Marquette’s Beautifully Groomed South Trails with Tim

The past two weeks have seen several multi-day warm ups. In most places this would mean that snowbike trails become ribbons of unrideable mashed potatoes that only get worse when they freeze. But, if you live in Marquette it means that the wonderful groomers from the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN) Single Track Section put in some serious hours to ensure that our trails are top-notch when the inevitable freeze comes.

The NTN groomers have come up with some very unique grooming implements that suit our local climate. Their hard work and innovation is the subject of a great new short called “Whack Jobs.” It’s a true testament to those hardworking volunteers that make winter riding not only a possibility but a real pleasure.

The riding has been stellar so far in 2018. Despite the warm weather, as long as the temps drop overnight the trails are primo early in the morning before the sun hits them. In these few precious hours the planets align and you can really rip.

This weekend my friend Tim came up from Wisconsin to revel in our beautiful trails. I set up the GoPro and we went to the woods. Check it out!

Did you get out and get after it this weekend?

-J

Sunday Spin

We’ve got a little piece of property in the country. It’s the kind of place that’s just far enough out that you have to make your own fun. We spend a lot of time playing in and around the homestead. Lately, the main focus has been turning it into a bit of an adult playground. We are constantly looking for ways to make our spaces more fun and playful.

This past week we have been panking down our own fat bike trail for some friendly festivities this upcoming weekend. The freeze/thaw cycle from last week really helped the trail set up so we spent a little time riding them in this afternoon. Things are getting dialed in! The light was just right today so we did a little filming. Enjoy.

 

I got some new camera items to play around with and I am hoping to film more this year. Stay tuned.

-J

You asked for it.

I have been blogging off an on for around 8 years starting with Random Stream of Consciousness and now The Flannel Dispatch. However, its never been something that has been taken too seriously. I publish infrequently and fail to capture a majority of the things that I do. It has come to my attention that people like to hear what I am up to. People just like you. Perhaps it is that you are bored with your everyday lives and want to get a glimpse into the world of people that work hard and play hard. Maybe you really want to see how we balance our lives. Or maybe, just maybe you truly care about Chelsea and I and what we are up to.

While on a recent trip to Duluth I resolved to more closely chronicle my life and adventures.

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Our world is wild. This is the view from a random Thursday. (Gooseberry Falls, MN)

We tend to live a life unlike many people and Id like to inspire others to live more like us. We have decided to eschew the “normal” young professional progression for a more #dirtbagyuppie lifestyle: we focus on experiences and toys that enrich our lives in ways that help us enjoy the outdoors. So, instead of saving our extra money and time off on one single vacation each year we would rather go on many micro adventures throughout the year. I personally find that taking quick breaks more frequently helps me to stay focused in my professional life and that allows me to do the things that I want in my free time.

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This is going to be another big year for us: we are building up a van for taking more micro adventures; coaching a youth mountain bike team; continuing to evolve the Basecamp Homestead; protecting the wild places of the UP; training our pup; racing a little; learning new things; and blogging a whole heck of a lot more.  We are going to make a serious effort to document document document.

Superior SUP Session

Superior SUP Session.

Expect more frequent posts covering everything from gear and beer reviews to race reports, fishing stories, and other Great Lakes tales.

-J&C

Dirtbag Yuppie?

So you have a decent job that requires you to dress up most days but deep down you really want to just shred gnar, drink camp coffee, and turn your hatchback into a fish car during your downtime. Boy oh boy do I have an offer for you. It’s called being a Dirtbag Yuppie.

DIRTBAG YUPPIE:

Noun. Origin: Milennial Slang. Individual who holds down a decent job while also devoting much of their energy and passion to outdoor pursuits. Usually seen: leaving the office in bike shorts; at trailheads with a fully loaded adventure wagon; or suddenly “coming down with something” the afternoon before a big snow storm. 

Dirtbag: A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle.  Dirtbags seek to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle.


Yuppie: Acronym for Young Urban Professional. Group whose culture blends the hippie/counterculture values of the 60s and the materialistic monetary-based values of the 80s. Usually congregate in nice coffee shops, co-ops, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and a wide variety of handmade or small-batch boutiques. Includes both moderate Liberals, and moderate Conservatives, although both the far left and the far right enjoy dissing them.


