The Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan-Part 1

This past weekends we visited the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan….also known to many as copper country. Our son has been here many times with a friend that has a cabin in this area but dad and I have only visited once a few years ago. During that visit we had no time for exploration what so ever since we were touring a college at the time. Which meant this time was strictly for fun and adventure….which we sure had. Here is the first part of our trip.

We left after work Friday evening for the 4 hour drive to our hotel. As the sun set in the sky we were eagerly awaiting the end of a long work day plus the drive to our destination. Knowing that if we arrived late Friday night we would have all day Saturday to explore made the long drive a bit more tolerable.

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We arrived, checked in, and immediately went to bed. We had all agreed to wake early(6:30a.m.) to begin our day Saturday.

On the agenda were a few waterfalls,

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some geocaching,

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and some trail hiking.

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Everything we went for was accomplished and then some, during our day in this area of Michigan. I found that I love Michigans abundance of fresh edible berries all along their trials. Wow, we would never come across all this yummy goodness here in WI.

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I will end here for now but if your curious to see what else we explored in the Keweenaw stay tuned to part 2 next.

 

 

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Becoming Empty Nesters

As we embark on becoming empty nesters here in our house it has clearly proven to have a different affect on all of us here. Our son has signed his first rental lease and will be moving out in a few days. He is excited! My husband is sad but proud. I am proud but ready to see him spread his wings and fly. In all honesty, our lives here have been chaos for a few weeks. Not only helping him apartment hunt but there are a few more things going on in the background all at the same time. It’s not the image I had in my mind of how this summer would begin but I am learning to find the silver lining in it all.

Let’s begin at the call that solidified the one and only apartment we all felt good about. This came last week, he then signed the lease a few days later and then we scrambled to begin packing. One day my son and I also took almost 6 hours to go shopping together to buy some things he needed and we had promised him when he found a place that dad and I would buy him a bed. So this all happened in one day of power shopping which to my surprise went really well considering it was a Saturday and we typically do not shop well together.

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Then it was time to hit up the hardware store for a project him and dad were working on. IMG_1031

Then like a blessing from above, I had the gift of only having to work three days a week for two weeks straight which ultimately bought me some much needed time to make a bunch of appointments that I always have trouble making. However, one day I did sneak away for lunch and coffee with a friend to a new local cafe. IMG_1020After all this I felt a bit settled and ready to relax for a bit. That is until my husband emailed from work that travel plans would be crazy for awhile and I could only sit back take a deep breath. With Memorial Day weekend almost here, moving in the very near background, and hardly no fun plans on the calendar because life is such a mess right now, I felt like having a meltdown. Which, I really don’t do often and the only thing I could think of was escaping the place I call home that is piled high with stuff ready for moving, escaping the place I call work which is the same place I call home, and escaping the place where I need to find new normal routine soon which could prove to take some time after all this is said and done. I needed to get out and be one with the trail which I did and it immediately calmed my soul.

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This was exactly what I needed. Trees, dirt, wildlife, nature…..I just needed to breathe fresh air and find peace.

My next few weeks I know are going to be a struggle. I can hope my husband makes it back in time to help and be part of this next chapter. I can hope it don’t rain on moving day, I can hope adapting my recipes for two is easy, and I am excited to find  new normal after all this is said and done.

Until then…..have a great holiday weekend if I am not back before then with any updates and don’t forget to add fun to everyday no matter how hard it is to squeeze it in.

Eating Our Way Through Port Washington, WI….Downtown Historic District

On our 24 hour escape from Green Bay to Port Washington, Wisconsin’s Historic District we ate at three restaurants all on Franklin Street. (you can read part one of this trip here)

IMG_0590Since our whole goal was to walk everywhere this was the perfect location. Our hotel was located at one end of this street with shoppes, restaurants, and other businesses peppered in between.

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This made getting around super easy. Our first stop was lunch on Saturday at the Schooner Bar and Grill. We are normally not bar and grill goers but the sign our front had some yummy things listed so we went for it. We were immediately greeted and told if we wanted a good view to head up to the upstairs room where we could enjoy lunch over looking the harbor. Well, yes, no more needed to be said, we headed upstairs. And wow what a great room…all windows, the roof opens when its warm enough, and you can see everything. Awesome!

