Camping

Sunshine and Sand


Usually the Cardwell family can be found pursing the mountains, going out west, or exploring locally in Minnesota.  After our stop in the Great Smokey Mountains, we traveled on to Florida to see family and enjoy the warmer temperatures.  I was especially grateful since we had nearly frozen during the night  in Tennessee, where we camped at a higher altitude than we had planned.  I don’t think I thawed until we were almost to the summit.

So after being more accustomed to northern campsites with pine trees and rocky ground, we were pleasantly surprised by our stay at Paynes Prairie Park Reserve in Florida.  Seeing palm trees, tropical plans, and sand at our campsite was certainly a new experience for us!

Our Camp Site

During our typical camping experiences, we hear loons and owls or maybe a coyote or two.  At night in Florida, we heard foreign bird calls and strange unidentifiable sounds which were a bit disarming at first.  Finding large spiders on the picnic table also was a new experience, one that I can do without!  Thankfully none of them made their way into our tent.

Fire

As we were camping over the Thanksgiving holiday, we enjoyed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallow Smores.  Due to a burn ban earlier in the year in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we hadn’t yet had time in 2012 to really enjoy a good camp fire.  Therefore, to commemorate we took to science experiments (mostly initiated by Jayson) to see how quickly different items burn.  I think we probably should have had additional adult supervision.

We rented a Ford Fusion for this trip, and therefore we had minimized our gear to the best of our ability.  This included taking our smallest tent.  The last night of the trip, our son seemed to think we were still in our 10 foot by 12 foot Coleman tent, and not a small 4 person tent.  By the morning, he had effectively taken up nearly 50% of our usable space by laying diagonal this of course had a chain effect on the rest of us. My step-daughter was pushed over towards my husband and knocked him off his pad. Given my state of pregnancy I wasn’t going anywhere and he got smashed in between me and her left him longing for better accommodations.

On Thanksgiving day, we went for a short hike.  It was a nice change of pace as traditionally I’m holed up in the kitchen for  half the day on Thanksgiving.  Enjoying the great outdoors was a nice change and I hope to carry on to future Thanksgiving holidays.  The kids had fun creating different shadow art on the hike.

Shadows

We also took the opportunity to drive to the beach, even though it was a bit too chilly to get in the water.  Drawing in the wide expanses of sand created great entertainment and picture opportunities.

Benjamin in the sand

St. Augusting

Remember how I said it was too chilly to swim?  About 10 minutes after the beautiful picture above, the wave jumping turned disastrous and Benjamin ended up sitting in the waves soaked to his chest.  And his mother didn’t even bring a change of clothes from the campsite 2 hours away.  Oops.  After two emergency stops for new clothes and dragging my wet son through the local Walmart, everyone was (mostly) dry and ready to go again.

Kiss the belly

While we always feel the call of the mountains, we did enjoy being able to explore a new state and experience the natural features that Florida has to offer.  Now if only there were climbing areas there . . .

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Boxes of Cereal


When my parents last came to visit they brought my son a 8-count package of mini boxes of cereal. When I saw the package emerge from the plastic bag I almost fainted. I could not believe they still made these, where have they been this whole time and why have I not been able to get my hands on them! Now granted that my reaction may not be the most common reaction for all people. Why this is I am unsure because any normal person would have reacted in a similar manner. I guess it is too much to expect the rest of the world to be normal like me.

Growing up my family loved to camp, that is how we spent a lot of our vacations. We would camp a few times a year at state parks and about every other year or three we’d go on a larger vacation. One of the highlights of our camping trips was always breakfast; boy did I look forward to breakfast. The source of this adoration and joy came from one item my parents always brought: a package of mini-cereal boxes. These were perfect because we weren’t limited by space in the pantry, or cost, or apparently how improper it is to have cereal for every meal and keep twelve boxes of it at the ready. It gave us freedom to chose the way we wanted to start our day. Lucky charms? Why yes I would love a bowl. You could then wake up the next mornings and have Trix cereal. Is that Cocoa Puffs? Yes it is, there is still milk in my bowl and I had better not let it go to waste, so pass it on down (how good is that chocolate milk after eating cocoa puffs?). It was a cornucopia of sugar covered corn made goodness. But every wonderful invention has a dark and sinister side and cereal packages were of no exception.

