"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lanesboro, Minnesota

Family of deer in the campground.

The weather deteriorated while we were at Wakefield. We stayed 3 nights hoping it would clear up but that was not to be so on Wednesday we took off. We wanted to do some biking and our first idea was the Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin but with the rain we decided to make it a long diving day and go to Lanesboro MN. The difference is a limestone trail versus a paved trail. The Elroy-Sparta trail is a great trail but it also has some long and wet train tunnels, they are great on warm sunny days but with potential rain in the forecast it didn’t sound so nice. We broke all our driving rules and drove 320 miles to Lanesboro. We left by  8 am and even with a couple short stops arrived around 3 o’clock. 
Fall is coming
Lanesboro has a small city park, Sylvan park, that has water-electric sites. We have tent camped here but never brought the RV here. We usually stay south of here in Decorah IA and then drive here to get on the trail. This park is pretty tight but we got a site on the end next to the hill. There were only 3 rigs in the park when we arrived but by Friday night this park was packed. It is amazing how quiet this town is during the week and then the crowds descend on this little burg and there are people and bikes everywhere. If you want to see all the different types of bikes there are this is the place to do it. Unique tandems and recumbent along with road bikes, hybrid bikes are everywhere. There are old folks,  young families, and serious bikers. 
We tried to get our bike rides in before the crowds arrived. Thursday we rode about 14 miles toward Whalen and back. Whalen has a great pie shop so we rode past it and then back to split a great piece of apple pie. Friday we headed the other direction and rode to Preston and back for a total of about 22 miles. The Root River trail system is 60 miles of paved trail. We have probably ridden about 30 mies of it at one time or another. Most of it is a rail trail so fairly easy riding but if you want a challenge go west out of Lanesboro and take the trail to Fountain. There is an intersection at about 5 miles where you can choose to go to Preston or onto Fountain. From the intersection to Fountain is 6 miles and it is all up hill. This section is not rail trail so steeper grades prevail. The good part is you get to coast most of the way back. We have ridden this section before but this trip we just couldn’t convince ourselves to work that hard.
Amish selling their wares at the Preston trailhead
If you like to bike the rail trails we highly recommend this trail, it follows the river and is a beautiful trail. The town is a nice little village with a couple restaurants, little shops, a winery, a live theater group, and a bike store that rents bikes and also arranges tours of the surrounding Amish country. Yes, this is another Amish area. They come into town and sell their baskets, quilts, baked goods and produce. There was a stand at Preston that we picked up some bread and there was a farmers’ market on Saturday where we added some veggies to the fridge. There are a couple alternatives to the campground at city park too. The city also has a Riverside campground by the dam, Eagle Cliff is not far away and The Old Barn is near that  Preston-Fountain intersection on the trail. I think the Old Barn would be our choice after the city parks. The city parks are just more convenient to town.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Captain’s Log: Wakefield MI

When I retired last fall, we headed to the Southwest and warmer temperatures. Our travels took us through Carlsbad New Mexico where we bought our first National Park Pass when we visited the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Carlsbad was also where I was born so, armed with the address from my older brother, we were able to find the house my dad built and where I lived for my first four years. Or at least I think we did. I don’t remember much from then, so it could’ve been some other house.
House in Wakefield 2011

House in Wakefield 1958

But I remember living in Wakefield. I was five and had a great time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Once again, my older bother remembered the street address of a house he hasn’t lived in for over 50 years. I also had some pictures my Dad had taken  of the house and, sure enough, there it was. Someone had added some siding, and the yard was smaller than I remember, but it was the same house. I remembered playing on Tank Hill and it was still there also. In addition to the town’s water tank, it also had a cell phone tower. We get a good cell phone signal here.
John sledding down tank hill 1958
John standing in front of tank hill 2011
House in Bessemer today
After a year in Wakefield, my dad moved the family about five miles down the road to Bessemer. I remember our house in Bessemer being much larger than the house in Wakefield. With four children, including a new baby, I’m sure my mother was lobbying for the move. (Our house in Wakefield was so small that my dad put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and took it down on Christmas day because it blocked the front door.) I didn’t have an address for our house in Bessemer, but my brother was sure we lived on the highway. I did remember playing under some bleachers that I could walk to from our house. When I looked at a map of Bessemer, there was a high school football field a few blocks from the highway so I thought I would start there. We found the football field and it looked like it had been there longer than 50 years. It had some bleachers that were completely enclosed, like I remembered. I drove back to the highway and there was the house. Big mature trees, with the detached garage that I remembered. That was easy.
Detached garage today

