Recommended Book: Bushcraft

Outdoor Skills & Wilderness Survival Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills & Wilderness Survival by Mors Kochanski

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Bushcraft” is an amazing read. I keep it by my bedside, usually reading from it for a few minutes before I fall asleep. Mors Kochanski is a life long wilderness educator from Canada. Much of his body knowledge I had no idea existed. For example, just the first two pages of his chapter on “The Birches” had 17 facts that I was unaware of and I have lived around and worked with these trees my whole life ( “ Birches were among the first trees to move North in the wake of the receding glaciers during the last ice age, and probably all the other ice ages since the mid-Cretaceous.”) . Kochanski’s writings, accompanied by hundreds of personal illustrations, detail the most important crafts used in everyday bush living in the Northern Forests. Be sure to get this second edition of what was previously “Northern Bushcraft”, as it has thirty four color photographs that augment details.
I once took a two hour class on knife craft from Kochanski. His disclaimer was that he could only teach us a tiny bit of information on the topic in that time limit, and that his full instructions on the subject would typically require three or four days, instructing 8 hours a day.
I treasure owning this book, with his inscription, “ The more you know, the less you carry”.

View all my reviews.

Midwinter Shots from 290 High St.

Here are some morning shots.  It was 6 below zero when I awoke today.  The first one was taken from our living room, looking out the window on the new day.  The second one was out side, looking toward the second floor, following the big  icicle to the source.  The last shot was taken in front of the main door, after I retrieved the morning Bangor Daily News from the mailbox.  We are comfortable here in the freezing cold.
View From Our Living Room
View From Our Living Room
Same Icicle
Self-Portrait - Main Door
Self-Portrait - Main Door

Bubba Snow Ride

If you want to ride your bicycle in Maine as much as possible, you have to know how to ride on top of snow, and yes, sometimes even ice.  It’s really no different than dealing with the elements in a 4-wheeled vehicle, where the name of the game is traction control.

Here’s how the Bubbas handle winter:
What  we have here is not an apparent instrument of torture, but detail of a home made studded mountain bike tire.  We generally make ‘em up in the off season, while watching the New England Patriots beat up on another victim team.  Tools needed are a cordless wrench, a box of 3/8 “ sheet metal screws, and a socket device that is able to receive the head of the sheet metal screw.  You insert the screws from the inside of the tire, placing the screws in the center of a tire lug. You don’t have to hit every lug. It is not the easiest job in the world to mount one of those porcupine tires on the rim, and you also have to remember to line the inside of the tire with a couple of layers of duct tape or an old inner tube.  You are doing this to keep the heads of the screws from puncturing the inner tube.

Original Bubba Craig and I headed out to the Camden Hills State Park again, where we did an out and back of 6 miles on the Ski Lodge Trail out of Stevens Corner.   It was not as icy a trail as our ride here the week before, as there was a coating of fresh snow that did cause me to sink every once and a while.

After  a climb of over a mile, the road  leveled off a bit, then went up and down until we arrived at our destination for the day, the newly rebuilt Ski Lodge, just adjacent to Spring Brook.  There was a group inside that had rented the Lodge for the night, but the policy of the park is that the wood heated building be open to the public, so Craig and I knocked and entered.

We stripped off a layer or two and soon had the place to ourselves, as the group was just leaving a day day hike to the summit .  We decided to have a “boil up”, and fired up a newly assembled backpacking wood stove inside the fireplace.  Here’s a video of the break.

The Lodge was now ours, so we sat for a bit by the wood stove and dried out .We didn’t even have to forage any wood.   The Park cuts and stacks it here for the public!

Uncle Tom at One of His Cabins
Uncle Tom at One of His Cabins

We’ll be back to this place, maybe renting it even, maybe fill it with more Bubbas.

After we indulged in some hot chocolate , we packed up and headed out for the ride back.  Craig does a nice job of sporting some of the smooth, steady pedal technique you need to make forward progress on snow.

Craig caught this brief movie of me descending just before we reached the parking lot.

I made Craig a gift of his own Original Bubba Signature Model backpacking wood stove.


Mount Washington in Winter

January 16, 2009 The Mountain and Mother Nature By KEITH MULVIHILL.

At 6,288 feet, New Hampshire’s Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast, but its weather can make it seem almost Himalayan.


