Directions: From the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and County W at the stoplights by WalMart, go west on W 1.5 miles. The road winds to the South and then the West. Just after the west bend is a small parking area south of the road.
The sign close to the entrance reads: Pewit’s Nest open daily 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Food and beverage are not allowed in the natural area. Please help protect this sensitive resource: Climbing on or jumping from rocks is prohibited.
The dominant feature at Pewits Nest is a 30 to 40 foot deep gorge formed during the retreat of the last glacier. Associated with it are Skillet Creek, shaded cliffs, and a northern dry-mesic forest. When Glacial Lake Baraboo drained, Skillet Creek cut a narrow canyon through the Cambrian sandstone, forming a series of potholes and waterfalls. A fill once stood within the gorge many years ago. Today no evidence of the mill remain. Before the building of the mill, an individual lived in the solid sandstone, like a gnome in a cavern. This dwelling resembled the nest of a phoebe (or peewit, an earlier name for this bird), hence dubbed by early settlers the ‘Peewit’s Nest.
As I pulled into the lot it was evident that it was going to be a busy day at the gorge. A group of people had gathered in the center of the parking lot discussing what they would see in this beautiful natural area. I walked past the group and entered the trail. A dirt trail that had a few muddy areas due to recent rain. The trail winds through what looks like a forgotten orchard. I was greeted by the aroma of apple blossoms.
The white and pink flowering trees dot the path. The break from green to pink and white is striking as I walk further along the path. The morning air is filled with the sounds of warblers, cardinals, blue jays, and finches among other birds. The sound of the water cascading grows louder with each step into the natural area. About 40 feet into the wooded area aire several breaks in the path. These lead to the upper portion of the Gorge. The cliffs that look down for spectacular views of the falls. I keep heading straight as I know this leads to Skillet Creek and a basin at the foot of the falls. I look to the right to see the sandstone walls jutting out among the trees. I look to the trail and see jack in the pulpit, trillium, Dutchman’s britches, and many other native plants. It is early in the year so the foliage is not over grown and each plant is easily noticed.
I see a fallen log and know that just past is the creek. I walk along the log and see the familiar sight of the creek rolling over the rocks. Some have been strategically placed so one can cross to the lush glen where the creek meanders beyond the gorge. The water from the falls fills the air. A calming sound with birdsong brings a smile to my face. How I love this park in the spring.
I stop to catch a quick picture of the falls deep in the gorge. You can catch a glimpse of it if you look carefully from one of the first rocks in the creek. I glimmer meets your eyes as you see the water cascading down the sandstone rocks. The sun shone down through the towering trees above as a spotlight on the falls. The glimmer of the water below the falls looks like sparkling jewels cast before me. The moss on the cliffs was such a bright green as if a child had spilled green paint upon the stone. It is a wonder each time a see this special place.
I step upon the stones that dot the creek so I can cross and see the white pines the tower over the creek. The sun rays streak through the pine canopy to deliver a little bit of heaven to the spot in Baraboo.
I walk down the creek to spy ferns unfolding in the early spring foliage. White and purple violets pepper the ground. Yellow reniculus skimmers as if painter with glitter. THere is something to look at with every step. Frogs jump into the creek and tadpoles look as if they are playing along the muddle bottom of the streams that come from springs in the hills that line the glen along the creek.
I stop to admire the reflection of the trees in the creek. Greens and browns dance in a blue reflection of sky as tiny waves from the fish feeding on bugs on the water cause the painter water surface to shimmer in the cool colors of spring. Greens and blues are the pallet and this is painted upon the creek. It is as if the cool spring air had washed the water top with the left over color from the tree tops.
The walk back to te paths that lead to the cliffs is just a spectacular. I retrace my steps across the carefully laid stones in the creek making sure that I do not fall on the loose stones. I don’t want to spend the rest of the day in a soggy shoe or wet shorts. Again a stop to admire the falls as I make my footing on the shore.
I climb the path. Not very steep. It leads to an overlook that gives one breathtaking views of the falls. I have never been able to get a good look at the falls as my vertigo gets the best of me. Yet, today I did not want to miss this opportunity. I held my breath as I made my way to the edge of the cliff. I then followed the path along te edge until I could spy the falls. I could not believe that I had been here so many times over the years and let my fears get the beat of me. Breathtaking is all I can say.
You can walk long the edge of the cliffs to see several water falls along the path of the creek within the gorge. I walked along the path for a mile or two. The path drops to the level of the creek where you hike through farm fields and brush along the creek edge. There is an oak savannah with picnic tables partway to Gasser Rd today. The creek winds in and out of the trees and farm fields. You can hear and dee abundant wildlife. There were many types of birds flying around the tree tops. I was wa.lking with a set of deer tracks for most of the pathway. I did not make it all the way to Fasser Rd. Maybe another day when the mood catches me.
On the way back in the parking lot I saw a bridal party with the bride in white satin getting ready to make their way along the path. An unusual place for a wedding yet an unforgettable wedding for this lucky couple. The last picture I leave you with is of an oak gracing the side of the creek. The leaves are just sprouting and the bright blue sky contrasts the light green leaves and the dark oak bark. I hope the hike the Memorial day weekend. I don’t know which hiking trail will call to me but I know whatever the choice it will be a memorable hike.
I would like to thank my friend Tom who accompanied me on this hike and put up with my neurotic tendencies when in high places. Thank you.