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!

 

 

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?

A Visit to the Wegner Grotto

When Paul and Matilda Wegner emigrated from Germany in 1885, I doubt they envisioned their retirement years building what would later become the Wegner Grotto. It all started in 1929 after Paul retired from owning and operating a Ford garage. Neither Paul nor Matilda had any formal training in the arts, but they definitely had a vision. Their “grassroots art” started on their small farm outside of Cataract, Wisconsin. They were no longer living on the farm full-time, but spent summers there. They began by building a fence around the property. Concrete pillars decorated with thousands of shards of broken glass…

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Little by little, special pieces were added, a prayer garden…

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A birdhouse and other decorations…

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I was bummed the skies were threatening to drench us as we walked along marveling at the artistry. I can only imagine how brilliantly the shards must glint in the bright sunshine. Glass flowers adorn the top of a pillar…

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The grotto began to take on a life of its own. Perhaps the crowning achievement, is the glass church. Paul wanted to represent all “mainline denominations”. And did so in stunning fashion…
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And a peace monument…

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Later he built a replica of their 50th wedding anniversary cake…

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And the very symbol of the country he loved…

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Paul died in 1937 and is buried at a little cemetery just up the road from the grotto. His gravestone, as well as Matilda’s, are a tribute to the beauty he created…

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Other family members’ graves are also decorated with glass shards…

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I wondered where they were able to find so much broken glass. I doubt colored glass was an inexpensive item to own in the early 1930’s. Some of it appeared to be carnival glass, shiny and still lovely, though only a shard…

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Have you ever been moved by “grassroots art”?

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?

The Devil Is In The Details

Finally, a day off with no chores. No groceries to shop for, no laundry to do. Just a day to go out and have some fun. The weather could have been better, the forecast called for on and off showers and cloudy skies, but that wasn’t going to deter us! After visiting one of our favorite websites, Atlas Obscura, we knew we had to take the 30 minute drive to Sparta, Wisconsin and visit FAST Corporation. FAST stands for Fiberglass Animals, Shapes and Trademarks.

We’ve all seen larger than life advertising or roadside attractions, you know, that 20′ tall strawberry at the fruit stand or the giant cow standing in front of the farm. If you are like me, you’ve probably never given a second thought to where did it come from or who made it? But, chances are, it came from FAST Corp.

When we pulled into the parking lot, I didn’t know where to look first. Acres of fiberglass molds and finished products beckoned me. As we walked around, familiar characters stared back at us under dreary skies…

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Some items where purely decorative, while others were more functional.  It’s easy to picture this hippo water fountain at the zoo, just across from the lion bench where tired parents watch as the kiddos get a drink…

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In my mind, I can hear the squeals of delight as the kiddies come down the water slide…

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As we walked passed the cows…

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The familiar shape Hard Rock Cafe guitars caught our attention…

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FAST Corporation has kept every fiberglass mold they have ever created. After being used, they are taken out back and put in the “graveyard”. Acres and acres of molds await the day they may be called for again. Who knows when someone might need a giant bear…Fast Corporation-2410

Or an elephant…

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How about an ice cream cone…

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What if Chevy needs another boulder?

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Here are some of the other neat molds we saw…

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The mold for the lion bench

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Behind one of the shops, there was a sculpture of 2 boys rough housing, I think this will be used to create the mold. It looked like it was carved out of some type of dense foam…

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There were also finished products, waiting to be shipped…

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If you are ever in Sparta, Wisconsin and find yourself on County Road Q, stop in and visit FAST Corporation! It’s a pretty neat place!

Up next, my first kayak trip on the Black River…