May 03

My Monthly Outdoor Family Life Update – April 2015


Welcome to the my April 2015 Outdoor Family Life Update!

I started doing monthly updates last year, but did not follow through.  I am going to start them back up and see if I can refine them enough for it to make sense to keep them going.  As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated.  If there is something specific you would like to see or do not want to see in these monthly updates, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail through my Contact Me page.

My intention is to share quick highlights of any outdoor activities from the month.  Our Spring Break Trip was a week long and fell on the week split between March and April, so I am including all of our Spring Break Trip information in this April update.


We did quite a bit of camping this month due to the month starting out mid-way through our Spring Break Trip.  The kids just want to keep on camping.  We rarely stay at the same campground twice, but this month was an exception. I wanted to take the kids trout fishing and I knew Roaring River in Missouri was a great place for us to go for this.  I should also mention that we are not really “roughing it” in our camping trips.  We have a nice trailer and our camping is more of a way for us to get out and explore new places and feel at home while doing so.

Nights Spent in the Camper – 14

Campgrounds Visited:  5

State Camped In:  3

Clear Lake State Park – Clear Lake Iowa

We stopped here for one night on our way to Missouri.  This park was not very far off the highway and the site did not need any leveling.  We didn’t even unhook the trailer from the truck that night.  It was below freezing that night, but we woke up to a nice view of the lake with the playground right across from our campsite.  The kids enjoyed the playground in the morning and a nice walk down to the lake with me before we left.

Link to my full Clear Lake State Park Review

Roaring River State Park – Cassville, Missouri

We had a really great time at Roaring River.  We arrived late on a Saturday afternoon and stayed until Thursday morning.  This was actually our second time staying at Roaring River.  This time we stayed in loop 1. Our main reason for staying here was to do some trout fishing with the boys.  I am told that it is usually really busy here, but we must have lucked out.  The campground pretty much emptied out on Sunday afternoon and we had the whole place to ourselves.

Link to my full Roaring River State Park Review

Clinton State Park – Lawrence, Kansas

This was on our way home, kind of.  The boys wanted to check off a new state on this trip, so we spent three nights in Kansas.  The park is huge and is pretty much a big recreation area.  The campground was nice depending on what site you could get.  We found a really nice site on an outer loop in the trees.  We also picked this campground because of the mountain bike trails that I wanted to try out.

One interesting thing about the park that I couldn’t figure out, was that it appeared that there was some really long term or permanent campers here that had stuff laying all over their campsites.  They would also drive through the park really fast hitting the gas hard.  I wasn’t sure if this was standard practice here or was just an early season coincidence, but definitely got to be a bit annoying.

Link to my full Clinton State Park Review

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park – Little Falls, Minnesota

This is a nice little park with some great trails for family hiking.  We camped here because I had a bicycle race near by and thought it would be nice to turn it into a weekend of camping for us.  The kids loved it.  This is a really peaceful little park that I would like to go back to again and hike the other trails and see the Lindbergh home, since it was still closed for the season while we were there.

Link to my full Charles A. Lindbergh State Park Review

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – Nerstrand, Minnesota

This was another bicycle race weekend, turned into a camping trip.  This was probably one of the first really nice weekends of the year and the park was pretty busy.  We had a nice time and the kids had a blast.  They made some friends at the park and spent most of their time riding their bikes back and forth to the park or doing laps around the campground.

Link to my full Nerstrand Big Woods State Park Review



Mountain Biking Season is in full season and is becoming a full family event as the kids are getting bigger.  I am amazed at how much improvement they have made since last year and the level of trails they are able to ride.  It is quite exciting for me.

Trail Systems Ridden:  3

States Ridden In:  3

Slaughter Pen Trails – Bentonville, Arkansas

While this was technically in March, it was during the week of our Spring Break trip that rolled into April.  We spent a few hours of riding here.  This is a great place to go mountain biking as a family.  There is a really nice paved path that connects all the single track mountain bike trails.  You can ride the paved trail all the way through town or take detours off onto the single track.  Lynn and I got to go off on some single track trails by ourselves while the other stayed back on the paved path with the kids.  We did find some good beginner single track trails to take the kids on as well.

Lake Clinton Trails – Lawrence, Kansas

I am not sure what to say about these trails.  There are over 20 miles of single track if you take the full loop around.  They really are some great trails, but highly technical because of the large quantities of rock gardens. I started out enjoying them, but personally got a bit annoyed after awhile of all the rock gardens.  It really depends on what you are into.  I like fast cross country trails with the typical hard climbs, roots and some rocks, but these trails were a bit excessive.  Again, depends on what your cup of tea is.  If you are into a bit more aggressive trail riding, then you might love this place.

Woolly Mountain Bike Club Trails – St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

The Woolly trails finally opened for the season and are in great shape.  This is one of our local trail systems and we really enjoy going here as a family.  The kids can handle so much more trail this year than they could last year.  I took them back to some of the the intermediate trail sections and I was amazed at how well they did.  Now they want to race at the upcoming Woolly Mountain Bike Kid’s Race.



The kids like biking over hiking, but you can’t beat a nice family hike in the woods.  We tend to find short hikes at the campgrounds that we visit.

