Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer 2014 Bushcraft Meet - Big Meadows

The fellas got together in Big Meadows in the Sequoia National Forest for this summer's get together. And once again, I was blown away with the hospitality and camaraderie of everyone there, old friends and new. Simply amazing! And we have BCUSA to thank for the venue of the gathering of knowledge and skills and pathways for getting together to share those things.

This was a six day event from the 3rd to the 8th. I was only able to go for one night on Tuesday. Some stayed the whole time, and some for only a few days. Wish I could have stayed longer.

Special thanks goes out to Bart from Kaweah River Forge for setting up a killer campsite for us to gather. And man! Bart and the guys sure know how to cook!

Before I got to camp, the fellas rendered some pine sap glue, and used it to jute wrap a wooden knife for KRF's nephew Lil Zeke. It worked out perfectly and was very strong glue. This was a two piece knife with a hidden tang held in tight with the glue.

Tinker&Make's knife creations. Beautiful handle work. Very comfortable.

Bart from Kaweah River Forge not only provided the camp and food, but did a very gracious knife giveaway which I was able to win one of them! Greatly humbled and overall stoked to be able to win the woodlore style knife on the left. Thanks again Bart!. I'll have to make a stop by his shop to learn and play with sheaths and various sharps.

Tinker&Make won the first draw and choose the "Tribute" knife for himself. These knives are very nice and we tested making some feather sticks which came out amazing in my opinion! I have not been able to make such nice curls with a knife until I tried this one. Both of these have a continuous curvature to the blade which really excels the curling and slicing. Excellent work Bart!

Tinker&Make on the right.

Superslow's bannock on the left and mine on the right. His smaller batch came out better than my usual too thick stuff ;)  Drenching in molasses didn't hurt either.

Since Tinker was so humbled by winning the giveaway, he decided to do one of his own and Lil Zeke won a file knife. Nice job all around!

Gransfors Mini chopping some fatwood for everyone. This little biter is the real deal!

Thanks again to everyone! This was a blast!

And another special thanks to Loogaroo for gifting me a Condor Nessmuk knife! I just wanted to take a look at it and he ended up giving it to me. I can't express the graciousness that went on in camp there. Thanks Mick. I'll get ya back for it ;)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Howie's 6 Strikes Tracker Challange

A year ago, Howie or bigskytrapper on Youtube posted this Tracker Challenge. Knee high flames with only Tracker Knife curly cues, and you only get 6 strikes with a firesteel to light it.

Here's my fail video. Took more than 6 strikes, but it was fun to do. And I get to try again!

Available in 720.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Family Campout at Big Meadows

Had a little family campout with mine and my sister's crew a couple weekends ago. We went up to Big Meadows in the Sequoia National Forest. Here's a video from that. Available to watch in 720.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Confluence of Waters

Heat runs rampant across the hillsides
Low and fast with reckless abandon
As Stamey strums along free and easy
To the roses on the roadside

Reminding us of better times
When the rains drenched our skins
Breathing effervescence through our pores
And suffusing through everything
Like a confluence of waters

But back in the here and now
Where whirlwind rattles the fallen leaves
Of the live oaks along the sides of our path
Chattering beats to the flute player's lament

The connective tissue tendrils of fate
Stretch and tear down to the core
Like an old hat discarded on the roadside
Or an old log laying amongst dry grasses

This subject has well worn its welcome here
We have grown weary of its presence
Our patience wears thin as the fragments linger
On the edge of reality and all that matters

Enough has been spent here in this furnace
It is pounding home too close for comfort
This well is drying up once more
Still waiting to be flush with waters again

And what is birthed from this drought
But a means to tame the West's wild ways
With spurs and whips and reins and ropes
To slow us down to smell them roses
That grow bright and sweet amongst their thorns

Here's part of an email that I sent this morning to the Water Authority's weather guy in residence. Thought it was appropriate to include it here.

Sounds good ______. I’ll keep that in mind. I’m on vacation all next week, but we can get together after that. I would like to hear your take on the upcoming season. I often look for patterns of historical records to be able to predict the future. It is not so easy as you well know. Here are some observations I’ve seen….. Of course I could be wrong ;)

2013 and 2014 look similar to 1976 and 1977. 1978 was a whopper of a year at 198% water year runoff on the Kaweah.
However, the El Nino charts I’ve been looking at are the most similar to next year being like the 2002/2003 El Nino event which was 99% on the Kaweah.
How’s that for a some waffling?

An average of 14 years to have a high percentage of a wet year:

1916 – 178% water year runoff on Kaweah River
1932 – 121% - 16 years later
1943 – 157% - 11 years later
1956 – 169% - 13 years later
1969 – 292% - 13 years later
1983 – 317% - 14 years later
1998 – 217% - 15 years later
2011 – 201% - 13 years later
2025 - ?

Also, I believe we are in the 16th year of a dry stretch. Yes we had 2005, 2006 and 2010, 2011, but overall, since 1999 it’s been pretty dry. Sort of coincides with the drought on the Colorado River and the Southwest US in general.

We have had some other dry periods of similar length, followed by some wetter periods.

1906 – 1917 – 12 year wet period with an average wy Kaweah runoff of 121%
1918 – 1934 – 17 year dry period with an average of 68%
1935 – 1945 – 11 year wet period with an average of 124%
1946 – 1961 – 16 year dry period with an average of 82%
1962 – 1986 – 25 year wet period with an average of 121%
1987 – 1992 – 6 year dry period with an average of 43%
1993 – 1998 – 6 year wet period with an average of 149%
1999 – 2014 – 16 year dry period with an average of 87%

Maybe we are headed for a good stretch of wetter years? I hope so because our situation is dire!

