One Last Hurrah

Today we are starting our school year. We like to ease into these things, so we’re starting mid-week with partial days and will dive in in earnest next week. Before taking the plunge into the 2018-2019 school year though, we took advantage of a fortuitous and not very common two days off in a row for Mr. Knitting Sarah and had a little mini-adventure over the weekend, one last hurrah before the end of summer.

As it is mid-August and the peak of vacation season in these parts, finding a spot for camping or a hotel that was dog friendly on short notice was not easy. Mr. Knitting Sarah is nothing if not determined and creative when it comes to unearthing a good adventure though and I was not in the least surprised when he announced a plan. Destination: Clam Lake, WI, Population: 37 and a herd of wild elk.

We left as soon as Mr. KS was done with work on Saturday with homemade brown bag dinners in hand and made the two and a half hour drive north. Scanning the roadsides as we went, I spotted a large Snapping Turtle and our son pointed out a Red Fox. We talked and sang loudly along with the radio as we went, pulling in to our destination around 7pm in high spirits.

Located in the heart of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Clam Lake is one of those places that if you blink you might miss it. Downtown it’s got a small motel, a tavern with good food, and a gas station/general store/motel with all of 8 rooms, the latter of which we called home for a two nights. Clearly a hub for the locals, the folks behind the counter take impeccable care of the place and know most people who stop in by name. It is a true gem! We checked in, peeked at the room (it was literally one of the nicest kept hotel rooms I’ve stayed in), and got back on the road to see what we could see. Twilight is, after all, one of the best times to see wildlife.

The first thing to note is that these northern woods are incredibly dense in summer. I always feel like it’s kind of a miracle when we see things. I fully believe all manner of animals are likely watching me from a mere couple of feet off the trail and unless they want me to, I will never know it. It never stops us though, the joy is in the looking. The more you look, the more you see. The elk — reintroduced in Wisconsin in 2016 — were the goal, but we knew there was potential for lots more — wolves, black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, fox, snowshoe hare, and a whole host of birds are all common in the area.

Before long, we spotted this guy in the waning light…


We got a good long look at him, but with low light and shooting with my phone’s camera through binoculars the quality of the photo is not fabulous. It does, however, serve as proof that with my own eyes I’ve seen wild elk in Wisconsin. As we kept driving along the old forest roads, we also saw loads of White-Tailed Deer, Snowshoe Hares, and a particularly animated American Woodcock dancing in a tremendous display in our headlights for quite a while. It was magical and incredible to witness — such an unexpected delight! I just won’t ever forget it. What a night!

The following day we rolled out of the racks early, stopped for a quick breakfast, and headed to the Namekagon River Visitor Center — the kids love a good visitor center and we were looking for a trail recommendation, so I waited with Moose while the family checked it out. It just so happened that as our daughter talked up the local ranger, he asked if she’d like to help name and release a monarch butterfly…


Of course, she did…


She named it “Steve” because, of course, what other name would you give a monarch butterfly?


Godspeed, Steve! Safe & happy travels to you!

After saying farewell to Steve, we hit a trail that skirted the Namekagon River. The trail was lined with the most gorgeous Red Pines…


I find Red Pines have the most extraordinary bark. And we enjoyed the quiet of the woods and the flow of the river below. After 20 or 30 minutes, we took a moment to sit along the river while the kids played and the dog swam and the multitudes of Cedar Waxwings acrobatically snatched bugs from the air above the river…


And I spun.

On the way back, hearing birds in the tree tops I looked way high up in the canopy…


And I saw some immature American Redstarts high up in the trees along with some Chickadee friends. Thank goodness for my binoculars! And on the ground…


Signs of autumn to come or our incredibly dry summer? I’m not sure. And a feather left behind by a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker…


We finished out our hike and continued our car safari over toward Spooner and coffee…


And after a rest and refreshments at the hotel, we finished the night off with a little more wildlife viewing and a spot of fishing…


We didn’t catch anything, but sometimes it’s just nice to throw a hook in the water.

We finished our weekend out with a jaunt up to Copper Falls State Park and another hike…


On a new-to-us trail which ended with some time just sitting by a waterfall, a favorite past time of Mr. KS. Poor Moose, though, was growing tired and anxious to get home and after a while hanging out he started to cry a little. He’d hiked and swam and had begun snoring loudly during the car rides, a sure sign that he was running out of gas and this was just his last straw — time to head out, family! Along the way back to the car, notables were immature Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers and immature Scarlet Tanagers and a Golden-Winged Warbler. It was a beautiful, quiet hike. An excellent end to a fantastic weekend.

On the ride home, I managed to make decent headway on the Honey Trail shawl for my MIL…


I’ve turned the corner and am beyond the halfway point now. I was worried initially with all the little cables that I wouldn’t finish in time to give to my MIL when they visit at the end of September, but I’ve got no concerns now. Hitting the point of decreasing always feels like such a victory, even more than finishing sometimes, I think.

