Friday, June 1, 2018

Happiness in the Northwoods

There’s something so magical about the northwoods of Wisconsin in the summer time. I’m not really sure whether it’s because I grew up spending most of my summers there or if it’s an escape from the city for me, but it’s probably a mix!

Living in the Chicagoland area most of my life, Wisconsin has always been a short drive for me. I always went to Milwaukee to visit my dad's side of the family and it always felt like a treat. 

We also grew up going on summer trips to northern Wisconsin. There are endless trees, bodies of water and usually no cell service. We grew up running around outside fishing, swimming and blueberry picking. It was so different from my usual surroundings and the air felt more pure and life was more simple. 

I also grew up going to summer camp in the northwoods. Camp Manito-wish YMCA has truly shaped me into the person I am today. So much of my skill set I use in my personal and professional worlds come from my summers here. Adaptability, taking initiative, honesty, and so on. Not only did we do the usual camp activities of crafts, music and horse back riding but we also went on canoeing, kayaking and backpacking trips for various lengths depending on our skill set. Yes, this blogger loves camping. We don’t shower, we get dirty, we make all our own food and we don’t have any electronics and it’s amazing. 

For as long as I can remember it’s been my happy place. 

This past weekend, my dad and I made the trip back up to Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. It's a cute little town that’s surrounded by acres of trees and water. I would say our favorite breakfast place is the Grainery. This cute little restaurant is right on your way into town. The ladies that run the restaurant never forget a face and always make you smile. They have amazing omelets and scrambles. 

The collection of northwoods towns have a traveling flea market, that's filled with amazing finds and food and always good people watching! There's endless bodies of water to fish as well. Everyone up there is so nice and so friendly and always willing to tell you a story or two. 

Two bars we love going to are Headwaters and the Boulder Beer Bar. Both have excellent fried cheese curds, a Wisconsin delicacy, and are open most of the day and turn into bars at night. A beer is about $1.75, so really quite a culture shock from the usual $5-$7 a Miller Lite goes for in downtown Chicago. On Saturday's there's quite a karaoke scene at the BBB!

But can we just take a second and appreciate Fried Cheese Curds? Although I love, love, love, Louisiana and hope to move back their soon, they will never have the same fried cheese curds. Fried Cheese Curds are basically mini mozzarella sticks, but they're filled with cheddar cheese. They are little bites of pure love and joy and if you ever find yourself in Wisconsin, please do yourself a favor and find some of these bad boys!

When we went on our camping trips, we paddled and hiked the local area quite often. It's so beautiful and untouched. You can feel that the air is more pure. There's so many outside active things to do. Whether you're biking the trails, paddling the water or fishing in the lakes. Pictured is Lower Dam, you usually can't paddle it but I spent a lot of time portaging around it. 

People find it surprising that a girly-girl like me could enjoy something that involves a lot of sweat and a lot of dirt. However, the people, the atmosphere, and the life lessons have kept me coming back. I always felt like I belonged and that there was a community of people who loved me no matter what. 

Last weekend was the first time in a long time that I felt relaxed. I wasn't in a rush, I wasn't constantly ticking off things on my to-do list, I wasn't stressed out about things out of my control. I longed for reading my book by the water, and I could appreciate the simplest things and just be in awe of what nature has to offer us.

I think two other huge reason I felt extra happy to be up north this time around was that I hadn’t been there in a few years and we lost my grandfather this past January. There’s so many things that remind me of him and the North Woods is one of them. My grandpa was a wise, kind, and adventurous man. I remember picking blueberries with him and my grandmother, playing pick up sticks and enjoying the water with him. It's so crazy how revisiting a place can bring all those memories flooding back, but I know that I will forever love this place, and he will forever be apart of it.

The odds of you ending up in Boulder Junction are kind of slim. It's about 8 hours north of Chicago, and it's not exactly somewhere people just pass through. However, if you ever do find yourself here; take an extra deep breath, feel the wind on your face, and appreciate the little things that the Earth has given us. 
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