Monday, January 26, 2009

January Winter Camping at Jones Spring

I’ve fallen behind on a few things lately, so this entry is coming in over a week late! I went winter camping last weekend… I mean the one before this past weekend. The cold one. The one that was forecasted to be 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill. Not this past weekend that was 35 degrees above zero with the sun shining… you get the idea!

Okay, so there’s my mini-rant about how whenever I go winter camping, it seems to land on either the coldest weekend of the year, or the second coldest weekend of the year. Thankfully, this was probably the second. But it was still cold! And I know it sounds like pure complaining, but I do enjoy the challenge, so in the end I suppose I'm thankful for the chilliness to keep the adventure extreme...

Rants aside, there is definitely a plus-side of things. It was cold, but it wasn’t as windy as we thought it would be. That may be because we picked just the right campsite, or because the wind just wasn’t so bad. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me! I’m just glad it turned out as well as it did. And there’s one other plus-side to this whole thing – I had a really awesome time!

It was just three of us brave souls. Me, Kweejee (Tim), and Ken. Friday after work I picked up Kweejee, and from there he and I drove to Neenah and picked up Ken. We head straight up to the Nicolet National Forest, swung in at a gas station for a snack or five, then head down Fanny Lake Road to one of our favorite spots to camp thus far in our backpacking/camping experiences. By the way, the snacks I picked up (because this is extremely important information I need to share), was a sugary-sweet cappuccino, a peanut-butter-cup cookie, and a small bag of chili-cheese Fritos (for the emergency fire-starter kit, of course… ahem).

When we arrived, it was already dark, but we had planned on that. My bad fortune came right off the bat with a dead headlamp. Always carry an extra set of batteries, folks! I had just replaced them, but something was haywire… I should’ve had an extra set in my emergency kit… thankfully I did have a small Maglite… that I accidentally ended up shoving into the roof of my mouth later in the night as I held it in my teeth while trying to do something with my hands. I bumped it and shoved it back across my teeth and jammed it good. That hurts, by the way… extra batteries are goooood.

So anyway… we started our hike in (the site we were thinking about is less than a mile from the parking lot). We got to the first site, and as soon as we stepped off the nicely-groomed cross-country ski trails, we stepped down into knee-deep snow, trudged through the trees and decided to turn around and keep walking. The wind was blowing off of Fanny Lake really strong. The next couple of sites were just as bad or worse, being more open to the lake. We finally rested in a site right off the trail with decent tree-coverage and a little spot for 3 tents tucked as close to the woods as we could get.

We never did find the fire ring in the deep snow. We dug a big hole and got it going first try – because we ROCK!! Apparently there had been a mouse living in one of my wood boxes… and since his little “tinder” home had been vacated, we put it to use, and it lit up nicely! No Fritos needed… so I ate ‘em later.

The snow was deep, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times, so we all tried to sort of “stomp” a place to set up our tents. The snow was soft at this point so it all kind of fell back into the hole you’d dig out of. I gave up and just started setting up. By the way… quick review on the MSR Hubba Hubba tent – if you’ve set it up before, it’s possible to set it up in the pitch dark, freezing cold, without much of a problem! Ken did borrow me his headlamp when I got to the hooking the fly on. It’s a pretty tight fit, and the Maglite kept falling out of my mouth and into the snow. I eventually just gave up on that and set it up blindly. But it worked! Yay!

Once the tents were set up we warmed up by the fire, and laughed about Ken and Kweejee’s growing beard icicles. Sounds like they may have stuck to their jackets a little bit, so quick movements of the head apparently pulled a little. I’m glad I don’t have a beard, by the way!

Kweejee had Dinty Moore (open can on the fire) for dinner, and I was a little jealous. My and Ken’s Jetboils were performing poorly due to the cold, even after warming our gas cans in our jackets. We were both able to eat, and that’s what’s important. Oh, another winter-camping lesson learned – no matter how cold it is, wash the dishes. The next morning I had trouble getting the stove out of frozen tomato-parmesan noodle water that was stuck to the side of my Jetboil container. Yuk!

We stood around the fire and chit-chatted as I blew snot-rockets (sorry, I guess I am no “lady” when I’m camping), we all giggled from cold-delirium about this and that, and we had a theory to stay up as late as we could thinking that was less time away from the fire -- we finally hit the hay… er snow… around midnight-ish, I think… Kweejee brought a thermometer he found around the house. By the time we went to bed, the temps were already dipping down to a bone-chilling “Ideal for Freezer.” Apparently it was a freezer thermometer, but it’s readings were plenty for us to get the idea. I believe it got down to 6 or 7 below zero when we went to bed, and who knows with the wind chill.

Ken mentioned his -20 degree rated sleeping bag, and I shivered at the thought of mine compared to that. I’ve always bragged about my 5-degree bag, but it’s been so long since I’ve washed it, it’s probably rated a 50-degree bag right now. Yeah, it needs to be done before its next use. I heard Kweejee settling in his tent for about as long as I was settling in mine. Ken was sawing logs about 5 minutes after he crawled in. I gotta get me one of them bags!

I had my sleeping bag tucked inside of a cheapo Wal-Mart bag that we got for Adam to use in the summer, I had my down jacket down by my feet, along with my socks for Saturday, a 5-liter bladder of water, and my boots tied in a garbage bag (I don’t know how that all fit down there, but it did). I also had a body warmer down by my feet, 2 sleeping pads underneath me, and I was wearing every piece of clothing I brought except for the fleece pants I had intended to sleep in but realized quickly there was no freakin’ way I was gettin’ down to bare skin just to change my pants in that cold air. Once my warmers were shook up and heating up, I rolled onto my side and started to drift off to sleep. I woke a couple times in the night and condensation from my breathing dripped onto my face. Kinda’ nasty, but all part of the camping experience! I’m still sorry Ken and Kweejee had to experience all the snot-rockets. I was polite enough to turn away and miss their boots, though!

Oh, and to continue my grossness while I’m on a roll, when you’re eating something yummy and warm in the freezing cold (in this case is was my tomato-parmesan noodles), your nose tends to drip continuously and it’s impossible to stop. Some people salt their food… need I say more?

We woke up to sunlight. Ken was up first, and the apple wood he brought burned all night and left embers, so he was able to get the fire going right away again. Kweejee and I finally got up the courage and rolled out of our tents. We made a little breakfast (pop-tarts), enjoyed the beautiful winter wonderland around us, the quietness of cold air, and finally started to break camp. We’d take off the fly, then warm our hands on the fire. We’d pack up our sleeping bag, then warm our hands on the fire. We’d pack a couple more things, and warm our hands on the fire. We continued this routine until everything was in its appropriate stuff sack and shoved into the proper corner of our backpacks. We then trucked back to the parking lot, which had an enclosed pit toilet – complete with real toilet paper. What a morning blessing.

