Hog Creek to Perent Lake: A Destination Lake

Winding waterways, beaver dams, tight turns, and a chance to see a moose. This is just a small portion of what Hog Creek has to offer. Some use Hog Creek as an entry or exit for a route through the BWCA, we used it as a way to get to our destination of Perent Lake.

Water, water, water…” This is what we heard for a good 15 minutes as we paddled our way through Hog Creek. Our little man was on his second trip to the BWCA. Our first trip catered to being as simple as possible, now we were tackling something a little more complicated. Hog Creek did not disappoint.

Ranger Station

For Entry Point 36, use the Tofte Ranger Station. It is located on Route 61 in Tofte, on your left hand side as you travel north. It’s a small building with, at the moment, only the entryway open. Hopefully the full building will be open soon. There are a number of neat souvenirs, books, and animal displays to see inside.

You’ll watch the video and take your short questionnaire prior to receiving your permit. Keep this permit on you as you travel through the BWCA. It’s a pretty quick process, maybe 10-15 minutes.

Tofte Ranger Station Info:
Address: 7355 MN-61 Tofte, MN 55615
Hours:8:00am-4:30pm
May 1st- Sept. 30: 7 days a week
Oct 1st- April 30th: Closed Weekends & Holidays
Phone: 218-663-8060

Entry Point Details

Entry Point #36
Permits Issued Daily5
Permit TypeOvernight Paddle
Ranger Station Tofte district

Getting to the Entry Point

From the Tofte Ranger Station, you’ll head northwest on Hwy 61 for 1 mile, take a left onto the Sawbill Trail (Cty Rd 2). Follow Cty Rd 2 for 17 miles. You’ll take a slight left onto Perent Lake road (Cty Rd 3). If you miss this slight left, you’ll have the opportunity to turn left shortly after this, it’s a bizarre set up. After 10 miles (turns into Hwy 7 after 8 miles), you’ll take a right onto Kawishiwi Lake Rd (Forest Rte 354). The Hog Creek parking area will be on the Left after about 2 miles. There are signs all along the way, just follow the ones for Hog Creek.

You’ll have paved roads for quite a ways before you reach the dirt roads. They were in good condition when we visited in June of 2021, but we’ve experienced some pretty nasty road conditions after heavy rainfalls. Be prepared for some holes and drive slow. One of the neat things about the drive to this entry point is that you will pass over Hog Creek before you reach your destination. It looks very narrow, but the section to be paddled is wider than the parts upstream.

Food Note: Coho Bakery and Café is just past the turn to Sawbill in Tofte, right on Hwy 61. It’s a great stop for breakfast and a coffee before you venture into the wilderness. They had lingonberry french toast, it was amazing!!

Parking

The parking area will be on your left. The grassy parking area is quite small for how many permits are issued per day. Our strategy was to unload the vehicle at the portage trail head and then repark the truck. This worked well, we had to park along the road. Getting there early is a good idea. There were a couple of trucks parked next to their trailers in the parking area, there were several others parked along the road and entry to the lot.

Portages

There are two portages on the way to Perent Lake. The first being a short portage from the Parking area to the Hog Creek and the second going around some rapids along the creek.

First Portage: This first portage is very short. It’s only 15 rods from the parking area to the creeks edge. It’s a downhill slope with logs placed to make an elongated set of stairs along with some stones acting as steps as well. At the bottom is a little bank that is perfect for placing a canoe and getting organized. Be careful, the stone “steps” can be quite slippery. It was raining on us on our way in and out.

Second Portage: It is a short distance downstream to the next portage. This is also a 15 rod portage. There is no good landing point at this portage. Given that it’s purpose is to go around the little rapids, you can expect rocks and some rough terrain. There are two paths to take on this portage, both are very rocky. I recommend taking a load of gear before tackling it while carrying your canoe. Be sure to stop and admire the rapids, it’s nothing huge, but is quite beautiful.

This was the most congested portage that I have ever encountered in my time in the BWCA. There were 4 different groups attempting to use this portage. Two beginning their adventure and two ending it. There was one group leaving with 10 people(max is 9) and 4 dogs. I couldn’t believe it! The group entering the BWCA alongside us, was a pair of Rangers. They were checking permits and managed the congestion situation.

Hog Creek

Hog creek is a winding and somewhat narrow creek that is 15 miles long. The distance from the Entry Point to mouth of Perent Lake is only 3 miles. You can breath a sigh of relief here. About a mile down the creek you will encounter a beaver dam. You will need to get out and guide your canoe down, it’s steep. Be wary of the depth on either side. It seems like it’s shallow right next to the dam, but then drops off dramatically.

Going downstream is quite simple, follow the current and it will lead you to Perent lake. There is one point that we double checked the map for, Walter Creek. Stay west when you approach this portion of the creek. One thing that helped reassure us that we were on the right track was to follow the trail of maintenance. There are several trees that have fallen over the creek. The forest service has sawed them off to allow explorers of the wilderness to venture on.

Keep an eye out for wildlife, this is a quiet creek and you may just spy a critter going about their day. One of the groups that we passed mentioned they spotted a moose along the creek on their way out. We saw beaver tracks along the edge of the creek but weren’t lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these aquatic marvels.

Most of the creek is just wide enough to fit one canoe’s width, maybe two canoes in some places. There are so many sharp turns, using a rudder style of steering worked best to maneuver these tight spaces. Rivers and creeks are my favorite places to paddle, there is so much more to see and never a dull moment.

Finding a Campsite

The odds of landing a campsite on Perent Lake seem high with the number of campsites being 19. But if you check out your map, the next closest possibility being 7 to 8 portages away on Pompous, Boga, or Isabella Lake. Fortunately, Hog Creek is not one of the most popular entry points. And like all BWCA lakes, it’s first come, first serve. No campsite reservations.

There are a variety of different campsites to choose from, given that they are available. Our preferred campsite is on an island, having an island to yourself is an amazingly relaxing experience. Throw a hammock up; paradise.

Perent Lake Campsite Types
Island6
Point5
Bay2
Creek Entry/Exit3
Simple Shoreline3

We ended up at the island on the north side of the lake. At first we weren’t sure if it was a campsite because the camp area is up in the middle of the narrow island. There are two clearings available for tent set up with the fire grate in a larger clearing in the middle. The latrine is not as far as usual from camp, I found that convenient. The view from the westside of the island were amazing and it offered great opportunity for the kids to climb and explore among the rock and driftwood riddle shoreline. This island site has become one of my favorite campsites to date.

Fishing

An exiting group mentioned some killer walleye fishing. Unfortunately, we entered on a cold front and were not able to experience this fishing frenzy. But even in poor conditions, we did not go back to camp empty handed. We ate well on our fish dinner night and had fun catching and releasing as well.

I only caught one fish, but I was only out for about half an hour to fish. We had little ones along on this trip, I spent most of my time exploring with them. My dad, Drew, and husband, Scott, had a good time out on the water. There are fishing spots marked on bwca.com, this is a very useful website that I like to utilize when planning my excursions.

Side note: Remember to take photos of your catch before you start to fillet your dinner. You’ll end up with some goofy pictures like we did.

Wildlife

The Boundary Waters has a plethora of critters to encounter. My favorites that I see nearly every venture out are the common loon, eagle, and the squirrels. The eagle made himself known just after we entered Perent Lake. We were almost near the end of our trip before we heard the loon call. I was beginning to think that we were going to have a BWCA experience without one! There are squirrels all over the place. They are the most curious creatures! I love when they come into camp and check things out. Don’t feed them, they need to rely on themselves. They do go right for the food pack though, so keep that closed.

I’m not going to say that turtles are the stealthiest animal out there, but Scott if didn’t have such amazing eyesight, our one-year-old son, Killian, wouldn’t have all of his fingers right now. Killian was dipping his chubby little fingers in at the waters edge when Scott spotted a huge snapping turtle coming right up for those fingers. It didn’t stop after Scott snatched Killian out of the way, it was mere inches away. Had anyone else been with him instead of Scott, this story would have a different end. My husband has the best eyesight out of all of us, by a lot. That snapping turtle hung around for quite some time. The freaky thing is; we had just been swimming in that area a couple hours earlier.

Moose are by far the coolest animal to encounter up there. We did not happen upon any moose while on Perent Lake or along Hog Creek. Another group that I mentioned earlier did encounter one on their way out along Hog Creek. And we were lucky enough to witness a moose eating in the same location that we spotted one on our last trip. It is along the Sawbill Trail on the east side of the road, just south of the last pass over Plouff Creek. There is a small marshy pond that the moose were standing in both years. Killian was pretty jazzed, moose were his favorite animal at that time.

