Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

One of my favorite things about RV travel is the ability to spend extended time in diverse landscapes. This past winter, we were exploring the Sonoran Desert surrounded by the majestic saguaro cactus, and this summer, we find ourselves living on lakefront property surrounded by a lush landscape full of tall trees and a forest floor carpeted with ferns and wildflowers. Talk about extremes!

I just love it when the stars align and my days are filled with rainbows and unicorns. Ah, life is good in the Northwoods … that is when one of their insane storms isn’t rolling through!

When we decided to spend our summer with family in northern Wisconsin, Al and I weren’t sure if we’d enjoy spending three months back in the Midwest. After all, since moving west in 1992, the most time we had spent back here was in 2015 when we only lastest five weeks. Yep, after five weeks back in Illinois and Wisconsin, we ended up canceling a bunch of reservations so we could high-tale it back to Colorado.

Although we enjoyed that Midwestern excursion in ’15, I think our mindset at the time was more interested in exploring places west of the Rocky Mountains. These days, I’m feeling a draw to return to my roots and some old stomping ground favorites.

a reflection mallard duck swimming by

Hayward, Wisconsin

Folks come to Hayward and the surrounding area to enjoy the abundance of lakes and relaxing way of life. As a child, I spent quite a few family summer vacations in this part of Wisconsin, and they were always so much fun that my siblings and I couldn’t wait for dad’s vacation time so we could return to our favorite lake and campground on the Chippewa Flowage. Ah, such fond memories and now we have family that actually live just down the road from that favorite place … with room for us to park our RV. How sweet is that!

RV camped in the northwoods on a foggy morning
A foggy morning at our summer campsite. Yoho!

During summer months, fishing, swimming, and strolling Hayward’s small-town streets are just a few fun activities in this former lumbering town. Hayward keeps its past alive by hosting the Lumberjack World Championships each summer. And guess what? We had the pleasure of attending this entertaining competition. This was definitely a first for me! Who knew there was an International Timber Sports Competition? I know, I didn’t. And it’s even televisioned on ESPN.

Lumberjack World Championships

The Lumberjack competition is a three-day celebration of timber sports with over 120 competitors from around the world. Competitors are from five different countries; Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Canada, and the United States. There are 24 events including logrolling, boom running, sawing, chopping, axe throwing, and speed climbing.

Log Rolling: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills (yes, “lumberjill” … how cute is that!) run atop spinning, floating logs in an attempt to topple their opponents. If opponents don’t fall off after a specific time, they switch to a smaller log. Difficulty increases as the logs get smaller.

Boom Running: Competitors sprint atop a “boom” (a series of linked, floating logs) from one dock to another and back. The logs spin and dip. This is a test of speed and balance.

Boom running Lumberjack competition
Boom running

Sawing: Sawdust will fly when lumberjacks and Lumberjills attack lathe-turned white pine in a head-to-head competition using a crosscut saw or a souped-up chainsaw in a variety of fast and furious events.

Chopping: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills sharpen up their axes to compete in the high intensity standing chop, underhand chop, springboard chop, and standing block chop.

Throwing: Precision is the name of the game as competitors throw a double-bit axe as close to the center of a target as possible from a set distance away … bullseye!

Speed Pole Climbing: Lumberjacks go head to head in the breathtaking speed pole climb as they scale a 60′ or 90′ pole and seemingly fall to earth in record time.

Lumberjack World Championship Hayward Wisconsin
The storm passed just in time for the competition to begin.

Fortunately, the threatening storm clouds passed just to the north of Lake Hayward allowing clear skies to prevail for the championship to begin on time. “Yoho!” This was a really fun and interesting sporting event. The competition moved rapidly keeping everyone entertained. At various times throughout the event, spectators could be heard yelling “Yoho!”.

The story behind the “Yoho” goes something like this… Back at lumber camp (many moons ago), one of the lumberjacks needed to visit the outhouse. The weather was clear when he first entered, but upon exiting the outhouse the forest had become covered in a thick layer of fog. The fog was so thick that it was impossible for him to find his way back to camp. So he yelled out “yoho” to his fellow lumberjacks who in turn yelled “yoho” back. The yelling of “yoho” back and forth helped guide the lumberjack back to camp. “Yoho!”  😏

A special treat

Ah, when those stars align … seeing wildlife in their environment is always a special treat and my encounters with the Loons this summer has been amazing but seeing a bald eagle was equally spectacular.

