The Story of 126 Nights

I know I sort of interrupted the continuing story of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun when I posted Art Meets Humor. 

So, to continue …Mike and Dawn were only going to stay for a week, but while the girls were out having fun, Mike was making a deal with Lost Falls Campground. They needed a video showcasing the park and, as luck would have it, Mike makes videos. In exchange for an additional two weeks of camping, Mike made this awesome video!

While Mike slaved away at the computer, Dawn and I continued having fun. One of our day trips took us to Praire Moon Sculpture Garden. As we walked among  the sculptures we couldn’t help but notice some of them seemed out of place. What do bears and dinosaurs have to do with the other beautiful sculptures?

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Ya, we didn’t get it either, but it was still a great day out.

Dawn and I took several more kayak trips…

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And the time for them to leave came far too soon. With hugs and maybe a tear or two, we bid them “Safe travels until we meet again.”

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Actually, we took this picture when they arrived. But our smiles tell the whole story!

That was in early July. So what does any of this have to do with 126 nights you ask? Well that is how long we were at Lost Falls.

When Steve and I weren’t working…

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We took day trips to some really neat places. We visited one of the 4 corners of the world, the spot where the 45°N Latitude intersects with -90°W Longitude…

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We spent time fishing (I caught my first small mouth bass!)

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We worked some more…

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I had just picked up every one of those sticks and removed them from the beach!
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We cleaned up after family reunions
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We dealt with flooded campsites
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And flooded roads.

We had lots of rain this summer. The lower part of the campground (next to the river) flooded 7 times. Perhaps that’s why I drank several of these…

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Have you ever had a Bloody Mary with a cheese wedge in it? It was TASTY!

When the rain gave us a break, guests had fun on the river…

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Yes, that is a floating picnic table!

Steve and I finally managed to get out on the river together. He isn’t into kayaking as much as I am, but we had a great time…

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Since we had been in Black River Falls since May, we were having to go farther and farther to find new adventures. One day, we drove 3 hours to get to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. I was worth the drive! We got to see a bear…

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And something worthy of inclusion at Atlas Obscura…

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It was getting close to the end of our summer contract, but I had promised Barbara I would do some portraits of their Australian Shepherd, Reba…

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And Emily’s pup Rosie…

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Unfortunately, not every dog I had contact with this summer wanted to be my friend.  And not every guest follows the rules about leashes. Resulting in this…

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Yep, I got bit by a red healer

Labor Day came and went. With it our time at Lost Falls came to an end. The night before we left, Aaron and Shannon hosted a BBQ for this year’s workampers. Before we gorged ourselves on amazing smoked ribs, cheesy potato casserole and homemade ice cream, we posed for a picture…

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It was a wonderful way to end our summer. I loved Wisconsin and Lost Falls Campground. With plenty of adventures and stories to share we said of goodbyes. After 126 nights, I decided…

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Up next, the North Shore of Lake Superior!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

I was positively giddy, Dawn and Mike, from Random Bits of Trial and Error were due to arrive for a week of much needed socialization and relaxation. After accidentally meeting them in person on the road in Arizona last year (read my version here and Dawn’s version here) we have become lifelong friends, the kind you go out of your way to get to spend time with.

We have had the opportunity to get together several times over the last year and every time I have come away with memories I will always cherish. On our way back from Alaska last year, it worked out we could meet them for dinner in Texas and earlier this spring, we met up several times in our mutual “state of residence”, Florida. Dawn handmade me a card after our Florida adventures and it makes me smile every time I look at it!

But, this time, we would be in the same campground, parked next to each other for a week. I had been planning our adventures, oh the things we would do and see! Since Mike still works full-time, Dawn’s days are free and I planned to spend every minute I could with her. I had saved up some time off from my job at Lost Falls Campground and was able to take 4 days off in a row.

