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  • Writer's pictureDanielle St. Louis

Governor Thompson State Park

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

This weekend had me alternatively reciting the line "the best laid plans of mice and men" and humming a parody of Gangster's Paradise. To say our visit to Governor Thompson State Park was enjoyable would be sugar coating it, but that's not to say we didn't make ice cream out of lemons. And only half of the lemons were courtesy of Governor Thompson State Park.

Angela and Lucky, Governor Thompson State Park

The trip started out pretty normal. We somehow managed to fit all of our gear, two dogs and two people into my Jeep Renegade. The weather was beautiful as we journeyed up north, through Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay. When we arrived at the park, we checked in at the office, picked up a map, and asked for some trail recommendations like usual. We headed over to our campsite and set up our tents, and then we sat in the shade of the car and ate sandwiches and drank a beer. All the while, Lucky lounged in the shade of the picnic table and Little Man, my epileptic Chihuahua, lounged in my lap.

After filling up on lunch, we decided to check out Woods Lake and some trails. Lucky took a dip in the lake, we hiked a couple of miles, and then spent some time sitting in the parking lot picking ticks off of Lucky. We'd noticed the prolific tick population earlier—I'd picked three off of Little Man and one off of my leg when we were setting up camp. We'd seen them starting to crawl up the outer walls of the tent. But knowing, seeing, and picking are not the same thing. Finally, after we felt Lucky had been sufficiently de-ticked, we went back to our campsite to get a fire and our dinner going.

This is when our weekend took a detour. We were just finishing the final rotation of the pizza over the fire when Little Man had a seizure. Of course I'd love it if this never happened, but it does, and I'm prepared for this inevitability. I've been given medicine from my veterinarian to administer in the event of a seizure. So I administer the meds. His seizure stops. I continue to monitor Little Man, and five minutes later he has another seizure. I administer the second dose of medicine, and his seizure stops. But now, I'm out of medicine. I've never had to use both doses in one day before. At this point, if he were to have another seizure, I'd have no way of stopping it.*

I made the decision to pack up both dogs and both people and drive the hour and twenty minutes into Green Bay to go to the closest Emergency Vet. If nothing else, they could get me more medicine to administer if Little Man had another seizure. We arrived at the ER vet at 11:00 pm and were informed they had a number of critical patients. So we waited. While we waited, I looked into booking a hotel room for the night. With no telling what time we'd be leaving the vet's, I didn't want to drive back the hour and twenty in the dark, wee hours of the morning after a long and now stressful day.

A Google search for "Dog Friendly Hotels in Green Bay" resulted the "Top 10 Dog Friendly Hotels in Green Bay" on Trip Advisor. I started calling at number 1. They were booked full. After all, it's Memorial Day weekend. I called number 2, the Super 8. The number in the Trip Advisor listing was for their national booking hotline. The gentleman who answered helped me select the closer of the two Super 8's in Green Bay and booked me a room with two queen size beds. Super!

We continue to wait, and just as we are next up to see the doc, Little Man has another seizure. The technician takes him to the back to hook him up to an IV and administer medicine to stop the seizure. The doctor comes and talks to me, and we decide to have Little Man stay for what's left of the night for observation and to make sure he doesn't have any more seizures. With nothing else to be done, we finally make our way to the Super 8. When we get there it's around 2:30 am, and the desk clerk informs me that there isn't actually a room there for me. But she doesn't just inform me, she yells at me. While I'm standing locked in a tiny vestibule. Apparently the national booking hotline got it wrong. And apparently it's not standard practice to notify someone when you've told them they have a room to sleep in and there isn't actually a room. And apparently it's MY FAULT. With the Super 8 lady still yelling at me, I turned around, exited the tiny vestibule and tried to hold back the tears that were welling up.

Pre-seizure shenanigans, Governor Thompson State Park

We drive next door to the Country Inn and Suites. All full. I bring up a Google listing of "hotels near me," and Angela and I start calling every hotel on the list. We find a room at a Days Inn and Suites, but it doesn't allow dogs. We take it. Everywhere else is booked. When we get there it's about 3:00 am. The desk clerk is sweet and accommodates my request for a couple of tooth brushes and toothpaste. I set Lucky up in the backseat of the Renegade, and Angela and I head inside to try to get some sleep. But first, showers. Did I mention the ticks were bad?

