NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Texas Flashback

Talk about old posts that never saw the light of day, this one goes back to the trip Katrina and I took down to Texas last January! Here's a few of the places we stayed along our trip.

Just 13 miles from the State Capitol in Austin we stayed at McKinney Falls State Park in Texas.  Was is nice to sleep outside and get up in the morning and not put on a jacket?  Heck yeah!  I sprung up off that air mattress and went for a walk both mornings right away.

 I may have not liked the toll roads in Texas (got off at the next stop when I saw the prices YIKES!) but I couldn't have been happier with the park.  Like Wisconsin there was an out of state fee that was a bit outrageous at $6 per person per day.  In Wisconsin it is $11 per vehicle, not per person.  Imagine if you had a car with 4 people?  That would be $24 PER DAY added to your camping fee.  I'm not a fan of penalizing out of state visitors, I wish state parks would discontinue this practice and make the fees more even and fair.  I wish they would all do away with the sticker system altogether and just raise the camping fees a little and have our state tax budget do the rest.  Not likely in Wisconsin as Scott Walker got a budget to pass in 2015 that cut funding for parks and moved to make them self-funded.  So, fees keep going up which is okay because they were a bit lower on average than other states, but staff keeps getting cutting for the park system so the system isn't only taking away dollars but diminishing the experience opportunities for the public as well.

Not into cactus? The park had water as well! 

In case I haven't mentioned it here on the blog yet, I'm a big fan of the toiletry bag I got from LL Bean.  I use it camping and for my hotel stays, everything I need fits inside and I just unzip it and hang it on the back of the bathroom door!  I could fit my travel hair dryer and flat iron also, but I usually just toss them in the tote bag with my towel and change of clothes.  Worth every penny!

While driving past Waco we saw this -

Luckily there were a few clues in this mural that wraps the building of the Twisted Root Burger Company in Waco, Texas. The artist portrayed scenes from War of the Worlds, it might be one of the coolest murals I've seen to be honest.  Would have been cool watching it go up.

In Arkansas we stayed at Lake Catherine State Park.  Of course we arrived after dark and there were no hosts around to help so we had to try to figure things out on our own.  We reserved a yurt, and in the dark thought this was it.

It was freezing!  We had a small space heater that kept us from dying, but it was not a good night's sleep.  Katrina must have hated me that night.

As we were leaving in the morning we saw this...where we were supposed to stay.  I went to the office and got a refund on the price difference.  You know, having something hanging at the site saying it is reserved and who it is reserved for would have prevented this.  That is how things are done in Wisconsin state parks.  So, not very organized was my impression.

Speaking of cold nights, I'm done sleeping outside for the foreseeable future because it has been below freezing here for weeks now at night but with my job I'm away from home at least one night a week.  With my allergies I have to find hotel rooms that have windows that open more than an inch to air out the cleaning chemicals and carpet air freshener and most nights I sleep with the window open and with the heat off so it's almost like sleeping outside.  I strip the hotel bed, put down my dust mite cover and lay on top in my down sleeping bag.  Every time I wonder what the maids think when they come the next day!  Even with all that I toss and turn on the hard mattress and think about how much sounder I sleep outdoors with only a 2 inch air mattress between me and the ground...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Mills in Wisconsin

Quite awhile back I promised some shots of Cedarburg on a sunny day and I did pass through last spring when the sun was out and somehow forgot to share the pictures.  It's another town full of shops meant for strolling, and its limestone buildings gleam on a pretty day.  Watch when you go though if you don't like crowds, it can get hectic during special events.

It was founded in the early 1840s by Irish and German immigrants who were lured to the potential of power from Cedar Creek.  Lovely Wittenburg Mill was built in 1864 and at the time it was the only woolen mill west of Philadelphia to produce worsted yarns. Now it houses a collections of shops.

Wisconsin is peppered with mills, another one I see often is the Dundee Mill smack in the middle of the Kettle Moraine Forest. In 1855, E.M. McIntosh and Stephen Palmer built the dam, formed the berms, created the millrace and built a sawmill. The dam was built to raise the water level sufficiently to drive the water wheel, creating Long Lake where I myself have camped a few times.  The Mill was doomed however, as the area did not see the expected population boom.  The unincorporated village is still so tiny it doesn't participate in census counts.

