Family Vacation

Your Secret Superpower


Have you ever hung around someone from a different region of the country?

I had a friend in the military, his name was Brandon, and he was from New Hampshire. We would hang out when we weren’t on duty and being that he was a New Englander he had certainly phrases and ways of saying things (colloquialism) that were very different from my Ohio upbringing. Eventually I found myself saying things the way he did. Listening to the same music, and even smoking the same cigarettes that he did. My friend had a secret superpower that I had never even knew existed.

Influence.

He never set out to influence me, it happened by chance. If you spend enough time with someone they tend to rub off on you. You pick up phrases, habits, even world views. Think about it. Do you see the world the same now as when you were in high school? A lot of people’s view of life changes when they get to college or have a life changing experience. I see the world differently now then from when I wasn’t disabled. People, books, movies, experiences, all of these and more have an influence over us, but have you ever stopped to wonder what you influence everyday?

My son loves video games and movies. If he could he’d sit on the couch all day long and rot his brain until it’s seeping out of his ears. I’m not talking about National Geographic documentaries that we used to watch, no I’m talking about cartoons that offer up nothing but 22 minutes of mindless entertainment. He’d do it all day and all night without question.

Back in 2009 we took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. It reawakened my desire to explore the outdoors again; it had been put on the back burner for awhile, but now it was burning hot again. Eventually this led to a desire to try rock climbing. After researching and reading, watching videos and day dreaming my family and I spent a Saturday afternoon  at a local outfitter and their bouldering cave in the basement. Needless to say we were exhausted after about fifteen minutes. I was sweating, I was tired, my forearms wanted to slap me in the face then go run into a corner and cry they hurt so bad.

I was hooked. SN852092

It was exercise that wasn’t exercise. It was fun and new. Our son was four years old about to turn five and he was hooked too. Now he’s on a climb team and we’re in the second year of climbing and members at a climbing gym. We volunteered at a recent comp and anytime my son hears the words Vertical Endeavors he pipes up, smiles, and wonders when we’re going to go. He hates leaving the gym. He can’t stand to take his shoes off. Chalked up hands, sweaty, tired and wanting more and more. He climbs until his little hands hurt and the skin is peeling off where callouses form. He transforms from a couch potato to a little crushing climber.

Influence.

My little guy would have never gotten the climbing bug had I not influenced him and given him the experience and shared with him what has become a mutually attraction to this terrific outdoor adventure. He has yet to catch on to my love of hiking (too much walking he says) but when he gets out there he loves it. I’ve taken him snowshoeing and I find that who I am and what I endorse influences him more then what I realize. My values and favorites all-of-a-sudden become his during our conversations.

Me: “Mmmm…. I love asparagus it’s one of my favorite vegetables!”

Son: “It’s one of my favorite vegetables too!” (This after him never having eaten them before…..ever)

We can influence the next generation, we can influence our friends and family, our influence can stretch beyond our zip codes, our race, our gender, and our language. It’s a superpower that has no bounds, but it’s a superpower that should have boundaries. It should be harnessed and focused for good; for the betterment of those who look to us and glean from us. They incorporate it into their lives. So what are people incorporating into their lives being around you? Is it a love for the outdoors that is positive and ethical? Is your influence one that inspires greatness in others?

If you’re not a comic book/movie nerd who has read/seen Spider-Man let me borrow a quote from Uncle Ben.

“With great power comes great responsibility”

What are you going to do with your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

For good or evil?

For good or evil?

Until next time………..Adventure On!

Categories: Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Adventure, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

On (Chimney) Top of The Smokies


If you hadn’t noticed we here at The Bionic Chronicles had taken a few weeks sabbatical from posting. We had a good reason, we took a vacation. We sacrificed and took a vacation for you our readers to give you more content. We are caring and considerate blog hosts, always looking to better the lives of our readers. So without further ado here’s a trip report on a pretty spectacular hike in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Quick out and back right?

Quick out and back right?

Chimney Tops

Location: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Length: 4 miles RT

Elevation Gain: 1300′

View from Chimney Top

View from Chimney Top

This was a terrific hike for us as a family. It started out as a gentle hike crossing a cascading creek several times before the .9 mile spur into the more difficult section. What I believe made this hike even more terrific was the fact that it was accomplished by my 6 yr old son, my five month pregnant wife, and the newest addition to our hiking clan “Bubbles” the pinkish-yellow Stegosaurus.

“Bubbles” is going to become our new travel partner. The name and choice of the family representative was made by our son. He joined us for this trip and he’ll be with us for all of our future adventures.

According to several websites I’ve found out that 900′ (69%) of the elevation gain takes place on the final mile of the trail. The trail was also wet as the temperatures rose after Hurricane Sandy brought some snow into the upper elevations of the park. So we’ve got a steeper section of hiking added to slick rocks and mud. This made the ascension more difficult for this hiking clan (remember I’m disabled, wife’s prego, and son is only 6 years old) but we prevailed to the top. However due to previously stated conditions not all of us could make it to the very top.

