News

Snowshoe Report December 21, 2020

It is Winter Solstice and the night of the planetary crossing but those darn clouds are mucking up the Driftless night skies. Today’s possible snow forecast was disappointing as well. But that is how winter goes sometimes in SW Wisconsin.

The seven-day forecast for snow is scant at best. It was just a “taste” last weekend but hopefully, we will head in 2021 with many winter snowfalls. We have a snowmobile all tuned-up and ready to go as well. At least you can snowshoe in less snow than what is required for the snowmobile trails!

Now is the time to celebrate the Holidays with family and stay healthy. Perhaps you will get some new outerwear for Christmas or a new set of snowshoes! As the Scandinavians always say, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” While we wait for that perfect powder to come, you can get your gear ready.

I find snowshoeing to be a very warm activity once you get going. I have a variety of neck gators, ear muffs, and scarves. I do use a neoprene-type outdoor face mask on those really cold days when the wind chill is in the negative numbers. I usually wear a long sleeve thermal top with a vest zipped up over the top and then my winter coat over that. My winter coat is left mostly unzipped except for the coldest weather. I have a few thermal leggings that are designed for cold weather but I have also used fleece tights under leggings. Sometimes, two layers are better than one as the air trapped between the layers keeps you extra warm.

I find if I dress too bulky, it can be uncomfortable while snowshoeing. Layers are always best. I actually use a fairly lightweight set of gloves. My fingers will feel cold at first but with the activity of using poles, they warm up quickly. I find mostly-if my ears and hands are covered-I can endure some pretty cold temps. You can work up a pretty good sweat with the exertion of snowshoeing so look for clothing that wicks away the moisture.

Last year was one of the first years I was actually able to snowshoe in deeper snow and I did find the snow coming into the top of my boots at times. I have put ankle gators on my Christmas wish list this year as they are supposed to protect a bit better. As far as boots go, I find a good supportive boot is helpful. Your ankles don’t need the support of ski/snowboarding boots but your foot should be well-supported for physical activity. A pair of good hiking boots can work with extra socks for those just beginning. I have experienced the straps from the snowshoes rubbing on my boots and leaving marks so you might not want to wear those expensive Sorrel boots with suede/leather.

We at Ridge & Valley Tours hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and may all of us be safe & healthy in 2021! And, hopefully, Santa puts those new snowshoes under the tree! Until the next report-Happy Holidays, Teri & Marty Richards

Snowshoe report for December 10

It was very exciting to see the snowflakes falling Friday night! By late Saturday morning, the snow accumulation in Ithaca Township was enough to throw on a pair of snowshoes for the first time this winter season. Yesterday morning the conditions were ideal as there is nothing more magical than “snow globe” snowfalls while snowshoeing. Those precious moments where big fat snow flakes drift down, the air feels much cleaner and the world seems quieter.

The snow stopped coming down at mid-day and the clouds broke up briefly to see glimpses of sun and blue sky. We ended up with about 2 inches of snow in Ithaca. That is just enough to snowshoe. You don’t need a deep snowfall to enjoy this great sport and actually deep snow can make snowshoeing too strenuous for a beginner. Our Driftless area is the perfect place to enjoy snowshoeing with our hills, fields and forests.

In my 7 years of snowshoeing experience, I have learned a little about ideal snowshoeing conditions. When there is only two inches, it is best to snowshoe in areas where the grass has been mowed in the past. Your lawn or a city park are perfect examples. The snow over the mowed grass will be buoyant enough to enjoy the experience without the resistance of deeper snow. Two inches will not be enough snow for snowshoeing over harvested fields or over longer prairie grasses, as the grass and corn stalks can get tangled up in the grips on the deck of your shoes. It also is not enough for going in wooded areas either as the trees decrease the amount of snow that makes it to the actual ground.

This is the ideal time to dig those snowshoes out of the closet. Check your bindings and straps for integrity. You will find going for a short stroll on your lawn warms up those muscles you haven’t used since last year. The stride you use for snowshoeing is so much more different than jogging or hiking, you will definitely feel a bit of soreness in those hips and glutes the next day. The use of poles will warm up your shoulders and arm muscles in new ways as well. The sport is an excellent work out and the perfect activity to engage in during the pandemic. If you are new to snowshoeing, this is an ideal time to practice and master your stride so you are ready to hit the trails when the deeper snow comes.

