Spring has arrived in Driftless Wisconsin. Yes, the calendar has turned to April, but nature shows little obligation to schedules. We have seen winter sneak into April before. So we look for signs.
Out for my walk up the hill, I found sufficient evidence of spring’s arrival for optimism. While oak, elm, and basswood are still budding; the leafing of multi-flora rose and blackberry – those thorny bushes that snag your clothing on hikes – covers the ground with a fine, greenish mist. Spring launches from the ground up, with grasses, then bushes, then tree tops filling the valley with color.
Nestled among their roots, I find a golf ball planted there by an errant shot from a backyard golfer at the top of the hill. The spike-shoed golfer often makes its seasonal appearance in Driftless Wisconsin before the orange-breasted robin.
Speaking of birds, a cardinal has taken up residence in our yard, its bright red feathers accenting the still muted valley. Between knocking on our front door window – apparent attempts to ward off the handsome fellow he sees in its reflection – he sits on a nearby branch and announces the new season with a chirp.
Along with spring’s arrival, comes a variety of events and activities to coax us out of hibernation. As does the cardinal in our yard, the season marks the return of birds to their native habitat. Traveling highway 35 along the Great River Road is a great venue for observing the spring migration. According to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge website, “April and May are some of the best times to see songbird migration.” Red-winged blackbirds have returned to the refuge, along with great blue herons; a majestic sign of spring.
The rivers and streams coursing through the Driftless region will be the topic of “Crossing the Driftless.” On April 13, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve will host author Lynne Diebel as part of their Ralph Nuzem Lecture Series. Diebel will talk about exploring 359 river miles of the Driftless by canoe; a trip with her husband from Faribault, Minnesota to their home in Stoughton, Wisconsin.
Driftless Wisconsin parks offer a fresh perspective of nature’s seasonal pageant. Wildcat Mountain State Park near Ontario and Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien offer hiking trails into the very heart of spring. High on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Kickapoo Rivers that flow at their feet, the parks provide an overview of spring returning to the land.
And for those spike-shoed golfers, several golf courses have opened their doors, including the Viroqua Hills Golf Course; the Snowflake Ski Club, near Westby; the Prairie du Chien Country Club; and the Barnyard 9, north of Prairie du Chien.
Spring also brings the opening of area attractions, many of which show the march of human history through Driftless Wisconsin. The Villa Louis Historic Site in Prairie du Chien will open its doors on April 15 – 16 for its “Villa Louis Behind the Scenes,” offering visitors an intimate glimpse of life during the 1890s in a Victorian home. On that Saturday, the Villa will present “Breakfast in a Victorian Kitchen,” a hands-on cooking workshop.
As hats, gloves, and boots go back in the closet; hiking shoes, birding binoculars, and golf clubs make their appearance. The only thing missing from spring’s arrival in Driftless Wisconsin is you. Join us, with or without your golf shoes.