Saturday, August 29, 2009


Banning State Park in MN is a park that I tend to drive right past. It's not that I haven't had the interest to see it, it is that it lies on the way from St Paul to the North Shore, and I'm usually headed all the way there. So on a boring Saturday a few weeks ago, I decided that since I didn't have the time to go all the way North due to obligations Sunday, I'd head to Banning and finally check it out.
The Kettle River seems to define the characteristics of the park, and is a popular place for river boaters (of the paddling kind, not the Grain Belt chuggin' pontoon fisherman kind- both found easily in MN). I hiked along the river for a round trip around 4 miles, and then set up my ENO hammock and took a little nap, as the bugs were not out in numbers. It was a relatively sleepy day, so this worked out well.
Overall I'd say that I'll most likely continue to make the North Shore my destination when traveling in MN, but Banning was worth checking out, and once owning a river kayak I'd probably end up there semi-frequently.

A couple kayakers at "Hells Gate" rapids- I think we've gone and over-named this one folks. :) Oddly enough, one of these guys looks strangely like my uncle Dave, and the other like Edward Abbey. Didn't know they knew each other. :)

Hammocks and MN Rivers go well together...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adam and Jamie's North Shore Visit

I mentioned a couple posts ago that I took my brother and his wife up to Lake Superior. Adam hadn't seen it since childhood, and it would be Jamie's first time, having spent her whole life in TX. The big lake is certainly something to see. We had a very short time frame (about 5 hours to spend in the area), so I made three quick goals to give them a fast North Shore experience: see one of the many waterfall areas along the rivers that feed to the lake, witness the climbing scene on Palisade Head, and have a good sit on one of the Superior beaches.

For the waterfall experience, we took a quick jaunt around Gooseberry Falls:

For the chilling out along a lake beach experience, I took them down to Crystal Cove (find it on your own, it's better that way... :)

At Palisade Head, we hung out at the top of Phantom Crack and Bluebells...routes I had the chance to climb earlier this summer.

Phantom Crack:

Looking down the Bluebells route:

Adam's ready to rope up.

Finish of Phantom Crack route:

Superior Hiking...

August has been disappearing quickly. The temps are getting less obnoxious; we are not having our Midwestern "muggy" days, and I'm happy to report that. I've found that I'm not as disgusting upon showing up for work on my bicycle, and that's nice for everyone. (I can easily clean up, but it's better when that's not a big project.) It's time to start shopping for a new crankset for my winter bike, as it's service will be called upon in the not too distant future.
The other thing happening with the approach of the fall season, is that I'm getting more excited to backpack. MN is not my number one pick as far as places to live and play, but we do have a fantastic distance hiking trail, as anyone who has followed this blog in the past is aware of. Alison and I went out for a day hike on the Superior Hiking Trail last weekend, and it's getting to that time of year where the place gets downright enjoyable. The rivers/lakes/ponds/etc. are still quite accessible as water sources. There's still several wild raspberry bushes supplying distractions to hiking in the form of snacking, and there are a very few select leaves that have decided to prematurely change colors, jumping the gun before all the others will do shortly. That time will be the best for backpacking on the Trail. There will be wonderful cool temps to hike in, and chilly air at night to curl up in a warm sleeping bag and listen to the woods. The night is longer- a length that allows for a little extended comfortable sleep, but not yet forcing you to be tent-bound and shivering for too many hours as the winter will do.
A couple of the following several weekends may be spent traveling to distant locales, but a couple will likely be spent on this wonderful Trail, a place that keeps my outdoor-obsessive mind occupied while in the Midwest.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Mountain Crabby"

I'm placing a title on something I often feel due to loving the West while living in the Midwest:
"Mountain Crabby".
I just came home from finishing teaching two weeks of back to back recurrent ground schools, which translates to being overworked for half the month, and not getting much sleep. The weekends nestled between weeks in the classroom are vital to keep a outdoor recreation addict like myself from reaching a foul mood.
It wasn't that last weekend wasn't enjoyable; I spent it with family that I hadn't seen in a while (some of you are no doubt reading this), and it was a great time to catch up. We were celebrating my cousin's wedding. And Sunday did involve a very quick drive up to the North Shore to show the area (what you can see in 5 hours from the highway) to my brother and his wife, who live in Texas. So there was a small glimpse into the outdoors, but not enough to recharge amidst all the recent long workdays.
I'm feeling now the grumpiness I get when it's been a while since I've been out West to play in the big stuff. It doesn't take long for me to reach this state of mind. I like MN and ND, but all who know me and have ever read this blog know that I need the mountains on a regular basis so as to not get grumpy. When you have a passion for something, separation from it results in cranky times.
I'd be fine, but I think it may be several more weeks until I can use the flight benefits that keep me pacified living in the Midwest, as they are my connection to the West. I know, complain, complain- most people aren't fortunate enough to have this kind of benefit, but it's harder to use than one would think. There are schedules, commitments, etc. that hold one back from using a weekend to get out, and then when you are free, travel involves either finding someone who lives in the area that you are headed to go cheap, or rental cars start to get expensive in a hurry. There's a lot to cancel weekend outing plans to the West.
So when things cancel multiple attempts to get out, that's when the "mountain crabbiness" sets in and I fuss over how much I miss the mountains. And once again, it's not that I am unlucky in my circumstances here at home (I do have a wonderful life), it is simply the depth of my enjoyment of the mountains that causes me to wish I was there.
I'm sure I'll end up on an impromptu trip in the direction of higher elevations before too many more weeks. For now I'll just need to attempt to set aside the "mountain crabbiness" and focus on what I have around me.