Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mossville Road to Detweiller Park: a Saturday Training Hike

We've decided on a fall trip, and we're going to need to do a longer Day 1 than Boo has ever done before, or that I've done in 1 day since wreaking my back. So, more training. We've added an evening walk with packs once a week, and longer weekend walks. August 29, we walked 4.6 miles along the Illinois River Bluff Trail. We left a car at the end and walked it one way.

The kid's exhausted from school starting (probably growing...), and was a little whiny. She needed lots of snacks, reminders to drink, and distraction. She spent a lot of time fleshing out her gift wish list to us, and it's very interesting that it's changed from "baby dolls and cats" to "camera, bigger water bladder, compass". Like she's getting older.

She still likes to collect things, poke scat, and do the stop/run pace that drives adults nuts.


Scat
Feather and Pillbug 

The trail goes along the hill between the Illinois River valley and the prairie above. So it crosses all the ridges formed by water going from the prairie to the river. We hit 10 ridge tops (we started at the top of 1, and another didn't go very far down before heading back up). So very roughly 1600 feet up and 1800 feet down.

One of the exciting landmarks on this hike is Going Under the Freeway. The trail passes under Rt 6 through a kind of creepy drainage tunnel (it's obviously designed for foot traffic, but ... it's a loooong dark tunnel).

Walk Towards the Light....


The trail past there is newer, but still really obvious and well signed. No benches, so we ate lunch on a log. The gravel is still loose enough we all slipped and fell once, but no blood. Between Mossville Rd and 6, the trail kinds of goes almost straight up and down the hills, but from 6 to Detweiller there are switchbacks!

There is a unisex, single seater restroom at Green Valley Camp. New, clean, flushes and running water, diaper station. The rest of Green Valley Camp is a deserted summer camp, and it's creepy as hell. After that, it's  one more ridge to Detweiller, cross one road, and down the hill to the second car.

Cool Tree


 Though Boo was complaining about every hill, she did say her pack was very light (it was).

How much training do you do with your kid(s)? For yourself?


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Big Agnes Copper Spur 3: Review

Because I wrecked my back (that will come up frequently, sorry), we figured the only way to get me on the trail again was Lee taking a bigger chunk of the load, and seriously lightening my load.

Heaviest thing I typically carry is a tent for the 3 of us. It's a 10 year old Alps Mountaineering, weighing best we can tell around 8 pounds (about 3.5kg). Over the winter I did a lot of research, and we ended up buying a Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 because it's orange.

Big Agnes Copper Spur 3

The big quick win, is that we went to about 4 pounds, halving our shelter weight (again, we haven't weighed it). Tent volume decreased by about 1/3. The pole bundle is also significantly shorter, so easier to pack.

The fabric is a lot lot lot thinner. So I jam the zippers, something I've never had a problem with before. I had the door held open with the toggle one day, went to bed after dark, and instead of untoggling the door, I ended up sending the toggle through the loop twice more before I gave up and turned on my light.

Pole clips have come lightyears in the past 10 years. Boo can clip and unclip these!

Three 20" sleeping pads fit inside. I'm 6'1" ( 185cm) tall, and I fit with my head and toes not touching the ends. If Boo slept parallel to us, we'd all fit OK.

I've only ever used shepherds crook stakes, so the tiny angle iron stakes were new, and need a little finesse to keep the lines from slipping off. I did put a loop of bright orange cord on them, which kept them from getting lost and provides a little pull handle.

New Tent in the Rain

 The first "dry" run, in an RV campground, the tent survived pea-sized hail with no damage or leaks. Second use, there was a more sustained rain. There was a stream under the tent (with footprint), but no water came in that way. The fly sagged in the rain. We did not leave enough cord to tighten it up, though, so the fly hit the tent body in the night, and I got dripped on. The "rainbow" doors that open down have not been a problem when it's dry. Packing up in the mud, I got mud inside the tent, because the doors were flopping all over. Practice needed.

And We're Off!

Orange on the outside of Lee's pack is the entire tent. All between the sleeping pad and top lid. It's small.

What's your current tent? What do you like about it? What would you want different? 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pincushion Mountain and Devil Track River. Superior Hiking Trail. August 6-7, 2015

Part 2

While my feet were airing, I skipped rocks to amaze the children. One skipped across the river and shattered on a rock on the far side (there were a lot of brittle rocks there). By the time dinner was ready, all the kids had succeeded in skipping rocks somewhat consistently and had moved on to throwing big rocks in to make the best splashes.

Dinner was made by soaking the dried food cold in the pot, and once it had rehydrated, warming it up. It seemed to take forever, but food always does when you're hungry. I think it was a successful experiment. We'd failed to get more denatured alcohol and were cooking over isopropal. Man that was smokey! But the soot wiped right off... We inhaled all the food, with no leftovers and nobody still hungry. Perfect.


Dinner
Dirty Dishes

The kids played "predator and prey", which is hide and seek with animal noises. R has a terrifying growl that startled me every time.I took a little walk back to the bridge, since I'd been tuckered out and missed enjoying that section of trail.

