Summer Road Trip 2014 - Part 1: Badlands National Park

Having taken some time away from work Candice and I set out on Tuesday, July 15th to start what would end up being a 2,000 mile road trip.  The first leg of the trip brought us to Kilen Woods State Park near Lakefield, MN.  When we arrived we barely had time to set up the tent before the sun fell in the sky. The park was pretty small and quiet from what little we were able to see but it was a nice pit stop on our way to the Badlands National Park, and the bathroom facilities were excellent! 


Our Campground at Kilen Woods State Park


Random South Dakota Prairie along I-90


The next morning we packed up and made our way to I-90 to complete the drive to the Badlands.  We arrived in the park in the late afternoon and slowly drove our way around the park loop road.  Stopping at the visitor center and a few overlooks, we finally reaching our destination at the Basin Creek Primitive Campground.  Once we set up camp, Candice and I went into Wall to get a few things.   


One of our first views of the Badlands!


Bison on the way out to the Basin Creek Campground


Camp set up!


We made our way back into the park to check out more of the overlooks while the sun was setting. However, once returning to the car from the first scenic overlook, I discovered that what had been a slow leak in one of my car tires had now become a rapid leak and it would have to be patched.  We slowly left the park, hoping not to ruin my wheel by driving on the increasingly flat tire, and I was able to fix the tire at a gas station.  As I tightened the last lug nut we saw a beautiful red sun quickly falling toward the horizon, so we reentered the Impreza and quickly departed for the park as I was hoping to capture the sunset in a photograph.   


Missed the sun coming down.


Unfortunately, the tire mishap had delayed us too much and I was not able to get the photo I wanted. We spent some time at an overlook during twilight and drove back to camp once darkness had settled in. 


When we woke the next morning, after having some breakfast and coffee, it was time for the day’s activities to begin.  Candice wanted to get a run in as she is training for the Women Rock! Half-marathon in August, so I went to see what trails I could find near our camp to hike on.  I was able to make my way up along a small ridge above the camp that gave a beautiful view of the surrounding area.  As I was sitting upon the ridge I saw Candice running back into camp, so I packed up my camera and ran back down the hill to meet her. 


Our next destination was the Tourist trap that is Wall Drug.  We spent some time perusing the oddities that the landmark store holds, bought some fudge and souvenirs, and took them up on their often advertised offering of free ice water by filling all of our water bottles.  


On the way back to the park we hit up the Prairie Dog Ranch, because why not?!


A Prairie Dog


Our main objective for day two in the Badlands was hiking.  With our water supplies replenished, we loaded my backpack with food and my camera gear and started along the Castle Trail.  Having initially gotten started in the wrong direction, not knowing about the red stakes that marked the way, we eventually got to the trail and started our journey.  The sun was rising high in the sky by this time and the temperatures were heating up.  We made our way through the crumbling geological formations and I thought at any moment a Jawa might come out to zap me!  Once we were at the Castle Trail/Medicine Route intersection we decided to take the Medicine Route.  This part of the trail entered the more prairie-like terrain of Badlands National Park, where tall grasses and small shrubs lined our walking path.  Eventually we met up again with the Castle Trail and with the Saddle Pass Trail, we took the latter trail south to a great overlook of the lower Basin of the Badlands.   


Candice on the trail.


Once the sights had been seen we strolled back to where the trails met and got onto the Castle Trail yet again now heading back toward the car.  A few hours had passed during our several mile hike and we were quite famished at this point, so we decided to visit one of the overlook/picnic areas to cook some dinner. 


Mmm Mac & Cheese!


We ended the day by following the sun west and stopping at the many overlooks while making our way back to camp.   


Me while we were waiting for the sun to set.

 

Summer Road Trip 2014

I just returned from a great road trip.  I was able to visit Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and Rock Mountain National Park.  I saw many beautiful landscapes, hiked miles of trails, climbed my first 14er(Longs Peak), did some bouldering in Chaos Canyon, and met Tommy Caldwell!  I have a lot of pictures to go through and am hoping to create some gorgeous images to share.  I plan to have a write up of the first part of the trip published in the next few days, stay tuned!


4th of July Weekend - Part 2: Freedom From Pants

After spending the morning and afternoon hours of Independence day rock climbing at Barn Bluff, I had to quickly make my way back to St. Paul to get ready for the annual "Freedom From Pants Ride."  I heard about this event from a friend at work, and wasn't really sure what to think, but I kept an open mind and ended up having a great time!  