What an awesome, challenging, winter-camping fun time! This was the first time I actually set my tent up in snow that deep and slept by myself in the cold! It wasn’t bad at all. I wasn’t afraid of hearing any animals – the bears are sleeping, so that helps. I ate my Snickers bar before I fell asleep though, so I was okay anyway. The only scary thing was Kweejee’s creaking tree. Apparently he had reason to fear the creaking tree… if we went back to visit that site now, that tree would probably be laying over the exact spot where he set up his tent. Yeah, I have to admit, that’s a little scary.

After throwing our stuff in the car, we drove around the park a little ways and parked at a different trailhead. There was this hill we had in mind. It was a big hill. It’s one that we hiked up in the summer months and thought it was brutal! The cross-country ski signs display a black diamond with a very sharp zigzagged line on them, and they read, “Very difficult.” So we thought, “what better place to go sledding!?”

We hiked to the hill and quickly remembered how steep it really was. We were kinda scared! Ken brought a little rocket sled that was super fast, and I hauled my wood sled out there. We had fun going down on both of them. We all had great wipe-outs with Ken’s super-fast sled. We’d get almost to the bottom and we’d roll two or three times as the snow flew up around us, in our ears, our pants, our gloves, hats flying off… it was awesome! Nobody broke anything, but I think we all had a few sore muscles the next day in places we didn’t realize we had muscles.

And here's a little video of Ken's roll at the bottom of the hill. We sure got a lot of momentum going!

All in all this was a super-fun winter camping trip. Ken and Kweejee are fun cold-camping buddies. People think we’re crazy, but it’s not too bad if you have the right clothes and if your sleeping bad isn’t down to 2 layers of sil-nylon and 3 clumps of down… nah, it’s still okay. We really did have an awesome time. I hope I get one more winter camp in before the snow melts. There is a peacefulness about winter. Nobody else was in that entire park. There were no pole marks from skiers, no footprints from hikers, no snowshoe tracks, either. It was serene, quiet, pretty… and we had great company to keep our minds off the frozen toes!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The 2009 Frozen Otter

I got 1st place in my division (6th overall)! It’s weird for me to be able to say it, but I actually won!
Here's a link to the offical results, event photos and more info about the race.

It was definitely another year to remember, and this is why I’m writing it all down. I don’t want to forget the details, and I know with how my memory is, those details will soon fade into the cold air along with all the painful moans and groans I let out on those last few miles! Warning here – this entry is going to be LONG. I get a little carried away with details. I gotta work on that.


There are two versions of the race:
Full = 64 miles in 24 hours
Half = 32 miles in 12 hours

There are 4 divisions:
Full-2 person team
Half-2 person team

In order to be considered an official finisher, you must hike into the start/finish at the Butler Lake Parking area within your time limit. The person to hike the most miles in the least amount of time is the winner.

I was signed up for the Half-solo division. I thought about signing up for the Full 64 this year, but I chickened out. I barely made the 32 miles under the time limit last year (only 3 minutes under 12 hours!!), so I was out to see if it was some sort of fluke, or if I had it in me to do that again. I always set a few goals for myself, the first being something I’m pretty sure I can accomplish. This avoids any ridiculous disappointments I might end up with. The second goal is one I’d really like to make, I have a chance to make, but I’m not too sure about it. The third is usually one I’m not too confident about making.

My three goals this year were:
Goal 1: Be an official finisher. Hike 32 miles in under 12 hours (note that within the first 8 miles, I was convinced this goal was already shot. The snow was SO deep and hard to hike through!)
Goal 2: Beat my time of 11:57 from last year
Goal 3: Hike an extra 8 miles if I have it in me (it wouldn’t have counted towards anything except my own pride)

I arrived at the Butler Lake area a little before 11:00 AM on Saturday. I was all by myself this year. Nobody wanted to join me on this insane venture. It would’ve been cool to have someone along to help work off some of the excitement-induced adrenaline “shakes” I had driving there. I actually felt kind of ill! And to make matters a little worse, I woke up with diarrhea! Sorry for the “too much information” comment there, but hey – it was part of the day, and I had to work in extra fluids before I even started! I drank a full Nalgene of water, took an Imodium and was good to go. Well, except for a few stomach-bubblies throughout the day.

I got signed in, got my Yaktrax and gaiters on, got my gear in line, got my backpack organized how I wanted it, and stood by the fire talking to Rod and some of the other racers. It seems like some were concerned about the snow depth, and some didn’t think it was going to be much of a problem at all. We aren’t allowed to wear snowshoes or use skis for this Adventure Race, and I think that’s a cool rule. It leaves us all on the same playing field, and doesn’t cause the back-and-forth, “should I bring snowshoes, should I not bring snowshoes…” The snow depth DID play quite a large role in the race, too. I know it really slowed me down, and I had to almost constantly remind myself to push my pace harder than what I comfortably wanted to hike, even jogging in some spots (or “fast-hiking” as I like to call it… it’s sort of a “hoppy” stride).

When we first started out, nobody really wanted to go first because there weren’t any fresh tracks, so the first person in line had to break trail. I took it on. I trucked up the hill out of the parking lot, and by the time I got to the top, I had already started sweating. Uh-oh. I had a looong ways to go with a sweaty shirt already! I actually took it a little slow to start, even though I was in front, so I could get some sort of feel for the trail, or a stride or something… then we came to our first road crossing, and I asked the guy behind me, Peter, if he would like to lead. He said he would, so I followed him for a bit. On the next road crossing, I started to feel pretty good. I was starting to get the rhythm, so I pushed my pace and took off. I had a few people pass me before the first checkpoint at 8 miles. I could hear them coming up behind me, so when they got close, I was sure to let them by. I admired their speed!

I checked into the first checkpoint at 2:58 PM. It didn’t take long for me to figure that one out. I had to keep the same exact pace the entire race in order to make it back to Butler Lake in 12 hours and be a finisher. That wasn’t the first time I thought it was looking pretty grim. But I stretched my IT band a bit against the truck, filled my water bladder back up (about 2-1/2 liters down the hatch already!), opened up a Clif bar, and took off 11 minutes later, eating as I went. A little further down the trail I remembered to take my electrolyte tabs and ibuprofen. I had enough so that I could take this little combo at each checkpoint. I don’t like mixing the electrolyte mix in my water bladder, so I opted for the tablets, and I freakin’ LOVE them things!

