67-Year-Old Transatlantic Kayaker’s Goal Achieved, Expedition Continues


from National Geographic- Alex Doba

from National Geographic- Alex Doba

67-Year-Old Transatlantic Kayaker’s Goal Achieved, Expedition Continues – Beyond the Edge.

Another Polak in his 60’s pushing himself. Polish souls are both cursed and blessed with the polish suffering gene.  God loves this man. His last name is so close to the polish word dobra, which translates to good.  

Tim Smith at Snow Walker’s Rendezvous

The 2013 edition of the Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT was a superb.  Many tents were set up with wood smoke puffing out of 4″  stovepipes. Over 100 people attended the sold out weekend.

We opted for a heated bunk room, took in the displays at the vendor tables, and scored up front row seats in the big room for Friday night’s  program.

Willem Lange kicked off the program with a reading of a couple of his highly entertaining Vermont- based stories. Will’s vitae includes 8 books, numerous careers, and founding the Geriatric Adventure Society.

For me, the highlight of the evening was Tim Smith‘s talk-  “Nature as Wallpaper” .  Tim is a nationally known bushcraft and survival skills instructor, with his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School running courses out of Marsadis, Maine.  He posted an entry about his talk on his blog.

Tim  told attendees that his talk would be on the web, soon.   Here is the podcast of that presentation-  it’s short, but drives right to the point.  Tim is an authentic voice connecting people to the natural world.  I hope to take a course with him.

iTunes Link | Play, Download Or Subscribe In iTunes
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 13:45 — 15.7MB)

FSTPKR: Human power from Reno to the Bering Sea

FSTPKR: BLC to the Bering Sea.—-< Click. Now!
You absolutely have to check out what Krudmeister is up to this season. It is practically inconceivable to me that someone has both the interest and the skills to undertake a solo excursion that combines bicycling to Alaska from Reno, then backpacking the Chilkoot Trail out of Skagway, then assembling a kayak and following traversing the length of the Yukon River, all the way to the Bering Sea! What is even more inconceivable is that in this day and age, there will probably be no one who will read about Krud’s adventure in the sport section of a newspaper, where we are exposed to the daily whining of multimillion dollar base and basketball stars.
Krud is one of my virtual friends. He figured into a couple of my gear acquisitions.  I came to know  him when he and Scott Williamson broke the Pacific Crest Trail Speed record, I think in 2006.  I went to my local Patagonia outlet and showed them his blog. He was and maybe still is a Patagonia customer service employee.  He was trumping up their Houdini jacket, and one of the employees gave me one, that I used on my PCT and Long Trail thru hikes. It is still as good as new.

Then he posted a picture of some wildly garish New Balance shoes that I tracked down through my brother Roy, who works for the company. They are a product that is sold in Japan.
I though of Krudmeister yesterday when I was aglow with the shoes on my birthday.
Krud, want a pair to wear when you get back?

Not Turning Back Can Kill You

Reposting  a most excellent entry from our brethren in the kayaking school of adventure. The content is Labrador-related and references “the book” that got me and Alan MacKinnon into Labrador way back when.

Here’s the teaser:  “Their story has lessons for all of us who venture into the unknown, whether it be taking a back road to cut across town, guessing left at a fork in a hiking trail, or guessing right at a confluence of two rivers.  Their refusal to turn back, despite mounting evidence that they had taken a “wrong turn” followed stages many of us are familiar with.”

News Flash: Map & Territory Not Same | Waterlines — A Maine Sea Kayaking Journal.

An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe : NPR

An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe  by Emma Jacobs

via An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe : NPR.

Joe was the native guide on a 200 mile canoe trip I took on the Grand River in Labrador several years ago. He was the kindest, most humble, and most knowledgeable outdoors man I have ever met.  Joe, and especially his brother Horace, are probably the last of the line to possess the encyclopedia of skills that encompass trapping, bush survival skills, hunting, and survival in the harshest environment I have ever traversed.  For a glimpse of this life, read Rugge and Davidson’ Great Heart, now back in print.  I consider Great Heart a treasure of a read, one that I have enjoyed several times.  The book inspired my own motorcycle trip to Labrador in 1993, when my friend Alan MacKinnon and I were the among the first motorcyclists to traverse the newly constructed gravel-and-sand Trans Labrador Highway. The mosquitoes there were so bad that nothing I have encountered since seems too bad, including a month in Alaska and 6 months on the PCT.

“What I learned from hiking ?” from Joe Niemczura

A truly enjoyable and very informative read from my friend Joe. I truly appreciate the time he spent on this entry. Please take advantage of the numerous hotlinked references.

What Have I learned from hiking 
 by Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

The guy who played accordion for my old polka band, Tom Jamrog, is also a long distance hiker and backpacker. He blogs about his trips, and has a vigorous writing style. He recently posed a question on his blog; “what have you learned from Hiking?” and I decided to answer.

