Friday, February 27, 2015

Good times in Bad Lands

So I haven't posted since September - just after our Badlands trip.  Let's just say sending your baby to kindergarten is one of those life events that changes everything! The good news is we haven't had a vacation since, so I'm not behind on blogging in the vacation department...

This trip was the last big hurrah before school started.  We went Labor day weekend seeking adventure.  We had a fabulous time!  We spent 3 nights sleeping in the back country and the days hiking in and out.  We couldn't cover too much distance because there's no water, so we had to carry enough for the time we were out - and when you're 2 people carrying water and gear for 3 campers, there are limits!

 Here's our young outdoor's man all loaded with his "share" of the gear.  He carried his sleeping bag and clothes.  There was also a water bladder in there - his "gas" for the hiking.
 The weather was nearly perfect.  At dusk everyday there was a strange phenomenon where it became very windy for an hour or so.  We were trying to settle down for the night in our tent and had to listen to it flapping and flapping in the wind.
The first day we hiked to the backcountry to find a place to camp, Noah spotted a porcupine!  He waddled off before I could catch him in a picture.  We also spotted some larger animals bounding on the prairie in the distance.
 We filled up our cells with lots of strong prairie sunshine.  It was much needed!  It helped us all to fun.
 The landscapes were terrific!
 I love the picnic shelters that the park service puts out there!  Yes, even though we enjoyed soaking up all that sunshine, we couldn't take THAT much of it since we're from a cloudy place and unfortunately spend a lot of time indoors.
The second and third nights, we left from this same parking lot and picnic area.  There's something of a trail out here that we thought we could follow to get into a "forest" area.  The trail wasn't very clear (we should have done a little more homework, so it would have been easy to follow), but we did make it to the forest we wanted to see.
 We followed "the wash" for a long ways - until it dead-ended.
 The second evening we set up camp on this small table - we were protected in case of rain since we had followed the wash as high as it went before getting too narrow to make camp.
 Here's the narrow area where we certainly couldn't make camp any more.  It was great for exploring and climbing!
 Day 3, hiking to the forest.
 Noah was often caught running ahead.  We would use landmarks like this to catch up with him!  Other times, he would fall behind and we had to offer snacks at landmarks like these to prod him along.
Can you see the forest now?  Figuring out the path to get there was a challenge!  Some clouds moved in on this 3rd afternoon so we were happy that we might camp in the protection of a forest - though we didn't know what a badlands forest might really be like!
 We made it!  We're now up in the forest along a high ridge.
 This campsite was named "Ram Skull Mountain" after we found this artifact hanging around.  There was evidence of a campfire nearby, we weren't the only ones to think it was a great camping spot!
 Here's what a Badlands forest looks like - in case you aren't up for the same kind of adventure we enjoyed.
 I told you some clouds were moving in.  After a short time of exploring, it started to rain, so we made tracks for our tent.  Turns out our <6 year old backpacking tent was no longer waterproof.  We spent an hour in the tent taking turns reading and diverting water.
 There was a fantastic rainbow when we got out after the rain.
One last trek around the odd mud hill formations and across the prairie to head home.

A few more logistical notes.
Normally we wouldn't eat freeze-dried backpacking food on a trip like this, but we did this time.  It was easy, though expensive, to just hit up our local backpacking store and buy the meals-in-a-bag.  As I mentioned earlier, we had to carry all of our water on our backs for this outing, so didn't want to plan for dish-washing water in addition to water to consume.  The option to add boiling water to the meal worked.  I don't remember all those that we tried - spaghetti and beef stew were definitely on the list.  I do remember that all were palatable for hungry hikers, and Brian had to pick peas out of one meal.
We hiked out with heavy backpacks full of food and water each afternoon, then the next morning, hiked back to the van with light, nearly empty packs.  I believe the MINIMUM recommendation is 1 gallon per person per day - that's a lot of water weight to be carrying around!  We regrouped and enjoyed lunch each day at the van. This is how we first introduced Noah to backpacking (before he was willing to carry a pack), and feels like a great way to us to get out into the wilderness with children OR out to a place where water is scarce.
You have to pack a small shovel on trips like this - it is your bathroom.  Established hiking trails will often have latrines, but this was backcountry camping.  The shovel doubled as a toy/distraction for our young explorer! Here's the shovel, go dig a hole.
Our tent went back to Marmot over the course of winter and they are replacing it under full warranty - this year, we will stay dry when adventuring!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gear review

We had a super hiking trip recently in the badlands. As we were preparing to go, we had to think a bit about our gear situation. We have generally kept a reasonably well supplied gear closet, but we haven't done this much since Noah. And, now we have to carry equipment for him as well as our own gear. Space and weight are a much bigger concern! Brian did a little shopping spree and was pretty excited about his bedding before and after:
I got a summer weight camping sleeping bag 10 years ago, but he kept his mid-weight one around and sweated it out when we've gone in summer. It was finally time for him to have an appropriate bag for the forecasted overnight temps. It worked very well, he was pleased with the result!