American Bald Eagle

The first time I saw this gal/guy fly by was during happy hour. There we were, sitting on the back screened-in porch on the upper level of the lake house enjoying our margaritas when a huge bird swooped down from the top of the house and flew by us at eye level. We could literally hear the movement of her wings. I was giddy with excitement. I had no idea that this would be the first of many eagle sightings during my summer jaunt to the Northwoods.

Bald Eagle
The neighborhood Bald Eagle
A Lake house
This is our spot for the summer. The upper deck on the house is the perfect place to enjoy a drink, mingle with family, and watch the wildlife.

Country living

We are absolutely loving our time and campsite on private property this summer. Not only do we have a lake view, but we also have hookups and access to a house AND boat, not to mention special time with family. Yep, I’m loving those boat rides. But there is a downside to country living, our cell phones and hotspot do not work. Well, I guess somedays that might be construed as a plus, but other days it does present some challenges. Thankfully, my sister-in-law has a landline and a pretty good internet service, so we aren’t totally disconnected … oh, and cable TV. We were able to get caught up and watch the final season of Game of Thrones. Pretty important stuff, ya know!

Heading into town is about a 25-minute drive and once in Hayward, I can find almost anything I need at the local grocery store or Walmart. But Main Street should not be overlooked.

Strolling the quaint shops and taking in the interesting architecture is equally entertaining. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, and treat shops to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Of course, being the T-shirt addict that I am, I felt compelled to add to the local economy by not passing up the opportunity to add to my collection.

Oh, and I bought a pair of super comfy Teva sandals at one of the local shops, Glik’s. My favorite Merrell’s were wearing out and needed to be replaced. I’m loving this new sandal and have been wearing them almost exclusively ever since I bought them. I found it pleasantly surprising that some of these small-town shops here in Hayward as well as Grand Marais, MN offer such a great selection of trail shoes and offer styles that I didn’t see in the big city of Phoenix. Hmm, do I dare go shopping some more?

All good things must come to an end

I can’t believe that it’s already mid-August and our summer is quickly coming to an end. For those of us that have been RVing for a while, we all know the ups and downs of the RV lifestyle. I usually cringe when I hear people say, “Your living the dream” because there are many times RV life is more like a nightmare than a dream, but this summer has really been a dream for us. We didn’t do the traveling we thought we’d do this summer. Instead, we settled into lakehouse living and enjoying our time with family and that’s fine by us. Traveling all the time can get tiring.

Perhaps we’ll return next summer and do that exploring we thought we’d do this year. Ah, time will tell! In the meantime, I’ll savor the last weeks of summer in the Northwoods before we head back to the desert southwest. Are there more unicorns and rainbows in my future? Stay tuned!

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Casual Print T-Shirt – Lake Life
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5 Ballparks For An RV Tour Of America’s Pastime

Some of our best travel adventures were conjured up around a campfire. I love sitting around a campfire with friends sharing past and future travel tales. More times than not, those discussions lead to great ideas centered around RVing. We recently had a fun get together with folks that are huge Cubs Fans which lead to more RVing ideas; combining two passions.

For many people around the country, few things are more appealing than a summer ballpark tour. Baseball may have declined somewhat in popularity, but it remains America’s pastime, and its ties to the summer season are unbreakable for many. And for that reason, it occurred to us that this same idea of a ballpark tour might just make for the perfect RV trip for a lot of families and individuals alike.

For the true baseball fanatics out there, it may be appealing to take this idea all the way and visit every single big-league stadium in the country over the course of a summer. My sister and one of her sons are attempting to do this. That’s awfully ambitious for most people though, so perhaps a cross-country itinerary featuring five beautiful and significant parks might be more feasible.

1. Oracle Park – San Francisco, California

Consistently ranked among the best ballparks in America, Oracle Park is tough to beat. The stadium (formerly known as AT&T Park) sits right on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and may be best known to a lot of baseball fans as the place where Barry Bonds once rained home runs into “McCovey Cove” over the right-field stands. Fans used to cluster in the bay in kayaks in the hopes of retrieving one of his legendary blasts. Even now though it’s a beautiful, fun place to watch a game, and it helps that the home team Giants tend to be very competitive.