Troop 4 Marlboro, Algonquin Council B.S.A., Camp Resolute

I have been a hiker and backpacker all my life, ever since Boy Scouts. Growing up, my mom generally refused to let us ever play inside the house, even in winter. “So what if it’s cold, put on some mittens and your winter boots and go outside and play!” and I vividly recall games the neighborhood boys would play in the woods around our house or on the nearby golf course. Usually some variation of Capture The Flag.

As a youthful prank, my friend Kenny Paul and I once threw some firecrackers at the house of a neighbor boy. (Yes, it was us – the Statute of Limitations has run out, and besides, I think I was eleven years old.) The boy’s mom called the police. Ken was the star of the crosscountry team, and when the cruiser pulled up with blue lights blinking, I was surprised that I could keep up with him. Two cruisers spent some time in our neighborhood while Kenny and I spent the next three hours eluding them in an apple orchard. hmmmmm……. Later this inspired me to join the cross country team. I ran the the half mile in spring track. (2:14 was my personal best, if you really must know).

Kenny recently retired from his position as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, and he still is a runner. My older brother finally rediscovered his whereabouts after thirty years. Ken was also an excellent baseball pitcher. Once while on a training run though the neighborhood, a dog came out to chase. Kenny picked up a rock and beaned the dog from fifty feet away, knocking it unconscious. What coordination. I laughed when he told me his USMC specialty was artillery. He spent his adult life throwing stuff at people…..

Misery in the Great Outdoors

Camping with the Boy Scouts included a lot of miserable experiences amidst the fun. I never cooked for myself at home before going camping and trying it there. Baking my first potato in a campfire was half-burnt/half-raw, for example, and one memorable hike during a winter weekend, our patrol ploughed our way through thighdeep snow for three miles on a hike to nowhere. Ultimately I got Eagle Scout. why? mainly because my older brother had done it, and I looked up to him ( still do!).

Other experiences

To answer the specific question, It’s hard for me to separate hiking from Boy Scouts, in terms of what I learned. Don’t disrespect the Boy Scouts – I have some philosophical differences with their current leadership, over the ir policy toward gay persons and atheists (each of which are just fine with me) but overall the Boy Scouts fill an important need. Paul Theroux summed it up for me when he described his experience with the Boy Scouts.

Taking a side trail

During the time I was in Maine I did all the outdoorsy stuff – cross country ski, canoe ( the Allagash and Upper West Branch of the Penobscot) , hike, telemark, etc. I climbed Mt Washington and Katahdin in wintertime more than once…. but by comparison, the last few years in Hawaii I went through a period of not doing nearly much adventure-type stuff in the outdoors. Oh well, yeah, I was spending every summer time in rural Nepal teaching with Christian Medical Missionaries and taking day hikes, doing the Asian Travel thing (no, I did not climb Everest at any time…….that’s the usual Nepal question I get from fellow backpackers…) and here in Hawaii I was going to the beach (Sandy’s) and day hiking… but .. it wasn’t the Real Thing. And the weather here is so nice that it’s missing an element …….

Passing it on

I always took my kids on outdoorsy adventures. Glad to have two daughters because then the pressure was off and I knew I would never have to be an adult scout leader. I was saved from having to spend any more weekends with bunches of eleven-year-old boys. (thank you God!) but taught both my girls all the skills anyway. Yes, both my kids learned to make a fire, paddle a canoe, predict the weather by looking at the clouds, and read a topo map. When they were six and eight, we took them on a week long canoe camping trip, retracing Thoreau’s path on the Upper West Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine. When the younger one announced her intention to do a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2010, I was reminded of long-ago solemn promise made at a campfire, that I would join her on that quest, should the day ever come.

My 2010 hike

When the summons to hike long-distance came, I was old. And fat. But this served as a personal challenge to get into enough shape to be a respectable hiking buddy. And that’s where the learning began again. In order to keep up with Whoopie Pie, I decided I would do my own solo hike for a few hundred miles and get in shape before hand. And besides, she didn’t want to do the whole thing with me, she was going to hike her own hike. So in May I started off in the hundred or so miles that traverse Massachusetts, averaging eight miles a day through the Berkshires. A few days to recuperate and restarted in Vermont, about two hundred miles through the Green Mountains and into New Hampshire, by this time averaging eleven miles a day. Another hundred through Shenandoah National Park, and finally co-hiked with Whoopie Pie. By the end of the summer I was not so fat; and I learned that I was not so old, either. I hiked 475 miles in that summer.


