I was browsing for some images for an upcoming post and ran across a new edition of Monopoly National Parks. Apparently this version was released sometime in 2012. You can get a little more information at World of Monopoly. This is a site dedicated to Monopoly. The history and multitude of editions published by Hasbro and other licensed distributors. Way more information than I need in a single sitting but interesting to browse over.
They certainly went further in this edition than previous ones in that the chance and community chest spots have been transformed into historic sites and battlefield parks. These areas had been left original in earlier editions however the cards themselves pertained to the national parks. In addition, the middle spots are now filled with activities available in many of the parks – hiking, bicycling, rock climbing, and river rafting. The four corners have been left as original which I believe in required by Hasbro in order to be a licensed edition.
Looking over many of the parks used on this board, there are several that we’ve been to and several more we will be going to, and a few not on our current list. Those not on our list are parks I would eventually like to get to someday as the photos and information I’ve read are very intriguing. Overall if I was starting out and choosing a Monopoly Board to travel this would definitely be at or near the top of the list. This being written, We’re going stick to the first edition as we are almost half complete with it. The only difficult spot on this entire board is the Campfire violation. I would probably have to break my rule trying to complete each location on the board minus the corners as there is no interest in a campfire violation.
Check it out for yourself. I did see it available on Amazon.
-Take a moment to realize how little you actually need to live while you’re hiking and surviving on only the things you can carry on your back. There are so many distractions in life that we begin to believe are necessary filling houses with so much stuff to occupy our time. It’s nice to live in a simple manner if only for a few days. These few days of simple living can also serve as reminder to appreciate the comforts of home.
-One aspect of taking a backpacking trip that no one mentioned to me ahead of time was training for it. Adding a 40 pound backpack to your weight instantly puts a lot of stress on your body especially while walking up and down hills, over rocks and trees, and any other obstacles on the trail. Some methods of training include putting on the pack and running, using a Stairmaster while wearing the pack, or just go hiking on local trails with your pack on. You make think this is not necessary or be a little concerned about what people are thinking as they see you training with a backpack but it will make a huge difference on how much you enjoy your backpacking experience. After completing the first hiking trip I entered a conversation with more experience backpackers on what they do to get ready for the physical endurance required. Two of these included ex Marines that agreed backpacking is tougher than the training in the military regarding carry packs. In the military training may include running with a 40 pound pack for 10 miles but these miles are on flat, smooth surfaces. The trail is very rarely flat and smooth!
-Take a few moments and just be. What does this mean? Sit or stand still and close your eyes to listen to all the activity that is going on around you. The breeze moving leaves, critters rustling around, birds fluttering, a deer off in the distance. After a few minutes open your eyes to the amazing vista you came to visit. Just listen and feel yourself breathing: your heart pumping, lungs inhaling and exhaling the fresh air, your muscles aching reminding you of the feats your accomplishing. Realize how few people actually get to experience this solitude of the wilderness. People call these the simple pleasures in life. I believe these are reminders of the great and necessary things in life.
I hope these tips help you understand what is involved in a backpacking trip so that you are better prepared and most of all enjoy your first experience.
To read more about my first experience check out these articles:
An Easy National Parks Trip?
Isle Royale Preparations Update
A Night on Isle Royale…or Three
If you’ve never been on an overnight backpacking trip before but have the urge to see what it’s all about like I did, here’s some tips from my first experience.
-Every backpacker is looking for 3 things from their gear:
1. Quality to last
2. Lightweight for easier carrying
Pick 2 out of 3 because getting all 3 is very unlikely
-Realize that for your first time out your are going to be carrying a lot of weight for a couple of reasons. First, you will most likely over pack for your trip simply because you have never done this before and are unsure of exactly what you will need and what you can live without. Being caught in a rainstorm without rain gear or running out of food during a hike are not going to make your trip fun. Second, acquiring lightweight gear is something that takes a number of trips to accomplish due to the expense of it so for the first time you will likely have equipment that is reduced cost but heavier to carry. Some options for finding good lightweight gear include borrowing it from someone you know that has it or renting gear from an outfitter.
-bring a partial roll of duct tape. This stuff comes in a variety of colors and patterns now instead of just the good old grey to make it a little more fun to use. Ultimately you want this as it can be a versatile fix it tool. If something breaks or rips on your tent, clothing, or hiking boots duct tape can get you through your trip. In a pinch you could make a rope out of it by twisting long pieces of tape together or use it as a medical bandage.
