With another gorgeous April weekend forecasted in southern Wisconsin, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for another weekend camping trip. Camping at the state parks in April is probably my favorite time of the year because the crowds have not begun to form, the days are just long enough and there’s no insane heat wave to worry about. It can get chilly, but this weekend’s weather was about as good as any April weekend could be.
We arrived at Governor Dodge shortly before 7pm and was told the ranger station would be closing soon, so we hurried over to the campground to locate a suitable site. The downside to April camping at the state parks is that many do not take reservations, but there were more empty campsites than full ones. We basically let Amber pick the site, which she chose because of proximity to the park. We quickly checked in and got busy setting up before nightfall. Amber wasn’t much help, so Lorraine and I set up the tent, then I began rigging a tarp while she set up the bedding. The site was not ideal for our tarp, but I made it work surprisingly well. Once we were setup, I was able to get a fire going right around dark. I like that Governor Dodge sells kindling, making the need for splitting the firewood unnecessary.
It was a nice night, and the only eventful part was Amber freaking out over a spider that got on her leg. It’s funny (well, not to her), but she has a very unique scream for spiders. I was returning from the restroom when I heard the distinct sound of spider screams. Usually, she just screams and returns to normal, but this night she didn’t even want to let her feet touch the ground, so I found her standing on the picnic table bench begging to be carried around. I guess my little baby isn’t so grown up after all.
As is typical on spring camping trips, I wanted to try out a new piece of gear I had recently acquired, an Exped Downmat Winterlite. We all use Exped mats, and I really like them, and although I don’t have a ton of experience with different mats, they are more comfortable than any other I have tried camping or in the store. So, I was excited when I heard Exped was coming out with a new line of ultralight tapered mats. Since we plan on doing some backpacking, we all need to squeeze into a smaller tent for those trips. Therefore, I picked the medium size, which is about 20 in. wide. I knew this would be small for me, but hoped I could make due. Unfortunately, I found the mat quite uncomfortable and didn’t sleep so well. I convinced Lorraine to trade with me the second night, so she slept on it on Saturday night while I slept on her Downmat 7 (medium size). She too found the new mat to be uncomfortable and even slept in the car after getting up for a trip to the restroom rather than return to that mat. Meanwhile, I found her 20 in. downmat to be quite comfortable, especially for the small size. I also found that using my Zpacks sleeping bag as a quilt worked really well with the moderate temperatures we had. I ended up returning the Winterlite and ordered a Downmat UL 7. I hope it’s as comfortable as the non-ultralight version.
We had the entire day Saturday for hiking, canoeing and playing in the park. Saturday morning, Amber and I awoke to find Lorraine once again hiking, so we spent some time playing at the park. Once she returned, we had eggs, bacon and bagels for breakfast. We decided to paddle Twin Valley Lake, and Amber was interested in swimming, but the water would turn out to be too cold for that. We stopped at the beach, got out to “swim,” which turned to just be a calf-deep walk in the frigid water, and to build sand castles. We paddled four miles, and I found it refreshing to spend a couple hours on the water. We saw a number of birds and numerous turtles in water and sunning. The only challenge of the paddle was some high winds, which result in the squiggles in our GPS track, especially on the SW portion of the lake. Untrimmed and unloaded, it’s difficult to keep our 17 ft Prospector on course. Nonetheless, it was a nice leisurely paddle.
|Paddling Twin Valley Lake|
|Nice bluffs visible from the lake|
Sunday morning we packed up fairly quickly to avoid the rain we heard was forecast. Once we were done packing and with breakfast, we found the weather to still be pleasant with little hint of any storms on the horizon. Interestingly, Amber wanted to go on a “nature hike” to fulfill her requirements for a patch from the Wisconsin Explorer program. Every since she was a toddler, Stephens Falls has been one of her favorite places to hike, so she decided she wanted to go there instead of walking to the beach from our campsite. We packed the final items and drove down to Stephens Falls parking area. We walked to the falls, along the trail and back around the Lost Canyon Trail. Amber had enough walking, so we decided to call it a day and headed back home after picking up her patch from the Ranger Station.