Tag Archives: hiking

Transitioning to Motherhood

While I was waiting for my son to be born, nine months ago, I wrote about the anticipation of parenthood. I wondered how my life would change, what adventures with a little one would look like, and if it was realistic to expect to carry on our travels and lifestyle with a child in tow. My questions revolved around the changes to our lifestyle and our activities. What I didn’t anticipate, and the question I didn’t think to ask, was how much *I* would change.

I have so much that I can say about my transition to motherhood, and I have a feeling that transition will never quite be finished. Every day feels different than the last. My baby is different, my family is different… I’m different. And as far as adventures go… this is a big one.

My son was born at a birth center with a midwife at the helm. I was able to experience labor and birth naturally, without induction or medications of any kind, and I learned the true power of the female body. Labor is difficult, but it is also truly amazing and empowering. I am fortunate to have had the excellent care that I did, and that everything went smoothly. After 16 hours of labor, a beautiful baby boy lay on my chest. I was sweaty, exhausted, and elated.

We were sent home, everyone healthy and happy. Those first few weeks were intense. I don’t think there’s any way to understand what that time is like unless one has experienced it. The constant, round-the-clock demands of nursing and caring for a newborn are difficult to describe, and something that parents tend to gloss over once they’re past. When I was in the midst of it, older parents just chuckled, or smiled. I was grateful to my neighbor who saw me out for a harried walk around the block one day and assured me that it would change, that it would get better.

Out for a walk with our newborn. This guy has rocked the dad thing from day 1!

I am also grateful that my husband and I were home together for a good portion of that time, and we could lean on one another and figure it out as a team. As difficult and shocking as those first few weeks were, those weeks also strengthened our bond with this new little person. As I nursed him and comforted him and cried with him, as I wondered if I’d ever leave the house again without feeling panicked, I fell more deeply in love with him.

I was assured that life would feel normal again. Or, at least, a new kind of normal. Eventually, I did leave the house without panicking. Eventually, he stopped nursing constantly. Eventually, we could figure out why he was crying, and how to soothe him (and eventually he was able to figure out why he was crying, too). Now, he’s turning into a little person who interacts with the world around him. He smiles and laughs and cries and grabs for things. He rolls and crawls and points to things he wants. He reaches for us. I’m fascinated watching him take things in. Everything is new to him, and he’s fascinated by it all.

So, how has motherhood changed *me*? Honestly, I’m still figuring that out, and the change is ongoing.

There have definitely been some surprises. One big one is that I’m not climbing much…. or at all…. and I don’t mind (the fact that I don’t mind is the part I didn’t anticipate). I know it’ll be there down the road. I find myself being very picky about the things that will take me away from my baby boy. Part of that is the unexpected demands and logistics of nursing, but a big part is just wanting to spend time with him. When choosing what was important enough to be away from him, weekly visits to the climbing gym just didn’t make the cut. That’s not to say that I’m done with climbing. I’m just not itching for my next big climbing adventure right now.

A rainy hike in the Cathedral Spires.

A rainy hike in the Cathedral Spires.

We *have* found a few opportunities to get out with the whole family. Our annual trip to the Black Hills went on as usual this year (I’ll write a separate post about that), and we took our little guy along. We camped for 5 nights, hiked to the top of Harney Peak, and even got a climb or two in. The fact that we could do that at 7 months gave me a lot of optimism for what we’ll be able to do as he gets older.

Overall? This parenthood thing is amazing. It’s hard. It’s challenging, but most of all… amazing. Fascinating. Full of love. It’s showing me a level of patience and selflessness that I never knew I had. Time is different than it was. Changed, somehow.

Nine months in, I finally am starting to feel myself beginning to emerge once more. A self that’s separate from my baby boy, which hasn’t been the case since I became pregnant. The all-consuming demands of nursing are starting to lighten up, I’m getting more sleep, and I’m finding moments here and there to do things on my own. This blog post is proof of that.

