Looked like the weather in La Crosse was going to be a bit of a downer today...but that was alright since we were off to Prairie du Chien for a guided wildlife eco-tour with Backwater Cruises! It was certainly a bit of a drive and supposedly a much more beautiful one in the fall, but good company made it enjoyable. We stopped by the CVB to get some information before heading on the cruise. Very comfy contraption this, with covered seating all through and some uncovered vantage view seats up front and out. They do give a nice commentary so you get to learn about some of the buildings you see along the way and learn of the history of the area. Spotted a few different varieties of birds and little itty-bitty turtles as well. Lunch was in the area, at Simply Coffeehouse & Eatery and we worked it all off after with a hike exploring Wyalusing State Park in Bagley, one of Wisconsin’s oldest state parks. The rain finally did catch up with us though so our evening activities were cut short rather soon. Since this was the last day of this media trip, we had a farewell dinner at Piggy’s in La Crosse, one of Wisconsin’s favorite dining establishments. I managed to sneak in a walk by the river front before that to get some nice snaps in the evening sun. Dinner was a 3 course affair, well-planned by the chef and busy with catching up on all the fun everyone had been up to and starting out on the goodbyes with some folks leaving for the airport in the wee hours of the morning. Couple of us at the Marriott took this opportunity to try out their lobby lounge bar before bidding adieu. I am glad to be one of the later departures tomorrow, I don't have to be out until after 8am :)
7am early morning checkouts and breakfast in a box on the go was first on the agenda. (Breakfast box had one boiled egg, one sugar croissant and one banana! Simple and sufficient!) We started driving to Trempealeau, to see Lock & Dam #6 where we watched the dam work and sailboats pass through, then Perrot State Park where we checked out the viewpoint and spoke to the park ranger, followed by the National Wildlife Refuge where we spoke to the park rangers and checked out the culmination of two types of forest land in one expanse. A visit to Elmaro Vineyards brought on a bout of wine tasting. A hurried lunch at Hungry Point Bar & Grill (where I tried fried curds) paved the way for ample fishing in Onalaska. My first time fishing so I was glad to have a few pros with me. After a long wait that drained out all my patience, accompanied by several false starts, I caught one fish! (Special thanks to travel writers Rebecca and Ed for their fishing advise). We were then all checked into different hotels at La Crosse. I luckily got a Marriott to stay in for the next two days - nice to have a coffee maker in the room. Dinner at the Waterfront Restaurant in La Crosse with just the folks from our group living at the Marriott was a fun affair. Not too crazy a day, and not much strenuous activity either. Mostly a lot of driving around so happy to get in a good night's rest before tomorrow comes around.
Left early this morning from the B&B for 8am breakfast at Gelly’s Pub & Eatery in Stockholm. Nice couple who own it, prepared a great breakfast spread for our entire team. The restaurant has been featured in magazines and has a loyal following in the area. Here on we split into different groups based in the activities we had chosen for the day. I went kayaking at Lake Pepin with Missi from Bay City Hardware and Marine - initially a little wobbly but soon got the hang of it. I was actually a little worried I did not know to swim and was kayaking in the open lake but the water was shallow in parts and we stayed pretty snug to the shore so it wasn't half as bad as I thought it would be. I did get stuck some places though and had to be pushed out the sand but the weather was perfect and we even sighted a few birds. We headed to a horse farm right after to learn some about equine therapy at Free Spirit Ranch Wellness and Retreat Center in Maiden Rock, home of founder and equine therapist Lisa Kuchinski. The horses were great! The usually long process was abridged into a few minutes but long story short, we wrote down a word describing what we want more of in our lives and used a color on a sheet of paper, walked into an enclosed arena type space, placed the paper on the ground next to where we stood and then the horses were allowed to come up to us. Apparently based on the horse that hovers around you, Lisa can say more about what it is that's bothering you, etc. I would have liked more time ere and show hope a future trip to WI will be able to accommodate a visit here. After a quick stop for a box lunch at the park near Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, I went to Wings Over Alma Nature & Art Center in Alma for a brief overview of the place, then hiked to the Buena Vista Overlook in Alma (had some nice views), and then walked around Second St. checking out some gift shops etc. Somewhere in the middle of this I remember tasting local cheese curds and being whisked away to apply for my fishing license for tomorrow but have no memory of the order of those events - it was a busy day! By the way, getting the fishing license was easy - showed some proof of identity, paid $10 for an hour of fishing, got a receipt for it at the local gas station and that's it - easy peasy. We managed to sneak in a short break at the B&B before heading out for the evening. PM festivities began with wine tasting and reception at Villa Bellezza Winery in Pepin - this is actually a building for a bank that has been transformed into a winery so some of their wines are actually housed in a vault! They have a nice event space to host weddings and also showed us the winery. Our entire group headed to dinner after at Pepin Pickle Factory where I tasted walleye for the first time. Some of us opted for a moonlight sailboat cruise on Lake Pepin aboard the 31-foot sloop, Messenger, with Sail Pepin’s captain David Sheridan. Seemed a fantastic idea when I opted for it but by the time we got on the boat t had already begun drizzling and when we got out to open water it was pouring crazy. Altogether too cold and too dark to enjoy anything, also too wet. I sat covered in blankets the whole time and hoping this had been a clearer night. We managed to make it back just in time before the skies really parted. A drenched as a cat me was very happy to see myself in bed after a hot shower today. Tiring but fun. More tomorrow as we get on the road and out of Pepin!