Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes | My First YouTube Video

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes | My First YouTube Video

What do blueberries and video making have in common? Well, dear friends, please read on.

The month of September was a little overwhelming for me, but mostly in a good way. The month started off great with a small family reunion in northern Wisconsin which included a visit from our daughter along with Al’s other sister and her husband. For those new here, Al and I spent a fantastic summer camped at his youngest sister’s lakefront property near Hayward, Wisconsin. Special memories were created this past summer along with that week-long visit from additional family members.

The month ended with us moving our two storage units in southern Colorado (after purging) to Phoenix, Arizona. To say that move was exhausting and stressful might be an understatement. I’ll save that tale for another post. Let’s talk about the fun stuff first, and that includes that visit from our daughter.

foggy morning at Enger Park in Duluth Minnesota
Enger Park, Duluth MN

A mother/daughter photo-op getaway!

Not one to pass up a chance for a mother/daughter getaway, shortly after her arrival in Wisconsin, I quickly arranged a 48-hour trip for just my daughter, Ashton, and myself. The other family members didn’t mind since they themselves were enthralled in catching up with one another.

Our first stop was to Lake Superior’s north shore near Duluth, Minnesota. My daughter had never been to this part of the country before and I was eager to share a little slice from my past with her.

She fell in love with the landscape as I knew she would. Gosh, what’s not to love? The spectacular scenery includes seven state parks, several waterfalls, small shoreline towns with restaurants and unique shops, and Lake Superior lighthouses.

Since my daughter shares my interest in photography, this trip was geared with photo-ops in mind. And let me tell you, this part of the U.S. will not disappoint a shutterbug.

After exploring the shoreline from Duluth to the Split Rock Lighthouse, we returned to Duluth where I had snagged us a room at The Inn on Lake Superior. Canal Park is considered the entertainment district of Duluth and we really enjoyed strolling the area and taking more photographs.

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

The following day, we drove to Lake Superior’s south shore in northern Wisconsin; a place I only discovered this past summer. I have fallen in love with this part of Wisconsin and found myself returning to Bayfield multiple times during our summer northern Wisconsin stay. If you enjoy kayaking then the little town of Cornucopia and Meyers Beach are not to be missed. The ‘sea caves’ along Lake Superiors coastline provide visitors with an extraordinary kayaking experience.

Lake Superior beach in Cornucopia, Wisconsin
Beach in Cornucopia, WI

Let’s go blueberry picking!

Not only is the Bayfield Peninsula known as the Gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, but it’s also known for the abundance of fruit farms dotting the landscape. Since Ashton had never visited a ‘pick your own‘ type of farm before, I knew I had to share this experience with her. Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t the greatest in early September. The blueberries were at the tail-end of their season and the apples weren’t quite ready for picking.

However, there were still some bushes with blueberries here and there for her to pick and eat right off the bush so she could enjoy the overall experience, and the farm still had prepicked blueberries for us to purchase. Therefore, we did not return home empty-handed.

An apple orchard in northern Wisconsin Blue Vista Farm
Apple Orchard

How to make the best blueberry pancakesMy sister-in-law and I had visited the Blue Vista Farm a few weeks earlier (mid-August) when the bushes were loaded with berries and picked nearly 5 pounds of blueberries.

Once those berries were washed and divided, I went into baking mode and stocked my sister-in-law’s freezer with treats centered around blueberries. I don’t think any of the family members complained about eating blueberry pancakes, blueberry coffee cake, blueberry scones or muffins. Nope, not at all!

Everyone loves my pancakes and they’re always a hit. So much so, that my adult children still frequently request them. Therefore, blueberry pancakes became a regular part of the weekly menu for our guest’s during their Northwoods visit.

 

Just in case you’re interested here’s the recipe, and do me a favor, throw that box mix away. I promise you won’t need it after you try these ūü§ó

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes that are super easy to make!

Easy Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Dry Ingredients
blueberry pancakes topped with banana slices1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk (or 1 cup water plus 1 Tablespoon brewed coffee)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons melted butter (unsalted)

1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions
Melt the butter and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a 2 cup measuring cup, whisk together the wet ingredients and add the melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients are fully combined. Fold in blueberries.

Heat a greased griddle or frying pan with either butter or non-stick cooking spray. Ladle batter onto the grill. Flip once the edges are browned. Once fully cooked through, serve pancakes topped with butter, maple syrup, or bananas.

Recipe by Ingrid @LiveLaughRV.com

Recipe Variation

I do change up the recipe from time to time depending on what fruit is in season or add some chopped walnuts to the batter and top them off with banana slices¬† It’s not uncommon for us not to have real milk in our RV fridge and I’ll use almond milk instead. Lately, we haven’t even had almond milk in the RV. So, what to do? These days, instead of milk, I use 1 cup of water with 1 Tablespoon of brewed coffee added and they turn out quite tasty. Seriously, give it a try. My daughter thinks they taste better with the water/coffee mixture than they do made with milk.

