Wisconsin Hiking: Nordic Trails

Recently, I had the pleasure of hiking 9 miles of the Nordic Trails with my wife and best friend. We spent the day laughing and swapping snacks, while walking. We were blessed with gorgeous weather, a challenging hike, and a fantastic post-hike meal at img_9430The Picnic Basket. I couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday!

The Nordic Trails feature extra wide, grassy paths lined with tall, skinny pine trees and plenty of easy-to-read signage. Wooden benches are dotted along the trail, and at the trailhead you’ll find a large parking lot and bathrooms with vault toilets and hand sanitizer.

img_9419Difficulty

The DNR website says that the 9.5 blue loop is an intermediate-level hiking trail. I would definitely agree. This has been the one of the hilliest, and most difficult trails I’ve been on in Wisconsin, second only to the John Muir Trail (which is right across the street!), and some parts of the Ice Age Trail.

If you are a beginner, enter this trail with warning. There are a lot of hills, so expect a challenge. Seasoned hikers, this trail doesn’t compare to the intensity of the hiking you might do out East, or in the West, but it takes full advantage of the uneven landscape of Wisconsin’s kettles (the result of glaciers that have melted long ago).

Nordic Trail Loops

Easy Trails: img_9439

Brown – .7 miles

Purple – 1.7 miles

White – 3.2 miles

Intermediate Trails:

Red – 2.1 miles

Orange – 2.7miles

Green – 3.9 milesimg_9408

Blue – 9.5 miles

Activities

Hiking and cross country skiing and sledding

Limitations

No Bikes

Nearby Trails

I was so excited to find out that that the John Muir Trailhead is located right across the street. There, you can bike or hike, but don’t expect to have any alone time. It is one of the most popular trails in Wisconsin!

Directions to Nordic Trailhead:

  1. Drive South on US-41
  2. Take exit 4 onto I-43
  3. Drive 22 miles and take exit 38A onto WI-20
  4. Drive .3 miles and turn right onto state road 20
  5. Drive 7.8 miles and turn left onto state road 20
  6. Drive 1.6 miles and take a slight right turn onto US Highway 12
  7. Drive 2.0 miles and turn right onto county road H
  8. Drive 1.6 miles to the destination on your right

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Address

N9084 Cty Tk H

Whitewater, WI 53190

Fees

Entrance to this (and every) Wisconsin State Park will require a day parking pass or img_9423an annual parking pass. You can find information about sticker prices on Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources website.

Leave no trace

Recently, Wisconsin’s state park tax budget has been decreased to zero. This means that park entrance and camping fees will go up. The possibility of some parks workers losing their jobs or having their salaries slashed, is a real possibility.

This means that it is time for the volunteers and the visitors to step up. Please respect these beautiful parks! If you come in with trash, leave with the same amount of trash. If you see trash, consider picking it up and walking out with it. Practice the “leave no trace” policy. Basically, respect the park by being courteous to the plants, animals, and fellow humans.

Further Readingimg_9444

Trailville.com

 

Travelwisconsin.com

Nordicskiclub.org

 

I would like to pay tribute to the volunteers and park workers who put in hours upon hours to maintain these trails, for little or no money. Your efforts are appreciated by me and hopefully by anyone who uses the trails!

Thank you, thank you to my readers! I welcome you to return, anytime!

If you need me, I’m Two Tents Down!

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Wisconsin Hiking: A Hike of Fireworks and Ice

Fourth of July on the Ice Age Trail

Fireworks? Definitely. Ice? Not so much. We started the Loew Lake segment of the Ice Age Trail in the early afternoon. By the end of mile one, I was glistening as a result of hard work on a hot day—in other words, I was a full-on sweaty mess!

Let me paint a prettier picture. We were hiking the Ice Age Trail in the Pike Lake Unit of Wisconsin’s gorgeous Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Oconomowoc River flowed parallel to the trail for the first mile, or so. Tall grass and cat tails decorated the river banks, and bullfrog-inhabited, green, bubbly swamp patches separated the river and the trail. The frogs generously sang us a song as we passed through the area, so we snapped a few photos and kept on walking.

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We hiked to a lovely soundtrack. Among the many voices were the calls of bullfrogs, the chirps of birds, the pattering of chip monk feet, and the random bang of fireworks in the distance.

