Day 3: Ecola and Cannon Beach

We woke up in Vinny, the Uninsulated, a bit chilled but dry. The rain was a constant reminder that we made the right decision in not tent camping during the trip. Once Vinny gets insulation and a heat source it will be much more pleasant. Regardless, we were happy to be able to make coffee inside and plan out our day. Breakfast was delicious Tillamook marionberry yogurt.

Our loose plan was to explore more of Ecola State Park; find a brewery; and take some time to slow down a little.

Ecola State Park is much much more than a $5 spot to drive out and snap pics of sea stacks. Turns out that it has some serious hiking trails, the beautiful Indian Beach, cougars, and even sharks! In the interest of getting the most bang for our time (a common theme of this whirlwind tour of everywhere, as you will see) we chose Indian Beach as the spot for mobile basecamp. This meant another slow but beautiful trip down the freshly paved road through Ecola. We snaked through the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock until we finally descended onto Indian Beach.


I love a good beach as much as the next guy but Indian Beach is much more than a pretty spot to take pictures. The beach’s makeup including sea stacks, cliffs, and large boulder piles lead to a diverse tidal zone.

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We made it to the beach as the tide was going out which allowed us to see a diverse array 22792314_10109211856128293_2300970124385076768_oof invertebrates. As a child I remember going to beaches in Florida and being absolutely obsessed with anemones and shellfish. I am very happy to report that that childhood sense of wonder has not been beaten out of me! Without disturbing the wildlife, we were able to observe sand fleas, anemones, tiny crabs, barnacles, and a variety of other sea life along the rocks and pools.

Side note: Investing in a fully waterproof case proved invaluable on this trip, not just for the rainy weather, but also in capturing underwater pictures such as these!

These photos were taken with an iPhone 7 protected by a Lifeproof case. Highly recommend.

 

 

We had the beach to ourselves for the most part and spent a few hours soaking up the views, hiking up and down the coast, and exploring the tidal pools.

Before leaving our little haven we made coffee using these yet-to-be-released single use pour over brewing gadgets that are simple to use and taste great. I cannot wait to tell you more about these later.

 

The morning’s excitement stirred up quite a hunger. We read great things about Public Coast in Cannon Beach so we headed down. Unfortunately we didn’t know that they were closed for brewing on Wednesday.

Luckily, Pelican Brewing was open, so we stopped in for lunch. We had the fish and chips along with some smoked salmon dip. The vibe of the place was pretty touristy, yet the food was great and there were a few other things we wanted to try. The beer was OK but a little on the watery side. Definitely not what I expect from a PNW brewery, but then again, us Michiganders are pretty spoiled by our local craft brews.

After lunch we walked to the main natural attraction of Cannon Beach: Haystack Rock. This impressive sea stack/mound can be walked to during low tide. It plays host to many intertidal animals and serves as a nesting ground for many different waterfowl.

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I’m sure that Cannon Beach is bustling with tourists during the busy season. However, our visit was mid-fall in the middle of the week and it was quiet and quaint. We popped in and out of art shops, bookstores, and spent some time at the Cannon Beach Chocolate Cafe (Chelsea’s favorite find–try the dark hot chocolate). We will certainly be making a return trip to Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park.

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Our trip back to camp for the night was filled with pitstops to visit small beaches, cliffs, and wildlife. Every few miles a new adventure beckoned, and we filled the rest of our day with as many short hikes and vista views as possible. Our original intent was put some miles down and make it further south along the coast, but there was just so much we wanted to see and we couldn’t resist stopping every few minutes. We’re already looking forward to our return trip.

Oregon’s northern coast is magical.

-J&C

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Day 2 Portland to the Coast

If you know us you know that we do not live in or near a city by choice. That doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate the amenities that cities provide. Prior to heading out in Vinny we spent some time in and around Portland availing ourselves of the city’s offerings.

First we had breakfast at J&M Cafe downtown. I tried scrapple, a pork-cornmeal sausage, which was uniquely delicious and Chelsea had two of the biggest pieces of bacon that I have ever seen. This of course was before we experienced the middle of our country and again renewed our vow to eat less meat and possibly move back toward being full-time vegetarians. (More on this in a future post.) The breakfast was wonderful and the service was perfectly Portland.

