Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Last of It Until Later

Last Saturday I got to spend the day out with what I am pretty sure is the last of Winter for 6 months or so.  The drive was dicey but worth it.  I found myself up on a hill listening to big wind bend big pine trees while snow caught me in the face now and then, and it was perfect.  Gray skies and cold temps for the whole morning provided that one last glimpse of the winter before it departed for the southern hemisphere. 


The Drive Down - SR 62, south of Washington Courthouse

In places it was very much like driving in February Ohio.  The snow was for real.  The squalls were just smaller than full fledged storms.  I made it without issue but what a ride...  Adventure is good and bad weather helps sometimes.

Things cleared off just south of Hillsboro and I got back to just regular driving.  The roads were treated and plowed and the snow had stopped the heavy stuff.  I made it by 10 or so without issue.


The hike in was uneventful and cold.  Cold air is easier to breath I think and I made good time in the woods.  The snow was blowing all over the place but it wasn't too bad.  I knew it wasn't going to last out the day so I just decided to be cold a while.  I stopped up on top of the hill and dragged out a new bit of gear I picked up to see how it might do...

The TAD limited edition RMJ Loggerhead

Angry Steve looks right at home in the snow...

Completely by accident I discovered that RMJ had made a hawk with a blunt head face called a Loggerhead.  I went about locating one and wound up with something called  a TAD edition.  I'm still not sure why it matters so much to guy who sold it to me and in the end, I don't really care.  The thing mad me a believer in its first outing.  These are the first swings I took with it and it was pleased.

The wind kept on a while and I mostly just sat and listened, braced up in a big pine, enjoying the last throws of cold for the season.  After a while the wind died down and I decided to seek lower elevation and have some coffee to sort out the rest of my day...  I mean, coffee is the reason, right?



The Esbit / Heavy Cover Coffee Kit Combo performed, once again, in stellar fashion.  The coffee was ready with about 1/3 fuel cube left.  I poured some off to the Kuksa and kept the rest all hot in the canteen cup.  Starbucks Pike Place is never this good in the office.... 

One thing I enjoy immensely is cooking in a campfire.  There are so many good videos out there on how to cook in a canteen cup, it's just hard to nail down a technique better than another.  What I will say though is that this video changed the way I look at it quite a bit.  The idea of baking bannock on the cup with something new for me and I have used it quite a bit in the last couple of years.  This trip was no exception.  The thing about it though is to bake with coals, you need to start with a fire...  It's always something...  Reenter the Loggerhead. :)

Cut it down...

Split it up...

A decently well prepped fire...  (I did do the shavings with the knife there)
Warming cold things by the hot thing, now that it's burning...
Anyhow, as you may have guessed by the pics, a fire was made.  Notice the slow and progressive decline of the snow in each picture.  At first I was bummed because the snow was going.  Then I was really bummed about how we it got and how hard it was to get things to really burn.  We got there though.

The thing is, I am a sucker for sweet baked items with Coffee.  I have this recipe that I use to make a cinnamon sugar and nutmeg campfire bread that is just not to be believed when mixed with Maple Syrup and a good, strong cup of liquid Java hotness...  It doesn't look like much when it's baking but when it's done?


See?  Now that has real promise.


De-foil and add syrup and it is just unbeatable.


Of course, this baked thing requires more of this stuff too.  :)  (Note the full and complete disappearance of the white stuff by now...)



Sometimes it's just good to fill up and sit a while, enjoying the clear entry point of spring into the world in which you live.  I hung out a while, used my knife to mess up a carving or two just messing around, and generally gave some thanks for another complete cycle of the seasons in my life.


By this time, things were starting to close in on the end of the day and even as much as I enjoy being out in this, I really like to be there when my kiddos head off to bed.  They won't be little forever and someday soon I'll have to knock before I go in to check on them.  I decided to head out.  I did snap a few pics along the way though.

That's the last bit of snow I could find as I was getting ready to head out.  Ah well... only 6 months or so to go...

This is the top of the tripod I use for my hammock chair when I am out overnight or in warmer weather.  Some crazy, hillbilly lookin stuff isn't it?  :)

Me, checking out a really big tree on the place I like to go.  Also, testing the use of the timer shots for this sort of thing...

