Category Archives: Ice Age Trail

What We Like About Wisconsin

As we say farewell to Wisconsin, here are some of the things we liked, in no particular order:

    Nice People
    Lots of lakes
    Miles of tranquil trails
    Sharp cheddar cheese
    Folks who give us rides
    Farmers who let their cows graze outdoors
    Fields of corn
    Culvers frozen custard
    Welcoming church folk
    Wall Dog murals
    Folks who give us water
    The Circus World Museum
    Brats with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes
    Trail Angels
    Walking along Lake Michigan
    Curious Townfolk
    Cool summer weather
    98% DEET
    Volunteers who maintain the trails
    Litter-free roadways
    Devil’s Lake Park

    Thanks Wisconsin! We had a great time!

A Day in Westfield

8/9 – so now we have gone as far north as we can go on the Ice Age Trail, approximately 500 miles. The Trail goes on for another 500 miles, of course, but Westfield is the last place that we can catch a bus back to Portage, to catch a train to Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport, where we can then fly to Frankfurt and on to Lisbon, Portugal for the next leg of our adventure. So here we stop.

When we purchased our plane tickets a month ago, we really didn’t know how far we’d get, or what we could expect for ground transportation. We now have a week before we fly, and we will spend it reprovisioning, shipping our mosquito suits and tent back home, buying a new phone from T-Mobile with a better deal for overseas use, and swimming in the pool at our hotel.

So what did we do on our last hiking day? We walked around town, of course! They are not kidding about the Pioneer theme here:image


Of course we found a lovely trail through town:image


Jim and I talked about our summer in Wisconsin. I regretted that we didn’t get far enough north to see any beavers. Luckily, there was a sign in town that solved that issue:image
We also realized that we’d gone all summer without eating corn on the cob, although we saw plenty of corn growing around us. That was easily remedied too, as Jim boiled several ears in our coffee pot, and we sat out on a picnic table devouring them with salt and butter purloined from the continental breakfast at the hotel. Jim may post an exciting video on this subject.

So, regrets have we none. Time to catch a bus!

Portage to Oxford to Westfield

8/7 – we left Portage to hike to our next stop north. Our plan was to do a full day’s road walk, spend one night on the ground, and then continue our road walk on to Westfield. At this point of the Ice Age Trail, there is no ‘trail’, only road walk.

It was another beautiful, sunny day. We distracted ourselves by playing Cloud Animals as we walked – what does this one look like to you?image

By late afternoon, we were starting to look for a stealth camping place, when a friendly couple working out in their yard called us over to chat. We explained about the Ice Age Trail, and how we were planning on sleeping on the ground that night, as we were too far from Westfield. They asked why didn’t we stay at the motel in Oxford just down the road? Our map didn’t show a motel anywhere close by, but Jean looked up the number for us and gave us directions. Thanks again, Nice People of Wisconsin!image

I know Jim was looking forward to putting up our little tent one more time, but I was very happy to rest on comfy pillows after a hot shower. Our days in Wisconsin are drawing to a close, and Westfield will be our last stop.

Next morning we walked into Westfield, a tiny town with a Pioneer motif.image

Here’s a sign you don’t see on Main Street every day – I just know this will be a classy place!image

A Day in Portage

8/6 – Today we learned about Portage history. Did you know that Winnebago translates as People Of the Stinking Water? Portage once had a military presence – Fort Winnebago – that was once staffed by a young Jefferson Davis. The main work of the fort was to remove the Ho Chunk Indians from their lands and ship them further west. Unfortunately, the Ho Chunk kept coming back, so the fort was decommissioned and then it burned down. Here ends the lesson.



The only building that remains of the fort (now a gas station) is the Surgeons Quarters, so we took the short tour.



Then we walked along a very pretty trail along the Portage Canal.


IMG_1026.JPGThe canal, though stagnant, was a lovely shade of green.

Did you know that Juliette Lowe, founder of the Girl Scouts, came from Portage? Now you know!

Baraboo to Portage

8/3 – it’s a 25 mile walk out of Baraboo, just cornfields and asphalt as far as the eye can see. No shade. This Burma-Shave style sign was the most interesting thing we saw all morning (you may have the pleasure of Googling Aldo Leopold and John Muir if you don’t know who they are!) image
By mid afternoon, we reached the Wisconsin River, and walked parallel to it for the rest of the day. There is a high levee between the river and the road, and our guidebook says that this can be a very wet walk, but not today, so the mosquitoes were mercifully absent. We found a place to stealth camp by 5pm that was out of sight, as the whole area was posted as No Camping, Public Hunting and Dog Training Area.



Got up Sunday morning and walked into Portage, the third oldest settlement in Wisconsin. Portage is French for “to carry”, and here is why. Back in the day, you could put a boat in the St. Lawrence Seaway, steer through the Great Lakes and down the Fox River. Then you would have to take the boat out and carry it for a mile and a half until you reach the Wisconsin River, which flowed into the Mississippi and eventually got you down to the Gulf of Mexico. This bottleneck made the town of Portage an important town until the railroads came through and made shipping goods by water more or less obsolete.image

We were too late for mass at the Catholic church, but the Episcopal service was just winding down, and we were invited in for coffee and cake. This small parish hasn’t had a priest in so many years they can’t remember, but are happy to gather weekly for morning prayer, and hire a supply priest once a month for Communion. These nice people insisted that we take home all their leftover pastry, perhaps confusing hiking with homelessness…



We’re at a groovy hotel with a stand-up comedian at the front desk (really!). This should be fun!

