This is a short overview of our adventures in 2016. This isn’t an exhaustive list, more of a highlight reel. Enjoy, and maybe come on an adventure with us in 2017!
Winter 2016: It’s not fun being cooped up inside all winter. We like going out and having adventures! We didn’t do many large trips in the winter of 2016, but we did ring in the new year the best we know how…on the side of a mountain!
North Carolina – Black Mountain Crest Trail
Supposedly the toughest hike in the region, we decided to trek the summits of 5+ peaks in the Black Mountains on January 1st. Full trip blog here , but the summary is that we did this 13-mile trail over the course of two days, camping just one night in a windy saddle between two peaks. Temps recorded at 15 degrees, 0 degrees with the windchill. AND THOMAS SLEPT IN A HAMMOCK!
The point of this trip was to bag some peaks with some friends, and we surely did that. I don’t think any of us have ever camped in such cold weather, so we learned a lot from that. It was great to hike with my now wife Andrea, who had never been backpacking before! It was also great to see an old friend, Marissa and her husband, Kent. Always go backpacking with friends. Always. Pictures here.
Wisconsin – Governor Dodge
Although not a long trip by any means, it was great to sit on the snow and ice around a roaring fire swapping stories, drinking alcohols, and eating snacks. A car camping weekend, this sunny winter weekend gave us the chance to test the ice on the lakes at a state park we never really visited. Governor Dodge has some great sandstone formations and nice trails (plus good climbing, but that’s not a winter activity), and we never pass up the chance to slide around on some frozen lakes.
For just a simple weekend, we sure had a lot of firsts. We had started this trip by going to REI Garage Sale, our first, and I (Tim) slept on the ground in a bivouac sack. Cool. We had also never seen most of this area before, although I vaguely remember visiting when we were wee lads. This trip was also when we met Haley, a friend of Thomas’, who we will see later throughout the year on other adventures! I’m not sure how we got such a warm, sunny day in the middle of February, but we enjoyed the heck out of it. Pictures here.
Spring 2016: It’s warming up. No mosquitos yet. Let’s go play outside.
Kentucky – Red River Gorge
This was my (Tim) first trip multi-day lead-climbing trip, and it couldn’t have been better. Read about it here , but basic summary is that I improved GREATLY my lead-climbing skills, climbed some awesome 5.10+ routes, and learned to descend and clean a lead route. More importantly, I had Miguel’s pizza.
Andy was unable to make this trip, unfortunately, but he already knew how to lead-climb so it wasn’t as important for him. As for me, it was undoubtedly the most educational climbing experience I’ve ever had. I felt very safe with the people I went with, and I trusted them to teach me the right things and to not let me fall. Always go on adventures with friends, or use adventures as a way to make friends! Pictures here.
Western Omelette – Several National Parks/Forests
This was the culmination of hours of planning, replanning, unplanning, and throwing our plans away. We planned so much more than we did, but we did so much more than we planned. I won’t even summarize it. Links to the five-part series here:
Summer 2016: We don’t always love going out in the summer…mosquitos, sunburn, and sweat is our enemy…but it’s hard to resist the long days, cool nights, and lush, green world out there.
Wisconsin – Kayak Apostle Islands
This was a trip YEARS in the making. Chris Brucher, Mike Brucher, and I (Tim) made it happen with no small amount of planning and discussion. Chris has been talking about the Apostle Islands for many years, and I believe we even had tentative plans (including itinerary and financials) a few years ago, but couldn’t pull the trigger for whatever reason. As you can see from the pictures, this trip was a freaking blast and even though we had to abandon our original plan due to super dangerous waves, we modified on the fly and got some sea-caves and cliffs in and I even slid down a waterfall.
The trip was a huge success considering it was my first time doing anything in a sea kayak, and it also held another few firsts: using a compass and waterways map, sleeping under the stars on the beach, sea caves, and wearing a lifejacket. Pictures here.
