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Long Weekend’s Journey into Snow……

Black River Falls, Duluth and Door County. December 2021

After the Thanksgiving feast was done we decided to get out of McGuire relatives cabin vicinity, where we were “moochdocking”, while a hunting weekend went on. We wanted to check out Duluth and had never seen Lake Superior so we decided to see what it looked in it’s harshest season. And I had always wanted to visit Door County. True, I usually pictured that in the spring but I had seen pictures of it in the snow and thought I made get some good painting done.

To break up the drive to Duluth I had selected the Castle Mound campground in Black River State Park. I chose it simply for it’s location midway so imagine our delight when we found it was a beautiful forest world all to ourselves! Winter camping before heavy snows bring the snowmobile crowd can be heaven. After setting up we took a hike down one of the trails.

After trudging up an incline we were greeted by the type of rock edifices that make you feel like you are in the presence of ancients. Glimpses of the far landscape appeared through the trees as the trail took us along the ‘battlements’. I got my art backpack and went back and painted while Jim found the lookout on the other side.

Back at the campsite we had electric so our fireplace was glowing and we even had 5G service and NPR on the radio. The next morning I walked the dogs all the way back to the rock edifice to capture it in the misting snow as well. The town of Black River Falls reminded us of the area in Illinois Jim grew up in. The drive from there started in the pearly glow of a December snowy day and gave me multiple barns and farm scenes to capture on the fly with my camera. We were impressed at how many farmhouses were still in good shape and lived in instead of being replaced

by a mobile home or such. As we got closer to Duluth this was replaced with logging acres. We finally spotted the lake and entered Duluth by way of well kept up industrial towns in upper Wisconsin. We really just skirted Duluth as our campsite was at the Buffalo House Restaurant and RV park just south west of the city. It was one of the only places with year round spots. After a stop at the well stocked visitor center perched above the city we made our way to the campground. Once again we seemed to be one of the only ones there, which makes it easy with the dogs.

We had some local beer and a bison burger, toasted cheese and beef sandwich on homemade bread and yummy onion rings in the cozy bar at Buffalo House. It appeared to have its share of local regulars- always a good sign. Then we drove into Duluth and went to the Maritime Museum on the old pier area refitted for restaurants, hotels etc. I imagine it’s a great stroll in summer but in December it was more starkly impressive. Unfortunately no big ships were scheduled to come in under the drawbridge that day - information that is updated daily on a signboard by the museum staff. Of course I had to check out the Edmund

Fitzgerald area. The song had been a mainstay on my dad’s reel to reels In my youth. I also enjoyed the recreations of boat staterooms and the models and history of various “salties” and “lakers”. The topographical map of the lakes was also interesting with an alarmingly deep pit in Lake Superior! The gift shop had a fantastic pairing of a Lake Superior patch and a pin of the bridge with a movable container ship that will grace my tote bag as soon as I sew it on. We did not have time to check out galleries or stroll the streets as darkness was falling. Once again we were spoiled by being able to stream our current binge watch and have the electric fireplace dancing. We also were tracking the weather and an approaching winter storm was looking worse and worse for Sunday’s travel day. So in the end we opted to leave early the next morning and forgo further exploration till warmer weather.

The next day’s travel was a long stretch of 6 plus hours. We skirted the Lake through shuttered resorts and surprisingly lively little towns then down through lake resort towns wearing winter white. As we passed Sturgeon Bay the character of Door County started to reveal itself. I had reserved a site at Peninsula State Park - one of the few winter electric ones kept plowed - through Wisconsins excellent state park reservation system. In the charming town of Fish Creek we turned down the road, paid our admission fee by envelope and made our way to site 273- a truly awesome campsite. Right up from Tennison Bay boat ramp rock beach where dogs are allowed to romp and surrounded by white and grey birch, red sumac and berries, gold green cedar and by the following morning all encompassing white of snow for awhile! Once again we had the entire camp area to ourselves although we did see hunters the next morning and the day after the storm plenty of sightseers of the frigid waves and fat bike riders and hikers on the Sunset Trail. The first full day despite the snowy conditions we went into Fish Creek and did a little shopping then got coffee and breakfast at Blue Horse cafe. We drove through Ephraim - a delight around a half moon harbor - and to Sisters Bay. Unfortunately for Jim the Door County Rock and Gem was not open.

Much of that evening was spent by Jim on the RV roof shoveling snow off since we had no desire to be stuck with our slides frozen open. The next day I was determined to paint but the biting winds and occasional sleet meant it would need to be from the front seat of the truck. After driving around looking for the right scene that could be parked by we ended up back at the bottom of our street, looking out at Green Bay. The truck made for a good mobile studio and I was pleased with what I captured of the wild weather. Later we checked out Bailey’s Harbor, bought some cherry salsa, cherry pie, dried cherries and cherry bbq sauce and walked the dogs once more along the sea where I came across this faintly alarming headless snowman! I had hoped to see more of the Niagara escarpment after reading about how it goes all the way into Canada and becomes the cliff Niagara Falls tumbles over but that will wait for another visit - tomorrow we had back to the Illinois cabin for a few days.

A view of Green Bay painted from the truck.

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