International GeoCaching Day - 2012

Most of you know it by now…  I enjoy GeoCaching.  It’s an opportunity for me to get up and enjoy the great outdoors (something I enjoy doing, but struggle to find the time to do).  It’s much less of a time commitment than loading up the canoe, or packing up for a camping trip – and is a little more focused (with a destination and a goal) than simply going for a walk.  Plus, getting to use the GPS really tickles the “gadget guy” gene in me. 

Honestly, it’s almost the perfect activity in my book.  A little bit of many of the things I enjoy doing!!  

Earlier this year I noticed an announcement on Latitude 47 (the official blog) announcing the impending Second Annual International GeoCaching Day on August 18th, 2012.

I had not been out GeoCaching much this summer and when I checked my calendar I noticed that I was not scheduled for work that day!  It was a lock!  I added it to my calendar and began planning a family GeoCaching adventure!  (Unfortunately, the Mother of Five and #2 of 5 had to work – but I made plans for everyone that was going to be around that day.

igd2012a The first thing I wanted to do was find a suitable area to cache.  I wanted find a place that was not to far, but had a high enough concentration of GeoCaches that I could “up” my statistics a little bit!  That’s when I remembered something!!  While checking for GeoCaches along the route of our Minnesota River Canoe Trip earlier this year I stumbled upon an “anomaly”.  The anomaly was a high concentration of GeoCaches in an area known to me to be pretty “rural” (farmland).

I did a little research and discovered that this area (of high GeoCache concentration) is not farmland, but it’s the Ney Nature Center!  It was the first I heard of the place.  I did a little further checking and really liked what I found.  I placed it in the back of my mind as a future destination.  It was the PERFECT place for our International GeoCaching Day adventure!

When International GeoCaching day arrived – I packed a picnic (turkey sandwiches, loaded baked potato Pringles, Trail Mix, and High-C drink boxes), gathered a few misc items that would make the day a little easier, and perhaps a little more fun for all (GPS, FRS radios, and a camera) and we headed out!! 

Mmmm!!  Turkey Sammiches!! GeoCaching - Some Tools of the Trade! 

Destination Neys Nature Center!! 

Ney Nature Center - Well Pump at the Nature CenterAbout twenty minutes later we arrived at Neys.  We pulled up to the Ney Center and did a little poking around to try and acclimate ourselves with the surroundings.  I noticed a Cub Scout Den that was breaking camp near the visitor center. 

There were a number of “outbuildings” (barns, corn cribs, storage sheds, etc – all presumably from when this was a working farmstead), a hand operated well-pump (also presumably from when this was a working farmstead), a campfire ring, and the Visitor Center (which was closed that day). 

My GPS indicated that the caches were located in areas other than the visitor center.  We located an information kiosk (with maps of the Center) and got a better idea of where we needed to go.  We headed back to the car and drove to the “Farmstead” area of the Nature Center.

Right away the GPS locked on to the nearest GeoCache and we were on our way! 

They Ney Nature Center is an AMAZING place!!  It features several features of the Minnesota landscape.  In addition to the historic farmstead there are areas of native prairie grasses, remnants of the big woods (woodlands), a large wetland, several reforestation plots, a wooded ravine with natural streams, and the historic Oxcart Trail.  Throughout these areas are pre established trails Don’s Pond Loop Trail, the Ravine Trail, the Native Prarie Walk, the Oxcart Trail, and the Hidden Windmill Trail.  The Trails are mowed and marked with signs and maps to help you navigate the Nature Center! 

Ney Nature Center - Mowed Trail in the Prairie Grass area  Ney Nature Center - Spot the GeoBeacon??  Ney Nature Center - Trail between the Ravine and the Prairie Grasslands  Ney Nature Center - Closed Trail

Top row L to R:  #5 of 5 blowing a dandelion – Can you spot the GeoBeacon in the photo?

Bottom row L to R:  Example of a mowed trail between the ravine area (on the left) and the prairie grass area (on the right) – TRAIL CLOSED??  There is a GeoCache a little over 400 feet down that trail – Sorry folks, that sign did NOT stop me!! 

Ney Nature Center - GeoCaching!



Note – Here is the GeoCache located in the “Closed Trail”. 

Out of respect we did find the cache (down the closed trail) but we did head right back out and off the closed trail… 

I may be civilly disobedient at times, but I can also be respectful when doing so!




Ney Nature Center - The Ney Farmstead



After a few caches we headed back to the car to grab our cooler and lunch – then headed into a shady spot on the farmstead to have lunch and take a little rest. 