2. Coors Field – Denver, Colorado

The drive from San Francisco to Denver is no joke, but you can spread it out over a few days and enjoy some lovely sights in Nevada and Utah along the way. For that matter, once you get into Colorado, you can even take some time to tour the delightful mountain towns that I’ve written about before. But to continue the ballpark tour, you should ultimately end up in Denver, where you can watch the Rockies at Coors Field. There’s just something special about seeing baseball in such a laid-back beautiful city. And for many, it also won’t hurt that Denver’s famous craft beer scene has pumped some excellent options into the stadium concessions (even if the venue is named after a big-name beer).

3. Wrigley Field – Chicago, Illinois

From Denver, it’s about a two-day drive to Chicago, and it’s not the most eventful of drives. However, stops in Lincoln, Nebraska and Iowa City, Iowa – both lovely towns – can break up the drive before you eventually reach the Windy City. There, you’ll be treated to a game at the most historic, and perhaps most beloved stadium in Major League Baseball: the Cubs’ Wrigley Field. Known for exuding a palpable sense of the past, as well as for its unique, ivy-covered outfield wall, Wrigley is a place even casual sports fans should strive to visit at least once in life.

As long as you’re in town, you may as well visit Guaranteed Rate Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox. It doesn’t have the charm or history of Wrigley, and lately, the Cubs have been the better team, but it’s a comfortable modern stadium, and perfectly pleasant on a nice day.

4. PNC Park – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

With the right timing, you can drive on to Pittsburgh in either one long single day – or if you’d prefer, you can always make a stop in Michigan or Ohio along Lake Erie (or stop in to see the Cleveland Indians as you pass through!). Either way, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is a great next stop for a few reasons. One is that Pennsylvania is one of just a few states to have recently legalized online sports betting, which adds a whole new type of fun to see a game. You can find MLB game odds online and place a bet on a Pirates game, and even a tiny amount can give you a feeling most American sports fans have never had. The other reason to consider PNC Park though, whether or not you’re interested in the betting angle, is that it’s simply one of the prettiest stadiums, in any sport, in America.

5. Fenway Park – Boston, Massachusetts

If you’re all about the baseball and you’re enjoying the trip at this point, there’s something to be said for passing through a number of East Coast cities at the tail end of the tour. From Pittsburgh, you can drive just four hours to Baltimore to enjoy a game at the low-key but pleasant Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Then you can pass back through Pennsylvania, seeing the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, before hitting both New York destinations – Citi Field in Queens for the Mets, and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for the Yankees (though keep in mind having an RV in some of these East Coast cities won’t be easy). Whether or not you take this multi-city detour though, you should wrap up your trip at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play. It’s not the most comfortable of stadiums, but it’s the only one that might match Wrigley Field for history, meaning there are few better places to toast America’s pastime.

RV Park ideas in Chicago and Denver

When visiting Chicago, we usually stay about an hours drive outside of the city and then take the train into Chicago. The Paul Wolff Campground is a relaxing spot to return to after a day of fun in the big city.

Denver – We’ve stayed at a bunch of places around Denver and anyone of them would make a great home base to explore and take in a baseball game … Chatfield State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, Bear Creek Lake Regional Park, Dakota Ridge RV Park.

Northshore – Revisiting our Past

Northshore – Revisiting our Past

Our shopping excursions and explorations to Duluth, Minnesota served as the impetus for us to take a vacation from our vacation. Although our campsite this summer on private property along a pristine lake in northern Wisconsin is beyond nice, Lake Superiors Northshore was calling. Al and I had not returned to this part of the country since the early 1990s and the pull to return was strong.

After a little research, I made a reservation at the Burlington Bay Campground in the town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. The easy thirty-minute drive northeast of Duluth made this the perfect location for our Northshore explorations. Since our reservation was made on rather short notice, I was only able to book three nights. We’ll take it! Oh, how we would’ve loved staying longer. Next time!

Burlington Bay Campground, Two Harbors, MN.

Once settled into our campsite, it was time to explore. Two Harbors, Minnesota is nestled along the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior. It’s a small quaint lakeside town rich in history and conveniently located to a bunch of scenic sites. It’s also home to a couple of historic sites that are found right in town.

Historic sites in Two Harbors

First lit in 1892, the historic Two Harbors Light Station is the oldest operating lighthouse in Minnesota. She consists of a two-story, square, redbrick dwelling, and a twelve-foot-square light tower attached between the gables. She no longer has her original lens (unfortunately), but still boasts an interesting twenty-four-inch aerobeacon. These days the lighthouse is in private hands, but she’s beautifully maintained & definitely worth a visit.

