Saturday, 25 October 2014

Road trip: Part 5 - Brule River to Goose Island

Cutie pie Jimmy-bubba, on the move!
I must have put the previous Road trip post up late at night, because it doesn't end in Thunder Bay - it takes us all the way to Brule River... Oh well! 

Day 11: Brule River to Goose Island
That night was coooooooooold... The sleeping bags Michael and I had were not enough, even zipped together for shared body warmth we were cold. And Jimmy? He was in his sleeping bag, in our sleeping bag. He was fine. Previously we'd take him out of his sleeping bag if I brought him into our big sleeping bag, but that it was sooooo coooooold. When got up, I was really surprised that there was no frost on the ground. 

I touched on how lovely the camping grounds are at Brule River Motel and Campgrounds, but what I neglected to talk about was our camping site. Now, there are a few tent specific sites, with the majority being for RV's, with power and water hookups, but, as I had mentioned, it had been so wet there that we were allowed to pick any site. We went with a site that was all grass, even though it was a little more exposed than other sites. The site we would have loved to use, but didn't, was a tent site: down by the river, but high enough not to be flooded after one nights rain (although a flash flood would have been problematic...). Oh it would have been lovely! That is, if the ground wasn't boggy, the road down to the site steep and rocky and wet, and if there had been a tap for water. Our spot was pretty good, and our neighbours were friendly, and inspite of the cold we had a reasonable sleep, but packed up quickly after a cold breakfast (no tea or coffee).

Helping Granny with breakfast.

If we weren't so cold, and weren't in a hurry to get to our next spot, I think we would have had a lovely time exploring the area and Brule River State Park. That part of the world is quite different to Manhattan, KS, because it has the feeling that nothing ever drys there. Ever. The lovely fungi, as seen in the previous road trip post, is a result of that kind of climate. We also found a frog near the bathrooms, so it must be warm in the summer. And we were still close to Lake  Superior... Too bad about the mosquitos... Yes, Michael and Pop bought insect repellant when they bought the fire wood...

I love this photo.
Before we hit the road, Jimmy had some time to stretch his little legs and did so looking very cute. I'm afraid you'll just have to deal with blurry photos, because he moves so fast, but we did manage to catch him and get him into some dry clothes before setting off.

We, understandably, had a hankering for a hot drink. Anywhere would do! So, somewhere between our first and second hours on the road we took a turnoff and ended up in Cameron, Wisconsin. We basically stopped at the first place we came across because there were lots of cars parked outside it. Good sign, right?

Cameron House, Cameron, WI.
Coffee anyone? Well, we walked in and there were a few pool tables, a pokie machine (or two) I think, lots of things on the walls and a bar. And a door leading to a bigger, darker, more peopled room. So we went in... and discovered a room covered in kitsch fishing and hunting paraphernalia and a bunch of locals. We asked for coffee, Granny had tea, and we were after some biscuits... but when the waitress asked us if we wanted gravy with them, we knew we were speaking a different language! And then we remembered that we were after "cookies", so we had cookies and doughnuts with our coffees and tea. The coffee was drippilator and with creamer, oh but it was good... It all hit the spot and made for a nice break.

Cool, right?
Wisconsin is pretty. As we travelled south birch and spruce gave way to rolling plains and corn fields, with treed hills preventing us from seeing endless fields.

The rolling landscape is home to Amish communities and corn growers, with at least one road sign alerting us that we might encounter Amish buggies. We waited... Michael saw the top of a sylow and thought it was an observatory until we rounded the hill. He fell asleep. So did Jimmy. And then we saw it! An Amish man with his horse and buggy and I couldn't get my camera ready fast enough because all too quickly we had passed him. Oh well. Here's a picture of a sylow instead.

We stopped for lunch in Galesville, WI, and attracted some attention from the staff at the IGA because we were not from the area, and a long way from home. It was all good attention, especially as Jimmy is really cute. We even acquired directions to a good park for a picnic. Win!

Detail of the gazebo roof.
It was everything we could have asked for: tables under a gazebo, taps, toilets, green space, and playground equipment! Jimmy loved the slide and swing. And we enjoyed the location before heading off and on towards Goose Island.

Weeee! (Photo: Michael)
The landscape kept changing, going from corn fields to grassland to swamps, all mixed in around rolling hills. Wisconsin is pretty. As we approached La Crosse, we kept our eyes peeled for the river: the one and only Mississippi. Well, we had to wait until we crossed a little bit of it to get to Goose Island Campground. And then we were crossing a bit of the backwaters of the Mississippi. Oh but it was lovely!

