29 August 2014

Randall 28 Woodsman / H60 Firesteel Pass-around GAW Challenge (part one).

I was lucky enough to be selected for  Give Away Challenge involving a Randall Model 28 Woodsman, and a H60 Firesteel. The challenge was sponsored by a BCUSA member, who has done many of these challenges that have some great items being gifted to the winners, all of these challenges require field activity and are not simple 'I'm in' give away events.

I'm taking the knife on a two night three day trek through a wilderness area in North East Minnesota. I'm not naming the area because it's a special place that sees very very little activity, it's hard to get to in many ways and is a genuine wilderness, selfishly I want to keep it that way!

I received the knife today and while it isn't the first Randall I've held it is one of the best that I have seen. I took the following pics this afternoon. The knife is a fine representation of what Randall has been doing for nearly eight decades.

Here the 28 is shown beside my Turley Whelen, a knife that many others have said reminds them of a mix between a Randall and a Scagel.

 I leave early tomorrow morning and will be back late on Monday and will post the adventure later in the week.

Have a great Labor day weekend!

27 August 2014

The Cave & The System

 I've gotten a couple questions over the years regarding trip planning and gear selection so as I renew/remodel my cave I thought I'd snap a few pics and describe the process. I'm always looking for new ideas and suggestions so if you have any you'd want to share please leave a comment!

All of my outings beyond a day trip start with maps and coffee!

In my Cave I've got a 4x8 planning table covered with maps of the areas I haunt. Depending on what I want to do, foot travel, canoeing, snowgo, atv etc I'll use the corresponding map set best suited to those activities. If I have never been there before I'll do some research and then plan according to what I know. If I have been there I'll typically skip the research part. I will determine what I want to do or learn at this point, forage, scout, sight see, adventure-ize and get a list of gear to support the activity.

With the gear list done I'll select a pack from the pack wall. These are the packs that are currently in my rotation, meaning they service a specific purpose for the current season. Some other packs are in storage because they won't see use at this time.

To the left of the packs there are a number of Kifaru pullouts.These are the core of my system. Each one holds elements, one is my current sleep system and base layer for sleeping, one holds my food, one holds the current water filtration system I am using, one holds the cook kit, one holds rain gear, one holds a kill-kit, one holds FAK stuff, one holds spare clothing. No mater what pack I pick these pullouts go into that pack. By doing this I am not perpetually packing and repacking packs. I put the core pullouts in and go.

If I want to trade out contents in the core I hit the gear rack and pull pieces that I want to put into the pullouts or add to the pullouts.

This includes shelter, cooking set be it solid fuel, canister, wood burning etc, miscellaneous stuff like micro lantern, bug net, space space or bivy sack, eating utensils, edge-ware, snacks, condiments, fire kit and so on.

You get the picture.

Shelter selections currently include the following BCUSA tarps WC MEST, MC MEST, 10x7 MC UL, 10x10 G1 MC, 10x12 UL MC, 9x7 A-TACS FG, 10x10 A-TACS AU. Additionally a Bear Paw net tent, Mountainsmith Mountain shelter, Titanium Goat bivy and a GSX 4 season round out the shelter arsenal.

For cooking I've got canister stoves, a Whsiperlite, and a Emberlit, the Whisperlite is mostly winter. If not using these I'm cooking over an open fire. Additionally in this section there are a number of small bags that I use inside the Kifaru pullouts that contain various things.

The miscellaneous shelf has knives that are in the current rotation, field glasses, snacks, fire kits and steels, food condiments, utensils, bug nets, micro lanterns, bivies and space blankets. 

Next to last and last shelf holds various pots, kettles, canteens, cups etc.

At the end of each season I'll comb through the gear I used and didn't use and either sell it off or pass it off to my sons for their use. The selection of clothing, snowshoes, waders, hip boots or hiking boots, conveyance, bow, rifle, rod, etc are all done separately on a need and season basis, all of it starts here though...

18 August 2014

The Passage

My eldest daughter turned 18 two years ago and for the occasion we celebrated in the Boundary Waters. I documented that trip here, Six +Ace for the Waters...

Well, eldest son turned 18 this month and while I offered a full on expedition he wanted to try his mettle on his own, well with a couple of friends of course. So after handing him my favorite paddle, I watched my oldest son leave not long after dawn this past Saturday morning, him and a couple of his buddies off to face and chase adventure on the water.

My son is the middle yahoo.

With trepidation I watched the jeep pass out of sight. I knew their trip route, I've made it many times myself. Entry point 25, up Moose, to Newfound, Sucker on through Birch, along the Canadian border and into Knife. It's a fine route with many miles of excellent water, good campsites, decent fishing and nice sunsets.

Knowing that did not absolve me of a father's concern nor diminish the sense of pride I felt for him wanting and willing to do the trip without me, even if there was a twinge of sadness for that fact as well. While I insisted on a tangible plan, deadlines and goals as far as progress etc he insisted on doing the gear and food selection as well as picking the route. Somewhat reluctantly I relinquished the reigns and let him do this provided I could do his final gear check, in so doing I earned another title, 'Control Freak In Chief'.

