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Monday, May 9, 2022

Campground Review - Bear Lake in Nicolet National Forest near Wabeno Wisconsin

Some of the campgrounds in the Nicolet National Forest in our area just opened up on the 5th of May. So on Friday, we decided to take our chances and buzz up to get a campsite for the weekend at Bear Lake. 

We rarely camp on the weekends if we can help it, we opt much more often for the quieter sites during the week without the Weekend Warriors. I had a commitment on Friday afternoon to be the special guest at my granddaughter's first grade tea party. So Steve hopped in the rig earlier in the morning and headed up on his own. The campground is only 75 miles from home so I drove up later in the Saturn. For the trip home we would hook on to the back of the motorhome and tow it back.

He was quite fortunate when he reached the campground, there was only one other campsite occupied. We were able to get one of our favorite site number 15 overlooking the water. 

Here is the view from our site:

link to information:

Sites 15, 17 and 18 in our opinion are the best sites for us in our long rig. They have the best views and each one has its own set of stairs down to it's own little private beach and lake access.

Bear Lake has 27 campsites total. About five or six of them are tenting only, some are walk-in tenting over to the peninsula beyond on the beach. 

Camping is only $15 dollars a night, but if you have the America The Beautiful Senior Pass, then it's HALF price at the bargain of only $7.50 a night.  Some of the sites are reservable online, but also there is a pay post and envelopes for the cash payments of the first come first served sites.  Sorry, no credit card machines, this is out in the boonies.  LOL 

Cell signal is sporatic and at times, non existant.  We used a cell signal booster, and even that was blank at times.  Only tv antenna stations are 4 PBS stations, nothing else on the antenna day or night. 

We made a list of which campsites were better for us in a long motorhome with a description on each one. 

  • 1 OK not water side first come first serve level lots of room
  • 2 OK not on the water side nice and level reservable 
  • 3 slope too sloped and short to work for us
  • 4 ok first come first serve nice and level not on the water side might be okay for solar
  • 5 better first come first serve on the water side pretty level have to come in from the other direction might be good for solar
  • 6 better reservable pretty good site overlooking water really nice view and pull in opposite way nose first
  • 7 ok reservable not on water side nice and level kind of green moss in flat area
  • 8 too short slope Breaking down blacktop and ledge to get down by picnic area too short
  • 9 OK nice and level not water side first come first serve flat fire pit to ground kind of mossy level area open for solar
  • 10 slant short
  • 11 hard to get into
  • 12 tent up a hill
  • 13 ok first come first serve slight slope to the end could do it in a pinch but not a favorite not on the water side level fire pit to the ground
  • 14 ok reservable. Level green mossy flat not water side probably good for solar easy to back into
  • 15 BEST SITE. Stayed here May 2022 best to pull in nose first stay to the left for solar on the water side not reservable first come first serve
  • 16 OK first come first serve not on the water side nice and level green moss flat area really good for solar best to back in
  • 17 BETTER Reservable lake side nice and level little more trees than the others has its own steps down to the water
  • 18 BETTER first come first come first serve nice and wide open has its own steps down to the water might be good for solar Lots of parking area Lakeside might be better than the one we were on 15
  • 19 OK not on the lake reservable nice and level tall trees not quite as open
  • 20 OK reservable Lakeside a little smaller than 18 still good little further away from the lake has stepped down to the lake not nice of a view
  • 21 SLANT reservable but not too bad right before the cul-de-sac Could work in a pinch nice and deep period flat fire pit to the ground period may be good for solar
  • 22 SLANT reservable wide open lots of sand might be good for solar raised fire pit right before called de sac
  • 23-27 tent sites

There are pit toilets on both ends of the campground and two well pitcher pumps for water. So be sure to fill your RV freshwater holding tank before you arrive. There are no spigots or faucets.

We walked down to the cute little swimming beach (no lifeguards on duty) and picnic area.  Everything is clean and well kept, even after a long winter under the cover of snow. 

It's just a short walk to the beach and this trail also leads to the walk in tenting sites.

Nice and clean and neat.... 

but a bit cold as the ice only melted off a few weeks ago! 

There is a boat landing for the small lake which is only suitable for kayaks canoes and small boats with electric trolling motors. No gas engines allowed . The park is relatively quiet but does allow generators during set hours of the daytime. But not at night. Of course, we are loaded up with 500 watts of solar on the roof so we try to park carefully on sites where we will get good solar access, especially in the morning hours. 

