4.5 out of 5 stars
For the newspaper’s first hiking review, I found it fitting to describe my experience right across the street, hiking the Willow Lake Loop. This trail is reasonably easy, a combination of climbing and flatland walking for a total of 5.7 miles. However, I am biased. Last year, I spent hours a week exploring and bouldering in the Dells. Always cautioned to never hike alone, I persuaded my friend, Haidee Wesala, to come along.
There are numerous starting points for this hike, since it is a loop, however, the most popular spots begin at the school or the Heritage Park Zoo. The hike itself was very nice and tranquil, taking in the peace of nature with the occasional awareness of Riddle students attempting to maneuver aircrafts. About halfway through the loop, there is a picturesque red bridge. Next to the bridge is a bench with the inscription, “In memory of Sandy Sanchez, who loved full moon hikes.” It serves the perfect purpose of a rest stop for those who may not be in adequate shape for hiking, a wheezing seat if you will.
A word to the wise, there is an obvious rule when hiking that is regularly ignored; bring water and food. Haidee and I mistakenly didn’t and were quite hangry by the end of this trek. Secondly, also obvious: stay on the trail. When analyzing the signs depicting the trail loop, we figured we could just walk straight instead of following the curve. Well, we tried, but right as we started to go off-trail, we were cut off by a huge dam. What a disappointment our off-roading was.
Another tip for this area specifically is to consider the weather during the month. Because it had snowed and rained earlier in the year, the East Bay Trail (the flat land that leads back to campus) was inaccessible, due to high waters. As “not the brightest bulb” hikers, we were completely oblivious to this fact until our socks started to dampen. To combat the water, we took the long route, walking the fenced house line until we reached a spot where we could cross. Overall, the hike is highly recommended but beware, you may finish the hike with wet socks and yellow, prickly plants stuck to your pants.