NGLVC: Our Summer Jobs, Part 2

The NGLVC is a destination unto itself as a gateway to the northern great lakes region and the Apostle Islands, boasting a large exhibit hall, theater, art exhibits, nature trails, gift shop, conference room, reading room, historical archives, and the 360-degree observation tower built to resemble a lighthouse. Our jobs are to staff the front desk, explaining to visitors what we have to see and do here and assist them in planning their time in the broader area. Because we were not open beyond the foyer until June 28, for the first whole month of our volunteer assignment, our job description was what I referred to as Disappointers. We would stand at temporary podiums that had been wedged into the front doors to block entry, directing folks to the restrooms, temporary gift shop, and back outside armed with as many brochures and pamphlets as we could assuage them with. The vast majority of people were understanding, a few were cranky, but everyone was disappointed, and to be honest, our jobs were boring. Finally, we opened fully last week, and happily, we can show off all we have to offer.

We spend the majority of our time in the middle of that big desk area, though we are free to roam. TBG and I cover four days total, Wednesday-Saturday, and we have great flexibility in that, as long as one of us shows up on our assigned days, it doesn’t matter which of us it is, and we can change it every week if we choose. Our schedule of choice thus far has been for me to work Wed/Fri and him Thu/Sat, giving us each two days off to ourselves and three in common.

To the right after you enter is the gift store, to the left is the Northern Voices theater and then exhibit hall, and to the back of the first floor are the Whittlesey Creek NWR displays.

There is a large, covered patio area where I like to take my lunch and watch the birds and our big snapping turtle, Her Royal Highness the Queen of Snappington. She (though we don’t really know if it’s a she) hangs out by the side of the pond where she is most likely to get tossed some fish food. No dummy, that one!

Adorning the walls between the first and second floors, are the center’s murals, part of the Ashland Mural Walk I described in the last post. All of the people depicted were done using actual locals!

The second floor houses the local climate-controlled Historical Archives, where people can come to access old documents and research event and/or family histories. Floor Two also features the local artwork displays.

Up on the third floor, which is really five stories high and accessible by stairs or elevator, is the 360 observation tower and deck. Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay is visible from the tower, as well as the NWR and the surrounding grounds/trails. The above photo of Queen was taken from the deck, just to give you an idea of how large she is.

There are two trails on the grounds. The 3/4-mile Boardwalk Trail circles the VC and takes visitors through a variety of habitats with benches and sign boards. The Aldo Leopold Trail begins at the VC’s parking lot and travels across the road, through the woods and fields, and offers a companion guide with explanatory numbered posts along the way. As you can see from the above map, combining them makes a walk of just over two miles. Sometimes, I take in the boardwalk trail on my lunch break or when it’s slow and my coworkers allow, and we always have the ability to walk either/both almost directly from the RV whenever we like.

Since opening fully, we like our jobs much better and are even able to enjoy the center ourselves much more. We like our work schedule, and getting a little separation both in time and interaction with people outside ourselves has been good for us and really livens up our dinner conversations.

We do, of course, make use of our days off together to continue to explore the area, and this past week we took a Sunday drive to check out a local recreation area, Birch Grove.

There was a nice campground that we can now inform visitors about first-hand, but there was little for us to do there save a walk along the road. After poking around there for a bit, we motored through Washburn, the town 15 minutes north of Ashland, and stopped to take in the Lakefront Trail.

With free parking, plenty of scattered picnic tables and benches, beautiful lake views, wildflowers, and birds galore, we thought it was a sweet trail and will be able to direct folks to it confidently.

The following day, in search of new hiking boots for me, we drove to Superior. Never letting a long drive go to waste, we planned a state park stop both on the way there and on the return. First up was Pattison State Park, home to Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall, Big Manitou 165′.

We started off on the lovely trails to see Little Manitou Falls first. The light wasn’t great for photos of it, and we had to wait for people to get out of the frame. The vegetation around the viewing area made a nice photo border but obscured a panoramic shot. Then it was off to take a gander at Big Manitou.

Again, the light wasn’t the most conducive to good photography, but we enjoyed the view from the stone observation deck. Although the big draw for the park are the falls, we thought the trails and grounds were just as nice.

After finally finding a pair of boots I think I can live with (the jury is still out as I wear them for short periods indoors to see what havoc they may wreak) we headed back, stopping at Amnicon State Park along the way.

Amnicon was more crowded and offered fewer trails, but the falls area was pretty, and campers were enjoying swimming in the pool beneath the upper falls, making it a challenge to get people-free photos.


to you, my Faithful Readers. I hope you all find something to celebrate in whatever corner of our great country you find yourselves.

