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Making Plans For Big Adventures And Website Changes In 2016

I haven’t posted anything in quite some time and not sure that the newsletter idea is going to come out yet either, that I had mentioned back a few months ago.  That being said, we are making some big plans for 2016, that will include camping in a handful of new states and visiting more National Parks.  We will end up spending quite a bit of time in the camper this year.  I am still working out all of our plans and of course need to make sure that I can fund the travel, but if all goes well…  You’ll see quite a few trip reports in the blog stream this year.

I am also working on some new ideas to expand this website to provide much better information and reviews of campgrounds and parks that we visit.  I had been struggling on how to appropriately share our adventures and now I think I have a good way to do so.  If you have been to the site recently, you may have noticed a new tab at the top right that says “under construction” and that is me working on a new structure of pages to various reviews and links to trip reports.

In the past, I had written a few trip reports that would cover an entire trip.  In the future, I will probably break those trip reports down to separate posts for each major park, place or point of interested visited on the trip.  This will produce a few more posts, which I am not personally sure I like, however it will make cataloging the information on the site much easier for future readers to find information that they are looking for.  You’ll no longer have to dig through an entire trip report that hits multiple locations to find out about 1 specific place you are interested in.  I’ll try to keep the multiple posts from 1 major trip released in chronological order though, so you can still follow along with our trips.

I’ll also be launching a main landing page for each park or point of interest that will include links out to the campground review, trip reports for that park or point of interest and any other helpful information.  Those pages will also include my personal suggestions for visiting various locations and potential itineraries for your visit, depending on your interests.  I find the National Park website a little cumbersome to get around on once you choose a park and the same thing with most state park websites.  They either have way too much information, making it difficult to find what you are looking for or not nearly enough information to help you plan your visit.  I think I can provide the right amount of information for people to efficiently plan their visit.

These will all be based on our personal experiences and there is a lot of ground that we have not covered, yet…  That being said, we’ve covered a whole lot of ground to this point and have a really good start.  We love adventure and exploring new places, so over time, we’ll be able to stack up some pretty valuable information for people to plan their visits.  Plus, I do a lot of research when I plan a trip to make sure we are going to have the best adventure possible, so although I can’t be everywhere…  I think you’ll find my information, advice and trip itineraries real helpful in looking for a your next family vacation.

I should also mentioned that I will sneak in some old trip reports from time to time in my blog posts of places that we have been in the past, so that I can reference them in these information pages.  I have lots of pictures and have written about many of these trips in posts that don’t exist anymore, because I wrote them the first time I launched this site 4 or 5 years ago and never put them back up on the new site.  Or, I just never finished or published them.  Regardless, I’ll publish them on occasion throughout the year into the normal post feed.

So, stay tuned for our new adventures and updates to the site.  Also, shoot me a message if there is anything specific you would like to see on the site, trip reports, gear reviews and general information.

Thanks for reading!

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Monthly Report – Outdoor Family Life – May 2015

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Welcome to the my May 2015 Outdoor Family Life Monthly Report!

This is the second month in a restart of my monthly reports.  I started doing monthly updates last year, but did not follow through.  I have started them back up and will see if I can refine them enough for it to make sense to keep them going.  As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated.  If there is something specific you would like to see or do not want to see in these monthly updates, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail through my Contact Me page.

My intention is to share quick highlights of any outdoor activities from the month.  Some months will be a little heavier than others.  This month is a bit on the lighter side of content.

Camping

We only headed out for one weekend of camping in the month of May.  We were on a bit of recovery from our busy month of April.

Nights Spent in the Camper:  2

Campgrounds Visited:  1

States Camped In:  1

Land of Memories – Mankato, Minnesota

We camped here for a weekend because it was near a mountain bike race that we had planned.  It is a really nice local park.  The kids enjoyed Saturday riding their bikes around the campground roads and playing on the small playground.

Link to my full Land of Memories Campground Review

Biking

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Biking is becoming more and more popular with my kids as they have watched me progress over the past 2 years with it.  I have been racing quite a bit this spring and the kids have enjoyed going to watch the races and even participated in a kids fun race.  They are also getting big enough to hit the trails with me a bit, which has allowed us to turn biking into a nice family activity.

Trail Systems Ridden:  4

States Ridden In:  2

Carver Lake – Woodbury, Minnesota

I went here by myself for a quick shakedown of my bike before the Mankato race.  Carver is a really fun trail.  I swear it feels like you are going down hill the entire time even though you end and start at the same place.  I wish I was able to take the kids with me, but it was a quick trip after work to get some kinks out of the bike.

Mt. Kato – Mankato, Minnesota

We went here for the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Race #3.  I raced in the Comp Class and the kids raced in the Kids Fun Race.  We all had a great time and the kids are pumped about racing some more.  I finished 25th out of 65 in the Comp Class and I am improving each and every race.

Murphy Hanrahan – Savage, Minnesota

This was my first time riding Murphy and I really enjoyed it.  I went here with a friend after a Time Trial Road Bike Race.  We were in the area and figured we would bring the mountain bikes for a trail ride after the Time Trial.  I will go back to ride here again.  There are some trails here that the kids would be able to ride as well.

Woolly Mountain Bike Club Trails – St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Woolly is our go-to trail system and the kids are doing great on it.  I also did a Mountain Bike Race here mid month.  You can read my race report on my other website here.  The trails get better every time we go over there.  The Woolly Bike Club is constantly improving them.  I have helped worked on the trails a few different times and know that it is really hard work to keep them up.

Hiking

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I like getting the family out for a short hiking occasionally.  It mixes things up from biking and lets us see some other things.  We did not do much camping this month, but did go for a short hike one evening.

Trail Systems Hiked:  1

States Hiked In:  1

Interstate Park – Taylors Falls, MN

Glacial Potholes Trail

We hiked around here a couple of years ago when we moved to Minnesota.  It’s a nice little local place to hike with some great scenery.  You must be careful though, as there are plenty of rock ledges and cliffs.  This is a really neat area that was once covered by glaciers and water years ago, that formed all kinds of little potholes in the rocks.  The kids get a kick out of it and it is not a lot of work to cover the area.

Fishing

No fishing activity for us this month.  We will most likely get out on the canoe in June for some Blue Gill fishing.  The kids love it and we can usually catch our fair share of Blue Gills in a short time.

