Welcome to the Enchanted Forest

Welcome to the Enchanted Forest

Welcome to the Enchanted Forest. Whitewater Lake Segment, Ice Age National Scenic Trail

There’s a patch of hills and woods along Highway 12 south of Whitewater I’ve wondered about for years. The road passes through the area climbing a steep grade with the hills and trees pushed up to the shoulder. To me, the woods looked enchanted and I longed for a chance to get out there.

Fast forward to my dotage and add the Ice Age Trail(IAT), and suddenly the opportunity to hike my personal “Enchanted Forest” is here. It’s called the Whitewater Lake Segment(PDF) and it’s about five miles through the hills and woods. Here’s how the trail guidebook calls it: “…the segment travels across cavernous kettles with ancient oaks providing the canopy.”

Reaching the peak of this terminal moraine with deep mid-day sun

Reaching the peak of this terminal moraine with deep mid-day sun

As I entered from the west I tried to keep years of expectations in check. I’d hiked the connector from Clover Valley and my anticipation kept building as I got closer. But before I could hop off the road and dive into the woods I came across the Flowing Well. Flowing Well happened just at that point when I was thinking how great it’d be to have a rest wayside on this connector route.

From Flowing Well on, the enchantment was strong: beautiful blue sky, moderate temperatures, a breeze, and then I stepped onto the trail proper. Here, I had to pause. A boardwalk bridge called me to cross a free-flowing stream and head into the woods. In mid-June the woods were well watered and lush. In places, the understory wrapped the narrow trail tunnel-like obscuring the sky. Then suddenly I’d walk out into a towering forest of giant hardwood.

They own the place. Pass with permission only

They own the place. Pass with permission only

Over the next couple of hours I lived in another world: steep climbs, sharp ravines, huge trees both alive and dead, boulders, massive fallen logs. As I neared the end I could hear the highway more and more. Reluctant to leave, I just hung out for a while. I’m a happier guy for this experience. For me, it’s the “Enchanted Forest Segment.”
Old Oak intact in its frame from the past

Old Oak intact in its frame from the past

Shout out to my good friends Bonnie & Dave Wagner. Dave provided the angel lift and I was able to annoy them both during their pickle ball match in Whitewater that afternoon.

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Sixty four miles

Sixty four miles is the official distance. Filling out the paperwork will make it official, but I now have hiked the entire width of Rock County on the Ice Age Trail(IAT). The county IAT chapter lists the distance as 64 miles. The hike was done in bits and pieces starting last year. Yes, there are some short two and three mile hikes but I also had distances of 18, 12, 10, and 10.

Before going further, I must express my love for Jan who isn’t simply supportive but actually enables this behavior. Farmer and Rock County citizen, Kirk Leach also figures into this as he provided a couple of key angel lifts. Then a shout out to Dennis James and Dean Paynter and the rest of the Rock County IAT. The chapter has been at this a lot longer than I and have helped turn hiking in Rock County into a wonderful experience.

Storrs Lake Segment

Storrs Lake Segment spring 2018

For the curious, the 18-mile hike was roughly Evansville to Janesville. I had an average speed of 2.5 mph and it took me six hours, 45 minutes with a total elevation accumulation of 1,025 feet. The most recent 10-mile hike took four hours, 12 minutes with a 2.6 mph average and total elevation accumulation of 583 feet carrying me from outside Milton into Walworth County to the east.
Devils Stairway Segment

Devils Stairway Segment, Janesville, Wisconsin

Experiences? Yes. Walking thigh deep in water on a flooded section at Storrs Lake is memorable. Especially the muck part. The first time through the Devils Stairway was a thrill; narrow and steep and not much to hang onto. Visiting with a pair of deputy sheriffs on a county road is always adorable. A Mr. Smith who invited me onto his property to show off where an under-glacier river deposited a most wonderful white sand distinct from everything around. And Janesville. Who knew, right? Wonderful parks, a downtown that’s perking up, historical sites like the Croak Brewery, and a network of walking/biking trails as well developed as anywhere.
Rock County farmland

Rock County Wisconsin and some of the most gorgeous soil found on earth.

The immediate goal is to make it on the Ice Age Trail past Delafield. There’s the entire Kettle Moraine ahead of me.

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Flowing Well

While on a hike the other day, I stumbled into the “Flowing Well” along a town road south of Whitewater. Maybe I didn’t know anything about it but apparently every one else does. It was busy with people filling jugs to take home. The ladies filling jugs that day were regulars. One told me she goes to the well every Wednesday. She used to go on Sundays. Then I heard the rest of her life story. By and by she told me, “My doctor says getting this well water is the best thing I can do for myself.” Another lady was there with her grandson and said her house water, “… had too much chlorine and stuff in it.”


Flowing Well is a busy place

The Flowing Well is an artesian water source dug first in 1895 to a depth of 55 feet by an Adam Channing. As the sign also says, “It has been flowing steadily to this day.” There’s a small paved pull out for parking, a shelter, benches and a picnic table. The water gushes out and splashes onto a concrete pad before running down the hill and into a stream. Maintenance is done by the township and civic organizations.

You can look this all up if you want. As I mentioned, I was the only one who didn’t know about it. The well is a tourist attraction in its own way and a really welcome spot along the Ice Age Trail.

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Another Flickr Explore

Over on the photo sharing site Flickr, my photo of Tiffany Bridge is having a viral moment. Woke up this morning to what Flickr calls “Explore.” The Tiffany Bridge picture will have 4,500+ views and perhaps more before it’s over. Tiffany started the morning at 129 but has slipped as of now to about 145 on the ranking site, Fluidr.

The picture isn’t all that great, really. It would never muster much of a score if judged in competition. Flickr Explore, however, isn’t like that. Explore is a machine; an algorithm. Based on what is known about Explore, the algorithm is set up to uncover what they call “interestingness.” It needn’t be a great picture, it just has to tickle the algorithm in a way that causes it to pull a picture out of the upload stream and stick it in the daily Explore feature page. The machine picks out 500 pictures every day.

In defense of Explore photo quality, my thinking is many of the top images would do just fine in a competition judged by humans. But, it’s a machine in search of something interesting not strictly its technical or artistic merits.

The first time Explore happened to me it was startling. I kept thinking, “what on earth is going on?” Explore has happened a few times since then and the experience still has a little jolt. What this means to me is that it’s fun when it happens, the recognition is still cool, but you can’t plan for it or take it too seriously.
Tiffany Bridge

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Inside advertisement

Once in awhile you get a result you can feel good about:

The page

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Found in the Nordic Trail section of the Southern Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin. A few minutes later I was in a downpour.

1.6 mile, Nordic Trail, purple loop, Southern Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin.
August sunflower

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Silver-Spotted Skipper

It was still, humid, and about to rain. Quiet, too. Only little things to look at.
Silver-Spotted Skipper

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Folded Time

Waves folding over stone time and again

Waves folding over stone time and again

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Taste of winter

There wasn’t much to the winter this season. Snows in December and 70 degree temps in February. Nice little snow in March but that’s gone now too. Did manage one wintery farm scene.

 Winter Sunset

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Soya green

soya green

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