House On The Rock – 8/4/2017

On the way home from our vacation in Boundary Waters, we decided to stop for a half day at “House On The Rock“. I’ve heard about it many times and about how good it is. My feelings are different. It wans’t the worst way to waste away the day, but it is far from a must see. The house on the rock was probably very impressive before all of the trees in the area grew up and obscured the feat it was to build it.

All that being said, the house and visitor’s center wasn’t the centerpiece of the place. The house, was mostly open air, so it smelled musty and was cold, this was unexpected! But the junk collection portion (buildings after the house) were interesting. Look through some of the photos below and make your own judgement. I don’t have any desire to go back.

Parking lot on the way in.

On the way in.

Old slot machines.

Several rooms on instruments that play themselves.

This is the first wooden carved door that we say. But after about 20 more, none of them seemed special.

Fancy landscaping.

Its known for a arm that sticks out from the top of the rock. This is as far out as you can go, looking down at the tree tops.

Some control boards for the animated people and instruments.

This in an animated orchestra. Each “person” is full sized with an instrument.

Danelle being silly with a fountain on the way out.

If you don’t like red carpet, DON’t GO!!! 2/3 of the surfaces in this place are red carpet.


Family Vacation to BWCA – 7/28/2017

Our family vacation this year was a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). I was last there in 1992 just before my sister Hannah was born and I was eager to return with my family. We started our trip with a scenic drive. I started by taking the kids on the Golden Eagle Ferry in St. Louis over the Mississippi river.

I decided to try taking the road from the ferry north for a scenic drive. Little did I know that the road was extra narrow and had many hairpin turns. I was driving under the speed limit for safety and to keep the family from getting car sick.

We made the drive over two days to get a head start on the drive. By day two, is starts to be a chore and people get inventive. Sonora did a craft project and Corvin found ways to block the sun so he could read. Most of the drive, we listened to the audio book, The Scorch Trials by James Dashner.   

On the second day, we got to Ely, MN just after lunch and checked in at Cliff Wold’s outfitters. There we got the scoop on our trip and found out our accommodations for the night. On the drive out to check out the cabin, I found a sign that I misread, so I fixed it…

We finished out our night exploring the tiny town of Ely, Mn.

Eventually we had dinner and went back to our cabin. Sleep didn’t come easy as the mosquitos didn’t want us to sleep. And maybe we were all excited. But when the morning came in, we all got ready in a hurry and waited for the shuttle to come and pick us up.

Unloading the shuttle van at the start of the trip.

Here we are with all our gear for 5 days, packed to head off at Lake One, the start of our trip.

It looks like a dead end, but this is the right way to continue onto the next lake.

Hogan and Sonora on a peaceful lake with 3 fifths of the gear.

These plants with flowers were a constant companion when the water was shallow and calm during the trip.

Nothing makes a selfie better than having Sonora and I in the background.

Way too many times the BWCA took our breath away with the scenery.

Corvin with his tree man bracelet on.

One of the many portages of the day.

The end of the portage and the stark scenery from the 2011 Pagami Creek forest fire. 6 years later and the trees are starting to come back.

The wildlife didn’t seem to notice us getting close for a photo.

Somewhere around here, we made camp for the night at a fantastic site on a huge rock overlooking the lake with its own beach. There are a bunch of memories from this campsite but a few really stick out. There were not many choices of where to hang our food bag as the fire didn’t leave many tall trees. What we found wasn’t great, but would work for the night. At some point in the night, I woke up to lights, but couldn’t place them as there is no electricity and nobody else around. Danelle woke up around the same time and we ended up going outside. There, we realized it was lightning to the north of us. I was a little concerned as we were out a bit on a point, but decided to sleep anyway.

Sometime later we hear a strange snapping sound. Worried about a bear attacking our food, we shined a light out and spotted the food bag. Everything seemed in place and we finally gave up and went back to sleep. We woke up the next morning to realize one of our tent poles had snapped. We ended up duct taping a splint on the broken pole for the rest of the trip.

Making dinner at our campsite on a rock.

Camp is setup. The canoes are lower down beached on the sand.

Having one actual chair was a nice change for one of us versus the canoe seats and log benches.

You can never go wrong making bacon.

The tent pole that snapped in the night.

More water vegetation.

Hogan carrying a canoe on a portage.

Danelle and Corvin paddling.

Danelle getting photographs of scenery and Corvin hiding from the sun.

Love the calm days out on the water.

I must have asked Sonora to turn for a photo cause she’s looking at me.

Stopped for lunch and a swim.

The highest level of cliff jumping we allowed the kids during the trip. I spent a bunch of time making sure it was deep enough before allowing it.

Corvin’s favorite pose for the trip. It made an interesting sound when our boat glided over the vegetation.

Its awesome to be able to see down into the water and view the vegetation.

Tons of these flowers on the water.

Corvin testing to see how deep the water is.

