To get ready for the hiking season I decided to tune up with a hike around Lake Monona.
The bike trail “Lake Loop” is listed at about 11 miles. My hike started at the central campus by the Animal Sciences building, went around the lake, paused at Memorial Union to visit with good friends and then concluded where I started.
An urban walk is certainly different from a walk in the woods. For majority of the time you’re walking on a hard surface be it concrete sidewalks or asphalt streets and bike trails. Instead of woods and meadows, you’re going by houses and businesses. There also are cars, busses, trucks, and many people. It’s all interesting. On the positive side, you can stop at a park and have pizza delivered. Or, you can walk into a coffee shop or restaurant for refreshments. And, if you want out, you can get on a bus or call a cab.
A walk around Lake Monona is a potpourri of city life. Where I got on the loop near Williamson (Willy St.) is an older part of the city. As you go along the lake you see older houses lovingly restored and others not so much. Here and there you see newer houses shoehorned into a few small remaining lots. Mostly it’s early settlement charm.
Heading eastward, the hike crosses the Yahara River and runs along a sequence of lakeside
parks. I stopped for a few minutes at an effigy mound before continuing on to the large Olbrich Park and past the popular Olbrich Gardens. Then the hike turns south on Atwood Avenue which morphs into Monona Drive in the city of Monona. Monona Drive is a commercial center, a miracle mile for Monona with businesses, strip malls, and eating places. I chose a Michael’s Frozen Custard for a cheese burger and vanilla shake.
Sticking to the trail through Monona treats you to some eclectic housing choices. There are houses harking to a George Jetson vision, old classic mansions, some Frank Lloyd Wright inspirations, and even houses that were once clearly fishing cabins. You can also learn, at Monona Motors, that the Village of Monona formed when it seceded from the township of Blooming Grove. It was at the approach to Firemen’s Park here where I began to wonder if I’d picked the wrong shoes for the day.
I knew I’d be on concrete and asphalt all the way so I chose lighter, soft-soled hiking shoes. The shoes are light and breath well so it seemed obvious at the time. But soft soles, at least for me, are only good for the first five or six miles. After that, any pebble, stick, or bump you step on feels like it’s poking directly into the bottom of your foot. Ouch. At Firemen’s Park I stopped, took off shoes and socks and let my feet have a break. Kids from the nearby elementary school were out for recess and near me a guy was coaching a group of kids in a running and team building game.
While I was there I changed my socks and considered the “cab out” option. Na, not yet. So I walked on. From Firemen’s Park you go around what is called Squaw Bay, which gets in the news once in a while for its name and for flooding from time-to-time. There is an Indian Mounds Park a block off the trail but I kept moving crossing the Yahara River again on Bridge Road.
Along Waunona Way you get views of Olin Park, and Turville Bay. I cooled my feet in the water at Esther Park then hiked my way over to John Nolen Drive. By automobile, John Nolen is one of the most scenic routes into Madison with the skyline and the water to take in. On foot it’s scenic and noisy. As you move steadily along, your angle of vision changes creating a viewing panorama of the city. There are people running and walking, biking and fishing, and playing around in the green spaces.
To finish off the hike, I crossed John Nolen at Monona Terrace, went up past the state capitol, turned toward Lake Mendota and went down Langdon Street to the Memorial Union to find my friends. They were some quantity of beer into it so I had some snacks and a refreshment and conversation with them before calling it and walking back to the car to go home.
When it was over I’d covered about 20 miles. For the bulk of it, I’d averaged 2.7 MPH. My feet? Sore, but recovering quickly. The dog and I were able to do 3.5 miles in a hour without too much discomfort.