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Fall Camping At It’s Best – Moose Lake State Park

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In my opinion, fall camping is the best camping you will experience. The night air is cool, crisp and perfect for campfires. The sunny, but cool afternoons are refreshing. The leaves have changed colors and are falling while morning hikes are amazing around the mist filled lakes and frosty plantation. I don’t mind putting on a hat and jacket and enjoying the end of the season with a final fall camping trip.

The last trip of the fall camping season, before putting the camper away is always the most bitter sweet. You leave it feeling like it was the pefect way to end a season and transition to another, but you just don’t want it to end. I felt that way as I was going for my solo morning hike on the last day and then again, as I watched the boys cast lines from the dock as we were packing the fishing gear into the truck after our last trip out on the lake. I didn’t want it to end and it left me wanting for more…

Heading Out For Our Last Fall Camping Weekend

We hadn’t packed a thing yet and were a bit disorganized with some of our gear. We hadn’t used the camper since our long road trip of visiting family over the summer and really hadn’t touched it since getting back home. Luckily, we’ve been dialing things back on how complicated we get with our camping and were able to pack up fairly quick. It’s becoming pretty simple for us… Bike and fishing gear for starters, grab whatever we want out of the fridge and transfer to the camper, pack some clothes and a couple other odds and ends and get on the road.

We arrived at camp in plenty of time to go for a short bike ride around the campground to check things out. The boys were most interested about checking out the lake and all they could think about was going fishing the next day. They had all kinds of questions about what type of fish and where we were going to go on the lake to catch them. They of course have their own ideas, but they always want to know what I think… As if I have all the answers on every type of fish and the bottom structure of the entire lake that I have never seen before…

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We started a campfire early and the boys skipped hotdogs and went straight for the s’mores. Who am I to argue… It was our last trip of the year and it would be a bit of a free for all weekend. I love watching their excitement as they anticipate this next marshmellow being the best one they’ve ever roasted, while every other one goes up in flames.

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I had a hotdog and then diced up some potatoes and onions with some coconut oil in tin foil to set over the fire on the cooking grate. I don’t eat potatoes very often, but I love them cooked this way. The night was definitely crisp and we eventually went inside and hung out for awhile before settling down for the night.

I know folks don’t think camping in an RV or travel trailer is true camping… I am totally ok with that. It’s not specifically about the camping for me. It’s about the forced family time and getting out. Whether we pile into a tent at night or pile into our camper for the evening, we’re together and enjoying each other’s company. We don’t have the option to send the kids downstairs to play or head to their room. We get to sit around together for a little bit each evening, even if a movie is playing on the TV. It’s just good family time, the kids will remember it forever and at 7 and 8 years old, they already talk about the trips they want to take their families on.

All Around Great Day Of Fall Camping

It was a cold morning as all of them would be for this trip. I am usually up before everybody else and I fixed myself some coffee and did a little work on my laptop while things were still quiet in the camper. As day light came, I eventually headed out for a walk. I love walking campground roads in the quiet morning, before everybody is up and moving around. It’s peaceful and relaxing. It is one of the better ways to start a day and I was thinking to myself, that I wish we had more fall camping weekends left before the deep freeze of Minnesota winters set in.

Everyone started to wake and I fired up the gas grill to cook some sausage links. Sausage is one of our breakfast treats while camping. We usually just eat eggs for breakfast at home. We actually keep meals pretty simple in general around home most of the time and save some of the extra stuff for camping trips. I think it is these little things that keep camping trips special for us. Even though we’re in the travel trailer and have most of the amenities of home, I try to mix the routine up a bit. I think it is important to distinguish the time differently and the kids each have different things to look forward to when we go camping.

It was pretty cold out still and we enjoyed the warmth of the camper a bit. The kids eventually turned on a cartoon movie on the TV and I put on my running gear and headed out for a run while Lynn enjoyed her coffee and the warmth of the camper with the kids. I just started doing some trail running. This might be a little off topic, but most folks that follow me closely around social media know that I have been diving deeper and deeper into mountain bike racing the last few years. But, I am looking to test myself with some trail running in the future. I’ll put a link to my fitness and endurance training website (Endurance Path) at the bottom of this post. Anyways, it was a fantastic run. The trails were not very technical and offered some great views around the lake.

