Alchohol stoves from Maine

I just picked up a couple of new alcohol stoves from Tinny at minibulldesign.com .  The company is based here in Maine, up in the tiny berg of Corrina. Tinny appears to be a machinist, who used to work at the now defunct Sylvania light bulb plant up that way.  His website is more than interesting, with beaucoup Youtube productions of his stoves in action.  At last count, he has 21 types in production.  He also has a video blog with clips of his machinery in action.  One of his recent videos reports that he finished up order number seven hundred and something.  His stuff is machined very well, and his stoves, although presenting at first glance as typical soda can variety, are a step up from home made, as they have none of the high temperature tape or JB Weld assembly approaches that we home tinkerers resort to.  All his stoves are constructed using a press fit with a hot roll crimp at the base to lock the two halves together. There is no tape or glue used in the construction.
I bought the Magic Mouse #1 and the Elite#2.
The Magic Mouse #1

Magic Mouse #1
Magic Mouse #1

is tiny, just over an inch in diameter and just over two inches high, costing $20.  It does not require a stand or pre-heater lid to boil water, as Tinny employs an ingenious bonded wick method to prime the unit.

I also like the Elite#2, weighing in at just 0.2 ounces, costing $10.   It is another weentzer, constructed from two energy drink cans and jetted to burn 90% pure alcohol at a rate of 1oz in 10 minutes.  This is a very frugal stove perfect for the solo backpacker who is counting grams and only cooking for one. According to Tinny, using this stove and burning frugally, you can cook 32 meals on one 16oz bottle of fuel.

The ELITE will preheat and blossom in about 15 seconds. Once preheated simply place your pot directly on top of the stove and begin cooking.

Elite #2
Elite #2

I plan to use either of these two stoves as back up units with my woodburning set up, detailed on a previous blog post.  They will easily fit inside the woodburner, along with a 4 OZ. squeeze bottle of alcohol.
I like supporting a maine business as well.  Service was very quick.
Check out Tinny’s everchanging video blog entries, again accesible from his web site.  The man has energy.

Christmas 2008

Santa was good to us this year at 290 High St, Lincolnville, Maine. It was just Marcia and I this time, as Lincoln and Arlo were spending the holiday week together in Bozeman , MT at Lincoln’s place for a week of cooking of Polish food , snowboarding, and having adventures of their own in some of the most beautiful country in the whole world.
Breakfast was special. I defrosted three of my mother Isabel’s home made pancakes, and adorned them with a liberal dose of Maine blueberries and maple syrup. They were accompanied by their old friend, the cup of double espresso from Rock City Coffee Roasters.

I received some great gifts this year, mostly camping related:
– Money from my mother that I could use it to buy something for myself.
-Marcia gave me my own copy of Willem Lange’s Tales from the Edge of the Woods, 18 short stories from the heartland of Vermont.
-I was stunned to find a copy of Marianna Olszewaka Heberle’s Polish Cooking book under the tree as well. My mother loaned me her out of print copy of the 1985 first edition of the book, and Marcia discovered it had been reprinted in 2005. I plan to make a big pot of Bigos tomorrow. It is also known as Hunter’s stew and is considered the Polish national dish.
-A new pair of down booties. This is a sore spot between Marcia and I. I have an old pair that I am now holding together with duct tape.

I mean old, like 30 years old?

One Beat Pair of Booties
One Beat Pair of Booties

Here they are, and I actually have agreed to throw them out and use the new pair. I have a hard time letting go of stuff.  Marcia encouraged me to mention that the substances on the upper fabric are likely some form on organic matter, an additional factor in the exit of these boots from the Jamrog household.
-A new sweater that I chose at the Yankee Swap that we had here at the house Christmas eve when our friends Hank and Cathy came by.
-A framed color photograph from Bad Influence that was taken on our trip this October to the Fundy Footpath.
Three tiny alcohol stoves from Minibull Design of Corrina, Maine. I want a backup system to use when I am backpacking in several days of rain, which happened to me this season. I normally use a wood stove, but one of these will find its way inside the packed stove with 4 OZ. Of denatured alcohol for such emergencies. Any of the three will fit easily inside the woodstove.
– I also ordered a Backpacking Light Beartooth Merino Wool Hoody. Their stuff is normally too expensive, but right now there was a special one day sale for premium members where you received not only the 10 member discount, but also were able to take and additional 40 % of the member price. I have switched over 100 % to wool base outdoor activity garments from polypropeline .