Bubbles - The Summit Stegosaurus

Bubbles – The Summit Stegosaurus

Once you cross a short saddle there is a scramble to the true summit where you get to scan over the peaks and valleys of the Newfound Gap area. Given that there was a chance for injury to happen my wife got about 15′ up before deciding to stay put, my son went about another 25′ before I decided that he shouldn’t go any further (he was determined to make it to the top) and I continued to the very top. The rock was not totally vertical but you did need to be very careful and be cautious about hand and foot placement. Injuries could and have happened and it’s not a place where you wanted to twist an ankle or break a leg, arm, or your melon.

After taking some photos and video on the top, I carefully made my way back down climbing to meet my son and then helped him all the way back. We put our packs back on and returned to what would be a near painfully slow pace back down to the trailhead. The snow melt provided us with a much faster but completely bone breaking and life threatening way off the mountain. It offered us the chance to “behind over tea kettle” over the 1200′ vertical feet back down to the car. No thank you mountain, I’d rather hike my way down thank you, and so we did. We took each step as careful as one could avoid wet rocks like they were landmines and the mud as if it were lava. Four slips and trips later we were through the wet section and on to drier descents.

You can see some of the mud and water covering the trail and rocks. This section was one of the nicer sections.

You can see some of the mud and water covering the trail and rocks. This section was one of the nicer sections.

As we inched our way down we started to run into more and more hikers coming up. Each one we passed seemed to compliment my wife and son about how awesome they were, or how amazed and bold they were about getting all the way up the trail. This has seemed to be a theme over the last year. Since we made it a priority to get out on the trail more, I’ve noticed more and more people commenting about how amazed they are that my wife and son being so pregnant and young respectively are out hiking. Is this really something so foreign? What has gone on with our culture that a woman doing two miles or a six year old hiking to the top of a mountain are such marvels?

This is by no means a commentary on my family. I think they are wonderful, but more about what has happened to our society. We have friends (who will go un-named) who would scoff at us doing such things, or wouldn’t consider exposing their children to such undertakings. We’re going to completely blow their minds when we start taking our infant child camping at three months, and as soon as our daughter (if it wasn’t public knowledge before….surprise!) is strong enough to get in a carrier guess where we’re going? Yep, we’re hitting the trail and the crags. Settlers used to have newborn children while heading out west in the harsh environment.  Procreation didn’t cease because amenities weren’t nice enough. Indigenous women would squat in fields or prairies (some probably still do in more rural areas) have their babies, and then return to whatever they were doing both here and abroad. So what has happened to us as a people that makes doing these things in whatever conditions so monumental that they couldn’t fathom doing it themselves?

This is the flatter safer section of the scramble to the top.

This is the flatter safer section of the scramble to the top.

(Descends form soapbox)

Overall it was a great hike. Since we took so long at the top with pictures and what nots (about an hour in total) and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, we unfortunately didn’t get another hike in for the day. We did however tick this great hike off and got some tremendous pictures. Our son got his second summit, Bubbles his first, and all together we had a terrific time with some spectacular views of The Great Smoky Mountains.

Mom and Son made it all the way.

Mom and Son made it all the way.

The Big Man rocking his new summit flag!

The Big Man rocking his new summit flag!

Bubbles...in the wild!

Bubbles…in the wild!

That is the true summit, and the pathway to get there.

That is the true summit, and the pathway to get there.

Our boy being his funny self.

Our boy being his funny self.

Categories: Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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

Airplanes are for Wusses


Disclaimer: It is not the intent of the author nor this website to offend anyone despite what the article title says. However if you have at any point in time read anything that I have written chances are you were offended. I am fully prepared to received the barrage of hateful e-mails, comments, and other rhetoric which proclaim me to be insensitive, a moron, clueless, or other various commentary questioning my humanity, manhood, competence, and/or contribution to the human race. For those who are in agreement with me to you I say, you are my friends and you rock.

Recently my family and I headed over one state east to visit my parents for the weekend. It was a chance to get together with them and my brother as well as take in a Major League Baseball game with my father, brother, and son. It was his first professional baseball game which was a huge milestone in my life, to him it was a chance to eat food. The drive is typically 3.5 hrs long, for us we usually stretch it into 4 hrs with a stop or two. Let me say this particular trip, out and back, combined to be the longest 8 hrs of driving I may have ever done. Now for a frame of reference let me tell you that I have driven from Colorado to Ohio (which takes one through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) a 24 hr trip one-way by myself, with no radio or a/c. Still this was by far the longest I’ve ever experienced.

