Sunday, January 22, 2017

Blue Spring Lake Segment of the Ice Age Trail

Greeted by cold stillness, I headed up the Blue Spring Lake Segment of Ice Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IAT) early one cold January morning. Just when I felt enveloped by silence, the hoot of an owl startled me raising my heart rate to about double. No matter how many hikes and camping trips I take, I don't ever seem to lose my jumpiness at sounds in the darkness.

I fully expected a view of Blue Springs Lake from the IAT at some point along this segment. I came away finding it strange that one never does actually get to see Blue Spring Lake on the Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT. The beauty of the Segment makes up for this, and comes from its hilliness with views down into valleys and across occasional openings in the forest. The highlight of this segment is the Stone Elephant. In the horse and buggy days people traveled for miles to view this granite erratic. Since there is a viewing bench, I decided to stop in for a visit myself.

Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT.
Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT.

Spur trail to the Stone Elephant.

The Stone Elephant.

The trail crosses plenty of roads and snowmobile paths, and this is a fairly popular segment. I never got an "alone in the wilderness" feeling on this hike as in many areas I heard traffic and barking dogs. Also, I ran into joggers, teen hunters, dog walkers, and other hikers despite the fairly cold weather. Where it lacks in solitude, this segment excels in beauty and the wonderful hilliness we associate with the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

View from Bald Bluff

Along the Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT.
Along the Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT.

Old barn along the Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT

Along the Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT.

At the Emma Carlin Trail Head.

After a time, the trail heads through the Horse Riders Camp and past an old barn through an additional hilly forested area. Parking at the north end of the segment can be found at the Emma Carlin Trail Head. As I didn't have shuttles, I hiked this trail twice, once out and once back. Also, due to a personal obligation I did not have enough time to do the entire out and back on the first trip, so I broke the hike into two parts, returning a second day to finish.

That's all for now. Let's get out doors and keep our wild places wild!

Map of the Blue Spring Lake Segment of the IAT.

Total Distance Covered -  14 miles (22.5 km) total,  7 miles (11.3 km) one way. 

Difficulty - Moderate with hills throughout.

Trail Conditions - Blazed and well trodden trails. Frozen footprints made for slippery, icy walking 10°F (-12C) on day 1. Wet, with water over slipper ice and 40°F (4C) on day 2.

Highlights -  Scenic views overlooking the surrounding countryside with hilly glacial terrain, the stone elephant.

Total Ice Age Trail Miles to Date - Total official trail distance completed  248 miles (399 km).

Amenities - There are restrooms at the Emma Carlin trailhead and at the horse camp. Camping is available at the horse camp  

Location - IAT trailhead parking areas - the Bald Bluff Trail Head on Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive and the Emma Carlin Trail Head on County Road Z in Palmyra.

Concerns - Due to hard packed ice on the trail, hiking poles and footwear designed to grip the ice are required. Look out for horse and dog poop throughout this popular segment of trail, which is quite abundant now that the snow has melted. Ran into teen hunters shooting from the trail - wear something orange.

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