Aldo Leopold. A 40 foot deep gorge. Prickly Pear cactus and desert. Just a few of the hidden gems I recently explored in Wisconsin.
Finding places I haven't explored before in Wisconsin is always an exciting adventure. When my brother decided to pay a visit for the first weekend of Autumn, we decided (as we always do) to go out for a hike and explore. This time we picked the Baraboo and Spring Green areas of Wisconsin which lie in the Dirftless Area of Wisconsin.
Aldo Leopold FoundationWe started our quick two day journey of exploration at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. If you don't know who Aldo Leopold is, he's known as the father of wildlife conservation and was an early leader in the American wilderness movement. (Read more about him on the Wilderness.net.)
While visiting we decided to take the self guided tour through the land along the Wisconsin River that his family owned and worked to restore. The Shack the family lived in is still there to this day and so are some landmarks of the work he did. Overall it was a humbling experience to be able to view and feel the work he did here which has resonated far beyond the boundaries of his property.
|Aldo Leopold Shack|
Pewits Nest State Natural AreaDefinitely a hidden gem in Wisconsin. Pewits Nest State Natural Area in Baraboo, WI is pretty well hidden with no signs leading to it. It's one of those places you need to know exists to find it. Which makes it a perfect place to explore. Upon arriving we hit the trail and starting walking toward the gorge. One of the first things I noticed when we hit the forest was the wall of rock that was growing as we walked the trail.
Within a short distance we took the trail that lead us down to Skillet Creek where we could peer into the gorge and see a small waterfall.
|Skillet Creek and Pewits Nest Gorge|
After hiking the trail and returning to the car, I felt lucky to have found this place. From the road I would have never guessed what was just beyond the edge of the forest and in the middle of the farmer's fields that lie around it. Definitely worth a visit to see the splendor that the retreating glaciers left for us to explore.
Spring Green PreserveDid you know Wisconsin has a desert where prickly pear cactus grow naturally? No? Neither did I. Upon arriving at the Spring Green Preserve I immediately noticed a difference in this area versus the adjoining landscapes. Upon hitting the trail which was dry, sandy soil I saw prickly pear cactus. Even the ridge line in the distance was different than the others. All the ones around it held forests, but not this one.
|Prickly Pear Cactus at Spring Green Preserve|
We hiked the 1.6 mile trail (one way) through the prairie taking in the beauty of the fall colors of the prairie grasses. The trail itself winds its way behind and up the bluff and provides a great overview of the surrounding area.
|Spring Green Preserve Trail end - overview of surrounding area from atop the bluff|
My brother and I continued to explore additional areas over the two days we had and found some amazing places to explore that we had never been to and places we've explored before, but were worth another visit. In addition to the above we explored:
- Bakken's Pond State Natural Area - definitely another worth visiting. It's a wetlands area that is home to many species of animals including the Sandhill Cranes we heard and then finally saw as they took off over the pond.
- Devil's Lake - no visit to this area is complete without a quick trip to Devil's Lake State Park. Today we hiked the East Bluff and saw plenty of turkey vultures floating on the thermals.
- Tower Hill State Park - A smaller state park, but another not to miss. We camped here and visited the Shot Tunnel and watched the reflections of the seasonal changes of the trees in the river.
- Ferry Bluff State Natural Area - we hiked the short trail that brings you up to the top of Ferry Bluff and provides great views of the Wisconsin River and the surrounding area.
Fall is a great time to get outdoors and explore. And the Driftless Area provides plenty of opportunities to view fall colors in their glory.
And today I'll switch it up a little bit, instead of a John Muir quote to end this post, we'll reflect on Aldo Leopold.
"Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language" Aldo Leopold