Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Rustic Roads: Polk County, WI

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Rustic Roads: Polk County, WI: The Rustic Roads program was created about 40 years ago and allows hikers, bikers and motorists to enjoy the less traveled, scenic backroad...

Rustic Roads: Polk County, WI

The Rustic Roads program was created about 40 years ago and allows hikers, bikers and motorists to enjoy the less traveled, scenic backroads of Wisconsin regardless of the season. These routes help to enhance the beauty and serenity that the state has to offer. There are approximately 119 individual routes that travel through 59 counties and when added up equal about 722 miles. It is important to point out that these routes do not connect to each other and some are quite a distance apart from each other; choose a county or location your going to visit and explore one small portion at a time.

Lets take a journey on the Polk County Rustic Road Routes. Regardless of where you begin in the county, you can make a circle out of the routes and end up back where you started as well as see the entire county and most of the towns that are located in it. To view all of the routes will take approximately four hours as most of these routes don't take you back to a major highway. Bring your GPS, if you are not familiar with the town layouts or backroads of Polk County.

The first route is Rustic Road Route 67 which before made into Rustic Road was known by locals as the Canyon Road. 

This road is located in Turtle Lake and can be accessed from Highway 8 or Highway 63. The section by Highway 8 is the most interesting part of the entire 4.6 drive. This portion is full of twists and turns, thick vegetation, large trees, swamps and a small lake. 

Once you drive out of this section the route opens up to rolling fields, homes and eventually a lake community. 

At the stop sign there is a sign that points the direction of the Rustic Road route, continue on this route to the next stop sign and you will have arrived at the end of the route and are at Highway 63.

Head North on Highway 63 towards Cumberland and then turn left on Highway 48 West which is about a mile North of Cumberland. Highway 48 offers a lot of scenic views as you head towards the Rustic Roads route. Along this route you will find rolling hills, crops, woodland, and farmlands as you twist and turn towards Luck, WI. Before arriving in Luck, turn left on County Highway GG, travel back about one mile and look for the Rustic Road sign on the right and you have arrived at Route 93.

This route is a narrow dirt road with many hidden driveways and homes throughout the 2.8 mile drive. There are overgrown trees that seem to swallow the road and the views ahead as you climb and descend the small hills along the way. Very few openings that allow you to seek the sky, the small streams through the forest and any wildlife that may call this place home. The route continues to curve around and straightens out and comes to an end on 145th St located outside of Luck, WI.

Follow the road towards the Luck Gulf Course and turn left at the stop sign. This will be County Highway N that will take you to Luck and follow signs that point towards Highway 48 and 35S. Follow 35S to Highway 8 and St. Croix, WI. Sit back and enjoy the views of more farmland, old barns, and small towns. The farming community is enjoyed best on the country roads of Wisconsin.

Take Highway 8W to the turn off towards to Dresser, WI and to continue on Highway 35S. About a mile North of Dresser turn West on County Highway S and you have arrived at Route 101.

A paved route with some sharp bends in the road that open up to water views and a popular route for walkers on this 4.3 mile route. Vegetation is clean and trim on this route allowing you to see the sky, vast trees and open views into the woods that surround the road. 

This route also welcomes hikers to the Osceola Loop which is part of the National Park Service and there are several areas to park and enjoy the area on foot. This route continues to turn and curve and will bring you back out to Highway 35S.

You are now South of Dresser and just outside of Osceola, enjoy the town as you continue on 35S towards Somerset where our next Rustic Route is located. Osceola is a small, quaint town with old buildings in the downtown area. It will also open up to countryside and offer more views of the farming communities of Wisconsin.

Continue on 35S and about a mile or so North of Somerset you will come across the Polk St.-Croix Rd and turn West. Drive about a mile back and you are now entering Route 103.

This route offers both paved and dirt road along the 2.8 mile route. The paved road offers twists and turns with vegetation pulled back to allow for views.  

The dirt road becomes narrow and more secluded as the trees hover over the road. The road continues on and eventually turns back to a paved road and brings you out to 40th Street. Continue South towards Somerset and jump on 64E towards New Richmond.