For your consumption.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Blood Reds, White, and Faded Blues

Dry be thy name
And Dry be thy manner
Life's fine balance tips slightly
On a thorn's brutal point

As the sun rides low on the horizon
It fills our eyes with brilliant fire
Before dipping to rest
Behind hills now standing in the way

This Heat
This oppression of flow
Rubs hearts and hands raw
Removing layers down to deep blood reds

Revealing runs of quartz in the veins
And ant catacombs within
Fissures deepening under pressure
Returning again to the cracks on the surface

We feel it in our bones
Brooding across the plains
Rising up to cleave rock from its hold
To remnants and discards left behind

We sit and wait
For shade and dusk
Bound up and tethered down
With a wrapped up frown upon it all

Then sunset drips into night
As the night drips into dew
Again and again and on
To bring a little hope each morn
For this season to turn anew

But we're shown this is just the beginning
As the dew dries whitewashed in the faded blues
Of mornings in June and denim worn through

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tracker Action

I finally sat down this weekend and figured out how to make a movie.

So I made two ;)

Thanks for the tunes A.C.!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

MRC Custom Leather Belt Pouch Review

Backpacking in the High Sierra is one of the overpowering joys in life. Luckily I get a chance to do it now and then. My trips mostly include hiking in a little ways and setting up camp for a few days. Usually I’m only gone for up to three nights at a time, so traveling deep into the wilderness is out of range. Also, as you travel higher up the hill, campfire restrictions begin to come into play. Mostly with no fires at all allowed above 9,000 or 10,000 feet. And I sure do enjoy a camp with a fire to raise the spirits.

So what I do is head in and set up a base camp from where day trips are set out from. This is a good way to get a feel for and explore an area. Really immerse yourself in the place to let the mountains soak in and flush out whatever ails you.

Usually these day trips are fine and I am able to return to camp by dark to enjoy the campfire life and everything it entails. But what if something were to happen where I couldn’t make it back to camp that night. I don’t know, say a slip and fall, broken limb, severe rainstorm, chupacabra attack! Whatever. I would surely like to be able to carry enough gear on these day hikes to ensure my returning home.

Summer in the Sierra is usually still fairly hot. Even at elevation if you’re not in the shade. So sweaty backs are the standard, especially with a daypack to hold in the heat. So I’ve been leaning more towards a belt pouch setup that might keep me cooler, thus reducing the water loss from my body due to perspiration.

I’ve also found that at the end of the day, my shoulders are in some amount of pain from the burden of the initial hike in with a full backpack. And I know the modern packs have hip belts that are supposed to take some of the burden off the shoulders and transfer the weight to the hips. But I have just not found that system to my liking. Another reason to go to a belt pouch system is to ensure more weight on the hips, allowing a smaller, lighter load in the backpack, and keeping the items in my pants pockets to a minimum with only a map and compass.

And as my time in the woods has progressed, I’ve found I like to carry my Canon Eos Rebel in a pouch on the hip. That allows for a quick draw and shot if I see something that lights the scene. Then back in its protective pouch, and onward up the trail. It’s near impossible to have that camera on my hip with any kind of backpack with a hip belt. This, combo’d with a canteen or water bottle on the other hip for easy access, helps balance things out rater nicely.

As I ponder these questions in life, as I often do, I came across an elk hide Longhunter pouch that Mike at MRC Custom Leather had for sale at a really good price. It is made of a combo of soft elk hide, and stiffer leather on the backside to keep its form. Top quality indeed. After receiving the pouch and being satisfied with Mike’s craftsmanship, I checked out his website and the other gear he has listed there.

He also talks about the stuff he creates along with some very nice info on leatherworking on his You Tube channel
Or search for Agile Woodsman on You Tube

He makes very nice custom leather gear like the Longhunter Pouch, but he also has a series of belt pouches which he calls the Bushcraft Budget Series. He explains the concepts and design of these pouches on his You Tube channel, so I won’t go into depth here on that. Their titles fit them well though as they are high quality leather belt pouches at very reasonable prices. I ordered two of the larger Wanderer pouches to round out my belt pouch combo idea I’ve been playing with.

Here’s my setup. Camera case, MRC leather pouches, canteen kit, and belt knife. Just under 14 pounds when all loaded up. Again, this kit will most likely enable me to stay alive until I can make it out on my own, or sit and wait until Search and Rescue can find me. I attached these to a Condor tactical belt that has a little bit of extra padding compared to a regular leather belt. Maybe someday I’ll round it out with a leather camera case and leather or canvas canteen pouch, but for now, this works comfortably. The oil stain on the elk hide is my fault for leaving it on the kitchen counter where cooking oil gets tossed about ;)

One of the Wanderer pouches contains lunch for the day, tea, extra water bottle, and tins with various accoutrements. Sharpening kit, fishing kit, tool kit, tin with three candles for warmth and light, whistle, random tinders and MRC tinder pouch. 

The other Wanderer pouch contains a fire steel, 3 hanks of 80 lb bank line for shelter building mostly, head lamp, bug head net, buff , tp, bug spray, reflective blanket, 2 mil 55 gallon trash bag, and a saw with detachable blades. This blade is small, but other larger attachable blades will be back at base camp. 

And the Longhunter pouch is just the right size for a synthetic fill insulated jacket.

Canteen kit with iodine tablets. Camera case with Sawyer Squeeze water filter, poncho, 5x7 BCUSA mest, and first aid kit in the front pocket round out the rest of the kit. 

I must say I am very pleased with the comfort of this setup, and the quality and function of the MRC pouches. High grade, top notch leather gear for those who wander the wilds. Thanks again Mike.