The land makes difficult work for city planners and civil engineers. Straight lines and level ground are in short supply. Trying to find a place to build a house or plot a road is rather like trying to set a beer can on the fender of a ‘59 Cadillac; there are no flat spots to rest your elbows.
River valleys make for the best place to plant a house without tipping over. Outside of valleys, you’re on your own. Roads snake across valley floors until they bump up against a bluff, where they either waltz up the slope or stop altogether for a lack of imagination. Power lines scale the bluffs straight up, which make for sleepless nights for power line workers.
And what does this lack of ordinary do for visitors? Well, you can imagine.
Imagine leaving your straight streets and six-lane freeways back home. Imagine letting the land take you to never-before-seen vistas and never-before-experienced outdoor adventures. Imagine a freedom to explore places that just won’t fit anywhere else. Then you can imagine Driftless Wisconsin.
Once you have given up on straight lines, there’s no telling where the road will take you. Every rise in the road and bend in the centerline holds a new surprise. The road from Wilton to Wauzeka along the Kickapoo River takes you valley watching. You may have to stop to snap a photo or test a fly rod. The road from Stoddard to Prairie du Chien along the Mississippi takes you river watching. You will have to stop to watch a river barge “lock through” one of the Lock and Dams.
State parks are a good place to start for beginners. Situated along rivers and around land forms, they offer an introduction to the Driftless area geology. For the more adventuresome, hop on a bike or in that ’59 Cadillac and get lost. Leave the map in the glove box. There are back roads that ravel through places only imagined in a good book. Eventually the road will take you back to civilization, where you can enjoy a relaxing dinner and peaceful sleep, before hitting the explorer’s trail again in the morning.
No, Driftless Wisconsin will not fit into a box or stick to a straight line. But who wants ordinary?