Honeycomb

Every box of cereal should be Honeycomb cereal.
Photo Credit: Waffle Whiffer

I don’t know why Kellogg or Post decided to make the cereal packages this way, maybe they just hated children with every fiber of their being. Packaged along with the Honey Smacks and the Golden Graham’s were always at least one of two cereals. They gave you either Cheerios or Corn Flakes. Yes you read that right, plain Cheerios and plain Corn Flakes, no honey, no frosting, nothing. In every package they added at least one of these boxes and by doing that they destroyed what could have been the greatest breakfast streak that mankind would ever know. Parents were in on the conspiracy too because they always made you eat the final box before opening up the next package. How evil can people be? The realization of having to deal with the bland cereals that came with every trip made us desire deeply the rescue of my father’s cooking skills. We pleaded and begged that on that last day he would save us from having to endure the sugar-free and by extension taste-free breakfast of plain Cheerios and Corn Flakes. You see my Dad used to work at a Perkins Pancake House when he was younger and he kept the culinary skills(?) well into adulthood. He would whip us up some pancakes and eggs with bacon and we would devour it. For what alternative did we have, Cheerios with no sugar? Please! Pass me the bacon and make the next round extra crispy. There were times though when we were forced to consume the last few boxes. How cruel and unusual this punishment was especially considering none of them came with a prize inside to console us. Nowadays when we go camping or hiking early in the morning our breakfasts consist of bars, granola with bananas, and fresh fruit. We’ve paired down our food choices to make camping easier and backcountry-ish even when car camping. I remember my parents carrying tubs and bags of food and cooking supplies. With all the gear we brought it’s a miracle that there was enough room for my brother and I. Things got easier when we bought a pull behind camper, it was like a mobile restaraunt. Now my camping and hiking culinary skills is limited to boiling water. I miss those boxes of cereal but I prefer to stick with what I do best; firing up the Jetboil!

Until Next Time….Adventure On!

Got a favorite camp breakfast, or recipe? Share it with us and the readers in the comment section below. If it’s a family secret recipe don’t worry we won’t share it with anyone…….promise!

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Life Lived Assisted (Part One)


This isn’t going to be one of our typical posts.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my story and why this blog is called The Bionic Chronicles. As a good storyteller should, I have to begin at the beginning so let me tell you about me.

I grew up in the flatland farm lands of northwest Ohio. My house had a soybean and corn field across from it and behind it. I was your typical Midwestern kid, played soccer, wrestled for a few years, nothing all that special. We were a small family (just four of us) and every summer we’d take a few trips to the local state parks to do some camping. We weren’t really hotel people, we liked the cheaper far from home living alternative. We started out in tents until my mother got sick of having to bail water all the time. Our tent wasn’t the best on the market so during rain storms the floor would collect standing water. The tent was only big enough for the four of us, the rain wasn’t welcome. My parents eventually bought a hard-sided camper so we could vacation in style, this made my mother much happier.

Photo credit: Discover the Hocking Hills [http://www.hockinghills.me]

Without fail every time we went to the state parks we hiked. Mind you these were rolling hill two milers, nothing epic in the least bit. We had one specific state park we always seemed to visit, it was a family favorite and no matter how many times we went we loved going to Hocking Hills State Park. The sandstone caves and rolling hills of the river valley were the closest thing I had to a mountain. We were able to climb and scramble around and explore and from these experiences as a youth my love for the outdoors was birthed.

I wouldn’t actually get to set foot on a real mountain until I was ten years old when my aunt and uncle invited me on a trip with them to The Adirondack mountains of New York. I couldn’t get enough of the elevation and I began to dream about going out west and summitting snow-capped peaks of the Colorado Rockies. That wouldn’t happen for another seven years.

