Wild, Free and Three!

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Hey folks – it is me Jake of Moon Lake stealing mom’s blog again because in just a few days I’ll be 3. I can’t believe another year has passed. That’s 1/3 of my life folks! It has been another year of whirlwind adventure.

Since writing last, I’ve taken up a new hobby. Talking. A lot. I often hear friends and family say wow, he’s talking so much more. I’m a bit bewildered by how surprised they are—after all, I have a lot of important information to share.

Did you know I’m a superhero who can also fly planes? Mom got me a batman cape. Then daycare got me a cape. And mom and dad found three capes at a garage sale for $1. Can you believe that? Anyways, I pretty much wear them everywhere I go. I definitely prefer being Batman but will fill-in as Robin or Superman if needed. I primarily leave those roles for my friends at daycare, though.

Yep. I’m still a full-time daycare kid. And yep, I’m still not potty trained. I did pee once on-demand for mom when she asked. But I did it on the floor instead of in the toilet. I needed to make a point. Not sure what that point is but I made it anyway. I’m sure I could be potty trained if I wanted to be but I like to keep mom and dad humble. So those two things haven’t changed much in the past year.

Mom and dad have to work harder to limit something called screen time for me. I don’t mind. I’d much rather be outside practicing my baseball swing or attempting to drown myself in Moon Lake. But sometimes when I’m really tired, I like to veg out in front of a few episodes of Super Why or Batman. Dad even let me watch the 60’s version of Batman. Since sharks are all the rage right now, the scene where a shark eats Batman’s leg is particularly entertaining.

I also find snacking on string cheese, crackers and watermelon while watching television quite satisfying. It used to be applesauce but mom put a stop to that saying something about needing new furniture. In my mind, I’m telling her you’re welcome since I know that’s just an excuse for her to buy stuff.

Speaking of buying stuff, my belongings are still primarily the product of garage sales and daycare friends. My entire wardrobe was pretty much worn by my buddy Nolan first. But, mom and dad keep saying the money is going towards my college fund instead so I guess I’m ok with that. Although, mom also talks about how I’m going to be QB1 or the next Steve Jobs… both of which are unlikely. I mean, have you seem my gene pool?

All of that said, mom and dad did make an effort this past year to show me there is life outside of Smiling Faces Daycare and Moon Lake Estates. I spent a lot of time with fish at the aquarium, hanging with family at the green cabin, exploring new trails, eating at new restaurants and flying jets at an air show. I also caught my first fish at take your kid fishing day… and it was a BIG one. It is so special it keeps getting bigger every time I talk about it. Dad has taken me out to a lot of timber sales where I get to play on super large, cool machinery. Mom stresses about that and instead takes me to bookstores and regular kid playgrounds. I don’t mind, though. She’s at least trying.

I’m still growing but not nearly as fast. I weight in at a solid 38 pounds and have passed the 3-foot marker. I survived my first cleaning at the dentist and am cavity free. Oh, and I managed to pick up and give strep and a number of other spreadable diseases to mom and dad. I do love to share. But, I’m healthy and happy.

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That’s the latest from Moon Lake. I’m not sure what comes next other than the promise of multiple cakes and cupcakes. Maybe some more toys. Hanging with mom and dad. Making new friends. Seeing new places. I’d say all in all, life is good on Moon Lake folks.

Until next time-
Jake from Moon Lake

Pilot Jake and the Adventures of Motherhood

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My son wants to be a pilot. More specifically, he wants to crash paper airplanes and steer parked jets. I told him he’d make a great fighter pilot, right before I told my husband I’d cry if he joined the military. My baby will be 3 in August.

Raising a 2-year old is utterly exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. But, it is a living reminder of what’s lost with the wisdom adults supposedly gain. Each morning, my son wakes up ready to tackle the world. Better yet—he truly believes he can and will conquer the world. By the time I change his morning diaper, he’s babbling away about all of the exciting people he’s going to see, toys he’s going to master, and a lifetime of activities he’s going to do—all by noon. By nightfall, he’s still talking and giggling and sharing stories about his endless adventures. Sure, in-between there he has his dreams and hopes dashed… he’s been cut-off on his third bowl of cereal or told he has to wear pants at daycare. He’s not allowed to jump off furniture (most of the time), and he can’t go outside without an adult. One time, I even accidentally broke his banana in half when pealing it. We barely got through that one. But, as quickly as his world shatters, life resumes. He’s resilient.

