100 miles in 2012

It’s a Hodge Podge Post


So today’s post isn’t going to be focused on just one thing, my mind is on my upcoming family vacation and thinking about all the write-ups we’ll be doing when we get back. Oh and the 4,000 miles of driving we’ll be doing. It’s a road trip, with stops in Tennessee and then down to Florida and back. Why would I chose to drive 4,000 miles when they have made these new fangled things called airplanes. Because airplanes are for wusses.

Yep…that looks about right.

So today we’re going to be discussing training (I hear your collective moan; it’s not that kind of discussion) and our families 2012 goal to hike 100 Trail Miles and how we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.

Training with a Purpose

I’m not a huge fan of exercise. Really I’m not. I prefer the whole “eat Fritos and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on the couch while watching a good movie and keeping warm under my favorite fleece blanket” activity. One of the reasons why I hate exercise is because it’s just so darn hard. Don’t get me wrong I love to hike and climb, but the Stairmaster and the treadmill and the weight machines, they really are no fun. Then there are squats. Squats just outright suck. The deadlift is right behind that too.

So you’ll see that I’m not one of those hardcore, ‘roided, endurance athlete, self-punishing for pleasure, sickos you might see at your local gym. I choose to quietly laugh and ridicule those type of people; I’d point my finger at them if I weren’t so busy trying to suck wind and stay alive. However as much as I want to believe that Twinkies and Oatmeal Creme Pies are the way to summit mountains and crank on crimps it just doesn’t work that way. Plus, I’m a cripple so I’ve got that working against me too.

My body can only take so much abuse. I’ve wrecked my shoulders in the first year of climbing and my knees outright hate me after a few miles on flat terrain. I’ve topped the scales at 205 lbs a far cry from where I used to be in the military at 155 lbs. My metabolism didn’t just slow down, it broke down and my activity level plummeted with my accident. Add it all up and it’s not conducive to a lifestyle of a successful outdoor athlete, no matter what you want to say. So I decided one day that it was time to get back to the gym and to start training my body. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I was four months along in this photo.

I’ve read books many climbing books on the topic (this one, this one, and this one) and they all kind of say the same things. “The best way to train is to climb/hike/backpack/insert activity here” but I’ve found that isn’t the case for everyone. In the month-and-a-half I’ve been hitting the gym on the regular I’ve seen the largest growth in my climbing since I began. I didn’t buy new shoes (actually went back to my flat-last non-sport climbing shoes) and I didn’t magically grow super skills. I just trained my whole body and changed the way I ate.

My strength has improved, I’m climbing at a full grade higher, and my endurance has increased. I only climb once a week, and even then I only get to maybe seven sport routes a night max. I’ve seen my energy increase, and even my hiking endurance has shot through the roof. I haven’t been training for climbing specifically, or any sport for that manner. I don’t campus or do hang board training, I don’t use a weighted belt for pull-ups, or a weighted backpack (yet). I do nine simple exercises and then some cardio. The same ones every workout 3-4 times a week. I lift two times a week and do endurance cardio 1-2 times a week. No personal trainer, just basic machine exercises and sometimes I don’t even do all nine, I usually choose 5-6 one night and MAYBE 2-3 the other.

One of the things that keeps me motivated to hit the gym is it gives me a chance to laugh at the people that spend their lives there working on specific muscle groups in order to look super buff and swollen. They do one exercise to blast that third muscle fiber on the left bicep for maximum growth. While I’m in-and-out in 70 minutes having done a full routine. What a bunch of tools!  I giggle in your general direction.

See…..even my son is laughing at you.

I also giggle at the person who aimlessly wanders the gym looking at the machines and weights but never breaks a sweat. Also the person working out so lightly that they can read a book, watch a TV show, and hold a conversation all at the same time. Oh…. and if you’re one of those persons who carries their phone with them and has a conversation on it instead of working out but still sits on the machine like you’re doing something, just stop. Please, just stop…..you annoy me and everyone else.

So I found that training my whole body in a non-specific routine had yielded for me the best results. So tell me, what works for you?

