By Eva Apelqvist
Driving north on Highway 63, about half an hour past the tourist mecca of Hayward Wisconsin, you will happen upon the tiny town of Cable.
Congratulations, you have reached one of the most exceptional Wisconsin fall color destinations, though this hardly begins to describe what this small gem of a community has to offer.
Cable doesn’t look like much from the highway; a gas station, a grocery store, trees, trees, trees… but take the road less traveled, turn west on County Highway M. You will not regret it.
A funky, rather random street grid will lead you to an amazing plethora of unique places to stop: Brick House Café, an inviting coffee shop which, in addition to breakfast and dinner, also serves paninis, cheese cakes, fruit tarts, and yes, good strong coffee; Redbery Books, an independent bookstore with a surprising selection of current books, sharing the space with, amazingly, Ideal Market & Rivers Eatery, a stone oven pizza parlor serving pizzas with names like The Saint Croix (pesto, artichoke, feta, tomato, and spinach); and a number of gift shops with local art the likes of which you find nowhere else.
Travelers turning onto Highway M in Cable will also be impressed by the multitude and diversity of public local art: nature inspired sculptures by local artist Sara Balbin dot the small town, and banners displaying the works of other local artists decorate the lamp posts. The amazingly educational Cable Natural History Museum also features the work of local photographers and artists, work that emphasizes nature’s beauty and the importance of stewardship.
It is difficult to imagine a more spectacular point of departure for a fall color tour than the Cable area with its many lakes and rivers, its rolling hills covered with deciduous trees mixed in with the majestic northern pine.
Nestled close to the dramatic Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Cable is the home of the Birkebeiner Ski Race as well as the epic mountain bike race, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. These and a multitude of other outdoor events - hunting, fishing, road biking and hiking to name a few – have created a trail system unlike any other, one that earned Cable the designation, “Trail Town USA.”
Self-guided fall color tour brochures featuring a great number of driving and hiking options, are available at the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce. But for a more care-free, in depth learning experience you might want to sign up with the Cable Natural History Museum for their eco-geo-history pontoon tour bringing you on to Lake Namekagan or Lake Owen (recently granted the status of the cleanest lake in Wisconsin). In addition to an unmatched fall color display - is there anything more beautiful than bright red and yellow maple on water? - the guided pontoon ride will help us make meaningful connections to the land and the area.
The Cable Natural History Museum, in addition to highlighting local artists, features an ambitious, annually changing exhibit and permanent wild life and rock collections. These exhibits are all aimed at educating the public about the area and nurturing visitors’ appreciation for the natural environment. A great number of ongoing classes, lectures and outdoor activities are also offered.
If it’s not obvious by now, the Cable area is not where you come for brand name motels and chain restaurants. Everything here is individually owned and independently run. In other words, everything is off the beaten path.
Nearing the Cable Nature Lodge about seven miles east of Cable, it all begins to feel a little like a clandestine affair. The driveway is shaded by lush growth and only a small sign on County Hwy M tells you you are indeed where you want to be. The seclusion of this small inn is, however, far from the only thing that will surprise and delight a visitor.
For those seeking overnight lodging, the inn offers seven clean comfortable bed-and-breakfast-like rooms with heavenly comfortable beds and a lovely fall color nature view during the right time of year.
You will not want to miss dining at the Rookery. Proprietor Bill Brakken offers one of the most exciting menus in northern Wisconsin. His fresh Friday Fish Un-Fry features fish flown in from all parts of the world, though with one important caveat, it must come from a sustainable source. So how about Mahi Mahi with ginger cilantro sauce, or perhaps Thai shrimp and halibut curry. Maybe lobster and shrimp ravioli?
The Rookery supports local, sustainable and slow food movements. Brakken is passionate about using local sources such as the Angry Minnow Brewing, West’s Dairy and North Star Bison.
Oh, to enjoy nature’s beautiful fall turning in Cable, Wisconsin!