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Killarney part 6: Are we almost there yet?

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The next morning was like something out of a commercial. A warm breeze through my tent screen woke me from a peaceful slumber. I stretched, yawned, and made my way out of the tent. Chirping birds greeted me, as I exited, and peered out onto a glorious sunrise over the lake that had been socked in the day before. As I gazed out onto the lake, I half expected a supermodel dressed only in my flannel shirt and panties, to sneak up behind me with a cup of hot coffee, and put her arms around my waist while a cheesy jingle began; “the best part of waking up, is folgers in your”-I could almost hear it- until, a noisy fart interrupted my day dream, from one of my companions still tucked away in their tent.

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There was still 2 days and a wake up remaining in the trip, but you could sense the end was near by the mood in the camp. Everyone woke up excited, and ready to get on the trail. Even the climb back up to the ridge we had descended from the day before, was met with an energy we hadn’t mustered since day 1. Because of this excitement, I think, this day’s hike is mostly a blur to me. I do remember another river crossing shortly after we got moving. You would think we had learned our lesson by now, but we wasted a good 10 minutes trying to “reinvent the wheel”, or should I say “reinvent the river crossing”.

We had already proven earlier in the trip, that hiking up the pant legs, and just going for it was the best way, but we were a stubborn bunch. I think it was Ken who, after a few failed attempts at makeshift bridges, used the tried and true roll up the pants, and go on across method. We all followed suit, and were soon back on the path. I also remember a lot of elevation change, in the form of a painfully steep old logging trail. I remember thinking pitifully of the men who had to ascend and descend that logging trail every day, along with a load that surely put my pack to shame, probably near a century before.

I also remember that the plan changed that day; we had intended to summit Silver Peak- the highest point in Killarney provincial park, but after a morning of beautiful weather, Canada proved to be just like Michigan. An old saying goes- “if you don’t like the weather in Michigan, just wait 5 minutes”. I learned long ago that Canada, and Michigan, are virtually the same place, and this day proved no different as the fog we suffered through the day before made a reappearance. The rain came back too, but not as hard as the day before. When we got to the “Y” in the path where we had to turn to go up Silver peak, we realized the weather was going to keep us from seeing anything at the summit, and it would thus be a waste of half a day, that could be used to further our exit imagefrom the park. I should probably point out here, that while I love backpacking, and wouldn’t trade any of my experiences on the trail for anything, that a good portion of the time spent on the trail is spent thinking- “Are we almost there yet”. While it’s true that some of the time the views, and the camaraderie, have you thinking you could quit shaving and wearing deodorant and spend the rest of your life on the trail. A good part of the enjoyment of most backpacking trips, is the mental and physical challenge, and the memories you bring back. Which means a lot of the time, to put it bluntly, you’re not enjoying yourself. Lets face it, walking 10 miles a day in the rain, and eating nothing but freeze dried meals, jerky, and trail mix, is not most people’s definition of fun. Suffice it to say, it was an easy decision for us to skip the half day hike to silver peak, in exchange for being half a day closer to a hot shower.

An Inukshuk guiding our path

An Inukshuk guiding our path

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This gorge kept things interesting that night.

This gorge kept things interesting that morning.

Shortly after the decision to skip Silver peak, we found evidence that we were nearing the end; manmade bridges, and board walks. We hadn’t seen those since the first day. They seemed to do better trail maintenance near the entrance and exit of the trail. I can only surmise the reason is to appease the less adventurous day imagehikers, who may simply turn away at the first sign of standing water. At any rate, we may be part of the adventurous crowd, but we were happy to have the bridges and boardwalks, as the trail was quite wet and muddy.

The rest of the hike that day was through a mostly flat birch forest. Ever since I was a kid driving through Northern Minnesota to visit my Grandpa in Duluth, i’ve had a fondness for birch trees. Theres just something about them that puts a smile on my face. I think what it is, is there uniqueness. All the other trees you see are green, and brown, maybe with some orange or red tints, but not white. Something about that stark white tree resonates with me. It symbolizes the raw innocence of nature. Nature is cruel, and hard, and awe inspiring, but it carries no guilt, it just is, and the birch tree is there to remind us all of that. It’s a true symbol of the North Woods; a cold, wild, beautiful, innocent place. These thoughts carried me through most of the afternoon, and “are we almost there yet” never entered my psyche. Until that is, we came to another fork in the trail, with a sign announcing a parking lot just a couple miles away. This was a day hikers trail to get to silver peak. It wasn’t the parking lot where our truck was, but the sheer thought of vehicles being that close, had those “are we almost there yet” thought’s flooding back in a hurry. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose steam. Just like that, the wind in my sails died, and all I could think about was how we could hike out to that parking lot, hitch a ride with someone back to our truck, and be at the hotel bar by happy hour. In fact I think we even talked about it. Not with any real sincerity, as none of us would have been able to live with ourselves if we’d of given up that close to the finish line, but it definitely was a thought.