After exiting the area along the river, the trail opened up to a spectacular field of tall grass, dotted with rainbows of wildflowers. To our right were patches of berries. There were quickly ripening raspberries low to the ground, and bushes of bright red round berries above them. To the left was a great field with a big, white farmhouse in the distance, and a line of old trees behind it. Way beyond them, was the beautiful Basilica of Holy Hill.

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Trail Difficulty

Easy/moderate for a few hilly spots

Trail Fees

  • No trail fees
  • Vehicle sticker not required

Pros

  • Variety of scenic views (Oconomowoc River, Holy Hill, etc.)
  • Good level of trail maintenance
  • Low traffic on trail
  • Beautiful, donated wooden benches located in scenic viewing areas

 

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Cons

  • Horrible mosquito pockets

Location & Directions

GPS Coordinates

006

Address

6186 County Line Rd

Hartland, WI

53029

Detailed driving directions:

  1. Take I-45 North
  2. Take County Line Road/HWY Q Exit
  3. Turn left (West) and follow HWY Q for 11.2 miles
  4. Turn right onto County Road K (Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive) and enter Pike Lake Unit parking lot

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Reference Materials:

Every Trail

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Ice Age Trail Alliance

Wikipedia

Discover Wisconsin

Which Ice Age Trail sections have you hiked?

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As always, thank you so much for reading!

Please direct questions, comments, or concerns to the comment section or to my email address: twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

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13 Camping Tips from an Imperfect Camper

My perfectly imperfect first camping trip


Traveling across England

I looked out of the train window and saw the gorgeous English countryside whizzing passed me. I could not believe it. I was in England! I had only been there for a few days, and I was already heading North to Cumbria County for a camping trip in the famous Lake District.
It was early in the morning, gray and misty, when we departed from the Accrington train station. During our one-hour layover in the town of Preston, we loaded up on some popular English snacks I had never eaten before: BBQ Beef Hula Hoops and orange Lucozade. Both snacks were a great combination of fantastically delicious and wildly unhealthy. After our layover, we took another train from Preston to a tiny, backpacking town called Ambleside. There we aimlessly wandered around in a fancy grocery store, unable to purchase even one expensive item.

After we finished drooling, we got our heads together. We actually needed to find a campground to camp in. I was quickly sidetracked while searching for the information center. I spotted a group of backpacking hippies, sporting dreadlocks and Bob Marley t-shirts, and carrying hiking packs protected by waterproof covers.Their hiking gear preparedness reminded me of our lack thereof. Traveling in leather jackets and borrowed rain boots (a.k.a. wellies, as the English call them), we were carrying a leather side satchel and a canvas backpack. Each were filled with a pair of one-piece footy pajamas, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes. Also split between our bags was a variety of fruit (soaked, mashed, and inedible by the time we got to it) and a very cheap (perhaps the cheapest) bottle of white rum. If that wasn’t enough, we were lugging around a massive two-person sleeping bag and a borrowed tent worth £20 (which might as well have weighed 20 pounds, it was so heavy).

 

The unheeded warning, and the damage that ensued

I took is trip in the summer of 2012. I was 24-years-old, six months away from college graduation, and I was in love! My head was high up in the clouds. Our friends and family warned us against camping that weekend, due to severe weather alerts, but we didn’t even hear them. We had just reunited after three months of living with half a country and an ocean between us. In our desperate minds, being together and in danger was better than being safe and apart.
What followed these warnings were dangerous storms, powerful gusts of wind, and some serious flooding. This crazy weather plagued much of England in June of 2012. The clouds dumped a month’s worth of rain on Cumbria County in a 24-hour period, during the weekend we camped. And there we were on foot in the Lake District, with almost nothing waterproof, a cheap and heavy tent, and little to no knowledge of what the heck we were doing.
But we weren’t without ideas. We pitched our cheap tent on a hill, as opposed to the soggy flat land below it. We thought we were so smart! Unfortunately, we hadn’t practiced putting up the tent beforehand, so we spent the next miserable half hour erecting this cheap and ridiculously-designed tent while the wind smacked us with thousands of tiny rain pellets. I felt like we were the targets and the wind was a bb gun with unlimited ammo, and a sick desire to torture us! Despite our difficulties, we got that tent in an upright position, atop that little hill, next to a tree. We climbed in and hung on for dear life. Due to the torrential rain, a powerful river surged through our campsite that first night. A river that wasn’t there before, and wouldn’t likely be there ever again.
 
