Great Online Resources to Get You Started
Recently one of the assistant troop leaders from a Boy Scout troop in California (thanks Marlene) dropped us a note to comment about the Scouts using the information on our website to assist in their pursuit of the Hiking Merit Badge.
As an Eagle Scout, and Philmont Ranger, I’m always glad to receive positive feedback from Scouts – especially since the main reason we built our website was to pass on some of the knowledge, research, links, and tips that we’ve gathered over the years.
In this case, in addition to their comments about our content, the Scouts (thanks Conner) also sent along the link to another great resource that they found useful; an article from Journeys.com titled "Guide for Beginner Backpackers".
The short article briefly covers the following 4 topics: (1) Choose Your Destination, (2) Gather Essential Gear and Clothing, (3) Plan Food, and (4) Additional Readiness for Your Trip. Then, at the end of the article, there’s a section on "Additional Resources" that lists 25 URLs from a wide variety of sources that contain some more detailed Hiking information:
The article’s recommendations are very much in line with our thoughts – so you should check it out:
And, as always, if you have any comments or suggested additions please send them our way so that we can pass them on to our readers too.
150 Miles of Salt Mines 650 Below Ground
On Day #19 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Strataca salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Strataca is a salt mine museum previously known as the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. The mine is built within one of the world's largest deposits of rock salt – with the salt deposit formations dating to over 275 million years ago. Efforts to dig the first shaft to start mine salt began back in June 1922 and operations of the Carey Salt Company began in 1923. Today the mine is still active, producing ~4 tons of “road salt” every 3 minutes. Strataca is the only underground salt mine in the United States accessible to tourists – so it’s a sight to behold if you like mines and have at least 2 hours to take the tour.
To reach the underground mine you take a ride in a double-deck shaft elevator (that holds fifteen people on each level) that travels down 650 feet in 90 seconds. Once at the mine level there are ~150 miles of mined caverns; many of them still being actively mined. If you’re worried about being claustrophobic – don’t be – since the mine’s ceiling heights range from 11 to 17 feet. Concerned about being in a cold damp cave – there’s no issue there either since the mine temperature stays at ~68 degrees and has a relative humidity of ~45%. The floor of the part of the mine that you’ll visit is even paved – with “Saltcrete” – a material similar to concrete but with salt substituted for the normal sand.
In addition to seeing the mine, and how the mining operation works, there’s also a small exhibit from Underground Vaults & Storage (UV&S) – a company that uses the mine’s security and stable environment to store valuable documents, medical records, TV show masters, film negatives and movie artifacts. The current exhibit includes the Batman and Mr. Freeze costumes from the “Batman & Robin” movie, items from the Superman TV show and Agent Smith’s costume from The Matrix.
As you can see from the photos below – Strataca is an operation that you have to see to really get the feel of the size and scope (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Strataca here are a couple of links to check out:
In addition, back on 5 November 2013 Mike Rowe and the crew of “Dirty Jobs” spent a day in the mines at Strataca and you can see what they found here:
The Largest Man-made Grotto in the World
On Day #17 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa.
The Grotto of the Redemption is a religious shrine built over a 42-year period by Father Paul Dobberstein, a Roman Catholic priest who served as the Pastor for Saints Peter and Paul Church, that includes rocks, semi-precious stones, and minerals from all over the world. The entire structure is so large that it covers approximately one city block.
The Grotto was built because as a young seminarian Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. As his illness progressed he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and promised to build a shrine in her honor if he lived. Fortunately his health improved and, after his ordination as a Priest, Father Dobberstein was assigned to West Bend as the church Pastor in 1898. Once in Iowa Father Dobberstein spent a decade stockpiling rocks and precious stones for the shrine that he planned to build. The actual work of planning and building the grotto began in 1912 – with a design telling the story of man’s fall and his redemption by Christ. After Father Dobberstein passed away in 1954 his life's work on the grotto was continued by his long-time assistant, Matt Szerensce, until he retired in 1959, and for 50 years Father Louis Greving, Father Dobberstein's colleague and replacement, continued to build and care for the Grotto until 1996.
