Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Frugal Hiking With Kids: Bayfield, Wisconsin

We've been home a few weeks now, but the loveliness of Bayfield, Wisconsin still lingers in my mind.  Seeing a Facebook post from the Apostle Island National Lakeshore page, posting about swimming bears reminded me to post a bit more about the lovely hikes we took while vacationing in the area.

First - the Big Ravine Hiking Trail.  With a trail head literally across from the condo we rent, this was the first time taking the 2 mile route.  With kids just shy of ages 7 and 5, it was a fabulous hike.   Highly recommend for those new to hiking or who have little feet along for the day.

Second - the Children's Board Walk at Whittlesey Creek, a US National Wildlife Refuge, about 20 minutes south of Bayfield.  We started with the stellar information office, complete with interactive displays, restrooms, bottled water, and rooftop views.  Continued to the children's boardwalk for a short, but excellent walk through prairie to forest and back to prairie.  No admission cost, bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the tables next to the information center.  

Third - Copper Falls State Park, located about 1 hour south of Bayfield, we stopped on the 6 hour drive home to Madison.  Admission was free because of our Wisconsin State Parks sticker, and were were wowed!  I'd read this was a gem of a park, and cannot agree more.  The kids had no problem with the 1.7 mile hike, which takes you along the river, with views of various falls, and across 3 bridges.  We joked it was a bit like a Dora Episode -- cross the bridge, climb the stairs, ......and he had a wonderful time.  The concessions was top-rate and completely unexpected: burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc.  A definite "must see", and a place we'll likely return on future trips to the north woods.

Fourth - boardwalk at Big Bay State Park.  With take-your-breath-away views, it was a gorgeous hike.  My apologies for the few others who were there to enjoy the beauty of nature.  Our oldest had a meltdown upon arrival when a "bee the size of a bird" flew into the Honda was he scrambled to undo his seat belt and exit.  It took nearly 30 minutes for him to calm down, stop screaming at every insect hovering at the picnic table, and regain his composure.  The hike out to the beach along the boardwalk was delightful, as were the kids playing the sand, but upon learning she had to walk the entire way back to the car (not ride on dad's shoulders), child number two launched an epic fit.  She screamed, threw dagger eyes, and created a lasting memory for this frugal mom (and dad), but she did "hike" back to the car.  Again, admission was fee with our Wisconsin State Parks sticker.  And a thank you to those fellow park goers who looked the other way as our children grow their hiking skills!  Frugal note -- it cost $50 for the family and car to take the ferry over to Madeline Island, where Big Bay is located.  We looked at leaving the car and walking, but the park is 5 miles from the ferry landing.  The kids are still too young to bike that distance, and walking was out, so the Honda and the extra fee it was!

There you are, four hikes, all with small children, during our week in Bayfield.  Essentially free, fun-filled, and healthy ways to explore this natural wonder and deepen our families connection with planet earth.

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