ya betcha, eh?

Last weekend the kids and I took a road trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan.

I love to drive, however I am directionally challenged. So, the joke before we left was that we should all have our passports in case we ended up in Canada.

That’s a boat ride and one serious wrong turn.

It was about a 4 hour trip to Marquette, Michigan. A college visit and a quick look around the city. Of course, as we concluded the visit at Northern Michigan University, I asked for the best spots to see before we would get back on the road venturing farther west.

First stop. Donckers Candy Shop.

This century old, family run store has more freshly made truffles and melt in your mouth caramels than you could possibly imagine. The girls behind the counter were delightful and helped us to narrow it down to only a handful of candies. If it wasn’t for them we’d probably still be there. Perfect stop and must-see if you are in the area.

Marquette is beautiful. There was something about it that made it feel very similar to home. The views of Lake Superior and the sweet downtown with the marque sign made it hard to think I was anywhere but my hometown, maybe this is what made me fall in love with this little city in such a short time.

… and then we made our way to Presque Isle. Presque Isle is a peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior, and it known throughout the US for it’s beauty. As we drove through the forested road-ways, we would pull off the path to take a closer look and skip a few stones, or at least attempt to. The clear waters of Lake Superior make you forget that you are looking at a body of fresh water.

From Marquette, the kids and I jumped back into the truck and began our trip to Ramsay, Michigan. Don’t look for it on the map, I don’t think it’s big enough to make it on to one. You can, however find Ironwood and Bessemer which are close enough! Thanks to a wonderful friend who lives there we had a free stay and the best tour guide a person could ask for!

We arrived late on Friday, spending the rest of the night catching up, enjoying dinner and conversation. On Saturday, we began our adventures at Copper Peak.

Copper Peak is the largest manufactured ski jump in the world, and the largest in North America even finding it’s spot on the national registry of historic places. Ski flying is the sport.

I am not a fan of heights to begin with but this had me questioning my friendship and my sanity. Others had already made the trek up and back down and greeted us in the lodge stating that it was really swaying today, but the views are incredible! The gal behind the desk said something like “It is good when it sways, worry when it is not.” (Upon further research it does state that Copper Peak is designed to sway up to 18 inches on very windy days.) So with that peace of mind, as any good mother would do, I told the kids to suck it up and we began to ascend.

We took a ski lift to the top of the mountain, rode an elevator 18 stories, and then climbed up what felt like the stairway to heaven, if the stairway to heaven is partially worn wood and metal lattice. As we climbed I took note of my shaky legs and tight grip to the metal railing as if somehow holding on tighter would make the plummet to my death a bit more secure should the structure beneath me fall out.

We made it to the top of the jump! People actually willingly ski down this thing. The nerve it would take is something I can’t fathom. The people in the lodge had it right though, because we felt the sway, but only as we attempted to take in some breathtaking views!

The sky was a brilliant blue and it created a magnificent contrast against the shades of green that lined the earth in front of us. We could see ski hills, Blackjack, Powderhorn, and Indianhead to the south, and just north of us, floating in Lake Superior was Madeline Island! The ski hills were covered in grass now, but I could imagine them snow-covered and bustling with activity. I could see people slowing climbing to the top as they rode up on the lifts with their skis dangling below them, and the snowboarders creating fresh paths as they gained momentum going downhill. It was a little bit serenity and a little bit death defying. Yeah, I’d say 50/50. Okay, if I’m completely honest, maybe 40/60, maybe 30/70.

Following Copper Peak we visited some of the most beautiful waterfalls. As we walked the trails you could hear the calming sounds of the water racing over the rocks into the basins below.

The final falls we visited was by far my favorite! We rode the four-wheelers and side-by-side across the “highway,” down the road and up a hill. After putting them in park we walked onto what seemed like a hidden path only the locals would know anything about. Once the trees cleared we seen this.

After taking this in for a bit. We walked a bit further and seen this.

Which was followed by this.

and this.

