Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wisconsin State Parks are the best!!

We've been in the state of Wisconsin for the last 2 weeks with most nights spent in the outstanding state parks. All the states have them and they're places we seek out and stay in - generally they are well maintained, state managed protected lands - normally for specific reasons such as protection of wildlife habitats or areas of ecological interest etc. Wisconsin has really excelled itself as far as its state parks - all just lovely. We've had sand dunes, forests, great lakes, little lakes, rivers, lighthouses and beaches - lots of managed cycle trails and plenty of hiking, plus really good facilities and great campsites for around $15-20 a night. Every night we're surrounded by the woods and smells of campfires and grilled food, lots of pretty little lights strung from campers, tents, RV's and trees and sounds of happy people enjoying themselves. It's not that we don't get a lot of that everywhere we go but for some reason Wisconsin state parks really hit a chord with us and we've just so enjoyed it here. The only consolation in having to leave one park is that we knew that the next one we were heading for was going to be as great - and they all have been!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Transmission #2 and counting....!

Yes this was us bright and breezy in Wisconsin Dells. Out for a little drive around the most tacky kitschy places in the state (also known as the Waterpark capital of the country - which with the recent weather has been a total washout mores the pity). We lost drive and ground to a standstill in the middle of an intersection. After dragging the RV kicking and screaming off the road we waited for the tow-truck for Harvey's second tow in 2 years down the highway to the nearest transmission specialist - to be told that we could cough up $3000 for the 2nd rebuild in 2 years - lucky, lucky us!! So now we are holed up in a Super 8 Motel across the road for the next 3 days. On the up side we've got a bath, free breakfast, HBO and free Wifi, all for the bargain price of $60 a night!!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Portrait photos

We finally got our photos in the post from Tara - the portrait session was back in May so it feels like ages ago - great to have the photos with us now though - thought we'd share a few - helps us remember a fun day having them done and we just love the results - don't we look like quite the 'GAP' ad!!!? Hee, hee!

Friday, August 10, 2007

No plans

So it's all gone quiet. Always sad to say goodbye to visitors - even if it does mean we can use our table and chairs again! It was great! Today it's been back to admin. We're sat in a Camping World carpark now having our fridge tested after an on-going problem. Luckily we've been hooked up so we've been doing the usual spring clean and tidy up - we also have been eating like pigs since we can't use the fridge and we have heaps of food leftover from feeding the 5000!! Chris picked up his laptop after sending it off for repairs, we got mail delivered today and we also picked up Donkey after being without him for the last 2 weeks while he was in the garage getting new wheels fitted - and this time they're a snazzy new black colour so he looks quite different with his mini make-over!

And for the first time I can remember we have NO PLANS. I mean NONE. We just don't know where we're heading next. I mean other than Wisconsin, and even there we don't know specifics. Feels weird to me - I normally plan. Might hand over the reigns to Chris and let him take charge - winging it is much more his thing!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lake Superior's North Shore

From BWCAW we headed to the shores of Lake Superior. The largest of the great lakes - all the lakes could fit in it and then some. It's water temperature is about 40 degrees - so no rush to go swimming!! There's several state parks along the north shore - we spent most of our time there. In Tettegouche, Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State parks. We managed a couple of dawn walks out along the cliffs, a walk to High Falls in Tettegouche and a brief spot of swimming on Gooseberry River (getting in the water in the river before it reaches the lake made for more pleasant paddling temps!) At Split Rock we went on a guided tour of the lighthouse and old keepers cottage. It was decommisioned in the late 60's as it only served as a navigational light not as a warning for anything but it's perfectly maintained and the tour was conducted in part by costumed guides. Our final day with the family was spent in Duluth. It's quite an industrial city - with lots of HUGE ships passing through the port and an impressive arieal lift bridge which we saw in action numerous times while we were there. We also toured the SS William Irwin iron ore ship - at 600-odd feet long it went into retirement because it was too small - the modern ships are still very similar in style to ship this but at least a 1000 feet long! We also had a hilarious hour battling along the lakefront walk in a double buggy bike thingamy. It's a lot harder than it looks! Especially when the trail is narrow, there's another buggy coming in the opposite direction and we've got one of two crazy kids steering us - yikes!! Our 'last supper' together was Olive Garden - we just had to introduce them to our FAV restaurant which yet again never fails to impress!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildrerness

The highlight of the last week has to be the trip to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Northern Minnesota. As it's name suggests its a huge area of wilderness accessible only by canoe or occasionally on foot. Access into the wilderness area is controlledl by permit but we got lucky and managed to get one for Friday night. We didn't have much idea where we wanted to go or what our options were but we turned up at the permit office in the small town of Ely and spoke to the Ranger about all our options. In the end there wasn't a lot of choice (these permits are available more than 6 months in advance due to such high demand). We were heading for Angleworm Lake! We organised canoe rental and the following morning strapped 2 huge canoes to the top of the RV and headed off. First up was 10 miles on a paved road. Then 4 miles on a gravel road (always a chore, never a pleasure in the RV!) before we got to the trailhead. Then the fun started....a 2 mile portage!! (we get the impression now, hindsight an all that a 2 mile portage is pretty hardcore!, espeically for us beginners!). This is when we realised this was why the permits were still available for Angleworm! Gosh - SUCH HARD WORK. We all carried large rucksacks and we started out with 2 people at a time carrying the canoes aswell (44lbs a piece!). The way you carry them is balanced precariously on your shoulders and only possible for one person to be carrying the load. After a mile in it became too much and progress was slow - we were swapping every 0.1 of a mile!! We dumped the canoes on the side of the trail and heading off to the edge of the lake to drop off the bags first. After a lunch break Chris and I headed back for the canoes. MUCH easier without rucksack straps digging in your shoulders and almost comfortable! We managed the 1 mile with only 2 stops! FINALLY the idea of paddling was sheer delight! Angleworm Lake was beautiful. It was glacier formed so it was quite steep sided with dramatic rock right down to the shoreline. We paddled for another 2 miles along the length of the lake before we found a vacant campsite. After setting up camp we paddled another mile or so to the far end of the lake where we spotted a beaver (but unfortunately no moose!). Bangers & BBQ beans for supper cooked on the fire and a peaceful evening sat by the edge of the lake under a crystal clear night sky aswash with bright stars, a vivid milky way and several shooting stars - does it get any better?!

Next morning Chris and I got up for sunrise paddling silently around the lake looking out for wildlife. We didn't get lucky with seeing any but we heard several WOLVES! What an amazing sound. We knew there was a pack in the area and once we heard them they're so obviously different to Coyotes. It sent shivers down our spines! Truly amazing! The paddle back to the far end of the lake was tough - the wind was against us and at the end of it all?...another 2 mile portage - erghhh! Managed it all a bit quicker this time - shuttling back and forth with bags and canoes. Callum was on form the 2nd day after taking a fall the first - he did over a mile with 2 rucksacks and paddles. Chris and I managed the canoes for most of the way - easier without the bags and once I got stuck into it I just kept going - it was easier than trying to get the darn thing off my head!! By the end of the day we were exhausted and achey, but happy with a huge sense of accomplishment. After dropping off the canoes and gear at the outfitters we ate in an Italian restaurant in town and camped out in a carpark in town!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Disappearing into the Minnesota Wilderness!!

OOppps! It's been a while. Have so much to say but no time now. We're in Minnesota and thankfully NOT on the bridge that collapsed but thanks for the 4am phone calls to check up on us!! Actually after picking up Chris's sister - Helen and her kids - Cal & Lauren we didn't spend much time in Minneapolis other than to spend a gruelling 6 hours taking in the Mall of America (and we still only managed 1 floor out of 3!!!!) But great fun, and washed down at the end of the day with a much needed glass of wine and grub at Ruby Tuesday's!!

From the city we've headed north - first to Mille Lacs and right now right up into Northern Minnesota and the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). Absoultely stunning but there'll be more on that when I get a proper chance to sit down and write something and post some pictures.