Apostle Islands National Scenic Lakeshore
National Parks

Throwback Thursday: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Today, the National Park Service turns 100! What an amazing milestone! Think of all the lives impacted by our national parks — including mine — over the course of the past 100 years …

If you are lucky enough to live near a National Park Service site, take advantage of free admission this weekend (August 25-28) and go #FindYourPark!

The bummer is that I don’t know that I’ll be making it to a national park during this centennial year. So in light of no new trip pictures, I thought I’d use Throwback Thursday to finally share some pictures from last summer’s cruise around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. We visited the Apostle Islands from our northern Wisconsin base camp at Copper Falls State Park.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Loon swimming around Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Devils Island among the Apostle Islands

Devils Island among the Apostle Islands

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


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.


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 … ).