October in Pictures

We went camping up north the first weekend of October.  The weather was  pleasant enough on our first day, but it turned ugly that night.  Rain on and off, the temperature kept dropping, and the wind picked up as the weekend wore on.  We still had fun and (most) of us (the Roc and I) were prepared with cold weather gear….ahem GC is wearing shorts in this pic, though you obviously cannot tell…



I was glad I bought the dog a fleece sweatshirt, even though I felt ridiculous buying it.  He appreciated it.


The Roc was happy to get out of school for two days and go to some of his favorite places.  Waterfalls!



The windchill was definitely well below freezing on our second to last morning and the Roc looked like this


in his sleeping bag while GC and I were getting breakfast together so we decided to head home a day early.  It was COLD.  We stopped by some waterfalls on the way home, which made the Roc happy.


Coming home a day early meant we were back in time for the Roc to skate in the Special Hockey open skate down at the University of Minnesota.


He thought everything Goldy the Gopher did was funny, but he still didn’t want to talk to him.



The location of the Roc’s hippotherapy changed when the therapist got a new job at a gorgeous camp.  The indoor ring is awesome with lots of seating so I can watch him ride, there is a little black kitten who always comes and sleeps on my lap,

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and the trails are beautiful.  The Roc loves the trail ride portion of his lesson (which will be ending now that winter is almost here.)

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My mom had a birthday and the Roc LOVES to celebrate birthdays so he picked out a cake at the grocery store and insisted we bring it to Grandma.  I need more pictures of the Roc and my mom, they have a special connection.  Both my parents are wonderful to the Roc.

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My parents and I took the Roc hiking one day.  The fall colors were gorgeous.



The Roc likes to geocache with his Grandpa.  When I asked him if he wanted me to buy a gps so we could go geocaching he said, “But we do that with Grandpa.”  Yup, we do.


We went a little farther off the trail than we should have on this afternoon and didn’t end up finding the “treasure” as the Roc calls it because my dad and I were a little worried we might fall of the earth.


Even though we didn’t find what we were looking for, and the Roc complained bitterly, the scenery made up for it.


A whole forest of yellow maples in the late afternoon sun.  I couldn’t get over the golden color.



Towards the end of October I met up with my best friend Christa for our annual get-a-way!  We spent the first two days walking around colonial Williamsburg, taking house tours and learning a lot about the revolutionary period.





IMG_2390We also walked around Jamestown which was fascinating.




IMG_2479We had a really great time chatting, eating, laughing, catching up, and learning all about colonial times.

Before dropping me off at the airport we stopped by a plantation and took the tour.

IMG_2484After all our touring, listening, and reading museum placards on our trip I suggested that next year we spend a few days laying on a beach somewhere reading trashy novels.  No learning allowed.  We’ll see what happens next fall…


Something I didn’t take many pictures, and I really should have, was all the decorating the Roc did for Halloween.  As soon as it was October 1st he was allowed to talk about the October holiday (not that he refrained from talking about it since his birthday was over in early August, but I had good reason to tell him that I wouldn’t talk about it until October 1st-my sanity)  The Roc loves Halloween and proclaims it to be his favorite holiday.  He wanted to decorate with the few decorations we have, buy more decorations, and then when I wouldn’t buy as many as he wanted, we made one,


and then over the month he made many, many more.  He also really wanted a Halloween pinata, I think so he could get more candy.


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Like most parents we ended the month of October with pumpkins,




and lots of candy.




Week 3: BWCA!

The Roc and I muddled through the beginning of week 3.  We had been together non-stop since school let out and we definitely needed a little break from each other.  On Wednesday afternoon I dropped him off at my parents house for a 5 night sleepover.  FIVE nights.  GC and I had been gearing up for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) for a few weeks.  We spent Wednesday afternoon packing our packs, picking up a few last minute items, and grabbing some ice cream at Cold Stone to celebrate 9 years together.  We left the house around 3 am Thursday morning for a 5 hour drive to our BWCA entry point.

After stopping at the ranger station we drove to our entry point on Brule lake.  It was too windy to photograph our start and it took some time to battle the waves across the lake.  We portaged and finally got through a few smaller lakes, where the wind wasn’t as big of a factor.

We entered Winchell lake pretty tired and it was still very windy, so we decided to find a campsite.  GC got to work setting up the tent,

while the dog took a rest.  He couldn’t keep his eyes open.

Later GC got to work again making us dinner.  (Are you wondering what I’m doing while he’s working?  I’m documenting it all of course!)

