Posts Tagged With: vacation

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

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

It’s a Hodge Podge Post


So today’s post isn’t going to be focused on just one thing, my mind is on my upcoming family vacation and thinking about all the write-ups we’ll be doing when we get back. Oh and the 4,000 miles of driving we’ll be doing. It’s a road trip, with stops in Tennessee and then down to Florida and back. Why would I chose to drive 4,000 miles when they have made these new fangled things called airplanes. Because airplanes are for wusses.

Yep…that looks about right.

So today we’re going to be discussing training (I hear your collective moan; it’s not that kind of discussion) and our families 2012 goal to hike 100 Trail Miles and how we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.

Training with a Purpose

I’m not a huge fan of exercise. Really I’m not. I prefer the whole “eat Fritos and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on the couch while watching a good movie and keeping warm under my favorite fleece blanket” activity. One of the reasons why I hate exercise is because it’s just so darn hard. Don’t get me wrong I love to hike and climb, but the Stairmaster and the treadmill and the weight machines, they really are no fun. Then there are squats. Squats just outright suck. The deadlift is right behind that too.

So you’ll see that I’m not one of those hardcore, ‘roided, endurance athlete, self-punishing for pleasure, sickos you might see at your local gym. I choose to quietly laugh and ridicule those type of people; I’d point my finger at them if I weren’t so busy trying to suck wind and stay alive. However as much as I want to believe that Twinkies and Oatmeal Creme Pies are the way to summit mountains and crank on crimps it just doesn’t work that way. Plus, I’m a cripple so I’ve got that working against me too.

My body can only take so much abuse. I’ve wrecked my shoulders in the first year of climbing and my knees outright hate me after a few miles on flat terrain. I’ve topped the scales at 205 lbs a far cry from where I used to be in the military at 155 lbs. My metabolism didn’t just slow down, it broke down and my activity level plummeted with my accident. Add it all up and it’s not conducive to a lifestyle of a successful outdoor athlete, no matter what you want to say. So I decided one day that it was time to get back to the gym and to start training my body. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I was four months along in this photo.

I’ve read books many climbing books on the topic (this one, this one, and this one) and they all kind of say the same things. “The best way to train is to climb/hike/backpack/insert activity here” but I’ve found that isn’t the case for everyone. In the month-and-a-half I’ve been hitting the gym on the regular I’ve seen the largest growth in my climbing since I began. I didn’t buy new shoes (actually went back to my flat-last non-sport climbing shoes) and I didn’t magically grow super skills. I just trained my whole body and changed the way I ate.

My strength has improved, I’m climbing at a full grade higher, and my endurance has increased. I only climb once a week, and even then I only get to maybe seven sport routes a night max. I’ve seen my energy increase, and even my hiking endurance has shot through the roof. I haven’t been training for climbing specifically, or any sport for that manner. I don’t campus or do hang board training, I don’t use a weighted belt for pull-ups, or a weighted backpack (yet). I do nine simple exercises and then some cardio. The same ones every workout 3-4 times a week. I lift two times a week and do endurance cardio 1-2 times a week. No personal trainer, just basic machine exercises and sometimes I don’t even do all nine, I usually choose 5-6 one night and MAYBE 2-3 the other.

One of the things that keeps me motivated to hit the gym is it gives me a chance to laugh at the people that spend their lives there working on specific muscle groups in order to look super buff and swollen. They do one exercise to blast that third muscle fiber on the left bicep for maximum growth. While I’m in-and-out in 70 minutes having done a full routine. What a bunch of tools!  I giggle in your general direction.

See…..even my son is laughing at you.

I also giggle at the person who aimlessly wanders the gym looking at the machines and weights but never breaks a sweat. Also the person working out so lightly that they can read a book, watch a TV show, and hold a conversation all at the same time. Oh…. and if you’re one of those persons who carries their phone with them and has a conversation on it instead of working out but still sits on the machine like you’re doing something, just stop. Please, just stop…..you annoy me and everyone else.

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

A 100 Mile Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Boxes of Cereal


When my parents last came to visit they brought my son a 8-count package of mini boxes of cereal. When I saw the package emerge from the plastic bag I almost fainted. I could not believe they still made these, where have they been this whole time and why have I not been able to get my hands on them! Now granted that my reaction may not be the most common reaction for all people. Why this is I am unsure because any normal person would have reacted in a similar manner. I guess it is too much to expect the rest of the world to be normal like me.

