Mainstream Adventures

When You Constantly Push Your Limits You Will Never Reach Them

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10 Reasons You Should Take Adventures With Your Significant Other.

Adventure requires a lot of patience, strength, cooperation, and planning. Spending a few days and nights in the back woods with your spouse can be a great test of your relationship. If you are newly dating someone, backpacking could be a make it or break it scenario. If you’ve been married for ten years, backpacking could be just the thing that brings you even closer together.

So whether you are trying to impress someone new, or you are looking for fun  with the love of your life, a weekend adventure can be just the thing you are looking for. Here are a few reasons why you should take adventures with your significant other:

1. You get to share a tent.

This is a big bonus, whether you are newly dating your partner, or you’ve been together for a long time. Sharing a tent is great excuse to cuddle.

2. Discover how well you work together.

Backpacking with someone requires teamwork. Finding your way, setting up camp, preparing meals, and gathering firewood are just some of the necessary tasks. Backpacking is a great way to test out how well the two of you can work together.

3. Solve problems as a team.

Anything can happen in the backcountry. More than likely, a problem will arise at some point, whether it is a big one or a very small one. Regardless of the size, you will need to put your heads together and solve the problem together. This can bring the two of you closer and give you a whole new appreciation for each other.

4. Share responsibilities.

Maybe you will gather the water, while your partner starts setting up the sleeping bags and sleeping pads inside the tent. Maybe you will work together to cook your dinner. Sharing responsibilities around camp will make the whole experience go smoother. You can see how willing your partner is to help out and to take on tasks.

5. Explore new places.

Seeing new places together for the first time is an incredible experience. Exploring areas that neither of you have been to before will create memories that will last a life time.

6. Find out if you get sick of each other.

Spending days and nights together, non-stop, can be a real test of your relationship. Especially if it is a newer relationship, you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if your significant other is going to be a hard person to be around for an extended period of time. You’ll undoubtedly discover some new things about your partner that you weren’t aware of before – which can be  very good or very bad.

7. Quality time.

Being alone in the wild is a great way to spend quality time together. Without the distractions of every day modern life, you will be able to focus solely on each other. It’s also the perfect opportunity to have any important conversations, as you’ll have their full attention.

8. Share in each other’s highs and lows.

Adventure travel is full of extreme highs and the occasional low. You’ll cheer each other on as you climb that gorgeous but tricky cliff for the unforgettable view; You’ll cheer each other up when it’s raining and you are shivering in your tent. The point is, that whether you’re experiencing something great, or something down right miserable, you’re experiencing it together.

9. Learn how your significant other handles roughin’ it.

Sometimes people surprise us. Your makeup-loving, stiletto wearing girlfriend may blow you away with how down and dirty she is willing to get in the back woods. Your suit and tie wearing husband may be a beast climbing up a rugged mountain. You just never know how tough a person is until they are thrown 10+ miles into the wild with a heavy pack strapped onto their back.

10. Make memories.

The memories that the two of you will make together will be one of a kind and priceless. You will laugh, and you may cry. You could end up screaming at each other and realizing that your new date is just not the guy or gal that you need in your life, or you could end up falling even deeper in love. Regardless, the memories you make in the wild stay with you forever, for better or for worse. Usually for better.

 

Wilderness Survival Skills

At Mainstream Adventures, we celebrate a life spent in the outdoors, and with the sense of adventure must come a heavy dose of precaution. The wilderness can be a dangerous place, after all, and while much of it has been tamed from the  ever expanding industrial movement, certain skills are necessary in order to keep you safe and happy while you venture into the great unknown. Undoubtedly, we have all heard stories of those who wander into the woods without a sense of their own abilities, lacking preparation and a healthy fear of what can happen miles away from civilization. The consequences can be catastrophic, but generally speaking the wilderness is a great place for those who have the skills to explore it the right way.

First and foremost, be humble.

A sense of humility will keep you from being reckless. No your limits. Spending time in nature can be one of life’s most rewarding endeavors, however it can also be a dangerous one.  Hiking in the forest gives the adventurer the right to roam, an opportunity to explore, a vast  open landscape with few rules for travel. An environment like this will encourage you to follow impulse, to act on will alone.  But an adventurer cannot exist in the outdoors without first observing the limitations of his/ her, or their own responsibility. This is built through experience.  I can’t stress this enough, know your limits and error on the side of caution.

Learn how to use a map or compass.

Proper orientation and navigation is first on the list of essential skills. Adventuring into the outdoors, especially where off-trail excursions are concerned, requires the ability to read a map, orient it to the landscape, and use a compass to direct navigation. Triangulation is the simplest technique of orientation. The technique is simple, generally speaking: orient your map to magnetic north and compensate for declination, choose two visible landmarks and measure their degree deviation from north, then converge those lines at a central point, which will give you a rough approximation of where you are.

