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Sunday, September 20, 2020

CAMPGROUND REVIEW - The Dells of The Eau Claire Campground, Marathon County, Wisconsin

It was our last day at Chute Pond County Park on Thursday. (See my last post for the review of that place.) 

We sat there looking at each other and wondering if we should head on home, or try looking for another campground for another day or two. Being retired is pretty nice. "Plans Made in Jello", ya know? We thought we should find a little campground that maybe wouldn't be too busy for Thursday and Friday perhaps?

Steve remembered an interesting little place over about 15 or 20 miles east of Wausau, Wisconsin in the middle of the state. It was only one more hour drive from where we were right now. It was called The Dells of The Eau Claire. It was on the Eau Claire River. He heard about a little county park in the Marathon County Park system.

We looked it up online, and their reservation system only allows you to reserve two nights at a time, not just one night. Plus, it wouldn't let you reserve for that current day, so we really couldn't see if there were any openings that night or not. We decided to take our chances and see if we could get a campsite for even one night, if possible.  The website said the future reservations are posted on each site when we get there. If a site is not taken for that night, you can occupy it as a "first come" basis and fill out a tag at the self registration station.  But if it's reserved the next day, you have to vacate by 3 p.m.

We loaded up and got roadworthy in just a few minutes time. We hooked up the Saturn on the back and headed on out. It was a beautiful day for a drive, with low wind, beautiful sunshine, and the smoke from the big fires out west was finally starting to clear due to a cold air front coming down from the north. 

We pulled into the small campground that was meticulous and neat. Each site post had a tag saying what dates that the campsite was reserved. We were fortunate to find one that was available available for both Thursday and Friday nights! It was reserved for Saturday for someone, but we could stay for two nights on that one. We popped our money in the self pay post after filling out the envelope and hanging the tag on our site. We were on site 22. Every single site in this campground is nice, level, and big rig accessible. Most of them are electric, there are a few that are not. The recently updated campground electrical posts have 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp all on the same post.  The road is paved, and each site has crushed gravel to help avoid muddy spots.  Most of the sites are wooded, a few are more open near the firewood kiosk. 



We got all set up on our campsite and enjoyed some afternoon golden sunshine filtering in through the trees. I LOVE FALL!  The temps were pleasant, but cold weather was due according to the forecast. 

The rate at this park is $20 a night. That includes electric. We did notice one water spigot near the wood kiosk, but it was unthreaded.  To fill your tank, you would need a "Water Bandit" device to be able to temporarily clamp-on to get water to fill an rv freshwater tank. Your best bet is to fill up somewhere else before you arrive at the campsite. There is no dump station, nor are there any flush toilets or shower buildings. There is a firewood selling kiosk, but it's only manned for a few hours a day at various times. Cell phone signals are sporadic and even with a booster, they would fade out. TV channels were numerous, and no problem getting channels scanned in with the rooftop antenna.  It's about 15-20 miles from any town, so stock up on things before you go. The rest of the information can be found from this link below:



Our impression of the campground, as well as the entire park, with all of its hiking trails, shelter buildings, parking spaces, and facilities were meticulously maintained. Everything was in beautiful shape and we could tell it was a well-loved park by the people who work there.

We walked down by the water, which is a river called the Eau Claire. The water levels are very high right now, so the swimming beach is just about non-existent.



Here is a map of the entire park area,
 which is on both sides of the road:


Here's a little map of the actual campground sites. We were on site 22. Every single site was just as nice as the next and I really didn't think there were any bad campsites at all. 



Watching the waters rush by in the beautiful afternoon sunlight was absolutely peaceful and relaxing. The flickering of golden sunlight through the trees, was creating dappled images down below.



We walked on some of the trails that followed alongside the river to get down to the Dells area near the bridge. All of the paths were coated with an extra layer of crushed rock that made it easy to walk on and comfortable for the dogs too.  Strollers and wheelchairs would make it as well. 



We saw this beautiful multi layered rock alongside one of the hiking trails. I am sure it's been formed by many many years of rushing water flowing over it. Absolutely beautiful----



We made it down to the Dells area, which was just a short walk from the campgrounds. It is easily accessible. The waterfalls were beautiful as the water rushed from level to level, crashing it's way downstream.



