Saturday, December 19, 2015

Discover Winter; The Undiscovered Season

 It hasn't been a great winter so far this year. Of course, it's not really winter until Monday, but so far the "winter season" has been a bust, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s, rain (at least we're getting precipitation), and a decided lack of snow and cold. (These photos are from previous years.) "They" blame it on "global warming". Funny how, when it's warm for a couple of months, it's like "See, Global warming IS real!" But when it's cooler or colder than average, global warming becomes something called "climate change." Now, because the powers-that-be don't want to admit the truth, even to themselves, they are trying to link global terrorism to global warming. Oh for crying out Pete's sake!

But that is not why we are here today. We are here today because I have not written often enough, and I want to encourage readers to get out and Discover Winter! Eventually, it will get cold, and we will get snow here in Minnesota and NW Wisconsin. Even last winter, which was very bereft of snow, we still got a whole bunch right at the end of the season. Winter truly is the "undiscovered season".

Get out and enjoy winter. I think that is especially true as we age, because if we do not stay active all the year through, bad things start to happen, like we (or at least I) get fat. Winter activity burns two to five times the calories of similar activities in the warm months, and last winter I got out on my skis one time, and my snowshoes only three or four. My fat-bike was my saving grace, because it is still fun with only minimal snowcover. This year I started the season with weight gain from an inactive fall, and pneumonia. Also, I think I used to tolerate the cold better than I do now, in my 60s. I used to live by Elsa's ("Frozen") motto, "The cold never bothered me, anyway!" Part of that, I believe, is acclimatization, which I need to get working on for when it does get cold, but I suppose part of it is just getting older.

Before the fat-bike came along, I liked Nordic (cross-country) skiing but I loved snowshoeing. I've been a snowshoer since I was 14 years old, and my original pair now decorates the wall of our family room while we have a half-dozen pair in the garage, and a brand new pair under the Christmas tree! Snowshoeing is easy. If you can walk, literally you can snowshoe. And they are very reasonably priced, or you can often rent them at state and regional parks.

The same can be said about fat-bikes. If you can ride a bike, you can ride a fat-bike. They are more stable and to me, it brings back the joy of riding my first bike. Here too, the costs have come down. Yes, you can buy a cheap fatty at the local discount store foe a couple hundred bucks, but for only a few hundred more you can find quality bikes from manufacturers who stand by their product.

 That leads to my other favorite activity, winter camping. The "hot tent renaissance", using a lightweight canvas tent equipped with a wood burning stove that hearkens back to the "golden age of camping" has truly changed the face of winter in the wilderness. Yes, there are still those stalwart mountaineers who insist on shivering in their sleeping bags, waking to a coating of condensation ice crystals falling like snow inside their tent, and cooking over a little gas stove in the vestibule so they don't die of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is so much nicer to have a warm, breathable tent, with a cozy fire in the stove, cook over the stove and be able to hang stuff up to dry in the tent that will actually be warm and dry in the morning! Again, there are places in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin where you can rent a hot tent to try them out.

In recent years, I have often been tempted to let winter get me down, but I need to get back into that Elsa mindset. This winter I plan to enjoy the season, all season. As the sign from Snowtrekker Tents on my office door says, "December 21st. Finally, camping season is here!"

Proceeding on...

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Adventures of Adirondack Erdman in the Superior National Forest, Chapter 1

Success! Caught one small Rainbow Trout on a mosquito fly. First fish I've caught fly fishing since I moved to Minnesota in 1988. Kind of gave up doing much fishing when I became a park ranger, and what I had the chance to do was usually spin casting. Minnesota, the "Land of 10,00 Lakes", is also focused on fishing those lakes. Walleye, Northern Pike, Muskie, Large and Small-mouthed Bass, panfish; all primarily lake fish. Yes, there are trout streams, trout lakes and a trout stocking program, but unlike New York, where I come from, or Wisconsin, both of which have trout in almost every lake, pond, river or stream that will support them, Minnesota s big on lakes.

This year, now that I have retired from the ranger ranks, I decided to get serious about fly fishing again. For Father's Day, Ellen gave me a Wisconsin fishing license with trout stamp to go with my Minnesota license. I upgraded my fly fishing gear, and even bought a rack for my Cogburn CB4 fat-bike to carry the rod. Everything came together on Hare Lake in the Superior National Forest. this past Saturday; trout hitting the surface, wind light and behind me, right fly. Now, it would have been perfect if Jeannette and the girls were here as we had originally planned, but it rained Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning, so we called off the family trip. I still want to pass on the classic skills of fly fishing to the girls before school starts to a new dimension to their fishing. I taught my older granddaughter how to fish when she was four, and now she's 13. Her little sister took a bit more time, as she was more interested in playing with the bait for several years, but now they both love fishing...and chasing frogs.

