Playing catch up…..

12 11 2009

I apologize it has been a while since my last post, but between the Forbes competition, daily biz tasks, shuffling kids around and playing outside it’s been a busy Fall!  We have had such incredibly beautiful weather for November that the kayaks are still waiting in the garage for their last paddle of the year.

We spent Labor Day weekend camping out with Jason’s brother & family up in Elk River.  They just bought a lot right on the river that they plan to build on in the future so we decided to kayak 2 days on the Elk River to check out the area.

kallenelkriverpaddling

Kallen going solo for the first time

In addition to the usual hiking, geocaching, camping and kayaking that we normally do around here, for some unknown reason I have decided to become a runner.  It seems like every year I try and take up the sport but eventually pitter out after a few weeks.  Shortly after my birthday in August someone or something lit a fire under my ass to give running another shot, and I’m happy to say I’m still at it.  I met my goal this Fall of running in a 5k (actually done 2 so far) and my new goal is to run a 10k in the Spring.

Our first “official” race was the 2 mile Jaguar Jog through Rasmussen Woods here in Mankato.  It was a gorgeous morning, spent time with family & friends, and we raised over $1500 for Kallen’s elementary school.  The turnout was pretty good for a first year event and included over 50 Jefferson students, parents and teachers.

kallenbrendanjog

Kallen (on right) placed 5th overall and his best buddy Brendan took 1st   (they are some fast 1st graders!).  Looks like we got some future track stars on our hands….

jaguarjogfam

Although there were a bunch of kiddies in front of us, Jason was 2nd adult finisher (even after pushing Noah in the jogging stroller), sister Jenny was 3rd and I was fourth (I’m blaming the old dog).

maggiemedal

Even Maggie got a medal

ninja

Feeling like a ninja after taking 4th place at the Carter Kern fundraiser 5k

Jason, Jenny (sister) and myself ran the Halloween 5k in St.Peter and it was a blast.  Over 830 crazy people in costumes made for some good people watching.  The best costume I saw was a lady dressed as the Hamburger Helper glove.  Think her costume weighed more than she did and she amazingly ran the entire distance .  Jason did awesome for his first 5k – placed 95th with a time of 24:21.  I came in 291/830 with a time of 28:30 and Jenny did well coming in 20 seconds behind me (I lost her someone after the ghost mile 1 marker).  Can’t wait to do it again next year and I think Kallen will be ready to run this one as well….

halloweenrun

Me and Jason were the Black Eyed Peas

This past weekend Jason and I went camping for the last time (I think) until Spring.  Just did a quick one-nighter to Big Woods State Park near Northfield.  We hiked almost all of the trails and got some good one on one bonding time with the dogs.

bigagnes1

I am pondering how we are both fitting into J's normally one-person Boundary Waters tent

bigagnes2

Snug as a bug, but we did both fit! Reminded me of back in college when we both would squeeze into a twin bed.

tecate

Mexican beer camping style

My mom took the boys for the weekend and she was worried about us hiking during deer hunting opener.  So, I wore an orange shirt to make her feel better….

medogshikingbw

Ok, time for bed…I’m on week 3 of a 6 week boot camp and 5:30am comes way too early.





First Family BWCA trip

31 08 2009

Well after 20+ years of Jason going on guy only Boundary Waters Canoe trips, he finally let me go this past week.  He said I wasn’t ready until now – perhaps he is right since I think I have grown into a stronger person this past year.

He chose our entry point as Hog Creek, about 11 miles off the Sawbill trail.  On our drive to Sawbill Canoe Outfitters to pick up our canoe, we spotted a mama and baby moose right alongside the road.  Right then I knew that this was going to be an awesome trip.  Some other critters we hung out with on the trip included:  loons, eagles, snapping turtles, painted turtles, bats, frogs, and minks. Here’s the beginning of our adventure:
canoeoncar

Our paddle down Hog Creek took about an hour and a half through drizzly rain & temp’s in the mid-50’s.  Not ideal paddling weather, but the boys did just great – no complaining!  The creek was very narrow, with some spots only as wide as the canoe, with an extreme amount of windy turns.  Sure did sharpen my steering skills!  Hog Creek flows into Perent Lake, which is where we set up camp.  Of course the first 5 camp sites we paddle to were taken, so we ended up at one clear across the other side of the lake.  Even though our site was small, we enjoyed it very much.  It had a excellent landing area that served as our playground for the next 3 days.