-when planning your meals, try to plan a couple of meals that don’t require cooking each day especially if that day requires a lot of hiking. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, you save on fuel. Second, and probably more importantly you save water and time. Cooking a meal requires water to cook with and clean with. Cleaning is the more water and time intensive task. Once everyone is finished eating a warm meal the dishes need to be washed with the wash and rinse water needing to be strained away from water or trails in an effort to leave no trace for wildlife and other hikers to find. This requires filtering more water to clean with. All in all cooking a meal requires time and energy that can be spent on the trail. I took the time to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my first backpacking trip. Next time I will plan on more breakfast bars and snacks with a warm meal only once a day for some of those days. In addition, food to be cooked generally adds more weight to your pack.
-Plan a practice backpacking trip a few weeks before the real thing. Go to a nice campground that’s not to far from a store or restaurant in case you forgot to pack something preferably with a river or lake so you can test out your water purification methods. Your back yard doesn’t count because it is to easy to go in the house to get stuff. This accomplishes a number of things. It forces you to have all of your equipment you think you’ll need with enough time to make adjustments before going somewhere with nothing available except what your carrying. This gives you practice in real conditions with your equipment to make sure it all works the way you want it to and figure out how to best use it. Also, this is on opportunity to figure out how to pack your backpack and how much it’s going to weigh. The most important thing this does is give you confidence in your ability to successfully prepare for a backpacking trip in the solitude of the wilderness.
A few feet beyond this marker you could see more large sequoias and a building which turned out to be restrooms. Just beyond the restrooms there, in the midst of a stand of redwoods was the museum. The sight causes you to forget the distance hiked as you become engrossed in the amazing view in front of you. This little cabin surrounded by giant trees making it appear as though it is a little play house in a forest. Almost as if you have entered a different world. I felt like an ant playing among a few trees. This was a feeling I have never experienced before and not sure how to understand it now. Thinking back, it makes me laugh and appreciate the feeling was so odd. Always exploring looking for new experiences. This was definitely a new experience. It’s not like being in an airplane with everything else near the ground looking so small. If allowed, you will feel inferior to the surroundings becoming afraid of nature and any animals that might come your way. Fearing they will also be giant in scale able to squash you like a bug with no defense.
After taking in these impressive moments we continued on to reach our destination of the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree. The trail continues up in elevation a little more ending near a paved road used by the tram and a large tree laying on the ground. This is a great opportunity to explore a giant sequoia up, down, inside, and out. You can get a sense of just how large some these trees get as their diameter is taller than you are when lying on the ground and the length just seems to keep going. The children spent several minutes playing around inside this tree and climbing on top of it (after I showed them how to get on top of the tree of course). This tree alone may not justify the hike but along with the trees near the museum it was definitely worth it.
Having to hike back we decided it was time to get off the fallen tree and begin our journey back to the vehicles. As we headed back we took in as much of the sequoias as possible and the feeling of being extremely tiny in this world. One more stop to re-fill water bottles at the museum and another bathroom break. We were off taking the same trail looking forward to sitting down on a cushioned seat again. Shortly after heading back down the trail we encountered another family wondering the same thing we did at that point – “are we close yet?” Laughing we explained how close they were and those were our exact thoughts at that same area on the trail. There was a sense of relief in their faces knowing their destination was near. Funny to be on both sides of wondering just how much further at that spot on the trail.
Our hike back took only half as long as it did to get up to the museum as this time it was all down hill. The joy of being back at the parking lot brought a stop to the gift shop for ice cream before letting the vehicles do the work for awhile as we headed to get the monopoly board signed before leaving Yosemite National Park for the last time. The children all slept well that night. Probably the adults too!
A few days after hiking in Mariposa Grove, we were intrigued by the lure of the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree further up the trail and decided this would be a nice hike to end our time in Yosemite. According to the sign posts along the trail this was a little over 4 miles to hike. Using My Tracks from Google, we hiked over 5 miles almost 6 miles (in an effort to appease our travel companions from HobbyJeep.com). Either way this is a long distance for a 4 year old (the youngest of our group of 9) to walk and she did this remarkably well.
