Tuesday, October 15, 2013

IAT: John Muir Segment (Treasure Hunt Ends)

After a fun-filled and relaxing weekend spent with family, Charlie and I headed back home last Sunday afternoon. Driving through Madison was stressful and nerve-wracking, leaving me short of breath at times and gripping the steering wheel tightly. Traffic was unusually dense for a weekend and I was almost side-swiped by a vehicle changing lanes. Just out of town and back on the Interstate, I witnessed the tire of a semi truck blow up and shred off its rim right in front of me; a cloud of dust and pieces of rubber flew everywhere. I slammed on the brakes and swerved, narrowly missing a long strip of rubber in the middle of my lane. Having recently just got my car fixed from the vandalism incident, I was starting to feel like I was doomed for another repair.

In order to calm myself and be able to continue on our journey home, I decided to pull off the highway and go hiking. Going into the woods always makes everything better. Plus it was a gorgeous sunny day with crisp temps in the 60's and I wanted to enjoy some fresh air instead of spending all day driving in my car. We headed for a segment of the Ice Age Trail where the treasure hunt for the Our Wisconsin magazine had just ended - John Muir Memorial Park in the Town of Buffalo.

At first glance this park doesn't look like much. There's a tiny picnic shelter, a sign kiosk near the trail head for the IAT segment and pit toilets with no doors on the stalls (seriously, anyone could walk in and see your lady-bits hanging out!). A very nice boat launch is available for non-motorized boats and there's a small baseball field, but otherwise it's pretty simple with very few amenities. However, if you do a little research prior to arriving, you'll find that this is a very special park indeed!

The lake itself is a 30-acre kettle lake, and on this particular day it was vibrant blue, full of sun sparkles and reflecting the colors of the season along its shore. Upon further Google research (later in the day), I found a really nice piece written up by Kara Silva for the Chicago Tribune back in April of this year. She fully researched the historical importance of this area and captured the feeling of hiking the trail in late winter. I highly recommend reading her article, Where 'Green' Began.

The trail begins in a prairie, filled with tall grasses, glowing gold in the late-day light of October. A soft and sandy trail winds its way into oak groves as it follows the curve of the lake. The dwindling canopy reveals intermittent views of the cobalt blue lake and marsh birds flitting about in the reeds. Large oak limbs, like arms, reach out over the trail with branches tapering into fingertips, pointing toward the lake as if beckoning you to enjoy the view.

Learning about the significance that John Muir had in the creation of America's National Parks and his connection with Wisconsin will give you shivers as you explore this park and realize that you are standing on the same earth that this man grew up on. It's quite an experience.

And then there is the car.

This car has been like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow dangling in front of me for months as I searched parks all across the state for the hidden key. I had a feeling all along that I wouldn't be the one to find the key. Most events in my life are tainted by Murphy's Law; I am not a lucky person. But I offer my congratulations to the winners and hope they enjoy driving their new car; it really is a great vehicle.