Blue Mound State Park (Spring)
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Lucky woke me up for breakfast at 6:00 am and it was pouring – the kind of pouring deserving of the classification of torrential. Since we weren’t meeting at Blue Mound State Park until 10:00 am, I fed Lucky and went back to sleep for a couple of hours. I’m almost sure it was raining the entire time, but when I woke back up, the rain was dissipating, and we confirmed that our hike was still on as planned.
Hiking right after a heavy rain is both a special privilege and a potential calamity. Weather, either the changing of seasons or a passing storm, can unlock secret experiences that only the most diehard or foolhardy will have the pleasure of enjoying. We pulled into Blue Mound and made our way to the parking lot near the Indian Marker Tree trailhead, driving cautiously as a thick fog had rolled in as the storm rolled out. The fog transformed Blue Mound into an exotic and ethereal jungle unfamiliar to me, despite previous visits to the park.
Blue Mound is probably best known for being the highest point in southern Wisconsin, and the 360-degree views of the forest, Lower Wisconsin Riverway, and Baraboo Bluffs from the park’s observation towers are popular photo opportunities. But the dense fog surrounded the observation towers like a concrete wall. Without the distraction of views from above, I was more perceptive to what was right in front of me.
We navigated Indian Marker Tree Trail cautiously. In its wake, the storm had not only left the dense fog but also a significant amount of water that was also navigating Indian Marker Tree Trail. In some segments of the trail, the water flowed as a tiny river and in others it puddled into mini lakes. The rocks were slick under my waterlogged feet (no, my hiking boots are not waterproof), and our route through the park was determined by the presence or lack of standing water at every intersection. Though my socks were sopping, I regretted nothing. We had a moody Blue Mound practically all to ourselves.
Lucky and I had the pleasure of hiking with both my sister Natalie and Zoolander and our new friends Ellen and Bailey. But after our morning hike, our friends departed, leaving Lucky and I to explore additional trails on our own. Thankfully, Natalie lent me her dry socks and waterproof hiking boots for the rest of the day. 😊
After a quick snack, we set out on Ridgeview Trail and Walnut Hollow Trail. These are cross country ski trails, so they are wide and grassy, and thankfully, were not too waterlogged. There comes a point where Ridgeview Trail turns into the woods and narrows to a single track, dirt trail (at least I think we were still on Ridgeview Trail?) This portion of the trail is more interesting and technical, but also more secluded. We crossed a stream and stopped to take photos. Lucky lapped up some water, and then, as we started back on the trail, he started freaking out. It was as though he spotted something in the woods—a deer maybe—and felt the need to bark and whine like crazy. It wasn’t an excited bark. It was an anxious bark. I couldn’t see anything or hear anything over his outburst. We kept moving ahead, me giving Lucky a treat every few steps to keep him distracted from whatever it was he thought was out there. Now, because of his sudden change in behavior, being enshrouded in forest and fog felt ominous. I told myself it was nothing. Lucky is just a spaz. But, we started hiking a bit faster. The trail popped out onto a paved road, and I was straight up confused as to where we were. I didn’t see a road on the map where I thought we were, so rather than get us lost, I just turned us around to go back the same way we came. Lucky had calmed down, but as we backtracked through that section of forest, he got agitated again and started to bark and whine. More treats and a quick pace got us back to the wide, grassy portion of Ridgeview Trail that parallels Military Ridge State Trail. Now, his demeanor returned to normal, and we walked—and he sniffed—casually all the way back to the car.
I won’t ever know if there was really something menacing in the woods that Lucky was trying to alert me to, but I did spend some time contemplating whether Lucky would be the kind of dog to protect me from an attacking bear or if he’d run at the sight of trouble. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about Blue Mound State Park that makes me contemplate Lucky’s loyalty.
We enjoyed another roadside snack, and I thought we might eek out one more quick hike. But as we set out on Pleasure Valley Trail, I had a swift change of heart. The trail was a swamp of standing water and tall grass, and I was over it. Yes, Natalie had given me her waterproof hiking boots, but waterproof is not the same as submerge proof. We turned around, got back in the car and headed home.
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