Lake Superior’s North Shore

For our anniversary in August, Steve and I took a couple days off work and headed to Minnesota. Our plan was to use Duluth as a “home base” to explore the north shore of Lake Superior. We wanted to make the most of the time we had and it was difficult to decide what was a “must see” or “must do”. Knowing my love of waterfalls and lighthouses, Steve came up with a plan. We would drive up highway 61 and see as much as we possibly could.

Pallisades Head

Our first stop was Pallisades Head. With little more than a small highway marker to signal our arrival, we drove up the narrow road to the parking area. My jaw dropped as I stared out at the scenery…

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Several people have died falling from these cliffs. With no safety rails, Steve wasn’t taking any chances as he photographed the landscape…

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Walking back to the Jeep, I stopped to examine the sap covered pine cones…

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We could have spent much more time there, but then we would have had to miss out on something else.

Tettegouche State Park

The furthest north we drove was Tettegouch State Park. After paying for our day pass (which turned out to be valid at all the state parks we visited that day), we got directions for the trailhead to High Falls. It would be a 3+ mile round trip hike, but the ranger assured us it would be worth it. The trail started out rather steep and I was thinking how sore I would be the next day. Eventually the gravel trail turned into boardwalk and the hiking became a bit easier…

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We debated whether or not to climb down the 135 stairs to get the best view of the waterfall because, after all, you have to climb back up! In the end, I’m SO glad we did…

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With a little patience and wading into the river, you can get a picture of the falls without crowds of people. But then, we had to climb those 135 stairs…ugh…

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Again, we could have spent days exploring the trails and waterfalls!

Split Rock Lighthouse

Next we stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. There is an extra fee to visit the lighthouse, but we were determined to see it all. Luckily, it sits on a high cliff so there were only a few stair to climb to get to the top…

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But the best view of the lighthouse is further down the road at a scenic overlook…

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Moving on, we stopped at one of the places everyone said was a “must”

Gooseberry Falls State Park

After finally finding a parking space we headed down the trail to see Gooseberry Falls. It is actually a series of falls. Again, with patience, we were able to come away with uncrowded pictures…

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The afternoon was quickly slipping away from us as we headed to our next stop.

Two Harbors Lighthouse

We barely made it to Two Harbors Lighthouse before they closed for the day. It is the oldest, continuously operating lighthouse on the north shore. It has been converted into the Lighthouse B&B, but you can still tour the grounds and climb the tower…

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We walked down by the jetty to get a view of the lake…

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The waters were calm and the setting was so incredibly peaceful. I didn’t want to leave, but we still had an anniversary dinner ahead of us!

We were exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel room! We managed to stay awake long enough to drink a bottle of champagne we had brought with us before drifting off to sleep. The next morning, we checked out and tried to decide how much we could see of Duluth before starting the 5 hour drive back to the campground. One thing Steve really wanted to see was the Peterbuilt Boat…

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Yes, you are seeing that right. It’s a pontoon boat, how cool is that!?!?! What I wanted a better look at was the Duluth Ariel Bridge. The bridge spans the Duluth ship canal and is flanked by three lighthouses…

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We were lucky enough to have time to visit the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. Here we checked out the shipping schedule and were delighted to learn we’d get to watch the Duluth Ariel Bridge in action…

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At nearly 740′ long and 78′ wide, the cargo ship Whitefish Bay sailed under the bridge, through the canal and out into Lake Superior with its load of iron ore in under 15 minutes. In less than 3 minutes, the bridge was back in the down position and cars were driving over it!

After a quick bite to eat, it was time to head back to Waldo 😦 We absolutely loved the north shore!!! While we managed to cram a lot into our 3 days, we barely scratched the surface of what the area has to offer. That just means we’ll have to plan to find work up there one of these summers so we can see it all!!!

Have you ever visited the north shore of Lake Superior? What was your favorite thing to do there?

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!

Art Meets Humor

Jurustic Park is one of those places that probably never appeared on your radar, but if you are near Marshfield, WI, all I can say is MAKE IT A POINT TO GO!!!

Clyde and Nancy Wynia live on Sugarbush Lane, not far from McMillan Marsh. The very marsh where Clyde found the remains of “Iron Age” critters of all sizes. According to the brochure:

“Jursutic Park is a display of many of the extinct creatures the inhabited the large McMillan Marsh near Marshfield during the Iron Age.