Trail Systems Hiked:  3

States Hiked In:  2

Roaring River State Park – Cassville, Missouri

Deer Leap Trail

Must do short little hike for a great bird’s eye view of the trout rearing ponds.  Just Reid and I did this trail.  It was a bit impromptu our last afternoon there as Reid wanted to see the trout rearing stations one last time before we left.

Devil’s Kitchen Trail

Nice trail with some technical sections and elevation.  It takes you by a collapsed rock sheets that legend says was used as a hide out by Civil War Soldiers.  We hiked this as a family.  We even saw a little snake while hiking that I caught on some GoPro video.

Fire Tower Trail

This is a little bit longer of a trail that I ended up just doing a trail run on.  I think the rest of the family was resting up for some additional trout fishing.

Spring House Trail

This is a very short little trail that takes you by the foundation of an old spring house once used by a family that had settled on this land.  You have to look for it or you’ll miss it.

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park – Little Falls, Minnesota

Jenny Landing Site

The wanted to do some hiking and I was interested in hiking out to the site where Charles had landed the Jenny, a Surplus World War I plane, after flying it up to their summer home in Little Falls.  I knew there wouldn’t be much to see other than an open space, but I think it is neat to put yourself back in time and imagine what it might have been like.  The boys and I had a nice little hike.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – Nerstrand, Minnesota

Hidden Falls

Nice little trail through the big woods down to the water falls.  The waterfalls almost look like they are man made, but they actually are natural.  We hiked down here as a family and then on Sunday morning I took a walk down to the falls with my coffee and did some meditation.  It is a very peaceful setting.

Beaver Trail

This is a short loop trail across the stream with the falls that meanders through the woods and hillside.

White Oak Trail

This is just a connector trail to get back into the larger trail loops.  It goes along the road, but is still a nice setting.



We probably won’t have fishing updates every month, but we’ve definitely made our transition off the ice until winter comes again.  Trout fishing was the name of the game this month.  I had gotten my 7 year old his own fly ride for Christmas this year, which led us to planning our Spring Break Trip at Roaring River State Park.  We had a blast with it.  I spent most of the day untangling and tying new leaders and tippets, but it was all worth it to see the look on the kids’ faces when they landed a nice Rainbow Trout.

Lakes or Streams Fished:  1

States Fished In:  1

Roaring River State Park, Cassville, Arkansas

We did quite a bit of Trout fishing at Roaring River State Park and that was the main reason we stayed there.  They stock the stream each night based on the amount of Trout tags sold the day before.  I spent most of my time untangling the kids’ fishing lines, but it was worth it to see the look on their faces when they caught a fish.  We’ve been to this park twice now and it has not been very busy either time.  I am told it can be extremely busy, but I never really felt any pressure from fellow fisherman and felt like we could freely fish in most areas.


I can’t talk about the outdoors without mentioning cooking.  Of course with our Trout fishing, we have a few cooking things to talk about.

Rainbow Trout


Open Fire

This was about the easiest way to prepare the trout and tasted fantastic.  I left the heads on and stuffed the belly with lemons.  To cook them over the fire, I used a cooking basket.  You get a little bit of a smoked flavor and the skin just peels right back.  The other thing I liked about it was that there was no wasted meat.  You could just pull al the meat right off the bones.

Pan Fried

This is a very traditional way of cooking them and probably my kids’ favorite.  This requires completely filleting the fish, coating the fillets in flour and dropping on a hot skillet with some oil.

Vegetable Mix

This one is quite an enjoyable way to eat them as well.  This also requires the filleting the fish, but you get a good flavor with the mixed vegetables.  I get a skillet going with some water and potatoes and as the potatoes cook, I slowly start adding onions, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and then finally lay the fish fillets over the top.  This is very tasty.

Pizza Sandwiches


Pie Iron

The Pie Iron is traditionally used for making fruit pies over the open fire, but our family favorite is Pizza Sandwiches.  They are had to beat.  2 slices of bread filled with your favorite pizza toppings squeezed together in a Pie Iron and you are in campfire pizza heaven.


We had a pretty action packed month and covered a lot of ground.  This will definitely not always be the case.  I still need to write up a full report on the spring break trip specifically and will add that to my list of work to do.  I have been sharing some videos and photos and there is still more to come.  As I mentioned above, please leave a comment below or or send me an e-mail through my Contact Me page if you have any questions or comments.

If you found this useful and think someone else would benefit from reading and following my blog, please share with you friends through Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

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Mar 02

Wrapping Up Ice Fishing Season

Ice Fishing

Well, today marks the start of the 2015 ice fishing season and we need new fishing licenses here in Minnesota.  We managed to make it out a few times this year, but due to illness, not nearly as many as we would have liked.  We will go get our new licenses for 2015 and potentially make it out a few times in the late season, but the next few weekends are already accounted for and our spring break trip is coming up soon!  We are about to shift our focus to camping and mountain biking soon.

