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Wisconsinites have always excelled at sloughing off winter's less-than-endearing charms with a touch of whimsy, a good laugh, and a little sweetness. For instance: Come February 12, should you happen to be in Wausau with a 9-iron in your pocket, you might be invited to join a foursome at the Ice Tee Classic. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., intrepid golfers will whack the dickens out of bright yellow tennis balls over a 12-hole course carved out of snow and ice. The challenging course with unique holes designed by area businesses promises to be, if not tougher than Augusta, then at least colder. (715) 845-1966.
It's easy to laugh at the dark when the way's well lit, as anyone who's attended a candlelight ski, hike or snowshoe night can attest. Here's a list of a few of these popular events, but there will be more. Check with the state or county park nearest you for details. All events will be held from 6-9 p.m. unless otherwise noted...weather permitting, of course.
Red Cedar State Trail, Menomonie: Cross-country ski on two miles of candlelit trails to the spectacular Blue Ice Wall. The event kicks off Menomonie's Swiss Miss Winter Carnival, a weekend of activities including a horse and cutter parade, winter games, and sled dog racing. Warming fires and free hot chocolate. 1-800-283-1862, (715) 232-1242.
Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit, Hartford: Hike or ski by candlelight through wooded trails. 6-11 p.m. (414) 670-3400.
Lake Wissota State Park, Chippewa Falls: Ski a 1- or 2-mile groomed trail through a winter wonderland illuminated by glowing candles. If you do not ski, a ¾ mile candlelit trail is available for hiking and snowshoeing. Refreshments sponsored by the Friends of Lake Wissota State Park. (715) 382-4574.
Mirror Lake State Park, Baraboo: Nordic skiing on state park trails lit by hundreds of candles. The park provides cooking grills and warming fires. (608) 254-2333.
Lake Kegonsa State Park, Stoughton: Two miles of groomed and tracked ski trails lit by candle luminaries. Bonfire and cooking grills provided. (608) 873-9695.
Gov. Nelson State Park, Waunakee: Cross-country ski trails illuminated by candlelight. Bonfire, grills for cooking, hot coffee and chocolate. Meet in the north parking lot. (608) 831-3005.
Rib Mountain State Park, Wausau: Hike or snowshoe a 2.5 mile, moderately difficult trail. Limited number of snowshoes available. With refreshments and a heated shelter. 6-8p.m. (715) 842-2522.
To end the season on a sweet note, trek to a sugarbush and discover why Wisconsin is one of the top five maple syrup producers in the U.S.A.
At the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve near Appleton, you'll have two opportunities to get sap-happy. On March 4, you're welcome to "Adopt a Bucket" – personalize a sap bucket and take it out to the preserve's sugarbush, where you'll be shown how to tap a maple tree and hang your bucket to collect sap. Then, on March 18, it's "Maple Syrup Saturday" – the day you'll see the sugar making process and make your own maple syrup. Both events are held from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and feature a taste of fresh maple syrup on ice cream. (920) 731-6041. Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve
Other nature centers also offer sugarbush tours and syrup-making memories. For dates and details, contact Ledge View Nature Center, Chilton, (920) 849-7094; Wehr Nature Center, Franklin, (414) 425-8550; Riveredge Nature Center, Newburg, (414) 375-2715; or the MacKenzie Environmental Center, Poynette, (608) 635-8110.