Tag Archives: Nice People of Wisconsin

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!

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

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

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!

Verona to Cross Plains

Thank you, faithful blog readers – this blog has 1200 views and 50 followers!

7/23 – the temperature dropped back to ‘normal’ today, high of mid 70s. This really is the nicest summer weather…

20140723-195332-71612482.jpgWe hiked the Ice Age Trail segments south of town, and met Ruben, a trail volunteer, out mowing the sunny parts of the trail just for us. Thank you, volunteers, for all you do!

We saw a new sign on the trail today, warning us of wild parsnip ahead. It seems that this yellow wildflower is an invasive species that causes blisters if you touch it. Of course, the narrow trail was filled with the yellow flower, which grows about waist high. We did our best to avoid them, but time will tell, as it takes several days for the blisters to develop… Beware if you see these:


Belleville to Verona

7/21 – Cameo Rose B and B continued to delight us with fresh cut flowers and a four course breakfast garnished with mint and lemon balm from the garden. I meant to take a picture, but it slipped my mind when I saw the stuffed French toast… Oh my!

We got back on the Badger Trail, and had a lovely two hour trek on the straight Rails to Trails path before we found ourselves back on the highway at noon. Today was very warm by Wisconsin standards, in the upper 80s. Once again, a Nice Person of Wisconsin stopped for us almost immediately, saying that it was much too hot to walk. When we said we were on our way to Verona, this lovely lady changed direction and took us all the way to our hotel, even though she wasn’t originally going into town. Thank you, Nice Person!image

We’ve decided that the reason so many people stop for us is my floppy blue hat. What do you think?

We will be in Verona for several days, completing the Ice Age trail segments nearest to town in the mornings, and returning to the hotel in the afternoon. This is an especially nice way to hike, as we can leave our packs behind.

7/22 – today the weather warns of record-breaking heat (high of 90!!), so we set out early to be done by the hottest part of the afternoon. The trail starts behind the public library, which, of course, is on Silent Street. Love a town with a sense of humor!image
The trail took us through some wildflower-filled meadows and up a hill that let us look over the town below. We found ourselves humming “the hills are alive” and looking for Julie Andrews… What a lovely morning!image







We want to take a moment to thank the state of Wisconsin again for setting aside land, mowing and maintaining so many parks, bike paths and multi-use trails, and the Ice Age Trail volunteers for all they do!image



New Glarus to Belleville

We left little Switzerland this morning for a 12 mile walk north. Rather than go far out of our way to pick up the Ice Age Trail, we plan to get on the Badger Trail after a 4.5 mile road walk. No sooner did we get on the road and stick out our thumbs, than a car pulled up to offer us a ride. Christianne, from England, was on her way to church, knew right where the trail was, and brought us up to the trailhead. Another Nice Person of Wisconsin!image
Now our walk was only 7.5 miles. The Badger Trail is also a bike trail, and we encountered several cyclists out on a beautiful Sunday morning. For a while we walked between walls of corn on either side, so high that we can’t see the farm buildings and silos.image
By early afternoon we reached the Cameo Rose B and B, the very nicest place we’ve stayed. Here are some pix of the gardens where we relaxed away the afternoon, looking at gold finches and wild turkeys strutting through the yard, while listening to the waterfall:




Our hosts Dawn and Gary really love their place, and it shows. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!

Janesville to Albany

7/16 – last night we shared dinner at the home of our new friends Todd and Susan, who we met at church on Sunday. Todd drove across town to pick us up from the motel, and Susan prepared a delicious meal – the first home made meal we’ve had in over a month. We shared conversation about kids and grand kids (they have 14!), and a good time was had by all.

This morning, Susan graciously volunteered to drive us the 29 miles to Albany, so that my foot can continue to heal. This saved us a horrendous road walk. She brought along some fresh and dried comfrey, known to herbalists as ‘bone-knit’, and home-made salve to further help my recovery. What a wonderful and thoughtful person! Thank you, Susan and Todd – it was so nice to get to know you!

Here in Albany we are staying at the Albany House B and B, the only inn in town. At the beginning of our hike, I thought there’d be many B and Bs along the way, but it turns out that these posh stays are usually out in the countryside, making them impractical for travelers on foot who need access to groceries and restaurants close by. We were happy that Albany House was right in town, although the Main Street of the little town is torn up for the summer, which made finding supper a challenge.

Also staying at Albany House were a group of artists who meet here each month at the studio behind the house for art workshops. They were great conversationalists and lovely company.image
So, what did we have for breakfast? Fruit parfait, homemade coffee cake, spinach pie and bacon baked with black pepper and brown sugar. We waddled back onto the trail not needing to eat for the rest of the day!