I know still pictures of waterfalls 
are kind of boring, 
but try to just imagine the sounds
 of the rushing waters.


The sun started to go down and the beautiful colors were dancing across the tops of the trees and the rocks.


There seems to be a lot of shale rock in this area, which creates nice flat ledges of stone. The water worked it's way down from platform to platform, as it crashed to the rocks below.

Here is one of the large log buildings that are available to rent for picnics or parties. Everything was so well kept in in Tip-Top shape.  Some are enclosed and some are open pavilions.



This cute little well pump is right near the picnic area. I remember pumping on these as a kid,when we would stop at waysides to get fresh water.



This is one of the picnic areas with some beautiful new playground equipment. There are four or five different parking areas and everything is arranged nicely. There is also a handicap accessible trail and path to a viewing platform.



This is an interesting old stone bridge that County Highway Y crosses over through the middle of the park. It's a piece of art all of its own. Further down the river there's also another little walking bridge made of stone, called The High Bridge,  but we didn't get that far.



We made it back to our campsite to start dinner and relax for the evening. The trees in this part of the state are starting to turn autumn colors with brighter yellows and some golds. We even saw some vivid reds. 

This next photo is from sitting right in the lawn chairs next to the motorhome at our campsite:



We met another couple who were full-timers in their class C motorhome. (Hello Barb and Ron!)  They have two little Shelties who travel with them full-time, and they frequent campgrounds here in Wisconsin summers, and then winter near Pensacola, Florida. They do stints of camphosting as well.  Finney and Binney enjoyed meeting a new doggie friend. They were all wriggling and sniffing so fast I couldn't get a good pic.  We socially distanced, but the doggers didn't! 


We enjoyed chatting with them on and off throughout our stay. We also showed them Steve's Flame Genie pellet fire pit. They are thinking of getting one themselves. So of course Steve had to bring it over and fire it up for them so they could see how it works. We hope to maybe run into them again, perhaps sometime when we're down near the Pensacola area we can meet up on our way through to visit our folks down by Ocala.

The weather turned much cooler. We were down in the low thirties at night. The days were only up in the 50s. But we were cozy warm inside of the motorhome.  When we have 50 amp service, we run a little electric heater as well as the propane one, to supplement the temp inside and make things nice.  Also an electric mattress pad heater at night is appreciated when we have power hookups! 

But----- both of us started feeling punky.  Not sure if it was allergies from the fall weather, or if we caught some kind of cold?  We are always apprehensive that it could be covid, but we are so very careful. The only one we have been around who was sick was little granddaughter Claire who had allegeries and stuffed up coughing, perhaps a bit of a cold last week.  We are hoping that is all it is. Time will tell. Not enough to make us "in bed sick" just kinda groggy and head stuffy and sore throat-ish. That is why we are thinking allergies. We took some meds and felt okay, but avoided anyone else just in case. 

I had brought along some apple cider and this wonderful mix from Mud Creek Coffee Shop in Stockbridge, Wisconsin. It's a blend of cinnamon, brown sugar, cloves, and other spices. It is made for mulled wine or mulled apple cider. I just put one scoop in each of our cups with apple cider and heated it up in the microwave. Boy, was it delicious. The smell was heavenly and the taste was wonderful on a cool crisp fall day.  It felt good on our sore throats. 



In one of my previous blogs I had mentioned about adding all of the new under cabinet LED lighting. Here you can see it all glowing nicely while we settled in for an evening of Yahtzee, while we sipped our apple cider.


We are quite pleased with how the lighting turned out, and we don't regret a bit spending about $100 to do it all on every light fixture throughout the coach.  It will be great when we are  boondocking without power hookups. Less drain on the batteries when relaxing overnight. Then they recharge the next day with the solar panels on the roof. Free power! 

Sometimes when we are camping, we like to just sit and relax, or take walks with the dogs, or sit around the campfire. 

Other times my fingers get itchy and I want to work on something. 

