Heading North from Florida to Wisconsin

10th July - 4th August 2012

After five days baking in the Florida summer heat and humidity, waiting for the fitting of the new canvas for our boat Anju, we were relieved to be heading north. Our first day of driving took us on the I-95 interstate, rapid but tedious, through Georgia and into South Carolina. As normal, we were reluctant to add extra strain to our little engine by using the air conditioning whilst driving at high speed, so we were pleased to pull up at the Santee State Park. The park was conveniently situation close to the I-95 and provided electricity and showers to cool us off. We decided to make the most of our visit by enjoying the seven mile round trip on the cycle tracks through the heavily wooded park, managing to fit our expedition in between thunder showers.

Phil taking to lead, clearing the cobwebs from the path!

Santee State Park, South Carolina

Medoc Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Another day, another state further north. Our next evening found us in Medoc Mountain State Park in North Carolina. Here we walked one of the trails along the river and Phil tried his luck with the fish. We definitely were on our way to sweating off all those extra pounds we'd gained at home! It was hot, humid and again the camp ground showers brought welcome relief.

Through Virginia and into Maryland, where we spent a week catching up with our buddies Woody and Janine in their latest gorgeous new home. It seemed that every time we visit, they were living in a new spot but we still managed to track them down!

Christine and Janine enjoying Stephanie's cute hostess gifts.

Although Janine was busy with her estate sales business, the girls did manage a day out together. It was wonderful to catch up with Stephanie and Paul too and the rest of the Woody and Janine's family when we fitted it a couple of dinner parties.

During our stay we were subjected to almost daily spectacular thunderstorms and discovered that Harvey had sprung a leak, which we were able to fix when the rain finally abated the day before we left.

Ever onwards, this time headed west through Pennsylvania. After enjoying the mod cons our friends' home provided, we were ready for more outdoor time. We stopped at the Laurel Hills State Park in Pennsylvania, which although very tidy and manicured, a little too much so for our taste for the wild, offered the chance to drag out our inflatable canoe and hit the lake in search of fish.

Laurel Hills State Park, Pennsylvania.

The more westerly Raccoon Creek State Park brought its own challenges. Our biggest problem was trying to check into a camp site. We'd headed to the camp ground which was far distant from the main park office, to find the registration outpost there deserted. Never mind, we could always use the "honour envelope" registration method, putting our fee into the envelope and depositing it into the drop box but there were no envelopes to be found. Finally we decided we just set up shop in an empty site and sort it all out later, somebody was bound to come by looking for our money. We sought out a likely spot and began to settle in, only to be told by our neighbour that the spot was reserved, although there was nothing to indicate this. Frustrated by this point we headed back to the distant main office, where we found a notice that it would be closed until 3 pm. We duly waited and were joined first by the Fed Ex man, then the UPS man too. Eventually all the staff rolled up. Apparently when the State Park send them for safety training, they sent all the staff at once, leaving the place deserted.

Finally accommodated for the night, we decided we just had time to visit the park's Wild Flower Reserve before dinner. Keen to make the most of our visit we stopped by the Interpretive Centre to seek advice on which trails to walk to best profit from our brief tour. Here the friendly ranger pointed at his computer, showing us the massive storm approaching on the weather radar. We'd better be quick and rush back to Harvey to change our sun hats for rain coats before we left. We duly took a rapid route march along the trails suggested, walking around a mile through the reserve, spotting barely a single flower! Then we got wet too, just to complete the joy of our visit!

We'd have to wait until the next morning when we crossed the border into Ohio, where the back roads were lined with a border of wild flowers as we passed mile after mile of corn and soy beans. We then entered the first of the five states we hadn't visited before, Indiana. Here the flower, corn and soy bean lined back roads led us to the Salamonie Lake State Recreation Area. It was apparent that we'd reached the drought stricken area of the USA as the lake now lay far back from the boat ramp and what water there was was infested with poisonous blue-green algae. It didn't really matter though as we were stuck in our motor home, enjoying another thunder storm!

