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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kayaks and Caves

All aboard !
 While it seems everyone I know is chomping at the bit for winter to get here, I'm still holding on to fall, and some warm weather activities. Although I could go kayaking in the early winter and caving is definitely a good activity to do in the colder months, there is nothing like a cool, sunny, insect-free, fall day.
This sand bar out in the middle of the lake would be a good spot for some fat-biking

This spot, where Steve is sanding in the middle of the lake, would be good for fat-biking in the summer.
 Steve and I got together on Saturday for a half-day kayak trip with a short exploration of several caves. The weather was crisp when we put-in, and the parking lot full of duck hunter's trucks and trailers. I wasn't too concerned about the hunters,since we were just starting out as most of them are finishing up and heading in for the day. Our planned trip was to check out a large widening of the Mississippi River, and the multitude of small islands that we would like to camp on in the future, or ride out to, with the fat-bikes this winter.
Lunch spot, sand, sand, sand 

This guy outweighed us by a million tons so we moved out of the way
 On the map the surface area doesn't look as big as it is to paddle, consequently we were not able to get in all the exploring I was hoping for. Lucky for us, that just means we have to come back. On a fat-bike it looks to be quite doable if the water body is well frozen and we avoid any deep, flowing channels or springs. Thus lies the problem, where are the deep channels and springs ? I guess we'll have to be careful!
There was very little wake from such a large mass moving through the water

 After about four hours in the boats, minus the 30 minute lunch break, complete with hot chocolate, I wanted to show Steve "the caves". A short drive in the cars and were ready with headlamps. No, I didn't wear a helmet, but I did bring it,  the caves are so short and we weren't there to spend any amount of time in them. I took my young lads there last week and had a good time, I also wanted to look for one other cave I missed out on. First, we went to the one that I had been to the previous week and then moved on to locate the other. On the way we found another cave with a small crawling passage. I willingly crawled in to to see if it went anywhere, it terminated about 30 feet in, with a space only large enough for a raccoon to continue forward. I backed out and a few minutes later we were in the mouth of the third cave. 

 We had fun rooting around and exploring the vast 70-100 feet of combined chamber between three separate caves. I've always been fascinated by caves, and even though these are short, I still think they are cool. I won't speak on it much, but the last cave has historical significance,  it appears many people have been there recently and left trash behind, and I don't want to add to it's demise, but it was really neat being there sort of like this.
Steve found this un-burned torch, made from a log and leaves and sticks held together with a sock, most likely left by native inhabitants hundreds of years ago.

The floor of the cave had lots of bones.
Surprise it's me !
I had a great day exploring, but what I also get out of trips to unfamiliar places are ideas. Ideas for bigger, longer, stranger trips, as well as the desire to bring others back with me to check it out for themselves and have some fun. There are so many different ways to explore an area with all types of gear. Right now Steve and I have several different trips we would like to do in the area. Next time, are YOU coming with ?

The only thing missing in this pic, is a fire at the mouth of the cave, and a UFO whizzing by

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Belle Plaine to Chaska....

Getting ready to shove-off
 ....and back.  Recently my long time adventuring buddy, Vandy and I did an overnight kayak/fat-bike trip on the Minnesota River. After our plans for a Cuyuna trip fell through, we decided Thursday night to do a quick overnight on the river the following day. We both left work early on Friday to get our gear in order since neither of us had anything packed. It's amazing how long it takes to get ready for just an over-nighter, all we would need for a week long trip is more food.
The river is very low and there are logs everywhere


Proper use of paddle shovel  
We arrived at the boat launch in Belle Plain about 5:45 pm and were off and paddling by 6. We didn't have much daylight left so we started looking for a good spot to camp for the night right away. The wind was really blowing and it was chilly, we wanted to sit outside and have fire so we had to find just the right spot sheltered from the wind. Just before dark, a little over an hour into the trip we located a nice little sand bar on a bend in the river.

