Escape to Driftless Area was just what we needed

Spending a few days in a small guest house on Knapp Creek Farm in Wisconsin provided just the break we needed a couple of weeks ago.

We headed out on a Wednesday night after the paper was done, a little later than we had hoped, given the four-hour drive. We were heading toward Viroqua, Wis., a town my husband, Dan, had visited on a fly fishing trip with Joseph Meyer (who opened a shop called One More Cast in Countryside after spending years at Luv It! in Gateway Square).

Dan had planned to take a solo trip to spend a few days fly fishing. But with construction work going on at our house, Ainsley and I decided to escape with him.

We arrived late Wednesday night, the darkness barely penetrated by our headlights as we traveled the hilly and winding Knapp Valley Road. We eventually reached our destination (after a few minutes of anxiety and a few miles after our GPS announced we had arrived). We were greeted by the two barn cats, Patches and Rusty, and the surprisingly loud chorus of countless frogs.

I didn't know much about the Driftless Area prior to the visit. While there I learned it comprises more than 24,000 square miles covering all or part of 57 counties in southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, northwest Iowa and a small part of northwest Illinois. The area was bypassed by the last continental glacier, and the term "driftless" indicates a lack of glacial drift (rock, sand and other sediment).

I read a fair amount about the horizontal strata and hydraulic erosion and rapid percolation of snow melt. All that really mattered to Dan, however, is that the region is home to the largest concentration of cold water streams in the world, which provide an ideal habitat for brook, brown and rainbow trout.

After a frustrating first morning reacclimating to a sport he had abandoned for several years, he got in the groove and caught several trout. He hooked the biggest one Saturday morning, a triumphant end to a successful trip.

We enjoyed ourselves, too.

As I worked at the kitchen table of the guest house where we stayed, I heard no sounds of hammering or sawing. Nor was the furniture covered in construction dust.

Instead, the birds were chirping, their continuous melodies providing the perfect background music to the clacking of my keyboard.

Occasionally I'd hear a rooster crow. And on one of my daily walks, I passed a small group of cows grazing in the field and cooling off in the stream. Instead of walking our dog Lizzy around the block, we were able to walk her along the babbling stream that ran through the property.

We also ate better than we expected to. Friday night we visited the Driftless Café, owned by James Beard-award semifinalist Luke Zahm and his wife, Ruthie. Zahm is a Wisconsin native who grew up only 13 miles away in La Farge. The farm-to-table restaurant is in the perfect spot, as Vernon County, where it is located, has the highest concentration of organic farms in the United States.

We had another great meal Sunday morning at Wonderstate Coffee. The avocado tartine (avocado toast, for the plain spoken) was the best I've ever had.

A visit to the farmers market next door provided us with some Amish-made brown bread and two adorable carved wooden mushrooms to bring home as souvenirs of our trip.

All in all, it was wonderful time. We enjoyed trading in our hectic daily lives for some peace and quiet and time out in nature.

And at the rate our construction project is going, perhaps we'll have time for another trip before it's finished.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean