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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mecan Segment Part 1 - Flowers and Showers

While perusing the Thousand Miler Wannabe Facebook page I saw a post from Natalie about the wildflower explosion on the Mecan segment of the Ice Age Trail and decided that was the place I needed to be hiking on Saturday morning.

After a short day at work on Friday I headed north to the tiny town of Hancock and set up camp at Tomorrow Wood Campground.  I got a site for $25 a night, quite the sticker shock for the gal who is used to paying $12 or $15 for a site at a Wisconsin state park where I get a site as big as some folks' back yards.  However, the campground is nicer than the one run by the city and cheaper than the nearby KOA.  They have 170 sites but most look seasonal and some look kind of permanent.  Toward the back is where the short stay sites appear to be located, along with the shower building.  Most sites had a picnic table but mine did not, but I chose it for its location away from other campers and its openness which I correctly assumed I wouldn't have to be fighting off mosquitoes or ticks.  The tent sites are right next to the road, but there was no traffic so the only sounds I heard that night were cows mooing from a nearby farm.  The shower building that services the back 50+ sites is ancient and the ladies consisted of two toilets and two showers...and one outlet.  They were fairly clean but they should look into updating since one of the toilets was so decrepit I couldn't tell if it was clean or not and used the other one.  The owners were very friendly and free wifi was available down at the office where lots of folks came in and out to get ice cream cones.  Not a destination campground in my opinion, but overall it was good.

In the morning I was up early and in the parking lot trying to figure out what to take and what to leave behind.  I'd tossed out a comment on FB hoping for a shuttle back, but wanted to make sure I was adequately supplied if I decided to do the whole 7.2 miles and then have to walk the roads back.   I bought an Osprey pack almost a year and a half ago now in anticipation of doing an overnight hike (that still hasn't happened) and I brought it along to give it a test run.  I had plenty of room leftover for my Kelty air mattress and my tent even with tucking camera lenses into the outer pouches and the pack was very comfortable for hours.  Now I just need to plan an overnight hike...

Right away the segment switched from grassy to a more open sandy feel which left me free from worrying about ticks and mosquitoes for awhile.  I saw Hoary Puccoon, Yarrow, Hawkweed, Prairie Rose and other wildflowers but knew from Natalie's post that the big show was yet to come.

A big erratic on the side of the trail as I headed into the woods

The trail cut in to a piney woods for a short time where a bench big enough for an ogre was located outside of a dispersed camping area.  I'm hoping to get up to Cross Plains and the IATA headquarters soon and maybe they can help me figure out a good way to take advantage of one of these sites and plan that overnight hike...preferably when tick and skeeter season winds down.

When I emerged from the pines, this is what I found.

The hills were alive, not with the sound of music, but with wildflowers!  Hoary Alyssum, Tufted Vetch, Butter and Eggs, Clover, Hawkweed and more sprawled across the rolling terrain.

Butter and Eggs, just look, don't eat!

Each hill I topped showed a different array of color combinations and the trail markers led me on.

The sky continued to darken as I lingered with the flowers and I realized that the rain might be coming early.  Sure enough, as soon as I crossed the flower field the rain started coming down and I had to cover my camera, then myself, then my pack.  Onward I marched through a connecting grassland, the wet grass soon soaking me up to my hips but I kept my head down and plodded on.

When I crossed Chicago Road I entered the Mecan Springs State Natural Area but with the rain still coming down there wasn't much time for looking around.

I did pause long enough to pull out my iPhone and get a picture of the trail log, which is the first time I've seen one on the IAT.

Inside was an inscription from Natalie herself, which brought a smile to my face and I added my own entry behind hers.

The rain was winding down and a quick look at my weather app showed that I might be in the only section of Wisconsin that wasn't going to be nailed with storms all day so I relaxed a little.  Not so much that I took advantage of a mattress someone had tossed out next to the trail though.

Just dumping it?  Did someone come out and lay on the hillside to enjoy the views of the headwaters of the Mecan River below?  Who knows.

There were signs at the beginning of the SNA about ticks, and sure enough, when I stopped to take this picture three jumped on me looking for a ride.

Steep hillside

Luckily I spotted them and no more tried to join me as I continued on, well, at least not for a few miles since I exited the woods shortly afterward.

This guy wouldn't shut up!  Noisy!

I'll share the rest tomorrow, too many pictures for just one post!


  1. Ha, ha, I liked the your "wet selfie!" I've taken a couple of those myself. Nice flower fields. It's fun to come upon a huge mass of wildflowers. The flowers are peaking here - already! Way too early.....

  2. Back in the 70's, my folks and brother both had seasonal sites at Tomorrow Wood. The bathrooms are probably the same ones. ;)

    1. That's too funny! Of all the campgrounds in Wisconsin.

  3. When I saw your gorgeous wildflowers, I was getting jealous. But the rain stopped me. That is an amazing picture of the pileated woodpecker. They're supposed to be so shy.

  4. When I saw your gorgeous wildflowers, I was getting jealous. But the rain stopped me. That is an amazing picture of the pileated woodpecker. They're supposed to be so shy.

  5. When I saw your gorgeous wildflowers, I was getting jealous. But the rain stopped me. That is an amazing picture of the pileated woodpecker. They're supposed to be so shy.

  6. Nice walk though like you not keen on Ticks. Over in the UK you can pick up ticks depending where you go. Most likely they will jump on a dog rather than a human. The link is a photo I took of one of the ticks our dock picked up a few years ago in Scotland. It's about 16th of an inch in size or a bit smaller, it was a deer tick that was picked up in a forest. They are not somting I worry about though my wife does at times. You might need some rainware here as well

  7. You are certainly one dedicated hiker and outdoors woman:) The field of wildflowers was beautiful. I was glad we hiked through Arizona, Utah, and Colorado right at the perfect time for the wildflowers. Love your dripping photo:)