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Naya laying on the ground and smiling while camping

Camping at Rock Cut State Park

Finally, Jason and I were able to get out with the camper for the first time this year. Hooray! While most summers this wouldn’t feel like a big deal, we weren’t sure when or if we’d get out this summer with wacky work schedules. We weren’t able to book a Wisconsin state park campsite well in advance … which is a big problem. So, off to Illinois we went, down to Rock Cut State Park.

Jason and I have been meaning to visit Rock Cut for several years now. Every time we drive past the interstate exit to the park on an Ikea run, we say, “We need to go there sometime.” Finally, we’ve been, and it was worth the wait!

We hooked up the camper and headed out after work on Friday. The dogs had the run of the back half of the Tahoe, which works so much better than our backseat hammock. We hit a minor snag while driving along the interstate — one of the camper’s storage compartment doors hadn’t locked all the way and was flapping open. But a kind driver flagged Jason, and we were able to fix it quickly and continue on our way.


When we arrived at the park, we stumbled on a new issue — none of the water hydrants for filling the camper’s water tank had hoses. We’ve only camped at Wisconsin state parks, and the water hydrants we’ve encountered all had hoses attached. And of course, a hose was one camper supply we failed to buy. So off to the thankfully-nearby Menards we went, and we returned with a 50-foot hose. That should cover us going forward.

With our Menards detour, we got set up and got dinner going later than we usually would. I planned a quick, easy dinner of Whole30 Perfect Burgers and foil packet green beans. After dinner, we enjoyed relaxing under our canopy until about 10:00 pm before heading off to bed.

Naya and Bailey laying in the dirt

We woke up to HOT. With temperatures nearing 90 degrees, we took it super easy. We slept in, had breakfast, and then just sat under the shade of the camper canopy reading and hanging with the dogs.

Our Palomino Palomini travel trailer

Naya laying on the ground and smiling while camping

After lunch, we jumped in the car and drove around the park. Rock Cut State Park has lots of great picnic areas. And the Rock Cut Concession on the south side of Pierce Lake in the park rents canoes, kayak, and SUPs. It’s a large park (the largest in Northern Illinois, in fact), and we know we only got a glimpse of it by car. Next time, we’ll hope for more hiking-friendly temperatures.

Dinner Saturday night was pretty delicious if I do say so myself. We cooked obscenely large steaks over an open flame. We served our steaks with a side of foil packet potatoes — russet potato for Jason, sweet potato for me. In both cases, I just cut the potatoes into chunks and placed them on a piece of foil. I added scallions (to mine), minced garlic, and dried thyme; drizzled it all with olive oil; sprinkled some salt and pepper; and  closed ’em up. They turned out awesome!

Steak and sweet potatoes on blue enamelware camping plate

The whole goal of this trip was doing nothing, and we definitely accomplished that goal. Here’s hoping we can do it again sooner rather than later.

Copper Falls

Setting Up Base Camp at Copper Falls State Park

I swear I’m going to get through last summer’s vacation recaps before I hit the one-year-later mark. I’m cutting it super close …

After a couple of days exploring the Chippewa Falls area from Lake Wissota State Park, we continued north, further north in Wisconsin than I’ve ever been before. Another solid day of driving landed us at our next destination — Copper Falls State Park near Mellen, Wisconsin.

Copper Falls State Park sign

We had heard good things about Copper Falls State Park, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s another park where you really feel like you’re in the great outdoors — it’s wooded, secluded, peaceful. Aside from the rocks covering the ground (those suckers hurt the feet!), we loved our campsite!

Campsite at Copper Falls State Park in Wisconsin

We were adjacent to the main road, but it barely mattered with so little traffic. And our site was a prime deer crossing location. I think we saw the same deer walk by our site at least half a dozen times that first night.

Deer in Copper Falls State Park

We went into our first full day without a solid plan. We just went where the day took us, which directed us first to Ashland, Wisconsin.  Thanks to Ellen seeing my check in at the Deep Water Grille, she gave me the heads up that the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center was just outside of town. And with that, we had direction. The National Park Service was calling our names!

After exploring the visitor center and getting our bearings, we drove further north to Bayfield, Wisconsin. Our Bayfield assessment: It’s like Door County with fewer people. In short, we loved it! We quickly found the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Visitor Center, did some all important NPS shopping, and got information on Apostle Islands Cruises, which we promptly picked up tickets for the next day.

Bayfield, Wisconsin

{Our cruise warrants its own post, so I’m going to jump ahead to the next afternoon.}

We did find a little time to explore Copper Falls State Park itself after our Apostle Islands cruise. We hiked out to Copper Falls (along part of the North Country National Scenic Trail), and I believe it was the first waterfall we’ve seen in Wisconsin. The falls were pretty, but we’re obviously accustomed to much grander waterfalls at this point.

Copper Falls

The highlight of the hike was spotting my first bald eagle in the wild! He was super far away, but it was a thrilling sighting all the same.

Bald eagle sitting on tree branch in Copper Falls State Park

There is so much more to explore in Northern Wisconsin, and we’ll make our way up that way again with the camper. Can’t wait!

Laura with Copper Falls in background