Cooking

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Lynn bought me an electric smoker for my birthday this year, so we have been trying our luck smoking a variety of meats.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

This was probably my favorite.  We ate off of this for a few days.  I didn’t quite smoke it long enough for pulled pork, but that was fixed the next day with a crock pot.

Smoked Whole Chicken

Pretty amazing how moist the chicken stayed in the smoker.  I used Cherry Wood chips and it turned out pretty darn good.  This is the best way to cook a whole chicken.  The second best is grilling it whole, which we do often.

Smoked Pork Loin

This was our first shot using the smoker and it turned out good.  Again, I probably could have let it go longer though.

Photography

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I always enjoyed taking pictures, but have never really had the time to concentrate on it.  I enjoy some of our short hikes as it gives me a chance to experiment a bit with the camera as I am a beginner.  Lynn caught a picture of me taking some pictures that I thought I would share.

Summary

May was a bit of a down month for us on the travel side of things, but we stayed busy regardless with biking activities and some general outdoor activities around the house.  We’ve had a fantastic spring this year and we are looking forward to getting the kids out on the canoe soon for some blue gill fishing.  We have a few trips that we plan to take in the month of June, so my June report should be full of information.

If you found this useful and think someone else would benefit from reading and following my blog, please share with your friends through Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

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My Monthly Outdoor Family Life Update – April 2015

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Welcome to the my April 2015 Outdoor Family Life Update!

I started doing monthly updates last year, but did not follow through.  I am going to start them back up and see if I can refine them enough for it to make sense to keep them going.  As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated.  If there is something specific you would like to see or do not want to see in these monthly updates, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail through my Contact Me page.

My intention is to share quick highlights of any outdoor activities from the month.  Our Spring Break Trip was a week long and fell on the week split between March and April, so I am including all of our Spring Break Trip information in this April update.

Camping

We did quite a bit of camping this month due to the month starting out mid-way through our Spring Break Trip.  The kids just want to keep on camping.  We rarely stay at the same campground twice, but this month was an exception. I wanted to take the kids trout fishing and I knew Roaring River in Missouri was a great place for us to go for this.  I should also mention that we are not really “roughing it” in our camping trips.  We have a nice trailer and our camping is more of a way for us to get out and explore new places and feel at home while doing so.

Nights Spent in the Camper – 14

Campgrounds Visited:  5

State Camped In:  3

Clear Lake State Park – Clear Lake Iowa

We stopped here for one night on our way to Missouri.  This park was not very far off the highway and the site did not need any leveling.  We didn’t even unhook the trailer from the truck that night.  It was below freezing that night, but we woke up to a nice view of the lake with the playground right across from our campsite.  The kids enjoyed the playground in the morning and a nice walk down to the lake with me before we left.

Link to my full Clear Lake State Park Review

Roaring River State Park – Cassville, Missouri

We had a really great time at Roaring River.  We arrived late on a Saturday afternoon and stayed until Thursday morning.  This was actually our second time staying at Roaring River.  This time we stayed in loop 1. Our main reason for staying here was to do some trout fishing with the boys.  I am told that it is usually really busy here, but we must have lucked out.  The campground pretty much emptied out on Sunday afternoon and we had the whole place to ourselves.

Link to my full Roaring River State Park Review

Clinton State Park – Lawrence, Kansas

This was on our way home, kind of.  The boys wanted to check off a new state on this trip, so we spent three nights in Kansas.  The park is huge and is pretty much a big recreation area.  The campground was nice depending on what site you could get.  We found a really nice site on an outer loop in the trees.  We also picked this campground because of the mountain bike trails that I wanted to try out.

One interesting thing about the park that I couldn’t figure out, was that it appeared that there was some really long term or permanent campers here that had stuff laying all over their campsites.  They would also drive through the park really fast hitting the gas hard.  I wasn’t sure if this was standard practice here or was just an early season coincidence, but definitely got to be a bit annoying.

Link to my full Clinton State Park Review

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park – Little Falls, Minnesota

This is a nice little park with some great trails for family hiking.  We camped here because I had a bicycle race near by and thought it would be nice to turn it into a weekend of camping for us.  The kids loved it.  This is a really peaceful little park that I would like to go back to again and hike the other trails and see the Lindbergh home, since it was still closed for the season while we were there.

Link to my full Charles A. Lindbergh State Park Review

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – Nerstrand, Minnesota

This was another bicycle race weekend, turned into a camping trip.  This was probably one of the first really nice weekends of the year and the park was pretty busy.  We had a nice time and the kids had a blast.  They made some friends at the park and spent most of their time riding their bikes back and forth to the park or doing laps around the campground.

Link to my full Nerstrand Big Woods State Park Review

Biking

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Mountain Biking Season is in full season and is becoming a full family event as the kids are getting bigger.  I am amazed at how much improvement they have made since last year and the level of trails they are able to ride.  It is quite exciting for me.

Trail Systems Ridden:  3

States Ridden In:  3

Slaughter Pen Trails – Bentonville, Arkansas

While this was technically in March, it was during the week of our Spring Break trip that rolled into April.  We spent a few hours of riding here.  This is a great place to go mountain biking as a family.  There is a really nice paved path that connects all the single track mountain bike trails.  You can ride the paved trail all the way through town or take detours off onto the single track.  Lynn and I got to go off on some single track trails by ourselves while the other stayed back on the paved path with the kids.  We did find some good beginner single track trails to take the kids on as well.

Lake Clinton Trails – Lawrence, Kansas

I am not sure what to say about these trails.  There are over 20 miles of single track if you take the full loop around.  They really are some great trails, but highly technical because of the large quantities of rock gardens. I started out enjoying them, but personally got a bit annoyed after awhile of all the rock gardens.  It really depends on what you are into.  I like fast cross country trails with the typical hard climbs, roots and some rocks, but these trails were a bit excessive.  Again, depends on what your cup of tea is.  If you are into a bit more aggressive trail riding, then you might love this place.

Woolly Mountain Bike Club Trails – St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

The Woolly trails finally opened for the season and are in great shape.  This is one of our local trail systems and we really enjoy going here as a family.  The kids can handle so much more trail this year than they could last year.  I took them back to some of the the intermediate trail sections and I was amazed at how well they did.  Now they want to race at the upcoming Woolly Mountain Bike Kid’s Race.

