Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Great Wisconsin Adventure - Part 3

Day 9: The final full day of our trip was reserved for kayaking the Kickapoo River. It started off a bit chilly, but eventually the sun came out and as we realized that our lunch stop had put us behind schedule, we started paddling with more vigor, which warmed me right up. At one point early on in the five hour trip, we were wishing we had rented two kids kayaks so both girls could be on their own. But again, after we acknowledged the time crunch, neither Louisa nor Cora wanted to be in charge of fueling their own boat all the way to bridge 7. The tether that we thought we wouldn't use all the sudden came in very handy!

Our final night was spent at Wyalusing State Park, which is on the Mississippi River. We took a mountain bike ride through a very hilly and root-filled trail and mostly missed the sunset, but riding back in the dark (on a park road, thankfully) was a nice bonding experience as we cheered the kids up the hills and listened to the cicadas. And we managed to get a nice family photo to cap off a wonderful trip!

The Great Wisconsin Adventure - Part 2

We left off after our sailing trip in Wisconsin's only National Seashore. We have a National Parks passport book that the kids like to collect stamps in; unfortunately, the visitor center in Bayfield was closed due to COVID. We settled for a store-bought sticker instead. 

[the rest of] Day 5: As if we hadn't already had enough highlights for the day, Amnicon Falls State Park was a favorite of the entire trip. The water is brown from the iron, but the kids didn't care and could have spent hours in the water if it wasn't for the sunset. We decided we'd all like to camp there again sometime for 2-3 nights instead of just one, while also hitting Pattison Falls State Park which is nearby but we ran out of time for on this trip.

Day 6: On Friday morning, we packed up and drove to Duluth for a laundry stop and some sure-thing cell phone service, so I could attend a virtual nutrition conference. We didn't see much of the city, but from what we did see, it seems like a cool place - edgy, with people who choose to live that far north and off the beaten path and are proud of it. It was the perfect place for our family that day. The kids swam while I learned. Nate did a challenging mountain bike loop before joining the kids in the river and giving them the courage to jump from a rock. That evening, we drove to Lake Wissota State Park.

Day 7: The single day without a planned adventure. We woke in Wissota State Park and apparently there wasn't much to photograph, because we have zero pictures. From Wissota we drove through the particularly beautiful driftless region to Perrot State Park. We were buying firewood for the night in the campground when we noticed a flyer for Elmaro Vineyard, so decided to check it out. It was really lovely!

Day 8: Biking [part of] the Elroy-Sparta trail. We realized at some point that Cora is always the kid who asks how much longer we have to go on car trips and bike rides, so we decided to empower her with information by attaching a GPS to her handle bars. She knew we'd be riding 20 miles that day and WOW, did the GPS help. Instead of asking every five minutes, she was leading hip-hip-hoorays every mile and telling us all how much longer we had to go before we ate Hot Tamales or Sour Patch Kids again. WIN! We rode out 10 miles through two tunnels, ate lunch, and then turned around and biked back to the RV. The alternative was to bike 17 miles then have the kids and I sit and wait for Nate to bike back and bring the RV to us. The out and back option was way better, since we were wet and cold by mile five.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Great Wisconsin Adventure - Part 1

As I'm sure is the case for SO many people in the time of COVID, our summer travels plans changed a few times before we finally embarked on a family trip: a 10-day tour of Wisconsin. The stats: five people, a 35-foot RV, a list of 8-9 state parks to visit, and a lovely spreadsheet of activities created by my super-trip-planning husband. I had more cell phone coverage than I expected on the trip, so did a highlight reel on Facebook each day, but I also wanted to capture some memories here. So here goes!

Day 1: Peninsula State Park - we arrived around 4 p.m. and the kids have very fond memories of exploring on their own and their discovery of a small rock beach that they insisted on taking us to after dinner. The first night in the RV was fine. Nate and I had our own room with a queen bed and the kids rotated between a double fold-out couch and a single table/bed with their sleeping bags.

Day 2: We drove the RV about 20 minutes north to Newport State Park a biked some beautiful trails that were more "mountainy" than the gravel path we were expecting. The trail we took ended at two tiny little beaches that the kids could've played at for hours. However, we had to get back because our dear friends Seth & Laura and their kids (William, Joy, Finn and James) were driving up from Green Bay for a social distanced hello. I'm kicking myself for not getting any pictures of the seven kids together, but it was wonderful to be with them for a couple of hours. That evening after dinner, we walked over to the same rock beach from the night before and got a pretty great picture of the three kids.

Day 3: Before leaving Peninsula State Park, the only park we would stay two nights, we hiked Eagle Trail. It was beautiful and not nearly as difficult as the sign at the trailhead warned. After our hike, we biked back to the camp sight and [in the RV] headed back down the peninsula, headed for Jake Lake. When Nate called to reserve a camp sight the week before, the women told him not to worry, they would definitely have sites available on a Tuesday night. When we arrived, they didn't and our cell coverage was spotty as we looked for other options nearby. I walked back into the park office to use their phone to call another county park and came back a hero - telling the kids that they did have a site for us after hearing that we only planned to stay for one night. That night, the kids watched Shrek 2 in the RV while Nate and I did a quick mountain bike loop nearby. 

Day 4: We had a slow start Wednesday morning, complete with pancakes and a father-daughter mountain bike ride for Nate and Louisa while Peter and Cora biked around the camp site, begging us to stay longer. We had plans to get to Copper Falls State Park though, so got on the road. At one point during the drive, I saw a sign that we were 15 mile from Rhinelander, so I texted my Aunt Jeanne who has an amazing cabin on Lumen Lake. We stopped for watermelon, indigo dying, kombucha and a tour. The cabin that they built together maybe 20 years ago, is full of finished art (most of it their own) and ongoing art projects, and surrounded by flowers and vegetable gardens. It's a special place to me because one summer in college I lived there while doing a public health internship. Nate and the kids had never seen it though. After we said our farewells, the only major glitch in the trip occurred. We were detoured through The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and got too close to the side of the dirt road, slipping into the soft soil ditch. The tires were definitely stuck and we definitely didn't have cell service. By some miracle, Nate got service about a mile down the road, so he spent at least 3 hours in that spot while the rest of us hung out in and out of the RV. Five hours after the incident, a tow truck pulled us out and we made our way to the parking lot of Walmart in Ashland for a night of urban-camping.

Day 5: From Ashland, we headed north again to catch our sailboat ride in the Apostle Islands. The weather was gorgeous, although the wind could have been better, but no dramamine was consumed throughout the 6 hour sailboat tour (or the entire trip for that matter)! It was just our family plus our captain, a 25 year-old sailing instructor and substitute teacher who did an amazing job engaging the kids. He taught them knots and let them help sail as much as they wanted. The water of Lake Superior is never warmer than 70, and usually much colder, but thanks to recent rain, the water temperature was tolerable (70 degrees) and everyone but me went swimming in a cave.

Whew. The trip didn't feel too long, but my plan to put all 10 days in one blog post sounds like too much for me and you, so let's make this a two-parter, shall we? Part two coming soon!

See Where Our Pictures Were Taken