The adventures that I wrote about in my final pre-natal musings are right around the corner. I can’t wait to show my little guy the mountains and the places that we love so much, and to see what else motherhood has in store for me. I’ll do my best to keep posting about them.

Cheers.

Waiting for Baby

Silliness in Zion National Park

Lying in bed this morning, my husband reflected that it was five years ago this month that he asked me to marry him. We were in Bozeman, MT in the midst of a two week hiking and backpacking trip, and when his plans of proposing on top of a mountain fell through, he asked me in a cozy cafe over a plate of peach crisp. A year later, in front of family and friends, we vowed our commitment to one another and to a life filled with love and adventure.

Today we await the birth of our first child. It’s an interesting time, the end of a pregnancy. This time of waiting, not sure if the baby will make an appearance tonight or ten days from now. It’s a time of limbo, filled with excitement, nerves, and uncertainty. Time to think; hoping that our decision to bring a child into this world was the right one.

Wind River Range, PIngora Peak in the background.

As I wait, I’ve embarked on a long overdue photo project, sorting through all of our digital photos from the seven years we’ve been together and choosing which to print for photo albums. It’s been so much fun looking back at what we’ve shared. Photos highlighting our travels, hikes, climbs, friends, and time with family. We certainly have filled these years with love and adventure, just as we promised one another we would.

There are photos of us on top of mountains and on the sides of rock formations, hiking and camping in the mountains of the west, rain and shine. Photos of us taking shelter under rocks during rainstorms, sharing laughs and disappointment when things didn’t go as planned. Photos of us exploring the deserts of the southwest, and bundled up against below-zero temperatures on the ice of Lake Superior. Learning to cross-country ski, building snow caves in the backyard, embarking on our first trad leads, multi-pitch climbs, and getting ourselves to the top of the Grand Teton on a picture-perfect day. We’ve had some great experiences together, and the list of things we still want to do is ever-expanding.

Exploring the hillsides of Ireland.

Sunset over Boulder, CO, on top of the first Flatiron

Out on frozen Lake Superior, to see the ice caves. Temp = -15F.

On the summit of a drizzly Twin Sisters Peak in RMNP.

Parents and non-parents alike have loved telling us how much our lives are going to change once we have this baby. Some have even told us, in dramatic style, that our adventurous travels will come to an end completely. Like so many others, we wondered if we were willing to give up the lifestyle we enjoy so much, to give up those experiences that bring us closer to one another, each adventure that we share strengthening our bond.

Even after we made the decision to have a child, I have sometimes questioned if it was the right thing for us. Pregnancy unexpectedly curbed the season’s hiking and climbing ambitions, keeping me close to home while Seth went on trips without me. We spent the summer working on the house instead of embarking on our usual adventures, and I wondered if this is what my future would look like; longing to climb and hike and spend time in the mountains, but unable to. As my belly has expanded and I started to feel this little person take on life, my excitement has been tinged with discouragement. What if this was it? What if all of the people telling us to kiss our lives goodbye were right?

Nearing the summit of the Grand Teton

All smiles in the Black Hills after my first trad lead.

Biking through Yellowstone National Park

As I sort through these photos of our time together, of all of our adventures, big and small, I feel the doomsday words of others dissolve. Instead of imagining a life void of travel and adventure, I look at these images and imagine our child in them with us. A family of three instead of two, exploring this beautiful world we live in. Camping together, hiking together, traveling together, and eventually… maybe even climbing together. I imagine our child growing up with parents who continue to nourish their souls, both separately and together. I don’t grieve over the end of an era, but instead find myself looking forward with excitement to the challenge of a new one.

The pessimism of others is replaced with a sense of optimism about what can be. Our adventures may look different for a while, but they certainly won’t end. I’m so excited to share the things that we love with this person we’re bringing into the world, and for him or her to share the things that they love with us. Our world isn’t shrinking, as so many would have us believe. It’s growing.

