Timing is everything when it comes to most things in life, and we seemed to have timed our recent travels perfectly. It was the second full week in October and the leaves were changing from brilliant hues of reds, oranges, and yellows to varying shades of brown. Those dry rust-colored leaves were a clear indication that the trees would soon be bare and winter would be nipping at our heels.
With a memory card full, I was satisfied with my collection of autumn foliage images and ready to get the RV moved to a warmer climate. Bye-bye Wisconsin, hello Arizona. After seven straight days of driving and 1,900 miles later, Al and I made it safely to our destination in Phoenix, Arizona, and managed to escape the snowstorm that targeted the upper Midwest.
Currently, there are six inches of snow covering the ground where our RV once sat. Yep, good timing on our part. Now it’s time for us to settle back into our RVing community in the desert southwest, but first, I need to share a few more photographs of nature’s beautiful landscape.
Beware of what lies beneath.
With our departure date looming, I took every possible opportunity to get out into nature to soak up the colors. I hadn’t been back to this part of the country during this time of year for probably thirty years. Oh, how I’ve missed this! The western United States has its own unique beauty that I love, but these past months back in the Midwest have felt a bit like a homecoming. I was in my comfort zone, in my element, and enjoying every moment and what a treat it was. But as we all know, life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
Wanting to capture images of sunrises and morning reflections on the lake required me to set upon my explorations early in the morning. It was usually just me, my camera, and the wildlife wandering the forest before sunrise, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to startle one another. Fortunately, these encounters were in the friendly form of deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, birds, but thankfully no black bear. Mind you, I was ever on the lookout.
When exploring, I do my best to be aware of my surroundings at all times and avoid potential obstacles that could end in injury. So there I was, traipsing through the forest, stepping over and under branches, and immersed in the sights and sounds. The air was crisp and fresh. The leaves crunched beneath each cautious footstep while I listened to Loons calling in the distance.
And then it happened … in a split second … beneath the thick carpet of leaves hid a twig. When I unknowingly stepped on it at just the right angle, it flipped up and one of the edges scraped down my shin. Ouch! Ah, the perils of walking in a leaf-covered forest, but nothing a little time wouldn’t heal.
What a treat!
Spending time with family on lakefront property these past four months was a treat … add in beautiful fall colors and it just doesn’t get much better … such a treat!
Photo challenge: Lens-Artist Challenge #120 – What a Treat! This week, Tina asks us to share photographs depicting a ‘treat’. Spending the autumn season in northern Wisconsin and seeing the changing of leaves was indeed a very special treat for me.
We hit the road last Monday, but before we got those RV wheels rolling again, there was one more place I needed to visit. Ok, maybe I didn’t need to visit, but I certainly wanted to visit Bayfield, Wisconsin. My goals were apple picking and photographing fall foliage.
It was the first week in October, and at 6:00 in the morning, it was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It was definitely cold and I was very grateful the furnace in the RV was running like a champ. When I looked outside everything was coated in a thick layer of white frost. And when I stepped outside, I could actually see my breath 🥶
Al questioned my Bayfield excursion, but I knew it would be a mostly sunny day with light winds. I had to get out and enjoy the day. The prior couple of weeks, the weather had been gloomy and depressing … typical Midwestern weather that I always hated. Thus, I was grateful for a day of sunshine and planned on taking full advantage of the nice weather.
So on a brisk fall morning, I bundled up in layers, set upon scraping the frost off the truck windshield, loaded up a picnic lunch and an extra coat, and jumped in the truck for the 90 minute drive.
Visiting Bayfield, Wisconsin
I fell in love with this captivating small American town last summer. Picturesque Bayfield, with a population of less than 500, is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It’s located at the far northern edge of Wisconsin along the southern shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The rolling hills, lush vegetation, and beautiful Lake Superior shoreline make visiting this part of northern Wisconsin well worth the out of the way drive. It’s the perfect place for me to escape everyday life and enjoy a little solitude while taking in the lovely landscape.
Blue Vista Farm
There are over a dozen orchards and fruit farms surrounding the town. My go-to orchard is the Blue Vista Farm. Considering my daughter and I had such a fun time picking blueberries here at the end of July, I was really looking forward to re-visiting and picking apples. Unfortunately, due to circumstances surrounding the 2020 pandemic, the Bayfield Apple Festival was canceled, and therefore, the owners of Blue Vista Farms decided to press their harvest of apples this season.
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)
Oh well, not all was lost. I had a wonderful time walking around the property with my camera and then purchased some freshly pressed apple cider before heading off to my next stop. (BTW … I should’ve purchased more apple cider. It was incredibly delicious and fresh.)
Gil Larsen Nature Trail
On the north end of town, across the street from the library, is the trailhead to the Iron Bridge and Nature Trail. This was a new find for me. I absolutely loved hiking this ravine and was definitely in my happy place. It’s an out and back trail that’s less than two miles roundtrip. So it’s not a long trail but certainly worthwhile and gorgeous.
