Our family vacation this year was a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). I was last there in 1992 just before my sister Hannah was born and I was eager to return with my family. We started our trip with a scenic drive. I started by taking the kids on the Golden Eagle Ferry in St. Louis over the Mississippi river.
I decided to try taking the road from the ferry north for a scenic drive. Little did I know that the road was extra narrow and had many hairpin turns. I was driving under the speed limit for safety and to keep the family from getting car sick.
We made the drive over two days to get a head start on the drive. By day two, is starts to be a chore and people get inventive. Sonora did a craft project and Corvin found ways to block the sun so he could read. Most of the drive, we listened to the audio book, The Scorch Trials by James Dashner.
On the second day, we got to Ely, MN just after lunch and checked in at Cliff Wold’s outfitters. There we got the scoop on our trip and found out our accommodations for the night. On the drive out to check out the cabin, I found a sign that I misread, so I fixed it…
We finished out our night exploring the tiny town of Ely, Mn.
Eventually we had dinner and went back to our cabin. Sleep didn’t come easy as the mosquitos didn’t want us to sleep. And maybe we were all excited. But when the morning came in, we all got ready in a hurry and waited for the shuttle to come and pick us up.
Unloading the shuttle van at the start of the trip.
Here we are with all our gear for 5 days, packed to head off at Lake One, the start of our trip.
It looks like a dead end, but this is the right way to continue onto the next lake.
Hogan and Sonora on a peaceful lake with 3 fifths of the gear.
These plants with flowers were a constant companion when the water was shallow and calm during the trip.
Nothing makes a selfie better than having Sonora and I in the background.
Way too many times the BWCA took our breath away with the scenery.
Corvin with his tree man bracelet on.
One of the many portages of the day.
The end of the portage and the stark scenery from the 2011 Pagami Creek forest fire. 6 years later and the trees are starting to come back.
The wildlife didn’t seem to notice us getting close for a photo.
Somewhere around here, we made camp for the night at a fantastic site on a huge rock overlooking the lake with its own beach. There are a bunch of memories from this campsite but a few really stick out. There were not many choices of where to hang our food bag as the fire didn’t leave many tall trees. What we found wasn’t great, but would work for the night. At some point in the night, I woke up to lights, but couldn’t place them as there is no electricity and nobody else around. Danelle woke up around the same time and we ended up going outside. There, we realized it was lightning to the north of us. I was a little concerned as we were out a bit on a point, but decided to sleep anyway.
Sometime later we hear a strange snapping sound. Worried about a bear attacking our food, we shined a light out and spotted the food bag. Everything seemed in place and we finally gave up and went back to sleep. We woke up the next morning to realize one of our tent poles had snapped. We ended up duct taping a splint on the broken pole for the rest of the trip.
Making dinner at our campsite on a rock.
Camp is setup. The canoes are lower down beached on the sand.
Having one actual chair was a nice change for one of us versus the canoe seats and log benches.
You can never go wrong making bacon.
The tent pole that snapped in the night.
More water vegetation.
Hogan carrying a canoe on a portage.
Danelle and Corvin paddling.
Danelle getting photographs of scenery and Corvin hiding from the sun.
Love the calm days out on the water.
I must have asked Sonora to turn for a photo cause she’s looking at me.
Stopped for lunch and a swim.
The highest level of cliff jumping we allowed the kids during the trip. I spent a bunch of time making sure it was deep enough before allowing it.
Corvin’s favorite pose for the trip. It made an interesting sound when our boat glided over the vegetation.
Its awesome to be able to see down into the water and view the vegetation.
Tons of these flowers on the water.
Corvin testing to see how deep the water is.
A splint for a broken tent pole. Always bring duct tape!!!
Sonora and Danelle planning our route together.
There are not enough sunsets in the BWCA!
It wouldn’t be camping without trying to cut something too big for the fire!
Some pots are more dirty than others. This won’t be fun to clean.
Corvin on a fallen tree.
Sonora taking a break from packing up in the morning.
Danelle taking a break from packing up in the morning.
Hogan in the middle of a long portage with a heavy aluminum canoe.
Sonora and Corvin putting their sails up.
Leaving a portage.
Our favorite campsite of the trip. Log sofa to the left and rock coffee table in the middle.
Without Internet and electricity, you do silly things to entertain yourselves.
My hands while cleaning the nasty pot. Good thing I soaped the outside, as it came totally clean.
When your hands are too dirty to touch yourself, the kids can sculpt your hair.
This was a week that started off bad and only got better! Danelle was going out of town for a girls 40th birthday party week and that left the kids and I to hang out. After thinking of lots of ideas of what to do with the kids, I decided to visit my sister Holly in Wichita, KS.
I was supposed to leave on Saturday morning to get there. Unfortunately for me, I got strep throat. The whole trip was up in the air as we didn’t want to get anybody else sick. I woke up feeling fantastic Saturday after the drugs had kicked in. I decided the week would not be a flop, so we headed to the store and bought another kayak 0310. From there we went out to Simpson Lake to paddle. Each kid got their own boat and I got a canoe solo. I only had room for 2 on top of the van, so the Viper went inside making a very tight fit.
