IT HAD BEEN a while, so the idea of hitting the road for a three-day weekend of camping made great sense to me and my lovely wife.

With dogs, fishing kayak, camper, and all the various and sundry things campers need for a successful outing loaded up including a carefully cushioned fresh jug of Crown, we turned the truck northwest for Copper Falls State Park last Friday.

This was not unfamiliar territory for either of us as we have enjoyed many trips to that part of Wisconsin where the terrain is rugged and the waterfalls beautiful. 

It had been a while since we’d hiked the trail that follows the edge of the escarpment overlooking the Bad River and Tyler’s Forks, but with a lazy afternoon in front of us before our daughter and son-in-law joined us, we opted to hold off on the hike, and instead laze around in the sunshine reading books and listening to the sounds of the woods around us.

Saturday was another lazy day, which began with me and a yellow-haired dog taking a hike along a park trail which gives you about a 21⁄2-mile round trip. A lot of up and down walking through mostly old growth forest tested my legs, but did nothing to slow down Gordie.

The day was bright and sunny, but along the trail it was constant shade with lots of mixed hardwoods, pine and hemlock keeping it cool underneath their 80-foot high topmost branches. The only bad part was the comfort mosquitoes took in that environment and me without the can of bug dope left behind in my truck.

The afternoon was devoted to testing out Little Loon Lake to see if there were still big bass, northerns, perch and bluegills in its tannin-stained water. Talking to a friendly Department of Natural Resources staffer at the check-in station, I learned that there was a pretty serious freeze-out of the lake two winters ago. Undaunted, I launched anyway. Never let it be said that cautionary tales of woe and despair ever are worthy of keeping a fisherman from casting a line.

The good news of my outing was that I kept my streak going this year of catching at least one fish on every fishing trip I’ve been on. The bad news was that my total catch consisted of two perch, each all of 5 inches, which viciously attacked a tiny plastic jig.

Nonetheless, sans even a single big fish caught or seen, it was a pleasant outing. I covered the entire lake and though trying for panfish with the little jigs or casting for pike and bass with a favorite lure produced nothing in the way of a decent fish, as all fishing trips are no matter the catch, this one was a success.

Several families of Canada geese have taken up residence on the lake. I admired them as they swam or rested on logs as I floated by. I’ve got to tell you that I never missed a shot with my trusty kayak paddle at any of them as they flushed any time I got too close to them.

Nor did I miss a shot with that same paddle when a squawking hen mallard burst into the air from a hiding place among the reeds at the edge of a small island. If only I could do that with a shotgun during duck and goose season.

Saturday evening was a time to sit around a campfire, enjoying a favorite beverage, talking smart and telling stories. Despite the campground being almost entirely filled, except for mostly quiet conversation, it was a very peaceful place to be. For that matter, I’ve never camped anywhere that didn’t give me a feeling of peace and contentment.

Up early Sunday morning, we had a camper’s breakfast cooked outside. Son-in-law Scott did the chef’s honors and did quite well as my rounded belly would attest to. After that, it was time to work off some of the calories with a 1.7-mile hike along the river to view the falls.

The water level was low, but no matter the flow, I have never seen a waterfall I didn’t like and Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls and the Tyler’s Forks Cascades were no exception.

I still remember the first time I did the same hike. I was somewhere around the age of 10 and at that time, there wasn’t so much as a footlong section of fencing on the entire hike. The same stone steps were in place, as were the shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the ’30s.

No longer do you dare try and slide down a nearly vertical drop-off to the river not far below Copper Falls, as some brave or, more likely, extremely foolish souls were doing on that first visit of mine. Even at the age of 10, I wasn’t dumb enough to try it and even if I’d had the notion, a 5-foot tall mother who could stop a freight train with a mere look of disapproval on her face would have kept me away from the edge.

On this hike along the gorge, I was perfectly content to lean on the fence rails and admire the beauty of one of Wisconsin’s best state parks. At the bottom of a long flight of steps leading to a bridge across the river, I did walk to the edge of the water to see if I might see a trout swimming in a pool that was half the depth it might have been at normal water levels. I saw no trout, but did greatly admire the view upstream between the sheer rock walls of the gorge.

The old law that for every step down there are two back up held in place as we climbed back up the opposite side of the gorge on our way to Brownstone Falls which, though not wide or overly impressive by volume, is nonetheless as pretty a set of falls as you’ll see anywhere.

The Tyler’s Fork Cascades are equally beautiful and command a person to take a long pause to admire them before crossing that stream on the way back to park headquarters.

All too soon, our trek was over, after which my lovely wife and I rewarded ourselves with sizeable ice cream cones at the park concession stand. A few more hours relaxing at the campsite remained after which, we reluctantly packed up and headed back home.

The old adage that there’s nowhere like home may hold true, but places like Copper Falls State Park remind a person that there are lots of other beautiful places that need visiting every now and then.