This January has brought a wide variety of temperatures and not a lot of snow in the Chippewa Valley. We took an opportunity one Sunday afternoon that offered somewhat balmy temperatures (for January, that is) to take a winter walk through Irvine Park in downtown Chippewa Falls. A chance to get outdoors and spend time with friends could not be passed up on this particular day. The weather had warmed to near freezing after several days of sub-zero temps, so we were all anxious to get out and about. As transplants to the area just a few years ago, Roger & I still have plenty of exploring to do in the Chippewa Valley in order for us to get to know the area. We were somewhat surprised when our friends suggested a winter walk in the park. We have visited Irvine Park during the holiday season as it is lit up with over 100,000 lights and Christmas scenes displayed throughout the park. It has turned out to be an annual holiday tradition for our family, as it is for many families in the Chippewa Valley. Yet, we had never considered truly exploring the park after the Christmas Village closes for the season.
On such a beautiful January afternoon we were not surprised to find the park filled with plenty of other visitors. Families with young children who were having all kinds of fun sledding, or just running around expending pent-up energy! Young couples enjoying some quality time for just the two of them, and, of course, us older folks just happy enough to have something different to do and get some exercise in the process.
Even though the park was busy, there was plenty of parking available. We parked on Bear Den Road then headed out for our winter walk. I was pleased to find the roads within the park had been plowed, which made walking easy. Our first stop was the Beer Cave. This is actually a registered Wisconsin Historical Marker. It was originally put to use by the Schmitmayer Brewing Company. The cave was a great place to keep the beer cold, even in the summer. There is a shaft towards the back of the cave that goes to the street above, this is where the beer was lowered into the cave. On this cold January afternoon, there was a beautiful naturally formed ice sculpture from the water dripping onto the cave floor.
Further exploration brought us to a bridge that spans Duncan Creek. What a beautiful sight this was. The beauty and wonder that mother nature has to offer in the winter is nothing less than spectacular.
It took my breath away for the serenity of it. The quiet sounds of the rushing water, the stark contrasts of the white snow and ice against the blackness of the water. What is it about water that is so mesmerizing? I find myself instantly relaxing any time I am near a body of water.
Once we crossed the creek we found ourselves at the Bison exhibit. Irvine Park is extremely fortunate to have a couple of white bison, and we were even more fortunate to see one of them that afternoon. They certainly are impressive animals. Their thick fur coats have them well prepared for the winter cold. Then down the road further we found the bear den followed by the cougar den. In the aviary, we saw a variety of owls. While the welcome center wasn’t open, we did marvel at the new center which opened in the summer of 2016. The park will be adding features to the welcome center this year. We walked past the duck pond and on to wolf drive. Here we saw some stunning frozen waterfalls on the sides of the limestone walls in the park.
Once we had our fill of fresh air and exercise we headed to the Leinie Lodge, which is just across the street from Irvine Park. Leinie’s is a great place to get out of the cold and sip a few seasonal samplers by their huge fireplace and spend time with friends.
After a 2-mile walk in the park and a few beers, we were getting hungry. There’s a new place in Chippewa Falls called the Blue Marble Pub. In July of 2017, Heather Marble opened the Prohibition-themed pub which specializes in wood-fired pizzas. Their grinders, which are subs baked in the wood-fired oven, are also popular among the patrons. A short walk from Leinie’s Lodge, stop in for a bite to eat or grab a glass of beer or wine.
So, all in all, it was a great afternoon and evening spent in downtown Chippewa Falls, even if it was January. Sometimes the hardest part about getting out and about on a winter weekend is getting out of your chair and putting on your coat and gloves. I’m so glad we seized the opportunity for a winter walk, and I hope you will do the same soon. Don’t forget, there’s always something to do in the Chippewa Valley, and Inn on Lake Wissota is happy to host you while you’re here. We hope to greet you as one of our guests sometime soon!