Most summers we take a long weekend and spend it exploring a bit of nature in a new area close (but not too close) to home.  We don't do a big summer vacation (we like to save that for the colder months), but it's nice to do a little getaway towards the close of summer vacation.  This year we headed up north for some hiking, swimming, and a new adventure...rafting.

The first two days were spent hiking.  Liv might be small, but as long as you keep her in snacks, she can hike with the best of them.  The weather was weird (so you'll notice layers changing in the photos) and it was very buggy out (thank goodness for Deep Woods Off), but there were some awesome sights to see at Nicolet National Forest.

A lot of the trails we walked were created by men in the Civilian Conservation Corp.  In fact, they planted a lot of the forest as well.  Many of our state parks were developed by the CCC (one of my favorite trails at Devil's Lake is actually called CCC) and it is a piece of history that I am very interested in learning about as my Grandpa was part of the CCC.  So, when Matt found this amazing interpretive trail at a former CCC site, I may have become unbelievably excited!  I didn't take a ton of photos (which I now regret) because I seriously just took it all in...there were building remains and tons of information and these incredible historic photographs of the was amazing.

Some nights we ordered pizza and swam (and smuggled Spotted Cow into the pool area) and a few nights we went out to dinner (and entertained ourselves by taking photos across the table while waiting for our food).

Our biggest adventure of the trip was rafting/tubing.  Matt had called all over the state to find a place that would let the kids raft (most places were 8 years and up) and we actually picked the area based on this rafting place.  And then when our day came to raft, the weather was terrible.  So we sweat-shirted up and hoped for the best.  We had to wait for a big squall to come through, so we visited the Ranger's Station (the kids walked out with tons of Smokey Bear swag), had lunch and then headed out into the cold (air and water) in the afternoon.  It was cold, but so much fun!  These photos were taken with a disposable, waterproof camera so that quality is not great.  They are also deceiving in that we took most of these pics in the super calm part of the river, so crazy rapids are not shown.  The rapids were so much fun.  They weren't really big, but the water level was low so the kids were getting hung up a lot.  I learned that it is really hard to stay together in that kind of situation (and by learned, I mean had to bail into chest-deep water repeatedly to help out a kid or not get too far ahead).

EJ's "Blair Witch Project" selfie will always remind me of how my kids rose to the challenge of this rafting trip.  It was one of those adventures where we had to work together to get through it (especially because we were the only idiots rafting that entire day).  My kids really pulled together as a team and worked well and communicated well to get out of being stuck and to stay together.  They were so encouraging and it was so great to watch. translated into a week of peace at home after we returned.  It was crazy!  So...if you're ever looking to stop the fighting and gain a little peace, just take your kids on an Outward Bound-type adventure.