8 of Wisconsin’s best state parks to visit in winter

Winter brings a different kind of beauty to Wisconsin landscapes, including state parks. The popular swimming and sunbathing beaches at parks like Kohler-Andrae, Peninsula and Devil's Lake turn into on-ramps for ice fishermen and winter walkers. Bike trails become cross-country ski routes. Bare trees and exposed rock formations get a coat of snow and ice formations. Embrace the season and check out these eight state parks that are particularly great in winter.Rib Mountain State Park, Wausau Rib Mountain is home to Granite Peak, a ski area with the state's biggest vertical drop — 700 feet. The mountain has 75 runs, four terrain parks and five chair lifts (including two high-speed lifts). Elsewhere on the mountain, the state park offers a slower snow experience, with most of the more than 13 miles of trails open to hiking and snowshoeing. While the observation tower is closed, the trails still offer plenty of views. Head to the mountain from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 3 for a candlelight hike or snowshoe, followed by warm refreshments and marshmallows around a campfire. Snowshoes will be available to borrow.  RELATED: Wausau's Nine Mile County Forest is a cross-country skiing gem Whitefish Dunes State Park, Sturgeon Bay Whitefish Dunes features 1.5 miles of sandy beach that's hopping in the summer but much quieter when temperatures drop. The trail to the park's largest sand dune, Old Baldy, is closed in the winter, but you can still hike along the beach or the 2.5-mile Black trail, which dips into Cave Point County Park. Leashed pets are allowed on both the beach and the Black trail in the winter. Three other trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. Just north of Whitefish Dunes, the crashing waves of Lake Michigan create dazzling ice formations on the rocky cliffs of Cave Point County Park in the winter. Trails along the top of the cliffs don't have railings — stay Continue Reading

Outdoor day-cation: Cunningham Falls State Park

As we roll into August, it's time to update your outdoor bucket list. The next three months are prime hiking time. The weather is beautiful, the leaves begin to change and there's still time to take a day trip. Over the next few weeks, I'll be exploring different places that make the perfect outdoor trip, so stay tuned and plan your favorite trip with this growing guide.  More: Best hikes for dogs in York County More: Pick your perfect York hike with this guide More: Celebrate Parks & Recreation month like your favorite TV character Distance from York: 54 miles and about an hour and 15 minutes.   Trail distance: 1.5 miles. I hiked the Lower Falls Trail to the falls and then hooked onto the Cliff Trail, which took me back to the parking lot. The Cliff Trail also connects with the Catoctin Trail, which is more than 20 miles long. Hiking time: About 45 minutes (with some photo breaks).  Trail condition: The Lower Falls trail is wide, well-maintained and made up of stones. The Cliff Trail is very rocky and narrow in some parts but clearly marked.  Difficulty level: The Lower Falls Trail is flat and easy. The Cliff Trail is a more moderate hike with some high elevation.  Good for: Everything! The park has hiking trails, fishing, swimming, boat rentals and even a snack stand. It's a great spot to spend the day with a picnic lunch, exploring the trails, falls and lake.  Bathrooms: There were a few bathrooms at the parking lot near the lake but none on the trail.  Parking: It's a three-tier lot with plenty of spaces, but the park does get full. Check the Twitter before going to make sure it hasn't hit capacity.  Cell service: Great on my Verizon work phone. Pretty crappy with my Sprint personal phone.  Footwear: As a rule, I always wear hiking boots, but this one can be done in sneakers. I even saw some Continue Reading

