Wending My Way Through Wisconsin…

August 7, 2018 at 11:29 am 4 comments

I am back in Essoyes now, but before it fades from my memory I want to tell you about the first leg of my trip back here from Minnesota. This was a road trip that began by crossing the St. Croix River into Wisconsin at Prescott, and heading to my cousin Brenda’s home near Ellsworth.

I spent two nights with Brenda and her husband, Tim, in their home, one of my favorite places on earth. Among many other things I love about being there are two canvas chairs that hang suspended from the branches of a large oak tree. These magnificently comfortable swings have come to be known in our family as one of the most wonderful places on earth, a place of peace, solace, and beauty.  It is also the place in which Brenda and I have had many conversations over the years, catching up with each other’s lives. This is the view from one of those swings.


The first night I was there we took a break from sitting in the swings, to go to an ice-cream social that was being held at a nearby church. In addition to pies of many kinds (including my favorite, rhubarb!) and ice cream there was a full meal, including barbecued ground beef sandwiches, which we used to call “sloppy joes” when I was growing up in Minnesota.

The next day we went blueberry picking in the morning, and then took a hike around the top of the bluffs that line Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin is not really a lake at all: it is, rather, the largest natural widening in the Mississippi River. One of the cliffs there is named Maiden Rock because according to Dakota legend, an Indian princess jumped from there to her death in despair after her Ojibway lover was killed under orders from her father. A local Romeo and Juliet kind of tragedy.

After picking blueberries we decided, on something of a whim, to try to find the top of that rock. Somewhat surprisingly none of us had ever been there before, but someone had told Tim where to drive to find the approach to the cliff from the top of the bluff. This became something of an adventure that had a happy ending in that a) we did not get lost, (though for quite some time it seemed that perhaps we were lost); b) we did not get caught in a major thunderstorm on the highest point around and far from shelter, (though the skies were very threatening and since we didn’t know how to find our way back to our car they seemed even a bit more threatening than they would have otherwise); and c) at least as far as I know, none of us contracted Lyme’s Disease that day, (not for lack of wading through some very thick, neck-high grasses as Tim and I attempted to keep up with Brenda, who had suddenly, and somewhat unexpectedly, gone full-on intrepid world explorer!).

We also did not make it to the historic spot we were looking for. But why this is so requires more explanation than I care to give for the time being. Suffice it to say that if you attempt to approach Maiden Rock from the top of the bluff, and find the sign that the DNR has placed right next to an extremely overgrown path leading into a deep ravine, you should NOT simply assume that that is the path you should take. For it is NOT. (The sign cautions hikers not to go too near to the edge of the cliff, um, duh. Our comment, when we finally found our way back to our car and saw that sign again, which the second time around felt like it was taunting us, was to mutter, “Yeah, right, if you can find it!”)

Anyway. We felt lucky to be alive, well, and not even drenched. 🙂

The next morning I crossed back over to the Minnesota side of the river at Winona, (which is named for the above-mentioned Indian princess). There I spent the night with a dear friend who lives in a rural cooperative of back-to-the-landers nestled into a lovely valley, another place that always brings me solace and joy.

The following day I resumed my eastward journey, crossing back into Wisconsin and then heading southward, in the direction of the next cousin I would be visiting, near Galesburg, Illinois.

From Prescott to Potosi, Wisconsin Highway 35 is part of the 3,000 mile long Great River Road that follows the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana, passing through 10 states along the way. (The section of it that runs from Minnesota to Arkansas is also a designated National Scenic Byway, and the stretch that runs through Wisconsin has been called “one of the most scenic drives in the nation.”)

I would have to agree with that assessment. And not only is this an extraordinarily beautiful drive, it is rich in history (but isn’t everywhere, really?). However, the stretch of road from Hager City to Prairie du Chien is also really rich in historical markers.

All my life I have loved reading historical markers. All my life I have also found very few people who appreciate them as much as I do, and who are willing to take the time to stop and read them. Because of the schedule I was on that day, I was not able to stop and read any of the markers, but boy did I want to!

I would love to return to this stretch of the river someday with a friend who would love reading historical markers as much as I do, and stop at every single one along the way. Not only would we both learn a lot, but I am sure very interesting conversations would be kindled by what we learned. I have a French friend who has for years been dreaming of taking a US road trip with me one day, something she has not been able to do yet for a variety of reasons. I am pretty sure she would enjoy stopping at historical markers and reading them with me. So that is a nice future prospect to contemplate.

Here is the historical marker I did not stop to read at Lake Pepin.

Anyway. I am back in Essoyes now, and so happy to be here. More on that in my next post.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She leads writing workshops in Essoyes, a village in the Champagne region, and teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the City University of New York each summer except this one, during which she returned for a visit to her home and family in Minnesota. 



Entry filed under: About the Midwest. Tags: , , , , , , , .

A Peek into the Heartland (Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, 2018) Back Home in Essoyes…

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. AJ  |  August 7, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I love reading historical markers too! And yes, our area is full of them!

  • 2. Pamela Capriotti Martin  |  August 7, 2018 at 11:49 am

    My children know I will stop and read every blue marker in London and then look up the information to read more about the person afterwards. 😉

  • 3. Kev  |  August 7, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    This is YOUR BEST ONE YET!!! Loved, loved,loved it. Made me jealous I wasn’t there reading historical markers with you.

  • 4. Kevin O'Brien  |  September 20, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Had a girlfriend once who used to get so “antsy” and agitated because I would stop to read historical markers on our roadtrips. She was always in so big a hurry, why I don’t know. I would always laugh and say, “It’s the journey that’s important not the destination”. She never really understood. We broke up (go figure) and I still stop whenever and wherever to read signs. Lord knows I never would have taken her to a museum, I like to read all the placards explaining what I’m looking at. Nice article. For all things love of Wisconsin check out wiscoculture.com or on FB and Instagram @wiscoculture
    #wiscoculture #wisconsinculture #notjustaplace


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