Badger 500 State Trail

Newsletter-Where's Randy-Feb 2015

Submitted by Randy Winkelman

This past October offered up a sunny, warm October day great for a fall bike ride. I decided to load my bike up and make the short ride to Belleville and ride the Badger 500 trail south from Belleville. This trail travels all the way to the Illinois state line. I have pedaled the Badger state trail many times from Fitchburg to Belleville, but never much further south. More than anything, I wanted to check out the Stewart tunnel which is part of the badger 500 trail.

The trail is approximately 3-3/4 miles from downtown Belleville. The trail is a gradual upwards grade as the trail heads out of Belleville and into the countryside. Much of the trail is shaded by a canopy of trees which is a great advantage on a hot sunny summer day. Make sure to have a flashlight or bike light for your trip tunnel.

The almost 4 mile trek passes quickly and in no time you are upon the entrance to the tunnel. The summit of the hill through which the tunnel passes is 235 feet above the sugar river valley. The tunnel is 21 feet high, 14 feet wide, approximately 1 /4 mile long. The tunnel was constructed in 1887. The tunnel curves inside and therefor becomes pitch black until you can again see the opposite tunnel opening.

The south tunnel opening has some great opportunities for pictures and you can even climb to the top of the outside of the tunnel and get a perspective of just how expansive the tunnel is. The scenery is spectacular from the south side of the tunnel entrance as the hilltop vista provides lookouts for miles of countryside. There is a small picnic area along the trail with an info board with photos and history of the tunnel building.

For those who wish to continue the trail south of the tunnel, the next city is Monticello or you can take the connecting link to the sugar river bike trail which heads over to New Glarus. I have plans already to next time start in New Glarus and head south. I am amazed at how many great, scenic bike trails we have so near to Madison.

If you are not a biker, but think you would enjoy the tunnel, you can park your car along tunnel road and walk the bike trail to the tunnel entrance. The walk from the road to the tunnel is a very short distance and very scenic. You can find lots of info on the internet about the tunnel and there are a number of videos on youtube showing the tunnel, mostly, take the time to experience the tunnel itself and don’t forget your camera and a flashlight!!

Check out these websites.

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Local Smelt Fry

Newsletter-Where's Randy-April-2015Growing up I remember my Dad and some friends heading to Port Washington for the annual smelt run. On a successful night, they would bring bucket loads of fresh smelt from the chilly Lake Michigan waters. The next morning, we spent hours cleaning these tasting little fish knowing that meant another spectacular smelt fry! As a young boy, I learned quickly and became a great smelt cleaner! For those who have never cleaned smelt, a pocket knife and toothbrush are all you need!

Over the years, salmon and trout in the great lakes have made the annual smelt runs a thing of the past. Today, smelt runs are very limited and mostly take place on Lake Superior. Those in tune with the smelt runs are very tight lipped about when/where they take these tasty little fish.

For many years, it was very common for many local restaurants and pubs to have annual smelt frys. Today, it has become very difficult to find any remaining restaurants who still serve up the tasty fare. We are fortunate here in Madison to have a couple local places who still serve smelt, but on a very limited basis and often times more by word of mouth than actual advertisement. I have found a local favorite that can’t be beat.

The North Bristol Sportsmans Club has its annual smelt frys beginning in January and lasting until April. This year marks the clubs 40th anniversary of holding the smelt frys. The club serves smelt one Saturday a month, January through April. The smelt fry is an all you can eat dinner and for those who don’t put smelt on the top of their list, chicken is also served. Of course there are lots of extras along with the smelt and nobody leaves hungry! Members of the club do all the cooking and serving and you probably won’t find a cheaper can of beer in Dane County! The doors open at 4:00 and serving begins at 5. Seating is limited and be prepared to wait as locals wait all year for the annual smelt frys.

If you love smelt, or are looking to experience a “true” Wisconsin tradition, consider a smelt fry – you won’t be disappointed!

Check out the website below for more info:

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Wingra Creek

Newsletter-Where's Randy-#1Submitted by Randy Winkelman

What is the official sign that spring has arrived in Madison? Look no further than the Wingra Creek dam! Every spring, a crowd of observers gather at the Wingra Creek to watch Muskies attempt to jump the dam where the creek exits Lake Wingra. I myself enjoy watching the spectacle, and love to see some HUGE muskies swimming in the water below the dam. It usually begins early April and lasts for a few weeks but everything is dependent on the weather.

