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autumn camping in wisconsin

Last week, we took Aidan on his first camping trip. Chris wanted to go someplace closer to home, but I was bent on going to one of my favorite camping destinations–Governor Dodge State Park in western Wisconsin. The park is in Dodgeville, WI about 40 minutes west of Madison. I’ve been camping there since I was a teenager, and Chris and I have been there several times (the last time was probably a decade ago, but who’s counting). I really wanted to return there, because the place is kind of special to me, so I thought it would be really cool to share that with Aidan.

And it was. We set out on a Friday morning, meandering our way across state and county roads, stair-stepping our way north and west across Illinois and into Wisconsin. In the late afternoon, we arrived at the park office, checked in, and found our campsite. Even though we made reservations, we weren’t able to get our first choice site, as it was a pretty busy weekend. The site was a little too close to the campsite entry road and shower house for my taste, but this proved useful for us as Aidan isn’t quite the fan of peeing behind a tree. The short walk to the flush toilets, to the guy selling firewood, and to the playground proved convenient. Still, the site was nestled in the trees and honestly, there isn’t truly a “bad” site in the place.

So, we made our camp–complete with 8-man tent (giving us lots of room), canopy over the picnic table, and campfire. It was really nice. That first night we cooked soy dogs over the open fire, which was yummy. The food got better after that. We ate pancakes, tofu scramblers, minestrone soup, and drank campfire coffee (well, Chris and I did anyway).

During the day we hiked about–discovered some waterfalls, walked through the tall grasses abutting an empty beach, played at the campsite playground, and just explored. In the evening, we sat by the fire and told stories over Jiffy Pop Popcorn. (Aidan got a kick out of that.) The days were chilly, but the nights were downright cold–low 40s one night. It was a bit colder that we thought it would be, but we managed to stay warm beneath a pile of sleeping bags and fleece blankets. Aidan tends to be pretty stubborn when it comes to dressing appropriately for the weather, so he got a bit cranky as the temperature dropped, but he recovered quickly.

All in all, it was a good weekend. We walked the campgrounds and Aidan has already picked out which site he wants to camp on during our next visit. It’s a beautiful one overlooking a deep valley of trees. (Chris and I camped at this site years ago, and it truly is beautiful. You can hike for hours right off the back of your campsite deep into the valley.) I love camping, and I’m hoping that Aidan will come to love it too. He seems to so far. We’ll see.

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