The weather is forecasted to stay in the 20-30s the next two days and the snow should stay but by Wednesday, temps will likely melt the current snow. We have had reports that the Madison area has 5-6 inches of snow and double that of Richland county so if you looking for more snow, head in that direction.

Snow is forecasted for next Saturday again. We will bring this report every week thru the winter season. Our report will bring other tips for snowshoeing so be sure to follow this report every week.

Ridge and Valley Tours COVID-19 Response

I hope this entry finds everyone is well and safe with all of the disruptions to what was typical life prior to the pandemic. At Ridge and Valley Tours, we have had our share of disruptions, and just plain bad news, the past couple of months but we are a hardy group with a strong positive outlook.

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Here is the latest on our current plan:

#1. Tours and events are postponed until further notice. We hope we can resume tours and events in the next few months. We will comply with the Badger Bounce Back guidelines put forward by the State of Wisconsin to help quash the transference of the virus. We also have the additional concern that several of our farm partner families have underlying health concerns and we want to protect them from any unnecessary risks. Our trip to the Frida Kahlo Art Exhibit has been postponed until next year as the College of DuPage has postponed that exhibit until 2021.

#2. When we resume our tours they will very likely be more of a “Group” tour at least for this year. In the past, we took any number of orders online, 4, 2, or even from a single person. When we resume operations it is very clear we will need to take family, friends, or workgroups who are already oriented with each other so we are not concerned with passing the virus from individual to individual beyond the unit they are already associated with. With this in mind, we will have to determine, to make the trip financially viable what is the minimum number required to take the tour out? Those are details we are still discussing and will determine as we move forward.

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#3. We are determined to restart tours in the future. We saw in our inaugural year a desire from our participants for more tours and a strong appreciation for what we were offering. As the year went on there were some very encouraging signs of growth for events and tours of our farms, wineries, breweries, and orchards.  We also saw our participants come forward with ideas of their own, such as a progressive diner in which we transported a group of 12 to 4 different restaurants for appetizers, drinks, dinner, and dessert! We believe we learned much that will help us move forward in the future and we are patiently biding our time to connect more people with the places, people, and stories that make up our corner of the Driftless area.

#4. We are offering Gift Certificates/Cards. With our commitment to future offerings we are offering gift certificates and cards for future use. These do not expire and can be used on any event we offer in the future. If you wish to book a trip to a concert, a sporting event, an agri-tourism trip, or even your own progressive diner, they are good for any adventure with us and they never expire. To purchase gift cards click here.

We look forward to the new normal of the future and see many opportunities for our area and Ridge and Valley Tours as we emerge from the “Safer At Home” order. With our combination of Driftless Area beauty and sparsity of people, our corner of the Driftless area will be an attractive place to visit for some time to come.

Be Safe,

Marty and Teri

Don’t you take the winters off?

The Ridge and Valley Pre-Planned Tour Season is complete. We learned much, educated and entertained quite a few people, and brought some great agricultural insight to visitors from outside Southwest Wisconsin as well as local residents. There were some lessons, such as don’t try to cram 6 hours of entertainment, driving, and education into a 4 hour period. There were also some very pleasant surprises, such as the great discussion and connection that happened at every meal at the end of one of our tours. Overall it was a great experience and has served to show us some things we are doing right and some things we can improve upon.

I had someone mention to me a week ago, “So, you get to take the winter off right?”. Well, that might have been one of my original intentions but the reality of it is not proving that to be true. So far, since our last planned tour, we have taken groups to Badger and Packer games at Camp Randal and Lambeau Field, and we held our “Dinner With The Kids” night in which we took a group to hang out with the newborn kids and dinner at our new business partner The Branding Iron Roadhouse. And now we are holding the world premiere of R&V Tours Goat Yoga and Wine & Cheese Tasting!

At Ridge and Valley Tours, we are all about experiential ventures. Because we like trying new adventures we are cooperatively hosting a Goat Yoga and Wine & Cheese Tasting experience. This Saturday along with our business partners Narrows Creek Winery, dairy goat farm operators Chad McCauley and Robin Loewe, Stairway to Wellness, and Carr Valley Cheese, we are holding this event. The response has been off the charts and rest assured we will be offering this event again in the future.

Keep an eye out this winter for other experiences that are a bit unique or unusual. One event that we have an interest in making a trip this winter is the 2020 Snowflake Ski Jump event in Westby. I went to witness this last year and it exceeded my expectations. Even I was questioning the sanity in flinging yourself off a perfectly good hillside, 118 Meters high on skis. It is a fantastic event filled with ski jumping, fireworks, live music, and yes, some pretty darn good beverages.

