August 23, 2012


Conversation revolved around a particular question after reaching our cabin Friday night. “How many rounds you put through this one”, everyone asked as they picked up one another’s handguns and rifles – inspecting each. Five of us had gathered from as far away as Rhode Island to take in the Maine woods and bum around a family camp (smack dab in the middle of nowhere). The camp sits behind a gate that only three individuals have the key to: my buddy, his grandfather, and the logging company. And the logging company never comes here. It’s as if for an entire weekend we have 3,000 acres all to ourselves.

I wake early Saturday morning and stoke a fire. We all gather for breakfast once the sausages, green pepper, and onions are lightly charred in my cast iron pan. Tossing a combination of the above into a roll – we enjoy a lasting meal before piling into the bed of a late 90’s Ford pickup and setting off down the old dirt roads. With frequent stops to toss a fishing line into the occasional brook or target practice with empty cans, the day is thoroughly enjoyed.

The afternoon even includes a short hike to the top of a private mountain. Within 30 minutes we reach “The Ledges”, a rock-faced bluff, offering exquisite views of Acadia Park. You might as well call it Lookout Mountain. We spend a couple hours chatting, our feet dangling from the rocky ledge, while staring 100’s of feet down on the tops of white pines, distant lakes, and Cadillac Mountain.

I consistently say that no better time can be had than that which is spent in the woods and each week I grow more fond of the concept. Here, life can be spent as intended with a bright sun shining directly above, friends at your side and enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer – it also helps when you have a cold drink in your hand. 

Breakfast served

Path explorations

Dry firewood stacks

Shells, lines and bottles

Upta Camp


A swing built for rewinding & relaxing

What happens at camp - stays at camp

Down the barrel

Lamps and antlers

Double fisting

For cutting wood


Cheap bullets & beer

Assurance of a bonfire

Target practicing on the move

Our residence


August 20, 2012

Factory Tour: Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) is a 2011 award recipient of Backpacker Magazine’s “Best Ultralight Backpack”. They are shipping packs, tarps and tents to adventurers in far-flung areas all over the world. I recently dropped in after receiving an e-mail invite for a tour. I was ecstatic to get a hands-on experience with their product lineup and a little behind-the-scenes peek of what's to come.

Mike St. Pierre, a once sound-operator for The Eagles and a New York City chef, turned the simple idea of lessening his hiking loads into a business. That business, HMG is in the process of moving into a new facility with twice the square footage - business is good and it's only year number two. Little did I know a Maine company, located in my backyard, was designing and producing innovative and extremely lightweight outdoor gear for the world market. First-adopters and ultra-light weight hikers caught on instantly to the superior products out of the gate.

Mike and his team of kind folks explained how they shape, cut and stitch the products from sheets of Cuben fiber (a non-woven, low-stretch, rip-stop, waterproof material that weighs 70% less than Kevlar. He lays out a large sheet of fiber and describes how software helps decide how to make best-use of each sheet without leftovers. The cut pieces are then stitched together by experienced hands and formed into gear that can handle almost anything you can put it through.

The cost of each machine throughout the process is enough to blow your mind. This operation is not cheap, nor is the material. For that matter, neither is American labor - but the end product is a work of art and well worth the few extra dollars you'll spend to have the best and lightest U.S.A. gear on the market. 

Please take a moment to visit the Hyperlite Mountain Gear website. I recommend the Echo II Tarp and a Windrider Pack to tote it in.

Hand-drawn patterns a pack that's made it's way up the Appalachian trail (signed by thru-hikers).

Mike explains the fabric as well as different pack models.
I love a tag that says "Made in Maine".

An employee stretches tent material over a vacuum table to hold it still while working.

American craftsmanship at it's best.

Product shots of select gear from the HMG website.

August 14, 2012

Danner 80th Anniversary

Danner, a legendary American bootmaker, is celebrating their 80th Anniversary.  The Portland, Oregon company began in the Great Depression and endured by focusing on quality materials crafted with steady hands and experienced eyes. To commemorate the occasion they are releasing special editions of two classics, the Danner Light 80th and the Danner Mountain Light 80th. Each boot is limited to 800 pairs in North America.

100 hands touch each pair of boots Danner manufactures. Hand operated sewing, with a high stitch count, make these boots stand out from others – something automatic sewing can’t come close to. A perfect fit, ultimate strength and undeniable durability has been the company's claim to fame.

Ready for an ultimate pair of USA-made boots that’ll last a lifetime? Visit Danner before these revisited classics are but a memory. Below is an image I put together of my four favorite new releases. Check 'em out at the link above. If you're not quite sold - watch these videos on their manufacturing processes - pretty solid!

August 13, 2012

Ice Caves

Most epic adventures aren't pinpointed and pre-circled for you on the crumpled pages of an old Gazateer. If it were that easy - epic would not mean the same thing. The best trick for discovering hidden treasures is by talking to locals. On this particular outing I'd already picked a spot on the map to go, but in an effort to round-out our stay - I called in the locals. It's useful to call up sporting stores, Bed & Breakfasts, and wilderness guides to simply seek suggestions for places that are off 'the beaten path'.

We learn of an area situated deep within the woods where glaciers left a tortured path. Giant slabs of glacial ice once traveled 'ore this land, carving out blatantly obvious paths. Expansive crevasses are torn into the earth while massive boulders are left unearthed and awkwardly exposed. One purely wild remnant is a millennium's old ice cave. A rather narrow opening in the surface of the ground leads to an explorable gift of mother nature. Equipped only with a headlamp and enough ballsy courage to drop down into a black hole, there was only one decision we had and that was to enter.