Know how much, and what types of food to bring.

Adventurers into the wilderness carry everything they eat on their backs until they eat it, and this is not just a concern because of weight, but because of nutrient density and cooking requirements, too. High-calorie foods are a prerequisite, especially for thru-hikers, who burn many more thousands of calories per day than usual. Even day hikers should pay close attention to what they bring with them to eat, and it is a good idea to prepare for scenarios in which they find themselves stranded for a night in the wilderness.

Animal Safety

When it comes to food, storage is especially important when venturing into bear country. Proper steps need to be taken in order to ensure your safety from bear attack—which are unusual, but not impossible—and more typically the safety of the bears. When habituated to human food, bears become dependent and must be euthanized. For that reason, proper safety and food storage is important

Know how to build a fire

In the back-country, it is important to first and foremost check the fire safety levels and prepare accordingly. If it is safe to build a back-country fire, one of the best methods is the tee-pee method, like building a pyramid of silverware. The idea is to build slowly; especially in damp conditions, it is easy to smother a fire before it has a chance to grow.

Drive a forked stick into the ground so that it leans against a supporting stick. Build around it with more tinder, leaving enough room to light the fire with fire-starting materials, placed inside the tee-pee dry grass and moss are especially useful. Once you have sparked these fire-starting materials, build the fire slowly by adding more sticks, and when the coals have grown, logs.

In the back-country, the more efficient you can be with fuel, the better. Search for  fallen debris, never living material. A fire does more than warm you; it is a morale booster, a task to focus on, and a great way to add to the experience of being in the outdoors.

Building a Shelter

For the purpose of survival, there are two types of shelters you need to know: the kind that keep you dry and the kind that keep you warm.

In wet conditions, a simple lean-to is easy to build and protects you from the rain. Prop a 8- to 10-foot beam between two forked supports, creating a triangular opening. Leaning sticks against the support beam, create an enclosure. Complete the shelter by layering branches or leaves on top of the shelter to shield the rain. This shelter, though simple, will keep you dry, but its simplicity makes it vulnerable to collapse, so it is important to build it near windbreaks or low the the ground.

In snowy conditions, a snow cave will keep you dry and warm—remarkably so. However, its design carries an inherent danger of asphyxiation if not properly ventilated. In deep snows, burrow 8 feet horizontally into the snow and begin to excavate out, building a sleeping platform raised above the floor. Add a thin trench below your sleeping platform that leads to the exit. These will ensure that your exhaled carbon dioxide does not “pool,” which carries with it the danger of asphyxiation. Curve the walls and ceiling to a point rather than square walls to direct meltwater to the floor without dripping.

How to find clean water.

Access to water is of utmost importance for survival in the outdoors. As such, there are several tools at your disposal to keep yourself hydrated and safe. Experts argue that you should drink half of your body weight in ounces every day to ensure that you are properly hydrated, and it is a burden to carry this amount of water with you—especially when planning for longer journeys.

A wide array of alternatives is at your disposal for the treatment of water.   I prefer to carry a life straw with me on long trips into the woods.  However there are several other brands available as well. Bringing water to boiling point kills off deleterious bacteria,  but you want to conserve your fuel, so this is an option used only when necessary.  (Sometimes a bandanna or clean t shirt is all you need.)

Learn the signs and symptoms.

For adventurers who spend enough time in the wilderness, a Wilderness First Res-ponder certification is a good idea, but some basic first aid skills are a must while in the open country. Chief among these, other than avoiding danger, is the ability to prevent worsening conditions before they become dangerous. Drink enough water, and pack adequate filtration devices to keep yourself hydrated. Learn how your body reacts to heat and cold, and learn how to layer your clothing so that you can quickly react to changing conditions.

Should dangerous situations arise, learn how to quickly assess and act in potentially life-threatening situations. Hypothermia and dehydration are a nuisance in urban settings, but they can kill you fast on the trail. Assessing an injured and unconscious hiker can make the difference between life and death. It is absolutely critical to know the signs and symptoms.

Though by no means comprehensive, these skills will help to keep you safe and happy in the outdoors.  Proper research is so important when traveling into new area’s.  Know your exits, learn the trails, study maps, find the park ranger stations, carry walkie talkies. All of these things will help to keep you safe in the forest.

Iowa Guide to Winter Adventure

As you can tell by the cold weather, winter is almost upon us.  When the cold weather hits, all to often Adventure comes to a halt.  With that said I thought it was a good time to compile a list of some of Iowa’s best winter activities.  These Adventures are guaranteed to get the blood pumping, and give you the sense of Adventure you desire.