First time portaging a canoe all by myself!

First time portaging a canoe all by myself!

For some reason the gods were looking down upon us and made it stop raining just long enough for us to set up the tent and tarp.  After that it poured for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  Me & the boys hung out in the tent the first night eating ramen noodles and fry bread that J made for us.  We passed the time by reading books and putting together some puzzles.

View of camp from the lake

View of camp from the lake

The next few days were just incredible.  We were able to run around in swim suits most of the time because we had glorious, sunny, warm weather.  Perent Lake has several islands that we paddled to and explored.  We hiked trails, gathered wood, climbed rocks, hunted for blueberries, and did a bit of swimming.  We found the holy grail of blueberry bushes and picked as many as we needed for the next morning’s blueberry pancake breakfast:

Noah's sweatshirt being used as our "blueberry bucket"

Noah's sweatshirt being used as our "blueberry bucket"

There wasn’t enough room in our 3 person canoe to bring in firewood, so we hiked around some remote parts of the lake to scavenge for dead, dry logs to make our campfires.  The boys really got into helping out with this chore and we nicknamed them the “little beavers”.

Taking a break from unloading wood from the canoe.  Typical boys using sticks as swords - Hi-ya!

Taking a break unloading wood from the canoe. Typical boys using sticks as swords - Hi-ya!

We tried our luck at fishing, and of course mom got skunked.  My dear little Kallen, however, was the fish master!  He caught some rather nice fish (minus the walleye the snapping turtle ate off the stringer) including a 20 inch walleye and a 30 inch northern!  Dad was so proud of him:)

Kallen so giddy after catching his first walleye!

Kallen so giddy after catching his first walleye!

I love this shirt..courtesy of Baby Blend Tees (and organic cotton of course)!

I love this shirt..courtesy of Baby Blend Tees (and organic cotton of course)!

You may be wondering what we packed for food, so here’s what we brought:  pancake mix, eggs pre-cracked in a nalgene, bacon, turkey slices, block cheese, tortillas (no sliced bread cuz it gets smashed), PB, Cliff bars, beef jerky, dry lentil soup, ramen noodles, fry bread from my friends at Cache Lake, mini candy bars, fruit snacks,and crackers.  We did leave one supper open for fish – which thankfully we did have.

Boys enjoying breakfast

Boys enjoying breakfast

You normally don’t portage ice into the BWCA, so you are pretty much stuck with warm drinks.  We used those little crystal light powdered drink packets to mix with (filtered) water in nalgene bottles to make juice for the kids.  What really worked good for adult beverages was bringing along those liter sized boxes of wine.  Once you are done with them all you have is the plastic cap for garbage since your can burn the cardboard box.

Hmmm....this picture must have been taken after polishing off the box of wine.

Hmmm....this picture must have been taken after polishing off the box of wine.

At our campsite we had a little hike to get back to the latrine, to err…relieve ourselves.  Every time I took the boys back to the potty, we would pass this little “landmark” and the boys would scream – “look, there’s the red mushroom again”!

redmushroom

Here’s some family pics of us at our little landing site:

canoefamily2

familyBWCA

This is one of my favorites because it shows how happy my boys are out on the water:

canoeboys

Our paddle out on Sunday was peaceful even though going upstream through Hog Creek was bit tougher.  That’s ok – I just got an extra bicep workout, that’s all!  It was sunny and about 65 degrees, but it definitely felt much hotter.  Me and J didn’t put on sunscreen and our noses and cheeks paid the price.  I felt so good after reaching our entry point and was thankful of time our family spent together.  Things went so smoothly – I think this was our best family trip ever.

