Went on an amazing winter backpacking trip on a section of the Ice Age Trail (which stretches across the entire state of Wisconsin) in Kettle Moraine State Park Northern Unit. Incredible terrain, big rolling moraines with the trail often following the ridgelines, big sweeping “kettles” or giant rounded indentations, often with water in the bottoms.
Hiking the second day up a moraine
Beautiful weather – that is if you’re into winter camping. We had about 40 degrees and clouds the first day, snow then blue sky the second. The first day we hiked about ten miles after a couple hours of driving up to the park. Ten miles is a long ways let me tell you, especially in uneven terrain with thirty or forty pounds on your back and a pretty nasty cold to boot. We finally straggled into camp, all twelve of us, with plenty of daylight left, surprisingly plenty actually. We had the tents set up, fire made, gear organized and were well into our dinner before it even turned dusk, around 7:30 or so. And thank goodness we had followed Will’s suggestion and set the tents up immediately because a snowstorm rolled in – which was very fun to have. A thick blanket of snow covered the ground and grew deeper through the night, probably six inches worth. Ryan, the trip leader brought his Samoyed, a siberian-bred dog, big puffy white fur – he was about as happy as a dog could be, he was born for that weather and played and thoroughly enjoyed himself.
Jason and Cirque - happy campers
Food was excellent, and eventually after some storytelling and laughing and huddling around the fire as the snow gathered on our backs and hats, people retired to their various tents. I and several others slept in the shelter on the benches along the side. We were all perfectly warm with our winter sleeping bags. I slept like a champ as did the others. The next morning we gradually broke camp, no big rush, getting out of shelter #3 finally at eleven and meandered another six miles, which again is a good bit of distance. And the second day the terrain was quite rugged, especially considering we were so close to Chicago – it was a true wilderness experience. The trail crossed a few roads but we saw only one other hiker out there the entire trip – amazing. The shelter was very cool – I had heard they existed in the midwest but had never seen one.
Shelter #3, fire and snow
It very much reminded me of the Appalachian trail shelters. At the end of the trail a few folks had to drive the car we dropped back to pick up the others at the trailhead where we’d left them the previous day, took over an hour – no matter as we all laid down on a dry section of concrete and enjoyed the sun – many getting a good bit of color.
Crashed out waiting for the shuttled cars to arrive
A great time was had by all. We all met up at Perkins a few miles down the road for a well-deserved late lunch, and then made our way back to the city, refreshed, tired, sore, and generally refreshed, mentally, spiritually, and physically. I left my blackberry off the entire time, what a great feeling.