We were lazy on Friday.  We slept in, made breakfast, paddled around a little, (forgot our permit back at the campsite so we decided no to go too far in case we encountered a ranger) GC took a nap, and I sat down down by the water reading for over an hour.  It was pretty warm so I decided to go in the lake.

I’m smiling, but I was only in for a few minutes.  It was C.O.L.D!

GC’s face is a better representation of what the water felt like.

We (GC) made dinner and we hung out around camp.

Then I went down by the water and waited for the sun to set.

The moon came out and we couldn’t believe how light it was at almost 10 pm.

On Saturday we decided to pack up,  move back towards our entry point, and look for a different campsite.

We ended up back on Brule lake and all the sites we were paddling by were taken.  We had just about given up hope when we found that one of the best sites on the lake was empty.  I remembered paddling by it when we first entered the lake on Thursday and yelling over the wind to GC that it was an awesome site.

GC did a little fishing,

and kissed the pup.

Who really wished he could swim after those sticks.

We sat by the fire as the sun started it’s decent

talking about how crazy we were.  Most people go away to a resort for their anniversary.  We went into the woods.  I pointed out that we were on an island and we did have our own version of a palm tree… sort of.

The lake was so calm we decided to go for an evening paddle.

Which was totally worth it.

On Sunday we got up, packed up, and headed for the van.

Guinness was done.

GC was still smiling.

We said goodbye to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  An awesome trip.  It was a wonderful, much needed break from the everyday.

Weekend Camping

Last October we had a wonderful experience camping with the Roc.  We knew we wanted to go again this year, and decided to try this weekend.  With only 5 days of school left we pulled the Roc out of school 2 hours early on Friday and drove up north.  We knew many of the state parks had first-come-first-serve sites and we were hoping to get up there early enough to get one.  We didn’t have a back up plan in case all the sites were taken, other than turning around and driving all the way back home!  We lucked out and got to choose from 4 sites.  We choose this cart-in site, up on a hill (which was really fun for GC to lug all our gear up!)

But it was worth it in the end.

After setting up camp we went down the lake the throw some rocks and build a rock tower.

On Saturday GC was up early preparing breakfast.  This is what he made (and that’s his plate, not mine!)

He was a very happy camper (and he finished all that food!)

The Roc kept asking if we could go see waterfalls so we decided to drive up the shore a bit and go to Temperance River.  He was so happy.

The water was really rushing from all the recent rain.

Then we went to Cascade, to see more waterfalls.

On our way back down to Split Rock we stopped at Tettegouche and hiked to the high falls.  GC had to carry the dog across this bridge.  I could hardly look down as we crossed.

We stopped at the top of the waterfall (and GC kept a tight grip on the Roc)

Then we hiked all the way down to the bottom,

and I remembered the last time I was at that same spot, June 2008.  How different things were, in so many ways.  The river was a lot lower, and the Roc was much harder to photograph.

We headed back to our campsite for dinner and some quality time around the campfire (s’mores).  On Sunday we packed up all our stuff after breakfast and then set off on a hike to see the backpacking sites at the campground.  The Roc had to get down to this beach and throw some rocks.

We hiked for awhile before doubling back towards the campground.  We were all tired and sore from Saturday, but decided that since we were there, we might as well hike to the top of Day Hill to the look out.  It was worth it.

Look!  I exist!  I need to give GC my camera more often.

A rare photo of me and the Roc.

This boy has the best smile of anyone I know.  He is my outdoor kid (as long as it’s not raining) and I love being able to show him the places I went with my parents growing up.

On the whole the Roc did awesome camping.  He had a few moments when we were really, really glad we chose that cart-in site deep in the woods with no one around.  He also needed to know exactly what.came.next at every moment of the day, and that was hard when you don’t know exactly what comes next!  But when I look through the photos, the fun stands out and the couple incidents are already fading in my memory.  We will go again, for sure.

We had a great weekend!

Camping: A First

Camping has been a part of my life since I was a child.  We tent camped when I was young, my sister and I sleeping in the back of our mustard yellow van, and when I was a bit older my parents purchased an RV and we traveled out West, to Canada, to Michigan, and to the “north shore” of Minnesota.  I have so many good memories from our camping trips and I am so thankful that my parents took me.  I always hoped that my children would love the outdoors as much as I do and that we would camp as a family.

But all your best laid plans seem to change when your child is diagnosed with Autism.  As I watched the Roc struggle to communicate as a 3 year old, seeing him through eyes filled with the diagnosis, I worried about so many things, life had suddenly seemed to veer off course.  I also wondered if we would do the things I had dreamed of doing, and one of them was camping.