Hiking

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The kids like biking over hiking, but you can’t beat a nice family hike in the woods.  We tend to find short hikes at the campgrounds that we visit.

Trail Systems Hiked:  3

States Hiked In:  2

Roaring River State Park – Cassville, Missouri

Deer Leap Trail

Must do short little hike for a great bird’s eye view of the trout rearing ponds.  Just Reid and I did this trail.  It was a bit impromptu our last afternoon there as Reid wanted to see the trout rearing stations one last time before we left.

Devil’s Kitchen Trail

Nice trail with some technical sections and elevation.  It takes you by a collapsed rock sheets that legend says was used as a hide out by Civil War Soldiers.  We hiked this as a family.  We even saw a little snake while hiking that I caught on some GoPro video.

Fire Tower Trail

This is a little bit longer of a trail that I ended up just doing a trail run on.  I think the rest of the family was resting up for some additional trout fishing.

Spring House Trail

This is a very short little trail that takes you by the foundation of an old spring house once used by a family that had settled on this land.  You have to look for it or you’ll miss it.

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park – Little Falls, Minnesota

Jenny Landing Site

The wanted to do some hiking and I was interested in hiking out to the site where Charles had landed the Jenny, a Surplus World War I plane, after flying it up to their summer home in Little Falls.  I knew there wouldn’t be much to see other than an open space, but I think it is neat to put yourself back in time and imagine what it might have been like.  The boys and I had a nice little hike.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – Nerstrand, Minnesota

Hidden Falls

Nice little trail through the big woods down to the water falls.  The waterfalls almost look like they are man made, but they actually are natural.  We hiked down here as a family and then on Sunday morning I took a walk down to the falls with my coffee and did some meditation.  It is a very peaceful setting.

Beaver Trail

This is a short loop trail across the stream with the falls that meanders through the woods and hillside.

White Oak Trail

This is just a connector trail to get back into the larger trail loops.  It goes along the road, but is still a nice setting.

Fishing

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We probably won’t have fishing updates every month, but we’ve definitely made our transition off the ice until winter comes again.  Trout fishing was the name of the game this month.  I had gotten my 7 year old his own fly ride for Christmas this year, which led us to planning our Spring Break Trip at Roaring River State Park.  We had a blast with it.  I spent most of the day untangling and tying new leaders and tippets, but it was all worth it to see the look on the kids’ faces when they landed a nice Rainbow Trout.

Lakes or Streams Fished:  1

States Fished In:  1

Roaring River State Park, Cassville, Arkansas

We did quite a bit of Trout fishing at Roaring River State Park and that was the main reason we stayed there.  They stock the stream each night based on the amount of Trout tags sold the day before.  I spent most of my time untangling the kids’ fishing lines, but it was worth it to see the look on their faces when they caught a fish.  We’ve been to this park twice now and it has not been very busy either time.  I am told it can be extremely busy, but I never really felt any pressure from fellow fisherman and felt like we could freely fish in most areas.

Cooking

I can’t talk about the outdoors without mentioning cooking.  Of course with our Trout fishing, we have a few cooking things to talk about.

Rainbow Trout

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Open Fire

This was about the easiest way to prepare the trout and tasted fantastic.  I left the heads on and stuffed the belly with lemons.  To cook them over the fire, I used a cooking basket.  You get a little bit of a smoked flavor and the skin just peels right back.  The other thing I liked about it was that there was no wasted meat.  You could just pull al the meat right off the bones.

Pan Fried

This is a very traditional way of cooking them and probably my kids’ favorite.  This requires completely filleting the fish, coating the fillets in flour and dropping on a hot skillet with some oil.

Vegetable Mix

This one is quite an enjoyable way to eat them as well.  This also requires the filleting the fish, but you get a good flavor with the mixed vegetables.  I get a skillet going with some water and potatoes and as the potatoes cook, I slowly start adding onions, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and then finally lay the fish fillets over the top.  This is very tasty.

Pizza Sandwiches

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Pie Iron

The Pie Iron is traditionally used for making fruit pies over the open fire, but our family favorite is Pizza Sandwiches.  They are had to beat.  2 slices of bread filled with your favorite pizza toppings squeezed together in a Pie Iron and you are in campfire pizza heaven.

Summary

We had a pretty action packed month and covered a lot of ground.  This will definitely not always be the case.  I still need to write up a full report on the spring break trip specifically and will add that to my list of work to do.  I have been sharing some videos and photos and there is still more to come.  As I mentioned above, please leave a comment below or or send me an e-mail through my Contact Me page if you have any questions or comments.

If you found this useful and think someone else would benefit from reading and following my blog, please share with you friends through Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

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Wrapping Up Ice Fishing Season

Ice Fishing

Well, today marks the start of the 2015 ice fishing season and we need new fishing licenses here in Minnesota.  We managed to make it out a few times this year, but due to illness, not nearly as many as we would have liked.  We will go get our new licenses for 2015 and potentially make it out a few times in the late season, but the next few weekends are already accounted for and our spring break trip is coming up soon!  We are about to shift our focus to camping and mountain biking soon.

I started the season off by getting out on the ice by myself over the Thanksgiving weekend with 8″ of ice on Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota.  Below is a picture that I took of my ice gear sled after packing up for the night.  I remember the moment because I packed everything up and looked up at the sky to see an amazing view of the stars.  It was like standing in a planetarium.  That is one my most favorite things about early or late ice.  It’s very quiet, because less people are out and you can really enjoy the nature and peacefulness of the clear night sky.

Early Ice Fishing Gear Sled

Here is picture of my first catch of the season.  I was able to find some decent size crappies.  No monsters, but all good enough size to make a couple of meals.  The kids love eating fish and get pretty excited when I bring fish home.  Of course, it only leads to the next question of when is the ice thick enough for them to join me.  I usually get out a few times and then once people start driving on the ice, we’ll go out as a family.  We usually ride out in a Ranger UTV vehicle at that point.  I still don’t like driving the cars out on the ice and it is a easier to explore around the lake with the UTV.

