Action and Lesiure

your choices for the Chippewa Valley’s best in Action and Lesiure

V1 Staff, illustrated by Erik Christenson

BEST SEASON TO ENJOY THE CHIPPEWA VALLEY

1st Place: Fall
2nd Place: Summer
3rd Place: Sprin
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How could anyone not love autumn in the Chippewa Valley? Pumpkins, apple pie, apple cider, caramel apples, hay rides, pumpkin pie, deer hunting, hay rides, scenic drives, chilly mornings, football games, football parties, Homecoming, Halloween, bar sports, comfy sweaters, changing leaves, corn mazes. And even though we may be in the “frozen tundra,” there’s plenty to do here in the summer, too! Fatfar, Big Falls, Rays Beach, Carson park, picnics, Fourth of July, cookouts, Pure Water Days, Labor Day, Country Fest, Country Jam, Rock Fest, Festival in the Pines, Sturgeon Fest, (big breath)…I don’t think I can list all the fests—but you know you’ll never get bored! Spring, on the other hand, well, we have…rain…usually some snow…and some occasional pretty flowers. And winter? Um…it’s cold. But there’s lots of ice-fishing and snow mobiling and football and we can laugh when a southern town shuts down because of an inch of snow. Ya gotta love this place just because it’s versatile—we have four seasons, and there’s something to do in each of them! – Robin Kinderman
 

BEST PLACE TO GET FIT

1st Place: The Great Outdoors
2nd Place: YMCA
3rd Place: Highland Fitness

The Chippewa Valley is not hiding its source of fitness motivation. The Great Outdoors (fresh air near you) is the setting of choice for getting active. It is there that folks run, walk, pedal, hike, paddle, and stroke their way to prime fitness and health. Not only do the great outdoors offer the stunning backdrop of the Chippewa River, but membership is completely free! On a rainy day, the YMCA (700 Graham Ave.) provides an outlet for pent-up energy. Whether you expend by pumping it up in the weight room or by pushing it to the limit in a spin class, you’re sure to see someone you know while working out at the Y. Convenience is the key to staying fit, and Highland Fitness (2221 Eastridge Center, 2405 Folsom St., and 3022 Commercial Blvd.) has three locations throughout the Chippewa Valley. The gyms house an array of machinery, and offer group classes like Pilates, Zumba, and Belly Dancing. – Carrie A. Weiss


BEST GOLF COURSE

1st Place: Hickory Hills
2nd Place: Wild Ridge
3rd Place: Mill Run

Golf is a sport of emotion – a sport where silent patience turns to severe anger and disgust in the swing of a club. When played recreationally, choice words and club throwing are allowed while golf cart racing is assumed but frowned upon (a friend and his dislocated shoulder can explain the “frowned upon” portion of said golf cart exploitation). The positive side of golf is that The Chippewa Valley is peppered with courses with contrasting difficulties and prices. Topping the list is Hickory Hills Golf Course (E4080 Hickory Road) located south of Eau Claire. This is a course for the active and recreational player where open fairways and very reasonable green fees greet you at the clubhouse. Rounding second is Wild Ridge Golf Course (3905 Kane Road). This championship style course is one of the more difficult courses in the Valley, but worth the struggle and the price. Coming in third is Wild Ridge’s sister course, Mill Run (3905 Kane Road). Built in a park like setting, Mill Run has the perfect combination of difficulty and playability that has made it a local love since it opened in 1981. – Mark Koenig

Really?: Action City, 2402 Lorch Ave., snuck into fourth place
 

BEST FISHIN’ HOLE

1st Place: I’ll never tell
2nd Place: Chippewa River
3rd Place: Lake Wissota

With hundreds of lakes and other bodies of water in the Chippewa Valley, carrying the knowledge of some of the best is as important as a rod and tackle box if you’re hoping to snag some dinner. Unfortunately, when we asked area fishing enthusiasts about their favorite spots, most of them said, “I’ll never tell.” Those that did share their secrets more often than not said the Chippewa River. That’s not a terribly helpful answer, however, considering the river’s length and number of flowages and channels. Still, it’s worth taking a boat and trolling motor out there, if only to enjoy the fight of a smallmouth or muskie. The most specific answer we could muster out of local boaters was Lake Wissota, Chippewa County’s picturesque lake plentiful with walleyes, crappies, and bluegills – all great eatin.’ – Trevor Kupfer


BEST LOCALLY PLAYED SPORT

1st Place: Kickball
2nd Place: Kubb
3rd Place: Hockey (tied)
3rd Place: Curling (tied)

It has only been three years now since Eau Claire’s Parks and Recreation Department added kickball to its roster of activities. It’s a good thing they did, too, because its popularity is booming and more people want to be a part of it every season. So, yeah, you’re likely seeing lots of red balls flying all over the place, but you probably haven’t been able to avoid wooden blocks, either. Kubb is a relatively new activity around these parts, but it has also experienced a huge influx and downtown Eau Claire played host to the Midwest championships in August. But don’t think locals are sitting around all winter waiting to play these activities in summer, as they’re already clutching their sticks and brooms for hockey and curling season. These third place sports also have quite a draw up here in the snowy northwoods. – Trevor Kupfer