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Service was friendly, view was wonderful, but how was the food? Well, the menu is small, but variety is there….and remember, it’s a bar before it’s a grill so keep this in mind when choosing this establishment. Anyhow, we each had sandwiches….mine was the grilled chicken and my husband had the smoked brisket. And both were wonderful. Super tasty, cooked perfectly, and very filling. I highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a great sandwich.

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Dinner brought us a bit further down Franklin Street to the Wicked Grill which also had a sign out front that I saw earlier in the day that said…… can you imagine reuben eggrolls??? Oh yes I can imagine…..and as you can guess, I am already working on remaking these myself at home.

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We arrived, were once again greeted ,and seated in the back where meals are served. IMG_0629

We began with margaritas and the sampler platter. Yes, we walked for miles and we were starving. Plus, we walked here so we could each finish the evening with a drink.

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I will confess, I ate all but one half of those two whole egg rolls….I only let my husband have 1/2 of one. He did get all the cheese curds though….that’s fair…right? Whom ever came up with stuffing an egg roll wrapper with reuben fillings should be the employee of the year since they were by far the best thing I ate in forever. My entree here was the pulled pork BBQ salad and this was also superb. I would return here without a doubt next time I am in the area. It was all fabulous.

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Then Sunday morning we awoke to catch the sunrise over Lake Michigan before heading back down Franklin Street for breakfast. IMG_0640

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We saw the night before a place called  Daily Baking Co and it opened at 6a.m. on Sundays so this was one of only a few places we could get breakfast.

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We arrived chilly from being outside in the brisk morning winds and immediately ordered coffee and a breakfast sandwich each. Everything we ordered was once again wonderful.

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And then we sat down in the nicely decorated coffee shop and enjoyed the scents of fresh bakes goodies coming from the kitchen.

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After this we took one more cold chilly walk around the harbor area before heading home and back to reality. As for the eats in this part of town, I really can’t say anything bad about any of the places we chose to enjoy a meal while we escaped for 24 hours. They were all wonderful for their own reasons….especially those egg rolls!!!!

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I walked out on this pier not 12 hrs prior to this…..what a change a few hours can make. If I had waited until today I would have been wet and cold!

This is Saturday:

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This is Sunday:

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Cabin Fever…..This Is Real People!!!

They say a broken heart is a true condition some people suffer from. I also believe that cabin fever should also be on the list of real diagnostic conditions. For me, and I know many others feel this way also, cabin fever is real. And the past two weeks it has been pretty severe. My moods are all over, my energy level I need to dig deep for, and my sleep is some nights great and some nights not so great. And when I listen to the weather…..well, it’s normally best not to listen to the weather.

Even though temps lately have been tolerable, I know living in WI the weather can turn back to full blown winter in a matter of hours so I try not to get to excited too early.  However, that didn’t stop me from taking my whole gang outside to play for the first time in months. Oh, it was glorious!!!! And it also gave me a big case of cabin fever!!!!IMG_0513

Like I said, I have been struggling and I needed to make a snap decision to turn life back around and get some air. All this took was a bit of thought, a quick email to my husband that I needed a break from life, and a few things thrown into an overnight bag…..and I was off on an overnight adventure to find myself again. Saturday morning I quickly threw together a penne pasta casserole for Sunday when I returned home to toss into the oven for dinner. This way I would not need to hurry home for any reason….and walla we were off to find sunshine, fresh air, and hopefully open water and not ice bergs. IMG_0520

Like usual, I chose the destination and I wanted somewhere I had never been before. I also knew I needed to be around water(two places that bring me peace are one around water and  two atop mountains…..WI has a ton of water and no mountains so my options were limited) and I needed everything in walking distance since I hate driving in strange cities. I made some strict rules for my husband to follow since he asked to join me in my 24 hrs. of solitude…..no job talk, I get to choose all the restaurants, I get to walk as far I my body will let me, and I get control of the remote control when we finally do decide to rest. He happily agreed and then was allowed to join me in my adventure.

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My destination ended up being Port Washington,WI. I had never been here and neither had my husband. IMG_0558

Upon arrival, it was sunny, gorgeous, and the ice had all melted and left open water and miles and miles of harbor walk for us to enjoy.

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We walked mostly paved walkways but we also did climb some pretty big boulders to make our way out to some of the lake markers that I don’t know know if we should have but we did anyhow. There were no Do Not Enter signs but clearly no one else was taking this route except us. It felt so good to be alive and breathing fresh air again that I really did not care if we would have found the game warden/or the dock master waiting for us when we returned.