Growing up my family loved to camp, that is how we spent a lot of our vacations. We would camp a few times a year at state parks and about every other year or three we’d go on a larger vacation. One of the highlights of our camping trips was always breakfast; boy did I look forward to breakfast. The source of this adoration and joy came from one item my parents always brought: a package of mini-cereal boxes. These were perfect because we weren’t limited by space in the pantry, or cost, or apparently how improper it is to have cereal for every meal and keep twelve boxes of it at the ready. It gave us freedom to chose the way we wanted to start our day. Lucky charms? Why yes I would love a bowl. You could then wake up the next mornings and have Trix cereal. Is that Cocoa Puffs? Yes it is, there is still milk in my bowl and I had better not let it go to waste, so pass it on down (how good is that chocolate milk after eating cocoa puffs?). It was a cornucopia of sugar covered corn made goodness. But every wonderful invention has a dark and sinister side and cereal packages were of no exception.

Honeycomb

Every box of cereal should be Honeycomb cereal.
Photo Credit: Waffle Whiffer

I don’t know why Kellogg or Post decided to make the cereal packages this way, maybe they just hated children with every fiber of their being. Packaged along with the Honey Smacks and the Golden Graham’s were always at least one of two cereals. They gave you either Cheerios or Corn Flakes. Yes you read that right, plain Cheerios and plain Corn Flakes, no honey, no frosting, nothing. In every package they added at least one of these boxes and by doing that they destroyed what could have been the greatest breakfast streak that mankind would ever know. Parents were in on the conspiracy too because they always made you eat the final box before opening up the next package. How evil can people be? The realization of having to deal with the bland cereals that came with every trip made us desire deeply the rescue of my father’s cooking skills. We pleaded and begged that on that last day he would save us from having to endure the sugar-free and by extension taste-free breakfast of plain Cheerios and Corn Flakes. You see my Dad used to work at a Perkins Pancake House when he was younger and he kept the culinary skills(?) well into adulthood. He would whip us up some pancakes and eggs with bacon and we would devour it. For what alternative did we have, Cheerios with no sugar? Please! Pass me the bacon and make the next round extra crispy. There were times though when we were forced to consume the last few boxes. How cruel and unusual this punishment was especially considering none of them came with a prize inside to console us. Nowadays when we go camping or hiking early in the morning our breakfasts consist of bars, granola with bananas, and fresh fruit. We’ve paired down our food choices to make camping easier and backcountry-ish even when car camping. I remember my parents carrying tubs and bags of food and cooking supplies. With all the gear we brought it’s a miracle that there was enough room for my brother and I. Things got easier when we bought a pull behind camper, it was like a mobile restaraunt. Now my camping and hiking culinary skills is limited to boiling water. I miss those boxes of cereal but I prefer to stick with what I do best; firing up the Jetboil!

Until Next Time….Adventure On!

Got a favorite camp breakfast, or recipe? Share it with us and the readers in the comment section below. If it’s a family secret recipe don’t worry we won’t share it with anyone…….promise!

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The first time


Most outdoor bloggers have always been in love with the outdoors.  On the spectrum from being an outdoor hater to outdoor enthusiast, I would consider my former self an outdoor sympathizer.  Sure, I loved scenery and perfect weather, because who doesn’t?  When it came to any adverse weather or having to deal with backcountry conditions (what do you mean there isn’t a bathroom along the trail?!?) I was certainly not interested.

So my husband deemed some car camping with the in-laws to be the perfect gateway drug for this sympathizer.  Surprisingly, we hadn’t attempted camping until 2010.  Before we became aware of the online outdoor family community, everyone we knew said it was too difficult to camp with children, so we didn’t bother to try.  Since our son was approaching 4 years old, it didn’t seem as daunting.

Going for a walk on the family farm.

During my time of being an outdoor sympathizer, most of my outdoor enjoyment was via camping in the pop-up camper of my youth (which graduated to an RV by my teen years), short hikes, and time romping around outside on the family farm. Tents were a rather novel idea to me.

Imagine my surprise when my husband enlisted my help to set up the tent at our walk-in campsite.

