Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Geocache Hike

Every Thanksgiving weekend, after enjoying a wonderful dinner, it's become a tradition to go Geocaching with my wife's family in Ohio.  It's really a great way to spend some quality time with the family while enjoying the fresh air and great company.  This year we all went to Malabar Farm State Park, A working farm which also happens to be an Ohio state Park and a really neat place . Here's the link for more info I took a few pictures of the beautiful fall landscape as we walked some of the trails and thought I'd share them, here they are in no particular order .

A small creek

A tangle of downed trees

Beautiful blue November sky

Fall woods

Huge Beech Tree
Leaf filled creek

Rock Formation

We enjoy Geocaching, it's a great way to get outdoors, and if you have kids, it's a great way to get them involved in hiking and learning basic navigational skills while having a lot of fun. You don't need expensive GPS units, we use our cheap Garmin we bought for the car and it works great.  For more information on Geocaching and to look up geocaches in your area, check out . Thanks for taking a look at the pictures, I hope all your days outdoors are great one's.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Fall walk through the woods.

My wife and I decided to take a hike last weekend.  We headed up to one of our local nature centers and just wandered around the trails for a couple of hours. I decided to take a few pictures of the things I look for while walking through the woods. Hope you enjoy.

This picture is pretty typical of the woods around where I live. Mostly mixed hardwoods and softwoods, all about the same age, a clear sign of logging in the past. I see very few old growth trees in my area of upstate New York.

The White or Paper Birch is abundant around here.  Which is a good thing as it is a very useful tree.  It's bark is one of the best natural fire starters, can be made into containers and of course, be used as paper.  It's sap is used much like Maple for Birch syrup and it's wood makes excellent campfire wood. This is one of a stand of 20 or 30 Birch in the same area.

Here's a pile of downed White Birch along the trail, which would be an excellent place to harvest bark and wood.  On State lands here in New York, you can only use downed and dead trees for firewood. You cannot harvest or damage live trees without the proper permits.

When hiking in the fall or winter, a quick look down on the ground can identify what kind of trees are around you. The majority of leaves in this picture are Oak with just a few other hardwood leaves mixed in, telling me the area of the forest I am currently in is primarily Oaks. This is especially useful knowledge when gathering wood for a campfire, it's a pretty good bet that most of the wood laying around will be oak and should make a good fire.

This stream not only looks beautiful as it meanders between the trees, it would also be an excellent water source once treated or boiled. I always try to make a mental note of water sources when I'm out in the woods.

One of the things I love about the area I live in is the diversity found in the woods.  Within a 2 or 3 mile hike, you can go from being surrounded by Oaks, Birch and Maples to being in a dense stand of Pine and Hemlock like in this picture.  All of these pictures were taken in an area of  250 acres on a hike of a couple of hours.

Thanks for Reading, I hope you enjoy your time in the woods!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Favorite Free Outdoor E-Books from Project Gutenberg

One of my favorite pastimes is reading books by those who went into the wilderness before us.  I think I've read "Woodcraft and Camping" by George Washington Sears about twenty times.  The great thing about that book and many others, is that they are available free online. I thought I'd do a quick post and link some of my favorite outdoor books available on Project Gutenberg. If you haven't heard of Project Gutenberg yet, it is the largest collection of free electronic books available anywhere and has been around for a long time. It's a great resource if you own an e-reader!

Here's the links to some of my Favorites....

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do... 
Thanks for Reading,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What If ?

What if ?
My job sometimes requires me to spend a couple hours a day in my car.  One of the things I like to do as I'm driving is think about "What If's".  
Things such as "What if I am forced to spend an unexpected night in the woods with only what I have in my pockets?" or "What if I'm in the woods and need to purify water but have no container to boil it in?". It gets me thinking in creative ways and identifies skills I need to acquire. I also try to think of "What if's" when I have free time in camp, for example, I'll look around and think to myself "What if I had to build a shelter right now?.... Where and how would I build it and what's around that I could use?".  On a hike I may ask myself "What if a thunderstorm rolled in right now?" or "What if I wanted to setup camp right here... Where's the best spot for my tent?". If the answer to my question is "I don't know." or "I'm not sure." then I know I need to do some research and improve my skills. 
While driving up to the Adirondacks this summer, "What if I only had one match left and had to start a fire?" popped into my head.  I started thinking about what tinder to use, where to find the driest kindling and how to build the fire.  When we got to camp a couple of hours later, I was determined to start the evening campfire with one match. By following the plan I had been thinking about earlier, I had a nice fire going using a single match in just a few minutes. Then I got to thinking "What if I was out of matches and had to use the magnesium fire starter in my kit?". So the next day, using the same tinder, kindling and design, I started the fire with my mag bar, something I haven't used in awhile and needed some practice with. What I ended up with before the weekend was over, was a self taught refresher course in an essential outdoor skill... fire making. Something I had taken for granted and needed to revisit. So give it a shot, the next time you've got some free time in the car, start thinking "What if...?"... You might learn something you forgot you knew... Just like I did!