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We explored for miles…..we saw so much beauty and I even got to sit on one of the piers for a bit and just let my mind clear itself.

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We paid tribute to a fellow kayaker by climbing to the top of his memorial gazebo which personally, could not have been placed on a better part of land. It overlooks where he lost his life and this is somewhere that can honor him and his love for paddling forever. Being a kayaker myself, I can truly see why he was paddling the waters of Lake Michigan….so gorgeous.

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After all this walking, more sunshine that I have gotten on my face in over 6 months, and even a bit shopping on the historic street next to our hotel….we were tired. We checked into our hotel located right on the harbor walk and walked to dinner before turning in for the evening. And believe it or not….I could not find a single thing on television to keep my interest so I handed over the remote control to my husband with a kiss goodnight….and that was that.

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I will soon fill you all in on where we all ate and the absolutely fabulous meals we had in this area of the city. We also already have plans to return as a family. Only next time, fishing poles, tackle, cameras, tripods, picnic blankets, and coolers will all be added to the packing list. Maybe even a few kayaks, paddles, and PFD’s.

 

 

How To Plan A Hiking Vacation

Vacation can mean different things to different people. Some individuals like to plan beach vacations where there main goal is to find a beach chair and bake in the sun while reading, sleeping or listening to the waves crash into the shoreline. Some, on the other hand, would rather feel as if they need a vacation from their vacation since often times doing something active when they are at home simply is not feasible and it’s what they yearn to do. For us….its the second scenario. And that is what I am going to discuss here today. I receive so many email questions on how I plan our vacations that I decided instead of answering each and every one I would make a few suggestions and pointers here.

#1 You must look at your group size and the ages of your vacationers. This for us is easy since our son has become and adult. He is able to do anything we can do which is nice. However, that being said, he is often not willing to do everything we want to do. What I do is gather everyone going and discuss things we all would like to do in the area we chose to vacation and then look at every ones ability levels.

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#2 Pick a place you can all agree on. This is often times that hardest thing. Take for instance my family. Our son wants, in the worst way, to go to Washington or Alaska. Mom(me) however, will NEVER go to Alaska….I already live in the frozen tundra of Green Bay. And Washington is beautiful, it has mountains(snowy mountains) but it is often rainy and I love sunshine. Which means that is a no go also! So we agree to disagree and someday he can go and send me pictures from those states. Then we have my husband, whom usually agrees to go on any vacation. He is not too fussy. Although, this last vacation in Virginia showed him that mountain hiking may require some extra knee support next time. And then you have my destinations…..the list is LONG!!!! I like it HOT! And I like ELEVATION!

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#3 Decide on how may days active and inactive you will be vacationing for. I made a big mistake our first trip to Utah for our 20th anniversary. We were there on our first guided trip ever and it happen to be our first ever mountain hiking adventure also. It was four days of long, hot, very steep switchback hiking in the most gorgeous place I have ever seen in my life. When the guides dropped us back off at our hotel for the night after hiking four days and traveling three hours from Utah back to Nevada we could hardly walk. We were hungry and the hotel offered a buffet right on the premises where we stayed and neither of us even wanted to walk down the hall to eat. We were so exhausted, sore, and oh so very sore. So I vowed from then on to plan one day of relaxation…..shopping, driving scenic roads, or just pool time. And no more than 3 hiking days in a row. This is what we did the first time we brought our son back to Utah with us and it worked so well. Yes, it was still exhausting but we could at least still function after a short rest. This goes back to knowing your activity levels of your group.

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#4 Now pick your activities, gather your maps, talk with professionals, and get to know your surroundings. I always pick our trails after researching online, hiking forums, and park websites. Once I have the trails we plan to hike chosen, I then make sure none of them need permits to do. If they do make sure you have time to apply and get the proper permits. Research parking, trail heads, animals/bugs/snakes to beware of, and GPS coordinates. Park rangers, if you are visiting a park or even near a park, are useful individuals. They often will know things you cant find online. Also, all national park websites have alert pages you can check up until the day you plan to hike. Flash floods, trail closures if there has been an accident, warnings regarding wildlife problems and so on can all be found here. I also love forums….they offer priceless information about many things you would lever think of… from what to eat on the trail to where you can find basic water while in the backwoods.

