Back in June, three of my friends and I made the journey to travel up to Northern Minnesota to visit the Spirit Tree. Unfortunately for us, the Spirit Tree was no longer accessible to the public and we weren’t able to complete our journey. While we still had a fun camping trip, I felt like the trip was no longer a challenge.
After thinking it over I decided to save up some money and make a second trip up north. This time, I was going to test myself physically by climbing up Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota. This 2,300 foot tall trek would be a 7 hour hike on rough terrain and will be the first to cross off on my list to trek the highest points in each of the fifty states.
My girlfriend and I readied ourselves for the trip. It would be a four hour ride from home to Two Harbors, where we planned to set up camp, then an additional half hour car trip to reach the start of the trail. We felt like taking advantage of our time up North so we planned a number of other visits along the way, such as touring Enger tower in Duluth and hiking to Devil’s Kettle. After hitting up some of the sites we eventually landed to Two harbors on our third day. We set up camp in the early morning then headed off to Eagle Mountain. While the trail was 7 miles long the actual summit was a 3.5 mile hike from the closest parking space. We readied our gear, checked for water, then hit up the trail.
The trek to the summit felt like a very easy walk. The silent nature that surrounded us was very captivating. By the time we started to hit the 2nd mile marker the weather got increasingly humid. We stopped by a small beach to dampen our faces with the cool water before quickly heading back on the trail. We arrived at the summit and found the trail getting steeper. We hit a nice clearing that we assumed only meant we were at the finish line. We would’ve stopped there too, if it wasn’t for a hiking couple who pointed out that the trail goes another mile upward.
We took this time to munch on some food and re-hydrate ourselves. We made the foolish mistake of packing salty treats with an inadequate amount of water. We finished out snacking and were down to less than a cup of water a piece. We carried on and soon found ourselves to the top of the mountain. We grabbed some pictures, enjoyed the lovely view, than drank the rest of our water. After we rested for a bit we decided to head back down the mountain.
The hike back down felt a lot easier than the hike back up. Eventually we hit the small beach and cooled our faces in the water. The rest of the trail was going to be very rock and very hilly from then on out. We realized we made the huge mistake of not packing enough water. The weather started to hit it’s peak temperature during our trek back. We started to become exhausted from the combination of dehydration, heat, and exercise. We finally got back to the car where we drank a bunch of Gatorade as a reward for our climb.
The next day we drove up Ely to enjoy the rest of our trip in the Boundary Waters. It was definitely a worthwhile experience to take on Eagle Mountain. It also proved to be a valuable learning experiencing to make sure we pack more water for future hikes. Eagle Mountain, a very enjoyable trip, and is now the first out of fifty I have climbed.
One of my first memories as a kid was when I fell into the water and nearly drowned. My second memory was when my mother took me to swim classes where we did a rendition of “The Wheels On The Bus” as she dunks my head in the water. As you can tell, my first experiences with water where not pleasant ones. Although, as I grew older I found myself ever more fascinated with water. Every camping trip we went on my goal was to get everything set up before dusk so I had time to go swimming. When I started exercising more my exercises consisted of a lot of running, and a lot of lap swimming. I felt like I could never escape the water.
A few years back I found myself also getting more interested in the outdoors. I loved being one with nature and wanted to be with it as much as possible. This lead me to an interest in wilderness survival, where I would study and practice how to live off the land for years. Eventually I realized I can make my love for the outdoors a career by being a Wilderness First Responder. Not only would I be able to challenge myself to face the dangerous beauty of nature, but I could help people who are in need.
Logically, my love for the water and my goal for being an outdoor rescuer led me to signing up for a Lifeguarding class. I felt that it will be a good preparation towards my goals as well as challenge me to be a better swimmer. Boy, did it challenge me.
One of the requirements for being certified as a Lifeguard is two swim 300 yards consecutively. I use to swim 20 sets of 100 yards when I was younger so I thought this was no big deal. I spent most of my 2014 Fall semester, and summer break training. It turned out to be a lot harder experience than I thought to build up to this, especially because I took a break from swimming for my marathon training.
Nevertheless, I put in months of training for my experience so I was going in with my all. The first day of class required a pre-test that took nearly half the day to do so. I regrettably did weight training with my friend the day before, so I was working on tired legs. I powered through the test and I was thankfully able to go through the rest of the class. Unfortunately, some of my classmates weren’t able to do so. After the pre-test the class dropped from 25 to 16 people.
The rest of the week was filled with a lot more physically straining exercises that went on for hours each day. Each day it was several hours in the water, a few hours of testing, then another few hours studying the Lifeguard manual. As the week progressed we saw a couple more students who didn’t make it through, and one classmate who had an emotional breakdown. I still strove on, determined to finish this to the best of my ability. After pushing through I managed to complete the test and officially became life guard certified.
