Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Summer Highlights - Hiking in the Driftless Region

For the next few weeks travel posts, I will be sharing highlights from our summer.  We are planning on taking another vacation in September (keeping my fingers crossed there will be no more lockdowns or V-mandates for travel) and I will do another travel series on that vacation when I return home.  In the meantime, I have lots of "staycation' posts to share with you, beginning with hiking in my own neck of the woods.

I am blessed beyond measure to live in the "Driftless Region" for I am surrounded by natural beauty.  If you never heard of the "Driftless Region" it is actually in four states:  southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, and the extreme northwestern corner of Illinois.   According to Wikipedia "The region escaped the flattening effects of glaciation during the last ice age and is consequently characterized by steep, forested ridges, deeply carved river valleys, and karst geology characterized by spring-fed waterfalls and cold-water trout streams. ...The rugged terrain is due both to the lack of glacial deposits, or drift, and to the incision of the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries into bedrock."  

Translation:  it's uniquely beautiful!

For this week's travel post, I'm going to share a couple of hiking trails around 15 to 30 minutes from my house.  The first one we went to twice:  once in May and we just went again with some close friends last weekend.

Here are the pictures from May.

Usually we have to drive at least an hour away to experience some good hiking trails, but this was a new one my son discovered on-line so we decided to check it out,

The hiking trails are located in Thrive Park in Nelson, Wisconsin.  It consists of over 25 acres of Mississippi River Bluff Top and Bluff Side.  There are several trails that go through the woods too that are so pretty!

But the main reason to hike Thrive Park is to climb to the top of the bluff to get the views as seen in the first picture of this post.  The first time we went there, we took a ridiculously steep trail.  I said to my hubby "It's obvious an amateur created these trails, because there are no switchbacks".  The trail literally goes straight up the bluff!  There were times on this trail where we were literally  bent over and clawing at the dirt, trying to grab something to hold on to.  It is very unsafe in my opinion.  My son took these pictures of us climbing to the top.

After that exhausting hike, we then went out to get some ice cream, and I took these beautiful photos of the Mississippi backwaters.

Last weekend some close friends of ours came over to visit and explore our area.  We decided to take them to the same park because it is so close to our house, only this time we took a different trail.  This trail was also very steep, but no where near as bad as the first trail we took back in May.  And, I remembered to bring my walking sticks with me, which were a huge help.

We were so proud of ourselves to make it to the top of this bluff!  Just like the first time, the view made it all worthwhile.

I found climbing down the bluff almost more challenging than going up.  It was so steep, and I was ever so grateful to have my walking stick!

Once we reached the bottom, just like in May, we got some ice cream as a reward.  And if you're wondering where we got ice cream there is the cutest little creamery at the base of the bluff called the "Nelson Cheese Factory".  They sell all sorts of cheeses, plus they have a restaurant, but most people go there for their delicious ice cream.

After our delicious snack, we then headed to Stockholm, Wisconsin to hike the Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area.  I've only been there once before, in the fall, after seeing a photo in a Magazine (see this post HERE. ) It was so different hiking it at the end of summer.  Here is the view you get to see once you reach the end of the trail.

For most of this hike, you are hiking in a field.  When I was there in the fall, most of the foliage was gone already.  But now, at the end of summer, there was lots of beautiful tall grasses and wild flowers.  It was so lovely!

As you near the end of the field, the Mississippi River starts to come into view.

Once you get to this point, you are standing at the very top of Maiden Bluff.  It is so awe inspiring.  We saw so many eagles!  And it's hard to tell in the picture, but you really get an idea of what the unique beauty of the Driftless Region....all the greenery you see in the distance has flat top of their bluffs.

We took a different trail heading back.  It was sort of a Love/Hate trail.  I loved it because we surrounded by wildflowers on either side of us, however it was so narrow, and difficult to walk through because the brush kept getting in our way.  We were worried we would get covered in ticks, but luckily we did not.

I wish the photos could capture the beauty of the wildflowers, but they do not.  It was like a sea of yellow! Unfortunately the harsh mid-day sun washed out the wildflowers.

This is a photo of the couple we hiked with.

Hubby knew I was in my happy place surrounded by all these flowers.

Just to give you an idea of how tall these sunflowers and golden rod are, and what we had to navigate through, my son is 5'9 and these flowers are over his head.

A shot of my hubby and I.  We just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary.

We were very grateful to make it through all those wildflowers.  After a quick tick check, and a removal of  lots of burrs,  we then headed to Pepin, Wisconsin to have lunch (or more like "Linner") at one of our favorite restaurants "Garden Pub and Grille".  We love the food there, but we also love the ambiance.  It's one of those restaurants that is partially opened to the outside.  You see a lot of them in warmer climates, but you rarely see them in Wisconsin.  It is only opened seasonally, for obvious reasons.  We also took Ashley, Jason, and the grandkids there back in July, so I will show you pictures of the restaurants in another post.

Finally, we ended our day with a brief stop at Lake Pepin.  Another perfect example of the unique topography of the Driftless Region.  You can really see the flattened tops to the bluffs in this picture.

They have a beautiful marina in Pepin too!

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my neck of the woods!  I will be back with more staycation posts in the weeks to come.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!


  1. Oh so good post, the lanscape photos are amazing

  2. What a beautiful hike. Such sweet views. Very nice.

  3. I wondered about ticks. Glad you did a tick check. And burrs!! We are overcome from now through the first frost with what we call goat heads. They stick to everything!!
    Beautiful scenery. Those flowers are so tall and dense. Just gorgeous. What a lovely day. I like your skort, too. I have purchased a couple and need to remember them for hiking.

    1. Yea, I loved the wildflowers, but walking in them made me nervous. Thanks so much. I love my skort for hiking in the summer.

  4. I had never heard of the driftless region, but it is so unique and beautiful Amy.
    I can see why going down that bluff would be harder than going up too....what a workout!!
    It's wonderful to have this so close to you. We have the White Tank Mountains, and as soon as it cools down more, we will be going out there.

    1. You know what is funny that I should have mentioned in my post? I lived here since 1998 and I have never heard of the Driftless Region either until about two years ago when my son sent me a video on it. Now, I see signs about the Driftless Region everywhere, which I apparently never noticed before. Of course I always saw the unique beauty of this area, especially in comparison with the rest of the state.

  5. What gorgeous views!! We often get ice cream when we're done hiking too; it's such a great reward for all that hard work.

  6. WOW!! Absolutely amazing pictures!! Thanks for sharing and thanks so much for stopping by and for taking the time to comment!

  7. I love going out for a nice long walk. Looks like a great place to explore. Great photos :) Thanks so much for linking up :)

  8. Awesome views and pretty flowers.

    Thanks for sharing your link at My Corner of the World this week!

  9. It's beautiful! I am hoping to make hiking a regular thing when it is fall! I have missed it.

    1. Thank you! It's hard to find family friendly trails, they need to make more!

  10. Beautiful views. Lived in the mountains(California) till a year ago, so I know how rewarding it is to hike in these areas. Love to walk between flowers! Jesh

    1. Thank you. California is beautiful, I would love to visit sometime, but it is far!

  11. Enjoyed seeing your pics and happy anniversary!! Thanks so much for linking up at the Unlimited Link Party 32. Pinned!

  12. Congratulations on your 34th anniversary! I loved all of your hiking photos, especially the ones of the wildflowers and the river. Thank you for sharing at You're the Star Blog Hop! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  13. I hadn’t heard of the Driftless Region. It’s very beautiful! And yay for making it to the top!


    1. I think it's a quiet little secret. It is such a beautiful area. We are always shocked that the area doesn't get more tourism.

  14. Oh so good post, the lanscape photos are amazing


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