Hmmmm.... "What if I needed to start a fire, didn't have any matches and it was raining out?"..... 

Thanks for reading, 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cool Stuff Review - Discover Wilderness Survival Playing Cards!

On our last trip to the Adirondacks, we stopped at a couple of souvenir shops so I could pick up a window sticker for my car. Sitting there on a shelf in one of them was something called "Discover Wilderness Survival" Playing cards! Since I almost always have a deck of cards in my kit, and I believe that anything I carry should be multipurpose, I decided to spend the $6.00 and check them out.  I wasn't sure exactly how you could fit a wilderness survival manual on a deck of playing cards but when I opened them up I was pleasantly surprised at the content.  Each card has a different survival strategy on it, with titles such as "Survival Basics", "Signaling for rescue in the wilderness", "River Safety" and even... "How to wrestle free from an Alligator"!!!  Certainly fun to read! All in all I was impressed with the amount of data on the cards, the print is small and I would have liked to see more diagrams and pictures, but the information looks good.  I didn't see anything new or any bad advice, just good basic survival information.  I was also very happy to see they are printed in the U.S.A.  When I checked out the manufacturer Sea to Sky Photography at I saw that they have a whole line of photo playing cards with Birds, Animals, Marine Life, etc.  I just may have to check a few more of them out.
So I'll be swapping out the ratty old deck of cards in my kit with these because here in the Northeast, you never know when you may have to wrestle free from an alligator!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the outdoors,

Friday, October 7, 2011

5 Questions with Craig Cole from The Outdoor Podcast.

Welcome to the start of a new semi-regular feature here on called “5 Questions”. When I find someone who is doing something new, different or interesting that I think should be shared with others, I'll email them 5 questions and (with their permission of course) post their answers on here with links to get more info. Craig Cole is the creator of The Outdoor Podcast, a podcast I discovered a few months ago and now listen to on a regular basis. His enthusiasm for the outdoors is inspiring. I emailed Craig, introduced myself and asked if I could interview him for this blog. He graciously accepted and will be our first featured interview. So without any further adieu...

5 Questions with Craig Cole from The Outdoor Podcast.

Tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to start the

I grew up in West Virginia and have enjoyed various outdoor activities since I was a kid. In fact, my family has lived in West Virginia for so long, that we lost our family origins. I figure my family lived in West Virginia for so long that it was no longer an issue as to where we came from originally. So far, I've gone back to six generations all living in West Virginia. I started camping and hiking as a kid and as I've gotten older I've continued to build upon this outdoor foundation with various outdoor interests.

In the summer of 2010, I traded my Blackberry for an Android and started researching podcasts based on my interests. The first podcast that I found was The Survival Podcast and really enjoyed it. I quickly became disappointed in finding outdoor related podcast because most of them were no longer being updated. I decided to follow Jack Spirko's advice to follow my passions and start a podcast based on all my outdoor interests.

What kind of feedback are you getting from the listeners of your podcast?

I've been totally blown away by the feedback that I have received so far. The feedback so far has been very encouraging and positive, with the majority of it being questions that people have for me to give them outdoor advice.

You often talk about getting families involved in outdoor pursuits, what is one piece of advice you'd give a family who is thinking about getting outdoors?

The biggest piece of advice that I can give to families is to just get out and do something in the outdoors and make sure you take the kids along with you. Right now our society is jammed pack with stress and busyness and there is no better way to relieve yourself of stress than to get outdoors.

Canoeing is obviously one of your passions in the outdoors, what advice would you give to someone who is interested in, but hasn't started canoeing yet?

My wife and I absolutely love canoeing and learning to canoe was one of the best decisions we've made as a couple. The way I got started in canoeing was by reading articles on canoeing and learning the different paddling strokes. Then we decided to rent a canoe for a few hours on a local river to see if it was something that we would enjoy. By the end of the day we ended up buying a brand new canoe. Now we have YouTube that makes learning to canoe that much easier. If you've never canoed before, it's definitely best to rent a canoe for your first trip, just to make sure it's an activity that you'll enjoy.

Finally, do you have a favorite outdoor tip or trick that you use on a regular basis you'd like to share?

The best tip that I can offer is to make sure you are prepared for anything. I've been stuck in mud on top of a mountain by myself, been caught in crazy thunder and rainstorms and had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere on a rutted out trail. By making sure you carry at least a 10 piece kit with you every time you are in the outdoors, you will be better equipped to handle a bad situation.