Once we returned back to Sawbill to drop off our canoe, there was nothing better in the world than drinking a cold soda.  It was sure hard to choose between a that and a cold beer – but the Diet Coke won this time around:)

Thanks Sawbill - hope to see you next year!

Thanks Sawbill - hope to see you next year!

Who knew you could make a "green" roof on a dog house?  Ingenious!

Who knew you could make a "green" roof on a dog house? Ingenious!

I finally understand how important these canoe trips are to Jason.  We intend to make this an annual family tradition. It brings a certain calmness over you and does make you realize the truly important things in life.





Two Harbors Kayak Festival

11 08 2009

Last summer when we bought our first kayak – I decided that I was going to enter a kayak race someday.  That day was my 34th birthday this past weekend (well actually the day after due to weather postponement, but anyway….).

My little family (Jason, Kallen – 6, Noah – 3 & dogs Maggie – 9 and Odie – 11 weeks) made the trek to Two Harbors, MN for the 12th Annual Two Harbors Kayak Festival.  Two Harbors sits right on the Lake Superior shoreline about 20 miles north of Duluth.  If the north shore didn’t have such damn crazy weather, I’d live there in a heartbeat.

We set up camp Friday night at the Burlington Bay Campground, cooked up some burgers on our new Brunton duo  range/grill, and had a fire for about 10 minutes before the rain set in.  My boys were not yet sleepy so we all zipped into our mummy bags and pretended we were caterpillars crawling around the tent.

The weather on Saturday was not exactly ideal for a kayak race – 58 degrees, 10-15 mph east wind, light to moderate rain.  Are you kidding me?  Last time I checked it was August, right?  So the race was rescheduled for 9:30am on Sunday.  We were in and out of the festival all day – this event is not just about the racing, it’s a jam packed weekend of fun!  In addition to the 18 mile marathon race, the 5 mile Betty’s Pie race, and the tandem sprint race, activities included kayak and SUP (stand up paddle board) demos, individual and family kayak tours, kid’s kayak race, kid’s climbing wall (no they didn’t let me participate), vendor tents, beginner and advanced clinics, pancake breakfast and on-site meals.

Holy kayaks batman!

Holy kayaks batman!

Kallen and Dad taking sea kayak out for a spin

Kallen and Dad taking a sea kayak out for a spin

Here we go!

Here we go!

Hey mom and dad, am I holding the paddle the right way?

Hey mom and dad, am I holding the paddle the right way?

I finally got to demo a SUP board and man was I excited.  It was tons of fun but a bit harder than I expected.  I think I was overly cautious because I didn’t want to fall into the frigid Lake Superior.  If I had been on any other body of water I would have let go a bit more and not minded getting wet.  I did myself proud by not falling off the board (thank you YOGA for teaching me balance).  I am in the midst of negotiations on bringing home a board in the near future….

hold her steady now girl!

hold her steady now girl!

Hee, hee, now comes the funny part…For those of you who know Jason, you know he is a competitor who likes to do things “right” on the first try.  He doesn’t do anything that makes him look “silly” because he needs to project an aura of Mr. Cool…..For those who don’t know him, he’s an engineer (think logical, methodical, no surprises).  So of course when he took a tumble of the SUP board and went for a swim – I couldn’t help but laugh….hysterically.

After the swim, I think he stayed on his knees the rest of the time just to be "safe"

After the swim, I think he stayed on his knees the rest of the time just to be "safe"

Hmm….hopefully after I bring my board home I can get him back on the horse.

The rest of our Saturday was spent geocaching.  The first hunt of the day was on top of the Silver Creek tunnel.  Only Jason and Kallen did some serious bouldering to make it to the top of the cliff – I know I could have done it, but someone had to stay behind with Noah.  The second hunt took us to Gooseberry Falls State Park to find another critter collector card for the boys.  I see geocaching as becoming a big part of our family outdoor time together and I encourage all of you with children to get involved.  I would be happy to share my insight:)

Hiking on the Gitchee Gami trail

I don’t know if it was because I really did turn a year older this day or if Noah ate too many pancakes for breakfast…..but this boy is getting heavy!  He is pushing 40 pounds and I don’t know how many more miles I can log with this bugger on my back.