Several other people came down to our campsite and looked a little taken aback at how full it was. We told them all that we would figure out how to fit them in, but the other campsite is close and looked bigger and probably didn't have children. They all moved on and didn't come back. We learned later that the other site had 6 people in it by the end of the day.

As it got dark, we tucked into bed. It started to sprinkle.

When I woke up in the dark for a pit stop, I realized we have some learning to do about the tent. The lightweight fabric gets caught more easily in the zipper. That's a small problem, until it's wet and gets more caught. I ended up crawling out of the vestibule on my stomach and getting it unstuck from the outside. The rain (and perhaps just being new?) also made the tent floppy, so I tightened the ropes.

In the morning we had oatmeal in the rain. While the water was heating up, I made coffee sludge with dehydrated coffee and rain drops. That was not as effective as waiting for hot water, turns out. Boo wanted a sip, as she often does. But I usually pollute my coffee with sugar, and often milk. Not on the trail! Her "ewww" face was wonderful!

Wet Breakfast

Packing stuff up was a little awkward. The rain had drizzled down the trail under the vestibule, so the belt to my pack was muddy. We got most everything that had been dry, into packs dry. We did not add much mud to the tent in taking it down. With the one vestibule muddy, the doors of the tent were a little tricky. If I had a redo, I'd pack up from the vestibule that wasn't muddy! Packing was made a little easier by strapping the tent to the front of Lee's pack, under the compression straps, instead of trying to jam it inside.

Good Morning Mud

As we'd camped at the bottom of cliffs, first thing we had to do was climb up. The rain made things a bit wet, but nothing difficult. (Stairs! All those stairs!)

And We're Off!

The fog was amazingly beautiful.  Again, nothing I could get a picture of. The Devil Track River soon was just peeks and hints through the trees. There's some beautiful river down there, but don't bother bringing the big camera. The cliffs are also very pretty. The rain tapered off as we walked.

I haven't been hiking much, or backpacking at all, for 2 years. Turns out I've lost the knack of properly snacking on the trail. I stopped to take pictures off a bridge, and .... bonked hard. Suddenly I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I hadn't snacked when the kids had, and I missed my warning signs. Lee saved me and stuffed food into me, as I was at the point I couldn't even figure out that food would help. Oops.

Shortly after 11 (I think, I didn't have a timepiece with me), we reached the parking lot. Our ride wasn't there, as she was running a rescue shuttle for some folks who'd had gear failure in the rain (tent and rainjackets both). We ate lunch. The girls had peanut butter packets with bread or crackers. Those went well. The rest of us had tuna and crackers.

The hike was very short (I think ~5 miles both days). But that was good for my level of walking with a pack, and it was the first time the girls carried full-sized packs (with room for sleeping bags). It was a lovely walk. The raspberries were wonderful. Pincushion Mountain is easy to get to, easy to summit, and very nice views. The river was beautiful. The rain wasn't unpleasant (though it could have stopped an hour earlier for drier breakfast...). Success.

Part 1

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pincushion Mountain and Devil Track River. Superior Hiking Trail. August 6-7, 2015

Part 1

The regular crew is 3 adults (me, Lee, DvA) and 3 kids (Boo - 7yo, R- 8yo, and J - almost 12). It's my first trip with R, since the 2 or 3 overnights she's been on were all after I wrecked my back and wasn't hiking.

We started after lunch, from 53, just off the Gunflint Trail, which leaves 61 at the north end of Grand Marais. The parking lot has a nice overlook of Grand Marais, where we were carcamping for the week. There were enough of us we took both cars, and left one overnight. Many tails we hiked that week had boot brushes at the beginnings to reduce the spread if invasive plants. The kids were really good about brushing their boots. The trail starts along a cross-country ski trail. So it's really wide. There were a lot of raspberries along the edges!


Wipe Your Feet

Between the kids getting bigger and my back, I was by far the slowest in the group.It was lovely and solitary, but a little lonely. And I didn't get very many pictures of peoples' faces!

The Backpacking Crew

It wasn't very far along, just in time for the kids to get hungry, that we came to Pincushion Mountain. We left our packs at the bottom, and scrambled up the bare rock face. The kids were almost on all fours. At the top was lots of bare rock and some nice views of Superior and the inland. The Devil Track valley was pretty obvious. The breeze was nice after being in fairly dense woods. There was a big pile of deer scat up there, but I have no idea why a deer would have gone up.


Sillhouetts
Running Down the Mountain Top

Going back down the bare rock, I scooted down on my bottom. I threw my hiking sticks down ahead of me, which Lee accused me of throwing pointy sticks at her. Pfft, whatever.

We saw several berry-ful bear scats on the trail. I was glad to see that the bears are well-fed this time of year, since Boo still uses her shirt as a napkin more often than not.

(Not Quite) Falling Off the Bridge

Eventually the Superior Hiking Trail turned off the ski trail and narrowed to a more standard hiking trial width. As normal for the SHT, it was in lovely, well groomed condition. Well blazed. And full of steps. Oh god the steps. Down down down to the Devil Track River. Up and Down along the river. So much up. So much down. (I was fine with the up, but the down was kind of awful, even with my sticks.)