The beach at Goose Island Campground.
It was sooo different to The Lake of the Woods, but both places are just as lovely. When we visited the Lake of the Woods, we'd never heard of it so we had no idea what to expect, whereas the Mississippi is the stuff of legend, stories have immortalised it, oh and it travels the length of the USA. Our hopes were high and it didn't disappoint. And we were only on the backwaters of the great river.

Dadee, Jimmy, and Granny returning the wood bucket.
We bought some firewood, and set up our tents to the buzzing of insects (not mosquitoes, just lots of insects), and marveled at how different everything was 5-6 hours south of Brule River.

Our tent, table, and fire pit.
Michael picked me some flowers and then took a picture of them.
Dinner by the Mississippi was not going to be complete without some Goose Island beer, even though it's from Chicago, Illinois.

Michael took this one....
And this one too.
Just before going to bed, Michael was taking photos of a crane when he saw a big thing  in the water, heading towards the crane. I poked my head out the top opening of our tent and saw this thing too. Beaver we thought, but we weren't sure. Other than that bit of excitement the night was uneventful and great camping weather.

The crane in the morning mist. (Photo: Michael)
Day 12: Goose Island
We woke to water that was warmer than the air, mist rolling in, duckweed swirling, and a hankering for... dampa! Michael mixed some up and we may not have waited quite long enough for the fire to get down to coals, but that's ok.

Dampa on the Mississippi!
Morning mist rolling in...
More mist...
The end result. It was pretty good, but almost all gone by the time the eggs were done.
Those cheeks!
Jimmy wasn't quite sure what to make of his first taste of dampa, but I think he liked it. He liked the soft stuff in the middle. The coals died down and we had another round of dampa.

Round 2 disappeared just as quickly. If not faster. And then, when we were all ready, and after this happened, we headed into La Crosse for a look around and some lunch.

Our lunch stop.
 After driving around La Crosse, and working out where we might eat, we parked the car and walked around in the heat. Yes, it was rather warm and the sun was harsh. It was rather unexpected after a week in Canada. We ended up at the Dublin Square Irish Pub, with lettering that looks like something out of Harry Potter. Our lunch and local beers were excellent, and Jimmy kept up his end and charmed everyone.

This is only one of these... kinda like Brisbane's cows...
After lunch there were supplies to gather, including fish, because you have to have fish when you're camping by a river or staying by a lake. Unfortunately we ended up getting frozen fish from the local Walmart, but it turned out to be really good fish and the small jacket potatoes were great. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

That's right, it's a black squirrel. (Photo: Michael)
We returned to our campsite, had tea, did something things, including clothes washing, although I actually think that happened in the morning... I know Michael and my Mum took Jimmy for a walk while I gathered myself up and tried to hold myself together after something I'll save for a separate post (parenthood, learning, lucky). Here are some of the photos Michael took of the local wildlife:


We'd seen grey squirrels in Minnesota and Canada, we're used to seeing red squirrels around Manhattan, but nothing could really prepare us for the black squirrels at Goose Island. They were pretty unreal. There are also spotted and striped ground squirrels there, and they're really cute but really hard to get decent photos of, so you'll have to check one out here. There this pretty spotted frog, tree fungi, and the little snake decided that it didn't want to soak up the sun around us noisy humans. 

The backwaters of the Mississippi, after sunset.
We might have been noisy humans, but we would have liked a few more days on Goose Island. But we hadn't known how much we would enjoy the spot when planning our route, so we had to soak up the location while we could.

Long exposure of our view of the Mississippi. (Photo: Michael)
After our dinner of fish and potatoes, after the sun went down and we were going to bed, we discovered that what we thought was a beaver was actually a skunk. It also turned out that there were two cranes and they had a squabble over spots on the beach. The one thing we didn't do was sleep without the covers on our tents - it would have been nice to see the stars from our beds... 

More long exposure fun, made easy with a tripod. (Photo: Michael)
It would all too easy to dwell on the things we could have done, like sleeping beneath the stars, but we had such a lovely time on the backwaters of the Mississippi. Part of what was so lovely was that we were almost the only ones there, and that couldn't have been truer for that last night - yay for being there during the quieter end of the season, after schools had all started up for the fall.

To be continued! (One more road trip post to go!)

And just in case you missed the previous road trip adventures:
Part 1 - Manhattan to Winnipeg
Part 2 - Winnipeg to Lake of the Woods
Part 3- Lake of the Woods
Part 4 - Lake of the Woods to Thunder Bay

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