Posts Tagged With: Trail

Your Secret Superpower


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

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

Influence.

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

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

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

I was hooked. SN852092

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

Influence.

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

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

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

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

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

“With great power comes great responsibility”

What are you going to do with your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

For good or evil?

For good or evil?

Until next time………..Adventure On!

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

On (Chimney) Top of The Smokies


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

Quick out and back right?

Quick out and back right?

Chimney Tops

Location: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Length: 4 miles RT

Elevation Gain: 1300′

View from Chimney Top

View from Chimney Top

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

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

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

Bubbles - The Summit Stegosaurus

Bubbles – The Summit Stegosaurus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Descends form soapbox)

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

Mom and Son made it all the way.

Mom and Son made it all the way.

The Big Man rocking his new summit flag!

The Big Man rocking his new summit flag!

Bubbles...in the wild!

Bubbles…in the wild!

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

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

Our boy being his funny self.

Our boy being his funny self.

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

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


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

Bonding time on the trail

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

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

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

Waiting for our fearless rescuer.

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

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

Other things worth noting:

We started out the day at 35 degrees.

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

The fall colors were beautiful.

We hit 50 miles for the year during this hike!

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

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

The Yellow Sweatpants


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Many Missed Opportunities


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…..Adventure On!

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

Missing the Mark


In our attempt to hike 100 miles as family this year, many lessons are presenting themselves.  Contrary to popular belief, young children can cover more than 1 mile on a hike.  Our 5 year old has made it up to 5 and a half miles at a relaxed pace (learn about some of our tricks). Two weeks after discovering this, we inadvertently put it to the test.

On the trail

One Saturday we started a hike mid afternoon in an area we had never hiked before.  A few short miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge seemed like a good idea for a short 2 mile hike.

I’d recently been on a kick of watching wilderness survival shows on Netflix (such as Man Woman Wild) so I joked about taking a firestarter, makeshift shelter, headlamps and other assorted survival gear.  My husband pointed out that we would not be far from a major freeway and an international airport and suggested in no uncertain terms that all we should take was water and snacks.  At the last minute, I threw in our brand new trekking poles to see how our son would manage with them.  Also at the last minute, my husband decided to throw rocks, a cot, and other assorted bulky items into his pack.  Why? Because he’s crazy . . . and he thought it’d be a great idea to test himself and “train” for future backpacking.  No better time than a short 2 mile hike, right?

After picking up our trail map, neglecting to stop at a bathroom, and adjusting our poles we were off and away.  We soon came to a fork in the trail.  Our map only showed one trail, so after best guesses by assessing the terrain, we kept moving. This happened a handful of times.  Due to trail maintenance, signage wasn’t great, but major markers were still in existence.  We kept watching for the trail marker for our turn around point, however, we realized somewhere along the way that we ended up on a bike trail.

Testing out the trekking poles and his new REI pack

This bike trail seemed to be parallel to our original trail.  Convinced we would still cross the marker that we had determined would be a turn around point, we pressed on.  When we realized we could hear freeway traffic and there was no longer water along our left, we had blown past our goal by over a mile.  It was now dinner time and it would be fairly dark in an hour and a half.

Our average speed for hiking with our 5 year old has historically been about a mile per 45-60 mintues.  This includes stopping to take in the beauty that surrounds us and water and snack breaks.  We calculated that we had 2.5 miles to go in 90 minutes.

Now my headlamp suggestion wasn’t looking so foolish.  I offered to jog back to our vehicle and have them take the much shorter hike out to a road, as both of my traveling partners were starting to feel worn.  My husband declined and we started at a fast clip back to the parking lot.

Surprisingly, we made it back with 30 minutes of daylight to spare.  Although it wasn’t without a great deal of complaining (I’ll let you guess if it was just the young one or both 🙂 ) All of our hiking trying to meet our goal has conditioned our son for the trail more than we had realized.  Jayson was a little worse for the wear as he had his light hikers on and not his backpacking boots.  Oh yes, and the rocks in his pack.  Being properly outfitted for “training” exercises is all the more important when one has a disability.  He was thankful for his amazingly insightful wife that remembered our trekking poles.

Lessons learned from this specific adventure:

1. Always stop for a bathroom break before getting on the trail, no matter how short you plan it to be. (This hike solidified  my plans to purchase a Go Girl.)

2. Keep headlamps and more snacks than you think you need in everyone’s pack, especially if getting a start later in the day.

3. Monitor husband’s “training” exercises.

4. Trusting maps and signs to determine a turn around point on a hike is not reliable.  Its good to have a turn around time determined before the hike is started.

5. Adult trekking poles do work for kids (and will grow with them!), but teaching them to use them properly is another post for another time.

Have any of you encountered some unexpected situations while hiking?  Please share in the comments!