A 100 Mile Update

For anyone who has been following this blog you know that we set a goal as a family (we had many but only this one is relevant to TBC) to hike 100 trail miles in 2012. It was a great feat for us to try as we have a six year old who isn’t fond of taking long walks in the woods, and our schedules make it difficult to get out but maybe once or twice a month. Summer was hot, I mean real hot which doesn’t bode well for a man with an SCI (spinal cord injury) as the heat and humidity drain my strength and suffocate me with every step.

We started off the year very slowly taking 1-2 mile trips, we didn’t get out a few months and fell well behind. One of the reasons we didn’t get at it full-steam is we didn’t think our son could handle it. We were wrong, so very very wrong. We underestimated the hiking power of our little man and we’re going to pay the price for it by not making our goal.

Currently we have 48 miles to go and less then two months to do it in. We found out near the end just how far our little guy can go when he pulled off a personal best (along with my wife who wasn’t much of a hiker or outdoors athlete until she married me and she’s pregnant too) when he hiked for 8.6 miles last month. Had we known he had this kind of staying power we might be closing in on 150 miles and not just crossing the 50 mile mark. As I stated earlier we have a vacation coming up and we’re looking at tackling over 20 miles in total. Getting us close to the 80 mile mark, but short of the 100 we need.

Never underestimate this boys hiking power…or his trailblazing skills.

All-in-all it’s been a great success. We’ve done more and learned more then we would have had we not set the goal and it helped us to reallocate our time and energy to make room for hitting the trail. We developed a game to help our son get his mind off the miles (trail bingo) and if he scores enough bingo’s he gets a prize (a new video game….yea yea I understand the irony of using an outdoor activity and rewarding it with a soul-sucking, mind numbing indoor activity… stop judging me). We also found out that we love a hot trail meal (thank you JetBoil and mac ‘n cheese) it helps to lift our spirits and boosts morale for the troops.

So before we go we wish you all a lovely Thanksgiving with friends and family, and as always…..Adventure On!

(PS: We will be coming back just not for two weeks so check the archives for a lot of good posts)

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not all who wander are lost . . . except for us


In our quest to reach 100 miles this year, there are moments that mark our progress better than any mileage number ever could. We recently had a series of experiences on our record breaking hike of 8.6 miles, a family record for our longest hike and a personal longest hike for both myself and our son.

Bonding time on the trail

The first mile or two of our hikes are usually typified by settling into a rhythm. We work on setting the pace, distracting the boy from complaining and setting expectations for our first rest break.  As we made our way into mile 2 on this particular hike, out of seemingly nowhere my son stated “Tell me about the army, dad.”  After explaining the difference between the Army and the Air Force, I had the opportunity to spy on the father/son bonding initiated by my son. Its safe to say that this conversation would not have taken place had we not gotten out on the trail that day.  While we spend time together as a family at home, he generally focuses on asking to watch movies.

Being on the trail with no other distractions created the atmosphere for other conversations as well.  With the upcoming arrival of our next child, he started to ask more questions about his first mother (who passed away 5 years ago) and what my husband’s reaction was when he was born.

Also, we’ve noticed that as we have focused on hiking this year, our son’s ability to hike and his ability to enjoy the trail have grown tremendously.  While I think a comfortable limit for him is 7 miles in one stretch, he did quite well in managing the 8.6.  He even breaks into little songs that he makes up on the trail as we hike.  Every time I try to capture it on video he stops singing, but I’ll keep trying. 🙂

Waiting for our fearless rescuer.

Another interesting occurrence on this particular day was our directional challenges.  Yes, we got lost once again.  This time we weren’t in the car, but on foot, which makes it a much bigger deal.  We discovered after a mile or two of hiking towards the end of our day that we had taken the wrong fork in the trail.  We turned around and dragged on for another 2 miles until we realized that neither I nor the boy could go on.  Pregnancy and a desk job during the week were causing me some hip pain after 7 miles, and we were dragging a good 15 to 20 feet behind Jayson.  So when we hit 8.6 miles and we realized we were still roughly 3 miles from our truck, Jayson decided to press on alone to get to the truck and pick us up before dark.  There was an access road near by, so we were able to wait and make some hot chocolate with the Jet Boil to refresh us and keep us warm.