My first YouTube video

And if you’d like to see me make these easy fluffy blueberry pancakes, after I go blueberry picking (Yes, I take you blueberry picking), check out the video … my first ever! ūüė≤ Oh yeah, there’s some faux pas, as in plural, but I figured, if I waited to make the perfect video, it’d never happen. So, here I am with plenty of mistakes, ums, and anyways included. I’ve been told, it gets easier to be on camera the more you do. We’ll see! Let me know what you think. (I have to admit, I’m doing a little cringe over here.)

BTW – The whole video was filmed on my iPhone 8+ and editing was also done on my iPhone in iMovie. As near as I can tell (or I’m not swift enough to figure out), I’m unable to add text to frames in iMovie on my phone. I’ll be visiting the Apple Store next week with a list of questions. I’m also not happy with the sound, but before I decide to spend any money on gear, I want to make sure I enjoy this video making.

Oh, and there’s more blueberry recipes to be had. Are you interested?

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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‚Äôs 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?ūüėŹ

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. ūü§Ē

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. ūü§£ 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¬įF¬†to¬†78¬įF and can dip below -15¬įF¬†or above¬†88¬įF. 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!

Since my posts are usually a month or two behind real-time, follow me on Instagram for the latest up to date happenings @ livelaughrv

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Our Boomerang Trip – Part I

I can’t believe it’s September already.¬† It seems like just yesterday¬†when I was in the planning stages¬†for our Midwestern excursion.¬†¬†And here we are, it’s the middle of¬†September and I’m back in Colorado¬†where we started¬†six weeks ago.¬† It was pretty much an out and back trip….¬† Kind of like¬†mimicking a boomerang one might say.

Let’s do a¬†quick recap of the first part of our trip…..¬† We pulled out of Cherry Creek State Park (Denver) at the end of July and after a quick overnight in¬†a Cabela’s parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, (forgot to add this stop on the above map – oops) we arrived at Starved Rock State Park.¬†¬†We took in¬†a couple of days exploring this interesting Illinois State Park before¬†driving up to the Paul Wolff Endangered CranesCampground.¬† I loved the location of this county park.¬† It¬†was an easy 20 minute drive to my dad’s place which allowed¬†us to visit¬†with him¬†often, and if we had¬†wanted to take¬†the train into Chicago, the train station¬†was only 5 minutes away.

From our Elgin location,¬†we moved¬†over¬†to Rockton, Illinois, where we stayed at Al’s sister’s place for a wonderful ten-day visit.¬† After Rockton, our next¬†destination was¬†Baraboo, Wisconsin.¬† I was thrilled with the hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park, but the highlight of this stop was my visit to the International Crane Foundation.

Green Bay PackersAfter communing with cranes it was time to commune with friends in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where I was challenged to wear a Packers Jersey.

After my momentary lapse, we moved over to Algoma, Wisconsin, along the shores of Lake Michigan.¬† This is where I discovered Door County and its magnetic personality.¬† Quite frankly, I fell in love with the area and could’ve stayed a month.¬† I can imagine the fall colors around¬†here to be¬†stunning and worth sticking around for.

Algoma, WI
Camped in Algoma, WI. The marina on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. Loved camping on this peninsula with water on 3 sides. Sunrise Cove Marina and Campground was basically a gravel lot with electric hook-up and thus merely ok, but the location was great; waterfront & walking distance to town.

As much as we¬†considered hanging around Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a little leaf peeping, we¬†decided to turn¬†the RV around and head back west to assist our daughter with a project.

Foggy morning
Early morning fog as we drive through Wisconsin

So with Plan B in mind…. It was time to say good-bye to the Midwest and mosey in a westerly direction.¬†¬†The¬†morning¬†of August 27th started off foggy¬†as we began¬†our¬†journey¬†west.¬† We put in an eight-hour travel day (360 miles – 574 km) that first day, crossing the entire state of Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.

Wisconsin
We enjoyed driving some back country roads but sure hoped this bridge was high enough. No height was specified and an RV crew cut was NOT part of our plans. Fortunately, we did see a tall truck pass under first.

We stopped frequently and even enjoyed a road side picnic near Necedah, Wisconsin.Ship Rock Wisconsin

By dinner time that first day, we checked into a campsite at Myre-Big Island State Park, near Albert Lea, Minnesota.  This is a heavily wooded state park and even though they market the White Fox Campground loop as the prairie loop, it is in no way situated in a prairie.

Albert Lea Minnesota
Myre-Big Island State Park. We’re camped in site 55 White Fox CG loop.
Albert Lea Lake
After an eight-hour day in the truck, it felt good to stretch the legs and check out the trails
Albert Lea Lake
Albert Lea Lake – it was disappointing that there were no trails with access to the water’s edge.