We found the cache!

We found the cache!

This is what a typical MN state park cache box looks like

This is what a typical MN state park cache box looks like

Mom helping boys look though trinkets and critter cards to take home

Mom helping boys look though trinkets and critter cards to take home

RACE TIME!

I had to be at the registration tent by 8:15am Sunday for a mandatory racers meeting – review water conditions, buoy markers, etc.  The change in weather from the day before was unbelievable…..warm, calm, little wind, an absolute perfect day for my first race.  There was some early morning fog but it did burn off a bit later.

My class (5 mile) getting lined up

My class (5 mile) getting lined up

Off to a foggy start

Off to a foggy start

View of festival from my kayak

View of festival from my kayak

I am guessing that there were about 30 racers in my class and many of them had raced before.  Most of the boats were sea kayaks between 16-19 feet and my Perception was a mere 12 footer.  You typically use a sea kayak (long and narrow) for large bodies of water and mine is used for recreational river paddling (shorter and wider for stability).  I really thought about renting a sea kayak for the race but wanted to see how I could do in my own.  Next year I will rent a sea kayak just to even the playing field a bit and see if my time is any better.

The official results are still not yet posted, but I think I completed the race in 1 hour, 29 minutes.  I gave it my all and stayed with a pack for the entire race.  I thought some of them might peter out at the end and I could pass them, but the wind picked up and waves started slowing me down. In the end, there were a lot of boats that crossed the finish line ahead of me and a few behind me – I am just happy with myself for getting out there and trying something new. Can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead……

All smiles at completion of race

All smiles at completion of race





How Your Life Can Change in an Instant

31 07 2009

I really struggled if I should write this very personal post, but I came to the realization that if I could connect in any way with at least one person, it would all be worth it.

I just became a parent of a 17 year old – overnight.  My youngest brother was in an alcohol related accident that left his passenger with major head trauma.  We don’t know if this young man is going to make it.  My brother is not physically injured, but his life is forever changed.  I won’t go into all the details, but parents are not mentally nor financially able to take care of my brother, so custody has been granted to myself.  I may only have him for a short time since he has been charged with a felony.  We don’t know what the future holds, so we are taking things one day at a time.

I usually have a very zen outlook on life – everything happens for a reason – there are no mistakes in life, just lessons to be learned – certain people are just meant to come into your life…..I’ve studied psychology and human behavior for many years and I’ve always been the person who has all the answers, I’m the one who provides guidance to others……now it’s me searching for answers.

How am I going to help my brother stay strong?

How am I going to pay all these legal and medical bills?

How is this going to affect my family?

What can I do to make things better?

I guess I’ve concluded that there are just some things in life that you have absolutely no control over – that’s just the way it is.  Instead of looking back on events and asking ourselves – why did that happen to me?  How about we focus on the things that we can change in our lives….

Are we treating everyone in a fair and respectable manner?

Are we doing something every day that makes us happy?

Are we accomplishing the goals we have set for ourselves?

How does all this relate to the future of Naturally Bamboo?  Believe me, I have a tremendous amount of responsibility resting on my shoulders and thoughts of running away from it all have crossed my mind.  But for some reason, this path was chosen for me and I cannot veer from the trail.  I truly believe that wonderful days lie ahead.  Many people are counting on me to appear in their lives – from my future employees, to local bamboo farmers, and the communities and organizations I hope to give back to someday.

Do not feel sorry for what has happened…be inspired to go out and do good things, follow your passions, and be happy for cripes sake!!  Because you never know when your life could change in an instant.

ADDENDUM (8/31/09)

The passenger from the accident was released from the hospital with broken jaw, ribs, foot and fractured skull.  He’s got some healing to do, but he’s going to be just fine – whew!

