I’m not sure how or why it came to be reality, but for some reason our Tacoma crew decided it would be smart to try a winter outing. In February. In Wisconsin. And it was a good idea! Well mostly aside from the frozen camping. Read on for more details!
Day 1: Main Trail Drive from Black River Falls to Medford area
The trip started with some extremely cold camping at Castle Mound Campground in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. No photos because I arrived very late and it was extremely cold. A couple of us foolishly stayed up late and stood directly next to the fire just to keep warm. Everything is covered in ice, and just standing on the ground chills to the bone. Temps just days before the trip were up near 50, temps on arrival including wind chill were sub zero. Needless to say, we were all eager to wake up and get moving (and get some heat cranked in the truck to thaw out). We lined up at the camp entrance and met with some other friends who didn’t camp overnight.
As is typical, we didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before shenanigans started off. As is also typical, it was Pat.
First order of the day is to get some breakfast. Gimi’s BRF was our spot and I think the group would agree this was a good choice. I had steak & eggs which helped me to feel like a normal person again instead of an ice cube.
The goal of the trip was to run a section of the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail (or T.W.A.T. for short) between Black River Falls and somewhere near Medford where we again planned to camp. Normally this is just a nice run of paved road and gravel roads through the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Today they were all ice and snow, and thanks to the slightly warmer temps and bright sun it was all extremely slippery.
Another look at the trail while driving. Don’t worry this was plenty safe, we were doing less than 20mph for most of the way. This crunchy snow was always a welcome sight and gave great traction…
Once it transitioned from snow to ice is where things got a little sketchy. 4WD only helps a little bit here, the key for today was having good tires (and by that I mean not having mud tires).
Another view while on the trail. We were stopped here because the left turn we needed to make was completely snow covered up to the signposts and we missed it. Everyone had to back up a couple hundred yards which gave me time at the rear of the pack to take a few quick photos.
One of the final photos taken during the trail ride was this hilly area that broke from an open meadow to thick forest cover. I was still bringing up the rear so I was glad to get a couple trucks in the shot as well.
Tacoma & 4Runner Glamor Shots
Thanks to the ice our travels were slower than average, and in total we were on the road for over 6 hours. On the bright side that means we stopped several times for breaks to stretch out and smell the roses, and that means time to play with the camera. These are just a few of the gratuitous truck photos taken during the adventure.
This photo is credit of my friend Jonathan (as seen in the cement gray Tacoma above) who has taken both of my most favorite photos of my own truck, something I can’t do while driving but am very thankful for. Cheers Jon!
Picnic Point Campground in National Forest
Our destination was Picnic Point Campground on the Mondeaux Flowage near Chelsea, Wisconsin. Site was suggested by James and it turned out to be a hidden gem. It’s a small primitive camp but on a night like tonight we had it all to ourselves. I only had enough daylight for a quick drone flight but here’s the view from overhead. The river/flowage is directly off to the right side. We all have sleep setups in the truck. It was cold but not nearly as cold as the first night. Copious amounts of Brandy Old Fashioned were enjoyed by all.
Only other photo from camp is Pat showing me his rock lights which I hadn’t seen before. This was on my to-do list but I think it just moved up higher.
Day 2: Exploring National Forest Roads / Mondeaux Hardwoods State Natural Area
Four of us made camp and only three continued on for exploration on Sunday. Not much to share here – we just checked some of the other forest roads in the area for future trip intel. James knew of a natural spring just up the road so we stopped there and he dumped out a new jug of store-bought water to fill with the mountain fresh spring water.
A couple of 4Runner glamor shots if that’s your persuasion. By this point we were all rocking the khaki paintjobs formed from a slurry of sand, dirt, and road salt.
My silver paint usually hides it pretty well but even mine was looking downright gross. Doesn’t matter, that’s the price of admission. Not pictured here: us checking out an old campground and turning around on a frozen lake.
We grew tired of ice skating on the trails and decided to call it a day. Here’s how it looked at the gas pump after returning home.
And after a quick auto-wash it’s nearly back to normal. I’m not sure if it translates across your computer/phone screen but I have some new big scratches on the rear driver door from some scratchy branches. Call them souvenirs I guess.
I did play around taking lots of video and timelapse of the trail with my old GoPro, and some short videos with the drone. Here is everything all mashed together crudely because it’s not worth editing further.
I was able to record our drives on Gaia with only some minor glitches. In total I figure we drove about 115 miles on Saturday and an extra ~10 miles Sunday before getting tired of sliding on ice. The entire T.W.A.T. runs from Iowa up to the border with Michigan’s U.P. so this is only a small section. Several group members have run the whole thing but I have not yet so definitely expect more posts on this in the future – next planned trip is in April.Lat = 44.337471 , Long = -90.5850906 -- Show at Google Maps