The following are the 5 sleeping mats that we were considering bringing (4 went). We learned about these super minimalist sleeping mats that pack to the size of a pop can, sweet. Well, sweet if you ar 5'10"-6' tall, male proportions, and sleep on your back. After trying the minimalist route for one night, I lugged the second largest mat shown into the wilderness with me (gotta love traveling by van, aka gear shed on wheels!)
Noah is a super hiker and we will definitely do more of this, so it's time to continue refining our gear so we can manage the load and sleep well too!

I should go download the pictures from the trip, so I can show you "Ram skull mountain" and other highlights!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Busy with school prep

We were perusing the fabric store for something specific awhile back and found a variety of fun colorful nylon fabrics that got my wheels turning...  Noah will be heading into the big world of kindergarten this fall and I prefer that he carry something distinctive and NOT themed with licensed images.  Even with the fabric being a clearance find, the cost of zippers and fabric and strap make this likely to cost more than the products I might have found at the store. Then you add how many hours building it up, and it's hardly worth it, except that he likes it :)

Here's the finished product!

Built from:
I drew up my own pattern based upon backpacks we have.
And got this stash of products:

I included organizer elements in the front "pencil pocket".

The bottle pockets fit perfectly!

There are a couple things that didn't go as planned, but I think it will work just fine anyway...

Did you notice the light padding to make it comfortable on his back?

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and I think I will be able to find him in the crowd with his yellow with blue and orange trim backpack.

Now, we just have to get to the store to fill it with the long list the of supplies that the school requires...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Another tile job and the kitchen is finished!

So we had this one last ugly peach wall taunting us...
Not anymore!
Brian found a sweet tile that we could use for the back splash - at Menard's, where else.  It's shiny, white glass that has just a little bit of a blue tint to it.
 As usual with tile, I'm the cutter and Brian's the mudder.  I set up out on the deck - since it's summer now and I won't freeze my fingers off, and the rest of the place is in sweet condition - don't want to wreck it with tile dust.  For this job, I should have asked Dad for his glass tools, because my tile saw was ridiculous overkill and not the best tool for the job.  It turned out great, though.
 It was an appliance jungle in the kitchen since we needed to move things in order to tile around/behind them.
 Whoot!
 It's still a little messy, but we're peach-free!
 Things lined up just right around the mid-counter outlet.
 Under the microwave, we got really lucky with the height of the tile and height of the microwave :)
 Oh, I almost forgot!?!  The counters came in, that's why we were ready to tile!  We got a quartz product, ECO Polarcap - it's a mostly white, with little flecks of gray and sparkle.
 Nearly done, he's taping up for a line of caulk.
 Now, they can get the sink plumbed up and our kitchen will be back in business!!
There we have it, the kitchen is in.  This marks the end of the Superior condo journey.  It was pretty anti-climactic ending with a few, little plumbing tasks.  Nothing like unwrapping from a paint job.
What do you think of our sweet little back splash?  I'll put some furniture/finished product pictures up soon.  Next stage, sit on the market...  Anyone interested?!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Easiest floor I've worked with

We had a lovely weekend with some hikes and friends visiting, and managed to throw down our wood floor.  I've never worked with an easier flooring install (unless you count calling in a contractor for carpet!).  For once, I got to do the "fun" part and Brian was the cutter.
It started a little slow because we had to get our bearings.  

Here's the product we were using.  It's from Menard's, the wood is Acacia.  It's an engineered wood product, so the cost was reasonable, but the look was there.  It's all about getting the look for this place.
The pieces that didn't get cut literally took 5 seconds to put in.  I spent a lot of time during the install waiting for Brian to cut and playing with Noah.  He even put a few pieces in - it was that easy!
There were a number of challenging cuts to fit around the hearth and into the angles of the dining area and kitchen.
Prove out the new floor with a few dance moves while dad's cutting!
Mmm, looking good!
We need to go back at the end to deal with the transition space at the hearth, but the main floor just goes down so fast!
Here's another of those challenging cuts that I got out of, just had to ask my cutter for them and test when the pieces came back.  He sometimes caught up to me when I had to roll out more underlayment and I was playing between cuts instead of working ahead. :)
Here are the final pieces except under the fridge.  We got it tucked in tight at the little wall that separates the hall from the kitchen.  Ended with the right width piece too... Gotta love when a whole piece slides in at the end.
Another kitchen sneak peek.  Our appliances came in, so we had to move them out of the way for floor.  Good thing the floor went fast, we didn't have to have them out of place for very long!
Whew, it's looking sharp!
After the floors, of course, there were counter toe-kicks to install.  Really finished the place off nicely!
Carpet transition anyone?
So, there's our rich mocha floor to ground all the light and white fixtures.  It was super easy to install, down-right fun to work with, and was able to be done in pieces between hiking outings.  I think we worked on the floor in 3 - 2 hour sessions plus Brian spent another couple hours on the transitions.  If you had a regular rectangular room, it would go together so easily.  We had minimal waste until we got into cutting angles, but overall had little enough waste that we got to return one box; we were really close to returning 2, but needed 2 more boards at the very end.
I'm really happy with the product.  It makes the space look so much more finished!  Probably because it is nearly finished, whatever.  Furniture and some kitchen details left to go!