Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cycling Root River

We decided to take advantage of the nice, though cool, weather and took a trip to Lanesboro, MN to experience the Root River Trail we have been hearing so much about. We took the back roads to Lanesboro through Chatfield. As we were driving the rolling hills up and down and around, it occurred to us how great it would be to have a group ride go through here. The hills are not for the faint of heart... or thighs. And there isn't much of a shoulder so it would have to be something organized to avoid traffic. Anyway, we pulled into Lanesboro and immediately wondered why neither of us had been there before. The Root River Trail goes right through town! We parked in a Library/Town Park lot, which felt very safe and then rode to the trail head. We decided to go toward Fountain. There was no logic to the decision. We just went. But it ended up being a good choice. Neither of us are in the greatest shape of our lives! So the trail was about 11 miles gradually uphill to Fountain, which apparently is one end of the trail. Cool! It's not high tourist season so that town was pretty dead on this Sunday! We turned around and headed back almost right away. Then came the best part of riding uphill for 11 miles. Downhill for 11 miles! It took so much less time getting back than it had getting there. Lorrie was even flying! We could tell when we started getting close to Lanesboro again as there were more and more people out enjoying the warm afternoon. I still have a hard time with people who take up the entire trail and then are surprised when someone comes up on them. I never try to startle anyone but they often seem totally in their own world. Which is a great use of being in nature! If you stay off the side out of people's ways AND stay in the same basic line so people don't have to try to predict where you're going to be walking. Just a little rant. The leaves has already changed and mostly fallen off. So the ride was a little stark. Though I still thought it was beautiful! We got back in to Lanesboro and were immediately on a quest for food! We went back to D'Azul where Emma Blue was sleeping soundly enjoying being out of the house. We changed clothes then drove downtown for food. We walked around a little checking out menus and such. But you know how it is after exercising in cool weather. We started getting chilled. Not fun! We needed to get inside, get warm, and get some food relatively quickly. Maybe lunch earlier would have been a good idea eh? Anyway, we decided on Pedal Pushers Cafe because it was all local fare, family owned, and we wanted meat! That ended up being a perfect choice for us! Great food and service! I wasn't sure about the decor... a mixture of bicycles and 50s. I understood, of course, "Pedal pushers" as a double entendre. Just seemed a little scattered to me. Lorrie liked it though... and she's the one with style. So there you have it! We walked around town a little more. Checked out the Little River General Store where the people were not very friendly. That was surprising! After our experience in Wabasha and their incredible hospitality, this seemed almost rude. I am in the market for a single speed rear gear but they weren't interested in my business. Again, I'm a little more sensitive to that but Lorrie agreed with me. We walked around a little more but it was getting late enough that shops were beginning to close or were already closed. So we took one more little detour, by SUV, up to Church Hill Condos. Nice! Great view! Then we headed home, mainly by highway this time. One remaining question has lingered... is there tent camping anywhere near Lanesboro? We saw a lot of RV sites in town and 1 rugged tent site along the trail. Something more for us to explore! We will definitely be going back.

I also recommended Lanesboro to a co-worker/friend who has two young children. There are a lot of different styles of bicycles for rent there as well as the river to keep young'ns busy.

I forgot to charge my camera battery. So the only photos we have are from my phone. I will get them uploaded soon. Most of them will be at TwoTireDoc's Flickr.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review - Freezer Bag Cooking


Freezer Bag Cooking – Review

Author: Sarah Svien Kirkconnell
Softcover; 90 pages
Bay Street Publishing; copyright 2005

Great dishes for backpacking, camping, and even easy at-home preparation. I found that several called for what seemed like too much water and ended up being runny. But for the most part the recipes seem pretty accurate. Particular favorites of ours are CyndiH’s super oatmeal, fruity morning couscous, ramen stroganoff (with dehydrated noodles rather than ramen), creamy spinach chicken rice, clam chowder, mocha au lait, and tiny peach pies.

Another problem I’ve experienced is difficulty finding pouches of chicken. So I have generally used pouches of tuna, which is not my favorite. Also, some of the other ingredients are pretty specialized. If you don’t have access to a co-op or other extensive specialty store, it may be difficult to complete a lot of the recipes. My final issue with freezer bag cooking in general is the use of so many plastic freezer bags. I threw so many of them away on a 7-day backpacking and camping trip that I felt really guilty about the environment. It would be great if there was a more environmentally conscientious way of using the recipes!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tori

We slept in a little and got on the road around 11:00am. That was planned… not me futzing around! The drive was uneventful. We got to Eau Claire in about an hour and then had interstate the rest of the way. That was a nice change. Tori did well last night. Lorrie slept on the floor with her while I had Emma Blue in a bed with me and her leash in my hand so I knew when she moved. I know she’s curious about Tori and definitely wants to sniff her out. But we are understandably nervous about them being together. Tori is still eating and drinking well. It’s amazing the comeback she has made. The vet was even a little surprised how well she was bouncing back, especially for her advanced age! The tragedy of this whole situation is that Tori is scheduled to have surgery on her cataracts on Tuesday so that she could see again! And then she loses an eyeball! Figure that one out!

One lesson learned… have a first aid kit readily available while traveling. We have a great first aid kit. But it was packed away in our camping gear. ‘Cause camping is where any kind of emergency might happen, right? Wrong!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tori

We called around 9:30am and were told that we could pick Tori up to take her home between 11:30am-12:00pm. Wow! We had made it clear that we wanted them to keep her overnight if traveling would be too hard for her right away! But they seemed to think she would be okay and the only thing they would be doing if she stayed is giving her medications. So they felt comfortable with letting her go. So we took her! Gladly! She had a lot more energy! When she smelled us, she got really excited! That was good to see. (= We set her up on Lorrie’s lap… sans cone. We blocked the back so Emma couldn’t come up front to smell. And off we went. We had to cross the border again in Sioux Ste Marie. Emma, again, did very well at the border with her muzzle on. They didn’t even ask for their papers that time. Although he did tell me that my passport is not valid because it’s not signed. Oops! He let me through anyway!

Back in the USA, our main goal was just getting home. Of course, there’s no interstate heading our direction. So we took a very scenic drive along Lake Michigan. Construction and all. Of course. Tori was doing great. Sleeping most of the time. She ate well and drank a lot! Which the vet told us to expect.

We drove all day and much of the night until we stopped at Wausau, WI for the night. It took awhile to find a room as the Wisconsin State Fair was in full swing! We ended up in the Days Inn near Hwy 29. It was great actually! They took pets with a $15 deposit that we would get back in the morning if there was no damage. We’d never gotten that deal before! They also had free wireless and very clean rooms. I gave them 5 stars on my phone navigation!

We left the eyeball in the garbage at Macinac Straight Rest Area. And just to be clear, it was in a garbage bag with other garbage. I’m too squeamish to just be carrying around an eyeball.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tori

Tori – August 4, 2009

We were able to visit Tori today late morning. She looked SO good! Her eye is sewn shut and she was a little out of it. But she seemed to recognize us. She had a cone, aka Elizabethan Collar, on her head to keep from running into things. But they took that off for our visit. We were only there for about 15-20 minutes. But it was so good to see her awake… and alive!

The rest of the day was spent in the motel. In shock. Crying. Distracting ourselves. Lorrie cleaned out the car a little as there was blood in various places. However, I went out later to get something from the car. And I found the eyeball. Yeah, I know, that’s gross. But it’s real. I couldn’t do anything about it. So I just ran back to the room and told Lorrie. So we stood there trying to figure out who should take care of it. I’d already seen it so it should be me. I didn’t want to do it alone. Lorrie didn’t want us both to have to do it. But she didn’t want to do it. If it hadn’t been so horrible, it would have been a hysterical conversation. We both ended up going out there, but Lorrie did the dirty work. We decided to hold on to it temporarily in case the vet wanted to see it or something.

We are staying at Satelite Motel in The Soo. I don’t know if that’s Canadian spelling or if they just spelled it wrong. But it was spelled with only 1 L. (= It was relatively cheap, very clean, and offered free wireless. And they take pets. I would recommend it.

The only place we ate was Tim Hortons… double double! We had sandwich combos, which there means coffee and a donut! lol

Monday, August 03, 2009

Superior Circle Tour - Day 2

Across the street from Nays Provincial Park was Nye’s Diner and Camping. We stopped there to get some ice then decided that we were actually very hungry. The pups were OUT! I’m not sure they slept very well last night. It was a little cold. But we’ve been in colder. Lorrie had eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and toast while I had a burger with fries. The place was very clean! The owner was cooking and did a great job! He also loaned me a couple wrenches to try and tighten my bike rack. They weren’t terribly busy but he said they have a lot of business in the winter with snowmobiling and snowshoeing in the park across the street. It was a small convenience and souvenir shop as well. I would definitely recommend stopping there.

