Fall Foliage & Family Trip 2021 | End of Vacation – Minnesota-Wisconsin-Iowa-Nebraska | Timms Hill | October 13-17, 2021
We awoke on Wednesday morning in our tent at the rustic campground, pleased to find that once again it hadn’t rained on us that night. We packed up our belongings, then went to watch the sunrise over Wilson Lake. Today’s plan was to make the drive over to Wisconsin, which would be around 4 hours of driving, but we decided to allow ourselves to stop more along the Lake Superior shore since it was so easy to find trails at any of the parks along the way.
Our first stop was at Temperance River State Park, which we had driven through in order to reach our campsite the night before. We began with walking out to the coast to see where the river emptied out into the lake, then we hiked another mile through the park, saw more waterfalls, and briefly followed the Superior Hiking Trail again.
Next, we drove to Tettegouche State Park a little further along the coast and went for a 2.5 mile loop hike. We started by hiking the Superior Trail, then took a spur trail up to Red Pine Knob where we had more views of the colorful trees and inland lakes. We retraced our steps and started heading North over to High Falls. There were a lot of stairs in this section and limited opportunity to make a loop, so once we came to the bridge over the Baptism River we opted to turn back around rather than cross and descend more stairs only to have to climb them again. We also skipped the spur to Two Step Falls for that reason — as much as we had enjoyed our time in Minnesota, we knew it was time to move on.
It finally started to rain as we continued our drive South — but only briefly, so we were able to make one last stop at one of our favorite places from our honeymoon: the Split Rock Lighthouse. We obviously couldn’t tour the lighthouse or museum with Charlotte, but we specifically remembered a spot on the coast where we had enjoyed beautiful views of the lighthouse high up on the cliffs, so we went in search of that spot. We didn’t have much trouble finding it, or at least somewhere close enough, and so we went out for a short walk on the rocks along the coast.
Our final stop in Minnesota was in Twin Harbors, the town where we had stayed for a couple nights in the Two Harbors Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast. We drove by just to see, reminisce, grabbed some pictures of the courthouse, then grabbed lunch and continued on our way to Duluth.
In Duluth, we took US-53 South into Wisconsin, and in Minong we took WI-77 to Hayward. After leaving Minnesota, the fall colors disappeared, leaving only dull and dreary views along the way. It seemed like in Wisconsin, we were either past peak or nowhere near peak colors. This made us thankful we had stayed longer in Minnesota and enjoyed the colors up there to the fullest. I think in general the fall colors were later this year than years passed — but temperatures were also still warmer, so we couldn’t complain!
Since there weren’t any fall colors, we focused on our two main goals while in Wisconsin, and decided to save all the other ideas we had for a later trip. Our first stop was in Hayward at the library, where Wisconsin’s Whispering Giant stands. We got our pictures and the letterbox, then continued on our way. Our next stop was — no surprise — the state high point, Timms Hill, East of Ogema. Here we found the only fall colors we would see in the whole state — the whole park was lit up by orange leaves, which was a big change from all the shades of gray and brown we had been seeing throughout the rest of our drive. Maybe it was the slight change in elevation.
We parked in the lot and made the short hike up to the highest point, then the three of us climbed up the tower together — it had a nice wide staircase that even Charlotte was comfortable walking up. It was super windy at the top though, so we snapped some pictures and hurried down. This was our 23rd state high point, Charlotte’s 18th, and our 6th for 2021 — making this year our best year for high pointing!
To end the day, we drove to Mondeaux Hardwoods State Natural Area and found an empty campground that was still open. It happened to be right next to the Ice Age Trail — a trail we’re not particularly interested in, and I made sure to remind Curtis to continue focusing on the Superior Hiking Trail instead. The campground was right on a lake, but we didn’t feel comfortable kayaking here because it was cold and windy. Curtis found the perfect place to set up our tent at the base of a hill where it wouldn’t be in the wind, and we settled in for what we were sure would be our last night of camping for the year.
On Thursday morning, we packed up our tent for the last time, and began our drive South. Today’s drive was only 6 hours long, from our campground to my parent’s house. We planned our route based on what would give us the most new counties in Wisconsin, and only made two stops in Iowa. Our favorite part of the drive was from La Crosse to Lansing, IA — We enjoyed driving along the Mississippi River and seeing all the islands in the middle and bluffs on either side of the river. When we crossed into Lansing, Iowa, we stopped at Mt. Hosmer Park for a letterbox and to enjoy the views. After that, we made one more attempt at a letterbox, a couple of courthouses, and then finished the drive to my family’s.
We spent the weekend with family, enjoying our normal activities like walks with the dogs at different parks and getting Tomaso’s Pizza, which has become a favorite of ours when we’re in Cedar Rapids. My sister’s homecoming was also that weekend, so I was able to see & get pictures of her and her boyfriend all dressed up for the dance. On Sunday afternoon, we said our goodbyes and drove back to Nebraska — it was so nice to end our trip on a more relaxing note by hanging out with family, and that made easing back into normal life much easier. We settled in back at home for what we expected to be a quiet rest of 2021.