Summer’s Last Hurrah

Summer’s Last Hurrah

This is Labor Day weekend here in the United States which usually marks the end of the summer camping season for many. Fortunately for us, we get to continue RVing and head south for the winter. I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to follow my feathered friends and migrate with the seasons, but I’m not ready to move on … just yet.

Prior to this summer, it had been years since I’d spent any time in northern Wisconsin let alone stay this far north into September. And this past week has served as a reminder as to why the camping season comes to an end after Labor Day Weekend in the north woods. It has been downright cold at night. I’m talking in the 45 degree Fahrenheit range with daytime temps struggling to hit 70 degrees F. Plus, the leaves are already showing signs that fall is just around the corner as they tease us with hints of gold and red. And it’s only the first few days in September! That said, there is a raw beauty to the landscape and a clean crispness to the air that I’m absolutely loving. Bring on the sweatshirts!

Kreher Park Campground in Ashland Wisconsin
Kreher Park Campground, Ashland, WI

We really enjoyed this town!

So, with summer weather clearly in the rearview mirror, my thoughts drift back to some great finds that Al and I discovered this season … one of which was Ashland, Wisconsin.

Located in northern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay lies an interesting little town called Ashland. It was once a center for lumbering, mining, and Great Lakes shipping but today Ashland is a popular destination for tourists and anglers and is known as “The Historic Mural Capital in Wisconsin”.

This community of around 8,000 has eloquently preserved its history by painting murals on many of the downtown buildings creating a fascinating walkable history book. In fact, it may have more murals per capita than any other place in the Midwest.  There may be large cities with more murals over a wider area, but Ashland packs a concentrated punch of murals in the town’s center.

The murals in this south shore town are special to locals because they portray folks who once lived in this small community.  Some of these people had an influential role in the town while others were merely everyday people who contributed to everyday life. You could easily take in most of the murals on foot in about an hour depending on how long you spend at each mural and how quickly you walk.

Images of Ashland … to enlarge photos, click on any image

10 Things to do around Ashland

  • Go on a Mural walk downtown
  • Bike or hike the trails
  • Fish
  • Visit a waterfall
  • Cruise the Apostle Islands
  • Kayak
  • Shop the historic town
  • Take a scenic drive
  • Birding
  • Visit an orchard and pick your own

Wonderful Bike Trail

We really enjoyed walking around the downtown area and admiring the murals, but we also discovered the town’s amazing bike trail. We don’t have bikes anymore so we stuck to hiking portions of the trail system. Sigh … this was one time I truly missed my bicycle. This bike trail is perfect for my kind of biking; paved and gentle hills.

The bike trail even passed right by our awesome Lake Superior lakefront campsite.

Campgrounds

Al and I have been spending the summer on private property at his sister’s lakefront home near Hayward, Wisconsin. Not wanting to overstay our welcome, our plan all along was to do some out and back trips over the course of our three-month summer stay. We enjoyed a great trip down memory lane when we visited the north shore in Minnesota in July and we were hoping for an equally fun trip.

I had spent hours mapping out our journey into Michigan’s Upper Pennisula. Blog posts and campground reviews were read. Stops, sites, things to see and do were clearly noted in my notebook. We bid farewell to sister and brother-in-law with the intent of returning in 7-10 days.

Our first stop was in Ashland; only an hour and a half drive away from the family. This would be merely an overnight …. or so we thought. The drive to Ashland was scenic, well as scenic as the same lush forest on a two-lane road gets. Once we arrived in town, we quickly found and drove through the county park campground where I had planned on staying. Kreher Park Campground is a first-come, first-serve kind of place and we missed snagging the last site by mere minutes.

The other option was the small county park at the opposite end of town also first-come, first-serve. After talking to the camp host at Kreher Park, we didn’t have high hopes for finding an open spot in town that night but we decided to drive through Prentice Park Campground just to make sure there weren’t any openings.

Great campsite at Prentice Park Campground

Luck was on our side and we snagged the one and only open site which was also one of the best. Prentice Park only has a total of seven sites. One for the camp host and a couple of others were taken by monthly RVer’s leaving only four sites that rotate. So yeah, we sure got lucky.

