Wisconsin

Land of the Cheese. I’m going to say yes but I probably should say no. I didn’t get much sight seeing done as I was only there a few days. I think I may have touched on the visit when talking about Illinois and Chicago O’hare International Airport. So rather than repeat myself; let’s just say it’s the journey, not the destination!

cheese

My brother retired from the Navy at the base in Wisconsin. He was stationed there and living in Kenosha so I had the chance to fly in for the ceremony and visit his home and that was about it. I’m sure there’s so much more to the state so let’s see what I can dig up.

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Wisconsin shares it’s shores with Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, 2 of the largest of  the 5 great lakes. In size Lake Superior is #1, Lake Michigan is #3, right behind Lake Heron.

Lake-Superior

Seems to me Lake Superior deserves a visit. It’s the largest freshwater body in the world and a great place to visit would be The Apostle Islands. 22 islands strewn over 450 square miles, they range from tiny Gull island (3 acres) to 10,000 acre Stockton Island.

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Heading south from the Great Lakes you’ll find the famous cheese country from Monroe to Mineral Point. Here the rolling hills and river valleys attracted dairy farmers starting in the 1800’s. Today it is the heartland of  Wisconsin’s dairyland where cheese making remains a generations-old fine art.

dairy

In Ontario, Wisconsin you can explore the “Driftless area”  all  serpentine valleys, crooked rivers, craggy bluffs and limestone. The Kickapoo River best characterizes this geology. Sometimes called the “crookedest river in the nation”. One of the oldest river systems in the world, the Kickapoo winds for 120 miles to cover a 65 mile distance. It’s a lazy spring-fed river of easy paddling except during the spring run off.

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Running from Prairie du Chien to Prescott is the Great River Road or at least part of it. The 250 miles is only a fraction of the whole byway running the length of the Mississippi River. This stretch slaloms between the Mississippi and it’s towering bluffs. The road will take you through sleepy river towns, past busy barge traffic, braided backwaters, wildlife preserves   and birds, birds, birds. This is part of the Mississippi Flyway. More than 40% of the Nation’s waterfowl and shorebirds pass this way.

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In the southern end of the state, not far from Chicago, Illinois is Lake Geneva. The area has a resort-like feel and attracts vacationers from all over. The lake is a pristine spring-fed lake 22 miles in circumference. Being only 10 miles from the state line you can see how it would attract city weary residents of Chicago.

Lake-Geneva

There’s more, from the North Country to Circus World, Amish settlements  to Madison’s Dane County Farmers’ Market but I’ll leave some of that for another time.

The count is now 21/ 28. Only one more state to go.

3 More M States

We’ve covered Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, so we have 5 left. The 3 today are Michigan, Minnesota, and Mississippi.

Sad to say I have not been to any of them.

M is for Michigan…No.

A quick hit on Michigan’s travel page reveals something I should have guessed…Fall is big business here. Any northern state must have a fall as the cool nights and warm days practically guarantee lovely colors. It certainly seems that Michigan is blessed with the phenomenon.

Fall-Color

The web site has a fall color’s map and the first link is to the many scenic drives along the coastline of Lake Michigan. From apple orchards and farms to Wine and Beer trails, Michigan looks like a fall vacation destination extraordinaire.

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For Cities we have Detroit, the Motor city. (I’ve flown into the Detroit Airport many times), Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids to name only a few.

Speaking of  coastal drives , did you know Michigan borders 4 of the Great Lakes? Yup, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Here’s another intriguing fact, Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state! That was a shocker for me as I would have expected the most lighthouses to be on an ocean coast. I think I heard the are 115 Lighthouses in Michigan. Amazing!