We originally intended to relax and spend two nights at this state park, but it was raining when we set up.  It continued to rain all night and was expected to not let up for another day.  So we hit the road early the next morning, wearing rain gear as we broke camp, and drove through the rest of Minnesota in a consistent and steady stream of rain.Minnesota

A¬†few miles into South Dakota, the rain¬†stopped.¬† We¬†encountered sunny skies with a hint of haze caused by the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.¬† Just in time for a late lunch, we set up camp in the Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Cabela's
We’re parked in the distance at the Cabela’s in Mitchell, South Dakota

Cabela’s had a HUGE area for RV’s.¬† The semi-trucks seemed to be parked off in another lot and there was even a separate area for equestrians complete with horse corrals.¬† This turned out to be a great place to overnight, complete with pond.

Cabela's
The smoke from the wildfires gave the sky an interesting hue at sunrise.
Cabela's
Although overnighting at a Cabela’s is free – we always manage to find something to buy.

Next stop;¬†South Dakota’s¬†Badlands and Black HillsBadlands
The Next Exit 2015: The Most Complete Interstate Hwy Guide
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Boundary Waters

This trip back to the midwest conjures up memories…..some very fond memories.¬† Al and I have always enjoyed the outdoors.¬† We even had an outdoor wedding, complete with horse and carriage, but I’ll¬†save that story for another post.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Al as he portages canoe around rapids

During the early years of our relationship Al worked as a Commerical Airline Pilot and I a Flight Attendant (yes, we met at work, go figure).  More than half our time was spent in airplanes, hotels, eating in restaurants, and living by the clock.  So when it came time to recreate, we wanted nothing to do with planes, hotels, restaurants or clocks.  Thus, we discovered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  The BWCA is located in northeastern Minnesota located within the Superior National Forest and encompasses more than 1,000,000 acres.  This wilderness area also expands into Canada and is known as Quetico Provincial Park.

one of our campsites

What is unique about the BWCA¬†is it’s natural, untouched beauty.¬† The “wilderness act” restricts logging, mining, and most motorized access.¬† No motorized access means no boat motors, no roads for vehicles, and no float planes allowed.¬† Therefore access to this pristine¬†land is restricted to hiking and canoeing.¬† There¬†are over 1200 miles of canoe routes and 2000+ designated remote campsites.¬† Camping is restricted to these campsites and are clearly recognizable by the Forest Service fire rings.¬† Maps are a must.¬†¬†Don’t count on a GPS. Maps will help find portages, trails,¬†and campsites.

daughter sits on floor in front of me, then son, dog between son and Al – family affair

Every summer Al and I looked forward to our two weeks vacation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and that did not change once we had children.  The kids just went along and had a great time.  Some years we tented it and other years we would splurge and rent a cabin at one of many resorts available, especially when the children were young.  Even on those years we rented a cabin, we would still do a one or two night tent excursion into the wilderness.

Al and 4 year old son head out on a three day
camping and fishing trip into the wilderness.
son proud of his catch

After many visits at varying times of the year, we discovered the end of July, beginning of August was most enjoyable for us.¬† The mosquitos were the worst in¬†June.¬† However, in July¬†we did have to deal with those pesky biting deer flies….still preferable¬†to the mosquitos.¬† September can be beautiful and the fishing good, but be ready for any kind of weather, after all this is northern Minnesota.

The end of July is also blueberry season.¬† Yummmm……blueberry pancakes become a regular staple.¬† Our first Brittany Spaniel, Dallas, always accompanied us on our blueberry picking mission with bells on her collar.¬† Ya see, black bears love blueberries, but they don’t like dogs.¬† Dallas¬†camped, hiked and canoed¬†everywhere with us.¬† We put bells on her collar so Al and I could keep track of her while she ran around the dense woods.¬† The second purpose; so she wouldn’t accidentally startle a bear or other wildlife.

daughter – last month she graduated
from CSU – my how time flies!

The two main communities with visitor services near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area are Ely and Grand Marais, Minnesota.¬† We always went to Grand Marais and up the Gunflint Trail.¬† FYI….the drive from Duluth, Minnesota to Grand Marais, Minnesota should be savored.¬† The scenery¬†along Lake Superior is beautiful ….. lighthouses, waterfalls, cliffs and rock.¬† Allow plenty of time for stops along the way.¬† We so loved the Gunflint Trail, we returned year after year even though we had intentions of exploring the Ely area.¬† Somehow there was never enough time for both.

Ah, yes what fond memories.¬† As Al and I swap stories, a family member asks, “What’s so special about the BWCA?”¬† Well, there’s lot’s of things that make BWCA¬†special, but first; the BWCA¬†is a place visitors can canoe, portage, and camp in the spirit of the French voyageurs of 200 years ago.¬† It’s quiet, remote, and wild.¬† The lush, dense forest and crisp, clean waters are like no other place I’ve visited.¬† I’ll keep looking though ūüôā¬† Oh, how that bucket list grows!