Visit Climb Iowa:

Escape the cold weather  with a trip to Climb Iowa, This indoor(Climate Controlled) climbing facility is located only 5 miles from Des Moines. With more then 10,000 square feet of climbing space and over 200 different routes, a fitness room, and a yoga studio, There is literally something for everyone, regardless of skill level. Climb Iowa offers day passes and monthly memberships. For more info call 515-986-2565

Matt Leyden’s Dive Shop:   Mastering a new skill is always a great way to spend the winter months, just think by spring time you could be a certified scuba diver! Classes are offered year round, and are taught by some of most experienced dive masters in the state. Matt Leyden’s Dive Shop is located in Clive, and offers classes all over the Des Moines area. For more information or to register for a class call 515-777-2751

Seven Oaks Recreation:

Seven Oaks is a great location year round for adventure, but in the winter months it turns into one of the states best ski resorts.   Offering guests a wide range of fun activities including, skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.  The slopes consist of 11 runs, from beginner to expert, so no matter your skill level, your sure to find what your looking for at Seven Oaks. The ski resort also has a terrain park, rail yard, and a beginner area. For more information call 515 432-9457

Bear Creek Cabins: 

  This is a perfect location to spend winter break, and is also a popular location for many families during the holidays.  Words really can not do this place justice, a trip to Bear Creek is like taking a trip back in time.  The cabins are situated between the number 1 and number 2 ranked trout streams in the state, and offer breathtaking views year round.  I can’t think of a better location to get snowed in, then Bear Creek Cabins. They are several cabins of all different sizes available, so bring the whole family. For more information call 563-546-7722

Climb an Ice Silo:  

Located In Cedar Falls, silo ice climbing is really catching on attracting over 300 people a season.  This may not sound like very many, and that’s because the world of ice climbing is still fairly young, especially in Iowa.  But if strapping into a harness and attempting to scale a frozen silo sounds like fun to you, then visit Siloiceclimbing.com

Chimney Rock Campground:

 One of the most beautiful campgrounds in the Midwest, located next to the Upper Iowa river.  The campground is surrounded with back wood charm, and has 200 foot high bluffs overlooking the river valley.  With 7 different cabins to choose from, Chimney Rocks is the perfect destination for a romantic winter getaway.  For more information call 563 735-5786

Is there anything I left off the list?  What are some of your favorite winter activities?

 

Come Explore Bluff Dwellers Cave

Located deep beneath the ground just south of Noel Missouri, lies a beautiful subterranean wonderland.  Bluff Dwellers Cave is a rare gem, lost in the Ozark region of Missouri.  This cave has a long rich history in the area, dating back over 5,000 years, when Paleo-Indians used the cave as shelter.

Bluff Dwellers Cave is located on Missouri’s southern border, in the heart of the Ozark’s, and has been offering cave tours for over 90 years!  But whats even more remarkable is that, the cave has been owned by  the same family that entire time.

A tour through Bluff Dwellers Cave, is as much educational as it is beautiful.  During the 1 hour guided tour you will hear the history of the cave and learn about all the different mineral formations.  You will see cave popcorn, flow-stone, stalactites, stalagmites, as well as cave coral, and the saw tooth drapes.

Perhaps one of the most famous attractions found inside the cave is The Musical Chimes.  These curtains of rock have been a highlight at Bluff Dwellers Cave ever since its inception in 1927.

Other attractions in the cave include: The 10 Ton Balanced Rock.  This rock is balanced so perfectly that it can be moved by just one finger!  One of the most fascinating features of the cave is the 75 foot Rim-Stone Dam.  This Dam is one of the longest in the entire state, and is perhaps the most beautiful formation found in the cave.

One our favorite things about Bluff Dwellers Cave is the intimate setting in which the tour takes place.  Tours start every 20-30 minutes, and are limited to 15 people at a time.    The smaller tour group allows for a much more enjoyable caving experience.

Bluff Dwellers Cave also has an amazing gift shop featuring a collection of rocks, and precious gem stones from around the world.  If that was not enough, there is also a museum, featuring over 600 locally found arrowheads, and one of the most extensive rock and mineral collections in the tri-state area.  The kids will also enjoy panning for gemstones at the sluice.  Lodging is also available, at the Cavern Inn, for those looking for a unique place to stay.

Bluff Dwellers Cave is located at 163 Cave Rd Noel Missouri.  More information is also available at:  https://bluffdwellerscave.com/ or by calling 417-475-3666

Canoe the Upper Iowa River

I first heard about the Upper Iowa River from an article in National Geographic Magazine.  This article listed canoeing the Upper Iowa River as one of the top 100 adventures in North America.  Upon reading this, I instantly found it hard to believe.  I have canoed in Iowa my whole life and never found anything to rank it as one of the best Adventures in North America.  However I had never canoed the Upper Iowa before.  I started researching and planning my trip in 2016.  Right away I noticed something very different about this area,  It just did not feel like Iowa.  This section of the state is made up of several smaller towns, and the landscape is unlike the rest of the state.  Decorah is the largest city in the area, but it even has a small town feel to it as well.  The city is packed full of adventure, with the ice cave, the fish hatchery, hiking trails and 3 waterfalls all with 20 minutes of each other.  Highlandville is also located nearby, and is surrounded with rolling hills packed with trees.  This small town has some of the nicest cabins I have ever seen, (Bear Creek Cabins) as well as the top 2 trout streams in the entire state!  Kendallville and Bluffton are also nearby and have several wild caves, tall bluffs, and miles after miles of trees.  There is so much to see and do in the area, I felt like I could spend an entire month exploring and still not see everything this area has to offer.  As awesome as this would be,  I came to explore the river not the land.