To make the paddle more interesting, we stopped in the middle and ate a picnic lunch. The Corvin and Sonora both had a great time paddling with me and being a captain of their own ship.
I called Holly to let her know I was feeling better. Somewhere in the conversation, it was agreed that we should still come to Wichita and visit them. When we got home from paddling, we hurried to put the boats and gear away in the garage and pack for a week long visit. And then the three of us took off for a week’s adventure. To keep things interesting, I didn’t follow Google’s route taking major interstates and instead took as many rural highways as I could. This ended up being a blessing at the end of the trip!
Of course being in a new city, you have to try new things. Just down the street from Holly’s house was a Spangle’s restaurant. The inside had an interesting theme and a first place trophy.
On our second day, we had an adventure planned. I had reservations for Corvin, Sonora and I (Holly’s kids were too small) to go to Strataca. Strataca is an underground working salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas. We had a 9am reservation and I paid for all the extras since we would not likely come back (due to the distance away).
Below are some interesting notes from the waiting area.
This ring is now the top of the mine.
Freeze pipes used to freeze the underwater aquifer before drilling through. Ran brine at -26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Much of the salt pulled out of this active mine is used as road salt and some for livestock. In a different area of town, the Morton salt company mines salt that is used for food. Its said that there is enough salt in this area to handle human consumption for a few thousand years. Now lets go 650 feet underground!
I failed to mention that there is a high security underground storage company that is using some of the old mined out space to store important things.
Of course a trip to the salt mine wouldn’t be complete without visiting the original site where salt was found.
If you didn’t already know, going to a salt mine is hard work. We were underground for about 5 hours and the kids were ready to go (I could have stayed longer).
Anybody that knows my dad or I knows that we like strange things. When I travel I like to use RoadsideAmerica to find interesting things to see along the way. Surprisingly, there are a lot of weird things to see around Wichita. We started with a mock Stonehenge. I think its a stretch, but it was fun to come out and see the random rocks.
Also included on the site and nearby is Keeper of the Plains. Its a tribute to the Kiowa-Comanche Indians. The site was very beautiful to look at being at the confluence of 2 rivers. While waiting for sunset, we walked around the river walk. Corvin rode his unicycle. As the sunset approached, people started appearing and a anticipation filled the air as we waited to see if they would light the ring of fire since it was very windy.
The following day Holly took Sonora and her kids to the zoo while Corvin and I did two laps around the outside on our unicycles for a total of 8.01 tiring miles. Corvin and I stopped to enjoy the ride and hang out while the kids did zoo stuff.
It got too hot so Holly and company left the zoo before we finished, but we all had a great time. Back at the house, I had to laugh at David trying to open a case of soda with a Play-Doh pair of scissors!
Another gem from RoadsideAmerica, Jurassic Art: Welded Dinosaurs, is a fantastic thing to stop and see. This artist has some great imagination!
We followed that up with a trip to the aviation museum. We spent several hours here looking at planes, throwing some paper planes, and flight simulators.
Hang in there, we’re more than half way done, congrats if you’re still reading, but you are probably family 🙂
One of the best things about visiting a new city is the ability to see it with new eyes. Most places have interesting things if you are looking for them. Come home from dinner earlier in the week, I noticed a bunch of painted pianos near the street. When I asked Holly and Jim about it, they thought I was crazy and couldn’t think of any along the route. So we went out for a casual drive to prove I wasn’t crazy! Some of them even still played on a few keys.
On our last full day in Wichita, we took a road trip to Lindsborg, Kansas. There you can see Coronado Heights and while it may not sound exciting, the view is spectacular!
Now that we saw the building, we were all hungry, so we found amazing food in town at The Swedish Crown. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but the food was fantastic. The town has lots of painted horses to see as well.
On the way home, I spotted an oil refinery and drove as close as I dared to get photos before continuing on. Now I think I could have gotten further.
That evening, we promised the kids Chuck-E-Cheese, so we went just to play games. Then Snorkie came out to play with the kids back at the house.
We left Wichita early in the morning to get to our surprise visit. If your memory goes back to the start of this post, I mentioned rural highways and a blessing… Our last RoadsideAmerica visit was to Big Brutus. This is the largest electric shovel in the world. None of the photos do it justice for the size!
Sonora is still talking about going back to visit it again, so dad for the win! Overall a perfect week vacation. Thanks to Holly and Jim for putting up with us for that long!
We decided to do the big family vacation this year with my parents and as many siblings that we could get to join us. I also had two uncles with us. Our destination was Yellowstone national park.
We left St. Louis after work with the two back seats of the van folded down and tons of extra room. We were going to Kansas City on Thursday night for an early departure on Friday morning. This first drive would set the stage for the rest of the trip. If the kids could not handle the first 4 hours, we were in for something horrible.
We got to KC late and Hannah was having an impromptu party. I finally encouraged them all to leave around midnight as I was getting up at 5:00am the following morning. We had an early departure planned and wanted to start off on time.