Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Perrot State Park: Our February Adventure and DayCation

Hello!  Today's post is for all my travel blogger readers.  In  THIS POST back in December,  I announced that I quit my job and stated I won't be taking any big vacations for awhile, but that we'd be taking more day trips instead, what I'd like to call 'DayCations'.   Well February, was our very first day trip.  It was a gorgeous, though overcast,  34 degree day (which is considered really warm for a winter temperature here in Wisconsin), so we decided to go hiking at a nearby State Park.  Now I had never been hiking in the winter before so I was slightly concerned.  My primary concern was will I be warm enough, and my second concern was getting lost in the woods when the trail was covered in snow.  The park ranger assured us that although the trails were covered in snow and ice, we wouldn't get lost because there were plenty of above ground signs.  I personally didn't find that to be true, there were only signs at the beginning of the trail and maybe two more on the trail itself.  What kept us from getting lost were the footprints of the hikers before us,  not the signs.  As far as warmth, my down filled coat and insulated  Kamik Boots kept me plenty warm.  With the exception of my face getting hit with a cold breeze when we were off the cliff and walking near the water, I was never cold once on the entire hike.

Perrot State Park is located only about an hour from our house, but we had never been there before.  We've lived in this area for seventeen years, and yet have never been to a gorgeous State Park that is only an hour away from our home!   However,  I think that's typical of most people.  When we have a free weekend or a vacation, we tend to drive miles away or jump on a plane, to seek out an exotic, new location instead of enjoying the sites and activities in our own backyards.

The park borders both the Mississippi and Trempealeau Rivers and offers breath-taking views from 500 foot bluffs.  Visitors can camp, picnic, hike, cross country ski, boat, canoe, kayak, fish, hunt and trap in the park. It only costs $7.00 for a day pass to the park.   There are 12.5 miles of hiking trails in the park.  We chose the hiking trail with the steepest climb because my husband wanted to go up to the highest peak.  It was only about a mile walk up to the top, but it is quite steep, and we were out of breath several times and had to stop on a bench and rest.  It was quite the quad and glutes work-out!
 The first thing we saw when starting our hike was this wooden bridge.  Hiking in the winter is so different than a summer hike.  It is so quiet and peaceful, and you get such a different view of the woods in the winter than you do in the summer.  We also enjoyed not running into too many people on our hike.  We only met two other hikers on our journey, and both parties were using snow shoes.  We thought that was unnecessary since the snow was not deep.
 As you start to near the top of the bluff, these are some of the views you see.  I'm sure the view is absolutely breath-taking on a clear day, but in the winter, there are not a lot of clear days.  I'm looking forward to going back in the summer to see what I missed.

By now we needed a rest stop and sat briefly on a bench to enjoy the view and snap a few photos.  Of course I had to get a picture of our snow covered boots!
 I used the Pan setting on my IPhone to take a few panoramic shots so you could see the entire view of the bluffs and the Mississippi River.

 The park had a lot of look out points where you could stop and get the best views.
 Once you reach the end of the trail at the very top there is a cute little open cabin to rest awhile.  It was amazing how warm it was inside even though it was open on one end.
 I could even take my coat off!
 Now it was time for the descent down the bluff.  You could go back the way you came, but we looked at the map on top of the bluff and decided to take a different trail down.  Most of this trail has railings and steps because it is very, very steep.

 Here is my pathetic attempt at climbing down the snow and ice covered rock steps.  My husband chuckled at me several times.  I said "Just leave me alone.  I can do it.  I just have to do it my way."

 I loved the way the evergreen branches framed this view:
 When walking down this steep trail, I had to wonder who built these railings and placed all these rocks.  What a feat that must have been!
 We found this tree growing out of the rock.  I was fascinated with the root system.  If you look at my left hand, I'm grasping one of the roots that is growing out of the rock.

 The views going down are just gorgeous!  Look at the bottom of this picture.  See all the wooden railings descending down the bluff?  That's how steep this climb is.
 We're always fascinated with rock formations like this one.
 Down, down, down we go.  Thank goodness for the railings, or I think I would have rolled down instead!

 My husband was brave and left the trail to take these pictures.  I played it safe and stayed on the wooden platforms.

 Once your off the steep part of the bluffs, the rock steps and wooden railings end, and the trail becomes a wooded path that leads to the river.  We had a lot of melt/freeze conditions, so underneath the snow was ice, and we usually didn't see it till we started to slip.  I ended up using trees to catch me. I would slide a little, and then try to make it till I could grab hold of a tree.  It was kinda fun actually, and I never fell once.

 My husband patiently waiting for me as I 'slid' down the bluff.
 The view of the other side of the bluff (not the Mississippi River).
 A snow covered trail.
 Once we were off the bluff, we just walked the road back to our car.  The road borders the Mississippi River so it was quite scenic.  There was also a trail right next to us called the Great River State Trail, but we thought it was silly to walk in the snow and ice when we could just as well walk on the road and get the same view.
 The partially frozen Mississippi River and the bridge that the train uses to cross over the river.
 To our surprise, we found a waterfall on the side of the road.  It's called Horseshoe Falls and it was frozen solid.  How gorgeous is this?

 Here's the train.  There seemed to be a lot of traffic on these tracks, because we heard the train go by several times on our hike.
 After we finished our hike, we got into our car and decided to drive the length of the park to see what else there was.  We found a sled dog race going on.  That was pretty exciting!
 By now we were starving and asked the rangers where we could get a good bite to eat.  They suggested the Hungry Point Bar and Grill.  It's actually a house located right on the river that was turned into a bar and restaurant.  The prices were unbelievably low, and the atmosphere was your typical run-down diner look, but we loved it.  It felt cozy and warm when we stepped inside.  By now the sun was starting to come out and it filled the room because there were many windows with views of the river.  The walls were covered in wood paneling which really warmed the space up, and there was even a gas fireplace.  We ordered burgers and fries, and it was very, very, greasy…made the old fashioned way, but it was delicious.  We did chuckle however that when my husband asked for a soda, the waitress just brought him a can and I ordered hot chocolate and it was just dry mix with water.  It was a 'Dorothy, your not in Kansas anymore!' moment.  However, I would still recommend this restaurant for it's cozy, down-home atmosphere, great prices, old-fashioned food the way mom use to make it, and the spectacular views and outdoor seating.
 Of course, you can only enjoy the outside seating during the summer months in Wisconsin.
At that concludes the end of our very first day-cation.  We had so much fun on our outdoor adventure.  I said to my husband at one point on our hike "This is fun!  It's like taking a vacation without going anywhere!".  We decided to have one adventure per month, and I will definitely post them every time!  We have really been enjoying having a life together again after years of being apart on weekends and holidays because of my job.  So far it's been a blast, and I haven't had any regrets about quitting my job.

So what about you?  Have you taken any Staycations or DayCations recently?  Have you ever gone hiking in winter before?  I'd love to hear from you!

Have a great day!  Amy


  1. Looks like you both had a fantastic time! Such beautiful views! We tried walking down to the IL river yesterday but the steps were ice covered.
    Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos!

  2. As much as I've hated all of the snow we've been getting here on the East Coast, I must say it does really make for good photo ops haha



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