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Old 06-26-2013, 09:21 PM   #76
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Thursday June 20th


It was after 6pm by the time we got off of the ferry. And we had a five hour drive ahead of us. This was poor planning on my part. In retrospect, I should’ve planned an additional night in Copper Harbor before leaving…

We were headed to Duluth, Minnesota.

In addition to having a long drive in the dark; we had rain off and on and very heavy fog. It was a very scary drive. When we finally made it to the hotel, it was around midnight. There was another family checking in as well, and they were also talking about what a miserable drive in it was; they said the fog was so bad they had to pull over at times because they couldn’t see anything at all and it was the same for us.

We stopped and ate dinner on the drive; I believe we had Dairy Queen.

Once settled in the room, Dillon took a shower but the rest of us went straight to bed with plans to shower in the morning.

We still woke up pretty early the next morning and by 6:30am we were headed down to the breakfast buffet. Their buffet was delish! They had a lot of hot items along with some very fresh pastries.

This hotel had a pool with a waterslide and the little kids were dying to get in. Since the pool opened at 6, they actually wore their swim clothes to breakfast and we headed straight for the pool from breakfast.

Wesley and Dillon didn’t feel like swimming, so they headed back to their room.

I didn’t want to swim either, so I carried my laptop with me to the pool so I could catch up on emails and work on my trip report; we hadn’t been able to access wi-fi since before Isle Royale.

Unfortunately, once at the pool we realized that even though the pool opened at 6am, the water slide didn’t open until 8am which was a disappointment. We decided they could just swim until the slide opened.

After swimming impatiently for an hour, they were counting the minutes until the slide was to open at 8am. Promptly at 8am, the hotel staff came in to start the slide but before she could get it running- the power went outL.

Turns out, the power was out on the entire street due to all the crazy weather we’d been having.
We decided just to wait out the power outage at the pool. Unfortunately, the staff asked the kids to stay out of the pool until the power returned- which meant we just sat around waiting….

We went back and ate a little more breakfast as we ended up without power for an hour and a half.

The power finally came back on and the kids made good use of the slide.

We headed back to the room for showers and packing.

Check out wasn’t until noon and we decided to take advantage of it. So, we stayed in the room until check out just relaxing.

Upon check out, we headed to our next destination: Voyageurs National Park.

*I just have a few pictures from this day and will wait and include them in the next day's slideshow...
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Old 06-26-2013, 09:28 PM   #77
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So sorry about the scary drive to Minnesota, but glad you all arrived safely. Glad the kids finally got some time on the pool slide.
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Old 06-26-2013, 11:27 PM   #78
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So sorry about the scary drive to Minnesota, but glad you all arrived safely. Glad the kids finally got some time on the pool slide.
That drive was definately scary! The kids were very glad when the power came back on so the slide could be used
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Old 06-26-2013, 11:32 PM   #79
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Friday June 21st- Monday 24th
After checking out of the hotel at noon, we had a short 2.5 hour drive to Voyageurs National Park. We stopped for lunch at Dairy Queen again and also stopped for groceries at Wal-Mart.

We were then headed to Voyagaire where we had rented a house boat for three nights.

Voyagers National Park is the only National Park that is entirely accessible by water. Upon research, it seemed all the reading material suggested touring the park by water.

I had very little boating experience, but I was assured over the phone that the boat would be easy peasy despite it being 42 ft long and by law having to pull a motor boat behind it. I really wasn’t sure how well this was going to go over…
But I was up for the adventure…

In the office, I was given a map and some suggestions. On the boat, I was given a short tutorial and off we went…

They pull you off the dock and drive you out about a mile and then hand the boat over to you while another small boat picks up the boating staff and takes them back to base leaving you on your own.

I quickly got the hang of driving the boat, but couldn’t figure out the navigating very well, as I quickly heard on the radio: “Edie Marie – you are headed the wrong way”. They had pointed me to an island: Indian Island, where I could dock for the night before heading north tomorrow since it was already getting late in the day.

Apparently, I was heading to the wrong island. The small boat actually drove back out and led me to Indian Island which had a sandy shore making it very easy to just run the boat right onto the sand to dock. Wesley and Dillon were to tie the boat up from the back at a 45 degree angle on both sides. They also had to remove the pull along motor boat from the back and tie it to shore separately. They did a really good job and this became their daily chore each day with the boat.

Once tied to shore- Dillon, Winston, and Austin went for a swim around the island. Wesley cooked bbq chicken on the grill and Madilyn fried French fries on the stove. I mapped out a plan for tomorrow using the navigation map they provided.

