Saturday, February 20, 2016

Monticello Segment of the Ice Age Trail

To hike the Monticello Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, I parked at the Old Train Depot on Pratt Road in Monticello, WI. The parking lot is large with restrooms and refurbished buildings, all currently closed for the season. The Ice Age Trail (IAT) is not yellow-blazed on this segment, but the multi-use trails it follows are easy to find and follow. Heading north, I crossed County Highway C, and transitioned from the Sugar River Trail to the Badger State Trail. Not switching to the Badger State trail would have resulted in a walk to New Glarus rather than a walk through the Stewart Tunnel.

Set on getting a few IAT miles in, I followed the Badger State Trail across the wooden bridge over the Sugar River, eventually crossing the Marshall Bluff Road, Exeter Crossing, and Tunnel Road before approaching the Stewart Tunnel. The water lubricated hard-packed ice on the trail made my Yaktrax and hiking poles a necessity, although a few areas proved wet and mucky once the sun warmed things up.

Monticello, WI from the Sugar River Trail / IAT

Badger State Trail / IAT

Badger State Trail / IAT

The Sugar River at Sunrise

Sugar River

Not looking forward the Stewart Tunnel, I brought a flashlight along and felt glad to have it. Turns out the tunnel curves a bit such that the light at the end of the tunnel cannot be seen for a stretch. I startled a couple of large birds in the tunnel and they startled me right back. Although the below-ground temperature is said to be around 55°F, the air coming through the tunnel had turned water dripping into the tunnel into ice. Despite the birds and the darkness, the Stewart Tunnel provided welcomed relief to the slippery, icy trail, at least for the few minutes it takes to walk 1,280 feet (390 meters). 

The Stewart Tunnel

Ice in the Stewart Tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel.

When I reached Tunnel Road for the second time, I was at the point I had left off on my last hike, so I turned around and backtracked back to the car. 

Map of today's hike, minus the lost signal through the Stewart Tunnel

Trail Conditions - Majority of trail covered with water-lubricated hard-packed ice. Required my Yaktrax and hiking poles.

Total Distance Covered  - 11.1 miles (17.9 km) out and back.

Difficulty - Easy and flat, but today's icy slipperiness on the Monticello Segment will slow you down.

Highlights - A number of blue-jays along the trail along with other songbirds. Warmed up the 49°F (9.4°C). 

Concerns - Bring Yaktrax or micro-spikes if icy. Watch your step, plenty of dog poop on the trail.

Location - Parked at the Badger River State Trail / Sugar River State Trail parking area on Pratt Road in Monticello, WI at the Old Train Depot.

Total Official Ice Age Trail Miles Completed to Date - Total official Ice Age Trail distance completed 141 miles (225 km).  

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