Wednesday, August 3, 2011

4th of July Camping

 With Brandon in baseball this summer & 2 tournaments in June, our weekends quickly filled up & left little time for camping until 4th of July weekend.  Thankfully we had not made plans in MN State Parks as the threat of a state shutdown loomed (& then happened) but instead we opted to check out one of the many state parks of Wisconsin that we are close to now that we live in SE Minnesota.
Our destination this weekend was Mill Bluff State Park.  It was one of the few that still had spots available by the time we decided what we wanted to do for 4th of July & the nice swim beach/spring fed pond sounded like something we might enjoy on a hot weekend.  Turned out it was hot... so hot that we opted to skip out on Friday night as we had several days of very hot/humid weather already that week & by Saturday morning, it was supposed to be a little better for the remainder of the weekend!
We got there early on Saturday & after setting up camp, the kids were eager to check out the swimming area.  The sand was amazing... very fine, almost pure white sand.  Certainly one of the nicest beaches we've ever been to in the midwest! We had a relaxing Saturday just hanging around swimming & playing...

A rare moment of getting the 2 together where it isn't pure torture for Brandon!

The  next day we decided to head out & do some biking on one of the nearby trails.  We love our rails to trails paths... makes for great riding with the family!  This was Melanie's first big ride without her training wheels AND her first ride on the next size bike.  Thankfully Brandon's next size works for her & she is able to ride longer & keep up on this one, compared to her smaller one. 
She did a great job!  We did the same thing we did with Brandon at that age & still bring the trailer, so she rides for a while & then we stash her bike off the trail so she can hop in the trailer so we can go longer/farther & then she hops back on her bike at the end & finishes the ride.  We did 16 miles this day, 6 of which she did on her own bike.  Brandon is a great biker & can easily go 20 miles with us.
We dusted off the GPS & even did a little geocaching along the trail.  It has been a while for us but the kids always enjoy it!

Often along these old railroad bed trails there are cool tunnels.  The kids really liked going through the tunnel!  We were prepared & had our head lamps along as they can be pretty dark inside!

Brandon is quite the trickster... one of these days, it is going to make for a bad fall!

We had a nice campsite & was glad it cooled off enough in the evenings to enjoy a fire!  The sites were even a little sandy, so Brandon found drawing in the sand to be great fun...
... which quickly turned into having a giant hangman playing field.  Rather than playing 20 guesses (as he calls it) around the fire, the game of the weekend was hangman.

Monday was time to pack up already so after getting ready for the day & getting camp packed up, we headed across the road to check out Mill Bluff.

We did a nice little hike to the top & had quite a view of the area.

Then we headed over to the Sparta, WI area to do more biking on another rail to trail path.  Our little biker decided she better rest up first!  We started our ride on the Sparta trail in Wilton & biked towards Sparta.
Again, we did a little geocaching along the way...

This trail has several tunnels along the way & they felt GOOD on a hot day!  You can even see the fog coming out of this one where the 50-some degree air meets the almost 90 degree air!

We stopped for a picnic in Norwalk before continuing on to our destination tunnel... the one that is almost 1 mile long.  You pretty much have to have a light in that tunnel as in the middle, the entrances are as big as pinholes, so it is dark & quite wet inside, with lots of water coming out from between the rocks!

This is the old watchman's shack from when they had to put flags out for which direction was safe for trains to travel.  He also had to open & close the big doors on the tunnels in winter... not a fun job!
The big tunnel!

We had a great day biking... 19 miles in all & Melanie did 9 of that all on her own.

Nothing like an ice cream cone to wrap up a good day biking!!  On our way home, we swung through La Crosse at dark & even caught the fireworks... HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!

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