Wonderful Waterfalls

By Mary Bergin | Photography courtesy of Travel Wisconsin
This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Waterfalls seem a lot like unexpected windfalls in Wisconsin because the average traveler doesn’t come here with the expectation of seeing water careen over cliffs and rocky outcroppings.

We are no Niagara Falls, but in the Badger State you’ll find at least 70 waterfalls, and the Department of Natural Resources pinpoints northern Wisconsin as home to the majority.

Some are a challenge to see because a remote walk is involved, but to reach a waterfall during an autumn hike or an outing on snowshoes is a beautiful reward for the physical effort.

Little Manitou Falls 2Waterfalls in Wisconsin are more likely to flow agreeably and splash, not cascade and crash because of modest elevations. Steepness of descent is one difference between a waterfall and rapids. Another is where and how the water plummets.

The transformation from trickle to waterfall, through erosion of soft rock, takes thousands of years. The ecosystems that surround waterfalls are both fragile and robust, unless droughts or humans interfere.

Counties that touch moody Lake Superior are most likely to contain waterfalls because of dramatic geological formations within the lake superior watershed. none of the other Great Lakes shorelines contains more waterfalls.

Wisconsin’s tallest, Big Manitou Falls, splashes 165 feet into the Black River and is a part of Pattison State Park, near the lake and community of Superior. The Misty Chute is about as tall as Niagara falls but narrower, and it is the fourth largest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains.

View the natural splendor from hiking trails near a Highway 35 pedestrian tunnel, or follow a steep, half-mile park trail downhill to the river for vista views of the falls and gorge. Also in the 1,436-acre park is Little Manitou Falls, which is 31 feet high. Neither likely would exist if plans for a power dam would have proceeded in 1917; iron ore mine operator Martin Pattison found out about the project and bought 660 riverfront acres to thwart it.Little Manitou Falls 3

In Iron County, Potato River Falls, Saxon Falls and Superior Falls all are 90 feet high. Less than 20 miles separate them. Look for easy access to the Potato River near Gurney on Highway 169; trails and stairs lead to viewing platforms in Potato River Falls Park. Intrepid hikers may prefer a view from the rugged upper-falls trail.

The best perspective of Superior Falls, near the Wisconsin-Michigan border and Lake Superior, comes from following Highway 122 one-half mile into Michigan, then taking a marked gravel road left. Less than five miles downstream is Saxon Falls, but it is harder to get a good look at because of its more remote location on the Montreal River.

Little Wren Falls, five miles northwest of Upson in Iron County, is only 15 feet high but among the most scenic in Wisconsin because of the way this waterfall leads to a deep gorge and Tyler Forks River. It is a challenge to find, and the trek involves a dirt road, unmarked roads and a fork in the road. Ask the locals for directions.

Inside Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, near Mellen, a hiking trail (accessible for people with disabilities) leads to tall and slender Morgan Falls. The 70-foot-tall water chute zigzags into an Ashland County creek. Take a good look, and then ascend one steep and rugged mile to the granite St. Peter’s Dome, which is the forest’s highest point at 1,565 feet. Lake Superior is visible on clear days, and the entire, round-trip hike is 3.6 miles. Both Morgan Falls hiking trails are popular for snowshoeing.

Also in Ashland County is Copper Falls State Park, named after rocky and scenic, 40-foot waterfalls that plunge over outcroppings of granite, black shale, red clay and sandstone. Open in winter is the Waterfall Trail that hikers, snowshoe wearers and cross-country skiers use to see both Copper Falls and the 30-foot Brownstone Falls.

Those are the tallest waterfalls in the state, but Marinette County bills itself as the Waterfalls Capital of Wisconsin because 14 spots are mapped out for self-guided auto and walking tours. The waterfalls are grouped into four clusters near Pembine, Dumbar, Amberg and Silver Cliff; maps are easy to find at the Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center in Marinette and therealnorth.com.

Most of these waterfalls are inside Marinette County forest and along the Pike River. Some of the names are straightforward — Eight Foot Falls, Twelve Foot Falls, Eighteen Foot Falls — so you kind of know what to expect.

Even if the flow of water is small, hikes to these rural sites are pretty in all seasons. remember, it’s about the journey as well as the destination!

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Snow Fun in Minocqua

By Brian E. Clark | Photos Courtesy of Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce/John Noltner
This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.


When Wheaton residents Willie and Kathy Beshire wanted to learn how to skate ski last winter, they made a bee-line for Minocqua in the far northern tier of Wisconsin. In early February, they figured there would be plenty of snow. And they’d heard good things about Minocqua Winter Park, a premier cross-country skiing facility about 10 minutes west of town.

But it’s not just cross-country skiers who flock to Wisconsin’s Northwoods in the winter. snowshoers, ice fishermen and women, snowmobilers and many more come here for adventure.

“We’re busiest in the summer, but we get all kinds of folks in the winter, too,” said Dan Hoehn, with the Pointe Hotel and Suites (thepointeresort.com) in Minocqua. “The biggest group is snowmobilers, but lots of snowshoers and nordic skiers come and stay with us, too. There’s a lot to do up here in the cold months, you just have to have the right clothes and gear.”

The Beshires spent four days at Minocqua Winter Park (minocquawinterpark.org) — which offers more than 50 miles of groomed trails, plus a snow tubing hill and lift, and trails for skijoring and snowshoeing — after their drive up from Wheaton. On the first day, just to get warmed up a bit, they did some classic cross country skiing. On the second day, they had their skate ski lesson and then spent the rest of their stay practicing.

