Category Archives: Camping

Experiencing Villa Bellezza

Summer is here and along with it comes the season for sipping cocktails on patios while relaxing after a long and crazy work week. While many of my friends hold a strong appreciation for breweries, I find myself in a slightly different boat. No matter how hard I try I am just not a beer lover. The closest I come to loving beer is drinking a couple of PBR’s (Wisconsin girl here).

If I am going to test out a beverage nine times out of ten it is going to be wine. Luckily where I live there are a ton of great options nearby. One such location that still has me dreaming about its newest wine is the Villa Bellezza in Pepin, Wisconsin.

This past weekend for my friend’s bachelorette party I met her and the rest of the crew at Villa Bellezza. Upon arriving early I decided to start a wine tasting while I waited. Each tasting is three wines of your choice and one that the winery chooses to give for free. You can taste as many as you want, but each tasting will cost you $5. If you buy four bottles however, one tasting will be free and you will get a 5% discount.

I decided to try two different tastings. I tasted 7 different wines (the free one twice) and I bought two bottles. I should state for the record that I like a vast variety of reds and whites from sweet to dry, so what I like and what someone else likes, may vary, but the majority of our group agreed that the, Terra, which is a fruity, dry red wine, was the option for us all to purchase. We drank quite a bit of this back at our campsite later that evening.

My favorite wine over all of the rest was the Frontenac Reserve which is a dry red wine with a lot of deep oaky black cherry flavor. This particular wine is new this year and it’s selling like hot cakes. I had to have a bottle to take home, and who knows, I will be back in Pepin this weekend and I may just buy another.

Now if you prefer a nice crisp white wine, the Petit Blanc was very tasty. I would definitely recommend checking this wine out. It is dry but has a nice pear flavor that will make for a wonderfully refreshing beverage on the upcoming hot July nights.

Aside from the wine, the service was excellent. Our Sommelier’s name was Christy, and she was very attentive as well as informative. If you struggle with wine choices for your tasting she makes great recommendations.

Villa Bellezza would make a great destination for anyone’s bachelor or bachelorette party, wedding, or special event. This winery is within walking distance of the Pepin Campground, which is nice if you want something more to do than just sit at your campsite. They have a restaurant on location as well, but unfortunately I have not had a chance to try it out as of yet. All I know is that the wine was great and I will definitely be going back for a visit.

For more information on Villa Bellezza, please visit: http://www.villabellezza.com/

Camping At Willow River

Sometimes in this crazy life it is nice to just get away from the buzz of businesses and city noise and retreat into nature. I make a habit of taking vacations that incorporate outdoor activities into my schedule, because these activities help me reset and decompress. If you like camping, there are a ton of great places to choose from. I tend to enjoy state parks more than your packed in party campgrounds, because they give you more seclusion, less noise, and more nature.

This past weekend my family took a trip to Willow River State Park, which is located in Hudson, WI. This particular park, while the campsites are closer together, gives a feeling of privacy, because of all the the great foliage surrounding each site. Our campsite was surrounded by trees, had a fire pit and picnic table, and was still near a bathroom. We heard little disruption from our neighbors and it felt almost like we were alone at times. The site was not huge, we just barely got our bean bag toss setup in the space provided. Everything worked out fine.

This particular park offers hiking trails, a beach, a nature center, a beautiful waterfall, playgrounds, and activities at certain times for the family and children. Unfortunately, while we visitied, the lake had been drawn down, so the beach was not availble for use. If the lake had been active, the park would have offered kayak and canoe rentals as well.

We took a hike to the waterfall and it was completely worth it. You can actually swim at the base of the falls, but it’s definitely at your own risk. There are lots of great photo opportunities from the bridge as you approach the falls, as well as at the base and top. If you are feeling energetic, you can hike up the stairs to the platform that overlooks the falls for another great view.

If you want to continue hiking beyond the falls, there are other interesting sites and overlooks, including old grave sites and pieces of machinery. I did check out a few of the other outlooks and sites, but I feel that the waterfall is probably the most interesting view. Some of the overlooks are a little overgrown with trees, so you cannot really see much.