And you can even spend the night at the lighthouse. The Keepers Quarters is now a B&B.

(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simply click on any image)

For train enthusiasts, the Depot Museum is just down the road from the lighthouse and is housed in a historic brick building built in 1907. Today the building serves as a museum but was formerly headquarters for the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad which played a prominent role in the development of the iron ore industry throughout the region.

Towering strange man-made structures

Although my goal was to visit the lighthouse, once I had the truck parked, my attention was drawn across Agate Bay to some strange looking structures. The structures are docks that are made out of steel. They’re 1,300 feet long and seven stories tall.

Ore Docks with tug boat in Two Harbors Minnesota

The immense size of the docks allows ships to pull alongside some 112 chutes where the iron ore is then deposited into the hulls of the boats. These days, about 12 million tons of taconite are shipped out yearly headed south to the lower Great Lakes where it is then unloaded, heated up in blast furnaces, and eventually converted into steel.

The first dock was built in 1883 and by 1938 there were six fully operating docks. The docks were a major source of iron ore during World War II. By the mid-1950’s the docks were shipping out about 50 million tons annually, but this all came to an end in the 1960’s when iron ore was mined out. Area miners then began mining taconite as their primary source of metal. The development of taconite lead to the reopening of three docks in Two Harbors, and two of them are still in operation today.

An Ore ship pulling into docks in Two Harbors Minnesota Agate Bay
An empty ship pulling into the docks near sunset.

Visitors can view the docks anywhere along the shores of Agate Bay and get an up-close look at some of the massive ships that enter/exit the harbor. And I thought our combination of truck and RV was long. How’d ya like to park this big guy? These ships are seriously huge!

If you’d like to see these ships in action, shipping schedules can be found online at harbor lookout.

Yesterday and today

The real reason for our visit to Two Harbors, Minnesota was to allow Al and me the opportunity to travel a route that we used to drive every summer during our first few years of dating and marriage. Al and I worked in the airline industry at the time and could’ve flown anywhere in the world for free or for mere pennies, but for our yearly vacations, we wanted nothing to do with flying, hotels, or dining out. After all, that’s what our careers were all about.

Al carrying our canoe in 1990 near Gunflint Lake, MN. We had to portage around rapids.
Me, today, happy to be back visiting Lake Superior’s Northshore.

So, as an escape from our work lifestyle, we packed up our camping gear, strapped a canoe down on the roof of our vehicle, and drove north … more than 650 miles north of Chicago. The first couple of years, we ventured into western Ontario, Canada, but then we discovered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota’s Arrowhead. And from then on, the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota became our summer vacation spot. Most times we camped while other times we splurged and rented a cabin.

So, our first full day camped in Two Harbors, we quickly set off retracing our driving route from years past. We found it amazing and rather exciting that very little had changed over the past umpteen years. There was a part of us that felt like we were just here yesterday and another part that felt like it was a lifetime ago … just another chapter in a life well-lived.

If we didn’t do anything else on our little excursion but visit two key stops, I’d be happy. My must-sees were the Split Rock Lighthouse and the town of Grand Marais.

As you drive along Highway 61, glancing to the south is Lake Superior; the largest of the five Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world. It’s also one of the chilliest lakes. A rocky cliff shoreline serves as a reminder that these waters can be dangerous, which is why there are so many lighthouses on Lake Superior.

The Split Rock Lighthouse is situated on Lake Superior’s Northshore and is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the nation. I’ve always been intrigued by this lighthouse and images of it remind me of my mother. She loved lighthouse and Split Rock was one of her favorites. I was extremely excited when I discovered Lake Havasu built a beautiful replica. Now granted, it’s a fraction of the size of the real lighthouse, but wonderful nonetheless.

Split Rock Lighthouse as seen from a scenic pull-out along Hwy 61

The Split Rock Lighthouse and State Park features a visitor center with a museum store, a lakeshore picnic area, a tent-only campground, a trail center, and hiking trails. Photographing this lighthouse has been a long-time dream of mine, but unfortunately, weather and timing conditions weren’t the best for anything better than a few snapshots. I was fine with that. The views were stunning!

