Pike Lake is literally my backyard, and thus is my primary location for photography. I can be in the woods or along the lake within a few minutes.
Ice Age Trail
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, with its tell-tale yellow post markers, passes through the forest. The Ice Age trail traverses over 1,100 miles, all in Wisconsin, from Potawatomi State Park near Sturgeon Bay in Door County to Interstate State Park near St. Croix Falls in Polk County. The Pike Lake portion is probably a little more than a mile, though I’ve never clocked it.
The Forest and the Lake
Pike Lake, itself, is a 446 acre spring-fed lake, the namesake for the property. It is throughout the summer for recreational boating and fishing, and winter for ice fishing.
The forest is probably best described as an urban forest. I don’t know its exact size, though guessing it might be 2-3 miles square. Within the forest are numerous hiking trails, as well as a small campground.
The Photo Opportunity – Landscapes
The Pike Lake unit offers a number of different photo opportunities, all depending upon the time of year. Most of the forested area is hardwoods (ash, maple, a few elms, some beech, birch, etc.). This forest just lights up in the fall with its colors.
There is an open field just north of the lake, and another on the north bordering Highway 60 that offers seasonal wildflowers. Daisies and coneflowers, in the summer; asters and golden rod in the fall (as well many more).
Being within the Kettle Moraine, there are a couple of small kettle lakes. Surrounded by wooded hills, these little lakes provide a different ecology for photography.
Evening sunsets in the summer over the lake can be remarkable, as the park is located on the eastern shore of Pike Lake.
The Photo Opportunity – Wildlife
For those who enjoy capturing images of birds, particularly during the spring and fall migration season, you may find what you are looking for at Pike Lake. The boardwalk just north of the beach crosses over a wooded, marshy section which is a small bird paradise. Often on morning walks during the migration, the birds just fill the area with their chorus.
Do you enjoy watching wildlife? It is not uncommon to see white-tailed deer cross the trails as you hike. Turkeys are also very prevalent, and it is not uncommon to see blue heron and sand hill cranes. I’ve seen the cranes in the spring mornings performing their ritualistic mating dance, enjoying the view from a distance.
Occasionally, one may see a bald eagle either perched in the trees overlooking the lake or simply passing by.
Within the forest itself, I’ll often use a macro lens and shoot close-ups. Wide angles are used for tree canopy images.
My other most-often used lens in the forest is the 70-200.
Because the park is my backyard, I’ll take a 2 mile hike on the Green Trail almost every morning. If I’m just going on the hike, I’ll only carry my iphone. Iphone images are retained for posting on Facebook only.
If my hike is more photography focused, I’ll bring either my camera with one lens (and tripod), or my backpack with all of my equipment. The photography captured with my regular equipment is retained for prints and never shared on Facebook.
Officially known as the Pike Lake Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest (KMSF), “Pike Lake” is located just east of Hartford, Wisconsin on Highway 60. It is approximately 45 minutes northeast of Milwaukee, in southeastern Wisconsin.
Originally, this was known as Pike Lake State Park. The name change occurred a number of years ago, though many maps still carry its’ original name.
Being a Wisconsin state property, a park sticker (daily or annual) is required. Neither are that expensive, with the annual being the best buy if you’ll be visiting other state parks/forests.