Monday, December 31, 2012

Hunting (Ambiguous)

Playing catch up I have a few mini posts worth a few minutes just so they don't get lost.

Late fall about the time I get the packraft I need to connect a stream to a lake for a link-up and it may require a tunnel of sorts. We are hunting for a line of weakness from where we are to a large body of, presumably, disgusting water that leads to the river. That will allow a long ride north about 10 miles to a put in that may look like the pictures below ...connecting to a lake and then a river. Packrafting back to the start but only if I can connect the trail to water. I'm going to call the post the "Don McLean" :-)

But the levee was dry. And them good old boys were ...

But of course the levee will not be entirely dry.

Seriously, like this doesn't make you curious about what is around the corner. Are you wondering if I'm going to tell you?

OK. The grade drops faster and ends with a downed poplar tree with its canopy jammed into the narrows creating a dam. The branches clogged with leaves and trash back up the water and it's spilling over the wall and making a pond. With the steep grade the pond reaches back 50 feet. I could not pass it and if I could the levee would not be safe to reenter. I might entertain clearing it with a few well placed cuts...

Unexpectedly we come across a lot of deer bones. I can't explain it but its not natural causes. Hunting is obvious and a local may just use this parcel of land as a dump. I suppose its ok to put what you can't use back into circulation so nature can recycle it.

I can make a logical guess about the bones and putting the minerals back in to the soil but what good can an old engine do? I see trash everyplace these days. Just last Saturday I found a dresser, baby stroller, Armchair, and 2 large child toys just dumped next to the trail I was riding on.

This day I do not make the connection to water that I wanted but I get far enough to know it sumps and may not be navigable.

I go hunting for a trail and find the hunted. One belongs to nature and one does not but when I look at each I still wonder about its life and how it came to rest here. Fortunately I was just passing through but my hunt was over for the day.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I'm behind 4 posts. I still have 2 dives and one of them was a very cool shipwreck. I dive again tomorrow and I've been on 2 long rides, 40 miles and 60 miles, in the last week. Fortunately my work is slowing down and the holiday will give me the time to write the stories.

Christmas Day
I run out of the house for a long slow ride a little after noon. I peddle up the river to Saint Paul, cross over and up the river some more. Head down and grinding. Brain in the o-f-f position. I just need the training time so I fill the empty space in my mind with about 6 words of a song I heard that morning. You know, like when you get a song stuck in your head. It sucks most of the time but if you're going to do nothing but twirl your feet for hours it's best to give your brain some mental bubblegum.
That iron tower is the counterweight for the railroad lift bridge next to the Robert Street Bridge. It's old and very cool looking. I've seen trains crossing it this summer but what I didn't realize is this.

So if you see something about a train going into the river it's probably this broken footing.

I didn't bring a bike light and with sundown before 5 that day I only had about 4 hours maybe less. I'm basically following a known trail that I've been on many times because I don't have the time or the desire to break my bike on some silly adventure. That means, follow the river up one side and back the other with some zig-zaging around at Pike Island. That's where the Miss and the Minn rivers meet so you need to jump a few bridges or you get turned around.

River crossings are many but not all of them have pedestrian lanes so I have to choose the Ford Bridge or go all the way up to the UofM and the sun is getting low so I cross over and head south.

Did you know we have Civil War Monument? We do and we have a Spanish-American War Memorial Tree! I found this a few weeks ago when I missed my turn. Not bad for getting lost but I needed a remedial history lesson when I got home.

Back on the bike and I turn the brain on so I can power up the legs to get me home before nightfall. I cut through Fort Snelling, Across hwy 55, and jump on the Lillydale trail back to Saint Paul. 30 minutes later and I'm trying to hold my bike lane on Concord Street in the dim lite of sundown. Once I get on the the trail I throttle it back and enjoy the last of a 40 mile ride in the cool x-mas air.