This month we took Jake to the Duluth Air and Aviation Show. I was nervous. Large crowds, hot weather and a 2-year old don’t always mix. I was stressed out before we even parked. But, the weather was on our side. A rainy day dispersed crowds and a well-executed event (and pre-planning by me) gave my son plenty to see, touch and try. But, what I loved most about the event was the perspective it gave me. My son was equally as excited to ride the school bus from the parking lot and he was to get up close to a Blue Angel. The squeals of joy from driving his plastic airplane in the sky were equally as high pitched as the squeals when steering a cirrus jet. He devoured his Cheetos with the same enthusiasm as his apple slices. And as we left, he didn’t beg for a bigger adventure but rather asked if we were going home so he could see Joey our dog.

This was a special day for us. I try really hard to take Jake on experiential adventures and to expose him to life beyond Iron River. He doesn’t know or understand this. But, what he does know is that each morning he’s going to get up and make the most out of his day. He’s going to play hard and nap harder. He’s going to giggle and laugh and maybe cry but move on. He’s going to experience something for the first time, even if it is the dentist. And, whatever that something is, he’s going to make the most of it.

All of this has made me wonder—when do we lose this sense of excitement. When do we decide that getting up in the morning is something to dread versus embrace. That we need some adventure or experience to be excited about to make life worth living. Sure, we talk about life being this great gift and how we need to give 150 percent each and every day and make the most out of life. But, if we truly tackled life like that, there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar self-help industry reminding us about the benefits of being this way.

There are many benefits to being an adult. I get to go outside when I want to and can jump off the couch is I choose. But, by gaining access to these adult choices, I’ve lost something. I’ve lost that sense of wonder and excitement that comes with blowing bubbles for the first time or spending an afternoon skipping rocks. I miss the world of pretend where my 10-speed huffy bike is a race horse. Or, believe that I could run outside and do some cartwheels like Mary Lou Retton without a single day of training. And when I quickly learned I couldn’t, it was ok (other than a sprained ankle).

Jake’s a living reminder of what I’ve lost as I’ve aged. But, he’s also an inspiration to me to not do more and be more, but to do less. To rediscover the sense of wonder that comes with running around all day long but actually getting nothing done, other than living life. And frankly, shouldn’t that be enough?

Bayfield County Staycation

IMG_1734If rocks could smell fear, I’d be in trouble. I was never one blessed with agility, balance or sense of adventure. Yet, I always seem to find myself at river intersections that involve rushing water, a series of unstable rocks unreasonably spaced out before me and at least one expensive piece of camera gear around my neck. And, I’m generally alone with my irrational thoughts contemplating how many ways a simple slip could send me plunging to my death. Today was no exception.

But, today also marked a sense of wonder I haven’t had in a while. Today was a time out. It was an opportunity to wander in the woods and get lost in my thoughts. To remember why I choose to live here. I put on my tourism pants, loaded up my camera gear, filled my traveling coffee mug to the brim and set out on a day-long adventure in northern Bayfield County. I had exactly 8.5 hours from daycare drop-off to pick-up for just me.

My first stop may or may not have involved some doughnut holes from B’s Busy Bakery in Iron River. Listening to the Growth Show and snacking on sugary sweets, I drove the windy and scenic county highway to Port Wing. It was a perfect summer day. Once in Port Wing, I did a quick leg stretcher at Twin Falls. In the past, I’ve generally stayed up top but today I opted for the lower falls trail. Recent rain had the river higher than normal for summer, but certainly not the powerful rage spring often brings. It also meant repeated river crossings, to my final resting spot of a gentle waterfall. It was a great warm-up to the day.

IMG_1735From there, I headed to Herbster beach to enjoy a few more sips of coffee and catch my first real glimpse of the lake. I never tire of seeing or listening to her music. The rippling of waves washing up along Lake Superior stones far surpasses any meditation tape. I leave, ready for a power walk thru the woods.

IMG_1737Next up is a 3-mile hike at Lost Creek Falls. Thanks to the Bayfield County Forestry department, the trail is much improved from my infamous first date with the hubby (you can read more about that here). In fact, it even has a trailhead with parking, signage and a pathway patched with gravel and crafty boardwalks. It is quite impressive. But, the trail is just a prequel to this out-of-the-way waterfall.