Sometimes I bring along knitting. 
Sometimes I bring along a spinning wheel. 
Sometimes I bring along a table weaving loom. 
And sometimes I bring along my quilting. 

I hauled out my basket of fabric and set up my sewing machine. I keep a sewing machine in the motorhome at all times, as well as a duplicate set of all of my quilting tools that are used most often.  Much easier than trying to pack up gear each time we go.  At least that is my excuse for having extra sewing machines!  LOL  

(in the background you can see our little Lasko electric heater on the stool).



I extended the table with one more leaf, it has another one to make it even longer.  I put out all of my gear and was working on a quilt called The Farmer's Wife.  I will explain more about that once I get more blocks done, in a future blog.



One of my readers asked me, what does Steve do when you're busy doing your own fiber projects when you are camping? Well, he's usually either puttering around fixing things on the motorhome, maybe he's fishing, maybe he's found someone to play a game of horseshoes with him, maybe he is cooking dinner, or other times he just kicks back and relaxes. Like this:



Of course, since we're both feeling a little punky, we didn't want to go out or about or do much of anything the last day or so at the campground. Not sure what is getting us down, but we decided that we would pack up earlier on Saturday and head home. It was earlier than we had planned. Some family drama was erupting and we needed a better cell phone signal to keep in touch. But we managed to gear up the energy to get ourselves roadworthy, hook on the Saturn, and head on down the road back home.


It was a beautiful blue sky day 
and the trees in the middle part of the state
 seem to be turning more colors 
then over on the Eastern section.



I just love the sumac along the roadsides. To me that's one of the first signs of fall is when the bright red sumac leaves emerge. They are just striking, and it's hard to capture the beauty even with a cell phone camera as we fly on down the road.


We made it home with no problems, but both of us are still feeling a little groggy. We swung by the dump station here in Oconto. For a mere $2 fee we can dump our tanks when we get home... so campgrounds without dump stations are not a problem for us.  We know we can always dump a mile or so away from our home. 

We unloaded the few things that needed to come out of the motor home, and plop the dirty laundry in the washing machine. Then it was time for a nice long afternoon nap!

It's now Sunday morning, and we are feeling a bit brighter. Steve is out cutting the lawn and I am working on this blog and doing a few little tasks around the house. I am thinking it might be an apple pie baking day?  

At noon is the football game, will be strange to see Lambeau Field without any spectators, such is the world we live in, eh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

CAMPGROUND REVIEW - Chute Pond Oconto County Park near Mountain, Wisconsin

We looked at the calendar, and we looked at the weather report, and it was time to load up and sneak out of town. The weather was looking great up in the high 70s and evenings in the 50s.

We decided that we would try out the other Oconto County Campground, because they are running their midweek special. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are half price camping. We retired folks have to watch our camping budget, you know!

Chute Pond is located over on the western side of our County, just south of the town of Mountain on Highway 32 / 64. It is usually jam-packed full all summer and we can never get in here. But I looked on the reservation map and found out that we could get in Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on a variety of the campsites available. But looking ahead to this weekend, almost everything is reserved in he 100 campsite campground.

The campground is spaced out in four different loops for daily campers and a fifth distant loop down on the far Southwestern end for seasonal campers.  One loop is specifically available for people with ATV / UTV recreational vehicles.

We tossed our groceries and our dogs into the motor home and away we went. We came over early on Monday morning to secure a site and get set up.

This is an older campground, and many of the sites are not, I repeat not, big rig friendly. There really are a select few, I would say under 10, that our motorhome could even fit on or even access into the loop.

We really didn't want to be in the loop nearest to the road, but it had the most level campsites and had the easiest access for a 40-foot motorhome. We chose site 50 which abuts right up to the river and is beautiful and scenic. See the yellow arrow?


As you can see on this larger expanded view, the campsites in the other loops are located away from the road and heavier wooded. But there are also steeper, unlevel, and more suited for small campers, pop-ups, and tents.