Okee to Devil’s Lake to Baraboo

7/28 – we got an early start this morning, knowing we would have to walk three miles back to the Merrimac Ferry. We don’t usually have much luck getting rides early in the morning when folks are on their way to work. As we left the motel, Jim stuck out a thumb, and the first car that came by pulled over! It was a Native American nurse on her way to work at the Ho-Chunk Nation community center, where she runs a health clinic and cares for the elders. We learned so much about this tribe and her love of her job and her people on the short ride to the ferry. A beautiful soul!




We walked in to Devil’s Lake State Park on the Ice Age Trail, through a wild-flower filled meadow, with the hills looming before us. In an hour, we were in the woods, taking switchbacks that kept going UP.

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This is the highest elevation we will see on our Wisconsin trip. As we looked down over the rocks, I was filled with peace, which was quickly shattered when Jim showed me that the trail down to the lake was a quarter mile of rugged rock steps (with no bannister!) that we would have to scrabble down. Although I don’t like climbing UP, I am terrified of falling DOWN. With a 25 pound pack on my back to upset my center of gravity, this was a horrible hour for me. I was too scared to stop and take a picture, so you’ll have to imagine it, but, needless to say, I lived to tell the tale! Here’s the bottom, which doesn’t look scary at all:image

So now we are at the lake, looking at kids swimming and boarding and boating in really cold water. We ate our picnic lunch, and watched a group of priests, all dressed alike, play frisbee.image



Now we have to climb the hills on the other side of the lake to get to Baraboo. This is a steeper climb than this morning, and every ten feet or so, there’re is a number painted on the trail. We have a long time to climb and ponder what these number might mean, until we reach the summit and all is revealed: here is an emergency call box that can be used to summon help if someone has a heart attack or falls off the cliff, and the numbers are locators for the EMTs. There’s even a stretcher:image
Don’t fall off the cliff, Jim!

We descended without further incident, and started our walk into Baraboo. I know you will not be surprised to learn that Derek was happy to stop and give us a ride to our motel. Nice People Rule!image

Lodi to Okee

7/28 – today we walk to the shore of Lake Wisconsin. We left our motel and started with a 4 mile road walk. It was a beautiful morning, and I appreciated the blue sky, barns and silos,

20140728-195735-71855526.jpg the ever-taller corn (see the ears and the red silk?),

The ever-present moo-sers,

20140728-200042-72042306.jpg and sandhill cranes (these are standing in a field of soybeans).


The Gibraltor Rock segment of the Ice Age Trail took us up to the highest elevation yet, and gave us some peaceful views of the countryside below.





We emerged back onto the road at the Merrimac Ferry, where we thought our motel would be. We looked around, and asked around, and discovered we’d overshot the motel by almost three miles. Would we have to walk back along the road??? You know by now that a Nice Couple from Wisconsin rolled off the ferry, and gave us a ride right to the motel door. I continue to be grateful and humble in the presence of such fine people.

Cross Plains to Lodi

Guess what! Someone from Russia is reading this blog! Greetings and welcome, whoever you are!

7/25 – we set out from our B and B after a hearty breakfast for a full day’s walk and a night on the ground. We walked several hours of trail, followed by lots of country road with no traffic. We knew there were no official places to get water today, so we filled our canteens to the brim in the morning, and figured we could filter some water from Indian Lake, which looked lovely…image …until we saw the sign:image

Yikes! Between blistering wildflowers and toxic algae, we’d better be careful! We ended up asking for water from a house along the road, and a Nice Person obliged, so all is well.

Our path took us through more fields of ripening corn. Look at this pic, where the crop on the right has bloomed with tassels, while the rows on the left are a few weeks behind. Corn sells here at the Piggly Wiggly for ten ears for a dollar. What is the midsummer price where you are?


Another benefit from today’s walk were loads of ripe blackberries in the woods, free for the sweet picking. We had our fill!


Happy to report that the Lodi Marsh section was mosquito-free, even at dusk. Jim found us a pretty level camping spot not far from the trail. We noted the sign that said the area was a combined hiking and hunting area, but didn’t register alarm until we heard gunshots in the field near our tent. Yikes! We then noticed that others hiking through were all wearing bright orange vests. Luckily, I was wearing my orange shirt, so we were as protected as we could be…

In the morning, we continued up into the hills for some beautiful views:


20140727-113625-41785551.jpg then back down, crossing into Columbia County.


The town of Lodi was quiet and friendly, with several parks and a stream running beside the Main Street.


Lodi’s sign says it is home to Susie the Duck – since 1948, a family of ducks has nested in the park right off Main Street every year, so the town sells cracked corn to encourage them to stay, and holds an annual Rubber Duck race in honor of the original Susie. What a nice story!

Now it’s time for Jim to plan the next leg of our journey, to another fun place to pronounce: Baraboo, and Devil’s Lake!