Lake House Bliss

Rocks on IceThis past weekend seven friends and I journeyed northward for a weekend at a lake house that I imagine to be Wisconsin’s most adorable. With its massive stone fireplace, seriously kitschy kitchen, and yards and yards of wood paneling, how could any cabin be better?

Add to that an extremely comfortable leather couch big enough to seat all eight of us, and you’ve got the perfect place to spend a fun weekend with friends.

And it was fun. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe, several times because of repeated impersonations of the “Cheese Doodles Guy.”

Bird HouseShore

Said Cheese Doodles Guy was on a recent Radio Lab episode about the feeling of bliss. In the episode, Cheese Doodles Guy (his real name is Aleksander Gamme) explains that as part of his preparation for a solo trek across Antarctica, he buried caches of food for himself so that he can avoid carrying all his provisions across the continent.  Later, you get to hear Cheese Doodles Guy experience extreme–and I’m talking extreme–happiness when he locates one of the caches of food after months of trekking alone.

Basically he just screams and screams with joy and then, between many Norwegian words, he says the words “Cheese Doodles.”

It’s an amazing clip and since several of us had heard the same Radio Lab episode, we couldn’t help but impersonate his screams and shout “Cheese Doodles” at the top of our lungs. It was so funny.

You can watch a video of Cheese Doodles Guy’s extreme happiness here.

WaterDead LeafDespite all this tomfoolery about the Cheese Doodles Guy, I spent a lot of time over the weekend thinking about what bliss really is. In the Radio Lab episode, they talk about bliss being this supreme state of happiness, almost like a religious experience, where feelings of joy and peace come together to create some amazing moment.

I think I’ve had moments like this. For me, they often result from being in the water. Perhaps in that warmth you feel when you first put on your clothes after a late night swim or during a sit in a hot spring deep within some ancient forest. During experiences like these, I’ve felt deeply at peace and content.

Our HouseOn Sunday night, after our lovely weekend had come to an end, I started to think more about the fact that most of my blissful experiences have a very physical element because of their connection to water. What I’m trying to say is, I think that getting out of a freezing cold mountain lake or relaxing in the warmth of a beautiful  hot spring results in an actual physical change in my body, perhaps the release of endorphins or  serotonin, that allows me to feel a state of bliss.

Huh. I guess this makes me think that I need to start respecting all of my feelings of happiness equally. I need to stop relying on bodies of water for providing these magical moments and realize that if I’m purely happy, it should be good enough to be considered bliss. I shouldn’t need that physical element. That magic.

And so I return to my friends screaming their heads off and pretending to be Cheese Doodles Guy and to all the other deep belly laughs, basketball games, meandering walks, and long talks that we all shared over the past few days.

These experiences all came together to create an amazing weekend that made me truly happy. It was a weekend that I hope to remember as a time of bliss.

Rock on IceFor anyone reading this, please share your comments! Feel free to respond to any of the following questions:

  • What do you think bliss is?
  • Is there a difference between happiness and bliss? What is it?
  • What have been some of your moments of bliss?

Day 238: Scenes from Wisconsin



Shoes and Water

Hidden Bowling Pins

Last Saturday, Jim and I went up to Kettle Moraine South to hike the last eight mile section of the Ice Age Trail within the park. After completing it that day, I officially accomplished one of the things one my list of 32 Things to Do Before I Turn 33: Hike the whole length of the Ice Age Trail running through Kettle Moraine South. Wahoo!

These pictures are just a few scenes from the day. Not sure why the plastic bowling pins were in the forest, but they were.

Day 225: Eldorado

On Sunday, August 12, Jim and I made a big trek up to Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin so we could do a little training for our Yosemite trip. We several hours going up and down one of the trails at the park so that we could practice going uphill wearing weighted packs, something you can’t do at all in Chicago. It was a tiring day, so to reward ourselves, we stopped off in Madison for dinner at the Eldorado Grill, where we were delighted with delicious food and a rather funny waiter.

That said, what I made that day was simply a picture of the restaurant’s awesome sign.

Day 188: Camping

Tree and Sky at Dusk

Cowboy in the Forest


Beer in the Forest

At the Cooler

Forest Taco Ingredients



In the Light

Feet in the Dark

This past weekend, a big group of friends and I went up to Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin for some camping. On Friday night, I took lots of pictures as we cooked dinner (delicious al pastor tacos!) and sat around the fire talking and singing. It was a hot night and I wasn’t feeling so good (I think because I drank an entire liter of water in under 30 seconds earlier in the evening), but it was still fun to be with my good friends.