The next morning, we returned to Kreher Park CG just as an RV was pulling out of a lakefront site. Score! Someone was doing a happy dance. Can you guess who? 😁 The previous folks also left behind a stake of firewood … more happy dancing.💃

That evening as the sunset over Lake Superior, Al and I enjoyed drinks while a lovely campfire kept us warm. Ah, life is good! That’s when Al asked, “Where are we going tomorrow?” “What do you mean?”, I quizzically responded. “Well, don’t you have a whole trip planned out for us to explore the U.P.?” “Oh yeah, that. How about we just stay here? And on that note, the plans were quickly changed!

The view from my campsite at Kreher Park

So all those hours of trip planning were canceled in mere minutes. Ah, no regrets on my part. Camping along the shores of Lake Superior was a goal of mine since we pulled out of Phoenix at the end of May. All the notes are saved and archived for next summers excursion. Yeah, I have a feeling we’ll be back next year.

A note about Kreher Park Campground: it is a first-come, first-serve CG with E/W only and an onsite sloped dump station. Most sites are unlevel, mixed sizes, and gravel/grassy. There are local construction workers renting sites on a monthly basis which makes this small campground even more difficult to find an open site. Have a backup plan and Walmart is not it (no overnighting at the Walmart). There is boondocking at a boat landing near the power plant for $20 a night but the air smells from the plant. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of camping options around here for RVs of a larger size. Small travel trailers and tents rule in the north woods.

The Best Drinking Water

One of the many reasons I wanted to camp near Lake Superior was for the drinking water. I grew up near Chicago and most municipalities in Chicagoland get their drinking water from Lake Michigan. Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are cold and deep and the water is clear and delicious.

These days, we find ourselves spending most of our time in Arizona and the local drinking water for most municipalities comes from the Colorado River … rich in minerals; minerals that cause calcification in our RV plumbing AND in our bodies. Intense filtering is necessary.

The moment we were set up at the Prentice Park Campground, Al opened our freshwater holding tank to let it drain (it was only a quarter full anyway). We then filled up with the excellent water at our campsite. Later, we were told the water came from an Artesian Well. This was the clearest and tastiest water that we’ve seen come out of a spiggot in years. It’s hysterical how Al and I are treating that fresh water in our tank as a precious commodity. “NO, you can’t use it to flush the toilet”, we both scream! 🤣

Artesian Water – We filled every empty container we had.

Turns out, there’s actually an Artesian Water fill-up station (not for RVs – you’ll need a campsite) at Prentice Park as well as at the Maslowski Beach along Highway 61. We filled up any empty or half-empty water containers we had in the RV. Seriously, this is the best water I’ve tasted in years and I’m so glad our freshwater tank is filled with this stuff.

A Cruise on Lake Superior

Our five days in the area were not only very relaxing but provided some fabulous sightseeing. High on my bucket list was a visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. My previous visits to Bayfield (gateway to the Apostle Islands) were either filled with other adventures or the weather was somewhat inclement. Once again, we lucked out and enjoyed a perfect day for a cruise around the Apostle Islands. But I’ll share that in another post!

Bad weather was rolling in – time to lift the jacks

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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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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.

For the latest and most up to date info on our travels, be sure and follow me on Instagram @ 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
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Death’s Door

Every now and then hubby and I come across a place that’s so picturesque, it calms the body and clears the mind.  Perhaps for some, it even stirs the soul.  A place that’s home to quaint villages and distinct agriculture.  A place that could easily become an addiction and for many it has.  Door County, Wisconsin has a way of luring folks in causing them to return time and again.Door County, Wisconsin

The land may be one addiction but the water is another.   Most of Door County’s shoreline is surrounded by shallow, rocky ledges.  Delightful islands both large and small add to the splendid scenery.Door County, Wisconsin

Whether it’s sailing, power boating, or paddling; boating of any kind is a beloved sport around here.

Algoma, Wisconsin
home for the week was in a marina in the town of Algoma surrounded by water – RV center rear

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, lighthouses assisted sailors in navigating the lake and bay waters of the Door Peninsula and surrounding islands.  Many of the lighthouses are still operational to this day and are open to the public.  There are eleven historic Door County Lighthouses.  I was able to visit the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse which I found charming and interesting.  My mother was a huge fan of lighthouses, and I always think of her when photographing one of these delightful landmarks.