There's a short little walking trail to another nearby lake called Little Cub Lake. It appears to be wonderful fishing because there are reminder signs and information for fishermen as well as the limits of the newest inland trout season that just opened. There were two other vehicles parked there with fishermen out on the lake in little portable fishing boats that could be carried down the trail. 

We walked on the trail to the end where there's a little dock to launch from. With the high waters and recent rains, the very end of the trail was submerged. Steve balanced on his tippy-toes along the side rail just to get out there. Just to say he did it. I was hoping with the camera I could catch him falling in, but that was not the case. 

He made it back to dry land safe and sound. 

Binney enjoyed herself and got a good sniff in the woods. Lolly-gaggling along at the far end of her leash.  She loves the chance to explore a bit, but we always keep her on leash.  The flexi lets it expand a bit, but if anyone is around, we reel her in and lock it tight to a 6 ft length. 


We had walked around the loop of the campground, which later on we found out was 1.7 Mi. It was a little longer than we first thought. Also nearby on the map there is another hiking trail back into the woods. The sign says it's the Rat River Recreation Trail. We didn't take that trail but it would be a nice little nature hike if you came to stay in the campgrounds. See the map below for more details.

The Nicolet National Forest has very nice rustic camping sites in many lakes in this area. There is also Ada Lake, Richardson Lake, Boot Lake, and then Boulder Lake (which does have some sites with electric), there's also the Oconto County campground of Chute Pond and there is a Township Campground of Goodman all in the general vicinity. 

Now for our camping experience: 

Steve had the rig backed in and set up by the time I got to the campground. It was a lovely evening and the temperatures have finally warmed up around Wisconsin where we could even sit out and enjoy the view for a while without bundling up in winter jackets! 

What a view from our campsite! 

The rear of the rig looks scary here, but it really isn't that close to the edge. 

and our own staircase leading down 
to our own little private beach! 

We cooked up some delicious burgers on the grill and I put some steak fries in the oven. Food always tastes so much better when we cook outside.

It was so peaceful for the evening. Two other campsites became occupied, one person with a little tab trailer and another couple with a tent. It was so quiet. One of the nice things about this campground it is far far away from any busy roads or trains and there's no motors allowed on the lake so it's very very quiet. We fell asleep peacefully in the night without anything to disturb us.

Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful. We lolled around in bed for a while with fresh perked coffee on the stove. We were really enjoying the peaceful campsite. This is what it's all about.  Look at the view from our bedroom...  It was crispy cold in the mid 30's, but we were toasty warm with our Olympian Wave 8 Catalytic heater which uses no power to operate.  Set on low all night, we were comfy.

It was so pleasant and peaceful. The lake was like glass and not a sound other than the birds.  I kicked back in the lawn chair to soak it all in.  This is what I waited all winter long for. 

Steve wasn't entirely happy with the numbers coming from the solar panels, so he took out his extending telescoping ladder and got up there to give them each a good scrubbing down. He removed layers of winter grime and dirt. It made such a big improvement on the panels.

Go Go Go 

We got a fire set up and ready in the pit, but then we got a ding on the phone that there were fire danger warnings.  With the low humidity and high winds forecast, caution was advised. The woods are SO dry this time of year, and no fresh green growth yet, just dried leaves and grasses from last fall.  Tinder box waiting to happen since it hadn't rained in about a week. So we decided to not light the fire. 

Around noon we came to realize that it was a good idea to maybe pull out the motor home and turn it around and drive it in nose first on the other side of the campsite. This would take more advantage of the solar exposure for our panels. That way we would be fully recharged for the evening. We didn't use a lot of solar the night before. Only 9% of our battery capacity. Our Trimetric gauge for the solar setup inside was showing us that we still had 91% left. But with deep cycle batteries you should never go beyond the first top 20 to 25 per-cent off the top.  It gives you more recharge cycles if you take care of your batteries and never drain them down too far. Once you drain them down to the 30 or 40% range you severely limit the number of recharge cycles you can ever get out of the life of your bank of batteries. Our last batch of 6 volt deep cycle batteries lasted US 10 years! So we are hoping to make this set last just as long with regular maintenance and do not abuse them during our camping sessions.

It didn't take too long to secure items inside 

back the rig out, turn it around, and drive it in nose first 

on the far left side of the site.

