Come summer, traffic jams are pretty much unavoidable. Whether from road construction or ubiquitous vacationers, it’s almost inevitable that at some point you’ll face gridlock on the highway. Unless you get a little creative.
Traffic often slows to a crawl on the Interstate 90/94 corridor near Wisconsin Dells, on the way to Madison and Chicago. This year, plan a short detour around the area to avoid logjams and take in three popular tourist sites: the Dr. Evermor Sculpture Park, Gibraltar Rock and Wisconsin’s last remaining free ferry.
Dr. Evermor’s Sculpture Park
Some things you just have to see for yourself, and Dr. Evermor’s Sculpture Park is one of them. Located on a scraggly patch of land about 18 miles south of the Dells on Hwy. 12, the park is the creation of Tom Every, once an industrial wrecking and salvage expert. Over the past two decades or so, Every carefully crafted a wide range of statues and other pieces from scrap metal and salvaged objects. That doesn’t sound too extraordinary; scrap metal artwork is not an uncommon sight at art fairs and in boutiques. But his work is much different.
For starters, there’s Forevertron, a 320-ton creation considered one of the largest scrap-metal sculptures in the world. Forevertron, which sits in the heart of the park, represents Every’s interpretation of a mystical space travel machine. It’s created from carburetors, old X-ray machines and theater speakers, among other objects, and even contains a decompression chamber from an Apollo space mission.
Part of the reason Every used such interesting components in his sculptures is that he wanted to preserve them. That is, he wanted people today and in the future to be able to see the shapes and forms once integral to American life, whether a beautifully formed rivet, brewery tank handle or, yes, an Apollo spaceship decompression chamber.
In addition to Forevertron, the park contains innumerable other treasures scattered around the rustic grounds, such as a 70-member bird band, giant beetles, space soldiers, a frog band and circus vehicles. Visitors once often rubbed elbows with Dr. Evermor during a visit. But today he resides in a nursing home, and his wife, Lady Eleanor, is the one greeting guests. She also sells a handful of her husband’s more reasonably sized creations, plus a limited-edition Time Traveler Token, so you can take a piece of the park home with you.
To reach Dr. Evermor’s Sculpture Park, take Exit 92 (Hwy. 12) at Wisconsin Dells and head south. The park, which can be hard to spot, is on the right about 18 miles south, near Delaney’s Surplus Sales. It’s closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Call Lady Eleanor to schedule a tour of the park; you can also wander around on your own. It’s also a good idea to call before you head out to confirm that the park is open as scheduled (1-608-219-7830 or worldofdrevermor.com).
About 20 minutes east of Dr. Evermor’s via state and county roads, Gibraltar Rock is a 200-foot, flat-topped butte that offers gorgeous views of the bucolic Wisconsin countryside — if you climb to the top. Luckily, the Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area hosts part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, so a well-maintained path winds up and down the butte.
The path is just under two miles, with the scenic overlook about halfway along. So you can hike an out-and-back four-miler, or simply climb up to the scenic view and back down in two miles. You’ll walk through red oak and basswood; the bluff top is mainly red cedar. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy raptors lazily soaring on thermals that form because the cliff face collects heat. But take care, as there are no guardrails and a fall could be disastrous.
For information about hiking at Gibraltar Rock, contact the Ice Age Trail Alliance at 1-800-227-0046 or see iceagetrail.org.
If you have the time and interest, a three-mile stretch of the Ice Age Trail lies north of Gibraltar Rock. This path winds up and down a 200-foot hill, where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the Wisconsin River and Baraboo Hills. The trail ends at the Merrimac Ferry, Wisconsin’s only remaining free ferry. Chow down on an ice cream cone at the riverside booth, then hop on the ferry for a ride across the river and back. It’s only seven minutes each way.
Or skip the hiking and drive straight to the ferry from Dr. Evermor’s. As you glide across the water, taking in the alluring river views while savoring your cone, you can revel in the fact that at least for today, you’re not one of those poor souls stuck on the Interstate.
Melanie Radzicki McManus wrote “Thousand Miler,” about hiking Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail. She lives near Madison, Wis.