The village of Trempealeau on the Mississippi River hosts Perrot State Park. The park has 1,200 acres nestled among 500-foot bluffs where the Trempealeau and Mississippi rivers meet. The village is named for a nearby “mountain,” which French explorers called “la montagne qui trempe à l'eau,” meaning “the mountain whose foot is bathed in water.” I took this photo of it after climbing Brady’s Bluff, the theme of this story.
La Montagne qui trempe à l'eau is 388 ft. high, between the Trempealeau and Mississippi rivers. I’ve marked it with the red arrow on the left—the red arrow to the right points to Brady’s Bluff on the grounds of the Park. DNR lists Brady’s Bluff at 520 ft.
Josh Mayer has presented a marvelous photo and description of the Mountain. There are three rock islands along the Mississippi, and this is one of them. The Only In Your State website offers more photos and descriptions of the mountain. It is part of Perrot State Park. If you want to go to it, you must use a canoe or kayak.
This photo gives you a sense of the East Trail. It is marked on the map by the blue arrow lower right. My partner and I took this trail up. It is a succession of switchbacks. A switchback is a trail or path that takes a zig-zag pattern up steep terrain, such as a hillside or mountain. Switchbacks made the climb seem more manageable than going up a steep ridge in “one swell foop.” You are constantly climbing but at a slower rate of rise. The distance is longer than going straight up, but the switchback is easier on the legs.
In many cases, the trail had embedded rock, which made the climb a bit harder. I had to be especially careful not to lose my balance and risk going down the ridge. My partner loaned me her hiking stick. It was mission essential to maintain my balance. Frankly, I would not have made it without this.
About two-thirds up Brady’s Bluff, a gaggle of some 60 nine-year-old kids were coming down single file, led by a teacher, with other teachers, parents, and their bus driver. We held our position on the trail because we had a wide spot. Had we gone up, we would have been fighting for a path since it was pretty narrow.
The teacher stopped his troops just short of where we were. He told us he wanted to stop his students so he could teach them about the prairie at this level. I smiled, but this annoyed me because I was tired and had to wait, I would say, for 15 minutes or so.
But then, the little second-grade troopers marched down the path in all their splendor. More than one looked tired as well!
Glory hallelujah, we made it to the top. This shelter with its benches was waiting. I sat down, and my partner handed me some water. She was carrying my camera and water for us in her knapsack. I, of course, went up the bluff, only holding on to my hiking stick!
After I relaxed for a bit, I took in the sights. They were wonderful. To start I took a great photo of la montagne qui trempe à l'eau. Looking closely, you can see it is an island through some vegetation that blocks the view.
Let me show a few more shots.
These views of the Mighty Mississippi made the climb worthwhile. My partner was familiar with these views and commented that many islands in these photos were not there several decades ago. I have read there is a lot of silt coming down the Mississippi that builds up. I know the Chippewa River brings in a lot of mud, threatening Lake Pepin. The vegetation carries through the air and water and spreads. Just think of the thousands of rivers, creeks, and streams that flow into this river.
I will now tell you that I found the trek down much harder than the climb up. Based on recommendations from other hikers, we took the West Trail down. The blue arrow in the middle of the above map marks the West Trail. Remember that we parked the car near the East Trail, marked by the blue arrow to the bottom right on the map. This fact became important when we finished, ever so pleasantly so!
To start, I was tired, of course. Maintaining my balance was a big challenge. I relied on the hiking stick a great deal. The body tends to want to fall forward, so I had to put the stick forward of my steps to ensure I did not fall forward. The second issue was the stress on my thighs. It was pronounced. I confess to being out of shape.
The West Trail thankfully did have areas with rock and wooden steps, the latter with accompanying rails to hold. I borrowed these two photos from Wisconsin Explorer. Wisconsin-Explorer.blogspot.com is a journal of travel in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest produced by Kenneth Casper. It has some fabulous photos. My partner was carrying my camera in her knapsack. I was too lazy to take photos, fighting as I did to finish the journey. As an aside, the thought ran through my mind several times that we were alone. No one would carry us up or down!
As we were coming down, a lady climbing up the West Trail alerted us to a large patch of Trillium blooms.
We came upon it reasonably close to the bottom. It was a dramatic sight. Great bunches of ferns accompanied them.
Now comes the extraordinary story of the century. I tell you, I was close to my deathbed after this hiking experience! As we approached the bottom of the trail, a man and his wife, whom we met while climbing, showed up. We met them while we were on the way up, and they were on their way down. Incredibly, staggering, astonishingly, they were waiting for us to come down and offered to drive us back to our car!
Can you believe that? It’s true. It was like two angels came down to save us, actually save me. My partner and I knew someone would have to get the car about a mile away. She said she would do it. While I was ecstatic that the couple would drive us back to the car, I think my partner was also relieved. We kept looking at each other during the drive back, thinking, wow, that would have been a long walk.
All my whining aside, it was a spectacular day. I was very proud of myself that I made it, and I was very proud of the help and support my partner provided. We most certainly communed with Mother Nature.