Paddle shovel being used to make the perfect seat near the fire

hells yeah
The sand bar was just the right size for us and our boats, complete with a supply of firewood. We had to do a little shoveling with the paddles to make a level spot for the tents. This was easy digging in the soft, dry sand, and also kind of unique. After setting the tents, we got to work building a fire and cooking dinner.

The next morning

It was an awesome night just chillin' on the river next to the fire. We went to bed around 10 pm and were awakened around 11:30pm to the sound of a beaver slapping it's tail on the water. At first I thought it was Vandy throwing logs in the river, I couldn't understand why he was doing it. I called out to him and asked what he was doing, He relpied "I'm sleeping". I said back "what is that sound", to which he explained it was a beaver and it had already slapped it's tail at least three other times. This continued for about three more hours, I ignored it at first ,but later got up to see what the heck these beavers were doing. It appeared, through my headlamp, there were at least three of them swimming back and forth in front of our camp. The slap of their tail was not like the warning sound they usually give when startled, or to alert the others. This was lighter sounding and was happening on a regular basis. I was annoyed at first, but then, was thankful it got me out of my tent to observe the nearly full moon, the stars, and these large rodents peacefully swimming around and enjoying the night. I finally got to some good sleep around 3am, then the coyotes started howling.
Our camp

Sunshine for only a little while
The next morning started out nice, very little wind and the sun was shinning. This only lasted through breakfast and into the first couple miles of paddling. Then the wind stared and the sun went away, I was pretty chilled and wished for a heavy jacket,whaaaa. :-(  It was still a great day to be out on the river. We made a couple pit stops for stretching, one to check out an old building, and one to get through Carver Rapids.
Old house

Old house's bathroom

First set of the Carver Rapids 
I went through Carver rapids last year at this time and was just as nervous. The water was much lower this year but still challenging. The rapids are really nothing much but when you are already cold, most of the fear in dumping the boat, is getting colder and wet. If there were more water it would be easy to float through, but since it was so low, the boat bottoms out and will either turn in a direction you don't want, or balance in such a way that it pivots from both ends giving a high center of gravity that forces you to rotate left or right. Neither of these situations are good in a long boat, if I had my short 10 footer it would have been fun.
Vandy coming through the second set of rapids

We made it through just fine and continued on to fetch our bikes and ride the trail back to the van. The paddling took way longer than we expected and by the time we got out of them we were pretty tired. We  spent about five hours and 20 miles in them, and now had a good 20 miles of riding ahead of us. The trail was in good condition for a majority of it's length. There were several miles of very soft, slow, sandy, trail dispersed in three or four different sections through out the ride. This would have been hell on a skinny tired bike, but the fat-bike was right at home. Even though it took a great deal of energy to keep riding through, at least we didn't have to walk.
The extremely low water revealed the skeleton of a bison.
Well hidden ?

We made it back to the van roughly 22 hours from the time we left it. I had a ton of fun and I'm amazed at the great experience you can jam into such a short time. Some of my best trips in life have been the short ones, with little planning, and relatively close to home, this was one of those trips. It doesn't hurt to have the company of a good friend along either.
does this look familiar ?

Quote of the weekend; "That was twice as difficult as I expected" ,   Vandy

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sponge Bob, Patrick, and Squidward

Thankfully they can read on their own now!
 When my kids get into a cartoon they like to pretend they are the characters in the show. This weekend they were into Sponge Bob Square Pants. Super"Y" was Sponge Bob, Big "D" was Patrick, and "G" Man was Squidward, I was Mr Krabs, and by default, since there is only one girl in the cartoon, Lynn was Sandy.
Scouting, no the cave is not under that tree

We found it !
 The weekend was action packed and included, the search for a cave, hiking, exploring by van, a campfire, sleeping in a tree house, bike riding, and a waterfall. On Saturday it was just me and "Sponge Bob" and "Patrick". "G" Man has gymnastics on Saturday morning and Lynn likes to hit the gym. The three of us were off and running by 8:45am in search of a cave that had eluded us this past winter. I knew roughly where to look, but didn't know exactly where it was. When we got to "the spot", the approach over a stepped cliff, looked way more dangerous than I was comfortable with taking my two youngsters down. I decided to pass on the cave and go hiking instead. The thought of being "skunked" twice gnawed at me, and when we returned from our hike in the woods, I had the boys wait at the top of the cliff while I searched for the cave for the next few minutes. I found it right away and decided to bring them along. It's one thing to scramble along a cliff edge not knowing where you are going, and completely different when you know right where you have to be, and have control over the specific route you want to take. With a little bit of spotting, the three of us were in the mouth of the cave in about five minutes.  
Note: Inside is big enough to sleep in :)