A little ways down the trail, I could hear the quick pace of someone gaining on me. I just kept going at my pace, trying to keep my footing strong and sturdy. Once the person behind me got really close, I turned around and told them to feel free to pass me up. It was Melissa, who 2 years ago completed the entire 64 miles within the 24-hour time limit. She is the only person to date who has EVER completed this race in its entirety. So it’s possible!

She got up in front of me, and she had an awesome pace going, so I asked her if she minded I play garboon and dangle behind her for a while. She said that was fine, so I trekked behind her, step for step, for quite a ways. I had a really awesome time getting to know her, and it was very nice to have a conversation with someone for a while. One of the cons to going solo on this hike is the lack of human interaction. I seriously start talking to myself and God as I walk, which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but towards the end it gets a little weird when I starting talking to my toes, feet, and quads directly. It was a great time-passer having Melissa to chat with. She’s done quite a few Adventure Races, and I think I learned quite a bit from her in that short time period.

*Thanks, Melissa, for the company – and especially the encouragement! You are a super-respectful competitor! Thank you!*

When I arrived at the half-way point (5:32 PM), I was getting tired, to put it simply. My knees were starting to hurt, the bottoms of my feet were burning, and I was damp all over with sweat. It was dark enough now that I had my headlamp on, and I could feel the temperatures dropping what felt like every few minutes. With my sweaty shirt, the slightest breeze or stopping for even a half a minute chilled me, so my only option was to move. At the half-way point I again filled my bladder up (about 5-1/2 liters down, now!), took my electrolytes and ibuprofen, shot a Hammer Gel down my throat for energy (apple cinnamon ROCKS, by the way!!!), stretched a little, thawed my hydration hose mouthpiece over the fire and took off. My stop at the 16-mile (half-way) mark was 20 minutes. It would have been less if my mouthpiece hadn’t froze up after filling and forcing the bladder back into my backpack. The pressure must’ve forced some water back into the hose and it freezes in there almost instantly. Keeping that hose thawed is KEY. I managed to keep it pretty thawed out the entire race by drinking constantly.

The one time it froze up on me was while I was trekking the coldest stretch of the entire race. There is a section of snowmobile trail along Hwy P that we hike on for about ½ mile. The WIND!! Oh, I was nearly in tears. I started to jog along that stretch, painfully, might I add… just to keep warm enough to stand it! When I finally reached where the trail turns into the woods, I stopped for a second and just let myself feel the warmth (it felt like a heat wave without that brittle wind cutting at my face!). The tip on my right ear started to throb, so I think I had a case of frostnip. I stood there and sucked and sucked on my hydration hose, hoping to squeek through even the tiniest stream of water… finally I got some… it took a while, but I eventually had a good stream of water coming through. I caught it JUST in time. Even a minute longer, and I may have been without water until the next checkpoint!

I trucked on. Between that point and the 3rd checkpoint, I was still on pace to make 12 hours, but I didn’t have any luxury to slow down – at all. I had to keep pushing, no matter how tired I was or how badly everything hurt. This is when my mental state got the best of me. For maybe 10 minutes, I started going over in my head how I would explain to all my friends and followers why I quit at 24 miles, not that they would think less of me, or blame me! But oh, boy… the snow was deep, I was tired, my feet were cramping up terrible, it was cold, I was sweaty, etc, etc, etc. Then I stopped the thoughts. I stopped in my tracks for a moment, took a drink of water, bent my toes under inside my boots as my face scrunched up in pure pain, bent down a few times to stretch, and said out loud, “Just keep moving. You can do this. You are MORE than half-way!” I then looked up and kept moving at a steady pace.

Before I knew it, I was at the 3rd checkpoint with no desire to stop. It was 8:28 PM. This was when I knew I would make it 32 miles. But would I make it in 12 hours? The math added up. I thought to myself, “If I can keep up my pace, I’ll be good to go.” But I was hurting, and my steps were already getting sloppy. I really didn’t know, and I definitely wasn’t feeling too sure. I think deep down I knew I had it in me, I just had to prove it to myself. I didn’t waste any more time. 6 minutes after checking in at Checkpoint 3, I took my ibuprofen, my last electrolyte tab, opened my last Clif bar, and head out munching away.

I was getting so sloppy with every step. Each one slid me one way or the other on the trail. I was getting frustrated. But I just told myself to walk strong. So I’d lift my legs up a little higher each step and try to land with more precision. I thought through each step for a quite a while, and all of a sudden, DARK! My headlamp died!! It was pitch black out. There must have been NO moon because I saw some really pretty stars above me! It was gorgeous and completely still and quiet around me. I was almost saddened that I would have to make noise and be distracted digging out my extra set of batteries. I found them right away, next to a handwarmer in my hip-belt pocket. I was able to get the batteries switched out by feel, and I was pretty impressed with myself. I put the lamp back on my head, and turned it on – WAH-LAH! I could SEE again! I didn’t realize how DULL that thing had gotten! My steps weren’t as sloppy anymore, either. I just couldn’t see the definition in the snow anymore, and I wasn’t sure where I was stepping! I was still struggling, but not as bad.

I trucked along, checking my watch at each road crossing. I was actually staying on pace to finish in under 12 hours! I was starting to get so excited! I even smiled a couple of times and kind of cheered to myself. I recognized where I was, and I knew I had two more road crossings before there was a big clearing (which I feared the wind), then Butler Lake wasn’t far from there. When I got to the second-to-last road crossing, Kristin and Evan from the Fat Otter II Team were squatting down while talking to Melissa. I stopped for a second and whined to them something about everything hurting, and they were looking at the map. I was freezing up instantly as I stood there, so I stepped to the side, over the snow bank, and back onto the trail. I found out later that Melissa had gotten ill and was looking for the name of the road so she could call for a ride. We were about 2 miles from the 32-mile point. I felt terrible. I almost hope I was delusional at that point. I didn’t even ask if everyone was okay. I just assumed they were discussing how much further it was, and figuring that I knew how much further I had to go, and with getting chilled, I moved on. I suppose there wasn’t much I could’ve done at that point, but I really regret not even asking. Phooey. I learned from that experience.

The clearing was coming up, and I was really worried about the wind after that stretch along Hwy. P. I put my hat on over my balaclava, put my mittens on, and told myself I would stop and put on my jacket if it was bad like that again. When I got there, the wind wasn’t so bad! I sort of shuffled through the snow and jogged down the hills – only because I knew I was getting SO close! I could literally see the hill before the parking lot, and there was this orange glow beyond that. Was it the fire? Oh, I hoped, and smiled… my watch was reading very nice numbers back to me. Now I was SURE I’d make it under 12 hours, and I was pretty certain I could beat my time from last year. I very weakly, slowly and quietly said to myself, “Yay, you’re going to do it, Robin!”