There is an alternative to hiking to the Wawona Tunnel Tree, you can purchase a ride on the tram going from the parking lot to the tree and back taking just over an hour. There are a couple of reasons this did not fit into our objectives. Cost was the first deterrent. For a group of 2 or so the cost isn’t so bad but for a group of 9 the expense became larger than we were comfortable with. Next, the challenge of a hike this distance for the kids would be a good experience. Finally, the tram only stops twice for people to get on and off to explore these incredible trees. We didn’t find this out until after we got to the museum near the tunnel tree. By hiking we were able to walk among many sequoias and enjoy the trail. In addition, for the Monopoly Travelers, this was a good opportunity to experience a nice hike before heading to Isle Royale National Park where hiking would be our only method of travel.
Armed with a pack consisting of fruit and trail bars along with plenty of water and our cameras it was off to the trail. Don’t forget the med kit as scratches are very possible. The first mile was familiar as we reached a number of trees visited a few days prior such as the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree. Soon it was on to new trails exploring vistas we haven’t seen in search for more amazing vistas. After hiking about 2 hours we were starting to wonder how far away it was as we hadn’t passed anyone in a little while. It is at these times your mind plays tricks on you as you begin to wonder if you missed a turn somewhere or took a wrong turn earlier. Fighting these detrimental thoughts we pressed on and approached the top of the hill we had been climbing to entire time and found a trail marker. In addition to the mileage we were also climbing about 800 feet in altitude. The marker told us we were near the museum and still on the right track.
The first portion of this trail follows the shoreline of Lake Superior giving amazing vistas demanding a moment of your time to take in all the sight has to offer. There are many places along this trail begging you to stop and see what nature has created. Unfortunately this also means more time with a full backpack strapped to you each time you give in to natures majesty. Each ache and pain in your body asks that you keep moving so that this heavy load can be taken off. Each person has to decide which portion of this battle will win. I gave in to the natural creations knowing that the pain will go away but the memories will be there for a long time. I would have regretted not taking in this part of the island. As the trail turned inward to cross the island we began to ascend up a long hill being greeted with a light rain shower. This was no real surprise as we could see the clouds off in the distance while walking along the shore.
Near the top of this hill the rain subsided but the mosquitoes began targeting us for lunch. These mosquitoes where persistent for much of the trail encouraging a faster pace. Our group split into two during this trail: a faster group and a little more relaxed pace keeping in contact with the use of two-way radios. Each group continued on the trail going up and over rocks, around water, and on to our final destination taking a moment to explore an old copper mine along the way. The first group reached Washington Creek and secured the same shelter we used earlier. Our second group had a little more interesting trek. After stopping to explore the Wendigo Mine, they came upon a moose blocking the trail. Slowly backing away as anyone who has encountered a moose knows that they own whatever territory there on. After backing away it was decided to remove the packs as who knows how long the moose would be here and it would be easier to blend in to the trees without the additional weight if that need should arise. After about 15 minutes the moose moved on along with her calf allowing this group to continue towards and eventually reaching Washington Creek.
Everyone was glad to be back at this first campsite quickly removing the packs and resting a few minutes before setting up camp for the last night. The night was cool and again treated us to a sky filled with stars. Our next morning consisted of eating and packing up getting ready to board the Sea Hunter III for a return trip to the mainland. Once again the morning was beautiful and sun drenched giving us one last day with amazing weather. Our younger participants became Junior Rangers once again and where ready to shove off after four days of extreme camping. If you can believe it, this was done with children from 7 to 12 years of age who all carried at least some items as far as they could. A learning experience for all. Just imagine how little we can actually live on and how little we need to survive compared to everything we desire in everyday life. Even living on this little, there were and are people who live on less!
We were off to the next destination which was just over four miles away while carrying 40 pounds or more of camping equipment and food. While researching backpacking it was recommended to carry a maximum of 20% of your body weight in your pack. Ours seemed slightly higher than that which appeared to be more common amongst the other hikers on the island. 20% would certainly have been more comfortable and easier on our bodies. The scenery was quite nice and changed along the way however after a couple of miles of walking up and down hills with all this weight the scenery became less important. Finally after five hours of hiking we arrived at our destination and where able to take the packs off for an extended period of time. This did include stopping for lunch and a couple of other snack breaks so it was not constant walking. After some recuperation it was time to set up camp for the night and enjoy our surroundings.