“We’ve been traditional skiers for many years,” said Willie, a retired management consultant who has fished around Minocqua in the summer. “We’d seen people skate skiing and thought we should give it a try. It’s not easy to learn because your balance is different. But all in all, it went well.”

“I figured if we wanted to learn it correctly, we should spend three days practicing. So we worked at it around four hours a day. I had a few hard spills, but after the second day, I was getting comfortable and relaxing. on the third day, I was actually feeling pretty good. My wife did well, too, though we know we have a lot of room for improvement.”

I met the Beshires at the park last winter, just as they were about to buy new skis and boots. They wished me luck as I headed out the door for a lesson with Tim Collins, who manages the park and also teaches.

I, too, had come north to see what I could learn about skate skiing. Though I’ve been doing traditional cross-country skiing for years, skating was something new for me.

Collins was patient with me. Fortunately, when I flailed (which happened more than a few times after I lost my balance), I never poked him with my poles.

There were a few times when I actually felt like I had my balance under control and was able to skate using what Collins called the v2 skate skiing technique, which involves a double-pole push with every outward kick.

“It’s the most powerful top gear,” he said, encouragingly.

Next, I tried the v2 alternate, in which you use a double-pole push and then skate on both sides before poling again to save energy. For good measure, Collins tossed in the v1, a staggered poling technique for climbing hills, and what he called the v1 half, where you pole and glide on opposite sides.

Collins said it’s common to struggle during an initial skating lesson. “If you are unaccustomed to narrow skating skis, it can be quite a challenge,” he said. “The key is to focus on balance and shifting your weight from one ski to the other. It takes practice.” After a break to warm up in the lodge, Collins and I went for a tour on the resort’s extensive trail system. We skied through some tall pines where Yukon Creek runs through the property and then out to the squirrel river.

Many novices, he said, ski the 5.5-kilometer Cookie loop; there are miles of routes for intermediate and advanced skiers. For those who would like more of a back-country experience, Minocqua Winter Park has 15 kilometers of wilderness trails that aren’t groomed very often. But Collins says most skiers come to the resort because of its longtime reputation for having well-groomed trails.

If we had more time, we could have skied out to the park’s tea house, where you can rest, warm up and have a cup of tea.Minocqua506

In addition to Minocqua Winter Park, there are a half-dozen other cross-country skiing routes around Minocqua, including 20 kilometers of trails at the North Lakeland Discovery Center near Manitowish Waters and the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The next morning, after a breakfast of french toast and hash browns at the Black Bear Bar, I drove to the shore of Lake Minocqua and met up with Chad Bierbrauer, who runs Adventure North Snowmobile Tours (adventuresnowmobiletours.com). Soon, Bierbrauer and I were zooming over the frozen lake on our sleds past ice-fishing shacks and shuttered boat houses.

Over the next hour, he led me deep into the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest on trails groomed by the Cross Country Cruisers Snowmobile Club. (there are thousands of miles of snowmobile trails, all maintained by local clubs.) We zipped up and down hills toward the towns of Lake Tomahawk and St. Germain.

The best part of the trip was when we stopped our machines, shut off the engines and looked around at a large stand of tall, 300- to 400-year-old white pines.

“That section of trees was left behind from the big logging period of the 1880s to 1920 or so in this area, though I’m not certain why,” Bierbrauer explained. “I like to pause here and show people what the northern forests looked like before Europeans arrived.”

My Minocqua winter adventure wasn’t over yet. South of town I stopped at Northwoods Zip line (northwoodszipline.com), where guides Andrew Warner and Guy Posielenzny gave me a rundown on proper zip-lining technique and took me for an abbreviated tour on a couple of the outfit’s eight lines. It was nippy, but because I’d been dressed for snowmobiling, I wasn’t cold as I flew through the air under the cables with a big grin on my face.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Super Natural

By James Sajdak

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Chances are, when you find yourself north of Wausau, you’re going to see boat trailers on every other car on the road. after all, the game up there is fishing, right? Maybe, but in our last few trips up north, we’ve noticed many cars sporting bike racks, not boat trailers.

Getting on your own two wheels takes you where the wild things are.

Bald eagles soar overhead, wildflowers color the paths, loons and mergansers lead broods of youngsters across the lakes that dot the Northwoods. Deer gaze at you as they graze in pale green meadows. If you’re lucky, you may spot a kingfisher, that noisy little bundle of feathers divebombing the water, or even a rare pileated woodpecker. The top of Wisconsin offers miles of cycling opportunities, from gentle rail-trails to tricky mountain-bike tracks.

The Bearskin Trail
You begin your first ride on front Street in Minocqua, the largest community in this neck of the woods. With an abundance of shops, lodging and restaurants, it’s the region’s center for visitors from the south. It’s also the northern terminus of the Bearskin Trail, an 18-mile stretch of crushed granite that has been laid on a rail bed that once carried virgin white pine logs south to cities across the Midwest. Now, it’s a recreational corridor that beckons bikers, hikers and birders from spring to fall.

DSC02534As you roll south out of Minocqua, you rumble over trestles, crossing and recrossing Bearskin Creek. Wary turtles plop into the water as you spin past. In the marshes, the din of peeping frogs creates a wall of sound until you get close, when all suddenly go silent until you pedal past. On some of the bigger bodies of water, like Bearskin Lake, namesake of the trail, bald eagles and ospreys scan the water for fish from the treetops. The trail passes Hazelhurst about five miles south. Lemonade, anyone?

Another 12 miles of back-country riding gets you to the southern trailhead near Harshaw, a 30-plus mile out-and-back ride, too much for many of us. Another way to see the entire trail is to ride from Minocqua to Bearskin Lake, get your feet off the pedals and onto the grass for a bit before heading back to Minocqua to enjoy a little “civilization.” The next day, drive to Harshaw and ride north to Bearskin and back.