As we pushed on, however, Ken and I slowed down, way down. I remember stopping on the trail at one point, and talking for a solid 20 minutes, while Brad and James forged on ahead. This was probably the biggest gap we ever had between members of the group since we started. When we finally kicked it back into gear, and arrived at the camp, Brad and James already had their tents up.

imageI don’t remember a lot about the campsite that night either, (my thoughts were probably consumed with nearby parking lots). I do remember that it was on another lake, but the site was elevated above it, making trekking for water a chore. I also remember that the lake was mostly frozen, and there was a good view of some waterfalls on the far side of it. The weather was still not cooperating, but we had learned not to reinvent the wheel already that day, and the lesson must have stuck, because we erected a tarp shelter very similar to the one from the night before. We also learned a new trick or two, as I recall; we made a makeshift table, Lincoln log style, from some logs we found nearby. We tried to use it forimage euchre, but the seats weren’t dry, so stand up euchre had to do. It did make for a good kitchen for our stoves though. The rest of my recollections for that day consist of a freeze dried dinner, and a relatively quick retreat to the semi comfort of my thermarest and tent, just as soon as I was sick of losing at euchre.

Theres something to be said about my thoughts as I drifted to sleep that night though. They weren’t about the end of the trail or being “almost there”. My thoughts were in that birch tree forest, surrounded by its beauty.

Coming soon- Killarney part 7: The conclusion

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Killarney part 5: Whiskey rainwater and Euchre standing up.

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Have you ever woke up and something felt instantly different about the day?  Maybe it was the weather or just a smell, or feel in the room where you woke, or any number of things, but you just felt good?  Almost as if there was magic in the air? Well that’s how the next day began. It very well could have been weather induced on this particular day. It was maybe 40 degrees outside my sleeping bag, and not a lot warmer than that inside my sleeping bag. Which is what prompted me to get out of it in the first place. I had 3 layers of long johns on, 2 pairs of socks, a beanie, and a hoodie with the hood up, all in a vain effort to keep the chill out. I had the beanie all the way down over my eyes in an attempt to cover as much skin as possible. When I finally gave up on the battle of shiver vs. sleep, declaring shiver the victor- I pulled the beanie off and opened my eyes. A soft gray light poured into my tent; what was left of an early morning sun that had to make it’s way through clouds and a forest canopy. I unzipped my tent and peered out the door. A dense fog had settled in over the lake where Brad and James had taken their icy dip the night before.
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Part of the magic of the morning could have also been induced by the knowledge that this was the short day- a mere 4 miles. A literal walk in the park compared to the grueling 12 miles we did the day before. Regardless, we all awoke with smiles on our faces and enjoyed a leisurely long breakfast, not breaking camp until 10. We would have taken even more time, but mother nature decided she’d had enough of our laziness and so she jumpstarted our day with a little shower. As the rain came down, slowly at first, we packed up our gear, covered our packs with their rain-fly’s, got our own rain gear on, and started down the trail.

Not only was this our short day, but we quickly discovered that the trail was very easy going. It was mostly a quartz covered ridge lined with trees, and little elevation change.

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Despite the rain, Brad managed to find this cool whitetail shed along the way.

Despite the rain, Brad managed to find this cool whitetail shed along the way.

The rain, however, only got worse. It seemed like with each step we took the rain came down harder, and so we moved even quicker. And thus, we arrived at camp in a little over 2 hours.

The only noticeable elevation change that day, actually, was upon entering the campsite. A wooden sign with a picture of a tent carved on it, pointed us down a trail which quickly descended from the ridge about 200 ft. and winded down to a lake below. As we made our way down to the camp site, my lazy side snuck back into my mind and said to my more ambitious side  “you know you’re gonna have to climb this same 200 ft. back up to get on the trail again tomorrow?”. I shooshed lazy man away and smiled, enjoying the downhill jaunt.

imageThe lake was gorgeous, and the  campsite was a very cozy flat area under tall pines right on the shore. I remember arriving in camp and being very torn as to whether it was awesome that we were in camp so early and didn’t have to hike anymore that day, or if it sucked that we were there so early and therefore had all day to figure out what to do. On a dry day, this would have never been a dilemma. We would have reveled in the extra time to explore the wilderness at our leisure, without the nagging pressure of getting to camp before sunset.  This was, however, a far cry from a dry day. I remember the 4 of us just standing there in a circle, not saying a whole lot, just waiting for the rain to quit.

