Posts Tagged With: National Parks

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! 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

The Jr. Adventurer Rewards Program

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

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

Whose there? Reward? Why come on in!

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

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

Mmm... Treats

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

The Rewards We Use

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

Make for good rewards

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

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

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

So until next time…..Adventure On!

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

Fresh and Ready for 2012

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

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

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

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

2012 Goals and Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So until next time…..Adventure On!

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

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

Am I Peaking Early?

It is stereotypical for men when they reach what many may call a ‘mid-life crisis’ for them to act out in certain ways and display sometimes peculiar or even bizarre behavior.

The man may act out by leaving his wife for a younger woman. Trade in the family four-door for the sports car he always wanted. Maybe he quits his job and chases deer through the forest, I don’t know. Typically this crisis has been associated with a radical change in behavior, values, and priorities. I think I might be experiencing one myself.

I have realized that over the last year or so desires I long thought dormant or never knew existed have taken a flying leap to the forefront and are compelling me to consider things I once thought impossible, or improbably for me.

“I think it would be outstanding to climb El Cap and The Matterhorn, I would love to be able to climb both of those” I said to my wife.

Fifteen minutes later when she came to after her fainting spell she gave me a look of shock and awe.

My wife's reaction....if she were a cartoon, and had blue hair.

By the way she looked at me it was as if I said to her,

“I stole the neighbors dog, come see!”


“I sold everything we own for a few magic beans that will take us to a wonderland filled with brussels sprouts and artichokes!”


“hey honey, I know I’m crippled, and that we have a child, and that when I stand it’s difficult for me to stay in one place because of my disability but I think it would be great for me to risk life and limb climbing a mountain for no real purpose but to experience the rush of doing so, a few pictures, and feeling of accomplishment!”

I mean really….. I think she over dramatized things a bit.

So where did this desire to take month-long backpacking trips come from? A few years ago I was content with furthering my career in investment finance and now I’m adding arduous outdoor recreation activities to the mix. I get antsy if I haven’t been to the gym in over three days, and I find myself annoyed if I haven’t gotten outside for  a length of time away from the house and surrounded by trees, bluffs, rivers, creeks, hills, or other such features. My favorite pair of shoes are my Merrell hikers followed by my Evolv climbing shoes.

For Christmas this year I bought myself renewed subscriptions to my favorite outdoor mags and I spend nights in front of the fireplace with my wife watching climbing videos and National Geographic as a way to scout new places we should visit. I’m addicted to the LiveWell Network’s Motion TV show (find it here) and Fitz Cahall’s The Season (find it here). Change is everywhere it seems.

I just turned 34, so I don’t think I’m experiencing a mid-life crisis just an awakening of something that was once dormant. Funny how this was all awakened by a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. Like the caldera beneath my outdoor fervor lie undisturbed, boiling and building to a head.

From this awakening I’ve gotten my creativity back and hopefully by the June/July of 2012 I’ll have launched a brand new project I’ve been brainstorming. I might leak a few details here and there but for me it’s an exciting venture that I’m hoping will succeed and surpass my wildest imaginations!

Until next time……adventure on!

Categories: Backpacking, Climbing, Hiking, Insight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ruining a Camping Trip in 5 Easy Steps

So you’ve decided that going on a hiking and camping trip (or a backpacking trip if you’re high speed and low drag. My low drag is a 5 yr old who can’t pack his own weight in gear….weak sauce) is in the near or foreseeable future but you don’t want to just go anywhere. The destination has to be epic, it has to be mind-blowing, it has to be colossal and be so wonderful that you consider never going anywhere else ever again. Well I have the recipe for blowing that vacation up, sinking it like the Titanic and causing one to swear off every camping and/or hiking ever again.

Perfect camping trip straight ahead. No serious what could go wrong?

This list was birthed out of a trip I took with the wife and son last year to Yellowstone. We went in June and arrived the day after the campground opened looking to take on Yellowstone before the 15.36 million other people descend upon it like a junkyard dog on a bone (??? – I don’t write this stuff so please stop making that face at me). From this trip we gleaned so many thing to do that will ensure your time sucks like no other. Disclosure: Three months after the vacation I turned to my wife and said ‘That trip to Yellowstone was such a tremendous vacation, it’s going to be hard not to go back next year.”

My wife looking at me puzzled and then nodded her head in agreement, she realized that my multiple personality disorder was acting up again, or that I have finally lost my mind. Didn’t matter to her, she scooted closer to the door and unbuckled her seat belt juuuuusssttt in case.

Step #1 – Plan so much that your spouse considers not even taking the vacation.

One of the best decisions you can make is pure obsession with the objective. The more you plan the less fun you’ll have, I guarantee it! Take planning to a whole new level, obsess over it! Get every brochure you can and shove it into the face of your spouse, then be sure that every conversation eventually ends up on what you can do and see while hiking. Or what you need to get to make the trip more comfortable.

Your child isn’t feeling well, who cares, there is multiple geothermic activity all over the park. I mean how cool is that, much better then a toddler with the runs (son was turning four the month after our trip). You had a bad day on your job? Sorry honey, but you won’t have a bad day while hiking on this trail!