We admitted my brother to an adolescent inpatient treatment facility for 30 days and are crossing fingers that he makes steps in the right direction.  A pre-trial court date still lingers ahead, but we hope with a successful completion of the treatment program, that some of the charges will be dropped.   I am working with a school here near my home to make sure he can complete his senior year and graduate on time.  He wishes to enroll in the military next summer, which I think is very admirable goal…..Thank you for all your support – he really is a good kid, just kinda lost his way for a while.





Vasque Gear Review

19 07 2009

I’m not a professional gear tester but thought I’d try to do few gear reviews every now and then of stuff I really like.  First up is the Vasque Aether Tech SS trail running shoe.  Jason has been wearing Vasque shoes for years, but I just got my first pair about 6 months ago.  The main feature of the shoe is the Boa Lacing System which is kinda like a tension dial system to make your shoes fit just right.  Instead of tie laces, the dial is a plastic knob that you pull up and twist until you get your desired tightness and then you snap the knob down to lock in place.  I think this system is ingenious because you will never have to stop and re-tie your shoes ever again.  Once the boa system is locked into place, these shoes absolutely fit like a glove.

We both felt that these shoes were very comfortable although they could use a tad more padding on the ball of your feet.  Jason likes the same amount of cushion like his Vasque Velocity’s have.  I just think I’m way too used to wearing my Keens all the time and I get used to extreme cushy-ness.  Jason mostly wears his for trail running, but I wear mine for a little of everything – trail running, tennis, aerobics, and indoor volleyball.  I’m not the type of person who buys a pair of shoes for every different sport – I like stuff that’s versatile and these shoes fit the bill.  I wear 4 kinds of shoes – the Vasque Aether Tech SS, Keen Voyageur hiking shoes, Keen Newport H2 sandals, and Reef flip flops.

The Aether Tech SS tolerates dewy grass and puddles pretty well so feet don’t get wet.  They also keep out debris – no wood chips, pebbles, etc. have ever gotten into my shoes.  Jason sometimes uses his Vasque’s for hiking and he told me he carried a 40 pound pack for several hours and his feet never hurt in these shoes.  These shoes are very lightweight and are made for trail running and hiking on fairly even surfaces.  The only drawback we notice is that the Boa Lacing System can sometimes dig into your foot when you are running down a steep hill.

Overall we give these shoes 4.5 out of 5 stars.  So go out and get yourself a pair and support another Minnesota based company!

My women's Vasque Aether Tech

My women's Vasque Aether Tech

Men's Vasque Aether Tech

Men's Vasque Aether Tech

I took this pic at the Acampa Outfitters in San Juan, Puerto Rico when we were there last March.  I don’t know how hold these things are or what kind of boot/shoe they are – so maybe someone from Vasque can give me the history behind them.

Vasque shoes on display at Acampa Outfitters, PR

Vasque shoes on display at Acampa Outfitters, PR





4th of July at Leech Lake

16 07 2009

For the last several years we have spent our fourth of July with family up at Grandpa Lyle’s cabin on Leech Lake – near Walker, Minnesota.  We had the most awesome weather-  mid 70’s, no rain and no humidity.  My sister Jenny, her boyfriend Dustin, and my nieces Alexandra (6) and Jocelyn (2) came up with us this time as well and tented in the backyard.  It was a vacation of kayaking, boating, eating, drinking, swimming and ending with about 8 of us getting LAKE ITCH.  Thank goodness it happened on the last day we were there otherwise we would have looked like creatures with measles and doing the “squirrel’s in my pants” dance.

Cruisin in grandpa's vintage Penn Yan

Cruisin in grandpa's vintage Penn Yan

Jason letting Kallen shoot off roman candles - don't try this at home.  NOT good parenting!

Jason letting Kallen shoot off roman candles - don't try this at home. NOT good parenting!

We brought our kayaks and got in 2 good day trips.  Leech lake is the third biggest lake in Minnesota and get’s pretty wavy, so we usually don’t take the kayaks out too far.  The lake is so big, I ‘ve been going there for about 10 years and have only seen about 1/3 of it.  Jason wanted to try fishing out of the Native Ultimate, so went went across the road from Leech to Horseshoe Lake.  Northern Minnesota lakes are just breathtaking – the water is so clear you can almost always see to the bottom.  I would paddle around and see schools of fish swimming and then tell Jason to come over and fish those spots.  He caught some bass and sunnies:

Noah watching dad catch a lil' sunnie.