Here we are at the end of the weekend at the Great North Swim wearing borrowed sweatshirts, waterlogged wellies,
and clothes that had been soaked and partially dried two or three times over.

 

That weekend, we were in a campground called Great Langdale. Thick fog covered the Langdale Pike mountain range on our first day there. By day two, the fog had lifted and the mountains were freely exposed to the sun (and my curious eyes). We hiked towards Windermere Lake through the mountains, in our wellies and the only clothing that was dry: our footy pajamas. We were exhausted, and looked ridiculous, but a natural Emerald City of greens surrounded us, and we were inspired to push on!


I still say it was one of the best weekends of my life. We survived on adrenaline and cheap white rum. It was nothing short of an adventure; one I was definitely not prepared for and will never forget.
Since then, I’ve made some MAJOR alterations to my camping techniques. These alterations are the result of research, more experience, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Without further ado, here is my list of 13 Camping tips:

1. Book your campsite way ahead of time.

You might be able to get away with booking a campsite in a private campground, the day before you leave for your trip, but national and state parks are particularly busy, and might require booking up to six months in advance.

There is plenty of information regarding national and state parks online at recreation.gov or over the phone at 1-877-444-6777.

2. Bring extra tent stakes.

You never know when one of them will get bent out of shape when you’re pounding them into the ground.

3. Practice putting up your tent ahead of time.

The quickest and easiest frustration on a camping trip can come when you’re putting up the dang tent. If you don’t know how, it just becomes an extra annoyance when you’ve just gotten to your campsite and you’ve got all your unpacking and setting up to do.
My best advice is to pick a nice day and then spend half an hour getting to know your tent out in your backyard or at your local park.

 

4. Bring a little lantern.

Having a lantern makes a world of a difference in your campsite. It’s nice to have your campsite lit up while you’re hanging out, or making dinner.


Here is my Ultimate Survival Technologies Brila Mini Lantern:

 

 

I bought this lantern at the REI in Fresno, California on my last camping trip, when I decided that it would really improve my camping experience. Luckily, it was around $15, so it didn’t break my wallet.

I like it because it’s small enough to fit in my pack or my pocket, and it has a hook on the top (so I can hang it in my tent, or on a tree branch) and a powerful magnet on the bottom.

The only downfall is that the lantern runs on AA batteries, which means I will need to keep buying them.

 

5. Bring an extra tarp.

I say extra tarp because you should already have a tarp for underneath your tent, if there is even the slightest chance of rain. I haven’t had any water leakage in my tents when I’ve use a tarp, but I have definitely had water leak into my tent when I didn’t use one. Many times it’s not necessary, but it’s good to be safe.


Camping Fail: It started raining on day two of my camping trip in Sequoia National Park. After hiking all day, we didn’t have an awning or a tarp to hang out under. In sheer desperation, we constructed an overhang for our picnic table out of whatever scraps of plastic we could find, and some rope and duct tape. The plus was that we had an overhang to use, but the minus was that everything underneath was already soaking wet.





How to use the tarp:

  • You can tie your extra tarp to trees, your car, or even a broken tree branch shoved into the ground (as I recently witnessed a neighboring camper do).
  • Stretched out, your tarp can be an overhang for a picnic table or some camping chairs.
The extra tarp is also useful for:
  • sanity, when it’s been raining for 3 days straight, and anyplace is a better hangout than your the tent you’ve been banished to since the start of the rain
  • playing a game of cards in your campsite, during a downpour
  • drying out wood, clothing, blankets, or sleeping bags
  • impressing fellow campers who aren’t as prepared as you are
  • storing extra gear
Active.com has a great article called 15 Ways to Use a Tarp at the Campsite. Check this out for tips and ideas on tarp use while camping.

6. Get organized!

 

This is a no-brainer. I always make a list before I go on any trip, but especially before I go camping.
The list works for the physical items you’re planning to bring, but also for the things you have to do before you leave like putting gas in your car, asking your neighbors to feed your pets, or asking your work for time off.
Scoutlists is a website filled with all sorts of packing lists broken down by climate, season, and potential activities of your upcoming camping trip.

7. Think ahead about devices and chargers.

Let’s be realistic. Most people bring their devices everywhere they go; even camping!

  • Pack chargers, back up batteries, and extra memory cards.
  • Empty the pictures out of your phone so you have plenty of space for new ones.

With that said, plan to have no signal or anywhere to charge your devices. That way, there’s no shock or disappointment when you realize you’re out in nature where you’ll be left to your own devices.

Major camping fail: On my most recent camping trip, I brought the wrong charger for my digital camera. After the camera was dead, that was it for great quality photos in Yosemite National Park. And I could have avoided the whole mess if I had been more careful while packing.

8. Think about what kind of a camper you are and pack accordingly.

Some people can camp with very little, and some just can’t. That’s okay, but make sure you realize what kind of a camper you are before you’re out there camping with more or less than you are comfortable with.

9. Tell someone where you are going.

If you have an itinerary, print off an extra copy for a family member or a friend. If you don’t have an itinerary, give someone a basic idea of where you’ll be, just in case anything goes wrong.

This tip is especially beneficial for people who plan to hike while camping. Here is an article that includes phone apps designed for safety: 10 Must-Have Smartphone apps for Hikers.

There are also handheld GPS devices available for hiking, and other outdoor activities. Here is an article that compares and reviews several of these devices: The Best Handheld GPS Review.

10. When camping in bear country, hang your food or store it in a bear canister.


These (sometimes even human proof) devices are designed to keep bears out of your food and away from you and your campsite. Anything with a scent is fair game for a bear This includes toiletries like soap and shampoo This stuff isn’t safe in your car either, unless you’re okay with a few broken windows, dents, and bear paws all over your stuff

Bears that eat human food can become aggressive and in some cases required to be put down. Using a bear canister is for the safety of you as well as the bears Click on this link for more information from the National Park Service about bear safety and food storage in human-and-bear-shared nature areas.

 

 

Check out my blog post on safe camping in bear country for more info!

11. When camping ANYWHERE, store food carefully.

There are plenty of other animals that would love to eat your tasty human food.

Camping fail: Years ago, while camping, our group left the campsite to visit a neighboring site. We returned to find a family of raccoons tearing the campsite apart, because we had been foolish enough to leave our food unattended.

12. Semi-plan your meals ahead of time.

It’s always annoying when you have too much food and end up going home with an abundance of stale, fire-stinking, dirt-filled food that doesn’t seem nearly as appetizing in the comfort of your own home, where you have an array of fresh (and hopefully clean) foods to choose from.

What’s not only annoying, but potentially dangerous, is going on a camping trip and realizing that you don’t have enough food and that you’re going to have to ration the little food you do have.

Estimate how much food you’ll need per day and work off of that estimate:

  • Scenario 1: Dehydrated meals for EVERY meal!
  • Scenario 2: Oatmeal each morning, snacks during the day, and a big meal cooked over the fire each night
  • Scenario 3: Three big meals, all cooked on the grill
  • Scenario 4: Glamp it up with bacon and eggs or a tasty tofu scramble! With this scenario, you won’t want to forget your sides and condiments like olive oil or butter, ketchup, bread, cheese, milk, etc.
You get the point. Without a tentative plan, you might end up being the little piggy who had none!

13. Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

To other campers, to the wildlife, and to the environment. Simple.
 

Do you have any helpful camping tips?

Share your ideas in the comment section!

If you need anything, come on by! I’m Two Tents Down!

Email me with questions, comments, or concerns at twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest by clicking on one of these links, or through the social media buttons at the top left corner of this page.

Wisconsin Hiking: Kettle Moraine State Forest – Greenbush Trails

Hiking in the Greenbush Area

A few weeks ago, my wife and I headed out on a day hike in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Park. The park is filled with picnic areas, scenic views, winding hilly roads, and beautiful trails used for a variety of sports. Needless to say, we love going there!

Unfortunately, we have gotten lost on our way to this park almost as many times as we have been hiking in it. The directions on the DNR website are so basic, I’ve ended up miles out of my way, and had far too many minutes stolen from my hikes.

So this time, I decided that I would document our route to the Greenbush area (from Milwaukee), so that other people don’t have as much trouble finding it. Oddly enough, we did not get lost this time, and instead found our way perfectly, with no wrong turns or hang ups. Murphy’s Law, right? Not really!

