The Catskill Mountains… one of my favorite places to hike. Back in January I headed out to Woodstock, NY with a couple friends to hike Overlook Mountain. We
had heard of the old hotel ruins near the top and wanted to check them out. Being that is was January it was a little cold, kind of icy and very, very foggy. The cold and ice we had prepared for with layers and microspikes and the fog made discovering the ruins one of my favorite memories so far this year. The skeleton of the old hotel slowly peeking through the fog made for an eerie, yet beautiful sight! However, there wasn’t much to see from the fire tower or the overlook due to that fog. The cold temperatures did make for some very interesting ice crystals that were growing sideways on all the tree branches and fire tower structure.
Fast forward to October, the three of us once again made the trek out to Woodstock, NY. The mountain is a completely different place, the ice and fog were replaced with blue skies and red, yellow and orange foliage. The
structure of the old hotel almost hidden by the trees that have taken up residence there as they begin to shut down for the approaching winter. This time the views from the fire tower were spectacular, what an awesome 360 degree view of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley. The overlook lived up to it’s name… although, the view from the tower is much nicer I believe.
To get a better idea of the experience, check out the video:
As a hiker and a backpacker I’m always looking to improve my gear, whether that means it is lighter or more durable or even that is multi-purpose and cuts down on the amount of gear I need. Over the years I’ve re-evaluated almost all of my gear. I’ve switched from a tent to a hammock, upgraded to folding carbon fiber trekking poles, I’ve made adjustments and tweaks to things I’ve already adjusted and tweaked. It seems never ending. Then there’s things I am so sure about, that I will never change… until I change.
My so called central gear that I never questioned was my camp stove. Sure, I’ve upgraded and downsized but never questioned the method. I have been a canister stove user from the very beginning. I have owned several dual burner Coleman camp stoves that I always took car camping with me. When I got in to kayaking I switched to the Coleman Peak system, basically a very hardy single burner canister mount stove. Just this past winter I downsized that once again to a no name burner I bought on Amazon that weighed less that half as much and took up much less space. I love canister stoves. Except when it gets cold.
Having noticed that my canister stoves are noticeably less efficient when the temps approach and dive below freezing, I started researching fixes. I don’t do a lot of camping in temperatures like that but I do still like to hike and snowshoe. Having the ability to have a hot meal or cup of hot chocolate while doing so makes the experience much more pleasant. I just don’t like the idea of burning through fuel at accelerated paces. I thought about inversion stoves and insulation and 4 season fuels, but all added gear, weight or cost. Then I came across wood burning gasifying stoves.
After a little research and watching a lot of YouTube videos on the subject I had narrowed my selection down to three different stoves. The BushBuddy was my first choice, but it according to their webpage the original builder of the stoves has retired. He had an apprentice who is now making the stoves but there was a bit of a wait and it costs $100. I also looked at the EmberLit Ultra, a modular titanium design that packs flat, that was about $70 and even though it packs flat it still is taking up extra space. Third I looked at the small Toaks Titanium Stove, it’s more like the BushBuddy and about $45. It’s light and packs down into a pot… but for me it’s assembled size seemed way to top heavy for something with a fire burning inside of it.
Last I looked at the Solo Stove Lite. Almost identical to the BushBuddy in design, cost $70 and had immediate availability. I decided to purchase a Solo Stove Lite and their 900ml pot (Called the Solo Stove 900 Pot) for an additional $45. The stove and pot only weigh about 3 ounces less than my current set-up with a full fuel canister, but also takes up a little less space in my backpack. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve to get the most efficient burn time, but it’s going to almost always take longer than a canister stove to boil water. The big bonus is, after the initial purchase…. that’s it. You might need to buy matches or a lighter every now and then but never fuel. Think about that… never buying fuel for backpacking again. I like that a lot.
So this past weekend I got out to give the new Solo Stove a test. I definitely need to work on the initial fire, and have gotten some good pointers from a viewer on YouTube, can’t wait to try it out again this weekend and see if I can do better. Here’s a look at this weekends field test.
The summer just flew by. Even though I’ve been out hiking, kayaking and camping all year, it feels like I haven’t done much! So, since I worked on Labor Day I took my 3 day weekend this past week. With my normal days off being Fridays and Saturdays I decided to take Thursday off and head out late Wednesday to Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County Pennsylvania. That extra few hours on Wednesday makes it feel so much longer, probably because there’s no need to rush the following morning.