Our Cabin at Chimney Rock Campground and Canoe Rental

The Upper Iowa River runs for 156 miles, with the headwaters located in southeastern Minnesota, and continuing into Iowa and eventually flowing into the Mississippi.  The stretch of river from Granger Minnesota to Decorah Iowa is about 45 miles long, and offers some of the best scenery the Midwest has to offer.

Malanaphy Springs

We decided to spend the night in Bluffton, at a place called Chimney Rock Campground and Canoe Rental.  This campground was extremely hard to find and that deep in the backwoods, cell service, and GPS where unavailable.  Finally after stopping and asking for directions twice!  We managed to find the campground, way off the beaten path.  Knowing I was a writer, the owner quickly upgraded us from campsite to cabin, and even threw in a huge steak to cook on the grill.  (So far I’m very impressed!)

After giving me a key and a map, i followed a gravel road into the woods, that quickly turned to dirt, after a few more turns, I found our cabin.  As soon as I stepped out of the car I was blown away.  We where surrounded with wilderness and completely  alone.  Our back yard was gigantic, with at least 100 yards of wooded plain between our back porch and the river.  On the opposite bank was a huge 200 foot high limestone bluff overlooking the entire river valley.

The next morning I woke up early and went outside and climbed into my hammock, it was still dark out, but laying there all alone starring into the night sky really helped me appreciate the moment.   In my fast paced world of adventure sometimes its hard to relax and really enjoy things.  To often I’m chasing my next adrenaline rush, and I miss out on the moment in front of me.  Well on this day I decided to live in the moment.  Watching the sunrise come up over the limestone bluffs was breathtaking and helped get me excited for the days upcoming adventure.

After packing everything up, the staff at Chimney Rock, took us up stream to the city of Granger.  Granger is a small town in southeastern Minnesota.  We dipped our canoes into the river and we were off.

Day 1  The Upper Iowa River is a little different then most of the Iowa, and Illinois rivers i have canoed.  For starters it seems to be very cut off from the rest of the world.  You can paddle for miles without seeing any signs of life.  There are very few bridges crossing the river, and the ones you do see are seldom used.  The isolation you face on this river is part of what makes it so great.  This river seems to be running a little high for this time of year, and this has the current moving at a fast pace.   This makes the paddling easier but it also adds some hazard to our trip.  Every couple hundred yards we are running into mini-rapids, which adds excitement to our day but is also causing some concern.  As the river begins to calm we come around a corner and all of a sudden the river is lined with towering 200-300 foot high bluffs creating a majestic river corridor.   We spot a deer drinking from the river, and a bald eagle flying high above.

We spent the night at Kendallville Park, which is a public campground just south of the Minnesota border.  We had to pack light so instead of tents, we spent the night in hammocks.  For me, sleeping in a hammock not only feels great on my back, but there is just something about sleeping under the stars that makes for an unforgettable night.  After a hearty dinner we spent the night, sitting around the campfire under a nearly full-moon well into the early morning hours.

Day 2  We shipped out a little later then we had planned, but getting some rest was just as important as getting an early start.  I woke up a little sore this morning after a long day of sitting in a canoe paddling.  Today we are planning on paddling another 15 miles to take us back to Chimney Rock, where we spent our first night.  Our days travels took us past an old bridge, that looked to be falling apart a bit, we also past several trees that had fallen down into the water.  Hitting some rapids we lost control of our canoe and ended up pinned against a tree flipping our canoe over into the water.   After chasing down all our gear, we managed to find a sand bar and flip the canoe over.  Right away we noticed, we had lost 2 smart phones and a camera, but more importantly I had lost all my photos.  Luckily everything else was safe inside my water proof pack.  We pulled into camp around 6 pm,  and decided to hang our hammocks up next to the river.  I layed down around 9 pm  and woke up around 7 am but it felt like I had just closed my eyes.