For those of you who don't know, the Freedom From Pants Ride is essentially a group bike ride, though it includes more drinking and dancing than most bike rides, and far less clothing.  The attire of the participants was wide-ranging.  Some chose to come simply in "tighty whities," while others had elaborate costumes, such as the man wearing the upper half of a Bat Man suit, along with some similarly themed underwear.

Candice and Kylie preparing for the ride.

All the participants met in NE Minneapolis and once adequately prepared, took off en masse.  The scene was quite a spectacle to behold, as what seemed like a few hundred half-naked bikers engulfed the streets of Minneapolis.  We made our way south on Hennepin Avenue going toward Downtown.  As we rode along the group received plenty of whistles, cheers, and honks from the onlookers.

Approaching the Hennepin Avenue Bridge

Once we made it across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge we got onto the Nicollet Avenue Mall on our way to the first stop at Loring Park. When we arrived at the park the riders dismounted and broke out their refreshments.  Some of the Freedom Riders had specially customized bikes with speakers that provided music at each stop.  One bike even had a portable stove attached to it and it's owner was serving grilled cheese!

After Loring the troupe made it's way west to Theodore Wirth Lake Beach, riding past the Basilica of St. Mary, under I-94 and onto the Cedar Lake Trail.  Here we hit a bottle neck as the trail cork-screwed up onto a bridge.


Once at the Lake another break was taken as we all enjoyed the beach at sunset.

Man dancing

When the sun had set and darkness was falling upon the group, we gathered our bikes to make the final leg of ride to Nicollet Island for the fire works.  A Grand Finale for a pretty spectacular day!

4th of July Weekend - Part1: Barn Bluff

The 4th of July Holiday weekend was a busy time for me!  Now that I've finally got some photos edited I thought it was about time to share some of the fun that was had!

Starting Friday morning I met up with Nick, Wei, and Madeline to drive down to Red Wing, Minnesota to do some sport climbing at Barn Bluff.  Residing along the Mississippi River Valley an hours drive southeast of the Twin Cities, Barn Bluff is comprised of Oneota Dolomite, which offers many a crimpy hold for climbers to attempt to stick to.  This can be especially difficult in the summer months when the sun is beating down on the cliff face.  

Nick about to climb as Wei waits to belay

The day started with a warm-up on Looking For Lust(5.9).  I made my way slowly up this climb. The holds felt a little greasy, possibly sandy, and with each move I was unsure of where to place my feet.  But I stayed relaxed during the ascent and eventually made it to the top without taking a fall.

Nick making his way up!

From here we made our way around to the Cyclops Area.  Nick set up the draws on Work Ethic, and seeing him move up the route reminded me that I had tried this climb 3 years earlier during my first visit to Barn Bluff.  On my first go I fell a few times but eventually made it to the top.  I came back down for a rest and some water, then took a shot at Suicide Squeeze and managed to flash it!   

Brian, Wes and Madeline refueling.

After another rest period and a PB & J I was ready to give Work Ethic another shot.  I made it past the second draw and fell moving through the crux.  At this point I came down to the ground, determined to do the route from the bottom. I gave it another go (okay the two draws were still clipped, but who cares, right? :) This time I moved more confidently through the lower crux with some new beta which included a bump from one right-hand undercling to another slightly higher, before moving to the high left-hand crimp-rail.  Moving up the climb I came to another difficult spot with a right-hand gaston from which you have to move to a high left-hand pocket.  I sat there for what felt like several seconds.  It felt as though my right hand could slip from the gaston at any moment and my feet were not secure either.  But with my fellow climbers yelling encouragement at me from below, I knew I had to make it work.  I shifted the fingers of my right hand and managed to find a slightly more incut part of the hold and found a better left foot.  From this position I was able to step down on my foot, push with my right hand, and reach my left into the high pocket.  After this I moved my right hand up to a good jug and from there it was a cake walk.  The ascent may not have been in perfect style, but getting all the moves down in one go was still very gratifying, and I hope to make it up the wall more smoothly next time!

Ryan on Roof Burner

After clilmbing Work Ethic I was feeling pretty pumped. My climbing endurance is pretty poor considering I'm mostly a boulderer, but we battled on to attempt Living All Over Me.  This was probably my favorite route of the day.  There is some very cool movement in and coming out of the crux gaston move.  I managed to make it to the top hangdogging a few times along the way, but it's always good to have projects!