I knew early on that the Roc was an outdoor kid.  He cemented it when I started to take him out to Arizona during the winter to visit my parents and he would hike.  What 3 year old will hike a few miles willingly?  We took the Roc to Colorado around his 5th birthday and the boy hiked 5 miles in the mountains, all for the promise of a waterfall, and he didn’t complain.  I’ve reveled in the fact that I got my outdoor kid.  With our move to Minnesota, I started to think more about camping.

Could we?  Would he like it?  What if it rained?  (The Roc is like a cat when it comes to rain, don’t rain on him)  Would he sleep in the tent?  What about all of our daily routines that would most definitely be out the window while camping?  Would he eat camp food?  and on and on.

There are so many variables with camping, so many things that would roll off another kids back, but would greatly bother the sensory sensitive Roc.

We decided to give it a try.  Because you never know until you try.

I told the Roc on Thursday morning that I had a surprise for him when he got home from school.  He immediately wanted to know what it was, but I told him to wait, I would tell him when he got home.

“What’s the surprise?” the Roc asked me as soon as the van door opened.

“How would you like to go to Duluth tonight, stay in a hotel with a pool, and then tomorrow we’ll see waterfalls and go camping?” I asked him excidedly, sure that he would burst with joy.  Hotel!  Pool!  Waterfalls!  Lake Superior!  Camping!

“I thought we were going to Coon Rapids Dam!” the Roc screeched at me.

Oh boy.  After talking him down and explaining how we could drive to the dam any old day, but that hotel/pool/waterfall/camping is something special he got excited.  We left when GC got home from work, and the evening went well.  We arrived at our hotel, stashed the dog and our stuff, went to 5 Guys for dinner, and then came back with enough time for the Roc and I to take a dip in the hotel pool and whirlpool.

We woke up early on Friday, not sure what time the park office opened, but without a reservation we were banking on getting a non-reservable site, and were hoping for a “cart-in” site to maximize the distance between us and other campers, therefore reducing the chances of us greatly disturbing anyone should a meltdown occur.  It was still dark when we left our hotel.

We watched the sun rise out of Lake Superior.

The park office wasn’t open when we got there, so we checked out all the empty non-reservable sites and got our first choice when the office opened.  We were lucky and got a great cart-in site at the end of the campground, set back in the woods.  We quickly went to work setting up our site.  Well GC did,

the Roc, Guinness and I went down to check out the lake.

After set up and a quick lunch, we packed a bag and headed off to see some waterfalls and hike to the top of Carlton Peak, the trail sign stating a 3-hour round trip hike.  At the top of a series of waterfalls we asked a guy with a big camera to take our picture,

and enjoyed the view before setting off to the peak.

It was a long hike and a strenous climb to the top, but the views were worth it.

We rested and had a snack before heading back down.  We knew it would take awhile to get to the bottom, and even longer to get back to our campsite down by the lake.  The last bit is a scramble to the top, which took awhile, and took even more time to get back down.

We made it back to our campsite and started dinner.  GC had some trouble with his little portable cook stove, that he had just purchased from a guy at work and had never used, and we ended up eating dinner and washing up in the dark.  The Roc was good throughout it all, he sat by the fire, he ate his dinner, he repeatedly asked when we were going to make s’mores, and around 8:30 he announced he was tired and he wanted to go to bed.  He went to sleep in the tent with the dog and a lantern.  GC and I looked at each other in amazement.

The next morning GC got his little stove working and he made us some eggs and bacon.

After breakfast we drove up to Cascade River State Park and hiked around the waterfalls there.

We picnicked down by the lake

and then drove up to Grand Marais to walk around and check out the Coast Guard area.

We went back to our campsite earlier and cooked some pasta over the fire, (in the daylight!)

When it got dark we went down to the lake with a lantern and watched the water shimmer in the moonlight, heading back when it got really dark and when we realized that the Roc wasn’t going to sit quietly!  Of course we made more s’mores that night and again, when the Roc got tired, he told us so, and then went to sleep in the tent with the dog and a lantern.

We woke up to gray skies and a screechy Roc on Sunday, he was upset that we couldn’t watch the sunrise and it took a little coaxing to bring him back down, so we ate breakfast and packed up our stuff to head home.  On our way south we stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, but it had started to lightly rain, so we went down to the lake to check out the view of the lighthouse, and the Roc threw rocks.

We drove home happy, dirty and tired.

You never know until you try.  I was apprehensive about camping with the Roc, but I’m so glad we gave it a shot.  He was so happy, he kept telling us he was having fun, and really, is there anything better?

When your kid is having fun, and he tells you about it?

I know enough to deeply cherish those moments.