I was back from my run and it was time to head out fishing. Lynn was going to head into Duluth while the boys and I chased some fish around the lake in the canoe. These guys really crack me up. It is just funny to watch these little people get all serious into the fishing and really trying to understand what we’re doing. Kyle is extremely serious about the fishing while Reid can be a bit more figity and likes to manuvere the canoe. Reid was getting pretty serious about getting the canoe manuevered around and learning how to use the oars just the right way. When it came to the fishing, they were both intent on forgoing the ultralight rods for the bigger setups to try casting for some pike or bass. This of course is a bit chaotic in a canoe, so I had them take turns.

All we had was night crawlers and crank baits. Nothing was happening with the drifting crawlers other than a couple nibbles here and there with no takers. Kyle was focused and continued working the edge of weeds with his rapala and then boom! I could tell it was a good size fish. It actually stayed below the surface the entire time and I wasn’t sure if he might of had a pike on. He was one excited kid! I grabbed our litte colapsable net as he pulled the big guy toward the canoe and I scooped him up. It was pretty awesome to see him bring in this big bass and he was really proud of it.

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Reid didn’t catch it, but you would have thought he caught one himself with the excitement that he had for his older brother. Although we were hoping to catch something to cook over the fire for the evening, it was early and we released the big bass back into the lake. The boys are extremely competitive with each other, but also always supportive and excited for the each other. It is a very cool thing to watch.

There was some big excitement in the boat now and we decided to continue working our way around the shoreline. Reid took a few casts, but no luck. We eventually worked our way around the point and decided to head to the other end of the lake, looking for a hole that I saw on the lake chart. As a side note, the Minnesota DNR provides charts for most of the lakes in the state. They are real simple pdf charts, but a great resource for folks like us that aren’t super serious, and want to get an idea of what the lake looks like. I’ll drop a link at the bottom of the post to the Minnesota Lake Finder, where the charts can be found.

We found the hole, but the wind had picked up a little and we were drifting across it too fast and our anchor line wasn’t long enough. We decided to slowly start working our way along the shoreline back to the other end of the lake. Reid was taking additional interest in manuevering the canoe, while Kyle was concentrated on his cast. We drifted across some flats and along a sunken island with a weed bed growing to the surface and Kyle got another hit. We all called this one a great teamwork play as Reid was manning the oars, Kyle on the cast and myself on the net.

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This one came out of the water and started dripping some blood. He appeared to be just fine, so I am not sure if it had just eaten live dinner below the surface before hitting Kyle’s rapala or what. At anyrate, it swam away fast when we released it. It was awesome to watch Kyle bring that big guy in and Reid was still pretty excited about being the guy manuevering us around with the oars. That was the last of our catches for the day and we eventually worked our way back to the boat landing and headed back to camp.

We did some walking around the campground and bike riding before Mom arrived back from Duluth and then we all settled in around a campfire for the evening. We busted out the hotdogs and marshmellows again and went ahead with my potatoes in tin foil. I love watching the final logs burn down to coals in the fire before heading in for the night. It was another great day of fall camping and a successful day out on the lake.

The Colder & Windy Side Of Fall Camping

It was a little colder and windy, but there was a persistance around camp, mainly from the boys, that we would go fishing again. We did the same breakfast routine as the previous day and enjoyed some family time, sitting together in the camper over breakfast and coffee. I took a short walk as we waited for the near freezing air to warm. As I walked down along the lake and watched the sky, I realized we probably wouldn’t be seeing the sun anytime soon and the previous day’s sunny sky may have been the last of those sorts until April.

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Regardless, we headed down to the boat landing in the truck to offload the canoe and fishing gear… We didn’t even make it out on the water and lures were being blasted all over the place from the dock and I soon heard something along the lines of, “Dad! All I did was cast it out and it tangled up…”. I came to check out the situation to find a nest that took a couple cuts of line and dismantling of the line spool from the reel to clean up. I am always amazed at the nest of lines that can get wrapped 100 times around and trapped in every crevis of a fishing reel, just by casting it out…

Finally, headed out onto the lake and the wind was blowing so hard, we didn’t have to paddle much and decided we better drop the anchor near shore, not too far from the boat landing. Lynn and Kyle took some casts, while Reid enjoyed the comfort of his camp chair that he packed in the canoe. I hooked a worm up on another line and dropped it over the side. I immediately was getting some nibbles, but no takers.