Get your feet off the pedals and onto the grassGoing BATS
Up the road from Minocqua is Boulder Junction, “Muskie Capital of the World.”

The town will appeal to those who like things on the quiet side, with its compact downtown and broad main street. the Boulder area trail System (BATS) includes many miles of road routes, but if you’re with young children, set your wheels on the Crystal Lake Trail. This 11-mile paved pathway has the feeling of rolling terrain without any steep climbs. Vilas County is home to some of the oldest and largest remaining pines in the Northwoods, as well as an unusual number of white deer.

Just before you reach Plum Lake, you exit the bike path at County Highway N. Just ahead, you can recharge with a super cone at McKay’s Corner Store. If you have a sense of adventure and a sturdy mountain bike, spin your wheels on the razorback ridges, 7.7 miles of mountain biking with plenty of challenging roots, rocks and switchbacks; it’s right behind the store. The Crystal Lake trail connects with the Plum Lake and St. Germain bike and hike trails, adding 10 more miles of woodlands and waterscapes.

Madeline Island
You’ve come this far north, so why not jump up to Bayfield, park your car and wheel your bike onto the ferry. A short, bracing sail into Lake Superior’s Apostles Islands lands you on Madeline Island, with ride options from 11 to 30 miles. The island is flat and ferries run until late afternoon, so you have time to explore. Big Bay State Park, with its 1.5-mile sand beach and panorama of our vast inland sea, is a must see!

These are just a few opportunities the Northwoods has to offer the cyclist who wants some rides that are super natural. Bike rentals are available in all the centers above.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Birdies, Bogies, and the Occasional Bear

By Mark Crawford
This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Whistling Straits, Kohler
A great place to start any Wisconsin golf tour is rugged and windswept Whistling Straits; golf legend Pete Dye designed both 18-hole courses. This public course hosted the 2010 PGA Championship and will do so again in 2015.

The Straits, built along two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, resembles classic Scottish and Irish courses. Almost 500 bunkers dot the course, some very steep-sided. Just inland, hidden among the dunes and grasslands, is the Irish Course. Winds off the lake can bedevil even the best player’s game.

The Straits Course is a maximum 7,362 yards, with five sets of tees for different skill levels. Holes 15 through 18 define one of the toughest finishing stretches in championship golf. Hole 18, affectionately named “Dyeabolical,” is a 500-yard par 4. Although the green seems huge at 18,000 square feet, it has plenty of tricky breaks, making par a challenge.

Erin Hills, Erin
bbb18801Built only four years ago near the town of Erin, about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, this 18-hole public course will host the 2017 U.S. open, quite the compliment for such a young course.

Inspired by Scottish links courses, the designers of Erin Hills carefully preserved many of the natural features during construction; in fact, the green sites remained virtually untouched. Golfers are impressed by the wide-open vistas without a building in sight. the course is especially known for its length: 8,266 yards from the back black tees.

“If you’re going to walk the course, choose a day that isn’t too hot and humid because it’s an awfully long haul, much longer than your typical course,” advises Milwaukee-based golf writer Jerry Slaske.

“It’s about 8.5 miles to walk, with some considerable elevation changes. the typical course is just over six miles.”

ErinHills2.ashxHouse on the Rock Golf Resort, Spring Green
Located among limestone bluffs and rolling hills in the heart of Frank Lloyd Wright country, House on the Rock Golf Course and resort is home to 27 holes of golf designed by Robert Trent Jones, Roger Packard and two-time U.S. Open Champion Andy North.

The 18-hole course (carrying a 4.5- star ranking from Golf Digest) provides spectacular views and steep topography. The holes all feature narrow landing areas and an abundance of sand traps and water hazards that challenge golfers of all skill levels.

At hole 13, take a few extra minutes to enjoy the serenity.

“Standing on the green, you realize you are almost completely surrounded by steep hills and dense forest,” says Brian Weis, editor of golftrips.com. “On a calm day, your voice will echo through the forest and valley. take a deep breath and enjoy the sounds of nature and the majestic beauty around you.”

Horseshoe Bay, Door County
Although the northeastern tip of Wisconsin called Door County is well known for its cherries, beaches and sailing, Wisconsin golfers come to the small town of Egg Harbor to play Horseshoe Bay.

“Horseshoe Bay represents one of the most challenging and yet entertaining golf courses i have ever experienced,” comments Brian Baus, head pro at the course. “Every hole presents a challenge as soon as you step on the tee, but also provides opportunities to score and make low numbers for golfers of any level.”

Hole 18 is one of the finest finishing holes in the Midwest. “This hole epitomizes what horseshoe Bay is all about,” continues Baus. “a 601-yard par 5 from the black tees, it requires three good shots to get on the green, but also gives players at all levels the opportunity to finish their round on a good note, as birdies can be prevalent. Combine this with the stunning view of green Bay, and there is no question as to why this is our signature hole.”

Geneva National, Lake Geneva
Geneva National Golf Club, nestled on the shore of Lake Como, offers 54 holes of championship golf designed by Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino. A diverse landscape of bluffs and ridges, woodlands and wetlands creates picturesque views and challenging shots.

Each course reflects the unique characteristics of the golfer that designed it. at 7,171 yards, the Palmer Course is the longest and has the toughest greens with some steep slopes. The Player Course is highlighted by five sets of tees that allow golfers to play the course from 7,000 yards to 4,800 yards in 600-yard increments. on the Trevino Course, nearly every par-4 or par-5 hole is a subtle dogleg right.