Huginnin Cove was without a question worth the hike. We had Lake Superior on two different sides of us with trees and rock formations everywhere else along with plenty of peace and solitude. The landscape was spectacular even when you’re exhausted from getting there. Listening to the waves of the lake crash against the rocks surrounding the shoreline while taking in the surroundings was an amazing experience. Off in the distance we could see the shores of Canada and at times see the city of Thunder Bay. At this camping area there was no pre-built shelter, running water, or flush toilets so it was more extreme camping. Our evening meal was prepared while watching the sunset across the water. As we finished cleaning up for the evening the stars light up the sky with no moon to interfere. This happened to occur at the same time as the Perseid Meteor Shower was winding down so not only did we get to star gaze but we were treated to shooting stars and numerous satellites crossing the sky. This was the experience I was hoping for!
Our next morning was beautiful and sunny giving some incentive to get up and enjoy the day. We were much slower in emerging from the tent even with this nice sunny day as there were many sore muscles and joints along with the knowledge that it was another day of hiking with all this extra stuff strapped to our backs. Eventually we made breakfast and cleaned the dishes and packed everything away into our packs in an effort to head back to Washington Creek. There are two ways to get from Hugginnin Cove to Washington Creek. We explored one of those the previous day so decided it was time to take the second trail today. A very good decision as the scenery was much better and the trail slightly easier.
For the conclusion of this post click to continue…
A trip to Isle Royale National Park is different than many other parks. It is one of the least visited parks for good reason… getting there is a little more difficult because you can’t drive there. This national park is on an island located in Lake Superior and is at least 15 miles from shore. There are only two ways onto this park: boat or airplane. We chose to take a 1.5 hour boat ride from Grand Portage, MN on the Sea Hunter III to the Windigo side of the island. Now once you get to the Island what are you going to do? There is the short day trip that many people utilize and spend about 4 hours exploring Isle Royale before returning to the mainland. If you decide to stay longer you will need to spend the night. Be prepared as there is only one small resort area which is likely booked and requires getting on the right boat to get there as it is on the opposite side of the island from Windigo. The last option is camping. We chose to camp for three nights allowing us the opportunity to explore the island a little further.
Our first night we decided to make it relatively easy and stay at the nearest camp area known as Washington Creek. This location is easy as there where shelters available which are enclosed on three sides and screened on the forth side allowing for air movement while keeping out bugs and other curious critters. Also, water suitable for drinking is nearby and a short distance away there are bathrooms with running water. Our shelter was right on the banks of Washington Creek giving us a relaxing view when waking up. One of the only downfalls of this camping area is the noise coming from boats, airplanes, and a higher population of people than most other areas. Well, a lot of noise compared to the solitude experienced elsewhere but substantially less than even a small town.
The next morning involved grabbing some oatmeal for breakfast then cleaning up and packing it all away in preparation for our hike to Huginnin Cove to spend the next night. Did I mention that you need to bring in all of your supplies and bring them all back out with you again as this area is designated as ‘Leave No Trace’? That means backpacking all of your necessary items if you do not have a boat of your own docked somewhere around the island. We could have spent three nights in Washington Creek and just did day hikes without all of our gear but our purpose in traveling to all these different parks is to experience new and different areas so we decided to try our hand at real backpacking. Thankfully we did a trial run a few weeks earlier allowing us to be more prepared for multiple nights living out of backpacks.
For more go on to part II…
Well now of course! What kind of question is that? Let’s think about this for a minute. Is the purpose of your vacation to just relax or are you looking for an adventure or two? If all you wanted to do was sit around the pool and sip refreshments you could do that in any hotel with a pool and save the expense of traveling to some exotic destination. Most of us want to get away from our daily routines to rejuvenate which involves traveling somewhere exciting. While on those trips often people will find and excursion to take and something new to explore. During those adventures how often do you stop to enjoy the moment? Sure, you are enjoying it but do you actually take a minute to take it all in or is that what pictures are for? For many people, the adventure is over before they realize it. I often forget to take a few minutes just to consciously enjoy the moment and what I’m doing, where I am, and who I’m with.
