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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Our Happy New Year

I'm not much of a New Year's celebration kind of person except for the fact that I get extra days off from work. The 2016 new year celebration was a four day retreat to the north shore. Along for the ride were Clover and Ragweed and their four kids, Scoot,Wiggles,Butterscotch, and Prof. X. They are related to us in a round about way and enjoy many of the same outdoor actives as our was a perfect fit for fun and adventure. Since Clover and Ragweed were on a smaller time allotment, we got down to playing right away. Everyone voted for nordic skiing with the only problem being the snow near the shore of Lake Superior was sparse, affording only a short, groomed, cross country ski loop at Tettegouche State Park.....little did we know there was a much better spot further inland.  This worked well considering the spread in age and ability of our group of eleven. After everyone skied the loop multiple times, forward and back, or spending time on the only down hill section , we moved further up the hill for a hike. Our destination was the Drain Pipe on the Superior Hiking Trail. While setting up for skiing earlier, a guy in the parking lot suggested it might be something worth checking out. We set off as the daylight began to wane and returned just soon enough that our lack of artificial light didn't cause us any problems. Dinner followed soon after the hike, once finished, I began recruiting kids and adults for a camp fire down by the lake (Superior) at Black Beach.....about half stayed home. It was a near perfect night, almost no wind, lots of stars, and a slight glimpse of the northern lights.  We stayed long enough for everyone to tell their funny stories and catch up from the last time we saw each other as the final pieces of  wood were placed on the fire. By New Years Eve standards it was still early, we returned home around 9:30pm, ate some treats and watched movies. I never saw midnight, but I know from being awakened that most of the kids did. After breakfast the next morning we headed out on yet another hike to a river further north. The waterway was a little sketchy due to the fall-like temps as of late but that just made the hike more interesting as well as a challenge. We all had fun, and no one got wet. On our way back we stopped at Temperance River State Park and played around on the beach.....we all had fun,and EVERYONE got wet! Unfortunately after dinner on New Years day Clover/Ragweed bunch had to head home.  Our family still had two days in which to wear ourselves out before returning to school and work. Saturday morning I found the good ski trails while out driving around to get my morning fix of caffeine. After breakfast the five of us skied a long loop on the Northwoods trail system, and all the practice I have suffered through on Pike Island with my younger two has paid off. It was magnificent.....the sun was out, the trees were covered in fluffy snow and no one was crying. After skiing, I broke off on my own to check out the newly "labeled" fat-bike trails at Split-Rock Lighthouse State Park. Due to lack of snow they weren't grooming yet but the trails were still everyone. The going was very tough in the 3-4 inches of soft snow that comprised of foot prints, ski tracks and a couple other fat bikers. the reward came on the return trip of my loop route when I followed close to the lake and got some fantastic views. By the time I got home I was pretty cooked and wanted nothing more than a relaxing night on the couch and time spent watching movies on my eyelids. My youngest, Big D, wasn't having it...before we left for the long weekend he and I spent a couple hours packing gear so we could go winter camping over the long weekend. No amount of bribery, candy or otherwise, could get him to back down from having me take him camping. As much as I wanted to stay in, I could not let him down and admired his strong will and resolve to go camping in the cold, wind, and snow. We packed gear for four but G Man decided to sit this one out....I envied him. Big D and I convinced SuperY to join us, this didn't take much persuading as these two are pretty tight...I call them The Buddies since they do everything together. Setting out from home, we hiked for a solid hour on snowmobile trails, crossing a lake, and choosing a spot as much out of the wind as possible. We had plenty of time to set-up, build a fire, cook hot-dogs, drink coke, and eat pop-tarts....way too much time. No matter where we stood the wind was blowing the smoke on us at all times. We didn't have much luck at staying warm either, the wind was just too much. The end of our night came when Big D put his entire foot through the ice near the shoreline and filled the boot to the top as well as soaking his leg just short of the knee. I stayed near the fire, boot in hand, doing my best to dry it while the Buddies got into their sleeping bags. It wasn't even 9 o'clock when I was already dozing off in my own bag. Let me tell ya...the buddies are weird, they were up for at least an hour and a half acting out cartoons and fail videos from youtube. I eventually had to take their headlamps and tell them to go to sleep. The next morning was tough, it was around 12deg F and the boot was frozen solid. We had planned on eating only a pop-tart, breaking camp and getting home in time for mommy to have our breakfast ready. I ended up cutting the tongue out of the boot with my hatchet just so he could get it on. His foot was cold only for the first 15 minutes and the remainder of the walk home was enjoyable.                  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Rained Out

 What I (we) thought was going to be a good idea and a safe bet for a December outing in northern Minnesota turned out little different than planned. I'm reserving the details of said route until it comes to fruition....but trust me, it will be good.

   Originally,  ArcFlash, Vandy and myself were going to do an overnight winter bike-packing ride and spend the remainder of our three day weekend doing whatever we thought fit. The forecast was for rain off and on all weekend, and into Monday.....booo. Optimistically, we all decided to go for it, drive north, and see how it would all shake down.  Leaving very early on Saturday morning had us at The Fun House (TFH) by about 10:30 am.

 The camp-out was out of the question  due to a 100% chance of rain Sunday, with a high of 35 deg F, so we improvised. From the heavily gear laden van, we picked fat-bikes, ropes, harnesses, and pack-rafts. Not far from TFH was a short but fun route that would utilize all the items of gear mentioned above. The pack-rafting was a big question mark as some the lakes in the area were frozen, while others remained open. After a short ride in either mud or glazed ice, we stashed the bikes in the woods and began our hike to the top of the cliff we were to rappel. From this vantage point we would also be able to see if the lake was going to be in our favor.

  I waited till the final steps of reaching the precipice to lift my head and survey the entire was 50-60% open! Although short and sweet our little endeavor would be able fill the void of things we were going to miss out on in the next couple days. After setting up, rapping, and pulling ropes we made our way down a slippery, steep boulder field to the lake below. The water, obviously very cold, had a beautiful, clear, blue-green hue and proved irresistible to ArcFlash, who after a few minutes of slipping into a dry suit was now swimming. I envied not bringing my own suit and so vowed to not leave it behind so often.

  The three of us messed around for at least an hour, paddling to the far end of the lake from our start point and poking around the ice. After deflating and stowing the boats we continued on a trail faintly outlining the shore and eventually rendezvoused  with our cached bicycles. We returned home with the daylight fading and the weather deteriorating. By the time we refueled it was dark, and the wind was kicking up, thwarting our attempts to have a camp fire lakeside (Lake Superior).

   Instead, we retreated back to the house with a couple rental DVDs and relaxed for the rest of the night. As the forecast played out, it rained all night and well into late morning before we decided on bagging the trip and going home......but not before nearly getting stuck on the remote back roads of the Grand Portage Reservation.

D Rider................out