Winter at Gooseberry Falls

“Can we go to Gooseberry? How about Gooseberry? Gooseberry? I think Gooseberry sounds good. Lets do Gooseberry!”

These are the things that came out of my 10 year old daughter’s, Sandy’s, mouth this morning when I asked where she’d like to go on our annual winter trip. I tried suggesting places we haven’t been to yet, but she was so adamant about Gooseberry. She even suggested it while her girl scout troop was planning their upcoming spring trip. She’s obsessed! I guess we’ll do Gooseberry… Again. No complaints here!

For sure this is a park that you can visit during any season for really any length of time. It is one of our family’s most frequented parks. We stop during summer on our way up to or on the way back from the BWCA. Winter here is absolutely stunning and worth a trip of it’s own. It is one of my all time favorite winter parks. I will share with you the wonders of this truly unique winter oasis.

Quick Review: 8/10 I know I said that this is one of our favorite parks, but I am still docking it 2 points. One point for the crowds and one point for lack of seclusion. Yes, this park has a lot to offer in the way of sights and beauty, but you’ll likely have company in many spaces in the park. Even when you choose to camp at this park, it’s quite crowded at the campground.

Crowds… or lack there of

I’ll let you in a little secret here; I don’t like crowds. Well, maybe that’s not a secret… Or uncommon. Do you enjoy weaving through packs of people when you’re “enjoying” nature? Me neither, that’s not enjoying it at all. Gooseberry is a VERY popular state park in Minnesota. But most folks don’t venture out into the cold winter months to do their exploring. This is where we winter lovers rejoice.

Numerous Hikes

Winter at Gooseberry means wide open groomed trails mostly to yourself. You can walk a reasonable distance without seeing another visitor once away from the main falls. Although most of the winter visitors are at the main falls area, there are fewer of them. Some trails are designated for skiing, snowmobiling, and skate skiing. This does not mean they forgot about those who just want to take a stroll in their boots.

There is a short trail that leads from the visitor center to the falls, this is paved and cleared. The ungroomed trails can be used with snowshoes or boots. Really we are just asked to respect the groomed trails for skiers, which is understandable. I explain further on the designated snowshoe/boot trails below. On our last winter trip to Gooseberry we brought our snowshoes along, but ended up leaving them in the car. The temperature was dropping and our daughter was already rather tired. We did manage to explore the main falls area and hike down to the shore of Lake Superior before the cold did her in for the day.

Amazing Views

Seeing the usually raging waterfalls now encrusted in crystalized ice and snow is enough to make my heart skip a beat. The winter struggle of nature is something that can stir instincts inside oneself and make you think and dig deeper. Don’t rush through this park, even in the cooler temperatures. It has so much to offer if you stop, look, and listen. When you’re about to reach the peak of a hill or are coming around a bend on a trail, approach slowly and pay attention, you don’t want to miss anything.

Photography

For wildlife photographers, this place is a real treat! Photography is not one of my talents, but man the number of opportunities available at this park are unlimited! Frozen shorelines, ice crusted falls, trickling streams emerging from their icy confinement, silent wildlife peering through the trees. So. Many. Shots.

The real beauty of Gooseberry in the winter for a photographer is the lack of crowds. Getting here early in the summer means fewer people, getting here early in the winter means no people. Snapping a shot of these falls without people cluttering up your photo can take a lot of patience and work during the summer months. It’s a whole lot easier in winter’s bitter chill and so worth it for those priceless frozen photos.

Visitor Center

After your chilly excursion, warm up by the fireplace in the spacious Gooseberry Visitor Center. There are restrooms, places to rest, snacks and items to purchase in the gift shop. These things may have changed since COVID. When we stopped last summer, the visitors center was open only for restroom use. Hopefully, the situation has relaxed a bit for snacks and souvenirs to become available again. Fingers crossed!

Dog Friendly Activity

Dogs may not be allowed in the Visitor Center but they are welcome in the park on leash. Xena loved being there with us. We do our best to take her along on the adventures when we can. I’m sure your pooch gets just as excited when they realize that they are going, too! We have a red backpack that I call the “Adventure Bag.” Anytime I grab that bag, Xena knows there is an adventure afoot.