Normally you would stay on this route until you reached Highway 65 N which would take you to Star Prairie and Highway 8E. Unfortunately, Highway 65 N is currently under construction and an alternate route had to be created in order to see this next route. As an alternative, stay on 64E until you come to a round about and take the turn for Highway 46 N, towards Amery. This route brings you to the halfway point of the Rustic Road Route. In order to start from the beginning, using this route, you will turn West onto County Highway H and follow to the stop sign, here marks the beginning of Route 28.

Another paved route that opens up to low waters, swamps, thick vegetation and the loons and ducks that call this area their home. There are also homes and hidden driveways as you twist and turn along this 5.2 mile route which also includes some high hills. 

This route also brings you across old barns, which makes it my second favorite Rustic Route in Polk County. Cross over Highway 46 to continue the route and end up outside of Range on County Highway JJ. Head North and cross over Highway 8 onto County Road D to reach the final Rustic Route of Polk County.

After a couple of miles turn West onto 190th Ave the entrance to this Rustic Road route is not marked at all from this road. I only know how to get to it because of the back road exploring I enjoy doing in this beautiful state. Turn right or North on 70th St which is a short distance away when you turn on 190th ave, there is also a faded “Hunky Dory” sign that marks the street. Head North and about a mile onto the route you will see a sign that says Rustic Road and you have arrived at Route 41.

This route is another dirt road that is full of thick vegetation, hidden driveways, and the sounds of birds are the only sounds that can be heard along this 2.3 mile route. A few hills but no curves, twists, or turns, it is a straight route that brings you out to open fields, farms and an endless view of Polk County. 

The route ends on County Highway E, head South and the road turns into County Highway D which will bring you back to Highway 8. Head West and you'll be heading back towards St. Croix, turn East and you will head towards Turtle Lake and make the complete circle of the Rustic Road Polk County Routes.

These routes are unique, secluded and easy going and above all, a must to drive during the Fall season. I'm planing on visiting a few more counties in the area that offer the Rustic Road Routes. Take time to enjoy them and for more information please visit:

Written & Photographed by: Nettie B

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 1880 Museum: Western Town

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 1880 Museum: Western Town: 1880 Town Museum (Western Theme) An opportunity presents itself one must take it. On way home from the last road trip I came across t...  #thewriteshotnb

1880 Museum: Western Town

1880 Town Museum (Western Theme)

An opportunity presents itself one must take it. On way home from the last road trip I came across this old town outside of Murdo, SD. It intrigued me so much that I ended up taking the next ramp and going back to see what the story was. To my surprise it turned out to be a museum, an 1880 museum. At the time, I wasn't able to tour it but I was able to take a few shots from the road and make note of the location.

When I returned home, I had the privilege of touring and photographing a local 1880 Town Museum and after that, I was hooked. This is an era I wouldn't mind going back in time to and visiting, not to mention the energy and enthusiasm that is shared by the town and the volunteers who work there. I made plans to head back to Montana and made sure to include this Museum along the way.

This museum offers many similar buildings as the Barron County Museum, with one little exception. It has a bit of a Western Museum, with a bit of an emphasis on the movie Dances With Wolves. Most of the shooting for this movie was done in South Dakota near Pierre and the Badlands. It did a little shooting in Wyoming as well but most of it was done in South Dakota. The town of Pierre is not too far away from this museum's location.

You enter in to the main entrance of the building and are welcomed by the volunteers, with a gift shop off to the right. 

Once you have paid the fee, you enter through a small door which opens up to various items that were use during the 1880 era as well as some items that are available to sell. 

As you walk around you will see a set of stairs near the back. As I approached the stairs and began to walk up, one of the volunteers said to me, “Don't mind the ghosts up there!” I couldn't help but smile and respond, “I welcome them.” Which I do, and even though I never experienced anything, the energy of the past was felt all around me and within every building I went in to. This is why I enjoy walking through these towns, it allows me to walk the steps of those who did so many years before.

As you walk up the stairs, you are welcome by actual letters and photos that were taken during the filming of Dances With Wolves. One of the letters even writes about how Kevin Costner's favorite horse “Buck”. Buck lived out the remainder of his time at the 1880 museum where he died in 2008 at the age of 33. There is a memorial that has been made for him at the 1880 museum. Among the items up on this floor are the different props that were used in the movie as well as Kevin Costner's actor chair.