As much as we think we know what is interesting or exciting for people to experience, we also have learned our participants are the ones who really show us what is of interest. If you are aware of an event this winter you feel would be worth a trip, I am always interested to hear new ideas and if it makes sense, make it happen. Feel free to reach out to me at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com or fill out the contact form below, and share your winter experience ideas with me.

Remember, there are no crazy ideas, just crazy people who have ideas! -Marty

“YOU KIDS GET OUTSIDE!”

When I was a kid, and agreed I had too much energy for my own good, I heard this phrase repeatedly. Typically, it was by this point in the day my brothers and I had the daily chores done on the farm, Dad wasn’t in the immediate area to assign any others, and we were pulling a full-on death cage wrestling match in the living room. Mom, and probably my sister Annette too, had enough of the man-children destroying the house.

Ridge and Valley Hospitality’s outdoor patio and dining area.

This phrase has been top of mind as of late as we started our Airbnb up with not only a focus on a nice living space but also a very nice patio area with bistro lighting, a grill, and a fire pit for a campfire. So what is bugging me about this you ask? (If you didn’t ask you should have because here it comes.) Despite our best efforts to encourage guests to use the outdoor spaces more than half of our guests arrive, promptly go upstairs and lock themselves inside for hours on end, not using the fire pit, not eating outside or using the grill, or even venturing away from the property to another activity. Our latest guests, a very nice group of an adult big sister with middle school to early high school aged sisters, spent the first full 24 hours in the guest suite while the weather was perfect outside.

I can hear your first thoughts, “Well gee Marty, if they are young couples, put yourself in their shoes, what the heck do you think they are doing?” However, those who have used the outside spaces are the couples. My thoughts on this subject, most of those who have sequestered inside the property are from Chicago, Milwaukee, very urban locations. I suspect their previous habits led them to stay inside. They have marveled at the beauty of our area, and the outside of the property, but can’t break the old habit of staying indoors. Yes we have a small sample size, I will keep an eye on it and report back, but it leads me to a command for anyone and everyone who reads this.

GET OUTSIDE!

If you are from the Midwest, you remember this past winter right? I do! I remember the 30 degrees, below zero, temps in which it was so cold I saw two dogs with jumper cables trying to jump start a rabbit so they could chase it. It was snot-in-your-nose-immediately-freezing-as-you-stepped-outside cold. That is coming back folks, January and February in Wisconsin is not for the faint of heart. We have just a few months of pleasant weather left, get out and enjoy it!

If you are visiting Richland County in the Spring, Summer, or Fall, there is plenty to do outside. You can go kayaking down the Pine River, just contact Mark at Pine River Paddle and Tube LLC https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60233-d10594621-r566262170-Pine_River_Paddle_and_Tube_LLC-Richland_Center_Wisconsin.html

If you tell Mark we sent you he will give you a kayak that actually floats! Just kidding, Mark does an excellent job of setting you up and is a character worth meeting in his own right.

Ride or walk the Pine River Bike Trail: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60233-d10409287-Reviews-Pine_River_Trail-Richland_Center_Wisconsin.html

The trail closer to Lone Rock tends to be in better condition, as you get closer to Richland Center the elevation is lower and can be affected by floods on the river. I have ridden the trail many times and the wildlife on the trail is phenomenal.

Pier Natural Bridge Park, Rockbridge. https://parkscommission.co.richland.wi.us/county-parks/pier-natural-bridge-park/

This park is a great view into the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with some awesome rock formations and hiking trails.

Finally, and yes this is quite self-serving, check out Ridge and Valley Tours. https://ridgeandvalleytours.com

Get out on the farms, visit the calves, goats, yaks, beef cattle, and swine. Learn about the agriculture of the Driftless Area and how it is changing with the times. Come with us to visit wineries, breweries, and cheese factories of the area and enjoy a true farm-to-fork meal at the end. We only have 3 months remaining of the season and we have had many, and I mean many, people inquire about tours and comment they need to come join us before the end of the season.

Kids love the hands-on engagement with calves and young goat kids.

Time is running out, with less than 3 months left of the tour season we are well beyond half-way through. If you have a group of 5 or more, contact us directly at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com and we can tailor-make that tour that suits your interests. Let us know what you want to see and we will take you there, and back.

Get outside, now, time is wasting.