Hiking outside of Big Sky, MT

I love conversations with parents who can’t stop gushing about how amazing an experience parenthood is. They’re overflowing with excitement for us and don’t even try to contain it. Yes, it’s hard, yes, it’s challenging, but it’s also the most amazing thing they’ve ever done.

Seth’s traditional summit proposal atop the Grand Teton.

So, as we wait to meet this little person who’s been rattling around inside of me for the last nine months, I feel a sense of optimism. Our photo albums are about to change, and it’s not for the worse. They’ll be filled with new adventures, new challenges, and a new face.

Five years ago, my husband and I sat in a cafe and decided to spend our lives together. We vowed to one another on our wedding day to fill those lives with love and adventure. In this time of limbo, as we wait for our baby to arrive, I am realizing that our adventures aren’t ending, they’re just changing. And, in a way, they’re just beginning. We are about to step into a great unknown, the biggest adventure we’ve ever undertaken.

Trip Report: Wyoming 2014 Part 1 – Cirque of the Towers

Bags packed and ready to go!

Bags packed and ready to go!

Standing in the trailhead parking lot, I realized that I had never been on an actual backpacking trip before. I had camped, yes. Hauled heavy backpacks, yes (full of climbing gear, mostly). This time, though, once we left the parking lot, we wouldn’t be returning for five days.

Our packing had been meticulous. We had separated our food by meal, labeling each in its very own ziploc bag, to make sure we didn’t bring more than we needed (I had no idea how heavy food is!). We packed well. I used everything in my pack except for 2 items of clothing, which turned out to make a fine pillow. Still, with the addition of climbing gear, those packs were not light.

We were hiking into the Wind River Range, from the Big Sandy Trailhead. Our first destination was Big Sandy Lake, about six miles in with minimal elevation gain, so a nice easy start. We had our eyes on Haystack Mountain for our first objective. Then we’d hike back into the Cirque of the Towers. Shark’s Nose, Overhanging Tower, Tiger Tower, and Pingora were all on our list.

Here’s the report, and some pretty pictures:

Big Sandy Lake/ Haystack Mountain:

Home sweet home, at Big Sandy Lake

Home sweet home, at Big Sandy Lake

Day 1, we hiked the six miles to Big Sandy Lake from the trailhead and set up camp. It was a lovely little campsite. The lake was near, so lots of water nearby. We treated all of our water, especially here, since it’s a pretty well-used area, and a lot of folks have their gear brought in on horses. Bear precautions were taken the entire trip. We hung our food and smelly things and ate away from the tent.

From Big Sandy Lake is a beautiful view of Haystack Mountain. It’s a monolith of solid rock that dominates the landscape to the east of the lake, and there are quite a few routes on it. We had dinner, fought the mosquitos, and gazed at Haystack.

Haystack Mountain, over Big Sandy Lake. Photo: Seth Iverson

Haystack Mountain, over Big Sandy Lake. Photo: Seth Iverson

The next morning we woke up to rain, and it continued raining for most of that day. No climbing for us. Seth and I donned our rain gear, and hiked over there anyway. We scrambled up onto the shoulder of the mountain, stopping before we got to anything too technical.

Shoulder of Haystack Mountain. Photo: Seth Iverson

Shoulder of Haystack Mountain. Photo: Seth Iverson

The view from the shoulder of the mountain was beautiful, and surprisingly high above the lake. Even though it was a pretty wide area of low-angle slab, it felt fairly exposed and way the heck up there. The hike and scramble up to the shoulder was worth it for the view. Next time we’ll, hopefully, be able to climb all the way to the top.

We spent one more night at Big Sandy before packing up and heading up to our next destination.

Cirque of the Towers

From Big Sandy Lake is another 6 mile hike up to the Cirque of the Towers, our main destination for this leg of the trip. The morning rain stopped just in time for us to pack up our tent, and held off until we were set up in the Cirque. Very kind! The hike up to the Cirque is more involved than the first six miles to Big Sandy. A few sets of switchbacks, some steep sections, some pretty mellow sections, and a couple of boulder fields, especially if you take the climbers trail. That climbers’ trail is shorter, but the boulder field is kind of a pain with heavy packs. Thank goodness for trekking poles!