M is for Minnesota…another No 🙁

So I’m searching for fun things to do in Minnesota and what do I find? The SPAM Museum. I’m surprised it’s in Minnesota. I know Hawaiian’s have a love affair with Spam so I thought that’s where it would be.

spam

But no, Just as every Elvis fan longs to visit Graceland, SPAM fans worldwide now have their own pilgrimage to make. In Austin, Minnesota a 16,500 square-foot SPAM Museum opened in September 2001.  Museum visitors will be welcomed to the world of SPAM luncheon meat. Now if we move it to Atlanta, GA we can put it next to the World of Coco Cola and then we can eat and drink. Maybe we should suggest that.

Minnesota also has a rich outdoor heritage. There are 5 national Parks or Monuments. One is  Grand Portage National Monument – Located on the  magnificent shore and boreal forest of Lake Superior in northeastern   Minnesota, Grand Portage National Monument preserves a vital  headquarters of 18th, 19th and 20th century fur trade activity and Ojibwe heritage. The monument is enclosed within Grand Portage Indian        Reservation, for centuries home to Ojibwe Indian families.

The last “M ” State for today is Mississippi…No, have not yet been there

Does anyone else remember the spelling rhyme . M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter , crooked letter, I , Hump back, Hump back, I ? For the longest time it was the only way I could spell Mississippi.

Once again I turn to the search engines of the internet. One of the first things that comes up to visit is  the Hurricane Katrina Memorial located in Biloxi. Also in Biloxi is a little lighthouse we could tour.

Natchez

A must do scenic route is the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Natchez Trace Parkway follows an old Indian trail and a route used during the American revolution. In 1796 Natchez Trace was a mail route. Today it is a scenic parkway that travels from Natchez, Mississippi (a beautiful small city on the Mississippi River in the southwest part of the state) to Nashville (passing through Jackson and Tupelo on the way). There is a small park on the river in Natchez with a stone monument to the beginning of the route.

I’ve run out of space and time so we may have to revisit Mississippi in some future post.

Only 2 more “M ” states to go. Have you got all 8? We’ll tally up the count in the next post.

Don’t forget…If you live in or have visited any of these states, chime in. We want to know your recommendations.

The Story of Romeo

Ok I promised to tell you about Romeo so here it is.

This is the story of Romeo, the Mendenhall Glacier Wolf. I first heard it from our guide, Phil, but since then I have seen many children’s’ books. This version is condensed from The Alaska Cruise Companion.

Romeo’s story began one day in April 2003, when a young black wolf was struck and killed by a car within  1/4 mile of Mendenhall Visitor Center. Sad as this event was, park officials made the best of it  and retrieved the wolf so that at least  it could be prepared for display in the visitor’s center. They determined it was a female black wolf, which is a sub species of the gray wolf, and they also determined it was a young female. Young females will generally only leave a family pack with a new mate to start a family of their own, so park officials expected to see the mate in the area. Over the summer there was no sign but during the long, cold  winter nights of November that year, residents repeatedly heard howls of a lone wolf ringing across the wilderness of the lake.

The first sighting came shortly after the new year, in January 2004.  A local naturalist and author, Nick Jans , was skiing across  the Lake with his dog Dakota when he noticed a lone set of wolf tracks stretching across the lake. He took Dakota home and returned to the lake , and encountered the wolf for the first time.  It was alone and it was a young male black wolf.  A solitary wolf is unusual , especially in winter  when wolves typically regroup with their family packs  to ensure successful hunting, so when Jans reported the lone wolf sighting, wildlife officials presumed they had found the mate for the young female killed earlier in the year.

As the winter stretched on, the young wolf began to appear regularly  , even accompanying Jans and Dakota on their routings across the lake. The wolf would play with Dakota , just like any other dog might, and even took to following the duo home. There he waited outside  the house for the female lab to appear, leading to his nickname, Romeo. Unbelievably, this went on for many years. Romeo would disappear over the summer but return each winter once the visitors had left  and the lake was frozen over.

romeo

The iconic appearance  of a lone black wolf against the dramatic backdrop of the snow-white lake was enough to draw attention on it’s own , but Romeo was also sociable, and other visitors to the lake had the same experience  as Jans and Dakota.  Romeo would appear and play with the pets even fetching tennis balls. He didn’t become a pet. No one tried to feed him or pet him but he quickly became a living legend in the region.