Wisconsin – Canoe Manitowish River
This trip was SUPER fun. I can’t remember ever being more relaxed. Floating down a river with great friends, great beer and wine, and great tunes… The Manitowish is a slow moving, snaky river that weaves itself through reeds and forested areas towards a larger lake and waterway system. Besides the absolutely insane amount of mosquitos (seriously, there were a dangerous amount of mosquitos there) and Andy Richard chopping his ankle with a hatchet, we had the best time.
Although Tiffany and Andy had to be paddled back early the next morning, the rest of us had a blast the next day and a half just going with the current, soaking in the sun, and drinking. This was my first ever canoe trip (on a river) and was the first time I ever used a bug net for my face (life safer). I learned a lot about paddling, and we did a lot of fun little stuff that is new to me: jumping off a bridge into the river, sleeping in hammocks practically hanging over the water, and brewing tea while in a moving canoe. Also, I’ve never been drunk in a canoe. It’s fun. Pictures (of bloody ankles) here.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan – Porcupine Mountains
We arrived at 1am. Maybe 2am, I forget. We had only a few miles that night, but it was a dark and tiring few miles STRAIGHT downhill then STRAIGHT uphill. We had some help, though, from the full moon, our headlamps, and our Guinness tall-boys. This trip was a quick trip, I don’t even remember what made us think to cram that much backpacking into one weekend. We cruised on that first night on adrenaline, knowing that a 3am set up meant limited sleep. We planned a huge delicious breakfast, and crushed some fried potatoes, eggs, cheese, and veggies, ending breakfast with some delicious bourbon.
Even though we crushed about 20 miles that short weekend, we packed super heavy, including a bag of potatoes, eggs, a glass bottle of bourbon, a full bottle of hot sauce, camp chairs, and enough ingredients for a camp dessert. Despite the icy feel of Lake Superior, we took a much-deserved dip and bathed in the waves, and spent some time bouncing up and down in the waves before coming back to land for a roaring fire, more bourbon, and some delicious camp meals. Pictures here.
Autumn 2016: Maybe our favorite season. The bugs are dead, the days are cooling down, and the crowds are dissipating.
Minnesota – Boundary Waters Canoe Area
This was a one of a kind trip. Thomas, Haley, and I (Tim) started at Haley’s family’s island cabin, stealing a kevlar canoe, and paddling it a few miles to the portage where we could slip quietly into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). As soon as we portaged into the BWCA, it got dark. Even though the moon was out, the fog, clouds, and snow made sure we could barely see. Despite the conditions, we made it to a backcountry campsite and settled in, miles from any other humans (and any bears, as far as we could tell).
This trip had it all: booze, death-defying feats of paddling, portaging, tunes, beer, FOOD, swimming in freezing water, and friends. Although I had paddled a canoe down a river earlier in 2016, I had never done this open lake stuff. It was kinda crazy. Fortunately, Haley is a pro and kept Thomas and me from freaking out too much. I should have written a blog post about this trip. Too late now! Pictures here.
Upper Penninsula Michigan – Pictured Rocks
It get’s quite cold in the UP in fall. It’s also a bit chilly when it’s rainy and windy. Also, not much warming sunlight at 3am. For the second backpacking trip in a row, we decided to maximize our backpacking time by leaving in the evening after work, which pushed our arrival time to around 2:30am. You know what though, the drive is always a lot of fun, and the novelty of arriving that early in the morning is worth it. This trip was incredibly straight forward: hike, camp, hike, camp. We didn’t swim, we didn’t rock climb, we didn’t drink…
This trip was also my (Tim’s) first time spending three nights in a row out in the wilderness. Crazy to think that every other time I’ve been backpacking or exploring, there’s always been a pit-stop at least once every two nights (at least to a car or diner or something). We also ate like kings on this trip -everything from flatbread pizza to quesadillas to crappy whiskey (whiskey counts as a food, right?). Pictures here.
That’s all, folks.
Well, that pretty much wraps it up. Andy and I took a few other smaller trips with friends here and there, but nothing major. We had a lot of fun with all of our friends: exploring new areas, exploring familiar places, and just generally enjoying the relaxing yet thrilling life of adventure. We had a ton of “firsts” in 2016 and we have a big list for 2017. Stay tuned.