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Copper Falls
Camping, Wisconsin

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

Camping, Wisconsin

Camping at Lake Wissota State Park

After staying one night at Devil’s Lake State Park to kick off our Summer 2015 vacation, we hit the road for our next destination — Chippewa Falls and Lake Wissota State Park.

Lake Wissota may sound familiar to you if you’re a fan of the movie Titanic. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Jack Dawson, called Chippewa Falls home and had a nasty ice-cold water experience on Lake Wissota (although it’s man-made and didn’t exist at the time of the Titanic’s sinking. Details …).

Our campsite at Lake Wissota was awesome! We had a U-drive, so we could just pull through with the camper and position it so it blocked the view of the road. Trees surrounded the rest of the site. It was the perfect amount of privacy.

Campsite 88 at Lake Wissota State Park in Wisconsin

This was the first time we set up a full campsite with the camper. We put out the awning and created a dining area under it.  The first evening was spent just relaxing at our campsite. It was perfect!

Jason relaxing at our campsite at Lake Wissota State Park in Wisconsin

The next morning, I needed to get in a half-marathon training run. (Yes, I ran a half-marathon in September, and I’ll definitely be writing about that experience.) The campground we were in was shaped like a figure eight, so I just ran several laps around it. It started to get hot and humid at about the halfway point, so it was a struggle to finish … especially when I kept circling past my eventual finish line.

After my run, Jason and I headed out for a hike along the Lake Trail. A spur trail leading to the Lake Trail was right across the road from our campsite, bringing us to the mid-point of the trail. We first hiked down to the beach area.

Beach at Lake Wissota State Park in Wisconsin

After we checked out the beach area, we hiked the full trail in the other direction, which ended with a great lookout over the lake.

Laura at Lake Wissota overlook in Lake Wissota State Park in Wisconsin

I am assuming that’s a bird in flight right behind my head!

Neither Jason nor I had ever been to the Chippewas Falls area before, so we spent the rest of our day exploring the town. First up was a must-visit — the Leinenkugel’s brewery.

Leinenkugels Leinie Lodge in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

This was my first brewery tour (shameful for a Wisconsinite, I know) as well as Jason’s (because he really hates beer). It was interesting, and we both appreciated the rich history of the brewing company. Ironically, the beer-hater of our duo paid enough attention on the tour to win a prize during our post-tour quiz. And we scored a major victory when Jason declared Berry Weiss “not terrible.” I’ll take it.

Leinenkugels brewery tour in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Our other stops in Chippewa Falls included Irvine Park and Zoo and another supper club, High Shores Supper Club. We dubbed this our camping and supper clubbing vacation!

Two nights, one and a half days. Our time at Lake Wissota was short but sweet.

Wisconsin

7th Wedding Anniversary at Ishnala Supper Club

Last year, we decided to stick close to home for our regular summer trip. Instead of traveling west, we made a “tour du Wisconsin” in the camper.

Our itinerary for our 2015 summer vacation included stays at:

We set off on June 6, our 7th wedding anniversary. First stop — Devil’s Lake State Park for the sole purpose of having our anniversary dinner at the Ishnala Supper Club in the Wisconsin Dells.

Walkway to the front entrance of Ishnala Supper Club

Do you know what a supper club is? If you’re not from Wisconsin or haven’t spent substantial time in the state, you probably don’t. A restaurant concept not restricted to Wisconsin — but embraced here more than other places — supper clubs are hard to describe. You just have to experience one for yourself, or read about them here:

We have been dying to visit Ishnala for years, and a last-minute campsite opening at Devil’s Lake on our anniversary provided the perfect opportunity.

Ishnala is nestled on Mirror Lake, adjacent to Mirror Lake State Park. The setting makes the experience. Jason and I have eaten at many supper clubs, and nothing beats the setting of Ishnala.

The bar at Ishnala is classic. First, it juts out from the main restaurant and provides an incredible view of Mirror Lake — which just as the name implies, is like glass most days.

Ishnala Supper Club Arrowhead Bar

After a couple of Old Fashioneds at the bar — the drink of choice at Wisconsin supper clubs — we were taken to our table. As we were walking through the restaurant, it slowly became apparent that we were being seated at the table at Ishnala! The table featured on the cover of Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience. A table for two looking out over the lake! It’s perfect!

Ishnala Supper Club table featured in the book, "Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience"

For dinner, we started with cheese curds — we need to “test” them at every supper club we visit. They were good cheese curds — not the best we’ve ever had, but we still polished them off. I had the Beef Tenderloin Medallions, which were excellent. Jason did the Prime Rib. Again, not the best prime rib he’s ever had, but still very good.

Overall, we love our first Ishnala experience. The food was not as good as it is at our local Buckhorn Supper Club, but the location and atmosphere trump any supper club we’ve visited (so far … ).

Wisconsin

Overnight Getaway to The Osthoff Resort

I used to be such a good gift buyer. Or at least I was as a young adult buying gifts for my parents. I knew my parents so well, their likes and dislikes. Buying the perfect gift was easy.