**Tip** Please remember to clean up after your pets and keep them on leash so we can all continue to enjoy bringing our furry friends along for the journey.

Variety of Activities

While I really enjoy snowshoeing and skiing, during our trips to Gooseberry we have only boot hiked. Why have I not experience every activity availible at this park? I don’t know, I feel like I’m really missing out! Pick your favorite adventure, grab your gear and get going!

Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing at Gooseberry is welcome on ungroomed trails and off trail. The Fifth Falls Trail, the Gitchi Gummi Trail, and the trail to the shore of Lake Superior are all available for snowshoe enthusiasts; these are ungroomed trails. If you did not bring snowshoes, you can boot hike these trails as well.

**Tip** If you are exploring the area around the upper, middle, and lower falls, I recommend that you take your snowshoes off. There are areas of ice, pavement and stairs. The teeth of your snowshoes will surely be bent in your attempt to snowshoe on these areas.

Skiing: Cross country skiing trails are groomed and consist of 12 miles ranging between easy and moderate. There is also about a mile of skate-ski trail.

Snowmobiling: With the 20 miles of trails at Gooseberry, just 2 of them are available for snowmobiling. This trail connects to the North Shore State Trail. But if you are snowmobiling in, it’s worth the stop and walk to the falls. The winter falls is such an amazing sight to take in.

Fat Tire Bikes: These are not allowed on Gooseberry trails. It is, however, allowed at Split Rock just up the road. If you are into this sport, it might be worth the extra few minutes drive to Split Rock.

Trail Maps: There is a very clear map indicating where certain activities are allowed. You can pick them up at the visitors center or you can print one ahead of time from the DNR website. I like to have a game plan prior to arriving, it saves time and energy when you arrive at the park for your adventures. And having little ones along mean you have only a certain amount of time before they are done. For more on adventure with little ones read my 8 Tips for Day Hike Success with Little Adventurers post.

Other Parks

We have about a three and a half hour drive for us to get to Gooseberry from our central Minnesota home. With such a drive to one of our favorite destinations, we like to make it worth the trip. One of the great perks about Gooseberry is that there are so many other parks in the area. This is especially nice if you enjoy winter sports that are not allowed or are limited in Gooseberry, such as fat tire biking and snowmobiling. Some close parks include:

  • Split Rock Lighthouse
  • Tettegouche
  • Temperance River
  • George Crosby Manitou

Lodging

Camping: Camping is available year round at Gooseberry but there are fewer options during the winter months. Only 3 sites remain open for the winter that are walk/ski in. The campground roads are not plowed. The showers and some flushable toilets close for the season. There are still vault toilets available in multiple locations.

Alternative Lodging: If winter camping does not interest you, there are plenty of cabins, hotels, motels, and bed & breakfasts in the Two Harbors area. When we make a winter trip to the North Shore, our go-to place to stay is the Inn on Gitchi Gummi. It’s right on the Scenic Route 61, north of Duluth. You’ll still have a 30 minute trek in the morning to get to Gooseberry but it’s worth that little bit for the fantastic service and hearty homemade breakfast.

Why Plan Your Summer BWCA Trip in January?

Snow is falling and lakes are freezing; there are so many winter activities to cram in after the holiday season! So why would you want to start thinking about your trip that’s a good 5 to 9 months away? There is plenty of time to get that set up… Right? Nope! In recent years the Boundary Waters has seen an increase in visitors. It’s bitter sweet really. I am so glad that folks are discovering this amazing wilderness. On the other hand, it’s more difficult to plan a trip with much flexibility. Learn from my mistakes and plan that trip now!

My Mistakes

So, my mistake brings us all the way back to last March… well, more like last January. Scott and I went on a trip to Vegas to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we agreed to start planning our BWCA trip when we returned. This Vegas trip already set us back in the planning process, I don’t know why I felt it necessary to wait on planning. That was silly. Scott and I decided to ask my folks to accompany our family of 4 on our summer BWCA trip. After all, they are the reason I love the BWCA so much, it only seemed fitting to invite them along to enjoy it with their grandchildren.

