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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

One of the Best Visitor Centers

~Sunday, August 1, 2021~

Day 413

Nothing like waking up to the smell of pork being cooked all night. Jeff decided to slow roast a pork butt over low heat for 12 hours. Time to shut all those windows in the trailer now that we’ve awakened all those bears in the forest basically telling them to “come and get it.”

Nice to sleep in….I think it was 10:00 a.m. that we started our day. As of late, I’m trying to get a cross-stitch project done for my grandson before we arrive in Illinois, so there’s been quite a few late nights. Definitely needed to catch up on some zzz’s. I’m also trying a new experiment with tracking my water intake. I’ve always been a horrible water drinker. In fact, I’m lucky if I get 2 glasses a day. Yesterday, I forced myself to have 8 glasses and must say (though I didn’t like the more frequent trips to the bathroom), I feel more alert and less sluggish already. Maybe it’s the 9 hours of sleep I got, or both. Stay tuned on my progress.

We left around noon to check out the area. Taking Sadie along, we drove to Ashland to the David R. Obey Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center per the recommendation of our host. And we’re so glad we did.

They are heavily involved in the sustainability of the region’s cultural, historic and natural resources. The visitor center is named after former U.S. representative, David Obey who was instrumental in establishing the center to “remind the public where human beings fit in the scheme of things.” We’re all connected in some way. We’re so glad our timing of being in Wisconsin lined up with this visitor center being opened, since many on the trip so far have been closed due to COVID. However, they just reinstated their mask mandate in U.S. Forest Service buildings. I never thought we’d be donning these things again.

One of the many things we learned about the center was its arduous journey to get built in the first place. Thanks to the efforts of the non-profit group, Friends of the Center, their dream came to fruition in 1995 after lobbying the state and federal governments for nearly 6 years to finally obtain funds. Their persistence paid off, where they opened their doors 3 years later.

Their exhibits are top-notch with their unique displays staging human cultures interacting with the land and natural resources of the Northern Great Lakes region. It also touches heavily on climate change and its detrimental outcome already taking effect in the area. But it also highlights what we can all do to facilitate change. Each of us CAN make a difference. There were a few quotes that we had read which really sum up the urgency in us all doing our part……..

“With respect to climate change, we are like a person walking blindly toward a cliff….If we do not stop, take off our blinders and act with intelligence, we will at some point reach that tipping point and tumble off the edge of the world as we know and love it.”

-Jennifer Daryl Slack, professor of Communication and Cultural Studies, Michigan Tech University.

“The Ojibwe believe that we must think seven generations ahead when making decisions today. We cannot eliminate all the risk, but we can make a difference in slowing its impacts. The culture and lifeways of future generations will be affected by the choices we make.”

-Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

It made us feel good that with this travel experience, we ARE doing our part. As you look up before entering the second floor, you can’t help but notice the gorgeous murals painted by regional artist, Kelly Meredith.

She designed six vignettes depicting Native Americans, fur traders, loggers, farmers, fisherman and people who love the great outdoors. She’s also mingled in different species of plants and wildlife into her work. You can also see more of her mural painting talent on many of the buildings in downtown Ashland.

The second floor is an art gallery displaying work by local artists from Ashland and Bayfield counties; displays range from jewelry, quilts and weavings, to paintings. At the very top of the building is an observation deck with 360 degree views of Ashland and Bayfield and surrounding islands. where especially during the Spring and Fall especially, you can enjoy views of the birds-of-prey migrations and the Fall foliage. Just outside the visitor center, we also enjoyed the 3/4 mile boardwalk nature trail called the Children’s Forest Trail which highlighted the northwoods wetlands as it winds along a black ash, cedar and tamarack swamp, native to the area.

Next, we drove to Ashland to simply check out the town and those murals by the artist’s work we saw at the visitor center. Seeing these reminded us a lot of Exeter, CA with their many painted murals. The town itself reminded Jeff of the old San Carlos, CA where he grew up.

Next, we headed to Bayfield, a small charming town, also recommended. But first, a brewery stop….again! I must say, though I’m still not a beer drinker per se, it is pretty fun checking out the latest and greatest breweries. They are really popping up all over the place. Adventure Club Brewing was the perfect place to hang out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. They have a wonderful covered outdoor seating area, though we sat in the sun. Sadie had plenty of room to roam. There is also a very cool bike shop next door, Howl Adventure Center (found some tennis shoes I’d like to have but will come back another day). The moving wolf sculpture in front of their shop can’t be missed (see video). Very clever. After moving to one of the brewery’s large picnic tables to get out of the sun, we noticed one couple who had just arrived, not able to find a table. Since we had plenty of space, we invited them over to sit with us. It turned out to be the highlight of our day meeting these two. Derek and Allie, a young couple from Minnesota, took a week-long getaway to visit the area (their drive was only 3-½ hours). We must have chatted for over 2 hours over several beers, as they were quite intrigued about our travels and how we got to this point in our lives. They hope to do something like it one day. While we were sitting there, a free-spirited looking man came up to Jeff and I and offered us a jar of his homemade raspberry jam. How did he know that is my favorite? Jeff thought at first the guy was trying to sell something, so wasn’t too eager at first, to give him the time of day. The guy was sincere and simply likes to share what he loves making. It’s delicious by the way. Anyway, Allie and Derek are also headed to Madeline Island, so we hope to run into them again. I also gave them our “footprints” info. And we really hope to stay in touch. Wishing Derek and Allie all the best for their future!! Meeting people like these two makes our trip so worthwhile.

Well, as you might have guessed, our extended time at the brewery prevented us from seeing downtown Bayfield, but we’ll be back in the next few days before moving to our next destination. We had to make a few stops on our way back….the market for a few dinner items and fill up more water bottles at the Artesian well!! Finished off our day by making homemade banana/chocolate chip muffins to give to our hosts (well maybe we’ll have a few too).

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