I think most writers focus on the physical challenge of doing this, but most of the highlights for me were a bit of the meditative variety, and a good hike serves as a daydream for a long time afterwards. A variety of mountaintops in seven states. Hearing loons on a pond on Vermont, for the first time in five years. The night at the Tom Leonard Lean-to listening to nesting hoot owls. Cleaning the dead leaves from a mountain spring, and the wonderment of finding a fist-sized jellylike clump of frog’s eggs. The evening Julie and lay in our bunks in a cabin in Vermont listening to the soft conversations of other hikers during six days of cold rain in the Green Mountains. The “problem bear” at Shenandoah when I was the only person in the lean-to that night. Having heatstroke on two occasions. The bedazzlement of thousands of butterflies, a cloud of butterflies, in a dewy meadow of wildflowers in Shenandoah National Park. Being sick with bronchitis and experiencing SVT overnight after taking cough medicine, wondering how I would get evacuated from such a remote place. Walking out on my own the next morning.

And of course – Smarts Mountain

The people who comprise the subculture of the Trail are always a highlight, and I learn a lot from them. One day’s hike sticks out. I got to the Fire Warden’s cabin at Smart’s Mountain New Hampshire at the end of a fourteen mile day, knowing for the last five miles that I needed to beat an oncoming thunderstorm. The approach from the south is very steep, with iron rungs forming a sort of ladder over the steepest sections. The rain pelted down, forming a waterfall on the trail as I ascended. At one point my heart sank when the clouds parted and I realized I was nowhere as close as I thought I was, darkness was approaching and I needed to skedaddle. Lightning was hitting less than a half mile away as I got above timberline, dashing the last half mile like a frenzied animal.

To get there I had elected to hop past the Trapper John leanto, but to my surprise I was passed from behind at the last minute by Roaring Lion and Snow White, two through-hikers who had hopped past two leantos, and come from six miles even further south than me that day. One other guy was already there. The cabin smelled of dead porcupine but the roof was intact. RL, SW, and I each got out of our clothes and did what all long distance hikers do – get into the dry sleeping bag, eat something, and regain some strength. As we lay there we agreed that the lightning was – exciting.

Everything I learned in Boy Scouts told me not to do what I just did.

Then we had dinner, and the usual bull session as we got to know each other. We shared that special comraderie of people who know that what they just did, (hiking uphill into a lightning storm,) was crazy; and yet, who know they are also in the company of others equally crazy.

Best summed in a saying

A friend is somebody who will bail you out of jail. A best friend is somebody who in handcuffed on the bench next to you saying “man, that was awesome”

Later that same summer, I did a 22 mile day in Shenandoah National Park. And a few other feats in which I picked them up and put them down. The highlight was to hold my own when I finally caught up with my old hiking buddy, Whoopie Pie.

From then on, for the rest of that summer, I knew: I can still push myself, further and harder than I thought.

And I have some best friends. On the Trail.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous, 2009 Part 1 of 3

Nov. 13-15  in Fairlee, Vermont on the grounds of the Hulbert Outdoor Center, a decades old historic camp on the shore of Lake Morey.  It sold out, as usual,  with 100 winter campers and a few snow walker wanna bees in attendance.
Last year at this time I made an entry about the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous,  where the big event was Alan Brown “torching some tents” , generating over a thousand of hits on my YouTube channel.  The Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous (SWR) is a November weekend focused on old-school human winter travel, be it assisted by snowshoes, cross country skis, dogsleds, or rubber boots.

We had a never ending ride over there from Lincolnville, ME taking a full 7 hours due to a wrong turn that put us in Portland, where we made the best of it by decimating the lunchtime Italian extravaganza at Ricetta’s which has a huge pizza/ salad/ smorgasboard of delights.

We got to Vermont in time to indulge in libations and snacks and then settled into supper and the evening program.

The folks who are regulars at this event continue to amaze me.  Marcia and I ate our dinners next to Joel and Bev Hollis from MA, a normal looking couple who have no problem taking off for a couple of months each summer and canoeing some arduous boreal rivers that have killed a number of lesser folk.

“Hey, Joel,  where did you go this summer, ”  I asked, not even considering the possibility that they do normal things, like remodel their kitchen?

“Northwest Territories,” he replied.

“And kayaked some river? “

“Yep, the Yukon” , he replied.

“How much of it”,  I asked ?

“All of it.”  So that would be about 2,000 miles, which took them some 70 days.  Unsupported.  Yep. The Hollis’s are the real deal.

Then I turned to my friend Dick Hampton, and asked him what he was up to.  He talked about heading up to do a 35 mile loop off the St. John River this winter. We’ve done a couple of winter trips together, and when I asked him to give me a call if he wanted company,  he sheepishly replied, “Every once in a while I do crazy things, like walk over frozen rivers alone.  I am thinking I will do the trip solo.”

So a small sample of what this crowd is up to.