Looking down the street from the house
Family photo in driveway, look down the street and you can see the same house in background today

Mary(John's mom) and brother Mike on steps of Bessemer house

John and Mike next to Bessemer house
Ball field John remembers playing at, Opened in 1954

Bleachers he remembers playing under

Baseball field actually helped us locate the house
I attended first grade in a Catholic school while in Bessemer, but we didn’t find anything like that. After another winter in the UP, the family moved to Colorado. But I used to be a Yooper.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Michigan's Upper Peninusla

Beautiful Lake Superior

Our site, nice view!
We moved here to the U. P. last Tuesday. At first we were going to Wakefield and then on to Houghton and Copper Harbor but in talking around the campfire our new friends Terry and Lu were headed up to Houghton. Wakefield is a must as this is one of the may places John lived when he was young and we eventually want to see all those areas. Our route is pretty flexible and Wakefield is actually on the way to and from Houghton on our route so we just switched the route and tomorrow we will head to Wakefield.

Fort Wilkins
We landed in the City RV Park of Houghton right next to Terry and Lu. This is a very small park but is right on the canal that splits this part the peninsula and it is a beautiful view from the RV. Houghton, the home of Michigan Tech is on one side of the canal and Hancock is on the other. Tuesday was very warm and we had a nice drive here then Wednesday and Thursday fall arrived. The temps dropped into the 40-50s during the day and into the 30’s at night. It rained some and was very windy. Brrrrrrr. So we did a little car touring, not too much as the roads here are very confusing, twisting turning, easy to get lost. We met Terry and Lu for dinner at the Library, a local brew pub. We had a great meal and John really likes their stout (as usual) and I enjoyed their brown beer. Earlier in the day John and I and stopped at another local brewer down the street called Keweena Brew House and tried their sampler. They have a nice red and brown but John says you should pass on their stout. After two breweries the good thing was we walked from the RV park, it is an easy mile. Terry and Lu offered us a ride back but we decided to brave the cold and walk. The wind had died down so it actually was a nice walk.

Friday it was a very chilly morning but the sun was out and it was forecast to get into the 60’s. The four of us jumped into our truck and headed to see the Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor areas. This is the most northerly point in Michigan. Our first stop was Fort Wilkens State Park. The campground here gets great reviews so we definitely wanted to check it out. The park is at the site of a restored Army Fort. They have done an amazing restoration job and it is definitely worth the tour. The fort was built to help maintain order in the mining boom but after two years when the army needed more personal for the war with Mexico the soldiers left. I personally think they survived two winters and decided to “get out of Dodge” as the saying goes. This outpost was cut off from the rest of civilization for almost 6 months of the year. That would truly be a difficult assignment. The rest of the year this place would be gorgeous. 

Duck nap??
There are two campground here, East and West. The east campground the sites are small and the there was one electrical post for 4 sites. If you don’t get a site close to the post you would need a very long cord. This area would not work for us at all. The West campground however would be great. Each electrical site has it’s own post. The first loop the sites are gravel but wide and many longer then the east campground. At the end is a new loop that has the largest pull throughs we have ever seen. They are wide enough and long enough for even the biggest rigs. There also are some back ins that are very nice. All of this last loop are asphalt sites What appealed to us is the how quite and beautiful this park is. We love to really get away from civilization once in awhile and this would be a great place to do it. Don’t count on a cell signal or TV reception though. It would be a great place to fish, read a book and just enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Terry and Lu at the top of Mt. Brockway

Lighthouse at Copper Harbor from Mt. Brockway
 After the park we continued on our loop through Copper Harbor where we stopped at a little shop to sample the homemade fudge. You can see the lighthouse from here but to visit it would mean a boat ride and we decided to pass and wait to see the lighthouse in Eagle Harbor. Next we took the Brockway Mountain Drive. The lady at the shop recommended driving up to the scenic outlook and back the same way as the road is not that great. So up we went, this is a very steep drive and the road is indeed in need of some maintenance but the views were beautiful, looked more like Colorado than Michigan at the top and you could see the colors beginning to change. On the way down we stopped at an overlook that was was stunning,  you could see the bay & and Lake Fannie Hooe. It is definitely worth the drive. 

Lake Superior left, Lake Fannie Hooe right
I should mention Fannie Hooe. She was the sister of the wife of one of the officers at Fort Wilkens. Were not sure why but she was very popular and they named a lake after her. We did a lot of speculation on how to pronounce her name, and wondered why she was so popular. Hmmmm, what do you think? 