As we were driving, we somehow missed Pukaswa National Park. Not sure how except that there was construction in the area and maybe the signs were down. Instead we stopped for a hike at White Water Provincial Park and were directed to Clear Water trail, which was an out and back to Clear Lake. As soon as we left the car, mosquitoes and gnats swarmed us. We’ve spent enough outdoor vacations being eaten alive by bugs and that was not in our plan for this trip. Besides, I couldn’t find the Deet. So we left to find Lake Superior again where it’s chilly and windy enough to keep the bugs away. We stopped at Agate (?) Provincial Park but they didn’t have any sites along the water. So we pressed on toward Superior Provincial Park.

Once there, our trip was over. And this becomes more of a personal than “outdoor” blog. We parked and went in to get information about sites. About 10 seconds after I left the car, I heard something. Can’t say exactly what that something was but I knew to run back. Which I did. Emma Blue had bitten Tori. She’d been excited when we stopped but I’m not sure what happened after that. I can speculate. I went to the other side of the car and moved her to her own window. Then started working on separating them better for the small drive to the site. Lorrie came to Tori’s side and saw that she was bleeding. I hadn’t seen that from my angle. Well, she was bleeding very badly. And it was around her eye. Lorrie ran in to get help from a ranger. They were quite ill-prepared for as out in the boondocks as they are! They didn’t know first aid. But at least they had a kit. Some campers were walking by and asked if we needed help. Lorrie told them what was happening and someone said something about some kind of vet training. Who knows? Anyway, this woman checked out Tori and put gauze on her eye and wrapped her head to hold it in place. It was not enough. She bled so much! Lorrie also called 411 to get the number for a vet in Sioux Ste Marie. They had an emergency system where there is a vet on-call all the time. We were a 90-minute drive away. With nothing in between. NOTHING! I drove like a crazy woman while Lorrie held Tori and told her it would be okay and to hold on. At one point, Tori moved around a little much and blood got everywhere. It was horrendous! We were crying, Lorrie screamed once, and we were trying to keep in touch with the vet who we kept losing because of the mountainous roads. To add to all the stress, the gas tank was nearly on Empty! Meanwhile, Tori. Was. Asleep! Snoring! Perhaps she was in shock. But I know her mellow nature saved her life! An anxious dog, like Emma, would have been flipping out and probably would not have made it. We finally got a good enough connection to the vet so we could get directions. Of course, his street was completely under construction. So we had to go a round-a-bout way. Gas light went on just before we got there. Lorrie ran in with Tori and then came back out to the waiting area. Her front was completely covered in blood so she got out of those clothes immediately and we left them there for the vet to discard. Tori weighs in at about 25 lbs. She had to have lost half her blood. We waited awhile, filled out the paperwork, and waited some more. They cleaned her up some but needed to do surgery to see the state of her eye… and likely to remove what was left. Lorrie asked me to leave so she could talk with the vet about something she had seen and didn’t want me to hear about it.

We went in to say goodbye to Tori and she was all wrapped up and on an IV. But she recognized our smells and gave us licks goodbye. The vet called us around 11pm, after surgery, and said she is doing well and the surgery went well. He said they did have to remove her eye as it was too damaged to save. We are to call after 10am tomorrow to see what the plan is at that time.

Emma Blue kept a pretty quiet and low profile the entire time.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Superior Circle Tour - Day 1

Relaxing breakfast with Karen, Gary, and Yvette. Karen and Gary were heading off to Duluth so they left before us. Lorrie is a morning person and could easily be on the road before sunrise. I am not naturally that kind of person. But I would like to be. Any tips would be appreciated! I’ve tried lots of different things. But somehow I am always about an hour late in leaving. This is dicey when I have planes to catch… and a penchant for making early flight reservations. Okay, I digress! We got on the road around 11:00am EST and our tour formally begins! Canada Highway 1 going southeast to Eagle Canyon Adventures. On the way, we saw five women on touring bikes. But they had SO much stuff hanging off their bikes. Anyway, Eagle Canyon Adventures has 2 suspension bridges, one of which they claim is the longest in Canada. They also have a zip line, which they also claim is the longest in Canada. As soon as we got there… my sunglasses broke. Damn! They were cheapy $12 glasses that had lasted about 3 years with almost daily use. Bummer! After walking across the bridges, we stopped and watched people on the zipline. I decided that should be a bucket list item for me so I went back down to pay for it. Then we had to walk back up to the deck again. The real challenge was dodging the 4-wheelers with crazy drivers behind them. That was a sport in an of itself! Honestly, they are going to hurt someone. At the top, more people had lined up to use the zipline. So the wait was a lot longer. Slightly more than an hour. Enough time to get my stomach all riled up. Watching person after person go didn’t really help. It seemed like they would be silent at first, which I interpreted as “stomach drop,” and then would scream, which scared me too. There were a couple kids in front of me, one was too light so they had to add weight to his gear. I figured if he could do that without being scared, that I could do it too. Then there was a woman who looked the way I felt. And she did it. So I thought I could too. Lorrie was there trying to figure out the best angle to shoot my experience. She decided to stay up there at the deck to get it. [insert video] It ended up being amazing! It was pretty windy up there so the wire was swaying. Yikes! The operator said, “3… 2… 1… launch” and opened the gate. And I stood there an extra 2 or 3 seconds before lifting my feet and flying away. I screamed out my fear… and then it was awesome. There was no stomach drop at all. It was just a consistent downhill through the valley and over the river. At the end, I had been told to spread my legs so “something” could hit the seat and not me. As I was getting closer to the dock, the operator down there spread his arms wide to indicate I should spread my legs, which I did. What I didn’t expect was the major CLANG that happened when the mechanism on the wire hit the stopping mechanism. That was shocking. Then I heard someone say, “How was it?” “Awesome!” I said. And then, after looking around, “Where are you?” He said, “Down here.” lol He was below me pulling on a rope that had been attached to the stopping mechanism so that I could be pulled back over the dock to stand up. I didn’t realize how far above the ground I still was… at least 10 feet. And that was that. It was over! I’m so glad I did it but I wish I could do it again to enjoy the scenery just a little more! On our way out of the park, we saw those cyclists I mentioned before and they were just getting into the park. Some of them were walking their bikes up the last painful steep hill. Really, just too much stuff! Not that I could do any better! (= I’m sure the wind didn’t do them any favors either! Since we’d been at Eagle Canyon for four hours, we decided that we should skip Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. But we can go back there another time.

Kept driving along Highway 1. It’s amazing how little there is along that road! And a lot of what was there in terms of motels and restaurants are now abandoned. That becomes a problem when you’re hungry! We started seeing signs for “Gus’ Restaurant” in Nipigon, which we thought might be a possibility. When we got there, it was very rundown… and it said “John’s.” We were going to skip it. Until I saw 6 motorcycles out front. Just a hint… cops and bikers know where to eat! If it had been a motorcycle cop, we’d have hit pay dirt! (= So we went in. It was run by a Greek woman who was very friendly with everyone! Lorrie and I each ordered chicken souvlaki sandwiches… she with fries and me with a Greek salad. Wow! They could not have been better! And the servings were huge! 5 stars for sure on the food! The d├ęcor is grungy… so close your eyes.

Make a note if you’re traveling in this area… there is very little gas on the North side of Lake Superior. So fill up when you can! Even if it’s expensive! Because it is all expensive!

We had planned to stop for the night at Pukaswa (sp) Provincial Park but stumbled upon Nays Provincial Park, which Karen had mentioned. She said the white sand beaches were incredible! We checked out the few free sites and settled on a corner site, which was the last one that backed to the beach. It was also right next to a major trail so that is probably why it hadn’t been taken yet. But it was awesome! We got the pups fed and got the tent up before taking Emma Blue for a little walk on the beach. It was full of drift wood… huge, like still trees, and small. Seemed a little dangerous actually. Lots of sticks poking up out of the ground. A child could fall on them… hell, an adult could fall on them. I was worried about Emma running into one so we kept her walking. Just something to consider if you’re traveling there. Once we were back at the campsite, I tried to build a fire and was relatively unsuccessful. It took forever to get anything really going. And once we did, it was pretty late and time for bed. lol So I just thought of it as ash for a fire tomorrow morning.

Something we both noticed about Canadian campers was their creative use of tarps! MONSTROUS tarps! I know it’s been rainy in the area for awhile so if they’ve been camping for awhile, I can understand using so many. They had these huge tarps spread out above their entire tent sites. They wrapped tarps around the ends of their pop up campers. And they’re very good at getting them up. Some are like origami… with lights and everything. Maybe you saw the photo of my first attempt at tarp hanging! LOL

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Superior Circle Tour - Day 0

(no real outdoor content, just driving)

Bad start in the morning… about 3 hours late. There were some things we weren’t able to do last night so they waited until morning. Then… the biggest thing was that I could not find Jeero. I try very hard not to travel without Jeero! So we “wasted” about 30 minutes looking for Jeero. Never found himher so we had to leave without. We then had a detour from the interstate before stopping at Lorrie’s job so she could turn something in quickly. Then… on the road… for real. Both a little grumpy. Not a usual occurrence for us. I don’t think so anyway. Guess I can check back to old blogs!