Here is a link to their website:

We self registered at the field house, and made doubly sure that our site was not reserved by anyone else for any of the midweek days that we wanted to be here. There appears to not be any staff on duty during the weekdays . The park staff kindly puts a complete report of the week's reservations right by the self-pay station. That way newcomers can be sure that is nobody else coming to take the site if you are doing first come first serve at the self-pay station.

Of course, being half price, we were only paying $15 a night for an electric site as opposed to the regular rate of $30.

Our site has 30 amp service, not sure if the others are 30 or 50 in other parts of the campground.

Potable water is available at the dump station, the campsites do not have water hookups.

There are various bathroom facilities scattered about, some are pit toilets, some are flush, and a nice shower house near the central area by the playground.

Cell phone signal is very good, and television antenna programs fade away some during the day but come back in the evening.

There is a little general store in the field house that has some signage of things that they sell. It was not open during the week. I am not sure of their hours, but I'm sure more information can be found online. Nearby is a picnic area and a small beach as well.

Incidentally, this water reservoir here that has been dammed up is the Oconto River. It flows 50 miles down towards our house, through our little town and out into the bay waters of Green Bay. So cool that it's the very same river. If we popped in here, we could float our way home!

As for the park itself, like I said, it is older and set up for smaller RVs. I really don't care for the road noise being parked so near the highway. Thank goodness for dual pane windows because we didn't hear any noise at night. Because our rig is angled towards the river, we really are sitting on the opposite side facing the water so it's okay with us. But it's not my first choice of a campsite location



The river is beautiful and the water is up with higher levels because of the recent rains. With the Oconto River being controlled by various dams up and down it's complete path, the fluctuation of the water is always a guess. Right now it's up and maybe next week it's down.



Like I said, we are located right by the water. There's a little access area to go stand down by the edge if you want to toss in a fishing line or wade around among the rocks, catch some minnows, or just splash around a bit. The current here is pretty slow and it's quite relaxed.



Up the road a ways is a cute little foot bridge that looks like it's been damaged and not repaired yet. Recently there had been some straight-line winds and tornadoes that have gone through the area. There's a lot of evidence of high wind damage and downed trees throughout this entire section of the county. This little foot bridge leads over to some hiking trails into the more rapid moving water called "Slippery Rock". More on that later!



We walked around and enjoyed the beautiful views up and down the river. The trees here are just starting to turn with slight tinges of yellows and gold and maybe a little orange every now and then. For the middle of September, this seems a little soon for our area. Fall is on its way----


When we stopped at the field house to pay for our campsite and self-register, this cheery little fellow was waiting for a photo opportunity:


Of course, being tourists, we had to oblige!



We walked around the grounds, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We think this tree happens to be chock-full of delicious bugs. The work of woodpeckers feasting on them is quite evident.



Speaking of feasting, we were relaxing in our chairs and it was suddenly five o clock. This little guy has an alarm clock built into his tummy. He is trying to communicate with Steve to let him know that it's time to fill that doggie dish!!



Steve went in to get the dog dishes and he sure kept a watchful eye on the progress. He was listening through the screen door as he heard his dog food and treat put into his dish. This is very confusing for him because he is used to being right under foot while Steve fills the dish. What's up with that?



Well well well, look at that! Steve brought their dishes outside so they could dine "al fresco"


This was a new one for them, they had never done that before. It really puzzled them. Why would their doggie dishes and food come outside? It's always fun to keep them guessing...



While they ate their delicious dog food, Steve was working on our own dinner. He popped a couple big thick burgers on the grill while I got things ready inside. Food always tastes better when you cook it outside.



It may just be burgers, but we feast like kings. Added to the meal are fresh garden tomatoes and some cucumber salad.