The next morning we hear from the vet. Little Man did well the rest of the night—no more seizures. We can pick him up anytime. But we still have to go back to Governor Thompson to pack up our campsite. We weigh all of our options over breakfast at Perkins and decide to leave Little Man with the vet while we go pack up. After all, he's in good hands in case something were to happen, and the deposit I'd put down the night before covered the extended stay. After breakfast, we let the vet know we'd be back to pick Little Man up later in the evening, and back to Governor Thompson we went.

We went straight to the campsite and get everything packed up. It had rained a bit overnight and that morning, but thankfully, the sun had been out long enough to dry out most of our gear. It was starting to get hot, but I changed into long spandex pants and tucked them in to my crew socks. During our breakfast deliberations, we decided to hike one more trail before heading back. We needed to salvage this trip somehow—to make lemonade out of these lemons. We stopped at the flush toilets one more time, filled up our water bottles at the water fountains, and dropped our trash off at the dump station before heading outside of the park to the trailhead for Flowage Trail on Caldron Falls Road.

We started out on Flowage Trail, taking it north to Huber Lake and the northeast until we reached the second intersection with Sunset Trail. At that point, we turned left, taking Sunset Trail past the rock outcropping, to a scenic overlook point, and back around to Huber Lake. Especially near the end of this hike, dragonflies swarmed around us. Lucky was overwhelmed by the dragonflies—obsessively trying to catch them in flight but settling to pounce on the unfortunate ones who landed in his path. The dragonflies were a welcome distraction from the thing I was overwhelmed by. The ticks. With the recent rain, there was practically a tick on every blade of long grass that blanketed the trail. I'd watch as they climbed up my hiking boots, and then my crew socks, and when they reached the top of my sock, I'd stop to flick them off. Then, I'd repeat this exercise of watching, waiting, and flicking. At the intersection for the North Trail, Angela looked down the path and said "that looks like a nice trail." Seeing the long, lush grass, I thought "that looks like a tick's paradise!!" (cue Coolio). We continued on Sunset and picked up our pace as another storm cloud made it's presence known with a drizzle and a low rumble of thunder.

We were really pushing the pace, trying to race the storm back to the car, but beating the storm back to the car was a false victory. We still had to pick the ticks off of Lucky. The de-ticking process started around the same time as the rain and outlasted the storm. It was horrible. The backs of Lucky's legs looked like they had scales. An hour later, we had a bowl full of ticks, a tired and confused dog, and two people climbing out their skin with the creepy-crawlys. Without any shame, I stripped down to my underwear and changed my clothes along the side of the road, making sure to not stand too close to the shoulder where there were still plenty of ticks just waiting to catch a ride. And plenty of them did catch a ride. On the way to Green Bay, and then back to Madison, and even a few days later, I continued to find ticks in the car.

At this point, there was nothing left to do but get some ice cream. We stopped at the local ice cream stand, and got dessert to go with our picnic dinner. While we were eating our sandwiches and ice cream, Lucky somehow managed to get into the rest of my Perkins pancakes and hash browns. We drove back to Green Bay on roads we were now well acquanted with and picked up Little Man. While we were picking up Little Man, Lucky somehow managed to get into an entire box of Monster Cookies from Hyvee. I know better than to leave Lucky with food in the car—even food I think is secure. It's not. He's smart when it comes to food.

Thankfully all of that sugar didn't make him hyper. He and Little Man both slept for most of the ride home. I kept my eyes on the road and Angela kept her eyes peeled for anymore ticks in the car. We ended up cutting our visit to Governor Thompson State Park short, but the time we did spend there was enough to give us a sense of this sleepy, tick infested state park. :-/

"At least the bathrooms were nice, living in a tick's paradise . . ."

*For anyone wondering, Little Man has been epileptic for about four years now. Every person and animal with epilepsy has their own unique seizure cycle, and Little Man's body isn't good at stopping seizures on its own. If seizures last too long, they can result in brain damage and even death. So I've worked closely with Little Man's veterinarian on his treatment. The week before we had adjusted one of his medications (too much of it can cause liver damage!), so I wasn't surprised that he ended up having a seizure. We've since gone back up on the medication and will continue to monitor his levels.

Want more information about hiking with your dog at Governor Thompson State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!

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