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Up until this year, we had kept our ice fishing focus on bluegills, perch and crappies, but his year we decided to branch out and try for some walleye.  We packed up our gear on a Saturday and headed for Mille Lacs with the whole family.  Mille Lacs is a large lake in North Central, Minnesota that is known for some good ice fishing.  It is a really large inland lake and my internet searches didn’t really lead me to a good place to start, but we figured we would give it a go regardless.  We drove up the west side of the lake until we found a maintained ice road that lead out to  some houses.  We stopped into the bait shop and paid a daily fee for the ice road access and off we went!

Fishing was pretty slow and we did not mark many fish on the Marcum.  However, we did have a few bites throughout the day.  My oldest son Kyle caught his first walleye through the ice, which I failed to get a picture of.  It was just outside of the slot limit, so we got it back in the water as quick as possible.  Kyle had another one on that day as well, that appeared to be a monster.  The fish was more than his rod could handle, so I was trying to help him out by pulling the line up by hand, while he reeled, but I let too much slack in the line and we lost him.  Reid also had a nice one that we lost right at the surface.  The hook came out as he was trying to pull him through the hole and off the walleye went.  We marked it as a successful day for our first attempt at walleye through the ice and decided we will give it another go in the future.

We added some new gear this year as well.  Santa Clause brought the family a new Clam BigFoot XL4000T that let us spread out and have a little more space.  I also picked up a Marcum Showdown 5.6 Dual Beam early in the year.  Each year we are adding a bit of gear and trying out a few new things.  The Showdown is very easy to use and when fishing in our Clam shelter, everyone can usually see their lines on the screen.  The best use I have found for it, is to get an idea of water depth before I start cutting holes. It will even pick up fish markings through the ice.  I just carry a little bottle of water to squirt some water on the ice surface and the Marcum can read the bottom.

The Clam BigFoot is perfect for our family.  It fits my wife and I along with our 2 kids and we don’t feel cramped.  It is still small enough to haul around on the back of a Ranger UTV or pull on a sled.  It sets up quick and is easy to take down.  Our previous shelter was the same pop up style shelter, but was not insulated and was much smaller.  The insulated walls make a big difference for two things: It holds heat much better and the insides don’t frost up from condensation freezing.

Ice Fishing

The boys love cooking hotdogs over a fire in the summer and discovered that they can also cook hotdogs in front the Portable Buddy Heater.  I love getting out there with the family.  The kids crack me up with the funny things they come up with and it is funny to see the different things that really make their day.  They thought it was something else to cook hotdogs out on the ice.

There are many things that I enjoy during the ice fishing season.  What I enjoy most is the close family time.  There is something about cramming your family into a 8X8 foot hut out on the ice for the day that brings you close together.  There is always time of frustration as you are trying to get set up or fighting tangled lines throughout the day, but it is all worth it to see the smile on your kids’ faces as they pull a fish through the ice.  I know that the kids will look back later in life and remember these good times.  Below is a picture I took one of the evenings out on the lake as the sun was setting.  It’s hard to find this type of peacefulness sitting on the couch in your living room.

Ice Fishing Sunset

Do you have any good ice fishing stories with your family?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments or on my Facebook page.

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Why I Go Camping With My Family

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First, I love the outdoors and surrounding myself with nature. I don’t believe we are made to sit inside on a couch in front of a TV. Sure, I enjoy my electronics i.e. laptop, gps devices, smart phones etc… But, there is no denial that getting out in nature and shutting down feels like the natural place to be. Is there any coincidence that being in “nature” feels “natural”. I find it very ironic that the things we do today for recreation, were the very ways of life and survival for our ancestors years ago.

We started camping when our youngest was 3 weeks old and our oldest a year and a half. We were living in a small subdivision and just felt like we needed to get away on the weekends. As I was growing up, we did a lot of camping and even took a month long road trip to Alaska; camping every night of the trip. I started camping again for really 2 reasons… I wanted to get away from the subdivision on the weekends and I wanted my kids to experience what I did growing up.

Our camping quickly turned into a way for us to explore new places and see the country, instead of just getting away on the weekends. Now, we don’t really do a lot of weekend camping. Camping is just how we travel to new destinations. Instead of getting a hotel for an upcoming mountain bike race, we’ll be camping. We went to Moab, Utah for the kids spring break and wanted to experience the outdoors in Utah, so we camped instead of staying at a hotel in town. You can’t beat the view of the stars in Moab, Utah on a clear night from Dead Horse Point State Park.

My 4 and 6 year old have been camping in 15 different states and over 40 campgrounds. We have hiked up to beautiful overlooks and raging waterfalls. We’ve seen things that many people don’t even get to see pictures of. I, along with my wife and kids are always talking and looking forward to our next trip and what kind of adventure we’d like to take next. We would do it full time if we could figure out a way to make a living doing so. There is a beautiful world out there and I believe I was meant to explore it and experience it with my wife and kids.

Why do you go camping with your family?

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Outdoor Family Life – May 2014

Summer time is here already.  It feels like we went from winter, directly into the summer.  The mesquitos are already in full swarm and the grass needs cutting.  The gardens are getting planted and the kids are excited for summer break.  We’ve had a busy month of May.

Lessons Learned

1) There is no spring season in Minnesota this year

Biking

We did get back out on some trails again for some family mountain bike rides.  Our rides are usually pretty short, as Reid is only 4 years old.  Kyle is doing really good.  Each time we go out, the boys get better.  When we go riding as a family, we go to trails that have a park or some play equipment near the trail head for the boys to take a break on while I go ride some longer distance.  I do a little bit of racing, so I like to get some miles in and it works out for the boys and Lynn also if there is a park to kick back at while I’m riding.

Trails We Rode

Woolly Bike Trail in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Carver Lake Off Road Cycling Trails in Woodbury, Minnesota

Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trails in Eagan, Minnesota

Gardening

The rain finally stopped for a couple days and I was able to till up the existing garden plot.  I plan to put in a larger garden, but still need to get the existing garden planted.  The boys planted Sunflower Seeds along the fence row behind some Spruce Trees that we planted.  They get a real kick out of planting the seeds.  They are learning fast.  I’ve been letting them help me plant over the last few years and this year, I just let them go on their own with the sunflowers and they did a great job.  Over Memorial Day weekend, we planted our main garden.  Our soil is very sandy, and we’ve only lived here for a year, so we have some work to do in our garden.  We did plant corn, carrots, broccoli, beats, radishes, beans, variety of lettuce, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, pumpkins and watermelons.  I assigned a few of the rows to the boys to take care of throughout the summer and they seem to be very excited about having their own rows to take care of.

