Winter tent camping at Tettegouche State Park

I didn’t realize the depth of my unmet need for outdoor adventure until I hastily concocted a winter tent camping trip over lunch one day with a co-worker.

While I love exploring with my family, I read Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail thru-hiking memoirs all winter, and I am consumed by a longing to hike to my heart’s content. And although my kids are hearty (for their ages — 3 and 5) and my husband and I are strong at carrying them, a three-mile hike maxes us out.

My co-worker was excited to try winter camping, although we quickly realized that with the mild winter and our March chosen date, we probably weren’t talking about below zero temps. We selected Tettegouche State Park because it’s 1) beautiful and 2) close to other, beautiful hikes and things to do. I was worried if we picked an isolated park that we’d spend the whole day hiking around and trying to keep warm and fill time. But the North Shore of Lake Superior? We could have easily passed a week or two.

winter tent camping at Tettegouche

We were pleasantly surprised by the snow pack, which made our winter camping feel more legit, even though it was only 30 at night and 55 during the day.

The first night we squeezed in a short, icy hike to the Upper Falls, then kicked back at our campsite with dinner, wine, the amazing stars, and no kids. Bliss.

The generous co-worker who had lent me his pulk last year loaned me his -30 degree sleeping bag, which was the gushiest, coziest thing ever. Between that and the double Thermarests, I was comfortable and cozy.

The next day we headed out to Caribou Falls, a hike I remembered really liking when I spent a summer at Wolf Ridge during college.

It didn’t disappoint — between the white snow, blue sky, and the gushing, roiling river, it was amazing!

Superior Hiking Trail Caribou Wayside

Caribou River

Crossing the Caribou River on the Superior Hiking Trail

We spent the afternoon hiking around Tettegouche — out to Shovel Point, skipping rocks at the confluence of the Baptism River and Lake Superior, and hiking up from the Trail Center on the Superior Hiking Trail.

Shovel Point

Snowshoeing at Tettegouche State Park

That night we had a relaxing dinner again, then headed into the tent early. The wind roared all night, so we slept more fitfully, trading stories when we were both up at 5 a.m. of all of our random fears — wolves, trees crushing the tent, gear blowing away, grouchy bears waking up from hibernation, creepy people walking into our site. Then we slept for a couple more hours. I had professed the night before that “the trip would not be complete to me unless we went to Two-Step Falls in the morning” but we both awoke ready to head out, so we did.

The trip ignited a huge, potentially fleeting desire to hike the whole Superior Hiking Trail in one go. I’ve heard it takes two to four weeks, so it’s not inconceivable. But the twin to that thought is the acknowledgment that it is going to take a long, long time for the girls to be old enough to really hike and backpack with me. And man did I miss those girls last weekend — it is not lost on me that those years of the kids wanting to do everything with me are limited. So I think I will leave my Superior Hiking Trail dreams on the shelf for a while — they will keep. For now we’ll adventure via canoe and other ways, and I’ll seek out some adult-only day and weekend trips to satisfy my endurance urge.

A big thanks to my co-worker for getting me out there! And Mother Nature, keep up the good work.

Caribou River Superior Hiking Trail

How to survive winter (with a heavy dose of summer dreaming)

Forget filling your car with hand warmers and signal flares, true winter survival is about keeping your spirits up and your eyes on the prize (i.e. spring).

Here’s a foolproof recipe to help you survive winter a.k.a. enjoy our fourth season.

Heart shaped lotion bars

First, get comfortable.

Head to your favorite pharmacy/co-op/Amazon and fill your cart with Vitamin D, a significant supply of your favorite hot beverage, and the ingredients to make these lotion bars. Don’t mess around: winter is a lot more enjoyable with soft skin, full Vitamin D stores, and lots of coffee.

Then, gather your resources.

Stop by the library and carry home as many cookbooks, gardening books, and travel books as you can. (Or if you’re more of an online or Pinterest person, grab your favorite mobile device).

cross country skiing with young children - fresh air helps you survive winter

Third, dream.

After enjoying your daily allotment of fun-filled winter exercise (shoveling, sledding, etc.) hunker down on your couch and go crazy planning your garden and spring and summer adventures. Bookmark new recipes to try. Brainstorm travel buddies.

And fourth, put something on paper.

Print out this free “How to Summer” printable and start filling it in with dreams and plans. Define summer liberally — say, May to late September — to maximize the season.

Survive winter by filling out a "How to summer" printable

Wondering what I’m dreaming about and planning for this year?

  • Our new house has three raised beds, and Small Plot, Big Harvest provides some helpful raised bed examples for how to plant your beds, taking into account spacing, growth cycle, etc.
  • Weelicious is helping us up our healthy kid food game (especially now that we have to pack lunches). Thug Kitchen (vegan) is inspiring our own healthful cooking. Its recipes contain a ton of swearing, which I find oddly endearing.
  • I’m super excited about paddling right now, so we’re booking a BWCA trip (Gunflint Trail-side for a change) and thinking about day paddles to the Hegman pictographs (BWCA) and in Lebanon Hills (Eagan).
  • I also have a kid-free winter camping (what what!) adventure in the works for March which will help satisfy my annual North Shore fix.
  • I’ve been really enjoying running again, so it might be time to do another half and dream about some trail running.

Only 52 days left of winter left! Time to get cracking. And if your car slips off the road and gets stuck in a ditch, know that you can always eat your lotion bar (healthy fats!) to stay alive. 

Borealis Blog Gift Guides 2015

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Happy December! We’re enjoying unseasonably warm weather in MN this year which has us a little behind on holiday spirit and our gift guides. (But a little ahead on winter running and hydrated skin!) If you’re feeling that too, don’t despair, we have tons of great holiday ideas to help get you in the mood […]

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Our favorite bedtime books

In honor of National Young Readers Day, we’re talking about bedtime books today on Borealis! At bedtime I don’t just want to listen to myself read, I want to interact and talk with the girls. So my favorite subset of children’s books are the kind where there isn’t a straightforward story to read, but different things […]

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Cottage life, life lists, and new adventures

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After we’d lived in our house for awhile I found a list I’d made where I said my dream house was a cottage. I laughed, because I had accidentally made that come true. Our house, with its cedar shakes, half picket fence, and gardens IS very cottage like. It has a cozy fireplace, amazing gardens, and a […]

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Canoe tripping in the BWCA with young kids (2.5 and 4 years old, 2015)

S. Kawishiwi River entry point young kids

Guys, we did it! Three days in the BWCA with young kids, and it was truly, honestly, FUN, and we wanted to stay longer! Last year (when the girls were 1.5 and 3) we definitely had “fun,” but it was more of a 60/40 fun/effort, with the none of us sleeping well and Adam being […]

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Whitetail Woods camper cabins – a quick, refreshing getaway

whitetail woods field journal

I forgot to write about our little overnight at the Whitetail Woods camper cabins on Mother’s Day weekend! If you haven’t heard of it, Whitetail Woods is a new park with camper cabins that opened up in Dakota County last year. They have THE MOST BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED little cabins, I pretty much wanted to hire […]

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Borealis Blog Family Travel Guides

borealis family travel

We love traveling, we have kids, and we usually love traveling with kids. So we decided to pull together our trip reports for you to help inspire your trip planning. From Breanne’s first disastrous camping trip with a baby to her first family Boundary Waters trip with a 1.5 and 3 year old, and from Jen’s shore adventures […]

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