Hello there, stranger. It’s been quite some time since my last post (just over two months, yuck.) Between beginning a new job and trying to get the most out of the last warm months of the year, time flew by. The good news of my posting hiatus, I have a small stockpile of photos and memories to keep me (and you) warm through the winter with thoughts of better, greener days.
Anyway, let me pick up where I left off.
Late July we took a trip to a park situated on the Kickapoo River, halfway between the Dells and La Crosse, Wildcat Mountain. You are probably well aware that Wisconsin doesn’t have any true mountains. What we lack in mountains, we make up for in big hills that we call mountains. Hey, Wildcat Mountain sounds much better than Wildcat Hill.
I feel like I can’t talk about this trip without mentioning the events that took place after. A month after our trip, devastating torrential rain and multiple tornadoes swept through the region.
It was pretty bad. Scenes like this were found all over the region. In addition to the countless homes and businesses lost, numerous state parks were closed because of extensive damage. Wildcat Mountain was one of them. Things are getting better and the park is mostly fully reopened, but the lasting effects are still being felt.
Okay, back to this adventure.
The hiking trails at the park can be found in three areas, in the main part of the park, the lower picnic area, and Ice Cave picnic area.
We started the hiking at the Ice Cave picnic area. Located less than a mile from the main park entrance is a picnic area built to showcase a scenic cave.
Length: .2 miles liner
Description: A short trail beginning from the picnic area and ending at the cave, this trail is an easy out and back with a scenic cave.
Driving to the trail, a small parking lot off the road, (County Highway F if you’re from the area or looking at the map,) tells you that you’ve arrived. (I recommend driving to this area. If you walked it, you would have to walk on fast, country roads with blind hills.)
So the actual trail isn’t very interesting for photos. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a pleasant walk through the woods, it just didn’t make the cut here. After .2 miles or so, the trail abruptly ends at the cave.
The cave was even complete with a mini waterfall the day we visited.
After finishing this short hike, we got back in the car and drove to the lower picnic area. The landscape is drastically hilly. The road from the ice cave area to the entrance of the next picnic area climbs quickly, a couple hundred feet according to the map, before dropping quickly again to the bank of the river. Our car was struggling with the quick elevation change and it made me question how any vehicle can pull a camper up there. Big trucks, I guess.
Length: 1.3 mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate to moderately difficult with an elevation change of 365 feet
Description: Beginning from the lower picnic area, this trail follows along the river, on top a sandstone ledge, and climbs up a series of switchbacks to Mt. Pisgah.
That way to the trail! You can see the Kickapoo River behind the sign.
The trail starts by following the bank of the river. The dense greenery doesn’t let you see the river in mid-summer, but you can hear the sounds of people canoeing and tubing down the river.
Shortly after beginning the trail, hikers have two choices. They can either continue to follow along the river bank or behind by climbing on stop of the sandstone ledge.
Thanks to flooding, we didn’t have the first choice.
This was the “turn right” option to begin the trail. Unfortunately, it was pretty flooded.
We started instead with the left option and began by climbing some stairs.
Once you finish the stair portion, the trail switches to narrow pine covered trail along the river.
(Ferns! Of course.)
So full disclosure here, we met another hiker somewhere on those switchbacks. She informed us that the trail was closed and impassable ahead from flooding. Being the hot and 1000% humidity summer day that it was, we decided to turn around rather than have a disappointing end to the hike.
Once back in the car, we drove back up the road to the main park entrance.
After checking in, we decided to set up our campsite. I’ll do a separate post on that later, but for now I’ll say it was more exciting than the typical pull up, carry your tent 10 feet from you car, and pitch it, kind of camping. It was much more extensive. That exertion, paired with the heat and humidity, wore us out. (Remember how hot and humid July was?)
Anyway, that’s my excuse for why we didn’t hike the trail in the main part of the park I was planning and excited to hike. Unfortunate, for now, the Old Settler’s Trail remains uncharted. Next time.
We did walk back to the scenic overlooks near the upper picnic areas. Even if you don’t hike anything, make sure to check out these views. There is a parking lot at the picnic area for your convenience.
This picture looks slightly blurry if you look at the lower areas, thanks to that humidity.
All in all this park was gorgeous. I’m unsure if the hiking was as challenging as it felt to me, or if it was because of the weather. I think this is a park I’ll return to. I want to re-hike the trails I saw and hike what I have left to explore.
Until next year.