Noah watching dad catch a lil' sunnie.

Kallen enjoying kayaking in the sun

Kallen enjoying kayaking in the sun

Me and Noah searching for fish, turtles and frogs

Me and Noah searching for fish, turtles and frogs

Wow daddy you caught a bass!

Wow daddy you caught a bass!

Jason really enjoys the Native Ultimate – he’s got a rod holder set up on it and says it’s super comfortable for fishing.  Plus he can fit a boy in front and back, fishing gear and a cooler.  I like the Sundance kayak better because it’s lighter and I can paddle more quickly in it.  I’m going to use it for racing at the Two Harbors Kayak festival on my birthday (August 8).  My only goal is to not come in last….

Our next kayak trip was on the Boy River which flows into Boy Lake.  To save time on vehicle transfers we decided to put in at a bridge – paddle the river to Boy Lake – then paddle back upstream to the bridge.  I’ve never tried paddling upstream before, but because the wind was going with us on the way back, it was actually easier.  Jason and Dustin caught some rock bass along the way and we saw a variety of ducks, cranes, snakes, and fish.

The Kayak Crew!

The Kayak Crew!

My niece Alexandra (almost 7) trying out her first solo kayak

My niece Alexandra (almost 7) trying out her first solo kayak

I'm hardly in any pics because I'm the one usually taking them, so me and my Keens will have to do!

I'm hardly in any pics because I'm the one usually taking them, so me and my Keens will have to do!

Our our last evening on Leech, me and Jason went fishing.  I don’t fish very often because I swear I have the worst luck, but this night was different.  We fished for about an hour and a half in the bay/point in front of the cabin and caught about dozen nice walleyes.  This is the first time I’ve ever caught a walleye and I must say it was quite fun!  I think I got about 3 “keepers” and Jason had about 4 or 5.

Awwhh...aren't we cute with our matching walleye's?  They were darn tasty!

Awwhh...aren't we cute with our matching walleye's? They were darn tasty!





Family trip report – Whitewater State Park

30 06 2009

We had an absolutely fantastic time on our camping trip this past weekend to Whitewater State Park, near Rochester, Minnesota.  Our friends Matt & Jamie, along with their little ones Isabella and Grant, and Adam & Julie along with their son Kyle joined us for the getaway.

Had a little hiccup to start since the park had our reservations for Thursday and Friday night instead of Fri/Sat – Jason swears that it was the online reservation site’s fault.  Since the campground was full for the weekend we asked Matt & Jamie if we could pitch our tent on their site since their site could fit about 5 tents.  Here’s a pic of our tent along with Matt & Jason:

whitesite

Of the 3 groups camping, we had the smallest tent (Kelty Mantra 5 person).  The other 2 had gigantic circus tents complete with closets, screened porches, and dirty laundry stashes.  Kallen asked me why we don’t have a big tent and I said that we like to be all nice and cozy & be close together.  I don’t see a need for a bigger tent – we just use it for sleeping anyway & I’m the type of person that is happy just making do with what we got.

The first day we scouted out the grounds and let the boys play down by the Whitewater river.  Right now dump trucks, diggers, backhoes, etc, are Noah’s favorite thing to do.  He plays with them in the sand, rocks, water, and dirt for hours.

Grant, Noah (in green) and Kyle playing dump trucks in the water and rocks.

Grant, Noah (in green) and Kyle playing dump trucks in the water and rocks.

That night we got about 1/2 inch of rain and it thundered like nothing I’ve heard before.  The park is situated deep in a valley and the thunder rumbles through it for what seems like an eternity.  I didn’t sleep much but the boys didn’t even flinch.  What’s really cool about being deep in the valley with constant running water is that there are no mosquitos.  The park ranger told us that he has been around here for over 20 years and hasn’t put on bug spray once.  And you know what – we didn’t see or feel a darn one the entire weekend.

