After another peaceful night in the Ford Escape, I was up by 6:15 a.m. and ready to start the day. The sunset last night overlooked the Mississippi River. Below, the sunrise was peeking up on the Wisconsin River. There was still a chill in the air, so I decided to delay coffee and breakfast, getting in an early morning hike.
Less than 100 yards east of my campsite, the Old Immigrant trail left the Ridge Campground and descended down the bluff through dense hardwoods and crossed a small stream. Here, the trail followed the river.
As I hiked through the deep woods next to the slowly moving waters, my first thought was that I was lucky to be hiking before the official start of mosquito season. The weather had been cool enough that no bloodthirsty flying attackers were aware of my presence. My body is a natural magnet for mosquitoes. I sauntered along the river bank, knowing that I would be unable to do so without heavy DEET repellent assistance in just a few weeks.
After 2.6 miles, the Old Immigrant Trail turns uphill (present signs called this subpart the Indian Trail). About two-thirds of the way up the bluff, I turned and followed the Sentinel Ridge Trail east back towards the Ridge Campground. Just before reaching the top, there is a side trail leading steeply back down for a short distance to the Treasure Cave.
I’m not a cave lover, but i was curious to see the trail leading down to the cave and perhaps would step a few feet into the entrance. The trail down was worthwhile and included a natural stone opening that was striking.
Unfortunately, as the third thumbnail photo above indicates when you click on it, the cave itself is closed before May15 to protect bats threatened by White Nose Syndrome. I just wish the sign had been placed at the top of the steep trail rather than the entrance to the cave below. Turning back uphill, I followed the Sentinel Ridge Trail back to the concession area and Ridge Campground. Here, I took some time to prepare breakfast (scrambled eggs with goat cheese and warmed corn tortillas), washed down with a pot of coffee prepared with the French press.
A number trails that cross through the interior of the park and away from the river. However, I am a sucker for water views, so I eliminated those from consideration for my second morning hike. After breakfast, I headed back out on the Sentinel Trail and followed that trail west and then south as it followed the bluffs above the Mississippi River. This trail is 3.2 miles round trip and is not a loop. The Sentinel Ridge Trail ends at the bottom of the bluffs at the park boundary. From here, I crossed the railroad tracks and walked a short distance to the boat landing, which is part of the federal wildlife refuge on the Mississippi River.
A dock leads out to a fishing platform where a fishermen worked two poles. I plopped my butt down on the blacktop near the boat landing and settled in to watch the river roll on by. I saw a pair of bald eagles fishing also. These were not the only bald eagles that I saw. This area boasts a large number of year-round bald eagles, which have started nesting again. Numerous turkey vultures also fly along the bluffs.
I wish I had photographic proof, but i have given up on taking photos of birds with my Iphone camera. The bird “dots” in the photos don’t do justice. The effort in capturing the bird dots was outweighed by my unfettered joy in simply watching these birds soar.
I crossed the tracks and headed back up the bluff. Five minutes after leaving, another train rolled by. Trains are much easier to photograph.
That afternoon, I finished my C.J Box novel and started reading the parts of the Wall Street Journal that I had not yet used to start fires. It was a warm, windy afternoon. A family with an energetic, noisy and unleashed dog set up a large barrel-shaped tent on the very edge of the buff of the adjacent campsite. They immediately left for several hours. That proved to be an unwise choice, as the high winds ate their tent up and knocked it down. Returning in the early evening , the family packed up and went home.
Not entirely sad to have my part of the bluff to myself again, I dined on cheeseburgers fried on the backpack stove and washed down with Dogfish 60 minute IPA’s. My legs were pleasantly sore and tired. Shortly after sunset, with nothing left to read, I turned in early and slept well again.
In the morning, I made coffee and a quick breakfast of eggs and toast. Breaking down camp was easy without a tent to pack up and with my sleeping bag already in the car. I took the slow way home, which was to follow Hwy 60 along the Wisconsin River. Passing through Sauk City, the loons were migrating through on the river. The photographers were out in force with huge telescopic lenses. I pulled over and simply enjoyed the view.