I started the season off by getting out on the ice by myself over the Thanksgiving weekend with 8″ of ice on Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota.  Below is a picture that I took of my ice gear sled after packing up for the night.  I remember the moment because I packed everything up and looked up at the sky to see an amazing view of the stars.  It was like standing in a planetarium.  That is one my most favorite things about early or late ice.  It’s very quiet, because less people are out and you can really enjoy the nature and peacefulness of the clear night sky.

Early Ice Fishing Gear Sled

Here is picture of my first catch of the season.  I was able to find some decent size crappies.  No monsters, but all good enough size to make a couple of meals.  The kids love eating fish and get pretty excited when I bring fish home.  Of course, it only leads to the next question of when is the ice thick enough for them to join me.  I usually get out a few times and then once people start driving on the ice, we’ll go out as a family.  We usually ride out in a Ranger UTV vehicle at that point.  I still don’t like driving the cars out on the ice and it is a easier to explore around the lake with the UTV.


Up until this year, we had kept our ice fishing focus on bluegills, perch and crappies, but his year we decided to branch out and try for some walleye.  We packed up our gear on a Saturday and headed for Mille Lacs with the whole family.  Mille Lacs is a large lake in North Central, Minnesota that is known for some good ice fishing.  It is a really large inland lake and my internet searches didn’t really lead me to a good place to start, but we figured we would give it a go regardless.  We drove up the west side of the lake until we found a maintained ice road that lead out to  some houses.  We stopped into the bait shop and paid a daily fee for the ice road access and off we went!

Fishing was pretty slow and we did not mark many fish on the Marcum.  However, we did have a few bites throughout the day.  My oldest son Kyle caught his first walleye through the ice, which I failed to get a picture of.  It was just outside of the slot limit, so we got it back in the water as quick as possible.  Kyle had another one on that day as well, that appeared to be a monster.  The fish was more than his rod could handle, so I was trying to help him out by pulling the line up by hand, while he reeled, but I let too much slack in the line and we lost him.  Reid also had a nice one that we lost right at the surface.  The hook came out as he was trying to pull him through the hole and off the walleye went.  We marked it as a successful day for our first attempt at walleye through the ice and decided we will give it another go in the future.

We added some new gear this year as well.  Santa Clause brought the family a new Clam BigFoot XL4000T that let us spread out and have a little more space.  I also picked up a Marcum Showdown 5.6 Dual Beam early in the year.  Each year we are adding a bit of gear and trying out a few new things.  The Showdown is very easy to use and when fishing in our Clam shelter, everyone can usually see their lines on the screen.  The best use I have found for it, is to get an idea of water depth before I start cutting holes. It will even pick up fish markings through the ice.  I just carry a little bottle of water to squirt some water on the ice surface and the Marcum can read the bottom.

The Clam BigFoot is perfect for our family.  It fits my wife and I along with our 2 kids and we don’t feel cramped.  It is still small enough to haul around on the back of a Ranger UTV or pull on a sled.  It sets up quick and is easy to take down.  Our previous shelter was the same pop up style shelter, but was not insulated and was much smaller.  The insulated walls make a big difference for two things: It holds heat much better and the insides don’t frost up from condensation freezing.

Ice Fishing

The boys love cooking hotdogs over a fire in the summer and discovered that they can also cook hotdogs in front the Portable Buddy Heater.  I love getting out there with the family.  The kids crack me up with the funny things they come up with and it is funny to see the different things that really make their day.  They thought it was something else to cook hotdogs out on the ice.

There are many things that I enjoy during the ice fishing season.  What I enjoy most is the close family time.  There is something about cramming your family into a 8X8 foot hut out on the ice for the day that brings you close together.  There is always time of frustration as you are trying to get set up or fighting tangled lines throughout the day, but it is all worth it to see the smile on your kids’ faces as they pull a fish through the ice.  I know that the kids will look back later in life and remember these good times.  Below is a picture I took one of the evenings out on the lake as the sun was setting.  It’s hard to find this type of peacefulness sitting on the couch in your living room.

Ice Fishing Sunset

Do you have any good ice fishing stories with your family?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments or on my Facebook page.

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Jul 20

My First Lutsen 99er Race Review, Results and Advice

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Setting the stage

First, for those that do not know what the Lutsen 99er is; it is a 99 mile mountain bike race located on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. The race is held by Lifetime Fitness and takes place out of the Lutsen Mountains Sawtooth Mountain Park. The race starts out with some paved roads and transitions into a mix of gravel roads, double and single track. The description double track can be slightly deceiving as the double track roads are extremely muddy and rough, making them more difficult than most of the single track trails that I regularly ride.

Next, let me set the stage for the level of racer that I am so I don’t waste your time if you’re a different class of racer than I. This report is not for pro, elite or competitive comp class racers. In my little bit of racing experience, I’ve been a back of pack age group racer. My goal in this race was to finish under 10 hours. I really didn’t know how I would hold up over the distance of the race. The few races that I have done, I have gone out too hard and end up blowing up a couple hours into the ride. I new it was very important for me to control my heart rate at the beginning of the race and pace myself. Also, I had been sick for the month before the race and had very little training, so I was not prepared like I should have been.