In 2009, the story took a sad turn. Romeo failed to reappear that fall and in fact was not seen or heard of again. Eventually a wolf pelt surfaced that was identified as Romeo’s, and in May 2010, two hunters were charged with illegally shooting the protected wolf.

Although Romeo is gone now he dispelled many misconceptions about wolves and in so doing has become a legend.

For more details Nick Jans has written a new book, Glacier Wolf, about his encounters with Romeo.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

Meanwhile back on shore I watched a couple more loons right near the docks as they fished and enjoyed lunch. I was wishing I had more time to watch and try to photograph them but the clock was ticking and I wanted to check out the actual Science Center before I finished my trek south.

The Center is only a couple of blocks from the lakefront so it was just a few minutes and I was back in their parking lot. I was able to head right in as I had a little sticker they had given me earlier. I was afraid it would be crowded as there were quite a few cars and several buses in the parking lot but it wasn’t too bad at all!

As you enter the grounds there’s an exhibit hall,  gift shop and restrooms and then the trail splits one side to the right and the nature trail and the other to the left to the animal exhibits.

I enjoyed the exhibits in the hall. The were set up to show local animals in their natural surroundings yet there was something very whimsical about the displays.

From there I took the right fork to the walking trails.

The trail led through a meadow, over a floating bridge that crossed a marsh and up to a little pond.

Along the way were signs and exhibits to explain what you were seeing and the importance of each type of habitat.

While I was wandering along the pond it started to sprinkle so I turned my steps back to the center. I really wanted to see the animals before the sky opened up.

The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is not a zoo although is does enjoy  national accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The mission of the center is “to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world. ” If that mission leads to the rescue and rehabilitation of the native wildlife, then that’s what they do.

The nature center has captive animals that are native to New Hampshire and are considered “animal ambassadors”.

There are strict guidelines in place to govern what animals are taken into the center. For example, the Science center has to first determine if they have a need. They also have to consider the cost of the care of the animal in question. Most of the animals at the center are rescues. For any number of reasons they cannot be released back into the wild as they would not survive. Any animal accepted must be an animal that does well in captivity. These are just a few of the  considerations that go into any decision to take in an animal. If there is more than one animal in an enclosure care is taken to neuter the male so there won’t be any “little” critters coming along. The Science Center is not equipped to run a breeding program.

Back where I began I turned down the left trail and ran into one of the volunteers. She had a little screech-owl on her arm.

 She was doing a casual presentation to anyone who wanted to stop. It appeared to be  pretty much unscripted with her fielding questions and just chatting with the visitors.

As I headed off I came to a bridge over a little brook. On the far side was another stage where a more formal presentation about various raptors was taking place. The little hawk the presenter was showing off was doing a great job of holding everyone’s attention.

The next exhibit along the trail was a moose exhibit. The  inhabitant was a beautiful bull moose facsimile…a statue but a very handsome statue. The exhibit was to show the type of habitat a moose would live in.

But now I was approaching the real animal exhibits. There were lynx and bobcat, foxes, bears, otters, mountain lions, deer and raptors.

The bird exhibit held the hawks and there was a bald eagle!

 Actually two of them, an adult with the white head and an adolescent with the splotchy brown and white coloring.

In the enclosure next to the eagles a small hawk has having lunch. The kids watching were both “grossed out” and fascinated as the little bird tore a mouse apart right in front of them. Nothing like a ringside seat to nature in action!

My time was running short so I made a quick swing through the gift shop and then out to the car to resume my homeward journey.

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 It would have been nice to stay longer and explore a little more in-depth but my little zoo was waiting at home. I knew my two cats would be ready for my return no matter how much the pet sitter spoiled them!

