Saturday, August 30, 2008

Brooks Cascadia 3

It's crazy to think that I've ran over 550 miles since March. My New Balance 908's have become Old Balance (as Lizzie says) and they... kinda... stink up the house these days. Everybody in the family has gotten new shoes for the new school year, and Jennifer informed me that it was my turn. Today I got paid and it was my personal little splurge day.

I met a friend for a coffee today at Cosi and after wards I went to FrontRunner with a goal in mind. I was on the hunt for another pair of 908's. However, I didn't want to go in there completely narrow minded and insane. So, at the door, I stopped and told myself to approach this like a casual person. I mean, how normal does this sound:

Walk in, point to my torn up / green fumed trail shoes, and loudly say "Yeah, I want these, only newer!"

Yeah, too weird... So when the lady asked me if I needed help, I "casually" told her that I was looking for some new trail shoes because mine were gross. Before we got too far into the hunt, I explained that I have a wide foot and natural pronation, and I'm currently using the 908's. She suggested a few shoes to me, but stated that the 908 is probably my best bet. She went in the back and brought out 5 different shoes for me to try on. NorthFace, Asic's, Merrels, Brooks, and the 908's. After a few lacing sessions and quick 20m sprints back forth along the wall, I wiped the sweat from my brow and settled with the... (wait for it and don't look at the title)

Brooks Cascadia 3 trail shoes:

This was the first shoe that I tried on and ended up never taking it off. I tried all of the other models on my right foot while keeping this shoe on my left foot the entire time. Even when I got to the 908's, I realized that the Cascadia's felt more comfortable... Sold!

Oh yeah, Rob, I finally got those RaceReady shorts! :) Jennifer had a good laugh because they are a little high up on the thigh for my style. However, the mesh pockets kept me occupied while she tried to catch her breath. These shorts will help me finally expose my ridiculously white thighs to the world. :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Running in the Rain

I had some pretty stellar runs recently, and I'm realizing that the rain had a lot to do with them. On Sunday, I did 15.5 miles in the rain and loved it. It was all pavement running, but peaceful none-the-less. The only problem that I had with that run was the painful nipple rubbing of my wet shirt. Yeah, I still have the scabs... Wanna see? :)

Yesterday I took a 5 mile run at Marie Hickey trail and it was a total "zen run" for me. There is nothing better than running through the woods listening to the rain hit the leaves above you while listening to birds chirping here and there to interrupt your thoughts. I was totally in my element yesterday and can't wait for the next rain day.

Friday, August 22, 2008


It's so easy to overlook blogging now that I am hooked on twitter. I only follow about 39 people, and tweet from time to time. When I first started twitter, I wasn't sure what all the hype was about... I now get it.

James and I were attending a Dayton Developer Group and everybody was talking about twitter. I finally built up the nerve and asked "What's so cool about twitter?". I got a lot of strange looks and Jeff Blankenburg explained it to me pretty well. After the meeting, we stuck around all sparked up a very informative conversation about how people use it and I was able to watch the "Twitter in Plain English" video:

After watching the video, Jeff and Tim Wingfield described how they use twitter and I started thinking about how I might use it. So, that night I went home and created an account; my user name is LucasHardbarger (duh) and I started following a few people that I knew just to see how it worked. I didn't really spend a lot of time with it at first, but now I can't seem to stay away from it. :) I understand the hype. It may not be extremely useful in a business sense, but it really keeps me connected to the people I have met over the years on a more "personal basis". The way I look at it, the only reason they would tweet anything anyway would be so that others know what's going on. It's fun.

My biggest growing petpeive (?) so far are the tweets that are just tinyurl links. To me, that's pretty useless and annoying. It really has no value to me, and I'm starting to just ignore them. At least provide a brief description with the link so that I can know what you are linking to. Anymore, when I see a link with nothing more, I ignore it. Oh yeah, watch for the fail whale.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fun Run Monday

Today, I took a fun run with my buddy, Jonathan. He lives in Columbus and took the long drive to meet me over at my house (way out here in hick-town). He and I took a 30 mile bike ride the week after my marathon and we had a blast! We rode all the way from Newark to Johnstown and back on the bike path. During that ride I invited him out to my place to do some trails with me. He took me up on that offer and we hit the trails today.