Check out this excellent NYTimes article on a recent day hike up to the top of Mt. Washington. Be sure to click on the audio slide show. Makes you want to get out there, even it was 16 below zero, like it was here this morning.

Month of the Bikes

The past two days of this fledgling 2009 year have been dominated by thoughts and actions related to bicycling.
I’m not into the practice of making resolutions for the new year, but I have been harping for some time now about learning how to service my bicycles.  So, instead of blowing my rapidly dwindling cash reserves on a new bike, I’m going to rebuild one of my retired ones and hope to experience the additional satisfaction of learning how the components go together. I believe I can get a “ new” bike in the process.
I pulled down my 1980’s vintage green, steel-frame, original issue 1985 Diamond Back Apex that has spent the past decade hanging from a hook in one of my outbuildings.  Here’s a photo of the exact bike from a  vintage catalog. I might add that my sort of exhaustive web search for a photo and details on this bike were located deep within Bikeman’s web site, the shop in Bath,  Maine, where I bought the bike  :diamondback1988pg4-5
Thanks to the internet, I have been able to track down all of the original data about the bicycle.  Here we go:   Diamondback Apex .

Here are a few facts:
Original MSRP: $499
Material Type: Cr-Mo
Tubing: Double butted
Welding Type: TIG
Color: Metallic Teal

The most interesting design aspect of this bike is the chain stay is comprised of three spokes as shown below pic.  chainstay
It also has these unique Suntour XC Power Cunningham Design rear brakes.


I stripped the bike of everything that was bolted, screwed or glued onto to it, eventually arriving at just the frame and the fork. I plan to sand and degrease the frame and fork, take them to a local body shop to be repainted, and then work my way through the rebuilding process, and hopefully arriving at something to be proud to ride.
I plan to use the bike for road rides, as an alternative to my yellow drop bar aluminum Cannondale.  With smooth, high pressure ties, and road gearing the new ride should be a real mover, and will be more comfortable as well.   My lower back has been beaten up long enough by my Cannondale road rides, as the rigid aluminum frame transmits every thumping shock from potholes and sprouting through-the-pavement-rocks up the old spine.
Gotta get some sanding done this week.

Bacon, butter fuel fastest South Pole trek

Often we discuss the value of high calorie foods when on a long exhausting hike.

090109-south-pole-vmed-150awidec1The following article, from today’s wire services, announces the ultimate calorie dense fuel for walking in the cold.  While it sounds outlandish, natives living in perpetual ice and cold have long utilized calorie dense diets of whale, walrus  and seal fat.

Adventurers set new record by completing 700-mile expedition in 33 days.

But for even more amusement, how about this?

“Mags” Magnanti’s actual complete diet on his three week traverse of the Colorado Trail!   Click on the link below, for expanded information. His primary caloric source  was 58 Snickers bars, and #2 sources was GORP!

Colorado Trail 2004 – Calories Consumed and Miles Per Day Hiked–<
Written by Paul “Mags” Magnanti
Tuesday, 14 February 2006


Top Dream of 2009

I had a dream last night that I was not only able to remember, but which rendered itself as my personal mini-epic.
In my dream I was approaching the Sidney Tappan Campsite in Maine, on the Appalachian Trail, above the Katahdin Iron Works road. I am able to remember this site easily. It was a small, simple place, but an inviting one, one that is rarely found at elevation. It is just the type of place that one would expect a caretaker, but none has been posted, yet. The day I moved through there was no one there.
In my dream I am standing on the Trail, and looking uphill through misty clouds. Both sides of the Trail are crammed with tents, hundreds, maybe thousands of tents of all colors and shapes, each with quiet people nearby, standing or sitting. We were waiting to move forward, but all taking our time. I was aware that we were all aware of a huge presence that we were participants in.
I feel fortunate to have such a dream.

Dodging Winter Bullets

Today’s  Bangor Daily News featured an article about a 5 mile hike that Brad Viles had taken on New Year’s Day up to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Brad Viles (left) and Scott Fisher huddle against the wind and cold temperatures before sunrise on Cadillac Mountain on New Year's Day. The wind chill was 20 below zero.
Brad Viles (left) and Scott Fisher huddle against the wind and cold temperatures before sunrise on Cadillac Mountain on New Year's Day. The wind chill was 20 below zero.