Spider, fossil, bat ?
 I was really excited, locating the cave on my own was like some sort of childhood dream. There wasn't much to the cave but it was a real cave none the less. I brought along helmets and headlamps and we poked around inside for about a half hour. There was no evidence of recent activity, but there were several old beer bottles inside as well as a couple bats.

Don't try this at home
 Back on the surface we had some snacks and were rollin' in the van for some "road exploring" or "bombin," as my dad calls, with stops at anything we found interesting. We stopped at a lock and dam on the missipp' to see what that was all about. Later on we found ourselves on Grey Cloud Island to look for the "haunted cemetery" with no luck. It was late afternoon by now and we headed home. That evening I tried to put together a group camp fire by the river, everyone bailed out except Otey, and we ended up having a good time.

Dinner on the river bottoms, Dinty Moore Beef Stew  MMM
 As I headed out that evening I was reminded that I promised to sleep in the tree house that night with the boys, ooops. I told them to get everything ready and I would stay out there when I got home. When I arrived home around 9:45pm, I fully expected them to be awake, and have the tree house ripped to shreds, since there was no way Lynn would stay out there with them. To my surprise they were fast asleep, but left me no room. I ended up sleeping perpendicular to them at their feet, and all bunched up against the tree trunk and the wall. It would have been quite an enjoyable evening with the portable heater maintaining close to 70 deg inside on a cold night, if my sleeping mat had not deflated.

Where am I supposed to sleep?
 Sunday, Lynn and I planed a bike ride with the gang. We weren't sure where, but we knew we wanted to get outside. After a death match of trying to pry the boys away from the computer, the TV, and the Nintendo DS we finally got out before lunch and were headed for Minnehaha Falls via bike path. We stopped along the way and checked out the newly finished, renewed, Cold Spring. The area was, and is, a sacred place to the native people of the area. At one time the land was inhabited by settlers and people that were once stationed at the nearby Ft Snelling. Fast forward to the fifties and the government put up a huge foreboding, evil looking building for studying rocks. You know what I'm talking about, it probably looked like your school when you were a kid. The only difference is there is a huge fence around it with barbed wire on the top and those signs that read Government Property No Trespassing or you'll be shot, or something like that. It was the kind of place that looked like it might have aliens in it and scientist were cutting them up for fun, or making some sort of weapon, or building robots with human brains. Before the buildings were torn down I got a chance to check them out up close, and it was quite an eerie place.    
Nice view of the neighborhood

You don't see totem poles everyday, so had to get a pic

Cold Spring
 After the Cold Spring we moved on to the Falls. Minnehaha Creek is completely dried up right now, and offers a unique experience where the water should be plunging over a high cliff. At the base of the falls, the plunge pool is a beautiful green with lots of fish trapped in a watery grave. From a distance it's really quite beautiful, but after closer inspection it's not as nice as it lets-on. The shit-bags visiting at night have thrown beer and hard liquor bottles in the pool which are now floating in the green pool covered by a sheen of oil from who no's where. The fish are beginning to die and their rotting, smelly carcasses are littering the shore line. It appears the raccoons are enjoying it though, as they are having a field day devouring everything but the bones and scales.  
The actual spring is right below us

Skidding contest, contestant #1
 We all ride back to the van and start getting ready for the dreaded Monday. It was a great action packed weekend I'm glad to have shared with my family. This is what weekends are made for......FUN!
Contestant #2

Contestant #3

Minnehaha Cliff?

Everyone from around the Twin Cities knows where this is, My kids love playing here, and it's hard to get them to leave