We had a relaxing evening. We didn't bother to start a campfire, we just wanted to relax, kick back, and enjoy the pretty lights inside of our motorhome now that all of the LED lights are in place and functioning. See my last blog if you're wondering what I'm talking about.



~~~~~~~~~~

I'm pleased to report that we had a very quiet night. With the dual paned windows  we really didn't hear any noises at all from the highway and we were entirely comfortable all night long. We actually slept in this morning till well after 7 AM. That's quite unusual for us. Even the dogs let us sleep in. How nice was that?

We started out the morning with a bowl of instant oatmeal and some fresh fruit. Sometimes Steve cooks up a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. But this morning it just felt good to eat lite.



While I straightened up a little bit, Steve was working on a couple tasks around the motorhome. He changed the fuse for the 12 volt cigarette lighter near the driver's area. He also tightened up an electrical outlet on the side of the bed which has access from the engine compartment.



We always have maintenance tasks to do of one type or another on the rig. Each time we use it, it seems like there's a little something to tweak or fix or take care of. I found a little power adapter that needed some gluing of a label, and sorted out and organized a couple of the cabinets.

We decided to take a little ride around in the Saturn. We popped the dogs in with us and went to wander around. About 10 miles from the park is the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower. I had been there many years ago, but not recently. We are very close to the cottage that we helped build for my dad when he was still alive. My brother now owns the cottage and we come up to this area often. We just never camped at Chute Pond before.

The tower was built back in the 1930s by the CCC. That's the Civilian Conservation Corps and was used for spotting fires in the Lakewood District.


For a small donation, folks like us are welcome to climb all the way to the top. It's 135 steps!


I opted to stay down on the ground with the dogs. It was quite a windy day and I didn't feel like going up that high. Remember, I don't like heights? But spry young lithe athletic Steveio went all the way up to the top!!!!

(He is snorting incredulously at my last sentence....lol)




As we drove around the countryside, we see that the colors are changing, especially among the hardwoods. We really haven't had a hard freeze yet, but we are starting to see red leaves.


The sumac is always the first to turn. This grove of sumac trees are just ablaze with color. I absolutely love the look of this and it's an indication that my favorite season is finally here



We drove back into the campground and decided to go over near the dam by the Field House. Here's the backed-up waters of the Oconto River, known as Chute Pond. There are little cottages scattered around here and there, even some on the islands. Plus the campground, of course. Nearby is all USDA National Forest Land from the Nicolet National Forest.


This little dam has a walkway across the top that leads to some hiking trails... and a special little place called "Slippery Rock" that all of the locals know about.


Here is a little video clip I made of the water by the dam and where we started walking back through the trails in the park.



The woods were just beautiful and quiet. The water has a rich brown color from the tamarack trees, the tannen is what discolors the water, and almost gives it a rootbeer appearance.



The dogs really enjoy having time to sniff here there and everywhere. We have them on long flexi leashes that allow them to randomly stop and pause and smell things. But if anybody were to come down the trail, we can quickly recoil them back into our sides. They really enjoyed the opportunity to get out and sniff sniff sniff.

Little shy Binney, who would never leave our side, or cower in fear when we first got her....  now will sniff and stretch out her leash to get every opportunity to find a new scent to explore. She's the one further away in this picture!



We worked our way back to what is known as "Slippery Rock". We could hear some shouts of delight from three young ladies who were having an absolute blast there.

But the little gnats were bothering them, and buzzing around their heads. We lent them our bug spray to give them a little relief from the pesky critters. In return, they agreed to show how this natural water slide worked and demonstrate it for my video:


They were sure having a lot of fun.

We left them to their antics, and headed on back with the dogs. It was getting close to supper time, so we decided to get the grill out again.

Steve did up some marvellous tenderloin steaks that he had been marinating overnight. Our daughter Erin gave us some green beans that we steamed up, we had a little leftover cucumber salad and a delicious sliced baked potato in tin foil from on the grill. My oh my, we sure eat good when we go camping.


I'm going to finish up this blog here and I will do another one in another day or two. I think we're staying here until Thursday because there's nobody else needing this campsite until then.


It's nice to take a break from all of our projects at home, but we do have a couple interesting ones coming up.

I'm also pleased to say we did "Bat Duty" the other night to double-check ... by sitting out in our chairs at dusk ... waiting to see if there are any more bats leaving our attic.



I think I'm pretty sure that there are no more bats up there. Now we can move ahead with our new insulation, and not be distressed by the thought of bats leaving their excretment all over. We are having new insulation blown into the north portion of the attic in a few weeks.  The bats need to be GONE!