That is more than I can say for later in the evening. As we put ourselves to bed in the three-walled shelter, we realized that the mosquitoes were merciless–it felt like one was flying into my ear and making that high-pitched and ever-so-annoying buzzing noise every five seconds. Meeeeeeehhhhzzzzzz. On top of the sweltering heat, it made for a bad situation.

Luckily, some friends were smart enough to bring a tent, so I eventually gave up on sleeping in the shelter and squeezed myself into the tent with them. At that point, I was safe from the bugs, but not from the weather, and only barely managed to get a fitful night’s sleep.

Why does the Midwest have to be so hot?

Anyways, despite the ridiculousness, it was still a good night with lots of laughs. Thanks friends!


Day 148: Motel and/or Hike


Indoor Pool from Outside

On Sunday, you could either say I made very little or a whole lot.

I took three pictures of our motel in Wisconsin (two of them are above), which isn’t much since usually when I do a series of photos I take between 20 and 100 photos. This would count as the “very little.”

On the other hand, I also took a 12.5 mile hike along the Ice Trail in Kettle Moraine South in scalding 95 degree heat. I’d like to call this the “a lot.” In a way, you could say I “made a hike” or “made progress toward becoming more fit” or even “made strides in finishing my 32 before 33 list, since hiking the entire length of the Ice Age Trail through Kettle Moraine South in Wisconsin is on my list. Sure, it’s kind of a stretch, but I feel like it’s a stretch worth taking since the hike almost killed me.

We got a late start for lots of reasons–we ate a slow breakfast, had trouble finding the trailhead, and are generally slow movers in the morning . We got on the trail at 11:15 a.m. and started with a leisurely pace. It was really nice. The scenery was beautiful with big pine trees and oaks on a deeply forested trail. There were also lots of hills to climb up, a welcome change for an Illinois girl.

Around 2:15 we got to a break in the trail with a parking lot and a trail map. That’s when we found out we still had 7.5 miles to go (and we had already gone 5 miles).  See, we knew the trail was long, but because the state park website is pretty bad, we were having trouble figuring out just how long the trail was. We thought it would be somewhere between 8 and 12 miles, but we didn’t figure out it was 12.5 miles until we got to that parking lot and were already feeling kind of tired.

In any case, we filled up our 32 ounce water bottles and got back on the trail, which started through a patch of forest with tons of raspberry bushes (if only they were ripe!). Unfortunately, the forest quickly faded away and we were suddenly hiking through a giant open savannah. In intense heat. With only 32 ounces of water.

We hiked that way for three more hours. By the end, my heart was pounding so hard, not because I was physically exhausted, but because I was getting dehydrated. But I pushed on. I dragged myself up over hills and through deceiving patches of trees that opened up back onto the vast prairie.

Until we finally reached our final destination…and a water spigot. I must say the water was amazing and my aching feet felt amazing when I ripped my shoes off. After almost five and half hours of hiking my dogs were tired, and I was even more tired.

It was worth it though. That 12.5 mile hike was my longest ever, and I am really proud. I’ve had problems with my knees over that past few years, and I feel like being able to walk that much shows that I am finally recovering and have been building strength in my knees again.

I also feel like I proved something to myself that goes beyond my knee problems–I’m still fit, strong, and up for a challenge!

Day 147: Another Day in Wisconsin

Red Farm Building

Grape Vines

Hay Bales

Cloudy Sky

Toucan Park Toy

Hand Over Hand Bars

On Saturday, we drove up to Wisconsin for the first day of our mini-break (we stayed until Monday) and had another glorious day up north. We went to Stellar Vineyard and Northleaf Winery for wine tastings, played in a lovely public park that hadn’t been renovated since probably the 1980’s (it had excellent hand-over-hand bars), and then went for dinner at a supper club on the beautiful Lake Koshkonong.

Actually, the story with the lake is kind of sad. Apparently, back in the 1800’s the surface of this giant lake was entirely covered in wild rice, which was an important food source for the native Americans in the area. Then a dam was built, causing the lake to rise by about six feet and subsequently causing all of the rice to die. This also meant that the thousands and thousands of ducks that used to live on the lake also disappeared. Depressing!

Anyways, despite learning about this tragedy (on the first page of the supper club menu, which was kind of funny/weird) I still had an amazing day. Yay for Wisconsin!

Day 15: A Day in Wisconsin

Snow in the Pines

Man with Red Beard

Wintery Forest Scene

Wooden Shutters

Hanging Lamp

Feet in Snow

More photos. These are from our day cross country skiing and hiking in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin. We had great weather and enjoyed spending time and being active outdoors. A lovely day!