19 thoughts on “NGLVC: Our Summer Jobs, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Dismal and Delightful Duluth – Zamia Ventures

  2. I am sooooo happy the VC opened and your job situation is much better. I can only imagine that you and Mark are full of wonderful information for the guests — you are the perfect hosts who always do your own research and exploration to have great ideas for others. Enjoy the rest of the summer – I hope the mosquitos are calming down and the fireflies continue to lite up your evenings!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Kim! Being fully open surely makes the days go by faster and in a more rewarding way. We like to be able to assist visitors, but we’re also trying to keep a list of the more unusual questions we get. It’s entertaining and educational πŸ˜€ The bugs have been manageable, fortunately, but I think the fireflies might be done. What a treat they were, though!

      Looking forward to YOUR hiking adventures over the next few months πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So wish we could have met up with the two of you! Wonder if you bumped into any of my relatives – from Ashland and Marengo areas? We are loving the UP!!! In Munising now til Wed then off to the Straits! Love your photos!

    Liked by 3 people

    • So close and yet so far! 😦 We have been having a great time with your relatives, though πŸ˜‰ We also loved the UP and said that if it didn’t get buried under a zillion feet of snow in the winter, we’d live there. See you in the SW later this year?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great VC! Lots for you two to explore and to keep the visitors busy. I can only imagine how long your days were prior to opening the VC. Looks like you are finding lots to keep you busy in your time off.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You most certainly are in a beautiful area, have lots of personal freedom and pleasant temperatures! πŸŽ† Happy 4th of July!

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 2 people

    • Happy 4th to you, too! It is undoubtedly a pretty area of the country, and we’re happy with our decision to take the assignment here. We do get mostly pleasant temps here, though the past few days in the 90s wouldn’t qualify!


  6. I look forward to your future resume listing “professional disappointer” for one month in 2021. Ha!

    Having been to one too many closed visitor centers this past year, I can confirm those people were rightfully and justifiably disappointed. While we have always made a stop at the VC the first thing we do at any park, I don’t think we really realized how much we were gaining from those visits until they all closed. I’m glad yours is up and running and you are busy again. It’s a win/win for everyone. Even better, you’re in a beautiful place for the summer – and probably one of the few that isn’t horrifically hot right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, Professional Disappointer is a good skill to have in your back pocket! It was a challenge to give people bad news and still leave them heading out the door with smiles on their faces.

      I agree with you on not realizing just how much we depended on and liked the VCs and similar facilities, especially for the insider tips that you just can’t get from a handful of brochures or the Internet.

      Even though the weather here is a little goofy and the past few days have been ugly-hot, overall, you are right in that we’re in a very good spot comparatively.


  7. What a fabulous visitor center! That was on our list two years ago, so we’re looking forward to seeing it next year. It looks like an interesting combination of nature/art/history in a beautiful building. But bummer, the very best volunteers will not be there to guide us (and hike with us!). 😦 Fortunately, we’ll have your posts, but it won’t be quite the same. Thanks for the tips on all of the nearby parks and hikes, too.

    I know exactly what you mean about the trials of finding the right hiking boots. Why do they always seem just fine when you’re wearing them indoors but as soon as you take them out on the trail, they suddenly start hurting?!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know!! You were going to come visit us here originally, but at least we were able to come see YOU! The VC really is a great facility with lots to see and do. I wish they were still having the Zoo Mobile come in, though. We will have many more adventures for you to mull over when you plan your trip, and I’m sure you’ll find lots of new stuff, too!

      I’m happy to report I put my new boots on outdoor turf today with great results! Wahoo!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds like you two have quite the balanced system with work and play. Glad the VC is finally open. The area is so beautiful and green. The Rockies and surrounding areas are so brown and dry and we saw many signs of fire damage on our trip to NM and CO last week. Guess all that green comes some from the humidity too. Luckily it’s still a bit green around here too. Hope it’s still this way when you come this direction.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Argh, you’re not making our permanent living decision any easier! After all this green, I don’t know how we can choose somewhere not-green, but I won’t do snow. Maybe we’ll just never stop traveling πŸ˜€


  9. The visitor center really looks like an engaging combination of information about the environmental and cultural features of the area. No wonder people were cranky when it was closed — looks like a marvelous resource. Getting it fully reopened is good news! And you don’t need me to tell you that the center is lucky to have such diligent volunteers who personally check out the destinations before recommending them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This VC is very cool, indeed! We’re told that on rainy days, people like to come in and spend all day enjoying the exhibits, doing puzzles, reading, and once the BIG theater space is open, we are allowed to play PG movies. Now I’m kind of excited for a rainy work day. Thanks for the kind words — we feel very privileged to be the kind of folks on whom visitors can rely. πŸ™‚


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