Amnicon Falls State Park

7/27/16

It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon and we are currently at Amnicon Falls State Park in Northern Wisconsin. We have come here to camp for a few nights before continuing on to the Apostle Islands. Kyle used to come to Amnicon Falls with his family a couple times a year growing up and he has been wanting to take me here for quite some time.

I completely understand why he was so eager to share it with me as it is a unique and beautiful place. There are about 30 or so campsites which each have fire rings, picnic tables, and nearby water and facilities. Throughout the park there are numerous waterfalls of different sizes and strengths. The river runs through the park and provides endless views and hiking along its edge. We arrived on Monday evening towing Solvi behind us. Within an hour of setting up camp and making dinner we were off to go swimming. The Upper Falls is a waterfall that is really quite strong and you are able to swim in, behind, and around it. I must admit I was a bit hesitant to get in at first because the strength of falls is intimidating. img_0941When you get in you have to keep your legs out in front of you so you can push yourself off the rock ledge. We then swam around the waterfall and went behind it- it was awesome! I have been behind waterfalls before in Utah and North Carolina, but never one of this strength. The water surged passed us as we leaned against the wall behind the falls. I found myself giggling with excitement because it was pretty incredible how much water was all around me. Kyle enjoyed jumping through the falls and getting pushed to the ledge at the end of the swim pit. After watching him do it so many times I decided to try…it didn’t go so well. I went feet first for some reason and put my head back just as I was going under the falls, so needless to say the pressure from the falls rushed right up my nose, mouth, and throat. I came up spitting and coughing while Kyle held on to me, once I caught my breath and got all the water out, we laughed. I didn’t try that again 🙂

That night we had a fire and enjoyed the sunset over the treed valley behind our campsite. It was a clear night and we sat in our camp chairs watching the dusk slowly turn into dark. Every once in a while we’d look up and notice more and more lights shining down on us until suddenly the night sky was scattered with the luminous balls of gas that are stars. The next morning we awoke and made some breakfast and packed lunches before heading off for a day of swimming and hiking. Kyle was going to take me to a place that he and his family call “secret falls.” They call the falls this because getting there takes some navigating. First we hiked down the river to a little tributary which we then waded up, Kyle holding our backpack above his head. We arrived at some rocks and once we climbed over them we were greeted by a big swimming pit created from the strength of the falling water. No one else was there and it seemed really secluded and a bit serene. We went swimming right away and it was just beautiful-we swam, ate lunch, laid in the sun on the rocks, and enjoyed our private little falls. We then spent the rest of the day hiking around the river, took a snow shoe trail through the woods, and ended our evening with some food cooked over the fire and a game of chess.


As I mentioned earlier, today is a rather rainy and gloomy day that we have spent doing boat stuff to get ready for the Apostle Islands. I spent my morning going through all our gear and playing Tetris in order to get it to all fit in the boat, while also being aware of the weight of the gear as to not mess with Solvi’s balance. Kyle is doing some sanding and final fittings with the changes we made to the rig in order to lower the sail’s height a bit.

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Trying to stay dry while working!

We are listening to Johnny Cash and feeling rather excited about our adventure that starts tomorrow. Our plan is to drive an hour to Little Sand Bay where we will launch Solvi. We will then spend anywhere from 3-8 days exploring the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior (depending on weather and how we’re feeling about Solvi). If you have never heard of or seen the Apostle Islands definitely take a minute to Google them. We are using this trip as a “shake down cruise” for the Mississippi trip because we have brought every piece of gear we will be bringing on the Mississippi, even if we don’t need it for this trip, in order to figure out where things should go, how we like them, and if we need to change anything. Stay tuned for pictures and updates of our trip to the Apostles! Cheers.

Displacement and Growth 

     Due to the adventures that Kyle and I have chosen to take and experience, we often have people tell us that we are living the dream and that they wish they could do what we are doing. And while yes, I agree that we are living our dream, it’s not always as simple as it might seem. It is pretty exciting to quit our jobs, build a boat, and take off for 6+ months. It’s amazing not having to go to work everyday and answer to anyone except ourselves. It’s freeing to know that we get to go to bed when the sun sets and wake up when it rises. But I thought I might take some time to share that while it’s wonderful, and I wouldn’t change anything about what we are doing, it’s not always easy.  