I have yet to meet someone on this trail. Of course, a river walk wouldn’t be complete with a series of rock crossings, but I’m feeling extra dangerous today. (It helps that the water is only 5-6 inches deep). This sense of adventure ends with me getting my feet wet but saving my d-slr. Success comes in many shapes and sizes.

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Someone has left an Inukshuk directly in front of the falls. This Inukshuk, which is a signal of one being on the right path, resonates with me today. While much of today is about having fun, one can’t help but contemplate life while immersed in nature. This symbol seems all to appropriate for the questions I’m trying to answer in my head.

Harbor House SweetsI glance at my watch. It is approaching lunch time and decisions must be made. I opt to skip lunch and instead, consume my weight (and then some) in calories at Harbor House Sweets. This is a somewhat new candy and sweet shop in Washburn. I plan for just a few small chocolates and some almond bark but out of the corner of my eye, I cannot help but notice the luscious chocolate cupcakes staring me down. I casually ask about them. As the words, infused with caramel come out of the owner’s mouth, I’m immediately sold. I know mood can affect one’s taste buds and perhaps that had something to do with this experience, but honestly, it was the best cupcake I’ve ever consumed. And, I have consumed quite a few cupcakes in my day. I would have shot an interior shot of this gem but I was driving. By the time I reached Houghton Falls outside of Washburn, the only thing left to photograph was an empty wrapper.

I haven’t been to Houghton Falls for a few years. I must admit, I was a bit taken aback by the intense signage in the parking lot. Lots of lines through things, warnings about surveillance cameras, and even an automatic gate that will lock you in the parking lot if you are there after 8 pm in the summer. If you happen to get stuck, plan on paying a fine. I’m sure all of this is being driven by a few nimrods who can’t respect public land and a community that wasn’t expecting usage of this trail to be quite so high, but still, I’m having a few moments of Gooseberry Falls PTSD and the time I had to take a bus into the park during fall peak season. Pretty sure there were more people in nature that day then in my entire town. That said, my car is the only one in the parking lot on this beautiful day.

Round trip, I’ll only clock about 1.6 miles on this trek. It is a short, yet interesting walk. The massive rock gorges, multiple waterfalls, and ultimate view of the rocky ridges of Lake Superior reminds me slightly of the North Shore, but without the crowds. It is peaceful here. Once at Lake Superior, I take a few moments to take in the views. A single bird floats birdpast me, basking in the sunlight.

I jump in my car and head north to Bayfield. It is the first time I’m seeing crowds of any sorts. Main Street is full so I park on a side street next to Silver Waves Jewelry. I pop in, hoping to purchase a bracelet I had seen at a holiday sale last December. It has already sold. My heart dips a little until I learn she’ll remake a similar one for me. A custom bracelet—seems like the perfect trinket to wear as a reminder of today.

roadclosedNext up, one last power walk above the well-known Sea Caves. My husband mentions a shortcut that may or may not involve parking illegally on a road named after his favorite home improvement store. Accurate directions including, just go to the end, are my guide. Turns out the town road is closed before I get to the end, but given my poor sense of direction, I figure I have to be closer to the caves than if I drive to the trail head. Turns out that my poor sense of direction is still strong. Pretty sure I clocked more miles on that town road than if I had just hiked the trail. But, before long I’m hearing the deep bass of frigid Lake Superior water pushing up against the sandstone caves before succumbing to the wall of stone and heading back out to sea. seacavesStanding above the caves, I can’t help but question when the caves might finally accept defeat and collapse under the power of this majestic beauty. Lucky for me, it isn’t today.

 

I hop back in the Subaru determined to make one final stop before the day is done. As I approach Cornucopia, I see the ship graveyard next to the green shed. I turn right into the parking lot and head into Halvorson Fisheries for some smoked fish. Within minutes, I’m leaving, armed with Lake Superior Trout for dinner, poor man’s lobster and the most beautiful piece of Brown Sugar Smoked Lake Superior Trout. I fill up my water bottle at the artesian well and plop on the sandy beach. I remove my shoes and run my feet through the white washed sand. Sitting hear alone on the beach, I can’t help but fill mom in on all that’s happened to me this past year. In this moment of quiet reflection, I know she’s listening.