Tree Planting

We planted some more trees this past month.  I’m trying to create a little mini forest in my backyard.  The kids enjoy planting the trees and I love watching them grow.

Trees We Planted

5 Black Hills Spruces

6 Eastern White Pines

Gear

CamelBak Lobo

I bought a CamelBak Lobo to use for cycling and it has been working out great.  I mainly wanted it because of its large 3L water capacity without being to bulky.  It fits only minimal gear, but does have just enough space to carry the essentials for a long distance mountain bike race or trail ride.

CamelBak Mini Mule

Before our Moab, Utah trip we got the boys their own CameBak hydration packs to get them excited about doing some hiking.  They are smaller in size and perfect for small kids.  The boys love using the hydration packs on hikes and have started wearing them for our bikes rides as well. They are learning to carry their own water and even their own spare tire tubes for their bikes.

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Outdoor Family Life – April 2014

I can’t believe it has been a month since we came back from Utah.  I still have all kinds of photos and videos to sort thru.  I intend to put together a few little movies of our mountain bike rides and a photo album of our best photos from the trip.  I did get the campground reviews posted from the Utah trip and have provided links at the bottom of the post.  I also started using Pinterest again.  I found that there are some old links out there from when I made an attempt at this website a few years ago, and decided that I should start using Pinterest.

Lessons Learned

1)  A couple warm days do NOT mean winter is over.

Weather

The weather in April was a mixed bag.  We went from 70 degree weather one day to 20 inches of snow a few days later.  The snow is finally all gone again and we have had a lot of rain since.  We are definitely looking forward the the true spring weather as it has been a really long winter here in Minnesota.

Arbor Day

I love planting trees and watching them grow over the years.  There is a little memory with every tree that you plant.  I know I’ll look at those trees years from now and remember planting them with the kids and how small they were.  Plus, its my little way of making a good impression on earth and the environment.

These are the trees that we planted this year:

2 Chestnut

2 Hazelnut

2 Oak

2 Cherry

8 White Pines

Photography

I did manage to set up some new galleries in my SmugMug account.  I have a folder that contains galleries for each state that I have pictures in and then have various galleries for hiking, biking, campsites, etc…  I will continue to add to it as I get my photos better organized.  I hope you enjoy the photos.

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New Campground Reviews

Angostura Recreation Area, South Dakota

Chatfield Lake State Park, Colorado

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Horsethief Campground, Utah

Lake Anita State Park, Iowa

April Articles

Top Moab Mountain Bike Trails for Kids

Camping During Tornado Season and Finding Shelter

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Camping During Tornado Season And Finding Shelter

I wanted to write a note about camping during tornado season, as the spring camping season has arrived.  We have experienced camping during a tornado and had to leave the camper in the middle of the night to take shelter.  Camping in bad weather can be scary, especially if don’t have a solid shelter to take cover in.  A travel trailer is not a safe shelter, when it comes to tornados.  A tornado could rip through a travel trailer like any old garden shed in your backyard.  You need to know where your nearest storm or tornado shelter is at if you choose to go camping in the spring, especially in the midwest or plains states.

We were camping at Lake Wappapello State Park, in Missouri in the spring of 2009 when a tornado touched down about 4 miles from the park.  We had just settled down to bed as the wind and rain was picking up, and the campground host knocked on the door.  There were very few campers in the park and he had remembered seeing us drive in with the kids.  He came to let us know that a tornado warning had just been issued, with a tornado spotted west of the park and headed our way.

We immediately grabbed the kids, jumped in the Jeep and drove up to the restroom facilities.  We figured the cinder block and pine log building was the safest place to be.  The restroom building actually had a laundry room in the center that we took shelter in.  It was quite the experience.  We were soaked just going from the jeep to the shelter.  We had Reid (9 months old) in his car seat and Kyle (2 years old) laid on the floor in a blanket.  Thankfully both kids were tired enough to fall asleep.  We were able to get some intermittent cell service to track the weather on my cell phone.  The tornado ended up passing us about 4 miles to the north.  We stayed in the shelter for a couple of hours until things settled down and the weather forecasts were clear.

We were so thankful that the host stopped to give us the warning.  Even though the tornado didn’t come through the park, we were able to get our kids out of harms way in case it did.  We now carry a crank weather radio with us, so we can get weather warnings, even if there is no cell service or electricity.  Things become a little more real and scary when your kids are with you and we have become more aware of the weather and our surroundings while camping.

At any rate, I wanted to share this story with you as a reminder to watch the weather when you are headed out for some spring camping.  Always be aware of where the nearest shelters are at and don’t hesitate to take shelter if the weather is looking scary.  The bathhouses are the most likely place that you can take shelter at in the park.  Many people have smart phones now days that will give you notifications of severe weather, but you should still get a specific weather radio.  You can’t always count on having cell service, especially enough to transmit data.  Get yourself a crank weather radio so you can get weather updates.

If you have some other safety ideas or have had the same experiences, I’d love to hear from you.  Please share in the comments below.

We own the American Red Cross FRX3 Crank Radio

Here are some other FRX radio options:

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Outdoor Family Life – March 2014

Great times were had in March and I have a lot of things to talk about.  I won’t be able to fit it all in this post, but will just give a quick overview and have to come back later with some follow up posts.  We finished off the month of March with a road trip to Moab, Utah.  We visited 4 National Parks and camped in 5 new campgrounds across 4 different states!

Lessons Learned

  1. I need to visit more National Parks.
  2. Don’t plan on being able to get a campsite at a National Park.
  3. Get to Mount Rushmore before 7:00 am and you will have the park to yourself.

Camping

We definitely got some camping in during the month of March!  We took advantage of the kids’ spring break and headed out on a road trip.  We camped each night during our road trip and had the opportunity to stay in 5 different campgrounds.  It was a great opportunity to see what some of the camping is like in other states.  I tend not to stay in the same place twice, but I will put a couple of these on our list for specific return visits.  I will also get these added to my campground reviews in the near future.