The trail meanders along a creek and passes under the historic Old Iron Bridge. The trail is a variety of wooden bridges, dirt ground, wood boardwalks, steps, and rocky creek crossings. Fortunately, my visit was during the beginning of October when the creek was merely trickling with water making the creek crossings easy-peasy. And no bugs to contend with … a huge bonus. I would imagine springtime could present a different kind of experience and challenge.
Along the way are benches for visitors to sit for a moment to admire the surroundings and take in the sights and sounds. I was thrilled to photograph the woodpecker and listen to it pecking away at a tree. The thick canopy of trees and tall earthen walls blocked much of the blue skies giving a sense of mystery to my surroundings. The cool damp air added to the unique experience.
This trail felt somewhat reminiscent to me … possibly similar to a western slot canyon. Perhaps this ravine is the Midwestern version of a slot canyon. Did I already tell you how much I loved exploring this nature trail?
Once I completed walking the nature trail, I decided to walk around town a little bit and eventually walked over the Old Iron Bridge. The bridge towers pretty high above the nature trail as it crosses the ravine. Looking down, it was difficult to spot the trail that I had just hiked due to the dense tree foliage. The autumn colors were vibrant and I was awed by the overall beauty.
Should you ever find yourself visiting charming Bayfield, Wisconsin, be sure to venture beyond the main street (Rittenhouse Avenue). I was undoubtedly in my happy place as I explored. I was delighted with the architecture, the tree-lined hilly streets, hiking a magical trail, and strolling the friendly quaint town. Basically, I loved the overall atmosphere and landscape that embodies this small American town in northern Wisconsin.
Bayfield is one of those places that has captured my heart. So I guess, it’s safe to say, I plan on returning next season. 🤞 “God willing and the creek don’t rise!”
Photo Challenges – Sunday Stills. This week, Terri asks us to share images of “Your Happy Place”. Whenever I’m out and about in nature with my camera, I’m in my happy place. Not only was I in my happy place this past summer, but northern Wisconsin also served as a great “Hideaway”. During our four-month stay, Al and I pretty much kept ourselves isolated either on remote private property or out in nature. Lens Artists Photo Challenge #119 – My Hideaway – alone in nature!
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With each impending day, winter is inching closer and closer here in northern Wisconsin which is our cue to ready the RV and start our journey to the desert southwest. Although 2020 has presented all of us with a lot of interesting challenges, Al and I are fortunate to have enjoyed a great summer and fall on lakefront property with family.
But speaking of challenges, this is my first post using the new WordPress editor. Like anything new, there’s a bit of a learning curve, and it has taken me a tad longer than normal putting a post together, but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Anyway, I’ll keep this post short and sweet.
Also, we’ll be hitting the road bright and early in the morning and need to continue getting the RV ready to roll. After sitting in one location for four months, it’s always a little nerve-racking preparing the RV and ourselves for the 1,900 mile journey.
Time to roll
The weather is certainly changing and getting a little too cold for a couple of desert dwellers. Ok, we haven’t always been desert dwellers. We actually grew up in the Midwest and then lived in Colorado, but after spending the past eight years in the south during the winter months, we’ve become accustomed to more moderate temperatures. Seems we have lost the ability or rather the desire to deal with cold and freezing temperatures.
Additionally, the skies have been gloomy and overcast the past few weeks with intermittent rain. Those depressing skies are one of the reasons I’ve rarely missed living in the Midwest. One gets easily accustomed to climates offering 290 days of sunshine a year.
Funny how a few short months can change our mindset. When we first arrived in Wisconsin in early June, the overcast sky and occasional rain were a welcome change from the continuous sunshine we experience in Phoenix, but now, those grey skies are getting old, and I once again long for that western sunshine.
Ah and those temps … the temperatures around here have been way too cold for tin can RV living. Overnights have been in the 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit range and the days have struggled to get into the 50’s F … brrr. So yeah, it’s time to head south. I’m longing to feel warm again. Will I ever feel warm again? 😎
Photo Challenge – Sunday Stills. For today’s photo challenge, Terri asks us to share images of fall colors, particularly ‘ochre’. Fortunately, autumn in northern Wisconsin made this challenge easy for me!
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It was the third week in September when I was finally able to explore a couple of Duluth parks on my must-see list. Since Duluth, Minnesota is almost a two-hour drive north of my summer home base in Wisconsin, I was really hoping that the fall colors would be popping more than they were. Oh well, the parks were lovely all the same.
Even though I was slightly disappointed with the fall colors, I was very impressed with the trails. Folks around here love their outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, I was in Duluth just for the day and my time was somewhat limited, but at least I was able to take in an overview and walk the trails a little bit.