“There are not too many places with three championship courses, and none with the combination we have,” says assistant general manager Jennifer Myers. “All three courses offer the same high quality in challenge, playability, layout and aesthetics. From there it’s just a matter of picking your favorite.”

St. Germain Golf Club, St. Germain
This 18-hole public golf course operated by the town of St. Germain in northern Wisconsin sees 25,000 rounds per year. The scenery is pure Northwoods; fairways are lined with thick stands of conifers, birch and hardwoods, with plenty of wildlife.

“The locals refer to holes 4 through 7 as ‘amen Corner,’ an accurate designation,” says golf columnist John Ehle. “With lengths of 405, 373, 167 and 384 yards, respectively, each hole offers challenges which force you to think through the strategy required to negotiate the trees and topography, which has given incisors to this stretch of golf.”

Hole 5 is considered the club’s signature hole because of its challenging water features. Two ponds create a critical landing area that is actually only an isthmus about 30 yards wide. From there, it’s uphill to a contoured green “that requires at least one additional club,” says Ehle. “This hole has as much shot value as any hole on the course and is the most dramatic visually.”

Lawsonia, Green Lake
Located about 90 miles northwest of Milwaukee in the town of Green Lake, Lawsonia is recognized by Golf Digest as one of “America’s Best and Most affordable Public golf facilities.” In 2008, the Wisconsin Golf Course Owners Association voted it the “Wisconsin Golf Course of the Year.”

Two contrasting 18-hole layouts provide panoramic vistas and different styles of golf. Inspired by Scottish courses, the Links Course is characterized by steep bunkers and undulating, elevated greens. The Woodlands Course provides a unique Northwoods feel with plenty of topography, trees, and pretty Green Lake shoreline. All bunkers are at green level.

Over half of Lawsonia’s business comes from Illinois golfers, many of whom venture north every summer. “Most of our groups have been guys that have been coming here for 30 years,” says Lawsonia golf director Jeff Kleinke. “Usually they are weekend guy trips. We found in the past couple of years that our 36-hole play has been big. Guys come here to play 36 holes.”

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Fun on Two Wheels

By Jennifer Garrett

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Take any Saturday any time of year — the roads need be mostly but not entirely clear of ice and snow — and you’ll likely see a group of cyclists somewhere along the shores of Lake Monona. Not all, but many of them set out to circle the lake along what is sometimes called the lake loop. Others simply say they are “riding around the lake,” and locals will know what they mean.

It’s a 12-14 mile route depending on whether you hug the shores or honor the posted route. You can begin anywhere. locals head out from their driveways while west siders head east toward downtown.

However you get there or wherever you begin, the ride will take you through the funky near-east side of Madison where students mingle with aging hippies and young hipsters. Keep going and you’ll come to the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood spotted with local haunts and upstart hotspots. There’s the Stalwart Harmony Bar, breakfast favorite Mermaid Cafe and relative newcomer One Barrel Brewing.

Stay on the path and you’ll meander between community gardens with towering sunflowers come August and the back lawn of Zoma coffee shop.

You’ll pass Olbrich Park and the pyramid greenhouse of the Botanical Gardens, the Thai Pavilion and the ruins of the Garver Feed Mill.

Eventually the path empties into Monona Drive, and then you’ll head into Monona proper as you cling to the lakeside spotted with mansions along Winnequah road and Tonyawatha trail. glimpses of water and either gentle breezes or gusts of wind remind you that you’re still on course. If it’s summertime, you could roll in for a cone at Monona bait and Ice Cream, a sure bet for both Babcock Hall treats and night crawlers.

A couple miles later you’ll enter Madison along a bit of path that takes you past reedy, wildlife-filled marshes until you shoot out onto Waunona Way, where you’ll stay until it dead ends into more bike path yet again. You’ll follow it around the south side of the lake as it connects to the Isthmus — it’s the only direct connection to downtown without getting on the Beltline — past Olin Park and the fisherman with their 10-gallon buckets and lines cast over the railing aside the iconic Monona Terrace. You’ll soon soar past the gear heads at Machinery row bicycles and back toward Willy street and the near east side.

“My favorite ride is Lake Monona,” says former Madison Mayor and current Wisconsin Bike Fed Executive Director Dave Cieslewicz. “I’ve been doing that since I came to Madison for college in 1979. I like the urban aspect. I like the trail on the east side. You go past Zoma. You can stop for a burger at the harmony.… there’s a lot of great stuff on that ride. It can take you a full day if you do it right.”

It’s not just Cieslewicz who likes it, it is a familiar and beloved route for recreational cyclists of all ages and abilities. You can’t circle the lake without passing a group kitted out in spandex and jerseys, a family with a baby in a Burley, maybe even a couple on a tandem, and if Mercury is in retrograde, a unicyclist. It is Madison, after all.

And Madison is a bike town. Really it’s more like bike country if you count surrounding communities. Events like ride the drive designate portions of major thoroughfares and close them to traffic for a few blissful biking hours once or twice a year. International bike giant Trek, which is often credited for cultivating the local cycling culture, is just east of the city in Waterloo. Every fall the most extreme endurance athletes take to the hilly country roads of fair Verona to tackle the 112-mile bike course of Ironman Wisconsin. And let’s not forget the World Naked Bike Ride Madison (this year’s event is on June 20), which uses a little public nudity to attract attention to bike transportation (it works).