Back into Christmas at home I warm up with a little holiday cheer with my wife and brother-in-law and on that less then sober note, go read about how we got into a war with Spain and then the Philippines.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Performance Enhancing Studs

Last year when I Loop the Lake I fell down a lot. Falling on ice  hurts bad. With no traction the Forces at impact are higher. If you remember your physics, F = MA is the problem. 'A' means Acceleration (other Mass). Acceleration is the rate at which the velocity of a body changes with time and can best be understood as a vector. That is, Magnitude and Direction. When I crash in summer I have Friction (breaking) over Time to control both Magnitude and Direction. On ice, I have neither.

My Mass is moving at only a few miles an hour multiplied by my mass making the Force that I must dissipate but without breaks I have to dissipate that force by bouncing off the ice and it hurts.

So I got Performance Enhancing Stud Tires to put friction breaking back into the equation and set off in a new Direction.

With all the ice diving of late I know the ice should be good enough to ride on and with little to no snow I knew this ride was going to require the studs. I ride out onto a remote lake and start cruising around. The ice looks thick at times and others not so but keep my head on a swivel for thin ice and open water.

I don't have any destination so these ribbons of ice work well and I ride around for an hour or more.

After 20 minutes or so I'm comfortably in control and the studs are gripping great. I almost forget I'm on ice at times. Without studs this ride could not happen.

I stop to take the first picture below and immediately fall on my Acceleration. The ice is so smooth I have no control with the hard soles of my boots. To add to that, the wind holds me to a crawl.

After I learn to not walk on the ice I try and cross a large open grassy marsh to gain access to more lake but get walled in by thick grass. On my way out I run across these large prints. I presume Goose but they look too large.

This is the only open water I find all day. I'm standing on at least 5 inches of ice yet the hole is only feet from me. This hole is from the wind. You can tell from the course ice on the far side that this has been keep open by the wind and likely assisted by carp schooling below it. I've seen that once on an ice dive where the fish swimming in circles hollow the ice from below. I don't understand why but if I had to guess the thin ice allows more light and more algae or weeds grow.

I finish my ride without crashing and I'm hooked.
If anyone asks me I have to say I use Performance Enhancing Studs.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cracks In The Ice

Me and my buddies scuba year round. At one point I dove every weekend for almost 7 months.  Some years I get 20 to 30 ice dives but dive ice every year even if it's 3. This year is at 1 but the first and the last of the year are always the best. You dive less and play more. Like you see in the Norwegian Hot Tub 

The best part is playing on the thin ice. You can cut holes very easy so you move around a lot. It's common to cut 5 or 6 holes on normal ice but thin, you cut 2 or 3 at a time. I even get cut out at the end of the line to save the swim back.
We tow sleds but with wet ice it's effortless.

The ice is maybe 3 inches. I know I can walk on close to 3/4 of an inch but you need to keep moving and if you retrace your steps you fall through. The reason is simple, the cracks that formed on the way out fill and melt a bit of the ice and open up when weighted a second time. Closer to 2 inches and you have a little more freedom but you're still likely to fall in at some point.

To the right, that's close to 3 inches.

The video below is closer to 1.5 inches.

 Obviously I really need to take a second to say, I have a full dry suit and the 3 guys I'm with all have the same training and experience. I've been diving with them for years and we all trust the others will rescue anyone at a moments notice. We are not following ice diving rules but we never do anything that would cause harm today. You can clearly see divers under the ice and we can cut a hole in 30 seconds or less and pull anyone out. Hell, even without a saw we can jump on the ice and fall through. Lets watch Terry fall through.

Some time after this I cut a huge hole and use it as a swimming hole. It's very popular. You know your around good friends when you can't soak in ice water without all your buddies crowding you out.

