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

 

 

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

The Living Great Lakes

It’s no secret that I love Michigan. The Great Lakes play a large role in that equation. Their vastness and depth are a mirror for the soul. Many a writer has attempted to put their beauty into words. Few have come as close as Jerry Dennis has with The Living Great Lakes. (TLGL)

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This book is an informative series of tales woven into the narrative of the author’s trip through the Great Lakes on the Malabar, a tall ship out of Traverse City, Michigan.

Dennis, an accomplished American author, writes rather matter of factly in a manner which feels like a regular guy telling you of his travels over a beer. He gives lessons on the history of man-made features as well as the geological happenings and cycles that shaped the region. His use of everyday language makes TLGL approachable, understandable, and very pleasant. The reader learns and is entertained at the same time.

I especially appreciate how he explains what certain groups are doing to protect this awesome ecosystem! His lauding contains subtle warnings about environmental issues plaguing the Lakes without being too preachy.

I read this book with a map pulled up at all times on my computer, I loved to find the places that he was talking about, then I would Google the story, or the area that he was describing and get lost researching the topic. While the book reads quite quickly, if you take the time to delve into the side stories and look up the events that Dennis writes about you will find yourself taking a little longer than usual. The extra time is worth it because it will only enrich your overall experience.

Since reading I have amassed a list of places and events that I would like to check out due to their descriptions in the book:

  • The Witching Tree
  • The Snow Wasset
  • More of Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • The Manitou Islands
  • and so many more…

This book describes the Great Lakes region with such familiarity that any reader will feel at home, even if you have never been near them. The familiarity is achieved through anecdotal additions which cause each story to ring true. I especially enjoyed the references to the places where I have played since my youth: Manistee, Arcadia, Traverse  City, Mackinac, and Leelanau. Now that I have moved to the Upper Peninsula I am rereading the book to see what new flames it stokes.

Guests to the area: I suggest you read this on your trip or before, it will provide you with a wealth of information and history of the area. It may also serve as a jumping-off point for your trip.

Residents of the area: I suggest you read this book, enjoy it thoroughly and research the stories. You will discover things about your town/ area that you would never have found before.

Pick this book up as soon as you can; read it; get inspired; start exploring.

-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

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

“What’re you going to do when you get home from work?”

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Enjoy this pretty image and prepare yourself for a little bit of a rant. 🙂

This morning while going through my mail I came across the cable bill. Instead of just eyeballing the charges and paying it I decided to do something that I should have done a long time ago. I decided to cut the television portion of the programming. We couldn’t afford to have television and internet while in grad school so we went for many years without. However, when we purchased our home we were lured into a sweetheart deal combo-pack with television and internet. I never felt like I really got my money’s worth out of the television portion of the package because we only watch a half hour of local news, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.

So, having thoroughly assessed our television usage and weighed the costs we decided to get rid of television. The customer service rep at the cable company was very nice when the conversation started. She offered to cut the cost by $35 while still offering the same package. When that didn’t work she offered other lower level packages to try to keep our television box humming. Finally when I said that all I want is the internet and no television for the 9th time she asked me the most absurd question: “what’re you going to do when you get home from work?” She was very concerned about whether or not I would be able to discuss Game of Thrones at the watercooler, or how I would find out which team threw a tanned piece of animal hide through the other team’s goal. The fear and urgency in her voice was a terrifying marker of our society’s leisure-time activities. To be honest, her simple question really hurt my feelings; did she really think that we would sit at home and have staring contests while slowly losing our minds waiting for the next “tv+internet bundle” to come out?

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Me, clearly waiting for the new season of Catfish.

If I hadn’t been so shocked by her question I would have had a much better answer for her. Instead I told her that I like to spend my time away from the office outside playing, riding my bike, and fishing. I should have asked here what she does when she gets out of work. I should have invited her over for a weekend to see how to LIVE a little bit.

This is how we do.

In retrospect, her question ignited a little introspection which lead me to this: What do we do when we get home from work? Well, for starters we:

  • squeeze every last little drop out of the time that we have been given;
  • seek out out-of-the-way places and experiences and try to inspire others to get outside and enjoy our great creation;
  • geek out over outdoor gear;
  • read a book;
  • do some self-directed study; and
  • support local businesses, causes and environmental groups;

In short; we are going to LIVE our lives and we hope that you will too. Get out there and experience things. But always remember that Netflix and Hulu will be there for your cheat days.

-J

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Get outside!

New Shop Alert: Bird’s Eye Outfitters

Few and far between: that’s how I would describe the state of quality outdoor shops in the Upper Peninsula.

Enter the new kid on the block:

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It’s always refreshing to see a new silent-sports themed shop open up. However, when I saw the sign, I had mixed emotions: I was excited about a new outfitter, but hesitant to get too excited in case it turned out to be just another low-level jacket pusher for over-stylized hipsters who rarely leave the pavement. All of my fears were quashed the second I crossed the threshold.

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Its well-lit, industrial chic showroom is accented with all sorts of shiny toys. I especially appreciate how they are not stacked like cordwood on sterile shelves or cheap pegboard. The owners have taken the time to work the product displays into an inspired art form. They have a wide array of products for the novice to the seasoned outdoors person.

Bird’s Eye caries the following top-notch brands:

  • Patagonia
  • Arc’teryx
  • Prana
  • Lolé
  • Temple Fork Outfitters
  • MSR
  • Giant Bicycles
  • Salsa Bicycles
  • Fjallraven
  • Chaco
  • Osprey

Aside from offering those killer brands they also rent out kayaks and stand up paddle boards. They will soon be offering river tours and kayak/SUP lessons as well. Future plans also include bike maintenance and repair once lower level renovations are complete.

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MMMM-fresh TFO cork!

Quite possibly my favorite of Bird’s Eye’s many great attributes is the beer and snacks! It’s really nice to be able to enjoy a pint while browsing gear. I love it when my favorite things mash up. The staff also told me that they will be offering Charcuterie plates in the future. I look forward to sitting down to talk shop over salted meats and libations. When you get there ask for the Bird’s IPA, it has hints of Cascade hops, Gore-Tex, and Prima Loft and pairs well with shiny paddle boards or fat tired bikes.

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The front portion of the shop houses Superior Coffee Roasting Company. We will be doing a future feature on them but suffice it to say, they pulled me two delicious shots that I am still thinking about.

Head on over to 107 East Portage St., in Sault Ste. Marie, MI and check them out.

Praise For Four Season Fuel

Today is Valentine’s Day. While most people were out overspending and feigning interest over things that they will forget by the end of the week, Chelsea and I were immersing ourselves in the great outdoors and enjoying each other’s company.

The plan for the day was simple: stop by Down Wind Sports to pick up a boil in bag meal, drive up CR 550 and find a place to ski. We got a little over a foot of fresh snow in the last few days and we wanted to take make some tracks.

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We grabbed some Mountain House Beef Stroganoff and started out and settled in the Harlow Lake/ Little Presque area.

After crossing the road we opted to head south along the NCT. The wind coming off the lake was a force to be reckoned with. The icy blasts plunged the “feels like” temp well into the double-digits below zero. This concerned me a little. I have read some negative reviews about the Jetboil four-season fuel mix and thought that if ever there was a safe time to test it out this would be it; we were relatively close to home and if the fuel failed to provide enough oomph it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

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We tucked into a dense stand of pines and stomped down a kitchen. I pulled out our Valentine’s Day meal and lit the jetboil. The water from my bottle was pretty cold from our trek out and it took a little while for the stove to get it lukewarm. To my surprise and delight, after the initial coaxing, the water boiled rather quickly.

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While the wind howled and knocked snow from our little shelter we huddled together and shared our bagged meal. It was tougher to wait for the noodles and beef to plump up than usual but it was worth it.

Truthfully the water did boil noticeably slower than normal, but considering the super-cool starting water temp; the gusting wind; and the generally inhospitable weather I think that the four season fuel performed as well as it could. It provided a steady stream of heat and didn’t sputter even once. I definitely think that I will bring the base out next time though. Keeping it directly off the snow may help.

After lunch we swapped skis and crossed the road into the Harlow Lake area. Chelsea had been using a set of Evo Glades that really weren’t working for her. In all honesty, they have never really suited her that well. After the switch I noticed that she was kicking and gliding with increasing confidence. Needless to say she will be taking over my Madshus Cadence’s for the rest of the season. I really like those skis but if they help keep Chelsea going then they are hers!

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Get out there. Enjoy the simple things with the people that you love.

-j

Perfection is a Brook Trout

  
Mankind constantly strives to create perfect items and moments. However, we will never ever be able to manufacture the level of perfection that is a wild Brook Trout at the end of a fly line. This feisty little guy whacked a nymph the size of his head and gave a fight that rivaled fish twice his size. 

Cherish the little Brookies and let them go; they’ll be there when you come back. 

-J