Relax

There is no greater peace than sitting at the edge of the water, listening to the gentle lap of the waves. With a loons call in the distance, the a breeze bringing in the fresh scent of pine, you can truly breath. Find time while you are out in this great wilderness to slow down and reset. An excursion in this environment can bring grand adventure and refreshing peace all in one. Savor it.

Being that creeks and rivers are my favorite waters to paddle in, I would most certainly make this trip again. Perent Lake is a great destination lake that has potential for tremendous walleye fishing. Our timing wasn’t ideal, weather wise. Had we been able to spend more time on this lake, I believe the fishing spots would have come to light. If you’re planning a trip in the BWCA for a destination lake with walleye, this one should be in the running. Though it is a more populated lake with a higher number of campsites, we had very little interaction with fellow campers. Happy Camping!!

Sibley State Park: More than Expected

This park is located out just outside of New London Minnesota. It’s not a highly trafficked park. We hiked on a Wednesday and were at the park for about 2 hours before seeing anyone else on the trail. A great place to hike if you are gearing up/training for a longer more rigorous hike, which is exactly what I’m doing with my 9 year old daughter. I highly recommend the Mount Tom Trail, it has a lot more than I expected from this trail.

Quick Review: 7/10 Great scenery and overlooks, trails are maintained fairly well, one larger closure on the main trail, detour was not very scenic. The Mount Tom Trail is considered moderate and for good reason.

Mount Tom Trail

We took the Mount Tom Trail. Our trek started at the trail center(which was closed for construction). This trail is about 4 miles of hills, overlooks, grasslands, and a lakeview. With the exception of the very beginning, the trails are well marked. We took the wrong path for about half a mile, that didn’t take long to sort out. There are maps posted in several places, we used the Alltrails app and recorded our hike. It took us 3 hours and 11 minutes total, 2 hours and 25 minutes of actual moving time. With the little ones along we took a few breaks and had a picnic at Mount Tom.

Hills

Holy hills Batman! I’ll be honest with you… I was expecting grasslands. You know, prairie. This was western Minnesota, it’s farms and grasslands out there. We actually happened upon a map that shows the different regions in Minnesota. It was interesting to see that this park is still in the deciduous forest region. This was the most hilly hike that I had done in a while. The grade was quite steep in a few areas. There are logs and rocks going across the trail to prevent erosion and acted as stairs. I do not recommend bringing a stroller on this trail. I did bring one, we had an extra munchkin along for this hike. Sandy, my 9 year old daughter, and I completed this hike along with a one and half year old and a 3 year old. I had my child carrier on my back and pushed the stroller. I felt like super mom on this hill riddled moderate hike.

Overlooks

Yes, the hills are wonderfully exhausting. But you can celebrate your triumph with an amazing view from the top. Even before you reach Mt. Tom, you can see over the treetops. We pulled out the binoculars to have a good look around, it was quite cool.

Mount Tom

You have a couple of options for viewing the Mount Tom Monument. We did the Mount Tom Trial, which brought us to a small parking lot with a restroom(yay!). So obviously, you can drive right to the head of the short trail to the Mount Tom Monument. It is paved and wheelchair/stroller accessible. If you’re not up for a hike in the woods, you can still enjoy a nice view. There is a set of stairs to climb to the top of the monument to truly gain the best vantage point. You can see all the way to Wilmar from the top. It has a sturdy railing, with small space in between the slats. I was confident in it enough that I let Killian climb up on his own, he was quite proud of himself.

Lake Andrew

We continued the Mount Tom Trail to Little Mount Tom, it had a cute little view. The climb up to it was really neat though. At this turning point there are signs to follow for Lake Andrew. We only got a quick glimpse of the lake. This was very disappointing for Sandy, she loves the water and any chance to be near it.

Trail Closures

This was quite a bummer. The trail is disrupted by a closure. At first glance it didn’t look like to much of it was closed. But when we aske a park ranger where we can get back on the trail, they informed us that the rest of the trail to the trail center was closed. This was such a let down. We completed the trail as much as was possible at the time. Hopefully it doesn’t stay closed for too long.

Other Park Activities

The hiking was great at this park, it’s absolutely beautiful! But the hiking isn’t the only activity available at this park and I look forward to taking advantage of what this park has to offer during different seasons.

  • Camping (year-round)
  • Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing

Whatever your favorite outdoor activity is, you’ll find something to enjoy at this park. Have you been to Sibley State Park? What was your favorite thing about it?

Camping on Kawishiwi: Baby’s First BWCA Trip

August of 2020, we embarked on an adventure of great mystery. We had no idea what to expect, BWCA with a baby? Were we crazy? No… just ambitious. But ambition did not get the better of us. Through careful planning and thorough packing, we managed to have a very successful trek. Here’s how…

Why Kawishiwi?

When Scott and I decided to tackle a trek in the BWCA with our 10 month old son, Killian, we knew we had to be very picky about the location of our journey. I searched on maps, blogs, google, bwca.com, etc. Finally, after a long while of picking through all of the information I could find, we landed on Kawishiwi. I had a few requirements, and this lake met them:

Launch at the Lake: The biggest draw to this lake was that there was no portage to the lake. That’s right, you can load your canoe right from your truck! That means no portaging with a baby. Ideally, we like to be farther away from civilization, but not with an infant in tow. The launch at the Kawishiwi access was perfect.

Smaller Lake: It’s not a tiny lake, but when you compare it to Brule or Sea Gull Lake, the lake is dwarfed. The wind will not pound as hard on this lake as it would on larger lakes with some similar attributes.

Numerous Camp Opportunities: Seven campsites are available on this lake, that is quite a few compared to many of the other lakes out there. It gave us a good chance at finding a campsite. Seven is still a small enough number to keep the lake from being crowded. There are 9 permits issued per day at this entry point. Don’t worry, a lot of folks use this lake as the start of a route; not a destination.

Backup Plan: If the campsites are all taken on this lake, there is a lake that offers two more opportunities to find a site. That is Square Lake, it’s just up a little creek from Kawishiwi. There is no portage between the two lakes, you simply follow the creek all the way to Square. However, you will need to pull your canoe over one beaver dam, not a difficult task when the water is at a good level. If you don’t need to camp on Square Lake, it makes for a great day trip.

Beach Campsite: We were fortunate enough to land a sweet campsite that was just off to the right of the entry point. It’s a lovely little beach site. Beach sites are perfect for kids! Our daughter, Sandy, and Killian spent most of the weekend on this beach. We weren’t at our campsite more than 30 minutes before they were playing in the water. Sandy has always been a beach baby!

Quick Exit: This isn’t something a lot of folks like to dwell on, and don’t let it hang over you and ruin your trip with worry. But in the event of an injury or illness, you’ll want to be able to make a quick exit. No fuss with portages or excessively long paddles. We haven’t had any injuries or illnesses occur in the BWCA, but while having a little one out there, I liked the idea of being able to get to assistance quickly.

One Drawback: There is one negative attribute about this lake that I feel I must mention. Kawishiwi Lake Rustic Campground is right on the lake. Those using this campground must have a self-issued day permit to enter the lake. These are available at the campground. It may be a blessing in disguise for some. If you are unable to land a site on the lake, you may be able to secure one at the campground. They do not take reservations and it is first come, first serve. Some may be put off by the traffic. Honestly, we didn’t really notice. I think those campers were looking for a quiet getaway just like the rest of us who seek the peace of the Boundary Waters.

Duration

So many things can affect the duration of a trip. Work, school, weather conditions and whatnot. If you are the type to make a long route that takes two weeks, you might wind up with a rough time. Take into consideration how much food and formula you’ll need to pack and diapers you’ll need to haul back out with you. It adds up.

Short and Sweet: We like to stay a bit longer, but with a new little adventurer, short and sweet was best. We stayed for two nights. Very short and oh so sweet. Keep in mind that this is an experiment. Testing the waters with your little one.

Leaving Early is Okay: If your first night is absolutely dreadful, spend the first part of the next day enjoying camp and then head out. We entered our adventure knowing that we could leave at anytime and that relieved a lot of pressure. Scott and I agreed that if we weren’t having a good time, we would pack it up and just have a nice weekend on the north shore. Knowing that you have an “out” takes a big weight off your shoulders. Two nights was plenty for a first introduction with an infant. In fact, we actually made our next trip with Killian a two night trip as well. Also perfect for a toddler on the move!

Packing for Baby

You might be thinking that babies require a lot of stuff, how are we going to bring everything!? It’s not as much as you think after you consider what’s actually necessary. There is a lot of baby camping gear out there. You don’t need it all, or any of it really. Just the necessities.

