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Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the
Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.
Thus begins Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the Little House on the Prairie series. It was one of my favorite book series growing up (and still is). My mom read them, I read them, and now I'm reading them out loud to my girls. It was love at first sentence for the girls and I'm so happy that they are falling in love with Laura and Mary.
Thanks to the popularity of the books over the years, most of the Laura Ingalls Wilder home sites have been restored. Museums have been built, bits of pioneer life have been preserved, and you can have a first hand look at what life may have been like.
Living in Minnesota, we are very fortunate to live very close to a few of the Laura Ingalls Wilder home sites. Over the 4th of July weekend this year, we took a camping trip and combined it with a trip to see Laura's birthplace and the site of Little House in the Big Woods. I promised the girls this trip as soon as we finished reading Little House in the Big Woods. Then came the planning - a camping trip to the shores of Lake Pepin and a day trip over to Pepin, Wisconsin to see the Little House.
We had such a great time filled with s'mores, lake swimming, a fireworks show, and of course, Laura. The house you see is not the original Little House. The original didn't survive all these years nor did the Big Woods. In the 1970's the town of Pepin took great pains to rebuild the house almost exactly as it was when Laura, Mary, Ma, Pa, and baby Carrie lived there. Then they created a charming roadside park around it with picnic tables, trees, and lots of shade. We picnicked there and spent a very pleasant time exploring and taking pictures that afternoon. The Big Woods are also gone and in it's place are corn fields. The rolling hills are still there and the landscape is still simple and beautiful.
My daughters immediately left the present time, and flew back to pioneer time. You see, every few days, Lizzie, age 6, tells me, "if Laura were still alive, she and I would be friends." Yes, I'm sure they would. She played with Laura that day. They climbed into trees, ran around, and explored the house together. The house was incredibly tiny. It's hard to believe a family of 5 could live there. But, they did, and they were happy. Sometimes I believe we think we need more space than we actually do.
The town of Pepin has also erected a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. We spent a small amount of time there as it is currently undergoing a major renovation. The renovation is set to be completed in the fall of 2013. The museum was nice, but to me, the true gem was the home site. It was so easy to close your eyes and envision the Big Woods. Suddenly you're hearing the crack of an ax and a few girlish giggles. The wind blows through your hair and your senses awaken. I can see why they loved this place. I really can.
We do projects all the time to bring a book to life, but it's not too often that you can travel to the place where a book took place. We were very lucky to have this opportunity and snatched it up. It wasn't the trip of a lifetime, but it was a perfect mini-adventure and a trip back in time to see the Ingalls family.
More more information about the Laura Ingalls Wilder home site at Pepin, WI, please click here.