Planning a trip? Dreaming of travel? Perhaps some of our adventures could inspire yours! Over the last several years we’ve had the distinct pleasure of many cross country journeys traveling though the Lower 48 in tents and our various teardrop campers as well as an amazing Alaska adventure that did not involve a camper. To learn more about our day to day adventures, recent blog posts are below. To learn more about Steve & Karen, click on the About Us link. All Things T@B is about using and caring for T@B trailers. Every other link is about travel adventures. Enjoy exploring, and leave us comments! We love hearing from you. And if you’d like to follow us, Subscribe by signing up at the bottom of this page.
This has been an amazing introduction to an incredible place. We successfully managed to rendezvous with our dear friend Amanda on her journey east from Washington State as we were making our way west. Actually we’d both departed from Ohio in mid-June, so her trip to meet up with us involved considerably more miles. The planning for this visit took place over just the past few weeks and curiously we arrived at Arnold’s Campground in International Falls, Minnesota within minutes of each other. Voyageurs National Park in the extreme northeast part of Minnesota is the only national park named after a group of people, the French Fur Traders who plied these waters as part of the supply chain providing beaver pelts for European fashion markets in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Since 1975 it’s been Minnesota’s only national park. Since forty percent of the surface area of the park is comprised of lakes, having access to a boat is a definite asset. We’d counted on being able to book a tour once we arrived but the official park tours were cancelled mid-season due to a mishap and the local guides were booked two weeks out. We briefly considered breaking out our inflatable kayaks then decided instead to concentrate on hiking and save the boat trip for next visit. That’s an excellent reason to return. Over the course of the two full days we had together we spent quite a bit of time talking to rangers, checking out the displays in the Rainy Lake and Ash River Visitor Centers, learning about the natural and cultural history of the area, drinking in the fabulous land and waterscapes, and getting hints about how to make our next visit even more exciting.
This week has been a dream come true for Karen. Ever since 1962 when she not only became best friends with Ann, the new girl at school, who later became a college roommate, but developed a friendship with her whole family, Karen has dreamt of visiting two small towns in northeastern Minnesota. Tower in the early sixties boasted a population of nearly nine hundred but today it’s about five hundred. While we stayed at Hoodoo Point Campground on the southern shore of Lake Vermillion right next to Tower for seven nights, we explored this part of St Louis County. We learned more about the succession of native peoples that have called this area home for seven thousand years, the fur traders, the prospectors that flocked to this area with the 1865 Vermillion Gold Rush, the establishment of an iron mine as well as the arrival of the railroad in 1884 to transport the ore to the port of Duluth. Apparently Tower was at its population zenith at about 1900 fueled by iron mining and declined especially with the closing of the mine in late 1962. We enjoyed talking with a volunteer at the Tower-Soudan Historical Society Museum at the Historic Train Depot and checking out vintage train cars and the local museum there. Another evening we returned to check out the local farmers market. One afternoon we patronized Tiny Bubbles, the local laundromat and Good Ol’ Days, the immediately adjoining bar and grill before walking across the street to Zup’s, a great little family owned supermarket. The other town is Buyck, where Ann’s immigrant grandparents farmed a homestead claim. Once famous for it’s roadside town sign in the 1960’s sporting a bicycle on top to represent the correct pronunciation (“bike”) but also the caption “Population 9” it’s an area of Portage Township with a strong identity and proud history. On Friday we drove north into the deep woods of Minnesota first to checkout the Echo Lake campground in Superior National Forest but more importantly to stop at Echo Trail Tavern to sit at the bar, enjoy a good meal, and to hobnob with a couple of folks that today call Buyck home.
After purchasing our tickets online yesterday we headed this morning over to the state park just east of Tower, Minnesota for the Soudan Underground Mine Tour where we had the privilege of riding in a crowded cage down to Level 27, the deepest level worked before the mine closed in December 1962. We then took an electric train another half mile where we disembarked and climbed a 36 step spiral staircase up to the stoup, the area where the miners worked in near darkness lit only by candles, then carbide, and finally battery head lamps. The cut and fill process they used here involved blasting rock from the ceiling, removing the ore, and using the waste rock to raise the level of the floor. Although it produced 15.5 million tons of high quality iron ore over it’s eighty years, this “Cadillac of Mines” eventually fell victim to new technologies in which it was more cost effective to use lower quality ores obtained from open pit mines in the production of steel. Shortly after it closed the mine, US Steel sold the mine and surrounding property to the State of Minnesota and by 1965 the state park had opened with tours to share the history of this part of the Industrial Revolution with all of us who are interested. Another part of the history of the mine is that it is the site of a former University of Minnesota underground physics laboratory. We didn’t take the opportunity to tour the lab todaynbecause we always have to save something for the next time, but we did do some of the self-guided surface tour as well as go in search of a geocache that led us to some gorgeous banded iron formation rock on the surface.
