Fall is perhaps the most beautiful season in Wisconsin, made all the more special because of its place in between the humidity and mosquitoes of summer and the bone chilling cold and snowdrifts of winter. Pumpkins abound, cornfields are golden, and leaves turn a variety of hues that leave onlookers feeling awed.
Fall colors are currently at their peak in Juneau County, with visitors and locals able to see the best of the season through the end of October.
In the small village of Hustler, Fountain Chateau Bed and Breakfast owner and operator Susanne Soltvedt has for years been helping visitors get the most out of their fall viewing experience. The bed and breakfast has operated in the village since 1923.
According to Soltvedt, Hustler has something for everyone, from anglers to hikers, cyclists to those who wish to take a relaxing Sunday drive.
“You can just step outside and see how beautiful it is,” Soltvedt said. “The bluffs… the farmlands and homes, the trees are really gorgeous.”
Set amongst the hills and bluffs naturally carved out of sandstone thousands of years ago, Hustler is located between Elroy, Camp Douglas, and New Lisbon. The Omaha Bike Trail runs through Hustler, while the Elroy-Sparta Trail, the “400” Trail, and Mile Bluff State Park are all easily accessible.
“It’s a central location,” Soltvedt said about the village. “You can walk along the Omaha Bike Trail, through the fields and trees… It’s very cool and it’s a nice stroll.”
For visitors to the village or Fountain Chateau, Soltvedt is happy to help recommend stops to see the natural wonders of Juneau County. She says the Rustic Road Tour is loved by many visitors, with patrons able to see both how Amish people live and the fall colors.
Whatever visitors do, Soltvedt says they must always take the back roads to reach their destination.
“Avoid the interstate,” Soltvedt said. “You’ll miss everything, the bluffs, the corn fields that are turning to gold, the leaves.”
For many, fall festivities would not be complete without a pumpkin or two. For visitors to Treinen Farm near the town of West Point, pumpkins are only part of the fun.
“I think our flagship attraction is our corn maze,” said Angie Treinen of Treinen Farm. “It’s a team building exercise, it’s strategizing, it’s pretty hard (so) people feel very proud of themselves when they’re done with it.”
Treinen Farm has been creating annual corn mazes for visitors to enjoy since 1991, when Alan Treinen decided to diversify some of the activity on the farm.
After completing one or a few of the several corn mazes and picking out a pumpkin or two to take home, visitors can also opt for a seasonal carriage ride. Usually the carriages are drawn by horses, but the wet weather preceding the fall this year meant breaking out the tractors to spare Treinen’s hooved helpers the trouble.
“We try to have activities so people of all ages (will) have things to do that will last at least half the day, if not the whole day,” Treinen said.
Every year Treinen chooses a different theme for the maze. The theme for 2019 is the dance of the cranes, in a partnership with the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo.
“They work with groups around the world to save cranes and their habitats,” Treinen said.
Apple cider donuts, kettle corn and other foods are available for when visitors get hungry.
Other attractions include seeing the goats and pigs, and even a piano playing performance put on by the Treinen Farm chickens.
As Halloween draws closer, farm staff will dress up as zombies to have zombie themed corn maze adventures with visitors.
Treinen Farm describes the corn mazes as “part art installation, part outdoor game, part social experiment.”
Visitors can come enjoy the mazes and so much more this fall.
Looking to experience the last days of nice weather before the November chill sets in? Dells Boat Tours can help you do exactly that.
Managed by the Original Wisconsin Ducks, Dells Boat Tours takes riders on a two-hour scenic cruise through the Upper Dells, showing off the awe-inspiring rock formations and foliage, with multiple stops along the way. Riders can get out and take a closer look at the sights on these stops, at both the Witch’s Gulch further north in the river and the jumping German shepherds of Juneau County.
Pilot Mark Kocyan has worked with Dells Boat Tours for 17 years, after a 31-year career in special education in Hillsboro. According to Kocyan, he took the job to be able to spend more time in nature and seeing the natural splendor of Wisconsin.
“I like being outdoors, and this job allows me to do that,” Kocyan said. “I like operating the boats, and I can do a variety of things. I run jet boats in the summer, and then I can do these in the spring and fall, the tour boats.”
Kocyan was joined on this trip by Gary Skolarz, a 32-year law enforcement veteran in his first year working for Dells Boat Tours. Skolarz served as the primary tour guide for the trip, noting points of interest for riders and providing a wide variety of puns for their listening pleasure.
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“I’m finally able to take people places they want to go,” Skolarz quipped, referencing his past in law enforcement.
For his part, Kocyan also enjoys leading the tour portion of the trip as well as piloting the boat; he and other employees will often switch off over the course of the day on who provides narration and who drives the boat.
