Posts Tagged With: Wisconsin
This year marked our fourth annual Birthgiving cold camping trip at Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin (celebrating Thomas’s birthday as well as Thanksgiving). After a few years of mild weather in the 50’s, our luck finally ran out and we had our coldest trip yet. Daytime highs were in the low 20’s, and overnight on Saturday we reached an all-time camping low of 1 degree. On Sunday morning as we packed up, the car’s thermostat registered at 8 degrees. This year’s group could definitely be considered the Polar Bear Club of camping.
As you can imagine, less drinking was done this year than on past trips (though the weather was a little less brutal on Friday night, enabling us to put a good dent in the apple cinnamon moonshine). After setting down a beer for just a few minutes, it would be slushy with ice crystals by the time you took your next sip. We were at our usual walk-up site atop a hill overlooking the lake, and by midday on Saturday the frigid wind (averaging 30 mph for most of the day) convinced us to move to a site with more tree coverage. One by one, we carried our tents down the path over to the new site. Kurt even carried the fire for us.
While most people thought we were crazy for going through with the trip (and they were probably right), all 8 of us made it through and still had a pretty good. As long as the fire was roaring, we stayed nice and warm (though coats and pants were melted in the process). The Thanksgiving-themed meal on Saturday night was delicious as always. At night, we piled up our sleeping pads, sleeping bags, extra blankets, and layers, and slept pretty soundly. The trip remains one of my favorites, though I wouldn’t mind slightly warmer weather next year. After those few days, a day in the 30’s feels like a sauna in comparison.
This year marked the fifth Labor Day Kayak/Canoe Trip that we’ve taken (I’ve been on the last 4, since the first outing was guys only). As usual, it was a relaxing, beautiful weekend on the Wisconsin River. We started near Arena at Trader’s Bar & Grill campgrounds, and paddled about 42 miles over 4 days to Boscabel. We lucked out with sunny skies, warm to hot weather, and no rain.
Some of the highlights this year included the very-up-close spotting of a hawk eating a fish on a sandbar, a vortex of wind and river water that created a mini-tornado, a sandbar full of cows, and our annual fried chicken and beer run. With temperatures in the high 90’s, we did plenty of swimming.
I decided that for my birthday this year, I wanted to go camping. Late April can definitely be iffy in terms of weather when you are planning an event in advance (the year I turned 30 involved tailgating at a White Sox game and the weather went from 70 and sunny to miserable and rainy within an hour). Just in case the weather turned on us again, I decided to try out a state park closer to home, and one we’ve never camped at before, Bong Recreation Area (yes, that’s really what it’s called).
We drove the hour and a half trip shortly after work on Friday, and stayed through Sunday morning. The weather ended up being perfect–high 60’s and sunny–and some of us even got our first sunburns of the year. We brought along my favorite camping treats (Bloody Marys in the morning and s’mores around the fire), a birthday cake, and a piñata. It was a perfect birthday weekend.
We went on the third annual Birthgiving cold camping trip (celebrating Thomas’s birthday), which always falls the weekend before Thanksgiving. The weather was a surprisingly mild 50 degrees during the day, dipping into the 30’s at night. Since I am still on crutches recovering from knee surgery, Kurt and I decided to drive up with River for just one night (as opposed to the typical 2 nights we usually spend at Kettle Moraine South). It turned out to be the perfect length of time, as my knee didn’t ache too badly and I was able to sit comfortably by the fire with everyone.
The Thanksgiving meal, as usual, was excellent, with an array of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. We enjoyed shepherd’s pie, vegetarian curry, sauerkraut with Neuske’s bacon, pumpkin cheesecake, and more, all washed down with plenty of New Glarus beer. As the sun set, we circled around the fire and played Cards Against Humanity until well after dark. The crisp air and warmth of the fire felt great on my knee, keeping it loose and limber while staving off soreness and swelling. River, always an enthusiastic camper, got to show off her new hoodie sweater and dig for tasty worms in the autumn leaves.
Sometimes I think I actually prefer the woods in late autumn, when the days are short and the bare tree branches are so stark against the sky. There’s something very peaceful and still about it. The animals are hibernating for the winter, the birds have all flown south. I like the feeling of transition as the world prepares for the winter months. Or maybe it just reminds me of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. Either way, it’s one of my favorite trips of the year.
