Wisconsin

Day 230 – Great River Road

Day 230 – Great River Road, August 3, 2011

We traveled quite a few miles up the Great River Road
today.  We started off with another hike
in Wyalusing State Park.  It was a short
walk along the Bluff Trail that took us to Point View which overlooked the
Wisconsin River and Mississippi River.
The Mississippi River flows 2,348 miles from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to
the Gulf of Mexico.  15.8 million gallons
of water flow past this point on the Mississippi every minute.  The Upper Mississippi (above St. Louis) has
29 dams and is home to 100 species of fish.
In addition, 175 million tons of material (40% grain) is shipped on its
waters annually.  One barge carries 1,500
tons of material.  To put that into
perspective, it would take sixty semi’s to do the same.

After enjoying the view of just an expanse of water, we
strolled beneath the trees and past the moss covered rocks to a pathway that
led through a large crevice where we reached a wooden ladder smoothed from
use.  Petey promptly put on the brakes,
so I let him stare down at me as I descended the planks only to climb up
another ladder to Treasure Cave.  By the
time we finished our short amble through numerous spider webs, I was drenched
in sweat…humid!

We continued on through Prairie du Chien, one of the oldest
European settlements in Wisconsin and stopped at a roadside overlook for
another lovely view of Old Man River.  As
the drive skirted the Mississippi to the west, high, tree-covered ridges
towered to the right.  Eventually, we
reached La Crosse, which is often called the Gateway City due to its location
at the confluence of the Mississippi, Black, and La Crosse rivers.  I was hoping to take a trip on a paddle boat,
but I missed the last 1:30 departure by a few minutes.  I’m not sure if Petey would have been allowed
anyway.  Instead, we walked around the
riverside park, watched a barge pass beneath the bridge and, of course, checked
for geocaches.  We found one cache nailed
to a post in the open.  Its contents were
secured with a padlock whose combination was included in the log post.  That was a little different!

Outside of Trempealeau, we stopped at the Trempealeau
National Wildlife Refuge.  I think I end
up at every refuge in the middle of the hot afternoon.  Not the best time to view wildlife!  We took a short drive along the gravel road
past marsh land, in the shade of tall trees, and past ancient sand dunes.  The rolling sand prairie was formed when an
old route of the Trempealeau River deposited sand and silt along the flood
plain of the Mississippi River.  Blowing
wind moved the sand into dunes and grasses established roots which stabilized
the dunes creating the present rolling terrain.

Further north we visited one of the 29 locks and dams in
Alma.  No barges were coming through when
we were there, so we couldn’t see the locks at work, but the viewing platform
provided a nice look at all the mechanism.
Petey wasn’t too excited about climbing the grated stairs which took us
over the railroad tracks on a grated bridge to the viewing area.

We continued north through Pepin, a town near the birthplace
of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie.  I attempted to find a replica of the log
cabin that immortalized in her frontier tales, but failed.  Instead, we made a wayside stop at Maiden
Rock.  According to legend, a lovelorn
Indian princess leapt off the cliff to avoid marrying the man her father had
chosen for her.

Our last stop in Wisconsin before crossing the Mississippi
to end the night in Hastings, Minnesota was in Prescott.  We stopped at Freedom Park to witness the
blue waters of the St Croix River merge with the muddy waters of the
Mississippi.  Sadly, I couldn’t tell a
difference…perhaps it was due to the glare from the afternoon sun.  It was still a lovely view.  The park was also home to a geocache, but it
was hidden down a steep embankment covered in waist high grass.  I opted out, but did learn from the cache
description online that the park was the site where a bald eagle named Freedom
was released after being rehabilitated back to health by U of M Raptor
Center.  Before his release, Freedom
participated in the 1981 ceremonies in Washington D.C. following the release of
the American hostages held by Iran.

Hastings had a Wal-Mart waiting for us for the evening.  ETB

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Wisconsin

Day 229 – Travel Day

Day 229 – Travel Day, August 2, 2011

Today was six hours of driving along countless highways
through rain and construction and past farms, grain silos and loads of corn
fields.  The countryside was actually
quite pretty.  I reached the beginning of
my next scenic drive “Great River Road” in Cassville in the late afternoon.

Ninety-three degrees, one-hundred percent humidity, and
sporadic showers kept Petey and me from doing a whole lot once we arrived at
Wyalusing State Park, but we did take a short hike through the forest along the
bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.

The campgrounds are on the bluff as well.  My site sits beneath tall shaded trees and the
back is lined with wild brush and wild flowers that butterflies visit from time
to time.

