It’s 75 miles across Lake Michigan aboard the Lake Express car ferry, Muskegon to Milwaukee. Often nicknamed the vomit comet, perhaps unfairly, as I have always had pleasant crossing experiences and missing Chicago traffic makes me want to skip like a kid through spring wildflowers. A wedding in Wisconsin was the catalyst for a long weekend just one state over from the Mitten. This trip reminds me how close adventure is to us all and how travel does not need to include airplane tickets… boat tickets instead.
And, as a reminder, make your plans but know that Mother Nature is in charge, not you! So, our biking plans turned to hiking on a Friday after days of rain left the Kettle Moraine State Forest soggy and un-rideable. Just 45 minutes southwest of Milwaukee, we drove into the Emma Carlin parking lot to an ALL TRAILS CLOSED sign. After regrouping and battling disappointment we drove to a bike shop in LeGrange for supplies and trail advice. We left with some Spotted Cow Farmhouse Ale and directions to Bald Bluff trail. I’ve heard it many times from bike shops all over the U.S….. there is a hiker in every biker!
Bald Bluff had some nice undulations to test our legs and the narrow trail was lined with tall-petaled wild flowers in bright pinks, purple and yellows. We found the Stone Elephant, a massive boulder deposited in Wisconsin courtesy of Canada and a massive glacier. 20,000 years ago, this ice sheet deposited glacial ice below the surface, creating the “kettles” before it melted away. After a solid two hours of hiking, feeling as if we had earned some calories, we drove through some more small towns, Palmyra then into Whitewater.
Apparently, cheese curds really are a thing in Wisconsin, evidenced by their frequent appearance on all menus. At Second Salem Brewing we did try the cheese soup, dunking pretzel bites alongside some locally-brewed beers. With full bellies we headed to our Pinewoods hike-in campsite for a campfire and a night under the stars. Try campsite 28 for 300 extra feet of privacy up a short hill complete with a private outhouse!
We traded camping for an overpriced hotel in nearby West Bend for the privilege of celebrating a marriage of two festival friends, Melissa and Sean. Lac Lawrann Conservancy hosted a perfect outdoor ceremony and barn reception where love, music and camaraderie ruled the night. Luckily, clear skies continued and the trails reopened on Sunday in Kettle Moraine South. Between the Emma Carlin and John Muir sections, there is over 40 miles of single-track to ride. We made it around about 10 of the 40 on the green, orange and brown loops. The signature Midwest humidity had us glistening on the first hill, thankfully the thick hardwood forest providing shade. Just one state over, the personality of the trails is quite different, namely the addition of rocks and boulders along with roots, overhanging foliage and plenty of mosquitos. The rocky trail required laser-like attentiveness to prevent an un-seating around tight corners and burms.
Satisfied with our ride and thankful we were able to use our bikes that we hauled across the lake, it was time to meander back to the Mitten. Booked on the last boat home, we had time to find some bites and beer that afternoon. After securing advice that MobCraft Beer was worth a stop, we drove downtown to Walker’s Point Historic District. They had a large selection of sours and eclectic fusions that we learned are crowd-sourced. Submit your idea for a beer and it just might be brewed at MobCraft. Josh was all smiles over the selection of sours, thumbing up the Strawberry version and buying several bottles to take home. With bike and beer exploration complete, we queued the car for the ferry and crossed the inland sea to the next state over at dusk.