This has been one of the prettiest falls I can remember. The trees this year have had absolutely brilliant color. In addition, we haven’t had any really strong winds or rains to knock the leaves out of the trees so the leaves have fallen slowly over time which has maximized the color in the area. We went camping at Mirror Lake State Park a couple of weeks ago to try and enjoy the color in the central part of the state.

We had never been camping at Mirror Lake but we had heard good things about it so we reserved a campsite a month or so ahead of time and made our plans to go. Unlike our first camping trip the year, the kids didn’t seem especially excited to go on this trip but once we got there they were very excited to be there. Mirror Lake has some very nice campsites. The tent pads have sand bases which means you don’t have to worry about sleeping on stick and stones and tree roots. The picnic tables are all in good shape. There are lantern hangers at each site and the fire pits are all reasonably new. The shower house was clean with hot and cold running water. Everything was looking good.

We knew that it was forecast to be cold both the nights we were planning on being there with temperatures in the lower thirties so we made the kids sleep in our spare sleeping bags rather than in their own much lighter bags. In addition, we brought an insulating layer for Dalla to sleep on in the tent at night.

The kids went to bed around 20:30 and we stayed up with the campfire until around 22:00 and then we went to bed. That’s when the fun started.

I decided I’d sleep in long pants, wool socks, long sleeves, and a stocking cap because it was supposed to be cold. It wasn’t too long before I was just flat-out cold, something that rarely happens to me in any kind of weather. So I got out of my bag and put on a sweatshirt. Still cold. Put on my winter jacket. Still cold. Put on my gloves. Now I was mostly warm, but my legs and feet were still cold. My legs eventually got warm, but my feet dangled off the end of the air mattress and just wouldn’t get warm. In addition, Dalla refused to leave the air mattress because we was cold. Oh, and did I mention that I had to get up twice in the middle of the night to pee and that was just punishment heaped on tribulation.

In the morning, about 06:15 I had finally had enough of lying there and freezing. I got out of bed, put on my frigid blue jeans, and made my way to the shower house.

The shower I took was hot. So hot that I couldn’t even stand in the water for more than a couple of seconds without getting scalded. But the showers at Mirror Lake don’t have temperature controls so you get what comes out of the shower heads and you’re supposed to like it. So I found myself in the pre-dawn hours dancing out of a scalding shower and into a sub-freezing changing area trying to balance the two.

Finally, I’d had enough of the cruel joke that was the shower house and made my way back to the campsite. Sarah and the kids had woken up while I was gone and while I was still a hundred yards away from the tent I could hear Garrison howling. He really had to pee, but his pants were so cold he didn’t want to put them on to go outside. Both kids had burrowed completely into their sleeping bags during the night so coming out of the bag in the morning was apparently too rude of a shock for Garrison.

Sarah took the kids up to the marginally warmer shower house to relive themselves and get dressed while I took Dalla for a walk. We didn’t have a thermometer to find out the actual temperature but Dalla’s water dish was completely frozen over. We later looked up some local temperatures and adjusted for the fact that we were sleeping in a hollow. Our guess is that it was about 26°F that morning.

So it was cold. Colder than we were anticipating. On the upside, Dalla and I had a gorgeous walk down by Mirror Lake that morning. The mist was lifting off the lake in the gentle breeze. The sun was just coming over a rise behind us and lighting up the trees on the far shore. Some ducks were on the water. It was quiet and pleasant with just one other man and his dog sharing it with us.

After breakfast we headed into Lake Delton for a warm breakfast at a local diner which restored everyone’s flagging spirits. However the verdict was unanimous to break camp and sleep at home on Saturday night rather than suffer through another cold night.

In late September Sarah and I threw ourselves a combined birthday party to celebrate our 40th birthdays. That was an idea that we’d cooked up during the latter stages of 2013 but it took us awhile to figure out when, where, and how it would all play out. Eventually we settled on having it at (Badger Prairie County Park)[]. We were fortunate enough to get many of our friends in the area to come out and celebrate with us.

We served Chinese food from a local restaurant, pizza from another local restaurant, cheese, crackers, apples, nuts, and numerous other munchies. We made homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Our friend Paul was kind enough to bring along several gallons of homemade pale ale, which we supplemented with some homemade sour cherry vodka, some homemade meads, and some wine. Our initial concern was that we would have too little food, then we talked ourselves into the belief that we would have too much food. In the end, our estimates were reasonably good and I only had to eat cheese at every meal for a week.

Garrison really seems to be enjoying his time kindergarten. We may have to motivate him in the morning to get him out the door on time but that’s more because he’s five than because he doesn’t enjoy where he’s going.

Dinah is almost three and getting more mature every day. She’s picking up on letters (“D is for Dinah!”), starting to sing songs, and getting more and more interested in dressing herself. She’s not as gung-ho as her brother, but she’s more analytical and sensitive to people’s emotions than he ever was. That’s not to say that she doesn’t enjoy physical activity, but rather that she is less likely to do something with her body without first thinking it through.

Dalla turned twelve in September (we think) and is still going strong. She’s definitely slowing down but is still pretty spry for her age. She still religiously hunts the back yard and does her best to keep the local critter population in control.

I added a couple of new pictures to my Flickr picture gallery, as well.