Our rescuer arrived a little over an hour later, hiking nearly 12 miles total which is the most he’s hiked in one day since his skiing accident.  He was a little worse for the wear, having taken a fall on the darkening trail.
But all is well that ends well, and it was nothing that some food and rest couldn’t repair.  We are looking forward to our vacation coming up where we will be going to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and then on to Florida to visit family.  We will drive through 9 states, and hike about 20 miles.  We hope to summit Chimney Top in GSMNP, which will be only our second summit as a family.  Getting in these miles on gentle rolling hills will hopefully prepare us for hiking at more strenuous level.

Other things worth noting:

We started out the day at 35 degrees.

We inspired a trail runner to get his 7 year old out hiking.

The fall colors were beautiful.

We hit 50 miles for the year during this hike!

So until next time, adventure on (and try not to get too lost)!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blind Faith and Dirt Roads


I am beginning believe that technology is becoming the Great and Mighty Evil. I have good reason as to think why that is. We were recently on a trip to a local state park not too terribly far from where we live. I had never been to this state park before which was quite surprising seeing as how close it is. So in the morning I grabbed my tablet and put the name of the state park in the navigation app and didn’t bother to double check the directions. Instead I decided to blindly follow the directions and I relied upon the technology. I’ve watched the Terminator movies, I know what Skynet is, apparently I didn’t bother to heed the warnings.

Instead of choosing the park office the navigation chose this abitary portion of the state park. But here was the major challenge: it wasn’t even in Minnesota. The navition system had me crossing the border into Wisconsin. Now it is not uncommon for Minnesota and  Wisconsin to share park space on the St. Croix river, which separates the two states. Just south of Wild River state park (where we were going) is Interstate park which is an example of such a park. As it turns a out, this park sharing is not the case for Wild River,the navigation system had me going down sandy dirt roads in Wisconsin, far from my objective. I was besides myself with how much time it took and where I had ended up. On the bright side my son loved this wild ride. While sitting in the back seat he continuously raised his hands as if riding a roller coaster. I was so glad he was having a good time (sarcasm).

Ready to tackle more trail!

After almost three hours of driving on country roads we eventually made it to the park to begin our hike. The park was beautiful and was not very busy. We had most of the trails to ourselves. When we go hiking I generally try to choose trails that are more difficult and therefore less traveled. So we gathered our gear and headed out to tick off some mileage, hopefully relax, and let the mornings travel issue melt away. The weather was great, it stayed in the 60’s with a breeze that helped dry sweaty clothes. The only obstacles we had to overcome were the bounty of horse manure piles that littered the trails as most trails were multi-use. This of course made for wonderful conversation with our child. He really enjoyed commenting on the size, color, and smell of the trails bombs that were left everywhere, it was a virtual minefield. We had to weave our way around the giant piles to find unsoiled soil.

Lunch on the Trail

Eventually we stopped for lunch, and having received inspiration from Brendon Leonard of Semi-Rad.com, cooked up a big lot of Mac ‘n cheese with turkey pepperoni. After we scarfed it down and filled our bellies with a warm meal we had some boosted morale to finish the day of hiking. After a brief run-in with a snake on the trail (I nearly stepped on it), the rest of the hike was fairly uneventful. We spotted a bald eagle and covered plenty of ground. All together we hiked 6.3 miles (a family record!). We noticed a considerable change in how our son has improved his endurance and skill. We thought that he had done so well that we decided to gift him a trail name, he shall from henceforth be called Meep. If you have children or watch the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb, it was an alien character in an episode. You have to be kiddie-cool to fully understand.

We’ve really been able to put some mileage beneath our feet, 11.3 miles in total for the week. In our quest to complete 100 trail miles that only is 11% of the total which really helps us since the summer was not very successful. We’re closing in on our first 50 miles which is a milestone in and of itself. With a 6yr old child, a wife who is pregnant now (trail name Pre go, because it’s in there 🙂 ) and a bionic disabled man 50 miles is a lot to cover.