Overall, this is one of my favorite campgrounds in Wisconsin. I have been visiting Willow River for many years, even just to hike the falls. I will continue to come back to this campground in the years to come.

For more information on Willow River State Park, please visit: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/willowriver/

Rocky Mountain National Park: A Favored Scenic Destination

Over the past few years I have spent a decent amount of time visiting Colorado. From the first time I saw the mountains, I knew I was hooked. It wasn’t until about four years ago that I visited Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time, but it quickly became one of my favorite repeat destinations.

To me, Rocky Mountain National Park is worth the drive even if I am staying in a hotel that is a few hours away. If you choose to do a day trip to the park, be sure to arrive early in the day so that you can take full advantage of all of the scenery. In all honesty there is no way to do everything within the park in one day. There are just too many trails and roads to travel. Ideally a person would want to stay somewhere within Estes Park and spend several days exploring Rocky Mountain National.

One of my favorite hikes in the park is the Alluvial Fan. This is a large beautiful waterfall that fans out as it flows down the mountainside. Definitely be sure to wear a decent pair of hiking boots if you choose to hike up the waterfall, because you may encounter some wet rocks. The views from different points are awesome. There are many great photo opportunities on this hike.

Just the drive alone through the park is amazing. There are so many different animals to encounter. I have previously seen moose, elk, black bear, prong horn, mule deer, and a variety of different birds. Dusk is definitely a great time to go for a drive, because animal activity has a tendency to pick up.

Other than animals, the views are breathtaking. I could photograph the different points in Rocky Mountain National Park at all different hours of the day on a regular basis and I would never become bored. The views are ever changing due to the sunlight, clouds, time of day, and time of year. Definitely bring your camera because you will see some very impressive mountain scenery.

I highly recommend that you both drive through the different scenic roads in the park, as well as get out and explore. There are plenty of things to see and do. If you are not sure where to begin, the visitor’s center is always a great choice. The visitor centers can give you information about the different hikes and often tell you where certain animals may have been spotted.

For more information on Rocky Mountain National Park, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

 

Summer Fun At Gilligan’s In Chetek, Wisconsin

Summer is here and what’s not to love? You have your sandbars, your outdoor music, great grilled foods, cold beverages, camping, and laughing it up with family and good friends. This past weekend I went camping with family at Six Lakes Campground in Chetek, WI. We chose this particular spot because it was a mere four blocks from Gilligan’s, which is the bar my father’s band, 40 Fingers, was playing at this past Saturday.

Gilligan’s is a great time for anyone who loves being outdoors and listening to good music. The bar staff is attentive and they will check up on you to see if you would like to place an order for their wonderful food, or if you need your drink refilled. If you prefer to get your own beverages, the tiki bar is quite large and located out back by the music, for your convenience. The bar features brightly colored bar stools and on a nice day you can sit in the sun and watch the boats come and go on the lake, while taking in some live music.

The food at Gilligan’s is pretty great. This time around we ordered pork nachos and gourmet cheddar cheese curds. The cheddar curds are the size of golf balls, and they are delicious. I feel the need to indulge in them any time I visit Gilligan’s; I’m a Wisconsin girl all the way.

The drinks at Gilligan’s can be ordered in a keepsake drink mug, if you like that sort of thing, which I personally do. The mugs come in a variety of bright and fun colors. Mine is hot pink, but you can also get blue, neon green, purple, etc. I bring my mug with me to refill, each time I visit. This bar also has a variety of specialty summer drinks. I recommend trying them out if you are adventurous and open to new flavors.

Gilligan’s has music on weekends. My father’s band, 40 Fingers, will be at Gilligan’s again this coming Saturday, if anyone is wishing they hadn’t missed this past week’s performance at this particular location. This upcoming weekend features the Bear Creek Band, on June 28th, Your Mom, on June 30th, and 40 Fingers, on July 1st.

