Badger Trails is a non-profit that promotes hiking, biking, backpacking and camping in Wisconsin. Each year they host 3 events open to groups, individuals and the general public. I had never heard of them until I stumbled upon this backpacking experience on the facebook event page. I am not one who loves facebook, except for the platform it allows for me to provide you with my writings of course, and now the events page!
I am a novice backpacker in all areas, however I thought this would be a good adventure for the entire family. Niko, has always wanted to backpack Patagonia, so I figured we better start somewhere a little closer to home first!
The Ice Age Trail runs across the state of Wisconsin and we are lucky enough to have direct access within Sheboygan county. In fact, the trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails and is entirely within Wisconsin. The story goes that more than 12,000 years ago glaciers formed the landscape, hence a segment of the Ice Age Trail named “Glacial Trail.” Makes sense doesn’t it?! The trail ventures through the never ending beauty of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
The itinerary for the hike looked something like this:
Start point: Old Plank Road Trail head, Glenbeulah, WI off of Highway 23
Begin hike between 4-6 p.m.
4.5-5 mile hike
End point: Greenbush Group Campground N5854 Kettle Moraine Drive, Glenbeulah WI.
Start Point: Greenbush Group Campground N5854 Kettle Moraine Drive, Glenbeulah WI.
Begin hike between 8-10 a.m.
10 1/2 mile hike
End Point: Long Lake Recreation Area N3450 Division Road, Cascade WI.
Saturday morning we got off to a great start…
This adorableness was captured about 0.2 miles into our hike.
Start point: Long Lake Recreation Area N3450 Division Road, Cascade WI.
Begin hike between 8-10 a.m.
9 1/4 mile hike
End point: Mauthe Lake N1490 Co Rd GGG, Campbellsport, WI
Registration could be mailed or completed online. I completed the pain free registration online and in total it costed us a whopping 54.00 for our family of 4 to camp and hike for the entire weekend.
Due to conflicts in our family schedules, we were unable to hike on Friday from the trail head to Greenbush group camp. For safety they did not allow anyone to leave the trail head past 6 p.m. because of the inability to get to the campground by dark. We did however, have the option of camping both nights at Long Lake, so that is what we did. The campsites were preselected and provided to us upon our arrival.
This event in particular could be backpacked over two or three days, or individually day hiked. The hike ranged from 5-10 miles per day. Badger Trails provided periodic check points throughout the trail. We calculated them to be about every 2 miles. Some of those check points seem to come a little quicker than the others, however I am pretty convinced the distance didn’t change, just the feeling in my legs and feet did.
This entire hike was considered “moderately difficult” and to novice backpackers like ourselves, I would agree. It was the perfect hike for an introduction to backpacking. Terrain included, open fields, rocky paths, up hill root filled dirt paths, and calm cool forest with an occasional puddle to jump across.
In 2018, this area was hit by a tornado that produced wind gusts upwards of 100 mph. The devastation demonstrated just how powerful mother nature really is.
We had plenty of fire wood to keep us warm on the nights that felt as though it fell below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. We also loaded up the sleeping bags with hand warmers, wore a hat, gloves, Wigwam wool socks up to your thighs and fifteen layers to bed. If that wasn’t enough the immense amount of shivering was sure to induce enough body heat to at least keep you alive until sun up. So, there was that. Once the sun came out to warm us, the weekend was absolutely perfect for hiking.
According the Badger Trail volunteer staff nearly 400 people turned up for this event. The beauty in it was that the trails did not feel crowded. We would seemingly stay pace with a few groups or individuals and they would pass us with a friendly hello as we stopped to grab a quick snack and a drink of water, and vise versa when they pulled over to refuel. It also allotted us the opportunity to talk with a few not-so-novice backpackers. You know the ones with the actual light weight gear, appearing as though they may have done this a time or two prior.
We conquered our 10 miles in about 5 hours each day. That meant we were walking at a pace of about 30 minutes/mile. Of course, this varied on the amount of breaks that we took along the path. Saturdays hike looked something like this:
Badger Trails, Inc. offers limited shuttle services throughout the weekend. So, after we hit check point 6 we rested while we awaited the much desired motor vehicle, which meant no more hiking at least for the time being.
This is the result of her first 10.5 mile hike. Asleep on the shuttle with the trekking pole in hand! This girl is a trooper! She was asleep, and my hips somehow felt like all the cartilage and synovial fluid that once lubricated and cushioned my joints simply disappeared into thin air!
