Grandfather Falls brings history with the hike

If you think your problems are piling up, try to imagine 80 million feet of timber stacked 20 feet high and backed up for miles along the Wisconsin River.

Such was the case in the mid-1880s north of Merrill, where I recently hiked another stretch of the Ice Age Trail. The IAT’s beloved Grandfather Falls segment in Lincoln County – traversed in a previous form by native Americans and French voyageurs portaging around the falls – inspired me to review the history of the area, including William F. Stark’s “Wisconsin, River of History.”

This section of the trail, which stretches 2.3 miles along the river and then juts east for 1.7 miles into the Merrill School Forest, is a favorite of IAT hikers because of its scenic views.

Stark noted a logjam at Grandfather Falls that may or may not have been the biggest in state history.  I ran across references to at least two others that were reputedly the largest; regardless, we can all agree that the one at Grandfather Falls was a huge darn dam.

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Baraboo, No. 2: Parfrey’s Glen awes year-round visitors

Washington and Wall Street may have brought new life to the cliché “an embarrassment of riches,” but it’s still nice to see places that came about their riches honestly.

Sauk County is one of those places. The long, slow processes of glaciation and melting, along with shifting waterways, erosion and other natural forces, have blessed the county with more than its share of physical wonders, including Devil’s Lake, one of our most popular state parks.

I’ve been to that park several times in a decade of Wisconsin residency, and after a fine day trip to the Baraboo Riverwalk in late November, I decided I hadn’t come close to my fill of the area. So I convinced frequent hiking buddy Chris Sadler to check out Parfrey’s Glen and a little more of the Ice Age Trail about a week later.

The first of Wisconsin’s state natural areas, Parfrey’s is a deep, rocky ravine that’s worthy of “Lord of the Rings”-scale fantasies. The rugged, boulder-filled end of the ravine, where a small waterfall pours into the gorge’s mouth, makes Parfrey’s an imagination-inspiring destination.

 

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Unlike Bigfoot and broken promises, Baraboo is the real thing

Being nestled between the Dells and Devil’s Lake may sound like a recipe for being an outdoor-recreation also-ran, but the city of Baraboo has its own fresh-air gem in its Baraboo Riverwalk.

Part of the Ice Age Trail, the Riverwalk is only four miles of mostly-paved walkways meandering through the heart of Baraboo. It shows off a charming small city in its best light and it’s worth a trip for its own sake, although there’s plenty of bonus entertainment that comes along with it.

Hiking buddy Chris Sadler and I recently took two vehicles, parking one at the northern trail endpoint at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County campus in Baraboo. We extended our hiking distance by heading to a parking area just off State Highway 113 in the eastern portion of Devil’s Lake State Park, where the Devil’s Lake segment of the IAT starts.

The park wasn’t in our itinerary for the day, although it and other area local spots are on the agenda for future columns.

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Monona’s Edna Taylor Conservation Park brings mounds of benefits

The commitment to conservation and outdoor recreation by true Wisconsinites never fails to disappoint, as I was reminded during a business trip to Madison last week.

With a lunchtime meeting set up, I had planned a post-meal walk at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum before heading back to Point. A quick look at the map, however, showed me there was something much closer to the restaurant in Monona – in fact, three somethings in one.

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Leadership, like the outdoors, is never out of season

My 9-year-old asked me to pull our bikes off the winter bike hooks in the garage this past Saturday, marking the passage of another season and inadvertently leading to another weekend of youngsters reminding me of life’s important lessons.

Lorena and a friend wanted to go to the library and accidentally rode off with no locks and no adult supervision. When overly-protective dad couldn’t find the two girls until about 20 minutes later, I scolded them a little too roundly, accusing them of not having been where they said would.

It turns out they had been, but finished so quickly – returning and checking out items, then apparently reaching 9-year-old boredom thresholds – that they headed back home. Their dismay at the unfair scolding was evident, so I sought forgiveness with ice cream at Emy J’s.

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