We started off by parking at the Blackhand Gorge bike trail parking lot. We ran from there over to Marie Hickey trail. Jonathan kicked butt! The road to Marie Hickey was pretty hilly and he burned through it like a pro. We kept a slower pace, but we didn't do any walking really until we hit the parking lot to Marie Hickey. Even then, we walked for about 30 seconds and got right back into it. Once we got on the trail, we really felt the relief from the shade. In the woods it was about 20 degrees cooler than out on the road under the sun. Jonathan ran about 2.5 miles without stopping and even then, it was mainly because we were on a hill.

After conquering Marie Hickey trail, we headed back down the road back to the bike path. We hit the bike path at about 4.6 miles into the run and Jonathon was doing pretty good. He had a quick dizzy spell, but I think it may have been due to his first introduction to GU @ around mile 4. :) By the time he got the dizziness out of him, we were at the Quarry Rim trail and we decided to take it easy up the hill and then pick up pace once it flattened out. The trail was beautiful as always and we just jogged real slow through the woods with no hurry. We came back out on the bike path and made a pit stop at the Blackhand Rock overlook to admire the river and beauty of Blackhand Gorge.

Jonathan kicked butt today and I really enjoyed his company. He showed up with the agreement to run 5 miles with me. However, I was able to sucker 6.57 miles out of him instead. :) Not only was it farther than he'd ever run, but I'm sure these were probably the hardest miles he'd ever run. We even talked about how running on flat roads will now be considered the "easy miles". :) I'm hoping that I converted him to a trail runner, as he did claim that he enjoyed the hills, rocks, roots, and woods when it was all over with. Unfortunately, I think I may have grossed him out when I squeezed all of the sweat out of my headband at mile 6. :) He was warned that I sweat a lot while running, but even I was surprised at the 2 liters I rung out of that little thing. None-the-less, it was a nice change to actually be in good company and shoot the breeze with a bud out here for a change. Thanks Jonathan!

Even better, I may have talked him into joining me @ Hocking Hills next month for the Indian Run (5k or 10k), but we'll have to see. :)

The details of our run are found on (see right sidebar on my blog), but here is the map:

Here is the elevation:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Crayon Physics

I was catching up on my blog role and found a game called Crayon Physics. I decided to see just what it was and was pretty amazed. I may have to introduce this game to my girls.

This reminds me of the ol' Physics Illustrator that I got hooked on when I first got my Tablet PC.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

High Class = Chris Horner

I just stumbled on this post in my blog role and felt it was worth sharing:

Chris Horner ensures that a rider (and his bike) finish the Cascade Cycling Classic. After riding almost 69 miles, Billy Demong took a nasty fall and tore himself and his bike up. Rather than taking the DNF, Chris Horner came along and picked him and his bike up to ensure that he finished the last 1+ mile of the race.

High class!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hiking the Appalacian Trail

Last year, I posted about my desire to hike the Appalachian Trail in the past, and I still plan to do it one day. I'm addicted to nature trails and this is the ultimate nature trail, as it spans from Georgia to Maine. I really think I'll do it in the future, but I need a lot more money and a lot more available time-off before thinking about something like this. I'll probably have to plan for after my journey sometime after the girls grow up and move out. Just know that it is on my list of things to do before I die. :)

Anyway, I was doing my blog roll today and stumbled upon a post by Anthony about a guy named Karl Meltzer. Anybody that knows anything about ultra running, will know this name; I (for one) have heard his name quite often since I started reading trail magazines and reading news and blogs about ultras. Last week, Karl started his trek to hike the Appalachian Trail in 47 days... 47 DAYS!? Most people do this in about 5-7 months. Karl, plans to hike (calculating in my head...) almost 47 miles per day, for 47 consecutive days!? Wow! Go Karl!!

The best part is that he's keeping an online journal of his trek. Check it out:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CodeStock 2008 is a Success

As I mentioned back in June, we attended the Codestock down in Knoxville, TN. I'm so happy we did! We got to meet some really cool people and I think that the the way they handle the Data Dynamics sponsorship was very unique.