Hiking along the St. Croix

After finishing up our hike I had though my troubles were over. I knew which way we needed to go to shave miles and time off our trip home. I thought I was home free, but I was so wrong. Turns out a MASSIVE snowmobile swap meet expo something was going on and everyone decided to leave right when we were heading out. To make a long story somewhat shorter it took us an hour to drive 10 miles. I am not kidding. It took us longer to drive to and from the park then it took for us to cover 6 miles of trail. I almost tore my hair out.

We did however get the chance to pass the time making fun of the people in front of us, and the fact that Prego pronounced “window” as “winder”. For some unexplained reason one of the gentlemen in the truck in front of us could not stop spitting or sticking his head out of the window. To us he became the “man-dog” and was the source of much laughter in our truck. We joked that due to his excessive saliva that he would flood the road out, and that he was playing a game of “inside-outside”. You would have to have watched the BBC animal YouTube video to understand.

All-in-all it was a great day of hiking and in the words of my son an “Epic Fail” of driving day. The lesson that I learned is to never trust the navigation system and always back it up with an actual map. Unless you plan on being enslaved by a Matrix style machine that uses you as a battery to fuel it’s world domination.

Until next time…..rage against the machine.

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Come and Gone


As I have woken up every morning to get to work I’ve noticed a significant change in the morning air temperatures. It had been consistently cooler, ranging for the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s around 7am as I made my way to my bus. A signal to me that the summer was coming to a close and that another half of a year is gone forever. A sobering thought to one who when he looked back at summer realized that it came and went without a significant memory made.

I missed out on a summer, and I cannot tell you where it went. We had some above average heat which caused me to not be able to hit the trail at all. I’ve noticed though that there were other things that fell by the wayside. The commitment to keeping The Bionic Chronicles up-to-date was simply not happening as often. My participation on Twitter slacked off. Also my climbing dropped to virtually nothing at all. So many of life’s responsibilities began to overwhelm me and my family. The house isn’t going to clean itself, the chores won’t get done on their own. Time slipped away and with it the hopes and dreams of accomplishments that I once fantasized about now had slipped through my fingers. I missed the community of commenters to this website. I missed my Twitter friends, and I missed out on many adventures that would have filled my ‘post hopper’ with stories of adventures by The Bionic Family.

Some of the favorite posts that we write here on The Bionic Chronicles are about our weekend family adventures. Those are easy to write and share and it’s unique content which is nice since we’re not trying to rehash what 20 other blogs have written. I created this blog, this special piece of the internet to share my life and the life of my family is how we cope, adapt, enjoy, and suffer through our time together. We’re a unique grouping; you’ve got a man whose desires are greater then his physical body can handle, a woman learning to adapt to a new type of lifestyle, and the child they drag along and try their best to share what they believe is an important aspect of life with. Combined these ingredients can make for a fantastic adventure.

We are most likely not going to reach our goal of 100 Miles in 2012, so many unforeseen circumstances stole away the most precious of outdoor resources, time. So the summer is gone and the autumn arrive with the promise of adventure around the corner. Things are looking up for fall as a change in schedules looks to bring forth more opportunities. Our son now is old enough to join the climbing team at the local gym, he’s going to be a Spider Monkey. I’m getting over a recent Sciatica issue and will be heading back to a local fitness center to help give my body the training it needs given the disability I live with. With the fall comes cooler temperatures which for me means easier hiking as the swelter and energy-draining heat gives way to cool breezes and the need for one of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing, the fleece jacket/pullover.

For those faithful readers look for a change in voice as there is a change in the weather. We’re looking to offer on this site more of our stories and less tips, tricks, and advice. You can find that elsewhere, we know some people who do it quite well. We’re getting back to our roots, returning to our first love. Returning to a life spent in adventure, and the tales of days come and gone.