If you look close enough in the photo – you ca see a little white speck under the trees in the right side of the photo.  That’s were the kids sat down while I grabbed lunch!



I was just "resting my eyes"!



I did say “rest” didn’t I??

I actually dosed off while the kids finished their lunch. 

Sneaky #4 of 5 thought it would be funny to catch her daddy sleeping in photographic form.




After lunch and a short little nap, we headed back down the trail for a few more Geocaches.

As we approached the trailhead from the Farmstead, we learned a little more history about the Neys Nature Center.   

Ney Nature Center - Wilhelm Ney Memorial Ney Nature Center - Wilhelm Ney MemorialNey Nature Center - Henry and Mathilda Ney Farmhouse built in 1895 Ney Nature Center - Henry ANd Mathilda Ney Farmhouse built in 1895Ney Nature Center - Henry and Mathilda Ney Farmhouse - The Summer Kitchen - built 1898 Ney Nature Center - The barn that I believe may have been the original Log Cabin when the Ney's first homesteaded on this land.

Another unique feature of the Nyes Nature Center is the Oxcart Trail

This historic road is believed to have been a part of the system of Red River Oxcart Trails. It is believed to have been first used by Native Americans who camped along the top of the hill each fall as a foot trail.  It’s use expanded as it became used by traders and early explorers.

In addition to being an oxcart trail it also became a portion of one of the local stagecoach runs, then it was used as a county road for many years.  Later, the road was turned over to Tyrone township.  Along the portion of the Oxcart Trail in the Ney Nature Center we located the remains of the Stagecoach stop. 

In the photo you can see the two remaining walls of the Stagecoach stop building.   

Ney Nature Center -  Stagecoach stop on the Oxcart Trail Ney Nature Center - Stagecoach Stop on the Oxcart Trail

A little further down the Oxcart Trail is a scenic overlook.  At the edge of the overlook is a flagstone ring.  The photos do not do the view justice.  It was simply and amazingly beautiful!  I did not get it captured in the photos, but way off in the distance, along the opposite side of the river valley, was a bright white colored church steeple poking out of the lush green of the river valley – it was very pretty!!

Interesting facts about the Minnesota River Valley – The valley itself is as large as five miles across and 250 feet deep in it’s widest and deepest zones.  It was cut by the River Warren which flowed from the Glacial Lake Agassiz through the Traverse Gap (a gorge cut from water over spilling the southern end of Glacial Lake Agassiz when the Laurentide Ice Sheet began melting).

 Ney Nature Center - The kids at the scenic overlook Ney Nature Center - The flagstone ring at the scenic overlook

Ney Nature Center - The kids with the scenic overlook behind them.  This photo does not do the scene justice! 

igd2012We had a great afternoon!  Neys Nature Center was an AMAZING place, and we will be certain to return there again soon!!  The weather was perfect.  We found all but one of the GeoCaches we looked for.  The picnic lunch (and nap) were rejuvenating, and spending time with these great kids is never anything less than a ton of fun!!

Here you can see the “after” photo once I entered all my GeoCaching finds on  (The yellow “smileys” are caches I have found.  The green “ammo boxes” are caches I have not yet found).  You can see that there are still plenty of opportunities for GeoCaching during future visits to Ney’s Nature Center!  



Ney Nature Center - End of the day

If you are interested in seeing our trek (or at least the GPS data played out in time lapse over a map overlay) be sure to click through THIS LINK to the EveryTrail site.

On a side note… About a week after International GeoCaching Day had occurred, GroundSpeak (the parent company of sent out this message on Latitude 47.   


International Geocaching Day Success

You did it! You made International Geocaching Day the biggest day in history. More than 94,000 geocachers from around the world charged into the wilderness or perhaps walked casually down the sidewalk to find a geocache on August 18. A souvenir for the day could be earned by logging a “Found it” for a physical geocache or an “Attended” on an Event Cache. Thank you to all those cachers who organized the more than 250 events, including 3 Mega-Events, on International Geocaching Day this year.

International Geocaching Day is the third Saturday of August each year. Next year it will be commemorated on August 17, 2013

#5 of 5’s Aquarium Project – Part 2

Phase one of #5 of 5’s Aquarium Plan is now complete. 

A suitable aquarium stand has been located, painted white and “splatter painted” with her favorite colors (which all happen to be pastel!)

She did a large portion of the work of preparing this stand on her own (or with adult supervision).  She did most of the sanding, most of the primer coat, and most of the final coat.  She also did most of the splatter painting all on her own too!! 

I’m so proud of her!!  Check out these results!