Growing up my dad has always been the “group leader.” I have taken on this role for my family of four now. I had no problem planning out the trips for my family or our couples trips. However, when it came time to plan the route for a trip with my dad, the pressure was suddenly on. I don’t know what happened! Decision making suddenly seemed impossible. I was on the phone with him constantly to discuss possibilities. By the time I had narrowed it down, it was March! Many of the entry points were booked up for the dates that we had available. Uh-oh.

Registration time

Registration for the summer season opens on the last Wednesday of January at 9:00am. This is for reservations between May 1st and September 30th. My goal this year is to have our lakes and routes for all of our trips ready to reserve on that Wednesday in January, not March. After the excitement of the holidays is over, it’s time to get cracking on those plans. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov. Get on it!

Permits are required to enter the Boundary Waters all year round. Between May 1st and September 30th, you can obtain a permit from an issuing station as a walk-in. The odds of that happening are pretty slim these days. It’s in your best interest to make a reservation ahead of time. Between October 1st and April 30th, a self-issued permit can be obtained at the entry point itself. There are little kiosks at the entry points, no fees or reservations during this time.

Alternate Plans

Back up plans are essential when coordinating a BWCA trip. Each time I delve into the world of wilderness planning, I am in awe at the expanse of possibilities out there. A backup plan can either be different entry dates or different locations. You really need to find which aspect you can compromise on.

Flexible Dates: It is understandable that flexibility in dates isn’t always realistic. Work, kid activities and family functions are sometimes set in stone. But flexibility when planning a wilderness trip can really make those plans fall into place. Some entry points only allow an entry every other day, such as entry point #9 Little Indian Sioux River South. If you are unable to make it on the day allowing entry, you’ll need to look elsewhere. We are not always flexible on dates, that’s for sure. But that means you’ll need to be flexible in other ways.

We had our weekend dates set, the days were not movable. Scott had to get them approved for work and during the busy season time off was limited. Thankfully my folks are quite flexible with enough notice. This really caused problems for us with entry dates, I waited too long to reserve our preferred entry location. Larch Creek was already taken and we couldn’t move our dates to an available time slot! So that brings us to the next element of back up plans.

Back-up Entry Points: Whether you have flexible dates or not you’ll want to have back-up entry points at the ready when making your reservations. Try to have 3 solid plans that start at 3 different entry points, check them in order of preference. You might just get lucky and reserve the location you’re after.

Again, this is something that we ran into problems with while planning our trips for last summer. I waited too long and missed out on the lake we wanted, oops. Really my daughter, Sandy, and I wanted to go to a new lake anyway as we had been on Larch before, so this worked in our favor. Thankfully we had a back-up plan. Unfortunately, our back-up plan was reserved, and our other back-up plan, and our other back-up plan… you can see where I am going with this.

Different Angle: If you are dead set on a certain destination or goal but you find that the entry point that you were wishing to use is taken for your available dates, look at it from a different angle. What I mean is; there are so many different routes in the BWCA you can likely find a way to get there from a alternate entry point. You may have to travel a little farther or conquer more strenuous obstacles, but you may just find a way to get there. Example: Lets say you were wishing to camp on Swan Lake by way of entry point #43 Bower Trout, but there is only 1 permit issued per day and it’s taken. An alternate plan could be to look at entry point #41 Brule Lake where there are 7 permits issued daily. This gives more opportunity to snag a reservation and still get to Swan with a different route through Vernon Lake.

Alternate Permit Holder: When you are applying for your reservation, be sure to have an alternate permit holder/group leader on your reservation. This is a safety net to ensure that your trip goes on even if you yourself do not go on the trip. Life happens, things come up. But if you have an alternate listed on your permit, the rest of your party can still go on an adventure so long as the alternate is accompanying them. The alternate must be assigned at the time the reservation is made, you cannot add them after it has been secured.

