Posts Tagged With: State Parks

Sunshine and Sand


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

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

Our Camp Site

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

Fire

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

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

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

Shadows

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

Benjamin in the sand

St. Augusting

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

Kiss the belly

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

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

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 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

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 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

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 Backcountry.com, REI.com, and Moosejaw.com 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

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

Lots of Water & Frozen Booties: My Weekend Up North


What an awesome weekend!

In true family fashion though I think we overdid it a bit. We were an active bunch and by the time we return home last night we were all exhausted.  But I think that means we had a great getaway.

Over this Labor Day weekend we headed north of our home to the beautiful and crowded North Shore of Lake Superior.

The days were beautiful, mostly sunny there was one day where we experienced a bit of rain which happened when we were in the shower with certain important items left out which got wet the night before the temps dropped to the coldest they had been all weekend. (38 degrees we heard). Awesome.

The last day of the trip I woke up to the cold slap of crisp winter air right in the face and then buried myself in my bag confessing that I wasn’t getting out of that bag until I saw that the sun was out and the chance for heat was possible. Not but 20 min later the sun rose over the trees on the east side of the lake and illuminated the inside of the tent. This caused my to pen a letter to the sun.

Dear Sun,

I hate you for waking me up and for getting me out of a warm sleeping bag and into the cold morning air. Thank for nothing.

Screw You,

The Bionic Hiker

I have yet to recieve a delivery confirmation let alone a reply. Balls in the sun’s court.

All-in-all the weekend was terrific. We got out on two hikes. Both next to water features which lead me to write this post. I live in Minnesota which is known as the land of 10,000 lakes. We actually have more lakes then that but to publicly admit that every time borders on being outright arrogant and no state wants to be called arrogant (hint hint Texas).

We have so many water features here in lakes, ponds, streams and rivers (Mississippi and the St. Croix just to names a few of the larger ones) yet with all of this water we still find ourselves fascinated by Lake Superior. Granted it is the world’s largest freshwater lake. It’s like a poor man’s ocean for the land locked Midwest, but still with all the lakes we still find it fascinating.

The water is as cold as it gets. A sign I read said 40-50 degrees. Yet we’ll fish it, boat it, swim it, and kayak it (The last one I’m very eager to try) and yet it still never ceases to amaze when we’re up there.

The weekend though was not without incident. There was the hard rain that showed up all-of-a-sudden when we were in the shower for 15min. Soaked our gear.

There was my wife who kept threatening our son with death if he didn’t mind and behave on the trail.

“If you get too close to this edge you could fall over and die”

“This river could sweep you away and you could die”

“You could fall off this rock if you don’t pay attention and you could die”

“If you chase that squirrel one more time he’s going to get his squirrel family to snatch you out of your bag in the middle of the night and take you away to their squirrel hideout and sacrifice you to their squirrel god Squiggles…..and then you’ll be dead.”

She’s a was licensed social worker ladies and gents….. go figure. My wife everyday becoming more and more like me, scary. Given the rate of death’s at Yosemite National Park we’ll be avoiding that place for awhile.

Later she admitted she was trying to be a a good mom and she might have went a bit over board. We did though have to go home and burn the squirrel bed sheets and comforter he had on his bed.

I was surprised that my body handled all the stress since I didn’t bring all of my adaptive gear and I was my family’s pack mule for most of the hikes. Luckily my son can hike about 4 miles a day before his little legs say “forget this mess” and quit on him so that was my saving grace.

We did though hit a few waterfalls that required about 100 steep stairs down to the falls and of course you had to climb those back up. My knees stopped, looked at me and said “This is a real sick joke man!” They haven’t talked to me since.

Luckily though with a bot of scrambling and seeing my son climbing on the rocks (AND NOT DYING! IT’S A MIRACLE!) my wife is now open to the idea of trying rock climbing. This and getting to see some climbers on Palisade Head has sparked her interest. I of course will plow head first into this and get her on The Pinnacle at REI or the Climbing Cave at Midwest Mountaineering as soon as I can. Must strike while the iron is hot.

I must give my wife credit. She saved me from a miserable night’s rest. I’m going to review them, but for the sake of the story try to follow along. I bought us Big Agnes Sand Mountain sleeping pads to replace the giant air mattress we used to have and to double as backpacking gear. Given my SCI (spinal cord injury) sleeping is a big issue for me since I toss and turn often because of the pressure points. The first night I slept on the pad I rolled myself off about four times and managed to flip the bag 180 degrees so the top was underneath me and the hood was covering my face. It didn’t help that the pad was mummy shaped to shave size and weight.

Yea……that sucked.

I woke up several times on the cold ground flipped in my bag with little insulation and no cushioning. This did not bode well for me. Luckily the second night I had a little better luck but still managed to make my way off the pad. The Solution? Via my wife I put the pad inside the bag and slept on it.

BRILLIANT!

Not only did I have cushioning all night but it kept my bag from flipping on me and allowed me the best night’s sleep the whole time. Come to find out that Big Agnes sleeping bags have a sleeve to put their pads in…….I’m getting those SOON!

In the end it was a great time which I’ll be writing about for awhile. Gear reviews to come from the perspective of a disabled person. My viewpoints on the parks I visited and vacation and hiking tips and tricks for taking along the little ones that’ll help keep you from pushing them over the edge on the gorge or toss them into the lake. Which of course if that happens……THEY WILL DIE. I’m sure no one wants that…….your pause in response speaks volumes.

Until next time, keep on hiking.

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Hiking | 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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