After a leisurely morning, Marcia and I put on the hiking shoes and decided to visit our neighbors Steve and Abbey Horton. Blog readers will remember Steve from our motorcycle camping  trip report this summer up to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I owe Steve big time. He had helped me out of many of scrape in my life here on High St. in the boondocks. It was Steve himself that brought us to this property on the side of Moody Mountain, back in 1976. He found out that the former owner, Carrol Frost, had put a piece up for sale and told us to move on it quickly. Carrol was hot to buy a new Honda 750 motorcycle and needed to get $6000 for the 4.5 acres of field and woods in order to buy the bike outright. The Horton’s only live about a mile away by the way a crow flies, but you can’t get there from here unless you wind your way along High St , then head up the steep Moody Mountain Road, then cut into the woods at French Road South, then take Steve’s long driveway up through his field and you are there, some 2.5+ mile hike there and the same back.

Two Hikers
Two Hikers

Here we are striking out up the icy driveway. We had some appetizers at the Horton’s and the real treat of the day was experiencing Steve cracking opening the wooden box and then uncorking the Bookers Bourbon, Jim Beam’s highest grade  whiskey, uncut and bottled straight from the barrel.
We made it back downhill in 50 minutes. Moody Mountain is over 900 feet high, and Steve’s place is right up there.

We wound up the day after naps and reading spells in the afternoon. I finished off Four Against the Arctic, and you can read my review  here.
After supper, I read aloud the story of Favor Johnson, from my new Lange book. Then it was time for “Sex, Lies and Ed’s Tapes” a episode from 1990’s vintage CBS’s Northern Exposure that we received from Netflix. It is about community life in Alaska.
Today it all came our way:  food, friends, family, being outdoors, and ample reminders of abundance. Beneath it all was the shining of the ever expanding light that the sun itself gives to us this unique time of year.

Uncle Tom Appointed to Give Out $5 Million Dollars

Walking the AT has opened yet another unforseen door for me.  For three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ve been ensconced on the couch expanding my reading choices, namely technical writing related to riverfront development.
This past Thursday I was invited to the Cabinet Room at the Capital Building to be present when Governor John E. Baldacci announced the recipients of  $4.9 million in Riverfront Community Development Bond Program Grant Awards.  I got to shake his hand twice, and the Governor even mentioned my name as a citizen member of the award panel.  Pretty good for hiker trash.
This all started in December 2007 when I was appointed by Glenn Cummings, Speaker of the House, as a member of the 6 person Riverfront Community development Review panel as a a member “ with expertise in trail design and development”.
In November 2007, the general ballot established a $5,000,00 bond that was approved by the people of Maine to provide funds for communities to stimulate economic activity along their rivers whether it be restoring an abandoned mill or creating a river front park.”
These projects would require a hefty 2:1 match from either sponsoring municipalities, or qualified private investors.  For example, those projects requesting $750,000, the maximum allowed for a project, would have to prove that they had $1.5 million pledged for the entire project.
“The lives of Maine people have always been intimately intertwined with the region’s waterways. With more than 30,000 miles of rivers in the state, and more than half of Maine’s population living in riverfront communities, the potential benefits of a river bond are enormous.    For thousands of years Native Americans used Maine rivers for travel, food, and commerce. In the 1800’s,  rivers like the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin yielded tremendous catches of river herring, sturgeon and salmon and later powered the saw mills, tanneries and textile mills that led Maine into the industrial era. In many cases, water quality declined and populations of our once legendary fisheries suffered. The Clean Water Act coupled with river restoration projects have also begun to bring back long-diminished populations of sea-run fish and have helped to make our river ecosystems healthier and more vibrant.’The rivers flowing through so many of Maine’s communities can provide both economic and community benefits,’ said Senator Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, lead sponsor of the bill”.
I initially attended a couple of half-day meetings in Augusta at the State House, where we setting the ground rules for rating the applications.   In the end, there were 28 applications to deal with, with a maximum cut-off amount of $750,000 to be awarded to each individual project.  With a maximum of $5 million to award, projects would be cut out.
That’s where the box comes in.  I arrived at the homestead one afternoon in early November to discover a large package filled with Xeroxed copies of all 28 applications. The deadline to rate them all was Nov. 20th.  I got busy, as some of the applications had as many as 14 attachments.  Pretty technical stuff, but it all worked out.
I learned a great deal about many of the communities that I have yet to visit in Maine, places like downtown Milo, or Grand Isle in Aroostook County.  I plan to take a couple of long motorcycle rides next season and visit these riverfront communities to see how they made out with these well deserved grants.  What a country we live in that things like this are still possible.