Campgrounds visited:

Lake Anita State Park – Anita, Iowa

Chatfield State Park – Littleton, Colorado

Dead Horse Point State Park – Moab, Utah

Horsethief Campground – Moab, Utah

Angostura Recreation Area – Angostura, South Dakota

Hiking

We didn’t do any extended hikes, but we did do quite a few short .5 to 2.5 mile hikes as a family.  We bought the kids their own CamelBak hydration packs for the trip to get them a little more excited about hiking and it worked.  I still had to carry our 4 year old Reid in the Child Carrier Backpack during some of the hikes, but the kids still had a good time.  We were able to hike in a couple National Parks and one of the State Parks that we stayed in.  I will post links to our GPS tracks soon.

Trails hiked:

Horse Shoe Point State Park, Utah

Rim Overlook

Big Horn Overlook

Canyonlands National Park – Moab, Utah

Upheaval Dome Overlook

Arches National Park – Moab, Utah

Windows Arch Primitive Trail

Delicate Arch Viewpoint

Skyline Arch

Sand Dunes Arch

Broken Arch

Mount Rushmore – Keystone, South Dakota

Badlands National Park – Wall, South Dakota

Biking

We did some single track mountain biking as a family while on our trip also.  My oldest Kyle is now on a 20″ mountain bike and he is loving it.  My youngest Reid has taken over Kyle’s old 16″ bike and is happy to be on a bigger bike.  The kids did great on the rides and it was nice to get out as a family on the bikes.  I was able to get a couple of rides in on my own on Slick Rock and Porcupine Rim.  Moab, was a great place to go and we found plenty of trails for the kids to ride.

Trails ridden:

Dead Horse Point State Park

Intrepid

Big Chief

Pair

Whiptail

Twisted Tree

Prickly

Sand Flats Recreation Area – Moab, Utah

Slick Rock

Porcupine Rim

Klondike Bluffs Area – Moab, Utah

Jasper

Agate

MOAB Brands Focus Area – Moab, Utah

Lazy

EZ

Rusty Spur

Cross Country Skiing

I was able to get some more skiing in this month as well.  I am pretty much sold on skiing as a winter sport and am planning to get the family set up with skis for next winter.  The kids say they want to ski with me, so we’ll give it a try.

Trails skied:

Swedetown – Calumet, Michigan

Maasto Hiihto and Churning Rapids – Hancock, MI

Big Rock Creek Farms – St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Miscellaneous Notes

On a road trip you get to see all kinds of sites and sometimes all kinds of nothing.  I really enjoy seeing what is between home and the main destination and always try to make the journey interesting.  We live in Minnesota and were able to stay in or drive through the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and South Dakota.

Here are a few other Parks and/or Landmarks that we were able to see:

Site of the first recorded train robbery by Jesse James, Iowa

Rocky Mountains, CO

Loveland Pass, CO

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Badlands, South Dakota

Wall Drug Store, South Dakota

We had a great March and are looking forward to this spring.  We covered a lot of ground during our March trip and was able to see and do a lot.  I will get more updates out in the near future with photos, videos and reviews.  Let me know if you have any specific questions about the trip and I will focus on those areas first.

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Outdoor Family Life February Review

Well, February has come and gone faster than I can blink an eye.  This month was not a very active month as we had some extreme negative temperatures here in Minnesota and we all were hit with the flu.  That being said, I did manage to get some plans together for a spring break trip and start some cross country skiing.

Lessons Learned

1)  Time flies whether you are having fun or not.

2)  We should have started cross country skiing years ago.

Fishing

We didn’t get any fishing in during February.  We had some extreme temperature drops and we all were sick at one point or another.  Plus, I had to travel for work 2 weeks out of the month.  Ice fishing is probably over for us this year as there are loads of snow on the lakes now after a huge storm that we had and we don’t have a snowmobile to get out there.

Cross Country Skiing

I tried out cross country skiing and loved it.  Kyle and Reid want to try it out as well, so this could be a new outdoor family winter activity for us in the future.  I could see us traveling around to different trail systems next year to ski, much like we travel around to different mountain bike trails in the summer.

Trips

We are getting a trip to Moab, Utah put together for later this spring.  Kyle and Reid are really looking forward to it.  We plan to stay at Deadhorse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park and Sand Flats Recreation Area for some hiking and mountain biking.  I will write a full trip report on the trip when we return.  Let me know if you have any recommendations for the Moab area.

February Articles

Breaking Up A Long Distance Road Trip

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Breaking Up A Long Distance Road Trip

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If you are like me, you don’t like to be tied to just your local campgrounds, especially if you can get a whole week off of work.  We love checking out new states, but super long drives can be a real drain on a vacation for kids, especially when you are going to cover distances that take more than a day of driving.  We learned a new way to break up this driving when we took our trip to Texas over the week of Thanksgiving in 2009 and again in the spring of 2010 on our spring trip to Arkansas.  I have figured out a way to plan a trip across multiple states and not be completely worn out from the long drive when we got home.  In the past, if we were going to visit a place that required major driving to get there, (more than 10 to 12 hours) we would put the pedal to the metal with a straight through drive and get there as fast as we could, then do the same thing at the end of the week coming home.

What we do now, is shorten our stay at our primary destination to the weekdays and enjoy a weekend of camping somewhere halfway to our destination and again halfway coming home.  For example, when we went to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas, which would have been about 11 hours of driving pulling the camper.  We spent Saturday night at Lake Wappapello State Park in Missouri which was about halfway to Petit Jean State Park.  We arrived early enough to Lake Wappapello to let everybody stretch their legs around camp for the afternoon and enjoy a nice campfire in the evening.  We would have headed out Friday afternoon and spent friday and saturday night at Lake Wappapello, but the weather was absolutely horrible friday night and we opted to leave saturday morning.

We checked in at Petit Jean Sunday night and still had 5 nights and 4 full days to enjoy Petit Jean before checking out on Friday morning.  I always try to get within 8 hours of home for the last weekend stop and Roaring River State Park in southwest Missouri fit that bill.  We were able to spend Friday and Saturday night at Roaring River and enjoy the weekend at a whole new destination before driving the rest of the way home on Sunday.  This helped us avoid an 11 hour straight drive home on Sunday and we got to enjoy another park and experience.

