Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Exploring Wisconsin – Deeply Rooted

A Camping Weekend

Last week, I had the opportunity to join some friends for a camping retreat in central Wisconsin. We met at a place I’d never heard of before: Deeply Rooted Community in Athens, WI.

About Deeply Rooted

Deeply Rooted is an intentional community in the woods of central Wisconsin. It’s completely off-grid, by which I mean there is no running water and the only electricity is provided through the use of solar panels. They do have a gas stove for cooking in the main lodge, but otherwise the place is completely rustic.

 

Things To Know Before You Go

For those interested in visiting Deeply Rooted, there are a few things you should know before making plans.

  1. DR community hosts several private events throughout the year, so check the website calendar to see when they are open to receiving visitors. You’ll need a reservation to visit.
  2. DR offers two types of accommodations. Visitors can bring a tent and camp on the land, or stay in the communal sleeping area on the second floor of the lodge. Think of a camp dormitory: you’ll be sleeping in your own bed in a large room full of other people in their own beds.
  3. You’ll need to be comfortable with using primitive facilities. DR offers no running water, but there are jugs of fresh water available for drinking and cleaning the kitchen area. If you want to take a shower, you’ll need to invest in a solar portable. This also means no plumbing. The DR community uses a composting outhouse.
  4. Prepare for it to be chilly, even in the summer. DR is far enough north that it gets quite cool at night. Those staying in the lodge will be kept warm by the large wood stove. Those outside will want to bundle up.
  5. The closest towns with amenities are Medford (20 minutes) and Wasau (30 minutes).

Day Trip – Kettle Moraine South

Just Southwest of Milwaukee

Not only was yesterday Earth Day, but it felt like the first real day of spring here in Southern Wisconsin. Abundant sunshine, temps above 50, and just about everyone was outside basking in the glory. Was I staying in or going to a movie on such a glorious day? Not on your life!

I convinced my partner in crime that today was the perfect day for some hiking or at least some quality outdoor time so we headed down to the Kettle Moraine Southern Unit.

The Kettle Moraine Southern unit is quite expansive: the various campgrounds and hiking trails are scattered over about a 10 mile area about 30 minutes southwest of Milwaukee. We’d been there before, but today we decided to visit a new area. We headed toward the Ottawa Lake Campround area, which is about the northern most area of the Southern Unit.

What to Know Before Going

Fees

The Wisconsin DNR requires all vehicles to purchase either a day pass ($8 – $15) or an annual pass ($28 for in-state plates, $38 for out-of-state plates). Annual passes are window decals that are good for any park in the WI system for the current calendar year. Some discounted passes are available for seniors. See complete details here.

Campsites

The Ottawa Lake Campground includes some gorgeous campsites, many of which are right beside the lake and include direct access to the water. There are sites for primitive camping as well as those equipped with RV hookups. Campsites on the easternmost side of the camping area are alarmingly close to HWY 67. Although a line of trees affords the sites some privacy, the noise from oncoming traffic can be a major distraction.

Facilities

You’ll have access to flush toilets and hot showers, a children’s playground, fishing pier, and plenty of evenly surfaced walking paths. Most of them are paved. Even on this early spring day, we saw people boating, fishing, and (surprisingly) swimming.

Highlights

What excited me the most about Ottawa Lake were the lakeside campsites and the amphitheater/beach area. This facility is comfortable and very family-friendly. For those who want to enjoy the comforts of hot showers, paved walking trails, and easy accessibility to fishing, then this is the place for you.

Those seeking more challenging hikes and other adventures can hop on one of the many adjacent trails or take a quick drive to another part of the  state forest system. The southern unit is close enough for excursions to both Madison and Milwaukee, and there are a number of small villages in the area.

NOTE: Pay attention to the speed limit signs in the surrounding areas. Speed limits change frequently, range from 15 – 55 mph, and there are a number of well-planned speed traps around the Southern unit.

Wisconsin Adventure – Sweetwood

On a beautiful and warm day last summer, I attended an earth spirituality celebration in Madison. It was a small affair, held at one of the parks and attended by 150 or so people. There were plenty of activities and vendors and interesting folks to meet. After making some new contacts and browsing the offerings of a number of booksellers, jewelry makers, and artists, I casually picked up a brochure for a retreat area in the center of the state called Sweetwood Temenos.

The Sweetwood website describes the facility as a kind of nature preserve and dedicated space for people of various earth-centered spiritual practices. They host regular events that include camping, fellowship, good food, and the all-important opportunity to relax and unwind. I was sold.

According to their calendar, there was an upcoming weekend festival to celebrate the autumn equinox. The event coincided with a long weekend for me, so I decided to see about joining them for at least a day. The website requests that all first-time visitors contact the hosts prior to arrival, so I sent and email and set up a phone call with one of the folks in charge.

Our conversation was pleasant, and I was told that experience had taught them that it was best to connect with first-timers ahead of arrival to make sure the facility was a good fit. I’ve been to a number of pagan festivals and campgrounds, so I had an idea of what to expect. But that’s not always the case with folks who are exploring Neopaganism for the first time.

So we had a lovely conversation in which we talked about my experiences at other festivals and discussed some of the people that we knew in common. I had the sense that this was a healthy and welcoming community, and so we decided that I would drive up and spend Saturday with them. I would have loved to have camped but did not want to make an investment in camping equipment at the time.

What did I find?

First and foremost, the drive up was a pure delight. Since moving to the Midwest, one of my chief complaints has been how flat the land is here. I’m used to small mountains and big hills, something that Wisconsin lacks. But this far north, things were different. My path took me through miles of rural farmland, gently rolling hills, and near the quiet simplicity of what appeared to be some Amish communities.

Sweetwood

 

With the help of Google Maps, I was able to find Sweetwood without any problems. (Upon arrival, I was told that I had taken the longest of three possible routes, but I did not mind in the least.) I was greeted warmly and given some time to settle in before I received a personal tour.

Sweetwood consists of 40+ acres of pristine woodlands, secluded and well-kept. The local community and a group of volunteers maintain the area and tend to the forest, so undergrowth is minimal and I did not notice any poison ivy. (Poison ivy is always on my mind when I’m outdoors because I had a nasty tangle with it as a teenager and  I never want to be that miserable again.)

Campsites_1

Aside from a designated camping area, the site consists of

  • a permanent covered structure (no walls) that is serves as a dining area or gathering space during rain
  • an enormous permanent ritual circle
  • a shower house with HOT water, private stalls, and flush toilets (If you’ve ever been to a festival without these amenities, you will recognize the awesomeness inherent therein)
  • Designated spaces for campfires throughout the camping area
  • Several devotional shrines scattered throughout the woods

As you’ll see from my photos, Sweetwood is a beautiful place and it is definitely worth your time to visit if you have the opportunity.

Keep in mind that all first-time visitors must contact the community before attending any events.