We stopped a little later in Pine City, MN to get some lunch. They were preparing for a parade that coincides with their free fair. So there were chairs lining many of the streets. Apparently it’s a huge deal and people want the best seats possible! We found a great little co-op or natural foods deli/market. I love that it is becoming so easy to find organic foods in small towns now. Back on the road. Though we were tempted to stay for the parade! (= It rained off and on much of the drive. We passed through the border at Pigeon Creek around 7pm CST with no issues. We stopped at Rydens to exchange money and put Emma’s muzzle on her. She seems to know how important it is that she behave at the border. So she does. She fussed with the muzzle for a few seconds then seemed to understand that it wouldn’t last very long. All ICE asked was if we had the dogs’ papers but didn’t make us show them. We did have the papers, of course. Across the border and off came the muzzle. She’s a good girl that Emma! Off again… in Canada. Lorrie expressed her usual request to see a moose. Instead, we saw huge black lab…. which was actually a bear cub! In the middle of the road. It hustled back into the woods as soon as we got up close to it. VERY cute!! I’ve never seen a bear so now I can mark that off my list! I really wish I’d gotten a photo of it though. But why would I take a photo of a big black lab!? lol Once in Thunder Bay, we spent a few hours with Lorrie’s older sister. She lives on a tropical island but is staying with her two sons for about a month while getting some business taken care of in Canada. It’s cute that she’s staying in a little apartment with two of her sons. (= Then to Lorrie’s best friend from high school’s house where we stayed up way to late chatting. A jag nightcap… if you can call about ½ oz a nightcap! We also got to hear about Yvette’s, Karen’s sister’s, 2 gold medals in the Special Olympics earlier in the summer! Pretty amazing!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - Camping

The non-reservable walk-in site at Big Woods is quite close to the “main” road. It has turned to gravel by the time you get to the turn in for the walk-in and group sites. But that doesn’t seem to slow people down. A lot of trucks use the route. I’m not sure why. Even with that, the site is still quiet peaceful. And the site itself is quite large and has a good distance between it and W-I #2. I liked that! There isn’t much space between W-I #2 and #3 so those worked well in the past when we were there with Nancy and she had #2 and we had #3. W-I #4 is, by the ranger’s report, the favorite. But it’s pretty close to #3 as well as the hiking trail. We’ll have to try it out one of these times. But #1 was actually great… and we didn’t have to pay that stupid $8.50 reservation fee. Don’t get me started on that one!

Lorrie and I got up early to go into Northfield so I could watch part of the the Tour de France stage around 8am. The connection didn’t work so I didn’t get to watch it live. Disappointing! We also went into Nerstrand to get some gas, ice, and water. While we were driving in, we saw a cyclist near the campground. Strange… the gravel and all. As we got closer to the main intersection, I saw a familiar yellow sign. The Red Ribbon Ride, which I had ridden last year, was in town. The rest stop is near the little gas station in town and my theory is that the rider we saw missed a turn. We did a quick scan to see if there was anyone we knew. There wasn’t. So off we went again. Made me realize that I need to do another ride this year. Even if it’s not as long as the ones I’ve done in the past.

Spent the rest of the day reading and relaxing… and stoking the fire. Packed up and headed home around 4pm, which is check out time. We were likely the last people leaving as it seemed pretty cleared out.

I’m starting to wish the State Parks Passport program was still in effect. I’d never thought about it before. But it would be a fun goal to camp at each of the parks. We’ve definitely got a good start!

The Kingdom 6... heretofore known as Queendom 6... was awesome! It was great having so much space. Emma Blue even seemed to sleep better in it. Though the temperature was also warmer than when we've camped earlier this year. It was just nice not stepping on stuff everytime we needed to walk around. It feels a little strange having such a huge tent but we're car camping and we do plenty of time in tiny backpacking and 2-person tents. So this feels like a reward for all that scrunching. My lower back gets a little achy trying to dress in a half bend. Though, I found myself doing the half bend this weekend anyway because that's what I'm used to. Then I'd look up and realize I could stand up straight! Sweet!! More foot room at the end of our sleeping pads as well so we have room to put our bags and such. It didn't rain, so I can't say how it handles that. But it handled beautiful weather and sunshine just fine! (=

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - Camping

Well, good thing there was a park ranger going through trying to keep things in order. The Mayo people were SO loud until about 12:30am. So we finally fell asleep. We joked that we would get up around 6am and take Emma Blue over toward their site and get her to bark that shrill bark of hers. Joke was on us! They were up around 5:30am being noisy again. SO weird! Then about 6:30am or 7am, it was quiet again. Back to sleep we went, until about 9am. I said, “They’re so quiet, I wonder if they’ve left!” and we had a good chuckle. Lorrie went outside and gave me the good news… they actually were gone. All of them! I was pretty happy!

We relaxed and hung around camp most of the morning. Did some reading and played with the dogs. After lunch we went for a “little hike.” During which we got a little lost and ended up going on a “long hike.” That was okay too. Just not what we’d expected. I still don’t know exactly where we were. But we made it back soon enough and Emma Blue was good and tired. More relaxing, then dinner was a chicken and rice before we did some more relaxing. Funny thing is that I spend most of that “relaxing” time collecting kindling and such to burn. So I don’t end up sitting much. We had a nice quiet night around the fire without loud medical students disruptions.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - Camping

Five nights sleeping in a bed is enough! We decided to go camping for the weekend. We still haven’t checked out Lorrie’s newest new tent so it’s time to break that one in. I got her the REI Kingdom “Queendom” 4 for her birthday and we took that one out. But then we decided since it’s only for car camping that we could splurge and go bigger with the Kingdom 6. The best thing about this bigger one is that I can stand straight up in it! I haven’t had that since I was a kid camping in a big canvas monster tent!

As we were trying to decide where to go, Nancy from Minnesota Outdoor Women sent an email to the group saying she was going to be camping at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. We decided to try and get the Non-reservable walk-in site there so that Lorrie wouldn’t have to drive far after work. If that site wasn’t available, our backup plan was to head down to Rice Lake State Park. I drove out to Nerstrand on Friday morning and the walk-in site was available! Yay! Back home to pack. It’s weird camping so close to home! Lol

It was quiet when I was there in the morning. When we got there around 5pm, it was packed. And noisy! The group site across from us was taken by a large group of, from what we heard, Mayo medical students. They were SO loud! But it was evening so no big deal. Not exactly the noises we want to hear when we’re camping but at least they weren’t playing obnoxious music!

Nancy was already there. So she came over to visit briefly while we were putting up our tent. She’s quite short so she had some interesting comments to make about how tall the tent is.

The rest of the evening was spent having burgers around the fire and just relaxing. Nancy came over a little later with Sadie, her little Yorkie. I made Mocha Au Lait for us… my first time so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. It was scrumptious, if I do say so myself! They Mayo people were still pretty noisy so Lorrie went to the office to ask what happens if they are noisy at 2am when the park office is closed. Apparently there’s a ranger that goes through the park throughout the night to help keep things in order. We shall see...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Review of REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent

REI

Our Quarter Dome T2 tent uses an innovative new design to create a strong, ultralight tent with generous interior volume and an easy setup.

Condensation Problem

TwoTireDoc Minnesota 7/15/2009

3 5

Gift: No

Pros: Comfortable, Lightweight, Easy To Set Up

Cons: Collects Condensation

Best Uses: Backpacking, Beach, Hiking

Describe Yourself: Avid Adventurer

What Is Your Gear Style: Comfort Driven

I purchased this tent to use for backpacking. I decided on the T2 vs T1 so that I could have more room for my dog and pack inside. I was glad to have made that choice when my backpacking partner kept calling out to me that her dog was taking over their tent. On my latest week-long backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail, set up was easy and it was lightweight enough. Overall pretty good. The only problem was that the material under the ventilation openings kept touching the screen material of the tent. Of course I didn't notice that until a morning of great condensation, which then dripped into the tent. After returning from the trip, I went to the nearby REI store to ask for suggestions on what I might do differently or to find out if my particular tent was irregular. The clerk said to keep the ventilation openings closed. To which I said, "Aren't those a major component of the tent? And aren't they intended to keep condensation low?" He also referred to all these positive reviews, which was part of the reason I purchased the tent in the first place. Anyway, I am still trying to decide about returning it. If anyone has found a fix for the drip, I am willing to try it as I really enjoyed the tent otherwise. I just want to be comfortable with the possibility of rain!

