And the road goes on forever...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Where the Witches Brew

My daughter and I just had the most amazing visit and such fun; I sure hated to see her leave yesterday. Even though the weather wasn’t the most cooperative, her flights were all late, and there were problems with the RV, we managed to squeeze a lot into our visit and saw some amazing things that this wonderful state contains. 

I should skip over the RV problem as we were headed out, but I won’t—feeling proud I “solved” the problem and didn’t let it spoil the trip. My trailer has a side hole insert to contain the electrical plug hookup as it rolls back in, but I didn’t notice that the teeth keeping the larger head of the plug from the hole were broken and when I gave it its final shove the head went in all the way and dropped into the abyss! The insert is plastic with a flap door and there was no way either of our hands would fit. Initially we tried fishing it out with a wire coat hanger (we’re parked downtown by this point) and when that didn’t work after 30 minutes we removed the screws of the plastic piece, sliced its silicone seal with a box cutter and finally could fit our hand through. We took turns and after another twenty minutes or so I finally found the head and was able to lift it back through the opening. Rachael retrieved the RVers favorite take-along, duct tape from inside the trailer, and I taped the hole closed and made sure to tape down enough of the plug head that it wouldn’t fall in again. 

Upon entering Rocky Arbor State Park on the edge of Wisconsin Dells, we checked in and got immediate possession of our site as no one had stayed there the night before. Otherwise, check-in is a late 3 p.m. but as it turned out, it was nearly that time due to our delay. I couldn’t believe I aced the trailer in on the first attempt looking like a pro, even though the road was very narrow and the site drive straight on instead of at an angle. I later told Rachael it was just dumb luck rather than skill. After unhitching and setup, we drove the truck down to the office to find the hiking trail through the park with the skies threatening rain. The office is quite some distance from the campsites, but the park overall has beautiful tree cover and old growth trees and limestone bluffs. We immensely enjoyed the hike and forested trail and were the only ones on it. Bear scat was apparent.
We made it back to the trailer just as it started to thunder and rain, so our planned BBQ was out of the question. I had brought pork spare ribs so was able to bake them in my small toaster oven since I had a 30-amp electrical hookup. We stayed up late talking, figuring we’d try the Devil’s Lake kayaking the following day. 

No such luck with that; it was going to continue to off and on thunder storm through Friday as well, with only a short break maybe between 11-1 p.m. We went into downtown looking around and decided to sign up for the first Dells boat tour at 10 figuring the covered indoor seating on the boat would be good in case of rain. Given the misty weather and early hour, only around ten others joined us for the tour and that turned out to be a Godsend of great luck.
The boat tour has two significant land stops, one called Witches Gulch and the other Stand Rock. If you do any online checking for photos of these tours more than likely they will always show other people &/or their heads. Some of the boat tours hold up to a hundred people and are full, so you can imagine this catwalk through the limestone depths filled with bodies; and given the stop is only 20 minutes, how you could quite possibly see “nothing” like we experienced.
Witches Gulch used to be reachable by hike-in trail, but the boat company now has exclusive rights to it as a concessionaire and the trail is gated off and the boat dock is private. You may take your private boat into this arm of the river, but with no way to access the dock or boardwalk you would see very little. The misty, foggy morning only further contributed to the ambiance to make it an awesome adventure, highly recommended. 

Stand Rock has history which I won’t relate here but further added interesting photography opportunities and then we headed back up the river to the dock.
After lunch back at the RV, we took off to do some wine tasting at Wisconsin’s largest winery which has been in this spot since 1849 and I was able to show Rachael that WI is not all flat! They have recently expanded into a distillery as well but do not offer free tasting for the ryes, brandies, and gins they make. On our way back to the campground from here we stopped and hoofed it around the downtown portion of Baraboo, famous as the summer home of Ringling Bros. circus. The town is full of very nicely preserved buildings, all dating from the 1800’s.
That evening Rachael wanted a Friday night fish fry which is ubiquitous in all WI restaurants on Fridays, so we found the Dockside not far from our campground which had al fresco dining overlooking the WI River and dinner turned out quite nice. They did not offer the Walleye fish Rachael was hoping for but the cod I had was tasty. After that it was camp life and wine drinking.
Saturday morning was overcast/foggy, so we figured we’d finally make our try for Devil’s Lake hiking if not kayaking. After driving in and finding both the north and south shore jam packed with people even by 10 a.m. and it so foggy we couldn’t see 50 feet out into the lake we felt it would be stupid to fight both to try hiking. We made our exit and chose the state park right up the highway instead. Mirror Lake is a no-wake lake so primarily serves kayak and canoers and slow pontoons. We hiked a couple of trails and the sun finally burnt off the fog and from there we headed back to prepare for departure.
We ended up out at Clearwater Harbor on our local chain of lakes after getting back home, where we sat outside with the jovial Saturday crowd, had a draft beer, and watched as a newly minted bride and groom and their entourage boarded the paddle wheeler for a floating reception. It was a great ending to such a wonderful family time, so I was very sad to see her fly off the next day.