Mount Mitchell. Photo: Seth Iverson

Mount Mitchell and War Bonnet, covered in clouds.. Photo: Seth Iverson

The last pass before entering the Cirque is aptly named “Jackass Pass,” and after that, the towers come into view in all of their glory. What a beautiful place! We found a nice spot to set up camp, with a view of Pingora Peak and Wolf’s Head right outside of our front door.

Cirque of the Towers. Photo: Seth Iverson

Cirque of the Towers. Photo: Seth Iverson

Weather in the Cirque turned out to be even more finicky than down at Big Sandy, with the added factor of 2000 ft towers blocking any view of anything heading our way. After our arrival, for example, we headed up to scout the approach for one of our climbs. The sky was blue with a few puffy white clouds floating through. At one point about 30 minutes into our scouting hike, we turned around to see that one of the peaks was quickly being enveloped by a dark, ominous storm cloud. A few minutes earlier, that cloud had been nowhere to be seen. It was as if it had just materialized, right there. We booked it back down the mountain (I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone through a boulder field that quickly in my life!) and just as we crawled into our tent, it began hailing. *phew*!

Rain, rain, go away!

Rain, rain, go away!

The next day we woke up to low, stagnant clouds covering the mountains. We had breakfast and headed up the trail with our gear, hoping that the sun would burn the clouds off. At one point, the sun sent a brilliant spotlight from the east, shining through the greyness of the thick cloud cover in the Cirque. It was a sight to see!

Spotlight of sun on a grey mountain

Spotlight of sun on a grey mountain

But alas, the clouds were stubborn and moved back and forth like a seesaw for most of the morning.

Overhanging Tower, our climb for the day, is back there in the clouds.

Overhanging Tower, our climb for the day, is back there in the clouds.

Heading to Lonesome Lake

Heading to Lonesome Lake

 

We eventually gave up and went on a hike to Lonesome Lake instead, spending a nice, relaxed lunch by the lake. A lovely way to spend our time.

 

Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake

An afternoon hailstorm came through camp once we returned (again, very nice of it to wait). At that point, we gave up hopes of climbing and spent the evening drinking whiskey on a rock at our beautiful campsite and reminiscing about life, adventures, and good friends.

Cirque of the Towers, War Bonnet. Photo: Seth Iverson

Cirque of the Towers, War Bonnet. Photo: Seth Iverson

That night, the sky cleared, the moon came out, and it was a picture perfect night in the Cirque. We once again packed our climbing gear and set our alarms for early the next morning. We would head up the trail to the base of our climb unless it was actively raining when we woke. With the sky clearing up and the beautiful night that we were witness to, I thought, for sure, that we’d be climbing the next morning.

We woke to a downpour.

Seth and I cooked breakfast under a nearby tree, waited for the rain to pause, and stuffed our belongings back into our packs for the 12 mile hike back to the car. The rain, once again, was kind enough to pause for our hike.

Seth hiking out of the Cirque

Seth hiking out of the Cirque

So, we didn’t get any climbing in, but I did go on my very first backpacking trip. We spent five days and four nights in the Wind River Mountains, went on a few day hikes, and it was just plain gorgeous. Cell phones didn’t work, I got to spend some quality time with my husband, we saw some friends out there… all in all a great few days in the mountains.

The mountains of Wyoming continue to amaze me with their beauty. The Winds are rugged and raw, and it takes some work to get back there. Definitely on my list to go back and see more. Maybe next time we’ll even get to use our rope and gear.

Keep an eye out here for Part 2 of our trip, the Tetons! Camping at 11,600 ft on the night of the supermoon was a nice touch.