Loop Hole? This might sound silly to say, but you know someone has done it or there wouldn’t be a rule regarding this issue; a person cannot reserve multiple entry points per day, one permit per day per permit holder. Super clear. The National Forest Service can cancel overlapping permits as well. Those canceled reservations will be made available for others to reserve. I’m glad that they have the ability to do so, it will keep reservation hogs to a minimum. Please don’t try to reserve multiple locations or dates in an attempt to save you own behind on planning. It can really foil another campers plans if you’ve tried to reserve multiple dates/entry points. The rule applies to alternate permit holder as well. So making multiple reservations under different names doesn’t work either. This is not a “loop hole,” please don’t attempt this.

When All Else Fails

After you have exhausted all of your potential plans go to the recreation.gov site and make a list of all available entry points for the dates you’re hoping for. Once you’ve completed your list, you can start checking out these entry points on BWCA.com. This is my favorite site to get information for upcoming trips and new areas. I use it every time I start planning.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to your best options, again, get your spot reserved as soon as possible. We did the same process and had one entry point picked out, it was available one day and gone the next. Don’t stall!

Things to remember

  • Reservations open the last Wednesday in January
  • Flexible dates are helpful
  • Have 3 plans with 3 separate entry points
  • Have an alternate permit holder at the time of reservation
  • One permit per day per permit holder

I have learned my lesson on procrastinating and being ill-prepared when attempting to make a BWCA reservation. The trip we wound up going on was a success and we got to explore somewhere new. We reserved entry point #36 Hog Creek and had a wonderful little adventure on Perent Lake. You can check out that adventure here.

If you love the wilderness, no matter where you choose/settle on going to in the BWCA, you’re going to love it. Even if you find your planning process to be a pain, it’ll be all the sweeter when you get there.

Know your plan, your back-up plan, and your back-up back-up plan. Happy adventuring!

Bower Trout to Swan Lake: A weekend In-and-Out

The importance of “getting away from it all” as a couple is immense. It’s a really difficult thing to do in the go-go-go world we live in. Scott and I have been together for 13 years. Our first trip together to the Boundary Waters was when we were 16 years old, just babies! We’ve gone up multiple times with my family, we’ve gone up with our kids, but we had never had a trip to my favorite place just the two of us. It was long overdue!

Ranger Station

The Ranger Station for Entry Point 43, Bower Trout Lake, is the Gunflint District Ranger Station. You really can’t miss it as your enter Grand Marais on Hwy 61. It’s just off to the right before the mini golf place.

Our quiz was taken outside alongside another couple. The building was closed at the time of our trip due to covid-19. We had watched the short film before our previous trip this summer, this allowed us to bypass that tidbit. You are only required to watch it once a season. If you’ve watched the video in the past, you’ll find it has been updated. I actually missed the tradition of watching the old video on the tiny tv screen in the ranger station.

Gunflint Ranger Station Info:
Address:2020 W. Hwy 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604
Hours:May 1st- Sept. 30th: Sun-Sat 8am-4:30pm
Oct. 1st-April 30th: Mon-Fri 8am-4:30pm
Phone:218-387-1750

Entry Point Details

Entry Point #43
Permits Issued Daily 1
Permit TypeOvernight Paddle
Ranger StationGunflint District

Getting to the Entry Point

Our route got a little goofy at the beginning of our drive due to some construction. We had to bypass that and go a little bit passed our turn, but it was easy enough to circle back around. The road conditions passed the Gunflint Trail were actually quite good, I was impressed. I recall the sketchiness from when I was a kid. Do not rely on your phone GPS, you will loose signal somewhere along the Gunflint Trail, have a map with you and know your route before you go. I actually like to have printed out instructions along as well.

As you exit the Gunflint Ranger Station parking lot, head east on Route 61. Just a mile down the road, turn left onto 5th Ave W. The Gunflint Trail will be .7 miles down the road, turn left here. Stay on the Gunflint Trail for 16 miles. Next you’ll take a left onto South Brule Rd (325), follow this until you reach a T in the road. Go Left onto 152, the entry point will be half a mile after the turn. The sign is quite small, so go slow or you might miss it.

Parking

For only issuing one permit daily, this entry point has a generous parking area. We were able to back into a space with relative ease. There is no bathroom area (there usually aren’t). Folks can obtain a day use permit, there may be vehicles parked in the area for single day use.