Lighthouse at Eagle Harbor
Next it was on to Eagle Harbor. This little town has a lighthouse right in town and so that is where we headed. It is a beautiful little lighthouse that also has been restored. It is still a functioning  light so we the only thing we couldn’t do was go up the tower to the light.  The fella manning the lighthouse was interesting, well actually not that interesting, just ask Lu. I didn’t think he was ever going to stop talking to her long enough for her to actually see the house. We just kept walking and she was kind enough to listen to the guy, sorry Lu. 

Our last stop was Calumet. This little town has many really old interesting buildings. We’d read about their local brew pub so we stopped at the Michigan Inn and Red Jacket Brewery for a bite to eat. We were disappointed in this one. They only had their stout on tap and though the menu had lots of Michigan brews on it every time we picked one they didn’t have it. We had a couple appetizers and John had some chilli. It was ok but we’d pass this one up next time. The only cool part was the building itself. It is very old and there is a great mural painted on the bar back.

This has been a great stop. Of course there is always more to do so we hope we get back this way and I think we will as we still want to do the whole circle tour of Lake Superior, we will just have to leave earlier in the season next time. Today we are off to the International Parade and food fest here in Houghton but I will leave that until the next post.

Happy trails....................

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lakeshore Hike with Friends

Sea caves along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore

Lu and Terry
Sunday Terry and Lu invited us to hike with them. This hike goes along the lakeshore in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore Park. It was a beautiful, heavily wooded trail that leads you out along the sea caves. We weren’t sure from here how much we would really see of the caves but there were several great views. This actually was a fairly good hike. Lots of up and down, and for this vertically challenged person I was glad I’d brought my hiking stick. Not sure how far we hiked but it was going on four hours by the time we got back, so I am thinking about 10 mi., taking into consideration the varied terrain and our stops to snack and take photos. 
Kayaking is a big attraction in this area. There are lots of outfitters and guide services in the area to get you out to the sea caves. We didn’t do this adventure this time but I think our next visit it will be on the agenda. We would probably choose to go with a guide. Lake Superior can be unpredictable and I would feel more comfortable with someone who really knows what they are doing.
Kayakers on Lake Superior
This morningTerry and Lu took off for Houghton MI. The fun part is we will be right behind them as that is also where we are headed tomorrow. I really want to get up to Copper Harbor and John wants to stay in Wakefield where he lived when he was young so we decided it made more sense to see Copper Harbor first and then come back through to Wakefield. Our weather here in Wisconsin has been about as perfect as you can get but tonight we are expecting a storm to come through and cool things off into the 50-60s. The sun is suppose to be back out so even though it will be cooler it sounds like we still have some nice weather ahead. People around here tell us to expect a lot of color already in the Copper Harbor and Houghton area. Bring it on.
Happy Trails.........

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Madeline Island & the Apostle Island National Lakeshore

Madeline Island

Our ferry ride

Wednesday we began our adventures here near Bayfield, Wisconsin. My friend Trudy and her family have come here every summer for quite a few years and one of the things she suggested we do was to take our bikes out to Madeline Island (the largest of the Apostle Islands) on the ferry and bike the island. So that was the first thing on our agenda. Since we knew we be putting in a few miles we decided to fortify ourselves with breakfast at the Egg Toss cafe (also a Trudy suggestion). It reminds me of an old fashion dinner but it only serves breakfast. It was excellent. Then we headed down the street to the ferry terminal, round trip for each of us and our bikes was $18, that sounded reasonable. The ferry ride is relatively short and the bikes were parked on the deck next to the cars, trucks, motorcycles. They will even ferry you and your RV over so you can camp on the island. That is actually something we would consider doing.

A doe and her young one next to the road
A little red squirrel on the boardwalk

Once on the island we decided to take the road out to the Big Sand Bay State Park, about 7 miles from La Point and the ferry terminal. It was a picture perfect day and the island is relatively flat so a pretty easy ride. You are riding a bike lane on the 2 lane road out to the park but there is relatively little traffic to worry about. The park itself is beautiful. We road through the campground, like most state parks it is has electric only sites as well as tent sites. It is heavily wooded and I wouldn’t call it big rig friendly but if we took it slow we feel certain we could fit our rig out here on quite a few sites. Next we road to the point for a scenic view and then on to the beach. Along the beach is a boardwalk trail that takes you through a bog and by a lagoon. They have worked to get this area back to its natural state so the only walking is on the board walk. All along the walk there were little access trails to the beach so if you wanted a little beach all to yourself you could find it easily. We enjoyed the hike and the bike ride but after about 3 miles of hiking and 18 miles on the bikes we were ready to head back. I have to say it was almost a perfect day.