A lot of people like to refer to me as a fitness fanatic. Personally, I agree with that. I love to spend every day pushing my body beyond it’s limitations just to see if I could. I thought there’s no better way to test my body’s physical abilities then to complete in an obstacle race.
Fortunately for me, when I started to compile this list there was a Groupon available for a discounted entry fee to the 2015 Rugged Maniac, a 5k obstacle course. My friend, Xue and I both wanted to use this as a prep run for our future goal of running a Tough Mudder. Xue and I signed up as a team and were set to run the course.
We signed up for an early afternoon race. By now a lot of the more elite runners finished up so the competitive edge was not present among racers. After the runners finished gathering, the buzzer sounded and we were off. Remembering back to my marathon experience I decided to pace myself for this course. A lot of the runners ahead of us decided to sprint up ahead before quickly dragging behind on the up hill portions.
There were a lot of fun obstacles ahead of us, and fortunately for me, I was an avid Parkour athlete. With ease, Xue and I blew past the early obstacles. We climbed walls, vaulted objects, and jumped over obstacles to quickly find our way to the 1-mile marker. We drank our water and started approaching some of the more shocking obstacles. One said obstacle was to dive feet first into a 4 foot pool of water.
During our run, the weather was well below 60 degrees. After we took our dip into the pool it felt like the weather dropped at least to 30 degrees. We decided to jog around to warm ourselves up, but moments when we had to stop and wait to run some obstacles soon gave us that chilling feeling again. We reached many a more water obstacles between 1-2 miles. My favorite in particular was sliding down a plastic tube, crawling in a foot of water while underneath bar wire, then climbing back up to the tube to be greeted by the foulest smelling mud.
When we hit the mile 2 marker our bodies became more dirt than clothing. We headed our way past a number of other obstacles that challenged our strength and balance. When we got to the sand bags, Xue did not hesitate to grab the 50-lb bag as opposed to the 20-lb. I decided to do the same and raced him up to the top of the hill. We both dropped our bags down at the end of the obstacle then jogged our way towards the end. After literally jumping over fire and climbing a warped wall we were finally at the last obstacle, a slide down to another pool of freezing water.
We both looked at each then slid down while giving out our battle cries. We ended our race dirty and victorious. We went out to refuel on some much needed carbs before I went off to take two showers to get the mud off me. In the end, it was a fun experience and I had immediately signed up for another obstacle race for 2016.
It’s been a heck of a Halloween. I ended up dedicating a lot more time towards this holiday throughout October than expected and ended up losing a lot of my documentation process. On the bright side, I managed to make every October day a Halloween day. Throughout the month I managed to do a lot of wonderful Halloween stuff. I got to visit various Halloween festivities, I had a bonfire dedicated to roasting Halloween themed candy, crafted my horror crafts, visited many a haunted houses, and even did a traditional pumpkin smashing(Don’t worry, we bought our own to smash). It’s sad to say that the Halloween horrors are over now for this year, but next year I hope to make Halloween even bigger and better.
25 Do something Halloween related every day of October ACCOMPLISHED!
It is now the month of October and I get to finally kick off what I hope to be my favorite item on my challenge list:
25. Do something Halloween related every day of October
I absolutely love Halloween and I feel like just one day of the year is not enough to celebrate such an awesome holiday. So I thought, “Why not expand that to the entire month of October?”. For 31 days I’ll be doing, at minimum, one Halloween related activity every day. I will be documenting each day of October with it’s own blog entry.
This entry kicks off the first day of my challenge. I felt there is no better way to kick off Halloween than going to my favorite Halloween store in Minnesota, Spirit Halloween.
Last year was my first time visiting Spirit and it became the store I frequented the most throughout October. There were a lot of awesome stuff featured there such as Teddy Bears eating their own intensities, animatronic lawn gnomes that crawl towards you, and creepy Halloween masks.
I spent my first visit there searching for costume ideas. I am still in the brainstorming stages of what I want to dress up as this year so I was hoping Spirit will provide me some ideas. I got a swam of different things to work with and now just have to settle on what I want to go as. For now I bought a couple of items there for Halloween gifts, one of which included a plush spider. This will not be my first stop at Spirit. There was at least one item I saw there that caught my eye. Until then, I look forward to keep this month as much into the Halloween spirit as possible.
Another goal has been completed. On Saturday I hosted a party where we marathoned all the Star Wars movies. I decided to do this as soon as Star Wars VII was announced. I never really watched the original three Star Wars movies, so I thought this would be a fun way to prepare for the upcoming release. We started the movie marathon around 4 PM and did not conclude it well after 5 AM. It was a heck of a marathon, and I had a lot of fun with it.
