21 July 2013

A Wander with some new gear...

Had a lot I wanted to do today, beyond getting some bush time in general. Wanted to see if I finally hit the grail with the pack basket carry mod, get the Donk Grill good and hot, and of course get my new Whelen Wilderness Knife dirty. Iz did such a fine job with this knife I felt it would be irresponsible of me to NOT use it pronto! I also wanted some more Chaga and having spied some last time out it seemed like my day was going to be full of dirt time goodness.

The before I go shot of the custom Turley Whelen Wilderness Knife. Based on the knife Col. Townsend Whelen carried for most of his life. I had explained to Iz what I wanted in the handle and man he delivered. Couldn't be happier, you can bet on seeing a lot more of this knife.

I knew as I rounded the end of the lodge on my way to the back trail and saw the turkeys in my drive way that I was going to thoroughly enjoy today. Event the temperatures are down, low to mid 60s and virtually no humidity! Hell it got down into the lower 50s last night and the damn skeeters don't know what hit 'em.

According to the Minnesota DNR we're not supposed to have turkeys this far north. Been seeing this flock now for about four years so they seem to be doing okay, even old broke tail. Don't know what the tangled with that he got his rear fan busted but he's still struttin' so I guess he's okay.

After spending some time acting like a amateur wildlife photographer I turned my back on them and the barn and head out the back trail. Based on where I wanted to grab that chaga, and wanting to circle back the long way through the tamaracks and the sphagnum moss I figured on about twelve miles. This was going to be a bit of a workout because I was running kinda heavy. Full kit and all in the pack basket as I wanted to see how the hauler worked out.

I originally bought the LL Bean Load Hauler to pack meat quarters out of the back country and carry tree stands in and out, it worked well for that. Then I got this wild idea to mate it up with the pack basket. As much as I love foraging with a pack basket, it ain't real conducive to comfortable carry over many a mile, at least mine wasn't. It worked and I used it a lot but I knew there must be a more comfortable option. I don't really care if stuff is period or correct or not, I'm not afraid to see fastex buckles and nylon with ash basket slats and leather. To me it's a modern incarnation of something that just flat works. When I'm planning on foraging a lot, there's nothing like a pack basket, add a modern harness and rigging and well, it just doesn't get much better.

Here's several shots of what the monster looks like now.

So off on the trail, absolutely amazed at how well the pack carried and how comfortable it was even loaded up. The hip belt took the weight to the hips, straps comfortable, all it the ride was great.

Staghorn sumac isn't really in yet, wish it was, got a real hankerin' for some Indian Lemonade.

Our dew berries are in, covering the forest floor it's hard to make any progress for the fact that I'm browsing as I go. They are the first berry that we get in, they are a little behind this year as is everything else due to our lingering winter.

We're still an easy couple weeks out on the Thimble Berries I think but they are there. Of all the berries of our north woods I think I like the Thimble berry the best.

Canada Fly Honeysuckle, non-edible, 

Ghosting some of the big woods in pursuit of chaga and looking for deer sign.

What Monarch, this old giant moss covered maple tree was one I hadn't seen before. Wetterlings 26" axe laid in for size comparison.

I'm not that sharp on fungus but they are photogenic. Couldn't find this one in my field guide. Any one know what it is?

Time to loop back, taking the long way would bring me through Beaver valley as I call it. Last count there were no less than five active families. I had no intention of bogging close enough to them to get pics though, that's some hard hairy country to get through this time of year. Instead the plan was to stay on the west side of the valley and travel south by passing much of their country. It did mean however that I'd still be boggin some through the sphagnum moss and Labrador tea of our low country.

From here I got into some rough stuff and put the camera away for a while, but still managed a couple shots as I moved deeper into the lowlands of the valley.

Time to unlimber the pack and have a little lunch! I was pretty deep into the cedar swamp so pickens on perfect places was slim. I settled on a spot where an old cedar made a pretty good sittin spot, this ancient behemoth had become five trees and one of the roots has grown so big I really didn't think I'd find anything better. Was a bit muddy where I wanted to put the fire so a couple rocks and some bark for a fire bed were in order. Skeeters were actually pretty thick here so bug juice and thermacell were used to hold them off till I got some smoke from the fire to drive them out.

 I was in a hurry to get a fire going so went after it. Cedar bark shavings for tinder, some feathering and shaving and boom, fire!

Once the fire was going it was on to food prep. Donk's Grill is a perfect place for my mini-cutting board. This grill is the ticket. Folds flat and works perfect. So far I got nothing but good things to say about it. Not sure what it weighs but it doesn't feel that heavy. As far as finish and function, backwoods bum approved.

Alright, nothing to do now but wait for the coals to get right.

First course, BACON! 

Second course now, some peppers, shrooms, flanken ribs!

Oh hell yeah!

After a little desert, some Treebeard tobacco out of a Missouri Meerschaum, it was back on the trail again.

Anyone know if these are 'Witches Butter'?

I covered the several miles back to the house through the rest of the afternoon, batteries died on the way back so only got a couple more shots.

Thanks for coming along!


  1. Whoahh, what a great report!
    So many aspects, so many beautiful pictures....
    I must admit that I raised an eyebrow at first, seeing your backpackcombination, but in hindsight I must admit I like its functionality.
    That food looks so good.... We'll have to wait a while, befor we can do that here again. High risk for forestfire, so no open fire allowed.
    And those Whelenbooks look like good food to the mind too.
    Thanks for taking us along.

    1. Thanks Ron.

      While that pack combination was comfortable it isn't my every time I go to the woods pack.On this trip I brought back about 13 pounds of chaga. Not something that I could have done with the regular pack.

      When berry collecting later this year I'll have it full of plastic containers, makes it easier to collect.

      For foraging it's a pretty good set up.

      Thanks for the comments!

  2. That's a great looking knife, AG. Stacked leather and stag will always be a fine combo. What's the blade steel?

    1. 3/16th O1 tool steel, convex edge.

      So far it's working out great!

  3. Beautiful. Cooled me off at least 15 degrees. Thanks for takin' us along.

  4. That's a nice stroll in the woods for sure. Great meal and that's a unique knife you have there. Nice blend of two handle styles.

  5. Great shots of the turkeys.

  6. That pack basket looks great for foraging. BTW, which plant ID book are you using?

  7. Great looking little Day trip through the North woods man, I'm jealous. I'm south of you in Iowa and all i get to look at is corn Soybeans, and hog and chicken confinement buildings, i need to get up there where You are at and go hiking back there. Looks awesome,even the Cedar swamp looked great. You asked about the white fungus growth on the side of the tree, Kind of looked to me like a horseshoe fungus. It may well not be that, but there is a small chance I could be correct. I've been known to be correct from time to time, LOL

  8. That sure is a purdy-lookin' knife. Iz did a great job on it. That old-and-new pack hybrid is a great idea, too! Never would have thought of that!

    I find a folding grill to be a very useful piece of gear as well. Very compact and time-saving.

    As usual, great photography (including of the food). ;)