I trekked up the hill, up through a stretch of woods, then my head bobbed up over a small ridge, and there it was. FIRE. CARS. PEOPLE. Burgers, hot dogs, hot cocoa, chairs, fire, warmth, my car, the finish!!

Yes, there were a few tears of joy – mostly because of that warm fire in my line of vision, and maybe a little because I was already dreaming of rest. Right before I head down the hill to the parking lot, I let out a mouse-like whimper, “I did it! I did it! I beat my time!”

I went down, checked in, stood by the fire, and started to feel warm. I was congratulated by the others there, as well as the volunteers! Rod handed me a medal for finishing, and it was all very low-key. I just didn’t have much energy to really let out any big hurrahs, let alone make any movements toward celebration. I was very excited, though. I was beaming inside!

I beat my time from last year by more than 1/2 hour! I knew I did really well, and I was really proud for that. I didn't realize until the next Tuesday morning how I actually placed! So I was glad to have reached my Goals 1 & 2, and even though I didn't reach Goal #3, I was happy. Winning my division was icing on the cake!

This is a great time to thank the volunteers, too! Rod does a great job putting this together, and his volunteers really go out of their way to help the racers. They help us get water, Hammer Heed, hot cocoa at the checkpoints… and anything else the racers might need. At the end they were making burgers, hot dogs, soup, cocoa… they wouldn’t let us get our own, and that was super-cool. So a BIG huge THANK-YOU to all of you volunteers for waiting on us!!

Sunday was recovery day.
I woke up early and went to church with Adam at 10:30. I was stiff-legging up and down stairs, but other than that and being tired, I wasn’t doing too bad. Want to know how crazy my mind is? This left me thinking, “I could’ve done more. I could’ve gone further.” Next year I am signing up for the 64 miles and my goal is to make at least 40 miles. After finding out that last year wasn’t a fluke, I’m feeling pretty confident that I can do it. I’m already mentally preparing for it, and I think that’s one of the biggest parts of it all. My 3rd goal was to go beyond the 32 miles. Problem there was that I was signed up for 32 miles. So when I hit 32 miles, I was done mentally, which meant I was done physically. My mind shut my body down. This is proof that sometimes you can overpower your physical state with your mind. And this is what I found I LOVE about this race. I love getting to that point where I have to make that switch.

So recovery went well. I drank lots of water, laid around a lot, ate a couple of burgers (for protein, of course!), had a Nalgene with electrolyte mix in it, and slept quite a bit. On Monday morning I walked the 3 miles into work and felt okay. Monday night I went to kickboxing class. Tuesday morning I got up and ran 30 minutes at the Y. Tuesday night I walked 10 minutes to class, and after that, head home for a 4-mile walk. About 2 miles into my walk home, my adrenaline high left me. It was like someone turned off a switch -- I was exhausted. When I got home I went straight to bed. Woke up the next morning and had Adam drive me into work. I barely made it through work, and went right home again that night. I took the whole day Wednesday off from physical exercise, as well as Thursday morning. Thursday during work I felt much better, and now I’m feeling like I’m back on track again.

Maybe next year I’ll have the hallucinations that I’ve heard racers sometimes have from lack of sleep and physical exhaustion. And maybe I won’t be able to even walk on Sunday. Yup, that’s what I’ll be shooting for! I wonder how many miles it will take to reach THAT goal!?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The brrly -30° wind chill, and I'm loving it?! And a small secret...

Alright. I am starting to question whether I might really have a couple screws loose. It's seriously been around in the -30°'s (F) with the wind chill, and it makes me feel excited. Schools are closing, cars aren't starting, nose hairs are freezing... and I'm wanting to walk in it.

On Tuesday night I walked home from my class (a little over 4 miles). It wasn't as cold then as it has been yesterday and today... According to, Tuesday's low was a balmy -12°. I was walking between 9-10:30pm, so I imagine it wasn't quite at the low yet, but I'm pretty certain it was below 0. And I don't think that includes a wind chill. So yes, it was still cold.

I left class wearing my normal clothes, with the exception of a pair of Smartwool socks and my leather hiking boots. On top of my normal clothes (jeans and a polo shirt), I wore a pair of thin wind pants, a wool hat with ear flaps (strings tied under my chin to keep it from slipping upward), a scarf wrapped around my neck loosely 3 times (thanks for the great scarf, Pam!), my super-duper warm Sherpa down jacket I got last winter, and a pair of gloves.

My walk was toasty-warm. This is going to sound weird, but my biggest worry was people being overly concerned about me. I really appreciate those that are concerned, as I understand as well as the next guy that -- 'know what? It's freakin' COLD outside!' I know that when temps get this low, it is very dangerous and very serious. Being uncomfortably cold isn't funny, and neither is frostbite or hypothermia. But I really don't think I was being half-witted about it. I was dressed for it, and I was pretty darn comfortable. I even had my tunes playing for an hour before my iPod's battery pooped out from the cold. I was a happy walker!.

Thank you, by the way, for all those that DO express their concern. You really make me feel loved, not to mention confident knowing that I have friends I can count on if the need were to arise. :)

I just don't want anyone to worry tooooo much. I'm not asking for people to NOT worry, as I mentioned, I do appreciate concerns and how much people care -- and I know that those that are concerned would drop anything to rescue my crazy arse from the cold if I needed it. Ahh, the love of friends... to tell me I'm crazy, yet still rescue me as I do crazy things! Just know that if I find myself in a dangerous situation, and I begin to feel frightened, I am not too proud in those situations. I WILL call someone, or stop in somewhere to ask for help. It's never an easy thing to do, but I would if I needed it.

It was kind of funny, as I left the school building, I thought to myself, "Where could I stop by if I got too cold?" Well, there was Players (a bar), Ohio Street Station (a bar), Citgo (a gas station), Andy's (a bar), BP (a gas station), a couple of churches (do churches still keep their doors open, though?), The Beachcomber (a bar) and Parnell's (a bar). So I had plenty of bars and gas stations to stop in if conditions were more than I could handle. Thank you, Wisconsin, for being you! :)

On top of the different open businesses I could stop in at, I had a few local friends that I knew I could call to pick me up if I needed it. So really, I was prepared. I love any kind of weather, as long as I'm prepared for it. My least favorite weather phenomenon is strong wind when it's cold, because that's the stuff that can be difficult to beat, even when you ARE prepared, but it has to be dealt with from time to time.