     When we left Florida in June we drove away in my Mazda3 singing at the top of our lungs while we crossed the 7 mile bridge out of town. The windows were down, our beautiful boat was in tow behind us, and we felt free. We spent a wonderful weekend with my family in South Carolina and then it was time to say our goodbyes to my parents and continue our journey North. We went camping, backpacking, slept in Wal-Mart parking lots, stayed in a hotel in downtown Duluth and walked the town. We spent a week camping in Superior National Forest. It was delightful. But there were moments that weren’t so delightful for me. I say this because after a few weeks it really started to sink in that I just left everything behind. This isn’t just some week long vacation. I went through a wave of emotions. While most of the time I was happy and enjoying myself, there were times that I had a strong feeling of displacement. Kyle is the one who gave me that word, and I don’t think he could have pinned it more accurately. Some nights I found myself crying because I was scared. I was scared because I just left my routine, my security, my normal. I was worried about what would happen if we ran out of money and we aren’t done with the trip. Questions would run through my head such as: What if I can’t find another job I like when we get back? Should I really be traveling? What about the societal norms of working and getting married and buying a house and having kids? I was homesick- for my family, my friends, my house, my normality that I had found in Florida after 5 years of living in the routines of school and work.

     Fortunately I experienced a very similar wave of emotions when I left for my 3 month hike on the Appalachian Trail two years previously, so I was somewhat expecting it. But at the moment it didn’t make it much easier. I doubted what we were doing. Are we crazy?! We just spent all our money building a small little boat and are about to take it on a 4,000 mile journey! Anyway, my point is that there were quite a few moments where I felt very displaced and unsure about the decision I made to leave the security of the life I had built in Florida. But, what I am learning more and more as we go along is that is all part of the journey. All those emotions and difficulties and questions, they are making me a stronger more independent person. I am learning what I am scared of and how to overcome it.

     I think a lot of people dream dreams but are too scared to take the step to make them happen. And that’s okay, it is. But what I have learned is that it is okay to be scared. It’s okay to be displaced. In fact, it’s a way of growth. And now that we have been gone for a month and are just about to begin our real journey, I feel good. I feel confidant with the decision I made to take such a risk- whether we make it all the way back to Florida in our little boat or not, I know for a fact that it will be an adventure full of learning, beauty, and freedom. I no longer feel displaced. In fact, I feel at home even though we are traveling. It’s as though I had to be stripped of the comfort of my routines in order to experience life in it’s purest form. I now feel a sense of tranquility just being on this earth that I did not have before. I am grounded. Life is short, it really is, and I want to experience all that I can in my time here on this earth- so if that means being a bit uncomfortable and displaced every now and again, I am all in. I look forward to what this journey has to offer and let me sign off by encouraging you to take risks! Do what you love, don’t wait. As our role models Linn and Larry Pardey say, “Go simple. Go small. Go now.”

Solvi Build Time Lapse

**Scroll down for our latest updates!**

Here it is! The time lapse video of Solvi’s entire build from the very beginning to her first launch. The video is 13 minutes long, but definitely worth the time 🙂 If you like what you see, please like, share, and subscribe!

Solvi is our home built sail and oar boat called a Faering. We will be leaving August 15th to take her down the Mississippi River and then coastal hopping to Florida. Follow our blog to stay up to date on the adventure!

Rustic Campgrounds: Superior National Forest

On our way to the start of our river journey in Wisconsin Kyle and I spent a few days in Superior National Forest in Minnesota; this area is also known as the “Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness” or “BWCA”, because the lakes up there border with Canada. I wanted to write about it a bit and provide some information because it is such an amazing place and I encourage everyone to try to visit sometime in their journey of life. We were there in the middle of Summer and while a bit buggy, it was beautiful weather and temperatures. I have heard that Spring or early Fall are also great times to visit because the bugs are a bit subdued. Anyway, all throughout the forest they have what are called “rustic campgrounds”. These campgrounds are completely free, first-come-first-serve sites, and you are allowed to stay up to 14 days. There are 18 rustic campgrounds in the forest and there are 3-9 sites at each campground. There are picnic tables and a fire ring at each site and most of them have lake access. They also all have access to a porta-potty type bathroom. Although you do have to take a dirt road for about 1-2 hours in order to reach the campground, my Mazda towing Solvi did just fine and the directions and signs provided by the Forest Service (called the Department of Natural Resources up here) made getting around pretty easy. The signs all clean, easy to read, have arrows and mileage information for you. While the sites are a bit rugged without water and electricity, the fact that you can drive your car right up to the site makes it much more do-able for those who don’t like backpack type camping. But as the name “canoe area” implies, its wonderful to bring a small boat to enjoy the lake.