Sea Caves on Devil's Island
Thursday we took the Grand Tour boat ride of the Apostle Islands. It is amazing how large Lake Superior is and many of the islands are good sized. There are quite a few light houses but we only went by two of them, the furthest one out is on Devil’s Island. This one is interesting because its shoreline is a series of sea caves. They say it was the noise of the water in these caves that gave the island its name. The other light house is on Raspberry Island and it has been restored and there is another guided trip that will take you to it and give you a tour. Next visit here I think that is the tour we would choose. That lighthouse has the light keeper and assistant light keepers quarters on either side of the light house like a duplex. The building in front is where the foghorn was housed. This trip takes 3 hours and seemed a little long, most of the time you are just looking at the various islands and after awhile they kind of all look alike. It was another beautiful day on the lake.
Light house on Raspberry Island
Back at the campground we have been spending some time with Lu and Terry, they are new full timers and a lot of fun to be around. We have sat around the campfire a couple nights and today we all went for a long hike but I’ll save that adventure for another post. It is the people we meet and the friends we make along this journey that makes it so worthwhile. 
I know it has been a trying week for many people out east. Fellow bloggers Laurie and George have a house that is seriously flooded and my heart goes out to them and others in the flooded areas. We have seen what flood waters can do and it can be devastating. I hope for them and the others that this next week will be better.
Happy trails..........

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Captain’s Log: Somewhere in Wisconsin

Sailboat at harbor in Bayfield WI
Actually I think I know where we are. We’re in Washburn, a little south of Bayfield in a park on Lake Superior. We have a great view of the lake and the weather is perfect. So why am I typing on this computer? Because I can.
When we were at Two Harbors, I remember thinking we had a great view of the lake and the weather was perfect. There was one evening when Janie and I were sitting around the fire enjoying the view when things became almost surreal. The sunset was actually to our backs, but it was illuminating the sky and the reflections from the lake magnified it beyond anything I recall ever seeing. Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, a partial rainbow appeared. There were some small boats on the lake, and I was wondering what it looked like from where they were at.
Then I looked over at our neighbors across the street: they were watching an NFL game on their outdoor TV (I believe it was the first NFL game of the season). Probably Packer fans. Their backs were to the lake, so they were missing the whole reverse sunset thing, but they were obviously having fun. The Packers must’ve been winning. Despite my initial feeling that I had the better view, I couldn’t help but wonder what the score was. I need an outdoor TV.
Happy Trails...............................

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tetagoochi State Park

Big Falls

Some of the stairs
I’m a little behind in blogging our travels. Having so much fun I just haven’t had time to write so I will do several posts in the next couple of days.

Last Monday we decided to hike again and after looking online we chose Tetagooche State Park north of Silver Bay MN. It was a beautiful day and perfect for a hike.  There are two falls in the park to hike to. The first is the “Big Falls”. On this part of the hike there were quite a few people, not as many as Saturday but the it was Memorial Day. Big Falls was less than one mile in and the only challenge to it are all the stairs you have to hike to get to it and then to get back up to the trail. I’ll let the photos speak to that. Beautiful falls.

Taking a break, John actually took a decent photo of me, Yea!
 Next we headed to Two Step Falls about another mile or so down the trail, after you climb up all those stairs you just climbed down to get to the falls. It was a beautiful hike through the woods, then a whole lot more stairs down to Two Step Falls. The crowds had thinned out and there were only a few of us here. I enjoyed this area the most. The falls are not as high but I thought they were prettier. We sat here for quite a while having a snack and enjoying the view. The hike back put us at 3-4 miles for the day, not too long, not too short. It was just about a perfect day.
On the way back is a place called Betty’s Pies. Friends of ours (Ralph and Cheryl) recommended it to us but every time we had passed it, it was packed. Well today the parking lot was busy but not jammed so we decided to stop. We had burgers and of course, pie. The burgers were good and the pie excellent. So much for burning calories, I think we ate more calories at Betty’s then we burned on the hike.
We definitely enjoyed our time on Minnesota’s North shore and we left with so many things that we didn’t get to do. I know we will be back. There is more hiking, more biking and more to see. 
Tuesday we were back on the road and off to Wisconsin. We arrived at the Thompson West End campground in Washburn. This is a city campground with electric and cable TV. The TV hookup is a treat we rarely get. Just ahead of us into the park was a nice Mobile Suites, they were struggling with the parking a little and boy could we understand that, after a year we still have times it is a challenge. We met the couple, Terry and Lu out on a walk. They are new full timers. We have developed a friendship with them over the last few days. I’ll talk more about that later. Enough for now.
Two Step Falls
Happy Trails............................

