Hartman Creek State Park – Dike Trail and Pope Lake Trail

A quick lunch and a peek at the afternoon’s forecast had me moving again in short order. Midday weather was beautiful but it wasn’t going to last. So once again, I struck out from camp and hit the trails. This time I am heading east alongside Hartman Lake and connecting to the Dike Trail and Pope Lake Trail. First off was a short distance on the paved bike/walking path that connects to the lake.

Eastern views on Hartman Lake from the Dike Hiking Trail are fantastic right now. Just enough blue sky and clouds to keep the scenery full of interesting focus points. Wind is still gusting strongly across the open areas but not bad once you get inside the trees.

Another angle looking across the far east end of Hartman Lake. From this point on, I don’t think I crossed paths with any other humans on the trail (though if you like ducks and geese this was the place to find them).

And yet another angle looking back across the lake at a few of the more colorful trees. Lots of green from the pines and cedars in this location but still a few other shades popping up.

From the Dike Trail I followed the red unnamed connector through a quiet wooded area until reaching the Pope Lake Trail, a loop that goes past Pope Lake and Marl Lake.

Along the Pope Lake Trail you can sometimes find historical signs, like this one that details arrowhead and pottery artifacts left by prehistoric people as far back as 3000 B.C.

The Pope Lake Trail is not only part of Hartman Lake State Park, but also runs into the Pope Lake State Natural Area. What’s the difference between a State Park and a State Natural Area? The answer is a bit more in-depth than I’ll cover here, but in general a natural area will afford the land protections by the local DNR but often be managed in ways that allow it to remain more wild and natural.

Unsurprisingly, natural areas are often overlooked in favor of parks. As a result, less human impact generally means more wildlife. The photo below isn’t one of my best but serves as Exhibit A on my claim that animals are more abundant where humans are not (I just couldn’t pull focus quick enough on the deer this time).

Anyways, back to the hike…most of the Pope Lake Trail is densely wooded, and a majority of that is old pine plantations. Note how thich the understory is here and how young the tall trees are. The land was only dedicated as a natural area in 1984 and is still in the process of becoming wild again. I noticed this area was extremely quiet with very little wildlife other than a few squirrels and deer that I managed to sneak up on (and surprisingly the deer weren’t spooked too badly). Don’t expect clear views of either Pope nor Marl lakes – the trees and steep terrain only give a few glimpses, not even enough for a good photo.

I did make a new friend (or maybe an enemy, couldn’t tell what they were saying) – this “spirited” garter snake that was on the bike path during my walk back to camp. They were a good sport to take a few photos but didn’t stick around any longer than they had to.

And just as I returned and sat down at camp, Mother Nature gave me the signal that my day outdoors was done. Rain, snow, wind, and cold kicked into hyperdrive and that was that. But it did provide me the option to drive to Plover just down the road and visit with some family. Afterwards it was back to camp and I tested the new sleep setup one more time – again, passed with flying colors and I slept like a baby. More travel would be on the horizon later in the week as I took a couple days to explore in the Door County peninsula a few hours to the east.

Hiking Data

Here’s the hiking path for this afternoon’s trip. You’ll have some of the same views on the first two-thirds of the out and back but I have zero complaints on the scenery.

Distance of about 3.5 miles and notice the elevation change is nearly non-existent. I don’t remember any section having much slope so this is a good trail for those who want a nice easy walk on level ground. I could imagine this being particularly nice on a very hot summer day as the lakes and shade would likely be very comfortable to combat the sun.

Author’s Note: Due to many reasons – none of them very good – I’m posting this from the future. I’ve got an overwhelming backlog of photos to process which is probably why I procrastinate. Actual visit date/time October 12, 2019 1:33pm. I’ll backdate it later so as to maintain chronological order. Hope you enjoy them all the same.

Lat = 44.3263702 , Long = -89.1976089 -- Show at Google Maps

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