Day 660 – Thankful for National Park #24, Our Island of Solitude

Day 660 – Thankful for National Park #24, Our Island of Solitude

As I type this we’ve just left the dock at Rock Harbor to start our trip back to the mainland.  The weather is perfect as it has been each day we’ve been here.  The water is almost perfectly still until our ferry cuts through the calm.  We’ve run into the same dozen or so people we’ve bumped into several times since arriving.  Currently we’re below deck relaxing and reading and will pop back up once we hit the next stop which is going to be a mother beautiful view of Lake Superior, complete with lighthouse.

While it’s still very early in the day it’s easy for me to write about what I am thankful for.  Isle Royale was much more peaceful and relaxing than I ever would’ve expected.  It might not have mountains, but the quiet and calm of this place is incredible.  Becky pretty much nailed it this morning when she called it “our island of solitude.”  

And that’s exactly what I’m thankful for today.  In checking off National Park #24 together we found an island of solitude at Isle Royale.  Everything about this place is peaceful and calming.  There’s no crowds, no traffic, no phones, no noise, no internet, no news, and very few clocks.  We used the sun as our gauge of when to go to sleep and woke up when we were ready.  We ate when we got hungry, rarely at normal times.  Nature surrounded us and paid no attention to us.  Rabbits, squirrels, moose, and loons were all much closer to us than one would expect and were totally fine with our presence.  Everything here reminds me of a simpler way to live, the quiet that my brain and soul need from time to time.  

With all this quiet we were able to soak in the entire experience and totally relax.  We spent a ton of time as a family playing games and goofing around.  There was never a hurry for anything, even the prep to get ready this morning was barely more than a slow pace.  In a word, it’s been magical.  

Thank you Isle Royale for sharing with us why you are the most re-visited National Park…  I would imagine that we’ll be back to visit our Island of Solitude again in the not too distant future.


Day 659 – Thankful for Striking Gold, Moose Gold

Day 659 – Thankful for Striking Gold, Moose Gold

When we started planning our trip one of the biggest draws to Isle Royale was the opportunity to see moose.  On our first afternoon here I lucked out and spotted one, but no one else saw it, they just heard him.  Our hiking and cruise yesterday were beautiful and relaxing, but alas, there was not a moose to be seen.  With canoeing and hiking on the docket for the day we knew it was now or never time on this trip as we head back to mainland tomorrow morning.

We explored every nook and cranny of the river as we paddled along the shore.  There were many awesome things including loons with a chick, a bald eagle, and several sweet rock formations, but again, no moose.  When it was about lunch time we headed to shore for a hike that offered beautiful vistas of Canada less than 20 miles from us.  It was prime moose country and there was a lot of signs of them, but still no moose to be seen.  On the way up Dominic and I saw a pair of beaver in a pond which was pretty awesome, but it wasn’t the same as a moose.

Finally, less than a tenth of a mile from our canoes on the way back down a young bull jumped out on the trail just 15’ or so in front of Dominic.  His face had a combination of joy and a healthy dose of nervousness as he looked back at the rest of us.  The moose calmly walked across the trail and wandered into the beaver pond.  For the fifteen minutes or so he calmly walked the shore and dipped his head in the water for some great tasting vegetation.  Fortunately for us he didn’t care in the least that we were there and he was sure to walk out in spots that were great for photos.

As he did his thing the four of us just soaked in the experience and enjoyed every moment of it.  It was awesome and sure to be remembered by all of us for the rest of our lives.  We’d struck gold, moose gold, and I am thankful for that!


Day 658 – Thankful for Being on Island Time, Isle Royale Style

One of my favorite parts of going to an island in the ocean is the transition to “island time.”  You know, the weird nexus of the universe when time kind of stops mattering.  I go from being in a hurry constantly to get from Point A to Point B to suddenly not caring when or if I get to Point B at all.  Maybe I’m on time, maybe I’m an hour late, and maybe there’s just no schedule.  It’s a wonderfully relaxing mindset (though not necessarily healthy for work, hence why it should only be enjoyed in smaller doses).

Today I learned that I can be on island time when not in the ocean.  Being in the middle of Lake Superior helped me get on island time regardless.  We had some loose plans for the day, but nothing carved in stone.  When I woke up we ate breakfast and we headed out for a hike.  We took our time and enjoyed the journey and the scenic destination.  Part way through the hike my watch battery died and I quickly realized I’d forgotten my charger in the car back on the mainland.  So much for keeping time!  I’d say it actually added to the experience in a very positive way today.