IMG_1760Once done refueling on my savory and salt-infused snack, I make my way back to the car feeling more relaxed than I have in ages. I know some people have judges me for living a simpler life. They don’t understand why I’m not more aggressive in my professional life or pursuing life in the big city. The pressure to do more is always there. And I admit, I’m human. At times, I find myself equating my worth with job titles, mortgages and zip codes. But, today I’m reminded of all of the reasons I’ve chosen to live a simpler life. Simpler doesn’t mean less fulfilling, less meaningful, or less important. It isn’t for everyone. But, it certainly suits me. Any lingering doubts are quickly smacked down when I arrive home.

MothersonMy son grabs my hand and pulls me down the trail to throw sticks in our lake. Afterwards, we head up to collect eggs and grill supper. We top off the evening with a game of baseball, biking up and down country road and a single two-handed hug that makes me feel like the richest woman on the planet.

Some people travel the world to find what matters. For me, a simple day in the woods in a place I’m lucky enough to call home is enough.

Race Day Recap

IMG_1647Race number 10 is in the books. For some, 10 races is a typical summer. For me, it was a number I never thought in a million years I’d hit. I mean, seriously, me? Finish 10 races… 7 of which were half-marathons? Seems absurd.

My tenth race was a repeat of Journey’s in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It was the 20th anniversary of the race. It is the perfect small-town race in a cute tourist town that has not one but two candy shops on Main Street and three local coffee shops.

I’m happy to say I finished the race. But, if I’m being honest, it was a rough race, as in, really rough. There was of course the mishaps leading up to the race – winter illnesses, losing my mojo and skipping a few key runs, not losing any weight, and then my first real injury. Two weeks before the race I self-diagnosed myself with what I can only describe as plantar fascia. In my unprofessional medical opinion, it wasn’t severe but solid pain. I have a super low tolerance for pain so this was an epic injury. It also came at a time when I wanted to quit anyway. I knew I wasn’t going to set a PR or in fact have a run I could feel good about. This in itself would have been enough, but then there was the extended forecast. Over the course of a week, I watched the forecast plummet from a high of 40 to 25 degrees and a mix of rain, sleet and snow be predicted for game day. Seeing this, I really wanted to quit.

Thanks to VRBO, I had already paid for our weekend away. It was non-refundable at this time so we decided to head to Eagle River anyway. On Friday, I was still trying to decide if I should run a 10k or Half-marathon. My foot felt ok but by this time, I hadn’t put on any serious miles in two weeks. I went to packet pick-up Friday night still unsure what I was going to register for. As I filled out the registration slip, I wanted to circle 10k but chose half-marathon. Before I could change my mind I turned my slip in. In my hurry to not back pedal, I forgot I recently had a birthday and officially registered as a 37-year old instead of 38. I left the registration area and cried the entire way back to the cabin. I was frustrated, disappointed and seriously questioning if I could even cross the finish line.

I awoke Saturday morning to sunshine. From the comfort of the cabin, it didn’t seem too bad. Then I saw the snow on the ground and heard the howling of the wind through the cabin walls. It was a mere 20 degrees out. A series of mishaps, including trying to get anywhere on time with a toddler and my coffee shop moving, made me the last person to load the last bus heading to the start line. Slamming my McDonalds skim mocha on the drive up, I realized I really didn’t want to get off the bus. But, when the bus stopped on the start line and herded the stragglers (me) off, I realized there was no turning back. I had made it this far. And at this point, the only option was to try my best and get over that finish line, even if I was crawling.

In the 20-minutes leading up to the race I went to the bathroom twice, posted on Facebook, chatted with racers, and attempted to stay warm in the freezing temperatures, pelting sleet and wind. I admired the well-kept red pine forest and thanked the volunteers who weren’t even going to get a medal for being here. The announcer eventually lined us up where he shared words about life and used cliché phrases like it isn’t about the destination but the journey. The Star Spangled banner blared in the forest and then the gunshot. My feet started moving. They weren’t moving fast but they were moving. They did for the next 13.1 miles.

Over the course of the next 3+ hours, I was passed by power walkers and full-marathoners, serenaded with polka music, honked at and had strangers clap for me like I was some sort of rockstar. I nursed my foot for the first 4 miles, and then the next 5 miles. With 4 miles left, it was clear this would be one of my worse races ever. But, I was still moving. I texted my husband a revised estimate of when I’d cross the finish line. I eventually made it. And guess what? It was the same medal. I crossed the line knowing I wasn’t a quitter. My son later said, “Mommy ran super fast.”