I am going to go back to Hare Lake in September.

Proceeding on...


Monday, July 06, 2015

Adventure is...

Blind, deaf and mute herself, Helen Keller, the preeminent advocate for the disabled in the 20th century is often quoted as saying, "Life is either a great adventure, or it is nothing at all." Similarly, the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart stated that, "Adventure is worthwhile in itself." But I rather like the feelings of Montana-based, contemporary adventurer Clay Croft of Expedition Overland who put it this way; "If you have to ask yourself why adventure is important, then you have already had a great loss in your life." This is most certainly true.

We are made for adventure, for "great exploits" by our Creator. In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, it says, "The people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits." (Daniel 11:32b) It has become one of the key verses in my life, although I fear I often fail to live up to the expectation, in faith and in adventures. Certainly, among the greatest adventures of my life have been my two trips to northwestern Russia in 1996 and '97 as a missionary (chronicled near the start of this blog), followed closely by my first two trips to the Yankton Sioux Reservation on the Missouri River in South Dakota a dozen years later. I wish I could go on expeditions like that every year, but obligations, jobs, family, reality... life has a way of getting between the dreams we have and the reality we live. Are we too content to live a life driven by obligations and responsibility to see the great exploits, to live the adventure that God has planned for us? Are we too fearful of the negative "what if's" that we cannot see the positive "what if's" that might be if we had the guts, the huevos (Yes, I did say that.) and the faith to take that first step?

This weekend, my wife and I are going to take a little adventure in a nearby National Forest. If all goes well, maybe we'll take a bigger adventure later this year. If all were to go exceedingly well, perhaps we would leave the race to the rats and live the life of adventure we see others living, like Clay and Rachelle Croft, or the German couple in their custom 4x4 RV, who spent a night at my campground on their way back to Germany after traveling from the tip of South America to Alaska's Prudhoe Bay.

Do we have to faith to live the adventure of a lifetime???

Proceeding on...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

We Come to a Bend in the River

Several weeks ago, I decided, after 27 years as a Park Ranger, 13 years of which have been with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it was time to hang up the flat hat. On August 1st I will turn in my badge, keys and all that goes with it, and move on.

"What will you do?" people ask me. "Go fishing?" "Travel?" Well, yeah, there'll be some of that, but the reality is that my business, Emergicare Medical Training, needs me, and I will be spending most of my time training people to help those who cannot help themselves..Before that, I am traveling back east to visit my mom, sisters, family and friends in the Washington DC area. (I wanted to return to the Adirondacks for the first time in 10 years, and while that may still happen, visiting Mom is the priority.)

Writing is another priority. One that I have not given enough time over the past 10 years or more. I mean, look at this blog. No entries since last December! I am almost ashamed to call myself a writer. Note: I said, "almost". Look to see that change, starting right here, right now. I am committing myself to at least two posts here each month. I want you to come with me on the road to adventure, because the other thing I am going to do is live up to the name, 2WX: The Two-Wheeled Explorer.There are things I want to say, skills I want to pass on to my grandkids. Places to go, people to meet, fish to catch. Gravel roads to ride down.
The travel starts next weekend, but the adventure starts right now. In the indomitable spirit of Captain Lewis and Captain Clark...

We are proceeding on!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Toy for Christmas

Lots of kids get bikes for Christmas. It's almost an American tradition. This year, I gave myself a new bike for Christmas, and it is a blast!

In the previous post, I described how I have become enamored with "fat-bikes", like the Surly Pugsley I spent most of the fall season on. In late October at the Winter Camping Symposium in Sturgeon Lake, MN, I got to ride a Cogburn Outdoors CB4 for more than a cursory demo, and was more than impressed; I was sold. Despite having the same tires and front fork as the Pugsley, the Cogburn is a totally different animal. It's lighter, handles more crisply and is more responsive to the rider. It is actually designed for hunters, and comes in several different patterns of Realtree (tm) camouflage, as well as Forest Green. No, I did not get the green one. Like my Volcanic mountain bike, I went with white, sort of. My color choice was Realtree Snow camo. It is one sharp bike.

