Kids are scampering up the hills in front of their parents on the rolling trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. It’s a happy sight that is happening far more often as people in Southeast Wisconsin realize how lucky they are have a cure for the virus-caused blues right in their backyard.
The weekends are the busiest, but weekdays are active, too, because of an avalanche of layoffs. It’s been three weeks since coronavirus quarantine was formally imposed on Wisconsinites, and that’s a lot of time to be holed up in your house
We are all blessed that the state forest that is home to some of the best hiking trails in United States, including major segments of the Ice Age Trail.
My wife and I have been taking long walks almost daily on a half a dozen of the fabulous trails in the northern unit of the state park. If we pick the right trails, we see only a handful of other hikers.
Yet we weren’t alone. There were one or two-dozen cars in the trail parking lots, more than we have seen before, with the exception of busy cross-country skiing days at the Greenbush and Zillmer recreation areas.
But, and it’s an important but, we were generally not in close proximity to the dozens of people who are out for a walk in the woods with their families.
Some 95% of the time on the trail we were far from other hikers, often alone on long segments. When we did pass each other, people stepped aside to stay clear of one another.
The managers of the parks made a good decision when they kept the park and its trails open to the public. It’s a good way to get out of the house and get some exercise. It is an essential function for the physical and mental health of the citizenry. State guidelines agree.
Only one park at Parnell was jammed in the parking lot and at the picnic benches nearby. Hopefully, those contrarians won’t ruin it for the rest of the hikers by violating social distancing rules.
Social distancing is serious business but not everybody gets it. One infected person can enable the disease to spread to many multiples of other people.
The creation of the Kettle Moraine State Forest goes back to 1937 when an enlightened legislature conserved 30,000 spectacular acres in the northern unit the state park, another 22,000 in the southern unit, along with three smaller parcels at Pike Lake, Loew Lake and Lapham Peak.
That marvelous stewardship preserved what the two-mile-thick glacier left behind 10,000 years ago. As the two-mile thick glacier cap of ice melted, it deposited a natural treasure in the topography of the Kettle Moraine. it would’ve been a tragedy if it had been left open up to development of small lots and subdivisions. There are plenty of less-special places to build in Wisconsin.
Some of the climbs are quite challenging – – not for the youngsters who scampered up the steep slopes, but for old timers like me. We used walking poles for stability but also for an upper body workout.
We’ve have missed only two days since the shut down and guess what? I am in better shape than I‘ve been in a long time. Even lost a couple pounds.
A side question: why aren’t golf courses open for walking? Not the clubhouses, but just the links. Closing them makes no sense. Even riding single in carts should be OK, as long as sanitizers are used on steering wheels and other surfaces.
The open Kettle Moraine trails are a small bonus that are most welcome as we struggle through ine of the biggest challenges n the history of this country.
In recent years, the two units of the park have attracted as many as two million visitors per year. This year, because of the stay-at-home quarantines, visitors will probably exceed that total.
Hope to see you on the trails; please keep your distance.