Despite all my planning, we found what worked best was to just hop in the Jeep and go. Dawn tells Mike, we are heading off in the “Cool Vehicle” today! With no particular destination in mind, I headed for Hwy 108, a twisty, windy road to the west of us. I’ve driven it many times and I love the scenery and curves. Near the town of West Salem is a set of buildings surrounded by a fence. The lawn is cared for, but they appear vacant. There are interesting shapes and I’m always drawn to it…

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I’ve never seen a car or truck there, but these two appear in the window every time I drive by…

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We decided to head down a road I hadn’t been on before and were gob-smacked when we found Mindoro Cut. When we crested the hill, on a blind corner, our next sight was this…

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We stopped at a pull off and went to check it out. A commemorative plaque informed us we had just driven through Mindoro Cut, the second largest hand-hewn cut in America and the last one still being used…

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As we walked along, we were in awe of the work required to build it. The limestone walls were filled with carvings…

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I remarked to Dawn, I wonder if Andy and Chelsea are still together and her answer made me laugh. “It is easier to be immortalized in stone than it is to survive a relationship.”

Dawn and I both love plants and flowers, so we spent some time with bygone dandelions…

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Dawn wrote an excellent post about our next find, an ages old barn, nestled in the weeds and tree threatening to overtake it. When I looked at the barn, I saw nature overtaking man made, but Dawn saw something else, she saw all the hard work of the American farmer, something most of us never pay any mind to…

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Across the street were the remains of what might have been a chicken coop. While this shot may look like it was taken from the inside, it wasn’t…

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We stopped at the tavern in North Bend for lunch and were introduced to fried cheese curds, oh my! My new favorite appetizer!! The day had gone by much to quickly and soon it was time to head back to the campground, but not without stopping on the side of the road to get a shot of someone’s creativity…

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When we weren’t out driving around in the “cool vehicle”, there were shared dinners, boxes of Moscato and campfires. And days filled with Dawn’s newest favorite outdoor activity, kayaking!

I introduced Dawn to the sport when we were in Florida and she loved it. We made 3 trips down the Black River, each one a little different  in terms of scenery and mileage, but what remained constant was the smile on her face…

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It’s hard to explain the joy I got from watching her evolve from a shaky first-timer to a much more confident paddler. On one stretch of the river, we just floated along in comfortable silence, each taking in the beauty and serenity of the river in our own way. Later, she thanked me for being the type of friend where silence doesn’t have to be filled with constant chatter, I knew exactly what she meant!

As it turned out, Mike and Dawn were able to stay longer than a week, but that’s a story for another day.

Do you have a “Mike & Dawn” in your life? If not, I highly recommend finding them, they are priceless!

 

 

Kayaking the Black River

I had big plans for Thursday and was pretty exited when I awoke to beautiful, sunny skies. This was the day I would take the 14.5 mile solo kayak trip from Black River Falls back to Lost Falls Campground. 

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Lost Falls Campground rents canoes, kayaks, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboards) and tubes (doubles, singles and cooler). We shuttle guests to one of 3 different landings and everyone arrives back at the campground, hopefully, having enjoyed their day on the Black River.

Steve outfitted my kayak with a phone mount, now I can take pictures and videos, hands free…

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We’ve had A LOT of rain this spring and the river was moving pretty briskly as I set off. It didn’t take long before all I could hear was the sounds of nature, the river churning and a chorus of birds. The evidence of high water was all around me. Some of the smaller trees were barely above the waterline…

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You can see the wet line on the trees, overnight, the river had gone down at least 18″. Usually there are lots of sandbars to stop at…

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But most were still underwater. It was a lazy paddle for me. I let the river current do most of the work while I steered occasionally and just enjoyed being on the river. I hadn’t seen another sole in hours and was surprised as I came around the bend to see these 2 “people” watching from the bank…

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I chuckled to myself as I floated by, a good reminder, someone is always watching.

The Black River State Forest borders a large stretch of river and offers campsites for paddlers…

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After passing Mason’s landing I came across a tall limestone bluff…

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I could hear the sounds of rushing water so I set off to investigate. I had heard there was a gorge with a waterfall near here so I was hoping I had found it. I was a bit disappointed with the “waterfall”…

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But decided to get out and stretch. As I walked along the banks of the creek, I found lots of white trillium thriving in the shadows…

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The cool water felt good on my feet as I walked along as sun dappled tree stood sentinel over me…

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Back on the river, I saw a slough and decided to check it out. There were lots of turtles sunning themselves on the fallen logs…

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When I reached Hansen’s Landing, I knew I only had 2.5 miles to go…

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I had spent the first 12 miles being lazy, but wanted to make a time lapse video of the trip from Hansen’s Landing, so now it was time to paddle! It took me 28 minutes to reach the shore of Lost Falls Campgound, so the video is only 28 seconds, whew, what a workout…

It was a peaceful, relaxing way to spend the day. I can’t wait to do it again!

