Once upon a time I worked in the city of Beaver Dam, WI. Living in Madison, I didn’t love my 50 minute commute each way, but I did love my work. Part of my job allowed me to work in several of the local rural schools. While this meant even more driving on top of my commute, it also meant I could explore an area of the state I wouldn’t otherwise find myself in. It was these drives to the schools that brought me by and introduced me to the Horicon Marsh.
At 33,000 acres, the Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. This area was formed by glaciers and is known for its high volume of drumlins, or elongated small hills. (Fun fact, if you look up drumlins on Wikipedia, the first photo is of the Horicon Marsh.)
Sometimes a camping trip takes you way off grid and out of cell service. Sometimes a camping trip brings you closer to civilization. The latter seems to be especially true around tourist hot spots. Think Peninsula State Park in Door County, Rocky Arbor State Park in the Dells, and, the campground we’re talking about today, Big Foot Beach in Lake Geneva.
While it’s definitely nice to get away, disconnect, and forget the problems of the world for awhile, sometimes it’s nice to have a low cost lodging option near the hustle and bustle of restaurants, shows, beaches, and other summer fun.
If you’re planning a trip to Lake Geneva in the summer and are a fan of camping, I encourage you to check out Big Foot Beach State Park as a low cost lodging option while you explore the area.
Hikes come in all shapes and sizes. From that Colorado 14er to a boardwalk trail through a marsh, hiking can be whatever you make it. Which is why I present a unique form of hiking today: hiking through rich people’s backyards, legally, of course. If this sounds interesting to you, Lake Geneva’s Shore Path is your next hiking destination.
Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva is a popular tourist town that comes alive in the summer. After seeing the lake, the beauty and popularity of the area is apparent. Why this small Wisconsin town is filled with multimillion dollar mansions was less immediately apparent to me. The reason for this is the close proximity to Chicago. Beginning in the 1800’s, wealthy Chicago residents flocked to the lake to build stately homes after the Great Chicago Fire to escape the period of rebuilding. These homes became summer homes and the idea of Lake Geneva as a summer destination was born. So much so that Lake Geneva earned the nickname, “Newport of the West.”
So now we know why Lake Geneva is full of mansions, but why do we get the opportunity to walk on their lawns? Well, to keep history alive and to keep the lake accessible. Dating back to 2500 BCE, Native American groups used the lakeshore path as a way to travel between villages. Later, the lake shore path was used by workmen to travel to their site of work. Today, the lake shore path stays alive thanks to a local ordinance that requires property owners to maintain and keep the portion of the path that runs through their property open.
This summer we began the camping season with a trip to Nelson Dewey State Park. Located just outside of Cassville on the beautiful and mighty Mississippi River, this park has no shortage of stunning views and overlooks.
I’ve camped at the park before, but this time we were lucky (or proactive) enough to secure a walk-in ridge site. And holy cow, it was spectacular. Spectacular enough that as soon as we arrived we were talking about trying to come back every year. With a bounty of amazing sites to pick from in the state, that is really saying something. (More on the site later.)
To start the season, we decided to try some new recipes. Sometimes I find myself in a “campfire food rut” and tend to cook the same things again and again. I love a good burger as much as the next omnivore girl, but recently I’ve been itching to branch out and attempt something new. Who says recipes have to be indoor or outdoor only? I think that’s going to be a theme this summer, indoor classics cooked outdoors. Campfire-ified recipes!
Today I bring you Campfire Paella. I know, I know, you’re already saying it; traditional paella is already cooked over open flames! Bear with me, I’ve included a few camping elements to make this my own.
Recently I covered my experience hiking at Richard Bong State Recreation Area. While I only hiked at the park, there are many other outdoor recreation opportunities available. When I say many, I mean way, way more activities than most parks offer. Like a space to train your falcon. No longer can you use not having a training space as your excuse for not having a falcon! (Check out my previous post if you want to know more.) After hiking or completing whatever recreation activity you’re into, it’s nice to have a place to crash nearby, aka camping.
This park has two campgrounds, the Sunrise Campground and the Sunset Campground. Predictably and aptly named, the Sunrise Campground is on the east side of the park and the Sunset Campground is on the west. Between them, the park contains 217 campsites, 54 with electricity. The park also has 6 group campsites and a cabin designed specifically for people with disabilities. Both campgrounds have a shower building with flush toilets, along with some more rustic bathroom options. Both campgrounds offer a variety of sites, both in terms of tree cover and whether they have electricity or not.
From jet fighter base to bird sanctuary, Richard Bong State Recreation Area is the park that almost wasn’t. Named for Major Richard Bong, Wisconsin’s own American air hero, it’s fitting that the park almost operated as a jet fighter base between metro Milwaukee and Chicago areas. And when I say almost, I mean 72 hours. Three days before the concrete of the 12,500 foot runway was set to be poured, the project was nixed.
Who was Richard Bong? Major Richard Bong was known as the “Ace of Aces” for his spot as the top flying ace during WWII. He is credited with the downing of a confirmed 40 enemy aircraft during his fighter pilot career. In December 1944, he received the medal of honor from General Douglas MacArthur. What a cool way to honor this local man.
This park is a state recreation area rather than a state park and boy, does it live up to the name. The park’s website lists a whole host of activities, including ATV/UTV, biking, boating/kayaking, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, off-highway motorcycles, picnicking, swimming, training hunting dogs/sled dogs/falcons, horse riding, and winter activities. The list also contains a “special use zone” which, upon further inspection, is it’s own list of potential air activities, including flying model air planes, rockets, hang gliders, and hot air balloons. The area that was flattened for construction of the runway remains for use of smaller recreational craft. Seriously, what can’t you do at this place!