All that being said, I don’t quit easy, if at all, and I know I just needed to find a pace that I could grind out for hours on end and slowly pick up as the race went on depending on how I was feeling. My plan was to ride the first 50 miles a little faster than a 10 mph pace to keep me out in front of the cut off times. At the 50 mile mark I would step things up a little and then again at the 70, then 80, etc… I had no idea how I was going to feel, but wanted to make sure that I finished, and finished within the cut off.

So there I was at in the starting gate, then suddenly we were off…

The big rollout to mile 24 aid station

The roll out down the hill to Hwy 61 from the starting line at Lutsen Mountains was held under 15 mph by a lead out pace vehicle, so there was no jump start advantage on your average speed at the start. Oh, and could you ever smell the brake pads melting from 500 plus bicycles riding the brakes for a mile down hill. Once we hit 61, the pace car pulled off and the race was on. I knew that I had to keep my heart rate under control as I have a tendency to go out hard and blow up, which I could not afford to do on a race of this distance and my lack of training.

I did about 18 mph up Hwy 61 and took advantage of drafting opportunities as much as possible. I knew that I would be hitting the first big climb up Caribou Trail within a 2 miles. Caribou Trail would take me up about 800 vertical feet over 3 miles before leaving the pavement and hitting the trail system. I took it fairly easy on the climb and spun in a low gear. To do it over again, I would probably spin a little higher gear to make better time up the hill. I did set myself back quite a bit and as I will explain later, I finished the race with a lot left in my legs and lungs.

I knew there would be some gravel road, so I just kept things steady in the trails, knowing that I would use my roadie skills to play catch up on the open gravel. I tried to keep my heart rate under 150, but couldn’t always keep it that way. The trails were very wet with a lot of mud holes. This section of trail had a fair amount of rocks and there was quite a few people fixing flats on the side of trail. I was able to ride just about every single hole. I had been riding a 26er until this year and I attribute the ability to ride all the mud holes to my new 29er and my steady calm pace. By the way, I’m loving the 29 inch wheels and wish I would have made the switch years ago.

Mile 24 aid station to mile 42 aid station

I was feeling pretty good as I approached the first aid station at mile 24, so I just grabbed a little peanut butter and jelly sandwich square and rode thru. There was another couple miles of gravel road section until we hit some trails again. I took my time here to absorb the food and take in some fluids so I was ready for the trail. When I hit the trails, I kept a steady but persistent pace to keep things on track.

I didn’t realize it until I had actually gotten into this section, but we would actually do 2 laps of this middle part of the race. It was actually kind of nice, because I knew what to expect on the second lap. I made pretty good time on my first lap through, but I did get lapped by the leaders, which was fairly humbling. Those guys are animals and were just cranking it out. They came by me like a freight train and were almost 20 miles ahead of me.

Mile 42 aid station to mile 60 aid station

When I came back through the aid station to start my second lap around this section; I did stop to fill my water up and grabbed a few sandwich squares to eat along the gravel road. I also adjusted the angle of my seat as the pain was dictating that my saddle was not angled correctly. This was only my 5 or 6th ride on this bike and I was still getting all the adjustments dialed in. Oh, was this so the right thing to do.

I made it thru the first part of this second lap feeling pretty good. I was not as fast as my first time thru this section, but was maintaining a steady pace and did drop a few riders in this section. This was the point in the race where people were either realizing they could make it and were picking up the pace or where people were starting to wonder if they were going to make it or not. As a reminder and to keep things into perspective; I am a back of the pack age group racer at this point in my racing experience. I am looking to step this up in the future and believe I have more potential than where I currently am.

Around mile 50 the sun came out a little and I was starting to fatigue quite a bit as I headed back into a trail section. I knew I just needed to work my way thru this trail section and I would be back on the gravel road again. I dialed things back a little bit on the trail, ate a Cliff bar and sipped on some water. I just kept plugging along at a little slower pace so I could recover a bit. By the time I came out of the trail I was starting to feel a little better. I slowly dialed the pace up on the gravel road section.

With the little training that I had for this race, I knew it was important for me to manage my level of fatigue and recovery cycles during the ride. I was also watching my heart rate, to make sure I didn’t take myself into the red zone, beyond the point that I could recover during the ride. I Made decent time along the gravel road to the aid station at mile 60 without pushing it too hard.

Mile 60 aid station to mile 70 aid station

At mile 60 I thought I had enough water to get me to the mile 70 aid station, so I opted to just grab an energy wafer and gel from the aid station and keep on riding. I was wrong. I ran out of water just a few miles later as I was hitting a very muddy section of double track. I could see riders out in front of me, so I just focused on keeping pace and getting to the mile 70 aid station. My key was just a steady grind, never get too excited, but never back off too much. I just kept things consistent. I managed to reel in a few of the riders in front of me and made it to the mile 70 aid station around 6 hours and 55 minutes.

I was feeling pretty weak and figured I would stretch real quick and fill up my Camelbak. I ate a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares and a banana. At this point, I was covered in mud with water logged socks. I had brought along a spare pair of socks in my Camelbak, so I changed my socks out to get some dry feet. I pulled out of the aid station after about 5 or 6 minutes.