The program ran from 7:30- 9 PM.
The talks were started up by three readings from Willem Lange, who also opened up last year.  He even asked one of my friends what he had read last year, and then proceeded to read the same three stories.   Didn’t matter, I have one of his books, with those stories, and still enjoyed the surprise endings.
Next was Sayward Chartrand’s commuter assisted presentation about the past three years she had spent teaching in a tiny high school Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec.
Zabe McEachern wrapped up the evening with a photo presentation and stories of a recent winter skiing trip she made to Norway, with close commentary of the snowshoeing and skiing cultures.
The Saturday program looked to be one of the best I’ve experienced there. Insert a bunch of sleep relted-images here and then catch Saturday’s entry.

Backpacking Stove Review- Bushcooker Titanium LT 1

Bushcooker Lt1 Titanium Backpacking Stove

Manufacturer: Four Dog Stoves, 25909 Variolite St., NW, St. Francis, MN 55070
Year Released: 2009
Listed Weight: 2.5 oz.
Actual Weight: 2.3 oz.
Height: 4”
Diameter: 3.5 “
Stove material: Titanium, made in USA
Price: $80.
Warranty: Limited. Lifetime warranty on burnout and workmanship.
Manufacturer URL: http://www.fourdog.com/

Lt 1 Set up in Upper Photo

Lt 1 Set up in Upper Photo

I have been a backpacker for 45 years, completing a through hikes of the Appalachian Trail in 2007, and the PCT in 2010. I consider myself a “lightweight” backpacker. I generally hike in New England, where there is an abundance of wood fuel and kindling for fueling backpacking stoves.

Field Conditions:
I have used the Bushcooker Lt1  on a canoeing trips,  day hikes, on a porch outside the kitchen, on the picnic table at our rustic Maine “camp”, and now for over 3,000 miles and over 6 months of backpacking.

Why the Bushcooker Lt I ?
I am huge a fan of wood-burning stoves. I have two stoves that have served as primary heat for my house for the past 31 years, and another at my Maine camp. I have owned and used two Sierra Zip stoves for a couple of decades. I modified one of those stoves to reduce the weight to 10 oz., by substituting titanium parts, and used the stove daily for the first 200 miles of my 2007 AT thru-hike.
I am an enthusiastic subscriber to the concept of using dry, dead wood for fuel. I have practiced building fires of all types, and have no problem with the fact that wood smoke particulates blacken the outside of a cook pot. The smell of wood smoke is actually appealing to me, and I am not repelled by the fact that cooking with wood is likely to permeate your clothing with that odor, or fragrance, as you see fit. If you are a clean freak who is bothered by black pots, and “eau-de-smoke” cologne, then you’ll be challenged by a Bushcooker relationship.
I have been using my own home-made double walled wood backpacking stove for close to a year and a half now. My blog article- The Evolving Backpacking Wood Stove,  has received over 16,425 and  the accompanying YouTube video has seen 30,165  hits to date.
In 2009  Don Kevilus, owner of Four Dog Stoves, supplied with two models of his US made titanium multi-fuel backpacking stoves  and have been using them even since.

This review will focus on the Bushcooker Lt1. The stove is shaped like a tiny metal volcano, with 4 support stand fins protruding from the top. It is made from 7 pieces of titanium. If you look down into the center, you see a straight walled inner burn chamber, with a multiply-finned disc which serves as the bottom of the burn chamber, designed to maximize turbulence and improve combustion.

Inside View

Inside View

Air to fuel the burn is through a series of holes in the lower outer wall of the stove. There are additional holes at the top of the inner sleeve which channels additional air into the flame path. The whole stove fits neatly into a Snow Peak Trek 700 titanium cooker, which itself weighs 4.8 oz., with lid, a setup that protects the stove in a backpack.

Don also supplies a titanium windscreen. Notice the modification to the SnowPeak mug, which  I purchased from Four Dog Stoves , consisting of two additional tabs spot welded near the top of the unit which allows for a titanium wire that serves as a bail/handle that  allows me to hang the stove over existing campfires, or to easily move the unit.

Field Use:
The usual constraints about burning of wood apply here. It is not as easy as you think to strike a lighter to some dry looking twigs and have a boil rolling in 5 minutes. It takes practice to get good at building fires. Lots of practice is best. The secret us to use very thin wood. Start small. We are talking initial twigs the size of pencil lead. I shred dry white birch bark, get it to flame, then add a pinch of tiny branches, let that flame, then put in a pinch every 2 minutes, until critical mass is achieved.
Now comes the best part. This is not just a wood stove. It is specifically created to burn fuel sources one uses while backpacking: denatured alcohol, yellow bottles of gas-line antifreeze, solid fuel tablets (Esbits or Coghlan), and even charcoal.