Through a series of events I would end up moving to Colorado and living with this aunt whose love of the mountains, the trail, and a life outdoors dwarfed mine. They had moved to a Denver suburb, a dream of hers to live out west. I spent my senior year of high school out there and I began to flourish. I made new friends, got a new job, and had the opportunity to hike in an area I had only dreamed of. I summitted Grays and Torreys peaks, my first 14ers a monumental accomplishment for this boy from the lowlands of middle America. I would hike on a small glacier, walk the streets of Breckenridge, get the chance to picnic (and celebrate my graduation) in Rocky Mountain National Park. Could this boy on the cusp of manhood who desired to bag every peak in Colorado desire anything else? I felt invincible, as if I could tackle anything, hike any trail, and bag any peak. Oh how things would change.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Knowing that I was a less than average student who had the world’s worst studying habits I decided that the military would be a better choice then trying to make college a useful experience. I was stationed in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but by this time my focus had changed from getting outdoors to hanging out with friends. Hitting the trail and outdoor exploration quickly gave way to video games, partying, and hanging out with friends. I had a four-hour drive to Denver, I had Wyoming next door, and the Black Hills and Badlands National Park as my playground, but I passed on these opportunities. I did hike once or twice while in the military, a buddy and I tried hiking Pikes Peak, but we had to turn around because I kept tossing my cookies. I had washed out my hydration bladder the previous day, apparently rinsing it well was a task I had not done in excellence. So I was taken large swigs of soapy water; the silver lining was that my tossed cookies were rainbow-colored thanks to a 7-11 slushy.

This lack of outdoor love is a far cry from the man-boy who just a few years earlier was hiking solo at Herman’s Gulch and then scrambling and climbing the peaks surrounding the mountain lake. Unroped, no cell phone, and no one really knowing where I was and what I was doing. Blissfully hiking at a lightning pace; completely oblivious to whatever is going on outside of my vision.

Things would eventually change as I accompanied a few friends to an afternoon of skiing at the local hill. This choice would forever change my life and alter everything. A warm winter, a cool evening, a split trail, and a single tree would have a significant impact on my body and would have its ‘hand’ in making me bionic.

Check back later as I continue this four part series.

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | 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

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 first time


Most outdoor bloggers have always been in love with the outdoors.  On the spectrum from being an outdoor hater to outdoor enthusiast, I would consider my former self an outdoor sympathizer.  Sure, I loved scenery and perfect weather, because who doesn’t?  When it came to any adverse weather or having to deal with backcountry conditions (what do you mean there isn’t a bathroom along the trail?!?) I was certainly not interested.

So my husband deemed some car camping with the in-laws to be the perfect gateway drug for this sympathizer.  Surprisingly, we hadn’t attempted camping until 2010.  Before we became aware of the online outdoor family community, everyone we knew said it was too difficult to camp with children, so we didn’t bother to try.  Since our son was approaching 4 years old, it didn’t seem as daunting.

Going for a walk on the family farm.

During my time of being an outdoor sympathizer, most of my outdoor enjoyment was via camping in the pop-up camper of my youth (which graduated to an RV by my teen years), short hikes, and time romping around outside on the family farm. Tents were a rather novel idea to me.

Imagine my surprise when my husband enlisted my help to set up the tent at our walk-in campsite.

Um, what is that you want me to do?  Do you mean this pole?  Where do I tie this?   To say the least, it was a frustrating experience.  That tent has since been lovingly donated to my in-laws and we’ve updated to a more recent Coleman model.  I was about as helpful as a 4 year old in the campsite set up process.

My son “helping” set up the tent at age 3. Still more helpful than my skills at the time.

Organizing a camp site and subsequently finding anything when I needed it was like a game of Where’s Waldo?  yet somehow not quite as fun.

And yet, just a week after our initial foray into camping did we attempt a road trip with the primary destination of Yellowstone National Park.  My husband had been educating me regarding the neccesities of proper gear.  I wasn’t convinced we needed to spend money on new hiking socks and other items I was unfamiliar with.  I’m glad I listened to him as we just happened to go during the rainiest week of 2010.  And there’s nothing worse then being cold AND wet.  Unfortunately some of our gear had limitations.  I don’t think I dried out until we had driven through most of South Dakota on our way home.

Snow around our tent

The Yellowstone I remembered from my youth was from the perspective of a tween relaxing in the comforts of an RV every night.  During our stay in 2010 the snow was not yet gone and it rained or drizzled for a good portion of every single day.  I was a fair weather camper and setting up the tent with snow on the ground was far outside my comfort zone.  We ended up accomplishing a trip that I would have formerly described as a trip for only the serious “hardcore” camper.

In spite of the many challenges we encountered, the trip solidified me as an outdoor enthusiast.  As I have embraced that which my husband first loved, I have grown to love it too.  Experiencing the serenity of creation, and the joy of discovering it with my family has gotten me hooked.  I’m now even open to adventures such as hiking the John Muir Trail or climbing one of the Teton Mountains, which are both  goals that my husband and I have.