Indeed, the bike ruts run deep in Madison. While trek gets a lot of credit for supporting it, Cieslewicz believes the bike behemoth is a product of the local bike culture and not the creator. That credit, Cieslewicz says, belongs to the University of Wisconsin. The state’s flagship university has a parking policy that is tight by design, he explains, and for decades, the limited lots and ramps have sent students, faculty and staff in search of alternate transportation.

“Some bus. Some walk. But a lot bike,” he says.

Of course, while campus might be the hub of the bike scene, there are spokes reaching throughout the city and into the suburbs. And it’s a lively scene full of participants at all times of day, every day of the year. there are the intrepid commuters who rubber- band their pant legs and dart through morning traffic on their ways to work. There are the 12-year-old boys with backpacks loaded down with baseballs, mitts and bats enjoying the freedom of heading to the diamond for a pick-up game. If you think the latter sounds a little Rockwellian, think again. Come springtime, the racks outside Monona’s Winnequah school are a jumble of tires, seats, handlebars and forks. Kids around here still ride bikes.

Luke Bernards is one of them. The 13-year-old Monona resident and eighth grader at Glacial Drumlin School tackled the Lake Loop. While accustomed to cruising around town and getting himself to the library, Bernards thought circling the lake was a good but reasonable challenge as he got used greater distances.

When he set out with his dad, he expected to see the familiar sights, like the Capitol. But he found a few surprises along the way, too. “I saw Indian Burial Mounds and I didn’t realize they were there,” he says, noting that he hopped off his bike for a while to explore the shores on the opposite side of the lake.

That’s one of the beauties of that particular ride, Cieslewicz says, because it offers up such a mix of what makes this area unique from the idiosyncratic neighborhoods to the landmarks like Monona Terrace. In fact, it’s got a little of everything that makes Madison, well, Madison.

Jen Anderson, an area endurance rider and Ironman athlete counts a portion of that lake loop among her favorite urban rides. Anderson is a cyclist with a big heart and big ideas. she created the Cookie Project, a program that delivers homemade cookies to residents living along the Ironman course, and she did it to show her appreciation for those who share the road with cyclists. While she prefers the rolling hills to the southwest of the city for her intense training, she also has a soft spot for the stretch along John Nolen Drive.

“I like to ride down there when I can,” she says fondly of the stretch of course where the bike portion of the famed race begins and ends. “It’s part of the Ironman course. I love the lakefront path.”

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Fall Into The Northwoods

By Molly Rose Teuke
This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN

The juicy crack of the first bite into a hard, sweet apple. aromatic wood fires, spicy hot drinks. Color these pleasures with the warm palette of yellow, orange and red leaves and this is the stuff autumn is made of. Where better to experience all this than northern Wisconsin, where you can’t drive a quarter-mile without bumping into a hardwood forest tinted by Mother nature. The only challenge is figuring out where and how to spend your time for maximum seasonal relaxation.

Luxuriating in fall color from your car window is easy. Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads are, by definition, “scenic, lightly traveled country roads.” Each one must “have outstanding natural features along its borders such as rugged terrain, native vegetation, native wildlife, or include open areas with agricultural vistas which singly or in combination uniquely set this road apart from other roads.” The ideal Rustic Road will “provide a completed closure or loop, or connect to major highways at both ends of the route.”

If you need the rustle of fall leaves underfoot, try Rustic Road #62. It travels through a wooded landscape scoured by glaciers 12,000 years ago and leads directly to Timm’s Hill County Park, home of the highest point in Wisconsin. Timm’s Hill National Trail links the adjacent Ice Age Trail with a short footpath (with plenty of rustling leaves) to the observation tower, where you’ll be rewarded by colorful vistas of the surrounding hills and valleys. Nearby High Point Village Resort offers lodging in five cabins and stunning views of autumn trees are reflected in scenic Bass Lake.

For a more up-close-and-personal hiking experience, head east on Highway 8 toward Rhinelander, then north on Highway 47 toward McNaughton. The heavily wooded trail beds of the McNaughton Trail traverse gently sloping terrain and offer glimpses of three small lakes to reflect seasonal colors. Adding to the charm is a small, rustic shelter, complete with fireplace, stack of firewood and a box of kindling. The trailhead is located off Kildare Road, west off 47, midway between McNaughton and Lake Tomahawk, about 13 miles north of Rhinelander. These trails are great for biking, too.

Head northeast toward Sayner, where Fallison Lake offers short interpretive nature trails with .5-, 1- and 2.5-mile loops. the Fallison Lake nature trail is a moderately easy footpath through a mixed forest of sugar maple, aspen, birch, white pine and balsam. The longest loop circles 50-acre Fallison Lake, occasionally crossing a picturesque wooden footbridge and traversing boardwalks to keep your feet dry. Sit quietly for a spell on a bench overlooking this small lake and you might see an eagle, a great blue heron or even a beaver against the autumn backdrop.

For big-scale scenic grandeur, it’s hard to beat Copper Falls State Park, a shy 50 miles to the west, where plentiful hardwood forests promise abundant fall color. Here, the Bad River plunges 29 feet over Copper Falls, named for the coppery color of the water. Nearby, the Tyler Forks River drops 30 feet over Brownstone Falls into the Bad River. Hiking trails and bike routes abound in the park. Ideal for a day trip or weekend excursion, Copper Falls offers 54 campsites and a large-capacity group camping area, 21 acres of picnic area with 55 picnic tables, 27 grills, a circa 1930s log shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and a large play area. Copper falls lies two miles northeast of Mellen in Ashland County.

