Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 3rd, 2010

I like camping because you can just be. You can just sit if you want, say "hey" to the people walking by your site,or stare at the firepit at any time of the day for as long as you want.You can study a bug crawling around the picnic table. It's expected to that making meals takes time and will automatically taste amazing because you did it outdoors. You can walk really slow to the shower and then even slower on the way back, watching the stars. You can walk around in your jammies and sweatshirt. You can be dirty or take 15 showers. You can hike fanatically, getting all sweaty and out of breath; or you can mosey, looking at all the different plants taking over the woods and admiring the sun filtering down through the leaves of the trees. Camping is freedom from chores, from the things you "should be doing", and camping is what makes me happy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


For the past three years, my friends from work and I have taken some time outside of work to spend together in the great outdoors. 2010 saw us going north to Duluth.
A few of us headed off bright and early to catch the Park Point garage sales. Amanda, Shannon, and I were not to be detered by strong winds and rain. Garage saling we went.

The rest of the crew joined us at various times times Friday and the day ended an inpromput pizza party in the car and the ever popular s'mores.

The majority of us slept in one tent with a second tent being used as a storage tent. Nothing beats a slumber party. Except perhaps, a bedtime story; which was what was heard, from Stephanie and Lance's tent.

A sheltered breakfast was had as the rainy weather continued. Picture time at Jay Cooke State Park near the suspension bridge was had before heading into town. Some time was spent out at Park Point beach and then a birthday lunch for Shannon was had at Grandma's.

Camp was taken down. It was on the rainy side with more rain in the forecast.

A big thank you to Barrett, who, on the home front, converted the garage with a few nails into a perfect sheltered are to hang tents to dry.

These camping times are really special to me for various reasons. I do take some pride in coordinating and planning camping trips for a significant group of people. Spending quality time with this group of people holds the biggest reward for me. While we started working side by side for 8 hours a day, we have all moved on to different positions within the company. These camping trips provide time for relaxing and spending some time in each others company just "being".
People's lives are always changing and it's important to fill your's with good times and memories. Next year promises to be different. Abby and Lindsay have both moved to different parts of the U.S. since this camping trip a short month ago. Was this the last group camping trip, will it be San Fransciso next year or can one even camp in Chicago? We shall see. No matter what comes next year though, these past camping trips still happened and still hold value as good good times and for that I am very happy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mount Rushmore

Travel Journal
Destination: Mount Rushmore
Start date: Sunday, June 20, 2010
Traveling companions: Sara & Barrett
Goal of trip: site seeing, recharging, relaxing

Day 1
Started off early, car packed the night before. Got to Palisade St. Park in South Dakota where Mom, Dad, and William where camping. Went swimming in cliffs with Mom and William. Barrett went for walk with Dad. Picked Gooseberries. Dad and Barrett took naps. Taught William to play rummy. Weather HUMID. Storms in the night.

Day 2
Woke to rain. Had breakfast in the camper. Rain stopped; took Opportunity to take down camp. Played cards with William and then all played ball. we left around 11 for Angostura State Park, S.D. Long stretches of road laid out before us. Cloud shadows, rolling hills, cattle, and billboards entertained us. With 5 miles left of gas, we got taken by Clarks and Dittys Gas Stations. Only places on the exit, gas prices at the pump were 20 c higher than advertised. Several people, us included, stopped at one, realized, drove to the other and gave in to their evil scheme. Our arrival at Angostura was met with the realization we did know our campsite # and the check-in station was unmanned. Our friend Amanda came to our rescue and we set up camp and at supper. Our tent is along the shore of a huge reservoir and we were treated to a spectacular hour long lightning storm. A good day.

Day 3
We started out day taking the Peter Norbeck scenic route. It was breathtaking. Twisting roads curving in, out, up and through the hills. The sight of big open skies and panoramic vistas of the Black Hills were amazing. The route took us through Custer State Park were buffalo, mule deer, prairie dogs and prong horn antelope abound. We stopped at the many pull offs and scenic overlooks turning the short drive to Mount Rushmore into an all day event. It was glorious. Mount Rushmore was impressive. It left me pondering the ingeniousness of how Mount Rushmore was made. I was prepared to be disappointed. That I was not. We headed back to camp on the Needles highway. Tall “needles” of rock speared up towards the sky. As we made our way back, the skies darkened and the wind started to blow. Dust storms gave impressions of forest fire smoke off in the direction we were headed. We were greeted at our site by hail, a semi-collapsed screen tent, our tent struggling to stay strong, and lake waves crashing at our feet. Barrett and I pulled together and set things straight. Our reward: a rainbow and grilled pork chops.