The kids jumped (after first clarifying all possible life that lived beneath the waters, on the rocks, and in the trees around them). We might be a little more big city then Ramsay. 😉

Miss A rode the river rocks down like a slide. They laughed, swam, and fought the current of the running waters to the other side were they climbed some more, before again throwing themselves off of the small cliffs they once were grounded on, into the cool refreshing waters below.

To be sure the kids dried off nicely we drove a bit further on the wheelers.

We found ourselves overlooking the downhill paths of Blackjack ski hill, across the untouched lands of the UP and staring at Copper Peak, this time from a very different perspective.

The beauty of the upper peninsula of Michigan is definitely worth every minute of the 4 hour drive. It might be a little too remote for a gal like me to live… but I sure did enjoy the visit. I’d love to go back in the fall to see the colors of fall set in.

ya betcha, eh?!

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Glacial Trail Backpacking

Badger Trails is a non-profit that promotes hiking, biking, backpacking and camping in Wisconsin. Each year they host 3 events open to groups, individuals and the general public. I had never heard of them until I stumbled upon this backpacking experience on the facebook event page. I am not one who loves facebook, except for the platform it allows for me to provide you with my writings of course, and now the events page!

I am a novice backpacker in all areas, however I thought this would be a good adventure for the entire family. Niko, has always wanted to backpack Patagonia, so I figured we better start somewhere a little closer to home first!

The Ice Age Trail runs across the state of Wisconsin and we are lucky enough to have direct access within Sheboygan county.  In fact, the trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails and is entirely within Wisconsin.  The story goes that more than 12,000 years ago glaciers formed the landscape, hence a segment of the Ice Age Trail named “Glacial Trail.” Makes sense doesn’t it?!  The trail ventures through the never ending beauty of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

The itinerary for the hike looked something like this:

 

Friday-

Start point: Old Plank Road Trail head, Glenbeulah, WI off of Highway 23

Begin hike between 4-6 p.m.

4.5-5 mile hike

End point: Greenbush Group Campground N5854 Kettle Moraine Drive, Glenbeulah WI.

 

Saturday-

Start Point: Greenbush Group Campground N5854 Kettle Moraine Drive, Glenbeulah WI.

Begin hike between 8-10 a.m.

10 1/2 mile hike

End Point: Long Lake Recreation Area N3450 Division Road, Cascade WI.

 

Saturday morning we got off to a great start…

This adorableness was captured about 0.2 miles into our hike.

 

Sunday-

Start point: Long Lake Recreation Area N3450 Division Road, Cascade WI.

Begin hike between 8-10 a.m.

9 1/4 mile hike

End point: Mauthe Lake N1490 Co Rd GGG, Campbellsport, WI

Registration could be mailed or completed online.  I completed the pain free registration online and in total it costed us a whopping 54.00 for our family of 4 to camp and hike for the entire weekend.

Due to conflicts in our family schedules, we were unable to hike on Friday from the trail head to Greenbush group camp.  For safety they did not allow anyone to leave the trail head past 6 p.m. because of the inability to get to the campground by dark.  We did however, have the option of camping both nights at Long Lake, so that is what we did.  The campsites were preselected and provided to us upon our arrival.

This event in particular could be backpacked over two or three days, or individually day hiked. The hike ranged from 5-10 miles per day.  Badger Trails provided periodic check points throughout the trail. We calculated them to be about every 2 miles. Some of those check points seem to come a little quicker than the others, however I am pretty convinced the distance didn’t change, just the feeling in my legs and feet did.

This entire hike was considered “moderately difficult” and to novice backpackers like ourselves, I would agree. It was the perfect hike for an introduction to backpacking. Terrain included, open fields, rocky paths, up hill root filled dirt paths, and calm cool forest with an occasional puddle to jump across.

In 2018, this area was hit by a tornado that produced wind gusts upwards of 100 mph. The devastation demonstrated just how powerful mother nature really is.

We had plenty of fire wood to keep us warm on the nights that felt as though it fell below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  We also loaded up the sleeping bags with hand warmers, wore a hat, gloves, Wigwam wool socks up to your thighs and fifteen layers to bed. If that wasn’t enough the immense amount of shivering was sure to induce enough body heat to at least keep you alive until sun up. So, there was that. Once the sun came out to warm us, the weekend was absolutely perfect for hiking.