For descriptions and maps of Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads by number and location, visit www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/scenic

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Head for the Hills

By Jeanette Hurt

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Tufts of white snow, fallen newly. Crisp, clean air, inhaled deeply. And the gleam of sun, reflected brightly. Winter can be a beautiful experience, and there’s nothing more exquisite than enjoying the season’s beauty on one of Wisconsin’s perfectly groomed ski hills, all within a day’s journey of home.

Though we might not be as well known as the peaks of the Rockies, Wisconsin has more than enough snow and height to satisfy both skiers and snowboarders alike. In fact, Wisconsin has more ski areas than Colorado and Utah combined. When it comes to the actual number of ski areas within a single state, Wisconsin is no. 2.

These areas cater to all levels, from bunny hills for beginners to difficult slopes for the more adventurous skiers. Here are five great ski spots both beginners and experts can enjoy:

The Mounain Top at Grand Geneva Resort
Just a short drive from Milwaukee, the perfectly groomed trails of the Mountain Top beckon. “What people really love is the quality of our snow and the quality of our service,” says Hans Hauschild, director of Mountain Top.

Located on the property of the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Grand Geneva is the only ski resort in Wisconsin that boasts an indoor water park on the same property. “People often schedule in one day of skiing and one day of enjoying the water park, and a lot of families do that,” Hauschild says. The resort also boasts a spa, ice skating rink, horseback-riding stables, sleigh rides and groomed cross-country ski trails.

As long as the temperature is 28 degrees or below, Grand Geneva makes snow. The season starts the first or second week of December, with December 9 as the targeted opening day, and it runs until March 11. “We have really good snow-making capabilities,” Hauschild says. The resort also offers ski and snowboard lessons, and the resort even has a program to teach skiers how to race.

One of the more popular features for snowboarders is the resort’s terrain park. “The terrain park has features and hits that skiers and snowboarders can use to do different tricks,” Hauschild says. “It’s sort of like a rollerblade or skateboard park, but it’s in the snow.” The new terrain park, Hauschild says, is for extreme-sports enthusiasts, but it isn’t too extreme.

Granite Peak Ski Area
For the tallest peak, the most runs and the longest season in the Midwest, head to Granite Peak Ski area in Wausau, less than a two-hour drive north of Madison. This mount features 700 vertical feet of skiing, 74 different runs, and typically opens the weekend before Thanksgiving, running until the first or second week in April. “We’re just a wonderful place to visit,” says Vicki Baumann, Operations Manager for the ski resort.

Not only that, but Granite Peak also features five different terrain parks for snowboarders. Transworld Snowboarding Magazine named Granite Peak the no. 1 park in the Midwest for snowboarding. “We don’t just have one big terrain park. We have five different ones with a variety of features,” Baumann says.

Granite Peak starts ski lessons for children as young as three years old. “We also do private and semi-private lessons for all ages,” Baumann says. Located right in Wausau, the resort is easily accessed from Interstate 39, and it’s just a short distance from many hotels, bed and breakfasts, even a water park. “there’s also great restaurants and really good shopping,” Baumann says.

Devil’s Head Resort 
Just a stone’s throw away from Devil’s Head State Park and just a short drive from the Wisconsin Dells, 30 runs covering 500 vertical feet at Devil’s Head Resort welcome skiers and snowboarders. “Just pack your bag, come on up and be ready to have some fun,” says Joe Vittengl, General Manager of the resort. “We are a destination resort. You can get out of your car, unpack, and you can ski right out of your hotel room.”

The resort has done a full upgrade of all its rooms and restaurants, so “it’s like coming to a new resort,” Vittengl says. The season opens the day after Thanksgiving, running until about the third weekend in March.

Besides a range of runs for beginners to advanced skiers, the resort also offers lessons. for younger ones who are tired of skiing, the resort offers kids’ night out parties from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., featuring dinner, inflatable toys and games; that allows parents a night out, too. “There’s always something going on here,” Vittengl says.

The Whitecap Mountains Ski Resort
Way up in the Lake Superior Snowbelt, which averages 200 inches of snow annually, you’ll find Whitecap Mountains Ski Resort. Here, there’s not just one peak, but three different mountains with 43 different runs to entice skiers and snowboarders alike.

“Since we are in northern Wisconsin, you ski on mostly natural snow here,” says Evelyn Lundberg, who co-owns the resort with her husband, David. “We do make some snow if there are bare patches, but basically, you’re skiing on natural snow.”

This ski resort, which also boasts a lodge with condos and chalets, features an indoor pool and hot tub, and some rooms even allow you to bring pets along for the vacation. “a lot of our lodging is ski in and ski out,” Lundberg says. “it’s like coming to a little village because once you get here, you don’t have to use your car. that makes for a nice, peaceful vacation.”

Sunburst Recreation Area
Not only are there runs for skiers and terrain parks for snowboarders, but there also are snow-tubing chutes at the Sunburst Recreation area in Kewaskum. Just 30 minutes from Milwaukee, this family-friendly ski hill offers something for practically everyone.

“We’ve had as young as toddlers, and our owner’s 82-year-old mother has gone snow tubing,” says Steve Voss, General Manager. “everyone who can sit down can snow tube. We consider ourselves a family-oriented area, so Mom and Dad can enjoy themselves, and kids can come with their parents or on their own and have a good time here.”

The skiing — and snow tubing — season starts around Thanksgiving and runs as far into March as possible, usually the second week. “Our earliest starting date was November 3,” Voss says. “We were open for two and a half days, and then it got to 70 so we had to temporarily close.”