After breakfast we set up Vinny for what we will call Vinny 1.0 Initial Essentials. (Remember that he will be getting multiple build-out posts in the future) We set up the bed; organized the gear; and secured all of the personal items. The goal of this maiden voyage was to see how we would use the van and try to set up a possible floor plan.

We rounded out the morning at my favorite city spot: REI. Usually these trips are pretty conservative but this time Chelsea told me to get the things that I have been wanting for a while and well, we both went a little nuts. No biggie, it’s our honeymoon right? So we spent money on adventure facilitators that will bring us joy well into our marriage.


As morning quickly turned into noontime we headed to Justin and Valerie’s place for lunch. They moved out here last year from Michigan and were able to give us great insights on Portland and where to go on the coast. They live near Mississippi Avenue so we walked to lunch. As an aside, Mississippi Avenue and their neighborhood are both super cool places and we will certainly be going back to spend some time there. Stormbreaker Brewing has daily BBQ and Mac-n-Cheese specials. You read that right. It doesn’t mean that the day we were there mac was a special, it means that each and every day they have a special mac and a special BBQ: amazing! We shared both and they were quality eats. The beer was pretty dang good too. They offered outside seating under a carport and it rained. In all honesty this is exactly what we wanted from Portland.

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Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Justin and Valerie were super hospitable and let us hang around there place for a few hours while we waited for USPS to deliver the remaining outdoor gear but the day was slipping away and we wanted to get to the coast before nightfall so we had to leave before the package arrived. It eventually came and we picked it up on our way back east.

Pointed West we embarked on the adventure part of the Honeymoon. We took 26 (Sunset Highway) out to the Pacific Coast Highway. The van kept up with traffic through the mountains heading out of town without issue.

Portland’s temperate climate provides a great growing environment for many different flora but we were not prepared for the untouched beauty of the old growth forests as we entered the coastal mountain range and Tillamook Forest. We were both taken aback by the dense overhead canopy and its ability to make you enter a world of perpetual dusk even in the middle of the day. It was brilliant which was only made better by the on and off cloudbursts.

The night was quickly approaching but we simply couldn’t head straight to the campsite without seeing some of those famous Oregon sea stacks. Ecola Point, located in Ecola State Park, was nearest to the 26/101 turnoff. We meandered through northern Cannon Beach and took the beautifully paved, yet narrow, road out to the point. Chelsea had been dreaming about Oregon coast views and sea stacks since as long as I can remember. and the look on her face when she finally got to see them in person was truly priceless.

We lingered at Ecola Point until the sun was near to the horizon then we motored south toe Nehalem Bay State Park. This park offered access to the beach, power, delightfully-warm showers and, as you will see in Day 3’s post, surprising wildlife!

Our utensils were packed away in the yet-to-be-delivered supply box awaiting us back in Portland. Luckily we had this giant spoon from our Ikea trip.


This was our first night in the van and sleep came very easily. We were cozy inside as the winds off the Pacific howled outside. Rain was heavy and intermittent throughout the night and the waves could be heard through Vinny’s walls.

Keep reading, we did A LOT on day 3…

-J&C

 

Day 1: MQT > PDX

So let’s start at Day -1: We go married on Saturday October 7, 2017. It rained like crazy so we were forced to get married inside. It was an intimate ceremony with a small group of family and friends at the Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette. We wrote our vows; it was a true culmination of the life that we have created together complete with the standard love and trust language but we included fly fishing and homemade pizza. Everyone was dry and able to enjoy the party afterwards.

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Day 1: The Marquette to Chicago flight went off without a hitch. By the time the beverages were distributed we were beginning our descent. Upon landing I was constantly checking my watch and phone and doing calculations and speculations… you see, when I bought the tickets I failed to factor in the human element of travel. We had 36 minutes to deplane and get onboard the flight to Portland. On paper it looks like a no-brainer. Get off grab a coffee and head to the next flight. The second that people found out about the short layover they doubted our ability to make the connection. Well, I am happy to say that we got off the plane quickly thanks to the efficiency of other Midwest passengers. We jogged to the next gate and even had time for a quick bathroom break!

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The flight was beautiful and uneventful. We saw mountains and read.