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Superior Hiking Trail - Judge CR Magney State Park

We stayed at Judge CR Magney State Park from July 8 to July 11. If I'd had my passport with me, we could have crossed the border into Canada and gone to visit Lorrie and her family. Alas, it was not meant to be. We mainly rested on the 8th. We drove into Grand Marais and did a little shopping at the outdoor store there. We also did some laundry. At some point I sat on a few different things so the back of my pants were decorated with sap and who knows what. I had no others to wear. Pam loaned me a pair of her shorts and a sweatshirt so I could wash my clothes too. She has been on the road awhile so she had a lot of laundry... which means she got to dress like a normal human! With tennis shoes and all!! While I watched the laundry, Pam headed over to the grocery store to pick up some lettuce and fresh veggies for the salad she'd been dreaming about. I watched "I Dream of Jeanie" while she was gone. That was surreal! Afterwards, we headed back to camp for Pam's birthday dinner of fresh salad and clam chowder. Yummy!! We relaxed around the fire until an early bedtime.

On July 9th, we drove up to Grand Portage to see what we could see. Which was not much. There is a casino and a State Park that has a lot of construction happening. Though we did walk up the trail to see High Falls. Which is, apparently, the highest falls in the U.S. Though, as stated on the sign, it has never been measured. I thought that was funny. But it was beautiful! We also stopped in at the Grand Portage museum and checked out what the voyageurs had gone through. My little pack seems so tiny compared to their 190 pound average weight packs! And they are about a foot shorter than me! I bought Lorrie a wine bottle that I thought was very beautiful! Funny, I didn't take a photo of it! We went back down into Grand Marais so that Pam could buy a spoon she'd been looking at. This was her birthday present to herself. (= Back to camp and more relaxing around a campfire before heading off to bed. What's nice about being here at this time is the few people around during the week!

July 10th, we decided we had enough energy to do the "Lake Walk" portion of the Superior Hiking Trail. So we parked near the trail head and walked in. The shore along Lake Superior is full of smooth rocks that have been battered around for who knows how long before being deposited onto the shore. There was one section of large rocks that was pretty difficult to navigate. I imagine it would be VERY difficult with a full pack on. Though I'm keen to try it! We stopped in a shady area under some trees and had a snack and built some cairns. After a little while, we headed back the way we came instead of finishing the whole walk. It's funny the difference between Emma and Milo. Milo's legs are long so he can be pretty selective which rocks he steps on. Emma just barreled through tripping and running through the big rocks. She also wanted to play in the water SO badly! But it's not a great place for her to swim. She waded a little bit and we did find one still pool for her to sit in. We went back into Grand Marais afterwards and just wandered around checking out the shops. Mostly touristy but we did get a few things at Ben Franklin! lol I discovered there is a bike shop in Grand Marais! All the times I've been there and I never saw it. They are on a side street and their sign is totally covered by another shop's sign! That's terrible... they should raise it up a little higher so people like me can see it. Ironically, as soon as I saw it... they closed. Bummer! Back up to camp where Pam wanted to light tea lights instead of having a fire. So we nearly burned down our picnic table with 4 tea lights! lol It was funny until we couldn't get the fire out and had to do some careful maneuvering to get them out. Well... it was still funny but also a little scary. Ironically, there were a couple groups of kids that had shown up that night... and they were behaving very well. So it would have been funny if these 2 grown women had started trouble! Off to bed for our last sleep in Judge Magney.

A note about Judge CR Magney State Park.... the staff is extremely attentive! I loved that! Not nosey or in the way... just attentive. There were no radios or loud noises. The kids that showed up were quiet in their site and went into the woods to be noisy one night. That was fine with me! The staff was very courteous too! I've been at quite a few state parks now and I would say this is the best run of those I've seen. I appreciate that!!

July 11... Lorrie is coming to get me! Yay! Even though we had no wood, I started a little fire. It was cold this morning! Pam read next to the fire and I fiddled with it before taking my shower. We basically just hung around camp all morning and packed things up. Which didn't take me long as I still only had my backpacking gear. But I had erected my tent under a sap tree. So I needed to clean that up. Most of it came off but I needed to do a little more cleaning at home too. Lorrie showed up around 1pm and we took off for Two Harbors. We stopped at the Superior Hiking Trail store and got t-shirts, patches, and stickers. Then we took Pam out for a *real* birthday lunch at Blackwoods Inn. After which, we parted ways. Pam had friends to meet in Duluth and we needed to get home so I can sleep in a real bed! We didn't stop too much on the way home. Mainly just for gas... and later a coffee to help keep us awake.

Home at last!

To view photos from these days, feel free to visit my Flickr page.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Superior Hiking Trail - Day 2

Is anyone surprised that we did not get out as early as intended? I feel slightly more comfortable with the pack on. Mainly in the morning. Each time I take it off and put it back on or stop to readjust it, it gets a little more comfortable and I am figuring out where it should rest on my body. I have slight red marks on my sides where it rests but they are not bad. Well, except when my shirt hiked up and the pack was directly on my skin. That hurt. Then, because my shirt hiked up, guess what happened!? You got it. Mosquito bite! So that was quite irritating for awhile until I just tuned it out. Still... the Deet seems to be working pretty well. When I use it correctly! Arrgh!

As we were getting ready to leave, we both decided it was warm enough for short sleeves. So off came the long-sleeved shirts. I'd Deeted myself up good. On my shirt. So, since I removed my shirt, I had some issues for the first part of the walk. This is all part of the "what should I do and when should I do it?" learning process. As well as not wanting to make everyone stop AGAIN because I forgot to do something. By the time we got to our first rest break, my left shoulder was entirely covered with bites and itching like hell. So I put the Deet on and went on my way.

We walked through a lot of private land today. And meadow. It was really beautiful! Emma was very cute ahead of me in grass that is taller than her. lol There were a lot of rocks and roots, some moose scat as well as moose prints. That was cool! I liked the idea of seeing one though it also scared the hell out of me as well! There were also quite a few climbs today. Some with stairs that seemed to make it more difficult. Though I imagine lots of people sliding down the decline without the stairs. Around noon, we hit a road walk, Tom's Road (something like that). It was really too hot and sunny to be doing that walk at that time. I walked with Emma from shady spot to shady spot. I don't know if all dogs do this, but she has, since she was a puppy, run in the sun and walked in the shade. I think we all just put our heads down and walked this portion. A couple cars passed and the passengers waved. It was a relief to be back on the trail. Though the trail got a lot more difficult after that road.


At some point we climbed up to a meadowy area and got our first glimpse of Lake Superior. That was very cool! Made me feel like we were pretty close to our goal for the day. Which we weren't! lol We walked a little too long today. Pam fell twice. I saw the end of one and her pack hit a tree. I was thankful it wasn't her head!! I'm sure she was too! A second time I came around a corner and she was sitting in a weird spot on the trail. She looked up and said, "This would be where I fell." So that's where we rested.

Eventually we made our way into the Judge CR Magney State Park boundary. But we kept walking and walking... and walking. By this time my feet were getting pretty sore. We started seeing signs that there had been more people in the area. The trail got wider and there were viewing points along the river. Then we ran into a family walking in flip flops. That was a good sign. We turned a corner and all that would come out of my mouth was profanity. There, in front of us, was a staircase steeper and longer than any I'd seen! It turned somewhere up there so I couldn't even see the top of it. lol Emma and I went first. I held my poles in the hand that held the railing. Then I used my other hand to grab the handle on Emma's pack so I could help lift her up a little to make it easier on her. I ran into a photographer with a couple sets of stairs to go and he wanted to stop and chat. I guess I would have thought a photographer would be more in tune to agony on a person's face. But I guess not. So, because I'm "Minnesota nice," we chatted. Until I saw Pam and Milo coming up and then I needed to get out of their way. He was a nice man. From Two Harbors. Had been up to the Canadian border to get some shots. I'd been walking that whole time. (= At the top, I sat with my butt toward the front edge, on a bench. When Pam and Milo got there, we walked again. And walked. And walked. We ran into a few more people. Milo wasn't quite listening to Pam so she was getting frustrated with him. He was attached to her at the point, so when he pulled too hard, she had to step too hard. She got a little cranky with me about the campground location. Which I know is because she was dehydrated and in pain. That's what happens! Eventually we made it to the camp office and did a self check-in. Then we had to climb a final hill to get into the campground. The first campsite didn't have anywhere to put 2 tents so we moved over one. And that is where we stayed! We had been walking for about 8 hours. Does anyone remember me saying that I am not hardcore?? lol But I survived!

We decided to take a rest day tomorrow and just stay in the park for 2 nights before moving on. Then we decided that maybe we should be done with the trail and just camp the rest of the week. And so that became the plan.

