Tag Archives: tiny adventures

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)

Big Adventure Turned Tiny

Here’s a story about how plans don’t always work out the way one intends, and how sometimes, that’s just fine. A big adventure turned tiny.

Red Rocks 2012. Can you see me?

Red Rocks 2012. Can you see me?

Last year, some friends, Seth, and I were planning a big adventure. A trip to Red Rocks. Our trip the previous year had been a lot of fun, and we wanted to get out on some of the multi-pitch in the park this time. We had a week that worked, everyone was in… but the trip was cancelled. It turned out I was needed at work.

My friends, the troopers that they are, immediately came back with the idea for a medium-sized adventure. We would take a three day weekend and head out to Devil’s Lake, WI. There’s some nice climbing there, it’s only a 4 hour drive from the cities, and less time commitment overall. A great compromise! But, that fell through, too.

So, we settled on an even smaller sized adventure and decided to head up to our local crag instead. We booked campsites for two nights so that we could at least ‘pretend’ we were on a trip. We would head up after work on Friday, climb all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday before heading back.

As the weekend got closer, though, the weather forecast got worse. Highs in the 40s, lows just below freezing. Chilly, but climbable. Then the cartoon rainclouds appeared on the forecast. Then the snowflakes. Every day we checked the forecast, and every day it seemed to get worse. Colder, rainier, snowier. Friday arrived, and we decided to just go anyway. Maybe the weather people would be wrong.

CampfireThat night of camping was great fun. Seven of us around the campfire, a full moon above, and no rain. We cooked our food on the fire and laughed late into the evening. It was fantastic. The weekend was off to a great start, and I knew that even if we didn’t get to climb the next day, that night of camping and laughing around the fire was worth the trip.

At the end of a great night, we crawled into our tent. A few moments later the first raindrop bounced off of our rainfly. Then the next. We awoke the next morning to cold, cloudy, and still raining. The group broke camp and headed out for breakfast. We did get some climbing in that day, but it was back in the city pulling on plastic at the climbing gym.

What started out as a big, adventure-filled week out in Red Rocks working on our multi-pitch trad climbing was eventually downgraded to one night of camping and some gym climbing. And you know what? It was great. I spent a night around the campfire with people I love, laughing until my stomach hurt. It was good for the soul.

That weekend reminded me that even if grandly planned adventures don’t quite work out as expected, it’s important to stay open to other possibilities. Adventure comes in all sizes, and a lot of times it’s the people you’re with that makes something great.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Tiny Adventures: Making Pickles

The cucumber harvest is plentiful this year. At least, compared to years past. So, I thought I’d try making some pickles. This is a tiny adventure for a few reasons, the biggest of which is I’ve never canned anything before (and never made pickles before, either). Canning is scary because, if done wrong, it can make you pretty sick. So….. I did quite a bit of research before delving in. Finally, after I felt like I had a pretty good idea of the dos and don’ts, I gathered the ingredients, took a deep breath, and went for it.

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The finished pickles

Turns out that it was pretty easy. And when I woke up this morning, the jars were all sealed up. Very exciting! I’ll let you know how they taste in 6 weeks.

Tiny Adventures: Hatching Praying Mantises

This is probably the coolest addition to our garden yet.

First off, the garden is looking amazing this year. It’s dense with goodies, and all of the goodies are really happy. Carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, beans, cabbage…. all sorts of yummy things. We do, however, have a few pesky visitors munching holes in leaves.

Enter, these little guys:

Praying Mantis

 

Praying Mantis Egg Case

Praying Mantis Egg Case

 

A few weeks ago, a friend gave us some praying mantis egg cases as a gift for the garden. The instructions said to hang up the egg cases, each of which contains an average of 200 eggs, and wait for them to hatch! The baby mantises thin themselves out (aka, eat each other), until there are just a few left in the garden, eating all of the bad guys.

 

So, that’s what we did. Yesterday, I stepped out to see this:

Hatched Praying Mantises

Hatched Praying Mantises

Those are a whole bunch of baby praying mantises, hatched from their egg cases, trying to get out. So, we distributed them around the garden, and hung the egg cases in case there were more in there. Pretty cool, huh?

Now, every time I go out to the garden, I’m not only pulling errant weeds and checking for ripe veggies, I’m looking for praying mantis babies. I love them.

 

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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.

Tiny Adventures: Snow Camping

The temperature crept up to nearly 50F last week. Snow was melting and the rumor was that one of the south facing walls at Barn Bluff in Red Wing was dry and warm, ready to climb. The forecast looked good, so Seth and I packed up our gear and our tent and headed down. It turned out to be a bit more of an adventure than expected!

First Outdoor Climbs of the Season:

Hiking into Barn Bluff

Hiking in to the climbs

 

The hike in was still quite snowy, and a lot of it was just plain ice. We still had a little bit of snow in our backyard, so I’m not sure why this surprised me, but it did. The wall that’s dry is the wall with more difficult climbs on it, so it was more of a project day than a sending stuff day. We hung out and worked a few routes before heading to our campsite.

Excited to Climb!

Snowy Camping:

We chose a walk-in site at Frontenac State Park and realized very quickly that we were probably the first to camp there in quite a while. The trail and the sites all had probably 10″ of snow covering them, something I didn’t expect at all, although in retrospect it seems pretty obvious that snow would be a possibility. This is where the tiny adventure part of the trip begins. Believe it or not, I had never set up a tent in snow before!

The question turned out to be, how do we stake out the rain fly when the ground is frozen (That was my question, at least. Seth knew all about using deadman anchors, extending the anchors with rope, tying something to the end and covering it with snow to hold it in place)? Since we weren’t very worried about rain, and the design of the tent keeps the rainfly above the mesh at the top, we just let it flap in the wind. Problem solved.

Once the tent was set up, our next project was getting a fire going. Remember the snow in our campsite? There was also ice in the firepit. A big chunk of it. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work, either, but Seth was confident that it would all be ok.

Campfire on Ice

Campfire on Ice

We stacked our firewood and kindling and got the fire going, but as the ice melted, it took the coals with it. We had picked up two bundles of firewood in town and quickly realized we would need more. As Seth went back into town for more firewood, I kept the fire going, bailing out water from the firepit as the ice melted.

Seth returned victoriously with more firewood, and by the end of the evening we had steamed all of the ice/water out and had a roaring fire going. We threw some hobo packs on the fire, filled with seasoned ground beef and lots of veggies, and had a delicious meal before heading to bed.

Our delicious meal

I loved that we were the only people out there, camping in the snow, making a fire on the ice, and making it work. I learned all about staking out a tent in the snow (even thought we didn’t actually do it) and the wonder of meat and veggies cooked in tinfoil. Another successful tiny adventure!