The second day started with some yummy lucky charms:

campbreakfast

After breakfast we hiked the Trout Run trail and Jason tried his luck fly fishing along the way. I loved everything about the trails except there were tons of itchweed everywhere.  I stayed out of it, but not Noah. It seemed he was always running into the stuff.

Jason, Kallen and Maggie ahead of me on the trail.

Jason, Kallen and Maggie ahead of me on the trail.

We climed up some pretty steep steps to get up to “Inspiration Point” (how cheesy is that?) and veered off the path for some impromptu rock climbing.  Maggie (dog) couldn’t follow us up and was frantically panting and whining until we came back down.  Here we are at the top overlooking the bluff valley:

boysinspt

inspirpt

After the hike, we went back to camp for lunch and to pack swim stuff for the beach.  The park has a swim beach across the road from the campground which is some backwater from the river.  Park staff hauls in sand from sandstone to make the beach just like the ones in California (okay make not just like Cali).  The water is super cold because it is fed by the constantly running Whitewater river.  In order to swim in warmer water, the kids made their own “Hillbilly Hot Tub”.  Since the temps were in the high 80’s it didn’t take long for the water to warm up.

Isabella, Kallen and Noah soaking in the hot tub

Isabella, Kallen and Noah soaking in the hot tub

The next morning Jason got up before the rest of us and had quite a bit of luck fishing.  Of course when I was going to try fishing the same spot later on, there were already 2 guys who beat me there.

Jason's brown trout

Jason's brown trout

While Jason was fishing I took Bella and the boys up to the visitor/nature center.  It’s a really cool spot with visual exhibits, educational movies, and all kinds of real (some living, some not) animals and birds.  After that I packed up some lunch and we hit the trail again, this time heading up Chimney point:

chimneyboys

After this hike, we went to the visitor center to rent a GPS unit to try our luck at Geocaching.  This is something we’ve wanted to try and since this state park is one of 25 demo parks (has classes and free GPS unit rentals), we thought now would be a great time to get started.  In addition to finding the “cache”, all 72 of the Minnesota State parks have Wildlife Safari cards that kids can collect at each cache location:  http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/geocaching/safari/index.html

I haven’t visited any other state parks outside of Minnesota, but I think that we have some darn awesome parks because they have lots of educational and fun programs for families.  We enjoyed going on our first geocache hunt so much, we intend to continue doing it on a regular basis.  We plan to get a journal for Kallen to keep information such as:  date, location, what we found, and what we left behind.  The Whitewater park one has 2 paper clues for you to find before you reach your cache destination.  Ironically we had to climb back up chimney point for our cache:

We found it!

We found it!

This cache was a metal box chained around a rock.  We opened it up and there were all sorts of trinkets and a log book.  You write your name and date in the log book and you can take a trinket if you wish – as long as you leave something else in it’s place.  We left a can cooler because who doesn’t need one of those?  I believe it said “Let’s play Hammerschlagen”.

Kallen took a glitter key chain from the cache along with his MN state park critter card.  The one for Whitewater is a timber rattlesnake.

Kallen took a glitter key chain from the cache along with his MN state park critter card. The one for Whitewater is a timber rattlesnake.

After we were done geocaching, I finally got my chance to try fly fishing.  There is this one spot that you could see a school of about 20 brown trout but they just didn’t want my bait.  The water is so amazingly clear here.  The trout sit in a pool about 6 feet deep and since I can see them, that means they can see me and that’s no good.  I didn’t catch anything, but I was just happy getting to try out the sport.  For me it was a success because I didn’t break Jason’s rod, the line or even lose a fly.

My first time fly fishing.  View from the shore of Trout Run Creek.

My first time fly fishing. View from the shore of Trout Run Creek.

I highly recommend this park for family camping because it has so much to do:  both flat and challenging hiking trails, sandy swim beach, trout fishing, visitor center with weekend educational programs AND NO MOSQUITOS!  We already booked our reservations for next year………