Route

Scott and I chose to go farther in for this trip and take on more portages. We felt free to do so since it was just the two of us and no small children. We took advantage of our lightweight situation and went on an adventure!

Our route would take us from Bower Trout Lake into Marshall Lake, through Dugout and Skidway, up the South Brule River, and finally into Swan Lake. A total of 6 portages, 5 Lakes, and a river. Though there are longer and more treacherous routes, this was the first trip we had been able to take in a long time that was more than one lake in. I was excited!

Portage #1: The Launch

Do not be deceived! There is no view of the lake from the parking area, but you will get there. It’s a 72 rod portage to Bower Trout Lake, but it’s a beautiful portage at that. Depending on what time of year you go, we went in early August, there are groves of wild flowers. Raised planks have been installed on the trail to walk across as it is a more swampy area. The water was so low at the time of our travels that we did not have to worry about getting our feet wet right away.

Portage Tip: We spoke to some rangers on one of our excursions about footwear. This gal and her partner wore boots treated with mink oil, this made them waterproof. We usually wear our athletic water shoes, closed toe only. They look more like mesh tennis shoes. And we pack our dry shoes in our pack. This way you will have dry footwear when you reach your destination and don’t need to worry about trying to keep your feet dry.

Bower Trout Lake

This first sight of the BWCA is breathtaking. Soak it in before loading up the canoe, you’ve earned a moment to take in the scenery after that first portage. Seeing the high hills on the south side of the lake on that cool morning was a reminder of why this wilderness is my favorite place.

Bower Trout Lake has two campsites. If you are planning on staying on this lake there is a good chance that you will obtain a site quickly. This is a rather small lake that offers Walleye, Northern Pike, and Smallmouth Bass. We did not see any campers on this particular lake and kept that knowledge in our back pocket in case of there being no availability on Swan or Marshall.

We shared the lake with a pair of swans as we paddled our way across. They were neat to see and kept their distance. We joked that they were on the wrong lake.

Portage #2

The second portage on this journey is on the opposite end of Bower Trout Lake. It’s really a quick paddle away as Bower Trout is a small lake. There is a small inlet under some bushes from the South Brule River. The portage is farther than this point, though it is worth a quick look. The Portage will be very obvious, there is actually a dock. Not the usual primitive experience but when the water is high, I’ll bet that is appreciated. There are also planks to walk across, to get to more solid ground. This portage is 91 rods with some steeper areas, long but not too rough.

Marshall Lake

Marshall Lake is even smaller than Bower Trout, it is a very short paddle across to the next portage. Not much of a break from carrying gear. There is only one campsite available on Marshall Lake. In our case, it was taken, not that we planned to stay there but that eliminated the easiest backup plan. This lake offers Walleye, Northern Pike, and Smallmouth Bass.

Portage # 3

The portage from Marshall to Dugout was not as obvious as the previous portage with the lack of a dock, but it felt more natural. This particular portage was short and sweet at 28 rods. Really this portage brings you into the South Brule River that leads into Dugout Lake.

Dugout Lake

This was a very cool area to paddle through… or should I saw walk? We reached a point of shallow rocks and small rapids that required us to exit the canoe and guide it upstream. This was almost the most thrilling part of our journey to Swan Lake.

On our way out we watched a pair of paddlers try to maneuver their way without getting out, it was a mess to watch. Just get out, it’s easier, less noisy, and causes less damage to your canoe.

Skidway Lake

Surprisingly there is no portage between Dugout and Skidway. There is, however, a narrowing of the river. Which brings us to the most thrilling part of our route; a small sand bar island in the middle of the stream. Here we found fresh moose tracks and clams that had been cracked and eaten. Obviously, this was a high trafficked area for multiple creatures. There are also multiple beaver lodges to check out. Stay alert, you don’t want to miss the chance to witness something amazing.

There was a spot along this stretch that at least one paddler needed to exit the canoe and guide it through more rough area. No matter, dive in!

Portage #4 & #5

The next two portages 35 and 40 rods. There are some steep areas, but this short distance makes it a breeze compared to the 91 rod portage near the beginning of the journey. There is quite a bit of muck at these next couple of portages. Thankfully, there is a fallen tree near one portage that can be used to avoid some of that mess at one spot.