Oh no Aunt Louise died of cancer how terrible, but you know how to avoid death by bear on the trail? Make noise and be aware! (Didn’t happen I got carried away)

Step #2 – Over plan your day so that by the time you get back to the campsite you no longer have the desire to make dinner or enjoy what happened earlier.

Wearing yourself out by trying to see everything in one day is a totally awesome way to destroy the fun you had been having. Not taking things slow and having to rush everywhere to see everything and failing to factor in drive times makes for an awesome stress inducer! Especially when you have a toddler who isn’t allowed to nap for more then 20 minutes at a time is the key ingredient to producing a stunning display of child fireworks, tensions, and exhaustion.

Step #3 – Plan elaborate meals that need time and effort to prepare

Cause simple just isn’t going to cut it, especially in the rainy spring and cold of Yellowstone, in bear country where everything needs to be cleaned and put away. Why have PB&J when you can have BBQ meatballs (that make you vomit inside the tent because in the dead of night you can’t find that stupid zipper. true story) grilled chicken with veggies, burgers, and so much more.

Make the messiest meals possible, and be sure to use real plates and silverware because not only is cooking in the rain and cold fun, but eating the food less then lukewarm really hits the spot! Clean up is tremendous without hot water that isn’t carried to the wash basin that isn’t allowed at your site. Good times are had by all.

Step #4 – Leave yourself no flexibility to your lodging and plans

Because you followed step one so well, you planned it all out. Reserved all the sites at multiple places and you were ahead of things. Of course the car accident that keeps you in traffic for 2 hours didn’t come into play. Neither did the blinding rain storm which would put you at the intended site way after dark and setting up in the rain and cold. Who doesn’t want to do that with an already tired 3 yr old and a wife who is fighting the urge to nudge you over a cliff because you’re been the model for a patient and calm travel partner.

A failure to plan is planning to fail….right?

Step #5 – Bring too much gear in a car too small

So you want to make sure everyone is comfortable and taken care of. You planned out all the meals, purchased all the food and brought everything that you know you need; problem is your car is too small. Stupid coolers take up so much space and you can’t leave the child home alone because the police and social services have warned you that if they have to come a third time in the same week you get put in parent time out. So what do you do?

Duh! You pack it all on the roof in a waterproof roof cargo carrier, BRILLIANT! Oh no your car doesn’t have a roof rack to attach it to, what to do now? No worries you need all that stuff and dog gone it that gear is coming with. So let’s strap it on and run the straps into the car, we can deal with the straps over our heads for 20+ hours, right? Who needs head room and leg room, it’s overrated! And when it rains you can collect the rain that floods into the car through the nylon web straps so no one will ever have to deal with thirst. Real Genius!

You too can ruin your offspring’s childhood memories and nearly force your spouse to question why they married you by following these steps to the letter. Anyone can be successful and punching your family’s vacation dream right in the stomach and then kicking it while it lays on the ground. Don’t be the person who helps there family enjoy the outdoors and want to do it again, because really……that’s just lame.

Categories: Backpacking, Family Vacation, Geocaching | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is it Wrong to Hope for an Apocalypse?

Maybe I’ve watched one too many movies. I’ll admit it I like movies, especially movies that allow me to shut my brain off for about two hours. Explosions, gunfire, action, effects, fast-paced thrill fests, my kind of movie. Hey at least I have the courage to admit it and I don’t live in denial like some people I know…….if you feel guilty it’s because I’m talking about you.

Life just seems a little but better after an apocalypse. Yea you have to avoid the S&M biker gangs and they’re attempting to kill you and steal your stuff. Sure there could be mutated zombie/vampire/mutant humans who crave your flesh, and yes it is possible that you could be eaten by a Morlock. Caveats abound.

This could be nice.....right?

Last year when the family and I went on a trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota. We traveled through Minnesota, across North Dakota, into Montana and then down into Wyoming. We spent several days in Yellowstone camping and then a few more in the Black Hills. Weather re-routed us from the Bighorn Mountains, but I’ll get to that in another post.

One of the many benefits to being at Yellowstone (other then the scenery, flora, fauna, geothermic activity) was that being in a bowl (depressed area surrounded by higher peaks and elevation) yielded little to no cell phone service.

I was amazed at how awesome this experience was. No one could reach me, no matter how much they wanted to! I was free from annoying phone calls and I was free from e-mails that I didn’t want to read. (Note I don’t have a smartphone, but there was no temptation to got on the internet anywhere) We did purchase a portable DVD player for our son on the long ride out, but I think 2-3 movies we played the entire time. There was so much to do and see that there was no need for anything other entertainment. (Disclosure: We took an iPod loaded with the songs we liked for the trip, we did play a few songs but the conversations took over and we marveled at the beauty)

Of course I see the irony as I am writing this on a laptop, posting it on the internet in a technologically innovative format called a blog (well 1Nature is blog-like anyways) so technology isn’t all bad and a near total annihilation of the human race, all life on Earth, and our way of life might be a bit extreme. However the joys of being unplugged and unreachable abound.

This weekend we’re headed out to a place where there is certain and exceptional cell phone reception, but I think I’m going play make-believe. I’m going to pretend that no one wants to get in contact with me and that cell phone’s were never invented. I’m going to enjoy some solitude for the bleeps and the tapping of keypads. It’s time to unplug and stay unplugged…….at least until I get the launch codes.

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

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