Mile 70 aid station to mile 80 station

As I started heading down the road and looking at my time, I realized I was definitely going to come in faster than my 10 hour goal. I don’t know if it was the food and water, or just the mental part of knowing I was in the home stretch, but I felt much better and stronger than I had 10 minutes prior. I decided it was time to pick up the pace. There was a small part of me that was feeling like I could make it in 9 hours if I pushed it hard enough. I steadily picked up the pace and started hammering on the pedals. As I rode along, I was starting to reel other riders in and would just keep focusing on the next rider in front of me. The next 10 miles had a little bit of gravel, but was mostly double track trail.

Mile 80 aid station to mile 93 aid station

As I approached the mile 80 aid station, I had plenty of water and a few Cliff bars and Gu gels in my jersey pockets, so I opted to keep hammering on. When I left mile 80, I turned up the heat some more. I had a lot of gravel in front of me and am fairly decent on my road bike; I thought I could make up some time here. I was feeling good until the next big gravel climb. I started cramping up real bad on the first climb after the aid station. I back things off, checked my water again and decided to eat and down a bunch amount of water.

It sounds funny to say this, but I used the up hill to recover. I dropped things down to granny gear and eased my way up this climb and let my body absorb some calories and water. When I was coming over the top of the hill, I could feel my body recovering and about halfway down the decent I started to put the hammer down again. I was feeling great and knew that I was within 15 miles of the finish. At this point, I knew I was going to make it, and I continued to pour on the heat. I did run out of water again, but tried to focus on the road and trail ahead.

Mile 93 aid station to the finish line

When I came thru the mile 93 aid station, they were holding out bottles of water. I new whatever water I took in at this point, wasn’t going to absurd in time, but I needed a little mental boost. I grabbed a bottle as I rode thru and downed it before hitting the muddy trails again. I was in the home stretch. The mud was bad, but I only had a few miles to go and the adrenaline was high.

I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling. I was actually having fun in this last section. I had just ridden more than 90 miles on this bike and was having fun riding this last section of trail. The last section had some fun little down hills that were a little technical, but if you picked your line, you could let it rip. The finish came up on me fast. All of a sudden I was dumped out on the gravel, could hear cheering and see the finish.

I was excited. I knew I was a back of the pack racer, but I was feeling good and I poured the heat into the pedals right through the finish. My wife and kids were there waiting for me and cheering as I came across the finish line in 9 hours, 12 minutes and 33 seconds. I finished about 48 minutes faster than what I thought I would, but I was feeling pretty good. The first thing I thought was, damn it, I could have finished a lot faster.

All that being said, I’m learning how to endurance race. In the 3 previous 30 to 40 mile races that I had done, I went out too hard and ended up hitting the wall; having to drag myself to the finish. In the Lutsen 99er, I ended up swinging the pendulum to the other end and finished with too much energy left. I didn’t leave enough out on the trail. I plan to come back next year, with more training, more wisdom and more guts. I believe, to do it over again right now, I should have been able to do it in 8 hours in my current shape. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, right… All it does is motivate me to come back next year and push myself harder.

Lutsen 99er

Lutsen 99er Advice and Lesson’s Learned

Let me go back to what my strategy was for the race… I wasn’t really sure what to expect and figured I would be happy to finish under 10 hours. I figured I would go out and ride a 10 mph pace and then keep pushing that pace up depending on how I was feeling as the race went on. I actually think this was a pretty good strategy for somebody that is somewhat new to racing or a back of the pack age group competitor. If you blow up at the start, then you’ll never finish the race.

So all that being said, train as much as you can. However, train for distance and endurance and not for short distance sprinting. You’ll need to find the point at which you can grind out the pedals all day without bonking. You can’t go into this race and expect to run your heart rate in the red zone all day, because you won’t make it. You’ll need to go out and find out what your heart rate zones are and how high you can push your heart rate before you reach a non-recovery zone. This is the pace that you’ll need to set for yourself.

When it comes to fuel, get yourself a high volume Camelbak. I have a Camelbak Lobo that is fairly slim and holds 3L of water. For my first fill I dropped in 5 electrolyte tablets. It takes a little bit of time at the aid stations to get your water filled and you don’t want to have to stop every time for a water fill. Also, carry some of your own food. I tried to eat something every hour. I carried Cliff Bars and Gu gels that I would switch between. This worked out fairly well and I wasn’t held to what was available at the aid stations. That being said, I wouldn’t carry as many bars and gels next time as I had some left over at the finish.

My final words of wisdom; get out and do it. Don’t wait till the perfect time or year that you can get the right amount of training in. Next spring, get yourself registered for the race and commit. You owe it to yourself and you won’t regret it.
Post Lutsen 99er recovery beverage

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Jun 20

Why I Go Camping With My Family

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First, I love the outdoors and surrounding myself with nature. I don’t believe we are made to sit inside on a couch in front of a TV. Sure, I enjoy my electronics i.e. laptop, gps devices, smart phones etc… But, there is no denial that getting out in nature and shutting down feels like the natural place to be. Is there any coincidence that being in “nature” feels “natural”. I find it very ironic that the things we do today for recreation, were the very ways of life and survival for our ancestors years ago.