By all accounts, this was not a good race. The weather was horrible. My training was horrible. My time was horrible. I didn’t hit any of my goals. Except for one. I didn’t quit. I’m not sure what comes next. But I do know that whatever is next, I’ll show up and try my best. And for now, that is enough.

The Probst Funny Farm has Expanded!

The newest ladies of Moon Lake!
The newest ladies of Moon Lake!

The Probst Family Farm got a little bigger this past week with the leasing of chickens. We borrowed four beautiful Columbian Hens from my friend Clare of Elsewhere Farm in Herbster. In theory, we dropped a small fortune on a coop for these lovely ladies for Jake so he could learn more about the responsibilities of caring for a pet. But let’s be real… these are really just a flashback to my youth and some of my fondest memories of growing up on the outskirts of town. Our seasonal neighbors haven’t returned, yet, so I’m just hopeful they are as excited about this new addition to our neighborhood as our family. I will say, the shrill of the loon and the tenor of our lady hens makes for an interesting lake orchestra.

This addition to our family combined with hitting up my favorite annual plant sale at Hauser’s in Bayfield made for an eventful weekend. I planned to just buy a bit more asparagus to fill out my bed that the polar vortex did a number on a few years back. But, walking in that barn and seeing those bins full of bare root perennials is like a close-out sale of Coach purses. This reminds me… a few weeks back one of my besties empowered me to buy my first coach purse. Her name is Lucy. I generally am not this superficial but I do love her. By the time I checked out at Hauser’s, my bill at Coach seemed quite small compared to my latest landscaping investment.

I digress. Anyways, the combined events made for an adventurous weekend. Our travels for both chickens and plants lead Jake to 5 playgrounds in the bi-county region. At the end of the day, he came home to find that our hens had already laid their first eggs. In a moment of sheer delight, he scooped them and promptly cracked them. Since then, we’ve been working on retrieving the eggs, gently. It is a work in progress.

I topped off my weekend with a run to one of my favorite pizza places in Brule. It is about a 9-mile run from my house via the Tri-County Corridor. It was going to be one of my last long races in anticipation of the race next weekend. But, the trail was packed with thick gravel and my ankles that have only been training on pavement this year were not able to acclimate to this. By mile 5, they were rejecting my body. I somehow managed to hobble my way to pizza but I’m a hurting girl.

Today, I headed out on my lunch hour to pack a few more miles in and it was rough. Rather than force the run, I did a combination of walking and running. I also turned off my headphones and enjoyed the sound of the raging river. It was a nice break from my training routine and to be honest, I don’t think it really matters at this point how many more runs I get in before showtime. I’m definitely not ready for next week’s race. Despite training for the past 17-weeks, my weight is the same. This combined with missing a few key long runs and I’m not sure what will happen next weekend. But, I’m going to show up and try. Afterwards, it’ll be time to regroup and figure out what’s next.

That’s the latest from Moon Lake. I’m sure I’ll be posting plenty post race. Plus, once this race is behind me, I hope to get out into the woods to take some photos and play with the GoPro. Not to mention, I do want to experiment with strapping one to one of the hens to look at life from their view. Stay tuned…

Winter Blahs

I’ve been in a writer and runner funk for the past month or so. On the surface, I’m not sure what’s up other than I’m not producing. I could blame a Vitamin D deficiency, straight up laziness, mama burn out, tired muscles, or just too much desire to watch the latest season of House of Cards. The reasons are endless.

Coupled with this, I’ve lost my mojo in training for my upcoming half-marathon. This is in fact a bigger problem because I can barely finish a half-marathon. I had set a lofty goal back in January (lofty for me that is). And, the energy and drive needed to do that just isn’t there. I’m now 6-weeks away from race day and the longest run I’ve done is 6-miles. I skipped this morning’s workout in lieu for a few more minutes in bed. And, I know, even if I make major changes now, I’m not going to be where I need to be in a few weeks. I refuse to quit but I do fear that this is going to result in another disappointing finish time.

This latest conundrum in my quest to improve my running reminded me of the time I was interviewed by Runner’s World. It was about overcoming obstacles. I don’t know if I ever shared the article on my blog. It was quite a big deal at the time because frankly, I didn’t consider myself a runner. I still struggle calling myself and it is 4-years later. Their advice is still relevant. Still working on it. Truth be told, you can in fact run 7 half-marathons and have none of the things mentioned in the article happen to you. I’m just that special.