Until next time, hike on.

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The First 1.5 Miles (only 98.5 to go!)


In 2012, our family has a goal of hiking 100 miles together. While most of these miles will occur during the warmer months (we live in Minnesota after all!) we had the opportunity to hike on a mild winter day 2 weeks ago.  (Mild by Minnesota standards means it was upper 30s, not typical for January).

However, we almost didn’t go.  Before we even got out of bed that morning, our son came to our door and loudly announced he hated hiking and it would make him sick to go.  This greatly upset my husband, who proceeded to grandly announce we’d cancel our vacation if the little one was going to complain about hiking so much.

So being the wise motherly figure that I am, I told our junior hiker that if he ruins mommy and daddy’s fun, we would ruin his fun (no movies or Wii).  Believe it or not, it did the trick! An attitude adjustment was made and we were out the door about an hour later.

We decided to go to Battle Creek Regional Park.  Even though it is less than 5 miles from downtown St. Paul, with 750 acres it doesn’t feel like you are in the middle of the city.

Highlights

One of the features of the park are the sugar sandstone walls that line the entrance.  We’d only been walking a few minutes when we decided to go off trail for a mini-adventure.  Our junior hiker loved the experience of touching the walls and covering himself in sand in the process.  It proved to be a wonderful experiential geology lesson.

There is also a tiny creek running through the park.  The frozen waterfalls and watching the water move under the ice was a new experience for our son and kept him interested in continuing our hike.

We continued our adventure spirit and pieced trails together at whim.  We ended up on a bike path headed straight up hill.  With a bit of ice it was challenging to climb, but it made for more fun as we slid backwards and pushed forward towards the top of the hill.  From there we were able to see downtown St. Paul framed by the trees. We came across a boulder no more than 3 feet high, and our junior hiker immediately assessed its suitableness for bouldering (it wasn’t possible at his sill level).

Our time outside in winter is admittedly limited.  Typical temperatures can range from -10 to 25 degrees this time of year and we had never gone hiking during the winter as a family.  However, it was refreshing to be out in nature and to share in the discovery of an environment changed by the season.  It was easy to spot where animals would hang out by tracks in the snow.  (As the only female member of the family its refreshing to track animals this way rather than by scat.  I don’t understand how poop is endlessly funny, but I digress.)  As long as we kept moving it was easy to stay warm.  The only unanticipated side effect of the cold was that the camera rebelled after a few pictures.  Apparently when it gets cold it thinks the batteries are dead.

I used to think that winter was a time to see how fast one could move from a warm house to a pre-heated car and then dashing to a warm destination.  For me, it certainly wasn’t about lingering outside.  However, I’ve found that I love being outside too much to only experience it April through October.  Taking the time to go outside helped invigorate me and gave us some great memories as a family.

As for the 100 miles, we sure have our work cut out for us.  The grand total for January is 1.5 miles.  We have to average 9 miles a month to meet our goal.  That math doesn’t exactly work in our favor at this point, but I think we are still up for the challenge!

Have you had any unexpected discoveries recently?  Enjoy something you didn’t think you would?  Please share in the comments and until next time, adventure on!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Guest Post: A Wife’s Perspective


A recent conversation between the Bionic Hiker and myself went like this:

BH: You should write a guest post for my blog!

Me: What would I write about?

BH: You could write about what its like to be married to a disabled athlete.

Me: How many posts can you write about applying Tiger balm?

So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on being married to an outdoor enthusiast and aspiring athlete who also happens to have a disability.

Walking the line between being a reality check and a buzz kill.

When my husband first began expressing interest in rock climbing and mountaineering, it was difficult for me to share the excitement.  With his physical condition, he already deals with pain on a daily basis.  I was not interested in him introducing new pain.  It didn’t help that he was devouring books on high altitude expeditions and routinely sharing about death and mayhem.

His excitement also started shortly after a Yellowstone trip in 2010.  Most of the time I think the Bionic Hiker makes good decisions in outdoor adventures, however, on this particular trip I had refused to go on a hike.  He had started down the sloppy muddy trail in the rain while I stood at the trailhead with our 3 year old son refusing to hike a rim trail

A wife-approved trail in Yellowstone (Elephant Back Mountain)

where there was a large sign stating “Hike at your own risk, children not recommended”. I wasn’t interested in seeing my husband loose his balance and slip and slide over the edge or futilely try to keep my son on the inside of the trail from the rim while he was loosing traction during the poor conditions.

So at times the disability feels like a henchman lurking behind a bush waiting to come and knock him out.  While I’m not necessarily a good protector against men wielding crowbars, sometimes I trick myself into thinking if I say the right thing I can keep him from harm or danger.  I know, its so silly to think a husband would actually listen to his wife.  So in the meantime, it’s always there, and I balance concern and fear of future suffering with being a supportive partner.