For a full article on the communities that received the bond monies go here:
http://bangornews.com/detail/95528.html

Ridin’ With The Bubbas, update..

Today is the first day of winter, 2008.  When I got up it was 6 below zero out, with some light wind to chill things off a bit more.  There is now 4” of snow on the flats, and today we are going to get somewhere in the range of 12” more snow.  Sunday morning at 9:30 is usually the time when I head on over to Rockland to park just outside of the Bog where I join the Bubbas on one of their now famous thrice weekly mountain bike rides.

Bubba Group Shot
Bubba Group Shot- we take frequent breaks

Last Sunday It was 14 degrees out when we started, and despite the ridiculous temperatures,  ample ice flows and occasional stream crossings, we mustered 10 guys who rammed around in the woods for some three hours, traversing  9 miles of  mogul -infested, mostly single track before all we rolled back into the parking lot to swap tales and socialize before heading home to set up to watch the New England Patriots bash their own way up the list of winners.
I did pretty well out there last week, with only three, relatively minor crashes to my credit. These rides are tough, it is such a workout for me.  I have  taking part in two to three times a week Spinning Classes at the YMCA.  I am the only participant who  leaves a pool of sweat on the mat beneath the bike.  But the Spin Classes are barely adequate preparation for real mountain biking on real trails on real new England single track.  The upper body and midsection is always engaged and adjusting to what’s ahead and underneath us. I am still feeling the effects of the last one, when I catapulted over the handlebars and landed on my left side, extending my palm out to cushion my fall.  I felt my thumb dislocate at the lower joint, but instinctively pushed on it and I felt it click back into place.  I was able to ride back to the car no problem, but the next morning my aching hand was blown up like a balloon.    I decided to wait a couple of days, and see if I had to rule out a break, but the swelling went down and it is close to normal now.
What was particularly amazing about the ride last Sunday, in addition to the double digit number of guys that were out on such a cold day, was the the fact that no one had any mechanical failures.  For the abuse the bikes take, some of them with 200 plus pounders on the seats, it is no less than a miracle of engineering.
Here are a couple of shots:

Neil on the Bike- by the bridge
Neil on the Bike- by the bridge

I was riding in back of Neal when he was trying to pedal around a ice covered pool of black water.  His bike skidded sideways as he was passing by it and things went South from there.  Neil ended up first falling onto a log that had been suspended above the pool, then slid off the log and ended up breaking through the ice, where his feet were still engaged in the pedals.  Then he struggled,  half submerged in icy water with chunks of ice all over the place.  I managed to help him get his feet out of the clips, then hauled the bike away and Neil  slowly got up, real slowly got up.  Neal has taken some serious hits in the past two years, and when you are close to 60, it takes more time to heal up.  I know that deal.

Heading into the Meat Grinder
Heading into the Meat Grinder

At 85 Years Old, Still Bagging Peaks

Super article in today’s NY Times on Fred Beckey ( hotlink) , who’s looking for at least one  climbing partner on his trip to Spain.  Be sure to check out the 4 minutes video of Fred still climbing.

