Although we turn south and east, we resist any thoughts of making a beeline toward Grand Rapids. We’ve still got a couple of weeks before our arbitrary Get Home date, and we intend to stretch them out.
So, Copper Falls State Park, near Mellen, WI is our destination. Arriving early on a Friday afternoon, we anticipate a campground reserved to the max. What a surprise to find the opposite. We score the absolutely perfect campsite – the one usually reserved for the Camp Host. It has electric, and is the most perfectly level, isolated, private site we could ever wish for. John even foolishly wishes for rain so that we could test the perfect drainage of our dream site. Our arrival is marred only by the fact that one of us doesn’t really know how to back the Fireball into a campsite. There’s an incident, the Firetruck’s bumper is dented, one of us gets weepy, the other one is tearing out his non-existent hair, and there’s a general ruckus. One of us needs more practice backing up.We set up camp, and decide to hike to the Red Granite Falls. Our reasoning is that the next day (Saturday) will bring a flood of visitors. We need to get one of the two major hikes done before the crowds arrive. We are totally fooled by our map, and turn a 2.5 mile hike into a 6 mile odyssey. But, it’s worth it. Beautiful cascading falls, with the reddish cast that we’ve become accustomed to (a result of tannins in the water from the cedar swamps which feed these creeks and rivers). As we leave the falls, we come upon a couple of hikers who say to John, “Are these the Falls? We’ve been walking FOREVER!” John smiles knowingly, and points.
Curiously, our campground stays uninhabited. It’s the most perfectly quiet evening we’ve had in weeks of camping. We absorb the silence, and celebrate with a campfire.
Saturday morning, we wait for the chill to leave the air before setting off with Jezzy to explore the Copper Falls/Brownstone Falls Trail. When we arrive at the Trailhead, we are dismayed to find that it’s a No Pets Allowed Trail. Damn! So we hike back to camp with Jezzy. She’s gotten a good walk, and is content to be left behind with a few treats while we cycle back to the Trailhead. It’s a gorgeous day.
If you live in an area where you’ve never experienced a perfect walk through piles of fall leaves, I feel sorry for you. Not only did we have picture perfect waterfalls, we had ankle-deep crispy leaves on a trail and the haze of golden air surrounding us. We had to stop walking to carry on a conversation – our feet were making that much noise shuffling through the leaves. The best part of the hike, for me, was the section where we came into an area where there were only the maple trees which turn bright yellow in fall. The air was the most perfect bright yellow, and the forest floor was covered with thousands of tiny two and three-leaved saplings, covered by their one and two-foot tall cousins. They of course were protected by a full canopy of elders. Sounds corny, but it was delicious walking. We hiked along the North Country Trail for a bit, and wandered past a backpacker camp area and rapids. High sandstone walls, with trees perilously hanging on to on the edges rounded out a perfect scene. It was the perfect storm of circumstances –light, scenery, weather, and location. Could not have been a better day.
Our original plan had been to head out Sunday for a new camp somewhere. But, the weather forecast for Sunday was for more perfect weather, and we decided not to waste it driving. So, we paid for another day, and spent it on the bike and hiking trails, followed by cycling into the town of Mellen. I topped it off by cycling through the campground, collecting abandoned firewood. Let me say one thing about mountain bike trails…..they are beautiful when covered with bright yellow and red leaves, although that obscures the hazards below. Six inches of mud covered by two inches of beautiful leaves is still six inches of mud. You just can’t see it coming. That’s all I’m going to say….
Although the color here is past its peak, it’s still beautiful here. We’re in love with having this incredible park to ourselves. Sunny days, calm evenings – perfect for campfires, clean bathrooms with hot showers.