Little Norway

and the Mt. Horeb Area

After checking in to a Hilton Garden Inn on the west side of Madison, we took some time to relax and tried to figure out where to go for dinner. The Kentucky Derby was running – it was May 3rd – and I really wanted a mint julep. Can you believe that no one had any mint? And two of three bartenders didn’t even know how to make one; one didn’t even know that the Derby was taking place! Check out our excursion to Kentucky to explore the Bourbon Trail.

Cave of the Mounds Visitors Center

After a fairly good night’s sleep (could it have been a result the deep-fried cheese curds?), we enjoyed the continental breakfast offered by the Hampton before heading west to a place called Blue Mounds and two very cool destinations.

The first stop was the Cave of the Mounds. It was a mere 20-minute drive from the west side of Madison on Route 18, and probably no more than a mile off of the main road. A tour of the cave had not originally been a part of our agenda. After reading the background info in the visitor center, I wished it had. There is some great history there and the tour would have been worth it, even though the cost for adults is $12. It gives me a reason to return on another “excursion”.

Little Norway Valley

Not more than a mile or so from Cave of the Mounds is a little place secluded back in the hills called Little Norway (unfortunately now closed). My Norse blood started to pump a little faster when we pulled into the parking lot, at which time I was certain that May is a great time for this sort of exploring. Once again we were two of only eight who eventually took the tour.

Scott Winner is the current owner and Great Grandnephew of a man by the name of Asher Dahle who purchased a farm previously owned by a Norwegian immigrant family in the mid-to-late19th century. Local Norwegian carpenters and craftsmen have restored the buildings and Scott and his wife Jennifer now manage the property and make its treasures available to the public.

The Founder's Tap Room at Huber Brewing Co.

Even if you are not even partially Norwegian, this is a ‘must see’ kind of place. Its rich history and thousands of artifacts are a real eye opener if you ever wondered how early pioneers lived. The tour is only 45 minutes long and costs $8. And there are some wonderful souvenirs in the gift shop that will serve as reminders to a great little place in Nissedahle, or Valley of the Elves. Thank you everyone for a great time.

It was time for lunch when we drove in to Mt. Horeb and stopped at Schubert’s for a bite to eat. This was an old-fashioned kind of store with a soda fountain, counter and wooden booths; the ceiling was made of tin and the place felt like 1950.

We sipped on cherry phosphates – on sale for 50 cents – and waited for the sandwiches to be served. Service was painfully slow, but hey, did I have anyplace else to be today? Well, kinda. There was cheese waiting for me at the Alp and Dell cheese factory! So I paid the bill, all $11.29 of it, and we headed back south.

Making Gruyere cheese at Alp & Dell Cheese Factory

On the way back south, we decided to once again stop at Baumgartner’s (see our Trek to Green County); I needed another t-shirt. After a quick Blumer’s root beer and a bag of chips, we loaded up on cheese and headed home. As the miles passed, we talked about what impressed us the most on this excursion.

It was the people. They were friendly and genuine, and we felt welcome everywhere we went. I highly recommend Green County for a weekend getaway. Prepare yourself for some great scenery, hearty food and friendly natives. And thanks to the Green County Chamber of Commerce for the idea!

R. Karl

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