The weather was finally looking warm enough for us to head up to the North Shore here in Minnesota. I grew up camping in the beautiful state parks along this scenic section of Minnesota and I was anxious to take Jack to some of my favorite parks sooner rather than later. The tricky thing is that Lake Superior makes for some cooler, more breezy weather so keeping Jack warm at night could be more difficult. But, with highs in the 60s and 70s and lows only in the 40s and 50s we felt confident that we could successfully camp and keep Jack warm throughout the night.
We headed up to Jay Cooke State Park, on Friday evening after Bobby had finished with work. Traffic was really rough as we attempted to make our way out of the cities and the drive seemed to go on forever. Jack was getting very fussy and we needed to stop for some dinner. After a stop for some chow we continued on and arrived at the park a bit before 8:00 p.m. We had made a reservation a few days before using the wonderful guidebook The Best in Tent Camping: Minnesota by Tom Watson. This is an excellent source to utilize when looking for a campsite in a new and unfamiliar campground. He gives a rundown of sites and which is his favorite and for what reasons. We look for seclusion and privacy when picking our sites. We want to be secluded so that if Jack has a rough night and screams a lot we won’t bother nearby campers as much and we seek solitude and quiet when enjoying our recreational opportunities. His book did not lead us astray and we had a wonderful secluded site (site #11) that abutted a beautiful rock outcropping.
Jack had been asleep in the car (as his bedtime is 7:00) but was soon up and wide awake! He was so excited to be outside and to watch as his Dad set up the big tent for us!
Jack hadn’t been camping since he was six weeks old when we went to Johnny Creek Campground in WA! We were very excited/nervous to see how he would do! I will say that we had a lot of fear and anxiety. Jack generally sleeps 11-12 hours straight every night. When you have a good sleeper it is pretty terrifying to alter your routine in any way for fear that it will completely disrupt the blissfully quiet nights you are so used to. But we were determined to not let that scare us away from camping and being outside. We feel that flexibility in parenting is one of the most important things. Schedules are amazing and Jack definitely thrives off of them. However, I can only imagine all that we would miss out on if we were never willing to bend the rules or alter our schedule.
After Bobby had gotten the tent set up Jack and I entered and he had a blast roaming around this wonderfully baby friendly environment exploring every nook and cranny of the tent while I set up the innards.
It was difficult to settle Jack down after so much excitement and he was just as excited to be in his pack n play (for more info on how our tent is set up check out our post about Jack’s First Camping Trip) and it took him a long time to fall asleep. He eventually did and our little camper slept through the night. He got up much earlier then normal (around 5:30 a.m.) but he was pretty chilly so I brought him into my sleeping bag to warm up hoping he might doze. I was wrong! He was so excited to be camping and to see all of us that he was wide awake and ready to go! We had plans to hike a section of the Superior Hiking Trail that day so the early rising wasn’t actually that bad. As a family we went to the bathroom building. It’s been a long time since we camped somewhere, not only with running water, dumpsters, recycling, but with a heated bathroom building that had flush toilets AND showers! We felt like we were staying at the Ritz! I loved that the bathroom building of Jay Cooke was unchanged. It was just as I remember it from when I was a child. It warms my heart to know that my son will grow up sleeping in the same campsites that I spent so many happy childhood vacations at! Bobby took Jack to the mens room to warm up for a bit while I got ready for the day. We returned to the campsite and had some breakfast before taking down camp.
We were on the road and headed further north by 9:00 a.m. We spent the day hiking and that evening we drove just a bit further north to one of my all time favorite parks, Tettegouche! I had called earlier in the week to learn if water was turned on, bathrooms were open, and how full the campground was and had been helped by a charming ranger who assisted me with all of my questions and helped me pick a great campsite. It was in the Cart-In campground that is a bit more rural, only has pit toilets, and the walks in from the parking area range from 1/4 of a mile to 3/4 of a mile. When making the reservation this sounded like the perfect thing for us! I hadn’t taken into account our exhaustion levels after a full day hiking or the fact that the campsites in the Cart-In campground are just off of Lake Superior making them fairly chilly if there’s wind. And there was… We walked back to the brand new visitor center, that also serves as a 24 hour rest area that just opened last year, and asked if there were any other sites available more inland. She told me that there was one tent campsite left in the campground that is situated a bit more inland just 2 miles down the road. We were beyond relieved. Not only were we very concerned that Jack wouldn’t be warm enough during the night but we were also exhausted and not looking forward to carting all of our gear in and out while doing our best to keep Jack and Latigo (our Golden Retriever) happy…
The site we ended up with was #3 and it was perfect! There were several campsites nearby but they were all electric sites and were vacant for the night. We had lots of privacy and were very close to the bathroom building. Generally, I like to avoid being too close to the bathrooms but this site was perfect in that it was close but not so close that you could hear doors opening and closing all night. The vegetative screening between the sites in this campground was pretty dense (and keep in mind we were there in very early spring before the trees had budded, let alone leafed out) and all of the sites felt secluded. There are a few hike-in sites in this campground as well.
We set up our tent (I tried and failed and Bobby had to take over….) and enjoyed some tent/play time with Jack before dinner.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect with sunny skies and highs in the 60s and a slight breeze. We were very happy with our decision to switch campsites! I put Jack down a little early because he was so tired after his big and busy day being outside and I too fell asleep before 9:00 after a hot shower. To keep Jack warm at night he is in many layers including a long sleeved onesie, fleece jammies, a fleece Halo SleepSack, a Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag, and a hat. He stayed plenty warm both nights. His hands did get a little chilly in the mornings but for the most part he sleeps on his tummy with his hands underneath him. We didn’t put on mittens because Jack is a thumb sucker and we didn’t want to take that away from him. I checked on him very regularly throughout the night to make sure he was warm enough and he always was.
Bobby took the 1/2 mile trail to the nearby High Falls that night while Jack and I slept and had some fun taking great shots of one of Minnesota’s tallest waterfalls!
Jack, once again, did remarkably well in the night, waking once but going back to sleep quickly after some soothing. He did rise early again (around 5:00) but I was awake and ready to get moving. We packed up quickly, as it was lightly raining, and hit the road. Jack slept all the way to Duluth where we stopped for some breakfast at the charming and delicious Amazing Grace Cafe right in Canal Park and walked around a bit showing Jack the famous lift bridge and the light house! Again, the weather was amazing with clear, sunny skies and temps in the 70s!
Overall this was an amazing weekend! We couldn’t be more proud of how well our little nine-month-old camper did! Camping with a baby is definitely more challenging but also a lot more fun! Things that we found to be incredibly helpful to have along were our Osprey Poco Carrier. Jack loves being in there while we hike and it also served as his highchair while we were in camp! The kickstand, sunshade, and storage pouch make this the ideal baby backpack! We also can’t say enough about our amazing REI Kingdom 4 tent! It’s size and two separate rooms make it the perfect tent for a family! Jack doesn’t sleep well if he can see us so having the room divider is huge! We also used sunscreen on our little camper/hiker for the first time this weekend and found we were extremely happy with the Honest Company Sunscreen we picked up in bulk at Costco before our trip!