Part one of our 2021 winter adventure starts with Not Hot. I may be biased, but I highly recommend it.
An entirely different experience from traveling on the ice, was our regular stick baths. If Japanese forest bathing is like soothing caresses in a muscle relaxing bubble bath, our stick baths are like being aggressively scrubbed in a powerful car wash.
Became our rallying cry to ward off wild frustrations in bushwhacking. Because we didn’t sleep outside this year, we didn’t need to pull two heavily loaded pulks (aka sleds). Because we didn’t need to travel with so much stuff and we could travel until dusk. We could explore and create a special route just for us. It meant forging our own path through forest and swamp that would not normally be navigable in the summer.
It meant an extremely tactile experience with all the trees snagging on every possible part of our bodies. It could be infuriating to be constantly untangling yourself from the Velcro like forest. Back at the cabin (which had no running water) we’d strip off our layers and sticks, twigs, and pine needles would shower the floor.
It was still a fantastic winter adventure like no other we’ve had.
“It’s like the surface of Neptune!”
Will would say many many times on this trip. The polar vortex 2021 meant that our day time high temperatures were usually around -10ºF. Lows around -30 or even -40ºF, without windchill. We were awed watching the steam billowing off of Lake Superior with the ice sculptured rocks and Will said bug eyed “It’s the surface of Neptune!” And again whenever we’d open the cabin door. And again when laughing at me all bundled up.
“Again! Again! Let’s do that again!” I can see my inner child hopping, clapping, squealing with glee.
That inner child keeps popping into my thoughts while reflecting on our honeymoon eight years ago. It wasn’t a “normal” honeymoon. It was 25 percent beautiful, peaceful, and secluded. It was 75 percent grueling, cold, sweaty, smelly, scary, exhausting, and absolutely unsexy. But we’re not “normal” and I’m guessing you aren’t either. So you’ll probably agree that it was the perfect recipe for 110 percent awesome AF adventure.
On a summer night in 2011 we were drinking on our front step in Minneapolis, dreaming up new adventures when Will proposed a honeymoon. After three years of adventuring together the wedding seemed incidental. A honeymoon was the perfect excuse for the longest trip we’d ever done.
On October 13, 2012 we were hobbling painfully along Minnesota State Highway 61 in blackness. We had chosen not to finish the last half mile of Grand Portage trail with our 220-pound load. A glowing billboard promised Grand Portage Lodge and Casino was just two miles away. We hid Will’s grandfather’s aluminum Grumman Canoe and most of our gear. I have never been so content to painfully shuffle to a garish and mediocre hotel, but it had hot showers, beer, fries, and toilet paper!
We had just paddled and portaged 246.5 miles over 19 days through Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness, following the Canadian border to finish with the legendary Grand Portage trail terminating at the great Gichigami (aka Lake Superior).
Voyageurs National Park rests on the occupied land of the Cree, Monsoni, and Ojibwe. The park is 340 square miles; more than a third of that is four lakes with 1,245 miles of jigsaw shoreline. We began on the western side of the park, on Lake Kabetogama in Black Bay Narrows with five days of easy paddling in perfect autumn weather in front of us. This should have been glorious newlywed bliss. Instead Will’s face was filled with snot and his body fatigued from a common cold. We considered abandoning our plan but Will wanted to push through.
By day six we had made it to the BWCA and Will felt better. We were delighted to leave the motorboats and people behind to paddle the quiet land of loons. It is quintessential evergreen and granite northern forest nestled in and threaded through with luminous waters. It feels anciently epic in a subtle benign way. On day nine that all changed. A winter storm kept us pinned down for two days. Our tent began to leak. The travel became endlessly challenging, with scary wind, and innumerable infuriating portages.
I thought I had finished writing this story in 2014, two years after the wedding and one year after I had started writing it in 14 installments on this blog. But I had never done it justice by recapping the whole escapade. Garage Grown Gear gave me the little push to reflect and share why we’d do such an unusually unromantic honeymoon. I hope you enjoy it!