After a few minutes, It became evident that the rain wasn’t going to stop any time soon. Mother Nature was sick of the stench of 4 men who hadn’t showered in 5 days, and she intended to fix that problem. This was when we started brain storming. If we were gonna sit here in the rain all day we were gonna need shelter. We could put our tents up, but we each had 1 man tents, and the thought of us all retiring to individual tents for the day wasn’t very appealing. Simply calling it a day and going to sleep was mentioned, but, mind you, it had been a very short day and was at this point only just after noon. Setting up tents, we decided, simply wouldn’t do. If we were gonna salvage any of this day we needed a shelter that we could all get under.

We each had a tarp in our packs that we used as footprints under our tents, so we got them out and startedimage construction. Some of the tarps had grommets and some didn’t, but one of our brilliant engineering minds (it’s been too long now to remember who, so we’ll just say me), came up with the idea of wrapping a corner piece of tarp around a small stone and tying line around it in place of grommets. We also had another brilliant idea- Brad is tall, Ken is short, put the 2 of them together and Ken becomes a giant. This was necessary for 2 reasons, one -to get enough of a pitch in our roof that the water would run off easily instead of pooling up, and two- so that we all had clearance to stand underneath.

With these methods in place, and an overwhelming desire to not get rained on any longer, we quickly had a very functional tarp shelter.

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imageWith that task completed, a feeling of “what now?” seemed to prevail among the group. Sitting wasn’t very comfortable, as we had only one wet log to share between the 4 of us. We talked for a bit, hoping deep down that the rain would yet stop, but it never did. After awhile someone broke out the whiskey. We passed the bottle around a couple times, and it seemed to lift our spirits. The rain was coming down hard now, and our perfectly pitched roof provided a nice funnel for the water to flow off. It was raining so hard, in fact, that the one corner of the roof had a steady stream of water running like a faucet all day.  This proved to be a great convenience, as there was no need to brave the elements to pump and filter water from the lake.

I think it was Ken who filled his camp mug about half full with rainwater, and then topped it off with whiskey, and thus a new drink was born- the whiskey rainwater! We all poured ourselves one and someone said “maybe this will catch on and one of these days the good people of Sudbury will be ordering whiskey rainwaters at their local pubs.” We all had a good laugh as we pictured bartenders running out back to grab some rainwater. We imagined them having tarps set up out back that they would keep specifically for this delicacy of a drink.  It would be expensive though, due to supply and demand- after all, you could only order it if it were raining.

imageAs the day wore on, eventually the Euchre deck came out. For those of you who don’t know- Euchre is a card game played with 4 people, generally around a table. Well, we had the 4 people, and the deck of cards, but we were missing the table.  That wasn’t going to stop us though, and just like that our second invention of the day was created- Euchre standing up. It’s very similar to the sit around a table version, you just subtract the table and chairs. someone has to hang on to the discard pile, and  another person hangs onto the score cards. Other than that it’s exactly the same as it’s sit down cousin, only much less comfortable. We played hand after hand in our rustic shelter as the rain pattered down all around us.

When nightfall came we decided to set our tents up inside the shelter. There was only room for 3 tents under it though, and Brad quickly volunteered to set his up in the elements- he was a good leader. We all helped each other set up, and before you know it we had a little tent city inside our shelter.

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As I laid in my tent that night waiting on sleep, my thoughts were filled with the days events. A day one could assume was ruined by the rain, but that’s not the truth. The rain was at first an inconvenience, but in the end it brought us all together. We laughed more that day than any other day on the whole trip. And more than that, it made a memory- one of the best memories my little brain has. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said “For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” I laid there listening to the pitter patter of raindrops on the tarp above me and smiled knowing that some rainy day I would share the memory of whiskey rainwater and Euchre standing up, and let it rain.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Killarney part 4: If you’re going through hell, keep going.