A view of the shoreline from the lighthouse

Waterfalls and more waterfalls

While Lake Superior lies on the south side of the highway, dense forest and hills lie on the north side. Considering the north shore can receive well over 90 inches of snow during an average winter, all that snowmelt has to go somewhere creating some spectacular waterfalls. The waterfalls alone make visiting Minnesota’s north shore worthwhile.

Falls at Cross River – In the spring the center rock is covered in rushing water. This is a light flow.

The forecast for our day excursion consisted of cloudy skies with a 40% chance of rain which should’ve been perfect for photographing waterfalls … or so I hoped. Well, they couldn’t have been more wrong! The day turned into a beautiful day with totally clear blue skies and warmer than expected … not the conditions I was looking for to photograph waterfalls (much to Al’s delight). So, we changed our focus for the day and only stopped at the Falls at Cross River (around mile marker 78). These falls can be seen from the highway, thus requiring very little walking.

The day turned rather warm, humid, and buggy which did not put us in the mood for any hiking. Therefore, Gooseberry Falls State Park and Tettegouche State Park will remain on my must-see list for a future visit. Gosh, that list seems to be getting longer, not shorter! How does that happen?😏

If you love waterfalls and hiking, then the drive from Duluth, Minnesota to Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada is definitely an adventure to consider. The towns of Portage and Thunder Bay have some rather impressive waterfalls that should not be missed. This is already on my list for our potential itinerary for next summer. An unexpected kitchen remodel kind of curtailed our travels this summer (a forthcoming post is in the works).

It appears, most of the state park campgrounds along Hwy 61, do not offer hookups and are not big RV friendly. This is a tenters paradise and also perfect for cyclists biking the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. But for RV hookups along Lake Superior, we’ll just need to venture a little further down the road …

Grand Marais, Minnesota

The artsy little town of Grand Marais (pronounced – Grand Ma-ray) boasts a population of fewer than 1,500 people. It serves as the gateway to the Gunflint Trail leading visitors into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. When Al and I would vacation on Gunflint Lake, we would have to return to Grand Marais once or twice during our vacation to shop and replenish provisions.

Since our resort was an hours drive north of Grand Marais, we always made a day of it by strolling shops and going out to lunch. On this day, we happened to bring a picnic lunch and enjoyed eating it on a bench overlooking the harbor. After lunch, I took the interesting stroll out to the lighthouse and then we hit a few shops.

The town is small and after walking around for maybe an hour, we’d seen just about everything and it was time to retrace our steps back to Two Harbors but not before checking out the local RV Park. The town of Grand Marais manages an RV park that is big rig friendly with hookups and sits along the shores of Lake Superior. It’s nothing special and the sites are rather close together, but you can’t beat the location or views.

The RV Park can be seen along the shore. Not a bad location.

Burlington Bay Campground

We found this campground in Two Harbors to be the perfect place for us to use as a base for our Northshore explorations. We could even walk into town from the campground if we wanted to. There’s easy access to the kayaking beach and wooded trail along the lakeshore. It’s also an easy bike ride to the lighthouse, Ore Docks, and town restaurants.

There are four sections in the campground. We chose a site in the David Dill Addition which is the newest section and the only area in the campground that isn’t wooded – it’s in a meadow without trees. Yeah, we don’t like trees, or rather our RV isn’t a fan of tree branches. We loved our unobstructed view of Lake Superior and would definitely stay here again, but there was a downside regarding our sewer connection.

The sites are tiered in the David Dill Addition offering nice lake views from all the sites and even two sewer connections allowing RVers to optimize those views. There’s one connection at the rear of the site for those needing to back in like trailers and 5th wheels and another connection closer to the front of the site for motorhomes that choose to pull straight in to enjoy the view out of the front windshield.

Those of us in the first row (sites 1B-12B) had trouble connecting to the rear sewer due to the height of the pipe. Al and I were in site 2 and fortunately, the folks in site 3 were also in a 5th wheel backed in allowing us to hook up to the intended motorhome sewer for site 3. Trust me, I was originally not a happy camper when the rear sewer pipe was sticking out of the ground so far that it was impossible for gravity to work with the sewer hose. The gal in the office said it was out of their control (appears they get a lot of complaints). The county health department determined the height. What’s interesting is the other tiers had properly cut sewer pipes. 🤔

Even with the sewer issue and unlevel sites, we would return and definitely relished not having to worry about roof damage from trees … been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt! But if you like trees, consider staying in one of the other loops.

