Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ice Age Trail: Verona Segment

On the return trip home from our Christmas holiday, Charlie and I stopped at Prairie Moraine County Park to hike a small section of the Verona Segment. As chance would have it, I had pulled off at this exit twice this past summer to stop at the gas station and let Charlie go potty... I had no idea that a segment of the Ice Age Trail was located just a mile down the road!

I continue to be amazed at how accessible, yet relatively unknown, this trail is.
Even more ironic is that this segment borders a heavily used off-leash dog park that shares the same parking lot. So if you're hiking with your dog, the dog park is an excellent spot to let them romp off-leash before or after the hike.

Charlie looking toward the Dog Exercise Area from the Ice Age Trail.

Since Charlie is a bit fear-aggressive toward most other dogs, we avoid dog parks and take full advantage of hiking on the Ice Age Trail where no one else had ventured. As with most hiking trails in Wisconsin, dogs are required to be leashed at all times on the trail.

As the name of the county park implies, this area is mostly "prairie" which makes it hard to appreciate during winter months, but winter has a way of simplifying the landscape allowing you to see things differently. We have had the opportunity to hike the same segments during different seasons and I can guarantee that the trail offers something completely new every time we hike it; don't avoid hiking just because it is winter!

Because the snow was at least a foot deep on most parts of the trail, we only hiked for about 30 minutes - just enough to get our heart rate up and stretch our legs before continuing on with the long drive.

Approaching the moraine.

We climbed the switchbacks up from the trail head to the top of the Johnstown End Moraine - which marks the furthest advance of the Green Bay Lobe and according to the IAT Companion Guide is on St. Peter Sandstone bedrock. At the top of the moraine sits an open-grown bur oak tree that predates European settlement.

Open-grown bur oak tree at top of moraine.

It's a bit surreal appreciating these ancient glacial landmarks while busy traffic on nearby County Highway PD buzzes past and people are romping with their dogs below; geological history surrounds us on a daily basis and generally goes unnoticed.

If we had continued hiking, we would have come to a spur trail leading to an observation deck revealing views of a ravine in the moraine cut by meltwater and the Sugar River Valley in the Driftless Area to the south, however Charlie was tiring out from plowing through the deep snow so we turned back.

After returning home and Googling images of this segment, I'm curious to explore further in the early summer when the prairie flowers are in full bloom and being surrounded by the birds and butterflies that are drawn to these flowers.