After dinner, we just hung around the boat. At 9pm, Voyagaire hosts a nightly trivia contest among any of the boats interested. Dillon took the radio and put us in the game. We had fun, but unfortunately didn’t win. By the time trivia was over, we were exhausted and ready for bed.
A mosquito had gotten into the boat and kept buzzing in my ear during the night which kept me awake and drove me nuts. So, I got a terrible night sleep. I got up several times during the night and tried to kill it unsuccessfully.

The boat was set up with two bunk beds, for a total of four beds in the bedroom and two pull out beds in the living/kitchen. The table turns into a bed and so does the couch. The bunk beds were actually doubles, and we decided that Austin and Winston could share a bunk and Madilyn and I would share a bunk that way we didn’t have to assemble/take down the living/kitchen beds every day. This worked very well.

The next morning for breakfast we had donuts and got ready to head out. Wesley and Dillon had to hook the pull behind back to the back of the house boat as well as untie us from the dock. I was surprised at how well I was able to back the boat out as it’s very long. But I was successful.
We were planning to head north through the narrow passage. I was hoping to make it to Kettle Falls. My plan was to dock up north somewhere for the night, and then drive back down to Indian Island the next day so that we’d be docked close to base before we “checked out” Monday morning. It was a good plan. But the best laid plans…

You navigate using the navigational map they provide and there are buoys in the water marked with numbers so that you can reference the map to see where you are at.

But, I just couldn’t get the hang of it. For example, let’s say I was at buoy 30 and I wanted to head towards buoy 28. Well, when at buoy 30- you can’t see the next buoy… So as I’m driving toward 28, there may be three different openings where I could drive too. How in the world do I know which one to take if I can’t see the next buoy?
Well, in my attempt to go through the narrows, I ended up in a dead end. So, I turned around but then I must have driven through a shallow spot because I could hear that I had hit something. The boat just kept going, but I figured I better report it to base. They sent someone out assess the situation and said it was no big deal and the boat was fine.

They also pointed me in the direction of the Narrows. There was another houseboat headed up through the Narrows also, so they told me to just follow them through.

It was beautiful driving through there and I can see why it’s called the narrows, as much of the passage is very narrow. But there were oftentimes more than one way to go and had I not had a boat to follow, I surely would’ve gone the wrong way at times.

The boat I was following wasn’t going as far north as I wanted, they were just heading to Grassy Knoll. By this time, I had decided that I may not have the navigational skills to get us all the way to Kettle Falls.

So, we decided to dock at Grassy Knoll for the day. Grassy Knoll didn’t have any sand shores to dock on like Indian Island, so you had to dock on rocks which scared me. You head towards these huge rocks and then put the boat in neutral and cost up to the rocks, but the boat is so big- it makes a horrid sound and there is a big thump when you hit the rock. Well, Dillon jumped off onto the big rock to tie us in, but didn’t take the rope with him. So we immediately started drifting back to sea. Dillon was now on the island alone. I had to drive back and do it all over again. This time Wesley jumped off with the rope in hand. They got us all tied up and we began lunch- grilled hotdogs and sausages with chips and dip.
The radio announced we were expecting storms that evening and to tie up good. Well, the more time went by I decided I just didn’t feel safe docked on these rocks. The only thing holding us to land was the ropes. On Indian Island you actually drive the boat a bit onto the sandy shore giving it some extra reinforcement.

So, when it got close to evening we undocked and pulled off the rocks to head back to Indian Island for the night. I had a hard time navigating us back through the narrows and had to radio into base a few times for navigational assistance which was minimally helpful since they really didn’t know exactly where I was.

We did eventually make it back to Indian Island where we docked for the night. And wouldn’t you know, we ended up having zero storms that night.

For dinner we had BLT’s.

We participated in trivia again that night, but again we didn’t win.

The next day, I wasn’t sure what we should do since it was clear I was unable to navigate the waters very well. Wesley wanted to just stay put on Indian Island all day, but I really didn’t want to just sit all day. I decided that I felt very comfortable I could navigate us back through the narrows to Sandy Point which was just above where we’d went the day before.

I was able to navigate us there no problem. We didn’t dock up there, but rather just drove around taking in the sights. We did see the Canadian customs, as the waters in Voyageurs connect to Canada.

We drove back to Indian Island and had a late lunch- hotdogs grilled again.

We spent the day just lounging around, the kids swam some more and we made up some of our own trivia games to play around the boat.
The next morning, we packed up quickly and headed the boat back into base for check out.
Unfortunately, because I was unable to navigate us very well- we were unable to dock at any of the visitor centers for junior ranger badges and my passport stamp.