 Spatter painted aquarium stand  Spatter painted aquarium stand

#5 of 5 with her spatter painted aquarium stand


Now with phase I complete it’s on to phase II…  Aquascaping!! 

    Aquascaping is the craft of arranging aquatic plants, as well as rocks, stones, cavework, or driftwood, in an aesthetically pleasing manner within an aquarium.

Now that you have seen what her ideal tank stand looks like, I’ll let the guesses commence on what the interior decoration (or “Aquascaping”) she is planning!

Leave your thoughts as a comment!

If you haven't seen the start of this project, be sure to check out Part 1!

An Afternoon of Trap Shooting

As you may have already seen, #3 of 5 shoots for his High School Trap Shooting Team.  He had a phenomenal year – raising his scores from the 7-10 range last year to an 18-20 range this year! 

mhhc1Back in February (before the Trap Shooting Season even started) the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club offered a “Groupon” offer that was too good to turn down!!  They offered three options – but I selected the 100 target Sporting Clays course for two with lunch at Triggers Saloon and Supper Club package.

With all the shooting #3 of 5 did between April and June, using our Groupon was the last thing on our minds, but with the season now well in our rear view mirror and the Groupon’s expiration date looming – we set a date and planned for a day on the range.

Since #3 of 5 shoots Trap (as opposed to Skeet or Sporting Clays) I called the Horse & Hunt club ahead of time and inquired about substituting Trap for Sporting Clays.  They were happy to accommodate our request.  (Trap is less expensive than Sporting Clays). 

We arrived at the Horse and Hunt Club and checked in at the Clubhouse.  The clubhouse staff were very friendly and helpful.  I again explained that we wished to substitute Trap for the Sporting Clays, and without a blink, got us set up, provided us a score card, gave us directions to the Trap ranges and wished us luck!

Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club - Lower Trap Range

Both of their trap ranges were open, so we selected the “Lower” range (since it was at the end of the road).  The range overlooked a beautiful slew!

I have shot here one other time a few years back… (Link)

With only two of us (and no “official” to judge and keep score) we decided to each shoot a full round (individually) while the other kept score, then alternate. 

#3 of 5 shot first and scored 17/25. 

I shot next and ALSO scored 17/25.

#3 of 5 - Position 3 Lining up the shot

#3 of 5 shot his second round and scored a 22/25.

And now the pressure was on!  We tied the first round, then #3 of 5 amped up his game and pulled off a 22!  There was a lot of “smack talk” back and forth as I took to the first shooting stand! 

I was going to “SCHOOL” this youngin’ and remind him who’s boss!  That was, until…

I shot my second round and…  Scored a (measly) 14/25…  (sigh)

I suspected that I would not hear the end of it – and I was NOT disappointed.  Now all filled with the machismo of victory, #3 of 5 was all smack talk …  

By the way and for the record… 

I “let” him win by throwing the round.  It’s all about his… uh… Self esteem building – yeah, that’s it!!  Self esteem!!  That’s what a good father would do… Right?  RIGHT??!?!

Dismal Scorecard

We headed back up to the clubhouse and were given our voucher for lunch at Trgger’s Saloon and Supper Club.  We headed upstairs and seated ourselves.

Once inside we were told to seat ourselves.  I gave #3 of 5 the choice.  There were tables, bar tables (the tall ones with bar stools for seats) and seats at the bar.  He selected a two seat bar table.  Our waitress brought us our menus and we began the daunting task of making our luncheon selections!  (Link to menu)

Trigger's Saloon and Supper Club #3 of 5 at Trigger's Saloon and Supper Club

#3 of 5 chose the “California Burger” (no mayo).  I on the other hand wanted to go a little more “exotic”.  I enjoy trying less “common” meats, so I selected the “Elk Camp, No Bull” burger – It’s 1/3 lb ground Elk and Bison (with no beef) garnished with Bleu Cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and thinly sliced sautéed onion strings.

When the waitress brought us our food, I could not believe my eyes!  These burgers were HUGE and there was a heaping helping of perfectly seasoned fries as well!  I had intended on taking photographs, but in the end – my hunger and the DELICIOUS aroma distracted me. 

The Elk Camp, No Bull burger was AMAZING!!  It had the distinctive Bison flavor, the bite of the bleu cheese came through and of course the mushrooms!  I LOVE mushrooms!!  I would not only recommend it, I would order it again!! 

Like I previously stated, the portions were HUGE – and by the time I was finished I was feeling more than full – in fact about thirty minutes after I finished eating I started feeling ill from having eaten so much.  I should have split my lunch into two portions and brought the rest home! 