Walk back down the stairs and at the bottom on the left is door that will lead you out to the town of 1880. There are 51 places to see on this self-guided tour and below are just a few of the places you will see along the way. A lot of the buildings will only allow you to the front door and from there you will looking through wire guards to see the set-up inside. The towns have areas that are in need of repair which is why they are blocked off to the public, even so, you still get a great experience of what the museum has to offer.

In 1852 two men by the names of Henry Wells and William Fargo came together and created a financial services company for the American West. They had originally presented the idea to American Express, but they didn't want to go to California, and as a result they created the company Wells Fargo and began serving the western frontier.

Wells Fargo, known for its red and gold Concord stagecoach, carried passengers and express across the country. This helped bring communities from across the region closer together. The stagecoach was guided by skilled drives and pulled by a team of four or six horses and would ride up to speeds of five miles an hour. There was a stop every twelve miles to change horses and every forty five miles there was a stop for passengers and drivers to stretch their legs and grab a bite to eat.

Continue the walk over to the Emporium and Doctor's office. 

Stairs going up to the Doctor's office are located on the side of the building. 

As you enter in to the Emporium you will find the various clothes, merchandise and medicine that was used during that time period. 

As you walk towards the back there is a small table with chairs that has a game board on it. This was also a place for people to gather, play games, talk or wait for their loved ones to finish with the doctor.

Next to the table are stairs that go up to the second floor which is where the Doctor's office is located. As you climb the stairs you will see a small waiting area that also has a bed, which was often used by the Doctor. The area also includes a check-in desk, medical equipment and an examination room with an examination table. 

As in most towns during that time period the Doctors were required to carry a black bag that had everything they would need to make a diagnosis and cure the illness. They would often ride hours if not days out to homes and farms to attend to the sick. It was also a time when a simple illness could lead to death because medical treatment wasn't easily available.

A building that is still seen today is the Hotel. A small establishment that provided lodging to travelers passing through. 

This would also provide a common area for people to gather, socialize and enjoy a meal all in one location. As you look around you will see the narrow steps that lead up to the second floor where the rooms were, a kitchen where meals were prepared, a cash register that was used as well as the key boxes where room keys were kept as well as notes for the guests. In today's hospitality industry this Hotel would be known as a Bed and Breakfast.

Another place to find accommodations could be in the Saloon. The first Western Saloon was established in 1822 in Wyoming for fur traders. The establishment became known as place that specialized in beer and liquor with food and lodging as secondary concerns. 

This particular saloon was also home to gambling and stage entertainment which included singing, plays and dancers. As time rolled on saloons in West became known more for gambling houses, brothels which is often what the rooms were used for and opium dens.

As you walk into the building you pass through the swinging western doors and enter in to an open lounge with a well stocked bar in the back, stage to the right and gamblers to your immediate right as you enter. 

There are steps that go up to the second floor where brothel rooms were located as well as tables and chair to watch the show on stage or any show that is going on at the gambler's table. As you walk through the building you can almost picture the ladies gathered on the balcony and the men on the lower floor drinking, smoking and gambling.

Walk back out to the town and see another common form of transportation, the train. This museum includes a train depot that was also used as a Western Union Telegraph and Cable Office. 

As you walk towards the train you will see that it sits on a railroad track and the depot has benches outside for people waiting for loved ones to arrive, a cobble stone walk and inside large benches where people were waiting to leave or the arrival of the next train.

The museum also includes the mayor's office which is attached to the town hall where meetings would take place. 

The mayor's office includes a desk, small sitting area for those meeting with him as well as equipment that he would have used.

Next is the fire station where the steam engine would be pulled by horses and was invented in 1829 but wasn't used until 1860. The first full-time paid firefighters weren't established until 1850 and even then, there was a fight over territory. Fights would break out between the runners and the fire companies over who owned the fire and would collect the money from the insurance company. In April of 1853 the Cincinnati Fire Department became the first full-time paid professional fire company as well as the first to use the steam engine.

