Saturday, December 13, 2014

Winter Camping Symposium

I've always been a cold tent camper. Camping was just something you did so that you could be where you needed to be in the morning. Nights interrupted the planned activities so we set up camp and made due until morning. Most of the time it was cold, very cold. I only used a zero rated sleeping bag. 100's of nights until it wore out but never once did I want to carry or use a 'hot tent'. That's a canvas tent with a small, relatively light, wood stove. Open to new things, I go with a buddy to a Winter Camping Symposium  to learn about 'winter camping'. I was interested in learning about hot tenting but after a short time of talking to some of them I learn they pull #100 pounds of crap into the woods to just camp. <? huh> Camping to camp didn't register and even if it did, #100 pounds of gear seemed idiotic when I can do it in #20 maybe #25 and by most accounts my experiences were colder.
Above is a 'bushcraft' set up and they do not use a #100 pounds of gear but we differ in that I use high tech gear and they use what is already in the wood but as far as I could tell they too are going to just camp for the sake of camping. I respect this form for at least the skills required to get it done and make a comfortable site. They predominately use a tarp and a long fire (a narrow long fire between two 6 foot logs so the heat is even while sleeping).

 Above, this lady sets up an old canvas tent and a small Muskrat brand stove and she and her little dog go out camping (see the round hole in the lower left corner, it's his house when she pulls a sled he hides out). This tent is small and the total load is maybe #50 pounds. I'm starting to warm to the idea that if I keep the gear down it may be worth the effort if I have a reason to be there.
 This is closer to what I object to and others are so large they use a trailer. But maybe it's got it's uses.
 Above is more ladies hot tenting. Two of them have been doing it for years and they bring a lady new to hot temp camping, and a lot of wine. It's an old canvas tent that had the original poles but they wanted it to look cool and replaced them with perfect matching branches. it was really cool. Yes, leaves are just something you deal with.
This is a great portable Yurt design. I was impressed with the design but the packing size was very large. But it was COOL.

Below: Into the Symposium part we learn some buschcraft tarp skills that apply out west where they don't have mosquitos but maybe I can find a time I need to hide out after the bugs die. This is Dan Cooke of Cooke Custom Sewing. Consider visiting his site. He was very generous and handed out a lot of information on building custom gear like proper Choppers for brutal cold bushcrafting.

 Wrapping things up I spent the night very comfortable in my high tech gear and in the morning I want to make some breakfast but I didn't plan real well and don't have a normal 'kitchen' set up so I make a variety of things like peanut butter toast, eggs and diced ham left over from dinner. I feel comfortable but it's 22 degrees out and I'm putting a lot of responsibility on my last cup of coffee.

My buddy is in his new, hardly used, homemade, without plans, bike pack-able, #12 pound tent and stove combination. His fat bike in the background carried everything he needed to fend off the cold. This is also a good time to mention the hobby barn in the background because we are at an active YMCA camp.
 I pop into my buddies tent to have coffee and talk about the plans for the day. It's really nice inside, maybe 80 degrees. I didn't realize how much I cooled down while having breakfast but it's abundantly clear at times Hot Tents have merit.
I changed my mind about hot tenting and if I can keep the weight down I plan to 'goat' get me one.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Been There. Scenic

Scenic State Park has managed to stay off the radar of a lot of people. Even I didn't hear about it until this year. It's very wooded but not very large as parks go. I was talking to some dive buddies about going to an old open pit iron mine from the 1970's and the plan formed up for me and the wife to go up to Scenic SP the day before and then meet a few buddies at Ore-Be-Gone 'lake' out of Gilbert, MN for some scuba.

Looping back to Scenic SP and Miss Otter uses the last few hours of daylight to go packrafting for the first time. I'm not about to be left standing on shore so I kit up in my new drysuit (custom out of Turku Finland) for a swim. It may be of interest that the water is in the low 40F but that day we are having a bit of a heat wave for October.

A short word on safety is probably worth commenting on. The water is easily cold enough to paralyze K before she could swim to shore so if this was anything more than a short test run she would also be in a dry suit. She has an inflatable PFD on and I'm already in the water so we could get her back in the boat and to shore before anything serious happens.

I notice the lake has millions of snails and some fresh water clams. I haven't seen any of these since the Zebra muscles took over local lakes.

Early the next morning we go hiking for a few hours before going to Gilbert. The weather isn't very nice. Lots of wind making it feel much colder but we only have one day in the park so we grim up and hike out.

Forest management, invasive species control or simple logging? I've see this kind of harvest to kill pine beetles in South Dakota but this looks more like pulp mill work. Later we see it has to be.

 At the end of the trail is a primitive hike-in campsite with a small shelter. Unfortunately it's taking a lot of wind off the lake. We had intended to make some hot soup and beverages to warm up before the hike home, about 6 miles. Scooby dog was also a little chilled but a few milk bones cheered him up. We settle on just a mug of hot cider because it's just too windy to enjoy anything more.

I love this cook kit. Someday I may post the detail but it contains everything we need and it all fits in the pot. stove, fuel, flint, spoon, insulated bowl with lid, and powered cider mix.

