NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Disappointment in Portage

Here's a picture from the Ice Age Trail Guidebook regarding the Portage segment.  See how helpful?  Most roads not labeled, even the ones where the parking lots are located.  Notice the 12.4 connecting miles to one segment at the right of the page and the 21.7 miles to the other segment noted at the bottom.

Downtown Portage itself is a little charming, I drove through it while trying to make my way to the trailhead.

I liked the City Bank of Portage building, very Art Deco or maybe it's Streamline Moderne, right down to the deposit box.  Otherwise there didn't seem to be much to get excited about as far as architecture goes.

Finding the trailhead was a nightmare.  My new GPS couldn't find Agency House Road or the Historic Indian Agency House or any combination of those words.  I visited the website for the museum's specific address and still no go.  I drove up and down the main road until I finally spotted a small sign that got me going in the right direction.  The road the lot is on actually is unnamed, but the intersection pictured below is Albert Road and Hwy 33.

I stopped in to the Agency House visitor building for a few minutes, looked at a few displays and used their bathroom.  Not much to see, in my opinion.  I did like the sketch below showing the agency house in the mid 1800's.

The trailhead is a little further down the road and I parked, sprayed up for mosquitoes and crossed the bridge.  I made it about five minutes down the trail before I turned around and jogged back to the car because the mosquitoes were eating me alive. No way was I tolerating that for over a mile.

Marquette segment now closed

Portage Canal

Next place I could access the trail a mile down and I discovered that all the "trail" consisted of was a stroll through a series of rundown industrial buildings for half a mile on the road I was driving on.  I kept driving until I got to the old feed mill that at least was fun to look at thanks to the chicken outside.

From there the trail popped onto a bike path for a few blocks and then back on to a residential street for a few more.  The only place of note along the way was a Greek Revival home at 506 Edgewater Street built by Pulitzer Prize winning author Zona Gale in 1906.  The rest of the residential area was drab and uninspired.

Across the street from that building I spotted some cool sedum growing on top of someone's retaining wall in the front yard.

At this point there is maybe half a mile left to the "trail" and I said to hell with it and just drove to the end to look at the view of the Wisconsin River.

The only other thing that was worth looking at was a mural I spotted while driving around which depicts the canal and the feed mill.  Portage was a weird choice for a town for a hiker to walk through on foot for the IAT, especially with no trail in either direction for so many miles and not much to look at while in town, at least on the marked trail.  And the lady who gave me a ride to the Verona segment the other day confided there are only a few more trail miles planned to be added in the next 5 years and that a few that cross private land are being taken away.  Seems they've hit a wall acquiring access for the trail.  I hope other states that are attempting these kinds of trails are having better luck because truthfully I think they would have been better off just leaving each area with their own trails of interest instead of attempting to "connect" them into a whole that doesn't even come close to being cohesive.

Just my cranky opinion, linking up to Monday Mural.  I've got one more post about the IAT that is more favorable and then I'm taking a break from it for a few months at least, starting with a solo trip up to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore later this week to try and beat the heat!  I know I won't be disappointed up there and there are miles of trail unexplored on the Grand Marais end, I just hope I luck in to a campsite since the reservable ones are all taken, and that the ticks and mosquitoes are starting to dwindle a bit too.

I'm actually starting to make my peace with the ticks, (I can't believe I just said that, I'm sure I'll change my mind if they get in my hair again) but the mosquitoes are another story, all that smacking and itching and my allergies won't tolerate insect repellent so I'm just doomed!  Anybody else going to be in the U.P. this weekend??


  1. That Ice Age trail is a disappointment. I won't be in the U.P. this weekend, but I envy the fact you will be. We drove past Pictured Rocks Nat'l Lakeshore a few years ago and DIDN'T STOP! (I guess we were on our way to somewhere else in a time crunch.) You know what this means, don't you? We'll just have to go back. Hopefully the skeeters and (horror) ticks will be nonexistent or down to a dull roar up there. Have fun!

  2. It's interesting to me that someone would paint a mural and attach it to an old barn out in the middle of nowhere. It's a sweet image from yesteryear and I'm glad you found it. Thanks for contributing to this week's Monday Mural.