But I was going to just pick those things up from a visitor center via driving. But it turns out Voyageurs NP visitor centers are closed on Sundays and Mondays which I find very odd. Due to it being a Monday, they were closed and we were unable to get junior ranger badges or my passport stamp for this park which was a real bummer.

In retrospect, I would not have toured Voyageurs NP via houseboat. If I had better navigation skills, it would have been the perfect way to visit this park. But I didn’t have the skills to allow us to properly explore it. I should have just drove to Kettle Falls and visited as much as I could via driving/hiking and then maybe take a guided tour of some sort out on the waters.

But there is no changing it now. We did have a good time on the house boat and it was quite the adventure, it just wasn’t the best way for us to tour the park.

I hope to go back someday so that I can properly explore the park; and also so that Austin can get his Junior Ranger badge and I can get my passport stamped .

(**as I type this two days after getting off the boat, I still feel like I'm on a rocking boat each time I close my eyes; lol)
Here are the pics from this leg of the trip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVt_iNuy9Lg
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Old 06-27-2013, 12:03 AM   #80
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That was quite an adventure! Fun to say you spent a couple of nights on a houseboat. It does take some practice to be able to read navigation charts, and I think you did very well to navigate the area as well as you did.
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Old 06-27-2013, 02:23 AM   #81
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Sorry about that horrible drive and the problems with the power.

Voyagers really sounds wonderful, although I think I'd be like you with the navigation as well - obviously it's not as straightforward as they have you think. I'm loving this report, as I'm learning about so many national parks I'd never even heard of. The only problem is I'm adding parks to my "to do", which just continues to grow longer and longer...
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Old 06-27-2013, 06:47 AM   #82
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Wow - it looks like you did a great job in what I would say were difficult conditions. It's one thing to hand off a 40+ foot boat to someone on an open lake, but quite another when you have to navigate through narrow (and rocky) channels. A little GPS that charted your course would have been very helpful.

I imagine this is an adventure you and the kids will talk about for years to come ...
"Hey Mom, remember that time you tried to leave Dillon on that Island in Minnesota?"

Also enjoying reading the parts about the little kids wanting to swim. How many times have we taken our kids on vacations (even to to Disney), and all they want to do is swim in the pool?
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Old 06-27-2013, 11:48 AM   #83
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I can just imagine how scary the drive to Minnesota was in the rain and fog! Sounds like the kids had a great morning at the pool, despite the little power outage. The houseboat sounds like a great way to tour the park. Sorry the navigation wasn't easier!
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Old 06-27-2013, 03:04 PM   #84
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I'm pretty sure I'd be totally lost trying to follow a navigational map, but the idea of visiting the park via houseboat does sounds very fun.
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Old 06-27-2013, 08:15 PM   #85
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Originally Posted by lauriep View Post
That was quite an adventure! Fun to say you spent a couple of nights on a houseboat. It does take some practice to be able to read navigation charts, and I think you did very well to navigate the area as well as you did.
Thanks!
It was definately an adventure...

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Originally Posted by chezp View Post
Sorry about that horrible drive and the problems with the power.

Voyagers really sounds wonderful, although I think I'd be like you with the navigation as well - obviously it's not as straightforward as they have you think. I'm loving this report, as I'm learning about so many national parks I'd never even heard of. The only problem is I'm adding parks to my "to do", which just continues to grow longer and longer...
It really was a great park and well worth a visit; I only hope I can return one day to see more of it...

Quote:
Originally Posted by shazza View Post
Wow - it looks like you did a great job in what I would say were difficult conditions. It's one thing to hand off a 40+ foot boat to someone on an open lake, but quite another when you have to navigate through narrow (and rocky) channels. A little GPS that charted your course would have been very helpful.

I imagine this is an adventure you and the kids will talk about for years to come ...
"Hey Mom, remember that time you tried to leave Dillon on that Island in Minnesota?"

Also enjoying reading the parts about the little kids wanting to swim. How many times have we taken our kids on vacations (even to to Disney), and all they want to do is swim in the pool?
A GPS would have been VERY helpful!!

When the kids grow to adults, I'll be curious to hear their memories/perspective on these trips

The kids are all about swimming no matter where we are; I remember being shocked our first visit to Disney at how much the kids wanted to swim- I just couldn't understand it especially since at the time we had a pool at home

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I can just imagine how scary the drive to Minnesota was in the rain and fog! Sounds like the kids had a great morning at the pool, despite the little power outage. The houseboat sounds like a great way to tour the park. Sorry the navigation wasn't easier!
That drive really was scary.... I had been worried at the start of that drive that I'd get too sleepy since we'd be driving so long/late; but the weather had me so nervous that I was easily wide awake....

