So I took opportunity of the great weather today to get out for some snowshoeing down at Lake MacBride State Park. The lake was quite frozen and I used it to take a shortcut back to the car after I got the photos that I set out to capture. Besides, my camera battery was dead… 180-some shots and my favorites are the pano up top, and two close ups of the snow.
While I was looking for some nice winter shots to capture, they weren’t the actual intent of the hike.
The actual intent was to get some pictures of the new Madera Hammock I just got the other day. Now this one is Cheryl’s, the one I ordered for me is a pre-order and isn’t expected to ship until the end of February. Now this is my first hammock experience, but I have been researching them for a while now. Like a couple years “a while.” The construction seems to be pretty solid, and the cost wasn’t too bad. This was just a simple taste test for practice’s sake. I’ll have to post a review after I get more experience with it.
So far I’m starting to understand where the draw to hammocks comes from. Even though it was cold, it was quite nice to lay in it and just… chill. lol
Now the other reason I wanted to get out and take some product shots was to be able to announce that even though I don’t have any experience with hammocks, the company thought my passion for the outdoors was a good fit for their ambassador program.
So periodically I will post about their brand, offer discounts for their products, and provide reviews. In return, if you decide to purchase through the links I provide, like this one:
So a quick post looking for feedback. I’ve spent the last several weeks working on improving my YouTube videos with adding an intro and outro. I’ve finally finished them and posted them on YouTube for review.
Brave I know. However, if you’re someone who watches my videos I would appreciate your input on ways to improve them. After all, if I add these to the beginning and end of every video, and they annoy you, you’re less likely to watch more videos right?
Well I guess it is that time of year where I do a write up on the past year of getting my shoes dirty. I have to say 2017 was a pretty good year. Even though there were a good number of miles that my feet didn’t get to walk, I achieved a lot of the goals I set for myself.
Every year I set the goal to cover at least 100 miles of trails. For 2017 I went super ambitious and tried to include the remainder of the state parks I’ve researched, the hikes my wife and I like to do each year, and my return to Yellow River for redemption. In total I set myself on a collision course with 212 miles of ground pounding (2016’s 140 miles is the most I’ve ever done). As you can see from the screen shot of my spreadsheet… I didn’t make it. I did make my annual goal of 100 miles by 12.75 miles, so it’s still a win.
If there was a negative to be found with this year’s hiking; it would have to have been not getting to do the winter icefall hike at Starved Rock, and the Halloween hike that my wife and I enjoy doing every year. This year looks to correct the icefalls at least… -46 with windchill last week.
Two of the best hiking achievements of the year were beating Yellow River, and finally experiencing the outdoorsman mecca of Colorado! It’s been six months since our family adventure and we still can’t stop thinking about it. Of course I did just finish posting about it a couple weeks ago, so there’s been a constant reminder.
Looking over the website, I think I have been improving on my ability to produce better trail reports and blog posts. I love the map addition! Some of my early posts were quite short with limited information. My more recent ones I feel give you, the readers, a better picture of what to expect. To everyone who has messaged me, I do appreciate all of the compliments you have given, I sincerely thank you. I hope to continue improving upon the resource I’m building here.
One way I have been improving the posts has been through my photography. I have been upgrading my gear to better capture what my eyes see in order to share it with you. I have several more upgrades I still want to get in order to make them even better, but for now I will continue to capture the best images I can. (In other words, they ain’t cheap!)
What started out as something to record my hiking journeys for memory’s sake, has turned into a real passion. I started with nothing more than a mid-level Sony Cyber-shot point-n-shoot camera. It got the job done, but the more I started to enjoy the craft of photo and video, the more I desired to upgrade.
Then one night Cheryl and I were lying in bed in a hotel room outside Starved Rock… waiting for Titan and Odessa to finish getting ready for bed so we could icefall hike the next day (dirty minds…). We had been married for just under a year, and we had recently just decided to try for my first child. We hadn’t told anyone, so our conversations were in hushed tones and secret code around the kids. However, that was the night that we made the choice to invest in a nice mid-level DSLR camera to capture the future life of our little CJ. I have since increased my inventory from the simple Sony point-n-shoot, to a Nikon with 2 lens, to uh.. a lot more…
On the topic of upgrades, see the PC on the left with the glowing colors and 3 monitors? Yep, that is the Edi’nator! The one on the right is the 9 year old darling that is still a strong PC when it comes to most functions. However, it finally hit a point where it was starting to lag on photo edits, and video was just too frustrating. So Edi’nator was built to edit the heck out of some Iowa Hiker media. Which means I can finally get back to making videos. The first video it edited was CJ’s second birthday video. Not even a slight hiccup.
