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Editorial: Get out and explore
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Get out and explore

by Claire Smith

When I think of Wisconsin, three of its most overplayed legends immediately come to mind: cheese, cows and the Green Bay Packers. However, these aren’t Wisconsin’s finest assets. Hands down, Wisconsin’s finest feature has to be its wide expanse of trails for hiking, walking, biking, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, among other recreational activities. 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Web site crows about Wisconsin's more than 3,060 miles of recreational trails. That’s only counting state parks, forests, trails, wildlife areas and other Department of Natural Resources lands. That is only a small fraction of the overall natural landscape Wisconsin has to offer. However, state-controlled areas are destinations in which individuals can optimize all of the outdoor resources without any question of trespassing.

No matter which area of the state you call home, the natural beauty that Wisconsin has to offer is always a short distance away. Heck, any of Wisconsin’s forests, parks or trails is less than a day’s drive away. Even if you live in an urban area, getting to the “country” or a lake is usually no more than a 20-minute ride. 

So enough already, forget renewing your gym membership, put on the proper outdoor attire, grab any special equipment that you may need and hit the road.

If you are going to be near the southeastern corner of the state, Geneva Lake is definitely worth checking out. The lake and surrounding is a tourist hotspot, especially for Chicagoans. The 26.1 mile lake path is a secret treasure for hikers as well as a sightseer’s dream destination.

The path runs around the perimeter of the lake. The trail can be tackled with a day-long marathon excursion or split up into a few more manageable segments. The trail tours hikers past turn-of-the-century mansions, many of which were erected after the Chicago Fire when many Chicagoans relocated to Lake Geneva while the city was being rebuilt. There are a variety of guides that give the history of the homes on the trail including “Walk, Talk and Gawk” which is available at the Breadloaf Bookstore in downtown Lake Geneva.

Moving on to western Wisconsin.  If you happen to be close to the La Crosse area, take a hike up Granddad’s Bluff to what is considered to be Wisconsin’s best view.  The easiest way to get to the top of this 580-ft. bluff is to either walk or ride up Granddad Bluff Road to the top of the bluff. Once you reach the top, your reward gazing out over the city of La Crosse and the Mississippi River Valley. Whether you stick to the road or venture out onto one of the trails, no trip to the bluff is complete without stopping at the Alpine Inn, located high atop the bluff, for some food, drinks and games.

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