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I'm pretty sure I'd be totally lost trying to follow a navigational map, but the idea of visiting the park via houseboat does sounds very fun.
It was a fun way to visit the park and for someone who could navigate better, it'd probably be the *perfect* way to visit the park; the park has 3 (or 4?) visitor centers and they have boat docks at them; so the park is essentially intended to be toured via water...
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Old 06-27-2013, 08:24 PM   #86
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Monday June 24th:
We woke up right about 6am and quickly started getting ready. Check out on the house boat was 9am, but we planned to get going as quickly as we could as we had a long drive ahead of us.

Once ready, the boys untied us from shore and we were off to the boarding docks. It was around 7am when I radioed into shore that we were approaching. They came out and climbed aboard to officially dock us. The kids started unloading the boat while I pulled the van over.

I had to check out in the office and pay for my gasoline usage. And then we were off to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. We had a 6.5 hour drive ahead of us.

It was mostly an uneventful drive; with a bathroom stop, gas stop, McDonalds lunch stop, and grocery stop. Once arriving in Wisconsin Dells, we quickly seen the place was booming with water parks.

We had a reservation with Wolf Lodge- a large indoor waterpark and everyone was very excited.

Once checked into the lodge, we got settled into our room which was very nice. The kids were dying to head into the water park, so we got ready and headed down to the first floor where the water park was. There was so much to do and the lines were practically nonexistent; the park is only open to lodge guests keeping it from getting overly busy. We all had a great time.

Around 7pm, Wesley and Dillon headed back to the room to shower. Around 7:30pm, I dragged the little kids out of the park who were having such a great time they didn’t want to go back to the room for dinner. For dinner we had microwavable dinners. We stayed up a little later than usual just watching television and using the internet.

The next morning we had microwavable frozen pancakes for breakfast and just lounged around the room. The water park doesn’t open until 9am, check out was at 11am, but you were allowed to use the water park all day even once you checked out.

At 9:30am, everyone was ready to go to the waterpark except Dillon who was still on the laptop. So, I let Wesley take the younger kids down to the park with strict instructions to stick together and that I’d finish packing up, Dillon would help me load the van, and we’d catch up to them shortly.

We used luggage carts to haul everything down to the van and got loaded up very quickly. I also made sandwiches for lunch.

Dillon and I were quickly reunited with the other kids in the water park where they were having a blast. I took over little kid duty and Wesley & Dillon took off on their own.

The boys ended up discovering a whole other section of the waterpark that we hadn’t seen the day before; this area included a large wave pool and several more slides.

I was so glad Winston had learned how to swim; this really enhanced our water park experience! We’ve been to waterparks before when he couldn’t swim and it limited his ability to do some things, but he absolutely had the best time putting his new skill to good use.

The water park was a huge success with all the kids and they really wished we could stay longer.

We ended up heading out around 1pm after eating our sandwiches for lunch.

Shazza on the boards had gave me the idea to eat cheese in Wisconsin. And apparently it’s a popular thing to do, as there are big signs for cheese shops everywhere.

So, we stopped by a cheese shop next door to be sure that we enjoyed some Wisconsin cheese. Wesley loves cheese and was really excited. He tried several samples before deciding on one that he liked best; I got a pound and he ate the entire thing.

Dillon and Austin each got a piece of hot beef jerky. Madilyn, Winston, and I got a pound of cheese fudge to share. I’d never heard of cheese fudge before, but we sampled it and enjoyed it.

After this stop we headed toward Illinois.

Here are the pics from this leg of the trip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXKs0id3bSM
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:04 PM   #87
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Sorry for the scary drive to Duluth! How cool to explore Voyagers on a houseboat! Glad the kids are having a great time at the waterpark!
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:40 PM   #88
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How great to have a waterpark right in your hotel! And the room looked great-- big enough for everyone. Winston really did time learning to swim just right for this trip. I love your choice of music for the video and enjoyed watching Winston navigate the obstacle course. Almost made it!
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Old 06-28-2013, 01:59 AM   #89
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Another great update - the waterpark sounds wonderful.
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Old 06-28-2013, 06:26 AM   #90
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Fun video with your pics. The kids look like they are having such a good time. Love the idea of a waterpark within the resort/hotel.

Glad you got the Cheese in Wisconsin!
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