in the yard of the house we spent our five days, on 40 acres of land
I awake to the sun peering through the yellow and orange hued maples and oaks. The tinkling of wind chimes is heard outside, the open window lets in the nostalgic breeze of autumn leaves.
I am anxious to get outside, to suck in the cool morning air, to wrap my senses around everything golden hued or red tinged. What a stark contrast to the life I lead in the southwest. In the desert, there is a stillness there that is never disturbed, save for one of those rare monsoons.
Here, deep in the woodlands of Mason, Wisconsin, one can hear the falling of leaves, the persistent wind whipping through the trees, the soft rustle of the fallen leaves underfoot.
The woods are ablaze with gold, the air is crisp and sweetened with maple leaf and princess pine.
I think back on the smells of the southwest, and find them indefinable.
Right now, approaching mid October, Phoenix
is still keeping Autumn at bay with its dry heat.
So much life here. I see it in a dancing leaf, the swaying branches rocked by wind’s cradling arms, the way the sun plays on the treetops, how the cat dances in the perennials…I hear it all around me.
Nature is pure here, the wild does and bucks populate this area as heavily as do the gulls on the lakeshore. With this comes the great white hunter, a plethora of ATVs, local bars proudly displaying last season’s racks, and Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. The local brew, Leinenkugel, is delicious and crisp, a pint of beer is an average of $2, even more inexpensive when there is a Greenbay packer game.
Packer fans run rampant here.
You can see their coat of arms blowing in the wind outside many homes, or sticking to the back of pick up trucks.
The Nascar fan also is prevalent , as seen by homes sporting anything from Dale Earnhardt snow globes, down to the family pet wearing the #3 Earnhardt collar.
Local saloons and restaurants are sadly not culinary destinations, as the menus offer the standard American fare of burgers, sandwiches, steaks, and spaghetti. Appetizers are your average array of deep fried breaded grease, though there is the Wisconsin cheese curd. On Friday nights it is Fish Fry, with the local fish such as Walleye and Perch offered broiled or battered and fried. Admittedly, the only delicious treat throughout my 5 days of sampling local fare was the cheese curd. The traditional cheese curd is rolled in a batter, and then deep fried.
Delicious, unless you end up with a pre-packaged bit of cheese which has been breaded and dropped in oil.
This takes me to the one notable place to eat in the Northwoods, the Apple Festival in Bayfield, Wisconsin. For 45 years this annual festival has been bringing thousands of visitors to the quaint little town of Bayfield, where one can find everything Apple. With the many apple orchards surrounding the area, there is a delectable assortment of desserts, ciders, and even Bratwurst made with apples. Apple pie on a stick, apple squares swimming in caramel, fresh apple cider, Apple bratwurst, and Apple Spice Leinenkugel Beer, were some of the things we sampled at this festival.
After being rightly stuffed, we took a short ferry ride to Madeleine Island, $10 for a round trip ticket, and 2.6 miles. Once on the island, we were headed to Motion to Go, (102 Lake View Place - La Pointe, Wi) to rent bikes for our jaunt around the island. Well, around the island is an understatement. In two hours, I believe we managed 8 miles round trip. This was taking off from the ferry landing, riding along Chebomnicon Bay, and into Big Bay State Park. The colors of the leaves, the cool breezes, and ride along Lake Superior were truly an enjoyable experience. Though it had been years since either one of us had been on the bike, we were so caught up in our surroundings that we did not realize how much our legs hurt.
We stopped at old barns along the way, then took a gorgeous reprieve at the cliffs of Big Bay State Park
, watching the water crash against the rocks below.
Though the food in the north of Wisconsin is not impressive, the wineries are. Apple wines are made in abundance, with many variations of taste and flavor, as well as the ancient Mead, made not from grapes or apples, but honey.
A highlight of the trip was visiting the White Winter Winery in Iron River, a very short distance from Bayfield. Along with daily mead tastings, visitors can also take a tour of the winery. This unique drink goes back to the days of old, when newlyweds were given a “moon’s” supply of mead to make the union fruitful.
Their award winning meads range from the dark mead, made from honey and black currant, to the very popular “cyser,” made from apples and honey. Everything here is made from local fruits and honey, and it was the perfect way to end a delightful trip to the Northwoods of Wiscsonsin.
This is a part of the country for people who love the woods, lakes, and farm life. In the small towns everyone knows your name, there may only be two bars or two restaurants in the entire town. People hunt, fish, harvest, and farm. A neighbor stops by to drop off venison from the buck he shot last week, or the walleye he just caught in the lake. When someone comes for a visit, you may expect a fresh baked apple pie made with apples from his trees. When eating your pancake or French toast breakfast, you may be dousing it with maple syrup from your friendly neighbor’s tree. It is back to basics. Life is centered around living off the land, and celebrating the bounty it yields.