As I’ve been talking to people who are doing the Ice Age Trail Mammoth Hike 40 Challenge it’s great to hear that many folks are exploring Ice Age Trail segments that they’ve never been on or haven’t been on for a while. Bill and I are among those explorers. This past week we did some hikes that were farther from home, which required a few overnights in campgrounds. Since the October temperatures took a nose-dive and we found ourselves in three inches of wet snow we were glad to be in a warm, dry camper.
Our first stop was Polk County where we camped at Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls; from there it was a short drive to the Straight Lake Segment near Luck. This section of Trail travels through the heart of the 3000-acre Straight Lake State Park. Our hike took us past Straight Lake, where we saw tundra swans and enjoyed the image of yellow larch trees reflected in the water. At one point our walk had us looking down at Straight River which, at times, was not straight at all but appeared more like the meandering Spring Creek in the Lodi Marsh.
Before leaving Interstate Park we walked the Pothole Trail, a loop trail that was built shortly after the park was created in 1900 and is one of Wisconsin’s oldest recreational footpaths. The glacial potholes that can be seen along this trail were formed when torrential glacial meltwater “drilled” the holes in the rock, one as deep as 16 feet. This trail led us to the official marker for the western terminus of the Ice Age Trail, overlooking the impressive 100-foot-deep gorge of the Dalles of the St Croix River.
Our next campsite was the Dells of the Eau Claire county park near Wausau (Marathon County). Toward the end of the afternoon and with snow just beginning to fall we took a short walk along the Eau Claire River to view the dramatic sight of the gorge with water cascading through a series of ledges and pools. This park is breathtaking and well worth the two-hour drive from Lodi.
The following morning we set out for the nearby Ringle Segment. This section of trail passes through a variety of wooded areas including maples, oaks and pines. There were also glacial forms such as kames, kettles and erratics. (Glacial forms are the subject for another post.) During one part of our hike we were on a section of the trail that was built within the last month and which featured a series of wooden boardwalks.
We’ve almost completed our 40 miles; just a few more to go, which we’ll probably do locally. I know I speak for many when I extend my appreciation to the staff at the Ice Age Trail Alliance who came up with the idea for the Mammoth Hike 40 Challenge at a time when many of us are feeling an increased need to be out in nature. Of course, we don’t need a 40-mile challenge to get out on the Trail. It’s always there, waiting for us. But sometimes having a fun challenge like this one helps make it more likely that we’ll get outside and experience the sense of well-being that is to be found….Along the Ice Age Trail.