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#5 Plan for the climate you are headed to. We have a completely different packing list for Utah/Sedona than we do for Tennessee/Virginia. Desert hiking and forest hiking are two different animals completely. Again, research sample packing lists for different climates. Know that if bugs are an issue head nets will be your friend. Or if bears are active in the area make sure whatever you bring to protect yourself is legal in the state you happen to be hiking in. Find out when hunting seasons are in the area you plan to vacation. Hikers and hunters are typically not the best of friends….at least not here in WI. And know that bear spray canisters are not allowed on airplanes. Whomp….whomp!!

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#6 Pick a place to stay. Whether its a hotel, campsite, or resort with all the amenities, pick this out and make sure everyone is on board with the choice. I know after a long day on the trails there is nothing better than a warm shower. We almost always vacation while on our hiking trips in a hotel. We sleep in beds and have flushing toilets. Ice machines are always a bonus to fill ziplocks with for sore muscles too…..just being honest!!!! Pools are simply a bonus after a long day.

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#7 Means of travel there and while there. Ahhh, the big question of fly or drive? We have done both. We have had issues with both. No one way is perfect. Logically speaking, this is a crap shoot so good luck.

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As for traveling when you are there….if you flew you will more than likely need a rental vehicle. Know your trails and if they are on fire roads to reach the trail head. Some trail heads will require a high clearance vehicle to reach the trail head. Sedona, AZ was a place where we needed a high clearance rental…so research, research, research….you will not be sorry you did.

#8 Research the area your staying in and make a packing list from this research. Are there grocery stores? Are there outfitters if you forget something important…like your boots? Where is the closest medical building if you get bit by a snake? ( I would be dead of a heart attach for sure before reaching the ER but its still good to know where it is) Is there cell service typically in this area or will you need a SPOT global locator? I am sure there are more but all these are super important. First, when we traveled to Utah there was one grocery store in the small town we stayed in and Clif Bars were 2 for $5……here I can purchase and entire box for $5. We have learned to pack as much trail food from home as possible. Its just easier, cheaper, and saves you a trip to a store before you begin your adventure when you arrive. Animal/ plant encounters happen often, so pack first aid but also know where your nearest emergency room is. And just know that there really are still places where cell phones will not work in this world.

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#9 Have a backup plan. Life happens and if it can go wrong it often will. Prepare to change up the plan at any moment. We did this a few times thanks to flash floods in Utah, hurricanes hitting close to a trail head, broken vehicles the day before leaving for an 8 day road trip, wild fires in Tennessee, search and rescue closing down that days planned hike etc…..just have a backup plan.

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#10 Remember your on vacation….Dream big, not impossible!!! Don’t pack yourself so full that it causes worry and stress to get it all done. See what you can and leave the rest for next time. List the most important things and do them first and follow the order until it’s time to leave. Take us for instance, in Sedona we all wanted to climb Cathedral Rock so we made sure this was first. Then in Virginia my dream was to hike up McAfee Knob so we did this first. Make a plan and stick to it. However, even though we did both of these wants first, we still have not finished our list of things to hike in either Arizona or Utah so we know eventually we will return.

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I am sure there are many more pointers by people that plan many more active vacation trips that I do. Although, these are the ones I follow the most. I am a planner and have found my planning abilities make our trips pretty flawless. It does take time but trip planning for me is fun. And, as a bonus, when it all goes as planned it’s even more fun.

If you are thinking about planning an active vacation and want to ask specific questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help make your vacation as wonderful as ours have been. So whether your headed to somewhere warm, tropical or to the good old state where I live….Wisconsin….enjoy the journey.

 

Virginia Part #3- Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park Hike

I knew by today we would be tired mountain hiking and would need a bit of a break from the trail. However, we knew from past mountain hikes in Utah,Tennessee, and Sedona that sitting and doing nothing only makes the pain prolong itself so we had a plan.

Our third day we checked out of the Salem, VA hotel and drove the popular scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the Shenandoah National Park and then continued onward via the Skyline Drive through the entire park.Gorgeous…..simply gorgeous once again.

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Again, like the day we traveled to hike Sharp Top Trail, we saw numerous bear hunters lining the road all along this route. And this is where I saw my first 2….yes 2 wild bears ever! Exciting I tell you….and wow can they run fast…..I was amazed.

We drove for 6 hours this day ending at a trail head we choose to hike to stretch our legs before heading to our next hotel in Winchester, VA. Hotels near the park are an enormous amount of money…and I am cheap…so this worked out very well. The trail we choose was the Compton Gap Trail.

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According to the sign it was a 2.4 mile trail but we clocked a bit over this.

