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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Elroy-Sparta Trail still a Wisconsin gem

Tunnel No. 1

Some 50 years after becoming the nation’s first rails-to-trail conversion, Wisconsin’s 32.5-mile Elroy-Sparta State Trail is still a great place for folks to enjoy a range of trail experiences.

My son and I biked the trail June 24 with 10 of Sam’s fellow Boy Scouts in Troop 293, sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Church. Eight adults also made the trip, which included overnight camping outside of Elroy, where the trail’s eastern terminus meets up with Wisconsin’s 400 Trail, and at the western end in Sparta, where it joins the Lacrosse River State Trail.

Elroy-Sparta introduced me to Wisconsin’s incredible trail system three years ago.  The system is among the best in the country, and Elroy-Sparta makes an excellent destination for users of all ages and abilities.

Seeing it once more with many of the same scouts and adults from that 2014 trip was a pleasure, because it was one of those great reminders of the value of working together to reach a common goal.

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Something for everyone

Elroy-Sparta’s web site (www.elroy-sparta-trail.com), run by its friends of the trail group, notes that the trail was established in 1965, but other sources put its inception in 1967.  The trail’s birthdate may depend on how one chooses to define that.

Some say it began the year the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad pulled up its rails between the two towns and offered the right-of-way to the former Wisconsin Conservation Department (now Department of Natural Resources) for $12,500.

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