Girl survives 40-foot fall off cliff at Wisconsin state park

SHERWOOD, Wis. — A 14-year-old girl on a mountain bike fell more than 40 feet off a cliff Wednesday at High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin.She survived the fall and was conscious and talking when rescuers arrived shortly after 1 p.m.“She went straight down at least 40 feet,” said Capt. Mark Gackenheimer of the town of Harrison Fire Rescue Department. “For her to even be talking to us is pretty miraculous.”The girl, who is hospitalized in good condition at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, was biking along the Red Bird Trail, about one-eighth of a mile south of the park’s observation tower.“There are some (trail) splinters that go out from the main trail,” Gackenheimer said. “She was on a splinter that goes right to the cliff’s edge. Because of all the rain we’ve had, it was pretty soft.”The ground gave way and the girl, who was wearing a helmet, plunged off the cliff, landing on rocks below.Gackenheimer said he believes the girl initially lost consciousness but was alert when rescue crews arrived. Her mother, who had been biking with her, had made her way down the rocks and was at the girl’s side.The Harrison rescue crew, assisted by Calumet County Sheriff’s deputies and a park ranger, used a back board, rope and basket to bring the girl back to the top of the cliff.“We were able to rig it so we could use a low-angle rescue unit, which allows us to ascend up a slope,” Gackenheimer said. “The team walked her back up the slope with the back board and basket. She was immobilized.”Getting her up the cliff was no easy task and took the better part of an hour.“It was pretty rough terrain down there,” Gackenheimer said.Once to the top of the cliff, the Harrison rescue team transported her to a waiting ThedaStar helicopter, which transported her to the Neenah hospital.Megan Mulholland, spokeswoman for ThedaCare, said the girl remained Continue Reading

Events highlight ‘Living on the Ledge’

CORRECTION —  "Living on the Ledge" events Saturday will be at University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley in Menasha. An earlier version of the story had an incorrect location.APPLETON - "Living on the Ledge" highlights the experience of life along the Niagara Escarpment.The weekend event is a fundraiser for Niagara Escarpment Resource Network to initiate the National Geographic Geotourism Mapping Project.The weekend starts at 5 p.m. Friday with "Ledge Wars — A Culinary Experience" at Fox Valley Technical College, 1825 N Bluemound Drive, Grand Chute. Saturday events, at University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, 1478 Midway Road, Menasha, include a variety of activities, also at Fox Valley Tech, including the world premieres of two films about the escarpment, sessions on mushroom hunting, wine making and wine tasting, cheese carving, beer brewing, geology and more. Sunday includes a choice of tours at Trout Springs Winery, High Cliff State Park Effigy Mounds or Dodge County Geologic Wonders.Saturday's films are "The Great Ledge" by Daniel Larson and "The Niagara Escarpment" by Roger Kuhns.For costs and registration information, go to the Niagara Escarpment Resource Network website.The Niagara Escarpment runs from New York state through Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. It includes at least two American Viticultural Areas, the Niagara Escarpment AVA in New York and the Wisconsin Ledge AVA in Eastern Wisconsin, both of which are home to many vineyards and wineries. Contact [email protected] and follow him on Twitter  @RichRymanPG , on Instagram at rrymanpg or on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Or call him at (920) 431-8342. Continue Reading

Gov. Scott Walker mulls shift in CAFO regulation, would increase park fees

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday proposed higher fees at popular state parks and called for a study on whether to move regulation of large farms from the Department of Natural Resources to the state agriculture department.In his 2017-'19 state budget, Walker also endorsed a plan to reorganize the DNR as proposed by Secretary Cathy Stepp — but not split the agency into different units as some lawmakers are calling for.Walker's budget would keep the sprawling agency intact but shrink the number of divisions in the wake of an 18-month analysis by the DNR after Republican legislators pushed it to be more responsive and business friendly.One facet of reorganization would shift some responsibilities for environmental permits to private parties as a labor-saving measure. That has raised red flags in the environmental community. But DNR officials have emphasized the agency would still write the final permits. The permits could affect projects such as building factories and construction work near lakes, rivers and streams. RELATED:  Gov. Scott Walker's budget includes tax cuts, halt to east-west I-94 plan In a move that will likely invite controversy, Walker is directing the DNR and the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to conduct a feasibility study of shifting the permitting of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to agriculture.This, too, is likely to raise questions, since the DNR is responsible for enforcing state water protection laws. The agriculture department has some environmental responsibilities but also serves as a proponent of agriculture.CAFOs are farms with 700 or more adult cows. The number of CAFOs has grown from about 50 in 2000 to well above 200 today. As CAFOs have grown, so has their controversy over manure spreading, odors and water pollution.The Legislative Audit Bureau found numerous shortcomings in June 2016 in the Continue Reading

South Korea’s embattled ex-president, Roh Moo-hyun, commits suicide by leaping off cliff