Basically the same routine as the previous 2 nights. Though getting water was significantly easier. There was hardly anyone in the campground. But there was a family across from us and the man agreed to take Pam back to her car to pick it up. I had no idea it was as close as it was... driving distance anyway. So that was that. Our backpacking trip is over. And our camping trip begins.

I am not sure right now if I'm more relieved or more disappointed. I had wanted to go further. But with Pam falling twice and both of us being so tired from today's long haul, it seems like the safe thing to do. We can always change our minds on Thursday (7.9.9).

To see all the photos, visit flickr.com/photos/twotiredoc

Monday, July 06, 2009

Superior Hiking Trail - Day 1

Steps = 16,163
Mileage = approximately 6.4 miles (per my pedometer, Pam thought it closer to 5.5)
Camp: Hazel Campsite

I didn't sleep much at all last night. I wasn't feeling nervous at all but that doesn't mean I wasn't. We did go to bed pretty early so that may have affected me. I am more of a night person. It didn't get dark ever really but it got most dark around 10:30 or 11pm. The last time I saw was about 3:30am and then woke again around 6am. That didn't seem to affect me too much on the trail though. It was just frustrating.

I also woke up with a mosquito bite on my left eyelid. So I look like I've been in a fight or something. I find this one funny. But it's a reminder to put the bug repellent on first thing!

We got on the trail around 10am. I know this is late for hardcore people. And I'll try to do better in the future. But I, as those close to me know, am a futzer. Unintentionally. Though with this situation, I don't believe I am actually futzing. I believe that I am still learning what needs to be done and how to do it. And therefore should get some slack regarding the amount of time it takes me to get ready. lol Pam was very patient and seemed to be trying to pace herself with me. But she knows what she needs to do and when so I'm sure that was hard for her!

The hiking is hard! Surprise! lol Emma Blue is doing SO great!! Milo, Pam's dog, a retired sled dog, leads us, then Pam, then Emma right on Pam's heels. And then I come along about 20 yards back. I stop to take photos and am being extremely mindful of my steps. There are a lot of roots and rocks hidden under high grass. Pam stops about every hour for a break, which works great for me. The first stop was at another part of Carlson Pond where Emma and Milo could sortof play in water... though mainly it was mud. We refilled water bottles even though the water wasn't the greatest source. But out here you never know when you'll get another source. Pam has tablets to treat the water and I have a filtering system. So we are okay even if we have to drink this water. The dogs drink freely. We didn't stop too long. Though I did take time to put a mole skin on a scar I have on my foot that seems to be rubbing or something. Nothing major but I don't want it to turn into anything major either. Off we go again... same order.

Lunch was at yet another side of Carlson Pond, which had a campsite. It was nice to have someplace to sit and eat lunch. There was also nicer access to the lake so we got rid of the other water and filled up with this water instead. If nothing else, at least we have more for the dogs before it gets treated. For lunch I had a curry tuna wrap. Once I had everything out and was adding the curry, I realized I'd had curry last night. I'll have to make a note to spread that out so I can enjoy the spice a little more. I like not having to think about my food though. It's already prepared. I just have to reach in the appropriate meal bag and pull out one of the freezer bags.

After lunch, I'm not happy to be putting that pack back on. I haven't gotten used to it yet. However, my hip flexor's seem surprisingly happy about this new movement and maybe even the weight. I find that interesting and enjoy the feeling for quite a while. Maybe they have missed cycling more than I have! I make a mental note to get back on that bicycle as soon as I get home and recover.

I am starting to notice my enjoyment of this quiet time. I can see why people who spend so much time in the outdoors and alone write so much. Not saying that I'm coming up with brilliant world changing theories or anything like that. But I think about my life and the direction it's taking. I think about my personality and how it affects my interactions with others, which of course affects my life in general. Most of it is good but there are places I think I could make some changes. I realize, yet again, how much I love being outdoors. Then I start analyzing why I don't spend more time out here. And I have this epiphany that, for me, it is just as important who I am with as it is where I am or what I'm doing. I've done a lot of things on my own. And I've enjoyed them. But the things I have enjoyed the most have been with others. This confuses me... as I've never considered myself a people person. Not anti-social in the slightest. Just more introverted. And I do enjoy quiet time alone and with Lorrie. I conclude that I could never be one of those adventurers who goes away from family and friends for extended periods of time on a regular basis to pursue the next adventure. Unless my family was with me... then I'm off to Everest as soon as we can get the gear together! (=

So, this is backpacking. Walking. With a heavy pack on my back. Thinking. Stopping periodically to look around and take photographs. I like all of it except that heavy pack. Though I know I can decrease the weight of this pack with some experience.... or I could just buy a smaller pack! lol

We walk up a Sled Dog Training Trail. Pam says that Milo flinched and started moving a little quicker to get away. lol He is a retired sled dog. He didn't like it. He won a lot and apprently was quite talented. But he was miserable. So the owner gave him to Pam so that Milo would be happier. And I'm sure to make room for another dog that actually wanted to sled. (= We rest along the road, have some water and a snack. It's a little hotter and I think I'm about ready to be done for the day. We turn off the double track to more singletrack and in another hour or so are in camp. By 4pm. I didn't think that was too bad.

Basically the same routine as yesterday. Got my tent out and set that up right away. Then started emptying some things in there. But I was hungry so everything else was put on hold while I got my water boiling. I got Emma Blue fed though she was much more interested in Milo's food than her own. Pam gives him venison with his protein-heavy kibble. Emma thought that was fabulous. So she got some venison in her food too. Funny thing about dog nature, Milo was more interested in Emma's kibble. So we did some mixing and matching and both ended up happy. They are perfect travel companions. Neither of them likes dogs who are in their faces and sniffing them all the time. They leave each other alone for the most part though seem to check on each other periodically. It's relaxing for me not to have to worry if Emma is going to snap at him or not. She just doesn't seem inclined to.

At each camp there is a "Bear Cord" sign. Yesterday we did our own (I should say, Pam did our own) bear lines and hung the food. Today she saw that "Bear Cord" meant they had hung strong cord or wire or something across the trail to make it easier for us to hang our food. Awesome! It took less than half the time to get everything hung tonight.

I have been a little worried about water. Probably with no reason. But my trips like this have mainly been in the Boundary Waters. Water was never an issue. So I'm not sure how low we can get before we need to be careful. Pam checks out the map and sees a "Reference Point" a little beyond our campsite. She thinks it may be water so we take a walk toward it. It ends up being a nice cool creek. So she fills some bottles and break out my Katadyn Basecamp and we fill that up. With the water from that we are able to fill up my hydration pack, and 4 or 5 other bottles. I am relieved! I also learned an excellent lesson about reading maps after we've stopped for the day and going beyond the campsite to check for water.

We again don't stay up late after we eat. I need to determine if this is what I like or not. It's Pam's preference and I'm certainly not going to try and keep her awake to entertain me. But I might have liked to build a small fire. As it turned out, I have been laying here reading and writing. Then Emma perked up. She didn't look startled. Curious maybe. So we sat there a moment and listened. Nothing. So I let her out of the tent to explore. She went over to Pam's tent and said hi to her and Milo. Once I was decent and had shoes on, I peeked out. I don't know if it's what she was sensing, but one of the half-burned logs left on the fire from previous inhabitants was smoking. There was no flame and no risk of anything that I could tell. But my pup would not know that. So I put it out and she came back into the tent. Interesting.

Still not dark. But we are going to try to get out of camp earlier tomorrow morning. 9am is the goal. And yes, again, I know that is not kosher for the hardcore. By now you should have figured out that I am not hardcore. (=

Later in the night, or maybe it was still evening, there was a surreal howling/barking... pretty close by. And then definite howling... a little further. And then more definite howling... even further. Emma sat up and listened. Then laid right back down. I figured if there was any danger Pam or Emma would let me know. Turns out the first "noise" was sled dogs barking. Apparently Milo freaked out a little by that sound! lol Poor guy! Pam knew it was sled dogs because they all sounded different and were not in sync. The other 2 were wolf packs... definitely in sync. It was amazing to hear... though a little disconcerting. We are definitely in the wild now!

