Last year the first ever Hixon 50K was run down in La Crosse, WI. It was put on by the main running store down there, where a couple of elite local trail runners work and live. I had heard good things about the course, and have been meaning to check it out. Since we were going to be passing by this weekend, we decided to stop at Hixon and check out some of the trails.
We parked at the top of the bluffs, in-between the upper and lower sections of the forest, and decided to try the upper section first. This area is full of trails that are used by both runners and mountain bikers. We picked a couple of loops and headed out. Very quickly from the parking lot you drop into a valley and start winding through a lovely prairie. As soon as we got to a turn off for a path named “Bob” we turned off the prairie trail for an area of thick woods. The Bob trail was a lot of fun, with technical footing and a lot of quick up and downs. It reminded me of the track at Elm Creek, but slightly more primitive.
All too soon the path rejoined the prairie trail and we found ourselves back near the main road. The mountain bike side of the forest is rather small, and we only managed just over a mile on the path we took. I know the race strings together a lot of the smaller paths, but we didn’t really know what that was supposed to look like. So instead we opted to try the lower forest area, which was a 3 mile loop designated for hikers.
We found the entrance to the path and once again immediately descended into the forest. There have been some heavy rains lately, and the upper part of the trail was very, very slick and muddy. We weren’t able to manage a very fast run, despite being downhill, but eventually the ground dried out enough to click into a nice pace. It felt like we were going down forever, but eventually we hit the valley, where the lower parking lot sits.
We stopped for a moment to remove some rocks from our shoes and began the trek up the other side of the path. The lower side is wonderfully flat-ish for about a mile before you hit the giant climb back up to the top. The final climb is a slog. It weaves back and forth in large arcing switchbacks, constantly climbing for what feels like forever. It’s almost 500 feet of climbing in a single go, and it really gets the heart rate moving.
We eventually crested the top and made our way back to our car. Hixon has some amazing hills that really challenge you, but I had a great time exploring them. The area is beautiful, and if you park on top of the bluffs you get a beautiful view of the countryside. It was a great experience, and we burned off enough to enjoy some pizza at the amazing Red Wing Brewery.
I might have to give the Hixon races a try some year, and see how the course fits into the trails. Just running the area was a wonderful experience, and I’d recommend it if you’re in the area and you enjoy some fun trails.