Another sunny March day and I was excited to hit the trail. There was a TON of snow that melted from last weekend and we were looking for a segment that had a lot of open area, hoping it would be somewhat dry. This trail exceeded my expectations!
First off, the trail has a great parking lot and bathrooms, always a plus. The parking lot is pretty much the start of one segment and the end of another with Blue Springs going south and Stony Ridge going north. It took a bit of map reading to figure out we had to walk down the road about an ⅛ mile to pick up Stony Ridge. Starting off, there are some woods on the right and a meadow, with some scattered trees, to the left. Maxie found some patches of snow and started digging and rolling around in it. I truly think she is missing the snow already. Then we came upon a stream and the water was just so clear, we could see vegetation starting to grow. After that, the trail really starts to open up. Prairie was soon all around and the sky seemed to go on and on. This was exactly what we were looking for! Woods were off in the distance and birch trees stood out in their white ensemble. The trail itself was grass so there was minimal mud and wet areas. Even when there was, it was easy enough to find a dry patch to walk around.
After a little over a mile, we came upon an entry into the woods. Don’t quote me on this, but there was a “stony ridge” on either side as you enter the forest, so there’s a good chance that’s where the name originated. The terrain changes here with many more hills. The bare trees were still letting in plenty of sunshine. We hit the spur trail for Shelter #2 since Kurt had stayed there on a backpacking trip years ago. It was a great spot with a picnic table and a gorgeous view of the prairie down below. The trail passes by a pond and a kettle pond (formed by the glaciers). I’m learning that kettles look a bit different because they are usually pretty round. The trail then goes up a hill to a ridge, which I read was actually an esker, also created by the glaciers. There are more kettles and marshes below to view. We descended down into more prairie, but with a forest of pine trees now in clear view.
We passed over the railroad tracks where they had cut down some logs and stumps, which turned out to be an awesome lunch spot. Heading back through the rest of the pine forest, Maxie continued to find snow in the shade and dig with her paws then roll around in it. I saw some signs of spring…ferns and moss were such a vivid green! The sun was even warmer and once though the forest I took was able to take off layers to just a tank top. The sun felt heavenly as we made our way back. This time we stopped and sat at the stream for a few minutes. The sound never gets old. I loved that this segment not only because of the open prairie, but the mix of hills, woods and a pine forest all in a condensed area.
Driving back we realized folks were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a wee bit early. We decided to stop for a beer ourselves at the dog friendly, Black Husky Brewing in Riverwest. Sitting out on their patio was the perfect way to end the afternoon.
And that my friends is today’s Tail from the Trail.
Out and back hike
Bathroom facilities: YES!
Parking: Fee or vehicle sticker required
The name of the parking lot is the Emma Carlin Trail Head. After you park, you will cross the road Z and head north (left) about ⅛ of a mile. The trail is marked with an Ice Age Trail Stony Ridge Segment sign.
Great people, great beer and dog friendly.
The more I hike, the more I want to learn more about all these “hills and ridges” I come across.
The IAT Guidebook is an awesome resource for describing hikes, but they use the geological terms. So, if you don’t know what an esker is, you don’t know what they mean on the trail. An esker is basically a ridge formed by the glaciers. This video gives a great explanation and shows live footage of one taking shape as a current glacier is melting. (Source:Virtual Soil Science Resources) Now you can be a smarty pants and tell your fellow hikers about eskers!