Lester Park, Duluth, MN
Located on the east side of Duluth, Lester park offers over nine miles of hiking and biking trails and sits along a creek. This is a popular park with locals since it offers picnic tables, a children’s playground, access to a great trail system, and a refreshing river complete with waterfalls. I spent almost two hours meandering trails, crossing bridges, and giving my camera a workout.
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)
The Lakewalk Trail – Congdon Park, Duluth, MN
Also on the east side of Duluth and along the Tischer Creek is Congdon Park. The park was once part of the Glensheen Estate. Owner, Chester Congdon donated the land to the city of Duluth and paid for its development on the condition that the city would stop using the creek as an open sewer. We thank you, Mr. Congdon!🦨
The park offers beautiful hiking trails, unique bridges, and lovely waterfalls begging to be explored. However, after having spent a couple of hours at Lester Park, I found myself short on time and was only able to walk about 15 minutes out and back on The Lakewalk Trail and never did make it into the heart of Congdon Park.
Although there’s a nice size parking lot near London Road and 26th Ave, I ended up parking the truck on a side street on 32nd Ave so I could view the Tischer Creek and bridges. The Lakewalk Trail is a beautifully paved trail perfect for cyclists, moms with strollers, or anyone wanting to go on a walk and take in nature. I know I’ll be back next summer for further explorations.
Our truck parked on a neighborhood street with access to the trail.
Goodbye for now!
Unfortunately, with winter inching closer, my visits to Duluth have come to an end … temporarily anyway, and I’m already formulating a list of things to do and places to see next season. Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of planning for next summer by making some Duluth RV reservations well in advance. This year, my last-minute planning didn’t work in my favor. Guess my luck had to run out sometime. 😏
Photography Challenge … Lens-Artists #117: A Photo Walk. For this week’s photo challenge, Amy asks us to share photos taken while on a walk. She encourages us to pause for a moment and observe our surroundings. Fun time!
Fall is definitely in the air and the trees are popping with more color every day. I’m loving it and have been out exploring at every opportunity. No words are necessary to describe the beauty of autumn found here in northern Wisconsin.
These photos were taken this past week when colors were said to be 30-50%. Every day, more leaves are changing and peak color around here should be the first week in October. Hopefully the weather will cooperate in which case, I’ll be one happy photographer, and if the weather doesn’t agree, I’ll still be a happy camper surrounded by such a beautiful landscape.
Fall colors in northern Wisconsin.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle
“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time.” – Katrina Mayer
“Colors are the smiles of nature.” – Leigh Hunt
“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.” – Claude Monet
Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #116 – Symmetry
I haven’t engaged in a photo challenge in a very long time and I miss participating. So for this week’s challenge, Patti asks us to focus on images that represent symmetry. The above image has that feel of symmetry.
I love my time in nature. It’s my happy place, my church, my way to recharge and reflect, but there’s still a city gal lurking in me that requires a little hustle and bustle every now and then. Okay, maybe not too much hustle and bustle, it’s more about the shopping that’s at the real core of my city longings.
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs near one of the largest shopping malls in the United States, and as a newlywed, Al and I lived near the second-largest mall in the state of Illinois. I’m used to having lots of stores at my disposal and that includes grocery stores.
Obviously, with online shopping, the need to have shopping facilities in close proximity isn’t as much of a priority in my life as it once was, but it’s still nice to have choices especially when I’m on the hunt for something specific and can’t or don’t want to wait for delivery. Truth be told, I’m a hands-on kind of shopper.
Visiting Duluth, Minnesota
Spending the summer in the Northwoods of Wisconsin with the nearest town being a thirty-minute drive away (not too far), and boasting a population of less than 3,000, does not bode well for a city gal and her shopping desires.
So, two to three times a month, I hop in the truck and head for the nearest city located ‘a little ways’ away, and in less than two hours, I’m crossing a bridge taking me from Wisconsin into Minnesota and the city of Duluth.
With a population of less than 100,000, there was a time when I’d consider Duluth merely a town, but all things are relative, and these days, she’s the closest thing to a big city for my shopping excursions. Duluth does offer all the big box stores which allow me the ability to stock up on supplies and shop for those specialty items that I just can’t find in the small town of Hayward, WI.
Shopping aside, Duluth has some of the prettiest parks offering an abundance of lush vegetation and lots of trails to walk/hike.
One of the parks that I always make the time to visit is Enger Park. This park is a gem and one of my favorites. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and include a small Japanese Garden, a large climbable tower type of structure honoring land donator, Bert Enger, and at the opposite end of the park is an overlook showcasing an amazing bird’s eye view of Canal Park and the historic Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.
Great place for a walk, picnic, or merely sit and relax.
Sidewalks and trails are a joy to stroll.
The lush gardens are beautiful.
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)
Rose Garden – Leif Erikson Park
Next on my list of must-see parks is the gorgeous Rose Garden. 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. The park sits high above the lakeshore offering a beautiful view of Lake Superior.
