"The contented person enjoys the scenery of a detour."
I had a nice "detour" of sorts this past weekend when I took a random trip to West Branch State Park, located in Portage County, approximately 45 minutes from my home. In what seems like the winter that will NEVER end (even when it is not even winter anymore...come on, Spring, step it up!), I made it a point to get outside for a mini hike the moment the weather broke! Cloudy and overcast was far better than rainy or snowy in my book, so I trekked to West Branch State Park with my pup in tow (it is a dog friendly establishment - in fact, I saw a number of other hikers with dogs here today)!
Slider says "bring your pets!"
This park appealed to me because of its impressive 2,650-acre lake with its many forks, making it a popular spot for fishermen, boaters, and swimmers. Just looking at the layout of West Branch on the official park map (below) told me that! Since the lake would clearly be frozen over still (it's not THAT warm yet), I would certainly not be able to partake in any of these fine events, but I used this as an opportunity to scout out the place for a summertime visit!
I parked at the trailhead for the "Deer Run Trail," which was to be just a short 1-mile hike! I found out that the trail is appropriately named, because right when I got out of my car, I spotted a large white-tailed deer grazing in the field! I was luckily able to get rather close to take a picture before she sprinted off, but she wasn't the only deer I would see in my short visit! The trail itself was rather muddy due to the recent weather. And while I was not afraid to get a little dirty, it still was not the most ideal of conditions.
Despite the mud, there were still a lot of great things to see while at West Branch State Park. For instance, there are a large number of camping sites sprinkled along the lake, only a few of which were occupied at the time I visited. Most of the sites seemed to overlook the lake, and were situated by a cliff/hill that led down to a rocky shore. I managed to find a couple of steep paths down to the rocky beach to gaze out at the frozen & massive body of water, and for a quick photo op. I was able to see some of the 6 launching ramps for boating, and some of the docks that were available for rent. I could also see some of the gravel launch ramps available for fishing boats. as well as a 700-foot sand beach that is available for swimming (when the ice melts, of course).
My 1-mile hike was just a fraction of what is offered at West Branch State Park. There are 14 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of mountain bike trails, and 20 miles of bridle trails. If this year pans out, I will be tackling some of those trails soon enough, and I hope that you can join me!