So, on the way home, I had my scarf pulled up to the topmost part of my nose, just below my eyes, and my hat pulled down just to the top of my eyebrows. This was my only exposed skin. My breath was going upwards out the scarf around my nose and it would leave condensation on my eyelashes. Twice I had to take a glove off to pull clumps of ice off of my lashes. It was quite funny, because I would blink and wouldn't be able to open my eyes because my lashes were literally frozen together (not the lids -- just the lashes from the frozen condensation from my breath). I giggled each time I cleared them of their ice-boogies.

I got home and had Adam take a picture of me, which is at the top of this entry.

Yes, maybe I'm crazy, but I like to think I'm not stupid. I have yet to find out if I truly am stupid, and I imagine I might eventually push myself to that point. But, in my defense, this is a part of my life that I truly enjoy -- pushing myself beyond my comfort zone when possible. When I come out alive on the other end, I might be tired or worn, but "alive" is the key word here. That's how I feel. All senses accentuated, blood rushing in pulse, smiles impossible to avoid... and tear-welling self-pride.

The Frozen Otter is Saturday, and these are the feelings I'm shooting for. I just can't wait.

And I secretly wish (well, it's not a secret any more) that it was going to be a little colder than forcasted. Looks like 11° above as the LOW! That's like a heat-wave compared to this week! It will still be an amazing adventure, but deep down I was hoping it would be a little more "frozen" than it already will be.

Okay, maybe I'm just ONE clown short of a circus... just one.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A good book - "One Man's Wilderness"

One Man's Wilderness
An Alaskan Odyssey
By Sam Keith from the journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke

I just got done reading this book, and I just loved it. It's set up to read like a daily journal of Dick Proenneke and how he left civilization, and stayed in a friend's cabin in the Alaskan wilderness until he was able to build his own -- all with own hands. He writes a lot about building the cabin from as much natural surroundings as possible (and he pulls it off, by the way... all but a little tar paper on his roof to keep weather out). He even carves the door hinges out of wood from the forest around him, and the book has pictures of them -- I never thought door hinges could be described as beautiful, but these truly are amazing! :)

He recalls several wildlife encounters, including a charge from a brown bear on a day he decided he was sight-seeing only, so there was no need to bring the gun. He talks about all the critters around his cabin and how they became tame to the point of eating out of his hands. He wanted to get some close-up views of a wolf, so he rigged up some bait on his homemade sled, then strung a string into his cabin and tied it to his wrist as a "silent alarm" so he would be woken when the wolf was outside. There were several more with moose, caribou, fishing, birds, more bears, more wolves... just a lot of great stories. Even the days he writes about that didn't have a whole lot going on, except for taking care of odds & ends, and navy beans cooking on the stove with spices, were really fun to read. It kind of felt like I was hovering above, watching him as he created his home.

My favorite part of the whole book was one of the last chapters, called, "reflections." He talks about something I recently blogged about (before I read this chapter, so it really felt good for me to read it). He talks about how little one really needs. A quote:

"Needs? I guess that is what bothers so many folks. They keep expanding their needs until they are dependent on too many things and too many other people. I don't understand economics, and I suppose the country would be in a real mess if people suddenly cut out a lot of things they don't need. I wonder how many things in the average American home could be eliminated if the question were asked, "Must I really have this?" I guess most of the extras are chalked up to comfort or saving time."

He continues:

"Funny thing about comfort -- one man's comfort is another man's misery. Most people don't work hard enough physically anymore, and comfort is not easy to find. It is surprising how comfortable a hard bunk can be after you come down off a mountain."

I can certainly relate with that last quote. I've heard some people say, "I can't camp. I just can't sleep on the hard ground." This is one of many reasons why I love backpacking -- after hiking 20 miles, it's not hard to fall asleep anywhere. I'm sure after a long day of building his cabin, this is what Dick is referring to. After so much physical work, you could probably fall asleep anywhere!

I want to give more lines from this chapter about his feelings on fresh stream water, mountain air, working for his heat, transportation by foot and paddle only, and all the rest that nature can offer... but I won't. If you have an appreciation for nature, you'll like to read and relate to so many of his thoughts. If you don't have a particular interest in nature, I encourage you to read it anyway. It's got some really cool stories, and might have you thinking in a more comfy, relaxed way about the wilderness. It certainly makes me wanna hit the woods!! :)

And, just a couple other quotes from the book that made me dog ear the page. Good way to end this entry. :)

"It was good to be back in the wilderness again where everything seems at peace. I was alone. It was a great feeling -- a stirring feeling. Free once more to plan and do as I pleased. Beyond was all around me. The dream was a dream no longer.

I suppose I was here because this was something I had to do. Not just dream about it but do it. I suppose, too, I was here to test myself...."

"Chores are easier if forethought is given to them and they are looked upon as little pleasures to perform instead of inconveniences that steal time and try the patience."

"The wind I fought before, now helped me. Wind and fire. Help you one minute and kill you the next. All depends on the time and place."

And one more:
"I thought of the sights I had seen. The price was physical toll. Money does little good back here. It could not buy the fit feeling that surged through my arms and shoulders. It could not by the feeling of accomplishment. I had been my own tour guide, and my own power had been my transportation. This great big country was my playground, and I could afford the price it demanded."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ramblings from a random Friday in the Fall

Okay, so I'm clearing out some folders on my computer, and I've come across a few random Word documents that I've written, but never posted -- I'm sure I had some good reason at the time, but now I'm starting to feel a little more confident with my postings... just thinking to myself that I'm posting these for me, and if someone reads it, then that's pretty cool... so why let anything hold me back from writing what I feel and putting it here? I prefer to write about fun experiences and adventures I have, and I will definitely continue those, but I'm also going to be throwing in random thoughts and writings, too. So that'll be fun. I hope, if you're reading this, that you enjoy a few of them, anyway!! :)

So, here's something I wrote on some random, fall Friday:


It’s raining. I sometimes wonder if it’s strange that I like the rain. I watched everybody running from it this morning. Covering their heads with whatever they’re holding. A newspaper, a briefcase, a purse… some pulled their jackets over the top of the heads. Some that were prepared had umbrellas. I spent 15 minutes with a flat iron straightening my hair this morning, and with the slightest bit of humidity, it’ll get frizzy, but I really don’t care. I took a moment and looked to the sky – just for a moment – and felt the rain on my face. It felt really nice.

What a perfect rain. It’s fall. The air is crisp and cool, and the rain seems to cleanse any pollen or dust in the air. The sky is gray and moving as if it were alive.

