The following is a true story, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Past Due

Now that I'm less than two weeks away from a trip to Utah, I thought it might be time to share the rest of the  story and images of the trip my friends (ArcFlash, Young Tim, and O'Neil ) and I did in 2013. This trek to the desert southwest, in conjunction with the two previous ones, have been so profound that I find myself daydreaming about them almost daily. I did write about the first portion of our trip, packrafting down the Colorado River in Arizona and finding our way through the desert and back to our vehicle. This was a crazy idea pieced together from a 3-4 minute conversation with a Page AZ resident about kayaking in 2011, a brief description of a route to the Colorado River below the Glen Canyon Dam in an out of date guide book, hours spent on Google Earth, and the intractable desire to get to the bottom of the canyon. When we completed the loop I was in disbelief. I was also relieved since I had convinced three others to join me, and I didn't want to let them down.
First bit of swimming in Fry after a rappel 

Young Tim   on rope

I thought the ruins looked more intact from the bottom of the canyon, they weren't but interesting none the less

  Where I left off ..... The four of us driving late into the night (3 am)for our next leg of the adventure, canyoneering. When we woke the next morning after a terrible nights sleep (more of a nap) next to a road in the middle of nowhere we had a little more driving to do. Unfortunately it was raining a little and could potentially make the canyons dangerous...flash flood. We decided on Fry Canyon, ArcFlash and myself had done this one the year before. It was easy, and after the initial slots it opened up very wide making it what we thought would be safe, if the water came up unexpectedly.
We had to go back up the cliff 

These are the worn moki steps, barely visible and marginal for a safe accent to the top. I might add that just below is a 50-60 foot drop and we had to go up from this point another 50' or so

getting ready to drop in to Duckett, note streaks of rain in the photo

O'Neil rapping off a chock-stone, looks scary but it's solid

AF in his element
  Fry Canyon went without incident and was a good warm up for our group. When we were there the previous year, AF and I noted a large ruin tucked under a ledge that was visible on the way down canyon. We were unable to access it at that date but I was determined to reach it this time around. It was a very scary endeavor smearing down the steeply sloped slab high above the canyon floor to the almost non-existent moki steps. Moki steps are basically depressions/steps carved into the rock. These ancient ruins are still something that blows my mind and to think I was using the very same steps people used a thousand years ago was surreal.  Headed back to the van the sun was shining now and we all enjoyed an easy stroll and a hot lunch shortly after.

We rode our bikes down a rough road the van would not be able to manage to get to Powell. With nothing to lock them to, we locked them together 

bath time

  Waiting out more rain, we were not able to do much until the late afternoon. We decided on Duckett Slot due to the relatively short amount of time it would take to complete. This little slot was fantastic! It had a lot to offer in such a short distance of less than a half mile, several rappels, down climbing, stemming, swimming, and wading. The next morning, Monday the 6th, we were greeted with more rain, this was really disappointing. We came to canyoneer and the only thing that could really stop us was rain in the form of flash flooding. Later in the afternoon we would be driving and setting up for an overnight backpack trip. This meant our window of opportunity for a morning canyoneering trip was not going to be possible. Not wanting to waste any of our precious time we decided to drive a short distance to Lake Powell and mess around in the packrafts. This turned out to be a really fun  although short. As luck would have it the sun came out and shown brightly, taunting us, as we took turns jumping off large rocks on the shoreline and swimming around like a bunch of otters.
This scene of gear sprawled out in preparation of a change in discipline would repeat it's self throughout the trip. Everyone always worked fast and would be packed and ready in about 30 minutes  for the next undertaking 

Bike shuttle 

First ruin encountered down &^%$#* Canyon

Hard to believe this ceiling/roof is like a thousand years old , complete with knots tied in some sort of grass

   By mid afternoon it was go time for another van ride, gear change, bike shuttle set-up and our overnight backpack trip. Just before 6 pm were on the ground hiking, towards our camp some 5 to 6 miles away. We stopped numerous times to marvel at many ancient ruins ,wishing we could stay just a little longer at each one. It was nearly dark when we reached our predetermined goal. We setup camp in the fading light and enjoyed a hot meal however simple it was.
This seams like it would be a good place to live 1000 years ago

This place was really cool, could have stayed for a long time but it was getting dark and we had to move on

Camp,   not a flat spot in the place big enough for the smallest tent , much less 3 of them

Granary above camp

  AF and I climbed high above the camp after dinner to check out a granary that was hauntingly visible from camp. The small opening in the rock and mud structure faced our direction and every few seconds I found myself glancing up to it, thinking I would see someone in the opening. Obviously there was no one there, but this place has an energy about it that makes you feel like you have moved back in time to when it was inhabited. AF and I descended in the dark back to camp, spending a while longer chatting amongst our group and reminiscing about the events of the last few days before going to sleep.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Double Header

What started as a day I didn't even want to get up for, turned into a fun filled and exhausting exploit in southern Minnesota. When the alarm on my watch went off at 6:50 am I thought of every excuse during the next ten minutes of why I should just stay there until the second one went off at 7. Based on the forecast from the night before and a quick glance out the window I knew it was not going to be a sunny, warm "bluebird day". There were two events going on that day, both of which I really wanted to participate in....I just wanted it to be nice outside.  During that ten minutes of indecision I also pieced together a plan in which I would be able to do I just had to drag my ass out of bed, get a bunch of gear together, and be on the road soon. I was able to do just that, and by 7:47 am I was ready and out the door for a gravel bike race in Miesville and a caving trip leaving out of Lake City.
The standard gravel grinder pre-race meeting...stand on car,truck or SUV, tell people not to do anything stupid and have fun.   This was really great race ....I'm sorry I could not stick around or thank the promoter.    Thanks for a fun race and your hard work.

