Have Map, Will Travel

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Woohoo! My custom mytopo.com map arrived in the mail today! I really like the quality. I’m also really glad that I opted for the folded map instead of rolled. I wrestled with the decision since I’m used to the USGS rolled maps and folding them to meet my needs. I really like the form factor, though, and it’ll fit nicely in a pocket. Continue reading

Now We’re Cooking With Gas

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As much of a backcountry stove aficionado that I am, I’m remorseful that my MSR Whisperlite International hasn’t seen any actual trail use. I picked it up for it’s ability to burn multiple fuels when I was still using canister stoves. Once I got hooked on the alcohol stoves it got pushed further down into the storage bin. Those days are gone now!
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A-Rucking We Will Go

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Those of you that know me know that I couldn’t be further from the fitness spectrum. In fact, I’m like Pluto if fitness is Earth. I hate working out and always have. I keep thinking that’ll change and I keep kidding myself. I thought I’d get into running to work on cardio for the Idaho trip. Guess what? I freakin’ hate running. Apparently that hasn’t changed from high school. Continue reading

The End is Near

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Well, at least the end of the preparations for the Idaho trip. Unfortunately our great leader has a ruptured disk and won’t be able to make the full trip. He and his buddy (we all have a buddy) will stay behind and car camp at the Campground. The rest of us will continue on to the lake. It’s a bummer but at least he’ll get to enjoy some of it.

I think pretty much everything is falling into place. The last food order is due tomorrow. I normally prefer to dehydrate my own meals but I’ve had too much going on. I’ve been impressed with the Packit Gourmet selections I’ve tried in the past so I’ll be doing a blend of DIY, Mountain House, and PIG. Now to figure out how to carry all this food. Continue reading

Idaho Bound

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Wow. Has it really been almost a year and a half since I had anything to say? That’s just downright pathetic. And depressing. :(

I hope to make it up soon, though. In just a few short weeks I’ll be hitting the trail again in a big way. I’m packing and prepping for what I think will be an awesome trip to the Bighorn Crags in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness. The Church is a massive wilderness area and I think it’ll be an absolutely amazing trip.

This will be a very different trip for me. Unlike hiking the AT, after about a 13-mile hike at roughly 8-9K feet we’ll end up at Reflection Lake. That will be our base camp for the remainder of the time. From there we’ll have an assortment of other lakes to hike to and explore. I can hardly wait to break out the fly rod to land some trophy trout.

I fear that this will be a very arduous hike. As a once-in-a-lifetime trip I’ll be carrying both camera and fishing gear which I’d never take on a routine hike. I don’t even want to think about my pack weight. I’ll do my best to keep it down but we’ll see what really happens.

Stay tuned. I’ll be updating more as the preps come together.

An Axe to Grind

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During my chainsaw recert I felt the re-kindling of the desire to have a nice axe. I have several already but they’re all your run-of-the-mill big box store-type axe. Last year I started thinking about more of an heirloom axe. I want something that will not only last me a lifetime but also be something I can pass on to my son and it’ll last his lifetime also.

I finally took a leap and ordered my first hand-forged, Swedish axe. It’s a Wetterlings forest axe with a 26″ hickory handle and about a 2 pound head. Right out of the box I knew it was going to be an axe to enjoy.

The fit and finish of the handle was superb. The head is very nicely forged and it had a keen edge. It wasn’t quite sharp enough to shave with but I don’t think it’ll take much to get it there. I haven’t taken the stone to it yet but I hope to work with it some over the weekend. I didn’t have any gaps in the head as I’ve seen in some online reviews and the handle grain is straight and tight. You can see in this first image that the handle has a hole through it in the event you wish to use a lanyard.

The sheath that came with it is nice and fits well. I’d read some reviews saying it had a cheap magnetic closure but mine is a tight snap fitting.

The axe arrived with a nice, small pamphlet attached to it which talks about how the axes are made and of course how to use and care for it. It’s interesting that Wetterlings has been forging axes for 100 years and the company has only 9 employees.

It seems to be very well balanced and while I have yet to actually use it in the field I’m expecting it to be a dream to use. It really is a beautiful axe and I’m looking forward to getting some long use out of it.

Where Does the Time Go?

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I can’t believe that my last post was September of last year. I guess I got so caught up in trail maintenance and the holidays that I really let things slip. I wish I could say I’ve been out on the trail for recreational purposes but those moments seem few and far between.

I did take the opportunity last weekend to finally renew my USFS chainsaw certification. Since we rarely (if ever) have the need to fell a tree the current certification only covers bucking and limbing. Rather than taking the course in Osceola Natl Forest again I headed south to Ocala. We had some great instructors and a great group of students. I’ll post separately on that.

Something I’ve been thinking of for a while which was further solidified during the chainsaw course was the desire to obtain a quality axe. Today my first hand-forged axe arrived in the mail. I actually have another arriving Tues. I tried to cancel that one because it hadn’t shipped yet but then it shipped before they cancelled it. Oh well. If I don’t like it I’ll stick to the plan of returning it.

On Feb 22 our FTA chapter will be hosting its annual IDIDAHIKE. If you’re in the North Florida area we’ll be hiking a 9-mile section covering both Camp Blanding and Gold Head Branch State Park. There is some really nice scenery in this area so I encourage you to join us. The cost is a $20 donation plus the $5 park entrance fee.