I wish I could put my backpack on and hike. There are so many mornings I wake up and smell something in the air that puts me into a spin and sets me down somewhere on the trail. Just for a second or two, and then I snap back into reality. Then the daydreaming begins.

I think this morning reminded me of the River to River Trail. Mom and I dealt with SO many rainy days on that trail. That is where I learned first-hand what backpackers do when it’s raining. I always wondered, “What do they do when they wake up and it’s raining? How do they pack up and stay dry?”

The answer? They get wet.

I loved learning things like that. I remember sitting in the tent with my mom thinking we’d wait it out, and after a half hour, we just got out, and hurriedly packed the tent into its stuff sack. It probably weighed twice as much as normal. It rained all day, so if we had waited, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. But things always work out.

Getting wet from rain is okay. It dries.

Anyway, I woke up feeling really blue, and I don’t think I’ve kicked it yet. I really would like to be out in that rain today. It’s the perfect weather for my mood. I guess I’m not following the general “Happy Friday” work rule today.

I also just came to a realization that there are certain people that I see every day at work that I was wrong about. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and I’m glad I did, but… I work really hard at not judging people. I don’t like to be judged, so I don’t like to judge others. That can be a difficult task sometimes, though, for so many different reasons. I’ve heard some negative things about certain people, and when that happened, I did what I would normally do – I put in a little extra effort to be friendly and open so that I can get to know the person on my own – this way, I can formulate my own opinion. I can usually get along with anyone just fine. But I do really have a hard time with people that are nice to me and treat me like a friend, and then I find out that there is more underneath the facade. I either overhear something, or their actions prove that aren’t trying to be my friend. It really bums me out, and I honestly don’t know how to deal with that. I can’t be mean back, and I don’t have specifics to call anyone out – I probably wouldn’t have the courage anyway. I hate the thought of putting someone in an uncomfortable position, even if they have it coming.

I have to limit these negative people in my life somehow. It’s very difficult to do when you see them so much. I could go on a rant, but I don’t think that will help me, anyway.

Why does it sometimes seem like some people are just out to ruin others? I’m thinking that they feel it’s the only way for them to move up. I don’t believe in this style – complaining about others, or “tattling” on them, with the only purpose to make themselves look better. It just doesn’t seem like an honest way to accomplish things.

I like to think it all comes down to the Golden Rule -- and by following it, everything becomes pretty simple:
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

I’m listening to Athlete today, and it’s very mellow and puts me in the rain. All is well for now.

A dream

A gleam of light would sink into his soul and a shell around him would crack and begin to fall away. Happiness would shine out through his skin and his natural, beautiful smile I hardly ever see would appear without a thought in his mind. His spirit would show – it would arise and surround him like an aura of golden sunshine. The feeling of vibrating excitement would encompass both of us at one time, joining us with a comfort that can’t be described in the most lyrical analogies. To avoid looking silly, we’d hold it all in, but we’d both want to look to the sky, reach our arms out and spin around in circles until we fall, laughing upon the dewy grass -- which he now feels between his bare toes for the first time. He would hear the leaves tickle each other in the trees, and unhurried, he would understand the calmness it creates inside of him, as you and I know so well. He would relax at the sound and sigh silently in awe of everything around him. He would hear his thoughts as soft music in his ears, playing with the moment like a soundtrack to his existence. When he lies in the creek for the first time, he would feel the water the same way you and I feel a breeze brush up against our naked skin. He would absorb the water and sense it moistening his soul, filling his veins with so much joy he would feel as though he might explode at any moment. Health would fill and complete his transformation. He would feel powerful and in control of himself and his thoughts. When he climbs his first mountain, he would reach the top, take one look on the other side and cry. His tears would fall down his cheeks and collect at the corners of his tense smile. He would wish, as we do, that he could take one deep breath and inhale it in whole. He would understand the way we do, he would love it, ask for it, and crave it the way we do. Then together we would run off with our new likeness. We would roll in the grass, swim in the streams, and cuddle in the dark before the sun warms the earth each new day. We would live as one in the earth around us. With every exhale, we would softly whisper our souls into the earth; with every inhale, we would breathe the earth into our souls. We’d become complete, together. We’d lie together at night on the ground and our heartbeats and breathing would fall into synch as we fall into a deep sleep. We would be together in each others’ arms, and we’d be happy in a way neither of us has ever experienced. A new, simple happiness.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Last year's Frozen Otter journal (2008)

This is craziness! Another post in the same day!! I just stumbled upon this file as I was clearing out some of the misc stuff from my work computer today. I wrote this after the Frozen Otter last year, and for some reason I didn't post it anywhere. I'm glad I found it! I can only hope that I have the same endurance I did last year!!

“We’re crazy.”

I don’t know how many times my 3 friends and I said that to each other as the “Frozen Otter” adventure race approached. I don’t know how many times co-workers, friends and family said it, either. We simply just lost count. I recall a few people saying to me, “I don’t like walking out to my car in this weather!” When we found out the temperatures were going to drop well below zero, to be honest, I think we were feeling nervous.

Last year, Sarah and I decided to sign up, thinking, “24 hours… we can do 64 miles in 24 hours… it’s just a 24-hour period. We may have to endure some pain and push ourselves, but I’m sure we can do 64 miles.” When we hit the half-way point at 32 miles, there was no question between us as a team – we were done. The next day, neither of us could bend our knees because they were in such pain. We realized quickly that our fatal mistake was hiking 30 miles the weekend before – we wanted to see what we could do. So when race day arrived, we were already sore. By mile 2 we were “peg-leggin’” as we called it. Our knees just didn’t want to bend without pain.

So last year we made it 32 miles. It took us 15 hours, but we made it half way. We were both satisfied with that. After last year’s race, I clearly remember telling myself, “Well, I’m glad I tried it, but Adventure Racing is not for me. I don’t think I’ll do this again.”

I think it was some time just this past December when Sarah emailed me about the “Frozen Otter” coming up again – I don’t know what got into me, but I responded, “Sure, let’s give it a shot!” We invited a couple of friends to join us, so “The Snails” were four strong this year! But we knew it was going to be no easy feat. We only signed up for the Half, making our goal 32 miles. We hadn’t been training, and we knew 64 miles was much tougher than we ever imagined it to be. My first personal goal this year was to make 32 miles. My second goal was to beat last year’s time of 15 hours.

