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

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

Because Napping In Armchairs Is Lame

Does this sound familiar: you get to bed a little late on Friday night for one reason or another but you still wake up early to give the activity de jour hell. Trails are hiked, berms are railed, lines are stuck, holes thoroughly fished, and you are completely beat. Rightfully so, you just made the most out of your morning. Needless to say you have earned an afternoon off and maybe a cold one.

I’ve been there. After such displays of athletic prowess the last thing you want is to be domesticated. That’s not to say that you haven’t earned a well-deserve some rest. I suggest getting off your feet and settling into a supine position. To many this suggestion drums up images of Archie Bunker and sagging couch cushions. While I am guilty of crashing in the house during the shoulder season and winter months, during the nicer weather (which comes for a few months in our area) I prefer to kick back outside.

If it’s not too bro-y for you might I suggest a hammock? Simple, satisfying, time-tested relaxation. I always have a packable hammock in the back of my car. It often gets taken out after a refreshing dip in Lake Superior.

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Many Sunday afternoons have been spent recooperating from bike rides between two trees with mother Superior watching over me.

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When it comes to hammocks don’t overthink it; simpler and lighter is better. However, you will want to make sure that the hammock you get comes with some anchor rope. Strangely enough some brands require anchors to be purchased separately. Check the package. I highly suggest purchasing or making anchors that are a bit longer than you think you need; nothing harshes an otherwise chill afternoon like a never-ending quest for  trees that are just close enough to stretch your hammock between.

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How do you hammock? I ride bikes then take naps outside.

-J

Gratefulness

I was recently listening to an older episode of TED Radio Hour. The theme was happiness: what it means; how to achieve it; and the science behind it. All of the speakers made insightful points. However, Monk, David Steindl-Rast made the biggest impression on me. He posited that we cannot and should not strive to be happy, rather we should strive to be grateful for for each and every moment and opportunity. (Hear David’s talk here: David Steindl-Rast: What Does It Take To Be Grateful? Thank you NPR).

That sentiment really resonated with me.

Be grateful for everything and every moment. Your gratefulness will birth happiness.

-J

My Personal Heaven

I took a birthday trip up to Copper Harbor, seemingly the end of the Earth. People asked why I would go there to celebrate my birthday. Well..
To sleep under the stars and hear the world.
To listen to the water and watch the clouds march across the sky.

 

To sit and think without distractions.

 

To spend time with my best friend looking for adventure.

In other words: to be myself.

-J

The missing piece. 

We love to be outside. In fact, most of our free time is spent beneath the trees and alongside rivers. That often means that I don’t update this blog frequently enough. Trust me, I have a dearth of content to add when the weather turns on us. I also have a really cool longterm  Hiawatha project that I am working on. That’s all beside the point, back to the story. While I couldn’t think of a better person to spend time in the woods with I couldn’t help but feel like we were missing some quintessential and possibly cliche aspect of being a twenty-something outdoorsy couple. When I told one friend he said that he and his wife had previously been discussing our need for this thing that would enrich our lives.

To that end pease help us welcome the missing piece: our adventure dog Copper, king of the north. 


Right now he is 11 weeks of pure energy and excitement but Chelsea has been working extremely hard to whip him into shape. I know every puppy parent says this but he is a fast learner and might even be a genius. Dare I say smarter than your average honor roll student. He is very personable and loves chasing the blowing leaves. 

The process of finding a four-legged friend was not as simple as just unilaterally picking one up. We discussed dog ownership extensively and have rearranged our schedules to make sure that time is being set aside to care for Copper. Luckily Chelsea runs The Big Lake out of our home so she gets to spend a lot of quality time with him during the day. We also made sure that we were both on the same page as far as expectations and breed were concerned. We are very active and enjoy a diverse array of outdoor activities. While several different breeds made it to the final elimination round the German Shorthaired Pointer was really only choice for what we do. Couple that with the fact that both of our families have had GSP and it was a no brainer.


He definitely has big dreams: Climbing hogsback, kicking up birds, prancing down single track, ski-joring, trout fishing, camping, and kayaking. Yes, he will be going everywhere with us and honestly he is probably going to take over our attention and social media feed for a while.

We have much to learn and we welcome your input along the way. For example, I just found out that a tired puppy can be jostled awake merely by the sounds of my grumbling stomach. Now he is staring intensely at it.


Today after work we will go on our first hike along the river. We probably won’t put down any serious distance but I can guarantee that it will be a learning experience for all of us.

The adventure continues, but now it feels a little more complete. 

-J

Road Full of Promise

Today’s walk brought us to a perfectly packed dirt road and some older Avett Brothers lyrics.

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“When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.”

-Avett Brothers

The colors aren’t peaking up here yet but it’s definitely coming soon.

-John

Waterworks

Weather plays a very important role here; it rarely stops us from doing what we do but it definitely alters the way in which we do things. While checking the weather report on Friday we noticed that we were under a gale force wind advisory out of the north which was slated to produce 10-15 foot waves on Superior. The waves were supposed to reach the upper level of their ferocity in the late afternoon so we planned our day around a trip to the lake at roughly that time.

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The first spot that we stopped at on Presque Isle was largely sheltered from direct waves but served to whet the appetite and provide promise of bigger action.

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While waves are easily enjoyed from a safe distance I tend to appreciate their magnitude much more when I can get down to their level. Our second stop on this tour de wave was at the Blackrocks. Most days you will find young shirtless human males trying to show their mettle and attract a mate by hurling themselves from the rocks into the water below. Today was not one of those days. Even the most boisterous of the males were tucked away in their dens weathering the storm.

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Some of us can play near the waves and leave unscathed while others cannot…

We got to witness a real rarity on this wavy day, the Blackrock Falls:

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Have you ever had the chance to see these mythical falls? They only manifest once in a blue moon and are quite fleeting.

Mother Superior really put on a show yesterday and I am so happy that we made it a priority to make it out before the final curtain.

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Lake and Love.

-J