What about you?  Where you born loving the outdoors or did a significant other warm you up to the idea?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Camping: New Uses for Old Things


With spring getting closer and closer, I have been eagerly awaiting our first camping trip of 2012. Winter has been unusually mild for most of the country, Minnesota included, and  I’m hoping that it means we’ll be out camping sooner than we usually do.  (And no, I don’t camp in the winter as much as my husband has lobbied for it.  I’m just not that hard core.)

Like me, you might be itching for that first trip as well.  So when the weather doesn’t let one camp, some do what my husband does, which is spend time shopping for gear (he’s a bit obsessed if you didn’t already know).  But there’s good news!  You can find items around your house and give them a second life in your camping gear!

Besides being a fan of the outdoors, I’m a fan of Real Simple magazine, and they have a running column of new uses for old things.  So without further ado, here is my version of new uses for old things:

1. Diaper bag as a Picnic Basket/Food Storage

First I need to point out the obvious: this will need to be stored in your car if you are camping in bear country.  Unless you are filming a documentary about what not to do at a campground, then you can place it strategically in front of your camera.

My husband is the genius behind this idea.  We had an old diaper bag that I didn’t really care for, but didn’t want to donate it to Goodwill because our last name was written in big black letters with permanent marker.  My husband writes this compulsively on almost everything we own.  Anyway, we were packing for a camping trip and we didn’t have anything to store our dry goods.  It worked perfectly as there are smaller pockets for storing granola bars, oatmeal, chocolate for smores, condiment packets, etc. and larger pockets for items that take up a bit more space.  Our old diaper bag now is a standard part of our camping gear.

2. Clorox Wipes Container Reused as a dispenser for plastic bags

As much as I would like to remember our reusable bags every time we go to the grocery store or department store, inevitably they are at times left behind and we accumulate a small army of plastic bags.  We reuse plastic bags as much as possible, and one use we have for them is as trash bags when camping. I came across this idea and pinned it on on Pinterest one day and it struck me as an excellent way to stay organized at the camp site. [You can find the original blogger’s post and instructions here: Tatertots and Jello]  If your family doesn’t use cleaning wipes, we’ve found that an empty oatmeal container will do the trick as well.

We don’t generate much trash at our campsite so a full trashbag feels like overkill. Its the perfect size to make sure we don’t leave anything behind.  When camping in bear country they come in handy since all trash and food items need to be cleaned up thoroughly after every meal.  If we were to use a regular size garbage bag, it would feel like we are dumping a ton of unnecessary plastic in the dumpster since there would be just a bit of trash floating around in the bottom .We also carry one plastic bag to clean up trash when we hike as its a great way to teach children about caring for the world we live in.

3. Plastic Zippered Packaging reused as First Aid Storage

When buying curtains (as well as many other things) sometimes they come in this wonderful zippered plastic pouch.  These are wonderful for reusing in a number of ways, but when it comes to camping, its a great way to store your first aid supplies.  My husband and I generally carry a small kit in each of our daypacks, and I have an additional one made up with extra supplies, sunscreen and bugspray.  The great thing about reusing packaging such as this is that it is highly durable, and since it is clear, you can easily see if any supplies are missing.

What other new uses for old things do you or your family incorporate when camping?  Please comment, share your tips, and camp on!

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Jr. Adventurer Rewards Program


My wife is feeling a little under the weather this week, so I decided to flex my awesome husband muscles and sweep in to rescue her for having to write a trip report about our winter hiking excursion to Battle Creek Regional Park. Stayed tuned next week when she has had time to bounce back and be fully charged. Now back to our regularly scheduled nonsense.

I’ve had the idea of writing about this topic for sometime now, and after reading an article about the same thing on Tales of a Mountain Mamaand after our hiking trip last week I decided to chime in with my most valuable two cents. Our son Benjamin is certainly cut from a different cloth. He is kind of an enigma at times to me. Instead of playing with action figures he’ll read a book or put together a 100 piece puzzle 2-3 times in a row to the point where for a challenge he’ll do it upside down. When I was his age it was Star Wars, GI Joe, He-Man, and Transformers (ok, I was a bit older then he is, but for the sake of argument roll with me here). I love to hike, he doesn’t. He loves to camp, he wants to live at the campground for forever, but venturing down the trail is too challenging of an undertaking. His behavior and his choices at times baffle me, how can he be my son and be so like me in some things and so far from me in others? There is one thing we both certainly can agree upon, we both love rewards.