I got to the park and headed to camp site 95 in the walk-in tent section and got my hammock up and grabbed a bite to eat just before the Sun set. I was eager to test out some gear… some new and some I just hadn’t had a chance to try out yet. I recently purchased a new Paria Outdoor Products Sanctuary SilTarp after my recent backpacking trip. I was looking to shed weight in any gear I could and this tarp is only 15oz packed. So I got to test that out. I also gave my DIY emergency blanket under quilt a try… still needs some work but it’s a good start. Early in the year I found a steal of a bargain on an Exped Scout Hammock Combi for $68, usually goes for more than $200. This was the first time I used that, for 1 night anyway, I switched back to m ENO Doublenest for nights 2 and 3. I also gave my new Fire Knife from Light My Fire a good test… took a lot of practice to get the hang of, but I’m getting better with it. Continue reading “3 Days: Hammock Camping Under a Harvest Moon”→
This was supposed to be the year I got out and did some multi-day backpacking trips. I thought by this point I would have 3 or 4 under my belt. Unfortunately, the weather never panned out for the days I could go… that is, until this past weekend.
My normal days off are Fridays and Saturdays, a friend took Friday off and wanted to get out and do something… no need to try to plan anything out, I already had several trips planned that I could never get to. We decided to do part of the Quehanna Trail out in the Moshannon State Forest, Clearfield County, PA. This
was the first multi-day trip with the new gear, so we didn’t plan on huge mileage. There is a 20 mile loop we wanted to complete, starting at Parker Dam State Park, taking the QT to the West Cross Connector and then back to the park. Continue reading “Backpacks, Hammocks and Coyotes”→
Bradys Lake is a 229 acre man made lake located in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. This is the 3 rd time I’ve kayaked here and haven’t been disappointed yet. The lake is very secluded, and sits 3 miles off the nearest main road in the middle of State Game Lands.
On this trip I tried out some new audio/video set ups. The first was a new GoPro mount on the stern of my kayak, unfortunately it failed pretty quickly (this is why you tie off GoPros). I also used a Tascam DR-05 for audio to try and pick up better audio around the lake, as luck would have it, nature decided to be oddly quiet on this trip. But I learned a lot about the set up and look forward to future attempts. Let me know what you think.
What is known as “America’s Best Idea” turns 100 today! The National Parks Service was created August, 25 1916 and now oversees more than 400 sites, including reserves, preserves, historic sites and parks. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of these great sites like Acadia National Park and Assateague Island National Seashore. To celebrate the National Parks Service’s centennial I decided to share a some of my favorite photos. Enjoy!
Before this past week I hadn’t seen a single Black Bear in 2016. Then at Trough Creek State Park I came across one who was thoroughly investigating a picnic area and could not care less that I was 30 feet away watching him. So, on Saturday 8.20.16 I went kayaking at Shohola Marsh Reservoir in Pike County, Pennsylvania with a friend of mine. This was the 3rd time we had kayaked here and both times before we had seen more Bald Eagles than you could shake a stick at.
We arrived about 8 a.m. and promptly hit the water, heading straight to the back side of the lake… that’s where we have the most Eagle sightings. After paddling for a few minutes my friend points out something swimming across the lake a few hundred yards ahead of us and asked “What is that?” It was big and black and looked like a bear’s head, but I didn’t say anything because… you know, how often to you see a Black Bear swimming across a lake? Especially a few hundred yards from shore? We watched it for a few seconds and he said “I think it’s a bear! I saw it’s snout!” I had to concur, it was most definitely a Black Bear swimming across the lake in front of our kayaks! Continue reading “Kayaking With a Black Bear… Seriously!”→
The original plan was to head to the Catskills and disappear on the trails for a few days… the weather had other ideas. I decided to head south west instead to Huntingdon County, PA and explore Trough Creek State Park, Raystown Lake and a little bit of the Rothrock State Forest… weather was still an issue.
Well, after a rained out weekend last week… headed out to Frances E Walter near White Haven yesterday for some (cloudier than expected) kayaking. This place doesn’t look like it belongs in Pennsylvania, check it out.
It is thought that in the late 1600’s, when Pennsylvania was in it’s infancy, that there were as many as 100,000 Eastern Elk that roamed here. After the massive clear-cutting of the forests and un-checked hunting the entire species was made extinct… other species where eliminated from the state but have slowly returned such as River Otters and Fishers. White Tailed Deer were almost eliminated as well.
However, in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s an effort was made to reintroduce Elk to the Keystone State. Rocky Mountain Elk were transplanted from Yellowstone National Park and an Elk Farm in Monroe County, Pa. Since that time the Elk herd has slowly grown from roughly 177 to now nearly 1000. Still a far cry from their earlier number.