Opting to avoid the height of rush hour, I left Chicago around 9:15 and even though I was headed north of the city there certainly were enough reverse rush hour commuters crawling towards O’Hare. But with patience I was soon on my way, with another ambitious driving day (470 miles) to northern Wisconsin and hoping to get a campsite at Copper Falls State Park. I was out of the reservation window to book online but it looked like there were numerous sites available when I was looking the day before I left. My goal today was to get to the Madison area via interstate and from then on avoid as much as possible any major highways or interstates.
I had a desire to see Madison Wisconsin. I recollect my mother talking about what a lovely place it was. She told stories of her summer school adventures at the University of Wisconsin back in the mid-1920’s. Growing up in this “perfect” family in suburban Detroit with a “what will people think” script, led me to surmise that my mother probably never did anything risqué or “bad.” Only in her later years did she acknowledge that perhaps she had a little bit of a wild streak when she was younger. She talked of sneaking out of the dorm there through the window with her friend Marcie to meet boys. Now I am not sure what transpired after that, but nostalgically decided to visit the city of her “crimes!” I also wanted to see the capitol building. The visit was less than satisfactory as it was pouring rain and lots of construction in the area— meaning no parking anywhere nearby. But I had loving feelings for my mother as I drove through the area and proceed on to negotiate the rest of the drive.
Driving through the country on two lane roads, even when there are slow-pokies ahead of me, gives me that feeling of “living on the edge”. It comes with the decisions of whether it is now safe to get out on the other side of the road and pass and pray that the local yahoo being passed doesn’t choose at that moment to speed up. Going through the myriad of small towns with their 25 MPH speed limit reminds me of the controversy over Starke FL and its speed traps. So I brake down to a crawl and appreciate all the local establishment: the many well worn store fronts, which for the most are family owned; rusting water towers; the waysides, instead of rest areas, with vault toilets; town signs that state the population ranging from 345 population s couple thousand. I must admit it was extremely difficult to follow the Wisconsin two lane road speed limit of 55mph. So I didn’t abide by it that much and now find myself that speed demon I so loath on the interstate highways.
I pulled into Copper Falls State park around 7:00 and secured one of the vacant “walk-up” sites (meaning they can’t be reserved in advance.) And much to my chagrin not only did I have to pay a $11.00 entrance fee for each day there in the park (double the price for non-residents) but also an extra $5.00 per night as a non-resident for a campsite. And an extra $10.00 per night because it had an electric hook-up whether I needed it or not. seems to me Florida should do this and then maybe we residents could get a site in season! Then the real fun began. Setting up camp! Guess I was on brain drain or so road weary that I could not do anything with ease or quickly. It took me forever to set up the tent which I have done many many times. I had that momentary but thank goodness fleeting thought that this adventure was a colossal mistake. Adding to this intuitive feeling was the distinct aroma of urine in the campsite. It had recently rained and looked as if it might again so I kept setting up as it was already too much work and too late to change sites. But the worst part was now it was getting dark, and I had no idea where to find what I needed. Having packed the car more than 3 weeks prior to the trip and then not being sure of everything I packed necessitated throwing a bunch of thing in at the least minute. As I am discovering, those items for the most part are not needed but definitely taking up way too much space in my overflowing Prius!!! I did manage to heat up the left over pasta Jamie sent along for me, find some warm layers of clothing to sleep in, find a flashlight that actually lit up, and get my cot put together and bag rolled out. Of course the dogs would have preferred to sleep on my cot and they very begrudgingly finally nestled into their little beds. Not sure what the temp was but they were shivering (in high forties I think) so I had to hunt down their coats. Once settled though we made it through the night with no drama.
Awoke to a beautiful cool morning and enjoyed a hot cup of S’Buck’s Via. I was excited and energized again. But, I new the task at hand was a major re-organization of the equipment, clothing and food since I searched for a good ten minutes for the oatmeal packets. But that was the last logical thought I had. I again entered a state of ineptitude and just could not get my head to work in any kind of an efficient manner I commenced a classic ADD adventure that took four times as long as it should have..I began moving things from the car to the picnic table, to the tent, back to the car, into another box, then back to another spot in the car…and though the re-organization is definitely an improvement over the initial state of disorganization, it remains a work in progress.
So after dallying around with equipment it was time to explore the park. The Bad River (great name for the river that runs through it) was beckoning. The Bad River — I can conjure up all sort of scenarios taking place. Additionally, I certainly could not have anticipated the 100 foot deep canyon cut through by the river nor the splendor of the both Copper and Granite Falls. An exceptional nature trail, the Doughboy’s Trail, with footbridges overlooking the falls on the “Bad River” was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp after World War I. My only complaint was that this trail, the most spectacular in the park, was not dog friendly. So I waited until 5:00-ish when it was cool and there was lots a shade and left the boys in the car with instructions to take a nap and not let anyone in! I enjoyed that hour long hike through the woods and marveled at the richness of the colors reflected in the water as it cascaded over the black and red lava and the various colors of the sandstone and shale. But what was a much more fun experience was the hike with the dogs earlier that day to the Red Granite Falls area. It started at Loon Lake, and was lovely peaceful walk inn the lush green woods of aspen, paper birch, hemlock, a variety of ferns and wildflowers. It brought us to a series of falls and rushing whitewater. As there was no defined trail down to rivers edge, the dogs had there first experience of rock hopping with a bit of aide from myself. They were pretty nervous and hesitant but no way was I going to let my dogs be wimps. They were clearly intimidate being at the edge of the roiling water which I so love the energy of. The 4 mile round trip brought us back to he car at which point I discovered I had lost Simba’s car harness which I had originally left on him. However, it appeared a bit awkward and heavy to be walking with it on, so I removed it and thought i was putting it in my daypack. They both were too beat to go back and look for it.
Back at camp that evening was uneventful. Simba whined and whined as he had to be either on a tether or in the fenced yard I have. The instant I let him off he would start on a walk-about. Kili is still pretty close to my heals all the time but had an obsession with running through the path to the neighboring campsite. So of course they remained tethered! Thankfully it was a much warmer evening and after I cooked dinner on my Coleman stove, I had my first fire as no camping trip is complete without a fire. It was another cozy night in our tent without having to crawl out of the tent until 5:00 am. After a brief visit to the woods I tried getting back to sleep but in northern Wisconsin it is very light out at that hour.
After my fresh brewed coffee…Yes I had my 4 cup pot with me and since I paid all the extra $$$ for the electric site I was going to make use of that electric current running through woods. So there was my little pot on the ground next to the tent filling the morning air with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. I really enjoyed that $20.00 cup of coffee.
It was time to break camp and I tried to be very methodical about it. Also hurried a bit as it appeared to be threatening rain. I was able to put a few items up top into the carrier to free up some space below but I think everything grew bigger and it did not appear to fit any better (in fact a bit worse) than before. But at least it was better organized. But we were all loaded up and on the road by 9:00. I anticipated only about 275 miles of driving and had two goals on my agenda before arriving at the Norway beach Recreation Area Campground in the Chippewa National Forest on Cass Lake Minnesota.