Five questions for "50 Hikes" authors
Hiking "season," if there is one -- some people even love to muck about on snow-covered trails! -- is upon us and we thought it the perfect time to posit a few questions to Wisconsin's hiking experts: John and Ellen Morgan.
The Morgans, from Madison, are authors of "50 Hikes in Wisconsin," which offers advice on hiking on trails all across our beautiful state. Here are five questions about "50 Hikes."
OK, you can do one hike this year in Wisconsin. Which one and why?
Ellen: I would have to say the Perrot Ridge Trail at Perrot State Park (Hike #23). It's the shortest hike in the book, and probably the toughest. But you get a great view of the state when you've scrambled up onto the ridge, completely isolated, and you look around at the beautiful view and you just say "Whoa!" You feel pretty accomplished when you get done with this hike.
John: I'm not quite as willing to show my cards. I'm going with Stockton Island (Hike #1) which is a part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, but only because it's hike number one in the book. If I had to pick one, I'd go with the first one in hopes that I could hike the second one after it and so on. They're all great hikes; it's too hard for me to choose.
What makes for the perfect hike?
Ellen: I like a little diversity. A few challenging hills, hiking through wildflowers in bloom in a prairie and the shaded cover of the tall hardwoods and pines. I absolutely love hiking through tall red pines, with the smell of the woods and the pine needle beds underfoot. Throw in a light breeze to keep the bugs away, and I'm all set. I could hike all afternoon.
John: Me, too, in a sense. I like to go with the 'whoa factor.' I like to get done and feel sweaty and dizzy and have just completed a taxing and scenic hike through some sort of unique terrain. While I too love the pines, I really like those single-track trails that meander through aspen trees or young maples and are bordered by bright green fescue.
What are the key items to bring when going hiking -- and what about footwear?
Ellen: WATER, WATER, WATER...and snacks. You should try to stay fueled up and hydrated during your hikes. Also, good footwear is a must. They should be comfortable and have good ankle support. If possible, find a good waterproof pair, so you can tromp through puddles and wet, muddy trails without worrying about getting your feet wet.
John: And, to plug the book a bit, we cover a lot of stuff like this in the Introduction and we try to give some solid and detailed advice on questions like these. So, as a guy who usually skips introductions because I want to get to the cool stuff, please check out the introduction -- there's cool stuff! And, as for boots, I'd say you MUST have a waterproof pair. It's like tires for a car: get the all-season ones; they're better and more diverse in their use. Expect to pay $100 to $200 for a good pair of boots. But, bear in mind; we're on year five of ours. Had we bought $50 boots, we'd be on pair five by now.
What are we going to do about all these mosquitoes this year? It's making life miserable for hikers, isn't it?
John: What do you mean 'hikers,' I can't make the 10-foot walk to my grill without getting nabbed! It's Wisconsin. It's our state bird. What can you do besides prepare for them and grin and bear it?
Ellen: The mosquitoes are awful this year, but they don't have to slow you down. You can ward off mosquitoes when you're hiking by wearing long sleeves and long pants. It might be a little less comfortable on a hot day, but it beats constantly swatting at them while you're trying to enjoy your hike in the woods. Find some bug spray or bug lotion and hit any exposed skin not covered by clothing. If that doesn't quite do it, you can even wear a bug net to keep the mosquitoes away from your face and neck.
John: We pack shorts, t-shirts and sandals in the car and change once we're done hiking for the day. Thus, being a bit hot on the hike isn't so bad if you can change later on.
Which hike do you recommend for beginners here in the southeastern part of the state?
Ellen: Horicon Marsh (Hike #42), Lake Kegonsa S.P. (Hike #43), Wehr Nature Center (Hike #49), Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (Hike #48), or Nashotah County Park (Hike #45) would all be suitable for beginners or children. They all have excellent trails (i.e. good footing), are not overly long, but offer many views. Nashotah is a little more challenging in terms of terrain than the others. Lake Kegonsa and Wehr Nature Center also offer self-guided nature trails.
John: I'd add Richard Bong State Recreation Area (Hike #50). It's south of Milwaukee about 45-minutes and is a relatively flat hike. There's also a nature center there, and they do programs for families. But, this hike is a bit longer. In all there are about 10 hikes that are within an hour and a half of downtown Milwaukee -- some of which are in the beautiful Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Also, as readers will learn, we hiked every foot of all of these trails and provide a detailed run-through of each trail in each chapter. We also provide a difficulty rating that takes into account elevation change, terrain and distance. Thus, it should be relatively easy to find hikes that fit your ability level.
"50 Hikes in Wisconsin" is published by Countryman Press/W.W. Norton and is available at all bookshops.
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