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Wisconsin is in fulll bloom this time of year. Here's where to take in some color.

Take in some May color

After a long drab winter and rainy April, many Wisconsinites are ready to take in some color. May allows you to do that.

First, you can go see some apple blossoms. Here are five fantastic places to do so:

1. Gays Mills Orchards -- This community in Crawford County calls itself the Apple Capital of Wisconsin and deserves the title. Highway 171, which connects Highways 131 and 61, runs along a ridge and offers a spectacular view of the orchards and valley below.

Sunrise Orchard, Kickapoo Orchard and several others will be in full bloom by the end of this month. Some of them also are open for tours and for business.

Go down the hill and take in the town of Gays Mills too. It caters to apple lovers, and has done a remarkable job of rebounding from last year's floods. Gays Mills is 175 miles from Milwaukee.

2. Ela's Orchards -- This Rochester orchard is a family-run business, with a great tradition of producing quality apples. You can see the blossoms on either side of Highway D.

The nearby community of Rochester also is a charming place on the Fox River, with a couple good restaurants and some shops.

3. Cherry Lane Orchards -- Door County earned its reputation more as a cherry orchard area, but in more recent years apples have become just as big. Cherry Lane provides plenty of blossoms during spring. There are several other orchards that provide both apples and cherries blossoms.

Always a leader in tourism promotion, the county holds the blossom festival, a month-long celebration of spring with self-guided tours. Special events include a countywide lighthouse walk, boat, trolley and scenic air tours, and community celebrations with arts and crafts, food and music. Call 1-800-52-RELAX for more information.

4. Apple Holler -- This Racine County orchard is right off I-94 and offers a great place to eat and shop and activities for the kids. The orchard has 10,000 trees and 25 different varieties of apples. They also have cherry trees, so there are plenty of blossoms to take in.

5. Bayfield orchards -- This area is the furthest from Milwaukee, but has some wonderful apple orchards with beautiful blossoms. Betzold's is great, but it's hard to choose.

Remember, the blossoms do come a little later so far up north, so you might want to contact the local Chamber of Commerce before making the long drive.

Also, come back in October for the annual Apple Festival, rated as one of the Top 10 Autumn Festivals in North America by the Society of American Travel Writers.

In fact, this advice on making another trip in the fall stands for all these locations, or wherever you can actually get the fruits that follow the blossoms.

If you want to look down rather than in the trees for your color, there are some wonderful wildflower walks featured in the Department of Tourism Web site.

Erika Jensen does a wonderful job of describing them in her "Travel Wisconsin" feature:

Logan Creek, Door County, near Jacksonport in Door County -- Managed and owned by The Ridges Sanctuary, the Logan Creek property offers several habitats, including an upland beech maple forest and a wetland forest dominated by cedar and hemlock. The best time to see spring wildflowers here is mid- to late May, when a profusion of spring-beauty, Dutchman's-breeches, toothwort, large-flowered trillium, trout-lily, and more than a half-dozen varieties of wild violets carpet the forest floor.

Mt. Pisgah Hemlock-Hardwoods, Vernon County, near Ontario -- Located within Wildcat Mountain State Park, this SNA borders the Kickapoo River. Walk along the Hemlock Trail, following the river (look for interesting sandstone cliffs), and climb to an observation point some 450 feet over the river for stunning views. Spring wildflowers are plentiful, and include wild-ginger, showy orchis, declined trillium, and Virginia bluebells along the river bottom.

Chequamegon Hardwoods, Ashland County, in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest -- This second-growth hardwood forest contains some very old and large specimens. The area's ample supply of spring wildflowers includes maidenhair fern, nodding trillium, bloodroot, bellwort, and Jack-in-the-pulpit. Exposed sections of bed-rock, up to 50 feet tall, rise from the forest floor.

Check out the other walks featured by Erika Jensen. And, remember, life gets more colorful in Wisconsin in May.


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