Fall is still three weeks away and the air is thick with anticipation. Or maybe that’s the humidity. Mornings draped with fog are already appearing, showing the first signs of the change of seasons.
Meantime, we’re trying to squeeze every last drop out of summer, before kids turn their attention from fishing to studying, and we turn from summer vacations to raking the yard.
But wait. The fun isn’t over yet. Outdoor recreation in Driftless Wisconsin has no seasonal boundary and the transition from summer to fall might the most enjoyable.
Last evening I drove up to Pikes Peak Park in Iowa, which looks back at the Driftless Wisconsin landscape. The overlooks of Driftless Wisconsin – including Pikes Peak, Wildcat Mountain State Park near Ontario, Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien, and the ridge tops between the Mississippi and Kickapoo Rivers – offer stunning views of the Driftless topography.
Two rivers gather below Pikes Peak; the Mississippi spilling from the north and the Wisconsin coursing from the east. Above, a hawk slides by, quiet as a whisper. On quiet evenings without wind, even the muddy waters of the Mississippi lay flat as glass; with islands rising from their own reflection.
Below me, a fishing boat plies the river, skittering across the surface like a water bug. Nearby, a dog barks from an anchored boat, perhaps announcing the landing of a nice bass. The rivers and streams are full of fishermen, catching up after a wet spring and late flooding. The serious fishers are intent on the perfect cast, while the casual, like me, are caught glancing up at the hills.
A horse trail passes by our house just the other side of the dry wash. Our dog, Riley, announces the coming of riders, who trot by with a wave of their hand. Friends say our golden retriever is as big as a horse, so maybe he’s just giving a shout out to his kin.
I’m not a horseman myself, but I can’t imagine a more relaxing way to explore the Driftless topography. The horses are sure-footed and the scenery just won’t quit. Horse trails at Kickapoo Valley Reserve near La Farge and La Riviere Park in Prairie du Chien are some of the best around.
The view from the saddle can be equally satisfying on a bike. Last weekend, the Aloha Bike Tour in Viroqua and the Kickapoo Brave Ride in Gays Mills brought bicyclists from afar to enjoy the unmatched beauty and challenging rides of Driftless Wisconsin. I wondered if the smiles on the faces of returning riders could be traced to the vistas seen or the challenges met. But don’t wait for next August; the coming fall offers bike riders stunning views of fall colors with cooler temperatures to boot.
And fall is almost here. Yes, you can take a hike or mount a bike right outside the door from where you’re sitting. But it won’t compare with the change of seasons in Driftless Wisconsin.