On DAY NINE of the WI Way pilgrimage, we enjoy a farm breakfast at Paluso Guest Ranch after attending a church service that seems designed for walking pilgrims. This stage of the WI Way takes us through different glacial terrain to Slinger. Find out what calamity delayed Stacey’s arrival.
START: New Fane | END: St. Peter Catholic Church, Slinger
22.1 mi / 35.6 km | 7h 15m | Forest Section | Services: Grocery store and restaurants in Kewaskum and Slinger
DAY NINE of the WI Way in Pictures
Continued from DAY EIGHT—So I was the only one who took Bob up on his offer to go to church on Sunday morning. However, my new friends from the night before did seem a little jealous of my ride to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Bob’s Porsche roadster. During the five-minute drive from Paluso Guest Ranch, the innkeeper inquired about my WI Way pilgrimage, and I told him it would end at Holy Hill.
“Oh, Holy Hill is like a pot of gold at the end of your journey,” Bob laughed. At his church, we sat socially distanced with masks, and I noticed all the trees of the field through the windows behind the altar. It was as if they joined us in our worship and were clapping their hands with joy. (Isaiah 55:12)
The trees of the field clap their hands
Even though the trees outside the windows appeared to clap their hands, this country church wasn’t the clapping, foot-stopping type of Protestant congregation. Instead of singing choruses with praise bands as in my home church, we sang out of hymnals with magnificent organ accompaniment. I enjoyed the change of pace.
When we stood with our hymnals to sing “Rejoice, O Pilgrim Throng,” I wondered if Bob had tipped his minister off to the fact that a Wisconsin Way pilgrim would be joining them on Sunday. (I made my Airbnb reservations about a month out, but I would recommend that you make them earlier, if possible.)
Which Way, Pilgrim?
When the pastor started preaching a sermon entitled, “God’s Way or Another Way?” I was sure of it. He talked about how taking alternatives to God’s path can lead to anxiety. Little did I know that later that day, I would be off God’s path. He quoted Philippians 4:4-13, some of my favorite pilgrim passages, which end with “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”
Farm-fresh breakfast at Paluso’s Guest Ranch
I certainly was not going hungry at Paluso Guest Ranch. Bob makes a huge breakfast of pancakes, bacon, farm-fresh eggs, juices and coffee. He was even willing to cook to order our eggs on his giant Wolf stove. The guest ranch is a bit pricy for a pilgrim, but before I booked it, I messaged Bob to confirm that he served the hearty breakfast discussed in the reviews. I figured that I could pay more with a farm breakfast in the offering. Chris and Sarah stayed for another day, so Sarah asked if she could go into the henhouse and pick the eggs for the next day’s breakfast. “Sure,” Bob said.
While arranging my things before departing, I was shocked to find that I did not have my route-following instructions for DAY NINE. I’d spent dozens of hours before leaving home, outlining my WI Way pilgrimage route on paper maps and Google maps. Once my research was done, I’d printed out each day’s itinerary and carried them with me in a Ziploc bag.
I panicked at the calamity
But now the day’s instructions were nowhere to be found. I panicked at the calamity. I checked my email where I’d backed up the documents, but DAY NINE was simply not there.
“OK, Lord,” I prayed. “What am I going to do now? how will I know which way to go?” I felt as if God was asking me to trust him, and use Google Maps to guide me. I thanked him for the guidance, and my anxiety sluffed away.
I got off to a late start because breakfast on Sundays followed church, so Rebecca and Michael offered to drive me into Kewaskum. At the BP station in town, I replenished my Wisconsin cheese curds, sausage and granola bars that were becoming my lunch staples.
Imitating the father
As I walked through the outskirts of Kewaskum, I saw a small boy, not much older than a toddler, raking leaves with his Dad. Watching how the boy mimicked his father blessed my heart. Consequently, I prayed that I, too, could better emulate my Father God in the coming days.
WI Way alternative routes
DAY NINE proved to be long, so I returned to find alternative routes a few months later. One option would be to stay in West Bend, WI, which turned out to be a charming town reminding me of Asheville, NC. There are many paths to discover as you walk your WI Way pilgrimage. And as I said in the WI Way overview, your course will be dictated by finding a place to stay. If you decide to stay in pleasant West Bend, which has an abundance of hotel rooms, you’ll follow the Eisenbahn State Trail, one of the many Rails-to-Trails systems in Wisconsin.
In my case, I skirted West Bend by taking a more direct route to Slinger. I was winging it by using my phone. However, at the end of the day, Google Maps did not prove as trustworthy as the route-following directions I’d preprinted for the other days of my WI Way pilgrimage.
The WI Way goes up and down over steep hills in this stage
My WI Way route took me along rolling country roads with views of maples and other hardwoods decked out in brilliant fall colors.
I passed by historic farmsteads, including this one named Stony Ridge outside Kewaskum. The building style of field stones polished by the glaciers and poured cement is typical of the area at the last quarter of the 1800s. St. Gregory Church in St. Nazianz is of similar construction.
On this section of the WI Way, I crossed streams and climbed kames. But I did it all on country roads. If I’d taken the route to West Bend, I would have walked on more trails. Both courses are lovely.
If I’d taken the route through West Bend, I would have missed these wild turkeys and hiking along the west side of Big Cedar Lake.
Calamity strikes again
The walk around Big Cedar Lake was unlike any part of the WI Way that I’d seen so far. However, one of the pleasures of the Wisconsin Way is walking through changing landscapes.
As I approached Slinger, my destination for the night, I had to cross the mighty I-41, an interstate freeway.
Unfortunately, Google Maps would not take me over the bypass of Interstate 41. The map made it look as if I could walk over or under the freeway at the most direct way to Slinger. But Google refused to navigate through that byway. Every time I placed my cursor at the intersection, it made me walk around it rather than through it. Was there a pedestrian lane at the bridge or underpass? I could have walked to the junction to check it out for myself, but after so many miles already trod, I didn’t want to get there and have to turn around.
I arrived late at Slinger
So I walked four or so extra miles after Google Maps took me out of the way (and off God’s path) and through St. Lawrence. I arrived late to Slinger, where I met a WI Way angel, Eileen Belonga, who hosted me at St. Peter Catholic Church for the night. Eileen completed the 440-mile WI Way pilgrimage from Our Lady of Good Help to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse and is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Peter Catholic Church.
Up next: Zero Day at St. Peter Catholic Church in Slinger
Raindrops were falling as I arrived at St. Peter Catholic Church in Slinger, which made me grateful for a “zero-day” on the following day. What is a zero-day? Please read about it in my next post, DAY TEN of the WI Way.
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