After amateur paleontologist Clyde Wynia discovered corroded remains of these creatures, he began excavating. As the rusted components of these critter were matched as closely as possible with the original creatures, they were welded back together to their original forms.”

As we crossed the bridge from the parking lot to the property, I stopped to read the signs. I knew immediately this wouldn’t be an ordinary adventure…

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Shortly after we arrived, a man walked over to us and started to explain what we were seeing. His deadpan delivery and sometimes slightly off-color humor had me in stitches. This was Clyde…

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“If I smile, nobody takes me seriously”

His love affair with sculpted metal began after a trip to Seattle where he saw a bell made from an oxygen tank. His first creation ended up looking like a bird and still hangs in front of their home…

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When a neighbor walked by and asked, “Where did you ever get that?” Clyde’s answer was he dug it up out of the marsh and welded it back together. And Jurustic Park was born. Soon he was creating all sorts of extinct critters…

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A porkypine – part porcupine, part pig

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Not all of his creations are marsh finds, for example, meet Abe Lawbender…

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Perhaps this is poking fun at his former profession.

There is even a perfect explanation of a Dork…

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Clyde loves his role as tour guide! Several of his pieces are articulated and he demonstrates their movements…

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There are quite a few dogs around the property, including one who is “Not Fond of Cats”

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And cats who just wanna dance…

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And lots of frogs…

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And he has no qualms about poking fun at politics and other professions…

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The City Attorney. The Former City Administrator. The Insurance Rep.

At his shop, several pieces were “in progress”…

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Near the end of our tour, Clyde brought us into the Hobbit House where he introduced us to his wife Nancy.

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This is a hobbit, not Nancy!

Nancy is also an artist. She makes exquisite glass and fiber art. I was completely remiss in not taking any pictures of her work, but you can see it here.

Clyde and Nancy were getting ready to celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary and when I asked him what their secret was he replied, “We don’t let the old in.” They are both in their mid 80’s and have done a damn fine job of not letting the old in.

After several amusing hours we wandered back to the Jeep, but not before I stopped and took pictures of Clyde’s artful sculptures of him and Nancy…

So, I’ll say it again, if you are ever in the Marshfield area and are in need of a good laugh – go to Jurustic Park, talk with Clyde and Nancy!!!

How do you “keep the old out”?

For The Love of Green

It was mid-May when we arrived in Wisconsin, many of the trees had yet to begin their spring transformation. Things were brown and did nothing to liven my spirit. As you probably remember, we had just driven up from Georgia where spring was in full effect…

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There is something about the color green, while it is not my favorite color (which is blue) I find it calming and serene. To me, it signifies growth and freshness. You can have a green thumb or head to greener pastures. You can be green with envy or green around the gills. Your wallet can be stuffed with greenbacks. I found several interesting articles about the color green and what it signifies. I thought Kate Smith’s article said it best.

Spring finally got it’s foot in the door and the landscape began to change. Bright green leaves emerged and drowned out the drab browns of winter. Fresh plowed earth began to erupt in tender new shoots. Now that summer has taken hold, I’ve noticed something I don’t think I ever paid attention to before. If you Google “How many shades of green are there?” The bottom lines seems to be – millions, and, Wisconsin has them all. I have never noticed so many subtle hues and shades. So, without any more unnecessary words, to the color green…

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What does green mean to you?

 

 

 

Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge

Steve and I love visiting National Wildlife Refuges, there is something about the “possibility” of seeing wildlife that keeps us visiting every one we find.

While out for an afternoon drive, we stumbled on the Trempealeau NWR. We hadn’t planned to do any hiking, so we opted for the Prairies Edge Loop Tour. This self-guided, 4 mile drive takes you through sand prairies, backwater marshes and hardwood forests. This year, spring made a late appearance in Wisconsin and we’ve had copious amounts of rain, so our early June visit was filled with wildflowers high water.

We picked up a brochure at the entrance and began the drive. I was amazed by the riots of yellow and purple flowers…

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The brochure pointed out a number of invasive species which have found a home in the refuge. One of these plants is called Leafy Spurge and while it looks pretty, it is taking over large areas…

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Wild prairie roses and berry bushes compete for space…

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When we saw a gentleman with a very large lens on his camera, we stopped to see what he was looking at. High up in a dead tree was a red-headed woodpecker…

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The rains have flooded low lands and the calm winds that day ensured lovely reflections…

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We stopped at the visitor center and talked for quite a while with one of the rangers. She was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us ideas for other places to visit while we are here. Afterward, we walked to the observation deck and I knew, we would have to come back one day with our kayaks…

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It was neat to try and identify all of the turtles we saw, this plaque was a big help…

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I think we saw at least 4 of the varieties!