We started out strong and happy, joking about how Pam’s legs might fall off, and how we could just tie them to her torso and strap her to one of our backs. Often times we got into a trance, following each others’ footsteps, staring at only the ground, and not saying a word to each other. Within the first hour all of us had frozen water. We were able to get one hose thawed out, so we shared the one water source we had.

The first checkpoint came and went quickly. We all trucked on, and seemed to be in pretty good spirits.

I was surprised that the temperatures didn’t seem to bother us too much. If anything, we were getting too warm at times -- it was 10 degrees below 0, and we were sweating! This wasn’t really much of a problem until we had to stop. Even just a 1-minute stop to get something out of our packs, change a layer, or grab a bite to eat got too cold to stand. So when we did stop, it was hurried. We barely stopped the first 16 miles, and I think that turned out to hurt us more than help. I think with the combination of dehydration, not enough to eat, the temperature, and just simply the extreme conditions we were in, sapped our energy. Then the sun set, and as pretty as it was, the darkness came down hard.

Between the time when darkness fell, and when we reached the half-way point, I knew there was a possibility any one of us could be stopping at 16 miles. It seemed spirits had gotten a little low, and everything was starting to cramp up and hurt.

At the 2nd checkpoint, half way, I was surprised with myself. A very unexpected thing happened to me. I felt an energy in me that was actually making me shaky, and I knew that I had to keep going. I felt kind of bad leaving my team behind and hitting that second 16 miles solo, but with the way my body was reacting, I had to continue, and my teammates cheered me on. I was completely shocked that I felt as good as I did. I didn’t know I had this in me! After I decided for sure that I was going to continue, I remember a short conversation with Rod. I said, “I’m going to go on. I don’t know that I’ll make it in 12 hours, but I’ll try to make the 32 miles.” He looked down at his clipboard, then back up at me and said, “You’re only about 9 minutes behind pace. If you picked it up even a little bit on the way back, you could still do it.” I just thought to myself, “Okay… we’ll see.”

I quickly thawed my water hose over the fire, shoved a sandwich in my mouth, and took off. I got about 100 yards down the trail, and I started to think to myself, “If I get there 9 minutes past the 12-hour mark, I’m going to be disappointed that I couldn’t pick it up just a little bit.” I was a little cold from the long break, anyway, so I decided to see how my body would handle a slow jog. Shortly after I started jogging, my muscles actually seemed to limber up a little bit, and I felt nice and warm. Each time I could see a straight stretch in front of me, I went into a slow jog until a hill came or I needed to catch my breath. At every corner and every hill, I couldn’t believe that I was actually jogging. I kind of figured I’d be practically crawling and crying at this point.

The next checkpoint approached, and that’s when I knew I was going to make it 32 miles. The 12-hour mark was still a pretty tight shot, but if I was able to keep my pace, I had a chance.

During the last 7 miles, things got very interesting for me, being out there on my own. I felt like I was in a weird state of mental shock. I started to whisper to myself between breaths, “Can I make 12 hours? It’s okay if I don’t… but I might be close… I can push it a little more…” About 3 miles later, I was clearly talking to myself out loud, even referring to myself as “we” at times. I started doing the math out loud, too – my pace, how many miles were left, how many I’ve done, and in how long. My steps were getting a bit sloppy, and I was very careful going downhill. I felt myself slipping side-to-side a lot more, kind of like I was drunk, and the last thing I wanted was to be stuck out there by myself with an injury.

There was one point when I stopped and felt defeated. There was a sign, with an arrow, that read, “Butler Lake -- 2.1 miles.” I looked at my watch, and it read about 11:30. I thought about the half-hour I had left, and the 2.1 miles, and said out loud, “Shoot. I can’t make that.” I tried to figure out the math as I stood there, then asked myself, “Why am I just standing here?” I hiked on and figured out my pace as I went. I soon realized that there was still a chance, and I picked it up one last time.

When I came around a corner and saw a sign that read, “Butler Lake parking area,” I got really excited. I couldn’t remember how close it was, and there was no specific mileage listed. But I knew that meant I was really close, and I still had time. I jogged up a couple of hills for the first time the whole race, and when I came to a spot where I could see the campfire, I almost cried with excitement! I said one last thing out loud to myself before people would be able to hear me and think I was crazy. I said, “I’m actually going to make it!”

My finish time was 11:57 PM, so I just barely made it -- 3 minutes under the 12-hour mark. Coming across that last ridge, looking down on the campfire and parking lot, I felt pride well up inside of me. I’ve done some things in my life I’ve been very proud of, but I have to say that the Frozen Otter is one of the toughest I’ve ever done. Not only is this physically difficult, but it’s an extreme mental challenge. The importance of keeping your wits about you – especially when you’re out there on your own – is tremendous. I had the thought of my teammates cheering me on, and that really helped move me right along!

I do hope that I can eventually shoot for the full 64 miles. Until then I think the Frozen Otter will draw me back each year!

Want vs. Need

It's a never ending battle. And when I get caught up in it, I will read this. A few lyrics and a few thoughts...

I sometimes really just have to sit back, stop stressing, breathe and remember, "I have everything I need and so much more."

All the thoughts about the things that I want can so easily overtake my true needs. I tend to forget sometimes that I don't need much. Remember, Robin? Remember when you lived on the essentials? When your biggest worry was where you were going to sleep for the night? Would the ground be soft pine boughs, or rough pebbles? Would it maybe even be a mattress? Where were you going to get water for the next day? Would it be a gas station bathroom sink? A pretty, crystal-clear stream? A pothole in a flat rock in the middle of the Moab desert? Would it taste clear, like iodine, like Nuun, like stinky sink water? Did it matter, anyway? It was water. You had some. You were happy.

I've got all I need, and I'm happy. **remember that, robin**

Things I want [but don't need] -- I want to go out on weekend excursions whenever I please. I want to go shopping and buy the best gear. I want to buy Adam birthday and Christmas presents. I want to visit other countries. I want to through-hike every trail in existence! I want to sail, and raft, and climb, and ski, and hike, and run, and, and, and... I want to have the time and money that everyone else always seems to have so much of (my thoughts become so unbelievably unrealistic!!!). But I also need to remember that, "Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind, but the race is long... and in the end, it's only with yourself." that's a lyric taken from Baz Luhrmann's, "Wear Sunscreen" song. Yeah, you've heard it. And he's right.

I kick myself for wrapping myself up in this game of wants. This is when I want to walk and live on only what I need. I was there, and I realized how little I really do need. I can do this. I can simplify. I need to get past some obstacles of regular everyday life, but I can do it... can I?