I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent developing better and better content (literally everything in those pictures is to deliver better photos and videos to you). So much so that I’ve decided to put a concentrated effort into building a landscape photography presence. One reason for the decrease in my online presence over the past several months has been because I have been putting most of my focus on setting myself up to move into a professional photography capacity in 2018! dun dun dunnnnn!
Now I’m not quitting my job and risking it all, I like my job, and it affords me plenty of opportunity to get outdoors as it is. This is more of a long term, slow developing… (pun intended), retirement plan. I haven’t launched an official photography website yet, I’m waiting until I feel it looks right. So far I’m just not satisfied. I acknowledge it’s the perfectionist in me that I regularly attempt to suppress because he holds me back. Although he did reward me with a Summa Cum Laude on a BS in Psych thanks to a 4.0. (Slavedriver ID…) Regardless, I’m excited. As far as honing my skill, besides shooting everything I can when I hike for repetition’s sake; when you have such an adorable subject that knows when the camera is on her such as I have, it makes practicing easy!
So 2017, work promotion, 100 miles, MOUNTAINS!!!!!!, snowshoeing, new gear, professional photography, an amazing wife and a heart stealing 2 year-old.
I’m not sure I would have noticed if it could have been better. I hope your 2018 is going to be filled with happiness and dirt. So far my rough itinerary is up to 204 miles… 😉
The next upgrade; this logo my best man made for me. I really like the idea behind the design, but I feel it needs more umph… and Notre Dame… lol not really, but it’d be cool for a game day t-shirt. My wife actually had one made for me before we were married where the t-shirt is navy and Iowa is gold. She’s the best.
Fall is officially around the corner and that means the temperature and humidity are going to start staying in those super comfortable zones. The leaves are going to start their annual shift to gorgeous golds, oranges, and reds. Most importantly, the bug populations are going to soon be getting thinner and thinner!
August was a good month to get outdoors and I hope many of you had the opportunity to do so. I had the annual outdoor adventure with the wife’s family, and snuck out to Brushy Creek State Recreation Area to check out their middle section of the trails. I did their lake loop last year, and plan to hike their southern sections in the next couple weeks. Once I finish that I will have completed the park and can add it to the queue for posting. They claim to have 45 miles of trails, so a bit to do in a single dayhike.
We also attempted to introduce baby girl to tent camping; it went ok, mostly. She had a blast playing outside, watching dad build the fire, etc. Unfortunately there were some not very fun parts. The first was our fault not trying to figure out a better way to feed her in advance. We opted for cooking her supper, but that takes a little longer on a canister stove than at home. Let’s just say she has her mother’s patience… maybe PB&J next time for her. The other hiccup was that once it was time to go to bed. She wasn’t nearly ready for that and it was quite rough and loud. We waited until around 11 pm before finally deciding it was a good effort, but she wasn’t going to sleep, which meant we weren’t going to sleep. We broke down the camp, stuffed it in the car, put her in her car seat and on home we headed. She was asleep by the time we hit the highway… We had her home and in bed 30 minutes later. We gave her a taste of her future at least, she’ll come around. 😉
As far as The Iowa Hiker media, I completed a post and video on the Pine Creek Cabins we stayed at for the annual trip. I have been plugging away at processing the photos from our Colorado adventure in July when I have the time, over halfway through now. My wife has been prodding me to get them done so she can post them to friends and family, so it shouldn’t be much longer…
Going forward I have an ambitious couple months coming up. I am using up quite a bit of vacation time, giving me plenty of opportunity to get out there and chew up some miles finally. Not to mention I should get some time to sit down at the computer get some editing done while I recover! Unfortunately, my goal of hitting 212 miles was probably a little too lofty for this year. One park has had extensive trail damage due to some heavy rains and is currently closed for repairs, and the two long “tours” as I call them, are a little harder to plan for than anticipated. (I also didn’t know I was going to get promoted and that my schedule was going to take a hit when I made that goal.) So that’s 70-some miles getting pushed to next year. It does leave me with 160ish for the year though, which is still a gain on last year.
For now, September is starting out great and I’m glad I have DVR so I can watch my Irish when I get home from my hikes!
The annual glamping trip with the wife’s family has come and gone for 2017. This year I found us a cabin up in the northeast corner of Iowa. As they are officially known, Decorah High Point – Pine Creek Cabins are located just outside of Decorah.