From this series in the Times:  “There is a kind of athlete groomed for the field of play, the kind who answers to a coach, who endures the rigors of practice for the rewards of an organized competition. For that athlete the games end after eighteen holes, nine innings, four quarters, three sets or two halves.  And then there is the other kind of athlete who chooses to go it alone, away from manicured lawns or parquet courts. Pushing the Limit, a series by The New York Times, chronicles these athletes who confront an opponent that must be mastered, not beaten: A mountain, a ramp, the wind and the waves, a slope, the city streets, a sheet of ice, a track or perhaps no track at all”. — Michael Brick

Reading about Fred helped me head out at 7 AM today and get to the YMCA for a decent workout before the snows  affected travel.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2008

This past Nov. 7-9 I traveled to Fairlee, Vermont to attend one of my favorite events of the calendar year.  The Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous (SWR) is a weekend focused on non motorized human winter travel, be it assisted by snowshoes, cross country skis, or dogsleds.  This year, it sold out again, when it reached its limit of 100 people.  I was fortunate to be in the company of my wife Marcia, and my Appalachian Trail friends Bad Influence ( Mark)  and Birdlegs ( Michelle), who was able to find a bus from southwestern New Hampshire that brought her over to the Green Mountain State.
The setting for the weekend is a fine one, on the grounds of the Hulbert Outdoor Center , a decades old historic camp on the shore of Lake Morey.

p1040387

A number of folks also camp out in the field behind the main meeting hall/dining room, and this year there was an impressive array of tents, most with little stove pipes jutting away,  some occasionally puffing a tell tale cloud of white smoke that indicated that the occupants were toasting away inside.   In the past we have stayed in one of the half dozen  heated cabins, but this year we were the guests of BI and his wife Katie at their farm in Straffod, VT, a brief drive away.
After arriving and signing in, we made it in time for supper. Just as we came into the entrance, BI and Birdlegs were just about to walk across the driveway.   The four of us were on the commuter package, which included three meals in addition to the modest registration fee.  After a period of schmoozing at the tail end of the wine and cheese hour , I was able to reconnecting with various traveling friends.   Next, we enjoyed our dinners and  found our seats for the Friday evening program.
Willem Lange kicked off the event with a reading from one of his books. Mr. Lange has published several audio recordings and five books and has received an Emmy nomination for one of his pieces on Vermont Public Television. In 1981 he began writing a weekly column, “A Yankee Notebook,” which appears in several New England newspapers. He’s a commentator or host for Vermont Public Radio and both Vermont and New Hampshire Public Television.  He’s the real deal, and his presence and tales embodied the rugged and individualist lifestyle of the Yankee. Since coming home, I have purchased one of his books.
Willem was followed by Bill Pollack’s and his slide show/talk “ Skiing with the Cree”.  Bill has a company, Tuckamor Trips,  that leads people on low tech winter adventures in association with the Cree First Nation working out of Moose Factory, Ontario.  Bill is  a retired forest engineer, who has spent over 40 years traveling and working in the Eastern Canadian wilderness.
The last program of the evening was “A Tribute to Native Guides”, by Kevin Slater.  Kevin is co-owner of Mahoosuc Guide Service. His literature indicates that,  “Mahoosuc ( Guide Service) is unique in that we make much of the equipment we use on our guided trips, such as cedar canvas canoes, ash dog sleds and maple paddles. We have traveled extensively in the north with the Cree and Inuit and many of the techniques we use for north woods and tundra travel were developed by them.  We employ local Native guides on all our Canadian trips. If you are interested in more than just a superficial look at Native culture, come with us. You will leave our trips with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Native culture by living and traveling with Native guides from the area who grew up in eeyoustis (the bush) or nuna (the tundra)”.
Kevin’s talk was a heartfelt ramble that featured slides and personal stories about several of the beacon light native guides that he holds in true respect.  His presentation was bittersweet. Kevin is very concerned about the possibility that many native skills may be eventually lost, as majority of the adult children of several of these guides have not expressed any interest in carrying on the guiding lifestyles of their parents.