After settling into our home for the week at HooDoo Point Campground on the shore of Vermillion Lake near Tower, Minnesota Monday, we drove the ten miles around Pike Bay to the Bois Forte Heritage Center today. It’d have been a two mile flight from our campsite if we were crows. This “Atisokanigamig”, or Legend House, was founded by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa to tell the story of their people. At the beginning of our journey through the museum we paused at the very impressive mural that illustrates the five hundred year migration of the Anishenaabe (Ojibwe/Chippewa) from the east coast of North America, near the St Laurence River to the Great Lakes region. Painted by renowned Ojibwe artist Carl Gawboy and drawing upon the legends of his people it speaks to their long history prior to written record which began with the arrival of Europeans in the Seventeenth Century. From there the story continues with their traditional lifestyle, the fur trade, a brief gold rush in the area, treaties with the US government, Indian Schools, on to examples of beautiful beaded and birchbark crafts, and the people today. But just as valuable to us was the conversation with the gentleman at the front desk. As his infant child slept he spoke at length with us about his people and his own interest in learning more about the them. He also helped us with the pronunciation of Anishenaabe and Bois Forte (boys fort) as well as the meanings of the three names used to identify his people. “Anishenaabe” means “original or first man” and is the name they used to describe themselves. “Ojibwe” means “rabbit choker” and was a derogatory name given them by native enemies, and finally “Chippewa” is a French version of “Ojibwe”. He seemed a bit impressed with our little bit of knowledge but challenged us to learn more and even offered to quiz us about things we learned in the museum in exchange for a discount on our purchases in the gift shop. Our personal journey with the Ojibwe began with our visit to The Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St Ignace in 2019 and has continued since. We’ve definitely come away today, from one of the places where they have settled, with even more appreciation for these people and their culture.
A few days ago we made a reservation at Red Pine Campground in Saginaw, Minnesota, just west of Duluth, for tonight. This afternoon we pulled in, walked into the office, and discovered that they had no reservation in our name. Oops! We checked our email and discovered that we’d reserved for Friday night. No problem, they had room for us tonight, in fact a lakefront site. So other than some embarrassment and an extra night’s rental expense, all is well. The lesson is to check, then double check. Probably the fact that we’ve been making back to back to back reservations for months on end plays into this. Just hope it’s a one time event and we can keep our schedule straight from here on out.
This is it! There was something about their write up on the Harvest Hosts website that really intrigued us and drew us to stay at Island View Lodge in the Wisconsin Northwoods near Mercer. When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by Erin and soon after befriended by her partner Alex. The two of them abandoned traditional jobs in Colorado to become innkeepers, bartenders, and short order cooks in this remote area but are doing an incredible job of creating an inviting atmosphere that promotes community building. This ninety-four year old resort has nine cabins, available for weekly rentals during the summer, each with their own dock out into the lake and kayaks available as well as a bar/restaurant/community room that serves as the social center for the guests. We’ve found ourselves so drawn to this spot, we’ve actually reserved one of their cabins for a week next summer!
An overnight last night at the Hayward KOA Holiday at Hayward, Wisconsin afforded us the opportunity to get laundry done. Then today we headed just a little bit north and east into the far west of the Upper Peninsula just over the Wisconsin border. Home tonight is Big Snow Resort near Wakefield, Michigan. Being a Harvest Host site it offers members fee-free boondocking sites. On top of that we had the chance to purchase passes and luxuriate in their pool, hot tub, and sauna this afternoon. Now this evening we’re in the Sky Bar right by the top of the ski lift enjoying some libations, and waiting not only for our food to be delivered to our table but for the live band to tune up and begin their first set. Thank you, Harvest Hosts for coordinating this amazing network of businesses willing to provide RV parking space for those of us willing to pay the annual membership and follow the code of conduct. It’s provided us with a wealth of experiences including a stay at a ski resort albeit in summer, appropriate for folks like us who don’t know how to behave in the snow but love green trees and mountains.
Our home these last four nights has been Dalrymple City Park Campground just three-quarters of a mile north of downtown Bayfield, Wisconsin, right on Lake Superior. We arrived shortly after eleven on Sunday morning and successfully scored Site #14, one of the 25 electric sites just as the weekend crowd was departing. All sites here are First Come, First Choice. We’ve loved this spot, nestled into the woods at the end of a cul-de-sac. We noted that this campground was designed primarily for tents and small campers. We’ve had no problem but it’s been interesting to watch larger rigs come in late in the day and get themselves into tight turn-around situations then in frustration need to leave and head out for another campground. Hope they have a Plan B! As much as appreciating the opportunity to cruise around the Apostle Islands and to visit Madeline, we’ve enjoyed immersing ourselves in Bayfield. Our first evening we hiked to the Copper Trout in time to be there when they opened at 4:30PM then settled ourselves in for a outdoor concert down at the waterfront. We found seats on a retaining wall and settled in to listen. Song after song with a swing beat that has us wishing for a suitable dance floor. We’ve had great meals at Manypenny Bistro and The Pickled Herring, found some geocaches, visited the local museum, walked a portion of the Brownstone Trail, found a few treasures in the local gift shops, and just generally enjoyed fact that for four days Redford, our F-150 got his own little vacation. Every one of our adventures was on foot!
