of the trail by Clay Lake still has standing water. The effects of the very wet past 10 years are evident in the drowned timber along this section of trail. Pay attention as you pass Clay Lake, as the trail is easy to lose in the weeds.