Thursday, Aug. 30-Monday, Sept. 3, 2012
For the third year in a year (fourth for some of my traveling companions), I spent an extended Labor Day weekend floating down the Wisconsin River. It is one of the most relaxing yet most rustic trips we do each year.
We start on Thursday night. After work, we drive 3.5 hours to Arena, WI and camp out at Traders Bar & Grill Campgrounds, the same place we do our huge annual caboozing trip. The next morning, we pack up all our gear into kayaks and launch into the river. Depending on the weather and river flow, we travel anywhere from 10 to 20 miles until late afternoon, when we start scouting out a good island to spend the night. Then we set up camp, filter some drinking water, build a fire, enjoy some boxed wine, and look at the stars.
Kurt and I usually rent our own single kayaks for this trip, but this year we got a canoe so we could bring our new puppy, River. Her name is partly owed to our many trips in Wisconsin and our love of camping (also, we’re Firefly nerds) so we were excited to bring her along. The trip was definitely paradise for dogs. She loved chasing butterflies and running leash-free on our private sandbars.
Every year, we end up passing the launch at Port Andrew on Sunday, and we stop there to hit up a gas station/convenience store to get fried chicken and beer. There is nothing better than floating down the Wisconsin River, belly full of delicious chicken with an ice-cold beer in your hand. I dream of it during bitter Chicago winters.Kurt and I came off the river a day early this year since I was scheduled for knee surgery on Wednesday the 5th. We were picked up at Boscobel so we did roughly 45 miles total. It was the perfect way to get outdoors and enjoy the last dog days of summer before heading into knee surgery and recuperation.
Until next year….
For the 4th of July weekend, we traveled through the state of Wisconsin by motorcycle. Here’s our route.
New Glarus Hilltop Brewery
The brewery sits atop a tall hill, overlooking some gorgeous scenery. We sampled some local beers and sat outside admiring the view.
The Grumpy Troll, Mount Horeb
We’d been here once before on a bike trip; it is always worth stopping by.
Prairie Du Chien
We spent our first night on the road at a Best Western, and totally lucked out and ended up in the themed “Fur Trader Suite.” Very Twin Peaks-ian.
After a surprisingly hearty continental breakfast, we were back on the road headed to La Crosse. Part of our route included a particularly twisty road full of curves which at one point cut through high rocky bluffs, creating an awesome tunnel. I kept expecting Wario to ride up and throw a banana peel at us.
Kurt’s favorite sign spotted: “Welcome to Ontario, WI: Canoe Capital of The Kickapoo.”
After checking into our hotel and getting some lunch, we went out on another run, heading north of the city and swinging back down. The city was holding its annual RiverFest celebration, so we drank cheap beer and watched cover bands along the Mississippi River.
We took Hwy 33 towards Baraboo, one of my favorite stretches of the trip. This road had the best farm-animal-watching by far; I saw tons of horses, newly shorn lambs, and even a miniature goat with a long white beard. I wanted to put tiny glasses on him and make him tell me a story.
My favorite sign spotted: “Welcome to Lido, WI: Home of Susie the Duck.”
Circus World Museum, Baraboo
We stopped here to see a small circus show and got to pet the elephant.
After checking into our hotel, we ate some surprisingly excellent Chinese food and drank New Glarus drafts into the night.
After one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner (egg, bacon, and spinach sandwich with goat cheese on jalapeno bread, everything I love in this world), we jumped on the highway and hightailed it home.
It has become a new tradition to go camping the weekend before Thanksgiving to celebrate our friend Thomas’s birthday. We usually head to Kettle Moraine State Forest South in Wisconsin. As long as you bundle up enough, it’s a lot of fun to camp in cold weather. For one, you don’t have to worry about bugs AT ALL. Also, you don’t need to worry about filling your cooler with ice; your beer will stay nice and cold on its own.
The annual cold camping trip includes a huge birthday feast. Since daylight hours are limited, the cooking begins as soon as everyone wakes up on Saturday morning. As we drink Bloody Marys and New Glarus beer, we prepare food all day long using the campfire, a smoker, Coleman grills, and even a hibachi. This past trip’s menu included a bacon-wrapped turducken, sauerkraut with Nueske’s bacon, yams, vegetarian curry, cranberries, stuffing, potatoes, dinner rolls, and plenty of beer and Jameson to wash it all down.
With plenty of layers bundling us up, we stayed warm by the fire and toasty in our sleeping bags.
As the indicator on the smoker shows, it was an ideal weekend.