Day 3  We started our third and final day feeling a little sluggish.  I was sore from all the time spent bent over sitting in a canoe.  I was annoyed that I had lost my camera.  I was ready for the trip to be over.  About a half hour in we passed a campground, someone was cooking breakfast,  Good Morning I yelled towards shore.  You hungry?  Someone yelled back.   Now I have a firm policy I always follow when meeting strangers in the woods, be friendly, and never ever turn down food.  We pulled onto the bank, and enjoyed a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs and hot dogs.  Not a bad way to start the day.  After this my mood had changed and I was again enjoying the trip.  After another long day we finally made our way to Malanaphy Springs,  the springs is a beautiful state preserve located just north of Decorah.  We decided to pull our canoe over to shore and do some exploring.  We followed the water trail up a short but very steep bluff, upon reaching the top we found a cave where the water was pouring from.  Climbing the bluff we had worked up quite a thirst so we cupped our hands and  took a taste of the natural spring water.  It was so cool and refreshing.  After making our way back down to the canoe we spent another hour splashing around underneath the water fall.  This was a perfect ending to our 3 day adventure.

Several things came together perfectly to make this float so special.  For one the weather was perfect for late July.  The scenery in northern Iowa and along the Upper Iowa River makes you feel like your somewhere much more exotic.  The current and rapids we faced also helped in turning the adrenaline dial up compared to other rivers in Iowa.  But more then anything, the trip was special because of who I was sharing it with.  My daughter is 13 and this was her first overnight canoe trip, and she really seemed to love it.  For us spending the weekend in the woods is an every weekend occurrence.  But somehow this was different.   I walk away from this trip convinced that canoeing the Upper Iowa River, deserves its place as one of the top 100 adventures in North America.

Bear Creek Cabins

A special thank you to Chimney Rock Campground and Canoe Rental,  this place is one of the most beautiful campgrounds in the Midwest, and the staff went out of there way to make sure we would have an unforgettable experience.  While we where in Northern Iowa we also took a visit to Bear Creek Cabins, and The Niagara Cave, in Harmony Minnesota.  Both locations where outstanding,  Niagara Cave was one of the most beautiful caves I have ever visited, and  Bear Creek Cabins is also a very special location.  Do yourself a favor and take a visit to Northern Iowa and most importantly canoe the Upper Iowa River.  This is a trip you will remember for years to come.

Niagara Cave, Pictures do not do it justice.

As mentioned in the article my camera was destroyed, so some of the pictures used in this article were supplied by Chimney Rocks Campground and Canoe Rental.

 

 

The Vacation of a Lifetime Awaits at Branson Treehouse Adventures

Looking for a unique vacation destination that you will never forget?  Look no further!  Branson Treehouse Adventures is the perfect location for your next family vacation.  Located in the heart of the Ozarks, this is the perfect place to let loose, unwind, and getaway from it all.

This heavily wooded area is an outdoor paradise featuring 4 absolutely breathtaking tree-houses, as well as 6 gorgeous ground level cabins, there is also an RV campground featuring 67  sites with electricity, and 6 primitive sites perfect for tent camping!   The campgrounds are spread out over 40 acres  of  natural beauty that can  only be  found in southern Missouri.

This is one of only a few places in America, where you can experience the great outdoors , and still be only minutes away from all the family entertainment and attractions of Branson Missouri.  One weekend here, and you will never want to leave.

Branson Treehouse Adventures was established in 2013 and with lots of hard work, and by providing families with an unforgettable  experience they have already grown into one of the most sought after cabin resorts in the Midwest!  This  family owned business, is located in Branson Missouri, just a few miles from the Arkansas border.

Branson Treehouse Adventures is conveniently located only minutes from some of  the Midwest’s best attractions including Silver Dollar City, Talking Rocks Caverns, and White Water Park, as well as some world class shows such as  Amazing Pets, Billy Dean, Comedy Jamboree, and Spirit of the Dance, along with many others.

This campground is loaded with family fun, during your visit feel free to take a dip in the swimming pool, or how about a game of horseshoes, or maybe volleyball, you could play a game of pool in the recreation hall or maybe try your hand at ping pong.  There is also the basketball court, tether ball, and  surrounding the campgrounds are wooded rolling hills, with hiking trails throughout.  If that was not enough they recently added a pirate ship play area, zip-lining, and two climbing walls.  After a long fun filled day of adventure, you can unwind next to a campfire.

These charming log cabins very in size and style, so weather your looking for a great location for your next family reunion,  an amazing vacation destination , or just a romantic get away with that special someone you’re sure to find exactly what your looking for at Branson Treehouse Adventures.

For more information call 800-338-2504 or 417-338-2500 or visit  https://bransontreehouseadventures.com/

 

Life Straw (Product Review)

A major concern for anyone spending long amounts of time in the wilderness is hauling around enough drinking water to keep you hydrated.   I had experimented with hydration packs on several occasions.  However using these just added another pack for me to carry, and on a long hike that is the last thing you want.  So recently I decided to explore some other options.   I had always heard of Life Straw, but had never used it. In case you have not heard of the Life Straw company, I will give you a little history and explanation of their products.