Trip Prep: Wyoming 2014

Just a quick post here. Our trip out to the mountains of Wyoming is approaching, and the prep has begun! We’ve been physically preparing for a few months now; practicing our trad climbing and getting into good physical shape. Now we’re close enough to start packing!

Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming

Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming (photo courtesy of Seth)

This trip presents a few challenges on the packing front. We’re heading into the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range and will be in the backcountry for about five days, miles away from the trailhead. Weight adds up quickly, especially when you add a rope and climbing gear to the mix, so we’re examining everything, looking at what can be used for multiple purposes, what we need for survival and emergencies, and what’s more for comfort. For example, we’ve opted for a tent (not a super-necessity, but awesome to keep the bugs out), but are passing on camp pillows. Rolled up clothes work just fine. Yes to sunscreen, no to dry shampoo (my hair is going to look *amazing*). Yes to coffee. Definitely yes to coffee.

The same went for our climbing gear. As fairly new trad leaders, we tend to take along more gear than we need. For this trip, we did a close examination of our rack and got it down to something reasonable. Still quite a bit of weight, but much lighter than it was.

Seth's homemade tether

Seth’s homemade tether

A bit of homemade gear innovation by Seth: he made tethers for our nut tools out of parachute cord. We like to have our nut tools attached to something so we don’t drop them off a cliff and have been using long slings up to this point, but the slings tend to get caught on stuff and tangled in the rest of the gear. Seth has fixed that. Pretty awesome.

After the Winds we’re heading up to the Tetons, at which time our team of two will become a team of three. So, we made some team prusiks for the occasion (in the season’s hottest colors, of course). Shiny new prusiks are awesome and fun, and when used correctly, they save lives.

Team prusiks. Wyoming 2014.

Team prusiks. Wyoming 2014. Not shown: two more team prusiks.

On the food front, we’re portioning out meals day by day before we pack them, with a bit of extra just in case. This will, hopefully, help us to avoid packing too much and save some weight there.

Very little in the way of clothing changes, mostly we’ll just have layers and rain gear and plan on wearing the same thing for 5 days. We’ll be a stinky pair by the time we come out of the Winds. Luckily, we’ll be heading straight up to the Tetons, and the showers of the AAC Climbers’ Ranch. Yay for showers!

We’re reading up on routes and getting beta. I’m brushing up on my weather knowledge (Seth got me a nice little book about reading the weather), and things are lining up!

On a related, but not-related note, this trip will be a step into new territory for me. It’ll be my longest time in the backcountry, completely reliant on what I take with me. It’ll be my first time camping in grizzly bear country (most of the grizzlys are in the north part of the range, but a few have migrated south, which is where we’ll be). And the climbs on our list, although in the easy to moderate range, are not small. We’ve chosen alpine trad routes, just what I like. They’re tall and exposed, and I know they will challenge me and push me. I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, and I know that I’ll learn a lot as a result. I’m nervous and looking forward to it, all at the same time.

Any other pack weight advice you can offer for 5 days in the backcountry with climbing gear in tow? Gear innovations? Tips and tricks? I’d love to hear them!

Mountain Training 2014 Progress Report

Seth and I will be spending close to two weeks in the mountains this August. I’ve mentioned briefly that stairs are one of our modes of training. Things started out a bit rough (see here), but are definitely improving.

There’s a set of 134 steps near our house, each step being 6 inches tall. We did a bit of math and determined that climbing that staircase 15 times equals approximately 1,000 ft of vertical distance. We’ve been heading over there weekly with packs on and adding a bit more as we go. Sometimes we’ll mix in doubles (2 steps at a time) with singles to mimic the higher steps involved in 3rd class scrambling, and to keep our brains occupied as well.

I’m hoping that all of this stair climbing with a weighted pack will get me close to where I need to be for our trip. It’s hard to know how climbing a bunch of stairs at 800 ft. above sea level will translate to hiking up a mountain at 10,000 ft. I do know that our stair workouts are feeling quite a bit easier than when we started, so progress is being made. Surely it will at least partially translate. That is what I’m telling myself.