This evening the breeze picked up which not only cooled
things down, it kept the bugs away, and I enjoyed a lovely sunset.  ETB

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Wisconsin

Day 228 – Door County Byways (Part 2)

Day 228 – Door County Byways, August 1, 2011

Well, I thought I did a lot today, but I don’t have many
pictures to show for it.  We toured Green
Bay’s countryside and passed through small vacation villages like Fish
Creek.  Eventually we looped back to
Sturgeon Bay where we visited an old, Catholic Church, meandered through the
historic district, and walked along the harbor as some teenage boys jumped in
the form of a cannonball into the water.
Listening to their grunts, I asked, “Is it cold?” and they said, no, the
part that sucks is getting out.  That was
my first thought when I saw them jump in…how are they getting out of there
without ladders?  Somehow they managed to
heave themselves out!

I spent the evening with my great aunt Margie and her
daughter Margie.  This was my first time
to meet my second cousin.  Great aunt
Margie’s son has a restaurant on the water called Sunset Grill.  We went there for dinner.  The food was delicious and the company was so
fun!  ETB

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Wisconsin

Day 227 – Door County Byways

Day 227 –  Door County Byways, July 31, 2011

I survived another storm yesterday.  It came and left within an hour yesterday
afternoon, but it was ominous.  Dark
black clouds rolled in as the wind swirled.
I was pulled off in a roadside rest area, but I’m told the wind lifted
the water off the lake, creating a water spout.

This morning we cruised up the “thumb” of Wisconsin.  Our first stop was Cave Point County Park
where Lake Michigan’s waves splash against dolomite cliffs.  During rough weather, this can be a
spectacle, though today it was calm enough for locals to take a dip.  I’ve heard from a handful of folks over the
last week that the water is warm.  It’s
all relative I guess…I’m certain it is at least 10 degrees cooler than I
prefer.  The cliffs were formed 410
million years ago through a combination of glaciation and erosion.  We walked along a few of the outcroppings,
but Petey is still feeling gloomy, so we didn’t get too much exercise.  I’m certain tearing into a six month supply
of Heartguard last night didn’t help.  I
guess he will be worm free for August anyway!

We continued on to Baileys Harbor, home to the Ridges
Sanctuary, one of the largest wildflower preserves in America.  Petey wasn’t allowed on the well-groomed,
bark trails, so I sauntered through the forest of white spruce along the Winter
Wren trail.  I picked up my pace a bit as
buzzing flies would not leave the vicinity of my head despite me waving my
paper map around.  I spotted a handful of
wild flowers but managed to miss the 27 species of orchids.  I would say it was a very peaceful walk
except those darn flies ruined it.  How
important are flies to the food chain?  I
could stand to live without them!

We reached Sister Bay by lunch time.  I opted for some local cuisine at Al Johnson’s.  It is known for its traditional Swedish menu
and its sodded roof.  I had the most unusual
lunch in a long time; Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and Swedish
meatballs.

After lunch we followed Highway 42 north to Gills Rock, the
tip of the thumb where we took a car ferry to Washington Island.  The turbulent currents between the tip of
Wisconsin and Washington Island earned the name, place of death, from the
Indians.  French explorers dubbed it
Porte des Morts, loosely translated as Death’s Door from which Door County
derived its name.

Washington Island was named for the schooner, George
Washington in 1816.  The Washington, the
largest and finest vessel on the lake at the time, carried soldiers from
Mackinaw to Green Bay where they were to establish a fort.  While anchored in what now is known as
Washington Harbor, the soldiers gave the harbor and island its name.  Washington Island is the second oldest
Icelandic settlement in America.  The
early settlers were primarily fishermen.
In time, Swedish, Danes, and Norwegians arrived bringing farming and
logging.

While on the island, we visited Schoolhouse Beach and
Washington Harbor.  The Washington Harbor
is the oldest of the four harbors on the island and was popular among the tall
schooners and large steamships due to the wide entrance and deep waters.  The big ships and docks are now gone and
tourists enjoy the rocky beach.

Schoolhouse beach is made up of limestone rocks that may
have traveled all the way from Niagara Falls to end here.  I don’t think I’ve seen a beach quite like
it.