This weekend we’ll be out doing our final maintenance of the trail in preparation. I’ll have the DR mower loaded up tomorrow and I’ve already checked out the chainsaw and sharpened the chain. I’m looking forward to finding some trees down that I can buck off the trail. :)

Well that’s a quick catch-up. Time to get back into gear on reviews etc. Happy hiking!

Time to Get Back in the Woods

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It feels as though it’s been a very long time since I stepped foot on the trail. This past weekend I managed to get a small taste and this coming weekend I’ll be diving headfirst back into the fray as we kick off our maintenance season. The bulk of my journeys along the Florida Trail have been focused on the north and central sections. Over the weekend I got to explore a little of the panhandle section around Appalachicola.

My Wilderness First Aid certification expired at the end of July and I needed to renew it before leading folks back into the woods with manual and power tools. The FTA scored a great opportunity with Landmark Learning to host three regional WFA courses. Landmark is the Southeastern rep for NOLS/WMI. I was really looking forward to getting a WMI perspective compared with my prior Red Cross certification.

I left work Thursday and headed west to St Marks, Florida. My accommodations for the weekend would be the St Marks Volunteer Center. While there was a very nice bunk house provided, it was the perfect opportunity to finally get back into the hammock after a much-too-long hiatus.

St Marks Hammock

I arrived around 7:30pm and found a USFS guy that had been working there for the summer. After setting up the hammock we talked for a while. He was a bird and waterfowl guy and had some great stories about how he captures ducks for tagging. I think there are a couple of methods I’d like to try myself. :) We headed down the road for dinner where we were joined by another USFS (both contractors actually). He was a mechanical engineer working on bridge inspections along the Florida Trail.

I had most of the day to kill Friday since the CPR portion of the course didn’t start until 6pm. Since the duck commander had departed in the morning I tagged along to find a bridge. We spent a couple of hours hiking the trail and didn’t find it. We tried a spot a little further down the road and found it in 5 minutes. Oh well. It felt good to be on the trail again. I’m glad he decided it was too large of a bridge to do in the time we had. The skeeters were eating me alive and the Deet didn’t seem to have any effect.

Bridge Check

Let me just take a moment to say that there really must not be anything to do around St Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I say this only because I can’t come up with any other reason someone would build giant paper mâché animals in their front yard.



Friday night rolled around and I met up with about 15 other students at the St Marks NWR Visitor’s Center. I have to say that our tax dollars provided a very nice educational facility. We spent the next three hours going over the latest CPR techniques and had a good time. After a nice evening in the hammock (though I wish the trees would’ve provided a little protection from the full moon’s spotlight on me) it was time for the WFA portion.

Saturday was spent learning the patient assessment system which includes doing a full head-to-toe exam, running through a SAMPLE, and providing long-term care while waiting for help or prior to making the decision to evacuate. We covered emergency and evac plans, spine and head injuries, shock, and wound management. This was a much larger class than before with about 30 students. The instructors did a great job of managing it, though, and I don’t think it caused any problems aside from perhaps reducing the amount of time we had for scenarios.

I'm a Patient

Classroom Scenario

After reviewing the material we’d learned in the morning, we split into two groups: victims and rescuers. The victims headed outside and waited for fate to befall them. Soon, with capes billowing in the wind, The Mighty First Aid Warriors swooped into action.

Field Scenario

Sunday kicked off with more wound management and covered blood and bones. We learned about athletic injuries, fractures, dislocations, and heat illness. We practiced splinting each other with items found in the average backpack. The ability to improvise with the gear you have is crucial to properly managing wilderness medical emergencies. In this picture we fashioned a leg splint with a foam pad, spare clothing, some cravats, and an Ace bandage.

Leg Splint

After the practical exercises were done we continued on with cold injuries/altitude illness (granted, not something we deal with much in Florida), lightning (definitely a possibility), anaphylaxis, and dealing with medical patients opposed to trauma patients. The 16-hour course came to an end and I think we all left feeling better equipped to face potential injuries we might encounter on the trail.

The majority of the students were involved with trail maintenance. We ranged from trail coordinators like myself to section leaders, activity leaders, and maintainers. Any time you take on the responsibility to lead a group of people into the wilderness I firmly believe it’s incumbent upon yourself to be equipped to provide for their needs. This may mean you carry a little extra weight in the way of water, gear, or first aid supplies but I think it’s part of wearing the “leader” hat. Many times we find ourselves with new hikers or new maintainers that perhaps bit off more than they expected. It’s our job to ensure that they still have a safe and fun experience.

One regret from this weekend is that I didn’t get to spend more time exploring the refuge. At 68,000 acres it would be quite a daunting task to cover even a small portion during the time we were there. I am glad, at least, for the opportunity to take in some wildlife right around the visitor’s center itself.

Baby Gator

Pygmy Rattler

While I was talking to a couple of people in the parking lot a young fawn wandered out. Then later down the road I saw a family of turkeys. I decided that although it meant a little more driving deeper into the refuge I wanted to see one last landmark. Behold, the St. Marks Lighthouse…

St. Marks Lighthouse

In closing, I hope to encourage you to do two things. First, take some time out of your schedule to learn first aid and CPR. It doesn’t have to be wilderness-specific. Just get out and learn. The more people on the street that are trained the better. Second, take some time to enjoy the vast outdoor opportunities that are found all over Florida. You might even want to start at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge!