Spring Green shimmers in autumn color explosion
There are some places that draw you in regardless of the season. Southwestern Wisconsin, in the area around Spring Green, is one of those places. In staggering heat or under a bed of snow, the rolling hills and stunning vistas beckon.
But despite its name, Spring Green is especially beautiful in autumn as the lush green trees explode into a riot of color and the vibrant green grass begins to share space with the rapidly rusting soy bean crops and the warm browns of the feed corn, still out in the fields.
Buckets of apples begin to appear on the front lawns of farmhouses and the walnuts -- in their casings -- dot the ground. Grazing cows, and occasionally llamas and sheep, are often the only activity that can be seen.
Fruit and vegetable stands can be found throughout the area, and in autumn are likely to be offering apples, cider, pears, pumpkins and squashes galore, honey, and if you're lucky, black walnuts. Peck's (608-588-7177) -- which has two locations on Hwy 14, one two miles east of Spring Green and the other four miles west -- is open daily 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and many of the above items as well as petting zoos with geese, ducks, goats, peafowl, camels and other adorable creatures. Many of the local towns also host farmers markets on weekend mornings.
At Oakwood Fruit Farm (608-585-2701) off Hwy 130, north of Lone Rock, you can pick your own fruits, including grapes and apples.
If you're into cheese -- and I sure am -- don't miss Cedar Grove Cheese (608-546-5284) in Plain, a few miles north of Spring Green on Hwy 23. You can get a tour of their factory and sample small-batch cheeses in the shop, where, as you might suspect, they sell their goods. The friendly staff will also take you out back and show you the natural machine they use to clean their waste water.
The only such system in a cheese factory in Wisconsin, Cedar Grove uses a half-dozen eight-foot deep tanks full of bacteria to clean the water that comes from the cheese-making and cleaning processes. It's a fascinating look at the kinds of environmentally-sound things that are being done by conscientious farmers and factories.
Head north into Richland County and check out Rockbridge. Just before entering the town on Hwy 80 from the south, turn left into Pier County Park and check out the natural stone bridge, a massive rock formation pierced by a tributary of the Wisconsin River. Walk through the tunnel burrowed into the sandstone and view the bridge from the west, in a peaceful setting with the river trickling past and the tall grass whispering in the wind.
Richland Center, the homey county seat, has a wonderful court house, the second oldest in the state, and will interest Frank Lloyd Wright fans. Richland Center was the birthplace of Wright, who later based himself in Spring Green after a stint in Chicago. The town is also home to the historic A.D. German Warehouse (300 S. Church St., 608-647-6703), which Wright designed as a way to pay off his debt to German, a merchant.
The building fell into dangerous disrepair and is now owned by a couple from the Twin Cities, who own a Wright home in Minneapolis and split their time between Richland Center and Minnesota.Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)
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