To Burn Wood:
Gather dry grass, leaves, shredded birch bark, toothpick sized twigs, and small pieces of wood no thicker than a pencil. Place a small amount on the bottom of the inside, light a shred of birch bark, throw it in, and then brush the little pile in there against the burning bark and it should catch. Once the flame start to get higher, and it does very quickly with dry material, you can add more. I usually do it at two minute intervals to start.

Lt 1, SnowPeak 700, and custom windscreen/cozy

Lt 1, SnowPeak 700, with windscreen

The pot supports allow sufficient room between the top of the stove and the base of the cook pot for you to to insert more fuel without removing the pot.

To Burn Alcohol:
The stove is manufactured to accept a low profile container for alcohol use. Don initially recommended using a lid from a shoe polish container, which holds approximately 1 ounce of alcohol. Simply place the lid on a stable surface, fill it with alcohol, and light it. After about 10 seconds, the flame reaches its maximum height, and then you place the stove over the lid and watch the magic, if it is not sunny and bright out . New models of the Bushcookers can also be supplied with an alcohol stove that can be either placed inside the burn chamber, or used alone in conjunction with the supplied windscreen and 2 tent stakes.

  An alcohol flame is next to impossible to see if broad daylight, and caution is urged in these conditions, as many a hiker has been burned reaching in to relight their alcohol stoves, only to painfully realize that there is a vigorous flame established. Ask me how I learned about this!

To Burn Charcoal:
There is usually ample unburned charcoal present for most backpackers to utilize if they frequent campsites that have received prior use, present in fire rings. The non-uniform nature of this charcoal does complicate use, and my recommendation is to begin to experiment with charcoal fires by taking along a few commercial charcoal briquettes, until you learn the ins and outs of this system.
It takes me 4 standard briquettes to fill the LT1. The technique is then to set up burning alcohol in the tin, and then place the stove ( filled with charcoal) on the burning alcohol. Why not  capture the heat that is lost to the atmosphere in igniting the charcoal by heating up a cup of water in your cook pot and enjoying a hot drink while the charcoal starts glowing ?
Some may question, “Why charcoal?” and the the answer is baking quick breads, biscuits, muffins, and even cookies. You can employ a commercial Bakepacker or the Outback Oven here, or even make your own, a topic I have addressed in  my blog entry- Even More Baking on the Bushcooker.

Lt 1 Boil Times with 16 oz. of water in SnowPeak 700 Trek Ti ( with lid). No wind conditions at time of testing. You should be aware that metals vary in their ability to conduct heat in terms of boil times. For the same amount of water, aluminum pots boil the fastest, followed by anodized steel, then titanium, with stainless steel the slowest to transfer heat. Wider bases cook faster than narrow ones.

I  got the quickest boil times with alcohol, employing less than 1 oz. of alcohol to reach a boil in 4 minutes and 20 seconds. It should be also noted that the LT 1 working in alcohol mode is more efficient than at least one  standard cat-can type alcohol stove.  The same 2 cups of water took 5 minutes 40 seconds to boil in my Etowah  stove, obtaining a 30 percent reduction in burn time with the LT1r.  The Bushcooker kept  burning the remainder of the 1 oz. of alcohol for a full minute and 15 seconds after it reached boiling, suggesting that less alcohol would be needed to achieve a boil when compared to a standard cat-can style alcohol stove.

Using dry wood, I was able to boil  2 cups of water in 7 minutes and 20 seconds, from scratch- meaning striking the match.  I  generally ignite birch bark tinder and start adding wood fuel. Field conditions may add additional time, due to collecting the wood, and even prepare it for burning, if wet conditions are encountered.

One feature of the LT 1 that assists with damp wood use is to combine fuel types in the chamber.  If I really want to get the fire going quickly, I dribble 3 or 4 CC’s of alcohol on top of the pile of wood inside the chamber and ignite.  If fact, I recommend that the user carry a small bottle of alcohol to use as a primer in the stove.  It helps with learning to get good at fire buildingy, and later may be used exclusively where wood fires are not permitted, or if it is soaking conditions out here.

Charcoal burn times would be equivalent to those obtained by alcohol, as alcohol is used to kindle the charcoal pieces.  Note that may charcoal experiments have the charcoal glowing for 45 minutes, providing plenty of time for baking, or even grilling.

Boil time with 1.5 fuel tablets ( Coghlan) was 8 minutes 10 seconds ( 1.5 tablets). One Coghlan tablet weighs 0.2 oz. It should be noted that the traditional Esbit tablet weighs 0.5 oz.