Because we camped both nights at Long Lake campsite it afforded us, the “not so skilled backpackers” to leave our tent, sleeping bags and pillows at the site. However, I insisted that we carried everything else on our backs! 10 miles with everything on our backs proved to be more of a work out that we bargained for!
What we packed for food:
There are a lot of blog posts out there from more experienced backpackers, which of course I researched and came up with this amongst other items:
Each person carried their own ration of food for the weekend.
It looked a little like this:
Breakfast: instant oatmeal, apple, granola bar/Cliff bar, instant coffee
Lunch: beef sticks, baby bell cheese, Gatorade, wheat thins
Dinner: ready-to-eat quinoa package, ramen noodles
Snack: twizzlers, ginger snap cookies, gum, mints
And, water bottles! Badger Trails also had water fill stations at every rest stop to ensure proper hydration.
Okay, so much like the ability to leave a few of our belongings off our backs during the hike, we also cheated and went into Dundee. The infamous Hamburger Haus lives there. This place has great burgers, but the mountain of ice cream to top it off was just what we needed to refuel! No, not really. This in fact was completely my husbands idea. I of course went along with it when he mentioned it, because I could not get the idea of burger and fries off my mind for the next 2 legs of the hike. Dang it! We are novice for sure! I blame him.
What to wear:
As cliché as it might sound there is truth to the saying “a comfortable hiker is a happy hiker.”
Temperatures varied… as vividly outlined above, when the nights felt like we were nestled in the artic somewhere. The deeper parts of the forest and early morning felt a bit cool as well, but a few miles in when you are putting in the work and the sun decided to greet us with it’s ever so brilliant presence… it was warm. Like keep your deodorant in the side pocket of your bag for easy grasp warm. In other words, layers, layers, layers (I guess that’s technically just one word, but you get the point).
Now, I mentioned in the beginning that we are novice hikers so the gear we have now (and for this trip) would not have sufficed in the back country of Patagonia by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked, and we survived. So, don’t allow not having the right gear hold you back from a weekend adventure. You learn as you go. You will never be “completely” prepared so just get up and do it! Now with that being said, don’t be stupid either. I will let you figure out the balance in that for yourself.
We didn’t have sturdy hiking shoes or boots with great ankle support, but that would be highly recommended. For us, a good pair of Merrells and Nikes did the trick.
Long pants and socks (wool or cotton blend) to protect your legs against scrapes and bugs like ticks or mosquitos is also important.
As much lightweight gear as possible. You need to be able to carry all of your belongings on your back (and your daughters on your front side).
We also packed:
Light source: AKA flashlights
Cooking pots/utensils: a pot to boil water and 2 drinking mugs with 2 forks, 2 knives, and 2 spoons is all that made the cut for this trip
Hairspray: for a fire starter people. COME ON! No not really, that was for my hair, but I didn’t bring the straightener because I thought that would be a bit much. No not really, that was because there was no electricity at our site. And sense I am being honest I brought a infinitesimal amount of make up as well.
Sunscreen: I FORGOT THE SUNSCREEN- but to my credit we hadn’t seen the sun in Wisconsin for about 9 months, so who would’ve thought you would get sun burnt on the first weekend we were actually outside since oh I don’t know… LAST SEPTEMBER! Don’t be like me- pack the sunscreen
Bug Spray: I actually forgot this one too, BUT because it had been winter for the previous 9 months, the devils torture vermin (mosquitos if you needed a hint) hadn’t yet birthed from depths of hell AND, because of our long pants and socks, our legs were safe from ticks. YAYY!
Cell Phone: for pictures, a compass, and just in case we got lost on the marked trails. Hey you never know!
Trekking Poles: a great tool for endurance hikes
First Aid Kit: I am a nurse
Raingear: we had a few cheap-o ponchos just in case
Toilet paper: you get it.
Notebook/Pen: to record our journeys and my never ending thoughts.
Pocket knife: because my husband doesn’t leave home without one EVER
Sunglasses: to protect your eyes from those wonderous rays of UV, you know… the ones we couldn’t protect our skin from.
There is something so simple about the peace, stillness, and quiet of nature that restores and rejuvenates you. The depth in every art piece that is laid out before you invites you to imagine, dream, and get lost outside of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Listen, listen for the birds that sing to you. Look for new life emerging from a cold long winter. Smell, the fresh air. Touch the secretive footpaths that lead you somewhere new. Taste the sweetness of accomplishment!
Next event: Devils Lake Hike October 4th-6th. I so encouraged you to check it out and you might even earn yourself one of these bad boys! DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!
Follow this link to learn more about Badger Trail events and get registered!
“Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other… again and again and again. And if you allow yourself opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.”
Roots & Wings!