Now that I have explained the amenities, let me just say that growing up in Utah I have been to lots of beautiful lakes, forests, and campgrounds- but something about this place was different. The amount of wildflowers, wild life, and isolation from the busy world was very special. We absolutely loved the lake access at our site as we swam and took the boat out daily. The whole time we were there our pace of life slowed immensely; we often took time to just sit and observe our surroundings. One situation that stands out in my mind was the afternoon I decided to do some laundry. We had been living out of my car for over a week and were getting low on clean clothes so I set up my chair a couple feet off the shore and grabbed our biodegradable soap. There I spent over two hours hand washing each garment, scrubbing and rubbing,

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and working the soap through with my hands. I would then pile up the soapy clothes on a rock and continue on.Once all the clothes had been washed by hand I took them individually out into a deeper part of the lake and rinsed them. Once rinsed and rung out as best I could, I hung them on some line that I put up between trees. Like clockwork, as soon as all the clothes were hung, the sun poked through the clouds and a nice breeze came across the lake. There our clothes dried in the sunshine and breeze. Kyle mentioned the next day when he put on a clean outfit that he felt like his clothes were cleaner and fresher than usual- maybe he was just being nice, but I also thought they had a different feel to them. Doing laundry by hand next to a lake doesn’t really sound like it would be all that influential, but it was special to me. For the two hours it took to get it all done well, my mind was clear. I was focusing on what I was doing, enjoying the cool lake water rushing over my hands, the breeze as I would hang up each garment. Due to the isolation of where we were I was able to enjoy doing laundry, something that used to be a chore to me.

On other days we would spend our afternoon laying on a towel right next to the lake. Books, music, games, water, beer, cameras, hats, sunscreen, and bug spray scattered around us. We spent hours and hours just laying in the sun, randomly getting up to swim in the lake or take the boat on a sail. I had some fun with the wild daisies and attempted to take some close up photos.

 

Due to the fact that there was no cell phone service, no people around, and neither of us had any obligations to anything or anyone else, we spent our days going on impulse. If we felt like just laying and talking in the sunshine, that’s what we would do- for hours. If we felt like going on walk or gathering fire wood, we would do that. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but spending a whole day doing nothing but what comes to you through instinct is rather refreshing, I strongly encourage you to try it out.

 

 

As I mentioned above, most of the sites throughout the forest have lake access. The lake we stayed at, Kawishiwi Lake, had a boat launch that we were able to pull the car and trailer up to, and then we took the boat around the bend to our individual campsite. Therefore we could keep Solvi in the water right near the tent which was nice as we could watch over her and also take her out whenever we wanted. One afternoon Kyle took Solvi sailing and I stayed on shore taking some photos and footage for the time lapse.

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Solvi‘s home while we camped

Overall Kyle and I had the most spectacular week at Kawishiwi Lake Rustic Campground in Superior National Forest. The quality time we spent together and with the boat was much needed after so much work and effort to get the boat finished and towed up north. There was one day that I just sat in my camp chair next to the water and said my thank you’s. I was just feeling so grateful for all the experiences and beautiful places we were able to enjoy that I needed to make sure to thank the universe for providing it all. So as I sign off, I’d like to give a challenge to anyone reading this. Sometime today or tonight, take 1-10 minutes, whatever you can give yourself, and go outside. Once you are outside find a quiet place to sit or stand- be quiet and still. Observe what is around you, pay attention to smells, sounds, and sensations that come to you. Breathe. Say five thank you’s for people, things, or experiences in your life that bring you joy. The world is a beautiful place and if we could all just take a few minutes each day to appreciate it, I feel as though the world truly would be a better place 🙂

 

Check out these links for more information on camping and visiting Superior National Forest:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/…/stelprdb5295334.pdf

http://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/superior/recreation

http://www.bwca.cc/activities/camping/snf-rusticcampgrounds.html

Our Way Up North

It has been almost two weeks since our departure from Florida. We first traveled up the east coast to South Carolina and then made our way to Virginia, next to Minnesota, and are currently in Wisconsin at Kyle’s parents house! So we have officially made it up north- Solvi in tow behind our Mazda3 all the while.