Down the Endless Stairway

Along with the horrible steps, we started to catch occasional glimpses of the river, and more views of the cliffs making the opposite bank. Just like the SHT book said, not much for the camera, but very good for the eyes. There were nice little overlooks and pull-offs to look at the river.

Admiring the River


We reached the West Devil Track campsite by mid afternoon and found it already occupied. Since we have plenty of time in the day and oomph in the legs, we decided to check out the East Devil Track campsite across the river and up a bit. DvA signed us in the trail register. The bridge across Devil Track is awesome. I did not get any great pics of it, but I love that bridge.

Devil Track Bridge


East Devil Track campsite was unoccupied, so we moved in. The book says it has 2 tent pads, but maybe 4 could squeeze in if some were small or everyone was friendly. We pitched our Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 for it's first backpacking use. We placed it at the corner of the tent pad, as it looked like if it rained, the rain would run down the trail and through the tent pad area. The tent pad was hard and rocky, but there was a convenient large rock to use as a hammer, so we got our stakes in.

Tool Using...

The "completely exhausted, couldn't take another step" kids clambered down to the river and spent some time throwing rocks, building dams, and in general proving that kids are sprinters. I gave my feet a nice cold soak and an airing.


Ice Bath 

Part 2: In Camp, Dinner, Night, Next Day

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Walking to School

I had a vacation day I thought I'd already used, so I took today off. So I walked Boo and the neighbor kid to school.

There's just a slight dusting of snow on the sidewalk. Just enough to look for tracks. Mostly people tracks, several dogs, a neighborhood cat or two. The exciting ones are the rabbits. Boo thought they looked like deer tracks, so we had to look at the little toe prints in the paws.

They also found icicles and used them to write "secret messages" in the snow.

Then they stuck their hands in the snow, took their hats off, and licked snow off the sidewalk behind my back (I think that's where the snowy noses and grins came from).


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Get Out!


Many people get the “Birch, you’re being crazy again” look on their faces as I regale them of stories of my weekend camping. Hiking, Avoiding minor disaster. With my small child. Personally, I think it’s kinda awesome, or I wouldn’t be doing it. 

But then some small number of them say, “Wow, that sounds really fun… but I could never do all that.” 

And yes, if you’ve never camped, you will not succeed backpacking with a kid right away. And a lot of families don’t live as close as we do to nice trails and wild spaces. 

But you too can get your kids outside. By not letting perfect be the enemy of good.

Do you garden? Even a small container garden gets kids in tune with weather and seasons, dirt and worms and pests and weeds. Boo has a couple containers in the big garden where she grows carrots and radishes and lettuce and peas (things that are easy to grow). She also has a dirt pile where she digs for worms and treasure. She hides in the bushes and climbs the maple tree. She and the neighbor kids chase each other around the house. 

Diggin' in the Dirt

Walking as a family is good, even if you can’t get to the wilderness.  Walk around the block. We were once stuck with the adults needing a hike and the kid wanting a playground. So we went to a park where we could take a trail from one parking area to the playground at a different parking area. We live in town, so we can walk to the library, the hardware store, and 3 playgrounds. 

Run Away - super-hero style

I had many happy nights sleeping in the tent in the backyard as a kid. Boo’s a little young to do that without an adult, but I have offered to chaperone her backyard camping trips next summer. Backyard trips don’t need a lightweight tent, or even one without chipmunk holes in it. 

The best part of camping was always cooking over a campfire, and we don’t do that backpacking. We do cook over a fire and in coals in the backyard a couple times a year. We have a portable fireplace, but we used to have a ground fire, and we burn the woody yard waste. It’s enough for hotdogs, potatoes, and s’mores. 

Hotdogging

I went camping with my parents all of once, and I never camped outside a backyard until I was an adult. I got where I am through friends willing to put up with my fumbling and fear of freezing. So if you’re an experienced outdoor person, invite a newbie along. If you want to become an outdoor person, take small steps, seek out people who do what you want to do, and have fun.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Knots


Everyone needs to know how to tie knots, right? 

We tie our shoes, tie ribbons on gifts, tie saws on tethers to drag up in trees, tie pea plants to trellises… We even occasionally tie knots out in the woods. 

Boo has always been interested in tying. She quickly claimed my short length of extra (usually laundry) line for her backpack. 

We start with the half granny knot, also known as “cross, tuck under, and pull.” Then she worked on adding a second, just the same, to get a faincy-dancy granny knot. 

Knot Practice

Granny knots are good for tying leaves into a belt.

Even More Tree Climbing

Or making my work boots impossible to get out of… 

Thoroughly Tied Shoe

She and J will often take her string, or some found line, and tie laundry lines, fish lines, or monster traps around camp. 

Practicing Knots

Lee and I have been known to sit around camp and learn new knots around the campfire. Turns out my knot pamphlet is a little tricky for her. But not for long at this rate...

Knot Lessons

The first knot I remember after tying my shoes was a slip-knot, and I still use it fairly frequently. I do not have a large repertoire of knots, but I’m learning. 

What knots did you learn as a kid? Which do you use the most now?