Well, here’s something new: a Wildcat Mountain trifecta

I enjoy hiking in a lot of different ways; sometimes all-eyes-and-ears observing the sight and sounds of life all around; sometimes meditative and full of the spirit of shinrin-yoku; often a mixture of both; sometimes (not often) it’s just pushing along to get to the end of the trail.

Today, I don’t know quite why, my motivation was rooted in the simple pleasure of vigorous outdoor exercise!

Up (as I often am) well before dawn, I filled a big reused Kwik-Trip cup and my mid-sized vacuum bottle with coffee, filled a Nalgene with fresh spring water, and piled into the car with all 3 packs (everyday, hiking, & radio) before any trace of sunrise was visible. Heading west over empty county roads I drove well below the nominal speed limit in the dark; just as well, too; I came around a turn and startled 10 or 11 deer who were congregating on the road west of Mount Tabor!

I set out on the Old Settler’s trail at dawn, 6:00, though there was no apparent change in the light through the heavy overcast; no pack, just the contents of my windbreaker pockets and a small water bottle. I like to start off feeling a little under-dressed for the weather, (overcast, about 40 degrees) to allow for warming up as I hike. It felt good to be moving, so I passed right on by the bench at Taylor Hollow Overlook and headed down the narrow log-and-dirt stairs. That feeling stayed with me, and at some point became a resolve to make the whole circuit nonstop. The trail is almost all up and down, on both the small and large scale, there are only a few spots where the path is level for more than 10 paces or so. As I went on, I warmed up; took off my hat and stuffed it in a pocket; rolled up the sleeves of my jacket, then unzipped it, then took it off altogether; pushed up the sleeves of my long-sleeved t-shirt, then rolled up its hem halfway as I was going along the final stretch; finally, something like thermal equilibrium!

When I got to the car I quickly resumed all of my clothing before the sweat turned too chilly, poured some fresh hot coffee, and thought about what to do next. In the end I felt like I had just gotten properly warmed up, so I drove down to the lower part of the park that lies along the Kickapoo River to undertake the Hemlock-Hardwoods Trail that switchbacks up and down Mount Pisgah.

This State Natural Area is a precious remnant of wild Wisconsin as it was long ago, never logged, plowed or inhabited, the home of several rare species of plants. I feel a little reluctant to even write about it here.

The trail runs along the river for maybe a quarter mile, then turns sharply uphill, starting with a brand-new-last-year stone stairway. Either way you follow the loop it goes up-and-up-and-up, breaking into switchbacks as you get closer to the top. I have to say it, when I got to the overlook at the summit I took about a 10 minute break sitting on the bench; I was out of breath! Going down the other side was so much easier and faster, and there was a chill breeze that kept me cooled down. As I descended, I got another inspiration: the Ice Cave trail ! Another trifecta!

More hot coffee for the few minutes’ drive to that trailhead, out of the car and down the trail before I had fully cooled down. The relatively gentle hills of this trail were easy going, and that was okay with me … my mind was full of the joy of movement and the peace of the forest and my body was comfortably aware that I had been working it harder than usual with no ill effect. Perfect hiking mind. At the end of the trail, as expected, the water flow was low and there was no ice at all. As I approached my parked car it began to rain lightly; the rain picked up as I drove home and continued all afternoon.

No pictures today, I didn’t want to stop to take any, and really, the gray and diffused light didn’t make for striking images either. Brought home some memories, and some questions: what were those little flowers that were just budding out? were those trees covered in masses of white blossoms wild cherries? what was that odd-looking plant that was just coming up? was that loud noise, like a cross between a growl and a cat’s purr, an actual wildcat?

Full disclosure: I don’t know where I picked up the word “trifecta”, I have never been to a racetrack in all my life, nor ever bet on a horse race.

Thanks for stopping by today!






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