Wisconsin’s Pike Lake Campground, Site #3 Review, Kettle Moraine State Forest

It’s official, the 2021 camping season has begun and the first camping trip is already in the books! I have camp sites booked on weekends from May through October but this one wasn’t even on the calendar. Spontaneous bonus trip! That’s to be expected though since the weather can be so unpredictable, evident by the frost advisories this entire week. Being a weekend in May with a nice forecast, we took advantage and booked a site.

The season started at Pike Lake, one of the numerous units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. This park is an easy 45 minute drive from Milwaukee and an hour and twenty minute drive from Madison.

The first thing I noticed about the park was it’s proximity to Hartford, Wisconsin. This town is small, but not that small, and is immediately outside the park’s boundary. (See the map below.) It’s so close that a gas station and strip mall are visible from one of the hiking trails. This location is either a plus or minus, depending on your view and what you’re looking for in a camping location. The town is right there if you need anything but also right there so you’re camping a minute outside a town. Some of our campground neighbors took advantage of the proximity and left their breakfast and campfire coffee to Dunkin’ Donuts.

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Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest North, Zillmer Trail System — Hiking and a Lesson in Geology

State parks, state forests, state recreational areas, and state natural areas, despite the differences in name and funding, what really distinguishes them? (Asking rhetorically unless someone has a legit answer.) No matter the title, all of these areas have been deemed special, beautiful, and worth sharing with everyone.

This adventure brought us to one of Wisconsin’s most well loved state forests, the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Spread across over 100 miles, this state forest is divided into several sections, all in southeastern Wisconsin. The forest is named for the Kettle Moraine, which stretches from Walworth to Kewaunee Counties (so like Elkhorn/Lake Geneva to Algoma areas.) Digging deeper, the Kettle Moraine is named for being a moraine that is dotted with kettles. Unfamiliar with those geological terms? Don’t feel bad, I had never heard of them either outside the context of the state forest. Let’s learn together.

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Wisconsin’s Governor Dodge State Park — Pine Cliff Trail, A Spring Hike with Birds and Views Abound

Just like that, the trees are budding, the flowers are sprouting, and the grass is green. Spring, you’re a beautiful beast and we welcome your presence, the sunshine, the storms, and even the occasional snow shower.

As antsy as spring makes me, there’s always a waiting period from the time the snow is done melting to the time trails aren’t completely made of mud. Spring rain factors into this too. I’ve definitely lost my patience a few times before and made the mistake of getting out on a trail too early, which always ends with boots full of mud.

This year seemed to be different. The snow melted pretty early and we had limited rain. (Evident by all the wildfires and burn warnings.) I took a gamble and decided to get out on a trail at the end of March. The park of choice? Governor Dodge State Park, which is always a familiar favorite of mine.

We parked at the Enee Point parking lot to access the Pine Cliff trailhead. We planned to hike the Pine Cliff Trail with the optional loop portion and part of the Lakeview Trail.

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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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