Heading back down the trail we take a turn to return on a new trail making a large loop trail. We find this survey marker and a Potlatch plaque saying they donated the trees. This explains the harvesting we saw, Patlatch replanted this area, presumably after a large fire or something the state needed help with. Years ago this would have irritated me but we now understand if you protect the forest too much it gets destroyed. Some harvesting and clear cutting is healthy to maintain a balance of young and old trees vs downed and standing dead for bugs and birds to use. New growth is also better food for animals and the better plant diversity.

We leave Scenic and head over to Gilbert and its Off-Highway Terrain Park. That too is a state park so everyone has a place to do their thing and these guys take rock crawling seriously.

We are actually parked at our campsite and this is the view. It's a private campground on the top of a large hill of overburden. When they scooped all the ore out of the pit mine they piled the trash rock and it eventually became a campground that overlooks a very scenic, new, lake they called Ore-Be-Gone.
I borrowed the next four photos from a good friend we call DetectorGuy.

This was an ugly open pit mine. Now it's very nice so it's not blight forever.

We dive on 2 helicopters, a bus, a jeep, a plane and 2 small trains call speeders. All of these were installed as a diving attraction by the local scuba shop that didn't survive the economic pressures.

We started at an old park called Scenic; learned it's currently being clear cut, move to a open pit mine and learned it's now green and beautiful. On that capsized look at nature, good bye.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tuesday Cyclocross

Tuesday at Aquila park is the local cyclo-cross scene. I've missed most of them because I thought they were still UCI sanctioned races, but they dropped that and the price this year. I have a write up on it here: cyclo-cross.
Blake and I miss the last few for several reasons but the last race of the season isn't to be missed. We end up in different races but that's cool, we get to see each other race.
Loading the gate, all 120+ of us
Horn goes off and we all lean into the gears for the next 30 minutes. I'm not in shape to race but I try and dish out the pain to others in less shape. I pass lots of people but my legs are failing me.
To make things interesting they put up barriers to jump.
Steep climb with hairpin turns challenge every riding skill.
Blake joins the second race because he missed the first by minutes.

The second race is 45 minutes long and is supposed to be harder and faster. I don't know if that happened the last week. It's fast but I see people from my heat in the longer race so I know they are low on fuel.

Blake does good. I see him chase, catch and pass lots of riders with their tongue hanging out like panting dogs.
The hill climb is slow and a good place to take 'hand ups' or treats to help fuel the legs or spirit. Some by which are literally spirits. Beer mostly but I saw a few shots. This is, after all, the last of the season and a party atmosphere. Many will not see each other until next September.

The 'hand up' line. We get cupcakes, White Castle burgers, Pasties, lots of sweets.
These are the hazards. They symbolize the original races that took place in France where by racers would jump fences to shorten the distance from town steeple to steeple. Called a 'Steeple chase race' then became cyclocross everywhere.
Like many races there is a lot of yelling motivation to riders and riders panting and making animal noises as they suffer up a hill. My first write up had more story so I encourage you to follow the link, cyclo-cross, which brings me to my second reason for posting. I can't continue to post stuff at same rate as I once did. I'm still doing stuff every week but it's repetitive and I can't make cyclocross fun to read and it's been two years so I will need to change how I tell a story or simply post less often.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

High Marks

All the creeks and rivers in town are approaching the highest marks in decades. We haven't been in the packrafts together for a long time so we mapped a plan to finish a route we started back in "I love a good disaster". It's sunny, nice, and the bugs are expected to be huge.
 We air up and launch into the main of the Mississippi, under the bridge and into the Vermillion.
 We turn in to the Vermillion or what becomes the Vermillion. We don't see shore for the next 3 hours.
 For the new readers we have our 'shuttle' bikes on the bow of our Alpacka Rafts. The way we tie them on is a personal preference and what bike you have. 
We are completely spoiled with the river all to ourselves. Around this time we lose the proper river waterway because of a huge log jam packed with branches picked up from the flooding making a massive nest. Maybe 200 feet across. We paddle around it but in the flooding we actually traverse into Lake Isabelle (not connected to the river) .
When we discover we are in Isabelle we laugh a little and then start working on a way back to the river. If we could float in, we can float out. I look at the map and see a short pointed bay that must be the exit we need. We were correct and the views through the woods were awesome. The water is maybe 5 feet deep in the photo below.

We need to weave around a few very tight trees and some fences but a short time after we float into Isabelle we float out. This day is working out better then we could have planned. The water is moving us fast enough that we don't need to paddle and the sun is out and the bugs are not so we drift.

 Time for taffy and a long slow raft. We lean back into the boats and 'slow the roll'

 If pictures are really worth a thousand words please don't read out loud, we're relaxing.

 Out of the trees and having a good long siesta it's time time to paddle out. That means we need to dig in deep and paddle hard at the best time to pull out of the current that's been pulling us along.
Popping out of the main current, we make landfall. Within minutes of landing we break out snacks and load up on water because we're about to get on the bikes and this is the best opportunity to lard the fuel you need to ride back and still have fun and not crater and hate the day.
 Eat, pack up and ride out.
We add some miles on the bike because we took out a little early on the rafts. The plan was to go another 3 miles but with the flooded banks the current was too slow and we aren't sure the exit is even above water so we pull out and ride. It's really great to roll out some miles and collect some intel for the next trip.

Back at the starting point and the high marks on the river are matched by the high marks on the rafting adventure. On that, I give high marks to the day.