Welcome back! This week I’ll take you on an excursion to the South Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Before we go there, I have to admit that I missed a big milestone in the Traveling with Tom blog. Last week was my 250th post! My first article was in mid November 2015 and I’ve posted every Sunday afternoon since then. For me, this is a significant event as I have the tendency to start things with good intentions then after a short time get bored and move on to something else. For some reason, I’ve kept on writing and sharing photos from my travels. I admit it’s more challenging now that the virus has grounded us at home for the foreseeable future. I’m not complaining, there is some solace in having the time to write and reflect on past travels. I keep at it mostly for my own satisfaction but also because of you, my followers. Your views and comments either on the blog site or Facebook give me energy to keep at it. For that I thank you!
Now on to the story of the week. Last week, my Traveling Partner and I left the safety of our home and neighborhood in Madison to travel about an hour and fifteen minutes to the east. Our home for the three days of camping was the Kettle Moraine State Forest Ottawa Lake Campground that offers 100 camping sites, over half with electric service.
The Kettle Moraine State Forest stretches over an area of about one hundred miles from north and west of Milwaukee to the southwest near Whitewater. It’s divided into two large units (North and South) and three smaller units. Kettle Moraine is in a highly glaciated area that features hilly terrain largely covered with trees and “kettles” or depressions left by large blocks of glacial ice. The South Unit with it’s headquarters near Eagle and Palmyra, Wisconsin is comprised of 22,000 acres of land that offers many recreational opportunities for visitors. There are over 150 miles of nature and hiking trails, swimming beaches, off-road bicycling as well as several picnic areas and a scenic drive. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail makes part of it’s 1000 mile path through the Kettle Moraine State Forest. I should mention that the information stations, ranger stations, museum, and gift shop are closed due to the pandemic. All camping reservations and park passes are required to be purchased online.
As I mentioned earlier, we made reservations for three nights of camping in our new camping trailer, Minnie the Winnebago, towed by the sparkling Red Rider. We traded for this camper on January 31 and left at the dealer for a final inspection. Then COVID invaded our world and all non-essential activities stopped. We were finally able to take delivery in mid- June but not use it until now. There’s a lot to like about it and a few things that could be improved, not much in this world is perfect. It tows very nicely behind the Red Rider. We are looking forward to camping excursions with this outfit.
We were very self contained during our stay at Ottawa Lake so didn’t have to worry much about social distancing or wearing masks but we always had them with us. During our stay we drove the scenic drive and I had the opportunity to use my cameras for the first time in nearly six months. After a few minutes of refresher, it was good to have the tools back in my hand. Here are a few scenics I took on our drive. You’ll notice that we had great weather with nice puffy clouds in the sky. The temps were in the upper 70’s and low 80’s during the day and down into the upper 50’s at night. Great sleeping and camping weather!
Near the campground was the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. We pulled into the parking lot and there was one other car, no need to social distance. We did meet another couple on the trail but we had plenty of room to safely pass each other.
As we made our way along the trail, we observed some of the attractive plant life.
Early in our walk, the monarch butterflies joined us. One would fly and land in front of us and then fly off as we approached their position. Soon another butterfly would join the parade. We stopped several times to watch their antics and of course take a few photos.
About half-way through our mile long walk, we came across the spring. The water was clear and looked very inviting but the rules said don’t leave the trail!
The last part of the trail took us through some new growth forest. This is the spot where the mosquitoes joined the walk! Fortunately, we applied some spray before setting out but it wasn’t enough to keep them from trying to land in our ears or fly up our noses!
Also near the campground is Ottawa Lake where people were fishing off a dock. For being the middle of the week, the beach was moderately busy with plenty of room for social distancing.
During our stop at the lake, we observed these three sandhill cranes nearby looking for their dinner. The crane on the far left must be this year’s chick, every once in awhile one of the parents would call and the chick would run over and grab the food found by the parent. It was fun to watch them dig their beak into the sod several inches, probably after grubs or worms.
Also near the campground was the Stocks Family Fieldstone Barn. It’s beautifully preserved and now has a metal roof. It’s hard to believe that early settlers tried to make a living on the rocky and hilly soil. Beginning in 1937, the State of Wisconsin and environmental groups began buying up land that would come to be the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Our three day excursion came to an end too soon. It was a good time to read and write in some place different than our house! In the evening, the gas fireplace gave us warmth without the smell of burning wood but darn no s’mores this trip. Next time I’ll be more organized!
We returned home Friday afternoon happy to get away and looking forward to more camping in the next couple of months.
Until next week, happy virtual travels!