Saturday was a huge day of information, stories, and fodder for later grinding within the winter cud.  There are so many excellent presenters at Snow Walkers’ that the  one morning and two one-hour afternoon blocks each have multiple offerings that you are forced to chose between.   After breakfast, I passed up “Snowpack Dynamics” and Craig McDonald’s “Trapping with the Diamond family at Opasatica”.
My first choice of the day was the computer-assisted presentation  by Craig Lawrence, “Dogs and the Outward Bound Experience”.  Craig is from Ontario and has for the last four years managed the dog sledding program for  all of Outward Bound Canada.  Since 1986, Craig’s paid career  has been with raising, training, and running sled dogs. He  has even prepared dog teams for the Iditarod.  His is a year round life.  Even in the dry land months, Craig trains dogs.  The photos he showed us of dog teams dragging All Terrain Vehicles around the wilderness trails were most impressive.  We were given fascinating details of even the special foods these dogs require while on the trail ( melted chicken fat).

Next came the morning  break where I checked out the extensive array of items that were on sale from vendors.  There were axes, tents, packs, snow shoes, woolen clothing, books, stoves, ice chisels, mittens, hand carved rings, staves and more, most of of a design and quality that are not generally available elsewhere.
I then had to plot my strategy to win a door prize.  One of the more exciting practices that are a part of the weekend is the SWR door prize tradition.  Each vendor, and a number of attendees, donate door prize items that have ranged in value from a quart of Vermont maple syrup to a new winter tent ( worth close to $1000).  In fact, two years ago I was one of several people who had persuaded Roger Lee to first attend the event.  Roger and I shared his tent in our 2006 February traverse of Moosehead Lake.  He ended up winning the grand door prize, a 4 person Snowtrekker Empire Canvas tent complete with collapsible inner pole set up.
There are dozens of door prizes.  They are placed on a long table on the side of the dining room with a plastic container in front of each door prize.  Each registrant is allowed 5 small slips of paper that we put our names on.  You then have the masochistic pleasure of deciding which prize, or prizes, you want to gamble on. You can put just one slip for each of five items, or can increase your odds by placing all 5 slips in one container. It is sort of a chess game strategy in trying to win.  If you want a big item, such as a gift certificate for a $200 pair of Steger Mukluks,  put all 5 of your slips in there.  The downside is that these big items are the very things that most everybody else wants, so they put lots of there own slips in too.  One year, Marcia won a brand new Ibex woolen jacket that listed for $230 in their catalog.  I have ascended into the winners’ circle these last two years by throwing all my slips in front of less popular items.  Last year, I won a hard bound copy of The Navigator of New York ( read my review ).  This year I walked away with an antique, tiny, cast iron fry pan.  I Googled it when I arrived home and learned that  was made between the years 1935 to 1959, and is worth somewhere around $30.  I have re -seasoned it and have already used it on the kitchen wood stove a couple of times to fry up some eggs.  I wonder where it has spent it’s prior life?  If it could talk, could it present at Snow Walkers’ next year?

Next came the Tour of the Tents, this year guided by Kevin Slater.  It is an annual event, where people mosey around the field, and stop at representative styles of tents where the owner speaks to the group, relates the pros and cons of the tent , and takes questions.  I have a video here where I take you around and look at a few of them:


Then came home made soup, sandwiches, and salads for lunch, more vendor visiting and door prize lust, and choosing from two more afternoon workshop blocks.

I attended Alexandra Conover’s “Winter Travel- Connecting more Deeply with the Natural World”  presentation.  Alexandra is a force.    The main theme was that the heart can be viewed as an organ of perception,  a finding that is tied to writings from plant spirit medicine.  It was a challenging presentation for me. The best part of the presentation was focusing our attention on the dried fir cones that we each were given.  The fragrance was intoxicating  and did connect me with images of a world outside of the room.

No doubt, The most interesting event of the whole weekend was Allan Brown’s live action, firefest entitled, Torching the Tents”.  I will link here to Tim Smith’s account of this event,  taken from his own blog, The Moose Dung Gazette. I also have two videos of a tent burning.  The first one introduces Allan Brown and his rationale for toasting a complete tent.  Background.  Just at the point where the fabric starts to flame, the batteries in my digital recorder failed.  The second video captures the moment we all had been waiting for, and was taken on my backup digital camera.



After a brief break of more tea and snacks, I wrapped up the last offering of the afternoon by attending Tim Smith’s outdoor presentation on “Axmanship & Firebuilding- Core Skills of the North”.  Tim is an experienced survival, bushcraft and outdoor living instructor.