Portland

We got off the plane, grabbed our luggage and hopped into Bob’s car. Who is Bob and why do I write about him with such familiarity? Well, you see, Bob Kelly is the commercial vehicle salesperson at Northside Auto and Truck. I met Bob over the phone and told him what we were looking to do. Through many emails, texts, and FedEx envelopes Bob and I got to know each other. When he picked us up he told us about PNW history, the Oregon Trail, and Portland’s growing homeless situation.

IMG_0448He was very nicebut I had a one-track mind at thatpoint.We got to his office and chatted while the new member of our little family was getting its bath.

 

 

 

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Here he is: Vincent Van Go! Giddyup!!!

He’s a 2017 Ford Transit 250 with 148′ wheelbase and the midroof. He was big an empty, a true blank canvas. We will be dedicating large portions of the blog to him in the future but suffice it to say this is our new adventure rig. Total van life would not really be dirtbag yuppie. Let’s call our personal philosophy VanLite. More on that later too.

With our empty van we headed to suburban sprawl to pick up some light trappings for our return trip. IKEA and Target served as our fist stock-up site. Although it’s all in a pile in the back of the van we have the basic necessities now!

Due to the fact that we didn’t have time to lunch or breakfast after unloading our carts we crawled back into IKEA and devoured the, “most delicious hotdog” of Chelsea’s life.

We bunked at the Jupiter Hotel. It’s a groovy reboot of a 1960’s hotel. Check it out. I suggest the “mild side.”IMG_0485

Dinner at Burnside Brewing brought my first real taste of a fresh PNW IPA. I had the Isomer and was not disappointed. Bottled stuff is pretty good but fresh from the tap simply cannot be beat.

Today, we leave the city.

Hopefully by tomorrow we will be used to the time difference.

 

Superior Air

If you haven’t heard, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a mountain bike lover’s dream. Many major cycling publications have sent teams of riders to report back to the rest of the world on our riding. (For reference check out: Da Yoopers and PinkBike). World-class trail systems can be found in Houghton, Copper Harbor, Ishpeming and Marquette. The towns have apparently come to the realization that cycling tourism is a real thing. The rich natural resources of the UP are ideal for mountain bike trails.

Munising, home of the world famous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, is in the process of putting some serious singletrack in place. As part of their new trail the Munising Bay Trail Network decided to create a skills loop and a jump line. I first heard about the jump line through instagram. I follow Landowski Trailworx, LLC and they started posting some beautiful berms, jumps, bridges, and rock gardens. I saw that they were geotagging some of their feed in Munising. The trail looked like it had some solid lines.IMG_2954

Last weekend I invited Tim up to Basecamp and we loaded up the full squish bikes and headed East. We stopped at Hillside Party Store for snacks then unloaded in the gravel parking lot.

Initially we started climbing on a super nice crushed gravel pathway but soon found out that this trail was under construction. As best as I can tell this was the new connector to the Trust Fund Trail.

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We started over and climbed the gravel road to the start of the current singletrack loop. The short climb is not fun at all, but it gets the blood flowing and builds stoke. We entered the trail at the end of the jump line.

From the bottom of the line you get a great perspective of the run. Looking up you see several deep berms, tabletops for days, and a sweet arched roller bridge.

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The roller bridge.

We lugged to the top and we were drooling the whole way up. There are two routes up: the quickest is a shortcut to the top; the other a longer scenic route. We opted for the shortcut most of the time. At the top of the line you get a sense of why its called “Superior Air.”IMG_3082

The Superior Air line is a blast. The current line starts out slow with a few rollers but quickly builds with tabletops that increase in size after the first two berms.  I was able to really let loose after the first lap and then it was on.

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Airing it out mid run.

There is a little something for everyone on Superior Air. Every tabletop can be rolled and the final double is very easy to manual over or roll. Honestly though, this trail was made to be railed.

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Coming in hot from a deep berm.

Munising is getting rad. I’ve heard good things about the Valley Spur singletrack. Hopefully that gets expanded soon. I would like to see a loop there.

The pace of Superior Air is great to safely learn how to hit small to medium size dirt jumps in a gravity setting. I am following Landowski and Munising Bay Trail Network anxiously awaiting the opening of the next phase. It has some nice looking roll-ins, rock gardens, and gaps. I am pumped!

