Mini Trip Report – Northern Wisconsin – Part 1

Our plan was to leave our little hamlet of Racine, Wi after work on Thursday, July 29th.  I left a few hours early to get home and get the last of our stuff packed up and loaded.  Since we were only going for a 3 day weekend, and not bringing the dogs, we were able to pack “light.”  Naturally, I filled the back of van with all of the stuff Bambi had packed the night before (seriously?!  We need this much stuff for 3 days!?).  I then loaded up the hitch mounted bike rack and loaded all 4 of our brand new bikes.  It was only then I realized mine had a flat rear tire.  No problem, I’ll just pull the air compressor out of the garage and fill it up while it was loaded.  No good, the tube was poking out of the tire and not taking any air.  So, unload all of the bikes, load up my old one and we’re on the road, only about 30 minutes behind schedule.

The drive was mostly uneventful.  Sandwiches and chips were packed for dinner, and a quick stop in a rest area for a bathroom break at to change the kids into their jammies.

You'll have to excuse the poor photograph, but it was taken with a Blackberry at 9:30 at night in a moving vehicle.

Finally, about 5 hours into the trip and 3 hours past normal bedtime, the kids fell asleep.  And for as much trouble making and fighting they were doing just 45 minutes earlier, falling asleep holding hands is just about the most adorable thing they could do.   And yes, Evan removed the pillow case, slid into it like a sleeping bag and covered up with the pillow.  That’s my DNA at work.

One very quiet fuel stop in Tomahawk, WI and we were back on our way.  We had to be quiet so we don’t wake up the kids and alert them to the fact that Bambi and I both got ice cream sandwiches at the gas station.

The largest “city” near my sister’s cabin is Minocqua.  For those of you not familiar (and I’m assuming that’s just about all of you), there are just under 5000 permanent residents, but probably close to 10,000 people there at any given day in the summer.  It’s actually a very nice tourist town without being overly tourist-y.  There are several theories on how the city got it’s name, the most prevalent being an Chippewa Indian word meaning “noon day rest”.   Come to think about it, I could use a nap right about now myself.

Put I won’t because people are counting on me to continue this report.  Once getting through Minocqua, we still have about 20 minutes of driving down some very remote, twisty, forested roads.  We arrive around 10:30, tuck the kids into bed, do a bit of unpacking, and then turn ourselves in.  Sorry, make that turn in ourselves.

Friday morning came around and we loaded up our gear for the day’s activities – exploring some waterfalls and a dip in Lake Superior.  We headed into the next town to the west – Lac du Flambeau.  The area (including the land the cabin sits on) is all part of the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation.  Thus, the gas station/convenience store/mini market is called the Ojibwa Mall.  It’s a nice little tribal-run, hole in the wall type of place that is prevalent in the area.  We loaded the cooler up with ice and began our hour long drive further north.

Evan wanted to sit next to the seagull. "Eagle", Evan, it's an "Eagle"

We stopped for a quick snack in Hurley and explored their war memorial a little bit.  It’s a nice memorial with a tank and a helicopter.

Around mid morning we arrived at our first destination – Potato River Falls.  And yes, the directions do include “turn off the paved road”, although our GPS did know about the road.  There is a rustic little county-run picnic shelter here, and an enclosed pit-toilet (read: outhouse) here.  Once at “base camp” you have 3 options: the observation deck, the hike to the upper falls, and the hike to the lower falls.  The observation deck does not give you a very good view, as the trees around it and between it and the falls have grown too thick over the years.  We did sneak off the beaten trail and found a huge washout.  The drop off had to be at least 150 feet, mostly straight down, to the rocky river below.

The 150 foot drop to the Potato River.
Another view of the washout
I'm not sure why they insisted on wearing life jackets, but I do know why I was hold on so tight.

From there, we headed up the trail to the upper falls.  It’s about a 5 minute hike, then about 200 stairs downhill to another observation deck.  The view here was much better, being only a few yards from the falls.

Family Picture at the Upper Falls

We took a few pictures, then climbed down onto the rock under the observation deck for a closer look.  This is not a state park, so you don’t have rangers all around telling you things like “don’t go into that area”,” stay off those rocks”, “be careful or you’re going to die, you idiot”, etc, etc, etc.  You can freely take your life into your own hands and climb all over, around and in these falls.

After a few good minutes watching the water, we made the trek back up the wooden stairs and back to the parking lot.

Coming up next: the trip to the lower falls – more stairs!

"Upper Falls" of Potato River Falls

3 thoughts to “Mini Trip Report – Northern Wisconsin – Part 1”

  1. Excellent so far! I love how they fell asleep holding hands!! I cracked up about Evan crawling into the pillow case to go to sleep! Where there is a will there is a way LOL

  2. Coming from a state which you can drive lengthwise in under 2 hours, it’s hard to imagine driving for 5+ hours and not leaving the state. The falls look beautiful–definitely well worth the trip to see.

    And the kids falling asleep while holding hands officially wins the title of Cutest Thing Ever, Ever.

    “We had to be quiet so we don’t wake up the kids and alert them to the fact that Bambi and I both got ice cream sandwiches at the gas station.”

    Nice work. Ice cream sandwiches were not made for sharing.

    “This is not a state park, so you don’t have rangers all around telling you things like “don’t go into that area”,” stay off those rocks”, “be careful or you’re going to die, you idiot”, etc, etc, etc.”

    For some reason it sounds like you have experience with this sort of thing.

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