Weight: At 2.3 ounces , the titanium Lt 1 blows any other backpacking wood stove in terms of weight. It even trumps the weight of some commercially obtained alcohol stoves, and is way ahead in weight you put it up against stoves with fuel canisters, or need to carry around a 12 oz. bottle of alcohol.
Adaptability: The LT 1 stove fits into several commercially obtained pots: the Snow Peak Trek 700ml , the Tibetan Titanium 700ml, the Evernew 640ml , and the Evernew Pasta Pot Small, thus adding no additional space in a backpack. There are also no restrictions in taking it on an airplane. Use in wood-burning mode should greatly expand one’s ability to extend the stay in wilderness situations that can be cut short by lack of fuel resupply opportunities, as is the case for hikers using fuel canisters, liquid fuels, or relying solely on alcohol.
Baking Ability: Enabled via the use of charcoal or even solid fuel tablets, with the addition of 2 lightweight aluminum cans and a handmade cozy. What could be better than ramping up to occasionally indulge in fresh-baked carbos on an extended trip ?

Grilling Ability: Grilled Spam anyone?

Grillin' up Spam

Grillin' up Spam

I recently  engaged in yet another use of the new Bushcooker Lt 1 stove: the grilling option. Skewering a 1/2-inch thick slab with my Mora knife I was delighted to discover that the width of the slice allowed me to fit it between the pot mounts.

Heat/Comfort Source: People have been congregating around fires for millenniums. The proximity to controlled fire is calming and pleasing. After boiling in cold or wet conditions, you can continue to add wood and build up a bed or coals that can heat you, particularly if you use a poncho for rain gear. Simply sit over the stove, drape the poncho around your outstretched legs, and make a gas escape hole around the back of your neck. This set-up will allow one to raise the temperature inside the poncho several degrees, which is sometimes all you need to start to feel comfortable.

Bug Repellant: A traditional technique used to ward off mosquitoes is the smudge fire. Using this stove in wood mode allows one to add wet organic material such as pine needles, or forest floor duff to generate clouds of smoke.

On a recent canoe trip to northern Maine with particularly bad mosquitoes, we ran the stove straight out for several hours on a daily basis, moving it around on the picnic table to suit the wind conditions.
Lifetime use: What’s to wear out with titanium? The ability to nest the stove in a lidded pot protects the pot support fins, which might be damaged if they were to snag an article of clothing in the pack.
Quiet: No whirring motor, or jet engine whooshing here, just the occasional pop of cracking wood.

Compromised use: You have to know how to build wood fires to enjoy this stove, even if you just need to get a couple of ounces of wood to burn. The more you practice building fires, the better you will get at using this stove in wood mode. Wood mode is not the fastest way to cook, and you must take the time to gather up wood before you sit down and fire up the stove in wood mode. One practice I’ve used that help me out is to pocket some dry birch or such while hiking during the day. You will be challenged to burn wood in wet conditions, and it takes experience to do so.
It Billows Smoke: In wood mode, you will encounter clouds of smoke. Some people object to this.
Black Deposits on Cooking Pot: Going to happen. Some people go to extremes like rubbing soap on the bottom of their pot and washing it off send they get home. I let my pot blacken, and store the pot/stove in a small black Cordura roll top bag I had made for my unit, to keep the pot from blackening my gear in the backpack. The bag is big enough to store dry kindling, fire starters in the bottom.  I occasionally scrape off the built-up creosote with the back side of my knife, or a sharp edged rock.
Restrictions on Use: In some protected areas of National Forests, “fires” are not permitted. Switch to alcohol/tabs in those situations.
Need to remember to bring vessel to burn alcohol: Remember to add the lid from a shoe polish can, or Four Dog’s alcohol unit when using alcohol mode.
Burns Holes on Wooden Base: Be sure to put a flat rock, or metal cover of some type under the unit if you are placing it on a wooden structure, such as a picnic table.
Initial Cost: Titanium is expensive, although one has to consider the true lifetime cost of any alternative stove that requires repeated purchases of fuel cannisters and such.

Overall Impressions:
This stove should satisfy the requirements of resourceful backpackers who are interested in adapting their fuel conditions to varying backpacking environments.  I am recently a convert to combining fuels depending on the field conditions, what  have in my pack, and what I can garner while hiking.

The big drawback to using wood stoves out on the trail is what to do when there is no decent wood to burn or if there has been rain for days. The ability to carry alcohol or fuel tablets to burn within the LT 1 helps one deal with that.

Lobster Lake canoe trip – Part 3/final

The sunrise this third day indicated a possibly clear day.

Sunrise from  Odgen Point

Sunrise from Odgen Point

By six am I had the first two of our six pots of coffee happily bubbling away.  Nearby a family of ducks were frantically nabbing what I assume were tiny fish that were hanging out near the edge the sand.
It wasn’t long before Pat was up and we had the three smudge pots in full force again, with bad mosquito mojo on the rapid rise.

Dave is a master at whipping up excellent breakfasts, and this pound of bacon was served up with a killer batch of pancakes , butter, and maple syrup.