Once we got back to our cabin we cleaned up and headed out for “lupper” at sometime around 4-ish.  Similar to yesterday I had zero concept of time and it was so relaxing!  After our meal we headed back and Becky and I took a nap for somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes.  Then we hiked down to the marina for our only scheduled event fo the day, a sunset cruise.  Now that we’re home I’m blogging as everyone gets ready for bed then I’ll be off to bed.  If it wasn’t for the clock on the top of my computer I’d have no ideas that it’s 11:11pm (trippy!).

Without having an agenda or schedule we were able to take our time and just enjoy the day.  No rush, no hustle and bustle, just enjoying the time together as a family.  It felt amazing!!!  If only my watch was still running I’d know how much my heart rate has dropped over the past 100-ish hours…. But if it means I’d know and/or care about the time it definitely wouldn’t be worth it.  I’m on island time and loving every minute of it!


Day 657 – Thankful for Totally Unplugging

Day 657 – Thankful for Totally Unplugging

Quick heads up – as it relates to the title and topic of this blog, I’m off the grid for the next few days.  Regardless, I am writing each blog post daily and will add them once we’re back online.  Who knows when that will be, I might wait until long after we get home!

Once we got onto the ferry to head to the island this morning I did something that I haven’t done in a very long time…. I totally unplugged.  I shut the data off my phone, put it on silence, and have only been using it to take pictures and listen to music.  No emails, no calls, no news updates, no reminders, no ties to the outside world.  Just being able to enjoy the time away from the world.

With nothing to respond to I was able to spend time writing my book.  We spent time playing many games on our 8 hour ferry ride.  Several times I wandered out to the deck and just basked in the sun while listening to music, enjoying the beauty of Isle Royale, and thinking about nothing too crazy.  At one point in the afternoon I took a nap.

Once we got everything unloaded in our cabin we headed out for a hike as a family and there was zero stress about the outside world.  Occasionally it came up in conversation but it was either in a no stress way or quickly forgotten.  With the increased level of focus I was totally drawn in to the beauty of the wild flowers in bloom, the incredibly blue water, and all of the rock formations.  At one point when Becky and the boys had gotten a little ahead of me I heard a noise that I would have totally missed had I been thinking about other stuff.  It was the crack of a branch under the hoof of a very large animal.  I slowly drew closer to the ground to see underneath the brush and was rewarded with the view of a good size bull moose walking on a trail about 20 yards from me.  It was AWESOME!!! 

Being completely unplugged has caused momentary fits of nervousness but they’ve quickly started to happen less and less frequently and seem to be about ready to disappear.  It’s amazing how time has gone by at such a different pace without the dinging of my phone keeping time.  While up on deck I honestly couldn’t even being to tell you how long I sat alone on the deck watching the island as we passed by.  It could have been less than a half hour or a couple of hours.  I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts and the moment that I completely slipped out of time and it felt incredible!  Based on how great this has felt in just fourteen hours I might have to make time for this more often. 🙂


Day 661 – Thankful for a Near Perfect Vacation

Now that we’re back home and unpacked it feels pretty great to be back home.  I’m so looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight!  Thinking back through our vacation that’s about the only flaw I could find in the entire trip, not having our bed with us the entire time.  That seems like a pretty near perfect vacation.

Our first long travel day was better than expected due to a couple of awesome side trips Becky found along the way.  The first day in Voyageurs included a great boat ride / tour with a very knowledgeable and friendly guide, a view from the US to the south into Canada (yup, let that one sink in), and a surprising bear encounter.  Our second day was another great travel day with more better than expected short hikes and views.  The time in Isle Royale was AWESOME and included checking off pretty much every possible animal box (moose, beaver, loons with a chick, bald eagle) while providing spectacular views and relaxation.  The trip from Isle Royale to Duluth included a wonderful hike past Split Rock Lighthouse and the adjoining beaches.  Our last day (today) was a cool mini-tour of Duluth, a town that is way cooler than I’d imagined.


Add that all up and the only thing that I wish we could have done differently was bring our bed, a near perfect vacation!


Day 656 – Thankful for Being Pleasantly Surprised on a Travel Day

Day 656 – Thankful for Being Pleasantly Surprised on a Travel Day

Sometimes travel days on vacation just aren’t as cool as we’d like. It’s all about going from Point A to Point B and there’s not a ton in between. Knowing hat can be the case we usually try to find some stuff to keep us active throughout the day. Today Becky did an excellent job of planning ahead to make it a memorable day.