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The next day began like any other-coffee, and a mountain house breakfast burrito. I think it was at about this point that I vowed to never eat another Mountain House breakfast burrito again- once the trip was over that is. For those of you who don’t know what it is, a Mountain House breakfast burrito  is a zip loc bag filled with dehydrated eggs, sausage, onions, and peppers. To eat it, you boil a cup of water on your backpacking stove, add it to the bag and zip it closed, then wait 8 minutes and voila- you now have rehydrated eggs, sausage, peppers, and onions. Add this to tortilla shells ( you have to bring those separately) and you have what is at first, not a bad breakfast burrito. Your third breakfast of them in a row, however, they start to lose their luster. Don’t get me wrong,  I have  had some delicious Mountain House meals- but they were mostly dinner meals. They don’t really have a big selection of breakfast meals, so you get sick of the same one quickly.  Needless to say- I gobbled it up anyway and was thankful to have it. We packed up camp and got back on the trail without too much haste.

 
We began the day by walking around the west side of the lake we’d camped on the night before. As we started walking along the south shore of the lake we could see the trail across the lake on the North side. I remember a lazy thought entering my head at this point, as I wished that I could somehow magically transport myself to that North shore part of the trail, this led to even more lazy and illogical thoughts- like what if I had a rocket pack on my back and could just fly up to the next camp site, or a Segway pimped out with oversized mudding tires. These thoughts quickly drifted away as I took in the beauty of my surroundings- giant pines, and majestic white birch trees surrounding the half frozen lake that we were hiking around. I Soon felt guilty for those lazy thoughts and vowed to try my hardest to enjoy my surroundings and not listen to my aching muscles.
 
The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and so, the layers were shed even faster than the day before. Looking back now,  it couldn’t have been much more than 75 degrees, but it felt like 90 to us, especially after we made it around the lake and were greeted with the first real elevation change of the trip. Quartz rock boulders were stacked haphazardly like a giants playthings forming the trail. soon after this came our second elevation change- you guessed it, straight back down. This is about the time the realization that this trip could be dangerous came back to us. We had all but forgotten that fact after the first day of river crossings. We climbed slowly down the quartz boulder staircase -single file. If it had been any steeper we would’ve needed rappelling gear- instead, a trekking pole in one hand and a free hand to grab onto anything you could, did the trick. One by one we eased our way down. There were a few close calls, but before you know it, all 4 of us were at the bottom and back on the trail.la cloche 2011 335
It was only a few minutes later that the trail began to ascend once more, only this time it was alongside a waterfall that cascaded down the side of the mountain and made a very inviting looking pool in the quartz- not quite inviting enough for a dip- but close.la cloche 2011 289 We climbed this portion with ease, coaxed forward by amazing views and the desire to see what waited ahead. As usual Brad and James led the pack and Ken and I brought up the caboose. I can’t quite recall what led to us getting off trail – but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with Ken and I making up stories again. I guess I didn’t mention it yet, but the entire path was marked out with little blue markers like the one in this picture. la cloche 2011 300Throughout the trip you’d get to a point where the trail wasn’t obvious and you’d have to look a bit to find one of those markers. (Ken was infamous for walking right past them though, I think he may have been looking straight down the entire trip. Actually, maybe that was what led to this particular circumstance.)We found ourselves on a long plateau, with no clear path and not a blue marker in sight. We searched left and right, high and low but still, no blue markers. This was one of the more scenic parts of the trip actually – isn’t that true often in life though- beauty comes when you least expect it, or when you are somewhere you didn’t intend to be.  We probably searched for 10 or 15 minutes before deciding to consult the map and take a detour to the next spot that we knew we could find the trail. This was fine at first. We traversed more quarts rocks and took in even more epic views, la cloche 2011 294but then we came to the end of the plateau and finally found a blue marker off in the distance, but to get to it we would have to go straight down a sheer, ice covered ledge. This thing looked like a luge track only steeper. It was only a 20 ft drop though- and so it wasn’t as intimidating as it could have been. Next to the luge track were trees on both sides and We decided the safest way was to stay on the side where there would be hand holds. we lowered our packs using 550 chord first and then did a kind of half slide on your butt, half grapple / climb down while trying to grab trees that weren’t going to pull out of the ground. Once again we survived unscathed and were back on track. We began another slow climb. This was one of the hardest days of the trip- the ups and downs were bad enough, but it was exacerbated by the heat. When we finally got to a beaver pond and stopped for lunch I dropped my pack and collapsed. I was tired, hot, sore, hungry, and thirsty, in short- miserable. I pulled a piece of jerky out of my pack and gnawed on it while I leaned my head back against a tree. The jerky was salty and sweet and heavenly, and I savored each bite.  As I sat there enjoying my snack and the much needed rest, I thought of a quote by Winston Churchill- “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. And so, as much as we didn’t want to- we did just that. la cloche 2011 303Before getting back on the trail though, we stopped to pump some water, as our camelbacks were empty. The only water source we had to pump from though was the beaver pond. We had no other choice, and so we put all our faith in the filter on our pump and hoped for the best. The water tasted like swamp water but it was cool and refreshing none the less.
The afternoon was much of the same, a lot of heat, and a lot of elevation change. There was, however, a section of the trail that was next to a skinny lake and was covered in a heavy canopy of pine forest.la cloche 2011 332 It had an eerie feel to it and the heavy canopy kept the sun out- so much so that there was a stretch of the trail with waist deep snow drifts, believe it or not. It was that icy type of snow though- the kind right on the verge of melting. It was like walking through a snow cone. It was a welcome change from the heat of the day- but it didn’t last long. We descended one last time and crossed a gushing river and then made one last push up and ascended to our campsite- what a relief. I ditched my pack in a hurry and set up my hammock first thing. The campsite was next to another half frozen lake with a beautiful view. I grabbed a clif bar, climbed in my hammock and dozed off before I finished eating it. I awoke only minutes later to what sounded like squealing school girls. It turned out to be Brad and James taking a dip in the icy lake- needless to say they weren’t in there long.
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There was a large flat boulder right on the edge of the lake and that was where we spent the evening. After dinner James found a Mountain House  meal  that had been dropped by another backpacker who had passed through before us. It didn’t look too old and wasn’t expired so we all shared it and had second dinner! Much to James’s dismay, however, it was his least favorite kind- beef stroganoff. After the day we’d just had he didn’t complain much though and scarfed down his portion just like the rest of us.
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 We finished the evening telling stories by a fire on that slab of rock. We passed a bottle of whiskey around a few times and it wasn’t long before laughter filled the air. I sat there with the warmth of the fire on my cheek and the warmth of the whiskey in my stomach and smiled as I thought about that quote once more. “If you’re going through hell, keep going” I was certainly glad I did.la cloche 2011 569