As we began planning for this stop we were both excited about the possibility of visiting the Madeline Island Museum in La Pointe, Wisconsin knowing that this location has been/is a spiritual center for the Ojibwe. With our cruise scheduled on Wednesday morning we had planned to visit on Monday or Tuesday, but learned too late that for this season, they’ve modified their schedule and are closed those two days. Oops! So yesterday after our return to dock, we scurried over to the Madeline Island Ferry dock and took the short ride over to the largest of the Apostle Islands. Hoping to enjoy lunch before a museum visit, we were dismayed to learn that of at least a dozen eateries on the island that none were open for business on Wednesday afternoon. So we grabbed a couple of items from the Madeline Island Market for a quick repast at the picnic tables outside before walking to the museum. Established in 1958, this museum seeks to tell the history of the peoples who have called Madeline Island home, from the Chippewa who’d been here for hundreds of years and the earliest Europeans, fur traders and missionaries, to well into the Twentieth Century. We first watched an excellent movie about the history of La Pointe, the community of the southern point of the island. We paid particular attention to information and artifacts related to the native peoples who lived here and learned that they called themselves the Anishinaabe but other native people called them Ojibwe, and Europeans referred to them as Chippewa. We’d known that because of a prophecy that they had migrated from the east but today we learned that here at Madeline that they believed that all the gifts the creator had given them were here and that when they were forced to move that they had hidden birchbark scrolls in the caves because of a prophecy that their people would regain their lands. We were fascinated with the artifacts but disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to chat with one of the very knowledgable docents but we with did leave more knowledge, a curiosity of the relationship of the appearance of Halley’s Comet to the migration of the Anishinaabe, a greater thirst to learn about these peoples, and a book, Great Lakes Indians by William J. Kubiak. This morning over coffee we perused Chapter Four and did a Wikipedia search for “Chippewa” which yielded a monograph on the “Ojibwe”. We’re fascinated and can’t wait to learn even more.
Having learned a lesson from our 2019 visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield in northwest Wisconsin we went online a few days ago and secured our tickets for a Grand Tour with Apostle Island Cruises, a National Park Service approved concessioner. We arrived to get in line an hour ahead of time in order to secure a choice upper deck port side seat as suggested by other travelers. In truth great views can be seen from all over the boat. Then for the next two and a half hours Captain Dave cruised with with us aboard the Archipelago around and through 21 of the 22 islands scattered in Lake Superior waters just beyond the tip of the Bayfield peninsula. We saw all but tiny Gull Island including Madeline Island, the biggest of the group, similar in size to Manhattan but not a part of the national lakeshore park established in 1970. With the captain’s narration we learned much of the natural and cultural history of these islands. We spotted a Bald Eagle nest and the mating pair although we didn’t see their fledgling offspring and learned about a recent study of Black Bears that was conducted on Stockton Island. Through the years these islands and waters have been the source of natural resources spurring commercial fishing, logging, and quarrying. We got to see remnants of the brownstone quarry on Basswood Island that supplied material to rebuild Chicago after their 1871 fire and the fish camp on Manitou Island reconstructed by the park service. We were fascinated with the sea caves, ice caves in the winter, that form in the thinner layers of softer sandstone on Devil’s Island that promote booming sounds from the waves. We got to see the famous Raspberry Island Lighthouse that welcomes park visitors as well as several other of the nine lighthouses so crucial to mariners here in times past. Actually the lighthouses are all still operational but are now solar powered LED lights to provide fallback navigational aid in the event electronic GPS navigational aids fail. Our captain also regaled us with stories of people such as the President Coolidge’s visit to the Devil’s Island Lighthouse, Frederick Prentiss who owned the quarry built a cedar block lodge on the island which didn’t at all thrill his third wife, William Wilson who lost a fight in town then became a recluse on what is now called Hermit’s Island, and the pirates of Frog Bay that waged a two and a half day reign of terror. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, these islands were the province of the Native Americans including the Red Cliff Band of the Chippewa for about five hundred years. All in all we had a great experience. The weather was fabulous though haze from fires in the western states obscured our view a bit. We didn’t get the long distance views that could have allowed us to see across to Minnesota, Michigan, and Canada but we did get to savor the wind in our hair and the delight of a bit of fresh water spray. Now we’re looking forward to making trips to some of the individual islands next time we visit here!