While in South Carolina we spent a weekend on Kiawah Island in South Carolina for my grandfather’s 80th birthday.

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My Grandfather’s 80th Birthday Party

It was wonderful to spend time with family that I hadn’t seen in some time and to introduce Kyle to my family. We had a great time hanging by the pool, relaxing, napping, swimming in the ocean, and enjoying each others company. Kyle and I were also eager to show off Solvi to my family so we were thankful to be able to share her.

The following is an entry from my journal that gives some details and our favorite parts of our road trip journey up north:

7/3/16- It’s a Sunday morning and I am unaware of what time it is. I am sitting in my camp chair next to Kyle who is splicing line for Solvi’s sailing rig. My Mazda is to the left of me with Solvi towed behind. We have camped at a rustic campground that is surrounded by pines and many other tall trees. Our small opening of a campsite has some large boulders poking out from their home in the earth and there is tall grass and wildflowers strewn all about. All I can hear is the birds talking through the trees and the constant buzzing of bees, flies, and mosquitoes trying to get past my barrier of “OFF! Bug Spray” that lingers around me. Sometimes a gust of wind comes through and although I can not feel it, I hear the trees moving about at their highest point. My favorite part is that if I stand up and walk a couple hundred yards in front of me I come to an opening in the trees and brush. This opening is different as it seems to burst with smells and colors because it leads to a large fresh water lake- Kawishiwi Lake in Superior National Forest in Minnesota. Vast and beautiful. Surrounded by trees in all directions. A small boulder protrudes from the water off to the right and an island full of life stands tall with pines to the left. Soon I will be swimming to that boulder to jump off and enjoy the refreshing water- this makes me smile in anticipation.

Kyle and I have been living out of our Mazda3 named Molly (while towing Solvi behind) for about two weeks now. After spending a relaxing and much needed weekend in South Carolina with family, we made our way to Virginia. Starting at Grindstone Campground in Rye Valley, we did a two night, three day, 20 mile backpacking loop through the Grayson Highlands and Mount Rogers Wilderness Area. This section was one of my favorite places on the Appalachian Trail from my hike two years ago, and I had been eager to share it with Kyle. And to our delight, it could not have been a more beautiful and enjoyable three days. Our first day we hiked about 6 miles until we got to a vista that we just couldn’t pass up.IMG_0473

In all my time camping and backpacking I think I can honestly say this was my favorite place to call home for a night. We were on the Appalachian Trail surrounded by fairly dense forest climbing up a mountain towards a ridge when Kyle noticed a side trail which we took a couple hundred yards and suddenly the trail opened up to the most spectacular area. Green, green grass seemed to glow in an open meadow completely surrounded by forest. Views of mountains miles away in both directions. Boulders the size of a car spaced out in the grass. Wild ponies at the lowest point in the meadow grazing for hours on end.

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Wild Ponies Grazing

Blue skies with white puffy clouds standing by in the distance. We took a few minutes to just sit and take it all in before setting up our tent for the night. We chose a nice place just in the tree line to be protected from any weather. As soon as our tent was set up we grabbed our books, some snacks, our sleeping pads, and the camera and headed to the big boulder. There, on the highlands of Virginia, we spent our afternoon. Reading, drifting in and out of sleep, and taking time to sit completely still and quietly take in the sights, smells, and sounds that surrounded us. That evening there was a magnificent rain storm that came through the valley and we said our thank you’s, warm and dry in our tent, for such a beautiful day. The rest of the backpacking trip had a similar feel to our first day; we were constantly greeted by wild ponies, endless vistas and views, and great hiking weather. I was so grateful to have had such a wonderful experience for Kyle’s first real backpacking trip. Life sure is good!