We toured the island a bit more before grabbing the 5:30
ferry back to the mainland.  On the ferry,
I met Ryan and a few fellow members of his amateur league baseball team.  As a teenager, he used to throw a 94 mph fast
ball and had a full ride to anywhere, but he needed surgery, so opted for tech
school.  He works for a utility company
in the gas area.  He seems to know
everyone on the thumb…they are all his cousins…I guess so since he has 14 aunts
and uncles, 13 on one side!  In his spare
time he hunts, fishes, works in the garden and makes wine.  After dinner and drinks at a local pub, I
tried his raspberry wine…good…tasted like Sangria.  He has a variety of fruit trees planted outside
his house that he built himself.  He only
had the insulation and tile completed by contractors. He was fun.  It would be nice to keep in touch…but no
internet, cell phone or cable for him…I’ll have to resort to old methods…a
house phone!  ETB

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Wisconsin

Day 226 – Travel Day

We just took the day to drive from Mackinaw City through the UP, down to Green Bay and then back up to Sturgeon Bay.  No football fan could drive through Green Bay without getting a glimpse of Lambeau Field, so I drove by it before ending up at my Great Aunt Margie’s house for the evening.  It’s the first time I have ever met her and her Jack Russell named Gus.  Aunt Margie loves the casino, plays Bingo, swims every other day, and attends church on Sundays.  She has almost as much energy as six-year old Gus who weighs in at 37 pounds.  He is the biggest Jack Russell I’ve ever seen!  It was really fun to look through picture albums of the family! ETB

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Wisconsin

Day 218 – Wisconsin North Woods (Part 2)

Day 218 – Wisconsin North Woods, July 22, 2011

Wow…I think I have had two “do-over” days in one week!  The second half of my Wisconsin North Woods
drive I believe was more suited for kayakers or canoers.  It certainly wasn’t a bad day, but there are
ways I could have enjoyed it better.

As usual I started my morning with a cup of coffee.  I have to say the local coffee shop sold awesome
raspberry scones.  This prompted me to
buy a container, twice the size of what is customary, of local raspberries at
the small grocery store for three bucks or so…a bargain and good!  I thought I would be sure to have some food
for a morning at Madeline Island, the only inhabited island in the Apostle
Islands and the only island which is not part of the National Park.  The rest of the Apostle Islands, remnants of
sedimentary rocks deposited in the Lake Superior Basin over 600 million years ago
that have survived the crushing action of four glaciers over the past 100,000
years, are a National Park and a popular kayaker destination.  Getting to those islands was an all day
excursion and less than accommodating to Petey which is why I ended up choosing
Madeline Island.

I took a car ferry to the island.  They charge by vehicle and person, so it cost
$37 for the roundtrip passage that was available every thirty minutes or
so.  Once on Madeline Island, VANilla
carted us around as we explored the general layout before we finally stopped at
Big Bay State Park.  After paying the
state park entry fee, Petey and I took a hike around the Point Trail Loop.  The first half of the loop led us along the
shore of Lake Superior with lovely views of sandstone cliffs before the second
half of the loop led us through a dense forest, home to tons of dragonflies!

After our walk around the point, we visited another area of
the park.  Petey waited in VANilla while
I took a boardwalk past a beach and toward a lagoon.  He didn’t have to wait long.  The biting flies were relentless.  If anyone ever wanted to be a runner, but was
having a rough time getting started, these flies would be an incentive to pick
up the pace.  With my personal Off device
in one hand waving around my head and with my camera being held steady by my
other, I basically jogged to the lagoon trying to keep the flies off of me.  I was like Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob.  Flies bit me on my ear, landed in between my
eye and sunglasses, and got trapped in my hair which was pulled back into a
ponytail.  I don’t know how people were
just resting on the beach.  I couldn’t
get out of there fast enough.  I’m certain
Petey was thankful he wasn’t allowed to join me!

Around lunchtime we returned to the mainland to continue our
journey southeasterly along the border of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan.  In Hurley, an old mining and
logger town, we attempted to visit the Iron County Historical Museum which
maintains a model 19th-century saloon, but its hours of operations
were limited.  I suppose I could have
visited a real saloon on Silver Street, but it was the middle of the day.

We made another roadside stop at Lac Du Flambeau, Lake of
Torches, which has been a permanent settlement of the Chippewa Indian Nation
since about 1745.  The tribe lived on
wild rice and fish found by torchlight in the numerous area lakes.  The tribe was loyal to the American colonies,
never siding with the English or French and fought with the Union Forces in the
Civil War.  Forts and posts used to
pepper the shores of the lake as the Northwest Fur Trading Co. established a
department for area trade here in 1792.

We ended the night in Escanaba, Michigan, part of the Upper
Peninsula (or UP as the locals like to call it).
I’m looking forward to some good exploring tomorrow.  ETB.