Um, what is that you want me to do?  Do you mean this pole?  Where do I tie this?   To say the least, it was a frustrating experience.  That tent has since been lovingly donated to my in-laws and we’ve updated to a more recent Coleman model.  I was about as helpful as a 4 year old in the campsite set up process.

My son “helping” set up the tent at age 3. Still more helpful than my skills at the time.

Organizing a camp site and subsequently finding anything when I needed it was like a game of Where’s Waldo?  yet somehow not quite as fun.

And yet, just a week after our initial foray into camping did we attempt a road trip with the primary destination of Yellowstone National Park.  My husband had been educating me regarding the neccesities of proper gear.  I wasn’t convinced we needed to spend money on new hiking socks and other items I was unfamiliar with.  I’m glad I listened to him as we just happened to go during the rainiest week of 2010.  And there’s nothing worse then being cold AND wet.  Unfortunately some of our gear had limitations.  I don’t think I dried out until we had driven through most of South Dakota on our way home.

Snow around our tent

The Yellowstone I remembered from my youth was from the perspective of a tween relaxing in the comforts of an RV every night.  During our stay in 2010 the snow was not yet gone and it rained or drizzled for a good portion of every single day.  I was a fair weather camper and setting up the tent with snow on the ground was far outside my comfort zone.  We ended up accomplishing a trip that I would have formerly described as a trip for only the serious “hardcore” camper.

In spite of the many challenges we encountered, the trip solidified me as an outdoor enthusiast.  As I have embraced that which my husband first loved, I have grown to love it too.  Experiencing the serenity of creation, and the joy of discovering it with my family has gotten me hooked.  I’m now even open to adventures such as hiking the John Muir Trail or climbing one of the Teton Mountains, which are both  goals that my husband and I have.

What about you?  Where you born loving the outdoors or did a significant other warm you up to the idea?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 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…..one 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

Tortuga: A Lesson in Learning


No, this is not me channeling Captain Jack Sparrow and calling for everyone to join me in some form of debauchery.

A couple of months ago my son told me that Tortuga is Spanish for turtle. There is nothing like getting your foreign language education from a 5 year old kindergartner. He’s enrolled in a Spanish Immersion school so he’s being introduced to a foreign language very young, so I can expect a lot more of this in the years to come. Humbling.

This got me to think about the fables of a man named Aesop. He told a tale of the tortoise and the hare, and how slow and steady wins the race. Aesop must have been a man of such great patience because if I would have written the story I would have written it as having a cheetah, a tortoise, and a hare. Wherein the Cheetah eats the hare, races the tortoise, and blows his doors off. My version is far more realistic even if it’s not child friendly.

Speed kills, plain and simple. In sports it is a cliche but never-the-less it’s a fact if not a truth.

Right now I wish a whole lot of things in my life would speed up. I want to do so much, but my time and abilities are so very limited. I want my son to grow up so we can take more adventurous trips with him, but at the same time I don’t want to blink and watch him go off to college. I want the winter to end so that my family and I can take some camping trips and go explore without having to deal with my son reminding us every two minutes that it’s cold outside and he wants to go in. I also don’t want to miss out of getting a chance to introduce my family to skiing.

I want my abilities at the sports I enjoy to rapidly increase, but the challenge that comes with that is missing out on the journey which is really the most important thing.

It didn’t matter that the tortoise won the race and beat the hare (or cheetah if you want a more action packed version….I should adapt this story for 3D!). It was the lessons learned along the road, or should I say what should have been learned. How can we really enjoy the destination if we never enjoyed and understood the process by which we got there? What good is a college degree if you didn’t actually learn anything in class? All you’re left with is a VERY expensive piece of paper.

With the new year approaching and the turn of the clock near-at-hand it somehow supernaturally offers us a chance to begin again. Don’t ask me how a mere second from 11:59:59 to 12:00:00 can give someone a chance to start fresh, but somehow it does. I would encourage everyone that over this next year that you enjoy the process that unfolds and the journey that lies ahead. Whether you are a parent, athlete, or just someone who stumbled on to this blog by chance. I would say to you (the latter) I am so sorry, but I cannot refund you the time you spent reading this. I would direct you to our complaint department at WhoWritesThisMess?@ChooseYourBlogsMoreCarefully.com. So in conclusion, be the tortuga….and enjoy the journey.

Until Next Time…… Meander On!

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

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

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