Clothing: The great thing about packing for your little one is that their clothes are tiny! They don’t take up much space, which is great because you’ll want to bring extras and a variety to accommodate for weather changes. Just like packing for yourself for a camping trip, dress them in layers. Pajamas should be warm. Even in the hot summer months, the nights up there can be quite cool. Our trip was August, but as you can see from pictures, Killian was in long sleeves much of the time. Summer months don’t guarantee warm weather.

Sleep Sack: We brought Killian’s sleep sack. He was used to sleeping with this and it was great for giving him some extra warmth. We had a lightweight fleece sleeping bag as a spare. This was folded in a way that it could not go over his head and most of it was under him to keep him from sleeping on the cold, hard ground. It worked quite well and he slept all night. When it’s cooler out, you might consider having your little one sleep with you in your sleeping bag. Just remember safe sleep tactics.

Pac & Play: You can bring one of you’d like, but I think this is a waste of space and energy. I don’t like brining extra gear if I don’t have to.

Diapers & Wipes: Bring a fresh package of wipes, you shouldn’t need more than that. Don’t go for the travel size, it would really stink to run out without a convenience store for at least 20 miles. So how many diapers? Figure out how many diapers your baby uses in an average day, and bring a whole extra days worth of diapers. You’re little one will likely be drinking more liquids than usual. I like to have extras in my vehicle as well, for a fresh change when you arrive back at your starting point.

Formula and Breast Milk: Formula is easy to bring, all you need to do is pack it in a sealable container that won’t bust open in your food pack. Breast milk would be simple enough, bring a small, soft sided cooler that fits in your food pack.

Hammock: Yes, a hammock. Hammocks are so perfect for naptime. Just don’t let your infant nap alone in the hammock. They could easily turn over or get tangled. Napping in the hammock is perfect bonding time with your baby. Be sure it has a mosquito net. Our hammock with built in mosquito net has been my favorite camping purchase so far!

Life Jacket: You’ll need an infant life jacket that is Coast Guard approved. Our favorite is the Full Throttle brand infant life jacket. It has majority of the floatation device on the front with a smaller piece around the neck. This keeps them face up if they fall into the water. It’s also less bulky around their middle, Killian was very comfortable in it and was able to wear it for hours at a time. Be sure to check the weight limits of your child’s life jacket before your trip.

Baby Hygene

Diapers: Now you know how many diapers to bring along. But where do you put them when after they are used? In your trash bag. Disposing of diapers and wipes in the latrine is not permitted in the Boundary Waters. Pack in, pack out. You’ll want to change your little on a changing pad, I didn’t bring one and regretted it. Killian wound up with dirt and debris in his diaper. When you go to bed at night or are away from camp, make sure you hang your trash bag up with your food pack. It’d be a real bummer to have to clean those diapers up twice if an animal got into them.

Cloth Diapers: Cloth diapers are great for at home. Not so great out in the BWCA. You will have a difficult time getting them clean enough. You might be thinking you’ll have plenty of water to wash them in. Nope. Washing is not allowed in these pristine waters. You must wash items 200 feet from in from any water source and burry the used water. No harsh cleaning supplies can be brought in. I would imagine cloth diapers would not be sanitary for long and your baby would end up with a rash. Disposable is the way to go, at least for this kind of trip.

Bathing: Like I had said, washing is not allowed in the lakes. If your are going to suds up your baby, it needs to be done 200 feet from shore and the water needs to be buried. The other option, is to take a dip in the water without soap. This is what we did. A little skinny dipping for a baby will wash them right up. With a beach campsite like we had, that was an easy task. As far as food on the face, we used baby wipes and tossed those in our trash bag.

Feeding Baby

Feeding your little adventurer is not a difficult task as it sounds. It’s just a matter of being prepared and knowing what to bring.

Formula: Formula was so simple to bring along. We brought a smaller square container along. It was more than we needed, I wanted to have extra. Little ones really work up an appetite when they are outdoors. Some babies are used to having their bottles heated up when they are fed, we didn’t do this with Killian. He always had room temperature formula. This played to our advantage, all we had to do was mix up a bottle without heating it. He was good to go. This is the only time that I have brought in bottled water to the BWCA. I felt ridiculous, but I didn’t want to risk parasites with an infant. Any leftovers need to be buried 200 feet away from water and away from camp.

Breastmilk: Though I didn’t experience this first hand, it seems quite doable. Pack your pre-frozen milk in a reliable, soft-sided cooler that fits in your food pack. To heat it up, place one package into a small pot of water over your camp stove. Easy peasy. And just like with formula, left overs need to be buried 200 feet away from water and away from camp. If you need to pump while out there, you’ll need a small portable pump that is battery or hand operated. I suggest using the fresh milk first as it won’t freeze all the way in your cooler.

Food Pouches: Food pouches are fantastic for the adventuring baby! Test out a few flavors beforehand and only bring the ones they like. Try to make them heartier types, protein packed. Depending on the age of your little one they might be eating most of what you are, food pouches are still a great way to make sure they are getting what they need out there. Bring a few more than you think you’ll need.

Solid Foods: If you have an older baby, you will probably want to pack some snack foods too. We brought teething husks, yogurt bites, and puffs. These were great little snacks, especially on our day trip to square lake.

Would We Do It Again?

This was an amazing trip. I would do it again in a heartbeat. My only regret is not getting our oldest out there sooner. She loves it up there too! Kawishiwi was the right decision for Killian’s first outing. We had a fantastic time out there. We were well stocked and lucked out with the perfect campsite. I know it doesn’t always end up like that, but truly a motivating experience to keep at it.

We received a few comments while planning and on our way in. Folks couldn’t believe we were attempting a trip with an infant. But it’s really not as daunting as it sounds. Plan you location, bring enough supplies, keep them fed, and you’ll have a very memorable trip with your baby.

If you are looking for further safety tips for camping with little ones click here.

Bonus: We saw a moose on our way out! It was Sandy’s first moose sighting. Unfortunately, Killian was sleeping. We were not about to wake him up, he earned that nap!

I’d love to hear about your trips with your babies! How did it go? Where did you go?

Don’t Rock the Canoe: Getting Babies & Toddlers on the Water

Being the Minnesotan that I am, one of my favorite activities is canoeing. Being in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it makes sense! Any parent would understand that sharing your passions with your kids is priceless. But some of our passions are a little more difficult to accomplish with kids in tow. Difficult is not synonymous with “not worth it.” These tips will help you get your little adventurers out on the water with you.

Gear

Where there is a will, there is a way…. But you’ll need a few things first.

Canoe

Duh. Obviously you need a canoe, you know that. But I have this listed because there are a few things to mention about your canoe. Check it out for any damage prior to use and if you haven’t used it in while check the tabs, make sure you are paddling legally. And as always, check for invasive species, be sure to clean your canoe before and after use. Both a solo and multi-person canoe will work just fine, the only difference is; where child should sit. We will go over child placement later on in this post.

Paddles

When I was a kid, my parent bought me a small paddle to bring along in the canoe. Brilliant! It was a real wooden paddle, just smaller. It made me feel like part of the team, even at a young age. We still have this paddle, but it is now in my daughters possession. She loved being able to “help” while in the canoe. We found one for our son as well, now they each have their own. Sandy has outgrown hers, but I have started burning the names of the B.W.C.A. lakes that she has camped on onto the paddle. It has turned into a memorable keepsake. Killian still brings his along for the ride, it is great entertainment for them and gives them a job. Of course, this is optional, but it’s a great way to get them feeling part.

Lifejackets

This is so important. Your child’s lifejacket should be the appropriate size, snug, comfortable, and Coast Guard approved. Getting the proper size is as simple as checking the weight limit and making sure that your child fits inside those guidelines. Getting it both snug and comfortable is a whole different animal. Yes, you need the straps snug. Don’t let your little one slip out of their lifejacket. They should have a leg strap if they are less than 50lbs. As far as comfort goes, having a t-shirt on under the lifejacket is really helpful. Even a thin swim shirt will do to keep the straps from rubbing. For the littler ones, having the floatation device in the front of them with a second on the neck is perfect and gives more breathing/wiggle room. Our Killian is very comfortable in his lifejacket, he even fell asleep in it. It’s a Full Throttle brand infant lifejacket. He wore it for his first two summers before outgrowing it.

***Important note: Puddle jumpers are not appropriate lifejackets out on the water. A pool at home or a hotel, sure. But not out on the lake or river. All your child has to do is put their arms up and the whole thing can slide off. I’ve seen too many videos of children in puddle jumpers out paddle boarding or kayaking with parents to not say something. It’s just not safe, please don’t do it.