Why was this so painful? I like road-tripping. I enjoy packing a car to its fullest and venturing out seeing the country and it gives you a totally legitimate excuse to stockpile snacks for the road (jerky and Twizzlers are MUSTS). There are so many wonderful experiences one can have on a road-trip that I shudder to think why one would choose flying. Now I understand the obvious being time constraints, I get that, I really do. However if time constraints aren’t a factor then why would one fly instead of drive?

It seems now-a-days that if you sneeze the wrong direction they’ll kick you off the plane. If you have a child who just doesn’t get that their emotional outbursts violate FAA airspace, booted. Wear clothing that someone finds offensive, or not wear enough clothing, kicked off. Need to pack a few extras for yourself and maybe others? Then be prepared to sell your first-born and their first-born to pay the additional fees. Can’t live off of 2 oz of fluids for 2 weeks, then get ready to have your stuff chucked before you even get on. I think I’ve made my point.

The glorious nature of the road trip is the opportunity to experience the United States from ground level to see what others miss by flying over. Example, two years ago we drove from the Twin Cities to Yellowstone National Park. That’s across Minnesota, through North Dakota (east to west) and then through Montana into Wyoming, roughly 17-18 hrs not including stops. We drove through the night and stopped in a small hotel in Montana. After eating breakfast the next morning, we exited the hotel and it was like we were in a far away place. The air smelled different, the landscape was obviously different as there was elevation! When we first caught a glimpse of snow covered peaks we all giggled with glee (and I nearly peed myself…..I thought you’d all want to know that). We spotted pronghorns in the plains and spotted eagles in the skies. Things we would have missed had we flown. Part of the fun of our vacation was the drive to Yellowstone and the drive back. We drove through the Bighorn Mountains, Black Hills, and Badlands, and I cannot tell you how cool it was to drive through mountain valleys, especially when you come from the flat lands. We got to see the plains and the wind turn tall grass into waves of green (amber waves of grain come in the fall).

It seemed like the opportunity for adventure was around every bend. Granted there have to be special preparations for road tripping and I want to share a few of ours and I’d love to hear from you all about what you……but me first.

Special Bionic Family Road Trip Necessities and Preparations

To ensure awesomeness on your next road trip I STRONGLY recommend the following:

1. Road snacks – I suggest fresh fruit, Twizzlers, jerky (bison if you can get your hands on some), Fiber One bars, chocolate covered espresso beans and some salty treat like chex mix. Brownies and cookies rock too!

2. Small Cooler – Fast food sucks and sits like a nasty brick in your stomach after you eat. Plus there are bags and cups and other assorted mess cluttering up the vehicle. A small cooler with sandwiches and drinks helps to save $$ and save your family from having to toss their cookies along the road or out the window. We own a JetBoil which helps turn a road-side rest or scenic overlook into a mobile diner. Hot food out of one pot, or boil-in-a-bag – your choice.

3. Entertainment –  For all parties involved. We drive a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee, it has a tape deck and CD player. We use iPods so we still rock the tape player device and play our iPod stuff through that. Not only do we load it with tunes, but podcasts too. Our little guy has plenty of magazines (Highlights, Ranger Rick, Nat Geo for Kids), activities books, ISpy in a bottle (curious? ask my wife), and other assorted toys and things all in a backpack. Throw in a Leapster Explorer and a portable DVD player and all parties are happy. Not only does he get a little screen time when he wants it, we can unplug him without him spazzing out.

4. Extra Cash and Change – We keep the change around for tolls just in case, and the cash for treats like ice cream and such, because hey…..it’s a road trip!

5. Neck Pillows – Need ’em. Helps everyone sleep in relative comfort, also allows for one person to sleep while the other drives. Definitely a must if you’re driving through the night, 2 hrs on, 2hrs off.

6. Spare blankets – Sometimes the driver needs the a/c on to keep them awake or the window open, those sleeping need to stay warm. Again we drive a 1996 truck so that mean no dual/quad climate control. We have one climate and we all share.

7. Spare clothing –  Pack a extra pair of clothes separate from the rest in case of spills and/or other messes (like excitable urination), also add jackets/coats in traveling to a higher elevation and/or colder climate.

So the next time you are considering a vacation look into driving and leave the flying to those with less heart and a lack of adventure. (Statistics prove both claims, I polled myself and those were the conclusions I came to). Concerned about vehicle wear and tear and gas mileage? Rent a vehicle, thanks to unlimited miles you can drive the snot out of someone else’s ride and save yours! You may be surprised about how much less it could cost! So this summer I encourage you all to ditch the baggage claim and claim the open road as your own. Who knows we just might cross paths; I’ll be the one passing you on the left so be sure to yield the lane to me because of course it’s my highway.

So what do you find helpful or as something that is needed when you road trip? Weigh in, share stories, tips, tricks, and advice. And until next time……. Adventure On!

Categories: Family Vacation, Insight | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 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

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