Where is your favorite place to kayak?

Kayaking with Aligators

We only had 2 days to explore the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, not nearly enough time considering it covers 630 sq miles. The swamp is only part of the Okefenokee experience, there are also vast wet prairies, pine uplands and cypress forests. This mosaic of habitats makes the Okefenokee a “Wetland of International Importance.” The swamp itself is 38 miles long and 25 miles wide and remains one of the most well preserved and intact freshwater ecosystems in the world.

Day One

We stopped at the visitors center and asked about the 120 miles of water trails. Like hiking trails, they range from easy to difficult. We wanted to plan an easy paddle, maybe 4 or 5 hours in total. A trip to the Cedar Hammock canoe shelter sounded just right.

With the next day’s kayaking plan in place, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore. We took the 7.5 mile Swamp Island Drive. The ranger told us to be on the lookout for several species of carnivorous plants and orchids blooming along the borrow ditch. She explained the ditch was created when workers “borrowed” the material to build the road.

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Rose Pogonia
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Butterwort
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Pitcher plant

 

We crossed onto Chesser Island, which was named after the family who settled there in 1858. A short path led us to the homestead…

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It’s hard to imagine what life was like in 1927 when Tom and Iva Chesser built the homestead. The yard was kept free of vegetation to reduce the fire hazard and  to increase the chance of seeing any snakes that might wander by. There are many remnants of family’s life on the island…

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Cane syrup hearth

Our final stop on the Swamp Island Drive was the Chesser Island Boardwalk…

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We kept our eyes open for wildlife. The ranger told us a bobcat had been hanging around the boardwalk, but alas, I had to settle for lizards…

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We climbed the 40-foot Owl’s Roost Tower for a view of Seagrove Lake…

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Day Two

Our first plan was to be at the refuge early, but when I woke up, it was a chilly 63 degrees. I decided I wasn’t in a hurry! It was almost 10am when we arrived warming up quickly. We signed the paddlers’ log, we began our adventure.

We followed the Suwanee Canal for about a mile and a half before finding the entrance to the Cedar Hammock trail. Along the way, I marveled at the reflections in the tannin rich waters…

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We saw a few alligators in the canal. Despite being in a kayak, I did not feel threatened by their presence.  Okefenokee NWR-1990

Although, one surfaced so close to the front of my kayak, I could see it’s eyes but not it’s snoot. A little too close.

We left the motorboats behind when we entered the trail. They had all been courteous, slowing down to no wake speed when they passed, but I was happy to head deeper into the swamp…

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The trail was peaceful, with scores of water lilies blooming along the way…

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At the end of the trail there is an overnight shelter and outhouse.

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I got out to stretch and watch the alligator swimming by…

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As we were leaving, I noticed a baby alligator among the lily pads…

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Steve took the lead on the way back to the canal. I wonder if he saw this guy…

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I loved every minute of our paddle! From the anhinga…

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To the turtle…

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It was amazing!

Would you kayak with the alligators? Do  you think we’re nuts?

Settling In

We left my dad’s around noon on Monday, July 3rd. According to the GPS, it would take us about 15 hours to reach our destination in Lone Oak, Texas. We were hoping for an uneventful trip, after all, Waldo had a nice new roof and Steve had replaced the surge tank and both thermostats. We thought our overheating problems were behind us. We didn’t even make it out of Florida before Waldo’s engine temp began to climb…ugh! My aunt and granny live about 40 minutes north of the route we were taking, so we spent our first night “on the road” at their house. It should have only taken us about 5 1/2 hours to get there, but, thanks to Waldo’s overheating, it took us nearly 7 hours. My aunt had a wonderful dinner waiting for us, fall off the bone ribs, fried corn bread cakes, peas & beans, roasted potatoes and fresh tomatoes. After stuffing ourselves and catching up a bit, we called it a night. The next morning, breakfast was waiting for us! Bacon, sausage, fresh eggs (she has her own chickens), straight out of the oven biscuits and homemade preserves. Thank you Aunt Frances! My cousin came over to see us before we continued on our way. And he came bearing gifts…probably one of the biggest watermelons I had ever seen. We gathered on the back porch, while he cut it into mouth watering chunks. Between the 5 of us, we managed to eat almost 1/2 of it. Then he cut a huge chunk to take with us. Bonus!

