Posts Tagged With: Minnesota State Parks

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… annoy me and everyone else.

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

A 100 Mile Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonding time on the trail

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

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

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

Waiting for our fearless rescuer.

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

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

Other things worth noting:

We started out the day at 35 degrees.

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

The fall colors were beautiful.

We hit 50 miles for the year during this hike!

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

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

Blind Faith and Dirt Roads

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

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

Ready to tackle more trail!

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

Lunch on the Trail

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

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

Hiking along the St. Croix

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

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

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

Until next time…..rage against the machine.

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

Come and Gone

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time……Adventure On!!!

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

Our Suburban Adventure

Discovering the treasures

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

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

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

We found it!

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

Having Your Own Adventure

Using the tablet to navigate

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

Signing the log book

2. Set up your account on 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

First Ascents

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

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

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

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

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

One move before the mantle finish of Banana Cookie.

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

100 miles update

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

Banana Cookie Boulder Problem

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

Can’t Stand the Cold? Plan for the Heat!

I like winter…..sometimes. It tends to wreak havoc on my legs because I can’t control my body heat below my knees but it also offers some of the most breath-taking (both figurative and literal) moments the whole year round. However it does mean shorter days and weather that can, at times, make it dangerous to venture out beyond the fireplace, your favorite fleece blankets, a warm pair of slippers, a thick hoodie, and a warm beverage.

Of course sharing that with a very special someone (wink:wink) or someone’s (spouse and children….control where your mind goes people!) help to keep one inside in front of a good book(s) or movie.

So what do you do when time, weather, or even the lack of sunlight threaten to keep you home locked? Do what I do…..plan for the heat baby!

Thanks to my friends at Google (okay I don’t have friends at Google, but I’d like to!) they make my trip planning so easy. I like to use Google Docs and Google maps to get me started. I use spreadsheets because of my familiarity from work to play with numbers and it is always easy for calculating costs. Thank you SUM and AVG function!

The other beauty I find is the ability to share with others. I can share the document with my wife and we can change it anytime and anywhere we’d like. Plus it has multiple tabs so I can create multiple versions of the same vacation or keep all my plans in the same document. I don’t know how many plans I’ve created over the years, most of them I’ve never been on but it’s fun to dream!

Another function I like is the ability to change variables and see the end cost which sometimes is the driving factor behind whether the trip gets booked or not. You can create multiple versions of that one vacation changing the days you leave, time your gone, etc and see how it affects overall costs.

Week long trips, day trips, month long expeditions it doesn’t matter. I find that planning in the winter helps me to prepare for the other three seasons. I know how much it’s going to cost and how much I will need to save to make it happen. What gear do I need to get, when do I need to get the car serviced, and most importantly when do I need to submit my vacation days. If you’re anything like me, last minute planning does not yield the best results and can at times yield no results.

Not sure where you want to go? Do what I do. Check out the states travel and tourism website and order a free guide. Sometimes you’ll get other guides sent from other companies, resorts, etc as well so be aware. I also grab every travel and guide brochure and magazine every place I go and keep it all on its own shelf. This way I always have reference materials at hand. I find that ordering travel packets and guides makes the boring trip to the mail box an exciting adventure…..even with a handful of bills.

So when the snow, sleet, and bitter cold winds are keeping you off the slopes, or out of the backcountry don’t let it damper your outdoor spirit. Get cozy, get warm, and get planning! The heat isn’t too far away and you don’t want to be caught unaware!

Until next time…..Adventure On!

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

What the…… 2012 is Almost Here!

‘What the?’ says my son, the Jr. Adventurer, far too often then I’d like. It’s his classic response to just about everything that confuses him or catches him off guard.

I had that same reaction when it dawned on me that we are just days from Thanksgiving, which means only weeks from Christmas which means the end of the year is almost here. In case you didn’t know I was voted ‘Most Aware of the Time and His Surroundings’ when I was in high school. Many years down the road I feel they made the right decision and couldn’t have chosen a better candidate.

After I realized that the year is nearing a close and that I can’t remember what happened to the last ten months I was met with a cold hard slap in the face.

‘DUDE!’ because I speak to myself in third person. I mean who doesn’t am I right? Is anyone going to back me up on this? Can you honestly say you’ve never had a conversation with yourself or referred to yourself in the third person? If you haven’t then my friend I am sorry to say this, but you haven’t lived.