As we rounded a bend in the road, we were happily surprised to see a deer grazing in the field…

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And a thirteen stripe ground squirrel bid us adieu at the end of the loop drive…

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It was a peaceful way to spend the afternoon and thanks to the ranger, we now have lots of suggestions for places to explore!

Do you like visiting NWRs? What is the most exciting animal you’ve encountered?

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?

Working in Wisconsin

We loved our time in Georgia, but we had a commitment to keep in Wisconsin. We were expected to arrive the first week of May, so it was time to pack up Waldo and motor on. We drove the 1380 miles in 3 days, not a marathon, but the last day was long.

As we drove through Black River Falls, we got our first look at the town which will be home for the next several months. I love the small town atmosphere and the outdoorsy feel of the area. We drove past farms and fields soaked with the late spring rains. It’s common to see Amish folks with their horse and buggies trotting down the road next to a monster trucks towing 4 wheelers heading for the state forest.

Usually, we find our jobs on the Workers On Wheels website, but this one came via referral from a couple we worked with in Texas. Don and Barb worked here last year and knew our skill set and work ethic would fit in perfectly at Lost Falls Campground. The campground, nestled on the shore of the Black River, has 36 RV sites, 7 cabins and 18 tent sites. My first thought when we turned into the park was “I’m gonna love it  here!!!” Don greeted us with hugs and happy to see you before showing us to our site. Many times, workampers are given not so great sites, shoved out of the way, saving the best ones for paying guests. Not so here! First of all, every site is wonderful. And they are huge, most are at least 35′ wide! Our site comes with a bonus shed for storage…

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Plus the use of the golf cart. Score!

Once settled in, we didn’t waste any time and got right to work. Don knows about my construction background and asked me to take a look at the bathroom floor in one of the cabins. He said it has a “soft spot” near the shower. I bounced on the floor a bit and told the owner, Aaron, this couldn’t be fixed with a band-aid. The floor needed to be pulled out and replaced. Once I assured him the repair could be completed before Memorial Day, he said “Have at it.” Steve removed the toilet and sink while I decided how to best remove the shower. Whoever installed it, didn’t want it ever coming out. Hmmm. Let’s tear out that wall. The next thing I knew, this had become a complete remodel…

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Once I got into it, I knew the vent pipe needed to go in the wall, not a foot out into the floor and all the old horse hair plaster had to go. Yep, that 1950’s ceiling has to come down too.  And what’s with that floor joist cut in 2? Geez, who built this? Replacing the plaster with sheetrock gained almost 5″ of floor space. At this point, Aaron’s wife Shannon was brought in to discuss her ideas on the remodel. I talked her into a new corner shower and a smaller sink. Once everything was decided and ordered, I got to work putting it all back together…

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It wasn’t all work and no play by any stretch. There were comfortable nights at our firepit…

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And turning Waldo into a birdie buffet…

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Speaking of birds, we had 2 really neat encounters since we’ve been here. First we found an injured Great Horned Owl…

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Sadly, we were unable to rescue it. Our second encounter has been ongoing. A mating pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers has built a nesting cavity in the tree right behind our shed. We’ve watched as the male excavated the nest and have seen a bit of birdie porn so we are hoping for babies in the next 25 days or so…

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One morning, when I was working on the bathroom, Don came in and said he had something to show me and I should grab my camera! While making his rounds by the river, he came across a doe giving birth to twins…

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It was one of the neatest things I have ever seen. The next day, Steve found a baby western painted turtle…

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So dang cute!

When I wasn’t remodeling or taking pictures of local wildlife, I became the official sign painter for the campground…

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Yep, I’m getting paid to be creative too. Speaking of creativity, I got out my Lensball…

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Memorial Day brought lots of guests, all of our RV sites were full, 5 of the cabins were rented and there were quite a few tenters. One of the main reasons people stay here is we rent canoes, kayaks, SUPs and tubes. We shuttle folks to one of 3 landings and they float/paddle back to the campground. We even rent cooler tubes so your float can be complete with beverages! The rentals might be the reason they come to begin with, but I think the awesomeness of the campground and it’s owners and staff are what bring them back time after time!

If you find yourself near Black River Falls, Wisconisn make sure you have a night or two to spend with us at Lost Falls Campground!

Up next, Atlas Obscura come through again!