On today’s episode of Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin, my friend Rahul joined me in an adventure to see four new counties plus a whole new state.
That’s So Jacob Presents: Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin
Episode 4: Traipsing through Trempealeau with Minnesota On the Side
Trempealeau is in red, with Winona right beside it.
I rate today’s expedition somewhere between a success and a failure. In terms of success, we hiked a mountain in beautiful weather, made it to a brand new state for both of us, and had tons of fun. In terms of failure, however, no geocaches were found and the drive back was probably one of the worst storms I’ve ever seen.
Rahul and I have wanted to do an out-of-Madison trip for awhile now, and since there’s “no day but today,” I pooh-poohed the monsoon-like weather forecast and decided that I wanted to see the Mississippi River and finally add Minnesota to the list of states I’ve visited; unless we’re talking about age, 40 is a better number than 39. Wisconsin has oodles of state parks but today I chose to start in Perrot State Park in Trempealeau.
We got a pretty good morning start, leaving Rahul’s place at about 8:30 AM. Some friends of his were going to join us but they all bailed, which turned out to be nice because it was a great time for us two to get closer. Leaving Madison, we had gorgeous weather, and I thought that maybe, maybe the weather forecasters had made a huge mistake. We took a Dunkin’ Donuts break in Wisconsin Dells, and from there, drove through two counties I’d never seen before: Monroe County and Trempealeau County before arriving at our destination at 12 noon.
Trempealeau, Wisconsin, is a tiny, tiny town of about 1600 people and three decent-sized buildings. The park is right on the Mississippi; driving up to it, we raced the train running along the road. I saw a sign that read “fee area,” so we parked near a small restaurant and walked into the park, stopping to read about Perrot’s Post. We met some bikers who showed us a map and several different hikes we could do, each about 45 minutes. They recommended Brady’s Bluff, but we were right at the trailhead for the Perrot Ridge Trail so we started on that one.
The trail was sunny, muggy, and buggy. Early on, we found a fallen tree suspended beside the trail, and Rahul went and walked across it. I was not so courageous, since my shoes were older with less traction. I got up on the log, which was covered in moss, and let go for barely a second before I came crashing down. Fortunately, I have good balance so I landed on my feet. I tried it one more time but ended up just doing the sloth thing and hanging off the log.
The rest of the hike was pretty steep uphill, but the reward was plentiful. At the top, we were greeted with a view of the Mississippi floodplain on one side, and on the other, the river and the town of Winona, Minnesota in the distance. I hadn’t had any cell phone service since Wisconsin Dells, but atop the mountain I got enough bars to FaceTime my dad in Ocean City. On the way down, we carved our names into some sandstone. By the time we reached the bottom of the trail, it was starting to get ominously cloudy, so I left it up to Rahul to decide whether we were done after a little under two hours of hiking, or if we wanted to do another trail. He voted for another trail, but we didn’t make it very far before it started pouring. Fortunately, we were at a juncture where the trail went back down to the road, and we missed most of the storm due to being in the dense, aromatic forest. It was a long walk back to the car though, and we were just about out of luck, resigned ourselves to getting soaked when I flagged down a truck. A friendly local couple named Rob and Robin, who had seen us arrive at the park earlier in the day, gave us a much needed and appreciated lift back to the car.
We still had plenty of daylight left (well, more like day-mist-fog-cloud cover), so I decided that since we were so close to Minnesota that we could see it from the mountaintop, we should drive over the border just to say we were there.
So we did, and now I officially have been to 40 states. Wahoo!
Over the border, the first town we ended up in was Winona. Winona is a pretty little town, there was not that much there, but it was a Sunday afternoon and kind of gross outside so maybe people were just chilling elsewhere. I looked for a geocache or two but couldn’t find any (boo 😦 ) but we got to enjoy lunch at a lovely little cafe, the kind you expect to find in a small town, probably one of the few local survivors of the Great Burger King/McDonald’s/Wendy’s/KFC purge of the 1990s. We happened to walk in at the start of a violin/ukulele concert by some local kids and teenagers, so we enjoyed that while we ate. The kids were really good on the violins, and this one girl did an awesome rendition of “So Happy Together” by the Turtles on ukulele which was really something else. I recorded most of it and sent it to my mom, who loved it. After we finished lunch, we were briefly caught in the rain, but it was an otherwise uneventful ride back to Madison.
Oh, and next time I go to Minnesota, I will be highly disappointed if there are no ukulele players heralding my arrival.
“welcome, to minnesota…we’re not north dakota…”