Delafield to Eagle

7/5 – Today we tackle Lapham Peak, the highest point in Waukesha County. (BTW, don’t try saying WauKEEsha, like I did. It’s WAUKesha.). Luckily for us, the trip up the slope was filled with wildflowers, butterflies and sandhill cranes, on a beautiful day with a high of 78 degrees.




There is a tower to climb at the peak, that gave us a great 360 view of the surrounding countryside.




The trail continued for several miles along a bike path, where we had fun jumping out of the way of cyclists going in both directions, who really didn’t want to share their road. One man stopped to ask what we were doing on the bike path, and we showed him that it was also the path of the Ice Age Trail. He became a Curious Townfolk at this point, and rode alongside us asking tons of questions about our experience until our trail turned back into the woods.

With the woods came the Return of the Mosquitoes, which had been blessedly absent for the past few days. We walked a total of 15 miles, which is a personal best for me, with no blisters or injuries, and made camp in an oak wood full of poison ivy, but we didn’t get any on us. Best news of all, it didn’t rain! Cue the Rocky theme song!

7/6 – Walked through the mosquito filled woods until we ran out of Deet, then walked out onto the road for our trek into Eagle. We don’t have high hopes for this place, but need provisions. The web says you can get a motel room at the local saloon. Can’t wait!

So who should offer us a ride on a Sunday morning? An Episcopal priest, on his way to celebrate Eucharist at a nearby parish! Father Noah took us right to the door of the Suhmer Saloon and wished us a blessed day. I wonder if we’ll be part of his sermon?


And now we’re in Eagle. Let’s just say that there is a reason that this saloon has no 5 star ratings on TripAdvisor…imageimage

Hartford to Delafield

7/1 – we really missed a storm last night! This morning there were branches and trees down everywhere we looked, and some folks lost electricity. We are looking forward to completing the 30 mile stretch to Delafield with one or two nights out, and no more storms.

We started with a road walk that took us around Pike Lake, then off into the woods. I’m not posting lots of pictures of the trail through the woods, as they all look the same, even to me. See previous posts for nice woods pix…

I asked Jim to stand by one of cornfields we passed on the road. When we arrived in June, the corn was just starting to come up, and although it is not quite as high as an elephant’s eye, it sure has made progress in three weeks!


We started on the next trail section, designated on our map as Holy Hill, but we couldn’t get past all the poison ivy, so we ended up road walking some more. I was kind of glad to miss that section, as I imagined it involved a heckuva hill climb, so steep that it made people exclaim, “Holy Hill!”

By lunchtime, we could see two giant spires in the distance, and signs for the Basilica of Holy Hill, which was, indeed, on a heckuva hill. If we were in Europe, this definitely would be on my “must see” list of attractions, so why not here? We left our packs by a picnic table, and trudged up to see Holy Hill, Shrine of Mary, which is maintained by Carmelite friars.
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Here is a chapel where prayers are answered. Outside the door were dozens of crutches and braces, left by those who no longer needed them. There was a prescription to follow, that a supplicant should walk up the 178 steps to the chapel before entering to voice their prayer to Mary. We’ve seen several of these chapels in our travels, and they always have a profound effect on me.

At the basilica, we got into a conversation with the Hample sisters, who recognized us as backpackers, even without our packs. Jim, seeing an opportunity, told them to be sure to pick us up if they saw us walking along the road. They laughed and said they were going to Milwaukee, in the opposite direction.

We got back on the trail and completed the Holy Hill section, which put us back on the road for more road walking. At the end of the afternoon, who should pull up, but the Hample sisters! Returning from their afternoon in Milwaukee, they asked if we still needed a ride, and took us about four miles to our next trail entrance. Coincidence, or answer to Karen’s prayer? You decide!

We walked until 5, climbing over, scooting under, or crashing through several newly downed trees that blocked our narrow trail. Just as we were looking for a stealth camping site for the night, we came upon two Ice Age Trail volunteers, out after work with handsaws to start clearing storm debris. Thank you, Trail volunteers, for all you do!image

7/2 – woke up snug in our bug-proof tent, to a grey, drizzly day. Before too long, our feet were wet, and I was feeling crabby. Our road walk took us into Hartfield, an upper crust enclave of manicured lawns and Mc Mansions. The trail here meandered along paved paths in and out of local parks, next to a golf course and along a river.image Even though it was 60 degrees and raining, there were kids splashing and playing in the water as if it was… Oh yeah, it IS July! The ritzier the neighborhood, the grubbier, wetter and smellier I felt. We arrived at Delafield, not a moment too soon, so we didn’t need a second night out. Yay! Time to do laundry!