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the campfire....

Our last campfire at Two Harbors, John and I were sitting there and suddenly we here a little rip, then all of a sudden riiiiiiiiiiiippppppppp. And this is what it looked like.
In East Grand Forks at Cabelas I bought a new chair for the campfire, our chairs were almost worn out. John wasn’t sure the new one would fit in our lawn chair compartment so we only bought one. Well I love my new chair, and it does fit in the compartment but John said he’d wait until we until we really needed a new one. He did throw out the one that he thought was the worst. Well, he may not have chosen wisely. Sure made me laugh when I had to help him out of that chair. Isn’t he cute?!
 Now we really need a new chair. :)
Happy Trails.................

Monday, September 5, 2011

Captain’s Log: Fred’s (no longer) riding Fred

Some of you may have suspected that naming our hitch hiking snake Fred was inspired by the Rodney Carrington song “Fred’s riding Fred”, and you would be correct. You can find several versions of the song on Youtube. It would make more sense if our truck was named Fred. Which it could be, since I don’t know what the truck’s name was. At any rate, we’ve had some inquiries about the snake and it’s been long enough since the last time we’ve seen him to say that Fred’s no longer riding Fred. Not sure where he went, but I’m glad he’s gone.

Lake Superior

Little light house in Two Harbors, MN

This trip is about following the shores of Lake Superior. We really wanted to do the whole circle of the lake but due to my work we weren’t able to leave soon enough to get that done. So we chose to do as much of the U.S. side as we can until we have to head south. Our first stop on the lake is Two Harbors, Minnesota. This is known as Minnesota’s North Shore and it is beautiful. 
Our site at Burlington Bay
Our home base for the holiday weekend is Burlington Bay Campground on the north end of Two Harbors. It is a city run campground and most of the sites are for smaller RVs and pop-ups. We are in site 90 which we were lucky to get because of a cancellation. The picnic table and fire ring are actually behind the rig and it made it so we have a view of the lake. There is a newer loop just beyond us that has 5 sites  that back up to the lake that are spectacular and if you came in a larger rig this is the area you would want to be in. It certainly is the area we would try for next time. In general this is a busy and pretty tight campground with quite a bit of road noise but the view of Lake Superior makes up for any negatives.
view from our picnic table
The first night a couple we had corresponded with from the Excel owners forum, Tom and Cathy, came by. Tom is researching 5th wheels and wanted to see an Excel. We did the tour, which in a 30 ft 5th wheel doesn’t take that long and then they treated us to DQ. We meet the nicest people here on the road, makes it all worth it.
Cathy and Tom
Gooseberry Falls
The first couple days the weather was so-so, warm but rain on and off and a bit windy. We did a little hiking into Two Harbors and chilled here at the rig. Yesterday we visited Gooseberry Falls State Park just north of here and did a short hike to all the falls, we intended to do more but John has a muscle or tendon (I think it is his ITB) that gives him trouble ever since he injured it when we were in California and it was bothering him so we cut our hike short and headed back to the rig. After taking some ibuprofen and rolling it out on the foam roller he was ready to go again so we hiked into town and had a beer and DQ. Beer and ice cream what a great combination. Today we may head even further north to Tettagoche State Park and do some hiking there. This time I’ll make him take ibuprofen before we leave. It is a beautiful day out there but is suppose to be cool with highs only about 60. 
There is a lot to do here on the North Shore so I am sure we will return some day. Tomorrow we will follow along the shore to the Bayfield area of Wisconsin. The campground we are headed to is actually in Washburn just south of Bayfield. It looks like we are going to have great weather so hope to visit the Apostle Islands and do some biking,hiking and maybe get the kayak out. Life is good.

Here are a few more shots of Two Harbors and Gooseberry  falls.
Main Lighthouse at Two Harbors

Ore hauler being filled

walk out to the little light house on the pier

Lower Gooseberry Falls

Beautiful boardwalk trail at Gooseberry Falls

Don't know what kind of bird.

Interesting technique!

Happy Trails.........................