This method of splitting up long distance travel does two things for you; you get to break up the drive and see what a couple other places have to offer.  The weekend stays are really no different than if you went camping for the weekend and headed back home on Sunday.  I always dreaded being on the road all day, two days in a row.  It’s never easy covering great distances while pulling a camper, and kids aren’t big fans of being locked in carseats for 2 days in a row.  Shortening our midweek stay to add the weekend camping on each end, halfway from home, has really helped us out.  This still gives you four full days at your main destination, which should allow you enough time to cover the main attraction and sites.  If it doesn’t give you enough time, that just means you need to go back again!

What are some of the things that you do to split up a long distance road trip?

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Outdoor Family Life January Review

This is my first Outdoor Family Life monthly review, so it might be a little rough.  As I make progress on this site, I will get a better idea of what I want to share each month.  I think it is important that I write up an update from the month to review any new things I learned, stuff I am working on, training activities or events.

Lessons Learned

1)  A bunch of ice houses in one place, does not necessarily mean there are fish in that place.

2)  Pop up ice shelters are no fun to set up in the wind, especially by yourself.

3)  Don’t wait till the new year to start planning trips and vacations for the year.

Fishing

I had never been ice fishing out on Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota and decided to give it a shot.  I went out by myself the first time to check it out and try a few different holes.  I moved around a couple times and finally found a hole that I was pulling Crappie and Perch.  I took Lynn and the boys out the next weekend and we had a riot, catching both Crappie and Perch again.  We went ahead and moved to a couple different spots and eventually found a nice hole with some pretty good sized Perch.  The kids had a ball and it was nice to get out as a family for the day.

Trips

I am planning a camping trip out to Moab, Utah for this spring to do some Mountain Biking and Hiking.  We are looking at hauling the camper out with us and camping on some of the BLM or Forest Campgrounds.  I’ve always wanted to mountain bike at Moab so I am really looking forward to it as long as we can pull off the planning in time.  It should be a great trip.  I can do some great mountain biking and take the kids on some great hikes in Arches National Park also.

Blog Posts

Great Start To 2014 With Some Ice Fishing Fun

Outdoor Activity Planning In 2014

Review Of Our Outdoor Family Fun In 2013

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Great Start To 2014 With Ice Fishing Fun

Kyle With PerchIce fishing is now becoming one of our top outdoor family activities for the winter.  We are just learning to ice fish in our second Minnesota winter and we are enjoying the heck out of it.  It has been a great way to get the kids outside for some fresh air in the winter and keep them active.  My kids are 4 and 6 years of age, so it can be challenging to do some serious ice fishing, but it is just great getting out there and experiencing the outdoors with the whole family. I believe it is real important to challenge your kids and put as many adventures and experiences as you can in front of them.

We started out last year with a 6″ Mora Hand Auger and a couple of cheap ice jigging poles.  We had some success with blue gill and the kids had a great time.  I ended up adding a couple of nicer ice rods to our limited gear so we all had a rod to use.  Kyle really got into it right from the get go and caught fish each time we went.  Reid was good for about an hour before getting a little antsy, but he enjoyed scooping the slush out of the holes.  We were having a great time with it, but after cutting holes through 2 feet of ice with the hand auger, we decided that we should go ahead and get a power auger when they went on sale at the end of the season.  Wow, was that worth it!  We started out this year by adding a cheap ice shelter from Menards to keep the wind off of us, which was a huge help.  For Christmas, we added the Little Buddy heater from Mr. Heater and Santa brought the boys new rods, since the original cheap ones were no longer working well.

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The first couple trips out this year, I started out with some bluegill and sunfish, then decided to go ahead and find some crappie.  My first night out for crappie, I actually found a good hole and ended up calling Lynn and the boys to meet me at the lake so the boys could catch some crappie.  We had a good time and the boys were hooked on the ice fishing again.  We’ve had good luck this year with crappie in a couple different holes.  I love perch, and we were also able to find some nice size perch on a couple of trips out.  I honestly like pretty much any fish and it has been fun learning how to catch the different fish.

We keep expanding our horizons in the ice fishing arena, looking for different fish and trying out new lakes.  We don’t have any electronics for fishing yet, but I think it is good to teach the boys how to count out the line and try to find the suspended fish the old school way.  Next year, I think we’ll try to find some walleye.  I figure we’ll take it a step at a time.  We didn’t make it out this weekend and probably won’t make it out next weekend either as we are having some extremely frigid weather here in Minnesota.  The boys keep asking me when we are going to head out again though.  Reid is doing great with it this year and keeps us well entertained out on the lake.  Kyle is real serious about it and is the one always keeping track of who caught the most and biggest fish.

The ice fishing has been great and it is always fun to add another outdoor experience to our family.  I just love teaching my wife and kids new things and learning how to do new things myself.  What are some of your winter hobbies?  Do you ice fish?

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Outdoor Activity Planning In 2014

I’m really excited about 2014 since we are now settled into our home.  We don’t have to focus on getting moved, even though it feels like we still have a lot to do around the house to finish settling in.  I guess there will always be projects to work on.  I really want to take a road trip this year to do some camping in some new states, hike or bike some new trails and fish some new lakes or streams.  The boys are growing fast and it is getting so much easier to travel with them and become more adventurous.

We are definitely a little late on our planning for 2014 as it kind of snuck up on us, but we are working on some potential trips as I type.

Fishing

I definitely planned to get more into the ice fishing and have been out a few times already this year.  The boys love it.  We’ve been catching blue gill, sunfish, crappie and perch.  I’d like to get into some walleye and pike, but feel like I’m still learning how to ice fish and sure have enjoyed taking the boys out for the pan fish.

I’m sure we’ll get the canoe out this year.  I do want to get back to a little kayak fishing and will probably hit a couple of the lakes around where we live.  I didn’t do any trout fishing last year, but am itching to give it another go.  The previous year I was teaching the boys how to use a fly rod and I would love to take them fly fishing.  We’ve discussed maybe taking the boys to one of the trout parks in Missouri as a way to get them started.

Biking

By all means, we plan to do quite a bit of cycling this year.  As a family, we will mostly be mountain biking as both boys are ready to hit the trails this year.  They have been talking quite a bit about mountain biking with Dad.  I can’t wait to get out and experience the trails with them again.

