The travel diaries, hidden places

I want you to close your eyes for just a moment and think about the busiest place that you have ever been. I am thinking about New York City. Horns honking, tires squealing, brakes squeaking, street vendors selling loudly, all a jumbled mass of sounds echoing off of buildings. Now I want you to think of the most remote location that you have ever been to then multiply it by 100.

A few years ago, Paul and I wanted to get away for the weekend to escape from the noise of life. I reserved a remote camping site at the Northern Highlands State Forest in Wisconsin.The site I reserved was called Sunset Point. It was one of five camp sites. Three were located on the main lake, one was on the second lake, and the site I reserved was on the farthest end of the third lake.

Paul reserved remote camping sites before. He would get together with a group of guys and take his fishing boat filled with camping gear to the remote site. They would spend the weekend fishing and cooking up their catch. This time I wanted in on the adventure but with just the two of us.

There were a few very important things that I overlooked when I reserved this site. We had the truck loaded up with camping gear when Paul decided to take one last look at the site details before we left. He noticed that our camp site was not a boat in remote site like we thought. It was actually a canoe in remote site. We would have to carry our canoe and gear a couple of football fields between lakes to get there. Oh, and a storm was coming.

Thankfully we were able to drop off the kids at my in-laws and pick up a canoe that they had up in the rafters of their shed. That afternoon we were finally able to check into our camp site. The park ranger said that due to the bad weather expected almost all of the campers canceled their sites. We decided to keep our site on the furthest lake. He told us that in the event of a severe storm, we were on our own. He gave us a map and wished us luck.

We drove about 15 minutes down a one lane dusty dirt road. It was full of potholes. We were bouncing around so much that I thought our canoe would fall off. Vines and brush pressed against the truck on both sides. It was a great place to hide a body and we didn’t even get to our site yet. Once we got to the parking spot, we realized that we majorly over packed. We packed for a boat ride across the lake, not a canoe ride across three lakes. We took three trips back and forth across each lake to be able to fit our most essential gear. Then we carried the canoe across a couple of football fields down a little dirt path to get to the second and third lakes. We had to make multiple trips to get the rest of our gear. It took us several hours to finally get to our site. We arrived just before it got dark hurrying our exhausted muscles along more and more as dusk approached. We still had to set up camp, eat, and try to hunker down before the storm came.

We truly were out in the middle of nowhere on a small lake in a heavily wooded area. There weren’t any electrical hook ups here. A short distance from the camp was a pit toilet in the middle of the woods without a structure around it. We were completely in the dark once night hit. We settled into our tent early that night trying to sleep before the storm arrived. Paul tied our tent up to the trees surrounding it to give it more support. We heard a coyote howl in the night. Taking a hike to go to the bathroom would be a little scary. Not to mention feeling vulnerable out in the wide open.

We awoke that night to distant thunder then the roaring of a great wind. Rain knocked gently at first with a little tap, tap, tap. Then tree branched clapped and tapped along our tent. Everything seemed so loud. I grabbed the flashlight to shine on my face (like the actress from the Blair Witch Project) and jokingly said, “I’m so scared.” But I really was afraid. I was afraid that a big tree would come crashing down on us. I was afraid that I would have to swim across three lakes and run across a couple of football fields with broken legs. Oh heck, might as well just throw in a bear.

Despite my fears, we woke up that morning in paradise. Most of our wood got wet, other than that everything was perfect. We fished on that little lake. We had a great time in the miniature Garden of Eden (without snakes). I even checked skinny dipping off my bucket list. We didn’t see a single person all weekend. Well, except for when that small plane flew over while I was skinny dipping.

The next morning it was time to go home. Once again, we were in a bit of a hurry because another storm was going to hit that afternoon. We decided that we did have enough time to make a good breakfast. While Paul made bacon, we heard howling that came closer and closer to us. I sat in the canoe while he cooked just in case something came out at us. To this day I couldn’t tell you if it was coyotes, wolves, or hunting dogs. All I know was that it was pretty unnerving. It sure did motivate us to get out of there as fast as we could.

We finally were able to load up our bags and head out, but not before we put the weight of the world back on our shoulders. Things didn’t go that well with my mother-in-law and the kids. She couldn’t handle all three kids at once. She was swearing about them while we loaded them up into the truck and left. After that, I didn’t speak to my mother-in-law for about a year. Getting away did wonders for our marriage. Too bad it didn’t have the same effect on my mother-in-law.

We always expected to go back to our hiding spot. In fact, I even made reservations to go back the following summer. We loved the taste of serenity that solitude provided along with a little spice of being survivalists. We wanted to right our wrongs, like not over packing. When the weekend came around to go back, we didn’t have a sitter for the kids and it was going to be stormy the entire weekend. So we never did go back, but sometimes I want to.



The travel diaries, camping on Crystal Lake


Crystal Lake is located in the beautiful northwoods of WI. It is part of the Northern Highlands State Park system. We had the opportunity to camp on this lake twice and several times at surrounding lakes at the same state park. The best thing about this vacation is that you only need a tent and some camping gear to do it. So it is very affordable (unless you need to fly across the country or internationally to get there). LOL. The worst thing about it is that you practically have to sacrifice your first born to get a site there. It is THAT popular. I remember sitting at the computer on dial up at midnight exactly 11 months before I wanted to reserve a site here. Before my modem could connect they were all gone. Now I think that it has to be 11 months in advance at 9AM instead of midnight, but it has been awhile since I reserved a site.

