To get to our next location, we traveled due north on WI 22 the entire way. We did find a nice truck stop at the half way point for a break, but otherwise it was a 2.5 hour trip through a mix of farms and forests. Our next stop was just outside the town of Waupaca at the Waupaca S’more Fun Campground. It is located just off US 10 which is a four lane highway running between Stevens Point and Green Bay and just outside of town which meant we had grocery stores, etc within 5 miles. The campground also had the best free WiFi we have ever seen and so we put away the hotspot for a rest. TV reception was also pretty good, so we were able to watch all the World Cup soccer that Fox showed in the mornings and weekend. The campground itself was very nice since they set aside the best sites along the lake for transient campers. Most private RV parks rent out the best sites to permanent seasonal campers and transients get the left overs. However, the campground was laid out strangely. Their dump station was right in front of the bathrooms and office instead of being tucked away from everything. In addition, it was positioned for people coming into the campground instead of exiting. This meant that we had to travel around the campgrounds to get lined up to dump when we left and then around the entire campground again in order to exit. Thus there was considerable traffic through the campgrounds on Sunday with everyone circling twice through the campgrounds. In addition, our campsite was laid out strangely since it was angled in the wrong direction. In order to back the RV into the site I had to turn the whole rig around first. Thankfully this corner of the campground had a large turnaround area, so I was able to back the RV once and then pull forward to get in the correct position. Once we got into the site we discovered we had a very nice site. It had 50 amp electrical hookups and a large concrete porch and RV pad. The back end of the RV looked over their lake and we very much enjoyed it all week.
Tuesday was our day for laundry and cleaning the RV, so we did not do anything except watch some soccer on TV. On Wednesday we headed southwest from Waupaca to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Necedah, Wisconsin. This refuge is located on the bed of a large glacial lake and became essentially a large peat bog and swamp after the glaciers melted. After the trees were in the area were logged in the late 1800s, settlers attempted to drain the swamp and plant crops. However, peat bogs do not make good farmland being nutrient poor and very sandy. Along with the short growing season the farms were abandoned by the 1930s. The 14,000 acre refuge was established in 1939 for migratory birds and has become a very important refuge for the recovery of the whooping crane. I must say that the Visitor Center on the refuge is likely the best visitor center we have ever seen on a National Wildlife Refuge. Not only because it is new, but also the design and construction. It is as environmentally friendly as they can make it using mostly recycled materials, solar panels, and rainwater cisterns. It by itself is well worth seeing and learning about. However, we were there for some hikes and a chance to view some wildlife. The best trail they have is right behind the Visitor Center, which is a one mile loop through some signature wetlands and along the shore of one of their many lakes. We had the privilege of spotting a pair of whooping cranes in the distance probably raising some young chicks as they stayed fairly close to one spot and did not move much. Unfortunately we were not close enough, even with the binoculars, to be sure. Kal also saw a furry animal disappear under the boardwalk that extended out along the shore of the lake. She was not sure if it was a river otter or beaver and was not quick enough to get a picture. After this short walk we drove over to another trail head to eat lunch and then hike to their 3 story observation tower. From the top of the tower you could see a lot of the surrounding wetlands. From their we are able to see the same whooping cranes again, but they were even further away this time. After leaving the tower we continued on the trail which was another loop trail through the forests. However, the wind had died down and the mosquitoes got so bad that we turned around after about a third of a mile. While the wind was blowing in the morning we did not notice any bugs, but now they were all over us. Still it was a very good experience and this is certainly a wildlife refuge I would recommend.
On Thursday, I thought we would drive over to Green Bay and check out some of the state parks on the peninsula on the east side of the bay in Lake Michigan. However, once we got started the GPS said it would take nearly 2 hours to get there and we quickly decided it was not worth it. However, we needed to get an annual sticker for the car as every state park required it and at $11 a day for non-residents, an annual sticker was much cheaper. So we went back to the RV to figure out where we could get a sticker and the only office closer than Green Bay was not open on Thursdays. Hartman Creek State Park was only 5 miles from Waupaca, so we decided to try there in the hope they sold the stickers. Since there was a campground in the park, there was a good chance. Thankfully, this paid off as we were able to buy an annual sticker which at $40 for non-residents will more than pay for itself. We checked on some available trails and selected a one mile loop through the forests with some nice views of one of the lakes in the park. This trail meandered through a red pine plantation that I suspect was planted by the CCC in the 1930s. The pine trees certainly looked to be over 80 years old and we know the CCC did a lot of work to establish the park. We were able to finish the hike before lunch, so we drove over to a picnic area to eat.
This left us the entire afternoon to do something else, however, Kal was more interested in driving to the nearby casino for the afternoon rather than taking in another hike. So we drove north to Wittenberg to another of the Ho-Chunk Gaming establishments. While not as nice as the Ho-Chunk casino at Wisconsin Dells, it was still quite nice except for the construction that was going on at the main entrance. We had a very nice afternoon with both of us winning a little bit here and there, managing to lose only about $10 for the afternoon. For us, this is doing very good.
I should mention that the weather continued to be very pleasant with temperatures only in the mid to upper 70s and no rain. So on Friday we decided to take in another hike on the Hartman Creek State Park, since we now had a sticker that got us in for free. We did another relatively short hike of just over a mile around Hartman Lake. This time the trail was right along the shore so we got to see a lot of water plants, flowers, and dragonflies. We even chased three families of Canadian Geese down the path until they decided to enter the water with their young chicks. Since we were so close to the campgrounds we went back for lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing in the campgrounds.
Over the weekend the campground got very busy with kids and families everywhere, so we decided to just stay put and enjoy the show. We watched the World Cup group play on Fox and I found time to work on this blog. We have found out that we enjoy being busy during the week when most families are working and the places we go are not busy. For instance, we only saw one family and a couple at the wildlife refuge earlier in the week. Then during the weekend we relax in the campground avoiding the crowds.