In the fall of 2006, the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition traveled to Dundee to build a house for the Koepke family after Matt Koepke was diagnosed with melanoma. They built a beautiful house for the five remaining members of the family, and also renovated the nearby Dundee Mill Park.  No wonder it looks so nice!

I've shared mills before and I'm sure I'll share them again but this is all I have for now, and such nice sunny pictures to revisit on cold November days!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Strolling in Madison, Indiana

North of Kentucky lies the Ohio River and the state of Indiana.   The town of Madison was an important river port lying between Cincinnati and Louisville, and makes for a nice daytrip from General Butler State Park.

The architecture of Madison reflects nearly every period of the town’s development between 1817 and 1939, including at least 400 Federal style buildings and also many Italianate and Greek Revival mansions.  Also present are vsimple shotgun houses and industrial buildings and a vibrant Main Street commercial area lined with two and three story historic buildings. It's a small town with a lot to see!

In the photo above looms the Masonic building, one of few Second Empire buildings in downtown. My eyes were drawn to its mansard roof and striking central gable right away! Can you imagine having to replace those tiles?

In addition to spurring industry, the Ohio River also served as a major transportation network for the Underground Railroad and established Madison as a center in the freedom-seeking movement.
 Although the region was relatively tolerant, a fair number of pro-slavery supporters resided in pre-Civil War Madison. The division between pro and anti-slavery supporters in Madison was indicative of the dangerous struggle between free and slave States taking place on a national scale in the United States before the Civil War.

Downtown mural

Apparently the West Street Art Center hosts something for Dia de Los Muertos every year.  That would be interesting, but all we saw was the window art.

If you're interested in visiting Madison specifically to check out the architecture, the National Park Service has a great website here.  Don't forget to look up now and then while walking around or you'll miss things like this copper weather vane nicknamed "Little Jimmy".  Fair Play Fire Company No. 1 is the oldest volunteer fire company in the state, and Little Jimmy (replica of the original) sits atop a 55 foot bell tower that was constructed in 1889.  Another place I should have stopped as it turns out the fire house also serves as a fire museum.

Another reason to visit Madison is their history of hosting more than 100 years of races and regattas.  If you want to come watch it's held on the Fourth of July weekend every year.

War Memorial

Or come for Ribberfest which features two days of barbeque and blues along the Ohio River as Madison hosts the Kansas City Barbeque Society state championship cook-off each August.  That's too many people for my tastes, but the Tri Kappa Tour of Homes takes place in October of even-numbered years. Over the course of the selected weekend, participants get the chance to visit private homes within the historic district.

I should have darted in to the Madison Bank and Trust Company building to see what was left of its original design.  I couldn't find anything on the internet about the style of architecture which is a shame.  Even though it was built in the 1830's it looks like no other building on Main Street.  It had an almost Spanish feeling, and the clock was gorgeous though my photograph of it on a gray afternoon does not do it justice.

The sky may have been gray, but a few trees like this Gingko were still putting on a show!  Check out the The Knights of Pythias building, it is a fraternal organization and secret society founded in Washington, D.C. in 1864.   We were baffled by its castle appearance, but apparently shouldn't scoff because the K of P has notable members such as Louis Armstrong and 3 U.S. Presidents (McKinley, Harding and FDR) in its ranks.  Madison's castle doesn't make the list of notable buildings, so I'll have to keep my eye out on my travels for others.

The Classical Revival courthouse of Main Street was built between 1854 and 1855 after a fire consumed the second Jefferson County Courthouse.  The west side is dominated by a portico supported by four fluted, cast iron Ionic columns that sit atop an ashlar masonry arcade.The domed cupola was reconstructed in 2011 after the roof caught fire and you can see it gleaming from across the river and all over downtown.