Near the end of the tour is the one-room schoolhouse. The set-up may differ a little but the principle remains. One teacher, teaching first through eighth grade with the small desks for the younger children and as the children grew and moved up in grades so did their desks. The sizes ranged from six to forty depending on the area and were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography.

This school was set up to have a small entrance where they would keep their coats and lunches and within another step you were in the classroom. Desks faced the front with the entrance behind them and the teacher facing them looking out the main door.

Other places to see along the tour include the Vanishing Prairie Exhibit which as items of the time period.

Barber Shop & Bath

US Marshall's Office

St. Stephen's Church

and Timmons Freight Wagons from “Dances With Wolves”.

During the season the museum offers guided tours, events and costumes in period clothing for guests to dress up in. This museum is worth taking time out to visit and experience the 1880 through the West's eyes. For more information about the museum, as well as rates and hours please visit their website at:

Photography & Writing By: Nettie B

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Across South Dakota

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Across South Dakota: Everyone around my hotel room is up before the sun with the smell of fresh brewed coffee filling the air. A scent not uncommon at home, ha...  #thewriteshotnb

Across South Dakota

Everyone around my hotel room is up before the sun with the smell of fresh brewed coffee filling the air. A scent not uncommon at home, has Aria up and wanting to start the day almost two hours before scheduled. She reluctantly settles down and waits for me, the next time she is only about a half hour early and her cold and pushy nose tell me she won't wait. We get ready for our morning walk and when we step outside I'm shocked into full awakeness with a sharp and cold breeze that blows through the air.

Dark clouds are all around us and the cold breeze tells me there is snow near by. I'm in Rapid City, South Dakota hoping to head up the hill to Mount Rushmore but as I look around the conditions are reminding me of the weather I left in Montana. If we get the timing right, we may just be able to do everything we want to and not get too wet or cold in the process. Aria and I head back in to have breakfast and begin planning the day. The locations aren't too far away but as I look outside more clouds are starting to roll in and they are getting darker; it is time to go.

Aria and I do one more walk before heading to the car, a quick stop at the gas station to fill the tires and we are on our way to the first stop; Chapel In The Hills.

The Chapel In The Hills is located in the Western part of Rapid City, nestled into a quiet and cozy residential area. This Chapel is a quiet retreat located at the foot of the Black Hills and welcomes all guests and is also used to host weddings. It is also an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. It was built in 1969 and is a place of beauty and inspiration that is enjoyed by people from all over the world.

Once again I find myself in a place that is filled with silence and serenity as well as a sense of peace and calm. I'm not religious but I am spiritual and to walk into the Chapel gives you a feeling of renewal and cleansing. At the time of the visit, I was the only one there and no one else arrived until I was complete with my photos and journey. Having that time alone was in itself a renewal.

The Chapel is free of charge and welcomes any and all donations. There is also a path behind the church that is unpaved with hills. This small path is known as the “Prayer Walk”. Due to the weather conditions I wasn't able to walk the whole way but I did walk part of it and was greeted by a bunny rabbit that waited off the path while I took a moment for meditation and reflection. Once complete I turned and together, the bunny and I, walked back towards the church and off of the path.

Along with the Chapel there is an authentic grass-roof store house that was built in Norway and assembled on site and is used as a gift shop. The shop is filled with trinkets and literature about the chapel and its ministry.

Lastly, there is an authentic log cabin museum that was built by a Norwegian prospector. Like so many other museums I have visited this one also has mannequins. 

The one that caught my eye was the one of the old lady, a grandmother, sitting behind a spinning wheel. At first glance she almost appears to be real. The museum holds authentic Norwegian furniture and utensils that were used.

After the Chapel it is time to visit Mount Rushmore. The rain has begun to fall, the wind has picked up and temperatures are starting to drop. I know we're in for a climb but I have no idea how far or how high up we're going to go. As we make our way towards Rushmore, we turn off the main road and onto Highway 16. The clouds are rolling in, rain is getting heavier not to mention the roads are beginning to climb and the twists and turns have begun.

