Reader mail: trips worth a gas tank

Time to get reacquainted with the pulse of our readers. Here are excerpts from recent mail:

“I am disabled and have no car, but I wish you would write about Itasca State Park, the gateway to the Mississippi River headwaters,” writes George Wagner of Fond du Lac. “I was there in 1973 and 1976. It is such a beautiful spot, it seemed as though I was in an outdoor cathedral.”

More than 100 lakes are a part of this state park, Minnesota’s oldest, and this indeed is where the Mississippi River’s 2,552-mile flow begins.

For more:, 218-266-2100. The 32,690-acre park is on U.S. 71, between Bemidji and Park Rapids, and its Wilderness Sanctuary has earned National Natural Landmark status.

“I love Rib Mountain,” writes Elaine Kurtzweil of Marathon. “I always hiked up there, when we were young. Now I drive up and see the wonderful sites from my car.”

Although this state park’s Granite Peak is best known for downhill skiing, more than 13 miles of hiking trails, 30 campsites and summer naturalist programs make this a year-round destination. It is west of Wausau.

Admission to all of Wisconsin’s state parks will be free on June 3. Otherwise, a vehicle admission sticker is $25 for this season, or $7 per day. Fees are less for senior citizens, more for non-residents of Wisconsin.

For more:, 715-842-2522.

“Just thought you would like a follow-up on the annual trip we take with our granddaughters,” writes Lu Ann Williams of Madison, whom we wrote about a couple of years ago. The retired teacher and her husband give their grandchildren a gift of their time, and travel, every Christmas.

This year, they’re off to San Francisco for “four days of nonstop fun: staying at the Hyatt Embarcadero, taking a night tour of Alcatraz, biking the Golden Gate Bridge, dinner at the Bank of America and touring Chinatown, the Cable Car Museum, Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf and Lombard Street (the city’s most crooked street).

For more about this city and its sites:, 415-391-2000.

Regarding historical encampments during the wintertime Klondike Days in Eagle River: “I’ve been to Eagle River’s Rendezvous twice,” writes Doug Hosig of Hawkins. “Last year, it was five days of challenging conditions; it was bitter cold, with winds chills in the 40-below range. But we all survived and thrived, even with primitive- type clothes.

“This year a friend and I went up for one day only, to act as guides for the 500-plus school kids who came to visit. It was a very enjoyable experience. Bill Kroll does an outstanding job of finding top-notch re-enactors, to make this event one of the finest in the Midwest.”

For a taste of the past, consider the Prairie Villa Rendezvous in Prairie du Chien, June 14-17. For more:, 800-732-1673.

The 80-acre Forts Folle Avoine Historical Park (reconstructed fur trade posts) opens on the Yellow River, between Danbury and Webster in Burnett County, on May 26. For more:, 715-866-8890.

“Great article on eco-tourism,” writes Sue Fieber of Fitchburg. “I have a question about the eco-camp in Patagonia, because we’ve been thinking about going there ourselves.

“It sounds great, but my concern is whether, in the event of the bad weather that is common in Patagonia, there is anywhere comfortable to hang out on a cold or rainy day. The unheated domes sound fine for sleeping, but not as a place to be ‘stuck,’ if you get my meaning.”

In addition to the two-person tents for sleeping, there are two much larger tents, for eating and socializing. Our group of about 20 could all be together in one place, and the big tents had heat and electricity — quite cozy and very, very sturdy.

That said, you’d still need to venture out of doors to get to the bathroom. For more about the Cascada Expediciones Eco-camp:, 800-901-6987.

Also about ecotourism: “I found our Transylvanian (vacation) destination on a sustainable tourism site (, and we now trust them implicitly,” writes Jane Burns of Madison. “We are going through this website’s tours for what we hope is an Egyptian adventure next year.”

“I just read your well-written column on reunions, and thought the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association could be a good resource for you,” writes Brett Meach of Brookfield.
“We are a non-profit lodging association, and we represent over 1,000 of Wisconsin’s finest lodging properties. I am sure you have seen our directory along one of your wayside stops, or even in the lobby of one of our member properties.

“I thought you might find good use of our Web site when searching different areas of the state for your lodging needs. We are searchable by amenities, price range, location, etc.”
For more:

“I very much enjoyed your piece on ‘mancations,’ writes Craig Better, managing editor of Golf Vacation Insider. “In case it fits with anything you’re working on in the future, we publish free, insider golf travel tips three times per week (many dealing with Destination Kohler in Wisconsin) at

“By ‘insider,’ I mean that we tell-it-like-it-is, a luxury we enjoy by not accepting any advertising or free trips from PR firms, and by always traveling anonymously. I guess you could say we are the “Consumer Reports” of golf travel publications.”

When Tom Miskelly asked our advice about where to stage a family reunion, I was unaware of a new place to recommend: Maple Wood Lodge, on a 26-acre nature preserve in southwestern Wisconsin.
The place isn’t big enough to accommodate a big crowd overnight – the log cabin has just three bedrooms – but Mineral Point lodging is just four miles away. Maple Wood amenities include a two-person Jacuzzi and skylights, stone fireplace in the gathering room, modern kitchen and Internet access.
For more:, 608-987-2324.

Our friends to the south have announced results of Seven Wonders of Illinois balloting. Here are the winners, one for each of seven geographical parts of the state.

Wrigley Field
, Chicago, one of the nation’s oldest baseball stadiums.

Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, one of seven such temples in the world.

Starved Rock State Park, Utica, which has 19 canyons, ancient rock formations and several waterfalls.

Allerton Park and Retreat Center, Monticello, a 1,500-acre estate and National Natural Landmark.

Black Hawk State Historic Site, Rock Island, a historic site that is a tribute to Sauk and Mesquakie Indian tribes.

Rend Lake, Benton, the state’s second largest reservoir and a hub for water sports, shopping, hiking and golf.

Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway, Alton, 33 miles of highway where the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers meet.

For more:, 800-2-CONNECT.