Beyond the rose garden are trails/walkways leading further into the park and connecting to the Waterfront Trail near the shores of Lake Superior. According to some locals I spoke with, the best time to visit the Rose Garden is in July when the roses are blooming in abundance.
No visit to Duluth would be complete without a visit to 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. In my opinion, they’ve done a great job, and if crowds are any indication, I’d say the project is a huge success.
Along with the usual tourist type of shops, there’s one store in particular that I like to visit; the Duluth Pack store. A Duluth Pack is a specialized type of backpack made of heavy canvas and leather. The packs are a traditional portage pack which are nearly square in order to fit easily in the bottom of a canoe.
We still have our son’s Duluth Pack safely tucked away in our storage unit. For me, it’s always a nostalgic walk through the store which conjures up fond memories.
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 750-foot ship glide through the canal. Be warned … those horns are loud!
Minnesota Park Point
Park Point is the largest freshwater sandbar in the USA. The narrow Park Point extends 7 miles out from Canal Park and offers miles of public beach for everyone’s enjoyment.
More parks and waterfalls
I never seem to have enough time when I visit Duluth. I’m usually visiting just for the day and running errands which limits my explorations. When I have overnighted, I was able to explore more, but not enough. I’m still left with a list of parks I’d like to see, especially one’s with waterfalls. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of waterfalls in this neck of the woods.
On my Duluth list yet to visit are Lester Park, Congdon Park, and a tour of the Glensheen Mansion and her beautiful grounds. Did you know, you can even arrange to have lunch delivered to your picnic spot on the grounds of Glensheen? How cool is that! Visit their website for more details.
Hmm, perhaps I can squeeze in one or two more excursions to Duluth before we leave for the season.
Where to stay when visiting Duluth
There’s no shortage of lodging around Duluth. Peak season usually runs from mid-June to mid-August, and thus, prices can vary … a lot.
Last September, my daughter and I enjoyed a last-minute overnight at the Inn on Lake Superior located in the heart of Canal Park. We loved the location. From the hotel, we were able to walk to the Aerial Lift Bridge, stroll the local shops, dine at a couple of different restaurants, photograph the lighthouses, and stroll along the lakeshore.
Providing we choose not to stay in Canal Park, I think next time we would consider a vacation rental on Park Point or maybe stay at the Two Harbors Lighthouse for a unique experience.
The lodging choices are endless, and there really is a little something for everyone.
RV Parks – We’ve enjoyed camping at the Burlington Bay Campground located in the town of Two Harbors. It’s an easy thirty-minute drive east of Duluth, but for those wanting to stay as close as possible to Canal Park, consider staying at the Lakehead Boat Basin. Unfortunately, it’s parking lot style RVing. The sites are close together and depending on where cars are parked, it could be a challenge to maneuver. But it’s all about location at this place.
Another popular Duluth option for RVers is Indian Point Campground. It’s located on the west end of Duluth near the zoo and along the shores of the St. Louis Bay. It’s in a wooded state park kind of setting. Sites are a mix of gravel and grass. Huge bonus; near proximity to great hiking/biking trails.
Navigation – Most cities have some form of a congested traffic area with interchanges. In Las Vegas, it’s called the Spaghetti Bowl. In Phoenix, it’s called the Stack and the Mini-Stack, and here in Duluth, it’s called the Can of Worms, and it really is a can of worms.
This Duluth interchange, I-35 and Highway 53, is one of the busiest in the region. It can be congested and confusing to navigate and more so with an RV. This series of bridges and ramps are sometimes single lane with little room to merge or change lanes. I highly recommend using the aid of a GPS during your first time or two driving through this area. Construction to try and fix this mess begins soon making it even more fun for us to navigate with RVs. Yippee! (she says with sarcasm) By the way, I didn’t find the west end of the city (I-35 and Hwy 2) any easier to navigate due to short on-ramps.
I’ve become quite smitten with this scenic city nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake. Pristine forest, rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and nice shopping make Duluth an ideal place for any getaway. This little big city continues to pull me back time and again nudging me to explore more … with camera in hand, of course!
Some weeks are more eventful than others, and this past week was one for the books. First, three out of the four of us celebrated a birthday. So of course, there had to be festivities.
And what’s a birthday celebration without plenty of tasty food and fine spirits to toast to another year?
Fine food and drinks
I’m not sure where the time has gone, but all four of us fall into that “senior” category and considered to be in the last quarter of our lives. Eek! That sounds eerie, doesn’t it? So when ya put it into that light, we might as well live it up and throw any thought of diet or restrictions out the window. Right? Bring it on!
Despite all the negative happenings centered around 2020, Al and I have been enjoying a fantastic summer staying on family property, and having a ‘real’ house at our disposal.
