New Zealand Adventure

About 5 months ago our family took a trip to New Zealand’s south island to visit family and have an adventure.  I’ve been meaning to write about it for the last 5 months and clearly never did.  I can’t possibly go back and recount everything we did, so here’s a summary.

Things that were awesome

  • Flying across two hemispheres for 21 hours in a plane with my wife and two boys ages 3 and under.
  • Hiking everywhere.
  • Renting an RV (scuse me, Campervan) for 8 days and driving around the south island.
  • Constantly feeling like you’re in Lord of the Rings.
  • Milford Sound boat cruise.
  • Local hospitality.
  • Seeing dolphins swim underneath the boat you’re on during a Milford Sound boat cruise.
  • Fergberger
  • Convincing your wife to bungee jump off a bridge.
  • Hiking everywhere.
  • Sheep.  Everywhere.
  • Seeing the simple pleasure your son gets out of throwing rocks in streams.
  • Feeling the weight of a 1-year-old on your back as you ascend steep terrain.
  • Patience and support of a brother and sister.
  • Never having stayed in a hostel in a foreign country in my life, then staying in a hostel in a foreign country with my wife and kids.
  • Jumping into the Pacific Ocean then the Tasman Sea within days of each other.
  • Eating a disgusting minnow and egg sandwich.
  • Finding local beers that tasted good.
  • Glaciers.
  • Alpine parrots.
  • Wine country.
  • The art community of Christchurch.
  • The long drive leading up to Mt. Cook.
  • The joy of knowing that years from now I can relive the event with my sons.

Things that weren’t awesome

  • Nothing.

 

 

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Ice Climbing Sandstone

Winter sports have always been tough for me.  I love to downhill ski but I don’t get out to do it much.  I love to snowshoe but I don’t own any.  Classic cross country skiing is fun (again, don’t own any) but I’m terrible at skate skiing.  Speaking of skating, I rarely, if ever, do it.  So I don’t cross country or skate ski, I don’t skate at all, and I don’t own snowshoes (yet); what kind of a Minnesotan am I?

I’ve only ever been rock climbing before.  Even though I dislike the cold (and this winter has been abysmal) I’m always looking for different ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

An opportunity to do just that made itself available recently in the form of ice climbing.  I’ve never been ice climbing before and had never known anyone who has done it, but as it turns out, someone I’ve climbed with before has ice climbing experience.  Erik is a manager at Vertical Endeavors, which means that he has approximately 10x more ability than I do and 50x more expertise.

A small group of us headed north to Sandstone to climb on a Saturday morning a number of weeks ago.  Leading up to the day I had been keeping an eye on the bitter cold weather.  I thought it was supposed to be around 20 degrees, and if I layered right and was moving around, I should be warm enough.  Instead, it was closer to 0 degrees.  Suffice to say, I was not layered as well as I could have been, which led to a wicked cold day.  My fingers and toes were so cold I couldn’t feel them after a while, even while I was climbing.  But then again, I’m a big baby when it comes to being cold outside anyways.

When we arrived at Sandstone we walked the narrow snow-packed trail at the top of the ridge to find the best spots to set our ropes.  Since I’m not that experienced at setting top ropes I basically walked around while Erik, Erik, and Bryan did all the work.  Sure I tried to untie a knot for Erik, but, finger dexterity was severely lacking in my choppers, so I played the role of the unhelpful spectator.  Once we set up three different routes we headed back down to the bottom where we spent the rest of the day.

Here’s what I can say about ice climbing for a first timer (from my perspective at least).

1) It’s a lot different than rock climbing.  Ice climbing requires a whole different technique I was not familiar with, and it’s more rigid.  Whereas with rock climbing, technique is certainly involved, but I felt I had more freedom with my body with rock climbing.

2) It’s cold.  And I did not layer appropriately.  My mistake.  My freezing mistake.

3) It’s tiring.  Tiring in a different way than rock climbing because of the emphasis on different and unfamiliar muscles used.