To see all the photos, visit flickr.com/photos/twotiredoc

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Superior Hiking Trail - Day 0

The preparations are done... mostly. Lorrie and I get out of the house around 8am. We had talked about 7am. But that's all it ended up being. Talk! My family was here for the 4th of July as is the tradition. It was great having them here and everyone seemed to have a good time. But it made last day and last minute preparations difficult. Though, God love my mom, she did help me out! We had to stop at Gander Mountain once we got through St. Paul so that I could stop and buy a CamelBak bladder. I know! I know! It's not smart to buy something like that on the day you need it... unless you love the taste and smell of acid and rubber. Which I don't. But I was desperate and had not been able to find either of the 2 I already owned. So we stopped. And I got one. And some small travel size Nalgene bottles to decrease the amount of liquids I carry. The closer we got to Grand Marais, the more nervous I started to get about this trip. I wasn't sure I had prepared enough. I wasn't sure I'd prepared Emma Blue enough, which felt even worse to me since she had no choice in the matter. I also felt bad that I didn't have my pack ready to put on and go. Lorrie was going to drop us off at the starting point and then take off to Canada for some time with Tori her family... on the beach. (just a reminder... Emma Blue and Tori are our dogs).

So we met Pam at Java Moose in Grand Marais around 2pm. Not too late. I got an iced coffee... figured it would be my last for a little while. Then we caravaned to our ending spot near Kadunce River before cramming all 3 of us plus 3 dogs into my SUV. Funny thing... Emma Blue can be a little aggressive if she feels trapped... so she got the front passenger seat while Pam, Milo, Tori, and I crammed into the backseat. What a little princess! lol So Lorrie dropped us off at 14, Arrowhead Trail. Well, I use "dropped off" lightly. She had to stand there and help Pam and me decrease my stuff so that she could take with her what I don't need. I know she was antsy to get going so I am grateful for her patient nature! And decrease it we did! I won't even list all the things Pam suggested I get rid of. They are too many and I might get embarrassed writing so much! lol But I am inexperienced so I can't be expected to know exactly what I need. Eventually we got it all in my pack. It's heavy... but I have no idea how much weight I'm carrying. We got Emma Blue's awesome Ruff Wear Palisades pack all ready for her. We posed for our outgoing shot by the sign and then took off into the wild. (Hey, good title for a book... and movie! But I digress...)

Lorrie took off... slowly. I could tell. I know she watched us disappear. Because that's what she does. And I know this is an outdoor journal but my life is part of that. And it is significant that in two years, Lorrie and I have not spent this much time away from each other. And to do so without any possibility of communication for much of the time is also significant.

Our first hike was very short. We knew we would be starting late in the day and so decided that just getting into the trail and setting up camp right away would be a good plan. That would also give me practice setting up and taking down when I am not exhausted. So, we went in about 1 mile to Carlson Pond. There was SO much tall grass. Some of it was pressed where tents had been but it was on it's way back up. There was a wooden plank bench all around the fire pit, a picnic table, and a latrine. I got everything set up without issue. The vestibules of my tent were filled with high grass, which actually looked cool from inside. And I liked the swaying sound.

Pam dumped everything from her pack out onto the picnic table. She said she would have to repack everything tomorrow anyway so she just empties it out. I did the same except that I put a lot of mine directly into my tent. I have a 2-person tent while hers is a 1-person. So I have a little more room to maneuver with stuff tossed in.

Time for dinner. I had used "Freezer Bag Cooking" to prepare all my meals. Tonight, it's curry chicken rice for me except that I used tuna instead of chicken. The bugs came out pretty quickly so we were in our tents pretty quickly. You may recall my extreme sensitivity to bug bites from my Boundary Waters trip reports. I brought 100% deet this time... but figured I would just get inside for tonight. It's only about 8pm. I have 1/2 the tent. My backpack takes up a little less than 1/4 of the tent and Emma Blue has the rest. She uses my sweatshirt and other random things as padding and rests her head on my plastic ziploc full of clean underwear. What will she rest her head on in about 5 days?? lol

Tomorrow, we *really* start!


To see the rest of the photos, visit flickr.com/photos/twotiredoc

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Those who can't... Review!

Haven't gotten to do much outdoors in the past couple weeks except working out. I can tell I need to be outdoors when I start browsing REI for nothing in particular. I know I'm really desperate when I start reviewing things I've purchased there! (=

Had a conversation with Pam about our upcoming Superior Hiking Trail hike. That got me more excited about the trip! Then I'll have more equipment to review on rainy days like today! Ha!

My Review of Keen Arroyo Sandals - Women's

REI

Elevate your idea of performance and comfort with Keen® Arroyo hybrid shoes that pair sandal ventilation with trail shoe support and protection.

We each got a pair!

TwoTireDoc Minnesota 6/16/2009

5 5

Gift: No

Sizing: Feels true to size

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Durable, Cute, Breathable, Stylish, Comfortable

Best Uses: Walking, Beach, Travel, Everyday

Describe Yourself: Stylish

My partner and I each had to get a pair of these... and we are not the type of couple that likes to dress alike. (= We needed something that we could canoe the Boundary Waters in, which also meant quite a few portages. These are exactly the ticket! They dried quickly and stayed comfortable. Definitely durable.

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My Review of Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots - Women's

REI

The Keen Targhee II waterproof day hikers deliver tenacious traction, stability and comfort on the trail.

Great all-around boot

TwoTireDoc Minnesota 6/16/2009

5 5

Gift: No

Pros: Easy On/Off, Great Traction, Comfortable, Dries Quickly, Multi-Use

Best Uses: Everyday/Practical Use

Describe Yourself: Avid hiker

No breaking in worries... they were comfortable right out of the box. Great traction for serious hiking but also comfortable walking around in town. I used them this past winter for walking to work and they kept my feet very dry and warm. I recommend these boots to everyone! I'm starting to become a Keen-addict!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

My Review of Ruff Wear Palisades Dog Pack

REI

Dogs love to carry their own weight—let them do it with confidence and comfort in this full-featured dog pack from Ruff Wear.

Careful with Sizing

TwoTireDoc Minnesota 6/15/2009

4 5

Gift: No

Pros: Fun, Versatile

Cons: Expensive

Best Uses: Everything

Describe Yourself: Long-time Pet Owner

I haven't used this on the trail with my dog yet so I'll have to do another review later. But I think the sizing issue I had is important to get out there. Based on the reviews here and on the size small pack I got my 45 lb Blue Heeler (aka Australian Cattle Dog) a size small. It was WAY too small around for her muscular build and much too short for her body length. Blue Heelers are relatively stocky. That was confusing to me after reading reviews about all the Labs in size small. So, take the measurements but then also look at your dog's build. If your dog is muscular, I'd say the sizing is right on. But, you may just have to take the dog with you to REI, buy the pack, try it in the parking lot, and exchange it immediately if it doesn't work. I think you'll know right away.

Again, I haven't used it on the trail yet. But I think the separate pieces are great for getting my dog used to the whole pack thing. And I'm excited to see how the hydration bladders work out. To be continued...

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Review of Sven Folding Saw - 15-inch

REI

This portable, compact saw is ideal for light woodcutting chores.

You don't even need upper body strength!

TwoTireDoc Minnesota 6/14/2009

5 5

Gift: No

Pros: Easy to Use, Easy to clean, Lightweight

Best Uses: All around tool

Describe Yourself: Casual Adventurer

I looked at numerous saws trying to figure out which I would be able to use when my upper body is not my strongest area. I'm not a wimp, but I knew I couldn't handle some of those bigger saws. Anyway, it was light, easy to use, easy to set up and put away, and cut through wood like it was nothing. After the first time I used it, I turned around to see my campmates sitting there with their mouths hung open at how quick and easy I cut the wood. We'll use this one for both car camping and backpacking!

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My Review of REI Kingdom 4 Tent

REI

REI Kingdom 4: This family palace of a tent features 2 private rooms, tall vertical walls that maximize livable space, and multiple organizer pockets located throughout.

Exchanged it

TwoTireDoc Minnesota 6/14/2009

4 5

Gift: Yes

Pros: Comfortable, Waterproof

Cons: Collects Condensation

Best Uses: Car Camping

Describe Yourself: Casual Adventurer

What Is Your Gear Style: Minimalist

I bought the Kingdom 4 for my partner for her birthday. We took it out once before deciding that the Kingdom 6 would fit our needs better. That was mainly a size issue. It was put up twice. The first time I put it up alone and it was pretty easy with lots of looks at the directions. I'm 5'9". The second time we put it up together and it went slightly faster but we still had to look at the directions a lot. I can see it getting a lot faster and easier. The weekend we took it out, it rained almost the entire time. We stayed totally dry! There was no wind or anything severe so I can't say how it would handle that. But it seemed sturdy. The only 2 issues we experienced were 1 - There were several little snags or blemishes in the screens. It meant slightly bigger holes in the screen, which I worried might mean bugs getting in easier. It was raining and there aren't a lot of bugs out right now, so I can't say if that would have happened. 2 - When we took the tent down, there was water pouring out of the poles. It must have been condensation because the poles were completely covered by the rainfly. I thought that was a little strange. Overall a great tent. I agree with others that it sucked to have to buy the vestibule. But I did and that was a very very good choice! Especially with the rainy weather and a couple of dirty dogs. It makes a great "staging area" for either going it or going out.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Nerstand Big Woods State Park - Day 3

Day 3. The rain seems to have gone. I got up and out first. The fire pit was still a little warm under the ash so I started gathering tiny pieces of kindling. Didn't take much to get it going again. We had a little bit of dry wood left so that helped get it going even more. The wet wood would lay on the grate drying and then when it caught fire, it could go in and burn proper. I made some eggs for breakfast and toasted a ciabatta role over the fire for some toast. Pretty good breakfast. I also reheated Lorrie's coffee from Northfield for her. Nancy strolled over with her oatmeal. Of course, the dogs had their food. The fire ended up being extremely hot so none of us could make ourselves move from it. We sat there for several hours chatting.