This week will be a big one, we have four days of stair climbing planned, and then I have my kettlebells classes as well.

I’m so very excited to get back here:

Grand Teton

Three weeks and counting!

Training for the Mountains: Minnesota Style

My plans for August include, among other things, climbing a big mountain. From the bottom to the top is 7,000 vertical feet, 5,000 of those hiking with a heavy pack. So I’ve started amping up my training to prepare.

They say the best way to train for hiking uphill with a heavy pack on is to hike uphill with a heavy pack on. What do you do if you’re a Minnesotan with limited access to large hills? The next best thing:

In absence of mountains, stairs will work

In absence of mountains, stairs will work

On Sunday, Seth and I threw ropes and climbing gear in our packs and set out for these stairs. They’re 6 inches tall, so 2,000 steps is 1,000 ft of vertical gain. 134 steps … I did the math and determined that we should climb up and down the stairs 15 times. No big deal.

After the 8th trip back down, my legs were involuntarily quivering and I felt like a complete wimp. We took a break, ate a banana, and finished up our 15. Felt pretty good, patted ourselves on the back, continued on with our days.

My ‘up’ muscles felt fine. My ‘down’ muscles…. not so much. Yesterday (the dreaded 2nd day), my calves were so tight that I couldn’t walk normally (I still can’t). It’s been a physical comedy over here, trying to walk, trying to stand up from a seated position…. I resisted, but finally had to break down and explain to my kettlebells instructor why I wouldn’t be joining class. His response was sympathetic, and so perfect:

“I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been a victim of my own zeal.  I would be a rich man” – Ron Wetzell, RKC

A victim of my own zeal. Yep.

Lessons learned:

1. Sometimes less is more. Take it slowly and figure out where you’re at *before* leaping headfirst into 2,000 steps up and down a staircase with a weighted pack….

2. Walking down a set of stairs is a different motion that hiking downhill

3. My calves need some more training before heading to the mountains

I’m hoping to be healed up enough to return to my kettlebells training tomorrow. Then another crack at the stairs on Friday. Maybe I’ll dial it back to 1,340 steps….

 

Tiny Adventures: Urban Hiking, Sweater Cutting, and Rifle Shooting

Tiny adventures are adventures close to home, not requiring a lot of time or travel. Maybe something you haven’t done before, something that scares you a little, or just something that feels a bit adventurous, even just a little bit. Adventure, big or small, is good for the soul.

Here are three of my most recent tiny adventures:

Hiking: Pike Island, Minneapolis

Biking to Pike Island

Biking to Pike Island

I have been meaning to check out this hike for a while, mostly because the directions start with “take the light rail to the Fort Snelling station.” Pike Island piqued my curiosity, but I never made it down there, until last winter. It’s a great place in the city to go cross-country skiing.

Seth and I decided to go see what it was like when the river wasn’t frozen and the island wasn’t covered in snow.

 

No Bicycles

No Bicycles

We skipped the light rail and hopped on our bikes instead. Seth knew a secret bike path that I had no idea existed. It took us on mostly trails, through a beautiful wooded area, and it was mostly downhill. Score.

From there we locked up our bikes and crossed the bridge to the island on foot. No bikes allowed. A trail runs along the outside of the island, and that’s where we had skied in the winter, but this time we decided to follow deer trails instead. It was early enough in the season that we didn’t have to worry about poison ivy or ticks.

Following deer trails.

Following deer trails.

Lots of leaves were just starting to bud, and we saw at least two separate groups of deer and a wild turkey. I was hoping for a fox sighting, but alas, not this time.

Pike Island

It wasn’t a strenuous day, but it was fun to get out of the house and spend some time biking and hiking around with my husband. A lovely way to spend a lovely afternoon.