I found this little fella on the way out.  No idea what happened to him...

Ohio Sunset...  Home.

Basically a great day with great tools, great food, and coffee made the way you can only get when it happens outside...  Thanks for looking.

-JP

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Good Kuksa is Worth the Wait

What I find amusing is that this all started because I got lost in the woods...  and I was only in the woods because I was hunting squirrel...  and I only ever learned to hunt squirrel and to love doing it because I was married to my first wife and her father taught me how to hunt...  and I only knew them because of a friend I used to have named Tony who I knew originally as a friend of my best friend.  As in all things, everything is your best friend's fault.

When I was first learning about more advanced outdoor skills I was originally very excited by the idea of knowing 18 ways to make a fire using only organically collected, free range mouse farts and the heat generated by leaves blowing in the wind.  After a while though, I started to realize that the skills were not the stopping point / not the destination for me.  They were really the stepping stone to ensure that when next I was lost, I would likely know what to do to get unlost or remain not dead and unharmed until help could find me.

Around the world these skills are, more and more, being called Bushcraft.  It's a good and fitting name but; In the end though, you have to do something with them or you're just a guy out in the woods with $2000 in gear, making a fire and winding up cordage to save for some later date.  It's not that expensive gear is bad at all.  I have a few things like my canteen sets that cost  ton and seem to be worth every cent.  But like most things though, the products of the skills (fires, shelters, cords, carvings) and the culture around them (gear collectors, knife experts, raving survivalists, etc.) can be filled with folks only interested in those elements.  I'm not sure I know why and I am pretty sure I no longer care about things like; Who has the best knife?  Who makes the best feather sticks?  Who posted the coolest pics on the outings forum?  You know, spontaneously winding cordage at your neighborhood BBQ is an excellent parlor trick.  These things though, they are not for me anymore...

I realized that what I really love is the outdoors itself and I had lost that in there.  The time spent not being bound to a desk or baseball practice or whatever is essential to me.  I like to go from one place to another on foot, through as much natural stuff as possible, and take in the trip along the way.  I also know that I love to write about these things.  Which brings us to here and now...  Coffee in the basement, typing post #1.

That's a heavy Cover Ti canteen cup on an Esbit Stove, surrounded by my workbench and all of its junk...  :)  Starbucks Via - Pike Place, cookin up to steaming goodness.


Like most good ideas I have had, this one started in a bunch of trees and then came to life on a really cluttered work bench, next to my desk.  Welcome to the tales of my coffee making along the trail.  Why coffee?  It's a pretty simple thing really:
  • First - I have been playing out in the trees with the explicit goal of learning things for about 6 years now.  One of the things that is constant in my time out is making a decent cup of Java.  Among the other things I have learned, this one remains a constant regardless of season, company, or other goals for a trip... and I love the stuff.  A good brew at the right time just makes a trip. 
  • Second - It doesn't take a helluva lot to make a really good coffee wherever you are outside.  It packs up small and packs lite.  It's a good reward for the other half of the equation I have concocted here.
  • Third - It compliments almost everything else I get out to do.  It's silent.  It's healthy-ish.  It's a touch rebellious if you know my background.  It's something I like to take pictures of.
  • Fourth - Thinking about it metaphorically, the trail isn't just in the woods and I think writing it down more and more will be good for me, inside this head.
Speaking of gear, over Christmas I was part of a  Secret Santa thing on BCUSA.com.  It got all mixed up and one of the guys not assigned to me, filled in with some last minute stuff to so I wasn't left hanging.  It wasn't really required but I was so grateful.  One of the things that showed up from Amazon with this Kuksa...

Kuksa on my desk, hot Java on board, typing out my thing... :)

Now, I have owned a few of these wooden cups over the years and nearly all have fallen short in my expectations.  They look great but leak or crack or they don't look so great when you get them in person or they just can't take being packed around.  This one was manufactured and not hand made and I suspect cost a good deal less than the ones I had previously.  It completely proved my ideas about these cups false.  If you can find 'er over on Amazon, I think this one is worth a look.  I surely like mine and will be taking it along as much as I can.  The randomness of the good things happening when I have stopped trying to make them happen makes me happy.  Coffee and random cup goodness... worth a smile, every time.