According the Badger Trail volunteer staff nearly 400 people turned up for this event. The beauty in it was that the trails did not feel crowded. We would seemingly stay pace with a few groups or individuals and they would pass us with a friendly hello as we stopped to grab a quick snack and a drink of water, and vise versa when they pulled over to refuel.  It also allotted us the opportunity to talk with a few not-so-novice backpackers. You know the ones with the actual light weight gear, appearing as though they may have done this a time or two prior.

We conquered our 10 miles in about 5 hours each day. That meant we were walking at a pace of about 30 minutes/mile. Of course, this varied on the amount of breaks that we took along the path. Saturdays hike looked something like this:

Badger Trails, Inc. offers limited shuttle services throughout the weekend. So, after we hit check point 6 we rested while we awaited the much desired motor vehicle, which meant no more hiking at least for the time being.

This is the result of her first 10.5 mile hike. Asleep on the shuttle with the trekking pole in hand!  This girl is a trooper! She was asleep, and my hips somehow felt like all the cartilage and synovial fluid that once lubricated and cushioned my joints simply disappeared into thin air!

Because we camped both nights at Long Lake campsite it afforded us, the “not so skilled backpackers” to leave our tent, sleeping bags and pillows at the site. However, I insisted that we carried everything else on our backs! 10 miles with everything on our backs proved to be more of a work out that we bargained for!

 

What we packed for food:

There are a lot of blog posts out there from more experienced backpackers, which of course I researched and came up with this amongst other items:

YUM?!

Each person carried their own ration of food for the weekend.

It looked a little like this:

Breakfast: instant oatmeal, apple, granola bar/Cliff bar, instant coffee

Lunch: beef sticks, baby bell cheese, Gatorade, wheat thins

Dinner: ready-to-eat quinoa package, ramen noodles

Snack: twizzlers, ginger snap cookies, gum, mints

And, water bottles!  Badger Trails also had water fill stations at every rest stop to ensure proper hydration.

Okay, so much like the ability to leave a few of our belongings off our backs during the hike, we also cheated and went into Dundee. The infamous Hamburger Haus lives there. This place has great burgers, but the mountain of ice cream to top it off was just what we needed to refuel! No, not really. This in fact was completely my husbands idea. I of course went along with it when he mentioned it, because I could not get the idea of burger and fries off my mind for the next 2 legs of the hike. Dang it! We are novice for sure! I blame him.

What to wear:

As cliché as it might sound there is truth to the saying “a comfortable hiker is a happy hiker.”

Temperatures varied… as vividly outlined above, when the nights felt like we were nestled in the artic somewhere. The deeper parts of the forest and early morning felt a bit cool as well, but a few miles in when you are putting in the work and the sun decided to greet us with it’s ever so brilliant presence… it was warm.  Like keep your deodorant in the side pocket of your bag for easy grasp warm. In other words, layers, layers, layers (I guess that’s technically just one word, but you get the point).

Now, I mentioned in the beginning that we are novice hikers so the gear we have now (and for this trip) would not have sufficed in the back country of Patagonia by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked, and we survived.  So, don’t allow not having the right gear hold you back from a weekend adventure.  You learn as you go. You will never be “completely” prepared so just get up and do it!  Now with that being said, don’t be stupid either.  I will let you figure out the balance in that for yourself.

We didn’t have sturdy hiking shoes or boots with great ankle support, but that would be highly recommended. For us, a good pair of Merrells and Nikes did the trick.

Long pants and socks (wool or cotton blend) to protect your legs against scrapes and bugs like ticks or mosquitos is also important.

As much lightweight gear as possible.  You need to be able to carry all of your belongings on your back (and your daughters on your front side).