4) It’s a lot of fun.  Although I didn’t entirely know what I was doing and only a fool would say that I was any good at it, I actually had a lot of fun and would recommend it for anyone to try at least once.

5) Sandstone is cool.  There were many more people ice climbing than I would have expected at Sandstone, which has a really cool wall of ice when it’s properly watered.  It was impressive and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before.

Then again, Sandstone hadn’t heard of me before either, and it didn’t seem to care.

 

 

Adventure Goals for 2013

As 2012 is left behind and a new year begins, I have some goals (lofty in some respects, realistic in others) to have a more adventure filled year than 2012.  The biggest adventure I’ll be having, is that my wife and I are expecting our second son in March.  Nothing on this list will give me more joy than the joy I’ll be experiencing on March 19th (assuming baby #2 is punctual).  With all of these things I aim to accomplish in the new year, they will only happen if I can successfully balance adventure and family.  It’s very important for me to spend quality time with the fam, and adventuring out in the wild while my wife is at home with two kids both under the age of 4 would put me in the running for worst husband of 2013.  So, there needs to be a balance.  As part of that balance, I’m looking to try to have more local adventures.  Things I can do close to the Twin Cities or the rare northern Minnesota trip.  Obviously I’d love to take my wife and sons on all of these excursions, but the boys aren’t old enough for most of them yet.
With that in mind, here are the things I hope to try to do in 2013.

Run a 50 mile Trail Ultramarathon
Last summer I ran my first ultra, the Afton Trail Ultramarathon.  It was a great experience, albeit a very tough and challenging one.  This biggest commitment of this isn’t the race itself, but the time investment the training necessitates.  By my estimation, if I can run 30 miles, what’s another 20?  Right?  Right?  I’ve got my eye on you Superior Trail Race.

Climb at Barn Bluff in Red Wing and Blue Mounds State Park
Taylor’s Falls is great for a Twin Citian such as myself, and there’s still a lot of routes I haven’t done there, but a trip to either Barn Bluff in Red Wing or Blue Mounds our in Luverne would be a lot of fun  I believe Barn Bluff is mostly lead climbing, so…
***Bonus Goal ***
Learn how to lead climb..

Mountain bike Cuyuna Trails
Two falls ago I biked Cuyuna and loved it.  I hope to be able to take another crack at it.
***Bonus Goal ***
Mountain bike way more often than I did in 2012.  After getting a new bike towards the end of 2011, I found it tough find time to hit the trails.  Shame on me.

Paddle the Minnehaha Creek Watershed point to point
This is basically in my backyard so I have no reason not to do it, other than low waters because of a drought and the need for an aluminum canoe.  But other than that I don’t have a good excuse.  It’s pretty meandering and easy from what I understand.  Bonus points if I take my (then) 3-year-old son on his first canoe ride.


Hike section of the Superior Hiking Trail
I love hiking in northern Minnesota, but haven’t been able to hike the SHT for a few years.  Even if I can only get up there for one or two days, it’d be worth it.  I’ve never been up there for the fall foliage….

Run a marathon; either Grandma’s or Twin Cities
I’ve ran a lot of half-marathons and an ultra-marathon  but I haven’t run a regular road marathon since I ran Twin Cities in 2008.  I’d like to run Grandma’s since I’ve never done it – new experience – but Twin Cities is a lot more convenient.

Sleep outside in the backyard with my son
On the eve of his 2nd birthday I set up the tent and we camped outside in our backyard.  Awesome and memorable.  

Birthday camping is the best!
Birthday camping is the best!

Rock climb Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin with my uncle
My uncle who lives in the Northern suburbs of Chicago takes a trip north with a group of guys to climb at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin.  He has invited my brothers and I on the trip numerous times but the timing has never worked out.  Crossing my fingers for 2013.

