Sitting in my Airstream, I dream of summer travel. I don’t know if I’ll be able to travel, but I hope to. I miss having fun meeting new people and visiting new places. But while I wait, I’ve been thinking of the places I want to go from some favorites to some places that give me the nature and tranquility that I love. If I can travel safely, here are the places I would go. Fingers crossed for the official green light!
The Magical Northland At Lake Superior
This is one of my favorite destinations. There are numerous places to stay along hundreds of miles of coastline in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I fell in love with Ashland, Wisconsin, which is on Chequamegon Bay and is very close to the Apostle Islands, a National Lakeshore that is accessible only by boat or ferry. To visit the islands, there are kayak tours, boat tours, and a hotel on Madeline Island with plenty of charming shops and walks worth taking. The lakeshore is special because of the cliffs and water “caves” which can be explored by kayak. Lake Superior is a very large and cold body of water, so water exploration must be done safely and with a guide. For those who would rather remain on shore, don’t worry -- there are many things to do on land, too.
The town of Ashland is a historic outpost, known as the City of Murals. Many of its buildings feature artwork. Take a day drive over to Bayfield on the peninsula. See the harbor and visit the maritime museum. My favorite place to visit is Blue Vista Farm, where you can pick your own organic blueberries. Travel up to the point of the peninsula and you’ll find the Red Cliff Reservation. You can visit the casino and Frog Bay Tribal National Park. Hike through the conservation area and take a trail that leads to the lakeshore. These walks require steady footing. Be mindful of where on the peninsula you are allowed to be and where the restricted areas are. Native Americans live on the reservation and ask you to not intrude.
Finally, Ashland has a wonderful but small city-run Kreher RV park. There is a wonderful asphalt walkway along the shoreline that stretches for about four miles to parks on the east and west sides of town. This walkway is accessible for anyone any time of day but is particularly popular at sunset.
You may want to follow the lakeshore through Minnesota from Duluth all the way north to Grand Portage at the Canadian border (just south of Thunder Bay). Beautiful views and unparalleled access to forest beauty and lakefront tranquility are available. In the opposite direction from Ashland is Copper Harbor in the far northeastern point of Wisconsin. From there, you can witness the absolute vastness of Lake Superior in all its glory, with Canada on the farthest shores.
Temperatures in the summer are quite moderate for those of us used to warmer climes. Know that you may have mosquito and fly invasions, so be ready with your preparation of choice to ensure you have an enjoyable visit.
Idaho: A 3-For-1 Travel Bonanza
I can’t choose a single location to stay in this state as it is quite varied and all beautiful. I’ll give you three highlights and let that guide you to a great vacation area. Coeur d’Alene is an alpine destination across the border from Spokane, Washington, just off I-90. The Spokane River feeds across the border, creating a fantastic lake area on which Coeur d’Alene sits. The Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail is a scenic drive, camping, and hiking area that offers fantastic scenery. If you are really lucky, you’ll hit cherry season in late summer. Of course, the town sits in the Cascade mountains, so the views go on for miles and miles.
Head to the middle-eastern edge of the state to Henrys Lake State Park. It sits between the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park, 20 minutes to the north, and Grand Tetons National Park to the south. Henrys is an alpine lake at 8,000 feet in elevation and is surrounded by beautiful peaks. Moose and bear are in the surrounding areas, where hiking trails abound. You can launch your boat at the park and explore miles and miles of coastline. But don’t plan to swim in the lake as leeches are abundant. There is another county RV park on the far western shore of the lake if the state park is full. There is nothing to do here but enjoy nature, stars, and fish and see the wildlife -- and that’s the point of it. You’ll have an amazing time. Of course, the national parks are easy day trips and there’s plenty to do and see there. You’ll avoid the crowds in a wonderful environment at this base camp.
The southwestern end of Idaho is like a desert moonscape surrounded by the Sawtooth mountains. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is on the way there. It’s literally a lava field where you can camp or day hike. As you move west, you’ll find the Snake River offers a beautiful landscape. There are plenty of parks that cater to fishermen and women along the river for fantastic fly fishing.
My favorite stop in the area is Bruneau Dunes State Park, home to sand dunes that you can climb! Nearby is a huge birding refuge, Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, which you can visit and drive through. The state park is small but has two campgrounds filled with wildlife including deer and coyotes, who announce themselves in the darkness. Stargazing is amazing here as well. One of the most beautiful elements of this part of Idaho is the purple light at dawn and dusk. It’s quite magical.
Go Deep Into Tranquility In A National Forest
The US Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forests and national lands that you can visit. There are organized campgrounds, usually without hookups, in many US Forests as well as dispersed (primitive) camping where you can park your RV. These locations are sometimes very remote, but the majority are just outside of small cities. Often you have to travel unpaved Forest Service roads to get to a campground, but the benefits are spectacular. Cell service is often hard to come by; however, the campgrounds have camp hosts and rangers who come through to monitor activities. Most campgrounds are located in magnificent scenic spots -- near rivers, lakes, or meadows -- and have canoe and kayak launches, hiking trails, and birding. Forest camping is for those who can easily maneuver rough roads and are able to dry camp and safely walk without the aid of pavement.
Come stay for a weekend of 12-volt camping. Get up at dawn and go to sleep with the sunset. I am always amazed at what a tonic this getaway provides. In summer, you must bring your mosquito repellent; citrus and citronella candles will not be enough. A popup screen house can be quite useful to enjoy the scenery. Long sleeves and long pants with a hat will keep you comfortable on hikes. I was nearly carried away by whopper mosquitos in the Chequamegon-Nicolet forest in Wisconsin, but the views were worth every buzz in my ear. Do note whether campfires are allowed in your area as conditions vary day to day.
County, State, And Army Corps Of Engineers Parks
Some of my favorite campgrounds are the smaller ones run by counties, states, and the Army Corps of Engineers. While national parks and the big famous parks are wonderful, too, you’ll find hidden gems right in your backyard. You’ll find government parks in nearly all major metro areas. These delightful places are perfect for a great RV weekend or week. Have a family gathering at a pavilion for a day trip or a group campout with friends. You will probably find only water and electric hookups with a dump station to use when you leave. Some of the more recently created parks have full hookups, though, which is a bonus!
Some of my favorites are Big Rock campground in the Kane County Forest Preserve outside of Chicago; Rock Creek State Park just outside of Des Moines, Iowa; Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park just outside Jacksonville, Florida; and Seven Points Army Corps of Engineers campground just outside of Nashville. Each has a beautiful natural setting with water access, trails, and wildlife of varying types. Most have a playground for kids, canoe or even motorboat launches, and outdoor sports like disc golf or even full-on golf courses. You’ll find things to do and you won’t have to travel very far from home. Depending on location and fire conditions, most allow campfires.
These kind of RV campgrounds have campsites that are well spaced and often wooded so you won’t feel like you’re cramped or stuck camping in a parking lot. Even if you are not up to hiking, you can easily walk these parks and sit outdoors to enjoy the natural setting.
Safe travels and see you down the road when we can all get back out there!