Vacation Planning, Wisconsin

Playing the tourist at Horicon Marsh

Dirt road through Horicon Marsh
Some of the trails at Horicon Marsh are dirt and gravel roads like this one, while others were narrower mowed or mulched paths.

Have you ever played the tourist in your own neighborhood? Many of us, when we think of taking a vacation, immediately think of Paris, or Disney World, or any number of exotic locales that we have to save up for years to visit. But once in a while, it’s nice to open your eyes to the tourist hot spots in your own back yard.

A few weeks ago, I took my kids to Madison, WI, which is only about an hour away. I had been there before but had not seen much more than the state capitol building (my dad has a thing for state capitols and has dragged us to see capitol buildings in more states than I care to count at the moment) and the zoo.

Anyway, we had a great time seeing attractions that I didn’t even know existed. This got me wondering what else I have missed right here in Wisconsin while I’ve been sitting around dreaming about visiting anywhere but here.

The other day, an acquaintance was telling me all about Horicon Marsh, in Horicon, WI. The marsh, a state wildlife area, is only about thirty minutes from my house and is hers and her husband’s favorite place to hike. I had heard of Horicon Marsh and have even driven past it. But do you think I have ever taken the time to go check it out? Of course not!

My kids started back to school Tuesday, but yesterday was the first day of their school day absence that I didn’t have any classes myself. I had the entire day to myself and had planned to spend the morning hiking my usual trails in a state park ten minutes from my house. Instead, I decided it was time to go check out Horicon Marsh.

At first, I was a little disappointed. The trail I started out on turned out to be just a grassy track that ran along a huge drainage ditch for about two miles. There were no trees (I’m a tree person, can’t help it!) and I thought it was going to be a boring hike. However, after a few minutes of walking, I could feel myself decompressing. Before long, I was reminding myself how amazing it is to have the kind of freedom where I can just take off by myself on a weekday and spend a morning tromping through a marsh. Then a huge grin spread across my face.

I started to pay attention to the various floras that surrounded me. I had to watch my step to avoid stepping on frogs. At one point, I’m pretty sure I heard a snake slithering away from the path behind me. And let’s not forget the geese that were flying in and out of the marshes for a rest and something to eat on their way south. It won’t be long before it will be too cold and snowy for these long hikes.

Wild geese stopping by Horicon Marsh on their way up north
These geese reminded of my trip to North Dakota this summer. Back in June, many of the geese were young juveniles who would be making their very first trip north to Canada. But they’re all grown up now and heading south for the winter!

I finished my romp around the Bachhuber Flowage and then headed on to Quick’s Point. The Quick’s Point trail segment meanders through several types of habitat, from marsh to prairie, to woodlands, all reclaimed farmland from decades past. This portion of my hike was more interesting than the drainage ditch, and I took a TON of pictures.

It was a beautiful way to spend a solitary morning. I don’t know why I haven’t visited Horicon Marsh before. I am glad I went without my kids first so I could have the opportunity to determine the best trail to take them on when I do bring them along on a future visit. (I ended up hiking for about two hours, and my kids would have been whining and complaining after about twenty minutes!)

purple flowers at Horicon Marsh
This is one of my favorite pictures from my hike. I ended up with around sixty beautiful images. Too many to share them all here, of course!

As a writer, it is good to open my eyes to what’s around me now rather than always thinking about a list of dream vacations that I may never be able to afford. I am keeping my ear to the ground and my eyes to the internet in search of my next local field trip opportunity. My list is growing. I’ll keep you posted.

What’s your favorite local tourist attraction? Please share in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

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