Also, adults should be wearing their lifejackets too. Not only are you setting a good example, you are more able to assist your child in the event that something happens. You can’t help anyone if you are drowning yourself. I didn’t like wearing my lifejacket in the canoe, it’s not as comfortable to paddle. Now that I have kids of my own, I have it on every time I’m in our canoe. Funny how things change when you become a parent.

Umbrella/Sunscreen

It is amazing how strong the sun can be in the summer. It’s rays are even stronger when you’re out on the water. Not only is it beating down on your little adventurers from above, it’s also reflecting off of the surface of the water. Be sure to lotion up before setting out on the water. An option that you might want to consider if you have an infant or a child with fair skin, is an umbrella. There are actually small umbrellas designed just for small boats and canoes. We purchased one for Killian’s first trip to the B.W.C.A. but didn’t actually use it. Our paddle in ended up being shorter than anticipated and cloudy later on, I was glad to have it just in case.

Feel the Heat

As we just went over, the summer can bring on the hot rays of the sun. Not only do you need to keep your baby’s skin protected from the rays, but from what the rays can do to the surfaces around them. Think about what happens to the sidewalk on a hot, sunny day. That same thing is going to happen to your canoe. If you have a thin canoe, it might not be so bad as the water may cool it from underneath. But my experience with our red Old Town canoe, is that even with a lighter interior she heats up quickly. Bring a towel or cushion to put on the bottom and rim of your canoe to protect your little one’s from a different kind of burn.

Snacks & Water

Snacks. I’m not kidding. Snacks are essential if you want success. You probably don’t need a ton if you are going out for only a half hour or so. But you’ll want to have some on hand just in case. I really like those apple sauce pouches for a quick fill, these can be sucked down fast if you’re trying to just get something in your hangry munchkin. Having some kind of snack that they can feed themselves slowly is helpful as well, such as pretzels or crackers. Bring an adequate supply of water or a good filter(when going into the wilderness), don’t let your kids drink the lake water. You don’t need anyone getting a parasite.

Toys

Bringing some entertainment out into the canoe with you is a great idea. And having those toys only for the canoe can turn them into high value toys. But keep this in mind; not all toys float. If your little paddler tosses a toy overboard and it sinks, that might be the end of a peaceful ride. Make sure the toys brought along float! Waterproof would be helpful as well. You might think that securing the toys to the canoe with a rope or string would be a good idea, but someone might get themselves tangled up in it. Let’s not do that.

Preparing your Baby

Introducing the Canoe

It’s not necessary to get your little adventurers out on the water the instant they see the canoe. Find a grassy area to place your canoe for your first introduction. Let them check it out, climb around in it, give them a paddle to play with. We didn’t worry so much about this part when Killian was an infant, but he loved it when he was a toddler. We got the hose out and he helped to wash the canoe and played in it for quite some time. Make it a fun experience.

Child Placement

This is something that you’ll have to play around with. Not every kid is the same. Some are easy going, some are finicky. You know your child the best. Obviously, you’ll want to hold your infant or have them placed comfortably in the bottom of the canoe within reach. It depends on their age. The more mobile munchkins will likely want to see what’s going on. When we paddled with Killian as an infant, we had our daughter Sandy along. She was 8 at the time and already had experience paddling. I sat in the middle of the canoe and tended to Killian while she and their dad, Scott, paddled us around.

For those busy toddlers, the best place for them is going to be close to you. My favorite was having Killian up front with me while Scott paddled. He could look around and see where we were going. But on longer excursions, you may have to improvise and do whatever it takes to safely make them comfortable. I’m not a fan of having a toddler in my lap while I am in a seat. Our canoe sits higher in the water and it seems too wobbly with that much weight and wiggling up there. When Killian wanted to sit on me, I sat on the bottom of the canoe and he sat on me then. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but we had a long paddle down a winding creek. We did what we had to do. Killian also liked to sit in the seat by himself, this was only allowed if I were right by him. Again, you may have to change positions while paddling. The best idea we had was putting the tent in front for him to sit on, he fell asleep while sitting up and leaning against my legs. So freaking cute, my littlest adventurer had had a very busy weekend.

A few things that should be avoided for safety should be noted. Your little one should be within reach, you may need to grab them quickly. If you are fishing, put the tackle behind you, so they cannot hook themselves or eat worms! Whether using a solo or multi-person canoe, having them sit on a raised seat without you immediately with them is not a good idea. They do not understand balance yet and can easily topple off the side. So if you are in a multi-person canoe and it’s just the two of you, they don’t need to be in a seat alone if you can’t reach them

***Important note: Do NOT strap your child into the canoe in any way. If your canoe flips they will be trapped under water. Do NOT strap your child to you. No baby carriers, wraps, or slings. If you go under water, so do they.

Short Trips

The best thing you can do when you go out for the first time is to find a quiet, low traffic spot with as little wind as possible. Stay close to your launch point. This will make it easy to cut the maiden voyage short if you need to. It’s best to keep this trip short. We have a little pond behind our house, this is the perfect spot for getting a little practice in.

Increase Duration

Once you’ve got a good first few experiences under their belt. It’s time to turn it up a notch. Add 15 to 20 minutes to your journey and see how they do. If it went well, maybe next time you can go a little longer. But, as we all know, toddlers can be fine with something one day, and hate it the next. Don’t get to discouraged if it doesn’t go well every time. And don’t forget those snacks!

The Real Deal

Well, you’ve got some practice. Your little one has had some experience in the canoe. Are you ready for your camping trip into the great wilderness? Maybe? If you have a three or four hour paddle planned for a trip, you don’t have to have your child out in the canoe for four hours before your trip takes place. We had Killian out a few times about half hour each before his second trip up there, he did just fine with a three and a half hour paddle. We did have to get creative in making him comfortable for such a long journey and change positions a few times. But we made it with no headaches. Keep snacks at the ready! And have fun!

Clove Lake: A Boundary Waters Beginner Lake

So, you’ve decided to tackle a trek in the great Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness? That’s great! But where are you going? There are about 80 or so entry points to choose from. Finding the right lake can be a daunting task for a first timer. I was lucky enough to begin my adventures in the B.W.C.A as a kid, my parents made all of the plans for us! But now I’m the trip planner for my family, and I love it!!

Why Clove Lake?

If you are trying to gain the whole Boundary Waters experience in one go, Clove is probably the lake for you. This is just the perfect lake to begin your Boundary Waters career! It’s a lake that you can return to again and again and never tire of it. We’ll go over what makes this lake so great, our experiences and a few pointer on getting out there.

Wide Variety of Scenery

I’m not kidding when I say this lake has it all. There is such a vast amount of different terrain in one area. There are beaver dams, marshes, rapids, large hill sides, a sandy beach, thick forest, rocky terrain and so much more. One trip there had been a fire the year prior. The regrowth after that devastation was inspiring. It is a really great introduction into the Boundary Waters, with sites to make your jaw drop.

Easy Campsites

There are three camp sites on Clove Lake. One has a wonderful little beach that is perfect for younger kids to play on, it’s on the northern most bay of the lake on the U.S. side. Sandy had a blast at this campsite! I swear she spent 90% of the weekend on that beach during her first trip. We have also stayed on a campsite the is just off to the left as you enter the lake from Larch Creek. This one has a more rocky/boulder filled terrain. If you have older kids or are traveling with adults, this one has really pretty views. The best is at sunrise when the lake looks like glass. We have not stayed at the third campsite, but I’m sure it is just as breathtaking as the others, but it does look smaller.

Some may worry about getting a good campsite, or a campsite at all. This isn’t really a big concern for this location. Even though Clove only has 3 campsites, we have never had trouble landing one. With only one permit issued per day for the Larch Creek entry point, you don’t have to rush to get a site. And even if you have the misfortune of finding all sites taken, there are 3 more back on Larch Lake and one more just a portage away on the Pine River.

Wildlife

With this being a lower trafficked lake, the wildlife has been disturbed less. This makes for some unique encounters. On my husbands first trip with my family, he got to see a moose swimming across the lake. What a sight to see on a first trip! On another occasion at this lake, my friend, Melissa, and I were paddling along the shore and witnessed a beaver give a warning smack with his tail on the water. That was such an incredible thing to see, it must have worked because we didn’t see any more beavers that day.

Some of our smaller critter encounters are quite comical. We brought our dog, Oreo, along for an adventure on several occasions. She sat and stared at the same red squirrel for hours. We have had a squirrel try to get into our food bag while we were sitting right by it in camp, bold little buggers! At certain times of the year, there is an abundance of butterflies, they add a little whimsy to camp life.

