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.”
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.
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.”
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.