Monday, August 10, 2015

Chapter 40 - St Paul to Shell Lake, Wisconsin

Saturday, August 8th:
The drive this morning had most of the features we love: it was short, the roads were out in the countryside and the traffic was light, and the scenery was pretty with lots of trees, rolling hills, and the many cornfields we have come to expect. Since there is no direct highway that leads to Shell Lake from St Paul we made lots of turns and highway changes and were it not for the excellent assistance of our Garmin, I am sure that we would have gotten lost.  But we did not, and by 10:30 am we pulled into the Red Barn Campground and we were immediately greeted by our friend Dotty Swan.  After a few hugs and a brief discussion we were shown to our pull-thru, full hookup campsite which without question was one of the loveliest campsites that we have been offered since our adventure began on May 26th.

The land upon which sits the Red Barn Campground has been in Lee Swan's family since his grandparents purchased the land back in 1917 and soon after began operating it as a dairy farm.  In 1965 they opened a small tenting campground which has obviously grown substantially ever since with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Red Barn Campground.  The name of the campground Red Barn, is well suited as the beautifully restored red barn that sits right in the middle of the campground is perhaps the focal point of the entire site.

One other very unique feature of this campground that distinguishes it from almost all other campgrounds in our country is that there are live farm animals on the site including horses, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and even two llamas. Visitors to the campground are allowed to interact with the animals which obviously makes this campground very popular with young folks. Horseback riding is offered and in fact when we first arrived we could see Lee Swan back in the park walking along side a small horse with a small rider on its back.  Wagon rides are offered most days pulled by a tractor during the week and pulled by live horses on weekends. Inside the barn on the upper level is a large activity room that offers lots of indoor games and according to Lee Swan he has even setup his own pickleball court (inspired he admits by Breckenridge's efforts to build pickleball courts.) They also have on site a miniature golf course that Lee constructed and his wife Dotty landscaped.  Their little course is as nice as any miniature golf course that I have ever seen.

In the early afternoon Lee called me over to watch he and his son harness up two horses in preparation for their Saturday afternoon wagon ride.  Lee first groomed each of the two female horses who were named Mollie and Millie.  They were stepsisters he told me; same father different mothers.  Then he and his son placed the very elaborate harnesses on each of the two horses which was not an easy task, and then we walked the girls, Mollie and Millie, over to the wagon and hitched them up for the ride. 

Kathy and I and Cabo climbed aboard the wagon and went for a most delightful one hour ride around the property including going over to nearby Shell Lake where Lee and Dotty own a "cottage" where we picked up some of their grandchildren and a son-in-law, and then back into the property where we took a long ride back into some of their 100 plus acres that used to be grazing land.  It was a wonderful experience for us old folks and for the young kids as well.  A unique experience especially to find at a campground. It was hard to know whether Cabo enjoyed the ride although not once did he complain.

After our ride in the wagon, we returned to our travel trailer where we relaxed for a few hours before Dotty Swan invited us back to her house for some peach cobblers with ice cream. After we arrived at their summer home located at the entrance to their campground, we were given a tour of their miniature golf course next to their home and their chicken and rabbit enclosures. We really need to hand it to Lee and Dotty who while in the late seventies still have the strength and ambition to operate such a well managed facility.  It sure takes a lot more ambition than I could muster and I am five years younger than Lee and Dotty.

Sunday, August 9th:
Today is to be a day of total relaxation as we have no local tourist attractions to visit, no spectacular cathedrals, and no high mountain vistas or deep gorges to view.  Other than a short visit to downtown Shell Lake which should take very little of our time, today is a day where we have nothing planned and it is wonderful.  I even delayed taking my shower and getting dressed until after 8 am this morning and that is a personal record for goofing off.  Even Cabo was happy since today he was mostly exempt from long car rides which he hates and he was free to walk around the campground without a leash, at least within reason.  Obey my rules and no leash! OK Mom.

Since we had nothing planned today I was actually pleased when at one-thirty this afternoon it started to rain. This gave us the opportunity for the first time since we have owned our travel trailer to sit outside under our awning listening to the rain as it hit the awning, talk occasionally, and continue reading our books without a guilty feeling about missing out on a visit to some great tourist attractions. Both of us are reading mystery novels by David Baldacci. Such a delightful outdoor afternoon would not be available in Florida with its high heat and humidity but here in Shell Lake the temperatures are only in the high 60s and the humidity is low even with the rain.  Across from us was another travel trailer and we watched them with a smile as their whole family consisting of three adults and three young children sat at their picnic table under their awning eating lunch. Like us, it did not seem to bother them one bit that it was raining.

We were pleasantly surprised once again by Lee and Dotty Swan when they invited us out for dinner this evening. We quickly accepted. The food at the Country Inn Restaurant was very good and we enjoyed the opportunity during dinner to spend this extra time with our campground hosts and most importantly, with our friends. When we returned back to our travel trailer after dinner Kathy commented that she was really happy that we had decided to spend two nights of our trip at the Red Barn Campground.  It was not only one of the nicest campgrounds of our trip, but the campground hosts were definitely the very best. Almost hate to leave.      

But tomorrow we will leave early for the Summer Breeze Campground and RV Park located on the western border of the State of Michigan near the City of Iron Mountain. We are headed for the Straits of Mackinac. 

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful campground! If we ever make a cross-country run, we'll have to stop there. I'm surprised there weren't more campers for the weekend. We continue to enjoy your blog and photos of your trip. When you enter Michigan, will you officially be "back East"?