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  • Writer's pictureDanielle St. Louis

Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

Lucky along the edge of a kettle lake

Using Google Maps to get to Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area (CMSRA) was an adventure of its own. Our Google directions took us down an undulating dirt road that wove through the many kettle lakes and finally deposited us an intersection, which may have in fact been in the Recreation Area, but was far from where we needed to be. Thankfully, the Wisconsin DNR’s Pocket Ranger App* allowed me to access some information without wifi or even a cell signal for that matter (because I never have service at any of these parks, thanks Sprint . . . ). I pulled up the introductory information for CMSRA in the app which includes general directions to the David R. Obey Ice Age Interpretive Center. Once we had the basics, Angela located the highway referenced in the directions on her map, and we put two and two together to get to the Interpretative Center.

Between the exhibits and activities and herds of children running around, the Interpretive Center reminded me a of the Wehr Nature Center – someplace my sisters and I often went on field trips as grade schoolers. We quickly asked the man staffing the Interpretive Center a few questions about the trails before he was pulled away to take a snake out of a habitat for some eager children to hold. Then he quickly transitioned to outfitting some other children with butterfly nets and instructions on how to catch insects in the adjacent prairie for the Interpretive Center reptiles to eat.

Despite how packed the center was with children, we braved the crowd and looked around too. There was a lot to take in, and I was particularly drawn to a wall of pelts. Along the hallway wall leading to the bathrooms, there were pelts of an assortment of Wisconsin mammals hanging on nails from their eye sockets or nostrils. The label identifying the pelt was hidden underneath it, so you could play a “guess that critter” game without the labels giving its identity away. I was morbidly attracted to the pelts. While the idea of a skinned animal hanging by its eye or nose hole from a nail in the wall was stomach churning, I couldn’t help but touch the pelts. After all, I couldn’t let their deaths have been in vain. I should learn something from each of these animals’ sacrifice—like what that animal feels like. So, I pet each pelt. From muskrat to bear, small to large, I went across the wall of pelts. When I reached the raccoon, something frightful happened. I touched the pelt, feeling its fur under my hand and turning it over to make sure I was in fact touching a raccoon, when the pelt fell off its nail! I was stunned and horrified. I fumbled with the decently sized pelt—hoping no one was watching as I clumsily tried to reattach it to its nail by its nostril. But the pelt refused to cooperate, as if protesting the crude method of display and its objectification. I was finally able to get the pelt to balance precariously on the nail, and I backed away slowly from the wall.

Then Angela, who had been exploring a different exhibit, came over to inspect the pelts. After commenting on how sad the wall made her, she reached out, and before I could say anything, the raccoon was once again loose from its nail and falling into Angela’s arms. I couldn’t help but laugh at the horrified look on her face, as it so mirrored by reaction just moments earlier. She struggled to reattach the pelt as I laughed and explained that I had also disturbed the raccoon from its spot on the wall. We giggled at the ridiculousness of the situation, and once the raccoon was once again precariously hanging by its nostril, we hurriedly exited the Interpretive Center.

We grabbed Lucky from the car and went for a hike. With potential severe weather in the forecast, we opting for the mid-distance Dry Lake Trail loop, and set off on a trail that enveloped us in a dense forest with lush ferns, skirted a prairie, carved through a birch stand, and then dallied along the edges of kettle lakes. The varied scenery made the 1.8 miles go quickly, but of all the segments, my favorites were those that took us along the banks of the kettle lakes. The water was very still and the forest reflections on the water exuded tranquility.

When we arrived back at the Interpretive Center, we gathered our picnic supplies from the car and enjoyed lunch at the picnic area overlooking the expanse of the­ Chippewa State Natural Area. Then, despite the storm clouds advancing in our direction, we just had to partake in one Interpretive Center activity—throwing tomahawks!

Want more information about hiking with your dog at Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area? Well, I ended up not including Rec Areas in the book because there are just so many of them! But, if you want more info about hiking with your dog in WI State Parks, you can order A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!

*Recently heard that the WI DNR was ending their contract with Pocket Ranger and is encouraging people to stop using the app. . . when there isn’t anything else, of course I’m going to continue using it for as long as it’s available!

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