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Wisconsin

Day 217 – Wisconsin North Woods

Day 217 – Wisconsin North Woods, Thursday, July 21, 2011

I forgot to mention one of the greatest parts to my
Minnesota morning yesterday, despite the rain…the coffee shop I found, Java
Moose Espresso, sold just the muffin tops…no stumps.  Any Seinfeld fan has to appreciate that!  Anyway, on to my next morning, I boiled some
water for coffee and instant oatmeal at the Amnicon Falls State Park
campgrounds in Wisconsin.  Amnicon means
“Where Fish Spawn” and the Amnicon River is an important spawning river for
fish from Lake Superior.

In the heart of the park, the river separates into two
streams which plunge over basalt and sandstone creating at least three
waterfalls and depending on the flow it sometimes fills another channel
creating a fourth falls.  I would have
never known the fourth falls, aptly named “Now and Then Falls” was sometimes
dry…the water was flowing today.

Bridges led Petey and me across the streams to a middle
island where we found a cache.  We also
completed an earth cache that required us to follow the marked trail to several
locations and record pertinent information.
It was the first time that I ran into fellow cachers.  Two folks were standing on one of the bridges
taking an elevation reading with their GPS (one of the requirements), so I
inquired, “Are you caching?”  “Yes”, they
responded and later pointed me in the direction of the final task I needed to
complete it.

One of the bridges that spans the river at Lower Falls is
known as Covered Horton Bridge.
Originally it wasn’t covered and was a highway bridge that crossed the
river not far from the park.  It was
moved to the present location in 1930.
The bridge is historically significant due to its age and
construction.  In 1897 and 1898, Charles
Horton obtained several patents for designs that made bridges strong, lighter,
and more durable.  In addition, the
design allowed workers to assemble the structures without expensive machinery,
tools, and labor.  His method required
using arched beams secured with hooks and clips rather than rivets and bolts
and the bridge is known as a bow-string.

On my way toward Brule River State Forest, I passed by a
roadside historical marker that caught my attention.  It was a windmill built in 1904 by a Finnish
immigrant, Jacob Davidson.  Davidson, who
had not been a miller in Finland, took four years to construct the windmill
whose unique design was based on the shape of a coffee pot Davidson owned.  He and his three sons used local materials
for the grindstones and structural wood.
The wings generate about 25 horsepower and turn at 15 rpm which produces
a mill stone speed of 135 rpm.  Each mill
stone weighs 3,500 pounds.  In added
bonus for making the brief stop was finding a nearby cache!

I moved on to Brule River State Forest where I drove four
miles to the headwaters of Bois Brule, one of the most renowned trout streams
east of the Mississippi.  I didn’t go
there to fish, but just to see where the river and Lake Superior meet.  It was such a beautiful place.  A light breeze kept away most of the annoying
insects as I sat at a picnic table in the shade looking out on Lake Superior
and its sandy beach.  The color of the
water changed from salmon along the coast to countless shades of blue as it
continued in the distance.  I took
advantage of the cool weather to blog a bit as it has been so hot in VANilla, I
have been less than enthusiastic about turning on a computer that generates
more heat.  Petey and I enjoyed a nice
office as we watched kids swim in the lake.
I thought to myself, I can’t imagine that water is very warm and took
Petey with me down to the beach to dab a toe in the lapping waves.  Confirmed…ankle deep was the best I could do!

After a few hours just chilling out, we continued east
through Port Wing and ended up in a resort town called Bayfield.  Somewhere along the way, a porcupine crossed
VANilla’s path (or at least I think that is what it was), but by the time I
stopped and got the camera up to my eye, it had slinked into the grass.  I found a campground about a mile away and
then returned to the quaint, tourist town for a local dinner.  I went with broiled whitefish which comes
with beer cheese soup.  The cheese soup,
more like a cup of melted Velveeta, was topped with popcorn.  I got about two or three spoonfuls down with
the help of an ice cold local beer on tap.
The waitress warned me it was cheesy…WHEW!  I also very well knew I was taking a risk by
ordering fish because if it remotely tastes like fish smells, I have a hard time with it.

Oh well, the good news was Petey got to join me on the patio
where several people showered him with attention, and I met a nice couple, Nick
and Nikki from Madison who were up for a weekend vacation.  Nikki is a 4th grade school
teacher and Nick owns a concrete business.
Their first child is due in January.
Nikki ordered nachos that ended up being topped with an olive
tapenade…definitely not Texas style.
What I was most shocked to hear was how everyone in Wisconsin can’t
stand Brett Favre…WOW…never thought I’d hear that.  I only know two others aside from myself who
have never been fond of him.  They tell
me that the Jets girl wasn’t close to the first woman.  Ok, so I’m not here to badmouth football
stars, but I just had to mention that I am no longer alone.

Petey and I left the restaurant as the sky turned violet
over the harbor and headed back to the campgrounds for the evening.  ETB

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