Day 4
We woke to the sound that lulled us to sleep: gently lapping waves. The shore is a mere 15 feet from our tent and we have really enjoyed this. We headed straight off to the Crazy Horse monument. This far exceeded my expectations. It included another example of man’s tenacity, vision, and skill. One single man was approached by elders of the Lakota Sioux Tribe to erect a monument to show that they too have hero’s. The story continues as the man, Korchek V begins this project with a single tool scaling the mountain everyday. He eventually collects more and more tools along with the attention of the public. He maintains it’s status of a non-profit projects; declining more than one offer of 10 million from the federal government. It continues past the death of this man in the hands of his family who work on the project to this day. After a picnic lunch, we stopped at a glass blowers in time to catch the last demo of the day. We purchased a piece as our trip souvenir. Our last trip of the day was a tour of the Wind Cave National Monument. You can’t go wrong on a cave tour; unless, like a gentleman on our tour, you find your self claustrophobic and need to be escorted out. Supper was grilled shore side; brats, roasted turnips and radishes with thyme (all from the CSA share), and anniversary marshmallows.

Day 5
Today was marked in our itinerary as the day we hang out at camp. We started with a leisurely breakfast of corned beef hash (Sara’s favorite) and pancakes (Barrett’s fav). Our plans changed when we found that the two person kayak was already rented. As this was what our day was to revolve around, we changed our day’s plan. It turned out to be the busiest yet. We headed north to the Museum of Geology at South Dakotas Mining Technology College. We had brought with us a possible fossil that Sara had found at Lake Waconia earlier in the spring and wanted some educated opinions on the make up of the fossil. 4 people looked; 4 people professed being stumped! Most agreed that it may be fossilized coral or plant material but attached a fossil of something else. Very intriguing. The Reptile Garden was next on our list where we saw among other reptiles a fun little show on uncooperative crocodiles. Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns amazed us with it’s unique crystal structures. It was beautiful. Unlike any cave tour we had ever been on. This was a privately owned cave and tour business; very informal. The Wind Cave National Monument from the day before had us going down, down, and down with a delightful elevator at the end. Today’s cave, no such deal. You went down 300 some cold slick metal stairs in a ladder formation, turned around at the end of the tour and climbed right back up. Worth every minute; or as Barrett was found of saying this trip, “ Lovin’ every minute of it.” The last activity of the day was very entertaining. Called the Cosmos area, it’s a show up in some hills where the “center of gravity is a little stronger”. Fun Fun Fun. And hokey. The rest of the evening was spent by the fire. Campfire taco’s and falling asleep by the fire. Could it get any better!?

Day 6
Why yes! It did get better. Friday was spent at the campsite. The weather was sunny with minimal breeze. We each got a daily fishing license for South Dakota and rented that two person kayak. The day was spent alternating between poking around the lake and swimming at our site. A nap was even had! We were quite excited when Barrett caught a walleye with a spinner bait in 3 feet of water. We did some preliminary packing for the next day’s departure. The walleye and small mouth bass were grilled over the campfire and another night spent relaxing by the campfire was…take that back…while we were out enjoying our time the rest of South Dakota checked in for the weekend. While it was true that the rest of the night was spent by the fire, the relaxing was spent with children running through our site to the water, mother’s caterwauling, and party barges running up and down the shore blasting music and “yee-ha’s”. It definitely helped make the leaving easier.

Day 7
We woke to clouds and forecasted rain. The rest of the camp was taken down quickly, as we did not wish to wait for the rain. Things were quickly taken care of and we were on our way around 8:30 a. The trip home was quite eventful. A good 5 hours into the trip finds Sara driving and Barrett resting. The radio starts indicating storms in South Dakota. Sara shrugs her shoulder believing them to be past the storms. Shrugs her shoulders again when she clips the edge of another storm and keeps on going into storm free sky. Barrett wakes and calls Sara’s Dad to inform him we will be heading straight home and that we are ahead of the storms and all clear. Not exactly. Just into Minnesota, we stop for gas in Luverne and head to the Pizza Ranch. The Ranch was abuzz with talk of the storms. We took with a firm “We’re out of here” when we heard Luverne was next. 10 minutes later, Luverne was hit with 60 mile winds and quarter size hail. The rest of the trip was spent storm watching. The storms we behind us, by our side, and in front of us. Sara didn’t know what was freakier; the zero vision at times, the storm watchers racing past us or Barrett’s maniacal laughter. Hairy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

some thoughts on camping.

Camping is a time out. A place and time where I don't have to worry.
Where meals are fun. Dress code is relaxed. Where you can just be and visit while sitting around the campfire. Where there is a variety of activities to choose from and not everybody has to do everything.