Worth mentioning; we enjoyed picking up some sweets at Louise’s Place. Located in downtown Two Harbors not far from the Depot Museum and Paul Van Hoven Park. Louise’s is much like a local coffee shop offering breakfast and lunch along with homemade breads and sweets. We had to control ourselves from revisiting the next day.

If you love nature and beautiful landscapes, then you’ll enjoy visiting Lake Superior’s Northshore. With eight State Parks, a variety of National and State Forests, community parks, wayside rests, public beaches, and four-season trails, you’re bound to find something to make any visit worthwhile. We loved returning to an area that will always hold a special place in our hearts!

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Duluth – More than We Expected

Duluth – More than We Expected

Spending the summer in a place nowhere near a major city has its pluses and minuses. Our first ten days in Wisconsin’s Northwoods whizzed by. We had no trouble adjusting to small-town living or lake life … well, except for that annoying buzzing sound of Wisconsin’s state bird – the mosquito. 🤣 Although, I think Minnesota shares that honor. Boy, they grow’em big up here, and there’s nothing more annoying than laying in bed at night hearing that buzzing sound around your ear.

But lake living is awesome. Yeah, living on lakefront property is pretty sweet, and we are most definitely enjoying every minute staying with family in this picturesque spot.

And speaking of family, upon our arrival the third week in June, Al’s sister asked for some suggestions in remodeling her kitchen. Well, suggestions turned into action and Al and I dove in with both feet. But finding materials and certain paint products would require a trip(s) to the big city of Duluth, Minnesota, a two-hour drive away from Hayward, Wisconsin.

A two-hour drive to an unfamiliar city is no problem for this traveling duo. Our shopping list was made, Google maps was reviewed, and the GPS was set up as a backup.

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that this would not be our first time driving through Duluth. It would be our first time stopping. In years past, we drove through this city every summer on our way to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area located north of the little town of Grand Marais.

We’re having a great time this summer traveling down memory lane as we revisit sites from vacations past!

Exploring Duluth, Minnesota

At the westernmost tip of beautiful Lake Superior and along an international harbor sits Duluth, Minnesota. During the past six and a half weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this historic city a few times, and with each visit, I’ve discovered this jewel of Minnesota offers more than we ever expected.

With each sojourn, we do our necessary shopping and then set off exploring. I won’t bore you with the shopping details. Let’s just say Home Depot, Menard’s, Sam’s Club, and Super One Foods usually has everything we’re looking for and then some. If errands take us longer than expected, I’m able to get my Chipotle fix for lunch. Oh, and we even managed to stop in at the Duluth Trading Company just so we can say we stopped and shopped.

The architecture and churches are amazing in Duluth. Parking was a challenge for us until we ventured further away from attractions which introduced us to more interesting sites.

Canal Park

Canal Park is the entertainment hub of Duluth. The old warehouse district has been converted into an attraction offering an array of restaurants, shops, cafes, and hotels. The building conversions began in the 1980s in an attempt to promote tourism. They did a great job and I’d say the project is a huge success if crowds are any indication. This is a must-see part of the city.

Some of Canal Park’s attractions include a 4.2-mile long lake walk, a lighthouse pier, the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, the Great Lakes Aquarium, a floating ship museum, and the famous Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth’s landmark. Watching vessels from around the world enter/exit Duluth’s port is interesting to watch. You don’t realize how huge these ships/barges are until you stand near one.

I loved watching the Aerial Lift Bridge rise and then a 1,000-foot ship glide through the canal. Be warned … those horns are loud!

Parking near Canal Park can be a challenge for those of us driving big trucks. There are quite a few parking lots available for a modest fee of $3.00, but the lots are designed for regular size vehicles.

Leif Erikson Park

When I heard Duluth had a rose garden, I just had to see it for myself. I adore flowers!

Once again parking was an issue for us and we had to park several blocks away and walk. Ah, we needed the exercise anyway. The metered street parking was a bargain at twenty-five cents for 40 minutes. We loved the old buildings and partially brick-paved streets.

The garden did not disappoint. Unbeknownst to us, the blooms were at their peak according to locals (mid-July).

The Duluth Rose Garden is an extension of the Leif Erikson Park and offers a stunning arrangement of more than 3,000 rose bushes and other flowering plants.

Even my husband enjoyed walking around and reading the names of the various rose bushes. The park sits high above the lakeshore offering a beautiful view of Lake Superior and Canal Park in the distance.