BEST LOCAL ATHLETE

1st Place: Thor Brown
2nd Place: Eric Stabenow
3rd Place: Joe Bonfe

Though the Chippewa Valley’s sports history is riddled with names like Hank Aaron, a new wave of athletes will hopefully secure its name in football, golf, baseball, and volleyball. If only for his name, Thor Brown wowed us at Fall Creek High School as a guard, defensive end, and kicker. And though he’s only played two seasons, Brown is at the next level playing tight end for the North Dakota State Bison and, last year, he snagged a game-winning touchdown pass to best the Minnesota Gophers. Eric Stabenow, meanwhile, is an Eau Claire native and golf stud, known for a huge drive in excess of 330 yards. Earlier this year he won the Chippewa Valley Golf Association Tournament of Champions and, for the third time, the long drive competition. Another person known for his long drives in Eau Claire Express third baseman Joe Bonfe, who led his team this season batting .326 with a .492 slugging percentage, five long flies, and 42 RBIs. – Trevor Kupfer

Up-and-Comer: Julia Johnson, volleyball, Chippewa Falls High School


BEST BOWLING ALLEY

1st Place: Wagner’s Lanes
2nd Place: Bowl-Winkles
3rd Place: Action City

The animated neon sign nestled atop Wagner’s Lanes (2159 Brackett Ave.) has been a beacon to local bowlers for what feels like an age, the bowling ball slowly flashing towards a single pin, which, upon impact, tips over in a stop-motion extravaganza of blinky light. And despite its physical shrinkage over the past decade (remember when it had sixty-six “and a half” lanes?), you still love Wagner’s best when it comes to tossing balls. Picking up the spare in this frame is Bowl-Winkles (1616 N Clairemont Ave.), skidding into in second place. In what may an affront to many bowling purists, you voted the “mini-bowing” over at Action City into third place, which is basically 70 percent skeeball, 25 percent video game, and 5 percent honest-to-god bowling. – Mike Paulus

Chippewa Choice: Falls Bowl, 9 W Columbia St.


BEST PLACE TO CAMP

1st Place: Coon Fork Lake County Park
2nd Place: Lake Wissota State Park
3rd Place: Brunet Island State Park

With the same lineup as last year, these local campgrounds offer a new experience every time. Reigning champion Coon Fork is located 30 miles from Eau Claire near Augusta, and attracts campers with their swimming beach and more than 100 sites to set up a quiet weekend outdoors. Just northeast of Chippewa Falls, Lake Wissota State Park includes secluded hiking trails, beaches, and campsites around this manmade lake. Canoe, fish, or swim around third place Brunet Island State Park, located in Cornell. Gather up your crew, family, or a love interest, and let these three locations lower your blood pressure, and provide entertainment sans technology. – Caitlin Heidbrink

Really?: If these are too much work, three voters suggest “Outside Wal-Mart.”


BEST PLACE FOR BOATING

1st Place: Lake Wissota
2nd Place: Chippewa River
3rd Place: Lake Altoon
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Among the many bodies of water that surround the Valley, Lake Wissota takes the cake. Located east of Chippewa Falls, this 6,300- acre lake provides two public boat launch sites and a state park on the northeast shore. Avid fishers will be delighted to find Walleye, Musky, and Northern Pike, among others. For a more relaxing and scenic adventure, try the Chippewa River in second place. Float on an inner tube to escape the heat or take a kayak to spot otters, turtles, eagles or even a friendly wolf. Wrapping up the list in third, Lake Altoona is home to a county park, equipped with a boat launch and just miles outside Eau Claire. – Caitlin Heidbrink


YOUR FAVORITE BODY OF WATER

1st Place: Chippewa River
2nd Place: Lake Wissota
3rd Place: Chippewa-Eau Claire Confluence

Whenever it comes to bodies of water around these parts, we never need to think further than the Chippewa River, that massive meandering body that provides a gorgeous viewshed from Eau Claire’s downtown, university, farmers market, bike paths, and trails, flowing all the way to the mighty Mississippi. In second, you thought of man-made Lake Wissota, perhaps because of the fishing but more than likely because Leonardo DiCaprio mistakenly mentioned it in Titanic before it even existed. In third, you once again returned your thoughts to the Chippewa River, this time where it specifically meets the Eau Claire River. The confluence is near Phoenix Park, where hundreds of people launch their tubes in summer, but previous to the park hardly anyone visited the merging point thought to be an industrial site. – Trevor Kupfer
 

BEST HIKING/BIKING TRAIL

1st Place: Chippewa River State Trail
2nd Place: Red Cedar State Trail
3rd Place: Beaver Creek (tied)
3rd Place: Lowes Creek (tied)

When it’s perfectly nice outside, there’s no need to sit in a gym. Get outside, hop on a bike or lace up some hiking boots, and get trekkin.’ Where should you go? Well fellow locals like yourself seem to dig the Chippewa River State Trail. With its new addition connecting Altoona and Eau Claire, the mostly paved trail runs from Chippewa Falls to Menomonie and has a beautiful viewshed of the river. The trail connects to another favorite, the Red Cedar State Trail. If you’re a mountain biker, try out the awesome section between Downsville and Dunnville. For a more peaceful and scenic trip, you like Beaver Creek. Comfortably nestled within Beaver Creek Reserve, this trail works best for a relaxed stroll rather than hardcore cycling. Tied with Beaver Creek, Lowes Creek provides the best of both words. Its six miles of trail just south of Eau Claire is surrounded by forest and an array of awesome colors around this time of year. – Trevor Kupfer

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