Category Archives: parks

Jackson County: Black River State Forest

Since I’ve been traveling out of state a lot this year, I decided to keep my summer adventures close to home. This past weekend marked the beginning of a summer chock full of camping, hiking, and kayaking adventures, which fits in perfectly with my county by county project. For sure my favorite part of living in Wisconsin is the abundance of outdoor activities available to me in my own backyard. Finally, all that investment in outdoor equipment will pay off!

For the first camping trip of the season, a few friends and I headed 2 1/2 hours north to black bear and timber wolf country, where Black River State Forest offers some of the best hiking, canoeing, and fishing in the state. Our camp site was at East Fork Campground, which is one of the more rustic places to stay as there is no electricity and you have to use vault pumps for fresh water. I prefer rustic sites like these over those close to showers and plumbing, primarily because sites with more amenities mean camp sites are literally sitting on top of one another. Though the sites at East Fork were somewhat spread out, they were still pretty close to one another, which I found to be the only downfall to staying there. Usually I prefer hike-in sites that are off the beaten path (the ones where you carry water in and carry trash out) solely because you’re nestled in the woods and further away from other groups, which means you don’t have to abide by quiet hours or worry about how much noise you’re making. Plus, I appreciate being nestled deep in the woods.

I think back to this trip and I can’t help but laugh at all our misadventures, especially for two of my friends who were camping for the second time ever. I only wish the weather hadn’t taken a turn for the worse – from bright and sunny to a torrential downpour – since I doubt they have any desire to tag along on future trips. Between the abundance of ticks and mosquitoes and the flooding of their tent, I feel bad their introduction into the great outdoors was less than ideal. To quote one of them, “This was the worst night of my life.” Haha.

If anything, I think we all learned the importance of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, as well as investing in quality equipment (especially tents). My buyer’s remorse over a $200 tent? Completely wiped out! That sucker held up in a massive thunderstorm with no leaking whatsoever.

But my most exciting purchase of the season was my kayak, though I will admit it came with its own frustrations. For one, I’m weak in my upper body strength, which means lifting the kayak on top of my vehicle alone is almost impossible. There was a lot of cursing on my end. Plus, my anxiety level went through the roof since I had to keep stopping on the side of the highway to readjust the kayak as it kept popping out of the rack. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos since then to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Hopefully I get it right the next time around. If anything, I’m determined to do all this without needing the help of someone else.

Also, somewhat disappointing is the fact that Miley absolutely hates being in the kayak (actually, hate is an understatement). And, getting her life vest on is a difficult task in and of itself. Basically, I have to wrestle and hold her between my legs. Once I get it on, she makes every attempt to tear it off. She becomes a wild child. On the bright side, she looks super freaking adorable in it!

Though I thought she would love being in the kayak given her love of water, the further out we got from shore, the more she whined and started shaking. Not to mention the fact she nearly flipped me on several occasions (it will happen eventually, I’m sure of it). Plus, she ignored all my commands. I feel like this photo pretty much sums up life with Miley on a daily basis, especially the bottom right box. 🙂

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Hopefully her comfort level will change the more we take the kayak out. I mean, it has to!

Despite some of the frustrations of this past weekend’s camping trip, I had a pretty good time. Check out some of our photos below.

BeFunky Collage

BeFunky Collage3

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Filed under camping, County project, kayaking, outdoors, parks, photos

Grant county: camping on the confluence

Along the southwestern border of Wisconsin is Wyalusing State Park, which is where the lower Wisconsin River meets the Mississippi. About 500 feet above where the rivers meet is an abundance of outdoor space and natural beauty just begging to be explored. I first discovered Wyalusing on a travel Wisconsin website and it’s been on my list of parks to explore ever since so when my friend Kelsey invited me to join her and a group of about 15 others to set up camp here for the weekend, I jumped at the opportunity.

Although most people I’ve talked to about Wyalusing have never been there or even heard of it, it definitely didn’t disappoint. I now consider it one of Wisconsin’s hidden gems, offering plenty of scenic views, hiking trails, and canoeing and kayaking opportunities. You can even go birding here if that’s your thing. Although I’m not so much into that, the number of bald eagles I spotted from different vantage points was amazing. Their sheer enormity left me awe-struck and watching them soar among the tree tops in mass made me feel a sort of spiritual connection to the earth.

The fact there were few people in the park definitely added to the overall experience. Typically, group camp sites leave a lot to be desired (overcrowded, no privacy, flat grassy land) but I was impressed with the sites here. Our little camping village was nestled at the end of a long drive and in the shape of a horseshoe, meaning we were secluded from other campers and surrounded by trees. It made the experience more intimate and friendly – a home away from home – and offered more opportunity to get to know some of the other people there. I came away from the trip feeling fortunate to have met Kelsey and her group of friends. They’ve all been so warm and welcoming but Kelsey especially has invited me into her life with open arms. I think what helps is that of everyone, only one is a native Wisconsinite. Everyone else moved here from out-of-state so there’s a sort of kinship and bond in understanding what it’s like to move to a city where you know no one.

Speaking of bonding, by far my favorite part of the weekend (which ironically had nothing to do with being outdoors) was the result of an impulse buy. On the way out of town, Kelsey and I stopped at Woodman’s to pick up a few items and inevitably got sidetracked by the giant pit of piñatas. Even though we were a group of adults, there was no reason not to blindfold people and watch them whack at something with a bat. It was the best $10 I’ve spent in a while. If I had thought about it more, I would have filled it with something other than candy, like baby bottles of booze. Who wouldn’t want that raining from the sky?! We certainly got some strange looks from other campers and I imagine we all looked like total red necks but it was fun. Plus, I love telling the story of Kelsey and me walking out of Woodman’s with a giant piñata, a bag of candy, a case of beer, 5 packets of taco seasoning, and ice.

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Scenic view on a hike through the bluffs.

Scenic view on a hike through the bluffs.

Kelsey and Selina posing with the bird pre destruction.

Kelsey and Selina posing with the bird pre destruction.

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Filed under camping, County project, Joy, parks