Not much snow in southern Wisconsin during the winter. At one point, there was about a foot of snow on the ground — for a few days. Got out on the snowshoes a couple times before it disappeared. Hiking made more sense in the winter months than plodding through the mud on snowshoes. Seemed like we’d be due for an early and beautiful spring.
Nope. April was one of the coldest Aprils on record. And, the biggest snowfall of the “winter” came on April 18, when we got over 7 inches. Of course, a few days later, it was gone. And, a week after the big snowstorm, the neighbors were mowing lawns. (Not me. I’ll boycott April and wait for May.) My first non-muddy hike of the year was April 29. And, on April 30, I was hiking in 80 degree weather. Spring had arrived and was about a week long.
The photo above is from a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail south of Madison, in April. No spring colors, other than brown. Black and white seemed better, after months of brown.
Ice Age Trail hiking
My first time on that segment of the trail was in January. It was a bit muddy and slippery, but really a nice trail — and fairly close to home. At one point, there’s a small farm near the trail. There’s a pen and small shelter right next to the trial. Interesting, I thought. Wonder what’s in the pen.
Goats. And, one of the goats was as curious as I was.
That’s him. My new trail buddy. There were some other goats in the pen, but only this one came over for a visit.
I tried to get him to back up, so I’d get a photo that wasn’t just a close-up of his nose. Well, his idea of backing up seemed to be coming a bit closer and sticking his nose through the fence. Easier for me to move back a bit.
I’ve hiked that segment of trail many times since that day in January when I met the goat. He’s never come near the fence again. No idea why not. Or no idea why, on the first time we met, he was so interested in me.
Besides several hikes on what I now call the goat segment of the Ice Age Trail, I had some really nice winter/early spring hikes on the Montrose, Lodi Marsh, Table Bluff and Indian Lake segments of the trail. The Ice Age Trail is a fantastic resource. It’s a national scenic trail, about 1,000 miles long, all in Wisconsin. Not all of the trail has been developed yet, but the quality of the trail segments I’ve hiked is outstanding. Much of the work is thanks to volunteers.
There’s a photo gallery at the end of this post, with some Ice Age Trail views. But, here’s one that sort of sums up this past winter’s hiking in southern Wisconsin. Much mud. That’s from late February, and a self portrait of sorts. There were some places the day I took this photo where the water on the trail was so deep there seemed to be a stream, complete with current, running down the trail. Mud on top of frozen ground is very slippery!
It was sort of like spring hiking but in January, February and March.
The prior spring, I had learned a lesson about waterproof hiking shoes. My shoes were indeed waterproof, but they were just low shoes, not ankle high. Every hike I went on, I ended up in water deeper than the shoes were high. Of course, my feet got wet, and the shoes seemed to be equally capable of keeping water in as well as out (a good reason to not wear waterproof shoes/boots in warm weather when feet sweat). Here’s a hiking tip — it’s better, I’ve been told, to stay on the trail rather than walking around wet areas. Go through the water, and don’t expand the trail beyond where it should be. So, I found some higher, waterproof, hiking boots on sale last fall. Used them a lot this winter/spring. Problem solved. Dry feet. And, I learned about cleaning and caring for leather hiking boots covered in mud. Happened fairly often this winter/spring.
Unlike the southern part of the state, Northwest Wisconsin had a fine snow season. Well, maybe if you lived there, it might have been kind of long and rather brutal. But, for me, it was very nice to visit family — and snow — in March.
On the way to Washburn (which is on the shore of Lake Superior), I stopped at Copper Falls State Park near Mellen, less than an hour drive from Washburn. It’s a beautiful park any time of the year, but winter is special. Even the sound of the falls is different in the winter.
There was well over a foot of snow, and I thought about getting out the snowshoes. But, the trails are well-used and the snow was packed to a fairly good hiking surface. The Yak Trax were sufficient, along with one of the snowshoe poles. Very nice hiking.
There’s a hike near Washburn that my niece Julie and I have done several times. It’s the Houghton Falls/Houghton Point area. The trailhead is just off Highway 13, and the trail goes to the shore of Lake Superior. I think this March visit gave us the most snow we’ve had on our Houghton hikes.
It’s a relatively short hike, but there’s quite a variety of scenery. Much of the trail is along a sandstone gorge, complete with a small waterfall. And, of course, the trail ends at Lake Superior. In the summer, we might venture down the sandstone to the shore. Not in the winter. Lots of people had — and the well-packed trail down to the shore was too slippery for me to tackle.
It was nice to be on a trail in the winter that was slippery from packed snow. I had been on plenty of hikes over the winter and early spring where the trail was very slippery. But, it was slippery mud. Not nearly as pleasant as snow.
(More photos from Copper Falls and from Houghton Point in the photo gallery.)
So, it was a pretty weird winter and spring from a weather perspective. But, it was good for hiking. Got out a lot and explored several Ice Age Trail segments. Plus, the dogs got to go for walks throughout most of the winter — despite one of them refusing to wear his boots and objecting to getting his feet cold.