Until next time……Adventure On!!!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Suburban Adventure


Discovering the treasures

Often we describe our efforts to get out at our local state and regional parks.  However, outdoor fun can often be found right in your own neighborhood! Some days we simply don’t have the time for the drive yet still have the urge to explore. Geocaching helps us to explore our own backyard in ways that are fun for kids and adults.

We first tried geocaching through borrowing a GPS unit from a local Minnesota State Park.  While it was nice to try out the activity, we were then limited to park boundaries and availability of units.

With a simple (free!) app on my husband’s tablet we were able to get out and search in our own neighborhood.  We discovered there was a cache about one block from our home.  On our first outing, we only found 1 of the 3 we searched for.  But the next day we found 4 of the 4 on our list!  There are a series of 6 caches near our home named after Star Wars characters which really excited our son.  He also loves finding the caches to pick out a treasure.  We always leave a butterfly in memory of our daughter who was stillborn last year.

We found it!

We did make a few mistakes for these outings.  Since we weren’t venturing far from home I didn’t grab a snack and no on put on bug spray.  We got eaten alive the first night. (In Minnesota people say the state bird is a mosquito.)  I also didn’t make everyone use the restroom before we left, so inevitably everyone really had to go before we got home.

Having Your Own Adventure

Using the tablet to navigate

1. Download the app.  If you have a smart phone or tablet, there are a variety of apps to choose from.  We use this android app, called c:geo. In our experience, it worked just as well as the GPS units we borrowed. This  particular app didn’t require   WiFi access or 3G coverage to work which is nice if you use it in more remote areas.

Signing the log book

2. Set up your account on Geocaching.com. You can learn more about how geocaching works and get started by looking up caches to find in your area.  After setting up your free user profile, the website lets you track all of the caches you find, and there are many more features we are still discovering.

3. Get outside! (Not forgetting the bug spray, snacks and bathroom break. 🙂 )

We’d love to hear about your geocaching adventures.  Please comment below or on our Facebook page.

Until next time, adventure on.

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Geocaching, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Many Missed Opportunities


Venturing off trail at Devil’s Lake State Park (picture taken by my brother-in-law)

I just received a letter from my son’s school, they were informing parents of the open house that is happening at the end of August. Seeing a letter addressed to us from the school district caused me pause and to take a look at the calendar. Shocked I couldn’t believe that July was almost over, by the time you read this it will have passed.

The summer is nearly gone, and with it almost 75% of the calendar year. This provoked me to review some of the goals that I had made back at the beginning of the year, can you say disappointed? One goal stood out, our 100 Miles in 2012. There was/is no way we’re going to reach it, just too many missed opportunities.

One of the terrific challenges with being a disabled man is my ability to cope with adverse weather conditions, specifically extreme heat and cold. Living in Minnesota is a challenge nearly year-round. In the winter time the mercury drops and due to my neurological difficulties body temperature regulation ceases to exist. My knees to my toes become icicles and can at times be uncomfortable and sometimes painful to deal with. During the summer when the humidity is so high and the air so thick I am exposed to a higher risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. So when the sun is high and the temperature up I have to avoid the trail or even being outside at all less I drench myself in sweat and collapse three miles in.

I’ve spent most of the summer inside my air-conditioned home. As the days grew longer my outdoor time grew shorter. My weekends were spent doing chores and not logging miles. I did take a 1.5 mile hike with my family (immediate and extended) a few weekends ago. We covered 500′ vertical feet in .3 miles, needless to say I was soaked, and you would have wondered if I were intoxicated because I couldn’t walk a straight line. Such is the pattern of behavior I have lived over the last 12 years.

When the temps exceed 80/85, I become a mole and burrow for cooler areas. However, this means I miss out on three of the most beautiful months of the year. Add the extreme cold in January and February and I’m a seven months out-of-the-year fella. I don’t know about you but that’s too many missed opportunities for me.

So now we have to make peace with coming up short of 100 miles. It was great for us in that it caused us to get out on purpose. We’ve enjoyed many of our hikes, and discovered how tough our son is and how he can log the miles….. and it turns out that I’m the weak-link and when we set a goal next year we might have to convert from miles to the metric system.