Whose there? Reward? Why come on in!

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a good rewards program. It makes me shop with you (Thank you Moosejaw.com) buy gas at your stores, and use your cards. I employ the same techniques with my son to get him hiking, and luckily like me, he can be bought easily.

We use rewards on the trail, to the trail, at the campsite, on vacations, anywhere we need to go and enjoy our time

Mmm... Treats

together without setting off a full nuclear meltdown. I have found that dealing with a 5 yr old child is like training a dog at times (again…just roll with me I’m making a great point here). When I trained my dog I used clicker training. I bought a cheap device that made an audible sound (a click…hence the name) and stood in front of her hiding the clicker. In the other hand I had treats galore. I first “charged” the clicker by giving out treats with every click. I associate the sound with the yummy goodness her belly desired. After “charging” it several time the training began, and I marked the behavior that I wanted her to display by hitting the clicker when she performed it. This ensured I marked the right behavior instead of the wrong. I use this similar technique with my son. Until he is old enough to appreciate the outdoors and our adventures for what they are, I use a rewards program that gives him incentive to get out and not to complain. As maturity comes the rewards will eventually disappear but in his memory will be the wonderful times that we hiked, climbed, camped, went snowshoeing, skied, etc. The rewards help him to associate in his young mind, our adventurers with fun and goodness on a level he can be excited about.

The Rewards We Use

When we decide what to get our son to reward him for great behavior we never get anything too extra ordinary. On the trail we carry “energy beans” to help him hike hard and far. These are simply Jelly Bellies. He gets 1-2 per half hour/hour and the placebo affect helps him conquer the next section of the trail. WARNING your intelligent children will eventually learn how to work the system. My son now tells me that he can’t go any farther unless he has a bean…..slick, but it keeps him going.

Make for good rewards

We also use gear to get him excited. As disclosure let me say that it is clothes, packs, boots, etc that we would have bought him anyways, but we use the new stuff as a ‘reward’ leading up to a vacation or big family expedition. This only happens once a year but the effect lasts a few outings. This year we’re rewarding him with a Osprey Zip 25 backpack. We’re going to RMNP and I want him to be able to carry his rainshell and have access to as much water as he needs, but again….he doesn’t know this!

One of the last things we use as a reward are trinkets and ice cream. Gift shops with the super cheap trinkets (compass, magnifying glass, books, etc) make great rewards. He’ll usually get to pick out two if his attitude is nice, one for his help and behavior in the campground, and one for hiking. We refer to them as his Jr. Hiker and Jr. Camper prizes and it’s the last big highlight before the trip ends. Almost two years later he still has both of his prizes from our Yellowstone trip. This year, since he’ll be old enough, we’re doing the Jr. Ranger program which means a special badge.

There are many other ways to get your children excited about getting outside. In a later post I’ll talk about a few more ideas you can use to get your children excited about hiking, camping, canoeing, or whatever outdoor recreation you undertake.  What reward works best for you and your child?

So until next time…..Adventure On!

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Outfit Your Family…..Or Else


While brainstorming new ideas for articles on this illustrious site, I thought an entry that encourages you to spend more money then what you may be comfortable spending would be a terrific idea, and surely would be well received by my faithful followers.

I’m a gearhound. To those of you who are not familiar with that terminology, allow me to give you a brief education. A gearhound is someone who seeks out great deal on outdoor recreation gear and can never seem to reach a point where they feel totally outfitted for whatever adventures they choose to undergo. If you were to look at the definition in some fictitious outdoor dictionary you would see a picture of my smiling face.

My gearhoundedness (this word can also be found in said fictitious dictionary) is not without reason. It serves a great and noble purpose in my life. Its genesis can be found in my love for my family and for the outdoors. Before you begin to blow me off and think I’m pitching you a line, humor me a bit while I weave a tapestry of gear related dialogue that you can wrap yourself in and keep you warm, dry, and comfortable all at the same time.

He was so comfortable he decided to ride a dino

Why

I am a firm believer that comfort is king (I know that cash is king also, but comfort is his cousin and rules a totally different kingdom, keep up.) When you are comfortable you have a tendency to stay out longer, go farther, try harder, and enjoy your adventure even the more. The downside to this is, you guessed it, comfort cost. (You see how this all works together, it’s a family affair: cash and comfort.) Now this may be hard to swallow, especially if you’re not sponsored and get new gear to try out and advertise. We’re not a sponsored family (now wouldn’t that be nice, I could think of a few of our favorite brands….hint hint) so I can understand your apprehension, but please hear me out I’m not finished making my case.