We started camping when our youngest was 3 weeks old and our oldest a year and a half. We were living in a small subdivision and just felt like we needed to get away on the weekends. As I was growing up, we did a lot of camping and even took a month long road trip to Alaska; camping every night of the trip. I started camping again for really 2 reasons… I wanted to get away from the subdivision on the weekends and I wanted my kids to experience what I did growing up.

Our camping quickly turned into a way for us to explore new places and see the country, instead of just getting away on the weekends. Now, we don’t really do a lot of weekend camping. Camping is just how we travel to new destinations. Instead of getting a hotel for an upcoming mountain bike race, we’ll be camping. We went to Moab, Utah for the kids spring break and wanted to experience the outdoors in Utah, so we camped instead of staying at a hotel in town. You can’t beat the view of the stars in Moab, Utah on a clear night from Dead Horse Point State Park.

My 4 and 6 year old have been camping in 15 different states and over 40 campgrounds. We have hiked up to beautiful overlooks and raging waterfalls. We’ve seen things that many people don’t even get to see pictures of. I, along with my wife and kids are always talking and looking forward to our next trip and what kind of adventure we’d like to take next. We would do it full time if we could figure out a way to make a living doing so. There is a beautiful world out there and I believe I was meant to explore it and experience it with my wife and kids.

Why do you go camping with your family?

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May 31

Outdoor Family Life – May 2014

Summer time is here already.  It feels like we went from winter, directly into the summer.  The mesquitos are already in full swarm and the grass needs cutting.  The gardens are getting planted and the kids are excited for summer break.  We’ve had a busy month of May.

Lessons Learned

1) There is no spring season in Minnesota this year


We did get back out on some trails again for some family mountain bike rides.  Our rides are usually pretty short, as Reid is only 4 years old.  Kyle is doing really good.  Each time we go out, the boys get better.  When we go riding as a family, we go to trails that have a park or some play equipment near the trail head for the boys to take a break on while I go ride some longer distance.  I do a little bit of racing, so I like to get some miles in and it works out for the boys and Lynn also if there is a park to kick back at while I’m riding.

Trails We Rode

Woolly Bike Trail in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Carver Lake Off Road Cycling Trails in Woodbury, Minnesota

Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trails in Eagan, Minnesota


The rain finally stopped for a couple days and I was able to till up the existing garden plot.  I plan to put in a larger garden, but still need to get the existing garden planted.  The boys planted Sunflower Seeds along the fence row behind some Spruce Trees that we planted.  They get a real kick out of planting the seeds.  They are learning fast.  I’ve been letting them help me plant over the last few years and this year, I just let them go on their own with the sunflowers and they did a great job.  Over Memorial Day weekend, we planted our main garden.  Our soil is very sandy, and we’ve only lived here for a year, so we have some work to do in our garden.  We did plant corn, carrots, broccoli, beats, radishes, beans, variety of lettuce, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, pumpkins and watermelons.  I assigned a few of the rows to the boys to take care of throughout the summer and they seem to be very excited about having their own rows to take care of.

Tree Planting

We planted some more trees this past month.  I’m trying to create a little mini forest in my backyard.  The kids enjoy planting the trees and I love watching them grow.

Trees We Planted

5 Black Hills Spruces

6 Eastern White Pines


CamelBak Lobo

I bought a CamelBak Lobo to use for cycling and it has been working out great.  I mainly wanted it because of its large 3L water capacity without being to bulky.  It fits only minimal gear, but does have just enough space to carry the essentials for a long distance mountain bike race or trail ride.

CamelBak Mini Mule

Before our Moab, Utah trip we got the boys their own CameBak hydration packs to get them excited about doing some hiking.  They are smaller in size and perfect for small kids.  The boys love using the hydration packs on hikes and have started wearing them for our bikes rides as well. They are learning to carry their own water and even their own spare tire tubes for their bikes.

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May 04

Outdoor Family Life – April 2014

I can’t believe it has been a month since we came back from Utah.  I still have all kinds of photos and videos to sort thru.  I intend to put together a few little movies of our mountain bike rides and a photo album of our best photos from the trip.  I did get the campground reviews posted from the Utah trip and have provided links at the bottom of the post.  I also started using Pinterest again.  I found that there are some old links out there from when I made an attempt at this website a few years ago, and decided that I should start using Pinterest.

Lessons Learned

1)  A couple warm days do NOT mean winter is over.


The weather in April was a mixed bag.  We went from 70 degree weather one day to 20 inches of snow a few days later.  The snow is finally all gone again and we have had a lot of rain since.  We are definitely looking forward the the true spring weather as it has been a really long winter here in Minnesota.

Arbor Day

I love planting trees and watching them grow over the years.  There is a little memory with every tree that you plant.  I know I’ll look at those trees years from now and remember planting them with the kids and how small they were.  Plus, its my little way of making a good impression on earth and the environment.

These are the trees that we planted this year:

2 Chestnut

2 Hazelnut

2 Oak

2 Cherry

8 White Pines


I did manage to set up some new galleries in my SmugMug account.  I have a folder that contains galleries for each state that I have pictures in and then have various galleries for hiking, biking, campsites, etc…  I will continue to add to it as I get my photos better organized.  I hope you enjoy the photos.