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I soon heard hints from the crew that maybe it was a bit chilly and some hot chocolate and coffee back at camp might be the way to go for the afternoon. Then, I finally hooked this beast (baby perch in the picture below) that had been nibbling at my worm. Reid, was now wanting in on the game and Kyle was ready for a simple hook and worm. I knew we must have been sitting over a school of tiny little fish as there were lots of bites with only that tiny little perch.

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Kyle pulled up a similar catch as the wind picked up even more and we made the call to head back to the boat landing. I had a bit of a hassle getting our little anchor pulled up as the stiff wind got it dug pretty deep into something down below. All hands were on deck ready with oars and paddles as I finally pulled the anchor loose and we were “hammering”, as Reid likes to say, toward the boat landing.

Once back at camp, we grabbed some quick lunch and then headed out for a hike on the park trails. Kyle was enthusiastic, while Reid was less than enthusiastic. Reid is a bit of his own man and he is not about to pretend to be excited when he is not. I can’t help but appreciate the confidence and matter of factness in his honesty. We ended up hiking about 2 and half miles on some nice wide ski trails. Reid would express that the trails were not difficult enough and that they were not real hiking trails, since they were not narrow with roots and rocks in them. Apparantly they were substandard trails for the hiking ability of an experienced 7 year old and he required something more challenging.

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This was our last evening at camp for this fall camping season and we busted out the pie irons for pizza sandwhiches. This is another one of my favorites in regards to campfire cooking. I am not a huge fan of the pie filling sandwhiches, but love the pizza sandwhiches. The kids enjoyed making their own and it just adds another special experience for the kids while camping. It’s all these little things that they look forward to on these little trips.

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The Final Day Of Our Last Fall Camping Trip

I knew this would be my last morning at camp for the year, so I grabbed my coffee and headed out for a walk. My original intention was just to check out the lake, but I didn’t want it to end and I just kept walking. The sound of a single falling leaf would remind me of sitting in a tree stand as a kid, listening to all the native sounds coming from the woods, hoping that one of those sounds was a deer walking into view.

I stopped, looked around a lot and took some pictures. There was something about this walk that was a bit special. I don’t know if it was a calmness inside, or I felt good about life in general, but it was just a peaceful morning and I was content. I ended up walking about 3 and a half miles before getting back to camp to prepare for one last fishing expedition out on the canoe. Below is a string of pictures from the hike. Look closely in the first picture… I was able to catch a bird in flight across the lake surface.

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Surprisingly, everyone was still in bed when I returned from my hike. I immediately thought about how rough of a morning the next day was going to be, getting the boys up for school again. I grabbed some more coffee and then climbed up in the boys’ bunk to sit for a few minutes while they woke up. They think it is funny for me to climb up there. They were soon awake and I got breakfast going before we packed up for one last trip out on the lake.

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We were out on the lake again, for what would most likely be our last time on open water for the year. The Minnesota freeze would start soon and our next fishing trip would likely be on the ice. It was another beautiful and perfect finish to the fall camping weekend. We didn’t stay out long, but I kept getting those little perch nibbling at my line. We caught a couple bluegill that we decided to keep for the boys to eat for dinner. Lynn had some fun with a small pike and a nice crappie that both shook off the hook, right at the edge of the canoe. The boys claim that both fish still count as a catch, because mom got them to edge of the canoe. There was a pretty big debate about it on the way back to the boat landing.

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I didn’t want this trip to end, but it had to. We were back at shore and the kids continued to launch rapalas from the dock, while Lynn and I packed up the canoe and the rest of the fishing gear. I stood there for a moment and watched the kids casting from the dock without a care about anything else in the world. They were in the moment and I had a hard time telling them we needed to go. I have a big soft spot in my heart for these moments… I even teared up a bit as I watched the boys casting from the dock and thought about how fast they were growing and another experience like this was coming to an end.

We headed back to camp and packed up to make our way back home. Another camping season was over and we would transition to some colder weather and winter adventures. Like previous summers, this one went by way too fast. Each year seems like it passes faster than the previous and reminds me to slow down a bit and enjoy the moments along the way. Hanging out with my boys, continues to remind me to never let go of the kid inside me and continue to learn and challenge myself. These kids never stop learning. They thrive on a new experience, another challenge and picking up a new skill. They always challenge me and I hope they continue to set these examples for me as we all grow older.

Reference Links From Our Last Fall Camping Trip

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Endurance Path – My Fitness & Endurance Website

Minnesota Lake Finder

Moose Lake State Park

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