We had a nice time walking almost two miles from downtown to the riverfront and back around again before we stopped for lunch and then called it a day. Lots of local shops and restaurants to explore, but we only made purchases at Galena Garlic Company where we stocked up on spices and BBQ sauce, which I've been using to make my personal size BBQ chicken pizzas. Yum!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Arts, Falls and Two Groundhogs

From Levi Jackson we took a few side trips, once to Berea to check out the art scene on a rainy day.

And once to walk along Cumberland Falls.  We are just suckers for a visit there

Was this my 4th visit?  My 5th visit? Who can keep track?

I've been there for fall color, a wintry moonbow, spring wildflowers, waterfall hikes, bears at night while I slept in my tent, and even butterflies and Easter with my mother. In comparison to all that this visit was rather uneventful, but it was fun remembering all of my previous visits as we walked along.

After leaving Levi Jackson we headed over to General Butler State Park near the Indiana border to get a little closer to home.

Once again we had half the park to ourselves, and the nicest hosts.  The cats couldn't wait to get out and explore every day and try to make friends of their own.  See who was just a few campsites over?  A groundhog set up base beneath that tree...Jewel was eager to make friends but we steered them around.

Most of the sites were on the shorter side so a visit in the summer with a larger rig might be difficult.  This park had a little more hiking though and I walked in the woods and up the hillside to the resort a few times.

Here's a better groundhog photo, though not the same specimen!  We saw one again when we drove through Clifty Falls Park in Indiana.  More on Indiana next!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Levi Jackson State Park in October

Where we were we on Halloween?  We scooted down to Kentucky for a bit to catch those last fleeting fall days.

We stayed at Levi Jackson State Park for a few days which is near the town of London.  Not much around to do except enjoy the quiet park after the summer crowds have gone.

The park contains a pioneer settlement, a pool and a few short hiking trails which were perfect for our girls to explore.

Celia found a caterpillar who rolled up and tried to hide from her.  And they spent a lot of time watching squirrels and birds.

Celia even thought about climbing a few trees to join them.

Even though we missed the trick or treaters who came the weekend before Halloween, we still put out our decorations in the mostly empty campground.  The sites up near the front are paved and more modern, but we chose the back end of the park because of the solitude. Kentucky State Parks now have free wi-fi but it was kind of spotty at times so sometimes we had to use our Verizon data to watch our Netflix.

I got to take a walk every day, including a 6 mile trek on the Sheltowee Trace Trail which was only about half an hour away.

As a general rule, when the leaves are bigger than your feet you're not in Wisconsin anymore.

It drizzled a little and there wasn't much to see, but it was so good to be out in the woods by myself that I just kept going.

I was looking for a suspension bridge...turns out I went the wrong direction and if I had gone the other way to start with I wouldn't have had that 6 mile walk so maybe things worked out for the best!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

High Cliff Halloween Inspiration

Last week I camped at High Cliff State Park in central Wisconsin where it seems they go all out for Halloween.

I tell you I haven't seen anything half as creative in any neighborhood I have ever lived in.

Are campgrounds where it's at?  Are all the creative folks living in the woods?

Anyway, between all the skeletons at the campground and all the scarecrows I saw in Ashland I was inspired to get in on the act so I went shopping in Appleton and Oshkosh on my way home.

What doesn't get used this year will be on hand for some in depth planning next year.  I'd like to turn our yard into a tableau to delight folks and revive some fun in my life.

The dead campers were definitely my favorite, complete with their loyal dog and their campfire that even glowed after dark.

My second choice was the ghoul having a questionable BBQ at his campsite.  The letters had bulbs in them and the scene was lit in a red floodlamp for spooky effect at night.

Nature had its own decorations, including fall color set against the limestone cliffs.

So, what did I do with the decorations I went shopping for?

We got our own camping spot and joined the fun!  Not at High Cliff...we headed south for a week to Levi Jackson State Park in Kentucky.  Most of what I bought was light oriented, and without all the shrubs and small trees we have in Wisconsin I was a bit stymied over how to set things up the way I had envisioned.

I'll tell you one thing, no skeletons are busting out of graves in the hard clay and rock they have here in Kentucky any time soon!

So, no matter what state you are celebrating in, have a Happy Halloween!