The muskies enter the creek from Lake Monona and travel the distance up the creek to the dam just below Lake Wingra. It is an annual spring migration for the muskies and believed to be instinctive and spawning related, mostly muskies searching for warmer water and a place to spawn. Since muskies are stocked in our Madison lakes and there is little or no natural reproduction it is not muskies returning to their original place of birth. Believe it or not, some muskies do succeed in jumping the dam and make it into Lake Wingra. When the dam was rebuilt a couple of years ago, much thought was given into the design of the dam as to protect these jumping muskies. Members of local fishing clubs provided input on making the design better for these fish. It is thought, very few muskies successfully make the jump over the dam and fishing experts would rather not see more muskies in Lake Wingra.

I know what you are thinking, what a great place to wet a line and get a shot at landing one of these beauties! Be forewarned, the area right below the dam is a protected fish refuge area and is carefully monitored by both the DNR and local fishing club members. You will get ticketed if caught fishing in this area.

This is a great place to take kids to observe these big fish. There is often chatter on the internet as to when the best time arrives to observe the fish. I myself have found that bright sunny days can sometimes make it easier to see the fish in the water and rainy days seem to make the water murkier and more difficult to see fish. I have also heard lots of stories of fish really active on full moon eves and when a rain or strong wind comes out of the southwest. I would simply say if you are in the area, see if there are people watching and check it out, it is worthwhile.

There are lots of videos on you tube, lots of discussion boards and lots of articles written about this annual right to spring. Simply google, “Wingra creek dam muskies”. The UW limnology dept also usually posts a blog on the muskies. Last year the limnology dept concluded the musky jumping ended May 10. If you time your trip to the dam just right, you will be amazed at the numbers and size of some of these muskies. Mostly, if you are a musky fisherman, you will see first hand just some of the monsters that swim in our Madison lakes!

2 Responses to Wingra Creek

  1. Thanks for this Randy, I lived a few blocks from here when I was young and the dam was completely different than it now is. I love to go over in the spring too, I wonder where the fish are when you are trying to catch them.

  2. Mike. Its a great place to enjoy in spring and the rest of the year too!! I started ice fishing wingra creek 30 years ago when I knew very little about ice fishing. Back then I caught some nice fish. I haven’t ice fished there in 15 years. I guess I should give it a try for old times sake!!

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Madison Community Hymn Sing

Newsletter-Randy Article-Dec 2014Submitted by Randy Winkelmen

Just like most of you, I too attended the divorce separated group meetings held at Bethel Lutheran Church. I began attending meetings back in April 2009, seems so very long ago. Many things changed in my life that year and I remember dreading lots of different things and mostly the thought of what my first Christmas, being single after many years would be like.

I found lots of things to occupy my time through volunteer work, mentoring in our public schools and mostly meeting new friends and experiencing many things/events for the first time. I stumbled across a great event which takes place at the Overture Hall a number of times each year. The events are free to the public and no tickets or reservations are needed. Generally, the sing a longs are about 1 hour in length. This year’s Holiday sing along is Saturday Dec 6th at 11:00AM.

I gathered some fellow friends I had met at the Bethel group and together we went to our first community sing along that December in 2009. The December sing along has a Holiday theme and the songs generally are traditional holiday favorites everybody knows. It was lots of fun to hear young and old enjoy singing these classic songs in the large Overture Concert Hall to the sound of the Overture centers concert organ. It is a great event to take kids, grand kids, elderly parents, etc.

Afterwards, we walked State Street, enjoyed the holiday decorations and finally found a nice shop to grab a cup of coffee and just sit, talk and have a great time. It was a time to start new friendships and traditions that still continue today. Consider finding some time to enjoy a great community event, a chance to enjoy the Overture Center at a price everyone can afford!!

Check out this website for more info:


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Parfrey’s Glen


Submitted by Randy Winkelman

This is a must on your list of places close to home to visit. Parfrey’s Glen is located near Devils Lake State Park. Parfrey’s Glen has changed drastically the last few years because of powerful floods.

At its uppermost part, the gorge reaches a depth of nearly 100 feet and has the feeling of a mountain-type stream running along its floor. As you hike the trails, make sure to observe the many rare plants in this area. Don’t forget to take a camera along for some truly great pictures. Parfrey’s Glen is worth a couple of trips each year as the changing seasons give the Glen a different look and feel.

Entertain yourself on one of the tree swinging vines along the path, it’s addictive and if you give the vine a try, others standing by will also give it a shot! Dogs are welcome on leash, but again, be sensitive to the numerous rare plants. This is a great day trip with stops at the Merrimac Ferry, Wollersheim winery, Sky High Orchard and Devils Lake State Park. You can find Parfrey’s Glen listed on the Devils Lake State Park web page. Go to the maps and trails section and you will find info on Parfrey’s Glen. Enjoy the picture of me swinging on the vine at Parfrey’s Glen.

One Response to Parfrey’s Glen

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