Ever since I "discovered" Wisconsin's Rustic Road 107 three years ago, I've made a point of taking that route when I go to Eau Claire. I can't resist its easy access to the wild nature of the Lower Chippewa River.
During the week, I am dazzled by the mix of prairie, farmland and floodplain forests and the rich diversity of wildlife - the colors, sounds and smells.
But I try to avoid R107 on the weekends. Why? Too much noise.
Apparently the word's been out that this is one of the few places in Wisconsin where there are no restrictions on public use.
I'm put off by the ATVs tearing up the woods and wetlands, the after-market exhaust pipes that rev up motorcycle noise and the deafening howl of air-boats on the shallow Lower Chippewa River.
Most of the property that attracts ATVs is owned by Xcel Energy. They're the big land-owner along the Lower Chippewa River. Over the years, there's been talk that the power company will build a coal-fired power plant on the site (known as the Tyrone property).
A couple of years ago, at the urging of a local environmental group, Xcel Energy put up signs along the road acknowledging that they are the property owner, and that they have rules for public use (which is limited to walking, hiking, hunting and snowmobiles on designated trails).
Last week, Xcel tacked a memo onto a tree (think "Robin Hood" and "Sherwood Forest") near a dirt road. The memo clarified the rules: horseback riding is not permitted.
Okay, there are rules. But who's enforcing them?
I found out today.
On my way to Eau Claire this morning, I spotted a motorcycle behind me on R107. I slowed down to let it pass, and was surprised to see the rider slow down and stop by my car window. It was the man who enforces the rules.
Conservation Warden Wayne Flak was riding a "new" military surplus motorcycle. I introduced myself and thanked him for patrolling my favorite Rustic Road. He explained that Xcel and the DNR were stepping up enforcement.