A few weeks back, state park fees were waived and the parks had tons of visitors. There were too many visitors, in fact. Governor Tony Evers closed many popular parks due to over crowding. Social distancing could not possibly have been practiced in such a situation.
But public outcry, and the revelation that coronavirus is killed by sunlight, spurred a reopening of many popular parks. However, you’re required to purchase a yearly pass. So Heidi and I purchased one and set off on a road trip. A road trip that took me to a particular place I had always dreamed of visiting. Today I can now write that, indeed, I can check this one off the bucket list.
The name of the Place is known as Kettle Moraine State Forest. It is named as such because of a geological phenomenon caused by glaciation. When the glaciers receded, they left chunks of Ice that dug into the soil. The result was a hilly terrain that seems almost mountainous in spots. Other spots are flat pieces of farmland.
As a result from such terrain are lakes known as kettle lakes. Kettle lakes, resulting from this happening, are fairly small but can get deep. Pike lake, which I’m not sure if it qualifies as a kettle lake, is the premier lake in the park. It has a depth of 45′ at it’s deepest point. Although, there are shallow portions to allow for a small beach.
So on with my excursion to the Pike Lake Unit of Kettle Moraine State Park.
Today, if you can imagine it’s last Saturday, is the most beautiful day of the year. It’s sunny, temps are in the low to mid seventies and, if you ignore the slightly stiff wind, It’s just a great day to be outside.
And it’s been ages since we’ve ventured out on a road trip. With no real destination and conflicting work schedules, Heidi and I haven’t had a chance lately. Today is different and we’re taking full advantage of this blessing. With the news, social media, commercials and even TV shows hammering home the Coronavirus Pandemic, it’s nice to just get outside and escape that gargantuan stressor. We’ve found an amazing place to step away, as it resides twenty five miles northwest of Milwaukee.
When someone googles Kettle Moraine State Forest, as Heidi did before our trip, one will find that the park has over 125 miles worth of trails. It also is broken up in three separate units. So, when we arrive at the Pike lake Unit, after purchasing our Park Pass via cell phone, we head towards the trails’ parking lot.
Surprisingly, for as many trails as there are to tackle, the lot is fairly small. Not surprisingly, the parking lot is packed. We wait for a car to leave and sneak our SUV into the opening. After that, it’s time to indulge in some nature.
These trails are well maintained and awesome. The sharply rolling hills, which can be steep at times, make for beautiful scenery. The trees haven’t greened quite yet, but the undergrowth is sprouting. We enjoy a portion of what is known as the Astronomy trail. Apparently, they take the solar system and, by using a scale model, mark the trail with the next heavenly body at the proper scaled distance. Of course they start with the sun and go from there.
We’re not about that. We just want to get out…I’ll say it again, we just want to get out! And there’s a certain sense of freedom you feel when wandering a woodland wilderness- especially this time of year. There are really no bugs to speak of, the humidity is low and, even if the weather calls for shorts, I’m by no means breaking a sweat.
We break off from our trail and follow markers towards an observation tower. We know that it will be closed to the public, yet, it sits on a great vantage point. The hill in which the tower has been constructed is known as Powder hill. It stands at an elevation of 1,350 ft.
You probably can guess that we’re climbing and climbing and then climbing some more-and we are. Heidi’s getting tired and at one point, as we find a strategically placed park bench, we sit and contemplate not making the entire trek. However, I’m a great cheerleader and Heidi loves a challenge. So, when we make it to the tower we feel like we’ve accomplished something.
I’m a little disappointed however. The tower is surrounded by trees. It’s impossible to really survey the lay of the land. Yet, I catch a glimpse of small rutted trail climbing to yet a Higher peak. I want to show off my athleticism, so I run towards the peak.
I’m winded when I reach the top. But this particular climb was worth it. I can see for miles and I’m pretty close to even with the tower’s top observation deck. I snap a few photos and head back down. We enjoy the easy hiking on the descent and then find our car.
Even if we got in a couple hours of hiking, we’re not done yet. We decide to check out Pike lake. It’s small drive on a rural road, just outside the gate. Here, there’s also plenty of cars in the lot. The water is too cold for swimmers, but I do see some windsurfers enjoying the conditions.
I think about the fact that kettle lakes are fairly deep and feel a little uneasiness while reading the ‘No Lifeguard on Duty’ sign. Later I check out the depth chart. From the beach, the water gradually becomes deeper. The sharp drop-off is much more towards the center. I’m not sure if Pike Lake would actually be considered a kettle lake. I’ve read some are at least one hundred feet deep.
Heidi and I leave the Lake behind and head home. It was a stellar trip! I will remember Kettle Moraine State Forest for the hiking. However, there is camping, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and more to experience here. Not to mention the water sports the lake can facilitate. Most importantly, I’m glad to just have a new and memorable experience under my belt. The air in Green Bay seemed to be getting so stale.
Many Safe Travels to Come!