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


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

Bonding time on the trail

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

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

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

Waiting for our fearless rescuer.

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

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

Other things worth noting:

We started out the day at 35 degrees.

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

The fall colors were beautiful.

We hit 50 miles for the year during this hike!

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

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

The Yellow Sweatpants


I have a love affair with the mountains. I don’t remember when it actually began but I remember when I first encountered them. The mountains are great, I prefer them over any other landscape. If I had to chose between the mountains and the beach I’m choosing the mountains. I prefer them because of their majesty, beauty, and the awe inspiring feeling they radiate. I also prefer them because I don’t have the legs to pull off a pair of Speedos at the beach. Let’s face it when you go to the beach you should be sporting a banana hammock, and I unfortunately don’t have a pair of sticks to make them work. Instead I go to the mountains.

The first time I ever encountered the mountains was when I was approximately 10 years old. I grew up in Ohio and the closest we had to a craggy alpine playground was driving near Kentucky and seeing the hills that were cut through when the interstate was being built. I would stare at hewed slabs of rock and think of how cool it would be hike to the top of them. Now when we drive past them my wife wonders if she could top rope them (she is so awesome). The hills of southern Ohio and Kentucky were as close as I was going to get to mountains because of where I lived. I wasn’t the only one in my family with mountain fever, my aunt loved the mountains too. She loved to hike and would often drag her family to Rocky Mountain National, Glacier, and Yellowstone. She would eventually move to and retire in Colorado. It just so happened that this particular year they were heading out to the Adirondack Mountains and she invited me to go along. I was excited at the prospect of hiking in real honest-to-goodness verifiable mountains and not just having to pretend that anytime I saw ten feet of exposed rock that it could be my mini-mountain.

An Artist’s rendering of me hiking in the Adirondacks Mountains. What you do not see is the ‘Baby Mullet’ that I was growing at that time.

There are just a few memories that I can recall about the trip. I remember that it was also my introduction to fried Spam. Oh the joys of fried Spam, cooked in a skillet until deliciously browned on each side; it was manna from Heaven (with the exception of the jelly substance that covers the top which I’m sure they used in the Alien movie series as a prop). It helped to fuel my dramatic ascents in the mountains and gave me what I needed to make it there and back. Still to this day I would love to bring it along on a hike and cook it up for my family except I fear the backlash may be too much for me to bare. There is also another memory I have and that is of my yellow sweatpants.

Ah yes the yellow sweatpants, surely they were a Kmart special. Probably a blue light special, but most likely not. My mother worked at the local Kmart and I’m sure she got them with her 10% employee discount, what a benefits package they offered. My sweatpants had a sketchy waistband that would fray and tear just by looking at them. They also had the kind of drawstring that if you pulled too tight it would break on you and the world see what kind of Underoos you were sporting that day. It was the kind of drawstring that after a week of pulling far too hard that you mother had to replace it with a shoestring by using a safety pin to weave it through the shredded and exposed waistband. You remember, the high quality clothing you wore as a child. My mother packed those for me on this trip along with my sneakers which were probably Puma’s since they never bought me Nike’s or Reebok’s. I lived a destitute childhood.

I used to wear my sweatpants with the elastic cuffs pulled up over my calves; I was cool that way. On the day I chose to wear said yellow sweatpants was after it had rained and the trail was pretty muddy. Given that the chosen ( i.e. forced upon by Scrooge like parents) shoes were more suited for the basketball court and not the trail I was destined that day to slide myself right off the mountainside and tumble to a painful death. Luckily for me my fried Spam induced superpowers kept me on the trail and the only hardship I endured was slipping and falling into a puddle of mud which coated the backside of my yellow sweat pants and soaked me to the bone. This of course was on the ascent and I would have to finish the hike cold, wet, and muddy. I don’t remember complaining for how could I, I was in the mountains. A dream fulfilled, I was in a paradise of elevation and the fact that my parents sent me to my doom because they skimped on proper clothing and footwear would have to wait for another day. This day I met my love, and we embraced and I trampled upon her well worn bi-ped highways to sights unseen. Even now I smile and gleefully giggle every time I get to see and be near my beloved peaks. Now I don’t make the same squealing sounds as a 10 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but I must confess I’m in the same ballpark. Yellow sweatpants or not the mountains have lost none of their luster in my eyes and I sit here writing as my mind drifts off to snow-capped peaks, and exposed rock formations, of scree fields and mountain goats kicking rocks on me from above (another story for another time).

Until next time…..Adventure On! And wear your pants proud no matter what color they are.

Categories: Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Staying in the Game


For the faithful followers of this blog (and on Twitter), it’s no surprise that we are expecting a new edition in 2013.  I plan to share my experiences with staying active through pregnancy as well as the challenges, so I might help encourage others who hope to maintain their outdoor activities while pregnant.

Climbing

The average person seems to believe that rock climbing and pregnancy don’t belong together in the same sentence.  With the upcoming release of the Mountain Mama & Mad Rock pregnancy harness this topic has been covered by the non-climbing media (see sampling of stories here, here, and here).  I had many friends and acquaintances assume I would no longer be climbing now that I’m pregnant.  With my last pregnancy (not knowing any better) I had succumbed to the popular belief that pregnant women are fragile.  This was during my pre-climbing days, and I’ve not usually been one to sustain regular exercise, so I became more and more inactive and suffered the consequences: weak back muscles and increasing pains as my small frame was not prepared to support my increased weight.

Now, as a climber (if I can call myself that!) I’ve been determined to keep my activity level up and prepare my body for the journey ahead.  Before I began to show with my pregnancy, climbing was not an issue.  I noticed that I was a bit more breathless towards the top of my climbs, so I listened to my body and took more breaks as I needed to.  I kept nausea at bay by eating constantly, and I did my best to press through tiredness to maintain being active.

However, I began to show around week 9 or 10, and with the change in my body it affected my mentality towards climbing.  I began to get nervous and lost confidence for sending.  The following week I used one of my husband’s larger harnesses and positioned the waist above my bump. which was more comfortable.  I was able to climb at my normal pre-pregnancy levels (which is a 5.8, like I said, I’m still a new climber!)

Photo courtesy of C.A.M.P. USA website

Local outdoor retailers that carry climbing gear looked at me quizzically when I inquired about adult full body harnesses.  There don’t seem to be many pregnant women darkening the doors of the climbing gym.  It’s been a challenge trying to find a harness that will work, which is why I’m thankful that Mountain Mama and Mad Rock are answering this need with the release of the harness in January 2013.  I just don’t want to take 3 months off from climbing to wait for it!  I just received my new harness (pictured at left), the Magic II from C.A.M.P. which I will be trying out today.

There are some inspirational women that have showed me that it is possible to climb and maintain an outdoor lifestyle while pregnant.  I’m thankful for examples such as Carrie Cooper, Erica Lineberry, and Teresa Delphin of Mountain Mama.  I’m happy to have found the inspiration and support online that I lack locally.

Hiking

We are also continuing to chip away at our family goal of hiking 100 miles together during 2012.  Before pregnancy, I was always leading the family down the trail, setting the pace.  With pregnancy breathlessness combined with allergies, I found myself falling behind, especially when going up hill.

Falling behind on the trail

It is certainly humbling to lose my place at the front of the pack, but I’m thankful to be staying in the game. 

Categories: Climbing, Hiking | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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

Blind Faith and Dirt Roads


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

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

Ready to tackle more trail!

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

Lunch on the Trail

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

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

Hiking along the St. Croix

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

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

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

Until next time…..rage against the machine.

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

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

This Decision Could Change My Life Forever!


I stand at the precipice of a monumental decision, one that could indeed change my life forever. One that may very well define me as a human being, this decision weighs so very heavily upon my shoulders. Which new daypack should I get.

What? Was that anti-climatic? Too much drama for you? Don’t look at me with that tone of voice!

To some people a life changing decision might be wanting to get married . . . please. I knew almost right away that I wanted to marry my wife. Convincing her it was a good idea was what I spent the remaining 10 months doing (FYI – we were married 11 months after we started dating – long story). For some people it’s having children . . . nope not an issue there, I knew I wanted to have kids. Maybe it’s what house to buy, or car to drive (Jeep Cherokee or Subaru Outback, those are the only two choices, how hard can that be?), or where to go on vacation (can you say out west to the mountains?). No, for me it is the delicate decision of which day pack I want to purchase, these are the types of decisions that keep me up at night people.

I do have one thing going for me, I’m a brand loyalist. I prefer to have Osprey on my back at all times. I enjoy how they feel, the suspended mesh back panel is an important feature for someone who sweats from simply getting out of the vehicle. My wife is also a lover of Osprey packs. What is great is that we have the same torso length, unfortunately we do not have the same taste in colors. She needed her pack in purple because she has to be a fashionable and functional hiker.

This is the new pack I got for a trip we didn’t go on. A little overkill for our short 3-5 mile day hikes. Love the pack just need something more practical.

Since I mentioned the suspended back panel feature, what are a few other features that I find necessary in a great back? I used to hike alone at times. As wonderful as that was, those days have long since left the realm of possibility for me. I need a pack large enough to accommodate my day hiking gear but also anything my child(ren) find or whatever they have brought along that they no longer desire to carry. It has to be hydration compatible as I drink a good deal of liquid and I like to drink on the go. I also need a chest and waist belt. Normally someone looking for a simple day hike pack wouldn’t need a waist belt but I’m not everybody. I just watched a video of me walking. I’ve never watched myself walk from any angle and let me say I was shocked. I now see why people stare. A waist belt and chest belt help to secure the load against my body. When I hike I need all the security that I can get. I wobble and sway enough as it is I don’t need my pack to do the same.

Another feature that’s not really a feature is having enough space to not only carry my stuff, my child(ren)’s gear, but also my tablet computer. I’m not a huge fan of technology in the wild, but having a digital topo map, a digital field guide, a GPS, geocaching app, and hiking recorder app are very handy. You see I do not have a smartphone, just a phone of average intelligence. I want a phone that has Ivy League college aspirations, but until then I settle for the one that’s headed to community college. (Before the angry comments or emails roll in I went to community college for 2 years so untwist your panties).

All in all a pack is like choosing a spouse. You want something compatible that isn’t going to fall in the time of need nor is it going to be an uncomfortable burden you have to bear when it is supposed to help you bear the burdens. Outside of my boots and my trekking poles, my pack is the most important piece of hiking equipment. I enjoy taking a stove out on a five miler with my family and stopping to cook up a hot lunch and have everyone eat out of the same pot. I enjoy the feel of the weight on my hike and the illusion that I’m tackling a 14er in Colorado. A good pack is a close buddy that’s always there when you need him/her who makes the trail that much more enjoyable.

For me I’m set on an Osprey. All your Gregory, Deuter, Kelty, Black Diamond lovers can hush. I will not be swayed. I do however need to decide which of the wonderful product line I am going to add to my ever growing quiver of packs. If you are wondering we as a family do own packs that are not Osprey. I own one that is Lowe Alpine (I won it in a contest) and my son hikes in an REI Sprig kiddy pack. Believe me though, unless it’s a crag or alpine pack it’s going to be an Osprey.

So as I set forth on this harrowing adventure of deciding which pack to get I hope you take the same care and consideration on your next gear purchase.

So until next time….. Adventure On!

UPDATE: I made my decision for those who may be wondering. I’ve decided to get the Osprey Talon 22 so you can all rest easier now. I know that after reading the title that you were on the edge of your seat with anticipation.

Categories: Backpacking, Gear, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Suburban Adventure


Discovering the treasures

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

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

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

We found it!

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

Having Your Own Adventure

Using the tablet to navigate

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

Signing the log book

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

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

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

Until next time, adventure on.

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

So Many Missed Opportunities


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…..Adventure On!

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

Blog at WordPress.com.