Hartman Creek State Park – Ice Age Trail loop around Allen Lake

I awoke this morning to temperatures hovering on the low edge of freezing. The good news is that my new car sleeping system passed with flying colors and now I can push deeper into the seasons without fear of becoming a human popsicle. More good news is that today’s forecast was set to rise into the mid-40s which is super comfortable hiking weather. I chose a rather slow breakfast and savored my warm coffee before heading out on the trails. From camp, I first headed south across some combination hiking/biking paths that comprise part of the Windfeldt Trail System.

Heading towards the southwest corner of the park map, I stopped at the marker simply labeled  “high point” which was a wide grassy section of the trail and nothing else. But you can definitely tell the terrain is higher as shown by the distant tree canopy which is now level with my feet.

Heading south, the trail descends gradually and passes through a tunnel of thick pines. I do note a large variation in diversity here with acreage dominated by one species (mostly pines that are likely from previous plantations), but still always finding traces of oak, ash, birch, and many other typical species found in the Wisconsin north woods.

Pockets of the trail also open up into grassy clearings, again likely remnants from old settlements and farming. At this intersection you can head south and follow the Ice Age Trail or various bike trails towards the park boundary (and into some other state natural areas), or instead head back north like I did following the IAT into the heart of the forest. Somewhere around this point we crosss the county boundary separating Portage County on the west and Waupaca County on the east.

Elevations rise and fall, but my distinct feeling is that we reached heights equal to or greater than the previous “high point” marker. And though I do feel the peak foliage colors are passed, there were definitley no shortages of scenery along this route. Winds were picking up but I was mostly sheltered in the thick woods and could think of no better alternate place to be.

Gratuitous photo of an Ice Age Trail marker sign. Always happy to find these, not only because it means I’ve done a tiny piece of the full section hike but because usually it means you are hiking in some of the best scenery our state has to offer.

Another look at some of the colors in the dense woods. Still a lot of green left but mixed about half-and-half with bright amber shades and just a touch of pink/red.

Here’s another “tunnel” created from the tree cover over the trail. I turned and headed back east at the final marked trail intersection, and this also marked the end of predominantly deciduous species back into old pine plantations.

Crossing east back into Waupaca County we once again find the pines reappearing but not the sole dominant species. I recall thinking this section was so well groomed/maintained that I wasn’t sure if I was on a golf course. Quite the range of different conditions in such a small area – certainly you wil find a trail that suits you inside the park if you search hard enough.

Hellestad House

On my return route, I stopped as I came across a historical marker somewhere in the vicinity of Allen Lake where I hiked the day prior. It appears the loop I made today went just a touch further east which allowed for a visit to the Hellestad House, an old log cabin built by Scandinavian settlers back in the early 1800’s. Apparently the husband, Ole Olson, changed his last name to Hellestad because Olson was such a common name. Generations of the family lived there until 1958 and then 40 years later it was moved to the park for preservation.

Good old Ole Olson…err, Hellestad…was a woodworker and homebuilder back in Norway and used his skills to craft this 15-by-26 foot cabin. Notice the dovetailed corners which take some skill and effort to join together. Apparently this allows the building to require no chinking and gives an extremely tight fit.

Here’s another view of the house from the front side. The park has also built several rows of benches, likely for when guided tours are scheduled. One sign stated today was the 20th anniversary of the house moving into the park and a celebration was set to begin in a few hours. Sadly, I had to keep moving while daylight was available but congrats to the Wisconsin DNR for preserving buildings like this so that future generations can enjoy them and be educated about their history!

On the way back to my campsite I was once again able to enjoy the great views across Allen Lake. Skies are blue for now which changes the mood vastly. It was time for some lunch and then maybe a bit more hiking if the weather holds out. Calls for snow in the forecast…will I be a magnet for precipitation like usual, or do I get a reprieve this time?

Hiking Data

Here’s the big loop I did from campsite, down south to the Ice Age Trail Intersection, and then back north until reaching a trail that heads back around the lake. If you look closely on the map there are tons of other small dashed lines for various hiking, biking, and multi-use trails all throughout the park. Someday I’ll have to return and put boots on the ground for all of them.

Distance today was just shy of 4 miles and quite the pleasant walk. Not too much elevation change over the distance to make any part of it difficult, and conditions (aside from maybe a little wind) were quite idyllic for a fall stroll in the woods of Wisconsin.

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 11:24am. I’ll backdate it later so as to maintain chronological order. Hope you enjoy them all the same.

Lat = 44.3161201 , Long = -89.2261505 -- Show at Google Maps

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