We also packed:

Light source: AKA flashlights

Cooking pots/utensils: a pot to boil water and 2 drinking mugs with 2 forks, 2 knives, and 2 spoons is all that made the cut for this trip

Hairspray: for a fire starter people. COME ON! No not really, that was for my hair, but I didn’t bring the straightener because I thought that would be a bit much. No not really, that was because there was no electricity at our site. And sense I am being honest I brought a infinitesimal amount of make up as well.

Sunscreen: I FORGOT THE SUNSCREEN- but to my credit we hadn’t seen the sun in Wisconsin for about 9 months, so who would’ve thought you would get sun burnt on the first weekend we were actually outside since oh I don’t know… LAST SEPTEMBER!  Don’t be like me- pack the sunscreen

Bug Spray: I actually forgot this one too, BUT because it had been winter for the previous 9 months, the devils torture vermin (mosquitos if you needed a hint) hadn’t yet birthed from depths of hell AND, because of our long pants and socks, our legs were safe from ticks. YAYY!

Cell Phone: for pictures, a compass, and just in case we got lost on the marked trails. Hey you never know!

Trekking Poles: a great tool for endurance hikes

First Aid Kit: I am a nurse

Raingear: we had a few cheap-o ponchos just in case

Toilet paper: you get it.

Notebook/Pen: to record our journeys and my never ending thoughts.

Pocket knife: because my husband doesn’t leave home without one EVER

Sunglasses: to protect your eyes from those wonderous rays of UV, you know… the ones we couldn’t protect our skin from.

There is something so simple about the peace, stillness, and quiet of nature that restores and rejuvenates you. The depth in every art piece that is laid out before you invites you to imagine, dream, and get lost outside of the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Listen, listen for the birds that sing to you. Look for new life emerging from a cold long winter. Smell, the fresh air. Touch the secretive footpaths that lead you somewhere new. Taste the sweetness of accomplishment!

 

Next event: Devils Lake Hike October 4th-6th. I so encouraged you to check it out and you might even earn yourself one of these bad boys! DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!

Follow this link to learn more about Badger Trail events and get registered!

 

“Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other… again and again and again. And if you allow yourself opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.”

-Unknown

 

Roots & Wings!

Kyleen

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earth day

what better way to celebrate earth day then to be enamored with its beauty in such a way that you can’t help but to strive to care for our environment?

this weekend my family and i visited the mitchell park domes in milwaukee. the domes are a horticultural showcase featuring different species of plant life from all over the world.

they are about an hour commute south from my wonderful hometown of sheboygan.   sheboygan is sandwiched between 2 big cities and has many other wonderful locations just miles around (yet, another reason i love living here).

admission costs are $8.00 for an adult non-milwaukee resident, and $6.00 for youth.  5 and under free, but miss a is too tall to pass for 5 anymore  😉

you can pace yourself along a self guided tour through the 3 domes.  a tropical, a dessert, and a show dome display plants from different climates from around the world, featured as naturally as possible.

this weekend was the opening weekend of the japanese zen gardens in the show dome.

the mission is to provide visitors with educational opportunities, cultural programs, horticultural information; and aims to protect certain rare and endangered species.

the domes began construction in 1959 and the first dome officially opened in 1964.  the glass house cone shape allows a better angle for solar heating and more height for tall trees. there is approximately 2,200 panes of glass in each dome (and to think i was complaining about spring window cleaning at my house).

this was my first time visiting, and for most of you who know me, you know that i’ve tried my hand in gardening and plant life throughout the years. to be fair, also for those who know me, you know i haven’t always been a successful green thumb. in fact for a while, the only success i had was with a cactus as they can survive long droughts. in fact at some point i was told to stick with humans and not plants, as thankfully, my abilities to keep humans alive vastly out weighed my ability to keep a plant growing. however, with much trial and error things have changed in the world of my green thumb- it’s actually green!

much like the human body plants have their own dna and depend on certain elements to keep them alive. they require food and water to survive at their most basic cellular level, just as we do. i have been successful recently with plant life,  because I began learning about the plant species, the soil, sun and other environmental needs. most of all i love reaping the bounty of my garden. the fact that there are about 320 thousand species of plants means i still have a lot of learning to do and i can’t consider myself a botanist…just yet!