Tim Smith with axe
Tim Smith with axe

A full-time guide and survival instructor since founding Jack Mountain Bushcraft in 1999, he splits his time between Wolfeboro, New Hampshire and Masardis, Maine.  Tim is an excellent, humorous, engaging teacher and I encourage the reader to visit his website, which is unusually well done for this type of thing.
Tim took a large group up into the woods behind the outdoor center and taught us details of choosing standing dead trees that I have learned no where else. For example, he told us to be be sure choose an absolutely  straight dead tree. Every degree of lean of the dead tree converts to additional moisture that migrates into the wood of the tree, reducing its effectiveness for fire building.  Tim taught axe safety, specifics on felling technique, and finer points about  to making whiffle sticks for kindling/fire starting.  Taking Tim’s  workshop made me realize that I want to learn more skills from Tim. I even sent Deb Williams and Tim requests for Tim  to attend next year and for him to consider offering a longer workshop.

One presentation that I am sorry I didn’t attend was the screening of the new John Walker Canadian film “Passage”.  This film brings to life the infamous story of the Franklin Expedition, focusing on John Rae.  The landscape ranges from Scotland’s remote Orkney Islands to the landscapes of the Arctic.  Looks really good.  Credit Deb Williams again for her work, as she was able to have a copy of the DVD for multiple screenings this weekend. I passed on them, thinking I could buy the DVD when I got home.  Wrong.  The DVD is being produced by the national Film Board of Canada and will not be available for sale in the US until Spring 2009.

But how much info can a man take on in one day?  Sheesh, was I beat by this point, I was relieved to just  sit and take it easy and enjoy the evening’s dinner.  The food here is excellent, wholesome, freshly prepared by experienced cooks.

Following  supper we heard from Kieran Moore, who is an excellent storyteller.  I have heard him present once before and am amazed at the wilderness experiences this man has endured.  This time his slide show/talk took us back in time to the 1970’s in the Northwest Territories where he worked harvesting logs and fashioning them into municipal log buildings. The was the time that preceded ATV’s and much of his harvesting was with sled dogs, and his mode of travel from job to job was via mushing a sled dog team hundreds of miles through the frozen unpopulated wilderness.

I went over my list of participants from this year and was pleased to see that I know or have traveled with 30 of these folks.  I have found it very difficult ( and some years impossible)  to find people who will actually get outside on snowshoes and live in a tent for multiple days in the middle of the winter.  Once,  I had lined up three companions to do a trip with me only to receive at last minute cancellations from all of them when it was time for the frozen pedal to hit the icy metal.
This year, my association with Snow Walkers’ folks will likely allow me to take three trips during the span of February to early March.   More about those itineraries later.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous allows anyone  to hang out and learn from some of the most experienced winter survivalists and foot powered travelers in North America.  For those of you who would like to gain more skills in this area, consider attending the upcoming Winter Skills Day– Saturday, January 10, 2009 for a day of pre-registered workshops.  Next year’s Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous will be the weekend of November 13-15, 2009.
See you there?

November 24, 2008

Something big happened to me today.

I really got hit in the gut, real hard,  with the realization that I am actually on track to start walking the Pacific Crest Trail sometime around the third week of April in 2010. It is a long walk from Mexico to Canada.

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It is the “realest” perception that I have received in a long time.  My chest aches for the long connection with living outside and engaging in the sheer act of walking for months on end.
Two days ago, I tried to find some Trailjournals of folks that have been out in the big West on the PCT.  I thought that Yogi’s Trailjournals of her PCT hikes would be a good place to start, but her’s are no longer on Trailjournals.

I just went to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Website .  It was a thrilling link to explore.

 

I do not take lightly the idea of just what a National Scenic Trail means.  There are only 8 of them, and the PCT is the longest.
It is going to be “real tough”.
What a country we live in.
Any shmuck , including me, can just start at the Mexican border and live out our own incredible adventure walking though history via deserts, as we passing glaciers and  even get a chance to ascend a 14,000 foot peak on our quest to reach the Canadian border.