Friday, July 23, 2010
John and I have talked off and on all summer about going canoeing on the Buffalo. Neither of us has ever canoed much, but we've really enjoyed the few times we've been. So, a couple of weeks ago when there was an article in the newspaper about floating the middle section of the Buffalo, John decided to turn thoughts into action, and he booked a trip. We decided that it would be best to leave Samuel and Hannah behind with grandparents so that we would just need one canoe. (Canoes really only fit three people.) Also, we weren't sure what this section of the river would be like for smaller children.
We drove to the town of Harriet (which is next to Ralph) to Crockett's Canoe Rental, which John found online. It was pretty much a hole-in-the-wall place, but the people were really nice. We followed a canoe-carting Suburban back to the Hwy 14 Bridge (about 10-15 minutes back the way we had just come) to park our van. We then got into the Suburban and drove back through Harriet and then about 15 minutes past the store to Maumee, where we put in. It was a long and windy drive - - hot too because the air conditioner in the Suburban didn't work.
We spent the next five and half hours making our way down ten miles of river. The website information said to allow four hours for the trip, but that didn't include much time for stopping. I think it'd be difficult to make the trip in four hours unless you paddled the whole time, or the river was up and flowing a little faster, or you really don't stop at all. We stopped several different times, once to eat lunch and then several times to play in a neat part of the river or to cool off. Did I mention that it was hot today? I think the temperature was in the mid 90's by the time we got on the water (around noon). The sun was bright (and hot) all day long. In retrospect, I think the trip would have been nicer if we'd started several hours earlier in the morning, but to do that we probably would have needed to spend the night in a nearby campground the night before. Of course, an afternoon float would be just fine if the temperature was just a wee bit cooler!
Jacob had an absolute blast all day long. He loved being the only kid and having more attention just for himself. I think he also loved not being "bothered" by his little brother and sister. He was very responsible and didn't complain that he had to wear his life jacket the whole time he was in the canoe (state law until you're 13) even though it made him so much hotter. We did allow him to take off his life jacket whenever we got out to stop and swim or play in the water. He really did not need it. The average depth of the river was about two feet! Occasionally there were sections that were deeper - like four or five feet deep. There were also plenty of sections where the water was maybe 12-15 inches deep and we had to try really hard not to scrape bottom. After seeing how little water there was (still plenty for a good float), I think we'd feel very comfortable taking Samuel and Hannah as well. You can rent rafts which will hold five people, so we could all float together. Or, we could get two canoes and just split the kids between us.
We were careful to use LOTS of sunscreen, but I still ended up with a few missed spots. I spent most of the day with an extra t-shirt over my legs/knees, which I think saved them from being completely fried. Next time, I'll take extras just for that. I even wore a big hat the whole day. That's big for me; I hate wearing hats. I will admit that it kept the sun off of my face, neck, and shoulders for much of the day.
We'll definitely be floating the Buffalo again!!
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
We spent one afternoon hiking around Minnehaha Park, again in central Minneapolis. It's a beautiful park. It actually reminded me a little of Central Park in NYC. There was a little restaurant in the middle of the park, lots of bikes and buggies you could rent, hiking trails, playgrounds, etc. We hiked the trail down to see Minnehaha Falls (of Hiawatha fame). The trail then led us all along a creek (that flows into the Mississippi just a short distance away). There was a really neat place that had been designed for wading, and tons of people were enjoying the cool water on the warm day.
Fort Snelling was constructed to facilitate trade with the Indians. The fort has been mostly been reconstructed to resemble what it would have looked like when it was being used as a fort. There were soldiers who did a marching drill and cannon demonstration. We learned a lot about the history of the West from a different perspective than what we typically hear "down South."
Of course, a trip to Minneapolis wouldn't be complete without Mall of America. The boys were most excited about going back to the amusement park there. They discovered a love for roller coasters and all sorts of rides that spin you around, turn you upside down, and dangle you over the floor from three or four stories up. John took the boys on rides while I took Hannah to the American Girl store. Of course, we visited the Apple store as well.
After our hike, which lasted about an hour and a half, we drove back into town and headed to Uno's Pizzaria for some yummy pizza. One of the things I love about this place is that kids can choose to make their own pizza, which Samuel and Hannah thought was really cool! Jacob, on the other hand, insisted that as "pre-teen," he's really too old for such a thing. Ha!
One of the many other activities we did while in Wisconsin (other than water parks, that is) was going horseback riding. The boys each got their own horse, and Hannah rode on a horse with me. The ride rambled through the woods adjacent to our resort and lasted about an hour. Hannah seems to have the same affection for horses as her cousins Katie and Lisa do.
We spent one afternoon searching for a cheese factory that we thought was close to the Wisconsin River. After driving for about an hour (in the pouring rain), we discovered that the place was closed. Bummer. So, we drove back to the Dells and went to the "touristy" cheese store. No factory to watch cheese being made, but lots of cheese to sample and buy. We did find a real factory en route to Minneapolis. It was a really neat place. The kids could see cheese being made, and they got to sample some really squeaky curds. Yum!