Coming soon- Killarney part 5: whiskey rainwater and euchre standing up.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Be careful which way you lean; a day on the ice

I found a new love today; the love of the ice. Not the shaved kind, or the cubed kind, or the black kind. I’m talking about the inside of a skating rink kind. ( don’t get me wrong, I do love shaved ice. Who doesn’t? It’s delicious.). Today though, I found a special kind of love.

I showed up at Howe Arena 15 minutes before open skate started, and dressed out in all my gear. And I mean all of it; skates to helmet and every pad in between. I must have looked hilarious to the rest of the open skate crowd, dressed in mostly jeans and sweatshirts. But it was important that I had on all the gear. This wasn’t gonna be a gentle glide through the rink holding hands with a new found love, like some cheesy romantic comedy. I came here to learn the game of hockey, and they told me the first step was knowing how to skate. So I knew I needed to come prepared.

I stepped out of the locker room and felt a chill, a feeling I was soon to find out, wouldn’t last long. I walked over to the Ice, opened the gate, and took that first step onto the freshly groomed rink. I had a brief moment where I couldn’t keep my legs beneath me and surely looked like Bambi learning to walk. It was brief though, and then I took a step, and then another, and just like that I was skating. Within minutes I felt comfortable on the ice. It felt completely natural to me, like I was born to be on the ice. I looked up at the scoreboard and imagined it lit up, announcing to a sold out crowd the goal I just scored. I could almost hear people chanting my name; “Tjader”, “Tjader”, “Tjader”…I was smiling when my friend Josh brought me back to reality. Turns out he was the one saying my name; “Tjader”, “huh?”, I replied dreamily. “you’re doing good man” he said. “now you just need to learn to stop”. I wasn’t sure why that was necessary when the ice was enclosed in these handy boards that were perfect for helping you stop, but he assured me that stopping at any spot on the ice was an essential skill that I needed to learn. I conceded to his better judgement, and began my fall from my grandiose delusions of Stanley cup championships, to my heaping dose of humility, which was fed to me as I lay flat on my back on the ice. This was where I spent a good portion of the next half hour while Josh taught me how to stop. One would think that stopping would be easier than going. After all, stopping is the act of ceasing the exertion of energy, whereas going is the act of exerting energy. Nonetheless, stopping, it turns out, is very much the more difficult of the two, in hockey at least.