There are a total of 6 cabins on the property that sleep anywhere from 6 to 17 people per. Our large group of 16 (7 adults, 4 teens, and 5 children) stayed in Pine Cabin which sleeps 17, and it was plenty comfortable! The owners where nice enough to open up 3 of their other cabins that were empty that weekend for me to check out, so I’ll chat about those as well.
Lets go over Pine Cabin first since that is the one we stayed in. The cabin is well furnished and spacious. While it was clear that it was a cabin with fewer finishing touches than a residential home, you didn’t overly notice it unless you were looking for it. There are three levels with four sizable bedrooms.
Upstairs there was a loft area with a futon next to two of the bedrooms. All three areas had a nice skylight that provided plenty of light during the day… and the evening. This actually bothered my wife as it was a full moon in a clear sky and the light was bright enough to actually keep her up on the first night. I would suggest possibly finding a way to hang a shade in the bedroom skylights to help alleviate this in the future.
The first floor had a nice open feel in the living room area. The kitchen was a little cramped when we tried to get more than a couple of people in there trying to cook breakfast for 16 people, otherwise it was fully functional. They had everything we needed for cookware and dishes, the only thing we were glad we brought were the counter-top griddles for pancakes. They have a TV available with a DVD player for the little ones. We found this to be very helpful with baby girl as it eventually got to the point that she needed to settle down from the fun of playing with her big cousins and the only thing she’ll sit down for is her puppy movie (The Secret Life of Pets).
One of the best features of the first floor (to me anyway) was that there was a patio door that stepped out onto a porch that wraps around the east and south sides of the cabin. I love sitting out on porches, and I spent a good amount of time with my camera farting around with long exposure shots throughout the day and evening.
The basement level has the remaining bedroom and bathroom, with a secondary kitchenette and living area. The living area has a walk out patio door that leads to the yard. The downstairs bedroom is the only one with two beds in it. There is a small bed just outside that room, which I’ll admit at first seemed kind of out of place, but a bed is a bed and a 17 person cabin is about getting people together.
All in all, no one really complained about their sleep except my wife with the moon, and baby girl had issues being a little warm sleeping in her pack n play in our room during the first night. The second night my wife and I switch sides of the bed to help keep the moonlight out of her eyes, and we moved baby girl to a different spot where she could get more airflow from the overhead fan. That seemed to fix a lot of their issues as they slept through the second night.
Outside of the cabin, the views of the rollings hills of northeast Iowa are great. The first morning offered a great view where fog had rolled into the valley below us, with the sun rising behind it. Surrounding the grounds is a field of prairie grasses full of birds and bugs. You’re not allowed to venture out into the fields, so be aware of that, but I spent a little while walking around the perimeter with my camera. On the last night we stoked up the fire pit for s’mores and one last night of reflection, well those of us that didn’t wander off to bed early.
On the second day I noticed that it didn’t look like the other cabins had a lot of traffic, so I contacted the owners to ask if I could have a peek into the empty cabins. The owner, Shanyn, stopped by and said the Cedar and Balsam Cabins were rented, but she would go unlock the three vacant ones for me.
The first one I looked at was Spruce Cabin (I somehow forgot to take a picture of the outside of Spruce and Birch, so I stole their exterior shots off their website.). Now I will say that the first two I looked at had more of the traditional simple rustic cabin feel. Spruce is two levels that sleeps 8, with an open area ground floor that has stairs leading up to a loft. There is a small bed in what was probably the original mudroom across from the bathroom. Even though my first impression when I walked in was that it looked somewhat cramped, I spent sometime looking around and found it to actually be quite cozy. My favorite feature of this cabin was in the loft. There is a door that leads out onto a little balcony that has a couple benches to sit on and enjoy the scenery.
The next cabin I took a look at was Birch Cabin. Birch is the simplest of the cabins on the property and sleeps 9. It has a completely different look to it that leads me to believe that it may have been the original one. It is the only other one with three levels. The top floor is an open loft with 4 beds, the ground floor is a single room with a simple kitchen and living area. The doors here lead out onto a deck that wraps around the north and east sides. The basement has the bathroom and remaining 2 beds with a walk out door to the fire pit. A thing to note for those that have issues with stairs, both sets of stairs are very steep and narrow.
The last cabin I ventured to was Aspen Cabin. She described Aspen as their new luxury model of cabin, and I would agree. It isn’t overly large (sleeps 6), but there was definitely more attention paid to the details and finish work. There are still traits that remind you it is a cabin, like the open ceiling, but the furniture and appliances are of nice quality. Honestly, I’d probably like to have the kitchen in my home. It is a two bedroom layout on a single floor that leads out to a wrap-around porch on the east and south walls. There is a similar view, but if I’m honest, the primary grounds have a better one. There is also a three stall garage next to the cabin, although there isn’t a mention on the website and I failed to ask if that was for the guest’s or the owner’s use.