A real kitchen, a real shower, and a big-screen TV with cable have been huge bonuses.
I’ve been able to watch the Food Network to my heart’s desire which has led to lots of experiments in the kitchen … in both the RV and the sister’s house.
Some recipes have turned out better than others, but there hasn’t been any out and out fails.
There’s something about watching one of my favorite personalities cook (or bake) that inspires me to get in my own kitchen. Believe me, I need all the motivation I can get!
Oh, and I’ve been banned from watching HGTV after trying to talk my husband into doing a complete remodel on the RV … back to that inspiration thing. 🥴 Little does he know, there’s still Pinterest and Instagram that keep those remodeling ideas alive in my head. Shh, that’ll be our secret!
With new-found cooking inspiration, for Steve’s big day (Al’s sister’s husband), I made filet mignon cooked to perfection in a cast-iron skillet, a Ceasar salad made with homemade dressing, and a side of my version of focaccia bread. Dessert consisted of my favorite chocolate cupcakes drizzled with chocolate liqueur and whip cream. Yum!
While I made a fantastic meal and dessert for my brother-in-law’s birthday, we went out to brunch to celebrate my own birthday. Over the river creek and through the woods, we arrived at the Garmisch Inn located along the shores of Lake Namekagon. Good food, great view, wonderful company … a gal can’t ask for much more!
Interesting sights around the Garmisch property
Bloody Mary with a beer chaser
Out to brunch for my birthday – Al, me, Al’s sister, her husband
The fun didn’t end with brunch. The weather was perfect for a boat ride. So when we returned home, we hopped on the pontoon boat for a spin around the lakes and a little fresh air and sunshine. Later in the day, I made my favorite Sloppy Joe’s and Margarita’s, followed by more Margarita’s around a campfire. #LifeisGood
The third birthday occurred at the end of the week. The festivities continued as we celebrated Al’s sister’s birthday. We started off the day with a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, cinnamon toast, and Bloody Mary’s followed by a boat ride. For an early dinner, I made Chicken Marsala, Buttered Egg Noodles, Ceasar Salad (by request), and herb topped dinner rolls. Al popped the cork on some sparkling Prosecco as we toasted to another year and another great summer spent hanging out together.
The day was topped off around a toasty campfire while indulging in my homemade apple crisp and spiked hot cocoa. We are definitely into fall weather. So the hot chocolate was the perfect way to end a great day.
Catching the Big One
Birthday cheers … eating, drinking, boating, and campfires weren’t the only events of the week. Although Al and Steve get out on Teal Lake fishing regularly and do routinely catch fish, they recently enjoyed a very special and rare fishing outing.
My husband had a once in a lifetime experience earlier in the week during an evening of fishing. He caught his biggest fish ever; a 42 inch, 24 pound, Musky. Al is still beaming. According to fishing guide Steve, aka brother-in-law, this Musky was trophy size (especially for this small Hayward lake) and many an angler spends a lifetime trying to catch such a Musky. For the serious and tournament anglers, they choose to try their Musky luck on Wisconsin’s third-largest lake located a mere fifteen minutes away from the family property; Lake Chippewa Flowage.
And this was Al’s first-time Musky fishing. Beginners luck! Al usually focuses on fishing for Bass, Walleye, or Crappie… the good eating fish. He has never been one to trophy fish.
So what does one do when they catch such a fish as a Musky? You snap lots of photos, take measurements, and do so quickly. Then you gently lower this freshwater shark back into the water and massage/revive the fish.
Once he starts fighting and you know he’s fine, you let him loose. “Be safe Mr. Musky and go make more Musky’s”.
These days, you never ever keep the fish. First, Musky doesn’t taste good, and second, for those wanting the wall hanger, you provide a taxidermist with the measurements and photos and a plastic replica is made.
If an angler did show up at a taxidermist with the real fish, the angler would be thoroughly chastised for his selfish stupidity. “Not cool, dude. It’s catch and release“. BTW – there won’t be any wall hanger in this RV, and that’s okay. Al is quite content with his Musky photo screen saver.
The summer is wrapping up!
With the cool air blowing in and the leaves beginning to change color, it’s time for Al and me to think about our migration south. But not so fast! I have my camera batteries charged and waiting at the ready for fall colors. I have a few day trips planned to capture that beautiful autumn foliage … fingers crossed! 🤞
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Stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you’ve never done before can be both scary and gratifying. For many of us, this summer has been chock-full of new experiences and that is certainly the case for Al and me. Aside from dealing with a pandemic, he and I have been working on RV repairs, and let me just say, that has been mentally and physically challenging.
RV Tanks – the good, the bad, and the ugly
One of the reasons this summer has been a record-breaker for new folks embracing the RV lifestyle is the ability to vacation while social distancing. Camping looks a whole lot different this summer due to some of the restroom closures at many campgrounds. Thus the banning of tent camping in certain states is just one of several reasons there’s been an increase in people using RVs.
