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Random thoughts, rants, raves and photo opportunities

2014 - Rappelling Ely's Peak, Duluth, MN

I cannot think of a better way to spend a spectacular Saturday afternoon in October than being in northern Minnesota on another adventure. I joined with a gang of about 40 other geocaching friends to rappel down Ely's Peak to find a cliff dwelling geocache named Cliff Hanger (GCQ6D4) by EskoClimber.

We were led by the cache owner himself. Scott Engstrom, who is a professional and expert climber rigged the protection, setup the ropes and belaying gear, and made sure each and every harness was inspected for proper use. Scott was patient and made sure that everyone that wanted to step off the cliff did so safely.

As for my own experience, I knew I had to get into the first group to rappel down the cliff. I know myself.. the more I sit there thinking about it the more likely I am to talk myself out of it. I managed to complete the rappel though not without much anxiety and cursing. By the time I made it safely to the bottom, apparently the adrenaline was running so high that I couldn't control the smiles.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2014 - Apostle Island Sea Caves, La Pointe, WI

Last winter Nene, Laura and I had the opportunity to hike the Lake Superior ice out to the Apostle Island Lake Shore sea caves. During a trip to Madeline Island over memorial Weekend, Nene and I were afforded the opportunity to paddle to the sea caves on the south side of the island. We skirted our way through bays filled with icebergs and made our way to do some cave exploring.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2014 - Apostle Island Lake Shore Sea Caves, Cornucopia, WI

It's been in the local news most of this January, the sea caves along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore are accessible by walking on the ice for the first time in five years. Located on the south shore of Lake Superior near Cornucopia, WI, the lake surface near the sea caves rarely freezes over because of wind and water currents. With the colder than normal temperatures this winter season, the ice is solid, the caves are accessible, and people are coming out in droves to explore and photograph them.

The original forecast for today was 20 degrees and sunny so plans were made to road cruise 200 miles north and hike to the sea caves. When Nene, Laura and I arrived at the lake shore parking lot, it was 3 degrees F below zero, the winds were gusting off the lake to 10-25mph, it was cold.

According to my GPS, the distance hiked from parking to the largest sea cave was 1.6 miles. My GPS took 239 samples during the hike which lasted 35 minutes 58 seconds. Our average hiking speed was 2.7mph. Unfortunately, I could not calculate the hike back as the batteries in the GPS died and I did not notice until our adventure was complete. All photographs taken with a Canon G6.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2013 - Bart Finds 8000th Geocache

A few years back I was perusing the Wisconsin Geocaching Association forums and read a discussion about favorite geocaches in the state. The one that stood out the most to me was Twin Bluffs Cave (GCXWPM) by Shrek and Fiona. I knew at that moment that the geocache would have to go on my short list of caches to complete. Unfortunately, being on the short list does not equate to pursuing the cache in a timely manner.. the cache remained unfound.

I had been planning for quite some time to find a special geocache for the milestone of my 8000th find, which I estimated to happen late December. With Twin Bluffs Cave still in the back of my mind, I knew this had to be the one. It was now or never. After some logistical planning, a three hour drive to Lyndon Station, WI, I finally made the find along with daughter Laura, Doublemoose, and his daughter Geohockey,

The most impressive thing about this adventure was not the geocache, but the impressive nature of the geological feature hiding here up in the bluffs. As you approach the cave entrance, it looks like nothing more than a narrow fissure in the side of the cliff face. But as you explore more, you soon discover that this is the entrance to a fairly expansive system of caves. At the inner room of the cave, I would estimate the ceiling to be nearly 30' high, expansive enough to hold a small disco party. The primary cave easily goes back 80 to 100 feet or more. Off the inner room of the cave, there are two caves headed in each direction normal (perpendicular) to the primary cave.

