Danielle St. Louis
Richard Bong State Recreation Area
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
A comedy of errors kind of day thwarted our plans to visit Richard Bong State Recreation Area on the Saturday before Easter, so my mom graciously volunteered to skip Easter Sunday service to go hiking with me and Lucky. Saturday's weather had been sunny, windy, and warm. Then, Saturday night it stormed pretty badly in the Milwaukee area, so Sunday's weather was cool and overcast. And swampy.
On our way into the park, we stopped and asked the ranger on duty a couple of questions and picked up a map. That weekend, the special use zone was being used to train hunting dogs, but the ranger informed us that the special use zone is far from the hiking trails. So we didn't encounter any of these working #wistateparkdogs while we were in the park. :(
We started at the parking lot for Trailhead B, and as I suspected, the park was pretty empty on Easter Sunday morning. What I had not suspected was just how much standing water we would have to navigate. The original plan for Saturday had been to hike the Blue Trail, but we opted for the shorter Green Trail, so we could make it back in time for Easter brunch. Under normal circumstances, this 1.8 mile trail would be an easy, casual walk. And I suppose if we had been wearing fishing waders, it could have still been easy. But we were not wearing fishing waders.
Our pace is normally slow because I'm stopping to take photos, but it was even slower because we were carefully navigating squishy mud, flowing washouts, and expansive puddles. At the first washout my mom said, "There's no way across! Do we turn around?" and I enthusiastically said "nothing ventured, nothing gained!" After all (and to keep things in perspective), while there was running water going across the trail, it was no more than ankle deep. But when you're trying to keep your socks dry, it's a decision point!
My mom proved herself out on the trail, going through each gross section with a total lack of regard for her socks and shoes. But I was trying as hard as possible to keep my socks dry. Every time the mud would almost suction off my shoes, we'd laugh uncontrollably. The quiet of the park was interrupted by the "schlerp" of my shoes in the mud and our laughing. With each "schlerp," I knew I was pushing my luck, but I managed to make it 3/4 of the way around the trail before succumbing to a less-than-sturdy foothold. With my socks now completely soaked, we were able to make better time on the final stretch of the trail.
Did I mention that Lucky was not phased by the wet conditions? He was just annoyed by our slow progress.*
Even though it was too early in spring for everything to be green and in bloom, it was a grey gross kind of day, and the trail was not in its best condition, the park still had its charm. The lake was serene; the frogs were croaking and the red-winged black birds were in abundance. What I enjoyed the most about this visit was how much my mom enjoyed it. Despite only being about 35 minutes away, she'd never been to Richard Bong State Recreation Area. It makes me happy to know this project is opening my family up to new experiences, and I hope it opens others up to exploring more of Wisconsin as well.
Want to know all of the details? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!
Through the University of Wisconsin Press site.
And if you must, through Amazon.
*Lucky was also covered in ticks when we got home. Thankfully, we just got him the Lyme's disease vaccine the week before, and he's on a regular flea and tick treatment. But it did take me over an hour to pick all of the ticks off (gross!!) Be careful out there!