plants are essential to the ecosystem and necessary for our survival, so not only are they wonderful to look at they are useful too!

the rarest collection that calls the desert dome home (see what i did there) is the madagascar collection. the tropical dome houses the tallest tree, the canary island date palm.

the shapes, colors, fragrances and designs are sure to engulf your senses.

the plants are watered by hand every day, and the tropical dome also makes use out of its misting system to hydrate its occupants. plants are not the only species calling this place home however. various species of birds, frogs, beneficial insects (used for pest control), fish, toads and lizards also reside within these glass walls.

the japanese zen garden was eloquent and peaceful. the flowers were in full bloom and was the perfect easter inspiration.

this was my favorite! “kokedama” – a ball of soil covered with moss on which an ornamental plant grows. it is a style of japanese bonsai, where a plant’s root system is wrapped in moss and bound with string, transforming it into a sculptural art form.  loosely translated, “koke” means moss and “dama” means ball. I cant wait to incorporate these hanging moss balls into my yard this year!

environment is so crucial for growth for us, the plants and the animals we share this beautiful earth with. go out and do something today to clean up a little corner of this planet.

submerge yourself in its beauty and learn something new about clean living in an effort to protect our air, land, water and animals.

after all “the earth is what we all have in common.” -wendell berry

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elroy to sparta bike trail

every year my sweet friend “b” and i choose one thing that pushes us physically. in 2015, we completed the warrior dash. in 2016, we ran a 1/2 marathon.  in 2017, we choose to pedal the 32.5 mile route from elroy, wi to sparta, wi and back again. check out what’s in store for this year here.

preparing for this endeavor. practice pedals.

okay this is where I have to be honest.  just weeks, literally, prior to our trip…i didn’t own my own bike. of note, you do need a bike to pedal the trail. 😉 i don’t recommend this, however know that it can be done.

we did get together on multiple occasions to do practice “runs” but, because b and i live in neighboring communities it wasn’t always easy to get together.  we would often encourage each other via a phone call or text. find someone who pushes you to be stronger. being the competitive person that i am, those phone calls often made me pedal one more mile than her, just to prove i could. b, i’m not sure whether to say sorry or thank you. bahahaha!

old plank trail is an asphalt trail beginning in the city of sheboygan and stretches west roughly 17 miles to  greenbush, wi.  the trail terrain varies from flat to rolling with a few seemingly larger descents or climbs depending on the direction you are headed (and the miles you have already put in!) we took old plank trail from the entrance of the sheboygan falls trailhead to marshall’s express in plymouth and back to kohler. returning to the trailhead to round up our trip for the day, putting in a little more than 20 miles in no time.

adventure two began when we loaded up the bikes and headed 30 minutes north to jump on another trail for a few more “practice miles.” the start of this was very exciting as we were checking the air pressure in the tire and my tire tube broke… so we took a quick detour to get this fixed prior to even heading out.

rawley point trail is about 6 miles in length and connects to the mariners trail for an additional 6 miles.  absolutely stunning views in every direction. the trail surface is crushed stone, with an occasional plank bridge and dirt path. the trail end points include: sandy ridge dr. and sandy bay rd./county road o (two rivers) and point beach state park. be sure to stop at the pavilion at point beach state park and enjoy a refreshing ice cream cone and scenic views of lake michigan!

packing for an overnight bike trip.

the key here is not to over pack! whether you have a carrying rack on the back of you bike or you choose to wear a back pack, the lighter the better!

we ate breakfast both days prior to hitting the trail. so we only had to carry a few snacks for along the way to refuel. protein bars, beef jerky, energy gels & chews, trail mix, starburst, gum, & of course water were the main ingredients packed to get us from point a to b. additionally, you pass through 3 towns along the way so if necessary you can reload, but try to be as self sufficient as possible. once arriving in sparta there were plenty of options to eat for a sit down meal.

one of the most unique things about this trail was that we were able to refill our water bottle at a hand pump well & we ate freshly harvested raspberries from a food stand that was paid by the honor system. so bring a little cash along the way as well, you never know what little deliciousness you will find along the way.