We actually get around to diving and clip into an 'ice line' and set the belay and follow them around. Everyone is doing their job and it's all eyes on the safety of the diver but this is not instruction and plenty of untrained divers, including instructors, have died because they didn't get trained, so, again, this is for your entertainment, don't go do this unless you're trained. (the ice line is anchored through the ice, not the wagon)

It looks something like this from the surface. Terry has a free flow, meaning he is losing his breathing gas and signals he wants out. We can see the bubbles when he gets close so we know what's going on.

You may think we should be more excited to get him out of the hole but we've each taken to pulling the other out for lots of reason. Mostly recovering things like anchors so we'll pull the diver out many times in a days worth of diving. I've been pulled out 15 times on a single dive. It takes 60 seconds to pull someone out so it's rarely a panic. We also can feel the 'bite'. If it's real hard, you pull with everything you have!

Last video is a little long but I put all the parts together over the last few days to give you a sense of what an ice dive is like. It's quite playful. I spend about 25 minutes diving but much of the time is trimmed out because I'm searching the bottom and it's all rocks.

That's ice diving the fun way. Now that I'm past the video editing issues I can cut up a fun little trash dive from last weekend and then a brand new wreck from the 1900's. That should be great. I dive it tomorrow.

This was a bit too much video but I think it was required to really show the day. I'm still working on that skill so please excuse the mess at times and on that it's time to chill out.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Norwegian Hot Tub

Norwegian Hot Tub

I dive Tonka the last two weekends and find a lot of trash and have blast on the ice with my buddies but video is killing me. I can't find a tool that works and isn't total crap.

I just spent 4 hours cutting video to learn the trial software doesn't allow you to publish the cut movie.

So to cover the gap I'm putting out a few pics and a fun video of Joe and I jumping in.

I'll put the full story up once I get the editor I need.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Every time I awake to discover a fresh layer of Aput that child in me is happy. Some people liken it to Qana on Christmas but I... wait, you're not Inuit and I'm already leading into a long read about how the Inuit have 50 words for snow. Well they don't! They have what everyone has for water. Think about all the words that just describe water. River, creek, stream, brook, canal, lake, pond, pool, puddle, spill, drop, dew, moisture, mist, vapor, steam, clouds, fog, frost...glacier , iceberg, growler, icicle, slush, sleet... Lets not beat that anymore. Qana is 'falling snow' and Aput is 'fallen snow'. I awake to find a lot of Aput and I get geared up and go. My plan is to turn 6 hours and I hope 60 miles on the bike.

I can follow the trail if it's boxed in by trees but I don't know the trail and I get lost and have to read the map and all the blowing Qana makes that difficult. I can manage about 9 mph. I allow a few wrong turns in the name of exploration. This tunnel is one of the discoveries.

I make my way to this very nice 'Pump-n-Go'! I'm kidding, I don't have the Packraft but I kick myself a little because it would be awesome. It's maybe 11am.

Cutting through isn't bad. I flatten the tires to get a bit more grip and manage about 8 mph.
Lunch, I hide in the shadow of a bridge to get out of the snow. At this point I'm very wet but comfortable. I have well designed gear but its not waterproof. I'd like to be dry but I'm not. The snow has soaked me and the sweat filling in from the inside. I'm also about 30 minutes from falling ass first into a stream and getting two wet feet.

 The trail closes down as the heavy snow pulls trees lower and lower. My speed is still slowing and I'm close to 6 mph after 4 hours of riding.

 It's deep enough by 2 pm that I shovel it with each foot as I peddle.
 I make my half way point about 2:30pm. Way behind the plan. I want to get from 169 all the way to Saint Paul and then down the river back to home. I have lights and I fully expect to be done in 4 more hours.

 While I head back north, retracing 15 miles or so I find the trail is filled in. I hadn't noticed how much it was snowing. I was just grinding out the miles and didn't notice. My mood was good, soaked to the bone but happy and having a good time although I was now down to 5 mph with effort.