Lake George, NY

I think I mentioned that I saw the booth for Lake George at the AAA Marketplace and even when I told them I was from the area, they pressed the brochures and materials into my hands. I wouldn’t want their gift to go to waste so I decided to go through the information and see what I thought of the area if I looked at it through a tourist’s eyes. By the time I finished I was ready to book my next vacation in the Adirondacks!

Let me go over some of the points that caught my attention and that would make me plan a vacation in my old stomping grounds.

First of all, Lake George is beautiful no matter what time of year you go. Having spent approximately 1/3 of my life in the area I can attest to that. So the first thing the brochures addressed was the lake. 32 miles long it is always sparkling, clear and clean , a spring -fed lake. In the summer cruise boats ply the lake. In the winter there’s ice skating and ice fishing and a Winter Carnival.

When I was growing up the Ticonderoga was the largest boat and sailed the whole length of the lake. As I recall it was a full day trip. The Mohican was a smaller boat and only cruised the southern portion from the piers in Lake George Village to just north of Bolton Landing, stopping at the Sagamore/ Green Island after it’s turn around. That’s certainly changed. The original “Ti “ & Mohican have long since retired but there are new boats including a paddlewheeler. The last I knew the Mohican II, listed on the National Register of Historic Places ,was still conducting narrated tours along the shoreline.

One of the things that I don’t remember doing as a “kid” is white water rafting on the Hudson River. That and slow-tubing or lazy river tubing are new offerings, or at least new to me…not that I never went “tubing”. I seem to remember “tubing” on the Schroon River and Trout Lake. We always seemed to have a big old patched inner tube around somewhere. Now there are commercial Tubing companies Like Adirondack Tubing Adventures and Tubby Tubes.

Another attraction that sounds familiar but I can’t picture is Natural Stone Bridge and Caves. Located in neighboring Pottersville. The brochure describes it as ranging from easy walking tours to challenging cave crawls. I would definitely go there again. I’m sure I went as a child but like I said, I just can’t visualize it. Be nice to refresh my childhood memory or see it through adult eyes.

The Hot Air Balloon Festival in September is something that is has been added since I lived in the area. It’s been over 30 years since I lived there so I would expect that things would change! Now, I am not a “ballooner”, I’ve never been up in one but I would love to attend this event just for the opportunities to take pictures of the colorful balloons.

History buffs or maybe even ghost hunters can’t skip the forts. There are forts everywhere in the area. The Syfi channel’s Ghost Hunters Series has even done a couple of shows there. One in Fort Ticonderoga and I believe one in Fort William Henry. In fact there’s a tour called Spirits of History Ghost Tours that runs from Memorial Day to Mid-October. Even Fort Edward on the Hudson River get’s into the act. There you can find the Old Fort House Museum, one of the oldest frame buildings in upstate New York.

There are trails and mountains everywhere for the hikers or if you prefer the water sports, boating, water skiing, freshwater scuba diving, para-sailing or just hanging on the Million Dollar Beach at the end of the lake. If you do decide to hike, be sure to summit Prospect Mountain. Not a hiker? No problem as you can reach the top by taking a 10 minute drive up the Prospect Mountain Veteran’s Memorial Highway. Once on top you can experience the 100-mile-view of the surrounding mountains.

The Great Escape was called Storytown when I was a kid but it’s grown up and now is a Six-Flags Theme Park.

And the places to stay…well, everything from rustic campgrounds to RV parks to cabins or motels to a hotel on an island reminiscent of the great hotels of the 50’s & 60’s like was featured in the movie “Dirty Dancing”. I worked with the photographer at the Sagamore as a teenager. I remember them announcing cha cha lessons on the veranda! I know there have been many renovations done to the Sagamore but I expect it is still the showcase Hotel on the Lake.

I mustn’t forget to mention that Lake George becomes the motorcycle capital of the east for a weekend every summer when the Americade, the world’s largest motorcycle rally, comes to town.

 There’s so much more I could tell you about the area but I think you might enjoy finding out for yourself.