With a huge dose of heart from our newest friends from Hartland it was time to resume northeast towards Sturgeon Bay. But first we visited an artist studio and gallery filled not only with inspiration, but also enthusiasm for the Ice Age Trail since they playfully painted an Ice Age Mural in celebration of being a trail town. Following a Creek out of town we made our way to the Oconomowoc River and then crossed open Prairies with views that finally pulled us to the top of Holy Hill which had one of the biggest and fanciest Catholic Churches I have probably seen in a while. Large grottoes of the stations of the cross portrayed the suffering of mankind that a long distance trail could help a person transcend to truly find a way to inner and outer beauty.
We could hear the bells ringing from the Monastery as we realized we had already walked over 900 miles of the Ice Age Trail. At Pike Lake, landscape artists were capturing the essence of the lake while we were pursuing the essence of our hearts. Waxwings flew effortlessly as if teaching us that we too could glide across the land. Aiming our way through the front and back roads of Slinger, we were being pulled towards West Bend. A baby chipmunk waddled away from us since it could not run. Girl Scouts squealed nearby exclaiming their love for the freedom they had found in summer camp. Irises and the flowers from lily pads emerged gracefully from the ponds overflowing our eyes with color.
In West Bend we ate breakfast for dinner just as we devoured the unique glacial formations of the West Bend segment whose Hills, ridges, and Kettles were easy to digest. A-mazed by corn fields and a cute little ski resort, we were surprised to have run smack right into a McDonald's skirting the trail. Coffee, soft served ice cream and Internet was a happy meal unto itself. Crossing the Milwaukie River, we entered into the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine. Eskers and Kettles created shifting landscapes that brought upon an ongoing sense of diversity. Crayfish scurried under water while a porcupine walked hurriedly through the woods. The prettiest of Blues were gifted by harebells amongst ground junipers whose berries would soon be ripe for the picking. The biggest surprise from the Kettle Range comes from how few people were seen walking any of the trails.
Ultra runners training for a southern Kettle race greeted us with smiles to freshen the morning air. Turkeys darted to and fro as if they didn't want our attention to lock into their personal essence. A scarlet tanager with the softest voice expressed his salutations in what seemed like a shy whisper. Almost daily I hear the old Duracell battery song from a bird that must be a thrush. Cyclists too are plentiful in this region. We finally wished the Kettles a slow erosional process and road walked to the LaBudde Creek Segment. It felt good to be on a small yet beautiful trail again. Junipers and larches interspersed with blooming ninebark made this quaint walk a unique section to appreciate. Near Walla Hi County Park, Stacey and I were bold enough to knock on a homeowners door to ask if we could camp on their property. Turns out that a group of thru hikers in years past also asked the exact same question. With trail magic in the air, we were upgraded to staying overnight in our own bedroom. We are blessed to meet people who are so wonderfully generous.
In the morning we were fully reset to hike with the fuel of friendship with Jo and Dave and pancakes within. We even came across two segment hikers from Madison who have accumulated over 400 Wisconsin miles to their names. Hay Fields were being harvested as we finally arrived to Manitowoc, which is our gateway to Lake Michigan. We have now walked over 1000 miles on the Ice Age Trail. Tomorrow we shall, however, watch a storm roll through from the window of our motel room.