Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fountain City, Merrick State Park and Hawks’s View Cottages

Over Memorial Day weekend, my family and I took a camping trip up to Merrick State Park… which is north of La Crosse and situated right on the Mississippi River.
Our camp spot was great, right on the water, only one neighbor, right across from the men’s pit toilets and not far from the women’s and a clearance in the brush so we could fish right from our site. We were in the South Campground with no electric or flush toilets, but we used our vehicle to drive up to the North Campground a few times to use the cleaner flush toilets. They also have decent showers there. Firewood is available for purchase at the park until 11pm and there are canoe rentals available for 3 hours at a time. 
While we were there, friends of ours reserved a cottage at Hawk’s View Cottages and Lodges right in Fountain City (about 2 miles from Merrick State Park). They happened to have one of the cottages still open for the weekend, even though it was last-minute and a holiday weekend. We met them at their cottage to shower and check the place out. 
Our friends warned us ahead of time of “death hill”… the curvy, steep driveway that you need to take up the side of the bluff to reach the cottages. Whoa. The worst part about it was that we only one parking spot when we reached the top. To park in the tiny bluff-side lot, you have to maneuver in an impossible lack of space, with the threat of a straight dropoff glaring at you during every move. Backing into your space is required so you can get back down the hill when you need to leave. I’m just glad my husband kicked me and the kids out of the car before he attempted to turn the car around. 
From the parking lot, it was 84 stairs up to the cottage. Once you get in the cottage, the worries and complaints about the driveway and climb up seem to disappear. The cottage was gorgeous with lots of windows. Through the treetops, you can see parts of the Mississippi and boats in the water. Both levels of the two-level house had a deck, upstairs there was a master bedroom with a whirlpool tub and master bath. Downstairs was a kitchen and living room with fold-out futon and another bathroom. A perfect space for this little getaway. 
Hawk’s View also has a winery in town, so our friends were greeted to their cottage with a bottle of wine as well. In town, there was a tasting room that offered free wine tastings from late morning until 7pm. 
There were three restaurants in town that we noticed on the main-drag. We got the pan-friend Haddock at The Golden Frog… YUM! We would get that again in a heartbeat. The drink prices, although we’re not sure exactly what they were, were super cheap. Our meals, including the kids’ and their drinks, came to only $44. Between me and my husband, we had 5 alcoholic beverages. 
The next morning we went to The Monarch Public House (an Irish joint) after my husband had read great reviews on the place. We were sad that they didn’t have any breakfast buffets, so we ended up with lunch food. My husband liked his corned beef, but I ordered a chicken breast and it was like a processed, minced chicken patty. I was kinda grossed out. And their fries weren’t very good either. Overall, we were kind of disappointed. Later that day we stopped at WingDam, hoping they would have a nice patio overlooking the Mississippi for some drinks and apps. The patio went along the side of the building, not a great view, and the train ran right next to the building… almost literally a foot from the patio. So Loud! So we decided to just head back to The Golden Frog and we enjoyed our time on their fenced in patio. The kids were able to play, we got drinks and apps. Then we stayed long enough to get dinner. Another great dinner. I had the pizza, which was great. Our friend had the beef tips, which he raved about. Another great experience there. I’d recommend The Golden Frog. 
For groceries, it was a short jaunt to Winona, MN to find a grocery store. 

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