I just need to remind myself that I have a great husband who loves me more than I will ever begin to understand (wish I did), I've got some great friends, an amazing set of parents that have been nothing but supportive my entire life and behind me no matter what, and a future full of just about anything I can dream up. I've got love, friendship, adventure, determination, goals... I'm a happy girl.

Aaah, another great lyric by my favorite artist, Modest Mouse: "If you could be anything you want, I bet you'd be disappointed, am I right?" What fun would it be if you could just wish up anything and get it? Effort and hard work with pride as the grand prize -- what a rewarding way to live.

To end my crazy day's blog entry... here's Eddie Vedder's lyrics from the movie Into the Wild. The song called, "Society."

It's a mystery to me
we have a greed with which we have agreed
You think you have to want more than you need
until you have it all you won't be free

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me

When you want more than you have you think you need
and when you think more than you want your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
'cos when you have more than you think you need more space

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

there's those thinking more or less, less is more
but if less is more how you're keeping score?
Means for every point you make your level drops
kinda like its starting from the top
you can't do that...

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, have mercy on me I
hope you're not angry if I disagree
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

Saturday, January 3, 2009

See-ya 2008, it's been a great year!

2008 was a good year! It was busy -- I did a lot of stuff, hung out with friends, met some new ones, got closer to others... I think Adam and I got closer, too. I can only hope that 2009 goes as good at '08 did! Here's the year in review!

In January I completed the half distance of the Frozen Otter in under 12 hours, which made me an official finisher. I was pretty proud of that!

In February I went on a winter camping trip -- I ended up doing a couple of these in '08. Good, chilly fun!

March brought the Garden of the Gods trip in Illinois. Pam and I drove down with the Madison Meetup Group. That was a blast! Southern Illinois got one of their worst snow storms in years -- 6"! We were kind of hoping for fairer weather -- were we in for a surprise! The snow didn't bother us at all, but the wind was pretty brutal. This might be the first time I've wimped out and warmed up in a car while camping!

The snow-covered tents in Southern Illinois -- Garden of the Gods campground

April was a busy month. I ran the Oshkosh 1/2 marathon. It was a proud moment because I actually ran the entire thing! I'm hoping to do that again in '09.

I also took a rock climbing class with Pam. I only wish there was a gym closer to home so we could keep climbing on a regular basis.

And April was the month I took my first skydive! That was a moment I will never forget! It was one of the most awesome rushes up to that point in my life! There's nothing like free-falling!

In May Adam and I bought kayaks and put them to good use on our annual canoe trip in Phillips. We had quite a few friends join us and we had such a fun time. I hope we can get a good-size group again in '09. Mark your calendars! It'll be the weekend after Memorial Day (5/29 - 5/31)!

Adam and I also attempted a garage sale over the holiday weekend. It was a flop to say the least. But we had fun sitting in the sun playing game after game of smear! We even got our first sunburns of the year! Oh, and we witnessed a crazed ice-cream man! It's quite the story!

In June Pam and I got up to the Porkies with some friends, which was yet another great backpacking trip. Lots of mosquitoes, though. Could've done without them!

Adam and I also attended our first Country USA with friends Anne & Craig, and Shannon & Kevin. I was able to stay up to hear the birds chirping one night, and enjoyed bloody marys the next day -- it was a fun few days. Dierks Bentley was awesome!! OH -- and Adam won us reserve tickets in a Hairy Man contest!! Not a huge surprise to those that know him well. ;)

In July I was able to get Adam out for a mini-backpacking trip. He said he liked most of it, just not the sleeping outside on the ground part. I love it all, so it's hard for me to understand, but I suppose it's just something that's not for everybody. I'm really happy that he tried it out, though. It was still a good time. He liked the hiking part, so we'll have to do more day-hikes next summer.

A rare sight, but one of my favorite things ever! Adam and I camping together. :)

Adam and I also went to our first Renaissance Fair with friends Jamie and Eric in July.

I had a very good, intense backpacking trip on the Ice Age Trail with friends Ken and Pam. We hiked 45 miles in 3 days! It was a super-fun trip! We all agreed that we love eskers, and we still dislike mosquitoes.

August was a good month. Adam and I joined Trinity Lutheran Church in Oshkosh. We also joined their choir, so that's been keeping us in good behavior. :)

I went skydiving in August again, too - only this time I jumped with my mom! Her video is great... if you haven't already, you gotta watch it!!

The Saturday before Labor Day I went on a record-mileage day hike. I hiked 41 miles in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine. I learned a lot... especially that I still really dislike mosquitoes. They nearly defeated me.

I remember September being an extremely busy month. I was feeling like I just couldn't catch up -- but it had a lot of really awesome stuff happening. First was the "Our Hike" fundraiser. We changed the route, and I think we've found the one we're sticking with. It's a nice 7-mile loop route that goes through the woods and over a creek! Mark your calendars again!! It's September 12, 2009!! Bring a tent and camp! :)

A few "Our Hike" hikers about to cross the creek

Hickory visited my mom and I, too. We first met him in Indiana on our hike across America (2006). He joined us for a couple of weeks as we crossed the Rocky Mountains, and we grew to be close friends. It was great to see him again -- we even made it out for a short backpacking overnight on the Ice Age Trail.

Adam and I joined the 4imprint team in the Dragon Boat races, too. We didn't win, but we sure had a fun time!

In October Adam and I took a vacation in South Padre Island with his grandma. She owns a condo there where she used to winter when Adam's grandpa was alive. This was her first year not staying down there, but she wanted to go down to check on things and get the place ready for the busy renting season. So we drove her down and had a nice time visiting with her that week. I don't know that I've eaten so much in my life!

November was pretty low-key. I went to Phillips for a week for hunting season. My brother joined us for opening weekend, Monday and Tuesday -- that was really nice. It was really nice to hang out with him... I wish we'd had more time, but he had to get home to work. I always love hunting season and Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite times of year. I get to be in the woods for an entire week and hang out with my Pappy! There's nothin' bad about that!

Dad and I in his favorite picture-taking pose

December was a good and bad month. It was full of Christmases with the families, and a church choir concert where I played my flute for the first time in about 5 years! But we also put our kitty Rocko down. He got cancer and went downhill very fast. It was a really tough time, but we're very thankful for all the great memories we have of Rocko. He was just a great cat -- can't say it enough.

Rocko a couple days before he was put to sleep

And so this ends 2008. I'm racking up the goals for 2009, and the calendar's filling up already! I think our weekends are almost booked through February already! Adam got into UFC pretty heavily in 2008, so we already have a few Pay-per-views written in for that, and I've got a winter campout in the works... for March, I think. I'll probably blog about all that later.

Well, 2009... bring it on!