Thursday, July 18, 2013

Camping on the Ice Age Trail

So last Saturday Charlie and I hiked the Turtle Rock Segment of the Ice Age Trail and immediately following that hike, we headed over to Camp New Wood on the other side of the Wisconsin River to set up camp for the next two nights. Honestly I didn't know if I was going to be physically capable of seting up camp after hiking all afternoon, but amazingly enough we had tents up and a fire going by dinnertime.

Camp New Wood was built on the original site of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp from back in the 1930's and is also on the Grandfather Falls Segment of the Ice Age Trail. That was the coolest part - seeing the yellow blazes on the trees along our campsite! I could now add the distinguishing achievement of camping on the Ice Age Trail to my hiking resume. Never mind that Hwy 107 is only about 30 feet from the campsite. Never mind that I didn't actually backpack into the wilderness with all my gear strapped to my back.

No. That is not how I like to camp. I prefer to fill my car with every necessity I can possibly think I'll need for the two days that I'll be "roughing it" - including my mom. Yep. Mom comes along on all my camping trips because 1) she loves camping and would be extremely upset if I didn't invite her along, and 2) she does all the cooking and dishes, which is awesome because without her, I'd probably subsist on granola bars and apples.

Camping with Mom is like going to an outdoor bed and breakfast. She made bacon and french toast for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and steak with mashed potatoes for dinner - not to mention s'mores for dessert - come on, what's camping without s'mores! Go ahead and say it - I'm spoiled! Plus she strategically packs all our gear into the car - including room for our two dogs. After a long day hiking, it's a relief to have her along for the camping trip.

Now, most people would probably head to Council Grounds State Park which is about 10 miles South of Camp New Wood, but I prefer to take the path less traveled. Plus I hate crowds and noisy campgrounds. Camp New Wood is a county park but it's barely used. There are 7 campsites that are mostly open (not much privacy) but sit high up on a ridge overlooking the Wisconsin River. Saturday night there was one other camper who arrived late and left early the next morning. Other than that, we had the place to ourselves.

The campsites are $10.00 per night, there is free firewood available if you want to chop it up (the county is attempting to prevent the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer) and there are pit toilets directly across from the campsites. A short walk through the woods takes you to New Wood County Park where there are picnic shelters, more pit toilets, a hand pump water station, playground and boat launch. A short drive (about 15 minutes) takes you into the city of Merrill if you need groceries, ice or firewood (do not bring firewood from further than 25 mile radius).

We camped at site #5 - which, in my opinion, is the best site there. Site #1 is also pretty nice and has a long parking area to accommodate a camper or trailer. At night you can hear the distant roar of Grandfather Falls which is occasionally drowned out by the noise of a passing car on the nearby highway. Otherwise it is completely quiet. There was a rather unhappy family of red squirrels who made all kinds of noise outside the tent at dusk and dawn. I don't think they were particularly happy about sharing their campsite with us... probably something they don't have to do very often. Sunday afternoon we found a painted turtle sun-bathing at one of the other campsites and the dogs had a fun time investigating it. Sunday night I had an interesting experience when another campsite visitor - a large toad we had seen earlier - decided to wiggle himself under my tent. The sound of the tent floor crinkling as he moved closer and closer to me was extremely disconcerting! And Charlie was a bit freaked out by it too. I used my flashlight to gently nudge him back out from under the tent so I wouldn't roll over and squish him during the night. Thankfully there was no "toad juice" under my tent the next morning when we packed up.

We had a great "outdoorsy" weekend full of hiking and camping but I was so blissed out to be home, under the stream of hot water in the shower - washing away all the sweat and bug spray, and lounging on the couch for some t.v. time. Charlie had a few ticks on her and some were fully attached, so we applied another tube of tick meds and "fixed up" all her bites. I think Charlie's pretty grateful to be home too... she's been taking it easy and napping quite a bit this week!

I hope she gets her rest because we have another big weekend full of camping and Ice Age Trail hiking planned for next weekend... stay tuned!

What are your best camping memories? Do you have a favorite camp food?