On the way out of town the smell of pasties wafted through the car. We had an afternoon of riding planned in MQT so we opted out of the hefty hand pies, for now. We’ll be back.

-J

The Sacred Sticker Pile

Admit it, somewhere in your house you have one. A stack of stickers that you have been carefully curating over the years. Every race/ festival/ local shop/ and brewery that has had the pleasure of your attendance is represented.

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In the outdoor activity realm stickers are like little vinyl flags that are flown to alert others to our own personal tribe. We put them on our car windows, bikes, home climbing walls, rooftop boxes, and beer fridges. They signal a safe space where other like-minded people gather to do the things that make them feel alive. I always get nervous when I see a vehicle without stickers. Whenever I pull up to a trailhead and I see a clean rig with no stickers I automatically think there is a serial killer waiting for me in the woods.

In short, stickers show the world that you are more than a job title and a bank account. They help others to answer the question, “what do you do?” Because of this we are very picky with which stickers we display. This is where the pile comes in. “I mean, I really like __________, but what if___________.” You hem and you haw about what others will think about your apparent undying love for Company X or Local Race 2017. But at some point you have to make a decision. It’s certainly hard. Some stickers are only made for certain events or product lines and YOU MAY NEVER COME ACROSS ONE THAT SPEAKS TO YOU AND WHO YOU ARE THAT PERFECTLY AGAIN! I totally get that feeling. I used to have a clean car and a massive pile of stickers.

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I suffered from SAD (Sticker Anxiety Disorder). You know how I got past that? I came to the logical realization there will always be more stickers. My current collection is proof of this concept. Whenever one fades or is lost at highway speed another will come along that may even better represent who you are. You probably already have a perfect replacement lined up on the bench. There it is, behind that regionally specific sticker that only people in the know will get.

-J

Bike. Tenkara. Bike.

Flyfishing and bike riding are two of my passions. They also have the capacity to be two of the most technical and confusing hobbies. I get it; I have a garage of bikes each with its own unique function. I also have many different rod, reel, and line combinations each for different species, water conditions, and times of year.

Sometimes you just have to shed all of those choices and complexity. Yesterday, rather than loading up my car with a few rods, multiple fly boxes, and driving out to any river of my choosing no matter the distance I chose instead to simplify the process. So I strapped my tenkara and its tube to the downtube of my Stache and started pedaling.

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I’ve taken rods on the bike before but I have always had to strap them to a pack because of their length and the fact that the reel is usually attached. However the telescoping feature of the tenkara rod makes zip-tying it to the bike simple and effective. I just made sure that I could unscrew the cap without snipping the ties. The tube hangs below the bottom bracket a little more than I wanted it to but as with most home remedies the function outweighed the form in this case.

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Here’s how it goes: get to the river under your own steam, shed the helmet, flip the bike, remove the rod, attache the tippet, and get in the water. Super simple. No time wasted finding a suitable spot to stash the car or picking the right rod. Just get to it.

This first trip was an experiment. Trying new things is always a little difficult for me for me and I was especially unsure about my rod attachment method. But it appeared to have held nicely and the rod went together without a hitch. Luckily finding fishable water is not a problem in our area and in 11 miles I was in the middle of a great trout stream without a soul in sight.

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A few casts in I found a taker.

Earning things always feels better than having them handed to you. This was definitely an experience that was earned. I got to the river under my own power and used a very limiting technique which relies only on water reading and fly placement. It was beautiful, satisfying, and restorative.

Get out there, try something new, and squeeze more adventure out of your everyday.

-J


This is not a sponsored post. Learn more the tenkara method here. Check out this post for more Stache action.

Spring Ramblin’

The snow has totally melted but the trails are not quite fully dried up yet. That means that I’ve gotta get my two-wheeled fix elsewhere. I have been spinning around on dirt roads, snowmobile trails and backroads, like I like to do this time of year. One of the great things about the UP is that you can leave the main road and tear off down a dirt road and be in the middle of nowhere fast. Sometimes I methodically plan my route via google earth. Other times I prefer to just go wherever the wind blows me. Lately, I have been leaving from my house and just ticking off miles close to home. Rambling and rolling through the unimproved roads of central Marquette County.

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Pounding these lesser-traveled roads in the spring is a great way to build base miles and fitness. It’s also a great place to be alone with your thoughts. You can do a lot of learning and growing on a bike in the backwoods. There are just some lessons that cannot be learned anywhere else.

I especially enjoy threading the needle through pockmarked sections like this. The rush is easily snuffed out when you make a miscalculation. I cannot wait for the road commission to come through and grade all of our dirt roads. Freshly graded dirt is better than any pavement.

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The Stache performs quite well in its new duties. While I will definitely still take it on trails once in a while it will not be seeing the same amount of trail action this season… full squish bike is on its way. My goal for the Stache is to make it a little more comfortable to ride over long distances and maybe even some bike backing. I am sooooo excited to start looking for bike bags and gear! I think that the first order of business is going to be some less aggressive rubberz. What a year we have ahead of us. I think that it will be a nice companion for the Safari that Chels will be piloting.

Backroads are like beautiful byways for bicycles. Unfortunately, the ditches are littered with garbage. Luckily for me, I live in Michigan and they are each worth a dime. In law school I would ride the gravel in Washtenaw County picking up cans in order to buy groceries. Now that I have a big boy job I have gone back to my roots and am picking up cans again. However, now I get use the can money for fun stuff. (Chelsea and I are planning something crazy cool and the can money is going to support that chapter… stay tuned) I am working on getting a “Can Counter” on the sidebar to keep track of the cans collected & deposits earned. These rides are like going to a gym that pays you to workout. I get to help nature and stash some cash at the same time.

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The Stache is in a period of transition right now so forgive the silly bent bars. The new upright position really suits this bike’s new purpose: exploration. (More on its replacement soon.)

The bent bars and slight riser stem have really transformed the Stache into a comfortable mile munching machine. (Alliteration is fun!). I am currently using the On-One Mary bars. The Jones Loop bar is definitely in the future once I figure out whether or not I like bike backing.

I cannot wait for the full-sus to show up but until then I will be building up and putting miles on the Stache.

Keep on ramblin’.

-J

 

 

How to Squeeze More Adventure Out of Everyday Life

The demands of modern society tether many of us to offices, desk chairs, and cubicles. These restrictions slowly nip away at your soul and cause serious burnout and mental fatigue if not treated properly. The mandatory course of treatment involves a release of some sorts. Breaking away from the day-to-day monotony that we are conscripted into. We need to connect to our inner animal, get back to to nature, and generally have fun with greater frequency.

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Weekday secret spot; not a soul around.

I have been scratching that itch with microadventrues and everyday adventures. Initially I thought of these as staycations but have since expanded them into further-reaching places. Alastair Humphreys has written some truly inspirational stuff on the microadventure. Microadventures and everyday adventures have saved many workaday dudes and dudettes from lives lived only to fill up retirement accounts and garages with unused crap. I highly encourage using microadventures and everyday adventures to break life up. Doing so will greatly increase the quality of your life and truly allow you to lead a more inspired existence.

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How the heck do you this?

  • Start small and do what you know. Week long trips are amazing. Weekend trips are great too. But what if instead of lamenting on how you only get one big trip a year you focused on your ability to do several lunchtime activities each week? Say you cut out a few minutes early and get a solid jog or spin around town in.
  • Make time for yourself. I totally get it; you need to respond to just one more email and refresh your Instagram feed just one more time before you go, and it is far too easy to schedule “working lunches,” but you need to carve out some “you time” more often.
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Less screen time, more squee time!
  • Don’t spend extra money. We could all use lighter gear and that would surely make us faster which would definitely lead to sponsorships and the ability to shove our jobs and do _______ professionally… hold your horses man. Why don’t you start by strapping on those perfectly good running shoes that have seen more bar rail time than trail time and just get out there. No matter what the pro shop bro’s tell you, new gear will not greatly enhance your experience. Commit to the bit and then upgrade as necessary.
  • Keep it local. Sure a yearly ski tour trip or backpacking excursion that you painstakingly plan and save for for months are great. But you would be amazed by the extra outdoor time you could log if you focused more of your time on enjoying those things which are just out your backdoor. Super cliche, I know; but face it: those 50 trips to the local, bombed out single-track will keep you out of the gym and in prime shape for your big trip to climb fire roads and blast the descents. Furthermore, by increasing your local participation you get a chance to shape the local scene and increase the experience for everyone.
  • Research your options. Make sure you have a general idea before you dive in. But pay special heed to the next point.
  • Stay out of your own way. Don’t get hung up on the fact that you haven’t biked, hiked, jogged, fished, skied, swam… in weeks or months or ever. Just do it. The first few times will suck and then it will get better, I promise. We put up far too many mental road blocks and yours are holding you back.