Dave with the Big Pan

Dave with the Big Pan

After a few more coffees, we started talking about the history of the early settlers of this area. Catholic missionaries were the first to wedge a toehold with the natives, who eventually were “converted” and started the slow acculturation slip that eventually left them as lost souls with each foot in separate worlds.

While stoking the smudge pots, we bumbled our way to a huge, and even possibly accurate idea- that the Catholic Church’s early growth in the Great North Woods was not the result of any sort of religious awakening on the part of the natives, but might have been solely due to the missionaries’ ability to generate huge clouds of incense which repelled mosquitoes and black flies! We thought we were really on to something and were stunned that this concept was not included in Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller “ The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”.
My quick online search revealed that both the Catholic, and now those Johnny-come-lately Wiccan, churches still use incense, which they both burn in a “thurible” or “censer.” The thurible holds burning charcoal (or wood) to ignite the incense and hangs on chains so that it may be swung by the priest when censing people, or mosquitoes. You just know they were swinging that censer to increase the oxygen flow to the charcoal , fire up the coals, supercharge that incense, and get that cloud up to size .
So, here’s my current Christmas wish item, available online from Invictus Alchemy.



“This brass hanging censer is 3″ diameter and over all 6″ high. Very effective. Comes with chain as well. Sized for cones and charcoal, available immediately at just $11.85 ! I wonder if I can get a titanium model to take backpacking? I am also going to field test some frankincense or maybe that old-school myrrh stuff.

We’re into it. Here’s a shot of Pat getting ready to head on over and cense the outhouse!

Ancient religious ritual in progress

Ancient religious ritual in progress

View down Lobster Lake

View down Lobster Lake

The circumnavigation of Big Island was the major excursion of our day. We fought the wind and the waves and headed south down the east side of the island, even exploring a beach where we picked up some dry firewood.
Around Big Island

Around Big Island

 We stopped to fish for a while in the coves at the south side but didn’t even get a nibble. Eventually we caught the wind at our backs, and spent the return back to our site with the two canoes lashed together as we drifted back on the tailwind.

Our hopes were high for the afternoon wind to be strong enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay, but we soon learned that a gale force blow would be needed for that to occur. Within minutes of settling in at the picnic table, a gust of wind tore the tent stakes out of the ground and the tarp battered the table, dashing pots, pans, and cups onto the sandy ground. But those pesky mosquitoes came right back.

Later, we all went swimming to clean up, wash off grime, and escape the bugs.

Clear swiming pool

Clear swiming pool

In the end, it’s all about food, shelter, clothing but mostly about food, which is what has appealed to me about this trip. At lunch today, a wonderful idea fell from my mind right onto the picnic table.
It started Hank was hacking a slice of Spam from a 12 oz. can. I. cringed when I realized he was actually placing an uncooked pinky-grey slab on a decent slice of multigrain boule.   I’m a proud fan of grilled spam and after Hank offered me use of the stuff, I rapidly engaged in yet another use of the new Bushcooker Lt 1 stove: the grilling option. I skewered a 1/2 inch thick slab with my Mora knife and was delighted to discover that the width of the slice allowed me to fit it between the pot mounts.

Tom grillin' Spam and boilin' up soup

Tom grillin' Spam and boilin' up soup

And then even greater satisfaction came my way when I was able to place my pot of soup on the stove to reheat, even as the Spam slice was grilling away to perfection. For me, “Opportunity is the mother of invention”.

We were out early the next day, as Hank had a musical engagement with his band, All That Jazz, at the Elm Street Grill in Camden at 6 PM. It was raining again as we departed, but the wind was mostly at our backs. There was enough wind to generate whitecaps, and we had to be careful to keep the canoes from being broadsided by the waves as we eventually found the inlet to Lobster Stream, and meandered back to the car, where we quickly loaded the gear. Once inside the car, we proceeded to deal with the hundreds of mosquitoes that found their way in.

When we eventually reached Millinocket, it was about 11 AM, and we hit the Appalachian Trail Cafe for lunch , where I spotted Paul “Old Man” Senechal, who I was familiar with from my travels on the Trail . Paul and I commiserated a bit about this year’s wet hiking season, but he was making good money with lots of AT shuttles, and told me he spent 11 hours shuttling hikers the day before.
He also said that this was reported to be the first year in recent memory that the mosquitoes were attacking full force in downtown Millinocket, a town hit so hard by the recent economic downturn that Main Street ‘s storefronts are now more empty than full.
Anyone who want to make some quick money up Millinocket way should seriously consider opening up a boreal division of Holy Smoke Supply Central. I definitely would have spent big stocking up on the good stuff for my next trip up these parts.



Lobster Lake canoe trip – Part 2

We awoke to rain and an initial tent exit strategy that required me to somehow clear out a hunkering carpet of hundreds of mosquitoes poised against the front screen who were intent on getting into our tent.
I was first up at around 6 AM, when I proceeded to fire up Hank’s Coleman gas stove and fill and cook up three percolators of coffee.