Time and time again, I would skate skate skate skate skate, try and stop, and fall. Over and over again. That, or I would just spin in a circle, which could arguably be effective as a means of stopping. It kept me from progressing forward at least, and once I was done spinning, I was indeed stopped. The only problem with that, was that when actually playing hockey, it would surely waste too much time. This would likely leave me smiling at my achievement long enough to realize the play had long since passed me by. So I continued to try and stop. “bend your knees more” Josh would say, and I would, and I’d fall just the same. At one point he said ” you need to lean more” which instantly brought a quote to my overactive mind. One I’d heard in a Dr. Seuss movie, of all places; “A tree falls the way it leans, be careful which way you lean. ” ~ The Lorax. “hmm” I thought, “a tree falls the way it leans” I briefly pondered how that quote could help me here. Josh was telling me to lean after all. But the Lorax was telling me that leaning would make me fall, which is exactly what I was trying to avoid doing. Finally, I decided that in this instance, The Lorax was wrong, and so I leaned. And for a brief second It almost worked, I almost stopped on the ice, in fact, one of my legs did exactly as it was supposed to; it caught the edge and skidded to that tell tale hockey stop. My other leg, however, must have been listening to the Lorax, because it made a complete circle and pulled me, and both legs down onto the ice. I laid there, flat on my back once again. Josh skidded to a perfect hockey stop by my side and helped me to my feet. “good job man, you almost had it” he said. “thanks” I replied, as I dusted myself off.

We did a couple more laps around the rink, and then decided to call it a day. I stepped off the ice, pulled off my helmet, and wiped about a pint of sweat off my brow. I looked up at the scoreboard once more, smiled, and thought to myself; “I’ll be back”

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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Home brew; My new obsession

It all started last week. A friend and I met at a local micro-brewery for lunch. Naturally, the converstion drifted to brewing.  My friend had done a lot of home brewing before, and I have always wanted to. I told him how I really wanted to try it, but had always been intimidated by it. For no particular reason, I had always just assumed it was too complicated.  He assured me it wasnt, and gave me a quick rundown on it’s  simplicity. We followed up lunch with a trip to the local homebrew store. I left with barley, hops, and high hopes.

I couldn’t get started soon enough.  I borrowed some basic equipment from my brewing buddy (a large spoon, a carboy, an airlock, etc..) and got to work.  He was right; it was simple.  Granted, I was following step by step instructions, but I feel like after a couple more brews, I could start modifying recipes and be off and running sans instruction.  The beer I chose to make is an imperial IPA, and let me tell you, if it tastes anything like it smells, you’re gonna want a sample.  My house smells incredible!

It’s now been sitting in the carboy for about 4 days, and the airlock is happily bubbling away, an indication that I did at least something right.  I plan to transfer it to a “secondary” carboy  at the one week mark, and let it clarify in the secondary for another 2 weeks or so before bottling.  At which point I will have to wait another couple of weeks before consuming.  I know, it’s a lot of waiting, but good things come to those who wait!

Since brew day I’ve become almost obsessed with home brewing. I dream about it, I spend hours on home brew forums, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my carboy.  It’s taking over my life, in a good way. I havent been this excited about a new hobby in quite some time.

I’ll post an update as the beer progresses. Hopefully along with a photo of me sampling my first homebrew with a smile on my face.

Cheers!

 

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Killarney, Part 3; “I can see all the obstacles in my way”

I awoke early the second morning, due to an irrational fear of bears and a thermarest that was just a bit too close to the cold ground beneath it. I tossed back and forth for a few minutes, hoping I’d eventually fall back asleep, but it was futile. Finally, I decided the best course of action was to get up and make a fire. At least I would be warm. Besides, bears are afraid of fire…right? Fire didn’t come easily in the cold, dark, predawn, but I had a fire starting kit complete with petroleum infused cotton balls and waterproof matches, and so it came none the less.

Once the fire was made, I dug into my pack for a little treat…fresh ground coffee. I had ground it from some dark roasted beans and vacuum sealed it before I left home. You didn’t expect me to go a week without fresh ground coffee did you? I fired up my pocket rocket stove and in just a couple of minutes the water was boiling. I poured it into my french press mug along with the grounds, and after letting it steep for a couple of minutes more, I was in coffee heaven. I sat next to the fire and slowly sipped my coffee, savoring every drop. When you’re out in the woods for a week, little things like a fresh brewed cup of joe can make all the difference in the world. Before you know it, I had a smile on my face.

The sun began to rise as I finished my first cup of coffee and I decided it was about time I got started on breakfast. Once again, I fired up the pocket rocket and got to work. I think the smell of eggs and bacon aroused the troops, because just like that everyone was up…including the sun. We scarfed down our Mountain House breakfast burritos, and began breaking down camp.  The clouds from the day before were nowhere to be seen, and the mood around the camp was much improved.