The semi-precious stones embedded in the grotto walls are amazing: petrified wood, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, and even stalagmites taken from Carlsbad Canyons before it became a National Park.
In addition to the actual stone grotto there are numerous statues, most made out of white Carrara Italian marble, depicting St. Michael crushing the devil, Adam and Eve being driven out Eden, the Holy Family in the stable in Bethlehem, Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Judas sneaking out of the Garden of Gethsemane, and other religious figures.
As you can see from the photos below – the Grotto of the Redemption is a little overwhelming and the work to build it by hand is almost unfathomable (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Grotto of the Redemption here are a couple of links to check out:
Where the Buffalo Roam and the Skies are Not Cloudy All Day
On Day #15 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.
Named after the 26th President of the United States because of his ties to the region, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a national park located in the western North Dakota badlands with three geographically separated areas; the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The park has 70,446 acres (110.072 square miles) of land.
Teddy Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota to hunt bison in 1883 and subsequently fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and the "perfect freedom" of the West. While in Medora Roosevelt invested in the Maltese Cross Ranch. Then in 1884, following the death of both his wife and mother, Roosevelt returned to North Dakota and purchased the Elkhorn Ranch, located 35 miles north of Medora. A life-long outdoorsman and hunter, Roosevelt's time in the badlands impacted him deeply and helped shape many of the policies that he implemented during his years as President of the United States (1901-1909).
We visited the South Unit of the park on a perfect day – great weather and not many people. During our visit we hiked many of the trails and were able to see, up close and personal, bison, turkeys, prairie dogs, and wild horses (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, or other things to do in the Medora area, here are a couple of links to check out:
As a side note, to get to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park we drove the Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway. The terrain and sights were stunning. This drive is certainly one of the prettiest in North Dakota. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
Here’s are links to all of North Dakota’s scenic highways and some of the specific sights on the Killdeer Byway:
The Beauty of Sunset and Lake Superior
On Day #6 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Michigan.
Pictured Rocks is one of only four National Lakeshores in the United States. Located on Lake Superior, the park stretches for 42 miles along the shore and covers 73,236 acres. Within the park the “pictured rocks” rise between 50 and 200 feet above the lake and stretch for almost fifteen miles. There are also more than 100 miles of hiking trails leading through the forest to remote lakes and streams within the park. In addition, the lakeshore has 12 miles of beaches, 5 miles of sand dunes, several waterfalls, and even a few lighthouses.
The name “Pictured Rocks” comes from the mineral stains that can be seen on the face of the cliffs towering over Lake Superior. A wide range of colors occur in the rock face because groundwater seeps through the cracks and trickles down the rock face with Iron (red and orange), copper (blue and green), manganese (brown and black), limonite (white) and other color-producing minerals.
Although you can hike to the shoreline, to really see the beauty of the “pictured rocks” you need to take a boat ride. We took a 2-hour trip with Pictured Rock Cruises at sunset – the best time of day to see the spectacular colors. As you can see from the photos below – we were lucky enough to be presented with stunning sights during our trip (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
For those of you that know the poem “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Gitchee Gumee” is the Ojibwa (Native American) name for Lake Superior. Here’s the first stanza of the poem to jog your memory:
"By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited."
If you want to see a little more about the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the local light houses, or what to do in the Munising area - here are a couple of links to check out:
Road Trip to the Heartland
Last Saturday we completed a 30-day “road trip” to see more of America. During our trip we drove 9,376 miles (an average of 312.5 miles per day) and visited 21 States, saw all 5 of the Great Lakes and were fortunate to see friends, family and all sorts of interesting places. Don’t let the MSM - and their nightly disaster telecasts fool you - America is beautiful, clean, peaceful and filled with nice people and wonderful sights.
Here’s a high level map of the route that we planned to drive when we started the trip. During the actual trip we made some “on the fly” modifications to add or delete planned sights due to timing and a couple of closures - but nothing major. The only real omission was a very short swing through Canada (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) where it borders North Dakota due to the border closure being extended past 21 July.
