I work in special ed in an elementary school and yesterday marked the end of the craziest school year ever. Today we took a well-deserved daycation!
Finding Peace in the Familiar West Bend is one of my favorite segments of the Ice Age Trail. I know what to expect, but at the same time always see something new. Hiking through the woods brings me calmness. The trail went up and down, up and down. Then at the top of the hill, a sign described the esker made by glaciers (IAT Esker definition).
Little Friend Hiding
Wow, that went by fast as we were already at Silver Creek. Maxie knows this trail well and started to pull to go down by the water. Kurt elbowed me and quietly said, “Look”. Across the stream was a deer, who trotted away almost as quickly as we spotted it. The water in this creek is so clear here that we even spotted a few fish as we crossed the bridge.
Soon, we were at one of my favorite parts of the hike where a trail is cut into the side of a hill. It’s narrow here and something about this ridge just is so cool.
We continued through more forest and I swear it seemed like the sunlight was dancing in and out of the trees. Light would shine on leaves on a tree in the distance. The light entertained me today as it dove in and out.
A Real Bathroom – Heck Yeah!
As the trail goes down the hill and you see a pond on the right, Ridge Run Park West is on the left and there is a real bathroom! Running water – check! I think I even felt air conditioning! It’s not marked, but you will see a pavilion and the bathrooms are in another visible building. (Hint, if you get on the boardwalk, you have gone too far).
Under the Boardwalk
This is a photo opportunity just waiting to happen. This curving boardwalk is so picturesque. Don’t be surprised if you see things jumping into the water as you walk by. Look for blooming lily pads too. Warning: You do NOT go under this boardwalk, the song just gets into my head when I cross it! Last summer when we did this hike, Maxie thought she would just be able to “walk” on the water and went in one day. Luckily, she wears a harness and Kurt was able to pull her up pretty easily. The water is only an inch or two lower than the boardwalk at some points and is much deeper than it looks. EDITED 7/12 Please note the Ice Age Trail rerouted the trail so that it goes around this boardwalk for safety reasons.
We meandered through a bit of forest where it opened up to a small pond. This is another great place for a photo. The pond reflects the sky in such a cool way and every time it looks different.
We stopped for lunch at the covered picnic table, you heard me right! The first time I saw this I couldn’t believe this was along the Ice Age Trail. Between the bathrooms and this table, it’s a 4-star trail! All of a sudden Kurt whispered, “Check it out”. There was a bird in a nest at the top corner of the roof. It probably had been watching us the whole time, being a protective mama.
The trail continues along a stream and I saw a ton of dragonflies. It was a blast watching them flutter all over. Maxie pulled Kurt over to the water at a shallow part. She doesn’t love water, so it was fun to see her enjoying this. Then I saw a tiny little frog who decided to hide under a stick when I got closer.
Follow the Water
The trail continued to follow the stream. It gets a bit more populated as you go because it goes through Ridge Run Park. You’ll see families with little kids, older folks and it seems to be a popular date place too. It was fun to see all the generations enjoying nature. This is part of the same park where the bathrooms were located, but north. As the trail meets the park the stream widens into a large pond. It’s quite the view with large trees as a backdrop. I highly recommend it in the fall to see all the colors reflecting.
The Way Back
Maxie wanted to poke into the shallow water area one more time. I noticed a HUGE frog just sitting in the water. Maxie happened to go right past it and didn’t even notice. The frog was smart and didn’t make one move. Along the boardwalk, two flowers were blooming from the lilypads, hard to believe they live in this green water. We took advantage of the bathrooms again and Maxie loved hanging out in the shade of pine trees.
After a quick stop at home to shower, we headed back out to a brewery in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, Gathering Place Brewing. I had Gruss Gott, Hefeweizen, and Kurt had Things We Don’t Say, IPA. Mine was so tasty I bought a 4-pack to bring home!
From the brewery, we called in a pizza order to Lisa’s Pizzeria. Lisa’s is an Eastside staple and has some of the best thin crust pizza in Milwaukee (in my humble opinion).
And that, my friends, is today’s Tail from the Trail.
Trail: Mix of dirt and rock
Trail type: Out and Back (we did about 3.2 miles each way for a total of 6.4)
Parking: Yes, WI parks sticker required
GOOGLE MAPS LINK TO WEST BEND PARKING LOT PARADISE RD
Bathroom facilities: Yes, but about 2.5 miles in and is part of Ridge Run Park West. There were not signs, but I assume these are only open in warmer months.
Dog Friendly: Yes, must be leashed at all times. BYOB Bring Your Own (Poop) Bag! I did not see any bag dispensers. Please carry out your dog’s poop!
Dog friendly! Please keep your dog on a leash.
GATHERING PLACE BREWING WEBSITE
GATHERING PLACE BREWING GOOGLE MAPS LOCATION
Dogs are not allowed, but it’s a great place to take your pizza to go if your dog is with you!
LISA’S PIZZERIA GOOGLE MAPS LOCATION
The West Bend stretch of the IAT is always a treat. I’m surprised it took me so long to check it out given it’s right under my nose. But, all it took was one time and I became hooked. Never disappoints – happy hiking!
It’s truly just beautiful!!! Love all the water features.