Bike Trip to Governor Dodge

Labor Day, 2003

The Military Ridge Trail is a 40 mile rails-to-trails bike route between Verona and Dodgeville with stops in Mt. Horeb, Blue Mounds and other small towns. The trail connects to the Capital City Trial in Madison making it accessible from about anywhere in the city. The trail was once the rail corridor for the Chicago and Northwestern railroad. It gets its name for the military road once built to connect frontier forts in the 1830's.

Our last bike-camping trip to Mirror Lake State Park seemed to some (ok, me) a bit over done with the lavish breakfast spread and tons of camping equipment (I admit I DID bring the camp oven). Because this trail was ONLY 40 miles and was accessible from Madison, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to construct a "No Car-Camping" bike trip.

The rules were simple: only bring what you (or someone else) can carry on your bike and/or burley. Our last camp out saw 4 camp stoves which wasn't exactly necessary. So I picked up a great Yakima one-wheeled trailer and sent out an email looking to barrow as many Burley two-wheeled trailers as we could.

The plan was to load up and leave from our homes meeting at the head of the trial (the end of the Capital City Trail). Fully loaded (tent, one sleeping bag, cooler, stove, propane tank, frisbee, small stools, wire grill and lantern) I was pulling just under 80lbs. Kathy packed her rear basket with food and clothes.

While one car did go up with some heavy stuff and a telescope, everybody else pulled their own gear. We had 11 riders on the way to Dodgeville, plus two dogs (in trailers). The ride up was smooth, with only slight grades heading up to Blue Mounds. The trail gets loose just before you hit Dodgeville. There were some tears but we all made it.

I need to backup a bit - we reserved these sites back in June and at that time, the only sites left were "Back Packing site" - no electricity. What we didn't know (among other things) is that fact Governor Dodge State Park is VERY hilly - there's not a flat spot in the whole place. So once we arrived at the park entrance (after a killer downhill run) we had a grueling 5 mile trek to the back packing sites.

Another thing we didn't know (among other things) is the fact you could not drive to your site. These were BACK PACKING sites, meaning you parked and walked the 1/2 mile to your site. So that meant hauling all the gear and bikes and food up and down some serious trails - all hilly. The trailers helped but it was a challenge. Needless to say, most folks were pissed off by the time we got there.

But what we soon realized was what a great site we had picked. I personally had never camped in a no-car, back packing site. I was used to the car-camping, blacktop sites within spitting distance of other campers. This was so different.

For starters, we barely saw the other backpackers in the "next" site which was quite a hike from ours. That meant no Lynard Skynard! No kids on big wheels. Also, the bath house was a good walk and that was to a pit toilet. The flushers (and showers) were further down the road. This introduced me (and others) to the wonderful toilet kit. The toilet kit consisted of a small trowel and toilet paper. Enough said.

We did drive into Dodgeville to get firewood and food but it still had to be carried to the site. While out getting food, we tried to find a "flatter" way to get out of the park. Our best option was to head west and hit 23, then head south to the trail. There would still be some hills before we got out of the park.

We went on some great hikes around the ridge and on top of some rocky bluffs. The food was still fantastic despite having less gear. We ate lots of corn on the cob, veggie burgers and brats.

It wasn't until we left where things broke away from my original plan - lots of gear was dumped into the now three cars (one was taken back to get two more) - and some folks decided to ride their way out of the park. Honestly, the biking was difficult but not impossible. Sure, hauling the gear was challenging but that was the point.

Trying to stick to the original minimalism, Kathy and myself loaded up the same gear we brought and road out with the remaining crew. The ride back went very fast without having to haul the extra gear.

I think there is a place for car camping just as there is a place for minimalist (no-car) camping. I'm hoping we can plan a shorter no-car trip and I still really want to do a zero-support bike trip; a long ride with no cars and only whats really needed on the other end. I know, however this will exclude some riders not wanting to blow 70+ miles to go camping. Thats why God invented car camping.


Ready to go

Almost ready to go

Dog in Burley


To Verona!




Grumpy Troll

Outdoor seating

Grumpy dog

Someone, kill me

Resting in Barneville

Water break

Dog break


The grill

The cobs

The spread

All mine!

The cliff

Close call

Climbing the bluff

Getting to the top

All his!

We spotted the ranger

Coming down

The crab-crawl

Heading home

Goo, bananas and water

Back in Verona


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