The States that we visited during our trip were:
Needless to say, it was a great trip and we had a wonderful time. During the final miles, as we approached our home, my daughter asked if we could just make a pit stop at home and then hit the road again. What a great idea!
Now that we’ve unpacked the car, sorted the mail, washed out clothes, mowed the yard, and downloaded the 10,000+ photos that we collectively took during the trip – I plan to post some of the photos of our adventures and write a few blogs highlighting the special sights that we saw. I’m sure that choosing which places to blog about will be the hard part.
Grand Marais and Grand Portage
We're currently on a 30-day road trip to see more of America. While in Minnesota we specifically drove to the upper North East corner of the state on Lake Superior to hike the waterfalls at both Grand Marais and Grand Portage. You have to be going there to get there - but, in our opinion, it was worth the drive – just watch out for the mosquitoes.
The first hike that we took was to see the waterfalls located in the Judge C.R. Magney State Park; the "Lower Falls", the "Upper Falls" and the "Devil's Kettle". The roundtrip hike to the Devil's Kettle falls is ~2 1/4 miles. At the Upper Falls you can stand directly in front of the falls and get a refreshing shower. At the Devil’s Kettle Falls half of the Brule River flows into a giant pothole and disappears into the Earth. But where does all that water go? Experiments conducted in fall 2016 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources indicated that the disappearing water simply flows back into the Brule River shortly below the falls. However, folklore still maintains that the water disappears underground and heads to Lake Superior since people have dropped sticks, ping pong balls, and GPS trackers into the Devil's Kettle without seeing them resurface downstream. Here are a few photos and a short video of the sights we saw at Grand Marais (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
In addition, here's a link to the Park's website if you want a little more information: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00193#homepag
The second waterfall hike that we took was to see the "High Falls" located on the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park; essentially at the US-Canadian border. The High Falls waterfall is the largest waterfall (120 foot drop) in Minnesota and has a lookout platform ~100 feet from the falls; close enough to get some great photos and feel the spray. The hike to the falls is quite easy since the there's a path and a boardwalk all the way. In the 17th century Grand Portage became a major center of the fur trade in North America because it was the point where the fur trappers left the great lakes and headed into the outback. Grand Portage got its name because the route began with a 9 mile portage where the canoes and equipment had to be carried over land to a safe location on the Pigeon River above the waterfalls and rapids. Here are a few photos and a short video of the sights we saw at Grand Portage (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
In addition, here's a link to the Park's website if you want a little more information: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00173#homepag
HellStorm Battle Wolf Beowolf Fingerless Gloves
These days there are lots of tactical gloves available on the market – some great, some good, some not so good. If you need a set of shooting gloves that allows you to have good manual dexterity, protects your knuckles and the back of your hands, and allows you to get a good grip on your firearm, then you should look into purchasing a pair of HellStorm Battle Wolf Beowolf Gloves.
You can find the details about these fingerless tactical gloves on the Shooting/Range Items and Tools page.
Nature’s Wonderful Colors
Since tomorrow, 19 June, is the last day of Spring I thought that I would post a few of the photos that I took of the gorgeous flowers that bloomed in our neck of the woods this year.
It was almost like nature wanted to show off what she could do to offset all of the other craziness spreading throughout the world. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
There’s nothing else to really say since the beauty of the flowers speak for themselves – so get out there and revel in Nature whenever you can.
Stunning Sights Seen While Hiking
On 29 May we were out hiking when we happened to look up and saw the beautiful “first quarter” Moon hanging in the daytime sky. Since there were no clouds in the bright blue sky, the sunlight glinting off of the moon was radiant – making for some great photos – starting at 5:30 PM and ending at 8:30 PM. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more details about the moon’s daily activities you should check out MoonGiant.com. Here’s their detailed page for 29 May 2020:
What's On This Page?
Here's where we post reviews, questions, answers, thoughts and other information that's of general interest to our followers in a blog format.