Hartman Creek State Park – Deer Path Trail

October 2019 has rolled around. After taking the bulk of my time off during the July 4th week to maximize days away from work, I find myself left with some additional vacation left to burn. Work and life got a little busy so I didn’t really plan anything. The remainder of my adventures will be a seat-of-the-pants tour of whatever I find entertaining next. First up is a quick weekend getaway at Hartman Creek State Park in Waupaca, Wisconsin. My intention is just to hike and as a test run for a new sleeping platform setup inside my Subaru Forester. What glamorous accomodations!

Jokes aside, the other goal is just to get some hiking miles under foot while there are still some fall foliage colors left to see. I’m still pursuing my goal of visiting all 53 Wisconsin State Parks, and while I was previously here in July, I only camped and paddled and had no time for further exploration. Took a half day off work and booked campsite #11. Weather was crisp and chilly, and I basically had the entire park to myself. A few steps away from my site there is a paved connector path that leads to the playground and picnic area which leads to the other trails.

If there is a better place for a family meal, I have yet to find it. The picnic area is located in a cool, wooded, and shady spot just adjacent to Allen Lake. Fallen pine needles cover the ground making my footsteps almost silent.

The path continues past a small gathering shelter, the restrooms, and onwards to the Deer Path Trail. This image is a good example of the colors we will see today – some bare trees make me feel like it is past peak, yet some other are still just changing (but changing rapidly).

My hike takes me around Allen Lake today in a counter-clockwise direction. The next highlight along the way is the small fishing dock. Hartman Creek is spring-fed and Allen Lake (and the other lakes in the park) were created by dams built before the park was established in the 1960’s. If you were only visting the park for five minutes, this might be the single best spot to come see.

The paved path gives way to a sandy land bridge that crosses the creek through a pine clearing that looks like a tunnel into the darker forest beyond.

Lake views are plentiful during the entire loop hike and it’s fun to pop out of the woods and see what you find. Blue skies are nice but honestly I love moody overcast conditions like today for the photography drama.

Here’s another look with a bit more zoom which reveals some extra colors in the canopy. Again, not sure if pre or past peak, but frankly I don’t care because everything looks so nice.

Here’s a fancy shot of a single leaf in the dirt so I can pretend I’m some basic Instagram clown. Nah, just kidding. I just thought it was fun to find one with such a vivid red hue. Lots of yellow and brown, not much red left.

The trail narrows in spots to a single track but overall is still relatively flat as far as elevation is concerned. I wouldn’t call the terrain “accessible”, but the trail is definitely what I’d call easy for most able-bodied hikers.

A look up to the leaves above. The explosive pinks and reds are appearing and fading quickly but can be still be found (but not for much longer).

After completing the loop, I noticed a single bench that stuck out the furthest from the picnic area into the lake on a small chunk of land. Aside from the couple of branches obstructing a perfectly clear view, this is another great spot for leaf peeping and probably for fishing as well.

Bonus: Fish Fry

I arrived late afternoon on Friday and forgot that daylight is in short supply in autumn. So I changed gears and tried to find some local grub. Ended up finding a bar on Union Street in Waupaca that had a pretty decent walleye fish fry and of course some Brandy Old Fashioneds. Not a bad way to end the day and begin the weekend.

Note from the future: Sadly I don’t recall the name of this bar and apparently it has not survived the pandemic so I can’t go back. But I share this here as a reason to not only explore nature but also to support local businesses and give them a chance whenever you can!

Hiking Data

Here’s my recorded path around Allen Lake. Fairly straight-forward and clearly marked on the maps, and clear trail markings along the way. You can tell where I found that park bench right on the lake as shown where my loop turns into a weird detour line.

Total distance just shy of 1.25 miles and basically zero elevation change. A short and enjoyable walk in the woods, and no better time for that than a brisk fall afternoon.

Author’s Note: Due to many reasons – none of them very good – I’m posting this from the future in 2024. Actual visit date/time October 11, 2019 5:33pm. I’ll backdate it later so as to maintain chronological order. I’ve got an overwhelming backlog of photos to process which is probably why I procrastinate. Hope you enjoy them all the same.

Lat = 44.3277206 , Long = -89.2192383 -- Show at Google Maps

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