It is a time where you can watch others having fun interacting and you can join in or not. It's up to you.

It doesn't come without work, though . I remember camping as a family and the frustration of setting up camp. I remember long hikes that I was pretty sure was never going to end and wanting to disown my parents for even thinking I wanted to be marched through muggy bugs to the cadence of "left. right. left. left. you could've stayed home but you left. right. left." Really? I could've stayed home? I am pretty sure that was a lie. On the flip side, I remember fun dinners, swimming, and laughter.

I have expanded my camping with a few to organizing a slighter bigger outing. 7 of my favorite work people have joined me for 3 years now. It is a huge undertaking as far as planning. I may open my own outfitting store. Last night Barrett and I bought two more sleeping bags..that brings us up to 6. two tents. 3 camp mats, 3 air mattress, a camp slowcooker, dutch oven, propane stove, various tarps and bungee cords to name a few things. Choosing a date that all works for us, carpooling conversations, meal planning, reservations, who needs what, are we going to make a t-shirt, what about the rain, what activities are there and the pre-camp meetings. All of that goes into a camp trip; whether you are camping for a weekend or a week. whether 1 person is going or 10.

No matter how much work is involved, the rewards are worth it. bugs, rain, laughter, dead car batteries, charred food, mud, falling on rocks, cold, heatwaves, all of it is worth the shared memories. Here's to a lifetime of these.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Starting a fire

It is Friday May 21st, I am leaving for my first camping trip of 2010, when my phone rings. "How do I start a campfire?" "You know how." "No, I don't think I do" " have been camping as long as I have" " But you always start the fire"

Following you will find my take on starting a camp fire.

1) gather your equipment

firepit matches tinder wood

2) a hatchet comes in handy to chop off small pieces of wood/tinder to start the fire. It is also handy to bring a store bought or home made fire starter. A favorite tool of mine is called the "fire dragon". A simple plastic tubing with a brass spout on one end and a wooden bead to blow into. It directs the air you are blowing to a specific spot and allows you to remain a safer distance away from the fire.

3) construct your fire. building small to large. allowing the fire to catch before you add more wood. If the ground the fire is being built upon is mucky, I often lay a flat piece of wood down to build off off. see above picture.

4) There are three very important ingrediants to making a good fire. Memorize these and you will not only be able to build a successful fire but on those occasions when the fire just doesn't seem to get going you can use that knowledge to trouble shoot solutions.

temperature + fuel + oxygen

Fire start at about 570 degrees f. The fuel is most often wood. and oxygen. A match is often the tool used to increase the temperature. Lack of oxygen is why if you stack too much wood at one time the fire starting sometimes doesn't go well. You are most likely suffocating the fire. When it is raining, the water absorbs the temperature faster than the wood, again making it harder to start a fire.

Now you know what I know!

good luck!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Millacs Kathio site 42E

In amongst the cherished emails found in my outlook folder, 'warm fuzzies', is an email from Stacy Anderson, dated March 4th, 2010.

" registration complete. i got the BEST site evahhhhh ... #42e
be there or be square."

The date is set for....TOMORROW. My first camping trip of the year.
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is top on my favorite campsites. Friendly staff, fantastic program lead often by Jim Cummings, a long history of great times, beautiful scenery, and the list goes on.

Although originally planned for 2 nights, life happened, and I need to be back for the very important baptism of my God-daughter. One night it will be. I toyed with two nights but finally decided that going reeking of campfire would be a little...wrong. Even though Barrett said she would need to get used to it. :)

My first camping supply item was purchased on Tuesday and partially packed on Wednesday.

Very cool to be able to organize by color; it will be so much easier to find things!

Today at lunch, I found a sunny spot to park my car and my friend Amanda and cleaned out the car.

I am so ready.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sniffing out the perfect campsite.

April 2010
Duluth, MN

Amanda and I knew that picking out a site for this years CIGNA camping trip could not be done without help.
We turned to Lily, the campsite sniffer, for the job.
She was up for it.

We checked out several campsites.
These rated a "no bones" from Lily

Not impressed by the KOA's combo hoop/pet walk.

The crime scene tape and laundry was all we needed to see. So long "Knife" Island.

While somewhat intrigued by the combo camping, RV, and Buffalo House Bar,
we decided to pose like da buffalo and move on.

A decision was made! Jay Cooke State Park was the winner.

It was a great decision. I approved.

After a quick drink and much needed potty break, we headed home.

Stay tuned for the June 12th edition of another CIGNA-riffic camp out.