Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wisconsin trail heads into ancient meteor crater…and UFO hotspot

County park trail
runs through Rock
Elm Disturbance

Day hikers can walk across a 430-million-year-old meteor crater that may be attracting UFOs to the region at western Wisconsin’s Nugget Lake County Park.

The segment of the appropriately named Black Trail runs 1.5 miles round trip into the southern boundary of the Rock Elm Disturbance, a circular region about four miles across, where a meteor slammed into the earth long before there were dinosaurs. The rock was an estimated 557 feet in diameter and hit the ground at nearly 25 miles/second.

To reach the park, from U.S. Hwy. 10 in Plum City head north on County Road S. Turn left/northwest onto 150th Street. At 430th Avenue/County Road HH, go left/west. Once the road curves north, the park entrance is on the left/west. Follow the entry road to the first parking lot, on the left/west side.

UFO Capital of Wisconsin
From the lot, take the Black Trail north alongside Plum Creek and cross the stream over a footbridge. At the first intersection upon crossing the creek, go straight/west rather than take the Black Trail’s southern segment. Going north takes you deeper into the ancient meteor crater.

The crater has filled in over the eons, so unless a scientist with the right equipment, you probably wouldn’t even know a meteor had shaped this landscape. But some say extraterrestrials know.

Indeed, the crater sits in what has long been a UFO hotspot. Since the 1950s and peaking in 1975-77, a number of bizarre flying saucer sightings and interactions have been reported across the region. Today, the nearby town of Elmwood calls itself the “UFO Capital of Wisconsin” and each summer hosts “UFO Days.”

For as many sightings there have been there are almost as many turns in the Black Trail as it meanders into the crater. After crossing the creek, the trail curves north and intersects the Orange Trail. Following that turn, continue straight/north rather than turn left/west to the overlook.

Saucer fires on cop
In one nearby sighting, a flying saucer landed on a country road in front of a mother and her three children in a car. They ran into a neighbor’s house seeking help, and when the homeowner followed them back home, the saucer pursued.

Another incident involved Elmwood’s chief of police, who upon seeing a brilliant light descend over a hill thought a plane had crashed. When he investigated, though, he saw a hovering saucer the size of a football field.

Almost a year later in 1976, the police chief again spotted a saucer. This time, though, the UFO fired a blue ray at his squad car, knocking out Wheeler and frying the vehicle’s sparks and plugs.

Other sightings have occurred in neighboring communities and the countryside south to Plum City and Maiden Rock – as well as at Nugget Lake.

Swamp gas?
After passing the stem to the Overlook, the Black Trail continues north, again crossing Plum Creek and then veering west. It junctions with a stem trail to the Underlook and then to the Blue Trail; stay on the main path, which shifts north and heads alongside Plum Creek.

Some say the Rock Elm Disturbance attracts the saucers to the area. Perhaps the aliens simply hold a scientific interest in the crater or they somehow use the magnetism from the buried meteor rock to power their craft.

The Black Trail soon junctions with two connectors to the Blue Trail; stay on the Black Trail, which next comes to a bridge crossing Rock Elm Creek, a tributary to Plum Creek. This marks a good spot to turn back. If you have some extra energy, on the way back take in the stem trails for the Underlook (0.1 miles round trip) and the Overlook (0.12 miles round trip); the Overlook stem is the better of the two for its vista view.

Of course, maybe the flying saucers are all just swamp gas. Over the eons, clay-rich sediment has filled the crater, resulting in boggy soil that can generate methane, also known as swamp gas – which when breathed can lead to mental disorientation or flare if ignited by lightning.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.