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  • Turn your notifications off. No explanation needed.
  • Do things by yourself. Getting together with other people to partake in your favorite pastime can be a reward thing, it can also be distracting and difficult to organize due to everyone’s tight schedules. This often leads to people giving up altogether and not doing anything. Wrangling your own schedule can be enough hassle: so get it under control and just get out there. You will be surprised by what solitude will do for you.
  • Get a headlamp and use it. The Earth gets dark; don’t let that keep you from enjoying yourself.

I personally like to hit the trails before work. I find that it sets a good tone for the day. If you get after it early in the morning it puts your head on right for the rest of the day and everyone around you prospers from your enhanced mood and vibes.

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Tacky morning dirt is second to none.

I have also been trying to insert microadventures and activities into my daily life as often as possible. This can include a simple walk to the lake at lunch, mid-afternoon bike ride or ski, or an early morning session at the river before heading into the office. Sometimes you have to just book off a day and really get out there though and we do that once in a while too. I admit that this is much easier given my occupation and the beautiful area in which I live. The Upper Peninsula and upper Midwest just lends itself to the microadventure state of mind.

Get out there; get after it; and get RAD!!

-J

Not-A-Wedding Planning

 

In our small circle we are known for doing things differently. We don’t really go on tropical vacations, preferring to stay north of the 45th parallel; we don’t hang out with large groups of friends; we spend almost every waking minute together and never get sick of it; we love being alone together, and we have stayed together for a very long time without rushing into marriage. (12+ years).

We survived grad school and law school:

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So this Fall, I took Chelsea to our favorite beach north of Marquette. The morning looked like any other Saturday: we browsed Downwind Sports (lucked out on the yearly sale!), got some coffee, and headed out for an adventure. We snapped pics, and talked about the beauty of Mother Superior’s rocky shore. Then I asked her, and she said “of course.”

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It wasn’t totally like the video below but…

Like I said, we do things differently than most. Now that we are getting married we have decided to do that a little different too:

It’s going to start with a very small ceremony with close friends and family on the southern shore of Lake Superior. No tents, no chairs, no elaborate arbor, no crepe paper, no flower girls, no “bridal party” uniforms. Just us, our closest and favorite people, our pup, and the natural beauty of Lake Superior’s rocky coast. After the ceremony the guests will be encouraged to take a hike, ride the trails or hit up a stream before the celebration. So BRING YOUR TOYS AND HAVE SOME FUN!!

The celebration is at our favorite brewery: Ore Dock Brewing Company (the “Ore Dock”). The Ore Dock provides a laid-back venue for what is sure to be a very chill afternoon party. We have decided to keep things small and low-key because we are not “big party” kind of people. In place of a big heavy meal, liquor-infused toasts, and rehearsed rituals, we’re opting for unique farm-to-table fare and the Ore Dock’s finest Lake Superior brews. No bouquet or garter toss (though I tried to persuade Chelsea to do a garter snake toss), no bridal party “high court,” and certainly no maca-cha-cha-train-slide. By eliminating all of the things you’re “supposed to do,” we’re going to be able to do all of the things we want to do: eat good food, drink good beer, spend time with our favorite people, and be true to ourselves.

We are very happy to be doing something a little different with our wedding. The Wedding Industrial Complex has created an unnecessary demand for use-once-and-destroy trinkets and paraphernalia. It has also created a ridiculous set of expectations surrounding the wedding itself. In my opinion it is spurring on a generation of picky princesses and bridezillas. Chelsea picked up a few bride magazines and was absolutely appalled when she saw tips on how to essentially force your partner into marriage (“persuade” and “hint” and “tell his friends what ring to get and when to ask”) and different things to expect others to pay for for you. I was never afraid that this would happen with our wedding but it was nice to hear that our wishes align and that we’d focus more on the adventures to be had than the color of the napkins.