Geared up. He stayed warm and dry the whole 6 hours on the trail.

So why is it so important to wear certain fabrics that cost so much money? Certain fabrics (polyester, nylon, and my fav merino wool) insulate and wick moisture better and because they offer more, they cost more. Sure you can throw on that Van Halen t-shirt you’ve had since the 1980’s when you head outside for a hike, but have you ever felt dry and comfortable in a wet cotton shirt? Let’s put aside that “cotton kills”, a wet cotton shirt just feels wrong. Now imagine your child soaked to the bone in a wet cotton shirt? That just SCREAMS fun doesn’t it? Or imagine them fighting blisters with their feet looking like ground hamburger, aren’t we having fun yet?

Why Is Good Gear So Important?

Cutting corners on quality clothing and gear can often lead to additional stress during periods of recreation and outdoorsy fun that should be helping you relieve stress. Two summers ago I cut a few corners to make a trip happen to Yellowstone National Park, in spring no less. I got some quality gear for my wife and son, but for myself not so much. My son stayed dry and warm which helped deal with the miserable conditions. While hiking the rain jacket, fleece pullover, and waterproof pants he wore saved him from all the mud, rain, and cold we experienced. I bought my wife a quality pair of base layers that she still today thanks me for getting her. I spent the time damp and cold because I decided to just get by on what I had.

Where Can I Get Some Discounted Gear?

You don’t have to break the bank to outfit your family. I primarily use a few different websites to make sure my family gets the stuff we need to fully enjoy our trips where our comfort is never an issue. So here is where I shop:

Moosejaw.com – My favorite. Why do I like Moosejaw so much? Three main reasons.

1. Great deals, they often offer additional discounts and free shipping on orders over a certain amount. Cycle through the  home page for discount codes and follow them on Twitter.

2. Moosejaw Rewards – When you order from Moosejaw they give you rewards points. You can use them to get more gear for free. Earn enough and you can earn an additional percentage on all orders helping you get more stuff sooner.

3. Price Match – They’ll match any price (cannot use with a coupon offer) and they’ll give you Moosejaw rewards points for items costing more then $100.

SierraTradingPost.com – Great deals, they have daily barn burner deals where one item gets a deep discount as well as daily coupons for additional discounts (usually 20-25%, plus some items have websale discounts too)

Backcountry.com – Free shipping on orders over $50, tons of deals and deep discounts.

Quality gear leave everyone feeling this way

So with all this knowledge and resources there is no reason why your family should suffer and you shouldn’t be giving them quality clothes and equipment to make your outdoor adventures that much nicer.

[Disclaimer – Some websites I am an affiliate with so if you click through from The Bionic Chronicles and purchase gear I will receive compensation.]

So that we might help others with their gear addiction, what is your must-have piece of gear?  Please share!

Until next time……Buy On!

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Gear, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fresh and Ready for 2012


After a much needed and quite enjoyable break towards the latter few weeks of 2011, we are back and ready to dive in to the new year with some new material. As you can see we have a new name (The Bionic Chronicles) and I’ve been using ‘we’ a lot as well because…..drum roll please…… my wife is going to be joining me through out this year as a contributor! Let the confetti fly and the fanfare begin! She is going to bring a much needed female, mommy, wifey perspective and content to this blog and polish it up a bit.

The break was a nice time away and it certainly allowed for time to plan and forecast for 2012 and what we as a family and I individually want to accomplish. I’ll get into a few of the highlights to this year’s Bionic Family plans, but I wanted to make mention of a few things of noteworthiness.

Over the break we did have the opportunity to do some more climbing indoors at the gym. This personally was an eye-opening experience because it revealed something I didn’t know existed. Self-consciousnesses. Last week I went to the gym with my wife and headed upstairs to the bouldering cave. I was intent on climbing a problem on an overhanging wall. Probably the hardest problem I had tried to date. Since I have nerve damage to my hips and back the core section of my body does not function too well. This makes overhanging climbs a challenge because I have difficulty keeping my hips into the wall. This leaves my tail hanging out, that partnered with gravity helps pull me from the wall. No ankle and calf support makes keeping my toes and feet on hold while reaching up and back nearly impossible. So all of this combined leads me to believe I look ridiculous, and I fall often or pop-off holds and hang in space which does not help with weight distribution off my shoulder and hands. To make a long story short I was not all there mentally, the bouldering cave was crowded and I didn’t want to show off my pathetic lack of climbing skills to what seemed to be the whole climbing community of Minnesota. So I sat for about 5 minutes staring off before unlacing my shoes and quitting. That was s new one for me.