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The parking for this trail was easily located if you follow the map given to you at the entrance of the park. Parking was sufficient and the actual tail starts on the opposite side of the street.

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This trail is also part of the AT as was McAfee Knob so you will follow the white blazes you see in the trees until you reach the post marker directing you to then follow the blue blazes to the overlook.

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The trail itself offered a bit of everything. Flat dirt, rocks, and boulders you weave through once again. There seems to be a pattern to Virginia hiking.

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The overlook is easily located since the trail simply comes to an end.

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On this trail you head down the same way you hiked up.

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My opinion of this trail is its a nice short trail for families. Not too steep and not too rocky like others if you have the proper footwear for hiking. It was a great choice for us to have a bit of time on the trail and out of the vehicle.

My opinion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is it’s gorgeous. We traveled it early in the morning until mid afternoon and had no problems with traffic. That being said, I can only imagine with fall colors and mid summer it could get a bit crazy. NOTE: There are NO gas stations on the parkway so fill your tank before you travel it.

 

 

 

 

 

Memories I Will Have Forever From Virginia: Part One….McAfee Knob

Memories….they are made everywhere. Many of my memories are from here in Wisconsin where I was born and raised for the past 40+years of life. However, this past week I made some more memories with my husband on a bucket list trip to Virginia where I know my heart aches to be……in the mountains.

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We live in the flattest state around(in my opinion) and I have seen almost all there is to see here numerous times. So when the chance comes that I get to escape the grind of every day life to go to my happy place I am the first one packed and ready to go. So let me share with you the past week in the mountains of Virginia.

For this vacation we drove from WI to Salem, Virginia to begin our adventure. Now you may wonder…why such an off the wall city like Salem? Well, I had a bucket list dream to fulfill and I wanted to make sure I could do this before we packed in anything else. My dream was to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and get the iconic picture that you see in many, if not all, hiking magazines, on hiking websites and so on. Every time I would see this picture displayed I would tell my husband….some day I will get there. And as usual, he would just smile and say….I have no doubt you will. Love you honey!

The morning of our hike we left before sunrise to make sure we could find the trailhead and get a parking spot. I had read that parking was sometimes packed but was hoping it would not be too bad since our hike was happening Monday morning. We arrived with about twenty minutes to spare before the sun started peeking over the mountains. The lot had a fair share of cars but all looked to have been there overnight. The lot was easily located of the 311 and marked clearly.

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The trail itself starts across the street from the parking area. Again, clearly marked with signage once you cross the 311 carefully, since cars zip around this mountain road fairly quickly.

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The view going up was so beautiful.

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A bit up the trail you will come to a split. Signs are large and arrows point you in the correct direction. ***Now, I will tell you that many AT hikers recommend hiking the fire road up to the knob and then taking the AT back to the parking lot or vice versa since the AT is quite rugged. We did not do this. I did not train physically and drive for two days to hike any fire road for whatever reason what so ever. I came to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and back and I am so happy we did.

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The trail we found to be difficult. Remember….we hike flat ground in WI almost all our life. This part of the AT was covered in rock, boulders, and roots in many places. Very little was ground and being we were headed to the top of of a mountain it was clearly up all the way.

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Eventually you will come to a crossing that again is well marked and will lead you across the fire road.

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Then you reach an AT shelter where you head up another clearly marked trail.

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Eventually you see the trail start to have huge boulders and you weaving around these while you make the last stretch to the top.

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By this time I was tired. And I mean TIRED!!!! Hiking up the entire trail was difficult plus our GPS clearly did not agree with the mileage that was posted with all the information I had read regarding this trail. So if you attempt this hike and find your mileage is also different keep going…..you will be so happy you did. We finally reached the top of the knob and immediately we checked the mileage to compare.

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I soon forgot about this little issue because when I rounded the corner I felt like I wanted to cry. OK, maybe I did a bit. It was truly amazing in every way!!!!!!

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We had did it and we did it together. We arrived to find a few others but the longer we stayed the more others arrived. We ate a small snack and rested a bit before returning to the bottom by way of the AT once again. We saw deer, lizards, and many, many caterpillars along the way.

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When we finally arrived back at the 311 parking lot we had clocked a total of 9.5 miles and almost 6 hours of hiking with I would say about 45 minutes were at the top exploring, resting and having lunch.

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Most importantly……I crossed something of my bucket list that I will cherish forever…..my own iconic photographs on the top of McAfee Knob with the love of my life.

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A dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!