This series was a joint effort by Martini Man & Wisconsin Hiker
Last checked/found: 8-JUN-14 - First 3 boxes are OK but we couldn't find the last 2. We also updated the clues based on our hike on 8-JUN-14.
Time: ~4 hours
Terrain: 9.2 miles of HILLY trails. If you like a long hike this series is for you!
There are several state trails in a State Forest area approximately 1.5 miles north of La Grange (intersection of U.S. Hwy 12 and County Hwy H). The trails on the west side of the road are open to biking. You, however, want the trails that are on the EAST side of the road. These trails are open to hikers and skiers only. The name of the trails suggested the theme of this series. Since this is a State Forest, a daily or annual vehicle admission sticker is required. (2007 rates for WI residents are $7/day or $25/year and $10/$35 for non-residents).
Pit toilets are available at the start/end of the trail. There are several benches along the trail, all mentioned in these clues. They make a nice spot to rest, have a drink of water (don’t forget your water!) and perhaps a snack. If you do eat something, please try to clean your hands well before handling the letterboxes so animals aren’t attracted to the boxes.
Begin your journey by finding the large trail map sign. You will see the blue loop trail on the map and you will begin by heading clockwise on the loop. As you walk and watch for the first bench on the left, you can learn your first bit of Norwegian trivia:
"Odin (or, depending upon the dialect Woden or Wotan) was the Father of all the Norse Gods and men. Odin is pictured either wearing a winged helm or a floppy hat, and a blue-grey cloak. He can travel to any realm within the 9 Nordic worlds. His two ravens, Huginn and Munin (Thought and Memory) fly over the world daily and return to tell him everything that has happened in Midgard. He is a God of magic, wisdom, wit, and learning. He too is a psychopomp; a chooser of those slain in battle. In later times, he was associated with war and bloodshed from the Viking perspective, although in earlier times, no such association was present. If anything, the wars fought by Odin exist strictly upon the Mental plane of awareness; appropriate for that of such a mentally polarized God. It is he who sacrifices an eye at the well of Mimir to gain inner wisdom, and later hangs himself upon the World Tree Yggdrasil to gain the knowledge and power of the Runes. All of his actions are related to knowledge, wisdom, and the dissemination of ideas and concepts to help Mankind. Just as a point of curiosity: in no other pantheon is the head Deity also the God of Thought and Logic. It's interesting to note that the Norse/Teutonic peoples also set such a great importance upon brainwork and logic. The day Wednesday (Wodensdaeg) is named for him."
You will pass the bench you were watching for, then reach a fork where you will stay to the left on the blue trail. Pass the 1 Mile marker and then a stump carved like a mushroom. Eventually (just before the trail starts curving right) you will reach a rustic mossy bench on the right that is approximately 10 paces off of the trail. (The area is now quite overgrown.) Sit in the middle of the bench and take a bearing of 165 degrees. Walk 18 paces in this direction and look under the uprooted tree to find Odin’s refuge. With Odin as inspiration, use your wisdom to rehide the box carefully.
Continue on your journey along the blue trail. Pass the 1.5 Mile sign. You will pass a bench on the right, and then another bench on your right. Pass the 2 Mile marker and another bench. Now is a good time for your second bit of trivia:
"The Viking ship was a well-adapted vessel for the tasks it needed to perform. Light and efficient in build, they carried their Scandinavian passengers far about the world, ranging as far as Africa and Russia as well as North America. The secret of the Viking ship lay in its unique construction. Using a broad ax rather than a saw, expert woodworkers would first split oak tree trunks into long, thin planks. They then fastened the boards with iron nails to a single sturdy keel and then to each other, one plank overlapping the next. The Vikings gave shape to the hull using this "clinker" technique rather than the more conventional method of first building an inner skeleton for the hull. Without this crucial advance in ship technology, the Vikings would never have become a dominant force in medieval warfare, politics, and trade."
Later you will merge with other trails, but stay to your left for the blue trail. Pass the 2.5 Mile marker. You’ll come to a fork where of course you’ll stay to the left. Pass a bench on the left then the 3 Mile marker and another bench. Eventually you’ll be walking on an esker. You’ll pass a bench on your right, then soon a short trail to another bench on the right. Continue on the main trail until you reach the end of the clearing. Standing between two oak tress that flank the trail, walk ~30 steps due east along the south side of a barbed wire fence. (It will be easier walking if you skirt the tree line and head back in to the fence after counting your paces.) At the fence you should see an 8’ stump. Cross the fence where a branch is holding it down. The ship has come ashore inside the stump. For continued safe sailing, please replace it well.
