Super Bowl Sunday was the perfect day for us to check out Yellowstone Lake State Park for a couple of reasons. First, it was a beautiful February day by Wisconsin standards. The sun was shinning and there was a barely perceptible breeze. Second, Super Bowl Sunday is practically a holiday by Wisconsin standards, even if the Packers aren't playing. This means a lot of people are busy with Super Bowl party preparations and aren't out hiking or, more importantly, snowmobiling.
Like many of Wisconsin's other state parks, a decent number of hiking trails at Yellowstone Lake are converted into cross country ski trails in the winter. But unlike other parks, the trails in Yellowstone Lake that remain open to hiking also double as snowmobile trails. It's possible that these trails are meant for hiking in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter, but there was no one in the office to ask for clarification. So we decided to take our chances and just keep a watchful eye out for snowmobiles.
We parked by the lake and got geared up, sort of. It was nice enough that I opted for a vest rather than my winter coat, and Lucky opted for no backpack because, well, I forgot it. Lucky's backpack, water, booties, and other hiking accessories were sitting on the floor in my kitchen by the door to the garage. Thankfully, he could mooch water from my friend and me, and I had a spare poop bag in the car.
The latest update to the park's Current Conditions mentioned a heavy, wet snow and by the time we got there, the heavy, wet snow was compact, with just enough of a hard shell that we could walk fairly easily. And Lucky didn't actually need his booties! The current conditions did not mention all of the obstacles along the trails, including a giant pile of branches and a fallen tree. We managed to get through or around the obstructions, but we couldn't do so tethered together. Lucky and I each made it through more easily when I dropped his leash.
The park was quiet except for the occasional crunch of our feet breaking through the snow's hardened crust and the sound of gunfire off in the distance. There had been a few ice fishermen near the south end of the lake, but once we were on the trails, there wasn't another soul around. While we saw snowmobile tracks, as I suspected, no one was actually out riding while we were there. (Thank goodness!)
We went clockwise around the Wildlife Loop, and did a little off-trail exploration of the frozen marsh. Though we considered taking the road along the lake back to the parking lot, but decided against it. The sun was still out, and park was still all ours. So we retraced our way along the Blue Ridge Trail back to Timber Trail. I'm sure Lucky was happy with our choice. He kept stopping to smell and dig out scat along the way. Ew.
We got back to the car and actually made it home in time to watch the Super Bowl. But we didn't because Lucky wasn't that interested in football. :)
Want more information about hiking with your dog in Yellowstone Lake State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!