One thing that was clear to me was how similar this system is to the littoral caves on Byllesby Lake in Cannon Falls, MN. I suspect the wave and current action from melt water following the last glaciation period is what created this system, where each cave is caused by the erosion of fissures within the layers of sandstone.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2013 - Lateral Potholes (GC272EE)

Lateral Potholes (GC272EE) by bflentje

There seems to be some difficulty in finding this geocache. Here are spoilers to aid in scoring the find. But please keep in mind, using spoilers for a 3/5 rated geocache could be embarrassing if your friends find out. So use this with discretion. It should be noted that the reservoir has been drained down for the winter. The normal waterline is three feet higher than shown.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2013 - Exploring Lake Byllesby Sea Caves (GC272D5)

Exploring Lake Byllesby Sea Caves (GC272D5) by bflentje

There seems to be some difficulty in finding this geocache. Here are spoilers to aid in scoring the find. But please keep in mind, using spoilers for a 4/5 rated geocache could be embarrassing if your friends find out. So use this with discretion. It should be noted that the reservoir has been drained down for the winter. The normal waterline is three feet higher than shown.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - Enter If You Dare (GC26MDE)

Enter If You Dare (GC26MDE) by bflentje

Anyone who knows me understands that you just can't pass up hiding a geocache in, on, or near, the coolest of geological features.  The cave located along the Cannon Valley Trail is no exception.  Nearly 4 miles east of Cannon Falls, MN on the bike trail, this cave was not created in the traditional way that most caves are.  The cave was the result of erosion of underlying layers whereby a large slab of limestone "broke free". The downhill end of the slab collapsing, the uphill end of the slab still under support, effective creating a cave that resembles a lean-to.  Regardless of how the cave was created, it has many of the attributes you'd expect in a cave.  For example, local wildlife such as bats, raccoons, and bobcats use it for shelter.  And the atmosphere inside the 30 to 40 foot deep cave is cool and damp.

Geocache Enter If You Dare (GC26MDE) is hidden within this cave.  In order to find the .30 caliber sized ammocan, you have to go to the deepest, darkest, end of the cave using your flashlight.  The cache is hidden within a perfectly sized hole covered with a few boulders.  Even as someone that enjoys a good cave, I am always just a little leary of entering as you never know what critter might be inside to welcome you.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - Down Under (GC27AJJ)

Down Under (GC27AJJ) by bflentje

Geocaching power trails are popping up all over the countryside.  The Cannon Valley Trail, which winds from Cannon Falls, MN to Red Wing, MN, is no exception.  In fact, some of the finer hides in the area are along this stretch of the Cannon River, both in the water and on the bike trail.

Geocache Down Under (GC27AJJ) is located in this area and seems to be quite popular with those that can find it. The placement and execution of this cache is what makes it a fun cache to find. Most cachers approach ground zero on the bike trail and wander around in circles flumoxed as to why they're struggling to locate a .50 caliber ammocan.  It is only those intuitive cachers that realize that they're standing above the cache container, a whopping 75 to 100 feet above it.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2010 - Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Click thumbnail for larger viewDuring my visit to Minnesota's north shore over the Memorial Day weekend, I hosted and attended Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event (GC23RM5).  Following the event, all of us event attendees day-tripped into the wilderness for a gruelling but adventurous ride.

The first leg of our adventure was to visit the virtual geocache Mystical Dolmen Rock (GC587F).  We departed Sawbill Landing at 8:05AM. We arrived at the dolmen rock at 10:00AM.  We spent about 30 minutes at the rock exploring, socializing, snacking and taking photographs.  We departed the rock at 10:30AM and arrived back at Sawbill Landing at 12:40PM.  Total distance paddled on this leg was 5 miles each direction for a total of 10 miles. Total time paddling was 4 hours and 10 minutes.  Our average paddling speed was a little over 2 mph.

