After a momentary lapse in memory as to what season comes next, Mother Nature has finally given us winter. While sunny skies and 50 degree weather in December energized the spirit, it confused the brain, which expects to see snow outside the window this time of year.
Problem solved. Tree limbs are draped with snow. Landscapes are framed in white. A layer of ice creeps across the Mississippi River. Eagles perch in barren treetops eyeing open water for their daily meal. And my barren head is feeling a bit drafty.
Our one-year-old dog Fargo and my son’s new puppy Uecker find another gear in snow, racing and sliding around like kids in a splash pool. They may not have the wherewithal to build a snowman, but they have the right idea: winter is fun.
A Driftless Wisconsin winter is fun. With its towering hills and deep valleys, winter becomes a three-dimensional playground for winter outdoor recreation.
Let’s start with the parks. My wife and I have been taking Fargo up to Wyalusing Park, near Prairie du Chien, for hikes along Mississippi Ridge Trail. It follows the bluff top overlooking the Mississippi River, and affords quite a view. Turkey Hollow Trail is another favorite, routing through a tall stand of pine trees for a nice change of scenery during the winter.
The Kickapoo Valley Reserve near La Farge has a wide variety of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking to those remote locations ideal for spotting and photographing winter wildlife. A designated trial is also available for snowmobile enthusiasts, which is groomed from December 15 to March 31.
Winter events are another way to experience Driftless Wisconsin. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve will hold its annual Winter Festival on Saturday, January 9. The family event features skating, sledding, skiing, snow sculpture, ice cave hikes, horse-drawn bobsleds, sled dog races, and, well, just about every conceivable way to enjoy winter! The Reserve will also hold its popular Dam Phunski cross-country ski event on Saturday, January 23. Registration is required and has competition for all age groups.
The annual Snowflake Ski Jumping Tournament near Westby will be held on February 5th and 6th. The competition attracts jumpers from around the world to the 118 meter hill. Watch as world-class jumpers take off into the air over Timber Coulee Valley at speeds of over 50 mile per hour. Don’t worry, participation is not required.
The scenery. The parks. The activities. The events. They all conspire to make a memorable winter getaway to Driftless Wisconsin. Winter has finally arrived and it’s time to have fun.