Backed right up to our campground in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, was the Potawatomi State Park. Until we arrived, it was only a large green shaded footprint on our map and a major part of my plans for our Sturgeon Bay destination. Hiking in the Potawatomi State Park proved to be a powerful experience. The positive energy provided by the heavily-wooded, rock- and root-filled trail was definitely therapeutic.
To get this party started I ventured out on a trail run to scope out a family hike we would embark on a couple days later. There was a very short access trail from the campground that connected to the famous Ice Age Trail. Immediately I felt welcomed by the land. The smell from the trees, ferns, dirt and wildflowers were moved through the forest by a light breeze coming from Sturgeon Bay. It was purely captivating. The scarce amounts of sun lighting up the trail in unique and abundant combinations kept my interest as I ventured along the shoreline. The trail was mostly under dense cover of the native sugar maple, basswood, white pine, red pine and the oh-so-amazing white birch trees. The lower end of the forest had scattered areas of wildflowers, more abundant closer to the shoreline.
I followed the trail along the shore heading north. There were a few offshoots to other trails including the Hemlock and the Tower Trail. I ran passed the Tower Trail thinking I should turn back and jump on it but it was almost time to turn around based on the travel time and mileage that my body could handle. I passed it again shortly thereafter as I doubled-back on the to the campground. I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it back to hike the Tower Trail. If it was meant to be, it would happen. If I were heppen, I would need to start at the top of the park or it would be about a 2hr trail run to get to the end. Hmmm.
A few days later, the three of us ventured out on our family hike. Luna was ready to explore the trail and be near water, which she thoroughly enjoys. We spent quite some time picking out rocks, sharing their individual beauty, then throwing and skipping them into Sturgeon Bay. What a blast! As we arrived at a nice turn around point for Luna, Liza ventured onward and Luna and I headed back to camp. She lead the way at a brisk pace, only turning around briefly to make sure I was mimicking her every move and following her tracks. We both loved pointing out funny shapes in the trees along the trail and smelling the wildflowers. These are amazing moments and I cherish them deeply.
My third venture into the park started at the Old Ski Hill Overlook. This time I drove into the park after paying a $5 parking fee for an hour of bliss. The very nice attendant even gave me an extra 20 minutes on my entry ticket. Good thing for that, because I planned on running for an hour and the drive to my starting point was going to take at least 10 minutes. The starting location for my second trail run was the Tower Trail, which in part overlaps with the Ice Age Trail for about a third of the distance.
“Nowhere is the evidence of the glaciers better preserved than across the state of Wisconsin. The last great episode of the Ice Age ended 10,000 years ago. This last ice sheet, named the Wisconsinan, radically altered the landscape in Wisconsin. The creeping ice of the glacier sculptured the land by leveling some hills, creating others, filling valleys, and altering existing drainage patterns. As the glacier melted, the rocks, pebbles, sand and other debris caught in the ice were deposited on the landscape from a variety of unique glacial landforms.”
— On the Trail of the Ice Age by Henry J. Reuss
Shortly after the start of my run, I came upon the Observation Tower and went up for a look. This point marks the beginning of the 1,000 mile Ice Age Trail. If you didn’t already click on the panorama, please do. It will give you a slightly better perspective on a desktop view. The climb up the tower seemed a bit rickety at first, even though it was a heavy duty and stable structure. Potawatomi Tower was built in 1932 and stands 75 feet tall. It sits atop a ridge, which brings the viewpoint to 225 feet above water, where Sawyer Harbor meets Sturgeon Bay. My time spent on the top included seeing three bald eagles soaring together at the same height as the tower. Spectacular.
I circled around the Tower Trail loop over hills, along the shoreline, in and around campsites and back up the winding trail to my starting point parking lot. In all three hikes, I covered about 75 percent of the trails. There are maps on display about every quarter mile throughout the park. It is very well marked and would be amazing to experience it in the peak of each season.
I love trail running. It’s my meditation time. Whatever is on my mind just goes away as I take in the surroundings. What is important comes back and gets processed. Decisions made or not, I am always stronger for having done so.