Fishing

If you have a fisherman in your camping party, this lake is a dream. My dad and brother are avid bass fisherman. Along with South Temperance, Clove is among my dad’s favorite B.W.C.A. lake. It is because of the amazing bass fishing on this lake. My dad saw the largest small mouth bass that he has ever seen on this lake. He has returned to this lake time and time again, particularly in June, for the fishing.

Solitude

Like I had mentioned earlier, Larch Creek (entry point 80), only allows 1 party to enter per day. This is a huge factor in keeping this area quiet. If you are searching for solitude without a long voyage in, this is the prime spot for you. You won’t have other paddlers cruising along in front of your campsite all day and there will be no waiting for the perfect fishing spot. Even though it is a small lake, the campsites are spread out enough that you won’t even notice them. Solitude is hard to find, but not on this lake.

Our Experiences

Obviously we have a thing or two to say about this lake. It has left an impact on our family and we are rather fond of it. I’ll share some of our experiences with you, so you can see why we are so attached.

Our First Timers

We have had several members of our family make this their maiden voyage. Among them are my husband (Scott), daughter (Sandy), friend (Melissa), and one of my nephews. When our son, Killian, is a couple of years older he’ll go to this lake too. It won’t be his first trip, but he should experience it all the same.

Repeat Trips

My dad has made the trip back to that lake 5 times now, it’s about to be 6, in order to share this amazing lake with all of us. His hope is to bring two of his grandchildren along who have not yet experienced Clove. I’ve been to this lake 3 times, once each with Scott, then Melissa, then Sandy. It hasn’t been everyone’s first trip, but so many of us have experienced it thanks to my dad. My brother is actually taking his family to Clove Lake as I right this.

Day Trips

When we camp at this lake, we use it as a base camp. Others use it as part of a route. We like the base camp method as it leaves more time for adventuring the area and less time packing, tearing down and setting up. With that said, there are some good day trips from this location. One in particular that I would like to mention is on the Pine River. After just a short portage on the east side of the lake to the Pine River. We paddled south just a short ways to a falls, it’s on the east side of the river. There is a small area to tie your canoe off, so you can get out and explore. After following the rapids up a ways, there is a pylon that marks the U.S. and Canadian border. That’s a pretty fun find for a four year old! The falls is pretty neat and worth the trip to it. You can also go a little farther down for a good swimming spot. Wear your life jackets!

Navigating Larch Creek & Clove Lake

When you choose Clove Lake, you are not just choosing a destination but a journey as well. I wouldn’t say that it’s a hop, skip and a jump to get to Clove from the Larch Creek entry point. It’s more like a beaver dam, a log, and a portage.

Entry

The launch point is right off of the road with a rather small space to park your vehicle. Good thing there is only one permit per day! The great news is that you put your canoe right into the water and load up right by the truck. The bad news is that you will need bug spray immediately. It’s pretty thick vegetation and a little creek means bugs galore. It’s not so bad once you get moving, but while loading up, definitely have the bug spray ready.

The Creek

This is one of the highlights for me. It truly feels like you are immersing yourself farther into the wilderness with each stroke of your paddle. The creek is so calm and serene. It is not a race, so enjoy the paddle in. The creek has a multitude of twists and turns to navigate around. Keep an eye out for turtles! They can be seen basking on a log here and there.

Beaver Dams

Along the way to Larch Lake there are several beaver dams, I hope you packed your muscles. The only way around these is to pull the canoe over it. There are no places to put gear, so your canoe will be fully loaded when you pull it over. It’s really not as hard as it sounds once you get to it. And when the water is higher, it’s a breeze! A note of caution: Be careful when stepping on the dams, on the downstream side there will be a significant drop off. My brother-in-law, Jon, experience this first hand and got very wet!

Portage

There is one short portage going from Larch Lake to Clove Lake. It’s pretty rocky, but not nearly as tough of a portage as some of the other portages. After paddling down that long and winding creek, you’ll be thankful for a chance to stand up and stretch your legs. It also gives you a chance to refuel with a snack and wet your whistle.

Book Early

I know I’ve mentioned this a few times already, but once again, there is only 1 entry permit granted per day at Entry Point 80, Larch Creek. Book this entry point early if you have a specific date that you need to enter on. This one fills up fast. On our last trip up to the Boundary Waters we had to choose a different lake. Which I’m okay with, we like to try new places. If your dates are flexible that makes it easier, but you’ll still want to stay on top of this one.

As you can see, this lake has a lot of potential for great memories on your next adventure. It hasn’t let us down yet! If you choose this lake as your first destination in the B.W.C.A. you won’t be disappointed. Happy camping!

Where was your first trip into the great B.W.C.A.? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Safety Tips for Toddlers in the Wilderness

Bringing our kids on new adventures is such a rewarding experience! Watching them discover the wilderness is so neat. But you don’t want that heartwarming experience to turn into disaster. Here are some tips to keep your grand adventure from turning into a nightmare.

Life Jackets

First things first: Puddle Jumpers are not life Jackets. Sure, they are great for swimming at the pool or in the lake at Grandpa’s house. But they are not for the Boundary Waters. Leave them at home!

Now that that is out of the way, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider when choosing a life jacket for your kiddos.

Reliable: You need to have a life jacket that is reliable. Be sure to find one that is Coast Guard approved.

Size & Fit: Make sure that you have the proper weight limit and sizing to your child. If the life jacket is too small, they’ll sink. If it’s too big, they could slip out. Children under 50 pounds should have a leg strap and all straps should be snug.

Comfort: Your child’s life jacket should be comfortable. They’ll need to have it on for quite a while. I like the infant life jacket that has the floatation device in the front, it keeps them afloat with their face up and gives breathing room in the back. Killian was so comfortable in his life jacket that he fell asleep in the canoe on his second trip in!

We follow two rules in the Boundary Waters when it comes to life jackets. These are for everyone, not just kids.

#1: If you are in the canoe, your life jacket is on. Even the most experienced paddler can flip a canoe.

#2: If you are in the water, your life jacket is on. Even if you are just swimming at your campsite, these are dark and unfamiliar waters. There may be currents that can be easily misjudged. It is very uneven and rocky under the surface. One minute you are in two feet of water and the next you’re in 20 feet. Yes, it can change that drastically.

Drinking Water

This is a pretty important aspect of camping farther away from civilization. At most camp grounds there are water stations, so that’s not a huge issue. But in the Boundary Waters or while backpacking, you will need a reliable water purification system. I recommend bringing two different types. Just in case. Some of these include:

  • Iodine Tablets
  • Ultraviolet device
  • Water Filtration pump
  • LifeStraw

Our family usually brings the Iodine Tablets and a water pump. Even if you are collecting your water from a moving source, like a river or stream, you still need to treat it. We have had a camper get sick in the past. Whether you are using the water for cooking dinner, heating up a bottle for the little one, or just quenching your thirst, the water needs to be treated.

Wildlife

We have seen all kinds of wildlife out there, our daughter has been to the Boundary Waters 5 times and has seen 2 moose already. It’s one thing to see a critter in the zoo, it’s a completely different experience to witness an animal in their natural habitat doing what they do. These are amazing experiences that will stick with them for a lifetime. But, as parents, we need to do our best to keep these experiences safe.

Rule #1: Do not feed the wildlife. That means clean up your camp really well. Any and all scraps, diapers, bottles, formula, medications, literally anything with a scent is in a bag that is hung from a tree at night or while you are away from camp

Rule #2: Do not bring or use scented lotions on yourself or your munchkins. Do not season yourselves. See Rule #1.

Rule #3: Scare off any bears. Do not let them get too close and don’t run. If a bear wonders into your campsite, just act big and be loud. Do not chase them. If you’ve been to the Boundary waters in the past, then you’ll for sure remember that wonderful video we all have to watch before entering. I’ve had so many Boundary Waters adventures and have yet to have a face-to-face encounter with a bear. Don’t worry too much, these encounters are rare.

Rule #4: Keep your babies close. If you are hiking or exploring around the woods, your little ones should be right with you. If they are out in front of you leading the way, they are too far. You should be able to grab them before anything else does.

Rule #5: We are guests. Remember that this is their domain, we are just visitors. Clean up after yourselves and keep your distance.

Sleeping

What is there to worry about with sleep? It’s pretty straight forward… Well there are a couple of things to think about, but it’s pretty much common sense.