Lake Michigan Lighthouses
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse built in 1868 located in Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin

So where did the name “Door” County come from?Door County

In a dangerous and unpredictable confluence of currents is Death’s Door.  Historians have long blamed these waters for more shipwrecks than any other body of fresh water in the world.  It’s here, where the waters of Green Bay meet the waters of Lake Michigan with sudden, unpredictable squalls, erratic wave patterns, and shallow shoals resulting in many a fine ship being dragged to a watery grave.Door County, Wisconsin

The Door Peninsula got its name from the dangerous straits that pass between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island.  213 identified wrecked vessels in the waters of Door County have been listed.   The Door County Maritime Museum in the town of Sturgeon Bay, is a must see for any nautical buff.scenic sights in WisconsinDoor County, WI

Door County agriculture
Sharing the road

Since our RV was parked in the little town of Algoma, south of Sturgeon Bay, we were able to not only explore Door County’s scenic towns and shoreline, we ventured inland Door County Cherriesnavigating some off the beaten path roads.

It was here we discovered the agricultural side of Door County.  We passed vineyards, cheery orchards, berry orchards, and apple orchards.  During our end of August visit, cherry and berry seasons were pretty much over, but apple season was just around the corner.  There’s something so appealing about a crisp juicy apple that I personally picked from a

apples
In another month, these beauties will be ripe for the picking

tree, or enjoying a cup of fresh milled cider directly from the orchard’s store that captivates my attention.  The thought evokes cool days and stunning fall colors. The inland peninsula is dotted with farm stands, wineries, and small shops selling local goods; homemade pies, jams, fudge, and local honey, just to name a few.

The fall colors of Door County easily rival those found in the northeast, and although our original plans were to stay in this part of the country to enjoy the fall festivities, we ended up changing directions.  More on that to come.Door County Orchards

Door County fishing
The fishing gang

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fine people that call Wisconsin home.  No matter where we went, we felt welcomed and valued as a visitor.

And then there’s Al’s buddies… the guys had a great time fishing out on Lake Michigan and although the fish stories were plenty, the guys did all agree they had hoped for a little more action (as in more fish).

Door County

And while the guys were out fishing, I was off connecting with a fellow blogger.  When I made mention in one of my blog posts several months ago that I’d be visiting Wisconsin, I received an email from Kathlin of The Badger and the Whooping Crane inviting me out to lunch should I be near her neck of the woods.

Well, she didn’t have to twist my arm.  Thanks Kathlin.  It was a joy and a pleasure spending the day with you.  Next time, I’ll definitely hang around a little longer for those great fall colors.Barns of Door County

Our time in the Midwest has come to an end and although we had a fabulous time, we’re ready to have the wheels on the RV rolling again.Maritime Museum

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir

Door County 330

Door County Tales:: Shipwrecks, Cherries and Goats on the Roof (American Chronicles)
Levin Dual USB Port 5000mAh Portable Solar Panel Charger for iPhones, Windows and Android Phones

A Momentary Lapse

We truly enjoyed our visit to Devil’s Lake, but had commitments necessitating we pull up jacks and start rolling north toward Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Baraboo Wisconsin
Baraboo, WI Farmer’s Market

Between the hiking, the crane foundation, and the Baraboo farmer’s market, we had a wonderful stay at Devil’s Lake State Park and wouldn’t mind returning some day.

It is however Wisconsin’s busiest state park and even though I booked our reservation five months in advance, I was still unable to secure a site over a weekend.  During the week, there did appear to be plenty of open sites available for drop-ins.  (We stayed here during the middle of August)

friendship
driveway camping at a friend’s home

Al’s best friend from college and best man in our wedding was eager for our arrival.  We fit comfortably in Roger’s driveway and set up house within minutes.  Even though we only stayed in Marshfield the weekend, we managed to get in plenty of catching up.  That Sunday was preseason football and the Green Bay Packers were playing.  This is serious Packer Land and Cheese Land.

cheese head
Oh no, this Bronco’s fan has been turned into a ‘cheese head’

Roger planned a tailgate party at his house which included a bunch of people we hadn’t seen in years.  Even though the Packers lost, it was a super fun day.  We loved visiting with everyone and the weekend flew by.  I may have worn Packer green that day and been turned into a cheese head, but I assure you, it was a momentary lapse and I’m back to wearing the orange and blue of the Denver Bronco’s.

Lambeau FieldBut there was more impending fun with the guys to be had …. for hubby;  a fishing trip on Lake Michigan.