3 miles later and I was blazing new trail at 4 mph. It was a slog and I was losing the sun fast. Sure I have a headlamp but the trails are getting bad and riding on the road is suicide. I start working out a direct route to home. The only option is to finish my planned route to Saint Paul and then home. That's 20 miles or at my current pace, 5 hours. It's already 5pm. I have everything I need for that. Food, lights and cash for a coffee shop if needed.

I stop to rest under an overpass for a snack but the snow deepens to my axles as soon as I cast off.
Choked by snow and moving about 3 mph with snow to my hubs I concede that if I continue it will be 1 or 2am by the time I get home.  I take this pic moments after I call for a pick-up because no safe route exists at night in a storm from the where I am to where I need to be. It's 45 miles and 6h45m from my start.
I start the day excited about aput but piqsirpoq, drifting snow, and qimuqsuq, a snowdrift, end my day and on that Tavvauvusi (goodbye).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pack-Ice (P&P)

Josh is the one responsible for my packrafting in so much as he said, "We need to get packrafts!" so I did. He read my posts with the jealousy of a cancer eating away at him. That stopped Saturday because his raft arrived and we busted out the Super Hero Adventure. Before the adventure was to end, I raged the ice like the Hulk in my green drysuit! Truth be told I am more Shrek than Hulk but I love ice so lets settle on "Yukon Cornelius". He has a Facebook page your know! Yukon-Cornelius

We ride about 7 miles north to the local "pump-n-go". That's a boat launch for us inflatable boat geeks or a disgusting trash strung shoreline to you landlubbers.

Josh and I pump the tanks full and try our best at a dry foot launch but fail and my boots are now coated in river mud.

I'm having a problem keeping my lens dry so I'm sorry about the pictures but I have a plan to fix that soon.

Any weather will do if you have the gear and the drive to go walk-about. We didn't even think about the weather. To us, the outdoors is never closed.

The last bike I needed to try mounting was the mountain bike. It's sized between the Fat Bike and the Cross bike but I thought it fit the worst.

An unfavorable wind was strong and the rafts are not very aero so our shoulders take a punishing.  We cut into a channel to hide and explore the fiord. It was on the plan but the remaining downriver trail is now off the table. This is the first time having the bike with did more then simplify the set up. Normally we have to stage the bikes at the take out and then drive back to the launch. We can now bug out anyplace and jump in at will.

I've seen these sunken barges for a few year but I'm told they have been here a long time. I'll have to go back for a better look. Pack-Scuba!

We enter the backwaters and I see this well defined beaver slide. It's one of about 4 I see. 

Soon after the passage we enter a wide shallow lake. It looks calm. We are out of the wind but now into the ice. We paddle into it for a few minutes before we are stopped by ever thickening ice that could break our paddles and maybe slash our boats if abraded enough.

That ice is about 3/4 of an inch. I get out on it and walk but the cracks explode in spider webs around me.
About this time you may realize I don't have a bike framed in the picture. That's because I'm walking. I'm busting ice with my hands like a Hulk smashing cars. I cut a channel and then tow Josh and my raft up the channel. More ice, more tow.... About 200 yards in total.

If we are going to get to the other side I need to get in and swim. I have the drysuit and I've tested it so I know I can trust it if I don't puncture it on ice. I test the depth and it's chest deep. I get thin wet boots from Josh and dive in. Crush ice for 40 minutes and it's a blast. Yes, it's cold. Hands and feet are getting punished but my suit and thermal wear keep my core warm and dry. I have a lot of experience playing on and near ice but please don't assume you can. I've got years of experience and training that keeps me relatively safe and that's not B.S

We have no idea where we are. I think it's mainland and Josh thinks it's an island. We hike to the far shore to find open water and then double back to move the boats. We believe it's an island now. I being wet take the ice road while Josh takes land. I used the ice because my suits Achilles heal is thorns and the island is covered in pointed sticks, splinters, buck thorn, and the like so I play it safe.

After we make the crossing I get busy and don't take exit photos but we use the route I found for sad old car.

This rail blocks the trail and on that end this post is done.