Danielle St. Louis
Brunet Island State Park
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
It was starting to get dark when we arrived at Brunet Island State Park to set up camp. As we wound through the North campground, we caught glimpses of water shimmering just past tents and pop-ups. We followed the numbered posts until we reached site 62, and I positioned the car so its headlights would illuminate the area. The site was a pull-through, better suited for an RV or pop-up than our couple of tents, but we made it work, staking our tents on the flattest sections available between the giant puffball mushrooms. After setting up camp, we went to work building a fire and cooking dinner before settling in for the night.
The first night camping is always relatively sleepless for me. I’m a light sleeper normally and must acclimate to the sounds of the wild. I lay awake and try to identify what I’m hearing: insect, amphibian, mammal? On this night, I was sure I heard the howl of something carnivorous off in the distance, which gave me a mild fright. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep only to be jarred awake by a most unfamiliar noise—unlike anything I’d heard over the course of my summer camping. It was loud and bleak sounding, and it drone on and on.
And then the noise multiplied and a chorus of “MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” echoed across the water.
Cows????!!! Now awake, my brain started contemplating the reasons why these cows would be making such a racket. “Had the howling predator I heard earlier descend upon them? Oh no! The poor cows! What time was it? Is it so close to sunrise that they are mooing to be milked? Are they demanding their breakfast? What could it be?????!!!!!” I can not emphasize enough how loud these cows were. And because I figured no one would believe me (as I have been known to exaggerate on occasion), I felt around in the dark, found my phone and recorded a voice memo of the mooos. And then, as rain drops pinged the roof of my tent, I tried to fall back asleep.
The rain continued into the morning, so we took our time getting up. Over breakfast, Angela and I consulted on the curious case of the cows in the nighttime, and then we inspected the campgrounds further. Now, in the light of day, we could see most of the sites offered direct access to the water, which explains why there were only two sites left when I booked our visit relatively late into the season. Sites 60, 62, 65, 66, and 67 are the only land-locked sites in the North campground, so naturally we were a little disappointed to not have waterfront property. But even without direct access from our site, we could see the water on either side; and after all, we were there to hike, not kayak or canoe. (Though we did make note of the best of the waterfront sites for future visits. And we will be going back to kayak!)
From our base camp at Brunet Island, we took day trips to Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and Lake Wissota State Park. As we drove out of Cornell, I searched for the cows who kept me up at night, but I was unable to identify their exact location. In between our day trips, we explored Brunet Island. There isn’t a ton of hiking, but the trails that crisscross the island are perfect for land lovers looking for a leisurely walk.
We also made sure to support the local small businesses of Cornell, WI while we were in town—specifically Dylan’s Dairy, which has a pet friendly patio area. And on our way home, we couldn’t help but stop in Cadott, WI to take our picture at the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole (well, almost the halfway point . . . .)
Want more information about hiking with your dog at Brunet Island State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!
Through the University of Wisconsin Press site.
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