Fueling the fire, my bag of tricks for motivation just doesn’t seem to be working. Two weeks ago I bought a new pair of running shoes in hopes to spark some pep in my step. I’ve purchased new running pants and socks. I’ve updated my playlist. I’ve even integrated Cize into my off-days for some extra, super fun cardio. I’m maintaining a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. But, even with those changes, I’m still stuck in a rut.

Last night on the drive home I was listening to my newest obsession – the Growth Show podcast by HubSpot. Love, love, love it. Anyways, they were interviewing Neil Pasricha about his new book The happiness equation: want nothing + do anything = have everything. I immediately added it to my must read list.

The podcast, along with some recent Brene Brown readings has had my mind spinning. I pride myself on being a highly productive person. I always have a plan in place. I do gut checks regularly. I like to be on a course. Even when Jake came along and threw my ability to plan out the window, I still found ways to plan. I set goals and achieve them. But, I think at times I miss the big picture. The piece where I step back and say what if my only goal was not to not have a goal for a while. What if I stepped back and said I don’t have a five year plan other than to live in the now. What if I allowed myself to just be? To give myself what Neil calls creative space. Would anyone even notice? Doubtful. Right now I’m guessing is the first person that’d notice is my husband when we were out of apple juice to give Jake at bedtime. While that’s scary, I think it is a risk I’m willing to take.

I’m not sure what all of this means. But, deep down, I do know that by setting so many arbitrary rules and expectations on myself, I’m providing myself the distraction needed to not work on the big things. Those existential things like what do I want to be when I grow-up? Running a half-marathon in under 3-hours, while seemingly impossible for this plus-size gal, seems much easier.

So for now, I’m going to make hay while the sun shines. I’m going to keep running and conditioning and pushing myself to show-up and have fun in Eagle River May 15. Worse case, I don’t have a PR. But, I still get a 4-day weekend with my family at a cabin on a lake. I still get to take Jake to an awesome zoo and eat deep fried bacon wrapped pickles. And right now, that’s sounding like a pretty darn good consolation prize.

Ignoring the Signs

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Michigan Ice Festival, 2016

Signs often give direction, suggestions, information needed to get from point a to point b. In my case, the signs I encountered on my way to the sheet of ice I was about to attempt to ascend at the Michigan Ice Festival in Munising said run the other way.

It started with my travel buddy being sick. She alerted me the day before and while it would have been easy enough to cancel the trip, we decided to go anyway. It was sunny skies and temperate weather in Iron River. A few hours later, as I drove over the Michigan border, visibility was deteriorating quickly. Within an hour, plows had abandoned all hope of keeping roads clear leaving us nothing but marginal trail tracks, rumble strips and snow covered signs guiding us through the UP. By the time we hit Marquette, even my well-trained winter driving skills were maxed out.

We fueled up at a UP favorite—Donckers. Walking down Main Street headed to get our fill of chocolate, I couldn’t help but question my sanity. The road was shutdown and packed with several feet of snow in anticipation of an evening sled dog race scheduled to take place in sub-zero temperatures. We didn’t hesitate to tromp over the barricades and snow piles for our caramels.

wroadclosedBut, perhaps the biggest sign was the one I almost hit (literally) on our final leg of the journey. MI-28, the main interstate between Marquette and Munising, was closed. Somehow, I missed the sign notifying me that this main artery was no longer passable. The barricades, while barely visible, were hard to miss. Did I mention they were placed nowhere near a detour as well?

Did we turn around? Absolutely. Did we head home? Absolutely not. Instead, we navigated our way through the back roads of the UP. At first, we thought the steady stream of hazard lights approaching us was a funeral procession. We later learned, this was common during white out conditions in Big Snow country.

The signs didn’t stop here. Once in Munising, temperatures plummeted. Even the hardcore climbers were talking about how unforgiving a cold, winter day in Munising can be for folks heading out. Rather than wimp out, I just put on another pair of pants. There was of course the embarrassing gear check-out moment where I had to point out that my supersized ass would not in fact fit in the harness designed for the normal climbers body type. After several attempts and a lot of wriggling around, I was told I was equipped with straps that’d withstand me falling from a cliff.