My wife was doing great. She’s really been working hard and experiencing a lot of improvement to technique and endurance. She’s really caught the bug. A new chalkbag to match her shoes and new harness helps too of course (Merry Christmas!) My son also got a new harness, shoes, and a chalk bag for Christmas and now he’s ready to tear it up. The grandparents were quite impressed with his sending feats! (FYI – by ‘sending feats’ I mean 8-12′ up a wall…..one foot a time!)

2012 Goals and Plans

So there’s the recap of a few mentionables and now on to the good stuff, what is in store for us this year.

100 Miles! – That is our hiking goal for the year. We want to log 100 miles on the trail for the calendar year. It may not seem like much but with our busy schedule and having a 5-year old child (turning 6 in July) 100 miles of hiking is a great goal. We’re hoping to knock out close to one-quarter of that on our summer vacation.

Rocky Mountain High – We’re heading off to Colorado on vacation! Well, we’re planning to head off to Colorado on vacation! We didn’t take a major road trip vacation in 2011 and we haven’t been out West since June of 2010 (Yellowstone and the Black Hills) so we’ve decided to conquer the Front Range. Preliminary planning has us seeing Rocky Mountain National Park, Florissant Fossils National Monument, doing A LOT of hiking, even quite possibly bagging my wife and son’s first 14er (Pikes or Gray and Torreys Peaks are the early front runners). Super ambitious? Of course. Crazy and wild? Absolutely. Done with planning? Not even close.  We may also throw in Great Sand Dunes National Park as well.

If we can’t venture to Colorado, we’ve got a back-up in a South Dakota/North Dakota loop trip with stops at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, The Black Hills, Badlands National Park, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll definitely head up to northern Minnesota or to northern Wisconsin. Or maybe to the local park……hopefully we can venture farther then that.

Winter Sporting  – We’re looking to try skiing this year. My son and wife have never been skiing, and I haven’t been on skis since my accident in 1999. We’re also going to go snowshoeing. I want to convince my wife to go ice climbing…..but she isn’t so happy with that idea. One thing at a time I guess.

More Hidden Treasure – We’re hoping to combine activities and couple the hiking with some more geocaching. I thought that it was great fun and so did my son. My wife wasn’t too pleased when I got us off trail and through the heavy brush to find a small cache….. ADVENTURE! I’m looking to do more this year by adding our own personal GPS to the gear closet (yes… I am behind in the times. If it weren’t for my parents we would still have 1 TV in the house that was bought in 1997. I’m not a electronic fanboy who needs to the top of the line stuff every year. I still use my laptop that I bought 6-7 years ago! I use an abacus too). So if you go geocaching in Minnesota and you find pretty plastic butterflies you’ll know who left them. Why butterflies? you may ask (or maybe you didn’t but you’re going to get educated anyways). We place butterflies in every cache we find in honor of our daughter Gabrielle Renee who died in April 2011 during birth.

Another Fall Trip – This time we’re going to do it right, no forgetting gear! If you don’t know what I’m talking about check out my trip report from our 2011 fall camping trip.

Actual Rock Climbing – We’re looking to actually try climbing on actual real rock….Actually! We have several places here as well as some great places about 5 hours away to throw up a top rope or throw down a crash pad. This goal may get pushed back because we’re looking at getting pregnant (well not me, but my wife…cause that would be very awkward and impossible). So bouldering would be a two person affair and my wife would have to sit out which is never any fun. Given that the gear outfitting for Colorado is nearly one-half of the cost for the entire trip (quality and comfort helps make a trip that much better!) this may have to wait.

We have many more goals which we’ll leak out throughout the year, but in the spirit of brevity (stop giggling) we’ll tackle those later. Look for additional changes this year. I’d like to add some video and much more photos. With my wife on board the quality of the writing and the posts are sure to improve so bear with us!

So until next time…..Adventure On!

Categories: Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Geocaching, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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