Then I got married.

Jason has been notoriously difficult to buy for. Part of the difficulty — and this applies to me as well — is that if Jason wants something, he just goes and buys it. This past Christmas, I was drawing a complete blank. Then, I remembered this …

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

With that in mind, I decided to give Jason the gift of travel and time with an overnight getaway to The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

For those not familiar with it, The Osthoff Resort is a AAA Four Diamond resort located just northwest of the Sheboygan/Kohler area. Accommodations include one-, two-, and three-bedrooms suites as well as basic guest rooms (which is what we stayed in on this trip). There are several dining options, the Aspira Spa, and lots of recreational activities, especially in the summer months.

We headed up on a Friday afternoon in early February. The drive from home was a little over two hours — just far enough to feel like we were away. We got checked in, relaxed in the room for a bit, explored the resort, and then made our way to dinner at the Elkhart Inn, just off the resort property.

Elkhart Inn restaurant in Elkhart Lake, WI

When we arrived, we were the only guests there. A smidge awkward. But with no crowd to contend with, we parked ourselves at the bar for a pre-dinner drink. I enjoyed my new obsession, a Moscow Mule!

Moscow Mule at the Elkhart Inn

For dinner, I had the Scallops in a Lemon Butter Beurre Blanc with Asparagus Risotto. Jason had a steak. Both entrées were delicious! Honestly, the only thing we didn’t love about our experience at the Elkhart Inn was the lack of people in the restaurant. Thankfully, two more tables filled in while we dined. Otherwise, it would have been kind of creepy.

After dinner, we headed back to the resort’s Elk Room lounge where we scored a seat right in front of the great fireplace. With another Moscow Mule in hand, it was quite perfect!

Elk Room fireplace at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WISaturday morning, we woke up and had breakfast at Otto’s Restaurant in the resort. Then we hit the road home. It was a super short and very simple trip, but it was perfect. Just Jason and I spending quality time together. Maybe it’s simply time that makes us richer …

Laura and Jason at the Elkhart Inn during an overnight trip to The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI

Wisconsin

10 Things I Love About Badgers Football Game Days

College football is back! Jason and I are going into our second year as Wisconsin Badgers football season ticket holders. We’ll be enjoying a lot of quality time at Camp Randall over the next three months.

Sitting at the home opener this past Saturday, I got to thinking about all of the things I love about Badgers football game days. Here are 10 of my favorites:

1. Walking To and From the Stadium

The walk to the stadium on a game day is half the fun. Our typical walk takes us through the heart of the UW-Madison campus. There’s a buzz all around campus, and the walk gives us time to soak it all in.

2. Camp Randall Stadium

One of my favorite things about the UW-Madison campus is the rich history, and Camp Randall is no exception. The stadium opened in 1917, and it’s an amazing place to watch a football game.

9-8-14_Camp-Randall

3. Beer, Brats, and Cheese

What are you going to eat on a Badger game day? No matter where you choose to kick off your game day – at a bar, a university event, or your own tailgate – you will find beer, brats, and cheese. Enjoy what Wisconsin’s all about!

4. The Video

The history. The emotions. The song. I can’t help but get a little choked up watching the Wisconsin Football video that plays before each game. It’s a totally normal reaction. It is.

5. Bucky

Bucky Badger is the best college mascot, hands down. And he’s a hub of action on game day. One of my favorite Bucky moments was a Halloween weekend game a few years back. Each quarter, Bucky came out in a different costume. The best was his ghost costume – a simple sheet with the eyes cut out – along with a folded cardboard sign that he opened to say “BOO!” Oh, Bucky.

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Source

6. Student Section Shenanigans

From the infamous obscene chant to Jump Around, there’s always something going on in the Wisconsin student section. There’s no use in trying to stop the students from doing what they do – it’s part of their fun. While I had a great time as a student, I’m more than happy to sit for the whole game and just watch the show now.

7. All the Red!

Yes, people wear black Badgers shirts and white Badgers shirts. And of course, there’s always those pesky visiting team fans in their random colors. But the primary color of the day is red, and it’s amazing to see that sea of cardinal red in Camp Randall.

8. Roaming Band

In the second half of the game, small groups of students from the marching band roam around the stadium and play “On Wisconsin” right in the stands. It’s great to hear the fight song echo around the stadium, and it’s even better when they’re playing right to your section.

9. Varsity

“Varsity” is the alma mater of UW-Madison. It’s special to every alumni, and it’s often another moment when I choke up. All happy tears, of course. If you don’t know the song, you can listen to it here.

10. The Memories

I have so many wonderful memories of Badgers football games, from when I was a student to today. Being at a game makes the memories so vivid. A full heart and a huge smile – I love Wisconsin!

9-10-14_Badgers-Memories

Question of the Day

Fellow Badgers: What’s one of your favorite parts of a Badgers football game?