I am hiking part of the Superior Hiking Trail this summer and had hoped to do some major hiking this weekend. I know that rain is no good reason not to hike... and I have hiked in lots of rainstorms. But this weekend, for some reason, was more about resting. Which is definitely okay too. I am coming to the end of an academic year and am, understandably, exhausted. So I'm not going to chastise myself too much. How often do any of us just sit around stoking a fire and learning about each other. My answer is .... not often enough!

Lunch was an easy organic mac&cheese. That seems to be a staple nowadays when camping. Nancy had the same but added broccoli to hers. Though she dropped some and that's what Emma Blue got for lunch! lol

Eventually we had to get up and out. Which we did. Funny how well everything fits in the car on the way there and how I have to cram it all in to fit it for going home! lol Rain must have expanded everything! But we got it all in and headed out around 3pm. Nancy left about the same time.

We got home pretty quickly and got everything unpacked. Then the task of laundry and much needed showers. My parents came for a quick visit and then it was time to relax and watch a movie!

We camped a lot in April and at the start of May. Weather was never really great. Since then, the weather on weekends has been incredible. We didn't camp. We waited until the rainy forecast to get out there. One nice thing about that was how few people were out. And though going into town was, for us, like going home while camping, Nancy said she enjoyed it because she had never been there before. So that was a good way to see it. We would have enjoyed it more in a new place as well. Ah, but the drive home was awesome... 15 minutes and we're there! (=

Next time I should hike in the rain!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - Day 2

Well, the weather forecasts were right! It started raining very early in the morning. And hasn't stopped yet! We woke up around 7am when everyone needed to use the outhouse. Then back into the tent for more snuggling. The pups were SO good. They just stayed snuggled up in their blankets. We stayed in the tent until about noon when the rain was slightly less a downpour. I went over to Nancy's site and she was putting a tarp over her tent... a leak! Arrgh! I helped her with the tarp and that seemed to take care of it. Then we decided to head to Northfield for lunch and to get out of the rain for a little while. We also decided to stop at Menards for rugs and rope. It's funny to go home in the middle of camping. I'm not sure I've ever done that before! lol

We headed back to camp around 4pm when the rain was mainly a drizzle with spots of actual rain. We were under a lot of trees so that seemed to protect us in one way from the heaviest of the rain. But then after it had stopped raining, the leaves were still hanging on to water so we got dripped on a little longer.

Everyone else on that side of the park had left! The people in the other 2 walk-in sites and all 3 group sites were all empty when we returned. Ha! Wusses!

Lorrie and Nancy went into their respective tents. And I tried my hand at hanging a tarp that we could sit under if it started raining harder again. I've never done it and I'm not the greatest at "mechanical" type things. But I make up for my lack of knowledge with patience and creativity! It was a little low... but it worked! Lorrie and I had a place to sit while eating our hot soup... that we'd also gotten in town.

I decided I would try to start another fire even though a lot of the kindling would be wet and even some of the wood was wet. Ah well, we just kept lighting our little orange firestarters and throwing them in until the kindling was dry and then burned. It turned into a great fire that lasted several hours. Lorrie sat by the fire holding Tori all cuddled up in a blanket like a little baby. Very cute... and a little weird! (= Emma Blue laid nearby on her little pad. She's not fond of the popping fire sounds so she gets only as close as she needs to feel some warmth.

It's amazing what people will talk about around a fire. There is just no limit to the topics... our lives, politics, movies, animals, parents, and on and on. And sometimes it was just quiet. I like that too!

Eventually Lorrie got tired enough that it was time for bed. So she took the dogs in... they will go in as soon as a person does! Emma Blue would have been in bed at 8pm if she'd had choice! So Nancy and I sat out for awhile until I started blinking away sleep. Tonight is VERY dark! Especially compared to how bright it was last night. Lorrie said she felt a little nervous walking over to the outhouse but was glad Emma was there to protect her. I thought I would do fine with my flashlight and headed over on my own. I got to the little roadway and realized, "Wow! I is *really* dark out here! Honestly, I got a little freaked out. So I went back and got Emma Blue... and some laughing from the others... and she came with me. It is definitely less frightening with a protective dog nearby!

And then there was one. Nancy stayed out for awhile... I can hear the fire poking and see the light of the flames through the tent walls. (= No reading tonight... just sleep.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - Day 1

My first organized group outing for the Minnesota Outdoor Women group. Lorrie and I headed out after work. I have everything pretty well organized so we can just throw it in and go. But our brains seemed to not be working very well this afternoon after work and it took us a little while longer to make sure we had everything. I hadn't rolled up the sleeping pads last night and I hadn't organized the food as well as usual. The food, I think, is what threw us the most. And making sure we had enough warm stuff for the dogs. Tori just got her hair totally buzzed and she has recently gone blind from cataracts, which we just found out is because she is diabetic. So we wanted to make sure was very comfortable.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is so close by that we got there at a reasonable time. Nancy had already been there and set up. But she wasn't around when we pulled in. So we got started with Lorrie's new tent and getting the pups settled. After we'd gotten the tent laid out, Nancy walked over so we could meet and chat for a minute. So, the "group" was the 3 of us! (= It's a start, right? We got the tent up without much ado and settled in. It's really an awesome tent, I have to say! I got a fire started so we could make some dinner. Originally hamburgers... but decided "organic grass fed free range beef" hot dogs were easier.

The rest of the night was spent sitting around the fire chatting. Gotta love that for a Friday night! Neither Lorrie nor I generally have much energy on Fridays so this was perfect. And the moon was, if not totally full, very close to full and very bright. When we did finally get into the tent, I thought we'd left a light on on the picnic table or something. Nope, just the moon.

So far, I am very happy with these walk-in sites! Nancy had WI02 and we had WI03. There is a lot of room and underbrush between them. 02 and 03 are probably the closest to each other so were good in this situation. We couldn't see the tent or people in 01 from our site. Nancy said she could hear but couldn't see the people in 04. 01, 02, and 03 are reservable and 04 is non-reservable.

Rain forecasted tomorrow!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Myre Big Island State Park Camping

We did sleep in the tent all night! Emma Blue was a little turd several times. She slept part of the night on my feet, which was not comfortable! I don't know if she's cold, scared, or just being a turd! lol But it was all good. We got up around 8:30am and took down camp right away. Then drove over to the shower building... first time it's been open for us this year! We went in as grimey campers and came out ready to go to church and see my parents for Mother's Day! Amazing! Though it did take a little longer to get the site taken down so I didn't get to wash my hair. First thing my mom said was that it smelled like a campfire! lol Ah well! Church and then out to lunch with my parents. Chinese Buffet... mmm. heheh Not really. But they did have crab legs, which I like very much! Spent the afternoon with them and then headed home to unpack. It was strange to start unpacking camping gear in our church clothes! lol

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Myre Big Island State Park

Another camping excursion! We had planned to leave Friday right after work but the weather did not look like it was going to cooperate. So we stay warm and dry in our house and decided to take off on Saturday morning. This morning came and it wasn't clear whether the weather was going to cooperate at all. So Lorrie decided to clean the carpets before we left! That way they would have time to dry while we were gone. Smart woman! While she did that, I got everything ready to go. Good timing and we were out the door by about 1:00pm. A little later than intended but the weather was finally getting sunny if slightly cool.

I have a co-worker who is leaving next week and I needed to pick up a perennial for our gift. So we stopped and did that on our way out of Northfield. Which meant we needed to go back home and drop it off. So a little starting and stopping happening. But again, on the road! I have to say, the dogs, who do have human responses, were quite confused when we pulled up at the house with our car never having been unpacked! lol

We chose Myre Big Island State Park, which used to be Helmer Myre State Park when I lived down that way, because it is close to Albert Lea and we could see my mother on Mother's Day. We got there and drove around to the two different campgrounds. Big Island seemed very crowded, especially compared to the past month when we've basically been the only tents around. There were a lot of RVs in the first part and tents in the back area. But too crowded. So we went back toward the entrance to White Fox Campground to check that out. It was much less crowded and there were only RVs on one side where the electric sites are. No other tents. We drove slowly and chose Site 89 for it's Aspen wind breaks, the sun, and the nice grassy place for the tent. Back to the office we went to check in. I got a little anxious that someone else would come along and take that spot, which is funny knowing how empty it was! But we had that happen at Interstate State Park and it wasn't fun!