The venue has two bars, one indoor and the tiki bar, out back. The bands play outside just off the lake in the tiki hut. There is a dance floor, but the floor is all sand, so it can be difficult to dance. The majority of the sitting area is hard floor and my family and friends tend to hang out up top near the tiki bar and dance on the more solid ground.

Gilligan’s is the place to be for good food, good music, and relaxing lakeside. For more information, please visit: http://gilliganschetek.com/

 

 

Fun At Big Swedes Resort In Holcombe, Wisconsin

This past weekend, while visiting family for Memorial Day, my father’s band, 40 Fingers, played in Holcombe, Wisconsin at Big Swedes Resort. I had never been to this particular resort before, but a lot of fun was had by everyone. The band played from 4-8pm. We danced, we had some drinks, and we enjoyed some wonderful food.

Big Swedes is a resort located on the lake. You can rent cabins, play volleyball, or sit and listen to music on weekends. This is a great place to celebrate the summer holidays.

The main bar and restaurant are decently sized and have booths, regular tables, and bar seating. You can sit down and enjoy a nice meal, or just have a cocktail or two at the bar. They also have some games available for those moments when you feel like doing something a little different.

The secondary building is a pole barn type structure that can be opened on all ends, if desired. The band played inside this area. There is a bar located in the opposite end from where the band is. Several tables and chairs are there for your listening enjoyment, but they do fill up fast, so arriving early would be to your benefit. The dance floor is decently sized and seemed to be plenty of space for those who wanted to shake their tails.

The staff at Big Swedes was nice, but not always very prompt. It felt at times as if certain staff behind the bar were too busy day-dreaming to notice someone wanted something. In one instance it appeared that my wanting to order food was an inconvenience, which is a little frustrating. I had better luck getting beverages out in the pole barn. The woman working outside was very helpful and prompt, she definitely earned her tips.

The group I was with ordered several different food items. We tried the cheese curds, the nachos, and a thin crust supreme pizza. All of the food was wonderful. I especially loved the pizza.

The music was great and the atmosphere of the pole barn was nice. I will definitely visit Big Swedes again sometime. Hopefully the slow service inside was an isolated incident.

For more information or to book your weekend at Big Swedes Resort, please visit: http://www.bigswedes.com/

 

A Side Trip To The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison

This past July, while touring Colorado with my husband, we took some time out to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This particular canyon has been a stop on our adventures twice now. We love the views and it’s always worth a second look, or more.

There are several great points to stop and wander around. You can take scenic drives around the perimeter or if you would like, you can venture down toward the Gunnison River. There are plenty of activities if you choose to stay in the park. You can camp, fish, kayak, rock climb, and hike.

If you enjoy wildlife watching, there are plenty of animals that call the Black Canyon their home. With a little patience you may see animals such as black bear, mountain lion, or big horn sheep. More commonly you will see deer, marmot, chipmunk, and a variety of birds. To find out more about the wildlife in the Black Canyon, I recommend checking out the visitor center.

One neat thing that the park offers is an Astronomy Evening Program that runs from the end of May until the end of September. Neal and I did not partake in this activity, but if we had been there at the right time it would have been neat to see. This event takes place on Wednesdays and Fridays in the South Rim Campground Amphitheater.

While we were in the park we took time to wander, but we did not do any serious hiking. We arrived a bit later in the day and we knew that daylight was running short. We drove the scenic route along the outer rim and stopped to enjoy the view at several different spots. I was completely satisfied with this side adventure and came away with a bunch of fun photos. I definitely recommend finding a great viewing spot to watch the sun go down. The Canyon looks pretty awesome as the light begins to change across the rocks.

During this last trip to the Black Canyon, we had intended to camp inside the park. Unfortunately we procrastinated a little too long. All of the campsites were sold out by the time we decided to seek out the Park Ranger. I honestly was not overly sad about losing out on this camping experience, because the sites are quite small and very close together. Neal and I prefer to camp with a little more space and a little more seclusion, so we headed up the road a short distance to some BLM land and we camped out there.

For more information on the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/blca/index.htm