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  • Writer's pictureDanielle St. Louis

High Cliff State Park (Summer)

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

High Cliff State Park | Niagara Escarpment Natural Area

Lucky and I recently returned to High Cliff State Park, but with a different group of misfits. This time, we were joined by my friends Angela and Jamie, and Jamie’s pup Raven. It was a reunion of sorts. While Angela spent most of last summer crisscrossing Wisconsin with us, other adventures have been keeping her busy this summer. And Jamie’s growing family has, naturally, taken priority. This overdue reunion featured hiking, a picnic lunch, and even some bubbly to celebrate Angela’s new job!

Slippery When Wet

We met at the park and made hiking Lime Kiln Trail our priority. Rain earlier in the week had left things along the lake soggy and the rocks and wooden footbridges and stairs slippery. On a departure from the trail down to the lake’s edge, my traction was compromised by Lucky's momentum. As one foot went forward, the rest of my body, supported by the other food, went backwards as if unsuccessfully doing the limbo. My quadricep bore the brunt of the slip and fall, and thankfully I wasn’t seriously injured (though I did take the rest of the trail tenderly and with some trepidation).

Spidey Senses

When I was in Brazil and went for a hike in the rain forest, I thought it was strange that our guide was carrying a stick out in front of his face. I figured it out eventually—after walking face first through the gossamer strands of a spider's web. But of course, I didn’t recall this handy trick when in the forest of High Cliff. The spiders must have been extra industrious the night before because even though we passed several other hikers and trail runners, we were still wiping spider web off our faces for most of the two-mile hike.

Pet PARTY Area

Throughout the day, we saw more dogs than I’ve seen at any other state park. I’m not sure if there are so many dogs at High Cliff because it’s so pet friendly or if High Cliff is so pet friendly because so many people were bringing their dogs there, but it doesn’t really matter what came first. It’s just great that there are so many pet friendly areas (three picnic areas and a pet beach that doesn’t suck) and there are no trails that are off limits to dogs! Even the Butterfly Pond trail is pet friendly!

So, after our slippery and spider webby hike, we went down to the pet picnic area on the north side of the marina to have a picnic and celebrate Angela’s new job. Then we explored the pet beach, and Lucky hung out with (and then humped) another #wistateparkdog. He is so embarrassing!

Quit When You’re Ahead

Something I’ve learned over the years is that I should just quit while I’m ahead. Every time I say, “let’s just do one more trail,” I end up regretting it. On this visit, we decided to set out on Red Bird for “one last hike.” We’ve hiked Red Bird before, but Angela hadn’t, and the trail offers a different perspective of the park – one from the top of the escarpment. But here’s the thing about the top of the escarpment – there’s not much shade, and it was getting hot. We decided to turn back at Indian Mound Trail, which turns into the woods and offers some relief from the sun. When we reached the road, we had to decide: double back on the sunny section of Red Bird along the edge of the escarpment or complete the loop on the portion of Red Bird that stays east of the road. Knowing how sunny the walk had been on the way out, we stayed on Red Bird to the east, which cuts through the woods and prairie. It might have been cooler than the escarpment side of Red Bird, but I didn’t notice. I was too busy trying to keep the bugs off Lucky. The swam of mosquitos surrounding him was so dense, he looked like he could have inspired Charles M. Schulz’s Pig Pen illustration (only bugs not dirt). We practically ran the rest of the trail back to the car and ended the day at High Cliff tired, hot and annoyed by the bugs. We should have quit while we were ahead. ☹

Want more information about hiking with your dog at High Cliff State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!

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