My husband and I wanted a break. Together. After so many years together, there is little we want or need; instead, the best gift we can give each other is shared time, away from the rutted routines we walk each day. New views help to create new outlooks, and the shared imaginings we have for this slow life we’re co-creating can be stimulated and renewed by travel. The weather’s been warm and the fall color is blushing its way down the state, so we decided to take 4 days and head a bit north, to the state’s largest Cranberry Festival.
Wisconsin produces most of our country’s cranberries and festivals are held every autumn to celebrate the harvest. I’d read something about “1200 booths” participating at this festival, and thought this referred to artists and flea-market/antique vendors. I knew there was a cranberry-focused museum and bog tours, so it sounded like a perfect adventure.
We drove up the night before the festival opened and met other festival-goers when we checked-in to our hotel. “Oh, we come every year; you’ll love it!” they assured us. We woke up early to head from our hotel to the little town, Warrens, where it’s held. This is what we saw:
A tiny town crammed with thousands of people lugging carts around to booths that lined streets and sidewalks, and narrow, narrow “alleyways,” everywhere. Claustrophobic doesn’t begin to describe it, and the merchandise was largely made-in-China mass-produced schlock. Little art, no antiques. Disappointment…I could feel my anticipation swirling down and drowning in one of the numerous stomach-turning vats of frying fat preparing decidedly non-cranberry food.
It wasn’t a complete or epic fail: We appreciated a brief bus tour of some cranberry bogs and enjoyed the town’s museum, but then exited the noisy, packed town. Quickly.
10:00 A.M. and three days left to our Cranberry Festival vacation. Hmmm. Luckily, my travel partner makes me laugh, easily and deeply, and did; all would be well.
Happily, this part of the state is rich in geological and environmental history. The almost 44,000-acre Necedah Wildlife Refuge, just a few miles from the over-crowded shopping spree of the cranberry festival, called to us.
When the “local” glaciers retreated almost 15,000 years ago, they left a vast, low-lying wetland, called the Great Swamp of Central Wisconsin. For centuries, Native Americans lived in this area, which they called “Necedah,” or “Yellow Waters.”
Then Europeans arrived, and their farming, which necessitated draining the marshes, cutting trees, and battling the wildfires which had long nurtured the prairies, eventually destroyed the natural landscape that had endured for thousands of years.
In 1939, President Roosevelt’s administration, through the Civilian Conservation Corps it established, reclaimed burned-out land, restored prairies, oak savannahs, and wetlands, and created the wildlife refuge. Among others, a restored whooping crane population is welcomed to its acreage each year.
We hiked along raised planked trails in silence, feeling cleansed and at peace. A lovely breeze carried the calls of geese, herons, eagles, frogs, and songbirds through the air. It was hard to believe thousands of people preferred what the “festival” offered to what was available at the refuge, but there you go.
The next few days we explored nearby lakes, rivers, sandblows, and the bluffs, mesas, and buttes that are actually former islands in Glacial Lake Wisconsin. We hiked around state parks and climbed for hours, grateful for glorious weather and views.
Sunday morning came too quickly, but we were able to ride into the sunrise and stop at Roche-a-Cri State Park to see the petroglyphs and pictographs of Native Americans, and those who came later. (Note the “A.V. Dean. N.Y. 1861” carving.) 300 steps up, and we had an “island view” that took our breaths away.
For us, vacations are times to “be” together, center our spirits, listen to our feelings and hearts, create new dreams. We like adventures and surprises, and generally don’t over-plan, but the Cranberry Festival that became an island vacation was completely different from what we expected. A perfect gift.
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12 thoughts on “Island Vacation”
Kitty, I think you made lemonade! An event called you to that place but then your hearts that drew you further into a beautiful adventure – what a gift you gave to yourselves. Your photos are beautiful and seem to capture that magic that you met. Those long stone (?) steps really called to me; I dream of steps and stairs a lot and this image felt like one of those dreams to me. The mists settling in the valley, the stone carvings, and finally the light in the woods – thank you for sharing such a beautiful journey. The next time I find my plans gone awry, I will try to follow your lead and look for an alternate route. 🙂
Thank you, Lynn; I have to admit that Phillip salvaged the trip…his familiarity with the geology and sites, and knowledge that I’d love them, made all the difference. It truly was better than I’d imagined. I so appreciate your visits, and comments, my friend-of-the-heart!