I can't help but smile as I realize, once again, I find myself in the mountains with questionable weather, unfamiliar roads and visibility starting to drop. It must be a gift, we turn off again onto Highway 16A and it is literally within one turn that it was green grass and rain, and now it is snowing and white grounds all around. I glance over at the GPS and the distance to Mount Rushmore isn't far, I decide to keep going.

As the climb continues the clouds begin to descend and I have to wonder if I'm even going to be able to see them or if the clouds will be just low enough to see nothing. The snow is starting to increase, the roads are getting slick and climbing is becoming challenging; especially when there are still some really great views. I can't help but want to pull over and take pictures, thankfully, not too many people are on the roads so I'm able to do so. We enter into the town of Keystone, which should really be called Hotelville as that seems to be the majority of the town.

The climb continues once we're out of town and only about two miles away from Mount Rushmore we climb, twist and turn and a sign pops up saying, “Historical Marker Ahead”. Well, that is good because I'm thinking I should be able to get some really good shots of Blackhills and...Oh My God!!! That is Mount Rushmore right in front of me!! I quickly pull over to the pull off and can't believe that I'm looking right at them. They couldn't be any clearer or more obvious, there are the heads in perfect view.

The weather and snow have the heads blending into the rock and visibility keeps going up and down, however, I'm still able to get the photos and have Aria in on a few of them. There are a few cars but not a lot which allows me time to take multiple shots and different locations. I can't help but be in shock as I look at the them. Now, this could be from my location but I'm so use to seeing Mount Rushmore as big and vast that now they appear to be small and fragile. It could also be because all you see are them and not much that surrounds them. But still, this moment allows me to say, “I saw them”.

We continue on and around the entrance to the Memorial and follow the signs to another pull off that is on the backside of the mountain. A sign says, “profile view” pull off. I pull off and as I get out to take pictures of the mountain I glance up to see the clouds pull apart and George Washington's Profile pops out. Once again Mother Nature may tease me with bad weather but she will pause a moment for me to get a few shots, and that is all. She quickly pushes the clouds back and lets the snow fall harder and the winds blow stronger. I can take a hint, we're out of here.

The drive back down the mountain continues to be interesting as the roads have become slicker and going down hill on slick, slushy roads has me riding the breaks most of the way down. Turn offs have hidden ramps which force me to push the breaks harder and have Ella giving a little fishtail. Nothing that can't be corrected but enough to make the grip on the wheel tighter and eyes are opened wider. We finally hit the point on the road where we're in snow and the road curves and we're back in just rain and green grass all around. Mountains, you know I love them.

We're finally back on the main road heading towards Rapid City we then turn and merge onto I90 East and heading across South Dakota towards Sioux City. But there is one more stop we're going to do before our final journey across the state. A trip through the Badlands.

About 20-30 miles outside of Rapid City you come into a town called Wall. This is where route 240 begins and it is the scenic route through the Badlands National Park. The entire drive is about 32 miles long and is worth the time and money. There are a lot of pull offs as well as picnic areas to stop, take pictures and enjoy the scenery.

Once again, even Aria was able to take a few moments to enjoy the scenery as well.

 We were even greeted by the locals who call this place home.

Today offered unlimited views of the Badlands and rock formations. Every scenic view spot offers information about what your looking at as well as trails or walkways for you to walk out on to get a better view. Trailheads are also located throughout the park. The route has many twists, turns and hills and will bring you back out to I90 when complete. There is also a visitor center, cabins to rent and campgrounds available within the park.

Just as we were finishing up the last mile or so of the route, the skies opened up and the rain began to fall. Once again, I was given the opportunity to view, photograph and enjoy the area before the rain came in. The wind was fierce for the remainder of the day, I've noticed that a lot on this trip. There has been a wind blowing this whole week that I've been out on the road, some days it blew harder than others but it has been a constant throughout the entire trip. Every time I step out and feel it blow, I can't help but hear the song, “....the future's in the air I can feel it everywhere, blowing with the wind of change...the wind of change blows straight into the face of time, like a stormwind that will ring the freedom bell...”

We are now safe and settled into our hotel for the night and looking forward to heading home tomorrow.

Writing & Photography By: Nettie B