clothing may vary some dependent on the weather report. we were blessed with warm rays both days, but keep in mind it does get a bit cool in the tunnels and along fully shaded areas.

clothing:

cycling shorts, tank top, sports bra, tank top, t-shirt, long sleeved base layer/or light jacket, socks, gloves (optional), ball cap, helmet (optional), underwear (not optional), flip flops or sandals, rain gear/poncho.

bike gear:

multi tool, replacement inner tube, air pump, air gauge, grease or chain lube, handlebar bag or frame bag, bike lock, & mirror.

electronics: 

flashlights are a must as those tunnels are DARK! be sure your bike also has reflectors/lights as well so you are visible to other bicyclists. pedometer/bike computer, phone, camera. one thing we didn’t bring that i seen others had was a speaker. perfect for a little jam session on the trail!

that’s it…well okay, one more thing…hairspray & mascara.

the elroy-sparta trail is part of the first rails to trails project in america. it runs along the abandoned chicago & north western railroad. it is regarded as one of the most popular biking trails in the country and when we see the beauty you will quickly understand why!

the trail has three rock tunnels and five small towns along it’s 32.5 mile route.  traveling between sparta & elroy, the trail stretches through the communities of norwalk, wilton and kendall on a crushed limestone path.

the trail may be entered at many locations along the way. depending on which direction you are coming from, jump on at the elroy commons in elroy, at the trail headquarters in kendall, the sparta chamber of commerce in sparta, or enter at wilton or norwalk on hwy 71. we accessed the trail at the elroy commons location.

trail passes are required for bikers 16 years of age and older. a daily trail pass is $5 and an annual pass is $25. these are good on any wisconsin state trail and we picked ours up here.

woodsy and scenic views throughout captivate your visual senses. the entrances to the tunnels were by far the most eye catching. trickling water gave way to the organic deep green moss climbing to the top of small rock walls as you entered the tunnels.

the kendall and wilton tunnels are 1/4 mile long and the norwalk tunnel is just over 3/4 mile long. upon entering the longest tunnel there is no daylight to be seen on the other end.  they are dark and cool, and feel initially refreshing as the springs above drip on you. nearing the end it can get a little colder even in mid-july (which may be the only truly hot month in wisconsin!)

bikers should walk bikes through the tunnels. yup. there are postings. nope, we initially did not follow those rules (surprised?). however, after the first tunnel we did understand the reasoning. the pathways are slick from the water and the smooth rock surfaces that you passing through on. additionally, there are people in front of, behind, and to the sides of you and in a very dark setting, it could become dangerous on bike. it is important to use good trail etiquette.

the trail provided endless accounts of wild life, deep wooded paths followed by bright clearings of curved landscape with brilliant blue skies. occasionally, there was a tree down providing an obstacle to maneuver around.  the path was quiet at times. conversations with friends being the only sound besides our bike tires combing through the crushed limestone beneath us. at the entrances of the tunnels and at the small city stops along the way there were friendly people in every direction. small conversation and encouragements were provided followed by high fives and a quick share of what’s ahead for our new found trail friends. some people were novice riders like us, others fully equipped for what seemed like a month of travel and overnight back packing adventures.

upon arriving to sparta my butt hurt!

we stayed at super 8 hotel which was about 1 mile off the trail. they housed our bikes in a shed out back, which was super convenient not to have to bring them into a shared hotel room.  we locked them up, grabbed a bite to eat at a local restaurant, close enough to walk to, because getting back on the bike to find dinner was the last thing any of us wanted to do.

on the ride home the next day i believe i was officially bruised in places no one should ever be bruised. it took at least two miles before i could even stay seated on the bike. and that’s when it hit me… i’m an amateur for sure!

…but great news! this trail is for both novice and experienced riders alike.

although i have not visited the trail in the winter, there is no charge for snowmobiling or hiking. i would imagine that this would be an incredible destination for snow shoeing as well.

have you visited the elroy-sparta trail?

 

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