Beyond the rose garden, we were even able to take a paved trail down to the shore of Lake Superior.

Enger Park

This park is a gem even though I had trouble finding it. I pride myself in my navigation skills, but feeling defeated, I resorted to the use of the GPS. In retrospect, I should’ve just followed the signs to the Enger Golf Course.

Ah, but once we arrived, it was all worth the getting turned around. Enger Park Tower and Gardens sits 600 feet above Lake Superior and provides a panoramic view of Duluth and the harbor. This park offers another stunning garden that planted a perpetual smile on my face.

Enger Park

Having spent the last twenty-some years living in either Colorado or Arizona where gardening is quite different than in the Midwest, I haven’t been around the shade-loving hostas in years. There are hundreds of hostas, perennials, and nearly 4,000 daffodils planted in Enger Park, plus a lovely Japanese garden.

The park and adjacent golf course were developed on land purchased with money donated by West End furniture dealer Bert Enger in 1921. His 1931 Will included more money for the park’s development, and in 1939 Enger Tower was built in the park in his honor. Today the park includes the American-Japanese Peace Bell, a gift from Duluth’s sister city of Ohara-Isumi, and serves as a popular location for weddings.

Al and I enjoyed sitting on a bench overlooking Duluth harbor and Canal Park. I wanted to stay for sunset, but alas, we had a two-hour drive to return home. So, home it was.

Next – a vacation from our vacation.

These visits to Duluth were never long enough. Thus, a plan was hatched. I’ll share more Northshore adventures in my next post.

I’ve missed gardens like these!

Trivia: Originally settled by the Sioux and Chippewa, French fur traders and explorers Radisson and Groseilliers were perhaps the first white men to see the present site of Duluth, Minnesota. Following them was Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth, the French adventurer for whom the city is named.

In 2014, Outdoor magazine held an online competition for the “best outdoor towns in America” and Duluth was the winner. Duluth topped 64 cities in a competition with six rounds of voting. Trailing second to Duluth was Provo, Utah. The 64 favorite towns ranged from mountain escapes to beachside getaways and powder hot spots with available outdoor recreation being the focus.

In Duluth, the summers are comfortable, and the winters are freezing, snowy, and windy. It’s partly cloudy year-round. Over the course of a year, the temperature varies from 7°F to 78°F and can dip below -15°F or above 88°F. Based on tourists, the best time of year to visit Duluth for warm-weather activities is from early July to late August.

I’m sure driving these hilly streets during the winter can get dicey.

During our short visits, we didn’t have time to explore any of the fabulous hiking/biking trails available, but I have read about them. It’s all about outdoor recreation in Duluth all year long. Although the locals love their winter activities every bit as much as activities the rest of the year, I’ll stick to visiting during the summer months. Considering I’ve become a winter desert dweller with reptile-like blood, I can’t imagine enjoying the harsh winter weather around here let alone driving the ice-covered hilly roads. Yep, Duluth is a great place to visit … in the summer … and maybe even the fall, but I’ll leave the windy, snowy, icy, below zero degrees Fahrenheit temps to the hearty locals!

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The Happy Hooker and Getting Loonie

The Happy Hooker and Getting Loonie

Our five days in South Dakota were over before we knew it, and before long, the RV wheels were rolling down the road heading toward our summer destination in northern Wisconsin. It was the third week in June and with severe storms coming and going throughout the Midwest, we opted to move quickly and not linger along the way. We also decided to stick with Interstate roads where feasible. We were on a mission to get to our summer home as soon as possible and avoid getting caught on the road in one of those nasty storms.

Whenever we travel through a major city, we try to plan on doing so on a weekend morning in hopes of avoiding any rush hour traffic or other heavy traffic. Although the drive through St. Paul, Minnesota on a Saturday morning was uneventful, I think the next time we drive through the area, we’ll take the truck/bypass route (494 to 694 back to 35E).

Driving I-35E through St. Paul, MN

Once we made it to Hayward, Wisconsin, Al’s sister met us at the local Walmart so she could help direct us to her and her husband’s place, our home for the summer. We were really glad we followed her to the house because our GPS was just a smidgen off. Normally that’s not a problem with just our truck, but when pulling an RV things get a little more difficult especially when the roads are densely wooded and there’s no spot big enough for us to turn around.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image)

The Happy Hooker

After a relaxing first day at our new RV campsite, it was time for some summer fun. High on our agenda was visiting the Happy Hooker. A few miles down the heavily tree-lined road from our RV site on private property is a cute little store called the Happy Hooker Bait and Tackle shop which is like an old fashioned country store that has a little bit of everything.

