This past weekend I had the chance to take my radical family up north to Devils Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin. We had never been to the park before, let alone to Wisconsin as a family. We decided to plan for three days of outdoor activities which included hiking, bouldering on the lakes North Shore, and enjoying everything else Devils Lake had to offer. We told our four-year-old, Sebastian, that this trip was going to have lots of "adventuring." Adventuring is what we tell him when we are about to doing something outdoors or something really cool and fun. (Did I mention this was our first long trip with our two-month-old baby, Anya?)
I was personally excited to hike the trails in the park with Kristie and Anya, and ecstatic to hike with Sebastian. He is a very rambunctious child with lots of energy. He absolutely loves the outdoors; hiking, climbing, biking and anything that keeps him moving. Even though he is only four, he does not have many limits when it comes to what he can and cannot do.
We drove up from Illinois on Friday afternoon. The drive took a little less than four hours. Kristie kept the kids entertained as I drove. We could tell Sebastian was excited and ready to enjoy his vacation. I, on the other hand, was in awe of the beautiful tree colors and extremely happy with the overall climate and temperatures. I could tell that this was going to be a great weekend.
The hotel, Great Wolf Lodge (south of the Wisconsin Dells), was fantastic and had an indoor water park. We had planned to stay here just in case the weather was bad and thought we could use the water park at night. This would also give Sebastian something to look forward to after a long day of hiking and climbing. The hotel had a story time at 8 o'clock for all the kids in the hotel. This was a major hit. Even though I personally would have rather stayed in a tent, the hotel worked out well for us as a family.
We woke up the next day at around 8. Kristie fed Anya, and we headed for the trails at Devils Lake. We were at the park early and decided to do the CCC trail first. Being early to the trails had its benefits, as there were absolutely no other people. This trail is on the South Shore of the park, and is rather difficult with some large boulders and steep inclines at times. We climbed the CCC all the way until it turned into the East Bluff trail. I carried baby Anya all the way up the trail and she slept most of the time. Kristie did extremely well on the trail even after having a baby just two months ago. Sebastian enjoyed the climb and did not want to leave. We stayed on the trail for a while and enjoyed the beautiful views and devoured some Cliff Bars. On the way down, Sebastian was talking how cool it would be to climb rocks with our "Crash Mat" (as he called it). I told him we could head back to the North Shore and boulder. Sebastian was pretty pumped to try bouldering for the first time.
When we got to the North Shore, I was amazed how clean and radical the boulders were. There was a problem after problem. I was like a little kid in a candy shop, looking at all the rocks and deciphering problems in my head. Sebastian was also in awe as he stared at the giant rocks yelling, "I WANT TO DO THAT ONE." I let him climb some rocks, and Kristie and Anya watched as Sebastian and myself were running all over the place trying to climb different routes. Sebastian climbed one of the routes over and over. This was good practice for him as the route had a slant to it and was not as high up as the others. When he got tired it was my turn to boulder. I climbed about eight routes and enjoyed every one of them. I would say this is one of the things I enjoyed the most about our trip.
The next two days were filled with hiking to Parfrey's Glen, Pewitts Nest, and Natural Bridge State Park. The hikes were shorter in length than the first day, but still amazing. Sebastian loved each and every one. Anya just slept in her carrier as we hiked along. I would say the hike to Parfrey's Glen was the most memorable. There were a few more people on the trails as we started around noon. Everyone was amazed as to how well Sebastian hiked, climbing over and around rocks to avoid the creek. The last part in the canyon is a little more technical and Sebastian climbed over the huge boulders like it was nothing. Not only were other people impressed, but I was extremely impressed with his body awareness and balance. I think these skills have improved due to all the hiking he has done since he was able to walk. Kristie and Anya also had a great time. The cool crisp air created a perfect atmosphere for hiking with a newborn. Like I said earlier, Anya slept through almost every hike and only fussed when she wanted to eat. Kristie enjoyed carrying Anya and hiking with Sebastian.
On the last day, I went off for a solo hike to the Devils Doorway and Balanced Rock. It was a short hike and Sebastian, Kristie and Anya went and played at the playground and beach at Devils Lake. I knew we were getting ready to head home. As I sat next to balanced rock, I thought about a quote that I had read in the book John Muir In His Own Words, "In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks." I had really received more than what I wanted out of the trip. It was a bonding time with my family. I truly enjoyed every minute of it, and that time spent with them is more memorable than anything else. I can rightfully say that we will be headed back to Devils Lake State Park to enjoy more hikes and climbs as a family in the future.