Keep an eye out for animal sign. We found what we believed to be bear scat. Exciting! If you look through the trees, you’ll be able to see the rapids of the slim river.

South Brule River

There is a small and oddly rectangular section of river that is paddled up the South Brule River. This leads you to the last portage to Swan Lake, yay! The bugs are little more viscous in this area due to more stagnant water. But overall they weren’t bad, thank you dry season.

Portage #6

This last portage brings you up the Swan Lake. The area at the end of the entry has a flat space to organize your gear before loading the canoe. It’s also a good opportunity to check out the map and decide where to search for a site first.

Entering Swan Lake

Immediately to your left as you exit the portage is a group of fallen trees over the river exiting Swan Lake. It’s a very unique scene. More than just a view, the sounds and smells of the crisp water flowing is peaceful. Take a moment to enjoy it and breath it in. Paddling right up to the fallen trees, you’ll see numerous fish swimming in the shelters created by the debris.

Campsites

Swan lake has 3 opportunities for campsites. We took the eastern most site. This site had something that we had yet to see in the BWCA; stairs. That’s right, there was a set of steps leading up to the campsite on a rock. What!? It was definitely a first. I thought it would take away from the wilderness experience, but after setting up camp, they grew on me. It was like sitting on our front step at our backcountry home while drinking tea at the end of the day.

The sites on this lake seemed quite large. There were two areas for tents at our campsite. Our dinky two person tent was dwarfed by the open space. The latrine was quite luxurious as well, it even came with a lid!

Fishing

We had rotten luck again, we entered on a cold front. This made for some rough fishing on our first fishing excursion, Scott caught one northern and I caught one smallmouth bass on our first night. It was great to be out in the canoe with no place to be. We were satisfied with our catch, we weren’t fishing for dinner anyway.

Day 2 of fishing wasn’t any better. We fought the wind for some time until we finally gave up and trolled while the wind pushed us down the shoreline. Eventually we found a little bay on the northwestern side of the lake, that was a small haven away from the wind. We caught one northern for the day. Dinner.

The loons on this lake were rather chatty, we loved listening to their eerie call in the evenings. We also happened upon a family of loons in the bay where we took shelter from the wind. They were quite entertaining to watch as the mother taught her young to fish.

Relax

Fishing, canoeing, exploring, daytrips, swimming, hiking, adventuring; all great fun! I’m up for any and all of it. But when you finally get a break in the action, and no kids tagging along, it’s like striking gold when you can sit down and read your favorite book.

I read the WHOLE book, cover to cover, in one B.W.C.A. weekend. Call of the Wild by Jack London is my favorite book, and I got to read the whole thing in my favorite place. Bring a hammock folks, you can do it too!

If reading is not your thing, find some other way to relax while you’re up there. Some say fishing is just as relaxing. If that’s you, go for it. Scott chilled in the hammock while I read. The point is, find some time to breath and embrace the time that you have there. You’ll want to go back home feeling refreshed, not like you need a vacation from your vacation.

Solitude

Swan lake is farther in than we’ve traveled for quite a while. This offered us a more secluded oasis. We shared the lake with a family for one night and after that we had the lake to ourselves. That time alone was so needed, I really do prefer my solitude. The farther in you go, the fewer people you will see. In some areas it’s quite noticeable, especially when you start to see more wildlife and the squirrels aren’t as friendly.

Time Together

Like I said at the beginning of this post, it was the first time that Scott and myself went on a camping trip just the two of us. I have to admit, it felt a little weird sometimes. We weren’t chasing any toddlers or rushing anyone to activities. So we could actually talk to each other. Or NOT talk to one another and just be in each other’s company without words, silence is a treasure when you have kids.

What separates a couples trip in the Boundary Waters from any other couple’s trip is that you are not distracted by things going on around you. There isn’t some show that you need to make it to by x-o’clock, you aren’t meeting anyone at a certain time, there is no itinerary. It’s just you and you’re favorite person in the most serene place on earth.

