Bike trails, roads and accidental angel-loss
Day 37 – Trail Mile 684.8
Finally a day with a simple start, boarding a ferry to cross the Wisconsin River / Lake Wisconsin. A nice breeze, surely the way to start the day of yet more hills to climb. From the other side of the water it was time head back into the woods before climbing the next steep segment, the Gibraltar Rock. Unfortunately a rather humid and overcast day it didn’t quite offer the views of Devil’s Lake, but it was nice to see the river from above. I also finally managed to bump into hikers on the path who actually knew the Ice Age Trail, a local man was guiding his Swedish visitors to see Gibraltar Rock.
After returning back out of the hills I re-joined another brief road walk to the Groves-Pertzborn (Fern Glen) Segment. The Fern Glen segment was very pretty, slightly overgrown but covered in a sea of purple flowers it was nice to work my way through. From the end of Fern Glen I went back on the road to walk to the city of Lodi, where the segment was another dead end. This meant walking part of it twice as I had to walk to the beginning, I fear this isn’t the last time I will have to do this.
This segment was a nice combination of urban wilderness, through some woods and open views above a school wandering through a little town, along unique shops through to a little park.
Lodi connects to the Lodi Marsh Segments via a very short road walk. The beginning of the Eastern Lodi Marsh was extremely uncomfortable in the afternoon heat in an open field, but luckily it quickly ran through a small forest before climbing up a few hills, offering stunning views over the surrounding area.
The Lodi Marsh segment became my current trail angel’s (my dad!) first completed Ice Age Trail Segment – and that in afternoon heat.
Day 38 – Trail Mile 704.5
The day started with another road walk to connect to one of the newer segments, Springfield Hill, this once isn’t actually mentioned in my 2014 guide book.
The Springfield Hill segment is a nice short circular walk through some fields and forested areas. Due to its size my dad tagged along to complete his second IAT segment – maybe he’ll become a section hiker one day!
From the car park at Springfield Hill I started another connecting route to the Indian Lake Segment.
The Indian Lake Segment offered another nice combination of open grassy fields, views over the lake and some wooded areas to cool down in.
The segment was followed by another road walk, alternating some up and downhill sections, for the first time in a long while I started to feel my legs. My calves were aching and I could barely move, making it to the trail head at the Table Bluff was agony, stopping every mile to have a quick break and a brief stretch.
Day 39 – Trail Mile 732.7
Starting the day early at the Table Bluff Segment, slightly recovered from the previous day’s aches and pains this was quite an enjoyable segment, lined by wild flowers and offering nice views over lakes and fields.
The connection to the Cross Plains Segment was yet another quick road walk – or so I thought. After departing the dirt track along the Table Bluff Segment I ended up on a road that was marked as a dead end. As this was the officially suggested route I didn’t think much of it, hoping there would just be a footpath at the end, but I got a “private road – no trespassing sign” – with over 20 miles ahead of me I wasn’t really in the mood to turn around and find an alternative route – so through I went!
The Cross Plains Segment started at the bottom of yet another hill, at this point I was hoping that this won’t be the day’s theme, as I think my legs couldn’t take anymore inclines. This segment was another nice mix, starting off through the woods and leading back down into a more urban area to final reach its terminus at the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s HQ. I checked in and finally managed to buy my copy of the current 2017-2019 guidebook – I only managed some 700 miles with the previous version, it clearly was time to upgrade!
From IATA HQ it was another road walk in yet more heat and direct sunlight. These roads are rarely lined by trees, so fining shade after 10 am seems impossible.
After departing the road I seemingly ended up in people’s backyards, while the Valley View certainly offered nice valley views, it also lead very closely along obviously very expensive homes, so it did seem a bit bizarre to battle the shrubs in people’s gardens. From it was onto yet more road to connect to Madison.
The Madison Segment started off by crossing a golf course, an Ice Age Trail first for me, but I fear it won’t be the last. Worried about ending up with a golf ball in my head I passed through here as quickly as I could. After leaving the golf course I found an old friend from the north woods in my way – a fallen tree – after all the trees I climbed over and limboed under this was finally to be the one I get hurt on. Managing to climb across but failing to see the broken off branch on the other side I managed to poke the sharp end into my thigh, leaving a cut and a bruise – if that’s to be my worst IAT injury I think I’ll be happy. Slightly limping around after the tree incident and a fair few miles to go I wasn’t happy to see a “path closed” and “detour” sign, rerouting me along yet more pavements and cycle paths. The cycle path theme continued on the Verona Segment but luckily quickly departing onto a softer surface along a creek before I finally found some squishy mud – I almost started to miss the stuff!
This was my second or third day of covering nearly 30 trail miles, but due to the constant hard surface of cycle paths, roads and pavements my joints aren’t too happy. My ankles have returned to dark shade of brown and my knees are now completely covered in green bruises. I hope this will return to normal soon, but I’m starting to feel the pain.
Day 40 – Trail Mile 756.8
Starting the day with more hard surfaces, first along a busy road, seemingly rush-hour – not the time to walk a CR! Then off onto the Montrose Segment, starting out on another disused railway line turned cycle path but lined with rocks and covered in trees it offered shade and was pretty to look at. The segment then turned off into the woods where I finally met another IAT volunteer, this time the local Chapter Coordinator, busy ripping out garlic mustard. It is always nice to come across those who look after the trail!
From the Montrose Segment I was headed to the Brooklyn Wildlife Segment, where the heat and humidity has seemingly created a heaven for mosquitoes, which made the beginning of this segment rather unpleasant, but it improved throughout and the views were worth the hassle.
Then there was another connecting route along a road, unfortunately the few drops of rain, the first in a long time, didn’t help cool things down and so I continued heat and humidity to reach the Monticello Segment, another railway track turned cycle route.
The disappointment continued as unfortunately the Stewart Tunnel, one of the sights I was looking forward to, is closed due to required repairs to the ceiling. So I had to re-route along more road, without shade. At least the sighting of my first racoon after returning to the trail made up for the extra miles. Unfortunately the little guy was to quick for me to take a picture, but I still got excited to finally tick that off in my list of American wildlife I want to see.
After another 24-mile day I reached the end of the Monticello Segment to find my dad and trail angel was not where I thought he would be. I was looking at an empty car park with no-one in sight. I haven’t had mobile phone signal for a few hours, so I knew neither would he. Unable to make contact I frantically walked towards the village, adding another 2 miles to my already aching legs to find help. I eventually approached a stranger as that seemed my only way of getting anywhere. Luckily the people of Wisconsin have so far been nothing but amazing and friendly and I was offered a quick drive around to find my dad, hoping I would get lucky if we drove the possible route he would have taken to come to Monticello we quickly found him further up the trail. Reunited with my trail angel I managed to return to base camp – but what an end to the day! Over 750 miles completed without ever losing someone and then this…