Thankfully there are memories and photos to go over. It helps for me to share the memories with others who where there with me. This is one of the reasons I like to travel with a few people. Solo travel allows a lot of freedom but is not as meaningful for me as sharing the moments both during them and afterwards are. It can be interesting to share the different perspectives each has as well when talking about a past adventure. As time passes, it is interesting to find out which experiences where the most memorable. The memories from these adventures last a lifetime while the actual vacation may only last a few days or weeks. This is why I ask “do you travel for now or later?”. While on a trip to Mexico this realization occurred as I was traveling with someone who had never been there before. We began talking about how nice it was to escape winter and work and relax on the beach while exploring some of the highlights of that area. During the conversation I mentioned that it was nice at that moment but really the trip is more meaningful afterwards.
Yes, I travel for now but enjoy the memories and pictures more as time goes by. So, do you travel for now or later?
We are down to the last month of the summer season and only a few weeks away from our backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park. While in Northern Minnesota for this experience the thought of also visiting Voyageurs National Park had crossed our minds however that has been dismissed due to the distance involved. Voyageurs is about 4.5 – 5 hours drive time from where the boat picks up for Isle Royale in Grand Portage, Minnesota. That would be about the same distance from our house so we will have to look at that another time. Much of the spring and summer has been spent getting ready for our backpacking trip to Isle Royale and the time is near for all that planning to be put through the test. Often you hear that you should step outside of your comfort zone to experience life and find out more about yourself. This trip is doing that for us.
Over the past 5 months we have been researching the gear necessary along with the cost for that gear and possible alternatives and procuring that gear. This being the first backpacking trip, most of our camping equipment does not work due to weight and size. We are restricted to 40 pounds of gear for each person contained in a backpack for the boat ride to and from the island. This should be easier to accomplish on the way back as much of the food weight will be gone. There is a lot of stuff to carry on your back while hiking for miles and most of that is all in an attempt to sleep as comfortable as possible such as tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a tarp for under the tent. Keep in mind there are 4 of us to accommodate with one of them unable to carry their weight worth of stuff so the rest of us have to pick up that weight. All of this for 3 nights camping on Isle Royale.
In an effort to be prepared for this backpacking trip we embarked on a trial run this weekend. We stayed at a county park with numerous short hiking trails in a mock hiking trip. It was a mock trip because we had our car with us and some extra camping equipment just in case. We tested our 4 person tent, sleeping pads which were made out of foam mattress pads, blankets, cooking equipment and mess kits, etc.… The tent was really tested because there were 5 people and one golden retriever. One person and the dog will be absent on Isle Royale. Surprisingly we all fit however there wasn’t much room. Our sleeping pads work well for adding warmth but offer little in the way of softening the ground. The blankets we brought didn’t keep us warm enough during a summer night and the nighttime temps on the island are expected to be a little cooler so there’s one area we need to improve in the next couple of weeks. Fortunately we had sleeping bags in the car so warmth was found.‘
On the cooking and eating front things look good. Backpacking stoves were tested in an effort to learn how to cook different foods as well as how much fuel we will need. We found foods that will work well and some that we should stay away from. There are two types of stoves in our arsenal: a gas stove and an alcohol stove. Each have their advantages and disadvantages. The gas stoves are adjustable so you can use that for foods requiring different temperatures in order to cook thoroughly or keep from overcooking. Alcohol stoves are either on or off more like a candle. You light it and it heats or the flame is out. They tend to have a wider flame to heat more evenly so are good for boiling water as long as you add enough fuel. Our alcohol stoves come from bottlestoves.com and are quite useful and durable along with made from recycled materials. The mess kits include plastic ware and storage containers that are lightweight and pack together fairly tightly so they don’t take a lot of room. They seem to fit what is needed for backpacking. We did also bring a steel knife, spoon, and spatula for cooking purposes since plastic will melt. One of the things learned in this area is to use a different metal spoon and spatula since the pots being used are Teflon coated and metal can scratch that off.
During our time camping we took 1 1/2 mile hike with backpacks loaded just to get a feel for what we’re in for on Isle Royale. All things considered, this hike went well. We traveled at about a mile an hour on average over uneven terrain. Not bad considering there are two younger kids traveling with us carrying backpacks. I’m glad we did a practice trip as there are a number of things we learned and need to make some adjustments before getting to Isle Royale. All of this for only 3 nights on the island. This better be worth it!