That done, we picked up a State Park sticker for the bullet, a couple Snickers bars, and some wood. Then off to set up camp. Which took no time. It was windy but sunny so the temperature was great! We took off for a hike to see the Remote Sites that you can't drive too. They were beautiful! Right on the lake with spots to pull up in your canoe if you don't want to hike. Nice! R4 was the best... but it's unreservable. So we'd have to race for it! The hike was about 1 1/2 hours long and gorgeous. Emma Blue had a blast sniffing everything and running around. Her only unhappiness was that she couldn't jump into the water.

Back at camp I built a great, if I do say so myself, fire while Lorrie rested. Somehow our roles while camping totally switch. It's interesting. After the fire, I started on dinner. I bought some *stuff* to "make meat." lol It's really just a bunch of beans that you add boiling water to and then form into burgers. Well, it ended up being lentil soup. Maybe that's why Lorrie does the cooking at home! lol Though it was *good* lentil soup! I also made mac&cheese, which seems to have become a camping staple for us lately. It ended up being a tasty and filling, easy to make, dinner. We also tried out Lorrie's coffee press, which is actually a tea press. That worked very well! So that was a good purchase!

Got the dogs fed... though they have become picky eaters when we're camping. Isn't it usually the opposite? So we added some cheese to their food and that seemed to work pretty well. With the cold nights, I worry when they don't eat enough. But I think they stay warm enough with their fur, blankets, our clothes, and Emma's own sleeping bag! lol

So we settled in for some relaxing, reading, fire poking, and full moon watching. The moon was incredible tonight! The sky was so bright that we didn't really need flashlights outside. So amazing and beautiful! The temperature was also great. It was probably in the 50s most of the night and we could tell when it started to dip... when we'd get cold away from the campfire. We stayed out later than we usually would because of the weather and the moon but we ran out of fire wood so it's time to get into the tent and get the girls comfortable.

Hopefully we'll sleep in the tent tonight and not the car!! heheh Click here for that reference! lol


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Rice Lake State Park

We decided that we needed to get outside some more today. Lorrie was still obsessing about the Pileated woodpecker so we decided to return to Rice Lake State Park. We drove around to all the possible camping areas just to see what was there. Really, the only thing we hadn't seen yet were the "Cart in" sites. We didn't want into them, just went to the parking lot. I think I do that so I can give people directions later. Somehow my little excursions become helpful at a later time! lol

We ended up parking in the picnic area where we had a little bit to eat before setting off for a hike allllll the way around the park. There was water, meadow, forest, road, pretty much everything but mountains. We also saw these little crablike things that I are unfamiliar to me.... except from being in Houston and LA. So I'll have to look up what those things are! The ones we saw were all dead so I'm sure the photo doesn't show their "live coloring."

After the hike, we hung out at the picnic area for a little while so Tori could spend a little time outside. I can't wait to get her leg fixed so she can come along on more of these hikes! (=

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rice Lake State Park and RAIN!

Day 2. Woke up in the car around 5:30am. I slept pretty well. Lorrie did not. She was playing on Facebook on her phone when I woke up. Poor thing! We got the dogs and our stuff and went back into the tent. Somehow having a lighter sky felt safer. It had rained a little but was just a sprinkle at that time so it wasn't too difficult. I'm sure the dogs were slightly confused by this whole thing! lol But they were good sports.

Once in, the downpour started. We slept on and off the rest of the morning. The dogs didn't like the thunder so Emma Blue curled up between us on her sleeping bag and Tori was scratching at her camping kennel to get out. So we let Tori out and she curled up next to me... and then behind me on my pillow. lol Very cute!

When it was clear that the rain was going nowhere, we decided to make a run for it and take down camp. We waited until it seemed like there was a break and then moved. Fast! Lorrie took care of the tent and what was inside it. I packed up the dogs and started sticking what was outside into the back of D'Azul. We didn't actually get that wet. Good teamwork!

So we headed into Owatonna for a warm breakfast! In a downpour. As an aside, Owatonna is pretty dead on Sunday! But we found a Perkins-like place out by the interstate and ate well. Then home for warm showers, cleaning up, and vegging on a rainy day!

Upon reflection, we both felt a little silly for sleeping in the car. BUT... we also agreed that if something *did* happen, when people read the news story, they would inevitably say, "Well, what did those two girls think they were doing going out there all on their own?" And no one likes to be the cause of questions like that! Well, no one that I know anyway.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rice Lake State Park

We slept in but were able to get things packed and ready pretty quickly. Of course, we forgot a few things and just had to toss those in on their own. We recently switched from using the big plastic tubs to using a fabric cargo container with 4 bintos. Each binto has its own theme... blue = dogs, green = cooking, etc. We wanted to test that out and see if we felt more organized. We stopped at the Co-op for some organic mac & cheese in a box, yogurt, almonds, Lorrie's favorite spicey trail mix, and some drinks. It's only 1 night so it's not like we needed to plan for much food. And we already had hot dogs and eggs in the cooler. Off we went. We took I-35 straight down to Owatonna and then followed the signs to Rice Lake State Park from there. SO easy! We drove through the 2 loops and decided on Loop A because no one was there yet and there were a few RVs with families in Loop B. Then we chose A13 because of it's view of the lake and because it was a little higher than some and we were expecting rain. Back to the Information Center where we paid for the site, got some wood, and were told where Lorrie could go to have the best chance to see a Pileated Woodpecker (the one Woody was based on). Then back to our site to set up.

And then we commenced our relaxation! I was going to hang my hammock but (tmi) I was PMSing and didn't think I could deal with all those little intertwining strings. I'd not put it up before so I figured I should wait for a time when I wouldn't toss it in a lake or rip it apart! BUT... I did have my new Slackline and there were some perfect trees for that. So we did get that up. I got a little frustrated with the whole ratchet system but Lorrie was there to figure it out. That wasn't PMS... that was my lack of mechanical skills. (= So we got that up and played with it for a little while.

The rest would be quite boring to read about so suffice to say there was playing with dogs, playing with fire (not at the same time!), reading, cooking, eating, talking, and just general good energy relaxing. A nice night!

So then... we decide it's getting a little cold and it's time for bed. So we're covering things up with the tarp. I was brushing my teeth and I saw a car driving around to Loop B. Then Lorrie saw something else and said, "Get Emma and get in the car" in such a way that I was not about to ask questions... though I had them. Eventually she got in the car too. And we watched as flashlights danced in the woods around us. It was a little strange. Could have been people on a hike. But they were only out there for about 10 minutes. The stranger part was that there seemed to be more flashlights going out and fewer coming back.

Okay, so I'm a big chicken. Sometimes I can't believe how much I like to camp because I often have a very vulnerable feeling and a dangerous imagination. When I'm with someone else, that decreases significantly. But Lorrie doesn't get scared. So, because she was freaked out too, we slept in the car.

Jennifer - Slacklining... or "Slacker Lining" as we say
(see more photos at my Flickr site)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lake Maria State Park and St. Cloud OUT Film Festival

Woke up from deep sleep around 1:30am. Freezing! The mattress was situated so the breeze went right down our sleeping bag. Made the 0 degree bag worthless! We were too disoriented to change the mattress around. lol So we put on hats instead and I put on my Mexican sweater and some socks. Then we hunkered down. At some point in there, Emma Blue made her way in the sleeping bag with us. More warmth!(= I put another blanket in for Tori too. Awake every 2 hours or so until we got up around 8:15am. Around 5am a great drizzling rain started that lasted about 2 hours. We liked that! Got up and packed before our 9:30am goal. A first!

We went directly back to I-94 so that we wouldn't get lost. Well, except that we did get turned around at one point on our way to the interstate. lol We stopped at Nelson Brothers outside of St. Cloud for an awesome breakfast! Then got cleaned up at the next exit rest area. Perfect! By then it was about 11:30am and we had to hustle to make our 12pm movie in St. Cloud. That was the whole reason we were in the area so it would have been bad to miss it! We got there with 5 minutes to spare... after getting a wine and a coffee. lol Gotta like a movie theatre like that! Except that it wasn't a movie theatre at all. It was a Playhouse/Music venue called Pioneer Place on Fifth that they'd rearrange to play movies for this festival. So we saw Training Rules about Rene Portland who was a homophobic coach at Penn State for about 25 years. It was part of the St. Cloud OUT Film Festival. After the documentary, home. No stops! 3pm. It took the expected 2ish hours this time. Phew!

So we got to have a nice afternoon at home before going back to work tomorrow. Good start to our camping season!