We got on the trail at around 8 am.  We might have been hiking a half hour before we stopped to shed a layer due to overheating – a problem we were happy to have.  We continued on the trail for a couple of miles before we came to a little dilemma, (see picture at top of page).  Due to the sunny day, I had been singing to myself “I can see clearly now the rain is gone; I can see all the obstacles in my way”. Well right about the time “I can see all the obstacles in my way” floated through my brain, we came to this massive obstacle; A dam spanning a very large river. 

Let me be clear here, this wasn’t actually a dam blocking our path.  At one point the path had crossed here, but the river had overtaken a bridge and they had decided to divert the path to the west and put a new bridge in a mile or so down river, where it was a little slower moving.  So what’s the problem, you might ask?  Well when 4 adventurous men are faced with a silly little thing like a river crossing, or diverting around it, adding a total of 2 miles to the trail, it’s very difficult to get them to just concede to the diverted pathway.

So what did we do instead? You guessed it; wasted almost as much time trying to come up with ideas to get

"defeated"

across as it would have taken to just go around, and still came up with nothing. Logs across the river didn’t work, it was just too wide. Simply walking across the top of the dam was a possibility, but in the end was too risky; the water was moving so fast and if you’d of slipped it could have ended in death – an unacceptable risk we decided after much contemplation.  Swinging across in some Tarzan sort of fashion was contemplated, as well as a zip line of some sorts, but our engineering skills weren’t quite up to snuff and we couldn’t come up with a plausible way to make it work.  Finding a shallow spot and just walking across seemed promising, but waist deep was about as shallow as we could find, and then you’d have to carry your pack above your head. This was a plausible course of action, but the risk of slipping and dropping your entire pack into the water, was too great a risk.  We briefly considered fashioning a raft ala Huck Fin style, but abandoned that idea when we quickly realized we’d spend more time making it then we would simply taking the detour.  We finally gave in and took the detour ( we had slowly walked that direction looking for a shortcut, and so we were more than halfway to the new bridge at that point anyway).

Before you know it, we had completed the detour and were on the other side of the dam. I remember shedding another layer around this time. I was now in a t-shirt, the cold wet day before, a distant memory.  The wildlife must have been enjoying the sun as well,  we saw several deer along the path. They were probably the least skittish deer I’ve ever come across, and allowed us to come mere feet from them without getting spooked. 

We also saw a grim reminder of the raw wildness of this place; what appeared to be the leftovers of a wolf packs dinner the night before..

deer carcass

We stopped for lunch soon after this. Lunch on a backpacking trip is like a little vacation.  We laid in the sun and rested, while feasting on beef jerky, Clif bars, and trail mix.  It may not sound like much, but to us, we might as well have been eating bacon wrapped filet mignon.  Throughout the trip I looked forward to this little escape we called lunch.  All morning as we would trudge along the trail, the goal in my mind was, make it to lunch.  I would chant “it’s almost lunch, It’s almost lunch” incessantly in my mind as we worked our way up the trail. You would be amazed how much more energy I would have after lunch.  The body becomes a machine when you’re hiking all day.  When you lose energy, you feed it, and you feel energized. When you feel thirsty and sore, you drink, and you can almost feel the water lubricating your joints.  True, this is the way the body always works, but you don’t notice it nearly as much as when you are constantly in motion, for a long period. You become very in tune to what your body needs, almost as if you have a little dashboard in your brain with gauges measuring your energy, hunger, thirst, and soreness levels.  I think we allowed ourselves about a 20 minute lunch before we got moving again.

We soon realized why they called this the “La Cloche Mountain Range”.  As the afternoon wore on we climbed higher and higher along this quartz rock trail.  We got to the top of one particular ridge, and my soreness faded away as I took in the beauty that lay below. The view was spectacular…

As I mentioned before, Ken and I spent most of the time in the back of the pack, sometimes as far as a half mile behind Brad and James. Well at one point that afternoon we began this little game where we would make up a story about the people we ran into on the trail. At this point that amounted to 5; the 2 guys and a girl we had seen the day before, and 2 gentlemen we ran into on that quartz ridge.  It was an older white guy probably in his late 40’s, and a young kid, maybe late teens, early 20’s.  The kid was darker complected, and although there was some discussion on the matter, we decided they didn’t really look like father and son.  And that’s what got us thinking about what brought them there together…

We decided that it was obvious that the older man was an ex-convict.  He had probably been put away for the better part of a decade, for some sort of sexually deviant crime.  While in the pen he had met Trevor, a high school drop out, through a prisoner pen pal organization.  Trevor was raised without a dad in the slums of Sudbury.  His mom was a coke head, and she was rarely home. When she was, she was “working” for her next fix with random businessmen in the bedroom.  Trevor left home when he was 15 and went back and forth between friends houses and city shelters.  One day he was at one of these shelters when he saw an ad in the back of a Mad magazine for prison pen pals. Trevor was desperate for any male influence in his life, as he didn’t have a father. Before you know it Trevor and Dan were writing each other every day. When Dan wrote and said he was about to be paroled and would love to take Trevor on a backpacking trip in the La Cloche Mountain Range, Trevor was more than excited… and that’s how “Trevor” and “Dan” ended up on the trail with us…at least in our crazy imaginations that is. 