With hugs and a promise to visit longer next time, we headed west. Waldo only overheated a little, so we made pretty good time. Aound 4 pm, Steve asked me to start looking for a place to spend the night. Armed with my Allstays phone app, I chose a park in Monroe, LA called Ouachita RV Park. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to find a spot because of the holiday. Even though the office was closed, they answered the phone. Yes, they had sites available. We were told which ones to pick from and to just come into the office in the morning to pay. Despite being so close to I-20, the park was quiet and peaceful. I took Diesel for a nice long walk after his day riding and came across a strange sight. Dozens of what I’m going to call mud chimneys. They ranged in size from 2-3 inches tall to over 10 inches tall. Thanks to Google, I learned they were crawfish mounds. Who knew…

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I awoke Wednesday morning happy in the knowledge, we would reach our destination by early afternoon. I was excited and ready to be there! It was a little after 1 pm when we pulled into Wind Point Park, our new “home for now”. We were warmly welcomed and shown to site B2, a beautiful shady spot to call home.

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As we were setting up, one of the park’s herd of deer came through as though welcoming us…

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The park manager and her husband stopped by later that evening and offered us a tour of the park. We climbed onto the back of their golf cart and off we went. What a slice of heaven!! Beautiful scenery, friendly faces and lots of wildlife.

We’re gonna love it here~

 

 

 

 

Doing It Florida Style

So here we are in Florida. After the “adventure” of our trip down here, I was definitely ready for some down time. I knew we had to get Waldo over to the repair shop for an estimate on the roof, but first we had to unload the belongings staying in Florida. I’m sure Waldo was quite happy to shed a few pounds!

On Thursday, we brought Waldo to Nature Coast RV, handed over the keys and hoped for the best. It would be a few days before we got the estimate so we set our sights on some relaxation time.

It had been quite a long time since Steve had enough spare time to get out in the kayak. While water sports aren’t his favorite activity, he does enjoy kayaking on calm waters. My first thought was to head down to the Gulf of Mexico (only about 10 minutes from my dad’s house). We made a quick stop at the store to pick up some sunscreen. Steve has two colors of summer – Casper white or lobster red. Not wanting him to spend his first week in sunburned pain, we opted for spf50! I thought better of the gulf because the waters can be choppy and there is no shade. I decide a trip on the Rainbow River would be better. The Rainbow River is a busy river with boaters, tubers, kayakers and paddle boarders. Since it was father’s day weekend, the river was crowded, but not so much to make it unenjoyable. Steve seemed to have a good time…

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We promised my dad a trip to his favorite restaurant for father’s day. I dislike eating out on holidays due to the crowds, so we waited until later in the week. Peck’s Old Port Cove serves steamed blue crabs. Daddy and I split 1 1/2 dozen crabs while Steve had their fried fisherman’s platter…

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A great meal – as always!

Before we left New Hampshire, I had been looking for a place to workamp. Work Camping is when you work at a campground in exchange for your RV site. Sometimes there is an opportunity for extra hours for pay, but not always. We had committed to a park in Texas, but didn’t leave NH in time to make it when they needed us. I was very happy when the manager of  Wind Point Park in Lone Oak, Texas emailed me and said we were still welcome to come work for the summer! Their website shows a beautiful park and conjures visions of lovely sunsets and quiet evenings by the campfire. I can’t wait to get there and settle into our new life as workampers!

We had received the estimate for Waldo’s roof…gasp! Between $7000 and $9000! Double what it cost to put a roof on the stick and brick house in NH! But, it has to be done! Steve checked in on their progress this week and it’s getting there…

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They are hoping to have it done by the 30th so we can be on our way.

While Steve was checking on the roof, I decided to take my kayak out to the gulf. I drove to the end of Ozella Trail. There is a great park there with a  boat launch. A few other kayakers were out. I parked next to them, unloaded and hit the waters. As I suspected, the water was choppy, but it was a gorgeous summer day and I made my way around the mangrove islands and headed back. I hadn’t checked the tide report before I went out and I won’t do that again! When I got back to Trouble, the tide had come in enough I could paddle right up to it…

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It was still over an hour before high tide, so I’m glad I headed in when I did.

Hoping my next post is about an uneventful 14 hour trip to Texas and our arrival at Wind Point Park!!!!