Well Kitty, that turned out to be a keeper of a vacation. Fabulous pictures, as always 🙂 By the way, that pic of Roche-a-Cri I believe it was, the pic right above the car driving down the sunset bathed highway…Look closely at it and see if you see a giant owl sitting on that center mound of trees to the right…Stuck right out at me. Ha! Glad you got away and enjoyed your time.Bet the 4 leggeds missed you …Have a happy weekend to you all. Hug those babies for me….VK
Ha! You have “creative eyes,” VK, which fits your name, doesn’t it? I love owls, so maybe the owl spirit felt it needed to be present here. 🙂
You’re right, we really did enjoy this trip, very much. But, yes, as always, we missed the 4-leggeds, although they have an excellent caregiver (our wonderful friend) when we travel. Good to be gone; good to be home.
Blessing to you and your companions, too, and may a joyful autumn lead you on, VK!
Oh I’m so glad the trip was salvaged, God bless Philip eh!!!
The crowds gathering to see nothing had my shoulders up, unbelievable that they would flock to see a load of old tat and neglect visiting that wonderful wildlife reserve.
Wow….those views sure were worth the 300 steps you climbed….wonderful to see the mist on the treetops.
I’m so glad that all ended well….and really enjoyed seeing a little more of your beautiful countryside. I bet your four leggeds gave you rapturous welcome home.xxxx
It was both heavenly and disappointing to be at the Wildlife Refuge and have 44,000 acres almost to ourselves…we saw a few other cars in the lot, but no people as we hiked around…It was a wonderful break, Dina; missed the 4-leggeds, but they had a very merry time. Lovely to be home again and so good to have gone, that’s for sure…Getting closer to figuring out the next few “steps” in our lives, and that’s fun and comforting. Thank you for visiting, Dina, and know you’re always welcome–wherever we are–if you visit the states. 🙂
I understand your frustration with the festival. I have had similar experiences. There was a time when a large portion of the public was able to appreciate visits to nature, and learning an intimacy with natural environments. Unfortunately, in this last generation, there has been so much propaganda aimed at consumerism of the Disneyland variety, that many young people feel they have to be entertained all the time. It’s really a loss on the part of the public. Your pictures are as beautiful as always, and lead me to very sweet reflections. And though I have never been in that part of your country, we have a small portion of that type of nature in our little country ourselves. I love to visit there, especially because it is favored by a great variety of birds. Basically it is swamp lands, but so beautiful, that I can’t bear to use that particular designation. Enjoyed this post very much, Kitty. And my best wishes to you and your husband. It was a pleasure to join you both for a moment.
Shimon, my friend, I value these comments so very much; they touch my heart and lead me to great appreciation for your presence in my life and the reminder that the internet can bring many gifts our way. 🙂 I would love to know more about Israel’s wetlands and the birds that visit there. I agree that such times, alone in new “lands,” can bring insights and blessings otherwise missed. Grateful, as always, for your visits and time/comments.
Schöne Bilder lieber Gruß Gislinde
Thank you / Herzlichen Dank!
It is always cleansing and peaceful to enter into your space dearest Kitty. And how I sighed with pleasure at your holiday plans. The best sort of getaway are sometimes not the best laid plans that materialise but those where we also allow ourselves to simply go with the flow and discover the lovely little gems we would have otherwise missed. Have I told you how much I have missed you? I can feel a big warm embrace just being here…Sharon
I have missed your gentle heart and profound insights as well, Sharon and thank you so much for visiting and taking time to share. I agree, plans are nice to have for guidance but perhaps a willingness to let them go is an even more important quality to develop and pack in our suitcases. 🙂
Joy to your day and welcome back to visiting Full Moon!