Sep 15 2012
Second in a series about the wide range of bed and breakfast lodging in Wisconsin. Many innkeepers include breakfast for overnight guests but are not among the state’s 300-plus licensed B&Bs. That is the case with this property, which is licensed as a tourist rooming house.
The most unusual thing about Raccoon Den Bed and Breakfast is its location: inside the 100-acre, federally licensed Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary. The place that I call home for a night is within a howl of the resident wolves, albino deer, reindeer, elk, bison, bobcat and much more.
We all have roomy confines here, four miles north of West Bend. What I rent is the lower level of the owners’ home. One bedroom and two sofa sleepers in a living room make the apartment big enough to sleep six, with plenty of elbow room. Add satellite TV, free Internet access, an equipped kitchen, full bathroom and washer-dryer combo.
Outside is starter wood for a campfire. Inside are starter foods for breakfast, which appears whenever it’s convenient because I’m the one who makes it. Innkeepers David and Lana Fechter say that’s why the Raccoon Den is not a licensed B&B, although they provide more than what I need for the meal: a dozen eggs, pound of bacon, loaf of bread, quart of orange juice, quart of milk, fruit and coffee.
“Some people like it that way,” David says, “because then they can get up and eat whenever they want.” He bought his first 30 acres here at the age of 18. Now it’s 33 years later, and he routinely conducts two-hour, educational tours of the wooded property, often pulling wagonloads of children on field trips.
Other visitors pay an admission fee to explore on their own because signage, mini museums of artifacts and antlers, a replicated Native American campsite and other surprises make this more than a refuge for wild animals.
David’s talks emphasize nature and Native American traditions. Some of the best lessons occur unexpectedly, like witnessing a hawk as it swoops in on a squirrel for lunch.
For children, the trip is part treasure hunt because throughout the sanctuary are mailboxes in bright, can’t-miss colors. Inside are little treats: simple games, temporary tattoos, soap bubbles with wands. Adults can rent a golf cart to navigate the trails instead of walking them.
Some of the 300 animals that live here, like wolves Lucky and Raven, are from out-of-state game farms because they were no longer wanted there. Others, like the declawed bobcat, are unable to survive in the wild.
Lana is a trained wildlife rehabilitator and has a nursing degree. “Shalom” is Hebrew for “peace,” she notes. Another meaning is to make whole or complete.
Having satisfied customers is the property’s most effective advertising, the owners say. Being an officially licensed B&B isn’t a priority.
“Everybody has their own reason for wanting to stay at a B&B,” Lana says. “For some, it’s the decorating. For our customers, it’s nature and the animals.”
For more about the Raccoon Den and Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary, 1901 Shalom Dr., West Bend: shalomwildlife.com, 262-338-1310. The cost to stay overnight is $175 for up to two people and $25 more for each additional person.
Discounts are possible on weekdays. Overnight guests get free access to the sanctuary trails, boat rental and one hour of golf cart time.
The wildlife sanctuary is open 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. daily, May 1 to Nov. 1. Admission is $9 (less for senior citizens, children). By reservation, groups of 20 to 100 can be accommodated with guided tours by tractor and wagon.
Five reasons to visit West Bend:
The Museum of Wisconsin Art is the only one completely devoted to the works of Badger State artists, cartoonists to sculptors. Up until Sept. 30 is the Wisconsin Watercolor Society’s 60th anniversary exhibition.
How much has the average kitchen and dinner table changed in the past century? The West Bend Company/Regal Ware Museum shows the average evolution with displays of locally produced cookware and small appliances. Volunteers occasionally show off the company’s most modern cooking equipment and let visitors sample food made with it.
Cafe Souerette‘s specialty is from-scratch foods made with close-to-home ingredients. Buy soup by the bowl or Mason jar quart. The restaurant also pickles and sells eggplant to brandied jalapenos. In the dairy case are some of the local products that chef Jodi Janisse uses in her menu.
Cream of duck soup is a specialty for good reason at the Old Jailhouse Restaurant, 10 minutes southeast of the city. Look for hatchet marks on the 1847 building, made of rough-hewn logs.
Head 10 miles northwest of the Raccoon Den to the 389-acre Riveredge Nature Center, Saukville, for hiking and bird watching. Cozy furniture and fun exhibits for kids make this a good stop on even rainy days.