It's about time to wrap this one up.  The wife and kids are barking for outside time and I am honestly with them on this.  More trips in the future me more time away from them so when I am here, I should make the most of it.  :)

Feel free to stop back by.  I'll be posting a bit now and then with my thoughts on coffee and other nonsense that doesn't matter in the material sense but will, with any luck at all, be good for a soul or two.  God Bless and take care...


Monday, January 18, 2016

Out in the January Cold... New Year, New Cutters, New Packs



One of my favorite summertime hangouts, all frozen up...

With MLK day looming large, I hit a spot where I had room to try to shake off the residual holiday season thing and to make an attempt to try to get back to normal. Long weekends and Federal holidays are a welcome thing in my line of work and I decided to make the most of it. Snow and cold were the order of the day. The woods was pretty quiet... seemingly anything with a brain was smarter than me and huddled up out of the cold. Go figure...



Santa Claus was pretty good to me this  year.  His timing was impeccable and coincided with the completion of a batch of RMJ Shrike S13's...  This was my first time using it away from an edge test in the basement.  I was impressed.  I cut that little pile of wood in 6 swings.  Now, you might be thinking, as I did, it was just sort of breaking them but no...


She's a cutter, through and through.  This thing came out of the box ready to shave and stayed that way during this little trip.  Just a solid tool, worth every dime thus far.  I am looking forward to spending the year putting this one through its paces. 

Tracker Packer Guys, eat your hearts out...  :)



One of the ideas that took hold in my head a while ago and has sort of hung on is that, while much is made of the role of the knife in bushcraft, it's been emphasized to the point that it has become an overpriced status symbol and a social proxy for actual skill in many cases.  Summary:  Having a great knife doesn't mean you know how to use it and a great knife isn't really the only thing you need. (Seems funny to talk about expensive knives after that tomahawk thing...  :) ) A good pack that can handle weight and oddball shaped objects comfortably is pretty important.  Having a really warm sleep set up is pretty important.  Good water and cook kit is more significant that you might imagine at first blush.  The list is long.  My goal in all of this rambling in my head and now here was to find a legit knife option for woodcraft that did cost more than my -20 degree bag.  Then I remembered this guy and this video...


So... I picked one of these up from Amazon for about $70 and went to work on it.  2 minutes on the sander to square the spine and 45 minutes on the stones of clear up that factory edge a bit and viola...  bush knife...  and so far, I like it. 

Outing#1 - BK17

I'll run this one for a few months and try to make it go for a year.  In earnest, I am tired of making them and I want to spend my energy elsewhere.  I need an exit strategy and I think this is it.

Anyhow, as with all cold days and new gear, I put things to work finding a place to idle for the afternoon and managed to drop through a little ice and get my boots and pants wet and cold.  It turns out the new stuff was up to the job just fine...


After my pants quit steaming and my feet had come back from the blue side, I figured I would make some lunch. Canteen Cup Chicken Fried Rice was the answer...


Knorr's mixes are Godsend on days like this one.  They are easy to cook, cook fast, fit in my canteen cup to cook, and warm this innards well.  The Titanium canteen cups are some of the best cookers I have ever used... ever...

After lunch a did a little bit of exploring and captured a couple of good shots... mostly just interesting textures or fungi...



As like all days out in the trees, eventually the light started getting a little bit long and the temp started down a little and I decided it was time to depart...


Heading home to the wife and young'uns is always fun after being away in the woods.  I am really looking forward to the day when they are both big enough to handle the cold without worrying me and I can hand them a knife to do a job and not feel like I need to watch them all the time.  Things can only get better up on my hill if the people I car about that much are along with me...

Thanks for reading. 

Oh crap.  Forgot...  Santa brought Kifaru  too...  :)  I'll talk more about it when I have had a chance to get to know it a little better.  It's a different approach to things for me and I want to be completely sure about what I am saying... Later.