We heard about Codestock at a speaker dinner in Grand Rapids, Michigan before West Michigan Day of .NET. We were sitting around eating our dinner and drinking some booz and ended up sitting next to Wally McClure. Wally had nothing but great things to say about Data Dynamics products. We talked a bit and he asked about sponsoring a cool event in Tennessee. We told him to send us some information, and immediately he got on the phone with Mike Neel (head coordinator) to tell him about out possible interest. Well, the rest is history.

The most appealing thing about Codestock (to me) was that they were going to dedicate speaker rooms to the sponsors. By this I mean that each sponsor would have a speaker room named after the company. For example, there was a Data Dynamics room, a Red Gate room, a Microsoft room, etc... I thought this was really cool. Best of all, the Data Dynamics room was the first room and had the nicest chairs. Our room was a lecture room that had nice 'movie' chairs. The other rooms had college (half-table) desks. The sponsors were able to setup anything they wanted in this room, so we took our pull ups and set them up at the door. This ensured that everybody who attended a session in our room would see our name everywhere. Major kudos to Codestock from Data Dynamics!!

So anyway, James and I did our session on "Simplicity in Visualizing Numbers" and this time it went much better than we had both thought it would. Before we left the office Friday, we had a dry run in the lunch room in front of everybody. It paid off big time! During this dry run, we smoked through the talk in about 20 minutes... This was way short of 1 hour. We also found out that we (ok, mostly me) said "um" and "uh" a lot.

We left the office around 2pm and headed down to Tennessee. It was a pretty uneventful drive down and we arrived at the hotel around 8:30 - 9:00pm. Once we got settled in, we hooked up the laptops, turned on the TV, and ordered some pizza. James and I reformatted our talk a bit after some great feedback from Philip and the DD crew. I wound up falling asleep around 2am and James was still working on the slides.

The alarm went off a few minutes later (or so it seemed) and we headed to Pellissippi State Technical Community College to get setup. We setup our banners in the Data Dynamics room and wound up missing Jeff Prosise's keynote. Our session went off without a hitch! James stood behind the podium, while I stood off to the side, in front of the podium. We basically took turns talking; I would talk through a few slides, then James would talk through a few slides. At the end, people spoke up and asked some really good questions about some problems they're facing building charts and graphs at their company. One of the developers in the audience stated that she was doing everything wrong according to us and asked for some advise. It was at that point that I knew the session was a success. A few other developers asked for some advise and we answered them to the best of our ability. I'm sure that our insight helped them go back and apply some of our ideas.

After our talk, we did lunch, then attended some other sessions. James and I both attended a session titled "Mono and Open Source .NET". I learned quite a bit, but admit that it was hard to keep my eyes open after eating lunch. After that session, James and I attended a session titled "Getting Dirty with httpModules and httpHandlers" in the Data Dynamics room. This was a very cool session and Chris Love knows his stuff! The last session that we attended was (again) in the Data Dynamics room and was titled "Linq Migration Strategies" by Joe Wooley. This was a very informative session and it really made me want to get neck deep in to VB 9's XML Literals. Wow!

To finish off the day of sessions, there was a big sponsor giveaway in the auditorium. It was fun to say the least. After the sponsor giveaway, we headed outside to the concert area and got to listen to some live music by a band called Hanover Fist. They were pretty good, but we only got to hang around for 3 songs before we decided to hit the road. Codestock was a hip-hip event, and the logo pretty much says it all (hippy / rocker look). Congrats to Wally, Alan, and Mike for a successful event!

The drive home was pretty uneventful as well, but we all had some fun conversations. :) I got home at 2am, checked some emails and tweets, then went strait to bed.

Friday, August 08, 2008


A few weeks back, a good friend and ex-coworker recommended me through his LinkedIn account. When I got the recommendation notification, it really threw me off guard and surprised me. It left me with a good feeling and had a very positive impact on my ego. :) I thanked him big time, then vowed to myself that I would return the favor. His recommendation was a result of Jeff Blankenburg's introduction to Contribupendence Day. Phil's recommendation was a very pleasant surprise and I plan to celebrate Contribupendence Day next year (ie. July 3rd) . :)

Last night I was sitting around watching my girls dance to the KidzClub channel while catching up on my blog roll, when I remembered his act of kindness. I then thought of what I wanted to write and created a recommendation for Phil. I really would recommend this guy to anybody, and hope that these LinkedIn recommendations are taken seriously. I then decided to continue down my contact list and recommend others that I truly felt were recommendation-worthy. I still have many others that I want to recommend through LinkedIn, but I just ran out of time last night. If you are connected to me on LinkedIn and haven't been recommended by me, then I either didn't get to you yet, or don't know you well enough.

Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant to sign up and use LinkedIn, but have really found it to be a great networking tool for professional people. It has kept me in contact with many people that I know across the world and/or have done business with at some point. I'm not a FaceBook guy or a MySpace guy for no good reason. However, LinkedIn has really opened my eyes to the benefits of social networking sites. If are using LinkedIn, you should surprise somebody that you respect with a good vibe and recommend them for no good reason. It helped brighten my day and let me see how others feel about me.

Thanks Phil! Thanks Kim!

For the record: No, this post is not a subtle hint for you to recommend me... unless you want to of course. :)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

New Personal Goals

It feels awesome to set a goal and achieve it... really! I have totally changed the way I think about setting short term goals since finishing my marathon in under 5 hours. Before my last race, I was convinced that there was no way I could improve my marathon time by almost 2 hours. It just seemed like too big of a goal at times and I almost considered settling for "anytime under my last marathon time" as the goal instead. However, I figured that if I didn't try to do it, I'd never know. Therefore, I tried and (to my surprise) I succeeded. At this point, anything seems possible.

Since my race, I've been thinking about my new goals and what I want (really want) to achieve next. My "big picture" goal is to be happy; isn't that everybody's goal? I know that in order to be happy, I need to focus on the things that make me happy. Things that make me happy are (in order) my family, running, coding, drumming, and everything outdoors. Some of the happiest memories I have from my early years with Jennifer were when we had no money, no TV, no internet, a $100 thrown together beaten down drum set, a roof over our heads, and each other. I want to teach my girls that happiness is not a material thing, and I plan to do that by being my own student. This new hobby of mine (ie. running) has taught me that the word comfortable is not analogous to happy. By this I mean that sweating, cramping, cringing in pain, and sore muscles wind up giving me long-term happiness in the end. Watching TV, eating crap food, and lounging around in the air conditioning (ie. being comfortable) does not give me long term happiness; rather it's a quick fix to immediate satisfaction and ends up making me feel like crap at the end of the day. I know this because it's more or less how I've lived my life the last few years.

My new plan is to focus on eliminating all the things that make me unhappy. For example, one thing that makes me unhappy is that I'm no longer able to perform basic physical tasks that my body was intended to perform. Right now, I can run for 5 hours strait with proper fuel and hydration. However, I can only do about 3 (good-form) chin-ups, 1 (good-form) shoulder width pull-up, 20 (good-form) push-ups, and 100 (good-form) sit-ups before needing a break. When I was 19, I could do all of these things until the cows came home, but I've since lost this ability. I have decided that I'm going to fix this problem. :)

My new short term goals are as follows:
Something I'd like to start looking into next spring is rock climbing. However, the fact that I struggle to pull my 200 lbs body up with my arms leads me to believe that I have a little bit of work to do before looking into that. :) I've accepted the fact that my weight is here to stay, so I'm going to offset this with physical strength.

So these are my goals. I've posted them for all to see in hopes that it helps me commit to these goals (like my 5 hour marathon goal post). When you see me, ask me how I'm doing on them, as I may need kicked from time to time. :)

CERN and the LHC

The long awaited Large Hadron Collider is almost ready for it's first proton beam. I think that all the scientists at CERN are about to reveal some really cool stuff in the next couple of years. They will be firing up the LHC sometime in the next couple of weeks and will begin their quest to answer some long lived questions.
LHC experiments will address questions such as what gives matter its mass, what the invisible 96% of the Universe is made of, why nature prefers matter to antimatter and how matter evolved from the first instants of the Universe’s existence. - CERN, LHC Milestones
They are going to start off with very low energies, and will move to full 'Luminosity' (ie. the intensity of the beam in terms of number of proton-proton collisions) sometime next year. This is when things will get cool and they'll start understanding matter and (most importantly) anti-matter. They won't get answers immediately, as it will take time to understand how to read all the data that they recieve and calibrate the machine to it's optimal abilities, but still... This is a pretty cool time to be a scientist I'd think. If you are at all interested in this, I encourage you to check out this post (thanks Scott) and be sure to read the first post if nothing more.

