Tag Archives: Minnesota

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.

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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?

 

Embracing Winter

Breaking trail.

Breaking trail.

I live in Minnesota. Winters here are usually cold, and snowy, and long. This particular winter has been one of the coldest on record. The National Weather Service reports that we’ve had 50 days this winter when the thermometer reading was below 0F. It’s been cold. And we’ve had a good amount of snow, as well. The snow here doesn’t melt, it just piles on top of whatever’s left over from that storm a few weeks ago, or a few months ago. So, at this point in the year there are multiple feet of snow on the ground. I haven’t seen the pavement on the road in front of my house since November (and I live in the cities).

That’s pretty much what to expect from a winter here. Yes, it’s been colder than average this year,  but it’s generally pretty cold anyway, and it’s generally snowy.

A lot of people around me hate this winter. Really, really hate it. They feel trapped. Spirits are low, it feels like spring will never come. Every morning at work I am struck by how miserable the people around me are about the weather.

I’ve had a hard time relating to their misery, though. In fact, I’ve been loving this winter. The contrast between my attitude and others around me is so stark that I had to wonder… what’s the difference?

Backyard Snow Cave

Seth’s backyard snow cave.

When I look around me, I realize that not everybody is miserable. I find that my adventuring friends are feeling pretty good about this winter. Snow and cold that sticks around provides all sorts of fun activities that don’t exist at other times of the year. We’ve been cross-country skiing, ice climbing, building snow forts, shooting rockets off of frozen lakes, testing out our layering systems, and generally taking the cold temps as a challenge. I have a friend who went out for a short ski when it was-25F (that’s air temp, before windchill) just to see what it would be like. Another friend, Dave, waited until the coldest night of the winter, and then went and slept in his backyard.

It seems to me that the difference between feeling trapped and miserable about winter and feeling stoked is a willingness to play outside anyway and just a little sense of adventure. Cold and snow doesn’t mean being trapped indoors. It means putting on warmer clothes and taking a pair of skis out with you, or a sled. Or some good snow boots. It means walking out on frozen lakes. It means snow forts and throwing snowballs with the neighbor kids. This winter, it meant that Lake Superior was frozen solidly enough to see gorgeous ice formations in sea caves. And for me, it’s meant learning to climb ice. Another great way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter.

That's me!

That’s me! (photo credit: Fred Child)

Living in a place like Minnesota requires one to embrace the seasons. All of them. Winter is long. Adventures big and small are out there waiting, the cold and snow just present different options. One can either hunker down and wait it out, or get out there and play. My very small, unofficial, and unscientific study tells me that the people who choose the latter are happier.

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Paul showing his winter stoke.

(As I post this, we are getting our first taste of melting. The sun is shining and temps are crawling above freezing. Sad to see our winter adventures go, but looking forward to the adventures that warm weather will bring)

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.

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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.

 

 

Trip Report: Winter Cabin in Ely

Christmas morning. We all gathered around the wood-burning stove for our “Secret Pirate” gift exchange. Santa couldn’t make it to Ely, but the pirates did. Gifts were opened: a climbing grip exerciser, some sock yarn, an emergency bivy sack. Then we all suited up and went out skiing for the day.

Maybe not a super traditional way to spend the holiday, but it worked. My husband, a few friends, and I spent a few days in a rustic cabin just east of Ely, in northern Minnesota. It was fairly remote, and the cars went a full 5 days without moving from their place. Cell phones didn’t work and there was no internet.

The cabin was nice. In this case, rustic meant no running water and a wood-burning stove for heat. The outhouse was equipped with an insulated seat and looked out on a beautiful view of the snow-covered woods. We pumped our own water from somewhere underground where things weren’t frozen, and dumped our grey water from dishes back out into the woods.

Breaking trail.

Breaking trail.

It was a lovely way to spend a week. Temps were cold and crisp. Snow was abundant. We broke trail with our skis to the lakes nearby and through portages to more lakes. Sometimes everyone would go out, sometimes we’d break up into smaller groups. By the third day our trails were well established and easy to ski on, so it got more fun as we went!

Every day we watched the thermometer on the deck. It felt a bit like an adventure to see how well we could keep ourselves warm skiing when it read 0F, -10F, -15F. Turns out that as long as you keep moving, it’s not that hard. And starting out with warm things hung by the fire doesn’t hurt either.

Seth and his rocket.

Seth and his rocket.

The cabin was situated on a little pond, frozen over like all of the lakes. On a particularly clear day, we went out onto our little pond and launched rockets that Seth and I had built. Seth’s rocket was a smashing success. We got 7 or 8 launches out of it. Mine, not so much. Two parachutes melted and the rocket made a crash landing back onto the thick snow.  The rocket that worked though? Awesome. I’ve never shot model rockets before.  It was fun, and we couldn’t have had a more gorgeous day for it.

So, we skied, snowshoed, launched rockets, ate good food, and drank whiskey. We read books, knitted hats and dishcloths, talked, played euchre, stoked the fire, and generally enjoyed the silence and remoteness of where we were. A lovely way to spend the holiday.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Tiny Adventures: Giant Snowball and Warm River Hike

Spring is fickle. Winter tries its hardest to hang on, but eventually the warm weather wins. The battle results in a pretty wide range of weather in short periods of time.

For example….

On a late April evening, four of us took advantage of several inches of fresh, wet snow, to try and roll the biggest snowball that we could. It was perfect snow for snowballs, and we successfully rolled a five-foot tall beast. The snowball was so heavy at the end that with four of us pushing, we could barely move it. Bonus: as a funny joke, we left it in front of our neighbors’ front door. They were the talk of the neighborhood!

With four tiny snowmen on top.

With four tiny snowmen on top.

DrainpipeFive days later, the snow was melted (but not the giant snowball, muahaha) and Seth and I were able to do some exploratory hiking down by the river in t-shirts. We discovered a new path and a beach that would be perfect on a warm summer evening, and a big ol’ drainpipe that empties into the river.

Two completely different adventures based on two completely different seasons, within one week.

Waiting for Spring

It’s raining here in Minneapolis. The weather people are saying it will quickly turn to snow, that we’ll wake up with a fresh 8-10 inches of it in the morning. This has been April in Minnesota this year. Perhaps not far out of the ordinary, but by this time of the year, we are all dreaming about that day when the temperature tops 50F, the sun comes out, and everyone is smiling and happy.

Last week I knit myself a new pair of mittens, thinking that I could jinx the cold weather away. But it didn’t work. I’ve been wearing them every day. It’s a good thing they’re awesome.

I’ve been getting spring started indoors, growing plants for the vegetable garden. It seems that I’ve gone a bit overboard this year (I’m guessing I won’t need 30 tomato plants), but it’s fun as always, and every year my setup gets a little better.

Vegetable Seedlings

I have six varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of peppers, two different kinds of kale, red cabbage, and lots of onions. If everything goes well, it will be a great garden.

Life is changing, and it’s good. My veggies are happily growing in the other room, I start a new job this week, and I see many more opportunities for adventures big and small in my future. To top it off, the weather folks say that spring will be arriving this weekend. For real this time.