The Milwaukee/Chicago corridor isn’t known much for it’s hiking, but luckily a shorty drive from my home west of I-94 provides a small glimpse of wilderness. Shockingly though, aside from one brief disaster of a camping trip in 4th grade Boy Scouts, I have never hiked here. The Dude can no longer abide. On an otherwise dreary weekend I escaped to day hike at Richard Bong State Recreation Area.
Most people are familiar with this spot thanks to their inner 13-year-old giggling at the road signs (which simply read “Bong” at some points). Far fewer know this was named after Richard Bong, famous WW2 fighter ace. His friends I’m sure called him Dick Bong. Of course this isn’t (strictly) a toilet-comedy blog so onward to the nature stuff!
After a drive through the park to gather the lay of the land, I settled on hiking the blue trail as my 101-level intro to this area. Listed as a 4.2 mile loop from the trailhead B parking area, the path circles Wolf Lake and passes through multiple terrains.
Hiking counter-clockwise you first pass through overgrown prairie grasslands. Some areas contain few trees or shrubs, but stretch on for what seems like miles. Excellent birding opportunities here. A small wetland area called Orchard Pond is being restored with cooperation from DNR & Ducks Unlimited/Pheasants Forever.
Around the trail midpoint, terrain changes to dense woodlands with cool tunnel views. Mosquitos were unbearable here – I had a headnet but forgot gloves and my hands got attacked like crazy.
A few notable oddities on this section: One “in memory” bench overlooking Wolf Lake has lost it’s view due to overgrown greenery, and a body of water that looks like a pond but is actually exposed groundwater due to very low elevation.
Some of the best views here came from numerous wild flowers lining the trail often. I’m no botanist, but the Interwebs & some critical guessing helped me identify these as follows: Pink/Magenta = Wild Geranium; White = Oxeye Daisy; White star-shaped = Piper’s Anemone. Gusting winds challenged my macro-photography skills but still fun to try.
Plenty of birds to watch here but they were active & hard to photograph. I was able to catch a Great Egret in flight but he was fast and I only got one shot. Fresh deer tracks in the mud were plentiful, and some (like these) were quite large.
Very accessible hike with little elevation change. Some small hills but gain is very tame at around 70 feet according to my app. Only saw 2 other hikers on the trail the entire time even though campgrounds were at capacity. Good local trail, highly recommend if you want an easy nature walk.
Bong has 9 loops and 16 miles of trails to explore – more to come in future posts!Lat = 42.6340065 , Long = -88.1275635 -- Show at Google Maps