Back in the day, I used to blog a lot about quantum physics with a main focus in how it related to computers (ie. quantum computing). Unfortunately, I've since gotten out of it for no good reason. At the time that stuff amazed me and had me reading and researching about it all the time. It goes without saying that I was rejuvenated today by all the content on CERN's website. There is tons of data on their site and it could really consume a lot of your time... just ask me. :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Yooper Camping Trip 2008

Warning: Huge Post
Feel free to skim the headings and read what you want. It won't hurt my feelings. :)

As you already know, I ran the Grand Island Trail Marathon this year. When I signed up for the race in late December, I had envisioned taking the family up and making a mini vacation out of it. As fate had it, we did. :P Jennifer and I planned to take the girls camping all week in tents from July 20th - July 27th in Munising, Michigan. This way, we'll camp all week, I'll run my race, then we'll head back home.

Ready, Set, Go
Jennifer and I stayed up pretty late on Friday night and got the van and trailer packed up so we could wake up, feed the farm, then hit the road around 9ish. We woke up damn early and got everybody fed then off we went at exactly 10am. Our first destination was half way up into Michigan for a stay in Houghton Lake. This was a good half way point, but we had a long drive ahead of us. The girls watched DVD's in the back of the van while Jen and I just gabbed about how much fun we were going to have. There were only 2 pitstops on our way up, one was a potty break and the other was a coffee break... maybe it was the other way around, but I digress. The drive up was pretty uneventful for the most part. We decided to stop at Cabela's before we got to Houghton Lake to break up our first part of our trip.

If you go to Michigan, you go to Cabela's; it's that simple. This is quite possibly the best store in the world. Jennifer would spend all of our money here if we had it. We stopped here and ate a quick bite to eat and stretched our legs out for a while. It was raining and there was an outdoor tent sale. I figured that since the girls still had another 3 hours or so in the van, it was only fair that I let them play in the rain. A lot of people watched me let them play in the rain and commented on how great it was that I let them splash in the puddles. Jennifer was (of course) shopping and didn't know I was letting them do it, but it was fun to watch them have so much fun; they loved it! I bought a 32 oz. percolator so that I could still get my coffee fix away from my Bunn. We ate at the cafeteria and I had the Bison Burger. It was "ok", but I didn't see any fireworks from it like I had expected. Anyway, the kids were wet, I was full, Jennifer had shopped, and we had a bit more driving to do... so we left.

Houghton Lake, Michigan
We arrived at our first stop @ a Holiday Inn Express around 8pm and was able to get some family "pool time" before the pool closed. After the pool time fun, I took a quick 3 mile run through the quiet (and very dark) streets of Houghton Lake while the girls watched the Disney channel and ordered pizza. I must say that it was pretty creepy at times because I was in a place I'd never been before on very rural streets. I had nothing more than my headlamp, my reflective clothing, and a water bottle. I found myself on a long stretch of country road with my headlight as the only source of light at times. There were no street lights through some of my run and I felt like I could have been the headlines for a local newspaper a few times. I just focused on the sounds of midnight wildlife and kept happy camping thoughts in my head instead. :) Needless-to-say, it was a good run and it helped me get my legs moving after a long day of driving.

Mackinaw Bridge & St. Ignace
We woke up around 10am and got out of the hotel after a quick continental breakfast. Our next destination was the Mackinaw Bridge. We had heard that it was big bridge and... we heard right. This was an amazing work of art.

We visited a gift shop in Mackinaw City, then crossed the bridge to find a restaurant and eat some lunch. The bridge was 4 miles from end to end and I thought Jennifer was going to crap her pants at one point (she doesn't like heights). We ended up eating at a place called Driftwoods in St. Ignace that over looked the lake. We all fell in love with St. Ignace; Jazzy said "Mommy, this is like a dream, only it's not". :) She nailed it! Jennifer said that she loved this little town and we decided we'd spend some time in this area on our way back down at the end of our vacation.