About a year ago my girlfriend and her friend found a magnet on the fridge. The magnet was a long forgotten souvenir with the words “Witch Tree” marked on it. They did not know much about the Witch Tree, expect that it was significant to the Ojibwe.
My girlfriend told me of the tree. Being of Ojibwe heritage myself, I was curious. I talked to my dad, who corrected me by saying it’s name is not “Witch Tree” but rather “Spirit Tree”. He told me the tree is sacred to the Ojibwe, where it has lived in Northern Minnesota for over a thousand years. Although, it’s not the age that makes it special, it’s how it has lived. Spirit Tree grows on a rock where none of the branches touch the ground. It’s a mystery that has baffled scientists since its discovery. Jokingly, my girlfriend wanted to know if I want to go on a quest to the tree with her friend. I agreed.
Her friend, Eli, my girlfriend, and I, were all not licensed at the time. We agreed we will make the trip once we are licensed. Over time we invited a fourth member, Steve, to the trip. Steve was able to drive, so we set out to plan for the trip.
The planning took many months. In order to cut cost, we decided to share a camping spot with my parents when they went on their annual Ojibwe language camp in Duluth. We left off on in the later afternoon then arrived at the campground at night. We past out shortly after setting up. We spent the majority of the next day browsing Duluth’s local shops. There were many spectacular amenities. One of my favorites was a local bakery called Positively 3rd Street Bakery. They had a variety of treats such as pumpkin raisin bread and banana cookies(banookies). A very savory treat for the road.
We then took a detour to Goosebury falls. Steve and I went off pathway to take a closer look at the falls. I skipped along the rocks to transverse across the water. I slipped on one of the surfaces and found myself knee deep in water. We eventually headed back to the campsite where I dried off by the fire for the rest of the night.
On day three we headed out to Grand Marias. We arrived at the campground by the evening. Upon our arrival we were met with a light drizzle. We quickly set up camp, gathered some wood, then ate canned soup cooked over a fire. We made sure to secure everything in a dry location before trapping ourselves in the tent when it down poured.
The weather did not let up throughout the night. By next morning we decided to make the trip to Grand Portage and visit the Spirit Tree. The Spirit Tree was located in an unmarked location on the Grand Portage reservation. In order to prevent any damage to the tree, the Tribal Council requires visitors to be escorted by a member of the reservation. We made a stop by the Grand Portage Reservation Heritage center to find a guide. One of the workers informed us we would need to speak directly with the Tribal Council Office. We drove to the Council Office, but discovered that the office was closed for the day.
The Heritage Center employee had suggested we try the casino down the road to see if any of the members would be available. We made our way down to the casino but found that no one was available to give us a tour. Defeated, we went back to Grand Marias. We parked by the Grand Marias’ beach in order to explore the town. I found that along the shore there was a hiking trail that lead to a rocky peak stretching into Lake Superior. I made it my quest to travel down that trail to reach the peak. The rain did not led up during my hike. By the end clothes were heavy, and the pathway was flooded. Nevertheless, I reached the peak stretching into Superior. I found the closet tree to the lake and dubbed it was “Lil’ Spirit Tree 2” before laying some tobacco down by it.
We made the walk back into the city while facing cold rain and harsh winds. With our clothes soaked and our stomachs empty, we went out to eat at a local cafe to dry off. After filling our stomachs we spent the remainder of the evening hanging around a laundromat playing cards until late in the night After enjoying a couple of drinks by the fire we had settled to get to bed early for our trip back home the next day.
The last day was nothing too adventurous. We had to spend some time drying out our camping equipment so there were long periods of waiting in between packing. We did manage to get some more hiking in before leaving. We stopped by a place close to Two Harbors known as Betty’s Pies. The place was fantastic, and I would recommend anyone near the area to try one of their delicious Pie Shakes. We made this stop our last before heading home.
Although we didn’t get a chance to go to Spirit Tree, I still found myself have a great adventure. I was able to explore new areas in Minnesota and figured out there are some items I want to add to my Challenge List for 2016. One item I hope to accomplish is hiking up the highest point in Minnesota, Eagle’s Mountain. I called the Tribal Council when I got home and found out they stopped giving tours to the Spirit Tree a long while ago. It seemed like it was a futile attempt but I do not regret the effort we spent getting there.
Would I say this goal was successful? It’s hard to say. On one hand I never did get to Spirit Tree. On the other, my goal wasn’t so much the destination, more so just making the trip to there. Still, I do feel as if I would be cheating myself out of my goals if I didn’t push myself to actually accomplishing something. So, I do intend to leave this goal unchecked for now. I have a goal I do wish to accomplish as an alternative, but finishing it is completely dependent on transportation. If I can figure out transportation, I will be revising my goal and make a second trip up to Northern Minnesota where I will make the hike up to the top of Eagle’s Mountain.