I have always felt a little conflicted: I love what I do for a living and the financial rewards that it brings, but I do not have the same value system as most people in my position. On paper I am a bit of a yuppie. (This is a title that I have struggled with more than once). However, I don’t want fancy things for the sake of showing them off to other people, nor do I go out to dinner just to be seen, and I never start off a conversation by asking someone where they work. I prefer to live a simple life focused on my passions; those activities and causes that light my fire and give me purpose and which my profession allows me to comfortably pursue. I’m not a big fan of having stuff just for the sake of having stuff. The exception to that statement of course are the implements that further my passions: bikes, fly rods, tents, kayaks… I LIVE for adventure, nature, and experiences that enrich me as a person and I follow those passions every chance that I get. So to that, I am also a bit of a dirtbag. Whenever I am looking for the answer to a big question I take to my bike.

While out spinning my wheels last year I came to a conclusion: embrace the yuppie-ness but, do it in such a way that in amplifies your ability to dirtbag it up. In short, you can have a great fulfilling career and nice things but don’t let that change who you really are. Wear the suit from 9-5 then change into your cycling kit or Baggies and let loose.

Take alternative transportation to work.

Now, I do not live out of my van and scrounge for dollars to score whatever is hot and full of calories at the nearest convenience store while on multi-week climbing or biking excursions so many people will not agree with the dirtbag moniker. However, I always have at least one fly rod in my vehicle, tote my bike or skis around to every work trip, and take frequent long weekends spent solely playing in the outdoors. Doing so allows me to recharge so that when I head back to my office I can be the best version of myself for my clients.

In short: be a yuppie: plan for retirement and have nice things. But live like there is no tomorrow.

Don’t waste your life chasing things that don’t really matter. Take more powder days; shred more trail; leave the office when the surf is up.

If you feel like letting others know that you are a contributing member of society that is more than a pressed shirt and a handshake maybe you should check out Dirtbag Yuppie swag.

-J

Don’t be so serious

I have an honest confession to make: I have been Zwifting. Since a few days after Christmas I have been a card carrying member of the cellar-dwelling cycling contingent. Why, you ask? Because I decided to make a commitment to myself to be a more serious cyclist in 2018. I have some long fun-rides and “races” planned. Don’t get me wrong, I will not place in any of these races, but I need some sort of event/goal to spur my physical fitness on. So I caved, and I joined the ranks.

I have been putting down some miles. Zwift affords me the ability to get up, swing my leg over the bike, and start the day spinning. No hauling my bike to the trailhead at 6:30 in the morning in the pitch-black Marquette morning. No snow pants, goggles, or frozen water bottles.

When I got Zwift I vowed to not let it totally replace winter cycling. I wanted it to supplement my training without serving as the death knell of fat biking. Consistent morning rides on the spin bike and after work rides on the fat bike to remind me what it really means to be a cyclist.

Things have been going pretty well. But this morning didn’t line up right and I missed my Zwift. Regardless I packed up my fattie and headed to work. The workday sort of slogged on and I dealt with some pretty sad and heavy situations with my clients. While gearing up at the office I debated skipping my snowbike ride and putting in dedicated practice time on Zwift. But I told myself that I could just treat this ride as a training ride. Hit it hard and I wouldn’t fall off my loosely planned training regimen. That was the plan.

So I took off with a bit of a poor attitude. As I climbed Benson the direction of my attitude was inverse to the incline. The higher I went, the worse it got. It was like I forgot that riding outside would be much harder than my basement. The elements seem really harsh when you haven’t had to deal with them in a while. Needless to say I was not feeling it. The big fat under-inflated tires felt like they were working against me with ever pedal stroke. Mentally beaten down I plodded on. That is until it happened.

The wind picked up and the trees started to move around a bit. Unbeknownst to me all of that moving around dislodged a softball-size glob of snow. That glob floated down and smacked me right in the face. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. My poor attitude melted as quickly snow on my face and I wiped it all away. That’s all it took to turn things around. It’s like Ma Nature saw me struggling with some earthly crud and decided to set me straight. I was only half way into my short ride but the rest of the trail seemed to zoom by  with much less effort. I was back to enjoying riding my bike.

That’s what it’s all about for me; enjoyment, communing with nature, and maybe getting in shape along the way. Not mileage goals, race results, or Strava KOM. Everyone’s drivers are a little different and this ride showed me that I was going about things in the wrong way.

System re-calibrated, I pedal on with the same goals for 2018, but now I have a better idea on how to achieve them.

-J

Let’s Get HAMR’D!

We have some big plans for 2018.

Van building, random travel, polebarn erecting, and lotsa fishing.

One thing that has been added to that list is racing, lotsa racing. Now, I’m no racer boy. Yes, I wear spandex and I like to go fast, but no one would call what I do racing. That being said I am signing up to race in 2018 because I need it. It’s also going to allow Chelsea and I to run around a bunch. Chelsea is even planning on doing a few running races.

