Dare we hope that Punxsutawney Phil was right?

Barring a couple days of polar weather about 2 weeks ago, the weather in the Driftless has been unusually mild in the month that has passed since the annual proclamation, which, unusually, was for an early spring. This has only occurred 21 times in the138 year history of the noted weather prophet. I greeted the happy news with a vigorous “woohoo!”.

I am so hopeful for an early spring that I wonder if it is affecting my judgement in this. I usually feel like my physical condition slips a little in the winter (except perhaps the muscles associated with shoveling snow, lol) and spring is the time to get back into shape. It might even be that I am more concerned than usual with “spring training” because I have outlined in my head a few ambitious (maybe even moderately strenuous) activities for this year’s summer and fall months. Right now that means hiking and weights; later on I will add some swimming and a lot of kayaking.

Yesterdays overnight low was 40 degrees, and though the early morning was overcast the forecast was for an afternoon high of 70. I couldn’t ask for better weather for a hike!

This pre-dawn view from the deck fails to capture the beautiful colors. The 400 State Trail is actually located in the foreground, but is not visible.

The 400 State Trail is less than a quarter-mile from my front door and therefore is a no-brainer fallback plan for a hike at any time, so I filled a small vacuum bottle with hot coffee and a larger one with ice cold water, grabbed my light hiking-only pack, and started off. I deliberately under-dressed a little (that is to say, left my heavy winter fleece at home) to stay dry, and the brisk wind from the south brought a bit of chill even after I had gotten fully warmed up.

A bridge north of Union Center where I stopped to take a break.

The 400 is primarily a bike trail that was converted from an old C&NW railroad right-of-way, and it crosses the Baraboo River frequently as it pursues a mostly straight and flat course across the terrain. Not, perhaps, the most exciting hiking compared to some of the other local trails, but it’s still better to be outdoors hiking on any trail than the not-hiking alternative, right?

Unloaded; stopping for a break.

I had hiked about 2 1/2 miles and turned back towards home when I decided to stop for a break. A last-minute inspiration (based on my previous hikes on this trail) caused me to clip the Robens Geographic High lightweight folding stool onto my pack, and the added ease to my hips and knees was well worth the additional 12-point-something ounces! Hot coffee, cold water, both refreshing! It was so pleasant that I spent about 20 minutes there before moving on.

Sometime after I turned around I noticed that the sun was tentatively breaking through the overcast and warming my shoulders; soon it was shining full-strength and there were only a few scattered clouds. This brought a rapid rise of temperature; in a few minutes I took off the light nylon jacket I was wearing and ultimately even pushed up the long sleeves of my t-shirt to stay cool. The mild conditions helped to induce that in-the-present-moment meditative state that is one of the best non-physical benefits of hiking.

A good friend texted me this just before my Oak Island trip last year. I find it useful for almost any occasion, but it is well adapted to the rhythms of hiking.

Time passed quickly, and soon I was walking up the driveway at home, a bit sweaty but feeling deeply refreshed in that unique way that only comes from being out in the realness of the natural world.

Some stats: about 5 miles in a bit over 2 hours. My complete pack (with fluids somewhat depleted) weighed 5 pounds 14 ounces; containing a notebook, pen, Brunton pocket transit, binoculars, some trail snacks, first aid kit, matches, lighter, space blanket, big trash bag, a Baofeng handy-talkie, and 2 vacuum bottles. Amazing how much stuff constitutes a “light hiking pack”, LOL.

Thanks to my loyal readers for stopping by to read my musings! ! More activations coming soon, also hikes around the area, and some of my thoughts about emcomm, too.






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