The second leg of the journey was to visit the virtual geocache Kelly-Jack (GC2878).  We drove from the Sawbill Landing to the Baker Landing and arrived at 1:55PM.  After getting our gear unloaded and prepared, we started paddling about 2:15PM.  We arrived at the portage between Kelly and Jack lakes at 3:40PM, which is where the hike in to Kelly-Jack begins.  In all, we spent 40 minutes hiking to Kelly-Jack, exploring, taking pictures, and returning to our boats.  We departed the portage at 4:20PM.  We arrived back at Baker Landing at 6:15PM. Total distance paddled on this leg was 3.9 miles each direction for a total of 7.8 miles. Total paddling time was 3 hours and 20 minutes.  Paddling to Kelly-Jack our average speed was 3 mph and paddling back was a slower 2 mph as a headwind had picked up from the south.   The total distance paddled today was 17.8 miles.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Our boats parked at Sawbill Landing awaiting departure.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Group photograph of event attendees.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Norvina smiling not realizing the gruelling paddle ahead.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A view from Bart's boat.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Entering the actual BWCA Wilderness.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Norvina coming down the first portage.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Aix sponsa at the first portage preparing her boat.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A view of Kelso Lake.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A view of the lilies on Kelso Lake.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Another view of Kelso Lake.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
The gorgeous view at Kelso Lake.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
More Kelso Lake beauty.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Approaching the mystical dolmen rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
The mystical dolmen rock balancing on all threes.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Another angle of the dolmen rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A group picture at the mystical dolmen rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Another angle of our group at the mystical dolmen rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Our boats parked on shore beside the dolmen rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Norvina on the rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Bflentje and Norvina on the dolmen rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Closeup of Bflentje and Norvina on the rock.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Bflentje imitating but not replacing Doublemoose as the Thinker.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Glacial erratic on Kelso Lake.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A closeup view of glacial erratic on Kelso Lake.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Evidence of the 1999 straight line winds in the BWCA.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Damage from the 1999 blowdown in the wilderness.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Unbelievable damage from the 1999 storm.. that was 11 years ago.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
More damage from the July 4th, 1999 storm.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A sheet of ice inside of the Kelly-Jack mining cave.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A view looking out of the Kelly-Jack cave.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Another view looking out of the Kelly-Jack cave.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
And another view looking out of the Kelly-Jack cave.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A group photograph at the Kelly-Jack cave.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
We made it to our second destination.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Norvina stretching or holding up the cave?
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Bflentje outside of the Kelly-Jack cave.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
The entrance to the Kelly-Jack cave.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A view of Jack Lake from the portage.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A view of the portage from Kelly Lake to Jack Lake.
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Minnesota's BWCA Canoe-in Geocaching Event
The final group photograph after having completed the entire journey.
   

2009 - The Fun Side Of Pfalstad (GC1J555)

The Fun Side of Pfalstad (GC1J555) by Meralgia

The New Year was opened for me today with a geocache outing that involved an adventure underneath the city.  Along with fellow geocacher Norvina, I completed this geocache which is a traditional cache located, probably illegally, inside a storm drain underneath the University of Minnesota's east bank campus.  The cache is rated 1 star difficulty and 4 stars terrain.  The experience of entering the drain isn't all that challenging once you get past fears such as vagrants, rain storms, darkness, and odd smells.  And I hate to admit it, but this was not the first time I've been inside this location.  There used to be a different geocache inside this very location about a year or so ago.  But that was before the city refurbished the tubing, and it was much more smelly the first time in. 

We approached from the top as we parked along East River Road.  We descended down the stairs and got halfway to the entrance when one of us said.. "did you bring a light?".  Nope.  How bad could it be?  We entered the area and got nearly to the end when we decided there's no way this can be done without a light.  I raced out of the drain, back down the trail, up the icy stairs, to the car, grabbed a light, and made my way back down. Attempt #2 went perfect.  We had a light with fresh batteries, a couple of cameras, and a fresh writing utensil.  We quickly nabbed the cache, signed the log, and put it back into place only to emerge from the hole about as soaking wet as was physically possible.

UPDATE  It turns out it is in fact illegal to enter storm drains.  We do not recommend going into drains (especially when precipitation is forecast) and we pledge to never do it again.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..