Temperature: Depending on the time of year you plan your adventure be sure to pack warm enough sleep attire. Our last trip was at the beginning of June. The forecast looked pretty hot, but we still had a pretty cold night. Bring warm jammies for your little guys. And dress them in layers. If you are planning a trip in the fall, you might even want them to have a hat on, we lose a lot of heat through our heads.

Sleeping Bags: You can go out and buy super spendy infant/toddler sleeping bag. But odds are, they will grow out of it in about two seconds or end up in your sleeping bag anyway. I prefer that Killian sleeps in my sleeping bag with me. If your little one ends up in your sleeping bag it’s easier for you to monitor their body temp and keep them warm with your body heat.

Air Mattresses: My husband and I do not bring an air mattress along just yet, we do however bring sleep mats. I feel so old admitting that. But lets face it, we all get sore after sleeping on a root all night. Even though we don’t use an air mattress there are a couple of things that I believe are worth mentioning. Air mattresses are bouncy and somewhat unstable, if you have a little one sleeping with you be careful not roll over on them. Also, if you have an infant along, be sure they are not sleeping on their tummy, the risk of suffocating would be higher in that setting.

Hammocks: Safe sleep is still something we need to keep in mind while in the woods. Keep your infants and toddlers sleeping on their backs in the hammock and don’t let them sleep alone. They could get tangled up so easily in there. And napping with them is great bonding time out there. Safe and sweet! The hammock that we purchased last summer for Killian’s first trip was the best purchase! I highly recommend bringing a hammock along, they are fantastic for naptime in the wilderness. Be sure to find one with a mosquito net!

Communication

Communication is key!! Odds are you won’t be tackling this grand adventure on your own and will have other adults along. Use them! But be sure that all adults know who has who. For example: My husband, Scott, and I were going to do dishes. Killian wanted to go toss more rocks into the water, my mom announced, “I’ve got Killian,” before heading to the shoreline with him. So all adults knew which adult had the toddler and where they were going to be. This will eliminate the “I thought you had him?” “No, I thought you had him” dilemma, and keep your baby safe.

Supervision

EYES ON AT ALL TIMES! I am not exaggerating. There needs to be an adult with your infant/toddler 100% of the time. Having more adults along is really helpful with this aspect of the journey. I understand that it’s really hard to watch a curious and/or hungry toddler while trying to cook dinner on the camp stove. There are a few things we found that really help.

Tip #1: Have them help. Kids love to help! (Until they are teenagers) Of course you don’t want them running around a fire or tripping into a camp stove. But having them bring things to another person can make them feel like they are contributing. “Bring the sporks to Grandma, she needs them!” Giving them a job is better than them finding a job on their own!

Tip #2: Hide things. This can be a fun and safe little game as long as it’s played in a specific area. While we were cooking or preparing things in camp we would hide Killian’s little bear and moose toys. Killian is pretty little, so we mostly hid them in the same spot under a pile of leaves and pine needles. We kept his hiding spot in the middle of the action, so eyes were on him constantly. This entertained him for so long, it was great!

Tip#3: Keep them close. Keep the distance between you and your little one short. Scott was really thankful that he did just that while exploring the waters edge with Killian. Killian was putting his hands in the water when Scott had noticed a fish jump. Right when Scott looked back at Killian, a huge snapping turtle was coming out of the water after Killian. Who knew a snapper would be so bold! Scott was right there to grab Killian out of the way. Killian kept his fingers, but that turtle hung around for a while.

I hope these safety tips help you on your next excursion with your little adventurers. We are always learning and these tips were derived from my own experiences in the great outdoors. It’s not exactly a walk in the park, but it’s so worth it!

I’d love to hear your experiences, what have you discovered that made your trip a success?

Almost Arizona Hot Springs

January 2021 the Hubby and I went on a long weekend trip to Las Vegas. While there, we took a day to hike and be outdoors, a requirement for every trip.

On this particular outing, we had a grand plan of visiting the Arizona Hot Springs, soaking in the hot waters together on our anniversary trip. I was ready! I had my comfortable capris leggings on, comfortable shoes, and my hiking bag packed specifically for this trip. Included in this pack was;

  • Water- a must for hiking in the desert or anywhere for that matter.
  • Knife- always.
  • Solar charger for my phone
  • Swimwear for soaking in the hot springs
  • Microfiber towel- lightweight, small when folded, dries fast
  • First aid kit
  • Snakebite kit
  • Cell phone
  • Snacks- granola bars, beef jerky, etc..

There were several mistakes made on this outing. I’ll start with that.

Mistake #1

After a hearty breakfast in Vegas and making our way to the car rental we hit the road following the GPS on my phone. Oh Google Maps, how I misuse you constantly (side note; my husband calls google maps Janice). Taking in the sites was really neat as I had not been to this part of Nevada before. Scott had been there previously for a couple of Marine Corps trainings. He was like my own personal tour guide as we passed Hoover Damn. Overall, not a bad drive out. And it felt a bit nostalgic, thinking of our time we lived in the Californian desert.

We enter Arizona and are driving for quite some time, Janice hasn’t said anything in a long while. I check it out and we haven’t come up on it yet. Then….. we pass it. Duh. How did we miss it?! Well, I tell you what, it’s not obvious. There is not a big sign or arrows, so keep your eyes peeled for a little parking lot on the north side of the road. I consult Janice to see how we missed it, thinking that I had the incorrect information plugged in, she is advising us to turn around WAY up the road as there isn’t much in the way of turn around points. Nope. We turn around at the earliest semi-convenience with few cars around.

Back on track… hopefully. Quite a ways before we get there, Janice says, “You have arrived.” We are really watching this time around and we do see a little turn off point that would have been difficult to view driving east. Woohoo!

Mistake #2

READ THE SIGN.

This is important. Read the sign clearly, take in the scene going on around you. Maybe those people returning from or just entering a certain trail are here for the main attraction. We missed all of that. Should have asked them.

We get up the map on this large board and debate which is the trail head for the Arizona Hot Springs. There is mention on the map of a historic bridge. I will tell you this now, that is NOT the trailhead. Do NOT go this way. The actual trail head is the trail that goes under the overpass and has a very clear marker. We thought it was weird that the trail would go under an overpass, that’s why we took the trail going over the historic bridge. Be sure you are taking the right path.

Mistake #3

So we are off on the wrong trail and are unaware of it. The views on this trail are kind of bland to start, so have the great idea to go off trail and climb up this hillside and get a better look. Nope. Don’t do that.

A view from our off trail excursion.

Yes, the view was better. But I know better than to go off trail in an unfamiliar environment. Did it anyway. After wandering the ridgeline a ways, it’s time to make our way back down the slope to the trail. Scott takes a steeper, quicker path and I choose a more gradual slope. I am watching my direction more than my footing, also a mistake. When you hike in the desert, watch where your feet go.

I heard it before I saw it. It wasn’t a rattle I heard. It was a slither. The gravel moving.

My head snapped down and I jumped off of one foot because my other was about to come right down on a small canyon rattlesnake. I jumped so high and let out a very embarrassing squeal! As I landed my ankle hit a rock. The pain from the ankle of course brought the thought of snake bite. Did this snake bite me that fast that I didn’t see it? The site is inspected for puncture marks, none are found. Just a small bruise from the rock. Pfew! That is why you carry a snakebite kit, might seem silly, but I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Mistake #4

This one is all on Scott. Being far more careful about where I am putting my feet, we hike on. Scott is keeping a sharp eye as well, his eyes are better than mine and I feel better with him looking out too.

Suddenly, Scott shouts, “There’s a snake!…… somewhere out there.” Gesturing to all of the desert around us.

Argh! If you are wondering, yes, I did hit him. I was so mad! It’s funny now, but at the time I was not having it.

So my pace slowed drastically now that I was on the lookout for snakes. I will say, I was not afraid of snakes before this trip. I still like the snakes in Minnesota, we mostly have nonvenomous snakes with the exception of one species in southern Minnesota. But I will be quite wary of them in future snake-infested adventures.

Mistake #5

Though Mistake #4 was just some jackassery from my husband, we’ll move onto mistake #5. This one also involves leaving the trail.

I cannot stress this enough. Do Not Do this!

After hiking for a couple of hours, we finally realize that we are not on the Arizona Hot Springs Trail. This is nothing like the pictures I’ve seen on Pinterest. Okay. Decision time. Do we turn back or cut across to save time?

Following my snake encounter, you’d think that I would have that answered already, right? Wrong. We decide to go off trail again. I am going at turtle pace watching for snakes. And Scott so graciously reminded me about scorpions as well. Lovely. I somehow still trust him to be my eyes and to get us out of this mess. He used his land navigation skills from the Marine Corps to set a course to get us back to the rental vehicle. All we have to do is climb down and out of a gorge with all kinds of nooks and crannies.