New Campground Reviews

Angostura Recreation Area, South Dakota

Chatfield Lake State Park, Colorado

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Horsethief Campground, Utah

Lake Anita State Park, Iowa

April Articles

Top Moab Mountain Bike Trails for Kids

Camping During Tornado Season and Finding Shelter

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Apr 19

Top Moab Mountain Bike Trails For Kids

Moab, Utah is not just for extreme and highly technical mountain bikers. Moab mountain biking is for kids and family, too. I have been wanting to go to Moab for years and never got around to it. I have always heard about Slickrock Trail and some of the other rim trails, but never about some of the shorter less technical trails. I contacted ahead of time and they named a few trails that I could take the kids on. They were very helpful in pointing me in the right direction.

We had a great trip and my 4 and 6 year old got to do some Moab mountain biking with my wife and I. We found out that Moab is a great place for a family vacation, including mountain biking. There are plenty of trails to take the kids on from just starting out throughout every stage of their mountain biking growth. My 4 year old rode over 9 miles of single track trails while we were in Moab!

Single Best Moab Mountain Bike Trail for Beginner Kids:

Rusty Spur Trail in the MOAB Brand Focus Area

Rusty Spur Trail

This trail is a little under 2 miles and is nice flowing smooth red dirt single track. It has a great atmosphere for riding and is very easy to access. There are 2 little cattle crossing bridges that gave the kids a little challenge and kept things interesting.

A Little Taste of Technical Moab for Kids

Intrepid Trail in Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Really cool trail to expose the kids to some more technical riding without over doing it. The trail is a little over a mile and has a great overlook to stop off at along the way.  My 4 and 6 year old said they liked riding over the bumps and rocks.

A Bit of Non-Technical Distance for Kids

Jasper and Agate Loop Trails in the Klondike Bluffs area

Jasper Agate Trail

More nice riding for the kids. The 2 loops combined are just under 4 miles. This was a little too long of a ride for my 4 year old, but he managed to get through it with a few breaks. It is all nice flowing single track with a few little challenging sections for the kids.  There is one section on the trail that I made the kids walk, because the trail gets a little close to a drop off.

If you head out to Moab with the family to do some mountain biking, these are the trails that I would take them on first.  Before going to Moab, I was afraid of the trip turning out to be just a trip for me.  It turned out to be a great vacation for the whole family.

Have you been to Moab?  What trails would you recommend for kids?



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Apr 12

Camping During Tornado Season And Finding Shelter

I wanted to write note about camping during tornado season, as the spring camping season has arrived.  We have experienced camping during a tornado and had to leave the camper in the middle of the night to take shelter.  Camping in bad weather can be scary, especially if don’t have a solid shelter to take cover in.  A travel trailer is not a safe shelter, when it comes to tornados.  A tornado could rip through a travel trailer like any old garden shed in your backyard.  You need to know where your nearest storm or tornado shelter is at if you choose to go camping in the spring, especially in the midwest or plains states.

We were camping at Lake Wappapello State Park, in Missouri in the spring of 2009 when a tornado touched down about 4 miles from the park.  We had just settled down to bed as the wind and rain was picking up, and the campground host knocked on the door.  There were very few campers in the park and he had remembered seeing us drive in with the kids.  He came to let us know that there was a tornado warning had just been issued, with a tornado spotted west of the park and headed our way.

We immediately grabbed the kids, jumped in the Jeep and drove up to the restroom facilities.  We figured that was the safest place to be since the building was built out of cinder blocks and pine logs.  The restroom building actually had a laundry room in the center that we took shelter in.  It was quite the experience.  We were soaked just going from the jeep to the shelter.  We had Reid (9 months old) in his car seat and Kyle (2 years old) laid on the floor in a blanket.  Thankfully both kids were tired enough to fall asleep.  We were able to get some intermittent cell service to track the weather on my cell phone.  The tornado ended up passing us about 4 miles to the north.  We stayed in the shelter for a couple of hours until things settled down and the weather forecasts were clear.

We were so thankful that the host stopped to give us the warning.  Even though the tornado didn’t come through the park, we were able to get our kids out of harms way in case it did.  We now carry a crank weather radio with us so we can get weather warnings, even if there is no cell service or electricity.  Things become a little more real and scary when your kids are with you and we have become more aware of the weather and our surroundings while camping.

At any rate, I wanted to share this story with you as a reminder to watch the weather when you are headed out for some spring camping.  Always be aware of where the nearest shelters are at and don’t hesitate to take shelter if the weather is looking scary.  The bathhouses are the most likely place that you can take shelter at in the park.  Many people have smart phones now days that will give you notifications of severe weather, but you should still get a specific weather radio.  You can’t always count on having cell service, especially enough to transmit data.  Get yourself a crank weather radio so you can get weather updates.

If you have some other safety ideas or have had the same experiences, I’d love to hear from you.  Please share in the comments below.