Until next time…..Adventure On!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Geocaching, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Importance of Passion


Hi, my name is Jayson and I used to regularly write for this blog! I’m the one who puts Bionic in The Bionic Chronicles. I’ve had to re-focus my time and attention elsewhere which prohibits me from contributing to this blog as often as I desired. Thankfully my wife has taken over and done a fantastic job, I enjoy her writing better than my own and I think you would all agree.

I went to the climbing gym the other today to relieve some stress and get a good workout in, however I failed to acquire both of those goals. I left wondering why my time at the gym lacked any satisfaction what made the experience such a horrible one. I thought that maybe it was because of my shoulder not being able to make some of the reaches, maybe it was my feet not being able to stay on the holds because of my disability, maybe both. Then I remembered that I have experienced both of those before but continued to climb on, so why was today any different? Then it came to me, I was climbing alone and I didn’t get into this activity as a loner.

This is where my passion lies.

This led me down a path of discovery about myself and about passion and the importance of having that in one’s life. I work in a field which is driven by performance, results, and numbers. I have taken this approach at times to many of my outdoor endeavors. Trek the miles, climb the routes, tick off the problems, go farther, faster, climb higher and harder and it has become all about the results. So what happens when you don’t achieve those results? Why does falling at the crux of a problem devastate you and destroy your whole day of climbing? I’d venture to say it’s because you lost your passion for it, and replace it with a duty/job mentality……. I’ve done the same thing.

I’ve found that some of the most amazing times I’ve experienced has been with my family when we don’t have an agenda. When we’re not necessarily trying to accomplish some great feat of outdoor prowess. When we can stop and throw rocks into a lake or river. When we can take our shoes off and wade through a waterfall and stream, when we’re having fun at the climbing gym going after fun routes and not necessarily trying to test our mettle. When we’re playing my wife’s favorite game “Can I climb that?”.

Benjamin winning this round of “Can I Climb It?”

[Sidebar] For those of you who have never played let me tell you the rules, one person scouts around, whether on a walk, hike, or even in the car and finds something that looks like you can throw a rope on it, or a crash pad under it and then you debate about whether you can climb it. There’s even an urban edition. [End Sidebar]

When we’ve come into a situation and a time together without a specific goal and without a specific reason it is far greater experience. When we are able to let our passion run free we glean the most out of every moment. No goals, no time limits, no worries or concerns. Pure passion, pure joy, pure fun and excitement.

It was an eye opening experience for me, something that I never want to forget. Keep the passion in our adventures by keeping the work mindset out of it. Yes, goals are important and they are a good thing. We have several this year, the big one being that as a family we hike 100 trail miles in 2012. We’re almost half-way through the year, but only one-quarter of the way to our goal, but the fun we’ve had (some hikes more then others) and the memories we’ve made are worth far more then the achievement of getting to the century mark.

Keep the passion, enjoy the journey, and until next time….. Adventure On!

This is what getting outside is all about.

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Missing the Mark


In our attempt to hike 100 miles as family this year, many lessons are presenting themselves.  Contrary to popular belief, young children can cover more than 1 mile on a hike.  Our 5 year old has made it up to 5 and a half miles at a relaxed pace (learn about some of our tricks). Two weeks after discovering this, we inadvertently put it to the test.

On the trail

One Saturday we started a hike mid afternoon in an area we had never hiked before.  A few short miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge seemed like a good idea for a short 2 mile hike.

I’d recently been on a kick of watching wilderness survival shows on Netflix (such as Man Woman Wild) so I joked about taking a firestarter, makeshift shelter, headlamps and other assorted survival gear.  My husband pointed out that we would not be far from a major freeway and an international airport and suggested in no uncertain terms that all we should take was water and snacks.  At the last minute, I threw in our brand new trekking poles to see how our son would manage with them.  Also at the last minute, my husband decided to throw rocks, a cot, and other assorted bulky items into his pack.  Why? Because he’s crazy . . . and he thought it’d be a great idea to test himself and “train” for future backpacking.  No better time than a short 2 mile hike, right?