I’ll put a list of races and places in a future post. Of all my planned races I’m most stoked for the HAMR. Why is the stoke so high? Click this link and you’ll see why.

HAMR

Maybe the HAMR is an adventure race.

Maybe the HAMR is a bike race.

Maybe the HAMR is a sadistic spin through the north woods.

Who friggin’ knows…

All I know is that I’ll be anxiously tucked into my sleeping bag waiting for what I can only hope will be a black metal wake up call at Forestville. May the woods be filled with shreddy guitar solos before we all pedal into the darkness.

I hope I don’t get nailed… Let’s HAMR.

-J

Day 5: East Ho!

Day 5 was supposed to strictly be a travel day; point it east and go as far as possible. But on our way out of the campground the distractions started. We followed the signs to Cape Meares. We weren’t quite sure what it was but deep down we really weren’t ready to leave the coastal region and would do anything to prolong the inevitable so we took a segue to Cape Meares.

Cape Meares park has a cool little lighthouse, excellent views, and the most unique Sitka Spruce called the Octopus Tree.


After Cape Meares we started a slow trek toward Portland through the Tillamook state forest. On the way through we stopped at a few waterfalls and even tried to take a ridiculously skinny mountain road… needless to say we had a super sketchy turnaround. Ultimately, we made it to Trader Joe’s and REI to restock then navigated a weird Siri-route to get to Justin’s for the box we shipped out.

Prior to the Eagle Creek Fire we had planned to stay in that area a few nights. The rivers, waterfalls, and hiking in this area are second to none. Above all else we wanted to see Multnomah Falls. Unfortunately due to the actions of a 15 year old boy who has yet to be named we were robbed of those experiences. A few weeks before our visit said 15 year old was seen tossing fireworks into the gorge which lead to the Eagle Creek Fire. While the fire is still technically burning it’s estimated that the fire devoured over 48,000 acres. The resulting scars on the landscape will forever change the gorge. The drive through the gorge was still pretty, it was just another reminder how awful people are. Very sobering.

We camped at the Deschutes River Recreation Area where it dumps into the Columbia River. The campground was right on the riverbank and the facilities were very clean. We ate Annie’s ravioli, drank PNW IPA, played our new National Parks Trivia game, and slept hard.

This is how every travel day should end.

-J&C

Day 4: Tillamook Rambling

Day 4 we awoke quite warm thanks to an extra blanket. Have I mentioned how much I look forward to insulation in Vinny?

Our destination de jour was Tillamook and I wanted to have coffee with a little view so we secured the load and started driving. We pulled off the road just as first light made an appearance and brewed up some coffee while overlooking Nehalem Bay. For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about shellfish and mollusk gathering in that bay. It was actually like a little mini obsession while we were in that area. I almost bought a book on harvesting. Truth be told, I didn’t eve want to eat them I just wanted to see some. I digress.

We spent most of the morning checking out roadside pull-offs. Each one was quite pretty, but didn’t really hold a candle to what we had seen in the previous two days.

Just north of Tillamook we saw a sign for Kilchis Point Reserve. It appeared to be a small park/nature reserve offering a trail to some wildlife viewing on the bay. The reserve had a beautifully built trail system with many informative plaques along the route. It was raining pretty hard so we did not read them all. There is one in particular that I was very happy to have read: reptiles of Kilchis Point. It showed three slimy little animals. I though that it was just a cool sign covering creatures that in theory could live at the reserve. I never thought that we would see any of them. That is until the rain brought out the newts. They were all over the trail.

 

 


When we were in grad school Chelsea and I worked for a family that we will forever call “the most extraordinaire people that we have ever met.” He owned and operated a large car company and she was a movie star. His father had patents on many automobile parts, and her family were some of the settlers of Portland. Long way to say that Tillamook Cheese has special meaning to us now following Her indoctrination. Therefore, we made it a point to make a pilgrimage to the Tillamook Co-op. Tillamook is a very unique area in Oregon. It’s a group of lush plains areas with rich soil nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Oregon’s coastal mountain range. A series of rivers run through the plains and feed into Tillamook Bay. Between the rivers many groups of very happy cows make some of the best dairy. Driving south you just kind of pop out of the mountains into this beautiful hamlet.

When we got to the visitor center we found out that we would not be able to take a company tour because they are hard at work erecting a new super visitor center to be opened Spring 2018. I guess we will have to make a return trip next year… The temporary center did not disappoint. It has historical information regarding the creation of the farmer’s co-op and also information on the cheesemaking process and cows. Most importantly the visitors center has cheese samples, cheese for sale, and many many many different grilled cheese sandwiches!

 


We learned, laughed, shopped around, and ate a lot of cheese. Of course we stocked up on cheese for the return trip.