And then there was the trek -in. Did I mention there would be an uphill climb in a snowy, ice-covered trail full of steep ledges? Or, that I wasn’t aware of said trail and had an extremely top heavy backpack on me that was packed with shoes (yes plural), coffee, snacks, extra clothes, 3 cameras and other miscellaneous outdoor gear.

This is what was below us when we climbed. Lots and lots of hill.
This is what was below us when we climbed. Lots and lots of hill.

The first time I fell over on an uphill incline, I questioned whether I’d get up. Like a turtle straddled on its back, I somehow waddled my way up the hill. There was of-course the embarrassing and somewhat frustrating attempt to secure my crampons while sporting 4 layers of clothing. But somehow, despite all of these signs, I soon found myself at the base of a 40-foot cliff with only one way to go—up.

We were handed some pick axes and given some basic instruction on how to ice climb. It seemed as though the ice hated me. If I swung hard, the ice shattered. If I swung delicately like our instructor, the pick ax ricocheted back at me, threatening to take my eyes out. This didn’t seem promising. But again, I ignored the signs.

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One of our instructors giving us some tips on how to climb. That is what it looks like to get to the top. This was not me.

My girlfriend and I were in an intro teaser course. Our instructors were awesome. One was from Salt Lake and a rep for Black Diamond. The other, a world cup ranked speed climber. (Yes, that’s a real sport and she is an amazing athlete). They made climbing look so easy. They provided serious encouragement and didn’t scoff as I fumbled about like an idiot.

Given the time limitations of our course, we only got two chances to climb. And, despite the our class title has intro in it, most of the guys in our class had climbed before. The gals, while less experienced, were primarily rock climbers. I am neither. We lined up like little soldiers, each taking our turn at the base. When it was finally my turn, I clipped myself to the rope and climbed. And fell. And climbed. And fell. Even though I knew that each time I slipped off the icy rock or my pick ax gave way, I wouldn’t in-fact plummet to my death, my survival instinct screamed what the F**** do you think you are doing? I managed to ignore that voice and kept trying. Progress was slow but progress just the same.

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This is me early on. It did not get better as time progressed.

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Did I make it to the top? Absolutely not. Did others? Absolutely. But, I’d be willing to bet our experiences were equally as scary, exhilarating and frankly fun. There I said it. Despite all of these signs and obstacles, ice climbing is a pretty big high. If given the opportunity, I definitely would have kept trying to get to the top. And, knowing the stubborn Fin in me, I would have at some point made it. In hindsight, I wish I had taken two days of classes so that the second go around I’d maybe experience more success. Who knows, I might even go back next year. It is unlikely the weather or road conditions could be any worse.

wbethcold
After my climb. Did I mention it was cold out there?

For everyone curious to know how high I went… I honestly don’t know. The Go Pro was stopped about 10 seconds into my first climb and I later realized I had nobody take shots on my second climb. I don’t want to pull a Paul Ryan on his half-marathon time or a angler’s tale of the big fish by exaggerating my climb, so suffice is to say, let’s just say I went high enough. The second time, I climbed even higher. But, by far the hardest part of the climb was getting to the base.

Crampon Casualty 2016.
Crampon Casualty 2016.

And, I’m just happy that in total, the only real casualty of the day was my snow pant leg that got shredded by my crampons when I tripped attempting to pose for a group photo.

That evening, I had the opportunity to listen to keynote speaker Tim Emmett. An athlete for Mountain Hardware, he redefines adventure. I loved his presentation and the photos and videos to accompany it were spectacular. In his presentation, he mentions that life is what we do before we die. It sounds stupid but it is so true. So much of life is about the unknown day-to-day stumbling we make trying to navigate this thing called life.

Afterwards, Aaron Peterson premiered The Michigan Ice Film. It was an enduring combination of extreme ice climbing and the people and culture known as the UP. Peterson did an awesome job intertwining the two to create a solid story line amongst a backdrop that only Michigan ice can provide. Two thumbs up for sure.

At the end of the day, I loved my experience at the Michigan Ice Fest not because I was good at ice climbing, discovered a hidden talent or because it changed my life. Instead, I love that this festival and instructors opened my eyes up to the fact that I can in fact climb, even though every sign along the way said I couldn’t.

Future ice climber in the making! Watch-out Michigan Ice Festival 2025...
Future ice climber in the making! Watch-out Michigan Ice Festival 2025…