After picking up our trail map, neglecting to stop at a bathroom, and adjusting our poles we were off and away.  We soon came to a fork in the trail.  Our map only showed one trail, so after best guesses by assessing the terrain, we kept moving. This happened a handful of times.  Due to trail maintenance, signage wasn’t great, but major markers were still in existence.  We kept watching for the trail marker for our turn around point, however, we realized somewhere along the way that we ended up on a bike trail.

Testing out the trekking poles and his new REI pack

This bike trail seemed to be parallel to our original trail.  Convinced we would still cross the marker that we had determined would be a turn around point, we pressed on.  When we realized we could hear freeway traffic and there was no longer water along our left, we had blown past our goal by over a mile.  It was now dinner time and it would be fairly dark in an hour and a half.

Our average speed for hiking with our 5 year old has historically been about a mile per 45-60 mintues.  This includes stopping to take in the beauty that surrounds us and water and snack breaks.  We calculated that we had 2.5 miles to go in 90 minutes.

Now my headlamp suggestion wasn’t looking so foolish.  I offered to jog back to our vehicle and have them take the much shorter hike out to a road, as both of my traveling partners were starting to feel worn.  My husband declined and we started at a fast clip back to the parking lot.

Surprisingly, we made it back with 30 minutes of daylight to spare.  Although it wasn’t without a great deal of complaining (I’ll let you guess if it was just the young one or both 🙂 ) All of our hiking trying to meet our goal has conditioned our son for the trail more than we had realized.  Jayson was a little worse for the wear as he had his light hikers on and not his backpacking boots.  Oh yes, and the rocks in his pack.  Being properly outfitted for “training” exercises is all the more important when one has a disability.  He was thankful for his amazingly insightful wife that remembered our trekking poles.

Lessons learned from this specific adventure:

1. Always stop for a bathroom break before getting on the trail, no matter how short you plan it to be. (This hike solidified  my plans to purchase a Go Girl.)

2. Keep headlamps and more snacks than you think you need in everyone’s pack, especially if getting a start later in the day.

3. Monitor husband’s “training” exercises.

4. Trusting maps and signs to determine a turn around point on a hike is not reliable.  Its good to have a turn around time determined before the hike is started.

5. Adult trekking poles do work for kids (and will grow with them!), but teaching them to use them properly is another post for another time.

Have any of you encountered some unexpected situations while hiking?  Please share in the comments!

Until next time, hike on.

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

First Ascents


It’s been over a month since our last post.  We’ve been busy living rather than blogging, and my husband has some non-outdoor projects he’s been focused on.  We also realized that we could be slipping into the dangerous area of focusing on creating content rather than enjoying life and what we love, a concept that Jon Acuff recently blogged about.  So while our posts may be more infrequent for a time, rest assured, we’ll be back at some point or another.

A few weeks ago, we spent a gorgeous spring day exploring a local climbing area, Interstate Park.  Unfortunately there was no climbing for the adults since we were both healing from shoulder issues.

The first few moves of Banana Cookie (with intensive spotting from me!)

And the minor detail of not yet owning a rope and anchors.  That’s right, no free soloing for us. We were relegated to hiking and trying not to drool while watching others climb.  This didn’t prevent our son from topping out on a first ascent of a boulder problem he named “Banana Cookie”.  We are tentatively calling it a VK (for kindergartner) and for locals who dare to try it’s located off the Echo Canyon trail on the Wisconsin side of the park.

As we don’t yet own crash pads, the endeavor was accomplished with an intensive two spotter method.  When I realized he was actually going to make it to the top and my arms couldn’t reach that high, my husband jumped in to spot from the bottom, and I climbed up the back of the boulder to be ready to reach down from the top if needed.

One move before the mantle finish of Banana Cookie.

So now my son, at 5 years old, is the first in the Cardwell household to climb (for real) on real rock and top out a boulder.