 

Cutting:

I took scissors to my hand-knit sweater

I took scissors to my hand-knit sweater

There’s this thing in knitting called steeking. If you knit, say, a sweater, and you want to make it into a cardigan, you can cut your knitting right up the front, where you want it to open. The necessary preparations will protect your sweater from unraveling into tiny little bits.

A sweater is a lot of work. Many hours with a knitting needle. So, finishing all of that work and then taking scissors to it feels quite adventurous indeed.

I did the research, made the necessary preparations, and… made the cut. And it was ok. Nothing bad happened. And now, my sweater turned cardigan is nearly complete.

 

Shooting:

A friend invited Seth and I to a gun range and we took him up on the offer (he had some new scopes for his rifles that he needed to adjust). Seth had shot before, but I never had. My first time maybe even holding a gun. I was nervous about it, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect, and guns are very powerful things.

I was happy to see the rules and precautions taken at the range. Our friend walked us through the safety protocols, how to load the gun, and how to aim and shoot. Once I got used to the kick from firing, I had fun seeing how close together I could get the holes on my target. For my first time shooting, I did pretty well.

That's me.

That’s me.

—-

Three successful tiny adventures for my spring so far. I’m always curious to hear what you’ve been up to. Any ideas for tiny adventures you can lend?

 

Trip Report: Apostle Island Ice Caves

Maybe you’ve seen them in the news, or in your social media feed. The ice along the shoreline of Lake Superior is frozen enough right now to walk out to the Mainland Sea Caves along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. In the summer, kayakers explore the sea caves by boat, but it’s not every year that people get to see them in the winter.

It’s been an especially cold winter here in the upper midwest. It’s meant a lot of snow and a lot of ice. Pretty great for those of us who like to play outside. And pretty great for the sea caves, which are now covered in ice. The cold also means that tens of thousands of people have been able to hike out onto the lake to see the frozen caves.

Sunrise on frozen Lake Superior

Sunrise on frozen Lake Superior

Seth and I drove up last weekend to see them for ourselves. We went out before sunrise on Sunday morning, which was the perfect time to go. We beat the crowds and got to explore the caves with very few others around us. It was a cold morning, air temps were down near -10F. That combined with the dawn light and the ice caves made for a stunningly beautiful morning along the shores of Lake Superior.

The ice is formed both from the waves of Lake Superior and from water trickling out of the rock itself, creating some really spectacular effects.

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 7-001

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 6-001

The caves were beautiful from the outside; big, grand displays of nature. Inside the caves we found tiny little details that were just as spectacular as the giant icicles outside.

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 5

We hiked about 2 miles from the beach before turning around and heading back. If we had brought our harnesses and a rope, we could have just rapped down from the top of the cliffs. That would have been awesome.

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 1

Not only were the caves absolutely beautiful, but it’s not every day that one gets to walk out onto Lake Superior. The last time it was frozen enough to safely get out there was in 2009, and as soon as the next big storm comes across the lake, there’s a good possibility of the ice breaking up. The window is small. I mentioned earlier that tens of thousands of people are taking advantage of that window to see the caves. It’s incredible that so many people are making the trek to see the beauty of nature. We saw cars parked a couple of miles down the road. People with kids and dogs and sleds hiking out for a rare viewing.

The caves are a 3.5 hour drive from the Twin Cities, and it was worth the trip. If you make the trek yourself and want to avoid the weekend crowds, get out your warm clothes and head out early in the day.

Happy exploring! Thanks to Seth for the beautiful photos.

 

 

Tiny Adventures: Searching for Ice

When the weather first turns cold, I always find that it takes a little bit of time before I realize that I can still go outside and do stuff. You’d think I’d remember from *last* year, or the year before, but I mostly just want to stay inside, in the comfort of a heated home, warm kitties, and blankets.

I snapped out of it last weekend, when Seth wanted to go searching for ice. I pulled on some baselayers, geared up, and headed out into the cold. We picked up a friend on the way, and went exploring!

