–submitted by Katie Ryan; photos by Herman Baumann, Karl Gutknecht & Susan Hunt
On Saturday, October 18, the Rotary Special Events Fellowship Group, Hiking Fellowship Group and Big Wheels Bicycling Fellowship Group and guests were invited to Frank and Mariana Weinhold’s beautiful 135-acre property, Louis’ Bluff. The farm was settled in 1847 and is one of the oldest in Juneau County. It includes 7000 feet of shoreline along the Wisconsin River and a spectacular rocky bluff that provides an incredible view. The October 8 Rotary speaker photojournalist Mike Kienitz went out to the site, which is about an hour and a quarter’s drive from Madison on the north side of the Wisconsin Dells, and captured the panorama with his camera-fitted drone.
You can watch his October 11, 2014, at the you tube video “DRONE IN THE DELLS“. Our hike was on the same sort of glorious, sunny fall day.
We gathered at the Weinhold’s house for a barbecue lunch and social time before heading out on hikes. There are flat routes past cultivated fields and through the oak and pine woods to the beaches and a steep climb up the rocky limestone bluffs. Most of the group of thirty headed up to the top. There’s an overlook to the north that juts out into the Wisconsin River and provides a stunning view of the formations caused by glacial outwash. The entire property is a private conservation area, and although you see some evidence of civilization, you’d never guess you were down the road from the amusements of the Dells. There is a reminder of the tourism history however, a 1954 cedar-log replica of the Fort Winnebago blockhouse from the Fort Dells amusement park relocated at Louis’ Bluff. It was dedicated in a traditional Ho-Chunk ceremony and there are headdresses from the Bear Clan on display inside.
Besides geological interest, the entire area is sacred to the Ho-Chunk nation. Melanie Tallmadge Sainz (left), a member of the Ho-Chunk nation whose family has a long history at the site, accompanied the hikers. At the top she explained the Native American significance of the area and played a beautiful melody on a cedar flute. She is director of the Little Eagle Arts Foundation. Another special viewing was an active eagle’s nest on the Weinhold’s bluff. The group reconvened at the house for pie and ice cream. The Weinholds opened their house, ice house, shed, beach-side gazebo and a cemetery for exploration. It was a spectacular fall day and a great excursion for the Rotary hiking fellowship.
Our thanks to Frank and Mariana Weinhold for their gracious hospitality and to Petie Rudy and Leigh Richardson of the Special Events Fellowship Group for organizing this event.