Besides, being nose-first into the campsite 

gives us this absolutely amazing wonderful view 

from the front windshield and living area of our rig! 

I decided that I wanted to work on a little sewing. I hauled up my quilt supplies and my bare basic Brother sewing machine. I don't like to use my good computerized Janome sewing machine or my precious antique Singer Featherweight with the brush motor when running off the solar and just the inverter. The inverter sometimes (because it's not pure sine wave) can mess up computer control boards or not work properly with brush type motors. 

We noticed that also with the vacuum cleaner. And our coffee grinder. So we grind up coffee beans enough for a few days worth at a time while we have regular household current before we leave or if we are running the generator. 

So this basic Brother sewing machine works well enough to do sewing while on the inverted power from the solar panels and batteries. I finished up assembling about seven or eight more quilt blocks while enjoying the sunshine and the pretty views outside.

Steve was messing around with a few odds and ends projects on the motorhome. He took care of replacing some of the eyelet ends of various ground wires that deteriorate over time. It's much better to replace them now before they break off and something doesn't work properly. He found that many of them that needed to get a good cleaning up or replacement and then before he reattaches the wire to the stud he uses a gob of dielectric grease to help keep a good connection as well as protected from the elements or corrosion in the future. So while he was putzing around I was able to work on my quilt and we were just happy as all get-out. It doesn't take much to make us retired old folks smile.

He just has to lift up our king sized bed to gain access
to the engine compartment

It was so peaceful we enjoyed a nice nap with the birds chirping outside the open windows. First Time of the Season. Felt good. 

For supper on Sunday, because it was Mother's Day, Steve said it was my choice for dinner. I had brought along a big slab of salmon that we get from Aldis. Steve has this very interesting wire grid that can hold the slab flat while cooking it on the grill. It also allows him to flip it over and let any excess juices or fats run off during cooking. 

Then when he brings it back inside we set it on a wooden cutting board and he can carefully scoop the salmon off the skin side of the slab and transfer it onto our plates. 

I had a vase of daffodils that I had won at our Homemakers HCE banquet on Wednesday, that made a nice backdrop in the motorhome. What a beautiful evening dinner with soft music, glasses of wine, and a pile of roasted veggies in the oven.

Who needs a $50 meal in some fancy restaurant
all crowded up on Mother's Day? 

Besides, I want my girls to spend Mother's Day with THEIR children.  We can get together next week. It's not the day, it's the LOVE....

We took a couple nice walks with the dog and chatted with a few of the other people camping in the campground. We decided we weren't going to have a campfire yet on Sunday night, but some other people were staying until Wednesday so we gave them our meager little stash of camp firewood we had brought along. Share the wealth and Pay It Forward. They were quite happy to accept the gift. 

Instead, for the evening we curled up with a new show on PBS called Legacy List. Then we took nice hot showers and crawled into bed for another wonderful night of peaceful sleep. We sleep so well when we're out in the woods with nothing around us.

We won't mention our own snoring----

Overnight, the weather report changed. This morning we looked at the weather and we had winds that would be increasing throughout the afternoon in the 20-25+ mph range. Gusts are expected in the 40 to 50 mph hour range! That's not nice weather to drive a motor home in. Also this evening there were going to be thunderstorms as well as rain and storms all day on Tuesday. So we decided to make a change of plans, pack up early, get roadworthy, and hit the road before the winds increased.

So as I type up this blog, rather I recite it into my talk-to-text, we are heading home 75 miles back to our house. The winds are already kicking up and it's probably a good idea that we had decided to abandon our campsite and head on home. The skies are pretty blue and things are kind of nice and sunny but I think there's some not-so-nice weather headed our way.  I love using my laptop with an old version of Microsoft Streets and Trips with a GPS dongle. It makes "mouse trails" of all our trips and travels. I make notations along the way of things we would like to keep in our trip records. 

We are now twenty miles from home as I type this, and the winds have really picked up. We are fighting a headwind for the last stretch and it's pretty strong. 

We stopped at our little municipal dump station in Oconto and take care of our holding tanks for the $2 fee. Nice and handy to dump near home because most of the National Forest Campgrounds do not have dump station.

Taking care of the necessary stuff...

Since there wasn't anyone waiting, we could attach the non potable water line and give our black tank a really good flushing at the same time. 

Soon it's home again home again jiggity jig

Now to unload and catch up laundry. 

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