SEOUL, South Korea — Embattled former President Roh Moo-hyun — a reformist shamed by a corruption scandal that tarnished his image as a "clean" politician — jumped to his death while hiking in the mountains behind his rural home in South Korea, his lawyer said. He was 62. Roh was hiking in Bongha village when he threw himself off a steep cliff around 6:40 a.m. Saturday, lawyer Moon Jae-in told reporters in the southern city of Busan. He said Roh left a suicide note. "Too many people are suffering because of me," he wrote, according to South Korean media. Roh was taken to Busan National University Hospital, where he was declared dead several hours later. A self-taught lawyer who lifted himself out of poverty to reach the nation's highest office, Roh prided himself on his clean record in a country with a long history of corruption. He served as president from 2003 to 2008. But he and his family have been ensnared in recent weeks in a burgeoning bribery scandal. The suicide — the first by a South Korean president — stunned the nation. South Koreans nationwide huddled around TV screens watching news broadcasts. "I was utterly shocked," said Chun Soon-im, 63, of Seoul. "They say 'hate the sin but not the sinner,' and that's how I feel. The investigation must continue and we must get to the truth, but I cannot help feeling sorry for the man and those left behind." Last month, state prosecutors questioned Roh for some 13 hours about allegations that he accepted more than $6 million in bribes from a South Korean businessman while in office — accusations that deeply shamed him. "I have no face to show to the people. I am sorry for disappointing you," an emotional Roh said April 30 before speaking to prosecutors. He denied the allegations against him during questioning, prosecution spokesman Cho Eun-sok said. Roh had acknowledged that local shoe manufacturer Park Yeon-cha gave his wife $1 million, but suggested it was Continue Reading

Do go chasing waterfalls at these New York state parks

Before water began tumbling down it, the narrow scaffolding on Governors Island looked like framing for a high-rise. Part of "New York City Waterfalls," it is one of four man-made cascades on display until Oct. 13. The others are located at the Brooklyn Bridge, Pier 35 in lower Manhattan and a pier in Brooklyn Heights. Circle Line Downtown is offering special 30-minute boat tours, including some that are free, for prime viewing. Enjoy the urban nod to nature, then move up to the next level of waterfall viewing. Chill in these state parks, where you'll see the real deal and much more. (nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/) Watkins Glen State Park Nineteen waterfalls cascade over the dramatic cliffs of this state park in the Finger Lakes region. There are steps to the top of the gorge as well as opportunities to walk behind the falls. Shuttle service is also available to the top. Afterward, go aboard Captain Bill's Seneca Lake Cruises for a narrated tour and a view of Hector Falls. There are more than 40 wineries along the shores of Seneca Lake, one reason the Finger Lakes are the second-largest wine producer in the country after Napa Valley. (schuylerny.com) Taughannock Falls State Park Taughannock Falls is the highest vertical-drop waterfall in the Northeast. This popular wedding and hiking destination is about 20 miles from Watkins Glen. The creek tumbles over the falls and wends its way into Lake Cayuga, where there is a beach in nearby Trumansburg. Every Saturday in July and August there are concerts on the lawn, with a range of music including zydeco, blues, hip hop and folk. (taughannock.com) Letchworth State Park There are three waterfalls in this park, known as the "Grand Canyon of the East." Take a hot-air balloon and float above the gorge shaped by the Genesee River as it flows from south to north. You can whitewater raft on the river, hike, horseback ride and bike on miles of trails in this 14,350-acre oasis of tranquility 40 miles Continue Reading

