Last Sunday, after the Clown College reunion was over, we took a short trip north to the Wisconsin Dells, a famed tourist destination in south-central Wisconsin.
Oh. My. God.
I hear from a reliable source that Branson, Missouri, out-tackys Wisconsin Dells, but still.
Oh. My. God! I LOVED IT!
At the deepest and oldest level, you have the original downtown strip full of attractions like Ripley's Believe or Not and Wizard Quest, souvenir shops and t-shirt emporiums, and every kind of food joint and bar you can imagine. The motels date from the 50s and 60s, single-level drive-up places with garish signs or older small hotels made over into Bed and Breakfasts. My favorite sign, from Nig's Bar and Grill, is this one, inviting you to "have a swig with Nig." Um, no thanks. Maybe later!
Moving up through time and west through distance, we have the first layer of water and theme parks: Extreme World, the Looney Bin, a huge ancient Roman-themed complex whose name escapes me, and mini-golf courses by the bucketload.
Finally, at the western end of the Dells are the newest addition to the vacation culture: upscale combination resort-waterpark-convention center-condominiums: Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resort, Wilderness Park, Chula Vista, Copacabana... you name it, it's there.
There is, however, a reason for all of this indulgence: the beautiful rock formations along the Wisconsin River. One of the earliest attractions in the area was a canoe ride up the river, where you would rent the canoe and the services of the guide. Of course, you got to paddle the canoe, but you did get a guided tour. Needless to say, boat tours are still a big attraction.
We took one, deciding on the tour of the upper Dells since it seemed more scenic and fit in with our time frame.
It really was gorgeous, if not without its own brand of touristy stuff. For example, the boat stopped at Witches Gulch, a narrow canyon where we could walk along a boardwalk and admire nature's wonders, only to end up at -- a snack stand!
But it was really okay, since these little touristy touches were more than offset by the impressive formations, like this rock tower along the river.
And this rather unnerving formation hanging over one of the walkways.
And this view of the wide part of the river through a formation named The Devil's Anvil.
But that's not all, oh no no no. The featured attraction of the cruise? The Amazing Jumping Dog of Stand Rock! Watch, as our Rin-Tin-Tin lookalike leaps across the five-foot chasm! All eyes, please, on Stand Rock!