The year is almost over, you didn’t accomplish any goals last year because you didn’t set any, man what a boneheaded move! Don’t do the same this year, get thy tail in gear’

Just to note, I tend to get a little harsh and Shakespearean on myself from time-to-time, it keeps me on my toes.

So I’ve been thinking long and hard about what goals, trips, gear, skills, things of a various outdoor related nature that I would like to see happen, do, buy, experience, avoid, create, imagine, etc in 2012 in addition to the goals I’ve already set for the family for other various interests. Here’s the brainstorm list I’ve come up with so far.

The list isn’t too deep and not too terribly adventuresome (yet). I didn’t say the brainstorm was a class five hurricane; I would say more of a sun shower that could yield a double rainbow in the right light. (warm happy feelings are flowing through me now!)

The Bionic Hiker’s Mondo-Epic-Phenomenal-Magnanimous-Outrageous Adventure List 2012

1. Not die (A great start to any list!)

2. Control gear buying addiction so that I do not have to sell my child to pay for the order I just put in to,, and all at the same time. (No Self Control!)

3. Come to the resolve that just because some website/company is having a random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes for free outdoor swag doesn’t mean you have to rush to enter everything and then send the link to your wife so she can do the same. (Teamwork!)

4. Stop acting like your five-year old son when you don’t win any of the random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes and you think the system is rigged against you and ‘you never win anything, ever’. (Fail!)

5. Shake off that quitter mentality and enter every random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes you can possibly find because dog-gone-it you’re a winner! (I’m a winner!)

6. Get your five-year old child a Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail address so he can enter the random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes too because more entries means better chances. That’s just good statistics people! (Math!)

7. Have more children so you can re-create #6 and further improve your chances! (BEST IDEA EVER!)

8. Realize that this list is going nowhere and you’re just stalling because you lack anything of meaning or substance to say.

Truth be told I really only have one goal established for the next year. I want to take my family to both Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Badlands National Park as well as the Black Hills of South Dakota. A year-and-a-half ago we cruised through Badlands in the waning hours of the day just to say we went. We didn’t get a chance to hike a trail. The photos we took were horrible because of the failing light and I want to show them to have a better experience next time.

My wife and I are going to have another child, we’re trying right now. Well I mean not right now now, because that would be like seven kinds of wrong and I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate my writing this while trying to conceive.

We’re not sure when we’ll get pregnant and how that will affect the plans for future plans. I don’t want to drag my wife to the Dakotas in the summer time (can you say sweltering heat?) so major expeditions will have to wait for 2013.

A few ideas that are floating around in my head have to do with climbing. I haven’t been able to even get on the plastic for the last two months. I’m itching and I want to find out what’s going to work for me on real rock. I know that I may very well have limitations to what I can do, but I’m not sure what they are.

I also want to add a few more hiking trips, some geocaching, and camping trips here at a few Minnesota State Parks (especially Great River Bluffs). Of course there is the new project that I’m working on putting together that I am very excited about (cliffhanger!).

I don’t have an official list but it will come to me. It’s important to have one written down not just for outdoor adventures, but for every area of your life. Goals and plans are how we measure our progress. It’s how we keep ourselves accountable to each other and to who we are and what we want out of life. In the absence of a destination one will never know if they will have ever arrived (Quote!).

So what’s on your list? What is on the horizon for 2012? What are you looking to accomplish, overcome, and/or achieve? Let’s us know, we’d love to hear from you!

Until next time…..Adventure On!

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

Fear and Loathing in Minnesota

It’s getting colder outside, the days are getting shorter. Legend has it that there once was a giant ball of fire in the sky that brought light and heat to all, but it seems to only be a legend.

Winter is already upon some and soon to be upon us here in Minnesota. The northern part of the state closer to Canada will soon be met with snow if it has not already and those of us closer to Iowa and Wisconsin will have our date with the fluffy whiteness soon.

Here in Minnesota that means the coming of snowmobile season, along with ice fishing. Being that we have over 10,000 lakes you might as well use them all year-long. It also means the coming of cross-country skiing, snowboarding, or just plain regular downhill skiing. For me, it means battling frozen legs, and the inability to regulate body heat to my feet and calves.

A tree not too different then this changed my life forever.

It’ll be thirteen years in January since I crashed into a tree in South Dakota forever changing my life and the life of my family. Living with a person who has a disability isn’t easy at all, there are many restrictions and compensations that need to be made. I haven’t been near a ski slope, or a pair of skis for that manner. I vowed that I would never again put my feet in those boots and stare down a slope again. I guess the lesson to be learned is never vow a vow you cannot keep.

Given my re-awakening to the love of the outdoors and proof that I can still enjoy them (see mid-life crisis post here). I’ve given skiing another look. I go dormant in the winter time because of my disability, the nerves affected my body’s ability to regulate the temperature in my legs beneath my knees. They are usually ice-cold and it’s uncomfortable to say the least.

Fear is an overwhelming emotion, it grips us and suffocates us if we do not keep it in check. It can work for us as an early warning signal to danger, but too often overtakes us. I’ve lived in fear for thirteen years; it is time to face and bury the demons of old. It looks like this year I’m going skiing. It’ll be a season of firsts. Neither my wife nor my son have ever been, and it is important for me to try again even if it’s just for the two of them. You see when you are married to, or a child of a person with a disability (or sibling too for that manner) you give up certain things out of love because that person cannot enjoy or even participate in certain activities because of their disability. My disability has been both mental and physical and I do not want to cripple my families potential enjoyment of something because that cannot bring me along.

My late wife (to catch you up I was married to a woman for six years who died from ARDS, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome , after a four-year battle with cancer) had to face her fear of cancer and the diagnosis that changed my life, my son’s life and in the end ended her life. At the encouragement of our pastor she visited the very place where she nearly fainted and eventually learned she had cancer. My current wife asked me last night if I felt the need to return to South Dakota to the very place where I had my accident, I said no….honestly I don’t know if I could handle it.

I did this too, I was laying down and the result was a cracked pelvis and a shatter back

I don’t want to live in fear anymore, nor do I want my son to learn the lesson that when things go bad for you it’s okay to run and hide. Our children have to wrestle with the very things we as parents fail to overcome. There are some things my children just won’t have to deal with. So this winter I’m taking my family skiing, even if it’s only just once. If no one enjoys themselves then at least we tried it and now we know that skiing isn’t a family activity. I can make peace and say that I overcame my fear.

You’ll get a report on this trip. I’ll be sure to bring the camera and add photos and videos. It might be hilarious watching me try to stay upright on skis! I do have a confession to make, I am a bit nervous even slightly scared. I’ve been ‘practicing’ at home by checking my balance side-to-side to see how far I can lean without falling over. If you happen to be at Afton Alps when I go you’ll know who I am. I’m the grown man who is going nuts on the beginner slope hollering and cheering himself on like he just skied down a double black diamond run in Breckenridge, CO. People may laugh, and I may cry but if they knew my story I’d like to think they’d be cheering me on too.

Until next time…..adventure on!

Categories: Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Authentic Car Camping – A Lesson in Poor Planning

Oh this weekend went off without a hitch.” I said in the most sarcastic voice I could muster.

The family and I headed out for one last weekend of camping before the cold touch of winter violently slapped us in the face and the cold became to unbearable. Here is the Twin Cities it’s not uncommon for the snow to follow by Halloween, or in the case of 1991 a blizzard which dropped around 28″ in a 24hr period.

We decided that to beat the cold we’d head south by about 2-3 hours which would surely yield somewhat warmer conditions because we are THAT much closer to the Equator and by extension it will be warmer. So we decided on Beaver Creek Valley State Park near the south-east corner of the state.

The Welcome Sign

A few days prior to the trip our son developed a wet cough and had been hacking up some seriously disgusting mucimus (his words, not mine I know how to spell mucus…see!). I’ll spare you pictures, because I decided that it was so nasty even I didn’t want proof of it.

We were unsure of how the weather would affect him and we weren’t sure if it would be torture to drag him along with us. See, despite what other say we are considerate parents!

We woke up Friday morning still unsure of what we were doing to do. (Mistake #1) We had not prepped the meals the night before since this was a more relaxing camping trip we decided against totally going with freeze-dried meals. This also led to us not buying the food we needed before the trip (Mistakes #2 & #3). After hurrying up and throwing the gear in the car, quickly buying the food, prepping the food and me going bananas because nothing was done beforehand we finally left without a gear checklist (#4) and in a furious/hurried mood (#5).

Little Man getting his exploration on. It was hard to keep up with him, dude wanted to keep going safety be darned.

We finally calmed down and were able to enjoy the trip down and eventually settled in to our site. It was located in a valley (hence the name) which meant that the sun would be restricted from hitting the site at either sunrise or sunset. Being in a depression, such as a valley or bowl, would mean cooler air would remain and the nights would be colder (mistakes #6 & #7). I also failed to determine which side of the road would be best for the sun hitting the site and also failed to read that the weekend prior the water would be shut off. (#8 & #9) Totally awesome to get the water you need out of the faucet and needing to fill the campsite water jug with a coffee mug 30-40 times!

I hastily decided to set up the tent without a ground cover (#10) even though my wife suggested it to me (failure to listen to the wife usually accounts for at least 5-20 mistake in-and-of-itself). In our haste I had forgotten to pack two of the most important items of camping equipment for fall camping…… sleeping pads! (EPIC FAIL!)

With temps reaching 32-35 degrees at night and having been doing so for the last week, I failed to bring the piece of equipment that provides comfort and protection from the hard ground and the cold. It was a monumental disaster that had to be remedied, and the only way we knew for sure it would happen is if we set the family up in the car. Yes, we camped from our car!

The new hard-sided tent.....makes for cozy sleeping.

We had slept in that kind of cold before a few months back when we went up the North Shore, but we had sleeping pads to provide cushion and insulation. A stiff back, sore hips, and a freezing body does not make a night enjoyable. So we put the little one in the back, then we each reclined in the front seats. Oh and did I mention we drive a mid-sized sedan? Not a full-sized SUV or bigger, nope a 4dr car. We also changed into our camping pj’s in the car too which was an act of flexibility and movement that would make yoga instructors jealous!

I had to deal with the steering wheel and pedals preventing a comfortable night’s rest waking every morning to my knees being sore. I also realized after we packed up that I didn’t move my seat back as far as it could go which would have eliminated those issues (#11). While packing up we didn’t realize that at least 1 car door was open the whole time draining the battery to the point where there wasn’t enough juice to crank the engine over (#12), and we were the last campers in the entire park with the only other cars being hikers off on the trails (#13).

Gear equals comfort right? Now where are those tent pads?

The morning before we were to break camp it rained, leaving the tent wet and the night before I had left some gear out (chairs, bags, etc) which meant getting up at 5am and running around in the dark in my polypropylene long underwear and boots hurriedly securing my gear. Prior to that at 3am my son woke up needing to potty, him in his  polypropylene long underwear too, and dealing with a coughing fit. So that night we didn’t sleep much which meant we slept in thanks to the cloud cover and the hill behind the site. We got out of the car around 10am (#14). Oh did I mention that my son somehow had soaked his pants with urine? Not sure how that happened since I took him to pee at 3am. He soaked it so much that it went through the sleeping bag and into the car cushions. Good times.

View from Great River Bluff State Park of the Mississippi River Valley

Because of the position of the camp site and the cloud cover the sun didn’t hit the tent until closer to noon giving me a hand with drying it off. Luckily we always carry a few chamois pads. A park worker did give us a jump (THANK YOU!) and the drive home was nice. We stopped at 2 other parks and found a great place to camp next fall. We also did a quick hike to a sport climbing crag40 min south of our home.

No signage from the bottom of the trail.....not our fault

Lovely Wife rocking the bandanna and trying some bouldering-lite from off the trail.

The weekend wasn’t all bad. We had a great hike and I watched my wife and son doing some ‘baby bouldering’ and do some traverses on some rock outcroppings off the trails. hard to do in hiking boots without chalk but they did there best and got to experience some real rock. I couldn’t participate but of my shoulder still bothering me, but as you can see in the pics they sure did enjoy themselves.

We learned some valuable lessons over this trip as we do on many of our adventures that we use to make every trip better, the first being also check your gear as a climber would. Lay it all out  and check it all off. The second is just in case you forget to do the first be sure your car is big enough to accommodate the entire family!

Yea....this might be big enough. We still might be a bit cozy.

Adventure On!

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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