On the way to northern Minnesota, where we celebrated our family reunion, our nearly full 15 passenger van (we had lots of relatives caravaning with us) took a slight detour to Caddie Woodlawn's house near Menomonie Wisconsin. It's quite an impressive, though simple, site, with the original house and a log cabin that Woodlawns (really the Woodhouses) built for a needy family. A few outbuildings and an historical marker fill out the site. It's my second time to visit, but it seemed even more amazing and beautiful than on my first visit.
This inspired a more relaxed (and lengthy) drive home with our somewhat smaller group (still had a niece and nephew with us for the ride). We decided to head south on more rural roads (and found a wonderful cheese shop that had fresh, not-yet-refrigerated, muenster cheese curds, yum!) and a few hours out of the way to visit the "Little House Wayside" near Pepin, Wisconsin. This is the actual site of the book Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
We've talked about visiting for years, but had never yet made it. Honestly I think the rumors I had heard made my expectations a little high. The house on the site is a replica, but it was quite a beautiful spot and just being there was exciting. It's still quite a rural area, surrounded by farms and forests and it's a gorgeous area. Just the drive was a treat. We had originally planned on visiting the Little House Wayside and nothing else, but decided to head into the town of Pepin to see if there was anything else to enjoy on our detour. We did enjoy the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Society Museum and Gift Shop where we asked if there was anything else we should see. I'm particularly glad I asked since wading in the waters of Lake Pepin was the highlight of our detour. It has a beautiful, if somewhat rocky (surprise, surprise to those who have read the book) beach and the view around the lake is pristine (unlike many lakes near us that are surrounded with houses and cabins). It was gorgeous and the lifeguards gave us permission to bring home a few rocks and shells as well! :)
This detour kept us on unfamiliar, rural roads for quite awhile before we made it back to the Interstate. We took pictures of one area of farmland with rolling hills that looked like the Shire. As it turned out, our next bathroom break brought us to another picturesque little lake with a gorgeous view that added to our enjoyment of making our drive home a fun day rather than a rush home.
We didn't get back home until about 11:30 pm, but it was a beautiful day full of memories, peace and beauty. I'll be adding some of our pictures to this post later today and will share some info on a few neat resources we found at the Little House gift shop in a later post.