So it was a fluke thing both times that we got a site on the lake. The neighboring lakes are all very nice, but Crystal Lake is the best. One time we went to check in to a neighboring lake’s site when we were told that a site opened on Crystal Lake. Within 2 seconds we took it. We took my mom and kids to the site and pretended that it wasn’t ours. Surprise!

What isn’t to love about Crystal Lake? The lake is large with a sandy beach around it. It takes about an hour to walk around the beach at a leisurely pace. It is great for swimming. After wading in about 10 feet of shallow water, there is a drop off with water that is cool, crisp, and crystal clear over your head. The water is so clean that you can see down to the bottom at the middle of the lake. Once we decided to swim across the lake. The kids and I would play underwater tag. It was like a tropical location within my home state if you replaced the palm trees with pine trees. Plus surrounding the beach, there are miles of hiking and bike trails. 

We only had the very basic camping gear. We had a couple of tents. Paul would make all of our meals over the open fire. He was always up for the challenge, even during unexpected rainy weather. His food was always great, especially after being active all day. He was really the person that made this all happen for us.

On the picture below, we experienced the most fabulous sunset ever. It was after a time of struggle. That particular afternoon we experienced a couple of hours of intense (in tents) rain. Paul dug a trench so the water would flow away from our tents. We hunkered down reading books and playing games while fellow campers loaded up their gear and left. That night we were rewarded for our perseverance by seeing one of the best sunsets that I have ever seen over the water.

But isn’t that oftentimes how life is? After making it through life’s storms, we can appreciate the beauty of life more.


The travel diaries, the Door County winery tour

Today I am going to talk about my wonderful home state of WI. Door County to be a little more specific which is the thumb peninsula in the hand print of our state.

Door County has several state parks, my favorite being Peninsula State Park. This park has wonderful biking trails, fishing, camping, weekend outdoor theater performances, and my favorite part is the large sandy beach. This beach is so large that you can lose track of your children when they are right in front of you (yes, I have done that). Another great state park is the Whitefish Dunes State Park which is great for picnicking. It is very scenic with its cliffs and caves which makes it a beautiful background for wedding pictures.We have been there a couple of times when they had sand castle contests. It it amazing what can be built out of sand. It has a great beach for swimming and like the name suggests there are large sand dunes. But before you pack your bags and catch the next flight out, it is winter so you should probably wait.

Door County is a wonderful place to go boating, or in our case sailing. Sturgeon Bay has a water passageway that connects the bay to Lake Michigan. Plus in the summer there are many places to shop, have a fish boil, or check out local maritime artists. It is a great place to pick apples and cherries to make pies. Grapes grow plentifully there in season. Which brings us to the topic today of the winery tour.

A few years back we decided to take a day trip with our most adventurous friends, Tom and Lisa, for their anniversary. Tom and Lisa were with us on the accidental overnight and rescue sails that I posted about earlier. We had a driver lined up and we were going to spend the day winery hopping. The evening was going to end with a meal hosted by a winery attended by a local celebrity. At the first stop, we sampled some wine and shared a bottle while enjoying live music by a woman that apparently liked Janis Joplin hits. It was great, we did a lot of laughing and a little dancing. But after we were there a short time, the music ended and it was time to move on. We went to a couple more wineries before we stopped at the last winery before our meal.

We did some more wine sampling at this last spot. Then we went outdoors where a band was set up. There were probably 50 chairs set up with about 40 patrons sitting and listening to the music. That is not what we did though. We got out there and started dancing which caused people to get up from their chairs to dance. People seemed to be having such a great time that the owner of the winery came up to us and offered us free drinks for livening up his party. Free drinks, free drinks, free drinks! We probably didn’t need anymore drinks at this point, but we had a driver….so free drinks, free drinks…..we found another couple looking for excitement and ended up inviting them to spend the rest of the evening with us. We took pictures out in the vineyards…danced, free drinks, free drinks..

Then it was time to go to our meal. When we got there, they opened the gift shop for us but no one was there to check out our purchases. Tom grabbed a couple of items, settling up his purchases later at the meal. We were into the first part of the meal when Paul, Lisa, and I decided to take a bathroom trip. It was at that time that Tom decided to find someone to pay for his purchases, except we didn’t know that. When we got back, someone took Lisa’s place. There was a beautiful 20 something year old woman sitting really close to Tom. Maybe she was sitting close because she couldn’t hear him, I don’t know. Lisa was getting upset, so upset that Paul went up to the girl and told her to leave Tom alone because he was there celebrating his anniversary with his wife. But she wouldn’t leave which caused everyone, including our new friends, to feel really uncomfortable. A heated discussion broke out at our table right as the local celebrity began to talk. It was all a horrible misunderstanding. We finally finished our meal and were ready to head home. To make matters worse, as we were leaving Lisa’s heel broke on her boot as she was coming down the stairs which caused her to miss the last few steps. She hurt herself and had to be carried out to the car.

It ended up being a long ride home.