Snow before Halloween. Just a dusting is magical.
When I look past this early reminder of what's ahead, I cringe. It's not the cold and wet I dread, it's the impact snow has on getting around. The shoveling, the salt and sand, the black ice.
Yah gotta have a car out here in dairy land. The closest grocery store is 8 miles north in the city of Durand, the "seat" of Wisconsin's smallest county. The closest box store is further north in Memomonie (25 miles away).
What can I say about Durand.
It's one of those rural cities that hasn't taken advantage of its natural capital. Instead, it looks to the kind of economic development of the past - light industry and chain stores.
Durand has something most small towns would give their eye teeth for: an awesome location.
The city sits in the middle of the largest intact floodplain forest in the upper mid-west: the Lower Chippewa River. The 40 miles of "natural" river to the north and south of the city are a treasure trove, a living museum of Wisconsin's natural heritage containing:
1. more rare species (125) than any area of comparable size in Wisconsin
2. more native prairie (25% of the state total) than any area of comparable size in Wisconsin
3. 50% of Wisconsin's plant species
4. 70% of Wisconsin's fish species
5. 75% of Wisconsin's nesting bird species
6. the largest and best remaining floodplain savannas in Wisconsin
And it's all easily accessible -
by foot and bike - from the Chippewa River State Trail
by rail - Tiffany nature train
by car - Rustic Road 107
by boat - canoe and kayak
The river and nature tourism are the future for the Durand area.
There's plenty of opportunity for investors: empty store fronts, an historic downtown (quaint, if only they'd remove the ugly 1960's aluminum siding), a new "small" chain motel, a McDonalds (a sign that someone recognizes the retail potential - not an endorsement) and a great reputation for quality deer and turkey hunting.
Durand is a diamond in the rough for nature-based businesses: a campground, bike shop, canoe livery, nature and birding tour company, art gallery, bed and breakfasts and signature restaurants.