Parfrey's Glen Creek

It’s come to fascinate me how little people know about the world around them. Everyone wants to go, take big fancy trips, and explore other countries but they forget about exploring their own backyard. I am guilty of this, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of leaving and traveling. However Kevin and I have come to realize that we explored Alberta very little before we left it behind. We saw a few big cities but we never searched out nature. We were just a few hours drive from Banff, which is a site that thousands of people travel to a year and yet we’d only gone together once. I had gone a fair bit as a kid but even then it wasn’t for the nature but the hot springs (which are awesome). Wisconsin is a place where beauty is everywhere and there are hundreds of hiking paths easily accessible. Two minutes from my door is a beautiful path, that I have spent a far bit of time exploring. However we both want to see more.

Now exploring the outside world is not always fun when you have allergies and I have allergies to everything plant and dirt related. Spring, the season where everything in nature blooms, is not the best time to hike because I like to breath. Summer is usually too hot and there’s millions of bugs you need to deal with. So fall and winter are the best times to go, at least for me. So even though I bought proper hiking boots months ago, they’ve been sitting and waiting for the right moment to head outside. This past weekend finally felt right and so I searched out waterfall and found

Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area

Parfry’s Glen Trail is 1.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Merrimac, Wisconsin that features a waterfall and is rated moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, birding, and snowshoeing and is accessible year-round. Parfrey's Glen is Wisconsin’s first State Natural area and is unquestionably the most visited state natural area outside of Devils Lake State Park. The glen is open to the public from 6am to 8pm. At it’s uppermost part, the glen reaches a depth of nearly 100 feet and embraces a mountain-type stream.

In the last 20 years, the glen has been changed drastically by powerful floods. The glen has gone through various closures, repairs and upgrades in recent years. The bridges and trail known to hikers in the 80s and early 90s are now gone. The trail was again damaged by flooding in 2010 and closed until the fall of 2011. The 2011 repairs only went as far as the forge itself. The expectation of further floods has caused the DNR to curb spending on repairs within the gorge proper. Hikers wishing to continue up to the waterfall must navigate a stream and rough stone. The steps leading up to the old viewing area and the viewing area are also damaged. Steps are missing and a section of the viewing area is now partly collapsed. Used caution if you plan to go beyond the marked trail.

For a first hike this probably was a weird choice but I really wanted a waterfall. My goal was long exposure shots of said waterfall. I don’t know if I was fully successful but I am happy with how most of the pictures turned out. It was however quite the climb to get this far. You get up to a certain point and wonder if that’s as far as you go as it’s just a wall of rocks in front of you. We decided to climb just to see and the climb lead us to the actual waterfall you see above. The climb was not a hard one at all, you just had to pick your way over the rocks and water.

As is standard, we got pictures of the two of us, one at the beginning of the trail (where we hadn’t warmed up yet) and one just before we started climbing (starting to warm up and unzip layers). Kevin brought an umbrella because it was switching between misting and raining constantly while we were out. It was perfect weather even with the rain and it was a beautiful area to explore.

Some things we learned on this hike:

  • To visit parks in the states you need a park pass. This is actually something I had known but had forgotten until we arrived and saw the sign. We ended up having to fill out a little form and dropping cash into a little lock box. Cost was $15. For our next hike, I hope to have an actual sticker for the car, so we aren’t scrambling for cash.

  • For anything longer a backpack would have been nice. We both warmed up and would have taken off a layer after the climb if we could have stored it. So I think I’ll need to invest in a runners backpack that’s built to be lightweight and sit nicely on the back. With that we’d also be able to carry water and go much longer than this hike.

  • If I’m gonna be hiking mainly in the fall and winter, I should probably get some thicker leggings.

The hike took just over an hour and was an hour’s drive from home.

Overall I’m happy we went and I am looking forward to many more hikes exploring Wisconsin.

Have you explored nature in your backyard?