If this type of thing happens to you, turn back and stay on the trail. Follow it out or call for assistance.

That being said. This turned out to be the coolest part of our hike. Scott found a relatively simple area to descend into the gorge. He was still my eyes and was very patient with me going at my ‘don’t want to step on a snake’ pace. Once in the gorge we found lizard and rabbit tracks and rabbit poop. That was really neat, I am always on the lookout for animal sign when in the woods. It was a treat to find it in a place I wasn’t looking for it. And it’s not scaring me out of my mind. Bunnies are cute and non-life threatening.

Down in the gorge.

Time to ascend the other side of the gorge. It was not as hard as I was anticipating. Scott found an area with very little spaces for critters to hide in for my climb up. I was very appreciative of this. After we cleared another hill, we could see the parking lot. But we had to climb down along an oddly placed fence to get there.

Back at the parking lot, we could very clearly see the marked trail. Duh. We felt so silly. But we still had an adventure together. I can say that I didn’t die of fright or venom from a rattlesnake, and made it back in one piece.

If you are planning on doing the Arizona Hot Springs, please choose the correct trail and stay on said trail! Always pack a snakebite kit, you never know when you might need it.

Share your adventure fail!

3 Days in South Dakota

This may sound a little weird, but this was one of my favorite trips. South Dakota was a blast! We hit some great spots! A little something for each of us.

Timing it Right

Crowds are not for me, so we plan our trips in the off seasons. Sandy just so happens to have a birthday mid-September. Perfect timing for a birthday trip, don’t ya think?

September is still warm enough to camp outside, the bugs have died off a bit, as have the crowds. Parks are still open and reservations are easier to get. I did notice that when we were planning this trip that the earlier season camping slots were filling up fast. Thankfully we had ‘pick of the litter’ so to speak with our later date. If you are planning to go during the warmer months, book early to get your very best site.

Day 1

The Drive

From our little town in Minnesota, we had a 9 hour drive to Custer State Park. We broke that up between one evening and part of the following day. This meant a bonus park!!

We stayed at the Palisades State Park in South Dakota. It was great! We had made our reservation ahead of time and arrived late at night. Pitched our tent in the dark and slept hard that first night. Sandy was excited about our bonus camp night. Our Day 1 was really a short day of only driving.

Day 2

Palisades State Park

This park really turned into a great little spot! In the morning we had a look around and found a little hiking trail to explore before hitting the road. Sandy climbed up some of the little cliffs and came upon some clam shells. She came up with many theories as to how they made there way up so high. Great imagination! If you are looking for a little park for a short trip close to Sioux Falls this one might be the ticket for short weekend or a one-nighter.

Camping at Custer

Gorgeous!!! This state park is truly stunning. The views are breathtaking. I took photos but my simple cellphone camera didn’t do it justice. I may need to invest in a higher quality camera if I am to really capture the beauty of these amazing places.

We stayed at the Sylvan Lake campground, lot 16. I was a little apprehensive while making this reservation. It’s not really my style of camping. I’m used to the pack-in/pack-out style of camping. You know, the kind of camping that takes you miles away from civilization. But I was thoroughly impressed with this campsite. Sylvan Lake Campground is at the northwestern tip of Custer. It’s basically it’s own section of state park, it’s clear in the map. Click the link to check it out.

Camp set up was quite simple, and we really didn’t need much in the way of prep. In fact, there was already a space cleared and leveled for our 4-person tent. It fit perfectly, such luxury!

After camp was set up, it was time to explore our surroundings. And boy did we!! We climbed with our newly 7 year-old way up the giant rock next to our camp. For Sandy, this was quite impressive.

The hike around Sylvan Lake was unreal, in parts it felt fake. Like we were in some kind of fairytale. We also passed an area being set up for a wedding, that will be a very memorable destination wedding for that couple. There were so many nooks and crannies to check out and climbable places to get a better vantage point. This hike isn’t really that long, but with all of the things to see, it really took a while to make the loop. At the end of this little route, there is a little gift shop where Scott was able get his coffee fix for the morning.

**Hiking Tip** Watch out for the Squirrels! We were yelled a few times by them, we actually thought it was a bird, we had never heard a squirrel make that noise before.

Time to Eat

Adventuring sure does make your hunger peak. Scott’s main goal on a trip is to find a great meal. We took Sandy to the Watiki Waterpark in Rapid City, this is we were able to find Dakotah Steakhouse. Scott had the Buffalo Burger, delicious! A perfect meal after spending the day meandering about in Sylvan Lake.

Day 3

Breathtaking Morning

I woke first on the morning of day three to a view that I did not expect. It was so calm and peaceful. Having a few moment to myself to soak in the morning was just what I needed to fuel me for the rest of the day. I do not think we could have found a better campsite at Sylvan Lake.

As most of the day two was spent in the Sylvan lake area, we had the rest of Custer Park to do on day three. That was a lot of ground to cover in one day.

Wildlife Loop Road

If you have a lot of ground to cover in a shorter amount of time, I suggest driving the Wildlife Loop Road. It goes around the whole park with areas for overlooks and short trails to explore.

Some of the best views that we had were at random unplanned stops along the way. Some had unique rock stacking, signs for the kids to read, and some small areas with ruins.

After a time Scott and I were being asked where all the animals were. It is true that we didn’t see any right away, with the exception of the rodents back at camp, but there had to be more critters than that! At long last, when we were on the southwestern portion of the trail we came around the bend and BOOM! Buffalo! We only saw 3 buffalo on our whole trip, but it was truly something to see them out in the wild. We also got a glimpse of the little prairie dogs and some pronghorn. All of these critters were found in areas we were not looking for them in. So stay ALERT!

Lunch Break

This is a MUST for a western South Dakota trip. The Purple Pie Place. Complete with a purple pig! I usually order my basic chocolate or french silk pie when in the mood for pie, always afraid of being disappointed. But I went out on a limb and ordered Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. It was probably the best pie that I have ever had, Chocolate or otherwise. I highly recommend this slice ala mode. The rich creamy ice cream is a perfect accent!

Crazy Horse & Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse is still under construction but it was still worth the stop. This was actually not a planned stop, we happened to see a sign for it on our way to get pie. It was worth a stop. At this location there is a museum with so much Native American history packed inside. They have many artifacts on display, we were lucky enough to catch one of the presentations outside in the square. You can see a finished model of the Crazy Horse monument in the square as well, Sandy thought this was pretty cool.

Mount Rushmore is of course such a traditional stop on the trip. Parking was a little difficult in the afternoon, arriving earlier in the day may be the way to go. As it was the off season, the crowds were small and we were able to view the indoor area with less hassle.

Heading Home

After a great 3 days, it was time to head home. This is a great little getaway for a long weekend. If we decide to do this trip again, which is highly likely, we will certainly be making our plans for September.

Share your South Dakota adventure!

Tettegouche: An accidental Trip

Well…. Not every trip can go according to plan.

The Original Boundary Waters Trip Plan

So here is what was supposed to happen:

  • Pack the Rogue while Scott finishes some last minute work
  • Leave midmorning and arrive at BWCA Entry point Larch Creek by 3pm
  • Set up camp and have s’mores as a treat for a hard days travel
  • Relax in camping bliss until noon on Sunday.

Easy day, simple trip. Right?

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

Friday Morning

Scott leaves to take care of some last minute work for a customer. Sandy and I get to work packing up the Rogue and loading the canoe. We ladies have everything ready to roll when Scott returns. All according to plan.

We hit the road feeling great about our exciting weekend ahead. As we drive along, I notice that the vehicle is giving a jerk every now and then when accelerating. We noticed this in Mora, Minnesota. We brush it off, knowing that the vehicle has been driven pretty hard and might just be showing her wear and tear. **Note- We should have stopped here.

Tobies!! This is one of our northern trip traditions. We always plan a stop at Tobies in Hinckley for an amazingly gooey caramel roll. Hinckley is a good spot for a potty break and to stretch your legs, too.

We fill up the tank and soldier on. Duluth at last! As we approach the giant hill that brings you up over Duluth, the car starts to struggle more. Huh… That’s not good. Scott is looking more concerned at this point, the decent into Duluth is smoother. And the Rogue hasn’t died on us yet. We start discussing what could be wrong and end up pulling off to the side of the road just north of Duluth. We smell something goofy, and aren’t entirely sure what it could be. We are no longer making good time and we have to keep moving if we are going to make it to our entry point on time. **Note- We should have stopped here.