RVs allow the user to stay remotely at a national/state park or in the backcountry totally self-contained. No room service here! Hmm, self-contained? For those of you unfamiliar with RVs, allow me to give you a quick overview regarding RV holding tanks and why the term “self-contained” is used.
Most RVs come equipped with a kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower, and toilet. Anytime you use water, that wastewater has to go somewhere. The kitchen, bathroom, and shower wastewater drain into a “grey tank“. The toilet waste drains into a “black tank“. And depending on usage (lots of variables here), most tanks can hold up to a week’s worth of waste at which point a visit to a “dump” facility is necessary. Some RV parks have a sewer/waste connection right at the campsite while others offer a “dump station” that you’ll need to drive to.
The good thing about these RV waste holding tanks, along with an onboard fresh-water holding tank is the ability to be self-contained and vacation distanced away from other people. Therefore, this kind of travel is perfect for social distancing during a pandemic. You sleep in your own bed, use your own towels, and cook your own food. There’s very little interaction necessary with anyone else or anyone else’s germs.
The bad thing is the need to rid (dump) the RV of stinky waste. In reality, it’s not all that bad or difficult especially when you get used to doing this regularly. However, the really ugly thing is when something goes wrong with one of those holding tanks as did with our RV earlier this the summer. Pee-yew! Talk about a stinky mess that’ll stress even the most Zen of people.
The RV repair
Ok, I won’t gross you out with the smell of saturated insulation from a week’s worth of kitchen sink wastewater. Let’s just say, thank goodness a dumpster was nearby when Al and I removed the front half of the RV underbelly covering.
We were really scared and unsure of our abilities to fix the RV ourselves, but we had to figure it out because we were in a part of the country where the nearest RV dealer was a 45-minute drive away and their service department was booked at least two months out. 😕 We had to put our fears aside, pull out the tools, and dig in.
We fixed the leak a little over a month ago but left the belly exposed to make sure everything was in good working order with no potential for a future leak. We tested and retested, and once we were confident in our workmanship, it was time to cover up the exposed belly with new clean material. Easier said than done!
Imagine a large 6 foot by 12 foot area rug that needs to be installed with an exact reveal on all sides. Now imagine that rug to be somewhat ridged and installing it on the ceiling. How do you hold it in place while drilling in the screws? Sure clamps might work … to an extent. Therein lied part of our dilemma. Al struggled with the install. The plastic-like material would slip, sag, and cause the cumbersome sheet of material to repeatedly move which impacted the overall reveal on the metal framework which was totally unacceptable.
This was definitely a two-person job. Ingrid to the rescue! The photo above was taken near completion. I used my feet to smooth out the material while Al installed clamps further down. By me continuing to hold the material up, the clamps did their job and Al was able to do his. Try laying in that position for hours 🥴
Al’s brother-in-law happened to step out of the house when Al and I were in one of our many awkward positions and insisted on snapping some photos. He was duly entertained by our antics but also impressed by how well Al and I worked together.
The underbelly install took us two days to complete. And believe me, these 60 and 70 year old bodies were feeling it! We were hurting all over from all the unusual positions and movements that were required to get the job done. We feel so relieved to have this project behind us. Now if only the body aches would subside.
More RV projects!
Oh and as if my body didn’t hurt enough … I decided to tackle another project which required me to climb on top of the RV and give the old gal (referring to the RV) a good cleaning while Al worked on other honey-do items. My brother-in-law’s ladder wasn’t tall enough for me to reach beyond the name Laredo. So I needed to work from the top down scrubbing off all those wonderfully juicy Midwest bugs. Once she’s washed, she’ll need to be waxed. Are we having fun yet?
Next on our maintenance list is replacing some RV slide-out rubber seals. That Arizona sun can be brutal on our equipment and considering, we spend more than half our year in Arizona, this won’t be the first time that we’ve replaced the rubber seals and doubt it’ll be the last.
Near the end of the year, we’ll celebrate our RV’s tenth birthday. We bought her new and were such RV newbies at the time. Everything about the RV intimidated us and somehow seemed very complex. And here we are, almost ten years later, no longer newbies, considered seasoned RVers, performing all our own maintenance on the old gal. (It’s sad that ten in the RV world is considered old.)
There’s something very gratifying about doing the work ourselves and learning the ins and outs of how the RV operates. Even though we may still have doubts, we’re no longer intimidated or afraid to tackle RV repairs. The three of us (Al, me, and the RV) have grown and aged together, and although the RV will require a few more updates, Al and I feel confident in our abilities to tackle those projects … now if only our bodies would agree. Where’s that bottle of Advil?
“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
I can’t believe it’s mid-August already. Has your summer flown by as quickly as mine has? I’m feeling a little sad because I can already feel the changing of seasons is near. Here in northern Wisconsin, there’s a crispness in the air letting us know Fall is just around the corner.