I found the staff at Trigger’s (just like at the clubhouse) to be equally kind and friendly!  My overall experience with the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club was a very positive one!  I am so glad I purchased the Groupon – and I sure hope they do it again this winter!!  Groupon or not, we will be back!  Back for some shooting time, and back for Dinner at Trigger’s!     

When we left the Horse and Hunt club I really felt like I had to get out and walk a little of my lunch off…  What better way to do that then a little GeoCaching on my way home.  Since the following Saturday would be INTERNATIONAL GEOCACHING DAY, I wanted to get a little “warm up caching” in beforehand.  It was the perfect solution! 

#3 of 5 and I found two quick GeoCaches on our way home – one of which surprised me a little when I first stumbled upon it!  It almost looked like it was being guarded!

Guardian of the GeoCache Guardian of the GeoCache

It was the perfect ending to a great afternoon with #3 of 5!

#5 of 5’s Aquarium Project – Part 1

IMG_1560 When #5 of 5 expressed an interest in establishing an aquarium, I got pretty excited.  I have kept at least one aquarium running for 22 of the past 27 years.  With my current set up looking more swamp like, devoid of anything living (other than bacteria, and protozoa) I am hoping #5 of 5’s enthusiasm will rub off and will help inspire me to breath life back into my interest.  (Actual photo of the current condition the FOF Swamp is in.)

#3 of 5 was given an aquarium a number of years back, and has since lost most interest.  The aquarium has been sitting in “cold storage” for the past few years.  He has graciously agreed to allow his little sister to use the aquarium if she wanted (what a great big brother he can (sometimes) be).

The only problem was not having a stand for the aquarium.  We shopped around and shopped around and could not come up with a viable solution (that fit our budget) – so I started scouring craigslist.  I located the perfect stand (used) and at a perfect price. 

“Almost perfect” would be a better description.  #5 of 5 had one request – that the stand be white with pastel colored “splatter paint” on it.  What a perfect way to introduce her to the pleasures (and pains) of DIY!

We picked up the needed supplies and on a beautiful Saturday afternoon #5 of 5 and I started in on her project!  

First up - Sanding the existing finish.

  IMG_1538 IMG_1539

Now, before you admonish me for my faux pas, let me just say that I did catch my error which can be seen at the 1:50 second mark of the video.  Yeah, I did let her finish, but will next time be more careful about that.

With the sanding complete, it was time to put a primer coat on the stand.  I pained the first board of the door to show #5 of 5 how it’s done and what to look for – then handed her the brush and let her see what she could do.

IMG_1543 IMG_1548 IMG_1549





What was I doing while she was sanding and painting you ask? 

Well, SUPERVISING of course!







She finished the entire door and exterior of the whole stand before telling me that her “arm started hurting” from all the painting and asked if she could take a break.  I told her what a fantastic job she has done already and that yes, she could take a break.  I also asked her if I could “help” her paint.  She agreed and both her and her “tired arm” went running out into the yard to play with #4 of 5.


The next day it was time for our first coat of paint!  We donned our grubby paint clothes again and headed out.  She did an amazing job once again!

IMG_1554 IMG_1555 IMG_1556




Here you see the stand, with the first coat completely finished.  I have to trim a couple of drip edges off the corners, and want to give it one more final coat before it’s ready for the “splatter painting”! 

Stay Tuned!


Do you have one of those days in your life that you can identify as an pivotal moment? One of those days that you can look back on and identify events as either “before” or “after”? Most of us do. I am no exception.
August 6, 1993.

Nineteen years ago today my life was forever changed when I joined with the most amazing woman I have ever met. She is beautiful, both inside and outside. She brings out the best (and, sometimes the worst) in me. She can make me laugh at times and cry at others (sometimes she can make me do them simultaneously).

She makes me love life but knows just how to can drive me crazy too. She tethers me to the ground when I am full of hot air, and knows how remind me to keep the important things in perspective.

She has provided me the five best aspects of my life (ahem… “Father of Five”) and although they may not always agree with me on this, she is the most amazing mother a kid could ask for. Various aspects of her personality show up as traits in each of my children – and I love seeing that so much!

God was truly kind and generous with me when he put this wonderful woman into my life! I truly cannot imagine my life without my love, my partner, my wife by my side!

Michele, the past nineteen years have been one helluva ride – ups and downs, curves and straight-aways, speedy and sluggish, smooth and bumpy – and I have loved every minute of it. To be completely honest with you - I can’t wait to see what the next nineteen are going to bring!!

Happy Anniversary Michele – I love you and our life together more than I could ever possibly express!

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