After our lunch in St. Ignace, we headed over to Munising for our final destination. The drive was really cool. It was just strait-driving through beautiful country side. We followed the shoreline of Lake Michigan for a long time and it really got us in the mood for our week long stay by the water. Campsite here we come!!

Our Campsite in Munising, Michigan
We arrived at Wandering Wheels Campground around 6pm. We got the bikes down first so that the girls could get acquainted with the campground while Jen and I setup the sites. Surprisingly, we got everything setup in about 2 hours. We brought a whole bunch of rope and a whole bunch of tarps, so we hooked it up to prepare for rain right away. We setup two tents, a rain proof picnic table, a clothes line, and considered setting up our screen room, but opted against it to conserve space. People at some of the other campsites even commented that we looked like we knew what we were doing. We felt like pro's at that point. :) This is where we will call home for the next 7 days.

The campground was awesome! We had a prime location that was right by the pool and playground. Better yet, we were about 100 yards from the bathrooms and showers. Nobody was on either side of us all week, so we spread our campsite out and used a lot of space just because we could. As soon as we got setup, we all took a big bike ride and hit the gift shop and got some tips on local hiking trails and site-seeing spots. The front desk was extremely friendly and helpful. We were excited to get around and see how beautiful the upper peninsula is in all it's glory (outside of the van). :)

Yoopers for a Week
We got to bed our first night pretty early and woke on Monday morning ready to begin our week of... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! We did find out that Yooper is what you call someone from the upper peninsula. See, the Upper Peninsula is typically called "The U.P." (pronounced yoo-pee). Therefore, "yooper" just rolls off the tongue when referring to someone from the U.P. So, now I now know the meaning behind the Yooper Geek blog. :) Anyway, the only thing we had to do this week was act like yoopers (ie. just chill out).

Camping Fun
It was so nice to not have to worry about checking my email, beating deadlines, listening to the phones ringing off the hook, or any of that mundane daily activity crap that consumes so much valuable fun time. Jen didn't have to worry about feeding the animals, doing the dishes, washing clothes, or cleaning after all of us. We just hung out and spent quality time with our girls. We swam, then when that got old, we cooked hotdogs, then we rode bikes, then we went site seeing, then we would swim again... no schedule, just family time. We all just kicked it around the campsite and had a blast. Here is a picture of me doing dishes after a yummy breakfast. Jazzy would find a dirty dish, Lizzie would rinse it, I would wash it, Lizzie would rinse off the soap, then Jazzy would take it back and get another dirty dish. We had a pretty good system and it was fun to just sit around shoot the breeze together.

Coffee Over the Fire
I love my new percolator, don't get me wrong... but it has it's own set of issues. It would take about 30 minutes before the water would start boiling (ie. "percolate"). Then it took about 10 minutes to actually brew the coffee. It was hard to time breakfast against this thing. Most mornings, the eggs and bacon were already cooked and eaten by the time the water would even start to boil. By the time the percolating process was done, the sun was out and beating down on us in all it's "sunny-ness". Of course we would have to then wait even longer to drink it because... well, it was boiling hot.

I also discovered that it's not a good idea to reheat percolated coffee after it's been cold. I tried doing this one evening and almost regurgitated it. It tasted like tar flavored oil spill. While some may thing this is useless information, I wish someone would have told me. If one person takes my advise and opts against reheating percolated coffee, I've done my job. You're welcome!.. and tell you're friends!

Pictured Rocks Tour
Wow! The Pictured Rock Tour deserves it's own blog post. However, for now, I'll summarize it with a picture and a big "WoW!"

If you go to the Michigan's Upper Peninsula, pay the money and go on the Pictured Rock Tour! It was a big highlight of our vacation.

Alger Falls
This was a little water fall that was visible right from the road. Alger (pronounced al-jur) is the name of the County that Munising is in. Alger Falls was about 3-4 miles west of the Wandering Wheels Campground. We saw it the first time we headed into Munising and it got us excited to see other falls in the area. There are so many water falls up here in the north side of the UP, and this was our first spotting. :) We would visit other (bigger) falls throughout the week, but this was right next to the road and was pretty cool to say the least. After all, we don't have this type of scenery in central Ohio.