The headline was “New Year’s Day hike proves frigid: Cadillac buffeted by fierce winds”  .  It’s a decent read, although not about conditions like atop of Mt. Washington where it was sixteen below zero with sustained wind force of 123 mph.  In the same issue of the newspaper was this related article: Unprepared hikers keep rangers busy at Acadia National Park.

My own New Year’s hike up to Bald Rock Mountain was in the same category as Brad’s; bitter cold and unbelievable wind combining to create wind chills conditions that were at least 20 below zero.

But all of this whining about the cold conditions pales in comparison to the new blog entry on Tim Smith’s Jack Mountain Bushcraft Blog a  Winter Survival Article By David Cronenwett.  It is a sobering read about an event that occurred just one mile from the author’s car in typical intense winter conditions in Montana.  I include it because it can happen to anyone, especially those of us who include travel over supposedly frozen waterways in our trips up here in the North.

I’ll sign off today evoking the immortal words of “Hill Street Blues” (1981) Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, ” Hey, let’s be careful out there”.

New Years Hike 2009


     It would not have been good for me to hang in the house all day.  So, after checking the Mt. Washington, NH  web cam , where I found that it was 16 below zero with sustained wind of 123 mph and gusts up over 150 mph there I thought , “ How bad can it be here? “  

     Turned out to be pretty intense.  

     When I left the house it was 14 above, but the wind was fierce and it was a clear day, with wind chill below zero.  I was hoping to get Auntie Mame , AKA Marcia, to go out with me, but she had the sense to snuggle down by the wood stove today.   I didn’t even take Jody the dog.  I thought she’d get too cold, and I’d end up carrying her inside my coat, all 4 pounds worth of her. 

In the end, I thought the wind might be buffered by the layout of Bald Rock Mountain ( 1,100 feet)  here within Camden Hills State Park in Lincolnville.  It was also less than a 10 minute drive from the house.  It is a very rewarding loop, with close to 4 miles of walking.  I parked the car, and headed right up the snow covered Ski Lodge Road, where I only saw two guys heading downhill.  They told me that stayed the night at the new shelter some 2 miles up the SLR.   

Next I hung  a left on the Frohock Mtn. Side trail, that broke up the trip and moved me off the road, which was littered with weeks of piles of frozen dog crap.  I found myself hiking as fast as I could, given the icy trail underfoot.  I was cold, due to being underdressed for the frigid temps.  I had on my boots, jeans, two light woolen layers, ( one a short sleeve shirt), and a thin soft shell jacket.  On my head I wore a light woolen hat, and around my neck a scarf. p10404731

Initially, I wore a pair of light winter gloves, and I eventually switched to a much more substantial pair of winter mittens.  

Once up on the top, I stopped at the lower of two decrepit Maine Forest Service lean-tos  and ate lunch.  I knew that it was so cold that I had to move quickly, as my hands do poorly in severe cold and I’m rendered useless far too early to get things done. I put on another layer of a down vest.  The wind was loud.  I had to move my backpacking wood stove into the wooden shelter to keep it from being blown out by the wind outside.  I tindered the stove up no problem, and started shoving down my sunflower seeds, ham and cheese sandwich, and date bars.  

I was relieved to find that the coffee percolator revved up fairly quickly, despite the wind that was still attacking it.


I warmed my hands somewhat by holding the steaming cup, and then later clutched the metal pot.  No matter, I knew that I had to get going and move quickly, as vigorous movement in the cold is one of the techniques that gets my back to useable condition.  

I was really freezing as I moved out of the lean-to, and stepped as quickly as I could for the rest of the trip, up over the top of the mountain, then back down the trail that led to the Ski Lodge Road.  

Only two people passed me on the way down, both on mountain bikes.  Back at the parking lot, I recognized the driver of the tiny blue car with the bikes on back as Ian, a fellow Bubba who in turn recognized me, and he stopped and we enjoyed greeting each other out in the wicked cold today.  We agreed to try and get a winter mountain bike ride in sometime in the next few days.  

     Here is a four minute video of me and the stove, settled into lunch at the shelter below the top of Bald Rock Mountain.  The coffee perked like there was no tomorrow.