Chuker and G$      1st and 4th     

I was treated to a wonderful tailwind when my route split from the main pack....unfortunately it was short lived and I would battle the wind for a most of the ride back to Miesville

Beautiful scenery portion of the course when I dropped down to the Cannon River near Miesville Ravine Park.....have to ride this section again 
  The Miesville Grinder started at 9am sharp...and he meant it !  I had less than 10 minutes to spare when I got there, I was dressed and on the bike when the racer meeting was called. The Miesville Grinder was a short one by gravel standards at 56 miles. I thought it was the perfect length when I signed up over a month ago and was even more happy when the night before I discovered there was a 40 mile option that would go perfectly with my time frame. Based on Google maps it was 36 minutes from Miesville to Lake City. That meant I would have to be back to my van by 11:30 am and be motoring if I wanted to meet my caving friends before they rolled out of Kwik Trip at 12:15 pm to the cave entrance. I had an excellent time on the 40 mile route. I rode with the lead pack until mile 17 ++ when my route veered the opposite direction and I was by myself to the end. I made it back to the van at 11:26 am with four minutes to spare.....heck yeah, was going caving now for sure.
The approach to the mouth of the cave is down in a very rugged wash. 

Before going in.....CLEAN 

most of the passage is small with very few places to fully stand up .....cave has about 1000 feet of passage ...I think 

Randy coming out of  a small passage from below into the Funnel room

Yes ...much of it was this tight...most of Tim's body fills this passage...he is skinny so it's no problem
 At 12:10 pm I rolled into the Kwik Trip and a few minutes later we were off to Hiawatha Caverns in Wabasha County. Our group numbering 6, spent the next 4 hours in the cave squeezing through the many tight passages and doing our best to avoid the raccoon and coyote shit as well as many bones and skulls from said animals. The cave was a lot of fun despite the resemblance to a wild animal toilet. There were not too many features (pretties) or living parts (speleothems) of the cave, but the tight crawls which required some exhaling to move through were fun.  Honestly I can't tell you why this was fun, in the past these really tight caves kind of freak me out when I get stuck. huh? We exited the cave around 5:30 pm from there I made one more stop at Kwik Trip to THOROUGHLY wash my hands and grab a snack before hightailing it home.
One of the few "live" sections of the cave....I know it's not much, but we were all geeking out to see it

Long section of live live, I mean it's growing

Not too much water in the cave 

soda straws

This old cart has been in there for who knows how long (40's 50's ? )when the cave was being dug out in the hopes to commercialize it. That obviously didn't happen and remains here to this day

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mammoth Cave National Park

It's been a couple weeks now since my boys and I were down in Kentucky for spring break. Three of our friends came with as well, Adam W and his two sons E.W. and D.W. . Noticeably missing were our wives who stayed home either to work, or relax, or a little of both.
This pulley on the belt tensioner decided to take a crap on the way out near Madison. Thankfully Advance Auto Parts had a complete replacement and I was able to fix it in the a Walmart parking lot in about 15 minutes.

The Frazier Museum in Louisville KY  

The entrance to Mammoth. We took a hike down here the night we can't go in (locked door) but it was nice to see without a huge crowd

Only got picks of Big D on the first tour since I had no idea where the other two were ( up front with the guide asking questions)

The cave is absolutely huge. could not get any good pics since no flash is allowed and the tour seems to hustle everyone along with very little opportunity to stop. 

dinner is served

We crossed this ferry (free) on the Green River to go mountain biking. It holds two or three vehicles and takes about 30 seconds to get across.

you can't go mountain biking and not get the sweet shot of a creek crossing
  It was a pure dad's weekend where the soda pop was flowing and candy and sweets were tossed back with reckless abandon. I chose Mammoth Cave based upon a trip I had planned  the year before, but skipped due to uncharacteristic snow way down south and the opportunity to triple my paycheck with some fat overtime. Normally work NEVER comes between me and a planned vacation but if the trip was going to suck anyway why not make a shit load of money and buy myself something nice?
Each of the boys took about 8 passes on the same creek and got pretty wet

group shot

Good day for a canoe ride !

I wonder why they named it the Green River ?

Within a few minutes of pushing off we were able to paddle into this short cave.

At the last minute I threw a couple fishing poles in the van for the boys....Super Y caught this small mouth bass about 15 minutes after dropping a would be the only one of the day,  he was very proud of himself...... I was very proud of him for landing it by himself while G Man and I were navigating the river
 .We were gone a total of seven days, squeezing in a trip to a weapons and warfare museum, two cave tours on separate days, a mountain bike ride on real single track within a national park,  an all day canoe ride down the green river, and some hiking thrown in for good measure.
We took a little side trip on the River Styx to go see a spring... 

Origin of the River Styx

The fish Super Y caught in the morning would later be his dinner

Got the boys to stick together on the second cave tour.

The cave is awesome, but I don't think tours are for "caver's" like myself. The group is over a hundred (120) and the guide is intent on getting everyone through the tour as fast as possible. 

Hike along the Green River

The bikes were awesome for getting around the camp and the visitor center.....I never go anywhere without a bike for this reason.......oh yeah, the train is the way visitors  used to get to the cave for tours back in the day.