It seems like people have been giving us rave reviews of Devil’s Lake State Park (in Wisconsin) since we moved to Illinois:
“The hiking is amazing!”
“The landscape doesn’t seem like it belongs in Wisconsin!”
“The lake and beach are great!”
“It’s very popular – you have to book your campsite months in advance.”
Hearing all that, it’s a place we’ve wanted to check out for a long time, and finally did this weekend, with Rachel and her husband! And we did book our campsite months in advance – at the beginning of April. Ha, gave us lots of time to look forward to it, right?!
Unfortunately, with booking months in advance (or really, a week in advance), you don’t know what the weather is going to be like, and our first night (Friday) at the campsite had storms so we decided to head up Saturday morning, instead of camping there two nights as planned*.
It was still really foggy and overcast when we got there, and I wondered if it would clear up! Rachel and I went on a run where we climbed and climbed and we weren’t even awarded with a view! Ha ha. The fog looked neat (and eerie!) though!
We took the East Bluff Woods Trail up
And I have to say, right away, it did feel like we were somewhere… not in Wisconsin. Ha! Devil’s Lake was created 12,000 years ago during the last ice age (source) when a glacier deposited moraines at two gaps between the Baraboo Hills. The Baraboo Hills have been there for over a billion years, and are known for their 500-foot-high quartzite bluffs! Bluffs like that are definitely not something I am used to seeing around here!
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After our run, we set up camp, made lunch, and it started to clear up! Beyond the storms the previous night, the temperature was great for camping – we could hike without feeling horrible, and sleep comfortably (as much as you can in a tent, anyway). There weren’t even that many bugs! Whuuuuuut?!?!
Rachel and Steven and I set out for a hike on Saturday. Ha. It turned in to a bit of a epic hike, due to a trail closure. We started out on the easy East Bluff Trail, to get views of the lake and see rock formations…
We saw a whole group hiking with their remote control cars! Fun!
… then when we got to the trail junction, the trail we planned to take down the bluff was closed so we had to hike down a 400′ drop in .3 miles (on the Potholes Trail)! And Steven had his DSLR on him! Eek! That was interesting. I slipped twice, once grabbing a tree before falling, and the second time, landing on my butt. It didn’t help that the lady behind me would say “watch out!” Um… yeah, I am. It was still a bit slick out from the previous night’s rain. That hike down was SCARY! It definitely would have been easier to go up it. We couldn’t believe we saw people carrying babies, going up! I hope they took an easier route down!
We were relived when we got to flat land, and took the long way back, along the Tumbled Rocks Trail on the other side of the lake. I thought it was really cool we got to go all the way around the lake. We hiked nearly 6 miles!
Which means when we got back, we were exhausted. Steven and I took a short nap**, then we all started dinner when we got up. Rachel and I had discussed meal ideas earlier in the week, and she very helpfully made a list of who should bring what (with her bringing much more of the camping supplies – they camp way more than us and it was nice for us to rely on them for some equipment!). We had canned chili for lunch, burgers and potatoes for dinner, and pancakes and fruit for breakfast the next day.
Ha ha, now, a bit about the campsite. The campsites are nice, with lots of amenities at the beaches. We were close enough to a bathroom with actual plumbing (there were pit toilets as well), and single stall showers that were a generous size (!!!). However… we all decided the campsite, in general, was too open for us . We got a site (#163 here) on the very edge, next to the woods, which made it feel more private, but we were right next to a major part of the campground road. And we could still see and hear everyone and everything. Camping isn’t about peace and quiet at a place like that, obviously, but we’re all the type that desire a bit more seclusion.
And we think that because our campsite was really close to the woods, our fire pit didn’t have any holes in it to let air in (so as to keep the fire smaller and under control?), so keeping a fire going took a lot of work! We were able to cook all our food, but not without some frustration (on everyone else’s end – I was all “derpitty do”).
With no fire, and feeling so tired from hiking, we went to bed nice and early on Saturday night! Ahhh! We brought our big (now, only*) tent, and it’s comfortable to sleep in. I did have to get up twice for the venture to the bathroom though, and to get more blankets. And I was having really horrible dreams. Eek!
But I woke up excited for pancakes, and to hike a trail on the opposite side of the lake!
This time, Rachel and Kevin and I went out for a hike. We took the West Bluffs Trail up and the Tumbled Rocks Trail back to where we started.
It was a less challenging hike than the day before, but we still hiked almost 4 miles, and my body still felt it, ha! Rachel and I were really impressed to see people running up the steeper trails. And really, running down them – the declines are no joke! There is actually a race series on these trails – Dances with Dirt – and after hiking there, I just can’t imagine trying to go any long distance there. Although, the course map makes it look like the races stay away from the bluffs. Anyway. Totally not on my radar. Really, hiking made me feel a bit out of shape, so maybe getting a bit healthier should be on my radar! Moving on…
We packed up after our hike, checked out the beach for a bit (brrr! but it felt so good on our legs), then headed home. The campground is about a three hour drive from our house, and I could totally see us going there again – maybe for a day? Rachel was saying how beautiful it is in the fall when the leaves change color! I can only imagine!!!
It was a fun weekend and we would like to camp again with Rachel and Kevin, and I’d like to become a more efficient camping packer! I did really well this time – the only things I brought and didn’t use were some clothes and s’more ingredients (sadness) – but I feel like I could get better about packing. Despite putting everything in specific bags for certain activities and meals, I still felt like my stuff was all over and I was going back and forth to the car a lot. Hmm, maybe that is what this type of camping is all about?
*Ha, Steven actually camped the previous weekend too, and our small tent was destroyed by a storm the second night, so we were TOTALLY fine with not setting up our tent in a storm, then sleeping
**We woke up when someone drove by and yelled “I am going to eat every one of you!!!” Ha ha ha… ok?