Arriving home, it was hard to believe how much we squeezed into just two days, but still we found ourselves deliciously refreshed. We came home to construction beginning on our street, the promise of school starting, the need to begin the process of tidying up the house before it’s closed up for winter, and an empty hummingbird feeder. In addition to all the young birds we saw on our mini-adventure, we’ve had 2 immature (or 1 female and 1 immature or 2 female — I can’t tell) Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds camped out in our backyard. I’ve never had much luck with regular hummingbird visitors to my feeder, but I noticed them a week or so ago and quickly moved the hummingbird feeder out to where I’d seen them. Ever since, 9 out of 10 times I peer out the back windows one of them is there, sitting on the brush pile or the feeder. Sometimes preening, sometimes eating, sometimes stretching their little wings, sometimes just sitting and looking around, these little birds are surely preparing for the autumn changes to come and their long journey South to Texas or Mexico or maybe even Costa Rica.

I plan to keep the feeder full as long as our hummingbird friends hang around. After all, we all need a little break, one last hurrah of summer to ensure we’re rested and refreshed and ready to go when the next leg of our journey needs to begin. We got ours in Clam Lake, so it’s only right that our little friends get theirs in our quaint little backyard as well.


22 thoughts on “One Last Hurrah”

  1. It is astonishing how much you pack into a couple of days! I move at a much slower pace so I enjoy being able to arm chair-travel with you. I used to live in Illinois and I dearly miss those day trips to Wisconsin. Thank you for taking me along!

  2. My sister lives on Lake Namakogan. On one of our trips we too were lucky enough to see an elk by the side of the road. You made Clam Lake sound so very special, not just the place to turn to visit my sister. Our cottage is near Tomahawk and I love reading your tales of Wisconsin life, much of it I’m so familiar with.

    1. Clam Lake *is* a super cool spot, I think! We did a lot of driving — over to Cable and Spooner and up to Copper Falls. Such a pretty area with so much to do!

      We have family land just North of Medford, so I know where Tomahawk is! My dad likes ice fishing up there!

  3. I always love going along on your amazing adventures! What a lot you managed to accomplish and what a wonderful way to finish off your summer. The butterfly being named Steve still has me giggling – well OF COURSE, that’s the perfect name! 😂 Can’t believe how tall your son is getting! I saw him for the first time just a scant year ago and he’s grown a foot. Good luck with school this year and many more happy hikes! Hope Moose got a good treat when he got home.

    1. Re: Steve, IKR?! I am hoping to make a habit of referring to all monarch butterflies as “Steve” from now on because it’s really just too perfect! And YES! My son is over 6′ now — taller than Mr. TKS! Moose has been able to sleep the last 2 days, so I think that is treat enough in his book!

      1. I was laughing so hard at “Steve” that my husband had to come over and see what was up, then he started giggling too. She made our day!

  4. Holy cow! I would be like moose after all that! Tired and whining. 😉 but what a nice weekend!

    As for the hummers, yes, please keep those feeders up for far longer than you think! There are little birds farther north that will be flying by and need a meal along the way. Mom left her feeders up late one year, kind of by accident, and in mid-October a frazzled, tired looking fellow showed up on a windy day and was glad to find a good meal. I leave mine up now. Never have seen a late traveler, but I am not always here. I like to think they stop by.

    1. I will! I need to start filling our other feeders again, too. We had a stint with a raccoon family ripping them all down, so between that and it being the height of summer with lots of food sources available I was only keeping the water full. Our street is currently under construction, so I will start by filling just a couple feeders in our backyard, but it’s time to get back into filling the feeders once the road constructions is done!

      1. Yes, it is feeder time again! Squirrels and birds have stripped all the hips off our rose bushes, and the cherries off the trees. Makes me happy as last year nothing ate the rose hips. I have also processed NINE squirrels in my squirrel relocation program. The acorns aren’t rolling in the ceiling at night any more, but I see more beasts out there. Trap os set…

      2. Oh yes, I’m aware of them! I just was making sure that’s what you were catching. We just have grey squirrels and chipmunks here. I don’t care for the chipmunks, but I am thankful no red squirrels!

      3. NO!!! Do not tell me this! I see their little holes around the yard, I have been letting them out of the traps… I will have to rethink this…

      4. We can pretend it was a freak event in my old house. I was willing to overlook a lot with the chipmunks until I saw them shoot up the siding. Then it was war. If you do decide to catch them, peanut butter & sunflower seeds are their weakness!

      5. I have been having good luck with plain sunflower seeds, but if I need a boost, I will remember the peanut butter!

        Yes, that is how I feel about red squirrels! It is war.

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