Cliff Matias’ big powwow will draw 7,000 to Gateway Park

Cliff Matias is throwing a really big party this weekend.He's anticipating about 7,000 guests - 6,000 of them coming to watch the other 1,000 do their thing. Matias' party is the 14th annual Gateway to Nations Native American Heritage Celebration, or Powwow, scheduled for Friday through Sunday at Floyd Bennett Field in the Gateway National Recreation Park in Brooklyn. Matias, director and co-founder of the event along with Jackie Swift, said more than 1,000 Native American artists, performers and educators representing tribes "from Alaska to the tip of South America" are expected to take part. They'll be joined daily by about 6,000 visitors who, Matias said, want to experience, if only for a weekend, the richness of traditional and modern Native American culture. That's the point. "You can go to Little Italy to experience Italian culture, Spanish Harlem for Puerto Rican culture, Chinatown for the Chinese, and Flatbush for Caribbean culture, but there is nowhere in the city where you can go and experience Native American culture on this scale," Matias said. The celebration will include Native American art, dance, song, food and other activities. But it's not theater put on to entertain an audience; rather, it's an annual coming together of scattered people and tribes intent on culturally invigorating each other. "The dancers aren't there to entertain the public. They are there to dance, celebrate and rejoice," said Matias. "Our powwows are really about the Native community, about our dancers and singers and artists. It's like a big party we throw, and the general public is invited." The dances, which are performed in full Native American regalia, including feathered headdresses, beadwork and moccasins, fall into four categories for each sex: women's northern, southern, fancy and grass, and the same for men. Most tell stories - some are traditional war dances; others celebrate events such as the harvest season. This is the first of four powwows put on by the Redhawk Continue Reading

Make the most of fall with these Wisconsin day trips

GREEN BAY - Ah, fall. What a gorgeous season. But while pumpkin spice everything and Halloween decorations seem almost inescapable now, just like summer, fall seems to make its exit just as quickly as it arrives. That means Wisconsinites best take advantage of the crisp air and beautiful colored leaves while they last. Because, as it turns out, leaves are changing faster this year. Karen Stahlheber, assistant professor of natural and applied sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said leaves collected from the area this season have slightly more pigment than leaves collected and studied in her classes at the same time last year.A Smokey Mountains foliage map estimates nearly all of Wisconsin will reach peak leaf color between Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. Good thing Wisconsin and its nearby regions have more than enough places to enjoy the colors of fall. Here's a list of some of the best day trips to take to get outdoors and experience fall the right way. Just 45 minutes south of Green Bay is High Cliff State Park in Sherwood.With 1,187 acres, the park offers visitors ample spots to soak in the fall colors. According to its website, it's the only state-owned recreational area on Lake Winnebago — Wisconsin's largest lake.The park's name derives from its location along the Niagara Escarpment with cliffs that act as beautiful lookouts.The park's combination of foliage, water and rock is an ideal autumn escape into the elements.Head 68 miles northeast from Green Bay and explore Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek. The Department of Natural Resources characterizes it as Wisconsin's "most complete park" with more than 400 campsites, a golf course, a beach, bike trails and more.One forest lush with maple and beech trees and another "vertical forest" comprised of white cedar trees cascading off bluffs sets the perfect stage to watch fall Continue Reading

Dry, hot weather could lead to less vibrant fall colors in Wisconsin

The hot and dry weather southeastern Wisconsin experienced over the past week might have been great for trips to the beach, but it could be bad for fall colors.  Leaves changing color depends mainly on the decreasing daylight, but the vibrancy and amount of time the colorful leaves stay on trees is also affected by the weather. "Usually ideal conditions you'd like are the cool nights and clear days to produce the coloration that we like to see," said Colleen Matula, a forest silviculturist/ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Ashland. Water plays a role, too. Too much and stressed trees drop their leaves. Too little and the same thing happens. The beginning of September delivered good color conditions, and a wet spring and summer had some experts predicting fall colors to come early to Wisconsin. But a stretch of 90-degree days over the past week may have put a pause on the changing leaves.  RELATED: Fall colors could peak early in Wisconsin this year "Oddly enough, early in the fall season, like early September, we saw trees on the edges of wetlands just vibrantly turn color right away, and then all of a sudden there was this lull period, because of the warm weather, I think," Matula said. "We're not seeing the coloration that we normally expect, I guess, so right now we're in this slow pattern — things are not changing readily yet," she said, noting that most of the state is at 30% to 40% color, with some areas reporting 60%.  Becky Peiffer, a visitor associate in the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit in Eagle, reports on fall colors for Travel Wisconsin's Fall Color Report. She said color is at about 15% in the forest, which is on par with past years. "I noticed that in the city some of the maple trees are starting to turn red, but a lot of the other ones are Continue Reading