The Life Straw company was born in 1996, as a way to remove Guinea worm larvae from drinking water.  By 2005 Life Straw had evolved into a water filter capable of removing virtually all of the microbiological contaminants that make water unsafe to drink.  This great product was originally designed to be used in emergency settings, following a natural disaster, and other times when clean water is not available.  By 2011 Life Straw products began being sold in retail stores and became popular among outdoor enthusiasts, who use them on hiking and camping trips. Today Life Straw is used in 64 different countries around the world.

Upon visiting the life straw website, I found they had several different products available for sale.  Instead of choosing just one, I decided to pick out the three that best fit my needs .  The Life Straw Go, the Life Straw Personal, and Life Straw Steel.

On my first trip I hiked through Starved Rock State Park, and Matthiessen State Park Located in Olgesby Illinois.  These parks offer many miles of trail, and feature some extreme elevation changes.  I figured this would help work up quite thirst.  On this trip I packed my Life Straw personal, and my Life Straw Steel.   Both of them did a great job.  They filtered the water well and provided me with an endless supply of drinking water.

Something that needs to be kept in mind when planning to use a Life Straw on a hike, is that in most circumstances you will need to lay down on your stomach to be able to get a drink.  When your talking about survival, this is not a problem,  but on a casual hike you may not want to lay down every time you want to take a drink.  Its reasons like this, that they created the Life Straw Go!
The Life Straw Go is a great product, it incorporates 2 stage water filtration technology into a refillable water bottle.  This way you can refill your bottle at every body of water you come across.  This is not just convenient, but it turns any water source into clean, safe drinking water.  Its also a lot easier to use then the Personal and Steel models.Now I carry both my Steel, and Go, Life Straw products with me when I hike.  They are lightweight and do not take up much space in my pack, and both provide me with good clean drinking water when needed.  I hike and/or camp almost every weekend, and after almost 6 months the products are still doing a great job and have not shown any signs of wear.  Overall I think the Life Straw products would be a great addition to your outdoor gear.  If you have not yet tried any of these products you can find them online at http://lifestraw.com/

Enjoy a Tour of the Midwest’s Best Show Cave’s

Some people may not realize it, but the Midwest is packed with caves.  In fact Missouri is known as the cave state, due to the numerous caves found throughout.  Just about every state in the Midwest has a cave or two.   Some are wild, like the ones found in Maquoketa Caves State park in Iowa.  Others have been commercialized and turned into tourist attractions.   In this article we will take a look at some of our favorite show caves around the Midwest.

Iowa

Crystal Lake Cave: Located 5 miles south of Dubuque, Iowa, near the Illinois and Wisconsin borders.  What makes this cave so special, is not just the number of pristine crystal formations, but the quality of these formations. The beauty of this cave is unequaled in Iowa, and just about everywhere else.   Cave tours take about 45 minutes, and consist of a 3/4 mile walk through flat, lit, paved passages.   In 2016 they also started offering Wild cave tours, for the more adventurous cave enthusiasts.  These tours are an hour and a half long, and consist of exploring the uncharted passages of the cave.   Crystal Lake Cave also has a gift shop and Mining Sluice, as well as a picnic area. Mention Mainstream Adventures and receive a free flash light!  For more information call 563 556-6451

Spook Cave: Located in McGregor Iowa, the Spook Cave campground is one of the most sought after campsites in all of Iowa.  After taking a visit it’s easy to see why.  This campground has its own beautiful waterfall, a lake for swimming, beautiful cabins,and don’t forget the cave tours.  Cave tours depart every half hour and take about 45 minutes.  All tours are done by boat. The cave was discovered in 1953 and opened for business in 1955. For more information call 563 873-2144

Minnesota

Niagara Cave: Located on Minnesota’s southern border in the town of Harmony.  This geological marvel was discovered in 1924, and opened to the public in 1934.  Consistently rated as one of the top 10 show caves in North America, people travel from all 50 states and over 100 different countries to take the hour long guided tour through the cave. The tour has been described as an educational adventure in nature that you won’t want to miss!  The Niagara Cave is one of the most unique geological locations in the state featuring 100-foot high ceilings and 450 million year old fossils, but the highlight of the tour is the 60 foot waterfall.  For more information call 507 886-6606

Wisconsin

Cave of the Mounds: discovered in 1939 in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin.  Often referred to as the jewel box of American show caves. Cave of the Mounds has been offering guided tours for over 75 years, and in 1988 the cave was designated a National Natural Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.   Guided tours of this underground wonderland last one hour, and take place on flat, paved, lit, walkways.   The tour will take you past an amazing array of crystal formations, stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.  They also have a fossil dig, butterfly garden, and gift shop.  For more information call 608 437-3038

Indiana

Marengo Cave: Located in Marengo Indiana, this lesser known of the Midwest show caves sure packs a mighty punch with 6 different cave tours available.  Regardless of which tour you choose your sure to have an amazing experience.  This cave features several different types of mineral formations  from Helictites  to soda straws, from Stalactites, to  Cave Popcorn.  This cave really has it all.  Discovered in 1883, by children using only candles to navigate all the underground twists and turns.  Since that time Marengo Cave has had more then 3 million visitors explore its passageways.   For more information call 888 702-2837 