I will for sure do a couple of races or bicycle tours.  I’m still finalizing my race/tour plans as well, but am focused on long distance endurance events.  I’ve started another blog called Endurance Path at www.endurancepath.com to blog about my endurance training, racing and adventures.

Hiking

We don’t have any specific big hiking plans on the list for this year yet, but we usually get a few hikes in wherever we go camping.  I’d like to get back up to Minnesota’s North Shore and do some more hiking around the great waterfalls along Lake Superior, but we’ll have to see what fits into our plans for the year.

Camping

We would like to take a camping road trip this year, but don’t have it nailed down quite yet.  I am working on a couple of potential road trips.  Some possibilities are a road trip down to Alabama, trip down to Arkansas and Missouri or a trip to the southwest.  I’ll have the options roughed out by the end of January and then nail down a time frame by the end of February.

We will most likely do some camping around some of the endurance racing events that I plan to participate in, along with maybe hitting a few of the local campgrounds here in Minnesota that we have not been to yet.

Gardening

I just ordered a seed catalog from Seeds of Change so that I can start putting my garden plans together.  I intend to till up a nice section of yard out back to put in a large garden.  We are working at moving our eating habits to as much organic foods as we can and putting in a larger garden is a big part of that plan.

Hunting

Hunting is also a possibility for this coming fall.  I bow hunted for deere as I was growing up and would like to get back in to it.  This also plays into our plans for eating more organic and natural foods.

I wish we had started planning a little sooner but I’m not going to let that stop me from getting some good plans together for the year.  Maybe you are in the same boat, but just because you haven’t planned anything yet, doesn’t mean you can’t.  Use this time in January to get some ideas together.  Then set a goal for the end of February to get a few outdoor activities on the books for the year.  I personally am a little spontaneous, but I’ve learned that if I have some big  or new things that I would like to do, that I better get them planned or they won’t happen.

I will circle back and keep you filled in on plans as we get them figured out for the year.  I also intend to post articles and report out on some of our adventures as they happen.  You should look to see an ice fishing report coming soon!  What are some of your plans for 2014?

 

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Review Of Our Outdoor Family Fun In 2013

We did not do as much camping in 2013 as we had done in the past but we sure had some great experiences.  We had relocated to Minnesota at the end of 2012 and spent the first few months of 2013 looking for a house.  We finally found a house and moved in May.  We didn’t let that stop us from enjoying the outdoors though.  Our kids love the outdoors and love new outdoor experiences.  They get just excited about new adventures and experiences as I do.

This is a list of some of our new experiences or places visited in 2013:

Fishing

Moving to Minnesota, of course, meant that we had to get in to ice fishing.  The kids had a ball pulling fish through the ice.  The kids say they like fishing in the winter better than summer because we don’t have to paddle the canoe out.

Both boys were able to catch a fish out of my kayak for the first time.  I have been kayak fishing for about 5 years; I took the boys out one at a time in the kayak this summer while camping at Wilson State Park on Budd Lake in Harrison, MI.  Each one of the boys caught a large mouth bass.

We also took a few fishing trips with the canoe this summer catching quite a few bluegill and sunfish.  Reid (youngest) also caught a nice bass that he still talks about because he remembers it getting wrapped up in some seaweed making it even harder to reel in.

Biking

Both of my boys got rid of their training wheels this summer at the ages of 3 and 5 years old.  They are now 4 and 6, but it was great.  By the end of the summer, Kyle (oldest) had put in a couple miles on a few different mountain bike trails.  Reid even did a short trail ride before turning 4.  They can’t wait until this summer to do some more mountain biking.

I personally raced in the Chequamegon 40 Fat Tire Festival in Cable, Wisconsin and also rode in the Copper Country Color Tour put on by Michigan Tech’s Copper Country Cycling Club.

In addition, we (sometimes just me) mountain biked on 10 new trails in 3 different states this year.

Camping

Even though we did not do a lot of camping last year, we did manage to camp at 3 new campgrounds:

Pioneer Trail Park in Gladstone, Michigan

Wilson State Park in Harrison, Michigan

Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin

We are thinking about doing another camping road trip this year, but we will see if plans work out.  We spent quite a bit of time out in the back yard this year with our own backyard campfires.  The boys love cooking over the fire.

Hiking

We did not get a bunch of hiking in during 2013 as we tended to go biking instead.  We did get some new hikes in while camping at Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin.  We also visited Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin for some short hikes

Outdoor Cooking

We, of course, did the typical marshmallow and hot dogs over the first but we also cooked our Thanksgiving Turkey over the fire.  It turned out pretty good even though the skin was a little charred from a couple of flare ups.  I cooked the Thanksgiving turkey over a fire in 2012 and 2011 as well.  I’d say it turned out the best in 2011.

Gardening

We found some rhubarb growing in a small garden area out back when we moved into our house and had our own home made rhubarb pie for the first time.

We were a little late getting a garden in this year because of moving, but we did manage to get a small garden going.  We had some success with snap peas, green beans, yellow beans, radishes and carrots.  The boys really enjoy helping me plant the garden and pick the vegetables.  We still need to work on pulling weeds.

Outside of the garden, but still related; we found an apple tree and grapes growing in the backyard of our new house.  We made a whole bunch of apple sauce and apple butter from the apple tree.  From the grapes, we made our own grape juice and some wine.

Wildlife

We generally see all sorts of wildlife such as Turkeys and Deere, but I had to mention a couple new wildlife sightings as it was the first time the kids saw a wolf or bear in the wild.  We saw the black bear in northern Wisconsin while traveling to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  We saw the wolf in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on another trip.  The boys thought it was awesome.  It was good to for them to see how real these animals are.

Miscellaneous

Visited the Brule River Fish Hatchery in Brule, Wisconsin so the kids could see the trout being raised.

We stopped along Highway 2 along Lake Michigan and went for a swim at one of the roadside beaches. We have driven by these beaches for years and never had the time to stop and swim.  It was great!

We also stopped and hiked down the steps at the Cut River bridge on Highway 2 along Lake Michigan.  If you ever drive by there you should stop and take the walk down the steps.  There is a great view of the shoreline.

2013 was a great year year for us and we are looking forward to what 2014 will bring us.  Stop back and see what adventures that 2014 brings us.  What were some fun outdoor activities that you did in 2013?