All in all, Swan Lake was absolutely worth the trek in. It offered solitude, beautiful scenes, a great campsite, wildlife encounters and time together. I sure missed my kids, but having that time together alone in the woods was much needed! If you have the chance to make it out there with your significant other, do it! You’ll never forget the experience.

8 Tips for Day Hike Success with Little Adventurers

It’s adventure time! Grab your kids, make a plan and go! One of my favorite things to do is hike with my kids. I didn’t start hiking frequently with my daughter until she was a bit older, about 3 years old. That wait was unnecessary, my son was about a month old on his first hike. I knew better by then. Being ready and knowing what to expect will definitely assist in your adventures.

1. Plan Ahead

Spontaneity is great! But flying by the seat of your pants becomes less practical with a little one on your hip. Planning your hike ahead of time is a great way to save some frustration on the trail. Study that map, know your route and find any shortcuts that can bring you back to the vehicle if you need a quicker exit.

Make sure that you have all of the supplies that you’ll need and some extras left in the car for your return. Hiking with the little ones is great, as long as you’re prepared.

2. Short & Sweet

I know this has been mentioned in previous posts, but short and sweet is the way to go. If you’re planning on spending the whole day at a state park, have at it, but make sure that hike isn’t a solid 5 hour chunk. Break it up, do smaller hikes or break your big one into pieces so your little ones can enjoy themselves too. It might be a good idea to have a few spots picked out that might be of interest for your little guy/gal. For example; a beach or nature center. Really a good place to stretch their legs and get hands on is good. Our favorites are a rivers edge or rocky beach, Killian loves to toss rocks in the water.

3. Hit the Highlights First

Best for last, right? Maybe not, it would be a real bummer to miss out on a great bit of adventure because you were trying to hold out for a big finale. Sometimes when those little adventurers are done, they are DONE! It’s not a huge deal to leave before you planned if you’ve already completed the best part of your day. Hit those highlights early, it’s way less disappointing to leave early if the highlight is out of the way. Or you’ll end up pushing farther and get a really bad experience, unable to enjoy your destination once you’ve reached it.

Bonus: Getting hot spots out of the way early will also help you beat any crowds at a well known attraction.

4. Smell the Roses

Or pine trees, or cacti, whatever. Smell something along the way. The point is: you are not in a race. If your little adventurer wants to walk, let them walk, if they want to be carried, carry them. The goal of bringing them out there is so they can learn to appreciate nature, right? So let them appreciate it.

I know acting interested in the 187th rock they’ve shown you can get old, but remember that they haven’t seen as many rocks as you. That rock is fascinating! And your interest might mean the world to them. If there is something interesting, like a giant hole, stop to check it out!

5. Carriers

I didn’t realize how convenient a child carrier could be until we had one ourselves. We didn’t have a child carrier or an all-terrain stroller with our first child. After our son was born, we found an infant carrier at a garage sale and later invested in a backpack toddler carrier. It was one of the greatest purchases we made regarding adventure gear. We have really gotten our use out of it; local hikes, walks around town, up a mountain in Colorado, and numerous state parks here in Minnesota.

As far as styles and brands go. I believe it’s all personal preference. You can go super light weight and just carry your munchkin or you can find one with a cargo bag underneath. I opted to go for a pack with space for gear and water bottles. It actually has an insulated compartment for breast milk. I don’t breast feed, but if I did that would be super convenient to have.

**Tip: Get your toddler used to the backpack carrier prior to longer hikes. Do a couple 1 to 2 mile treks before going for the long haul. Starting out with a five mile hike can really deter them from wanting to ride again. You’ll want your little one so comfortable in their carrier that they can sleep in it.

6. Snacks & Water

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks! And some water. No, lots of water. This is key! It’s always a good idea to pack more snacks than you think you’ll need. Here are some things to keep in mind when packing snacks:

  • Easy- You don’t want your snacks to require any prep while on the trail.
  • Nonperishable- Unless you plan on lugging a cooler around, keep it to snacks that require no refrigeration.
  • Single servings- Individually packed snacks are really convenient and makes it easier to ration and bring a variety.
  • Enjoyable- I will not bring a snack that my child has not shown interest in prior to our excursion. On the trail is not the place to test out a new snack and find that they don’t like it.
  • Enough- When packing up your snacks, bring extra! Your little adventurer is going to be burning more calories than normal, they’re going to get hungry.
  • Secret Stash- Keep a really high quality reward stashed away for a toddler emergency.