I personally have an issue with huge weddings that seem to over-glorify the actual wedding event and not the relationship. I have always felt that many wedding ceremonies and the elaborate parties that traditionally follow them are an attempt to prove to others how important the marriage is and unfortunately don’t adequately reflect the existing relationship. We would much rather spend the time, effort, and money on a rad honeymoon and a corresponding “Year of Us.” (More on the honeymoon and the Year of Us in a later post (think many micro adventures)).

That being said, we are really looking forward to seeing how our friends and family spend their time in Marquette.

Our hope is that the entire experience feels organic; we are not going to be doing anything different from a normal John and Chelsea weekend. Guests should bring their outdoor toys and be ready to play.

Because we are Millennials we will be heavily documenting the entire process. Please stay tuned to see our story unfold.

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-J&C

 

Michigan Ice Fest 2017

Every Winter things start happening in Munising, Michigan. You’ve got the normal Winter activities: ice fishing, snowmobiling, xc-ski, fat biking, and snowshoeing. But for many years Winter has also brought another activity to Munising, ice climbing. Ice climbing is climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water. It involves lots of wicked gear, physical strength, determination, dynamic moves, good people, and takes place in some bitter environs. I dabble in many outdoor sports and for some reason ice climbing was not on that list. So, for 2017 I decided to give it a shot.

Mission: Learn how to find and climb rad ice just down the road in Munising.

Solution: Take the Intro to Ice class at the Michigan Ice Fest.

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For some reason, I did absolutely no training for this event. Nor did I geek out over the gear before trying it. The reason for this uncharacteristic approach is due to the limited timeframe for ice climbing and relatively high cost to get rigged up. I didn’t want to go all in only to find out that I hated being out there all day. I figured that in order to make sure I gave it a fair chance I should have some guidance and have the right gear. So, in November I took the plunge and signed up for the intro class which would provide a guided trip and demo gear from the top brands.

The week before Ice Fest I was pretty worried about the forecasted weather: hovering temps in the 30’s and 40’s. Not exactly stellar for ice formation. Luckily for my class Mother Nature had a change of heart, turned on the snow machines and fired up the ice maker. To say that we picked the perfect day for our class is a complete understatement.

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M-28 didn’t let me down on the trip over to Munising. Blowing snow is an understatement.

We picked up our demo gear at the elementary school in Munising, piled into rented cargo vans, and headed out to the Curtains. Our group was assigned two experienced ice climbers named Joe and Alec. Their advice was succinct and pointed: this is dangerous but it also super fun! Be safe and have fun. We went over basic knots, crampon usage, tooling, and body placement. After the introductory info was out of the way we got to learning. Place the tools; set a steady base; keep weight on your legs; and look for the concavities for natural tool placement.

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The Curtains are formed by groundwater seeping through the porous sandstone. In this area it forms wide sheets of ice instead of the pillars found in other places. It really provided a nice place to learn. For the most part the ice was very solid on the first two routes. It helped to build confidence and simple skill. Most of the ice was dry, but because the sandstone doesn’t stop weeping there were a few routes that had some pre-ice (running water) going on. Water running down the ice tools added some added difficulty. This is totally necessary though and allows the ice to be “reset” after a day’s worth of the climbing. Nature is pretty damn cool.

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As the group progressed we moved to some longer climbs requiring more precise tool placement and appropriate rest periods.

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Me on my favorite route of the day. This one had a really cool bubble to go over before topping out. I will certainly be back.

I have climbed on gym walls before and even had a woody in our apartment in Ann Arbor but none of that compares to being out on exposed rock and ice with a fierce North wind blowing in fresh snow. It was everything that I hoped it would be. This is exactly what I expected life in the Upper Peninsula would be like when we decided to move up here.

The festival runs through Sunday and plays host to many professional athletes leading climbs and giving talks. I highly suggest you drop whatever you have planned and make the trip to Munising, even if you come just to watch. I have to work the rest of the week but we will be going back on Saturday to meet Brendan Leonard and hopefully get my copy of The New American Road Trip Mixtape signed. I really want Chelsea to read that book before our honeymoon.

Time to start rounding up some new gear for next year. Let me know if you want to go ice climbing in the Munising area, I will definitely be down.

Get out there and enjoy this life.

-J