Into the (Wisconsin) Wild

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I’m lucky enough to have adventurous friends and a borrowed car, both very important elements of spur-of-the-moment trips to Wisconsin. I took advantage of this yesterday and ended up spending the day hiking through the beautiful forest of Kettle Moraine State Park. It was hard to believe in ice ages and glaciers as the sun beat down and we guzzled water, but the whole area was under an ice sheet 20,000 years ago. Two of them, actually—the geography of the region was formed by two lobes of an ice sheet crashing into each other. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the lakes we kept wandering by (we always knew they were coming when we started swatting at the swarming bugs) are technically called kettles. When the ice sheets rammed into each other, they broke big pieces off of each other and buried them in the glacial deposit. They eventually melted and formed the ponds we saw, ranging in size from puddles to 200-foot-deep obstacles, including one that we crossed via a precarious, goose-poop-covered bridge about a foot above the slimy green bog. The glaciers also formed kames (a fancy name for conical hills), a welcome respite from Illinois’s perpetual flatness for this West Coast girl. Streams on the surface would melt and carry all of their dirt, sand, and gravel down through the ice sheet and collect underneath it, where the massive glacier on top of it would compress the mound into the hills we clambered up and down. It took convincing of friends, a two-hour drive, and the collision of two massive glaciers 20,000 years ago, but I finally found some geography in the Midwest. And spectacular as the lakes, hills, and trees were yesterday, I can appreciate them even more now that I can call them kettles and kames and know a little more about their history. Photo credit: alltrails.com

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