Spent Sunday morning/early afternoon wandering the ~7 mile segment from the Emma Carlin trailhead to Bald Bluff with my buddy Rick.
It couldn't have been a more perfect day to hike, upper 50's and a crisp, beautiful blue sky, and I was hiking a completely new segment of the Ice Age Trail for me.
While most of the trees were still mostly green, the Ash (I think) were a stunning golden.
We kept walking, up hills, down valleys, spotting a neat little pond, completely green with algae.
It was such a bright day, even being beneath the trees, everything was bright. It was a difficult thing to capture in pictures, but it was almost as though the woods were dancing with the sunshine.
Every time the breeze blew, the shadows seemed to disappear and the sun peeked through even farther. It was clear to me, I needed this day to wander... and even though my calf started bugging me midway through the hike, it felt so good to be outside.
We came upon a knife-like ridge as we wandered up, a really cool feature you don't see much in Wisconsin, and the trail wandered along it for a couple hundred yards. Looked like a lot of trail work had been done there, and it was a really cool little stretch of trail.
Of course, right after this stretch, there was another amazing golden Ash tree, and I couldn't help but snap a few pictures of it.
As we passed the halfway point, and the horse campground, we came upon the world famous Stone Elephant -- although I have no idea how it got that name, and I doubt it's world famous.
After searching a bit online, hoping to figure out the origin of the name (no luck on that, but it apparently used to be an important spot for the Potowotomi Indians), I will say it's amazing how different the spot looked than even 5 years ago, the amount of undergrowth is crazy.
We continued walking enjoying the scenery, and finally slowly began to climb up a long stretch of trail. Suddenly popping out from the woods and finding ourselves on Bald Bluff, with a very pretty view to the Southwest.
The day started early once again for me, and I was packed up and ready to go before the darkness cleared the sky.
Funny thing happened that morning, I forgot to pack my tent inside my backpack, and I just strapped it on above my sleeping pad.... which worked great. Something I repeated for the rest of the trip. Saved me space, and kept my weight closer to my hips.
So, I went up. 1500 feet over 2 miles of beautifully switch-backed trail. I was feeling tired, and slow, and was definitely plodding as I climbed, but every time I looked back down over my shoulder, the view kept getting better.
I found my pace (I was definitely the tortoise for this trip) and kept rolling up the switchbacks. I wish I would've counted them.
After about 45 minutes, I was above Upper Ottoway lake, as the path turned slightly northward and headed straight up to Red Peak Pass.
Leaving Upper Ottoway Lake behind, the switchbacks got tighter as I climbed, zig zagging my way up towards Red Peak Pass.
Only once on the climb did I force myself to stop due to over exertion, after 2 full days on the trail, I finally found my agonizingly slow pace which let my breathing and my heart rate keep up with my ascension.
It is always tough to keep your head up while hiking, especially uphill, staring at each step to be sure of footing as you go up. I also made a conscious effort to not try to guess how far I had left, as it always seemed to slow me down. Suddenly, I looked up as the ground flattened ever so subtly, to see how far I had to go... and dropped a huge F-Bomb.
I'd gotten to the razor's edge that was Red Peak Pass, and suddenly, the next valley was open before me.
I climbed up on a rock and took that picture, and decided to sit and have breakfast.
The view was incredible. As I sat, another fellow rolled up to where we were, and then the twosome of Aaron & Krystle.
The four of us chatted and enjoyed the amazing scenery.
As I stood up and strapped my pack back on, sitting at 11,200 feet, I was excited. It was already an amazing day (more to come, in part 2).
Kid A is an avid hiker, backpacker and outdoors enthusiast located in Milwaukee