I’m not sure I’m quite ready for summer to end and fall to begin … no, I know I’m not ready.
Changing my mindset!
So, as sad as it may be to bid farewell to summer, I have my happy memories; some very fond summer memories. Oh sure, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in the room … Covid-19 that nasty Coronavirus pandemic thingy that has plagued much of 2020 thus far. That has not been fun and was partly the cause of my summer starting out with me feeling very stressed, overwhelmed, and sad.
I think I was too caught up in the news and world happenings, that quite frankly, I have no control over which is a difficult situation for a control freak for someone who likes to be in control.
Somewhere along the line, I’d had enough … enough negativity … enough bad news. It was time for me to work on my mindset and not be influenced by all the noise. After all, I was sitting in a beautiful, secluded location surrounded by nature and people I love. It was time for me to control me. Ah, an epiphany!
Enlightened by canoeing!
It was a quiet and calm morning in early July when Al and I launched the canoe. Five minutes later, we were paddling through a patch of lily pads. It was so quiet and calm that other than the occasional call of a loon or croak of a frog, the only sounds we heard were the trickling of water dripping from our paddles and the movement of the canoe gliding through the floating flat leaves. It was a magical moment, a picturesque moment, but alas, I consciously left my camera behind. I wanted to live in the moment with no distractions.
As we continued canoeing, Al and I paddled in silence taking in our surroundings. Soon we exited the lily pads and rounded an island. We spotted a bald eagle sitting on a tree limb high above us. Moments later, we spotted another bald eagle on a much lower limb and smaller in stature. (Where’s my camera when I need it? 🥴) We determined that this must be a nesting pair of bald eagles as evidenced by the loud squawking sound heard nearby from a hungry eaglet. “Feed me, feed me!”
We sat in the canoe with our paddles idly resting across our legs while floating and being awed by our surroundings. My mind was quiet. I felt more at peace and relaxed than I had felt in months. I was happy! Perhaps, I would’ve been even happier had I brought my camera along to capture the exquisite morning. No, I was definitely happy despite being without a camera or even my iPhone. I was in my element and savoring every moment, sight, and sound.
Eventually the juvenile eagle learns to hunt for its own food.
Juvenile in nest
A great summer!
So, even though my summer didn’t start out the best, it has turned into a very relaxing and enjoyable time filled with plenty of fond memories. Come early October, I’ll be sad to leave our little slice of perfection on family property in northern Wisconsin behind, but I’ll be happy to hit the road bound for Arizona in search of new adventures.
This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.” ― Susan Polis Schutz
I leave you with a few more images showcasing my summer sights. To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.
Sunsets are divine
Great Blue Heron in flight
Daughter and I go blueberry picking
How was your summer? Are you happy or sad to see it come to an end?
After a very stormy night, we awoke to an eerily calm, fog-covered morning. Lake Superior’s water was as smooth as glass; a rare treat to behold. Even though the campground is located on Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, creating some protection from the open waters of this Great Lake, a mere few hours earlier, she was showing her true personality with large whitecaps, waves crashing over the shoreline, and ominous clouds swirling overhead. Lake Superior is a force that demands respect.
As we sat in the comfort of the RV enjoying the view while sipping our morning coffee, Al and I discussed the plan for the day. There was still a heavy layer of cloud cover blocking any sight of the sun rising. Thus, when I suggested we take a scenic cruise of the Apostle Islands, Al thought I wasn’t thinking clearly and proceeded to fill my coffee cup in hopes more caffeine would improve my logic.
I was serious though and thought the day would be perfect for a three-hour Apostle Island cruise on Lake Superior, not that I didn’t have my doubts considering how the visibility was currently poor and the overall feel was very gloomy.
Visiting the Apostle Islands had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved looking at maps and am intrigued about places the more I study a map. That little passion of mine has lead us to explore some beautiful locations and this part of northern Wisconsin fits that bill.
As many times as we’ve driven along Lake Superior’s Northshore, her south shore eluded us until the summer of 2019. And believe me, she did not disappoint … Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Visiting the Apostle Islands
The picturesque little town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is the gateway to this national lakeshore. The Apostle Islands consists of 22 coastal islands in Lake Superior that feature lighthouses, sea caves, hiking trails, camping, sailing, and amazing kayaking. It’s said that the area offers some of the best kayaking in the world allowing kayakers to weave in and out of dramatic archways of sea caves.
Tent camping is allowed on several of the islands, but you’ll need to hire a water taxi if you don’t have your own watercraft. There is a vehicle ferry available for visitors interested in touring or camping on Madeline Island. Voted as one of the coolest small towns in the U.S., this Apostle Island is not technically part of the national lakeshore but worthy of a mention. (Personally, I feel the ferry is a tad pricey. Vehicle price is based on length with an additional per person charge.)
