Sunday, January 17, 2016

Montrose Segment of the Ice Age Trail

Astronomical twilight tempered the darkness to a nearly imperceptible extent as I parked at the Badger State Trail parking area on Sayles Trail. Able to see only a tunnel of white heading into a sea of black and the twinkling stars above, I headed south on the National Scenic Ice Age Trail (IAT). This portion of the IAT overlaps with the Badger State trail, a 40 mile multi-use trail that travels from Madison to the Illinois border.

The Badger State Trail, heavily used for bicycling in the summer, is well trampled in the winter leaving it filled with frozen lumps and ruts. The hard lumps, not yet visible in the darkness, were a menace underfoot making my hiking poles a near necessity. I heard the silence, broken only once by the sound of turkeys gobbling nearby. The smells of manure and wood smoke painted images in my mind. I imagined red barns and adjoining farm houses with lace curtains in their windows and cozy fireplaces burning standing nearby. As dawn arrived, the surface of the trail became visible, and the walking became easier.

Hiking before dawn affords opportunities to watch the world awaken. In this visual world, it allows the "other" senses to become heightened. It's an opportunity to step out my comfort zone. I enjoy the stillness and peace that blankets the earth in the early hours. This stillness and peace makes starting a hike in the predawn a rare and luxurious treat.

The IAT overlaps with the Badger State Trail heading south, crossing a few country roads and farm driveways along the way. For the most part the Badger State Trail is a tree-lined rail trail through farmlands. The trail is adorned with the occasional bridge, and near one bridge some of the trees were decorated with Christmas ornaments.

After several miles, the IAT leaves the Badger State Trail, heads briefly east through a stand of trees and a field, then south again along Pillar Road. The IAT parallels and then joins Pillar Road, leading to the parking area across Frenchtown Road. This parking area is about 4.75 miles (7.6 km) from the Sayles Trail parking area. Given the cold and the wear and tear on my ankles and knees from hoofing over the lumps of ice and snow on the Badger State Trail, I chose to turn around at the parking area and hike back to the car saving the last bit of the Montrose Segment for another day.

Badger State Trail, Montrose Segment of the IAT.

Badger State Trail, Montrose Segment of the IAT.

Badger State Trail, Montrose Segment of the IAT.

Badger State Trail, Montrose Segment of the IAT.
Montrose Segment of the IAT, Pillar Road.


Trail Conditions - Well trampled snow, frozen into hard lumps on the more well-traveled Badger State Trail portion.

Distance Covered  - 9.5 miles (15.3 km) out and back.

Difficulty - Easy, but the frozen lumps on the Badger State Trail portion made walking more grueling than expected.

Location - Parked at the Badger State Trail parking area on Sayles Trail in Belleville.

Highlights - Watching dawn's arrival, icicles hanging from trail-side rocks.

Total Official Ice Age Trail Miles Completed to Date - Total official Ice Age Trail distance completed 124 miles (199 km). Trail 64 miles (103 km), connecting route 60 miles (96 km).

Total Additional Backtracking Miles Completed - 109  miles (175 km). 

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