Espresso machine and eager clients

Espresso machine and eager clients

Nine pots later we felt we had enough. Here’s a brief video clip of Hank on mucho caffeine.

Eventually Dave and the other two rolled out their sleeping bags, and after multiple cups of coffee, with the overflow safely housed in Pat’s antique thermos, Dave prepared an excellent breakfast of orange juice, scrambled eggs and cheese, sausage, and tortillas.
We were faced with day two of incessant, unrelenting attacks of mosquitoes from everywhere we turned. Eventually we all retreated to the tents where my supposedly quick entry reduced me to screaming when I realized that close to three dozen drill-bit-mouthed visitors were the new tenants of our tent. It took about 15 minutes of Hank and I crushing them against the wall of the tent before we felt safe in there. Bloody mess for sure.
Then Pat and I spent two hours after breakfast carving spoons, while the master carver Hank mastered both a spoon and a knife in that same time.

Master carver Hank

Master carver Hank

We initially split slabs out of an old chunk of cedar.

Pat's production gets a critical eye

Pat's production gets a critical eye

Then we employed the axe to rough out spoon shapes, followed by thousands of tiny knife strokes, to slowly process our utensils.  Hank searched out several small abrasive rocks that we used as scrapers to smooth the surface. Two hours of this went by in a flash, with me all the while generating billows of mosquito -repellent smoke from the Lt 1 and the LT 2 titanium backpacking stoves. Pat was a master at firing his home made Bushcooker stove, and the little trio of smoke and fire machines made life around the picnic table bearable.
Hank discovered that the two pools of rainwater that were collecting in the low points of our tarp could be successfully retained by pressing a grommet on each edge of the fly, and collecting them in our canteens and cooking pots.

“There isn’t one part of me that hasn’t been bitten,” said Hank.
It was the truth. Hank exposed his arm in the tent when I counted 9 bites on just 1 square inch of his forearm, and he had been extra careful about covering himself up (Ed. Note> When Hank returned home two days later, he discovered that he also contracted a nasty rashes from poison ivy.). Multiply the 9 by his total skin surface area ( typically noted to be 3,000 square inches) , and I’d guess he was bitten close to 27,000 times. Seems about right for what I saw.

Later that afternoon we watched two large canoeing parties approach our site. I was really anxious that they would occupy the Ogden South site adjacent to us. The first group of four canoes was a convoy, which were leashed together and dragged down the lake via the assistance of a motor on the first canoe.

" Just keep on chugging by..., please  ???"

" Just keep on chugging by..., please ???"

They went right by .
The second group was a different story. It looked like Club Med was headed right for us, an armada of 5 cooler-laden canoes complete with babes in bikinis, bare shirted guys with party hats, and even one young man paddling leisurely as he reclined on a lawn chair that was propped up in his canoe. They drifted back and forth up the lake clueless, and headed straight for the campsite next door, and well within earshot of our tents.
Pat suggested we quickly erect up some signs along the flavor of “Life for Lifers” or “Felons Are Friends”. I agreed to intervene to attempt to move them down the lake to a more remote site. Our plan was for me to pay a friendly visit to the site and inform the group that I was supervising a trio of newly released violent prisoners from the Maine state prison
who were here in an effort to begin their adjustment period. Thankfully, they moved on without my intervention and we never saw them again.
Then Pat and I were going to canoe around Big Island, but my Highgear watch registered that the barometric pressure had dropped to 29.62 just it started to pour (The normal, average sea-level pressure is about 29.92 inches.).
By 4 PM, much harder rain began to fall, which I’d accurately term a deluge.
Soon Hank, Dave, and I retreated to the tents. Within minutes, Hank was sleeping by my side, and Dave was snoring away in his tent on the other end of the site. Pat was sawing real wood and cursing under his breath about some vexing event.
We dodged the rain and it was my turn to cook supper. I built a big fire and let it burn down to a bed of thick coals. Then on went two foil wrapped packets of sliced summer squash, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. A little olive oil , salt, and pepper improved the taste. The main course was steak, marinated in oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and feta cheese.  The steaks were grilled over the coals and a paste of green and black olives, feta cheese, oil and vinegar was spread on the top. The feed was accompanied by fresh biscuits that were successfully baked in my reflector oven. Of course, I served up 8 mini Whoopie Pies for dessert.
All in all, it was a very satisfying rainy day here on Ogden Point. Our little competent group had no problems at all dealing with the rain or the repeated threats our quiet little world being over run by two phalanxes of noisy campers. I even had my very own wooden souvenirs ( Note it is a practical object) to bring home.

My cedar spoon

My cedar spoon