That looks more like a Wild Flower Reserve! Bellevue, IA

The next day took us across corn and soy bean lined Illinois, over the mighty Mississippi into the second of the "five", Iowa. Here we took the scenic road along the great river and spurred on by the friendly ranger who gave us helpful directions to find the gravel road into the park by phone, wound up at Bellevue State Park, where we snagged almost the last camp site.

Despite our late arrival, at least it was cool enough to walk a couple of trails. The first led us through lovely but buggy woodland, winding up for some reason at the parks sewage processing plant. The second promised a scenic overview of the Mississippi River. In actuality the River could just about be glimpsed through the heavy foliage!

Locks on the Mighty Mississippi at Bellevue Iowa.

Wisconsin was the next of the "five" and early next morning we headed back over the mighty river to start our visit. As normal we chose the back roads, which started off bumpy but gorgeous and became smoother and more beautiful as we made our way north. After checking out but deciding against a County Park in Holcombe, we decided it was time to seek out our beloved National Forest camp grounds instead. We wound up with a waterfront spot in the Chippewa camp ground in the Chequamegan National Forest.

The next day after heading further north we found ourselves in the tranquil camp ground on the much smaller Beaver Lake. Here we spent a couple of blissful days, getting back to nature and enjoying the fishing from our canoe. Despite the lack of trout, Phil got back into the art of fly-fishing for bass, giving Christine the chance to enjoy paddling around the wonderful surroundings and catch up on day-dreaming! We decided to take a walk on the "North Country Trail", a small section of which passed close to the camp ground. We hiked down to the next lake along the trail, at one point climbing through a fallen tree blocking the way, which had been brought down in recent storms.

Beaver Lake, Wisconsin.

Scrambling time!

Two days later we headed to the town of Hayward in search of a replacement for the crayfish style fly, a favourite of the bass at Beaver Lake, so much so that they had stolen it from the fisherman! Besides we couldn't pass through Wisconsin without visiting the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame! This interesting museum contained not only pictures of the inductees and their record breaking catches but also an amazing array of pretty much anything to do with fishing. There were rooms full of lures, flies, even assorted vintage outboard motors. The highlight of the visit, though, had to be the chance to walk through the "Biggest Fish in the World" and climb up to the viewing platform between its jaws!

Fly box replenished, we headed to Perch Lake and set up camp, all alone, in the Lakes northern camp ground. Another gorgeous lake, another wonderful camp site. We paid for a day, then we paid for another day and then decided on a third. The whole time we were alone, everyone else seeming to prefer the busy south camp ground but we didn't need the boat ramp, we had our own canoe landing right in our camp site.

Christine feeling a bit like Jonah!

This is going to slow us down a bit!

Perseverance finally pays off.

In this spot we had two small problems. The first was that we'd arrived with almost empty water tank on Harvey, expecting to fill up at the camp ground. However the only water source had to be pumped by hand and the water arrived a fetching shade of brown. We eked out our supply of non-brown water by careful rationing for drinking purposes only for two days but the situation was getting desperate. The second problem was that no matter what type of flies Phil used, even those favoured in Beaver Lake, the Perch Lake bass just didn't want to play. On our second day we had more success with a worm-type plastic lure but by the end of our day's fishing it was almost chewed to pieces by the bass. Finally it was decided that drastic action was needed. We took a trip to the local town of Drummond, where the friendly lady at the local store/fishing supply shop/gas station solved all our problems by selling us some worm-style lures and allowing us to fill up our water tanks using her hose. We were back in business! The perseverance paid off, toward the end of the day Phil landed an 18" bass, snapped for posterity and released back to his friends.

By this point we were in need of a thorough cleaning, us, our massive mountain of laundry and the inside of Harvey which was starting to resemble the forest outside, we'd tramped so much of it inside with us. It was time to seek out "civilisation". We headed to the large town of Superior, located on the Wisconsin side of the border with Minnesota on Lake Superior. Here we got everything shipshape ready to make our way into Minnesota, number four of the "five", the following day.

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