In addition to a large selection of fishing tackle & bait, they have gasoline, ice, beer, liquor, clothing, gifts, groceries, and most importantly … bug repellent. Just about anything you might need in a pinch with the convenience of not having to drive the thirty-minutes into the town of Hayward.

It was here that Al and I purchased our Wisconsin fishing licenses for the summer. Yep, the Happy Hooker is all about fishing. What did you think I was talking about?

That first week back in the Midwest took a bit of adjusting. First off, the bugs. Boy, I’d forgotten how annoying mosquitos are and as much as I tried to stay away from the harsh bug repellent, that first tick bite had me grabbing a can of spray-on Deep Woods Off. Yeah, bring on the “Deet“.

How many lakes does Wisconsin have?

Water recreation during the summer in northern Wisconsin is huge and the state is home to more than 11,000 lakes. With approximately 1 million acres of lakes to choose from, it’s no wonder that folks from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas flock to their favorite lake for a summer vacation, or better yet, they actually own a second home on lakefront property for regular weekend getaways. Who doesn’t dream of owning lakefront property? (Ok, maybe those of you who prefer oceanfront property 😄)

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, our family summer vacations were always spent at a campground on a picturesque lake, usually in Wisconsin. One of our family favorites was on the Chippewa Flowage just outside of Hayward, Wisconsin. We had a popup trailer at the time and my dad had a fishing buddy that would regularly join us so he could bring up our boat.

When my sister-in-law and her husband moved up to Hayward, Wisconsin, from northern Illinois, I couldn’t wait to visit them and revisit some of my childhood stomping grounds.

This was the campground beach where my brother and I spent most of our time playing when we weren’t learning to waterski. Still looks like a ton of fun today! Our little sister was too young to join us without mom nearby. Revisiting was rather emotional for me as thoughts of fond childhood memories flooded my mind. Oh, how I wanted to call my dad to let him know where I was, but that wasn’t possible. It has been just shy of a year since his passing.

Getting Loonie

All that water not only provides a great deal of recreation, but it also provides a water source to an abundance of wildlife. When Al and I decided to spend our summer in northern Wisconsin, high on my wishlist was capturing a nice image of a Loon, one of my favorite birds. Not only are they a beautiful bird, but their sound is so unique. There’s nothing like a quiet morning on the water in a canoe listening to their calls.

Although we no longer own a canoe, we do have a pontoon boat at our disposal this summer … perfect for lake cruising and fishing. During one of our boat rides, I noticed something white in the tall grasses near the shoreline. Initially, I assumed it was a plastic (Walmart) bag and directed Al to get near so we could retrieve it and dispose of it properly. Before getting too close to shore and possibly getting the boat prop tangled in weeds, I used my camera’s lens to zoom in and confirm that it was indeed a plastic bag.

Surprise, surprise, surprise! It was not garbage but rather a nesting Loon. To say I was giddy with excitement would be an understatement. Al turned the boat so we wouldn’t get near the nest and disturb the beautiful Loon. Loons only have one or two chicks and the last thing we wanted to do was stress the mama and cause her to leave the nest.

Al slowed the boat and for the next ten minutes, we cruised by her a few times. With my 600mm zoom and a little crop in processing, I was rather pleased with a few of my images. For the first couple of weeks in July, every outing on the boat included a slow cruise past Lily the Loon.

We knew hatching time was near when her partner was easy to spot. Normally loons dive when a boat gets near them, but one evening, it appeared Papa Loon was becoming very protective and refused to dive or get out of the way of boat traffic (which is thankfully rather light around here). This forced boaters to go around him to avoid potentially hitting him. Most boaters, like us, slowed down to capture a few photos of this rare treat. Guess I’m not the only loonie one around here.

It was thrilling to have Mr. Loon swim right alongside our boat.

Trivia; The $1 Canadian coin is nicknamed the “Loonie” – derived from the picture of a solitary loon on one side of the coin. Canadian’s have the coolest currency. Eh!

More wildlife sightings

Although my encounters with the Loons have made every mosquito, fly, and tick bite worth hanging out in the northwoods, I encountered another wildlife first. I’ll save that for a another post.

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