The outdoor season isn’t over. Yeah, like 90% of the campsites at Devil’s Lake State Park are closed for the year. Most of the local community fall events are in the books. We’re past peak color. We’re even nearly half way through the football season. Oh, and yes, it’s getting frosty out there! Still, the outdoor season is never really over, not if you don’t want it to be.
Since I won’t let go of autumn until I absolutely have to, I suggested a Tuesday night family bike ride on the Wisconsin 400 State Bike Trail. (After school of course!) To do that required “all hands on deck”. It’s only a 15 minute drive to the trailhead from Baraboo, but with a son in school and my sweety at work all day, there would be some planning to be done. To get on the trail before dark, the food had to be prepped in the morning before work (Thank you!) and the bikes had to be loaded quickly before I headed out to pick up my son from school in Sauk Prairie. With me driving back from Sauk and her coming from her job… AND not wanting to go out of our way to meet at home on the other side of town… we had to hook up at the closest point along the route so that we didn’t have to drive two cars all the way to Reedsburg. Logistics can be a thing. That’s life.
By the time we unloaded the bikes and were heading down the trail, the air temps were dropping into the mid to low 40s. Bracing! The sun was low in the western sky and long shadows were creating a yellow strobe lighting effect as we sailed past the glowing, maroon and golden trees lining each side of the trail.
We took it easy riding down the trail, stopping often to take pictures along the way. Hey, there’s still a lot of color out there! Just because someone says “peak” is over, doesn’t mean, well, as I said, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over!”
Along the way I enjoyed listening to the crisp crackle of the leaves snapping away under our bike tires. Even the stick I got caught in my spokes made a happy, whimsical sound! We also heard sandhill cranes calling in the distance and enjoyed watching the blue jays crisscross the trail just in front of us as we road.
After about 45 minutes, we arrived at one of the designated picnic areas that are set up along the 400 trail between Reedsburg and La Valle. Frankly, they’re practically unusable in the summer. Whomever decided where to put the tables seems to have chosen the most mosquito ridden spots along the Baraboo river that they could find. Not to mention that the tables have sunk into the wet ground so far these days that you can barely get your legs under them. The sad truth is that many great ideas, like picnic benches along the 400.. slowly become unimportant and are never well maintained. Still, that’s part of the adventure, right?
As we sat and ate our turkey sandwiches with our now frozen hands, hundreds of small birds flocked over our heads from farm fields to the east on their way to roost in the woods for the night. I thought about how amazing it must have been to once see Sandhill Cranes and Passenger Pigeons flying in such numbers. I also thought that next time we did this, we should bring a camp stove and opt for warm food and drinks!!
With our winter coats zipped up against the growing chill, we slowly road our way back to the parking area at the Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce Office. Now the sun was slipping below the horizon and the first stars were becoming visible in the east. We loaded up the bikes and were more than happy to turn on our little Subaru’s heater on the drive home! Of course the adventure wasn’t over, there was still homework to be done…
As you know, I’m an advocate for small, backyard adventures. You don’t need to wait for a holiday or a weekend. You don’t have to go far from home. You don’t need expensive gear or the right app. You just need to do it. Getting outside isn’t really about finding time as it is making the time. It’s about being creative and not giving in to that inner voice that just wants to sit on the couch and binge watch the Walking Dead.. (At least, not always giving in.) An hour hike at a local nature area, a family bike ride after school.. A Wednesday night bottle of wine on a breezy beach with the love of your life. You just have to do it, because really the “season” is never over…unless you make it so.