During the winter when the waters along the lakeshore freeze over, hikers are able to hike to these ice caves that are adorned with windswept icicles. Although northern Wisconsin winters are no longer something I feel a need to experience, I might change my mind in order to photograph these ice caves. It looks like a really stunning sight and adventure.
(In reality, I’ll stick to viewing pretty images of that winter wonderland from the comfort of my desert located RV. I don’t think I could handle the thirty plus below wind chill conditions anymore 🥶 I’m definitely out of practice.)
Cruising the Apostle Islands
Visiting the town of Bayfield is enjoyable, but in order to really see the beauty of the National Lakeshore, you’ll need to get out on the water. Apostle Islands Cruises offers a nice variety of tours to choose from. We loved our cruise and would definitely recommend.
During our visit in the summer of 2019, we chose to take the Sea Caves and Lighthouse Tour. I was really looking forward to taking another one of their cruises this summer, specifically the Lighthouse Tour, but the cruise company ended up canceling that specific tour during the 2020 season in order to accommodate Covid-19 safety guidelines, and thus, tours and schedules were rearranged.
Kayak tour from Meyers Beach in Cornucopia, WI
Lake Superior is a sailors delight. Plenty of wind.
Our boat for the 3 hour cruise – no Gilligan
Loving the ride – top deck is windy and cold.
Smooth as glass. Lake Superior is only this calm maybe 10 times a year and we scored.
Things to be aware of when cruising on Lake Superior …
Temperature – don’t dress for land, dress for the ‘sea’. Temps can be as much as 20 degrees colder once your away from land and the weather can change drastically in mere minutes. Thus, bring a sweatshirt and/or raincoat regardless of what the weather is like on land.
Open Water – the lake can get rough. Even though this is a lake, view it as a sea.
Wind – we enjoyed sitting on the top deck, but it’s windy as all heck and the wind is always cold. All that wind makes for great sailing though.
Camera and info – it’s beautiful so plan on taking lots of photos, and the captain shares fascinating information on the islands and happenings.
The lighthouse on Raspberry Island has long been known as the Showplace of the Apostle Islands. At scheduled times, the Park Service provides a narrated historical dramatization to tourists. In addition to the lighthouse, boaters often anchor about a mile away along Raspberry Island’s shoreline at one of the more scenic sand spits in the Apostle Islands, and hikers who arrive by boat can follow the trail between the lighthouse and the sandspit to explore.
We couldn’t have picked a better day for our tour. Since the morning’s weather was gloomy, misty, and less than optimal for a three-hour scenic cruise, our boat was barely half full that afternoon. Glancing at the sky while boarding the boat, there visually appeared to be more weather rolling in, but according to my weather app radar, it was looking good. The captain concurred that we should have a lovely day for a boat ride.
And what a lovely August afternoon it was! Aside from Captain Mike’s informative narration, he interjected his excitement regarding the rare optimal lake conditions as well as personal lake life tales and experiences. He hails from a generational seafaring family and his passion and love for Lake Superior and the Bayfield Pennisula was obvious.
He and his crew appeared to be enjoying their time out on the lake every bit as much as the passengers considering we were all experiencing a rare treat … a very calm Lake Superior.
According to Captain Mike, the lake is rarely that calm … happens maybe ten or twelve times a year… a year … and we were fortunate to have experienced it. The afternoon weather was gorgeous combined with the calmness of the lake made for a magical day. I don’t think we could repeat those conditions even if we tried. Luck was definitely on our side that day. A bucket list memory for the books! ⛵😎❤
Where to stay!
The charming town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, offers a unique variety of accommodations; small hotels, historical Bed and Breakfasts, and vacation rentals. The nearby towns of Washburn and Ashland offer additional lodging options.
RVing – There’s a variety of places to camp throughout the Bayfield Peninsula. We stayed in Ashland at the Kreher Campground which is a first-come-first-serve campground and is big rig friendly. Our second choice would have been at the town campground in Herbster purely for the sunsets. The Herbster Campground is also a great spot to stay if your goal is kayaking the sea caves which are accessed via Meyers Beach in Cornucopia. FYI – kayaking tours start in Cornucopia.
We also checked out the county campground in Washburn, and although workable, we thought the sites were pretty close together and the abundance of trees with low branches could be problematic. This CG is better suited for travel trailers, Class C’s, and tents, although we did see a couple of 5th wheels.
The Legendary Waters Casino in Red Cliff is an option for larger RVs, but expect close neighbors and unlevel sites, but the beautiful views might make up for the cons. The national forest campgrounds that we drove through we’d consider best suited for tents, vans, or popup trailers.
Obviously, we weren’t able to explore all the camping facilities in the area. So, for additional RVing options and more detailed information, please check with your favorite app. Our favorite apps are Allstays and Campendium. Happy trails!
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain
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