Sunburst offers ski and snowboarding lessons, and Tuesday through Thursday, the slope features birthday parties. the parties offer four hours of snow tubing for up to eight guests, two pizzas and soda. “Winter is as fun as you make it, and we try and help you make it fun,” Voss says.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Adventures In Kayaking

By Mary Bergin

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

istock_000012257401largeThere’s a reason why mysterious settings entice and appeal. The thrill of the unknown, with a hint of danger, heightens the senses and builds excitement, especially when the scene is Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

The National Park Service property, which includes a 21-island archipelago and 12 miles of Lake Superior shoreline in northern Wisconsin, was long ago home to Native Americans, then fur traders, lumberjacks, farmers, fishermen and more.

What remains today is pure wilderness and dramatic scenery, thanks to wind-whipped and wave-lashed sandscapes that form cliffs and sea caves of red sandstone. Add frozen floors and thick icicles in winter, lush forestry and dynamic blue waters in summer.

These grand sculptures of nature — delicate archways, hidden passageways, steep swoops and vaulted ceilings — won’t look exactly the same from day to day. Lighting makes a difference, as do weather, season and mood of lake.

The best method for exploring the “Big Lake” is by sea kayak, and how close paddlers get depends upon luck, skills and fortitude.

The name “Superior” is a fitting match for this monstrous freshwater lake because no other in the world takes up more space or holds more water. It is beautiful and tempestuous; changes in temperament are alarmingly quick and disrespectful.

istock_000012921590large“It’s a deep, powerful beast of nature,” notes Gail Green, who for 12 years has operated the outfitter Living Adventure with her husband, Grant Herman. “You’re about to embark on a world-renowned national treasure — those sculpted, arched cliffs and caves have been worn away by centuries of water and wind.”

A visit to Apostle Islands was President Kennedy’s last official trip before his death in Dallas in 1963. Decades later, John F. Kennedy, Jr. camped with friends on the islands, where bears to red squirrels dwell year-round.

Living Adventure, north of Bayfield, offers half-day to multi-day guided outings from mid-June to mid- September. Participants begin with up to three hours of lessons on how to paddle, react and rescue if a kayak tips.

“People who are not swimmers or have a fear of water aren’t usually attracted to this,” Green says, “but we can teach you what you need to know” and everybody wears life vests.

The islands are a birder’s delight, home to loons, bald eagles, gulls and cormorants. The most popular day trip is a one-mile paddle along the Lake Superior shore, starting at Meyers Beach, to reach mainland sea caves that extend two more miles.

“So that’s a fi ve- or six-mile paddle,” says Neil Howk of the National Park Service. The journey typically takes three or four hours, “but if the wind picks up, that’s it. You’re done for the day. All your plans can go out the window.”

Guided day trips by local outfitters also follow the shoreline route and include time for a beachside lunch. They involve sea kayaks, which are bigger and more stable than the average kayak.

“Freak waves can come and go in minutes,” explains Donnalea Dinsmore of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “They are not easily forecast.” The Great Lakes contain riptides, just as oceans do, “so pay attention to the weather, especially winds.”

Rustic camping, by reservation only, is allowed on 18 of the Apostle Islands and one mainland site. Some campers arrive by water taxi; others are experienced kayakers who carry weather radios and expect to adjust plans on short notice.

“Lake Superior is not the place to go to learn to sea kayak for a multiple-day trip,” Howk says. “Conditions can get very rough — big waves, mainly — and these islands are scattered over 400 square miles, with at least two or three miles between islands.”

National Park Service staff search for overdue or missing kayakers up to 10 times a year. Howk says kayakers, even in 90-degree weather, should pack wet suits and overnight gear because water temperature hovers around 60 degrees.

Experienced paddlers, Howk acknowledges, include thrill-seekers who welcome the challenge of navigating four-foot-high waves. Others are spooked by the sight of surges half that height. The bottom line is that the thrill of the journey should not exceed your ability to mentally and physically deal with sometimes cantankerous Mother Nature.

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Sand and Surf

By Mary Bergin

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Snorkel 36 Snorkeling on Wazee

The best beach of my childhood was more about a carpet of green than sands of white. Abandoned blankets routinely covered the lawn of Fireman’s Park in Elkhart Lake while we splashed and roasted from noon to sunset.

Families and teens do the same today, and the tidy little lake — where no motorized boats are allowed on Sundays — remains a source of pride for this summer resort and racetrack community, population 1,000.

While it’s orderly and safe, it’s not unique; Wisconsin has about 15,000 lakes and its share of beaches. Much of what makes these beaches different from those in Cancun and Waikiki is tropical temperatures, hype and personality. Correction: Multiple personalities. You won’t find a generic lineup of high-rise hotels, beach-side bars or souvenir hawkers along Wisconsin’s beaches. With everything from forest backed beaches to rocky shorelines to soft sands, Wisconsin’s beaches aim to please a plethora of visitors.

Diversity in the Door

Much variety exists between the extremes of secluded Northwoods swimming holes and fat bands of urban sand that dot parts of Lake Michigan. Consider the diversity within Door County’s peninsula, the Midwest’s version of Cape Cod. Door County’s 53 public swimming beaches include:

Whitefish Dunes State Park, featuring the 93-foot Old Baldy sand dune, the state’s tallest.

Nicolet Bay Beach at Peninsula State Park, where ice cream sales and boat rentals (kayaks to paddleboats) are within steps of beachgoers.

Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island, home to one of the world’s few beaches of fl at and smooth stones. It is the perfect place to practice stone skipping.

Rock Island State Park, home to Wisconsin’s most remote beach because almost everybody hops two ferries to reach it.

The photo gallery at a new Wisconsin Beaches website (dnr.wi.gov/ topic/beaches) holds the promise of additional variety. “Beaches are nature’s nirvana,” notes this state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) project, where popular coastal and inland beaches are described and organized by county.