The day after the football game, we packed up the RV and headed to Algoma, Wisconsin.  But first, a stop at Cabela’s to empty the holding tanks was necessary and a cruise by Lambeau Field (home of the Packers) was in order, for posterity.  After all, we were Green Bay Packer fans for a day.

PepeLePewPulling into the Green Bay Cabela’s was easy.  Quite a few Cabela stores offer a dump station free of charge. Not this one. (for all you non-RVer’s, this talk is about the not so fun and stinky part of RVing. Our holding tanks contain our waste water, including potty waste and when we’re not staying in an RV Park with full hook-ups we need to find a place to clean out our tanks before they fill up).

There was a $5.00 charge to access the dump station or free if we bought something.  Hmm!  We stepped inside the store and quickly purchased some chocolate walnut fudge.  We took our receipt to the customer service counter and were given a number that would unlock the dump cover.  Let’s see – they gave us fudge and we gave them shit …. literally!  Sounds like we got the better end of the deal 🙂Wisconsin

With clean tanks and plenty of fresh water on board, we continued the drive from Green Bay to the little town of Algoma, Wisconsin.  The rest of the fishing gang wouldn’t be showing up until late the next day allowing Al and I to have a day to explore Door County.

Door County
Door County, Wisconsin

Door County is a popular tourist destination especially for residents of Wisconsin and Illinois, boasting 300 miles of scenic shoreline, 5 state parks, and 19 charming communities.

With our RV comfortably parked in Algoma, we set off on a scenic drive that had us skirting up County Road B, along the waters of Green Bay.  It didn’t take long for Al and I to realize why this is such a popular place for vacation homes.  Homes of varying architectural styles are nestled in the woods along the shores of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.  Most homes enjoy their own private dock for easy watercraft access.  As we approached the quaint town of Egg Harbor, we were greeted by plenty of old fashion charm.  This would be merely the first of several such communities we explored that day.

Door County, Wisconsin
quaint shops offering locally grown and handcrafted products.

We saw plenty of unique shops, eateries, brew pubs, wineries, art gallery’s, and marina’s, but what stuck out to me the most were the beautiful gardens.Door CountyEach business seemed to take the extra effort in the gardening arena, adding more character and ambiance to an already lovely place.

Door County
How could I resist stopping here? That sidewalk going through all those flowers was irresistible.

Considering this is Wisconsin, I shouldn’t have been surprised with all the lush and beautiful vegetation.  The rich, black soil makes it easy to grow just about anything.  All those flowers did continually captivate my attention to the point hubby asked jokingly, “How many more Black Eyed Susan’s do you have to look at?”

And then there’s the orchards…. apples, cherries, and berries oh my!   Up next.

Green Bay
An overcast day along the shores of Green Bay

Door County Outdoors: A Guide to the Best Hiking, Biking, Paddling, Beaches, and Natural Places
Door County Coffee Single Serve Cups for Keurig Brewers (Almond Toffee, 12 Count)

The Accidental Craniac

endangered cranesThe past two winters, we’ve spent the month of January in Rockport, Texas.  The impetus of the original trip (2 years ago) was initiated by one of Al’s buddies which focused on Sportsman activities…. you know; manly men, doing manly things.

I didn’t mind, considering the majority of the time we’re traveling to places I want to go.

I figured it would be the perfect opportunity for a little alone time and for me to focus on a project stewing in my head.  The RV Park was chosen by the buddy and my initial opinion on the place was less than favorable, but the beauty of living in a home on wheels is everything’s temporary.

whooping cranes
Endangered Whooping Cranes

So while the guys were off doing their manly stuff, I started exploring the area.  The RV Park was located in a rural residential area just down the road from Goose Island State Park.  Several times a day, I’d either ride my bike or walk around the neighborhood.  This is when I discovered a large white bird.endangered whooping crane

The loud whooping call of the bird was hard to ignore and I became quite intrigued.  I snapped some photos and the following day I ventured out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I was off to an early start and may even have been one of the first few visitors to the refuge that morning.

endangered whooping crane
Whooping Crane aka whooper

In the distance I noticed those big white birds again… click, click, click.  Love that burst mode on the camera.  A couple of hours later the refuge was a little busier. I was asked for the second time that morning if I’d seen any “whoopers”.  Not knowing what they were talking about, I said, “No.”