Next summer, in addition to a planned missions trip to the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, on which I will as on all missions trips ride Discovery, I am planning a trip back east to the western Adirondack Mountains. It was in the Old Forge area at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps in the summers of 1964 and '65, that the seeds were planted that led to my being a park ranger today. It was also the area where, in the early 1980s, I was a New York State licensed backcountry guide.

In August, it will be ten long years since I was home last. Ten years is too long. I am planning to come back to New York, take the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Thendara to Big Moose, then ride my new Cogburn fat-bike from Big Moose to Stillwater Reservoir, then from Stillwater to Inlet by way of Carter Station and Rondaxe Road, past (and visiting) Adirondack Woodcraft Camps. The second half of the trip will be from Inlet to Indian Lake via the Moose River Plains. I will have to get a non-resident fishing license and catch some trout. (The Moose River is where I learned to fish, 50 years ago.)

I will be traveling with some of my NY SAR and bike patrol friends and maybe my cousin's husband and son. It will be more than an adventure. It will be a Great Exploit!

Proceeding on,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Discovering the Joy Again

One weekend in September a friend of mine, who is a veteran bicycle tour leader, suggested that I take my Surly Pugsley fat-bike on my planned bikepacking trip instead of my mountain bike. I did, and it changed everything. With the exception of several events that took place in the weeks that followed that required my MTB, I was scarcely been off the Pugs when riding. I did a number of fall colors rides, explored some cool trails in a nearby state forest and even rode some volunteer trail patrol with a bike that I had previously relegated solely to winter use. Those rides became fuel for some overnight trips the following spring, and those photos become the illustrations that I hope will inspire you to go, and see what's out there. Initially, the fat-bike’s claim to fame was it’s ability to ride over snow and sand. But then somebody, or somebodies came to the realization that it could do so much more; that the fat-bike was indeed, the perfect off-pavement, backcountry expedition bicycle. I am now one of those somebodies, The fat-bike, in it's 60-plus brand names, is changing the face of backcountry travel, and like many others I have been swept up in their success. The fat-bike takes me back to when I first started riding a bike as a kid, and experience the sheer joy of riding again.

Proceeding on...
2WX - The Two-Wheeled Explorer

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Beautiful Day After a Dark and Stormy Night

Originally, I had planned to camp out the night before, but we had heavy rain, thunder and lightning and hail. I have weathered storms like that in a tent before, but it really didn't fit into my plans for this trip. I got up early the next morning, and headed north to the trout lakes of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area near Crosby, MN. It was a beautiful day, cooler and dryer than recent weather had been, thanks to the cold front that came through with the storms. I was going to chase rainbows...and brookies.

Cuyuna, as it is known in the mountain biking community, is somewhat of a phenomena in the Minnesota State Park system. It was one of the very first "Ride Centers" designated by the IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, and enjoys very high visitation from mountain bikers, as well as fishermen (and women) who ply it's many lakes in search of muskie, walleye, bass...and trout. But I wasn't there for the mountain biking this time. Don't get me wrong, I like riding at Cuyuna. It is one of the few places I can mountain bike anonymously, without the red jersey or the front plate of the bike patrol. or my DNR uniform. (Yes, I have and could still "patrol" there, and I always carry a first aid kit and other gear when riding, but I don't have to. Cuyuna has their own patrol, and a great system for dealing with emergencies.) Besides, I wasn't there to ride the MTB trails. I was there to fish, and ride Discovery to various spots I had chosen on a map of the Rec Area, and basically "get away from it all" for a day. I had my collapsable spinning rod and a box of lures, (My replacement collapsable fly rod would arrive on my doorstep while I was away.) and a 27-speed, GPS equipped tackle box to take me there.

I had chosen three lakes, one at each end of the park and one in the north middle section, all of which had been former iron ore pit mines years ago. (You can still see evidence of the mining on many of the MTB trails.) but are now prime fishing spots, and also popular with kayakers and SCUBA divers. The lakes on the ends were connected by the paved Cuyuna Lakes State Trail, and the Overburden Road, a red dirt, sand and clay road that goes into the lakes in the northern section.

Long and short of it, I didn't catch any trout or anything else. I had a couple nice looking brookies follow my lure at Yawkey Pit, and a couple light strikes, but no real takers. But that's okay. I rode almost 16 miles on my favorite bike, through and around some very pretty country, and in the backcountry, there was nobody out there but me. That is what I was really searching for. I am looking forward to doing it one more time before stream trout season closes in mid-September, and taking that new rod with me. That time I'll head into the "real" backcountry of the Chippewa National Forest. It will be wonderful.

One down side, I did lose one of my favorite lures. Oh well.

Proceeding on...