“I gave the tour the last trip, so I do that too,” Kocyan said. “It depends on who you’re working with. Some pilots are not comfortable with giving the tour at all, so then I do it.”
If you want to enjoy Kocyan and Skolarz’s tour of the Upper Dells, time is short. According to Kocyan, the last tour until next spring leaves the dock on Nov. 3.
“400” State Trail
Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristine Koenecke compared walking or biking along the 400 State Trail during the fall months to an auditorium that doesn’t have bad seating.
No matter where you are along the trail, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The reason fall is the most popular season for nature enthusiasts to take advantage of the trail is the season provides a chance to see wildlife and leaves changing color on the numerous trees, she said. Trees along the route include hardwoods, oaks, maples, honey locust and chestnut trees – one that change colors with the seasons.
“Because it’s near the Baraboo River you see lots of different silhouettes of beautiful vistas along the way,” Koenecke said. “It’s really beautiful in the fall.”
Wildlife along the trail include cranes, turtles, deer, raccoons and squirrels. Sometimes people will see a blue heron or bald eagles if walking or riding deeper in the 400 State Trail, she said.
The first mile or so of the trail from the Chamber office on Railroad Street sits mainly in the city and its warehouse district, with one section going past Lakeside Foods. Farmland is located about three or four miles out, so farmers may be out harvesting crops. Waterways are also located along the route. About 8-9 miles beyond La Valle is a rock formation and bluff, something Koenecke encourages people to see during their time on the trail.
“It is spectacular,” she said. “We try to make sure they at least go that far or they notice it on their way back.”
The 22-mile trail stretches from Reedsburg to Wonewoc. She said another unique aspect of the trail is it spans through five communities with restaurants, grocery stores, art galleries and other places for people to stop and rest.
“I think that’s why families can ride it with small children and grandparents,” she said, adding the trail attracts people from all over the nation and across the globe.
The section between La Valle and Wonewoc remains closed from damage sustained during the 2018 floods. However, officials want to open the entire trail by the end of the year.
The trail is open year round. Passes are available for purchase at the chamber office and a self-serve box is located in the chamber parking lot. A daily pass for biking for anyone over 16-years-old at $5 per day while walking is free.
Park Manager Becky Green said those who visit Mirror Lake during the fall months find it a peaceful and relaxing time to visit the park, even on busy days.
She said the park’s location between the Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells area is a convenient location for those who want to escape the “hustle and bustle” of tourism. The 2,200 acre park is surrounded by woods, so when the leaves change color it’s a great time to go hiking and paddling on the lake when the weather is nice. The view of the sandstone bluffs and trees surrounding the lake creates a peaceful atmosphere.
“Folks really enjoy hiking in the fall, a little bit cooler temperatures, the leaves changing and it’s just nice having to be out,” Green said.
It was the first visit for Signe and Chuck Blair of Idaho, who were camping nearby at Devil’s Lake in Baraboo. Both said they wanted to visit Mirror Lake to see the fall colors, hike and bird watch.
“It’s beautiful,” Signe said. “We’ve just got here but I’m sure why what we’ve hear from people it’s going to be nice.”
The park has 19 miles of hiking trails, including a new one called Pulpit Rock Trail, located about a three quarters of a mile west from the park office on Fern Dell Road in Baraboo. The trail is a mile round trip, taking one to the top of Pulpit Rock where one can see over the Mirror Lake gorge and Fern Dell.
Green said the park is filled with pine and oak trees, so mainly deep red and rusty colors leaves are seen, along with yellow leaves from the maple and aspen trees. Park Ranger Brett Johanen said Lakeview Trail is a friendly and easygoing hiking trail that will provide the most lake views and scenes of colored leaves along with the reflections from the trees. The trees leading up to the Echo Rock Trail also have an array of colors. The trail encircles Echo Rock, which overlooks Mirror Lake and Ishnala Supper Club.
Green said friendly animal guests on the trails range from squirrels and birds to turkey and deer. Coyotes are heard at night and raccoons can be seen in the evening.
For those who want to take a last minute camping trip, she said the park’s 100 campsites are open everyday through the last two weeks of October. Electric and non-electric campsites are available and the Friends of the Mirror Lake group sells firewood for $6 a bundle. Because the weekends are busy, she encourages those who want to reserve a spot at a campsite to call 1-888-947-2757 or register online at wiparks.net.
Wisconsin residents can purchase a day pass for $8 or $28 for the annual state park pass at the park office. Non-resident passes are $11 a day and $38 for an annual pass. Anyone with questions can call the park office at 608-524-2333.
The park is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. year round. Through the end of October, the park office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
The office is open everyday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with extended hours through the end of October on Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.