Missouri

Talking Rocks Cavern: Discovered in 1883 by rabbit hunters, Talking Rocks Cavern has been referred to as Missouri’s Most Beautiful Cave, and with more then 7000 caves in the state that’s quite an honor!  Cave tours consists of an hour long walk taking visitors on a breathtaking vertical decent into a subterranean wonderland.  With World Class formations, natural beauty like this is a sight to behold in Talking Rocks Cavern.  For more information call 417-272-3366

Fantastic Caverns: Discovered in 1862 by an Ozark farmer just northwest of Springfield, MO., is one of more than 5,600 known caves that dot the Missouri landscape, and more are still being discovered. Of these, just 18 are open to visitors — and only one offers a riding tour.   Today’s riding tour tells a  story. Along the roomy, brightly lit passageways, visitors can see thousands of speleothems — cave formations that include stalactites and stalagmites, tiny soda straws, cave pearls, massive columns and flow-stones, thin and delicate draperies and more. These distinctive formations, each one like no other, and all created by water a drop at a time. Cave tours last about an hour and have a year round temperature of 60 degrees.  For more information call 417 833-2010

Kentucky

Lost River Cave:  The Cave Boat Tour begins with a leisurely stroll in the valley as your guide shares the tale of the blue hole and disappearing Civil War soldiers.  When you arrive at the massive cave entrance, prepare to board Kentucky’s only underground boat tour. Duck your head for just a moment as you glide under the famous wishing rock. Touch the cool limestone ceiling before the passage opens into a cathedral-like cavern.   Plan to spend about 45 minutes to an hour on this two-part tour.  For more information call 270 393-0077

7 Unforgettable Float Trips Everyone in the Midwest Should Take

Summer months are loaded with Adventure, hiking, mountain biking, road trips, spelunking, water parks, the list of summer activities could go on and on.  My favorite summer adventures take place on the water.   While the Midwest can’t always compete with some of the bigger outdoor locations in the country.  We more then hold our own when it comes to float trips.  With so many different rivers scattered around the Midwest, and countless outfitters promising an adventure you wont forget, it can be hard to know where to start.  So I decided to compile a list of my favorite float trips around the Midwest, with each location  I also listed an outfitter to make your planning a little easier.  This is just a list to get you started and there are literally 100’s of other float trips you could take.  These 6 just represent my favorites, and the outfitters listed have a long history of providing unforgettable experiences on the river.

Iowa

The Upper Iowa River:  Located in northern Iowa just south of the Minnesota border is the  Iowa River.  This section of river was featured in National Geographic Magazine and listed as one of the top 100 adventures in North America.   Much of your float will take place along 200 foot high bluffs,  with beautiful old bridges crossing the river above your head.  This is a  perfect destination if your looking for a little adventure. Canoeing the Upper Iowa River is truly a one of a kind experience.    Need an outfitter?  Chimney Rock Campground and Canoe Rental is our  favorite in this area.  They offer full service canoe rental, and even have a beautiful campground, and cabins for rent.  For more information call 563 735-5786

Iowa

The Maquoketa River: A trip down the Maquoketa River will take you past Pictured Rocks Park, and several other scenic locations. This is a more relaxing, day in the sun type of float.  The landscape along the Maquoketa River is beautiful Iowa forest, and towering rock bluffs.  There are several sand bars along the river which are perfect for stopping for picnics or taking a dip in the river to cool off.  This is a family friendly type of float, the current is usually mild, and the river is not too deep so its a great place the kids to swim.  Looking for an outfitter?  Call Monticello Canoe Rental, they have been in business for over 30 years, and provide some of the best customer service around.  They also rent Kayaks, and tubes for all your floating needs.  319 465-3697

Iowa

The Des Moines River: Located on the West/Central side of Iowa, this river is a perfect location for your next float trip with plenty of scenery, including rock bluffs, wildlife, tall bridges and the river has plenty of sandbars for your picnic needs.  Canoeing this river will also take you past the  beautiful Ledges, of Ledges State Park.  My favorite part of canoeing the Des Moines river is all the twists and turns you face going down stream.  These turns in the river add the excitement of “what’s around the next turn”.   No matter if your kayaking, tubing or canoeing a trip on the Des Moines river wont disappoint.  Need an outfitter?  Seven Oaks Rec in Boone Iowa, has bee serving this area for years.  They offer full service shuttle service and rent Kayaks, Canoes, and Tubes.  Call  515 432-9457

