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Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail

Paul K

     A few weeks back my longtime friend sent me a picture of a brand new 2018 Jeep JL Sport Unlimited fresh off of the showroom floor with the words "New Car" on it. I immediately responded asking if he was joking, and was ecstatic when I soon found out that he had every intention to use this jeep to it's full potential. He explained to me that after getting stuck trying to navigate trails in his old Honda Civic, and then getting stuck in a parking lot of a scenic overlook in his FWD Ford Edge he decided that an upgrade was in order. He trade in his Ford for a brand new Jeep fresh. This is the story of the first time that I saw my buddies new car, and the first trail ride we went on together.

     The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail (T.W.A.T) snakes it's way through Wisconsin starting from the very bottom of the state and ending at the top near the Apostle Islands. Most people spend about three days to do the whole thing. However, due to a time constraint and after learning that the first part of the trail is mostly paved, we opted to start in the middle near Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

     I left work a little later than I wanted to and started the four hour drive up to St. Paul, Minnesota. We were still trying to decide if we should drive over to Eau Claire, Wisconsin that night or wait out the potential storm forecast when I arrived at his apartment. We decided to just say screw it and make the trek to Wisconsin that night camping out at a campsite near the trail.

     After driving through the night with swarms of bugs that made it sound like it was raining we finally arrived in Eau Claire. With zero phone service we set about finding camp site and put up our tent while enjoying some celebratory beers.

     The next day we loaded up and got on the trail bright and early at 4 AM, we had a lot of ground to cover and had to make the most of our day. The roads were mostly gravel with some pavement thrown in every now and then. We popped off the Freedom Panels of the jeep and trekked on.

     We drove all morning through these roads longing for more of a challenge and the opportunity to throw this new jeep into 4wd. Our prayers were answered when we found a dirt road that branched off from our main path. This was not part of the TWAT, but we didn't care because we wanted to explore a bit. Part of the way in, we encountered a small tree that had fallen over the path. Not wanting to scratch the new jeep I hopped out and held the tree back as my buddy navigated his way over the remaining branches. I ended up having to do this one more time and we blasted through a few mud holes without any issue. Once we encountered a very large deep mud hole we decided it would be smart to turn around. We had no winch, and the trail didn't look like it had been visited in weeks or even months. We made our way back to the main road with a mud covered jeep that had finally seen some action.

     Continuing on the main path we had to reroute for the first time due to encountering a washed out bridge with a large embankment that we couldn't pass. We took the main roads and were soon back on track with our next goal: Make it to Delta and eat at Delta Diner. Delta Diner is a stop that everyone doing the TWAT (heh) should make. They have great a great atmosphere and awesome food. The area that we were driving was still recovering from flooding that had happened a few weeks before this. This resulted in many trails being closed forcing us to look for alternate routes. We thought we were in the clear and on our way to delta when the trail we were on split in two with the direction we needed to go barrier-ed off. Upon closer inspection someone had torn down most of the barrier and driven through it. "It must not be that bad if someone has already done it," we thought as we did the same and drove around it soon to find out that the trail was indeed that bad. The sides of the trail had washed out leaving a three foot strip of road in the very middle with a two foot drop on each side of it. We decided to turn around and try our luck with the other way. After navigating around portions of the road that had washed out we finally made it... Not to Delta, but to a giant tree that had fallen in our path. There was a Toyota Tacoma sitting in front of it with a few college kids scratching their heads. They had attempted to drive straight over the tree and blown a hole through the tire sidewall. The wheel had rusted to the hub so they were unable to swap their spare tire on. We offered them a ride back to their camp, but they turned it down as they had a 2nd car with them. From here we only had one choice and decided to backtrack and take paved roads all the way to Delta.

     We finally made it to Delta and stopped at the diner. The food was amazing and the service was too. Our waitress managed to read off the entire menu and all of their daily specials from memory which was unbelievable in itself. We left Delta with full stomachs, but we were still hungry for some real off-roading. The road soon turned into sand with larger rocks thrown down every now and then as we made our way closer to lake superior. When we finally saw the lake it was breathtaking. We decided to see how far north we could drive. This goal took us on a very poorly maintained dirt road that lead to the very tip of Wisconsin. Here we discovered a campground that appeared to be deserted and set up camp for the night while enjoying our great view of Lake Superior and the Apostle islands. In the morning it began to sprinkle as we loaded up our tent and drove home. 

     The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail is a great time and you don't need a very capable vehicle to do it. We probably could have done it all in 2wd, but because we had no other car with us to bail us out, we sometimes put it in 4wd just to be safe. If you ever get an opportunity to do it I would highly recommend it! If you're short on time the portion of the trail that we found to be most fun was the top part from Delta up to Lake Superior. Let me know what you think and if you have ever done the TWAT!

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