Craigs' podcast is available on iTunes and from his website at Please take a few minutes and check it out.



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Basic Leatherwork - Part 2

Here's part 2 of doing some basic leatherwork.  This time we'll make a simple sheath to hold a pocketknife.  The knife I picked was a Opinel but the basic design could be modified to fit folding knives, flashlights, etc.

We'll start by laying out everything we need.  Since I'm extremely cheap and like to make as many of my own tools as I can, You can see my 4 prong "Leather Punch" was formally a heavy duty fork purchased at the Salvation Army for 25 cents.  I just flattened it out, sharpened up the tips and wrapped some tape around the end.  It allows you to punch 4 holes at once and helps to keep your stitches straight.

The leather were starting with is approx. 3 and 1/2 times the length of the knife. Here we fold it into and "S" shape and put a clothespin on it to hold it together. This forms the pocket for the knife and the loop for the belt.

Here's the sideview.

Now we'll mark where the leather overlaps itself, this is so we know where to put our stitching.

Now we'll lay out our leather strap and and mark the lines..  Make 2 lines with either chalk or a pencil where you want the stitching to go. You can either punch the stitch holes by hand with an awl or use our homemade stitching punch.

Now we start stitching, start by sewing one way, then reverse and start sewing the other direction which will double up the stitches. When you finish, don't worry about knotting it, just go back through a few previous stitches, pull it tight and cut it off.  It won't unravel.

Here's both sides of our sheath after the stitching is done.

Now we'll mold the sheath to fit the knife, Just like the previous tutorial, we soak the leather for a few minutes in warm water.  This time we'll take the knife, wrap it up in some plastic wrap to protect it and put it in the sheath.  It should fit tightly. Set it aside and let it dry.

After it dries, remove the plastic wrap from the knife and Taa Daaa.... You now have a homemade sheath that is custom fit to your knife.  If you like a more finished professional look, you can round the edges with some sandpaper and rub a candle along them to wax the edges.  I like the homemade look so I'll leave this one as it is.

Professional leather workers would probably laugh at some of these techniques, But who cares.. We've just made ourselves something useful that will last a long time.  Give it a shot and let me know how and what you decide to make.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quick Camp Tip - A Camp Hanger

When I setup camp, I like to keep my gear up off the ground as much as possible.  I don't think we should be driving nails in or breaking branches of of trees just to have a place to hang a jacket or pack.  
One of the first things I do when I setup camp is find a couple of sturdy forked sticks laying on the ground and make a couple of gear hangers.  I just cut the forked part of the sticks off and split them down the middle. Securely lash the "Hanger" to a nearby tree about chest height and presto... Instant hanger for anything you want off the ground.  I usually end up hanging my pack first to make it easier to get everything else out to setup camp.  With practice you can have a couple of hangers ready in a few minutes. 
When you head out, just untie the hanger and toss the rope in your pack with no damage to the tree. Give it a shot and let me know how It works for you.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Basic Leatherwork - Part 1

I thought I'd do a couple of leatherwork tutorials, it's something that I haven't really touched on before and thought it'd be fun.  I am by no means an expert working with leather, I can and do make a variety of items such as sheaths, bags, etc. This first project is an easy one, a simple laced together bag that takes minimal tools and time.

We'll start by grabbing a scrap of leather and a couple of leather laces, the only tools I'll use are a leather punch, some heavy duty scissors and a pair of needle nose pliers.

Draw out the shape of both sides of the bag on the back side of the leather.

Cut it out just outside of the pencil lines, it doesn't have to be perfect, just close.

Here I have folded it over and cut it in half, making the two sides of he bag.

Punch holes in one side of the bag, Try to keep them as evenly spaced as possible, although they do not have to be perfect.

Lay the fronts of both sides together and mark the holes on the unpunched side.  Again it doesn't have to be perfect but you'll want to make sure you have the same amount of holes on each side.

Holes punched in both sides.

On this bag I started lacing on the second hole down, I'll leave the top holes for the strap.  Knot one end of your lace and start lacing.  Tightening the lacing every so often.

Here's the bag laced up and with the strap attached, I slid the strap through the top two holes and knotted both ends. My lacing wasn't long enough to lace around the entire bag in one piece so I used two, knotted them at the center bottom and left them long for some fringe. If your lacing is long enough, you won't have to do this.

Now we have a flat laced bag, here's the part that gives it some shape and makes it easier to get things in and out of it. Take your new bag and run it under some warm water, making sure it gets soaked.  Go out to your driveway, creek or whatever you have and pack the bag full of small gravel or clean sand.  Work the gravel or sand in tightly and you'll notice the leather start to stretch.

