Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Car Camping, Paddling, and Hiking the Meadow Valley and Cave Trails at Governor Dodge State Park

Need a relaxing environment to test out your camping gear in preparation before embarking on summer wilderness adventures? April car camping offers moderate weather and spring's first blossoms without the summer crowds. Looking forward to the weekend, we rushed to head out Friday night after work, getting camp set up just before dark. Governor Dodge State Park is located in Iowa County near Dodgeville on Wisconsin State Highway 23.

Highlights of the weekend include a sunrise hike on the Meadow Valley and Cave Trails, a family paddle around Twin Valley Lake, and cooking bacon, egg, and bagel breakfasts. Our daughter enjoyed being camped near the playground and the luxury of flush bathrooms.

Friday night was all about getting there and getting setup just as the sun quickly disappeared. After a short sit around the campfire, we slept soundly. Saturday morning, I woke to the sounds of owls. As my family slept, I walked from our campsite to the Meadow Valley Trail. The Meadow Valley Trail is a loop trail. It consists of 5 miles (8 km) of hilly terrain through forest and meadow. The trail, alive with birdsong, delighted me with a number of blue jay, woodpecker, and white tail deer sightings.

I decided to also explore the Cave Trail on this hike. The Cave Trail is a 1 mile (1.6 km) loop off the Meadow Valley Trail that leads to a short spur trail up a bluff to a good spelunker's entry point for Thomas' Cave.

The Cave Trail offers some nice views of Twin Valley Lake. Like the Meadow Valley Trail, the Cave Trail is hilly. If you do this hike, bring extra water. Typically I do not finish my entire water bottle on a hike of this length. Due to the hills, I consumed my water halfway into the hike. After hiking the hilly 6 miles (9.7 km), I was ready to get back to camp, drink cold water, and cook a big family breakfast, the likes of which are only seen on car camping weekends. When I returned, I found my family at the playground. Before long, we enjoyed a late breakfast of bacon, eggs, bagels, and oatmeal.


After our late breakfast we headed out for a paddle around Twin Valley Lake. When the wind whipped up, our daughter dipped her paddle in and insisted everyone call out "Powder Paddle" as gusts of wind tried to push the canoe off course. Given the opportunity to encourage her to help paddle, we went along with the program, being sure to remark how we noticed the boat went faster when she paddled with us.

Our daughter loves the beach and wanted to swim. We stopped at the beach, were she built some sand castles and had a splash break. Ready with a swim suit below her clothes, she tried the water and decided to keep her tee shirt on. Although the air felt warm enough for a swim, the coldness of the water and the wind kept all but her feet from getting wet.

To encourage the camping bug, we let our daughter select our campsite. Of course, she selected a site near the playground. Throughout the weekend she made about 10 trips to the playground. To her delight, a number of children showed up, and she had fun playing.

Between keeping up with work responsibilities, parenting and household responsibilities, and finding time to hit the gym most days, I tend to be a very busy and hurried person. Needless to say, I have a bad habit of forgetting things when rushing about preparing for camping. Last year when we went to the Boundary Waters, I even forgot my shoes and ended up wearing my office shoes (Inside my NEOS when paddling) for the week. This time I forgot my camera and ended up taking a few pictures on a cell phone with a battery problem. I got a few pictures, but no GPS traces of my hike - not enough battery. My daughter did, however, bring her little camera and enjoyed taking a few pictures throughout the weekend. 

With the forecast calling for rain, my husband packed up camp as I cooked breakfast. After breakfast, we broke camp and headed to the Lost Canyon Trail. Check out more details about hiking the Lost Canyon Trail at the link. On this stop, we visited my daughter's two favorite spots in the park, the spring house and Stephen's Falls. I enjoyed seeing wild flowers in bloom. We hiked a bit on the Lost Canyon Trail, then headed home where I made a late spaghetti lunch. Half for the food dehydrator to use on a future wilderness adventure, and half for Sunday's lunch.


Meal:                           Food:
Snacks                           Granola Bars, Cashews, Beef Jerky, Marshmallows for Roasting
Breakfasts                     Oatmeal, Bananas, Bacon, Eggs, Bagels
Lunch                            Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza with Tortilla Crusts
Dinner                           Brats, Carrot Sticks, Apples


Trail Conditions - Well groomed trail with a few muddy patches. Mowed grass with areas of mud and sand. Sunny and cold.

Distance Covered Today - 6.0 miles (9.7 km).

Difficulty - Moderate level of difficulty, strenuous if you are not in good shape for a 6 mile (9.7 km) hike consisting of hills.

Location - Parked at our campsite at the Twin Valley Campground in Governor Dodge State Park. The park is located near Dodgeville, on State Highway 23.

Highlights - Views of the lake, abundant waterfowl, 2 deer sightings, blue jays, woodpeckers, wild flowers.


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