If there is a negative (because you have to find one when you’re writing a review right?), it’s that the cabins are more of a staging point to access things to do in the area. If you want to hang out with the family in a more secluded spot then this will work great (there is also a small playground for the kiddos). Otherwise, the property doesn’t have much to offer in terms of adventure. Fortunately, it is in prime canoeing territory as the Upper Iowa River runs right by it. We ran into Decorah to check out the trout fish hatchery, there is a pretty nice mountain bike area on the outskirts of Decorah that I’ve biked a couple times, and much more. So there are plenty of things to do in the area, just not on the property.
Once again thank you to Shanyn Hart for letting me check out the vacant cabins. If you’d like to look her up you can find her on Facebook @Shanyn.Hart.Iowa and Instagram @Shanyn.Hart. Don’t forget to head over to YouTube and check out the video walk through!
Decorah High Point – Pine Creek Cabins is nice place to take a weekend to get away and hang out, or to plant yourself to explore the hills of northeast Iowa.
So we’re basically skipping July and going straight into the August update. This is mostly because July has been busy, but for once, busy in a good way. Remember that vacation and exploring new places I mentioned in June? If you are following me on Instagram and have been watching the feed, I took the wife and kids to Colorado for a week of hiking and sightseeing! It was absolutely amazing!
We started in Rocky Mountain National Park and made a big loop covering as much of the state as we reasonably could to get a taste of the different areas to find what we wanted to have more of. Without a doubt Rock Mountain National Park is my new favorite place and we will be going back to spend a good length of time there. Mesa Verde National Park was a big surprise in that it has far more to it than just visiting a pueblo or two, so that will require a couple days. Lastly, Pikes Peak was clouded over, so we’ll have to go back for another summit with clear skies (maybe next time we’ll actually hike to the summit rather than simply driving…).
Ouray was a great little hike that has a lot more trails in the area that would be worth exploring. Hanging Lake was an awesome hike worth the effort. Four Corners and Aztec Ruins Monuments, and Royal Gorge Bridge were definitely neat places to visit, but I don’t foresee a reason to make it a goal for a second trip to them.
Finally, since we are going to have to go back to Pikes Peak, we might as well revisit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo which was pretty dang cool (not to forget that gorilla that knows what the people want), and explore more of Garden of the Gods since our trip was cut short by rain. We can’t wait to go back and explore the mountains again, but that is going to have to wait because my wife has already set her eyes on the National Parks of Southern Utah for next year… Not that I’m complaining mind you. 🙂
As far as the website goes, I have a large amount of photos to process, as well as video to edit. I’ll admit that writing up posts are a little on the back burner right now. It is summer after all, and my mind is more focused on how to get out into the woods than sitting behind a computer editing and typing. I have a harsh Iowa winter up ahead where I get to do that, heh. I did get one video posted for the first time in a while on Pilot Knob State Park. So feel free to go check that one out.
Other than that, Colorado got me to 50 miles for the year, so almost a quarter of the way! Other than a busy work schedule, the next few months look like they should be good for grinding out some miles!
Well then, for those that read the last update and remember me saying something about April being super busy but May was looking pretty good… I was wrong. May turned out to be pretty packed after all. I took a new position at work so there have been fewer days off with the related training and such. Plus I decided I needed to rehab my deck, so that ate up a couple of the nicer weather days as well.
I almost didn’t make it out on a trail at all last month, but luckily the weather was beautiful over Memorial Day weekend and the wife and I decided to take the girls and one of their friends over to Illinois for some waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park. I’m still processing the photos, but should be posting some of them on Instagram soon. (Here’s a sneak peek.)
After seeing them with flowing water, it is amazing how massive they can get once they are frozen. That park truly is two completely different parks when you compare them winter to summer. (This is the same waterfall.)
With the help of the WordPress staff I was able to get the map section to work. I plotted out the parks on my list in Google Maps so you can scroll around and zoom in and out to find parks that you may be curious about, or didn’t know existed. If I have posted a trail report for a particular park you should be able to click the link and go straight to the post to read about it.
June isn’t looking much better for getting out, but I have the last weekend off. Here’s hoping the sunshine holds, the temps dip back down into the 70’s or 80’s, and my honey-do list remains empty! Now come July, I am finally using some vacation and taking some time off work to explore some new places. Super excited!
I’m only about 25 miles into my 214 mile goal for the year, it’s time to take the camera for a walk.