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Apr 05

Outdoor Family Life – March 2014

Great times were had in March and I have a lot of things to talk about.  I won’t be able to fit it all in this post, but will just give a quick overview and have to come back later with some follow up posts.  We finished off the month of March with a road trip to Moab, Utah.  We visited 4 National Parks and camped in 5 new campgrounds across 4 different states!

Lessons Learned

  1. I need to visit more National Parks.
  2. Don’t plan on being able to get a campsite at a National Park.
  3. Get to Mount Rushmore before 7:00 am and you will have the park to yourself.


We definitely got some camping in during the month of March!  We took advantage of the kids’ spring break and headed out on a road trip.  We camped each night during our road trip and had the opportunity to stay in 5 different campgrounds.  It was a great opportunity to see what some of the camping is like in other states.  I tend not to stay in the same place twice, but I will put a couple of these on our list for specific return visits.  I will also get these added to my campground reviews in the near future.

Campgrounds visited:

Lake Anita State Park – Anita, Iowa

Chatfield State Park – Littleton, Colorado

Dead Horse Point State Park – Moab, Utah

Horsethief Campground – Moab, Utah

Angostura Recreation Area – Angostura, South Dakota


We didn’t do any extended hikes, but we did do quite a few short .5 to 2.5 mile hikes as a family.  We bought the kids their own CamelBak hydration packs for the trip to get them a little more excited about hiking and it worked.  I still had to carry our 4 year old Reid in the Child Carrier Backpack during some of the hikes, but the kids still had a good time.  We were able to hike in a couple National Parks and one of the State Parks that we stayed in.  I will post links to our GPS tracks soon.

Trails hiked:

Horse Shoe Point State Park, Utah

Rim Overlook

Big Horn Overlook

Canyonlands National Park – Moab, Utah

Upheaval Dome Overlook

Arches National Park – Moab, Utah

Windows Arch Primitive Trail

Delicate Arch Viewpoint

Skyline Arch

Sand Dunes Arch

Broken Arch

Mount Rushmore – Keystone, South Dakota

Badlands National Park – Wall, South Dakota


We did some single track mountain biking as a family while on our trip also.  My oldest Kyle is now on a 20″ mountain bike and he is loving it.  My youngest Reid has taken over Kyle’s old 16″ bike and is happy to be on a bigger bike.  The kids did great on the rides and it was nice to get out as a family on the bikes.  I was able to get a couple of rides in on my own on Slick Rock and Porcupine Rim.  Moab, was a great place to go and we found plenty of trails for the kids to ride.

Trails ridden:

Dead Horse Point State Park


Big Chief



Twisted Tree


Sand Flats Recreation Area – Moab, Utah

Slick Rock

Porcupine Rim

Klondike Bluffs Area – Moab, Utah



MOAB Brands Focus Area – Moab, Utah



Rusty Spur

Cross Country Skiing

I was able to get some more skiing in this month as well.  I am pretty much sold on skiing as a winter sport and am planning to get the family set up with skis for next winter.  The kids say they want to ski with me, so we’ll give it a try.

Trails skied:

Swedetown – Calumet, Michigan

Maasto Hiihto and Churning Rapids – Hancock, MI

Big Rock Creek Farms – St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Miscellaneous Notes

On a road trip you get to see all kinds of sites and sometimes all kinds of nothing.  I really enjoy seeing what is between home and the main destination and always try to make the journey interesting.  We live in Minnesota and were able to stay in or drive through the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and South Dakota.

Here are a few other Parks and/or Landmarks that we were able to see:

Site of the first recorded train robbery by Jesse James, Iowa

Rocky Mountains, CO

Loveland Pass, CO

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Badlands, South Dakota

Wall Drug Store, South Dakota

We had a great March and are looking forward to this spring.  We covered a lot of ground during our March trip and was able to see and do a lot.  I will get more updates out in the near future with photos, videos and reviews.  Let me know if you have any specific questions about the trip and I will focus on those areas first.

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Mar 02

Outdoor Family Life February Review

Well, February has come and gone faster than I can blink an eye.  This month was not a very active month as we had some extreme negative temperatures here in Minnesota and we all were hit with the flu.  That being said, I did manage to get some plans together for a spring break trip and start some cross country skiing.

Lessons Learned

1)  Time flies whether you are having fun or not.

2)  We should have started cross country skiing years ago.


We didn’t get any fishing in during February.  We had some extreme temperature drops and we all were sick at one point or another.  Plus, I had to travel for work 2 weeks out of the month.  Ice fishing is probably over for us this year as there are loads of snow on the lakes now after a huge storm that we had and we don’t have a snowmobile to get out there.

Cross Country Skiing

I tried out cross country skiing and loved it.  Kyle and Reid want to try it out as well, so this could be a new outdoor family winter activity for us in the future.  I could see us traveling around to different trail systems next year to ski, much like we travel around to different mountain bike trails in the summer.


We are getting a trip to Moab, Utah put together for later this spring.  Kyle and Reid are really looking forward to it.  We plan to stay at Deadhorse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park and Sand Flats Recreation Area for some hiking and mountain biking.  I will write a full trip report on the trip when we return.  Let me know if you have any recommendations for the Moab area.

February Articles

Breaking Up A Long Distance Road Trip

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