“We have so many wonderful beaches,” says Donnalea Dinsmore of the DNR’s Water Quality Bureau, who oversees this online beach registry, which also documents and updates water quality and habitat health. She personally prefers craggy coastlines “where I can sit on the rocks and watch the waves.”

Good, clean fun

Dinsmore says several Great Lakes shoreline communities pursue beach restoration and monitoring programs. Dune building at Racine’s North and Zoo beaches, for example, “has done much to transform the area, to reshape it in a more natural way,” she explains.

“That’s a part of what makes a beach healthy and keeps pollution away from the shoreline.”

Racine’s spacious North Beach and Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach, both kissed by Lake Michigan, are designated Blue Wave beaches, an environmental certification awarded by the Clean Beaches Coalition. Three Apostle Island National Lakeshore beaches — Julian Bay, Little Sand Bay and Meyers — earn the same distinction, along the often-brisk and majestic Lake Superior shore of northern Wisconsin.

Having clean beaches is important, but so is fun. Within North Beach is Kids Cove, a maze of wooden forts and lookouts. It is handicap-accessible and billed as the state’s largest outdoor playground with equipment. The public zoo is directly north.

Milwaukee’s Bradford is a haven for hipsters, especially fans and players of beach volleyball. The city’s biggest beach hosts U.S. Open Junior Championships, Aug. 3-5, and this expanse is the place to rent a cabana or book an on-beach massage.

Around the state

Beginning an hour north, nature takes the leading role at two Lake Michigan state parks, including Kohler-Andrae State Park, a 1,000-acre refuge near Sheboygan with woodland sand dunes, which is a good match for sun-bathing birders. Dozens of feathered species, diving ducks to ospreys, make this their home. At Point Beach State Forest, the shoreline, which is largely undeveloped and sandy, stretches six miles and is fun for beach walkers. All campsites are within an easy walk of the lake, which is near Two Rivers.

Time your visit to North Shore Beach at Wisconsin’s most-visited recreational area — Devil’s Lake State Park, near Baraboo — for a sultry Saturday night of Big Band dancing after all the tanning and brat grilling. An orchestra performs inside the sturdy wooden Chateau during summer, and ballroom dancing has gone on here since the 1930s.

For stunning panoramic views, head to High Cliff State Park in the Fox Valley. Beach lovers get an eyeful of Lake Winnebago, the state’s biggest inland lake at 28 miles long and 8 miles wide.

In action-packed Minocqua, Torpy Park’s sandy beach is home to occasional odd antics, like Wife Carrying Championships and the annual Beef-a-Rama, where slow-cooked roasts, before being carved and eaten, are paraded through town by comically costumed cooks.

Too numerous to mention are the pretty, under-advertised beaches of small towns, be it Shell Lake Beach in northwest Wisconsin or Pewaukee’s Lakefront Park, in the shadow of Milwaukee. Clean lakes and well-kept beachfronts define the communities and their character. Regardless of the direction you wander, Wisconsin offers beach experiences you won’t soon forget.

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Gift of the Glaciers

By Mary Bergin

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Dave Caliebe 2

Wisconsin is not home to majestic mountains or grand canyons, but what we do boast is an abundance of swales, drumlins, kettles, moraines, dells and eskers that turn the clock back 15,000 years.

Each term refers to a landform caused by glacial movement, and no other place in the nation documents and protects the diversity better than the 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which is located entirely within Wisconsin.

What once was frozen in time today makes for awesome hikes while teaching lessons of history, culture and geology.

The Ice Age Trail, which preserves dazzling evidence of glaciation, is in elite company. Only 10 other hiking routes — including the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide — are National Scenic Trails. Each is distinctive because of natural beauty, unique appearance and historical significance.

Think of the dramatic cliffs and outcroppings that define Wisconsin Dells and Devils Lake State Park. They are a part of the Ice Age Trail. So is the swooping, drum-like terrain that defines the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which is described as the trail’s birthplace because of an 1878 published study on glacial movement.

The oldest bedrock outcroppings — 1.8 billion years old — are at Grandfather Falls, Lincoln County, and the Dells of Eau Claire River, Marathon County. Other parts of the trail pass lakeshores, prairies, farmland, wetlands, oak savannas and effigy mounds —all especially beautiful during the peak of autumn.

This special trail tends to follow the edge of the state’s last glacier. It twists and bends through 30 counties, Potawatomi State Park in Door county to Interstate State Park, St. Croix. So far, about one-half of the trail is away from roadways, and about 2,000 volunteers donated almost 66,000 hours in fiscal year 2011 to maintain and extend the route, which weaves through a mix of public and private property.

Progress is steady but slow. The work began in the 1950s, and anyone is welcome to join in the effort during work parties. A goal is to convert connecting trail routes (typically on quiet country roads) into permanent segments (usually off-road, with trail signage).

New this year is a 67-foot-long pedestrian bridge over the yellow River in Chequamegon National Forest, Taylor County. Completed trail segments range from two to 40 miles. In the mix are easy walks for families and rugged, deep-woods treks that will challenge backpackers for days.

The Ice Age Trail skirts through numerous public recreation areas, and parts can be bicycled because the route intersects with recreational trails such as Gandy Dancer (St. Croix Falls to Frederic) and the Sugar River (Monticello to Albany).

“We’re always fighting development,” says Mike Wollmer, Ice Age Trail Alliance Executive Director, regarding ongoing work to obtain or retain public trail access.

At least 50 hikers are known to have hiked the entire trail, a feat that takes an average of three months. They are known as “Thousand Milers.”

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.