With full bellies and our fill of human interaction for the day we took to the woods. First stop: Munson Falls. While sailing down PCH we saw a very small sign pointing us toward Munson Falls. We knew that we wanted to check Munson out from our reading in An Explorer’s Guide to Oregon. The book said that this is 319 foot waterfall is the largest in the coastal range so the unassuming roadside sign made me second guess the book’s glowing review of Munson. I am very glad that we trusted the book.


Caption: It’s hard to believe that the fields we drove through to get to the falls would abut this lush old growth. Vinny seemed to really like it.


As the rainy morning moved on a sunny afternoon layed itself out in front of us. Up to this point we had had a pretty full day: beaches, newts, cheese, and waterfalls. We were ready to find a place to bed down. Unfortunately, we just kept finding cool things to do. As we turned toward the ocean we left the cows and pastures and started to climb. We kept going up until a surprisingly nice parking lot appeared. The parking lot was for the Cape Lookout trails. Without any internet connection we had no clue what to expect. We could hike to the beach (way the heck down there); take the Cape Lookout Point Trail; or hike to the campground. The posted trails map looked promising and we knew that we were quite high up so we picked the Cape Lookout Point Trail and started out.


This bench cut trail heads west from the parking lot through a stand of towering Sitka Spruce. As you continue down the trail the ground quickly disappears to your left but the trees remain. It switches back and forth along the Cape Lookout point. We didn’t make it to the end of the trail due to some very slippery conditions. However, the views along the way were stunning.

 


The trail is well maintained and is a must if you are in the area. Next time we come out we plan to make it to the end.


When we finally did bed down we found ourselves at the Cape Lookout State Park Campground where the campsites are essentially on the beach. The view out the backdoor was nothing to scoff at.

Because we were in the off season it was almost completely empty. We camped near the bathrooms and the beach entrance. Another windy rainy night in the van on the beach. Things could be much worse than this right?

-J&C

Day 3: Ecola and Cannon Beach

We woke up in Vinny, the Uninsulated, a bit chilled but dry. The rain was a constant reminder that we made the right decision in not tent camping during the trip. Once Vinny gets insulation and a heat source it will be much more pleasant. Regardless, we were happy to be able to make coffee inside and plan out our day. Breakfast was delicious Tillamook marionberry yogurt.

Our loose plan was to explore more of Ecola State Park; find a brewery; and take some time to slow down a little.

Ecola State Park is much much more than a $5 spot to drive out and snap pics of sea stacks. Turns out that it has some serious hiking trails, the beautiful Indian Beach, cougars, and even sharks! In the interest of getting the most bang for our time (a common theme of this whirlwind tour of everywhere, as you will see) we chose Indian Beach as the spot for mobile basecamp. This meant another slow but beautiful trip down the freshly paved road through Ecola. We snaked through the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock until we finally descended onto Indian Beach.


I love a good beach as much as the next guy but Indian Beach is much more than a pretty spot to take pictures. The beach’s makeup including sea stacks, cliffs, and large boulder piles lead to a diverse tidal zone.

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We made it to the beach as the tide was going out which allowed us to see a diverse array 22792314_10109211856128293_2300970124385076768_oof invertebrates. As a child I remember going to beaches in Florida and being absolutely obsessed with anemones and shellfish. I am very happy to report that that childhood sense of wonder has not been beaten out of me! Without disturbing the wildlife, we were able to observe sand fleas, anemones, tiny crabs, barnacles, and a variety of other sea life along the rocks and pools.

Side note: Investing in a fully waterproof case proved invaluable on this trip, not just for the rainy weather, but also in capturing underwater pictures such as these!

These photos were taken with an iPhone 7 protected by a Lifeproof case. Highly recommend.

 

 

We had the beach to ourselves for the most part and spent a few hours soaking up the views, hiking up and down the coast, and exploring the tidal pools.

Before leaving our little haven we made coffee using these yet-to-be-released single use pour over brewing gadgets that are simple to use and taste great. I cannot wait to tell you more about these later.

 

The morning’s excitement stirred up quite a hunger. We read great things about Public Coast in Cannon Beach so we headed down. Unfortunately we didn’t know that they were closed for brewing on Wednesday.

Luckily, Pelican Brewing was open, so we stopped in for lunch. We had the fish and chips along with some smoked salmon dip. The vibe of the place was pretty touristy, yet the food was great and there were a few other things we wanted to try. The beer was OK but a little on the watery side. Definitely not what I expect from a PNW brewery, but then again, us Michiganders are pretty spoiled by our local craft brews.

