Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Roche-A-Cri State Park

I've driven I-39 North and South between Wausau and Madison so many times you'd think I'd have it memorized by now. While I completely enjoy the scenery along the highway, sometimes when you've traveled a stretch of road so often, you get desensitized and don't always see. This was the case last weekend as we headed North, back home to Wausau, and I passed a big brown sign indicating Roche-A-Cri State Park ahead. I've passed by this sign so many times and never had the urge to pull off and check it out. But this day was going to be different! I have a state park sticker! And some extra time on this particular afternoon. So, on a whim, I pulled off at the Coloma exit and consulted my Wisconsin Gazetteer; according to my map, Roche-A-Cri was only about 16 miles West. Off we went!

There's a little wayside along Hwy 21 about halfway to the state park with this awesome little rock outcropping - a prelude to what is to come at Roche-A-Cri. There are picnic tables and little trails leading up to and around the rock, which appeared to be well-traveled. The rock has been spray-painted with tons of graffiti so it's obvious that you can explore the entire structure unimpeded.

As we got closer to the road to the state park, I could see the 300-foot-high rock rising out of the flat ground in the distance - my heart raced a little as I realized that was our destination; this was going to be a fun adventure! Roche-A-Cri appears to be a relatively small state park and everything is self-registration only - including the camping. The first stop was on the South side of the rock at the Petroglyph markings. There's a nice wooden stair/trail leading to the platform at the base of the rock with some informational signs about the petroglyphs.

A turkey vulture flew over as I took this photo... can you spot it?
It was unfortunate to notice that some disrespectful people have added their own "petroglyphs" to the rock over the years, even though you are only supposed to look and not touch.

We got back in the car and drove around to the North side of the rock to the Top Of The Rock Trail. The temperature was VERY hot and I was skeptical about whether we'd actually climb to the top or not.

Charlie was already panting quite a bit from the heat, so I was relieved to see that dogs were not allowed on the Top Of The Rock Trail. We walked up to the trail head anyway just to get a better look. The stairs are well-built with nice railings and chicken-wire to prevent anyone (or thing) from falling off the stairs. But all the signs indicating the "strenuous climb" were a bit worrisome!

Back at the parking lot, I stopped to talk to a couple who had just come down from the top and were resting on a picnic table nearby. They reported that the view from the top was exceptional even on a humid, hazy day like today and was well worth the climb to the top.

Technically I wouldn't rate this park very dog-friendly even though I did see a few dogs on hiking trails and in the campground. I think I'll come back on a cool autumn day to make the climb to the top and take in the view of the fall colors... although Charlie will just have to take my word for it since she isn't allowed at the top.

Have you ever been tempted to explore a place that you've driven past a thousand times?