Distribute snacks throughout your hike, remember to ration without being stingy, that’s why we pack extra. I try to get at least a couple miles in before bringing out the snacks, that way my little man isn’t trying to eat the WHOLE time. You can also use snacks as rewards for making it to certain marker, i.e. the next bench, that big rock up ahead. Food is a great motivator and older toddlers like to feel like they’ve “earned” something.

Remember that secret stash? Best time that I’ve found to bring that out is when you are either needing them to get into or out of a child carrier. Our little guy, Killian, loves to do the hiking. I love that he loves it, but sometimes toddler legs are so slow that we are going to lose daylight. I will ask if he’d like an apple sauce and tell him that he needs to get in the carrier to eat it. This way, I can cover some ground while he snacks.

Your little adventurer might be the opposite, maybe they only get snacks when they’re out of the carrier to get them to burn some energy. Every little hiker is different, experiment and find what works best for you.

I know we all get excited about our snacks, but don’t forget about water. I like to bring a water bottle per person, we each have our own size. It’s also a good idea to leave some in the car for when you return. If you’re going on a long hike, bring extra and leave even more in your vehicle.

Supplies

Now that we’ve covered snacks, let talk supplies. I like to pack light. Kids make that a little harder, but we’ve managed. There are some things that you need and some that are unnecessary but optional. Let’s start with the things you need first

Needed Supplies:

  • Diapers– Like we covered above, your little one will be consuming more than normal, pack extra diapers. I like to figure out how many diapers Killian goes through in the amount of time I expect to do our hike, and add 2.
  • Wipes– A small travel pack of wipes will do the trick.
  • First Aid Kit– I always bring a small first aid kit, just your basic stuff and a flashlight.
  • Dog Waste Bags– This sounds silly, but it’s a great idea for when you change diapers. I don’t like dirty diapers floating around in my pack. Put it in a dog poop bag and tie it to the back of the pack until you find a trash bin.

Optional Supplies

  • Changing Pad– Our backpack carrier came with a changing pad, I have yet to use it. It takes up valuable space and is more of a luxury than a necessity. If your little one is sensitive to being placed in the grass to be changes, bring it along.
  • Pacifier– Not all munchkins us a pacifier. We don’t typically bring one, we did however use one when hiking out of state. Killian was off his normal sleep schedule and a real crab, the pacifier helped to sooth him on our longer hikes. You might want to keep one stashed away if you’re going to be in a similar situation.
  • Toys– We do not bring toys on the trail. Killian has a special puppy at home that stays home, it’s not worth the risk of losing it. Another reason for leaving toys at home is so that your littles are checking out their surroundings instead of what they’ve brought with them. ** My exception to this is a pair of binoculars. Our 10 year old brings hers, and it’s so gosh darn cute when Killian uses his.

Unload Trash

Kids are messy. That’s a fact. Keeping tidy can relieve some stress along the way. While on the trail, if you happen upon a trash bin or visitor center, take advantage of it. I like to empty out any pockets or pouches. It’s the perfect opportunity to unload trash, dispose of a diaper, or change your little one even if they aren’t fully in need of one. Staying fresh helps to keep that mood high.

Preparing for your outing will change your experience. And it gets easier with every hike, you’ll learn what your little adventurer needs and what can be left at home. Once you’ve gone on a few hikes and gotten into the habit of packing what you need, it’s whole lot simpler. Not every hike will be perfect, but as parents, we aren’t shooting for perfection. We’re shooting for memories made and experiences shared.

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!

Tent Zipper: When closing into the tent for the night, place the closed zippers at the uppermost point of the tent door. Tents are different, if your tent doesn’t allow this option, you may want to bring along a clip or something to secure the zippers closed. I am a pretty light sleeper while camping, but just in case this tip can keep the zippers out of reach and your toddlers from wondering off in the night. We recently used this method while camping in Florida, it’s the first time it was a concern with our on-the-go little guy.

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?