Horseshoe Falls ($15 per family)
This was the first site seeing adventure that we stumbled upon (aside from Alger Falls). We saw signs for this attraction and were pretty excited to see it in person, as it appeared to be pretty big from the various brochures we'd seen. We winded back through some residential area and found the building tucked back into the corner of the woods. We parked the car and walked up to the gift shop since that was the only way to get to the falls. As we walked in the door, we saw a lady standing by the other door (that led to the falls) and next to her was a sign with various dollar amounts. Come to find out, Horseshoe Falls is actually on private property and we had to pay to see the water fall. :( Talk about a disappointment! It was $15 per family to walk through the door and see natures natural beauty. Oh well, we paid it and got some pretty cool pictures of it. Even though it cost money to see, I feel it was (almost) worth it, as these people clearly put a lot of effort into the property to make it an enjoyable hike.

Miners Castle & Miners Falls
This was really cool! We first went to Miners Falls since it was about 2 miles before Minsers Castle. We had heard that this was a nice water fall and had already purchased post cards with pictures of the falls on it; it only seemed fitting that we actually saw it. We parked and wound up walking a little over 1/2 mile before we got to the actual water fall. It was absolutely beautiful! I carried Daizi on my back, so my shoulders were in pretty pad shape by this point. The girls really liked this one though, and so did Jennifer and I.

After we were done at Miners Falls, we drove further up the road to see Miners Castle. We had seen Miners Castle from the Pictured Rocks Tour and (I must say) it's a lot higher up than it looked from the boat. :) Jazzy took a hard fall while she was running along the sidewalk and really banged herself up pretty good. She tripped over her feet and wound up with lots of boo-boos. Once we got her all bandaged up back at the mother ship (ie. the van), we went along with our tour. The sites from way up here were breathtaking. You could see for miles and miles out into Lake Superior. Think of Miners Castle as a big wooden deck way up on a rock; that's basically what it was. We all really enjoyed Miners Castle and Miners Falls. These two attractions were well worth the drive.

Munising Falls
This was another beautiful waterfall that we visited. The walk was very short to see the falls and it was a very quick visit. Not a whole lot to say about Munising Falls, other than it enforced how amazing Mother Nature really is.

Trail Running in Munising
After visiting Munising Falls, I took a quick trail run and found myself in the middle of the most beautiful trails known to man. I started from Sandpoint Beach and followed a beaten path to a bridge that wound through a marshy area. About 1/4 mile later, my run opened up to the woods and I found myself running on layers of fallen pine needles and winding through pine trees and lush plants. The weather was a bit warm but breezy since I was just in the woods right off of the lake. About 1.2 miles into my run I came across a water fall that was only accessible on this single beaten path through the woods. Immediately after finding this water fall, I followed the path up a section of wooden steps that took me up and up to the top of the water fall. It was a pretty intense climb up the steps but only because I pushed myself. Once I got to the top, it was worth it, because the breeze picked up and I could feel the winds coming off of Lake Superior from up here. I wish I could have brought my girls up here to see all of this. It really made my day. I continued along the ridge for a while and wanted to keep going, but decided to only go until 1.5 miles and then turn around and head back to the beach (and my girls). This will go down as one of my favorite trail runs of all times.

Sandpoint Beach
After Munising Falls, I took my trail run (above) while Jennifer took the girls to Sandpoint Beach. It was basically right down the road from Munising Falls. The girls waded in Lake Superior up to their chest and the water was probably 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but they didn't seem to care. I got in the water with them for a bit, but not for long. I only got in a little past my knees and that was far enough.

Oswalds Bear Ranch

This was cool! On our way from Munising to Neebish Island, we stopped to visit a place where there were a bunch of black bears. The girls loved it, as did Jennifer and I. A couple of bears came within 5 feet from Jennifer as she was taking their pictures. I'll be sure to post the pictures up to my online photo album soon. For now, I only have this picture of a bear that almost took Lizzie's head off. :)

The Rest...
I still have more to tell, but I'm running out of energy. :) I'll post this for now and hope to have more later including our trip to Neebish Island, and our log cabin in St. Ignace.