The first time he tried rock climbing is a prime example.  His first time in a rock climbing class resulted in an injury that required months of physical therapy and a miserable car ride home.  He was ready to give up and I was ready to agree with him.  I didn’t want to watch him incur injury after injury trying to do something his body simply couldn’t handle.  I’m glad he proved me wrong and he has quickly surpassed my ability.  I almost discouraged him from it in the name of being a “reality check” when I really would have been killing a dream.  Which is why I have supported him returning to the sport that almost took his life (skiing).

On the positive side

For the 30 years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve considered myself an uncoordinated non athlete with an aversion to anything labeled a sport.  However, I can’t exactly sit comfortably on the sidelines using pathetic excuses when the Bionic Hiker manages to stay active and challenge himself physically.  Bad memories of dodge ball from my school years don’t hold weight next to having two steel bars in ones back.  I never would have tried rock climbing had it not been for him, and he’s started me on course leading to a much healthier and happier me.

When we are both trying new things, I don’t have the self-consciousness that other women with my self-imposed labels might have (at least most of the time!).  With my lack of ability and his disability we almost have a level playing field.  🙂

I have to say that the Bionic Hiker is quite admirable.  He is the one that could choose self-consciousness because of the limp he walks with or the challenges he faces while learning to climb, but his zest for life trumps that card.

So until next time, adventure on without abandon.

Categories: Climbing, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Do We Do What We Do? A Discussion on Motivation


So why is it that we do anything that we do?

I was filling out my membership agreement to a climbing gym the family and I are going to join. They asked me why am I choosing to become a member of their gym. That got me to ponder the deep mysteries that are out there. Like why peanut butter and chocolate tastes so great together. Why does photosynthesis end up turning plants green and not red. (Can you imagine red grass? HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?)

I also came across this blog post which further got me to think. I then took a two hour nap because all the thinking wore me out. After which I preceded to place my head in the freezer to cool it off, if it goes over a certain temperature then I blow a head gasket (cue rim shot).

So what really make me leave the comfort, safety, and sometimes warmth of my own home to go set up a temporary one somewhere else? What makes me want to hike miles uphill, through trees, over stumps, while carrying a pack filled with supplies? Or climb rocks? Do any of these things carry purpose?

I wanted to get more meaning out of what I do then ‘Because it’s fun’ or ‘Because it’s there’. There are plenty of things that are fun, and plenty of things that are there but I don’t engage them with the same fervor as I do my outdoor activities. So why do I do it? Why do you?

I also thought about why I write and why I try my best to produce at least two posts a week, despite the poor quality of the content. 🙂

I can rule out compensation, because I’m not making a dime. Could I eventually make a dime? Yes….I would love to so that I can buy gear and not have to make the choice between buying a softshell and making sure my child has lunch money. These are difficult decisions that I would like to not have to make anymore.

So why do I write? Why do I spend WAY too much time on Twitter connecting in a virtual realm with people I’ve never met in the temporal plane? Why do I follow their blogs religiously? Comment on their content? I have other things that I could be doing.

I do have other interests in life, no really I do. I have a degree in Finance, and I love investing and trading. I love serving God and being involved in my church. I like college football even though I haven’t seen a game all season. I also like to read, although the books I own are related to either financial things, business, God, or the outdoors.

I’m noticing that my word count is getting pretty high so I’d better wrap this up soon and give the “?” key a rest.

In all truth I don’t have a ground-breaking, mind-blowing, conscience altering answer to why I do what I do. I have many different reasons which added together drive me to do what I do. I like the peace, the solitude, the experience, to joy of sharing the experience, the opportunity to teach, the opportunity to learn, being different, and the community it harbors.

Some questions just don’t need an answer, or an answer that makes no sense at all to anyone but you. I think that from now on I’m going to give a nonsensical answer if I’m ever asked why I do what I do. I envision is going something like this.

Confused person w/peculiar look on their face: Why do you climb up rocks the hardest way possible?

The Bionic Hiker: Simple, on top of that rock is a jelly donut and the only way it appears is if I take the hardest way up.

 Another confused person w/peculiar look on their face: Why do you deem it necessary to go camping in the woods when it can get cold and have to deal with bugs?

The Bionic Hiker: When I camp I find that it presents the best location and atmosphere possible to allow my pet dragon to feast on the carcasses of naughty chipmunks.

A third confused person w/peculiar look on their face: So what kind of entertainment do you get by tramping around in the woods?

The Bionic Hiker: I’m entertained by discovering all the locations I can use to bury the bodies of the narwhals I kidnap form the ocean and fillet for breakfast every morning in hopes of growing a horn.

 

Yea…..that’ll work for me.

Until next time……Adventure On!

 

 

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

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