Before leaving the refuge, I stopped in at the visitor center.  The volunteers were a delight.  All fellow RVer’s workamping at the refuge.  They were quick and enthusiastic to share information.  Again the word whooper was mentioned.   I finally asked,  “I’m sorry, but what’s a whooper?”  Ten minutes later, I’m more intrigued with these unique birds than ever before, and educated on the blight of the endangered whooping crane.  Come to find out, folks from around the country come to this area of Texas to see the last remaining WILD whooping cranes and here I was stumbling upon them without effort.

Siberian Crane
Siberian Crane – Russia and China. Most endangered breed.

I spent the rest of the month observing the wild whooping cranes along with some sandhill cranes.  Oh, there were lots of other bird discoveries I enjoyed as well during that trip, but by passion lied with the cranes.

red-crowned crane
Red-crowned crane – Asia

I’ve never considered myself a birder, but there’s just something I’m drawn to when it comes to cranes.  During one of my photography outings in Texas, I befriended a few fellow photographers and that’s when I first heard the word Craniac used.  Craniac = fictitious name used to describe anyone with a passion for cranes.   Seems I may have accidentally become a Craniac myself.

You can imagine my exuberance when I heard there was an International Crane Foundation.   Once again my good friend, Mona Liza, was able to enlighten me, having already visited.  Hubby and I were formulating a summer family visit to the Midwest and thus a visit to the International Crane Foundation could easily fit into our plans.  It became a MUST on MY itinerary.

International Crane Foundationa
Blue Crane – South Africa
ICF
International Crane Foundation

So here I am.  I arrived at the International Crane Foundation located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, shortly after 9:00 in the morning with plans to attend the 10:00 guided tour.   Until it was time for the tour, I strolled around grounds.  I’ll admit, I was initially disappointed and saddened to see most of the cranes behind fences.

Brolga Crane
Brolga Crane – Australia

I later learned, the fencing is more about keeping predators OUT, plus it’s all about the greater good of the survival of all cranesICF.

Our tour guide, Cully, was a wealth of information on the birds and the facility.  He was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer any and all questions.

After my almost 2 hour guided tour with Cully, I was enlightened and educated beyond my expectations.  There’s even cooperative efforts with the North Koreans to protect habitat for cranes.

Wattled Crane
Wattled Crane
African cranes
Wattled Crane – Africa
International Crane Foundation
Brolga Crane – Australia

It’s amazing what this foundation is doing around the world.  Not only is the effort to save cranes having a positive impact on their overall repopulation, the efforts are also improving the lives of people.  It’s a win win for all involved.

The International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, is the only place in the world where all fifteen crane species can be seen.

The respect and care for the birds is obvious.  Breeding couples and new chicks are kept away from the public eye and any human contact is kept to a minimum in an effort to keep these cranes as wild as possible.

Black Crowned Crane
Black Crowned Crane – Africa
International Crane Foundation
Demoiselle Crane – Eurasia

I will say, photographing these beauties was a bit of a challenge.  As I mentioned before, most are behind fences requiring me to find a strategic spot to zoom in between.endangered cranes

Overall, I had a fantastic visit and would return in a heartbeat.  I ended up spending three hours there in the morning, had lunch back at the campground, and returned for another 2 hours of crane communing in the late afternoon.

Siberian Crane
Siberian Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

My crane obsession has been temporarily satisfied…. emphasis on the word temporary.  For anyone even slightly interested in ecosystems, conservation, or birds I would encourage you to visit the International Crane Foundation.  You can visit their website here…. saving more than cranes.Black Crowned Crane

Siberian Crane“The International Crane Foundation works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend.”

International Crane Foundation

All photos were taken by me at the International Crane Foundation.  I love photographing cranes from different angles, zoomed in, and zoomed out.  I can watch these unique creatures for hours and quite often do when given the opportunity.  This weeks WordPress Photo Challenge is; from every angle.  I hope I’ve captured the essence of the photo challenge.   Does this look like a happy camper?

whooper
Craniac takes selfie with whoopers

Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting
The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story

Devils Doorway

It didn’t take long before Illinois was in the rearview mirror and we were skirting around Madison, Wisconsin, heading north.  After three weeks in Illinois, we were ready to hit the road and explore a new to us State Park.

Devil's Lake State Park
The entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park and camper check-in

As we approached the entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park, we were quickly reminded about how lush and dense the vegetation grows here in the Midwest.  The trees created such a unique canopy that it blocked out any direct sunlight requiring the truck headlights be turned on.