 As for the two guys and a girl we met the day before…We decided that they worked for a software company in Toronto.  The two guys, Doug, and Jim, had been best friends since high school. Doug was kind of a nerdy guy, well they both were, but Doug looked like it and Jim didn’t.  Doug looked up to Jim and had sort of followed him since high school.  They both went to Toronto University, and had both been hired on at the same software company after they graduated.  Cindy was an intern in the department where Doug and Jim worked.  Doug had a huge crush on her, but before he knew it Cindy was dating Jim.  Doug hated being the 3rd wheel but he could’nt help himself. He constantly invited himself along with Jim and Cindy, just to be closer to her.  So when Jim and Cindy decided to go backpacking in La Cloche, naturally Doug came along.  Whether Doug pushes Jim off a cliff at some point, and then uses the opportunity to console Cindy, and win her love, is up to your imagination, but we think that’s what might of happened. 

As we made up these stories, our minds were lifted from the trail to imagination land, making the pain of the hike all but disappear. I like to think we used that theory “mind over matter” in a new way.  I think the original context of that quote means that you can do anything you put your mind to.  Well, the other way to look at it, the way it worked for us was, let your mind drift away from the pain. The further your mind is from the pain, the less it hurts. Before you know it, we had made our way to Camp #2. 

Camp #2 was one of my favorites. It had a little rock wind barrier for a fire pit area, and there were pine trees right on the edge of a cliff that overlooked a frozen river below for me to set my hammock up in. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but for some reason it had almost a tropical feel to it…or maybe that was just “mind over matter”

Coming soon: Killarney, Part 4; “if you are going through hell, keep going”

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Rustic ravioli: the recipe

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Owning a blog titled Therusticravioli, I’ve come to realize, comes with some responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is having the ability to make a mean ravioli. I will attempt to prove that skill now…

Grandpa Moonys ravioli’s:

This recipe is an adaptation of my Grandpa Moony’s original recipe- sort of (they called him moony due to an unfortunate bald spot shaped like a moon on top of his head). You see, he never used measurements or wrote anything down, and so, replicating it was difficult. My mom says she tried for years to get it right, and simply couldn’t, until she came across a recipe in an old Italian cookbook. When she followed the recipe in that book it came out just like grandpa’s did. My mom has been making that recipe for the last 30 years now (all of my life) and although he didn’t write the book, I like to think of it as his recipe anyway. So, while its true that the recipe I’ll show you here is from that old Italian cookbook, which is now just a pile of pages with no binding, to me, it’s grandpa’s ravioli recipe. When I make it my family all says “Grandpa Moony would be proud” So, if you choose to make these, don’t take it lightly. Take your time and add enough love, and you can make Grandpa Moony proud too…

This recipe makes about 20 raviolis. I usually double or triple it. First of all you should be warned that this isn’t a quick recipe. It will take a couple hours, so ensure you have ample time for that. Start by combining 1 and a half tsp. of vegetable oil, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 egg, beaten. Add 2 cups flour and mix to form a medium dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic ( at least 10 min.) add flour or water as needed to get the right consistency.

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Let dough rest under bowl for a half hour. In the meantime make the filling…

Ricotta ravioli filling…
Mix together 1 lb. fresh ricotta, 1 egg,1 cup fresh grated romano cheese, and 1/4 cup parsley. Salt to taste, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Roll out dough until almost paper thin…

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Place spoonfuls of ricotta filling in a line on top of dough…

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fold dough over…

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Now cut out the raviolis and seal them with a fork…

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Place the finished ravioli on floured wax paper, and dust them with flour. Warning: they WILL stick together if you don’t flour the wax paper and dust with flour.

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Drop raviolis into boiling water and remove with a slotted spoon when they float on top (just a couple minutes). Serve with homemade sauce and meatballs! Voila; Grandpa Moony’s raviolis!

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Wish you were here to see them Grandpa. I Hope I did them justice. Rest in peace.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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