Last week my mom and I went hiking at Blue Mound State Park. Before hand, we made a quick stop at the Thomson Memorial Prairie a few miles away. I wanted to get some pictures of Blue Mound in fall. I was waiting all summer for it. I arrived a week or so after peak color though. Many of the yellow leaves had fallen already or were hidden below the oak canopy, which was a dark red-brown. Oaks are not known for their fall color.
I hadn’t been keeping up with my plan to get pictures of Blue Mound from multiple parks in the area just because this summer ended up being so wet and buggy. Now that the mosquitoes have mostly died off, I’m hiking a lot more again. Our hike at the park was pleasant, as the trees kept us out of the wind, and there was plenty to see along the way.
Even though I took the picture of Blue Mount from a short distance away, I decided to make my customary map.
I like hiking off trial. Yes, it’s harder than walking through a groomed area, but that’s the point. You have to push through brush. You have to look at the lay of the land and plan each twist and turn. You have to prepare for the possibility that even though you know where you are, you still don’t know exactly where that is.
Yesterday I went hiking at the Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area with the Madison LGBT Outdoors Group. Five of us showed up for what ended up being my most adventurous hike of the year so far. The SNA covers almost a square mile of land, but don’t let that make you think the SNA square- it follows Driftless Area valleys. It’s a steep hike down from the prairie restoration on the ridge to the relict, but it’s worth it. The forest, a mix of deciduous trees and pines, is a sparkling jewel. A pine relict is a type of forest that is left over from a colder time when the glaciers were leaving Wisconsin. As a result, relicts often resemble the vegetation you’d expect farther north. Like others in the area, the Ridgeway Relict in in a sheltered valley.
There is an old logging road that leads partway down from the Ridgevue Drive parking area, but it doesn’t go very far. As with many SNA’s there is no designated trail. At some points there are deer paths or worn routes from previous hikers but for the most part it was up to us to decide where to go. The trickiest part of navigating the SNA is that it doesn’t perfectly follow the valley floors and we’d wind up hitting private property. To figure out how to get around these areas, we had to know where in the SNA we were. A combination of a parcel map (provided at the trailhead) and GPS was helpful. Even with that, we still disagreed about our exact location sometimes. That’s just part of the experience.
The highlight of the hike for me was the rock formations. Composed of warmly-colored sandstone, they dotted the hillsides. Most were on steep slopes and hard to get to. I’m glad that while I was growing up I was able to gain experience on this type of terrain; it reminded me of when I was a kid and would play in the woods in western Dane County. I’m definitely going to go back and explore the hills and rocks more. I think spending several hours there someday soon would be a good idea.
An added bonus is that I get to expand on the theme I started with my previous post. Blue Mound was in my line of site at the top of the hill on Ridgevue Drive and was only about 8.4 miles away. Since the two points both lie in a high area, there were other hills that got in the way of Blue Mound and it could only see it from the crest of the hill.
On Saturday I had the privilege of hiking at Gibraltar Rock near Lodi with my friend Zach. It’s a short but beautiful hike through mixed woodland, and at the top we were greeted with a gorgeous view from the cliff. I’ve never spent more than several minutes up there, but I’d like to stay up there for an hour or two on a summer day sometime.
What interested me the most on my visit as that you can see Blue Mound from up there. I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Blue Mound is the highest point in southern Wisconsin (1719 ft. above sea level) and it’s visible from many locations. Still… it’s pretty fascinating that you can see from southwestern Columbia County into eastern Iowa County. This led to an idea that I’m more than happy to act on: a series of blog posts on places you can see Blue Mound from. What better way to celebrate this local landmark than to get pictures of it from all angles?
Let’s start it off:
The first picture is zoomed in quite a bit. In actuality, the hill was just a tiny part of the horizon…
Being nerdy enough to want to represent these two hills using a map, I did exactly that.
This will be just the first of a handful of posts of this type I will make throughout the year. I’ll take a lot of pictures from close points, but I’m also curious to see what farther places, like Gibraltar Rock, the hill is visible from. I’ve even heard rumors you can see Blue Mound from Devil’s Lake State Park. Stay tuned!