Each stop on our way from International Falls to Grand Marais was way more beautiful and fun than I’d expected. The views were way more scenic than I’d thought they’d be and the hiking was fun. We even had some time to look for rocks.

As we wrap up the day and prep for our early morning ferry to Isle Royale I’m so grateful for each of the awesome things we saw!


Day 655 – Thankful for National Park #23, Voyageurs National Park

Today Becky and I reached National Park #23 for the two of us, Voyageurs in northern Minnesota.  I know, how crazy is it that one of the parks that is the closest to us is one that we hadn’t been too?  We were both a little nervous that it was going to be a little to similar to the areas we grew up, but we were both very wrong.  It is very different from some of our favorite parks, but it was beautiful and amazing in it’s own way.

Most of the park is accessible only by boat which makes it a little difficult.  Becky found an incredible guide for us who took the family out on a six plus hour ride through the majority of the park area we wanted to explore.  Bill grew up in the area (in the summers) and was a tremendous wealth of knowledge of the park.  He was very passionate about the area and this made for a wonderful trip.

The park was HUGE!!!  We put on over 60 miles while traveling on the lakes.  The views were amazing, the weather was perfect, and there were tons of various birds including loons.  It was quiet, scenic, and so pristine.  By the time we left we were all smiling big from the entire experience.

Thanks Voyageurs National Park – we had an awesome visit and are grateful for the experience!


Day 654 – Thankful for a Second Straight Giant Sized Second Friday of the Month

Day 654 – Thankful for a Second Straight Giant Sized Second Friday of the Month

We might have a new family tradition on our hands, albeit one that is going to be pretty difficult to keep alive.  For the second straight month we’ve spent at least part of the second Friday of the month enjoying something HUGE!!!

Last month on the second Friday of the month you may remember that Nick and I took the boys to see the “Snowshoeing Bishop” statue in the UP…


Tonight we ended up seeing not one, but two giant sized things…



Yup, a 26 foot tall Smokey the Bear and a larger than life Bronko Nagurski.  Special thanks to TripAdvisor for helping us find them both!

It seems as if I have my work cut out for me on Friday, August 10th.  I have a full day of work and we’ve got plans for early Saturday morning, that’s not a ton of time to head out to see something huge and giant sized.  If anyone has ideas that are within an hour drive of La Crosse I’m all ears.

I still remember seeing huge things for the first time when I was a kid, kind of like the giant Musky in Hayward.  Hopefully the boys have fond memories of seeing these crazy giant oddities when they get older.  Today I’m thankful for the opportunity to experience some crazy and silly things like this with them.


Day 653 – Thankful for My Boys’ Love of Malcolm in the Middle

A few weeks ago I happened across one of my favorite shows on Hulu and realized the boys might get a kick out of it…  Malcolm in the Middle.  As suspected they LOVED it!  While we don’t watch much TV the boys have been absolutely hooked on the show.  For me it’s been a walk down memory lane, only better…


When Becky and I started watching this show before kids we found it to be hysterical and thought we might be looking into a crystal ball.  Now that we watch it after all these years I realize that it hits way closer to home than we’d ever dreamt.  As the boys and I watch we’re sharing laughs over so many jokes.  I’m also laughing out loud at some of the jokes that are just a step over their heads.

The funny thing is that it’s actually provided several opportunities for some awesome father / son conversations.  The occasional serious one, and, more often than not, many humorous ones.  At the end of the day it’s added some pretty awesome moments that we’ll remember and joke around about for quite some time, and that’s something that I’m very thankful for.


Day 652 – Thankful for an Artist’s Palette Sunrise and a Reminder of Dad

A couple of days ago it was a sunset that caught my attention, today it was a sunrise.  While Becky and I were running this morning we had this scenic view in the background…


This is one of those times when I really don’t much to explain why I’m thankful for this view, the picture says it all.

Later in the day I had an awesome surprise pop up in Facebook.  On this day last year this was my blog post:  Day 288 – Thankful for an Incredible and Unexpected Gift from Dad

365 days ago I realized that I had a couple of voicemails from Dad saved on my cellphone.  When I fired them both up they were almost exactly the same as each other and like every other voicemail he ever left me.  It’d been a while since I had listened to them and I was smiling from ear to ear as I listened to them.  How awesome to have that gift, the opportunity to hear his voice!  I’ve got pictures and whatnot, but hearing his voice is something special.  Today I’m so grateful for those voicemails, they really filled my heart with joy today!