Nonetheless the check was done and he was gone. I spent the rest of my Saturday working on my own project but he was never far from my thoughts as the clouds and drizzle were constant reminders. As the day wore away and night came I imagined the fire on campsite 1287 which should be about where he was on Saturday night, how the reflection of it on the water would dance and the retelling of the days events would happen. How dinner would be wolfed down even as the pain of paddle use between the shoulder blades would be an aching reminder.

Sunday morning I woke early, there was a mist on and I wondered if his morning was the same, if it looked like I remembered it, as primordial as I recall.

I set out with my second oldest son on Sunday for our run on the future trap line, I enjoyed his company and the sights we saw and yet thought often of my oldest. Our high was mid fifties, likely cooler up north. As we walked the miles my mind played with paddling in colder water, clouds resting at waterline and all things being soaked. I thought of entering Knife lake and having the wind at my back, wondered which campsite they'd settle on. I imagined scrounging around campsite 1460 for fire fixings and hoped they'd managed a good site and had not gotten stuck with camp 1454, which incidentally, sucks.

Monday morning came, cold here, low fifties again and heavy fog. Thick and settled, I knew it would not burn off before the night though I wondered if it was as bad on Knife. If it was the water would be stillness incarnate, flat glass that seems blasphemous to stir with a paddle. The loons would call and the sound would carry forever. If close enough you'd be able to her water lap the rocky shores but in a mist like that wouldn't see it. Such conditions make mystery in the mind as it paints its own picture of reality beyond what one's own eyes see.

I engaged with work duties, the world called and yet I still thought of my son whose muscle and sinew propelled him homeward, likely at least a little sunburned, chilled, tired, maybe hungry but like his father would grin into the face of adversity and pull on.

Afternoon came as my conference calls wound down, I looked at the thick mist I knew would still be there, wondered again if it had settled on the chain of lakes between him and his exit point. I fired up the coffee pot upstairs more as an excuse to leave my home office and see my wife than to actually get a cup of coffee. It was later in the day now, the time of which I could nearly read in the tight lines at the corners of my wife's eyes. I knew she was worried, I spoke a few words about how nothing in the wild can be done with surgical timing, that things like weather and the unexpected happen, that he was our son and likely better prepared than most. I'm not sure if it helped, the lines eased a bit but she didn't say much one way or the other.

A few more hours passed and I overheard her speaking to someone on the house line, she was leaving a message on his cell, she wanted him to call soon and that she was concerned. He should have been off the water by now and back into cell range. I drained the cup and loaded a pipe, walked outside for a bit of air, which was calm at the house and according to the weather calm throughout the lakes. While foggy at least he wasn't fighting wind and wake I thought to myself. Another conference call beckoned.

Approximately thirty minutes later the phone rang, it was my son. I could hear my wife speaking with him, her tone one of relief. He asked to speak to me and she handed the phone off.


"Yes, son."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Nothing else needed saying.

17 August 2014

Fur Prospecting

Second son and I set out this morning to walk what we think will be part of our line later this winter. We wanted to look for sign and activity and enjoy a waning berry season. We're on the down hill side it would seem, raspberries are full and beginning to wane a bit, pin cherries, thimble berries, and blueberries are in and pretty much peaking, dew berries are long gone.

We're planning on going for Pine Marten, Fisher, Beaver, Fox primarily, mink and muskrat are secondary. I know my ground pretty good and where most of these critters are to be found. This part of the line makes a large loop through my lowlands and the beaver valley, up into some old growth and into some heavy pines, back to my main logging road that has offshoots throughout the property.

Then we were into the main attraction. We rolled around in this patch of blueberries like a couple of fat bears, ate our fill and I picked a canteen cup full to take back to my wife.

Once out of the moss and the Labrador tea, it opens up into a goodly size beaver swamp. Below is a comparison of what it looked like today vs. back in the winter.


Beaver sign was heavy, this valley runs another three miles or so to the south and there are numerous colonies. This particular area is close to the headwaters of the stream that cuts through the valley.

Moving back up into the forest.

Spotted the track below in a muddy stretch. The toes are narrow and elongated, with claw tip marks. It's not a coon track as there is no space between the toes, they touch in the track. It's a bigger than a skunk track and the claws are shorter than most skunk tracks I've seen. Too big to be an ermine.

Fisher Track
Marten track

 I took a nice chaga horn from this birch a little over a year ago, tremendous regrowth!

Heading up the creek.

Out of the woodlands and onto my main trail, found approximately 12 to 15 different scat piles from fox and wolf. Several had bone chips. I flagged a coupe obvious trails to explore next weekend.

We enjoyed the walk out, all the while marveling at the temperature. Today's high of 57 degrees Fahrenheit on August the 17th is abnormal even for our area.

Our walk back was mostly in silence, the odd chill in the air and the day's exploration had us both thinking of fall, which rode the wind today. While it might not be visible yet we could both feel it.