The Circumperambulation of Lake Geneva

My good friend invited me to join him on a stroll around the lake — 20.6 miles according to the internet.

We met my friend and his wife just before 8:00 am. We staged one of the cars at Big Foot Beach State Park so the wives could walk part of the way with us. We started on the north shore, about where that fish silhouette just above the word “Lake” on the map. We headed east in the chilly, breezy morning air.

There is an understanding that all property owners must allow hikers through their yards. Some welcome it by installing brick or gravel walks. In other areas, we walked on dirt paths or across lawns. In a few places, we actually walked on people’s decks. There was only one place, perhaps 400 yards long, where we were directed away from the shore.

The Wrigleys, of chewing gum and Chicago Cubs fame, own a large swath of the north shore with several houses and two big boathouses. Here’s their property:

Here are some of the other shacks we saw on the north shore:

At around 10:30, we arrived at the town of Lake Geneva. The huge dwelling on the right below was once a private home. Some guy built it as a wedding present for his daughter. She and her new husband moved into for about a month, decided they didn’t like it and moved out. It has since been a restaurant and various other things, but now is filled with condos.

It was about seven miles from where we began to Big Foot Beach State Park where the wives dropped out. It was close to lunchtime, so they headed back into town to eat. The center photo below is looking down the length of the lake from the eastern shore.

We continued back toward the west along the south shore. While the homes were impressive, I think I found some of the landscaping even more impressive — like in the yard on the left. One house (middle) was shaped like a ship. Black Point (right) is one of the few areas along the shore that isn’t built up. It got its name because it was the only section of the lake where lights didn’t show at night. It’s now a nature preserve.

Many of the homes on the south shore weren’t quite as impressive as many of the homes on the north shore — which isn’t to say that they weren’t impressive.

We hadn’t gone far on this part of the walk when it began to rain — a steady drizzle at first, but soon increasing into a steady downpour. When the trail cut through somebody’s roofed deck, we pulled up a few chairs (right) and sat a while. I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to my friend who saw I didn’t bring a jacket of my own and so carried a spare along with him for the entire trip until I needed it. What a guy!

It kept raining, and we had a long way to go, so we headed out again — and got thoroughly wet. Here are some random shots of the south shore trail:

It was around 2:00 pm, and we still had a ways to walk before we planned on stopping to eat in Fontana. The trail cut right across the eating area of the Abbey Springs Club, about eight feet from the doorway of a hamburger stand. We decided to get something to drink. The server was busy waiting on a customer, so we leaned on the counter and had a pleasant five-minute conversation with a woman who informed us that she was the cook. When the girl finally got to us, we told her what we wanted. She placed our drinks in front of us and asked what our unit number was. We told her we didn’t have one — we were just passing by. She said she wasn’t allowed to sell us anything unless we were members. The cook said we could if we knew the name of any members. We didn’t. The server took our drinks away. There was a guy at the end of the counter who spoke up. We thought he might say something like, “just put it on my tab.” Nope. He said, “This is a private club. Visitors can walk on the grounds, but they aren’t allowed in here.” Whatever. We left.

We met the girls met us in Fontana. Wayne and I bought excellent sandwiches at Gordy’s Bait Shop while the girls enjoyed ice cream. They’d done a little shopping since they’d left us, but now wanted to walk again. The four of us headed back east along the north shore. (It had stopped raining.)

Several homes had these elevators running up and down the bluff (below, left). All around the lake, the periodical cicadas (17-year locusts) were coming out. In places, the ground looked like Swiss cheese with all their holes. We saw several nymphs that hadn’t yet broken from their skin and many fully-formed adults. In fact, we couldn’t help but step on some of them, which seemed somewhat tragic after a wait of 17 years. On the right, you can see one of the more interesting homeowner accommodations for the path. That’s actually the house — the path goes right along the lower deck.

Here are some more scenes from the north shore, in the Williams Bay area. We walked right through that boatyard and passed under that lift where the guy in the yellow coat was preparing a boat for launch.

We finally made it back to our starting point around 5:30, nine hours after we began. Our wives went about 14 of the 20.6 miles with us.

We drove back to Fontana to pick up the  car, then followed them to Pell Lake where we enjoyed a relaxing dinner of pizza. It was a whole lot of fun, and we actually talked about making it an annual event.

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