100 miles update

We are now down to 81.6 miles to go for the remainder of 2012.   We’ve found out that we can actually do longer hikes now that all 3 of us have trekking poles.  It’s a psychological advantage that we are milking for all its worth.  Even though the little guy still really doesn’t know how to use them, he believes he can hike farther now. 🙂

Banana Cookie Boulder Problem

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The 3 Questions That Hold Me Back


I first tried rock climbing in September 2011 after I had been insisting to my husband I was NOT interested in trying.  What changed my mind?  On a camping trip up north we saw climbers on Palisade Head.  We also did some rock scrambling by a waterfall and the experience intrigued me.  My husband has talked at length about his progress from the perspective of being a climber who is disabled, I haven’t shared much from my nonathletic-kinda-afraid-of-heights-I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this perspective.

We started climbing more regularly in November, just 3 months ago.  In the gym, I’ve been climbing 5.7s and trying 5.8s here and there.  (non-climber?  see this explanation of climbing grades)  As for bouldering (short, un-roped routes), I can usually get most V0 problems after a try or two (or 5, but who’s counting) and I’ve started working on a V1.

While I’m not the most physically fit person, it doesn’t seem to be my fitness that’s holding me back.  It’s my mental game. I’m plagued by 3 internal questions.

What if I can’t?

Bouldering at the Climbing Gym

When I reach a section of a route or problem that I haven’t gotten past before, I feel the anticipation building and I doubt I can do it.  When the doubt sets in, I hesitate, miss the hold and fall.  It’s a huge barrier to giving 100% and committing to my moves.  When I focus on what I think I can’t do, it cheats me from the possibility of what I could do if I gave it my all.

During some climbing sessions I get discouraged by the lack of progress from my holding back, and I proceed to sit back and watch my husband and son climb.  Watching my son requires effort to make sure he doesn’t get in the way of other climbers, and it makes the perfect excuse.

What do people think?

Unfortunately this is a question I’ve had to deal with in other areas of life, and for the most part I’ve squashed it.  Except when it comes to climbing.  I find myself self-conscious and hoping others aren’t watching.  When the gym is busy I find I’m less likely to jump in and climb since there are more people to see my lack of skills.  I try to remind myself: You’re new at this.  You are still learning. However, as a recovering perfectionist my little pep talk doesn’t usually work.  I was naturally inclined to do well in school as a child, going on to become the valedictorian in high school.  Life doesn’t hand out “A’s” as often as I got used to receiving them, and I don’t like appearing as the “D” student of the gym.

What if I fall?

This is a question I deal with more in bouldering.  I’ve only had one bad fall in the gym when my foot got stuck on a hold, but it successfully embarrassed me, startled me and ended my climbing for the evening.  Even on roped routes when I look over my shoulder and see how high I am, I can feel my heart rate increase.  Confession: sometimes at the top of the wall, I have to tell myself to let go.  Even then sometimes one hand still has a white-knuckled grip on the last hold for a few more seconds.

Answering the Questions

So what am I doing about these questions?  I’m trying to think less when I’m on a problem to combat #1.  I slow down when I over think and then I do poorly.  I’m also trying to draw on my musical background and think of the rhythm I create in moving to make it more consistent and less hesitant.  Possibly next week I will climb with @eliz_rocks (check out her blog!) so someone will see me climb and I’ll have to get over myself. 🙂  As for the fear of falling . . . don’t all climbers continue to deal with that to some degree?

It never ceases to amaze me how climbing can have such a direct correlation to other areas of life, possibly even exposing thoughts and attitudes we believe we’ve successfully overcome.  Have you had to deal with any of these questions, in climbing or other areas of life?  Please share your insights in the comments.

100 Miles in 2012 and Other Updates

Warming up with hot chocolate

During our period of mild weather in Minnesota, I had suggested we take a longer hike to test our junior hiker and train for our upcoming vacation.  We ended up suffering through experiencing refreshing 15 degree weather for 2.5 hours to cover 3.7 miles, bringing our total to 6.2 miles for the year.  It was the quickest pace we’ve ever had on a hike!  The wind picked up about half way through, which encouraged a fast pace back to the truck.

Are you on Facebook? If you haven’t already, you can check out our Facebook page.  And until next time, climb on!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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