The Mississippi River runs through Minneapolis, in some parts separating the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. We knew of one place across the river where ice forms, and I had heard of another spot, but wasn’t sure exactly where it was.

Our search for ice turned into a lovely little tiny adventure!

Ice

The ice is getting there! Just needs to stay cold….

One of my very favorite things about the Twin Cities is that it takes only a few minutes to feel like I’m *not* in the middle of a city. These falls are less than two miles from our house, and only a five minute walk from the busy streets above.

Listening to the ice

Listening to the ice

We continued our adventure from here, following trails down to the river, up little rock faces, down gullies and inlets.

There was one spot where plates of ice from the river were washing up on the shore. Among the sound of the waves was the delicate clinking of ice. Like little glass xylophones.

That was my favorite part.

From there, it was on to some climbing shenanigans. We tested our undercling traversing skills along the side of a wall:

Rob and Seth working on their undercling skills

A long ways to go.

A long ways to go.

 

And then headed out to find more ice.

This ice forms at the end of a city aqueduct that eventually drains into the river. When we climbed up top to check out potential anchors, we found some already there, bolted into the concrete. Yay!

 

 

A successful day of adventuring, only a few miles from home. The very definition of a tiny adventure.

Proof that we were still in the middle of the city? This graffiti, right above the anchors for that last ice climb.

 

Wilderness First Aid

It was a cold, rainy November day. Seth and I were on a hike down by the river bottoms when we heard some groans from ahead on the trail. We turned a corner and saw a mountain bike strewn across the trail. To the side lay a woman tangled in the bushes, leg wrapped around a tree. We did a quick scan of the area and ran over to help her. She had been riding at a good clip, lost control, and landed here. The details were foggy. Her leg was obviously injured, and she had a pretty good bump on her head.

Ok… before you get too far into this, you should know that this didn’t really happen. This is a fake scenario that was presented to us in the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course that we took earlier this month. Alright, continuing on….

Marianna's fake head wound.

Marianna’s fake head wound.

Seth held her head in case of a c-spine injury, and we had her hold a handkerchief to her head wound to stop the bleeding. We checked her airway, her breathing, and her pulse, and I did a more thorough assessment to see if there were more injuries. Her spine was sore, and her leg was most likely broken. We made her as comfortable as we could, kept her head stabilized, and I constructed a make-shift splint out of what we had on us. We decided we would need help getting her out, so we called for help and kept an eye on her vitals while we waited.

Once we were finished with the assessment, our mountain biker stood up, brushed the dirt off her pants, and we all headed back into our classroom to discuss what we had done right and what we could have done better.

This particular WFA course was through the NOLS Wilderness Medical Institute. 16 hours over a weekend. A fair amount of time was spent in the classroom learning about the basics of first aid care. We wrapped ankles, built splints out of sleeping pads, learned the symptoms of shock, hypothermia, dehydration, etc, and we learned how to give a thorough and helpful report to a rescue team if needed.

That knowledge was immediately put to use in scenarios outside, where folks would pretend to be hurt. Our injured included climbers, skiers, mountain bikers, hikers… fake blood, fake bruises, and even fake compound fractures. They were armed with details about their allergies, their medications, what they had eaten that day, and even the last time they urinated. The grand finale was rescuing a woman out of an avalanche chute. We had to make tough decisions about how many people to send in, and how much to treat before moving her (and us) to safety. By the end we had her wrapped up in a burrito to keep her warm and called for a rapid evac (after moving her out of harms way, of course).

It was a fun weekend, it was a very informative weekend, and I learned a lot. I’d recommend a course like this to anyone who’s doing any serious playing in the outdoors. I walked away feeling very fortunate that I haven’t encountered any serious injuries on a trip up to this point. Now I feel equipped to assess the severity of a situation, if it arises, and I can administer basic medical care until more definitive care can be reached. I hope I never have to use these skills, but I’m glad to have them. I’m also glad to know how to tape an ankle.

Thank you to the NOLS Wilderness Institute, and to REI for hosting this course.