Following the River

We wanted to catch you up on our sightseeing since we left Lacrosse, WI. We’ve written about the projects we’ve worked on since arriving at the Minnesota Airstream Park but it’s not all work and no play.

World Trade Center Memorial

World Trade Center Memorial

After leaving the Goose Island Campground in Lacrosse on Monday, July 13, we headed in the direction of Pepin, WI. We planned to stop in Arcadia to see the Memorial Park there. It is the largest memorial of its kind outside of Washington, DC. The Soldiers Walk is a 500 year walk through time commemorating all the wars and conflicts starting with the founding of Arcadia in 1854. We were particularly moved by the piece of twisted steel from the World Trade Center Towers.

We began walking from the 24th century end so it was a little confusing until we arrived at the beginning and found the explanation. Each meter of the walk represents one year. For more details and pictures, check out their website. The memorial was sponsored largely by Ashley Furniture which has its headquarters in Arcadia, a town of about 1,200 people. From the size of the plant, it would seem that most of the residents work there.

Barges Entering Lock

Barges Entering Lock

Leaving Arcadia, we headed back toward the Mississippi River and the town of Pepin. Driving up the river road, we came upon the town of Alma, one of many quaint little towns along the river. Seeing lots of Airstreams parked here, we decided there must be some attraction or ice cream. The attraction was Lock and Dam #4. We stopped to watch huge barges and small pleasure craft traveling through the lock. It was fascinating to watch the lock filling and emptying and to see the barges, up to nine being moved by one tug, moving through.

Following highway 35 up the Mississipi, we found the Lake Pepin Campground. A group of Airstreamers on the Wandering Wisconsin caravan were parking as we arrived. We had encountered this same group in Lacrosse at Goose Island. Being a weekday, we did not expect the campground to be full, but the caravan had taken every last space. The campground host was gracious enough to allow us to park and dry camp. This suited us fine as we were only staying two nights.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Birthplace Reproduction

Laura Ingalls Wilder Birthplace Reproduction

Why had we selected Pepin as a destination? We had seen on the atlas that the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder was here. Of course, since Deb is such a big fan of Little House on the Prairie, we couldn’t pass this up. We rode out through the country, seven miles north of Pepin, to Laura’s birthplace on County Highway CC. The log cabin is a recreation of the home on the very land owned by Charles and Caroline Ingalls (Ma & Pa).

Driving back into Pepin, we drove through several small towns on Lake Pepin, including Stockholm, a Swedish village with all sorts of charming boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and bakeries. In Pepin, we toured the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum which features items relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder and the era in which she lived. We also toured the town and stopped at a local produce stand for fresh corn, tomatoes and peaches.

Next stop on our river tour was St Croix Falls, WI and Taylor Falls, MN. We selected the Interstate State Park on the St Croix Falls side of the St Croix River for our stay. While registering at the park, we asked the question that they hear most often, “Where are the Falls?” It seems the falls are still there, hidden under the century-old 60-foot hydropower dam on the St. Croix River. It was the potential power of the falls, not the spectacular beauty of the region, that drew the first settlers here in 1838. St. Croix Falls is the oldest community in this valley.

Our first day here we hiked into town and explored main street, then hiked above town to the county fairgrounds, then back through several neighborhoods. We always enjoy strolling the neighborhoods to get a sense of the housing differences in the cities and towns we visit. There are always some interesting surprises and hidden gems that we find as we walk.

The Old Man of the Dalles

The Old Man of the Dalles

For our second day at Interstate SP, we planned a full day of hiking. First to the Pothole Trail to see the Dalles of the St Croix, the Old Man of the Dalles, and the potholes. As the Ice age ended, huge glaciers melted and the water carved the deep, steep-walled gorge known as the Dalles of the St. Croix. The water action also created “potholes”, some very deep and large, others rather small, by swirling stones around in whirlpools until the holes were carved out. From the Pothole trail, we hiked the Horizon Rock Trail to the Ice Age Interpretive Center where we learned about the frozen history of Wisconsin and the gifts of the glacier.

From the interpretive center, we set out for the Silverbrook Falls via the Skyline and Silverbrook trails. The falls were small and unimpressive but we did find an old stone structure on our way there. It was fenced off to preserve what was left. We speculated on its history – homesteader cabin or hunting lodge, no clues here. We also saw stone walls along what were probably roadbeds left from some previous lifetime.

Beach House at Lake O' the Dalles

Beach House at Lake O' the Dalles

Back up the Silverbrook Trail to the Lake O’ the Dalles Trail, we hiked around the Lake O’ the Dalles to the Beach House. This is a rustic stone building built by the CCC and WPA, the first we’d seen outside of the National Parks.

After hiking back to our campsite, we toured Taylor Falls, another small (population 1,000), historic town along the river, settled by loggers. We enjoyed seeing the quaint downtown and the residential areas with the well-preserved, turn-of-the-century homes.

Friday morning, we packed up and prepared to travel to the Minnesota Airstream Park. We had heard from numerous people how beautiful this park is and we agree. We ended up staying here for over two weeks. This gave us time to explore the area, work on our projects, and for Jim to play all the golf he can. We’ve already written about the projects and golf so our next post will include the highlights of our sightseeing in St Paul, St Cloud and Stillwater, MN.

White Squirrel in MN Airstream Park

White Squirrel in MN Airstream Park

But before I close, I wanted to include a picture of the unique white squirrel that we have spotted numerous times at the park. It is not an albino as it has dark eyes but just a color variation. Residents here claim there are two of them but we have seen only one at a time so cannot confirm this.

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One response to “Following the River

  1. A belated Happy Anniversary! We’ve been in Michigan paddling a couple of rivers for the last week and a half. Now it’s back to work!!!!
    We did see a black bear cross the highway about 75 yards in front of us, right after we started home!! And there are lots and lots of pop-ups and tent campers in this area!!
    Sounds like youall have been having fun too!

    Keep up the good posts!

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