Onward… I guess. Once we reach Two Harbors we are in rough shape. I am trying to keep the vehicle moving, we are getting so close to our destination. All I have in my mind is just to get there. I am longing so badly to be back in those serene woods and hear the rhythmic splash of my paddle against the water. **Note- We should have stopped here.

We make a stop to get something to eat in Two Harbors. Culvers was the most convenient and quick meal as we hurry along. As we load back into the Rogue we spot something that really grinds our gears. A little, rusted out, beaten down, ancient white car loaded up with a canoe and an obscene amount of gear has just been filled up at the gas pump and is headed off down the road with no problem at all. WHAT?! How is that thing even running without the gear? And our sporty SUV is struggling to make it along. Ridiculous.

Anyhow, we carry on. But just barely. Silver Bay is where we finally accept defeat. It seems that our circumstances are just to great to overcome. The Rogue is not going to make it there. We are not going to see those pristine waters. This is not the trip we were hoping for… **Note- We stopped here. Ugh. 3.75 hours from home.

Hurray for technology!! I hop on my phone call the Tofte Ranger Station to inform them that we will not be making it and cancel our reservation. Next, I search on that nifty Google machine for the nearest camping options. BAM! Tettegouche it is, I give them a call. They have just one campsite left, we’ll take it!… If I can get the rogue started again. Thankfully we do, but we can no longer get the Rogue to go past 40mph. Other drivers are obviously getting upset. We creep into Tettegouche State Park, it is a battle to get up the hills and finally into a parking space at our makeshift campsite.

Scott searches for an auto body shop and makes arrangements for the Rogue to be towed away. Meanwhile, I break the news to Sandy that we will not be making it to the BWCA this time. But we look on the bright side, at least we get to camp at a new place and see something different. We get to work on setting up camp with lifted spirits. That’s my girl!

Scott managed to find us a place to have the vehicle towed to. They even let us use a car to get back to our campsite. But first, dinner.

Another Boundary Waters Trip tradition that cannot be ignored. On our BWCA trips we usually stop at Northwoods Family Grille, formerly known as the Northwood’s Café. My family has been stopping at this same restaurant for breakfast before BWCA entry since I was a kid. Great food and a welcoming atmosphere. Though Sandy enjoyed the S’mores French Toast it was a little too sweet for me, but my mom loves their biscuits and gravy.

After dinner we took the little borrowed car back to camp. The three of us made the best of it, our goal was to bring Sandy on a camping trip. And that we did. We played cards in our tent until we were playing by lantern light and could barely hold our heads up.

In the morning, we made ourselves some oatmeal and hot chocolate with our new camping gear that we were supposed to tryout that weekend. It worked great! Sandy was very excited to hear that Grandma and Grandpa were coming to spend the day with us. Surprise!

Scott and I had made a couple of calls to family. My parents picked up a trailer from Scott’s dad and made the drive up to rescue us. As it turns out, the transmission in the Rogue burned out. I was unaware that I was driving with the vehicle in overdrive THE WHOLE WAY UP. Did you know there is a button for that? I must have bumped it at some point. Honestly, I still don’t know where that button is. That was a $3000 mistake. Whoops. Don’t do that.

We are very thankful to have the kind of family that will drop their Saturday plans to make a 6 hour drive to rescue their kid and her family. Again, we made the best of the situation and it turned into a neat visit at Tettegouche State Park.

While we waited for our heroes to arrive, we packed up our gear and hit the trails. We got a map at the visitors center and decided to go exploring some falls. Sandy was very proud to lead the way. The trails are well maintained and some would really be acceptable for a stroller. We did happen upon a set of stairs that was rather long and steep, but it lead to an area of the Baptism River that we were able to jump on rocks in.

Once my folks had arrived, we explored in a different direction. Not too far from the visitors center is a trail that leads down to Lake Superior. This was where the Baptism River enters Lake Superior. It was a perfect place to skip rocks and hunt for crayfish. We had a blast in this spot.

The coolest thing about Tettegouche, in my opinion, were the trees. The root systems were so unique. Watch your step! It made for some great photo opportunities too.

This is one of our most interesting and memorable trips. Not because we were going somewhere grand or because it was the most perfect trip. It was the most memorable because it wasn’t the perfect trip and we learned the most from it. Sure, at the time we were very frustrated and scrambled to figure out what to do. But we know now that we can handle that kind of situation when our plans go awry.

Lessons Learned

  • Take the most capable vehicle you own & make sure it can handle the trip
  • Don’t put it in overdrive if it isn’t necessary; $3000 people, yikes
  • Be thankful for your rescuers
  • Even when things turn sour, you can still salvage a trip
  • Some of the best memories come from mistakes made
  • Even on an accidental trip, you can still give your kids a great weekend full of adventure

Share your trip mishap and the lessons learned, I’d love to hear it!

Crystal Caves

While we were unable to do our annual trip to the BWCA in the summer of 2019. We did get a chance to take Sandy’s Birthday trip to Wisconsin. Crystal Caves is a great day trip or pit stop on your way to other places.

This little gem is tucked into a rural area in Wisconsin. It’s not a very big attraction, especially in September so it really is appealing with my dislike of crowds. Being 8 months pregnant at the time of this trip, I was a little concerned be we went for it and it was a success.

Things to do

  • Hike the nature trail
  • Guided tour of the cave
  • Pan for Gems & Stones
  • Mini Golf

Hiking the Nature Trail

We were unaware of the nature trail prior to our visit, so this was a surprise little treat. The trail is rather short but offers a variety of interesting things. There are signs at different locations on the trail.

One of the coolest things was the sinkhole. What?! Yes, a sinkhole, don’t see that every day. It isn’t like you’d expect, no Indiana Jones action. But it is very clearly spotted just off of the trail. No, a rock isn’t going to get sucked right down if you throw one in, but still very cool.

Some of the other neat scenes on the trail include different berries, like gooseberries, and an interesting array of ferns, bushes, trees, and mosses. A sweet little escape away from the main attractions.

Guided Tour of the Cave

Of course the main attraction being the Crystal Cave itself, we took the tour down underground. In case you were wondering, you can take this tour while pregnant, I actually called ahead while planning just in case. If you’re planning a trip while pregnant, it doesn’t hurt to check ahead on something like this. There are not many places to sit on the tour, so be prepared for quite a bit of standing and walking around. There were a few places that Scott held my hand just in case of a slip, but no such things happened. There are no strollers allowed on the tour, so be prepared to carry any little ones.

Our tour guide was great! She was very knowledgeable and was able to answer our questions. Sandy had a lot of them! For those who are afraid of bats, we did see one. But it was asleep and didn’t make a peep while we visited her cave.

A couple of things that really peaked Sandy’s interest were experiencing “total darkness” in one part of the cave and the gems that glowed in the dark near the end of the tour. We did get a chance to see fossils in the cave walls, disolving agents, different rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites and learned the difference between the two. It really is a fascinating tour for the science nerd and the outdoorsman.

**Travel Tip** Wear a sweatshirt or jacket no matter what time of year you plan your trip. The cave is always a steady 50 degrees all year round. Also, wear comfortable, close toed shoes that grip well.

Pan for Gems and Stones

At the end of your tour, you’re escourted back up to the shop above. After being saturated with neat cave history and facts, it really gets you amped up to search for some cool stuff. And of course they have just the thing to satisfy that itch.

We purchased a bag of sand that contained a multitude of gems to be found. Sandy was so excited to go do some hands on exploring at their panning station outside. The bag she received contained a guide as well, so she was able to identify the rocks she didn’t already know. The panning station is under an overhang so even though we visited on a nice day, the Crystal Cave is a great location to visit rain or shine.

Inside the gift shop, there is an abundance of items to choose from for souvenirs. Sandy chose a Geode of course. She was on a rock kick at the time, so this trip was really fascinating to her. They have a device inside that the kids are able to crank to crack open their geode themselves by turning the lever. She only needed a little help from dad. Her first geode turned out to be a dud, It was very dirty inside and didn’t show much in the way of sparkles. They offered her a second one that turned out to be beautiful inside, and still let her keep the dud. We took a toothbrush to the dirty one when we got home and it ended up being quite beautiful too. Two for one!

Mini Golf

The mini golf course is a little route filled with dinosaur galore. It’s really quite cute and fun for everyone. There were some real little ones climbing on the statues and older kids trying their hand at putting.

We gave it our best, though we weren’t very good. It was really fun and a great way to end our trip.

Overall, this is a great little spot for a day trip or a pit stop. Your can make it as long or short as you want to. For a near end of pregnancy trip, I’d say it’s doable.

Share your cave adventure!