A splint for a broken tent pole. Always bring duct tape!!!

Sonora and Danelle planning our route together.

There are not enough sunsets in the BWCA!

It wouldn’t be camping without trying to cut something too big for the fire!

Some pots are more dirty than others. This won’t be fun to clean.

Corvin on a fallen tree.

Sonora taking a break from packing up in the morning.

Danelle taking a break from packing up in the morning.

Hogan in the middle of a long portage with a heavy aluminum canoe.

Sonora and Corvin putting their sails up.

Leaving a portage.

Our favorite campsite of the trip. Log sofa to the left and rock coffee table in the middle.

Without Internet and electricity, you do silly things to entertain yourselves.

My hands while cleaning the nasty pot. Good thing I soaped the outside, as it came totally clean.

When your hands are too dirty to touch yourself, the kids can sculpt your hair.

Lounging on the wood sofa.

A hair monster?

Double man bun?

The best campsite without our junk.

Takeout at Snowbank Lake.

Group shot at Snowbank Lake takeout.

Sonora modifying a road sign.





South Dakota Kayak Challenge – 5/25/2017

The South Dakota Kayak Challenge is a 72 mile paddling race down the Missouri river. Danelle and I had previously completed this race and though it would be fun to do it again with friends. I borrowed a 4 person aluminum boat and talked Andy and Terica into joining us for the trip. We only had two training runs in this boat, but I was confident we would fare fine as we are all distance racing veterans. So off we went to KC on Thursday night with the kids to drop them off at my parents house.

With the kids gone, we snuck out early from the house for the remaining 5 hour drive to Yankton, SD. Along the way, we were passed by Rusty who was able to drive a bit faster than me. As luck would have it, we stopped at the same rest area for a break and had a nice chat before heading back on the road.

Like last time, we stopped at a high point to check out the course and get a break from the drive.

We were in contact with Terica and Andy during the drive, but they were a few hours behind us, so we didn’t wait for them. Once in Yankton, we unloaded and got settled. Our large aluminum boat sitting next to a more competitive boat…

Then I drove to South Sioux City, Nebraska where the race finish is. There, I would park the van and ride a shuttle back to the start of the race. I caught up with Terica and Andy here, always in great spirits!

After checking into the race, we led them to the The Riverfront Hotel (they were staying at the same one we were). On the way, we were bragging about how awesome the rooms are. For some reason, they were out of space and we had to walk to their other building, so we all took the hike together. When we got to Andy’s room, our mouths dropped. His room was $20 more than ours and it was nicer than my house. Oh yeah, it also had a walk in safe!

Saturday morning, race time! When we woke up, it was lightly drizzling rain. I love paddling, but I always prefer when its dry. I was worried it would be a miserable day of racing. But to keep things light, we had some laughs before the start. Danelle, Terica, and I all colored our hair. Andy said he would wear a wig if we brought one… He was a great sport and let us get a photo before putting it away.

The race went great. The team did a great time together and we had lots of hilarious conversation. Many paddlers were shocked when we passed them mostly due to our boat size. They commented that they could hear us coming but could do nothing about it. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time!

One other interesting note, I broke a carbon fiber paddle. I traded paddles with Terica so she could try out a shorter one and she liked it. So I started using hers and I called out a 20 count (20 hard strokes to get the boat and blood moving). On my second stroke I heard a loud snap! I looked down and realized the paddle snapped.

We were fortunate that we carried a spare paddle and kept going. We finished the race in 10 hours and 41 minutes.No one said that racing was easy!

We were too tired to think after the race, or we would have gotten a team shot, but here is Danelle and I the next morning.

Another fantastic race in the books for us!

Hogan Haake

Weldon Springs Training – 5/18/2017

We’ve officially signed up for the South Dakota Kayak Challenge. The team is Andy Clones, Terica Bergin, Danelle and Hogan Haake. We’re borrowing a 4 person aluminum boat from Bernie Arnold and this is our first training run. The plan is to paddle after work from Weldon Springs to Blanchette Landing in St. Charles. We’re fortunate that Terica’s mom, Sharon is providing the shuttle before the paddle starts.

I had heard that Weldon was a bit flooded, but ignored it figuring that it would all work out. The road stopped into water just after the Katy Trail parking. That left us a lot of flooded fields to cross to get to the water. It was decided by the team but pushed by me that we had a boat and could easily get to the river. So we decided to go for it. Sharon would wait 30 minutes in case we changed our minds.

There should be a road here to get to the boat ramp.

Terica is a bit camera shy!

Still camera shy, but I’m working on her 🙂

Getting to the river was a mix of paddling and navigation. Then the flooding ended and a bit of a portage…

Last minute gear check.

And carrying a 150 pound boat on a road.

Will the madness ever end?

Eventually, we got to the river and paddled all the way back without issue.  A successful training run with no serious issues. This proved the race was going to be possible and fun!

Hogan Haake