Your journey continues on the blue trail where once again you will reach an intersection and stay to the left. Pass the 3.5 Mile marker, then a bench on the right, then a fork where the blue trail heads left. You’re probably ready for another bit of trivia now:
"In 986 Norwegian-born Eirik Thorvaldsson, known as Eirik the Red, explored and colonized the southwestern part of Greenland. His son, Leif Erikson, lived there with his father and heard stories about lands that might be found to the west. He gathered up a ship and crew and sailed in search of Vinland, as he later called his discoveries. He thus became the first European to set foot on the shores of North America, and the first explorer of Norwegian extraction now accorded worldwide recognition."
Pass the 4 Mile marker and then next you may notice an unofficial fork. This time follow the official trail around the corner to the RIGHT! Soon you will see a bench on the left. Sit down for a rest and take a bearing of 215 degrees. The famous explorer is investigating the interesting 4-trunked oak. Hiding him carefully will keep him safe for future explorers to discover.
FLAG OF NORWAY [CURRENTLY MISSING - MAY BE REPLACED IN THE FUTURE]
Continue along the blue trail, pass the 4.5 Mile marker and countine until you reach an intersection that includes a bench on the left. As usual, bear to the left on the blue trail. Time for the next bit of trivia:
"The Norwegian flag was discussed and planned since the constitution was written in 1814. The flag became official in 1821 and the colors were based on the free countries of Europe in the 19th century, such as Great Britain and France, as well as the United States. The red basic color was taken from Denmark, the blue cross was meant to represent Sweden, and the white frame around the cross made it the tricolor of freedom and placed Norway among the other free nations. Norway had its own national flag while still in political union with Sweden. However they did not use it everywhere - due to a deal the Swedes had made with North African pirates, Swedish ships were left in peace at sea. Thus, Norwegian ships sailing south of Spain would seek the protection of the Swedish flag. The early Norwegian flag actually included a 'union canton' consisting of the combined crosses of Norway and Sweden in the upper left quadrant. However this became unpopular and the Norwegian parliament took unilateral action to remove the Union Canton in 1898. The king assented on October 11, 1899 and the flag you see today came into use. This Norwegian flag could fly freely beginning in 1905, when Norway renounced the political union with Sweden and became a separated independent kingdom on June 7."
Pass the 5 Mile marker and eventually you’ll reach a spot on top of a hill where there are two benches on the right. (This is normally our lunch stop when we hike this trail with our hiking club.) From the benches, take 65 paces down the trail. You should see a faint path on your left. Go in about 10 paces and notice a fallen tree to your right. The flag is secure in its base. Keep the flag flying by covering it well after you stamp in.
NORDIC SKIER [NOT SURE IF THIS BOX IS STILL THERE, WE MISSED THE BENCH]
Continue on your journey along the blue trail. Pass the 5.5 Mile marker. At the N7 fork, veer left for the blue trail. Next you will pass a bench on the right. Then pass the 6 and 6.5 Mile markers. Now is a good time for your last bit of trivia:
"Nordic or Norway skiing developed as a result of the country's distinctive landscape and the abundance of snow in winter. For thousands of years skis were the only means of transport and hunting activities. The people from the Telemark area of Norway have been largely credited with developing skiing into a sport, somewhere in the early 1700's. They invented the Telemark and the Christiana (now known as the Christie) turns as methods of artfully controlling speeds on downhill descents.
As skiing in the middle of the 19th century began to gain recognition as a sport, Norway assumed a prominent position in international competitions and championships. Norwegian innovators found ways to improve skis and related equipment, and Norwegian skiers set the pace for the development of new style and techniques.
Northwest Wisconsin has a rich tradition in Nordic skiing, which could perhaps be traced back to the region’s strong Scandinavian heritage. In modern times, the Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin became an internationally known Mecca for world-class skiers. The American Birkebeiner ski marathon was first held there in 1973 and is the only American event sanctioned by the Worldloppet, an affiliation of international cross-country ski marathons. Thanks to our Norwegian ancestors for this addition to our rich ethnic heritage."
Next you’ll come to another intersection (N8) with a bench. Stay to the left and also stay to the left at the next intersection(N9). Eventually you will reach a bench on the right. [NOTE: We did not find this bench in 2014] Sit on the bench and take a bearing of 255 degrees. You see a tree that has fallen UP the hill. Go to the base of the tree and notice another tree that has fallen DOWN the hill. The skier has chosen the base of this tree as his rest stop. He’d appreciate a nice covering to protect him from unwanted attention.
To finish your hike, continue on the blue trail. You’ll pass another bench on your right, then one on your left, and finally the last bench on your left.
Hope you enjoyed your hike! You might want to stop at the General Store in La Grange for an interesting sandwich or ice cream cone as a reward.
If you do the series, it would be great if you could send us an email to let us know the status of the boxes. Thanks!