Participate in the Hoigaard’s challenge
This is a prime candidate to be the first thing on my list I don’t accomplish.  A friend of mine recently asked me if I was interested in trying to accomplish the Hoigaard’s Challenge.  This includes participating in all three of the following events: The City of Lakes Loppet (XC skiing, Feb. 2-3), The Tri-Loppet (paddle, MTB, trail run, June 23), and the Surly Trail Loppet (trail half-marathon, Sept. 21).  Complete all three and you get a pin.  Neato.  I’ve done the Surly Trail Loppet before and really enjoyed it.  The Tri-Loppet is particularly appealing to me because I’ve thought of doing tris before but I don’t swim a lot (not those distances anyway) and I don’t have a road bike.  I do however enjoy mountain biking quite a bit, so this is right up my alley.  The City of Lakes Loppet however…although it’s something I want  to get into more, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve XC skied in my life.  That’s why if we ever get around to actually signing up, we’d just be participating.  Not competing.  But hey, gotta start somewhere right?

What are your goals for more adventure in 2013?  Leave a comment below.

Cougar Mountain Trail Run

This post is overdue, but towards the end of June my family packed up and went to Seattle where my uncle and his family lives and we had a family reunion.  At the time I was entering the final few weeks of training before my first ultra trail race, and need to do a few more runs.  I absolutely love to run in new locations, especially if the terrain and vistas are different so I always try to bring running gear with me whenever I travel.

On this trip, I really wanted to run more mountainous trails since the Twin Cities area of Minnesota is pretty flat.  My brother and I were able to sneak away one morning and do exactly that, heading off to Cougar Mountain.

Misty mountains

The day started out as typical Seattle weather with overcast skies and drizzly precipitation.  I had overdressed and wore a long sleeve shirt which proved to be a big mistake.  Although it rains a lot, I worked up quite a sweat throughout the run and wished I had clothing I could take off or ditch.  Despite this, the run was a lot of fun.

Good trails, good times.

There were definitely challenging hills to climb and great single track and wider horse trails to run on.  My brother had never really done trail running before so it was a pleasure to watch him experience the thrill of bombing a hill after putting in the grueling work to get to the top of a hill.  The vegetation in the area is so lush and incredible, the forest seemed so vibrant and alive.

Previously on LOST…

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go quite as far as I wanted because we had to get back to family obligations, but I thoroughly enjoyed the run we did get.  If you’re in the area and are looking for a good run that’s easily accessible from Seattle, this is a great place to check out.

Running on Glass

Although there’s a plethora of paved and manicured trails in the Twin Cities area, I’m having trouble finding close and accessible trails to my house (I have a 20 month old son at home who needs his naps, which shrinks my optimal running time and distance).  Even though I’m training for the Afton Trail Run, I’ve been doing a lot of running on the aforementioned streets and manicured (crushed limestone) trails and, yes, the basement treadmill.

While I would love to spend every day running outside on trails, that’s just not a possibility at the moment.  Once the weather gets warmer I’ll be venturing out more and experimenting with trails in the vicinity of the Twin Cities (Theodore Wirth, Murphy, Carver) and other parks and trails throughout Minnesota.

Today I was able to run outside and for the first time experiment with my new trail shoes on some actual trails. These were short and nontechnical trails in some local parks in Minnetonka, but they were fun to run nonetheless. Because the weather has been unseasonably warm last few days and there has been a lot of recent thawing, the trails were mostly covered with ice and very, very, slippery ice, as ice is wont to do.

Icy path

At first I was tentative about this and ran cautiously, but barely over a mile into my run I slipped, fell, and hit the dirt. And that’s when…my run got fun. See, I have the opportunity to run on straight and paved surfaces every single day. I can put ear buds in and listen to music and tune out. All I have to do is follow the pavement or concrete in front of me. But on trails, where the conditions are not always the same and you’re forced to pay attention to your surroundings, its so much more invigorating. When there’s the potential to fall, slip, stub your toe, get muddy, catch a branch or worse, your body is tuned to the environment around you.

Here in Minnesota, we don’t have the luxury of running in mountains, but we do have snow and ice and cold. And if that’s all I can get during these months, I’ll take it. It sure beats running only on man-made surfaces.