Regrouping, from the Heart of the North Saddle Club

I hate to say where we are: it’s a secret, wonderful, not-even-online camping spot, and I don’t want anyone to know about it. I will tell you, though, of course. But, first, I want to catch up since I last posted a week ago.

Lovely North Shore, Minnesota

Last chapter, Dear Readers (I crack myself up when I say that), we were at Tettegouche State Park, along the Baptism River right where it feeds into Lake Superior. We spent 13 days there, hiking along both the Baptism and the Gooseberry rivers with their iron-ore-colored falls.

This ain’t a great shot of the falls, but I took it during one of my daily walks around a trail loop—from our campsite to a trailhead, to two sets of falls (including a 200-step staircase), and around back to the campsite—which I loved being able to do. Hiking or kayaking directly from our door is just the best; anytime I feel like it, I can just go.

We did drive into the small town of Silver Bay a few times, to buy smoked fish and to enjoy the summer’s Friday night music event. We keep missing Charlie Parr everywhere we go by only a week or so, but we did catch this group, Dusty Heart, from an hour north—they thoroughly entertained the locals in lawn chairs as their children and grandchildren played beside the stage, with the ever-beautiful Lake Superior as our backdrop.

I loved watching the interactions between grandchildren and grandparents especially there: these families seem like the gentle side of America. Clearly, the whole town turns out for this Friday night event all summer, and the grandkids and grandparents run to each other with open arms while the parents enjoy the peace of a blanket all to themselves.

And we drove farther, into Duluth three times. The highlights of two trips were visits with Tracy’s uncle and aunt (Dale and Chong) whom I mentioned in my most-recent post about Tettegouche. Our second meet-up with them involved a homegrown-tomato exchange, and you know who got the better part of that! (Hint, I don’t have any tomato plants.)

Another highlight was that Tracy and I received the new bivalent booster shot, merely one day after pharmacies in most states had them available. Can you tell I was eager to make that appointment? We’d put off the second booster because we were planning for this one, so I jumped on it so we’d be ready for lots of upcoming socializing.

I knew in the back of my head that I react strongly to Covid-19 vaccine shots, but I wasn’t thinking that the above picture would be the last time in about three days when I would feel decent. Arg! High fever, aches, general misery ensued, but we were staying put at Tettegouche, so Tracy took care of Banjo and the trailer while I lounged around uselessly. I am better though, and now super boosted! We both are.

Hello Again, Wisconsin

And just in time for us to head down Lake Superior, east into Wisconsin, for more visiting. Tracy’s mom’s side of the family is based there (in essence), whereas his dad’s family is in Iowa, which is coming up next.

But first, a brewery, of course. On our way to our current, secret campsite we stopped for more smoked fish (I can’t get enough, especially white fish) and to have lunch at Earth Rider. I have fond memories of this place from two years ago when we were able to sit outside to drink beer back before the vaccine was available, because their outside area is so large, and they even had the ground marked off to keep people separate (we’d just missed Charlie Parr then, too!). It was slightly raining, but I really didn’t care because I was at a public place partaking of beverage and food, and that was such a treat.

This time, as we were driving by, literally at noon with no lunch plans, we were able to park the trailer on the street nearby, and we became the only folks sitting outside (it being the day after the long Labor Day weekend). Turns out their taproom doesn’t have a kitchen, so while Tracy and Banjo took a break from driving, I walked back to the trailer, heated up leftovers for lunch (yum, Tracy’s Shepherd’s Pie), and walked a basket of food back to the brewery in time for the beers to have been poured from fresh kegs. Sometimes lunch stops are so sweet, they get you through any kind of long travel day.

The Secret

We found out about this current camping spot because it’s about four miles from Tracy’s other maternal uncle and aunt (Rick and Kathie); they’d just been here picking raspberries. It’s a horse camp, specifically, “The Heart of the North Saddle Club,” per a sign I saw this morning while walking Banjo. Each site is designed for horse trailers, with strong posts for tying your horse, concrete areas to dump your manure, and trails trails trails for riding.

We’re here for only two nights (one full day) to visit, but we’ll mark this as a place to come back to. The only hitch is that it’s so quiet and so deep in the woods that Banjo is on high alert for every sound and movement. I know there are all kinds of animals very near us (such as the coyotes I can hear as I type). She knows it, too.


Oh yeah, so the point of being here is to visit, and Rick and Kathie and their daughter, Angela, (hey guys!) came out as soon as we arrived, being just a few miles away. In addition to their welcome company, they each bore gifts, the best kind: gifts made in their kitchens plus ones that you pour from a bottle.

Kathie even baked Banjo special treats, which you can see made Kathie into Banjo’s best friend (once again; they got along well the last two times we’ve been nearby). Banj and Angela (I could say Banj and Ang) made a happy pair as well, I just didn’t get a photo. They are a dog family, clearly.

They invited us to dinner the next night, where we got to sit around like a real family and talk about old stories and look at pictures and hear about the younger generation. Angela’s son came over after his first day of 11th grade to report on his classes (American Lit, Pre-Calc, and Chemistry!) and how his football season is going.

It’s fascinating to hear (and I did grill him) what it’s like to be a high-school football star in rural Wisconsin, so very different from my prep-school experience in Virginia and even from Finn’s Catholic school in Maryland, like another world. And yet, to see Angela and her son interact, to see that they’re very close—like Finn and I were at those ages—and to hear Kathie talk about what it means to her to spend time with her many grandchildren—the way my mom loved her precious two so much—makes me feel like we’re quite alike no matter the part of the country. (I teared up as Kathie spoke from her heart about her grandchildren; they’re all so lucky to have each other. My mom lost Katherine so early, and then mom’s mind started going before she could see Finn become a teenager. She loved her only two so very much.)

It’s weird to think that some of the urban people I know have never even been camping, whereas the folks here who live in the woods love it so much they vacation in the woods (Tracy’s family are all serious campers, as is everyone else here, according to the traffic on the roads and the campers in the driveways). I think these folks know a good thing when they see it.

We sure do: this is the third time we’ve been to this part of rural Wisconsin, and we’ll be back. Not just for the nature part of it, either.

4 thoughts to “Regrouping, from the Heart of the North Saddle Club”

  1. They’re *so clearly* Banjela I can’t believe it didn’t just pop into your head immediately. Also I’m jealous because I was supposed to be her best bestie ever but there was The Incident and I think we’ll never get there now. Cruel fate.

    Pat a horse for me.

    1. I tell people about The Incident with horror (for me if less so for you), and I always end the story with what a smart dog person you are to have interpreted Banjo the way you did and how lucky I am that you’re so good friend. I totally believe all is not lost between you two. Bangela!