After lunch we walked to the main natural attraction of Cannon Beach: Haystack Rock. This impressive sea stack/mound can be walked to during low tide. It plays host to many intertidal animals and serves as a nesting ground for many different waterfowl.

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I’m sure that Cannon Beach is bustling with tourists during the busy season. However, our visit was mid-fall in the middle of the week and it was quiet and quaint. We popped in and out of art shops, bookstores, and spent some time at the Cannon Beach Chocolate Cafe (Chelsea’s favorite find–try the dark hot chocolate). We will certainly be making a return trip to Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park.

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Our trip back to camp for the night was filled with pitstops to visit small beaches, cliffs, and wildlife. Every few miles a new adventure beckoned, and we filled the rest of our day with as many short hikes and vista views as possible. Our original intent was put some miles down and make it further south along the coast, but there was just so much we wanted to see and we couldn’t resist stopping every few minutes. We’re already looking forward to our return trip.

Oregon’s northern coast is magical.

-J&C

Day 2 Portland to the Coast

If you know us you know that we do not live in or near a city by choice. That doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate the amenities that cities provide. Prior to heading out in Vinny we spent some time in and around Portland availing ourselves of the city’s offerings.

First we had breakfast at J&M Cafe downtown. I tried scrapple, a pork-cornmeal sausage, which was uniquely delicious and Chelsea had two of the biggest pieces of bacon that I have ever seen. This of course was before we experienced the middle of our country and again renewed our vow to eat less meat and possibly move back toward being full-time vegetarians. (More on this in a future post.) The breakfast was wonderful and the service was perfectly Portland.

After breakfast we set up Vinny for what we will call Vinny 1.0 Initial Essentials. (Remember that he will be getting multiple build-out posts in the future) We set up the bed; organized the gear; and secured all of the personal items. The goal of this maiden voyage was to see how we would use the van and try to set up a possible floor plan.

We rounded out the morning at my favorite city spot: REI. Usually these trips are pretty conservative but this time Chelsea told me to get the things that I have been wanting for a while and well, we both went a little nuts. No biggie, it’s our honeymoon right? So we spent money on adventure facilitators that will bring us joy well into our marriage.


As morning quickly turned into noontime we headed to Justin and Valerie’s place for lunch. They moved out here last year from Michigan and were able to give us great insights on Portland and where to go on the coast. They live near Mississippi Avenue so we walked to lunch. As an aside, Mississippi Avenue and their neighborhood are both super cool places and we will certainly be going back to spend some time there. Stormbreaker Brewing has daily BBQ and Mac-n-Cheese specials. You read that right. It doesn’t mean that the day we were there mac was a special, it means that each and every day they have a special mac and a special BBQ: amazing! We shared both and they were quality eats. The beer was pretty dang good too. They offered outside seating under a carport and it rained. In all honesty this is exactly what we wanted from Portland.

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Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Justin and Valerie were super hospitable and let us hang around there place for a few hours while we waited for USPS to deliver the remaining outdoor gear but the day was slipping away and we wanted to get to the coast before nightfall so we had to leave before the package arrived. It eventually came and we picked it up on our way back east.

Pointed West we embarked on the adventure part of the Honeymoon. We took 26 (Sunset Highway) out to the Pacific Coast Highway. The van kept up with traffic through the mountains heading out of town without issue.

Portland’s temperate climate provides a great growing environment for many different flora but we were not prepared for the untouched beauty of the old growth forests as we entered the coastal mountain range and Tillamook Forest. We were both taken aback by the dense overhead canopy and its ability to make you enter a world of perpetual dusk even in the middle of the day. It was brilliant which was only made better by the on and off cloudbursts.

The night was quickly approaching but we simply couldn’t head straight to the campsite without seeing some of those famous Oregon sea stacks. Ecola Point, located in Ecola State Park, was nearest to the 26/101 turnoff. We meandered through northern Cannon Beach and took the beautifully paved, yet narrow, road out to the point. Chelsea had been dreaming about Oregon coast views and sea stacks since as long as I can remember. and the look on her face when she finally got to see them in person was truly priceless.

We lingered at Ecola Point until the sun was near to the horizon then we motored south toe Nehalem Bay State Park. This park offered access to the beach, power, delightfully-warm showers and, as you will see in Day 3’s post, surprising wildlife!

Our utensils were packed away in the yet-to-be-delivered supply box awaiting us back in Portland. Luckily we had this giant spoon from our Ikea trip.


This was our first night in the van and sleep came very easily. We were cozy inside as the winds off the Pacific howled outside. Rain was heavy and intermittent throughout the night and the waves could be heard through Vinny’s walls.

Keep reading, we did A LOT on day 3…

-J&C