Friday, July 19, 2013

Escape to small town America on Wis. trail

Gandy Dancer State Trail in Siren, Wis.
For a pleasant return to small town America, day hike the Gandy Dancer State Trail, which runs north-south through the village of Siren. Start downtown and head north to the airport for a four-mile round trip hike.

To reach the trail, park downtown in the northwest quadrant of the State Hwys. 35 and 70 intersection. The trail parallels Hwy. 35 so can be accessed by simply taking any street west.

The village portion of the trail takes you back to Mayberry, to those long lost days when more of America lived in small rural towns than large cities. The trail here is fairly open, so be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen.

While in Siren, the trail crosses West Main Street, so exercise caution at this intersection, especially if children are with you.

Though Siren’s population just tops 800, it’s the Burnett County seat. The village’s name is a misspelling of the Swedish word “syren,” which means “lilac.” The fragrant bush was common in the village when Swedish settlers established the town in the 1890s and still can be found aplenty more than 110 years later. Depending on how early spring arrives, the lilac blossoming makes May to June an excellent time to hike the trail.

After about two-thirds of a mile, you’ll reach the edge of town. Though trees line the trail the entire way, they begin to grow thicker here.

To the right across the highway, you’ll catch glimpses of Crooked Lake. You’ll also hike past some lower-lying marshy stretches; as an old railroad bed, the trail is raised and wide, so there’s no need to worry about wet feet.

After about 1.2 miles, forest entirely surrounds the trial. The trials are an excellent mix of red and sugar maples, oak, birch, basswood and pine.

You’ll reach Airport Road after 2 miles; if lucky, you may catch a small prop plane taking off or landing at the Burnett County Airport. While the trail continues north to Webster, the road marks a good spot to turn around.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.