I have seen many beautiful photos on FB over the years from friends who have gone hiking there, but I had never been there. So when my husband and I were deciding what to do on our next Sunday Funday I said I wanted to go to this park. We looked it up on the Internet and thought we knew where we going. Now, keep in mind, even though we have lived in Eau Claire for 25 years, this is not a easy city to navigate. The Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers run all through the city, so there are lots of bridges and twists and turns that make no logical sense.
My husband drove to where he thought the park was. We did see one tiny sign with a arrow pointing in the direction of the park. We headed up that road and reached a dead end with a small gravel parking pad. "Can this seriously be it?" we thought. There were two worn paths leading off of the parking pad, so we decided to take one of them. The first one followed a chain link fence. We walked on that one, then determined to turn around and get on the other path, because it didn't seem to be a real path. How odd that there were no signs stating we were at the park, and no trail maps.
The second path was much nicer. And we did meet other hikers on this path, so even though there were not any maps, at least we felt we were on a designated trail. It was a very short climb to this rock...one I recognized immediately because I saw it on FB so many times. "Yes!" I said to my husband, "We really are in the right place!"
When you climb up on this rock from the other side, you get this view. The Chippewa River is in the background and the city of Eau Claire can be seen on the right (not visible in this picture).
Well, after we climbed to the top I said to my husband "Is that all this park is? Just some rugged trails in the woods to get to this viewpoint?" He said "I guess so." It just didn't seem right to me. People always posted such amazing pictures of this place. I felt we were missing something. But we agreed to just have lunch and then call it a day.
My husband did surprise me by taking me to a new restaurant that just opened up in Eau Claire: "Cowboy Jacks"! It is located in a swanky new development in Eau Claire (actually the city of Altoona) right next to the Eau Claire River.
"Cowboy Jacks" offers both indoor and outdoor dining...and the outdoor dining is AMAZING! I can't even begin to tell you how amazing this place is! FINALLY Eau Claire has a exciting restaurant with great ambiance that one usually only finds in bigger cities.
It was super hot this day, and we were overheated from hiking, so we chose to eat inside and enjoy the air conditioning. Although I can't wait to go back and enjoy the outdoor dining soon. The interior decor was so fun! It was very difficult to get quality pictures with the dim lighting, but I did my best.
All the decor was western from the top of the ceiling to the floor. I loved this wagon wheel light fixture.
The restaurant had a sports bar atmosphere so there were T.V.s and screens everywhere playing all different sports.
There was a huge fieldstone fireplace on the back wall, and the windows had river views.
They have a variety of seating options from booths and bar stools, and even this couch! Great for having late night drinks or coffee!
The menu was fabulous. They offer a variety of burgers (including buffalo burgers), sandwiches, salads, wraps, fish, barbecue, and more. I ordered a wrap and my husband got a patty melt. Everything was absolutely delicious, but a bit on the pricey side for us. I ended up only being able to eat about half my wrap because it was so huge; it was then that we determined if we came back, to split a meal to save money since I can't eat it all anyway.
They have very unique twisty french fries. They are so yummy!
Now don't laugh, but my favorite part of my meal was this Raspberry Ice Tea. Maybe I was dehydrated from the heat and hiking, but this tea was SO GOOD! I think I downed three glasses, I loved it so much!
I seriously cannot believe anything as cool as this place is in Eau Claire, Wisconsin!
The outdoor seating was a mix of booths, patio furniture, a bar seating area, and even swings. Yes, you heard me correctly, swings! See the table at the top end of the picture under the pergola? There are two swings the children are sitting in.
I noticed they was construction going on next too this restaurant. I wonder what else they plan on building here? So EXCITING!
This is the outdoor bar area. I love the fire pit! It reminds me of a lot of the restaurants in Florida.
Now I'm sure anyone who lives in a big city is probably laughing at my giddiness over this restaurant, but seriously, I've lived here over 25 years, and the most exciting restaurant in town was Texas Roadhouse, so this is really something special to me! I usually only see restaurants like this when I travel.
But now, back to Mt. Simon Park. When we got home, I looked Mt. Simon Park up on the Internet again and saw lots of pictures of areas we did not see. So, my husband and I determined to go back the following weekend.
On our second visit, we found the main entrance to the park. There was a playground, and an actual sign with the name of the park. There was a road leading into the park which comes to a dead end. There is a boat landing there, along with pavilions to picnic in. But I still didn't see any trail maps. We found two unmarked trails. One went up, away from the river, and into the woods. We didn't take that one because we figured it would just take us to the peak of Mt. Simon, where we were the week before. So we decided on the trail next to the river. It was a nice trail, but very rugged and I didn't have the correct footwear so unfortunately we couldn't walk far before we had to turn around.
If you saw Monday's Fashion Post, those pictures were taken on this trail. The two pictures of the Chippewa River below, were taken from the floating pier...before my husband suffered vertigo! LOL! That funny story is also on Monday's Fashion Post.
I was disappointed, yet again, to leave this park feeling like I was missing something. I've seen so many amazing pictures of people hiking along the river. I'm sure we were on the right path, but without proper trail maps we couldn't find anything. My husband and I started wondering if any of the paths were designated park trails, or are they just worn paths created by locals. On the park's website, it does say that there are "hiking and biking trails throughout the area" but that's a confusing sentence. That's not exactly saying "In the park". And there are not any trail maps available for the park.
So, I went on YouTube and I found many videos of kids cliff-jumping in this park. When I was watching the video I saw the same chain link fence we saw on our first visit to the park. And then I saw them climb the bridge. "NO! There's no other way to get to the cliffs except over the bridge? I'm not doing that!" Oh, the courage (or lack of sanity) of these kids is amazing. I included the video so you could see for yourself!
There are many videos on YouTube about cliff jumping in Mt. Simon. I was going to comment on one of the videos asking for directions on how to get to this cliff, but I noticed someone else had already asked this question and didn't receive much of a response. The videographer just replied "There are no maps. Just ask a local when you get to Eau Claire. Most locals know where it is." I had to laugh at that response, because I'm a local and I tried twice to find it and failed. But then again, if it involves crosses a bridge...I'm not going to do it! LOL!
I really hope there's some other way to get to see these cliffs other than climbing across this bridge! I think my husband and I will go back in the fall, when the leaves are changing colors, and we will wear proper clothing and footwear and explore these trails. Hopefully, we'll discover all these fun spots. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to refer to this park as "The Mystery Park".
Have a Great Day! Amy
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