Missouri 

The Meramec River:  A scenic float trip down the beautiful and scenic Meramec River is an excellent way to explore the wonders of the Show-Me-State’s wild outdoors. Steep limestone bluffs, caves, and beautiful springs  surround you as you explore the  along a watery path of aquatic plants, animals, and forests.   The Meramec River is a Class I river that is suitable for all levels of floating experience and expertise. From individuals to families to groups.Weather your a serious paddler or its your first time on the water you’re sure to have a great experience on the scenic Meramec River!  This canoe trip will take you through the beautiful Meramec State Park.  Looking for an outfitter?  Our favorite is Meramec Cavern Canoe and Raft Rental. located in  Stanton Missouri.  They also offer camping, zip-lining, and a world class cave tour. Reservations can be made by calling  573 468-3166

The Crystal City Underground:   In 2013 Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours began offering one of the most amazing float trips available today. This experience is so rare, that I could not find any comparable trip in the entire United States. All tours are run by expert guides of great personality, who do an outstanding job both guiding the tour and providing an interesting/entertaining history of the mine.  Reservations can be made by calling: 636-208-5054

 

Wisconsin

The Namekagon River:  Looking for an awesome adventure?  Why not canoe the Namekagon River in Wisconsin.  With more then 250 miles of beautiful waterways you will have the perfect opportunity to get in touch with nature.  Along the way you can spend the night on riverside campsites only accessible from the water.  These primitive sites are the perfect location for an Adventure you wont soon forget.   Need an outfitter?  Cantact Jack’s  Canoe and Tube Rental, with over 160 years of combined outfitting experience.  They have the know how to help plan an amazing trip.  Contact Jack’s at  715  635-3300

Illinois

The Vermillion River:  This 70 mile long river runs in Illinois from Oglesby to Danville, and has several great locations to start or finish your float.  My favorite starting location is near Oglesby.  Its one of the only locations in Illinois with whitewater rapids.  This section from Oglesby to Lowell is rated as a Class 111 rapid.(out of 6 classes)  Aside from the rapids, this awesome float will take you through Matthiessen Sate Park.  Some other highlights on this float include Wildcat Falls, and the Lone Star Damn.  Looking for an outfitter?  We recommend Vermillion River Rafting, they rent 4 or 6 person rafts, or individuals can rent inflatable Kayaks.  Call  815 667-5242 to make your reservation.

 

Condor Fuel Hydration Pack

A major concern for anyone spending long amounts of time in the wilderness is hauling around enough drinking water to keep you hydrated. One easy way I have found is by carrying a Hydration Pack. Hydration Packs come in many different shapes and sizes, I have experimented with several different brands over the years, and they have all more or less done a decent job. Recently I came across a brand that I was unfamiliar with, and decided to give them a try.
First a little history on the company: Condor Outdoor has been around for over 20 years, they started off as a camping/hiking supplier, and have since grown into a tactical/survival gear outfitter. Many times those go hand in hand with each other, and it seems that many of there products could be used for either purpose.

After spending an hour browsing through the many products featured on their website, I decided to try out the 165: Fuel Hydration Pack. The Pack had received several high reviews on there website, and had a bigger bladder (2.5L) then some other packs I had looked into.

Upon receiving the pack, I was impressed right away, the pack looked small in the pictures, but actually had a very fair amount of storage space inside. The pack featured 3 different storage compartments, all varying in size and shape. Inside each compartment, I was pleased to find, several smaller pockets. This comes in very handy when you want to keep things separated, or organized inside your pack. Storage space aside, the pack also seemed to be very durable, I examined all the stitching and did not find any flaws. Lastly, I checked out the zippers. I had read an online review stating that the zipper quality was poor, so I had to find out if this was true. While the zippers, themselves are made from a hard plastic, I have known these type of zippers to have some problems in the past, however many times those problems came as a result of over packing, and are not really a fault of the zipper itself.

So far I have been fairly impressed with this pack, but I have one final test I wanted to put it through. Field test. Many times a product looks and feels great, in the store or at home, but when you get it out on the trail you end up disappointed. I carefully planned a trip that would put this pack through, many different challenges. A long hike, to test the comfort of wearing it all day. This will also put the zippers to a test, as I will be loading the pack with sunscreen, bug spray, a change of cloths, a first aid kit, and some snacks for the trail. I also wanted to mix in some spelunking, to see if the pack would hold up when I have to drag it through a tight crawl way.

I made plans to hike Wildcat Den, Pikes Peak State Park, Horseshoe Canyon and the Mines Of Spain, on the way back I swung by Crystal Lake Cave to do some spelunking. This four day Adventure gave me a great feel for the pack. After more then 22 miles of hiking, the pack was still comfortable on my back, the zippers held strong, and none of the fabric had any significant signs of wear and tear. As far as the bladder goes, it did not leak or present any problems at all. Overall I feel this is a quality Hydration Pack at a fair price. For more information on products from Condor Outdoor visit there website at http://www.condoroutdoor.com/

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