Wandering Wisconsin

While pouring over maps trying to decide our destination for the next couple of days, we spot an attraction called Wisconsin Concrete Park.  “Nah”, I said to John, “it’s probably just a big skateboard park.”  Wrong-o!  It’s a sculpture park, all works by Fred Smith, who lived and worked in the area until his death at the age of 89 in 1976. 20141013_105311 The Park is now part of the Price County Park system, and includes the Smith family home.  It’s a curious spot, well worth a visit.  The sculptures are concrete, inlaid with pieces of glass, which seem to be primarily from colored bottles.  20141013_110915Apparently, he used real horse skulls in some of the horse sculptures to ensure that he had the heads shaped correctly. 20141013_10402720141013_105052This one was called Double Wedding.20141013_104834This one was Sun Yet Sen, a “China Woman”.  Not sure what’s with the mustache.20141013_104501 Many of the sculptures are still in need of repairs to replace fallen-out pieces of glass. Others have been restored. 20141013_10412920141013_10533620141013_110709 This one was my favorite because of the old Standard Oil Red Crown on the driver’s head.  My dad was a Standard Oil agent for many years, and we had a Red Crown (from the top of the old gas pumps) in our garage for years.20141013_105442Moving on, we steam toward Governor Thompson State Park.  Along the way, we notice a variety of fir tree which is bright yellow.  They are gorgeous.  But, after a bit of internet searching, it seems as though these trees may be on death’s door, as the result of some type of mite.  In any case, we saw hundreds of them along the road.  I hope they are just some variety of ‘evergreen’ which isn’t, but I fear they are doomed.20141013_115559As the miles pass, we reflect that we’ve stayed in lots of pretty cushy campsites lately, and have gotten away from the National and State Forest campgrounds we love.  So, as we pass a sign pointing to a National Forest Campground, we make a snap decision to change plans.  And so, we find ourselves camped at Richardson Lake Campground in the Nicolet National Forest, near Wabeno, WI.  Great decision!

We pull into an empty campground, having our choice of 27 spectacular sites.  We drive twice around, and finally pick site #1. 20141013_160228 All the sites are HUGE, well wooded.  The pit toilets are pristine – it looks like no one has camped here for quite some time.  There are some yellow leaves on the treetops, but the paths into each campsite have not been driven into.  We quickly established camp before the rain began.  It rained for 14 hours straight, quit for about six, and has been raining every since.  Oh well…..we set up our Thermarest awning (attaches right to the Fireball) and also another awning over the picnic table for some cooking space.  We created a Dutch oven dinner of short ribs braised in red wine with carrots, butternut squash, and dried shiitake mushrooms.  Enough for two days.  Yum!

During the lull in the storm, Jezzy and I strolled around, hiking out to the highway where we saw these two amazing barns on a nearby farm.  They were enormous.20141014_14014020141014_140052Tomorrow will take us back into Michigan, as we begin to wind down our northern adventure.  No hurry, but we gotta get home one of these days….

14 thoughts on “Wandering Wisconsin

  1. You find the most weird and wonderful places! I really loved the horses’ bottle manes. I wonder if he emptied them as he worked. :D

    Glad you found a wonderful spot for some real camping, but sad you got so much rain. I saw the national doppler weather map yesterday and thought of you.


    • It was an interesting stop. What John couldn’t get over was that all the horses had flat butts. Like they had been created on end, then tipped up. It was hard to get any good shots – everything was pretty close together.

      The rain needs to go away. As I write this, it’s Day 4 in a row. We’re camped right on Lake Michigan, in the far western corner of the UP right now. The water and sky are both the same gray color. No horizon at all!


      • So sorry about the rain, Judy. Enough is enough. I know the feeling of camping in day after day of nonstop rain and leaden skies. It eventually squashes even the embers of optimism. Sending you warm wishes and cyberhugs! :)


  2. Love that comment, “gotta get home one of these days…….”
    You’ve got Bob and me thinking we need to try some Dutch oven cooking…..
    First we need to get a Dutch oven and some charcoal……


    • We actually have two or three Dutch ovens. Two with us. We have the traditional, very well seasoned cast iron, and also an aluminum one. John baked bread yesterday (the LaBrea kind). Nice to have hot bread with leftovers. The bad thing? It’s more stuff to haul. But, we use ours a lot, so…we also carry a cast iron griddle on which we make toast, or tortillas. We spend way too much time thinking about, and cooking meals!


  3. It’s great you found Fred Smith’s creations. Wisconsin is filled with many such places of outsider art, but none to this magnitude. But they’re all fun to visit. The Kohler Foundation has been prominent in the preservation of sites such as this. http://www.kohlerfoundation.org/preservation/preserved-sites/. When you roll through Rapid River Michigan on US 2 (off on Main St), you’ll find Ritch Branstrom’s workshop of his recycled art sculptures. He has a piece in Art Prize every year, including his famous dogs Rusty and Lucky. (And while you’re in Rapid River – the food, especially the pie is great at Jack’s.)


    • Thanks for the tip. I saw that The Kohler Foundation had purchased the art to start, and donated it to the county. Good for everyone that way.

      Don’t know what our route is going to be, but I’ll keep your suggestions handy. Thanks, Ken.


  4. That was some weird folk art, the concrete sculptures are interesting, but not my cup of tea.

    Some of the “fir” trees look to be larch (AKA tamarack), the only needle leaved tree that turns color and drops its needles in the fall. They turn a golden yellow and look similar to fir trees.

    No need to hurry home, it’s been raining on and off for days, and it’s forecast to continue into the weekend.


    • Thanks for the larch info. I feel better about that now. I did very limited searching while we were rolling down the road.

      The concrete sculpture was interesting, but not fun like Lakenenland near Marquette. But we gotta stop at these places when we see them…

      Radar looks like the big green patch might be following us for awhile. Wet camping just isn’t as much fun, as you well know.


  5. Those are some wild concrete structures. I’m very curious about the guy who made those and what his motivation was. It’s not my style, but it intrigues me. You’re in Wisconsin dairy land. Bet those barn had room for lots of cows and hay bales. Your meals always sound like something from a gourmet restaurant instead of camp cooking. I should hire you to cook for me. I’m afraid you’re going to be following the rain into Michigan. We’re getting quite a bit of it here, though not so constant. Hope that tree mite doesn’t move here. Those dying trees make me sad. Enjoy your remaining travel days.


    • Fred Smith had been called The Picasso of the Pines by the Chicago Tribune. Sculpture was his retirement hobby. I didn’t pay much attention to all the info on him there, but I’ll bet Google is full of references. Try Wisconsin Concrete Park.

      After a day or rain, I’m ready to throw in the towel. It takes so long to dry everything out.

      We do eat well. No spooning beans right out of the can for us (well, not usually, anyway).

      Maybe I’m wrong about the trees. My limited search while John was driving didn’t come up with any variety that changes color in a healthy way.


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