We had a great weekend at “our farm” – Harmony Valley Farms. We road tripped down the Mississippi River to find our farm nestled in a valley in southwest Wisconsin. Here is a quick synopsis:
- Camping with other members in the meadow
- Chatting with Richard, the owner, around the campfire
- Watching the fog lift off the valley in the morning
- Potlucking with even more members, meeting bloggers Heather and Lee
- Picking strawberries in the rain and eating lots of them!
- Getting a wagon tour of the fields
- Eating Sugar Snap Peas we picked from the fields
- Talking with one of the “professional” growers and hearing his passion for organic produce and this farm
This past weekend we went camping with our good friends the Johnson’s. You may recall that we did this last year as well and it might become an annual tradition. I don’t quite have the time to make collages like I did from last year’s pictures (1 2 3 4, but it is really hard to choose only a few pictures to post from just over 300 that I took.
We had a good time exploring some new parts of Gooseberry and also just re-experiencing some of the old, including Split Rock Lighthouse. The waterfall is such an amazing thing to see, all the power and glory of the rushing water. It is also amazing to watch Lake Superior. This year it was cool and misty for most of Saturday with a little splurt of flurries for a bit. This makes for a dark and wavy lake. On Sunday it was sunny and calm which brings out a whole new set of colors and experiences on the lake. See if you can see the contrast in the pictures!
Our only real mishap this year was that our camping stove had a gas leak in the valve which made for a slow cooking process and an interesting torch experience! We are now more equipped for “cool” camping and enjoyed the warmth of our zero degree sleeping bags!
Now for some of the pictures:
We had a great time.
Technorati Tags: Camping, Gooseberry Falls, Hiking, Split Rock Lighthouse, Lake Superior, Minnesota, North Shore
Last year you may recall that we had a brief encounter with cold weather camping – unexpectedly and wholly unprepared. Since then we have acquired more appropriate gear and were eager to test it out. We just had to wait for a free weekend that wasn’t going to be below 0 degrees (our sleeping bags are only rated above 0). Well we finally got it on Feb 28 and March 1. We started planning on Monday before and at the last minute decided to throw in some cross-country skiing lessons first thing in the morning.
So we drove to Elm Creek Park Preserve and took a 2 hour lesson on classical skiing (you know the one in the grooves). This was a lot of fun! It was windy but the sun was out and the temps felt good. After learning the basics the instructor took us out on a short loop so we could experience some real skiing. It was interesting to watch everyone in the group catch on – fall over and enjoy themselves! He took us to a very small hill and had us practice going down and then coming back up. I fell each of these times on the way down – the grooves were worn out at the bottom and my stopping ability was a little shaky! We survived the lesson and then were told we could do any of the trails in the park without the added price of a trail pass. Not being too confident we did the same small loop and enjoyed every second of it (and for the record I didn’t fall on the hill this time). We did about 5k of skiing which isn’t a lot but was good enough. For those who know the park we did the Northern Lights Trail.
Following that adventure we drove clear across the Metro to Afton State Park for the camping part of our adventure. This was our
first time here, but knew they had backpack only sites about a mile to a mile and a half from the parking lot. So not too far if we had to ditch. We had an enjoyable walk in, except for a set of shoveled stairs – we didn’t see the snowshoer’s sign that followed the incline. We shared much of the trail with the cross country skiers so we had to be careful not to walk on the groomed trail if we could help it. From the parking lot it is pretty much straight downhill then flat for a little bit and then straight up hill to the campground area. It made for a little work but we appreciated our rented snow shoes from REI - they kept us out of the deep snow and gave some needed grip on the uphill.
We picked out a campsite on the side of the hill away from Afton Alps and that provided some wind cover. We proceeded to stomp down the snow around the site (as instructed during a winter camping class at Midwest Mountaineering), setup our tent, and then headed up to get firewood. Setting up the tent was a little tricky since the ground was frozen, but I had thought about that and bought some pouches that are used for snow and sand camping. There wasn’t quite enough snow for them to work so we just put pieces of firewood in them. Yes, Afton offers two saws and a huge pile of leftover pieces from making lumber for you to cut up and use for your fire – they also provide trash cans full of kindling!! While mentioning the amenities they also have pit toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and water available to campers – roughing it with some provisions! Christy proceeded to setup the fire and we realized our first major mistake – our matches weren’t strike anywhere and we didn’t have the striker pad. Luckily, we knew there was another camper and he gave us a lighter to use.
Crisis solved. I got some more firewood and Christy got the fire going. Now time for dinner. Second major mistake. When I bought new fuel for the backpacking stove I bought the right mix – but didn’t check the coupler. This one brand doesn’t have a screw on coupler and I couldn’t get the stove to work. Ugh. So we had to boil water over the fire. It takes a lot longer that way but we enjoyed our Mountain House Lasagna w/ Meat Sauce Freeze Dried 2 Person Pouch eventually.
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Climbing in to our cold sleeping bags wasn’t pleasant but they warmed up fairly quickly. I went to sleep feeling toasty warm – almost perfect. Christy was a little cold – despite wearing countless layers. I awoke in the middle of the night because my toes were freeeezing. Wiggle, wiggle didn’t help. So I got dug around and struggled to put on another layer of socks – didn’t help. For both of us the rest of the night was one of haggard sleep trying to keep blood moving to the toes. As the sun started peaking up I arose as well to get a fire going and try to warm things up. Despite being buried in the snow our water bottles had frozen so I began the even longer process of melting snow on an open fire.
The fire helped marginally to keep things warm (though my toes didn’t warm up until after almost 20 minutes in the car). Now I was struggling with my hands turning into blocks of ice and trying to keep the fire going as hot as possible and keep it cooking able. I scarfed the hot oatmeal – Christy was too cold to be hungry and we started packing up. Everything – the tent, our sleeping bags, packs, and sleep rolls were either frozen or had a layer of frost on them, making it harder to pack up and get everything nice and small like it is supposed to be!
All loaded back up we began heading out, the hiking helped warm us up and put us in a better mood. We did a little exploring around trying to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We were glad to see our car unload ourselves and get into some semblance of warmth. Our fingers and toes hurt but we are always happy to survive an adventure!
I don’t think we’ll be doing anymore camping in Minnesota during February!
Technorati Tags: Winter Camping, Afton, Camping, Winter, Backpacking