As Will and I are getting ready for our ninth winter camping adventure in mid February, I should share a story from once upon a time…
In February 2020, right before the end of the world as we knew it. Back when you could sit elbow to elbow at a bar, try a friends beer, and share close quarters with someone outside your own household… Will and I took a dear friend Glen on his first winter camping experience.
It was fantastic. It was almost easy. I don’t know if winter camping can ever really be Type 1 Fun considering how much work it is and how much opportunity there is for things to go wrong. Yet Will and I have built up enough experience and have our systems so dialed that things went a little too well. I was afraid that after all our warning Glen of how challenging winter camping would be that the experience went too smoothly to impart any valuable lessons.
Hahaha! How foolish of me! Of course there were lessons learned!
How do I get better? How do I set reasonable achievable goals?
The easier and faster method would be to work one-on-one with a coach who can evaluate your history, current ability, discuss your desires along with your life situation, and then create a personalized plan for you. But if you’re patient and willing to put in some work, you can both get better and set goals all by yourself.
✅ I’m able to be patient and work up to it as gradually as my body needs. ✅ I’m ready to commit effort and time to research, learning, planning, and training. ✅ I’m willing to invest money in equipment and professional services.
This is the best scenario for pursuing goals that will be fun, safe, and successful.
Now, understandably most people can’t check all those boxes. But what doesn’t work is:
“I want to achieve a big goal ASAP ⏱️, but I’m really busy so I need a personal custom plan I can follow easily 🧞♂️, and I don’t want to spend any money on professional services or equipment 💰️🤌. “
Fast + Easy + Cheap = 😭. The goal doesn’t get achieved, or your body breaks, or your relationships break, either in the short or long term. Taking all the shortcuts at once is a recipe for disaster.
I’m learning stuff all the time. I got to get better at sharing it all with you all!
A couple weeks ago I attended (virtually) the Endurance Coaching Summit hosted by Training Peaks. It was three days lots of internationally renowned speakers including Gwen Jorgensen (Olympic goal medalist) and her Triathlon Coach, Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall, authors of the Brave Athlete, Alen Lim co-founder of Scratch Labs, and many many more.
Instagram post from the last day of lectures.
I’ve got pages and pages of notes. Condensed here are just six tips for you 😀 If any of them tickle your fancy, please reach out and let me know! I’d love to chat with you more about any one of them! Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
World class champions also feel like imposters, want to quit mid-run, are terrified of the goal, doubt everything, get the should-woulda-couldas and feel harassed by their own thoughts. They are not failures. You are normal and also not a failure. There are so many techniques to help you. What to do about it?
Be willing to try things. Some of these techniques can seem silly, simple, or take time. You have to be willing to give a new mental technique a chance.
Get help and talk to them. You can read the books and websites and articles on your own. It’s also great to get and utilize help. Have a therapist, coach, or mentor. Then actually tell them how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.
Mental fatigue alters perception of physical effort. Reduce emotional and mental workload for better performance with “cognitive drafting.” Continue reading →
It would have been a good day for anything else. I could have spent the day ticking off the endless overwhelming tasks of the self-employed. Or considering we’re eight months into the pandemic; it would have been a good day to whimper in a ball on my bed under the weight of existence watching anything on Netflix to numb the fear of uncertainty.
Instead, on a chilly gray Saturday November 14th in the year two-thousand twenty, in a year where everything is fucking weird and hard… I chose my own little (big) adventure. Turned out to be one of the fucking weirdest hardest easiest things I’ve ever done.
I woke up at 4am. For someone whose pandemic schedule means waking up around 8am, four in the “morning” is not a thing. Pretty sure this was my entry into another dimension of weirdness.
On the other hand, it’s way more casual and chill with way less pressure than doing an Ironman Tri, making it feel like a small thing. But considering the dumpster fire that is 2020, this is my thing. Which makes it feel big.
Clearly I’m torn about how big a deal this thing I’m doing tomorrow is.
I’ll tell you about it, and maybe we can decide how big a thing it is.