Wisconsin State Parks
We’re in site #51 – the Quartzsite Loop

We proceeded slowly through the entrance following the signs directing us toward the camper check-in, ever hopeful that no tree branches would scrape our roof.  I was confident we wouldn’t have any problems with vegetation once we arrived at our campsite that I had reserved, heeding the wonderful advice and recommendation from Wisconsin State Parksour good friends, MonaLiza and Steve.

They camped here last year and found the majority of campsites to be unacceptable for their big rig.  They provided us with lots of helpful tidbits making our reservation decisions much easier.  Thanks guys!

I’m not a fan of trees near my RV, so I was thrilled to find all the trees at a safe distance.  Our site was also easy for us to level up.  The majority of sites are sloped in some form, making leveling a challenge.  There’s a handful of paved sites in the Quartzsite Campground and the rest are a gravel/grass combo like our site.

Devil's Lake
This is the road to the other campground loops.

On our first full day at the State Park, we set off on a hike in search of Balanced Rock and Devil’s Doorway.  I don’t know about you, but I thought the entrance to the park might have been Devil’s Doorway.  But alas, this unique rock formation is named Devil’s Doorway.

Devil's Doorway
Rock formation named Devil’s Doorway

To get to this scenic site required a little climbing on our part….. step climbing that is. Devil's Doorway We had about a 500 foot ascend in front of us.  Fortunately, we had a series of granite rock steps to aid us in the climb.  When the trail info listed this hike as difficult, I kind of dismissed any concerns.  After all this was Wisconsin, and I’m used to hiking in Colorado.  Thus, I thought difficult here would probably be more like moderate in the mountains.

Devil's Doorway
It’s all uphill

hikingI must admit, the trail did rival some Rocky Mountain trails, but what made this hike somewhat easier was the extra oxygen found here in the Midwest.

When we’re in Colorado, it’s not uncommon for us to hike at elevations exceeding 9,000 feet and the air starts to get a little thin requiring me to stop and catch my breath from time to time.hiking in Wisconsin

hiking in Wisconsin
The trail starts out flat meandering through a dense forest,

Hubby and I were impressed with ourselves.  Other than the occasional photo-op stop, no breathing stops were needed.  We did take it slow though, not wanting to lose our balance on the granite stone.

Our day started out sunny, but windy.  By the time we made it up to Balanced Rock, the winds had let up somewhat but storm clouds were brewing.

Balanced Rock
Al and I standing in front of Balanced Rock high above Devil’s Lake – Baraboo, Wisconsin
happy camper
Look who found a bench at the top of the bluff

We thought once we made it to Balanced Rock that the trail would level off…. wrong.  There were more steps to climb.  “We’re almost there, honey. Not much further and we’ll be at the top”, I said in a very encouraging and sweet tone.  Hubby responded with a disbelieving chuckle, “Yeah, that’s what you said 20 minutes ago”.

Alas, we made it to the top of the bluff and the trail flattened out.  Hubby even found a bench for us to sit while we hydrated.

With Balanced Rock checked off, I had one more quest that required a short detour off the main trail.  Ladies first!

Devil's Doorway
Hmm, I need to hike DOWN there? Going down to Devil’s Doorway.

What’s in a name?  The original Native American name for Devil’s Lake could have been translated as Spirit Lake, Holy Lake, Mystery Lake, or Sacred Lake.  But the Winnebago name “Ta-wa-cun-chuk-dah” was translated into Devil’s Lake by locals and legends were manufactured to boost tourism to the area.Devil's Doorway

The view was worth the climb via the precarious rock steps.  With photo-op quest number two accomplished, we worked our way back to the main trail and were met with a gentle sprinkle of soft raindrops followed by a steady flow.  My camera was safely stowed in a Ziploc bag and tucked under my raincoat.hiking in WisconsinAl and I quickened our pace on the flat trail.  The rain stopped just in time for us to descend.  However, the wet granite from the rain was now somewhat slippery.  So we continued with extra caution on each rock step and made it to the trailhead without any harrowing tale to share on the blog.  Just the way hubby likes it!hiking in Wisconsin

This was a wonderful 2 hour hike and probably our favorite Midwestern experience thus far.  Next up, feathers…. and lots of them!

NFL Green Bay Packers Clean Up Adjustable Hat, Dark Green, One Size Fits All Fits All
Moon Wisconsin (Moon Handbooks)