Find a warm place to hang it up until it dries.

After the bag is dry, dump out the gravel or sand, it should hold it's shape now. Treat the bag with some neatsfoot oil or beeswax and your done.

That's it, a simple leather project that can be completed in less than an hour (not counting drying time). Next time in Part 2, we'll go over some simple stitching and make an open sheath for a pocketknife or flashlight.

Thanks for reading,  N.E.V.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Section Added - The Photo Gallery

Hello Everyone,
I just added a new tab at the top of the page for a new section called "The Photo Gallery". I've put some Pics in there from our most recent trips to the Adirondacks.  I'll be adding pictures periodically in there now, instead of the Home page. Hope you enjoy looking at them.
Thanks for checking it out.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Welcome to

Hello everyone,
Just a quick update... I finally purchased for this site.  If you have any links pointing to they will still work and will automatically redirect to the new site. It may take a couple of days for everything to "catch up" on the internet, so if is not available right away, the old blogspot address will still work. I will be making some changes over the next few days with new email, features, etc. so keep checking back. I do appreciate everyone taking the time to check out this blog.
Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Moss Lake Adirondacks 8/7 - 8/8

 At least once a year we try to get to the Adirondack mountains and one of our favorite places to go is Moss Lake, just outside of Eagle Bay, NY.  My wife and I spent our honeymoon around there, so when we were thinking of places to go for our 18th wedding anniversary, it was one of the first choices.  Having stayed at the hike in campsites up there the past few years, we decided to take the canoe and try out one of the boat access sites around the lake.  So we loaded up the car and hit the road. Thought I'd share some pictures my wife and I took. Hope you enjoy them.

The View from the launch.

Across the lake.

Rock cliffs

There is a small island in the middle of Moss Lake we had never been to, We decided to paddle over and check it out.  There we found some very photogenic Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwing

Loon on the lake

It was a great couple of days in a beautiful place.
Thanks for reading,

Tree roots on shore

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coffee Can Emergency Kit

Kit Packed Up
I was checking out some different compact survival or emergency kits that people have put together online. Everything from altoids tins with the bare minimum items to daypacks with enough gear in them to spend a couple of nights in relative comfort.  Since I like to customize my gear to fit my skills I decided to put together my own.  In the spirit of budget bushcrafting and to keep it as cheap as possible, I decided to use things I already had around the house.

Here's list of the items I put in and why I chose what I did.

Coffee Can with lid - To boil and transport water in, makes a tough, waterproof container to hold the rest of the kit.

Large Folding Knife - I don't want to have to rely on a razor blade or small folding knife that I have seen in some kits. I'd rather carry the extra weight and have a knife with some toughness.

20' of Paracord - carrying 20' of 7 Strand paracord gives me 160' of cordage for building a shelter, repairs, etc.

1 Gallon Ziplock Bag - For storing and transporting disinfected water if needed.

Emergency "Space" Blanket - for use as a shelter or heat reflector.

Chemical Light Stick - Fast and easy light source

Pencil and a few sheets of paper - for leaving notes, drawing maps, etc.

Banadana - Hat, water pre-filter, bandage, towel, etc.

First Aid Kit - a few bandaids, Tylenol, ointments and alcohol pads to patch up minor cuts and scrapes.

Mini Button Compass - For finding direction.

Magnesium Fire Starter - I chose this over matches or a lighter because it works when it wet and can't be broken. If you carry one, be sure to practice starting fires with it before you need it in an emergency.

Food - I threw in a Clif bar and a couple of different kinds of teas.  Simple comfort items in a stressful situation.

A few more things I've been thinking about adding :

Plastic shopping bags - Great for carrying things, they pack down small and can even be made into useful cordage if needed.

A couple of feet of aluminum foil - For cooking, pot lid, signaling mirror.

Kit spread out
That's everything, I do plan on taking a hike and testing it out sometime to see how it performs.  Emergency kits are one of the things you hope you'll never need, but should be practiced with. If you decide to build your own, don't just copy mine, customize it to fit your skill set.

A couple of  tips, If you end up having to spend a unexpected night in the your going to be cold, hungry and not thinking as clearly as normal.  It's a good Idea to jot down some notes to put in your emergency kit, things like some simple drawings of knots in case you can't remember how to tie them, shelter ideas and ways of finding direction.  An inspirational quote or two can help at stressful times. Create your own mini "Survival Manual" personalized just for you.

Don't just throw a kit together and forget about it. Take it out once in a while and practice with it. It's also a good idea to check expiration dates on medications and any foods you've included.

Hope this post was useful for you. Have a great Day!