Rhesia went out of her way to figure out the basic area we needed to get to, looked up a map, zoomed in, found an intersection, typed that into Google maps, and finally Siri took us to where we needed to go. Not so simple.

GPS Coordinates of the Greenbush picnic area

Here are the exact coordinates I expertly triangulated (Just kidding! I just used the compass app on my iPhone thanks to theses instructions.):

You can enter these GPS coordinates into Google Maps or a maps app on your Smartphone. If step-by-step street directions are more your thing, I’ve also included some of those below.

Directions to Greenbush picnic area

I took the photo to the right, as I was getting out of the car. This is the view from the small parking lot. A short walk up that path, are bathrooms and a bulletin board with a map of all the trails in the area, and some ever-changing park alerts.

But you have to get there first! Below, I’m going to offer you Siri’s directions, with my own little tidbits added in.

These are directions from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the Greenbush Area parking lot on Kettle Moraine Drive in Campbellsport, Wisconsin:

1. Head North on I-43 (towards Green Bay).

  • Stay on I-43 for about 23 miles.

2. Take Exit 97 (towards Plymouth), which is called Hwy 57 North.

  • You’ll be on this path for another 23 miles.

3. Turn left on 23 West (towards Greenbush).

  • This turn will come about a half mile past a Fleet Farm on your left hand side.
  • Stay on 23 West for about 7 miles.

4. Turn left onto County Road T.

  • This turn comes just after a quarry on the right and a trailer park on the left,
  • Look for a green sign that says “Greenbush”.
  • Stay on County Road T for about 1.2 miles (through the tiny town of Greenbush)

5. Turn left onto Kettle Moraine Drive.

  • Follow this road for 1.7 miles until you see a picnic area on your right hand side.

Greenbush Picnic Area

You’ve made it! This quaint and beautiful picnic area is a hub for so many trails. There are tables and bathrooms, and plenty of space to spread out.
Note: If you’re parking a car in the lot, you must have a Wisconsin State Park sticker on your window. If you don’t have one, you can apply for one on the spot. There are applications and a deposit bin available for the convenience of last-minute visitors of the park. This method is based on the honor system. When you see how beautiful this State Park is, I hope you’ll be as inspired to honor it as I was.

Pictures on the trail

I’ve had the pleasure of hiking in this area last winter, during the summer, and again in the fall. It is beautiful in any season!

Thank you for reading!

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

 

 

First Entry

First Entry

As I navigated my boat of a rental car around another bend on the endlessly winding mountain road, the first ever Giant Sequoia Tree came into my view. Well, it wasn’t the first ever Giant Sequoia Tree, but it was the first one I’d ever seen. I slammed on the brakes, a knot already building in my throat, and dangerously cranked the wheel to the right, veering onto the shoulder (probably meant for other lunatics careening around that same corner, who had never seen a Redwood the IMG_8207size of a 20-story building).

After fumbling for my phone or my digital camera (whichever one I could grab first), I tore across the tiny road, barely looking both ways before crossing. I scrambled up a hill, ran to the mammoth tree, and looked up, my eyes immediately filling with tears. That Giant Sequoia towered over me, humbling me. I stood there for an eternity, if it was 60 seconds.

No words can do justice to that moment that my mind will never forget. And no picture will replace actually being there, breathing in the mountain air, pressing my hand against the rough bark, the stresses of my normal life melting away with each passing second.

Those literal take-my-breath-away moments have found their way into many of my adventures, from seeing the futuristic Shanghai, China skyline at night, amongst crowds of tourists speaking a dozen different languages, to reaching the top of Pendle Hill in the Northern English countryside, almost blown over by the wind and the rain.

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Each person should have the opportunities that I’ve had, to travel to different countries, to explore new cities, to camp, to hike, to be out in nature. These aren’t impossible dreams. They are attainable dreams, for those who organize their thoughts and put their plans into action.

If you have time and an interest, I would like to share some advice with you about camping and traveling. This blog will be based on my own experiences, as well as research I’ve done throughout the time I’ve been adventuring.

Here is a little bit of what you can expect to find within Two Tents Down:

If you want to find out more about the site or myself, check out my “About Me” page.

You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, PinterestGoogle+, and Bloglovin’.
Feel free to email me: twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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