This hike/walk was kind of an exploration of the Military Ridge State Trail near the town of Mt Horeb, following a separate hike my brother and I went on earlier the same day at nearby Blue Mound State Park. There are several primary access points along the 40-mile multi-use Military Ridge Trail, an 1850’s military route mostly on a converted railroad right-of-way. One of the trailheads is in Mt Horeb. Two years ago I had “discovered,” while walking on Madison’s Southwest Bike Path, one of the elements (Saturn) of a 23-mile long exhibit called Planet Trek, which depicts a scale-model Solar System along a continuous bike path route. I had subsequently explored the Sun and inner planets near Monona Terrace Convention Center in downtown Madison as well as Neptune, which is along the Military Ridge Trail between Verona and Riley. I knew that Pluto was located in Mt Horeb and I was looking forward to visit the outermost planet sign, even though it meant skipping most of the 6-mile section of Military Ridge Trail between Riley and Mt Horeb.
Trailhead signage provides a hint that the surrounding area considers itself to be a “little Norway” located in southern Wisconsin.
In terms of finding Pluto, I should not have been surprised to find the sign right across the street from the trailhead parking area.
I suppose my brother and I could have simply gotten back in the car and returned to Madison after viewing the Pluto sign, but we really wanted to continue our morning walk. Per our plan, we headed east from downtown Mt Horeb. After crossing under two roads (and a few more city streets) we were out in the country. We walked about 2 miles and then turned around.
The trail itself has a hard-packed foundation topped with crushed limestone and passes through a corridor lined mostly on both sides with trees, shrubs, and some wildflowers. Although the temperature was in the mid-90’s it was comfortable to walk in the dappled shade.
There were occasional breaks in the foliage corridor that afforded nice views of the Wisconsin countryside farmland.
After covering our planned distance we returned to town. I was slightly amused to note that the traditional Midwestern town water tank was adorned with modern trappings: a forest of communication devices looking almost like a crown.
At major access points to various State Trails, there are signs indicating local establishments where trail passes can be obtained. (Passes are required for most uses except hiking.) In this case the sign indicated that passes are available at Grumpy Troll. This sounded like an interesting name so we decided to check it out. It turns out that the Grumpy Troll is a brew pub just a short block up the street. The building in which it’s located was built in 1916 to house the Mt Horeb Creamery.
As we continued to check out the information kiosks at the trailhead we learned that Mt Horeb’s Main Street is actually a trollway, with trolls in front of several businesses and buildings. Here is an example of a pair of trolls in front of a charming coffee house specializing in troll rolls. Mt Horeb considers itself to be the troll capital of the world, though I couldn’t help wondering if there aren’t more trolls in Norway itself.
In any case, the unexpected discovery of the trolls was a delightful addition to our brief walk along the Military Ridge Trail. Someday I hope to return to the area to walk the rest of the Trail west of Riley.