Wisconsin’s Mirror Lake State Park — Winter Edition, My Second Winter Hike

This year was the first time I attempted a real winter hike. I know, that’s kind of sad and disgraceful for someone who loves to hike and lives in Wisconsin. The experimental winter hike took place at Lake Kegonsa State Park on a 31 degree day. Looking back, it was a pleasant enough experience and I didn’t totally hate it. (Honestly, I kind of thought that I would.) Well, I’m happy to say that I completed yet another winter hike the following week!

Winter hike number two took place at Mirror Lake State Park outside of Baraboo. Mirror Lake is a park that I’ve been to before, back in May 2016 to be exact. I even have an old blog post about it. (Looking for this post I discovered that I started Hiking Hungry in 2015. That’s nuts!)

I reviewed the winter park map before I left and planned a route, making sure to note which trails were for hiking and which were for skiing. (The winter is their time to dominate the trail systems.) We planned to hike the Lakeview Trail to the Echo Rock Trail, maybe including the Sandstone Trail if we weren’t too cold.

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Wisconsin’s Lake Kegonsa State Park, Winter Edition, My First Winter Hike

Oh winter, how you never end. I’ve always admired winter hikers, the tenacity to be out there on the snowy trail when it’s no degrees outside and there are icicles forming on their eyelashes. My personal hiking season is typically late April through November. Maybe December if it’s a warm month. That leaves me with 3-4 months of time to hide indoors from the elements.

Well not this year. Thanks to COVID shaving a few months off the front end of the 2020 hiking season while also keeping me from a normal winter warm-weather getaway, I was feeling the cabin fever earlier than usual. After taking the dog for a walk on the same quarter mile of bike path for the millionth time, I thought it was time to give this a try.

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Wisconsin’s Nelson Dewey State Park — Views from the Bluff and Turn of the Century History

This camping season got off to a later start than I would have liked thanks to the pandemic. Prior to this weekend, two reservations of mine were cancelled. In fact, this weekend was the first weekend the state park system allowed camping reservations. In short, I was itching to sleep in a tent, sit around a campfire, and do some hiking.

My 2020 camping season began at Nelson Dewey State Park. This park is located just outside the town of Cassville on a 500-foot bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.

This park is named for Wisconsin’s first governor, Nelson Dewey, serving two terms from 1848 to 1852. During his term as governor, Dewey oversaw the transition from a territorial to a state government, played a role in the infrastructure development of the state, opposed the spread of slavery into new states, and advocated for the popular election of senators. After losing much popularity in his second term, Dewey did not run for a third.

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Wisconsin’s Magnolia Bluff County Park, A Wisconsin State Natural Area, Country Views from the Bluff

Now a throwback to a summer hike on a Monday afternoon. (Oh how I already miss the green grass and lush foliage.) While I don’t normally get to hike on a Monday afternoon, this day happened to be my (our) 1 year wedding anniversary. Since our planned anniversary trip and celebration to the UP was cancelled because of the pandemic, we celebrated in a much smaller way.

Magnolia Bluff County Park is located 27 miles south of Madison and 18 miles west of Janesville. This 112 acre park is managed and operated by Rock County. It has trails, lookouts, and picnic areas.

A portion of the park is designated as a Wisconsin State Natural Area or SNA. I saw this information proudly displayed on a sign at the park. Not knowing much about them, I looked for more information.

According to the Wisconsin DNR website, “State natural areas (SNAs) protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin’s native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. Encompassing 406,000 acres on lands owned by the state and its many partners, including land trusts, local and county governments, and private citizens, Wisconsin’s natural areas are valuable for research and educational use, the preservation of genetic and biological diversity and for providing benchmarks for determining the impact of use on managed lands. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.”

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Blackhawk Lake Recreation Area, Highland, Wisconsin — A Popular Man-Made Lake and Fishing Location (Bonus: Puppy Photos!)

Lush green tree trees and bright blue water! Is it summer again already? If you’re living in a COVID time-soup bubble and aren’t 100% sure what month it is, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It’s not summer, I’m just super slow at posting within the same month, nay, the same season. Better late than never and all that jazz, but I feel like this way I get to relive the summer twice. (There’s that relentless optimism that I’ve been missing for months!)

This post brings us back to a late spring day in early June. The air was starting to warm but there was still a slight chill in the breeze. We traveled the 1 hour and 10 minutes from Madison to Blackhawk Lake Recreation Area, located between Cobb and Highland. The water was cold and the fish weren’t biting.

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Wisconsin’s Rib Mountain State Park — Midwest Mountain Hiking and an Old Quarry

Back in June we had an entire weeklong hiking, camping, and relaxing trip planned in the UP of Michigan to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. It was going to be great, time spent in both the Pictured Rocks and in Munising, complete with a boutique hotel. (Roam Inn, you look amazing and I can’t wait to visit you soon!) Well, then COVID happened and plans changed. Instead of that trip, we planned a COVID friendly trip to a cabin in central Wisconsin. First stop on that trip was hiking at Rib Mountain State Park.

If you’ve even driven through Wausau then you’ve seen Rib Mountain. You can’t miss it. Right off the main highway is a 1,923 foot hill (a mountain by Wisconsin standards.) It has a state park on one side and Granite Peak Ski Area on the other. While there is no camping at the park, there is a lot of hiking to be done.

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