From the generous sanctuary of Lynda and Fred's we re-entered downtown Madison one last time for morning coffee where we were transferred to Tess's care by Fred who then took us back to the trail where we last left it. At the University Ridge Golf Course we were entertained by high-school boys participating in a state wide tournament. Today we were walking in the suburbs of Madison and near the town of Verona where large and newer type homes prevailed. Soccer fields, baseball fields, dog parks, and bicycle routes were common encounters as well as Ice Age Volunteers working upon and enjoying the trail. Tess, Tom, and then finally Ed crossed our paths as we made our way to an official campground in the Montrose segment via the Badger State Rail to Trail route.
A biker who had seen us walking a road segment came back to offer us two cold cans of sparkling grapefruit flavored water. Isolated thunderstorms then offered us a few drips balanced by an equal amount of drops thereby ending the explosive weather releasing a rainbow in its place. Fireflies helped light the way to our camp and Stacey was very excited to have actually caught one where the palms of her hands suddenly glowed in splendor. It's as if she captured the essence of a shooting star. But it was the howling of coyotes that finally lulled us to sleep.
Prairie walking in the Brooklyn State Wildlife Area didn't take us long to get our running shoes completely and totally wet from the early morning dew. As we were having our morning breakfast stop, a westbound hiker came walking up from around the corner. It turns out she is a thru hiker named Tess who lives in the Dalles. It was fun to try to exchange pertinent information in such a short and yet powerful encounter.
Leaving the wildlife area, we noticed a defunct Ice Age Trail Section called Exeter. Interestingly, we then tied back into the Badger State Rail to Trail where we thoroughly enjoyed walking through an old and fairly long railway tunnel built in 1888 without the aid of a flashlight. After ordering a sub sandwich in Monticello, we then switched tracks for Albany on the derailed Sugar River Rail to Trail where a mother raccoon was teaching her two young babies how to forage. Perhaps she was digging up the painted turtle eggs like the pond turtle we saw earlier today depositing her investment for the future in an earth bank.
Outside Albany, a walker was excited to hear that we too had hiked the Appalachian Trail and that I had thru hiked it the same year as her parents in 2000. At the cafe in Albany, we were discovered by Paul, a farmer, and avid hiker who was also excited to bend our ear, so much so, that he paid for our meals. Back on the Sugar River Rail to Trail, a woman on a bicycle said she was hiking segments of the Ice Age Trail and had stayed at a bed and breakfast with a westbound thru hiker for whom we therefore missed along the route. On Bump Road, we talked enthusiastically with Mrs Bump who spoke of all the generations of farmers living there since the 1840's. A teenager apparently saw us walk by through her window and waved her arms back and forth with vigor. The excitement of the morning fueled us for a 20 mile road walk all the way to a beautiful arboretum just outside of Janesville where wrens were collecting bugs for their youngens.
The last few days have been hot and humid, but today as we rounded Janesville, the sky let loose with rain. The sounds of a big city and civilization were everywhere. Even though a freeway was nearby, we were at privilege to watch a snapping turtle laying her eggs. But with malls and businesses along the edge of the trail, we ducked into a motel to dry off.