By Deb Proctor
Wisconsin cycling is not for the faint of heart. About 25 miles west of Madison, occupying the tallest hill in southern Wisconsin, sits Blue Mound State Park - a popular destination for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, camping, swimming and other outdoor activities. Blue Mound is also the home of the Horribly Hilly Hundreds (HHH), a friendly, and some say "painfully fun" yet must-do bike ride once described as "The Toughest One-Day Challenge Ride in the Midwest" by the Isthmus, a weekly newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin.
The course covers up to 124.2 miles with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain, and is so tough that it was once voted by Isthmus readers as the "Sufferfest of the Year." Yet, as horribly hilly as this ride is, it has become so popular with cycling enthusiasts that a lottery system had to be implemented to keep the numbers of participants in check.
Each June, approximately 1,300 cyclists follow one of three routes — 100K, 150K, or 200K. The Horribly Hilly Hundreds is a tour, not a race. Riders traverse at their own pace the unglaciated, driftless area of Wisconsin in which steep hills and valleys stretch for hundreds of miles from southern Wisconsin into the northeast corner of Iowa. The beautiful rolling countryside and magnificent vistas at the top of each challenging climb reward participants for their efforts. Camaraderie awaits at the end of the day….as well as Viking Goulash — a treat worth riding for — that is served up by volunteers. (Download a PDF of the goulash recipe.)
Begun in 2003 by now retired Blue Mound State Park manager, Karl Heil and friends, and enthusiastically endorsed by the Mt. Horeb Chamber of Commerce, the Horribly Hilly bike ride is a major fundraiser for the Friends of Blue Mound State Park, a volunteer group whose efforts provide funding for new trails, park amenities, and even a staff naturalist — things that would not otherwise be possible given dwindling state budgets.
Proceeds from the Horribly Hilly Hundreds ride most recently supported the construction of a fully ADA accessible, all season shelter house - made possible through a donation of $500,000 from the Friends of Blue Mound State Parks using funds raised from the bike event. Ten years in the dreaming, the 2,400 square foot shelter opened in January 2013 complete with a great hall, cathedral ceilings, and a real bathroom. Families, hikers, mountain bikers, skiers, and snowshoers visiting the park can now enjoy a cool place to sit in the summer, have a picnic and enjoy the view, or warm up and rest on a cold winter day.
Funds from HHH events will continue to benefit the park. Friends group Treasurer, Gail Van Haren, stated, "The HHH typically contributes 60-70% of the Friends' total annual income." She added that Friends group projects in the near future will include "…acoustic panels for inside the shelter, landscaping of the grounds surrounding the shelter, and development of accessible trails as well as the usual ongoing support of park maintenance projects and a park naturalist." (For more information on the Friends of Blue Mound State Park or to become a member, visit their Blog.)
Stop by Blue Mound State Park this year on June 20, 2015 to cheer on this year's participants and join in the fun. Professional photographers from Focal Flame Photography will be capturing images of the riders, so be sure to say "Hello." And, if you think you would enjoy a challenging ride, make sure to register early for next year. For more information visit www.horriblyhilly.com.