The story goes that early native Americans used this ice cave to store moose, bear and deer meat throughout the heat of summer. Ice and snow remain inside until late September, just in time for the next round of winter temperatures to blow in and refreeze everything. We're told that locals only recently added steel foot-holds for the climb down in (after several injuries had occurred). The cold air instantaneously shocks the body while lowering ourselves down from the 83 degree surface air. The walls of the cave are damp and water droplets fall from the ungodly sized overhead boulders. 

The cave stretches 50 yards into the mountainside before forming a 90-degree turn. I turn my Black Diamond Storm to it's brightest setting. With wide eyes and careful footsteps over patches of ice, we explore onward. Imagining the history of this place and the people who've stood here is incredible. It makes you wonder how they happened across this patch of earth so many years ago. Headroom is soon limited. Clad in shorts and light-weight shirts, we both express the need to warm up so we decide to resurface. We dressed for a warm-weather hiking trip not necessarily for a trip back in time.


1.   L.L. Bean Tropicwear Plaid Shirt - Fly-fishing or hiking mountainous ice caves, this breathable shirt  will be your escape from summer's heat for many seasons.
2.   L.L. Bean Tropicwear Zip-Leg Pants - We can be honest, Zip-Leg Pants are only cool when nobody sees you. However, versatility and comfort both vie for importance when in the woods. These pants will have you covered (or half covered, whichever you choose).
3.   Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - A new waterproof, shock-resistant, 100 lumen beam that illuminates your path up to 70 meters with an intense white light. You choose the beam strength as well as a white or red light. I'm loving the battery meter on the side which tells you the remaining power.
4.   Merrell Waterproof Hikers - A mid-cut boot equipped with Vibram soles. An air-cushioned lightweight hiker for the muddy trails of Maine.

August 6, 2012

Kayaking the Lost

This post is in continuation to Big Sky Kayaking.

Paddling Northwest across the Deadwater (named for an easily paddled section of river with little real current), we enter a narrow channel that leads to First Debsconeag Lake. Most mountains, rivers and towns in this area are named by Indian tribes which inhabited these lands many years ago. This history adds a mystique to a land which is still quite primitive and definitively unpopulated. This combination measures up to be the exact conditions I seek. When thoughts cross your mind of possibly being the first man to ever step onto a particular square foot of ground, you know you’ve reached an area worth exploring. Here I’ll feel comfortably home for the next few days.

Setting up camp is relatively second-nature to me at this point in the season. I pack my gear in a precise method so it’s pulled from my gear bag in the order in which it’s needed. First comes the tent, sleeping pads and sleeping bags. This is followed closely by camp kitchen necessities, my axe, and lastly a roll of toilet paper that I hang appropriately from a low-hanging pine branch (off the beaten path I may add).

The next few days are spent paddling through the waterways which lead to a connected series of lakes. The water is crystal clear – allowing you to see the lake bottom. Very few lakes in New England remain this clean. Although I still purify the water before drinking, it tastes fresh and you know it is. 

I've included a Google Maps image to give a visual for the area explored. The Deadwater is located central on the map. See First Debsconeag to it's left.

A family of loons follow alongside my kayak for a portion of my morning paddle. They make for good neighbors that anybody would be glad to have.

Deep greens of the forest sharply grab my eye as I float on by. The picturesque landscape has me constantly reaching for my camera. Pines, spruces, and cedars stand tall against the shoreline.

Reflections on a blue-sky-filled-cove.

I attach my Filson duffle to the raft with thick rope and tie a monkey fist on each end so the knots will not slip. This ensures an excited lab will not send my gear to the 100ft. lake bottom.

Grassy paddling.

Our camping setup from the angle of the rippling lake. Sand for as far as the eye can see. My own secluded paradise awaits after today's long paddle. It's time to start the fire and begin cooking dinner. Meals over an open flame always taste better.

My MSR Hubba Hubba and an incredible view that I could get used to.

Brilliant colors.

Sausage dinner is prepared over a well-used grate left at the campsite.

This little bugger was climbing down the paracord attached to Casco's dog food bag. Feeding greedily, he doesn't mind posing for a photo. We relocated the dog food.

Our front yard.

Mt. Katahdin - the greatest mountain in Maine. 

Floating along.

The storm clouds begin to roll in after our first two days. We soon seek refuge within our tent and watch as rain pours down across the region. 

The rain was non-stop for the remainder of our trip. Although my camera was secured tightly in a waterproof bag, that is where it stayed until we left. The morning sun shines brightly and ever so briefly, illuminating the treeline. A dark reflection details the onset of even more rain. Luckily, we packed Carhartt gear to keep us dry and brought a leak-proof tent. Another great journey in the books....

August 2, 2012

Maine Moose

A recent back-country hike in the woods led me down an old path. Four miles in and mid-way up a small hill I sat down to take a breather. I stripped off my pack and placed it at my side. Sipping from my Camelbak, I heard the footsteps of what sounded like an elephant approaching at 200 yards. Glancing from left to right revealed nothing but pine and spruce trees. Exactly at the peak of my curiosity, a cow and her calf appeared from beyond the horizon. Within a few short moments the two were in clear view; their silhouettes boldly standing out against the blue skyline.

The bustling of me opening my hiking pack, to grab my camera, quickly drew their stare. Side by side they peered down at me across the field. I rushed to adjust the camera settings in hopes of a perfect exposure and began snapping away. I grew up in this area and have seen many a moose, but this was special. 

It was apparent with each step the cow took that her front right leg had been injured. Perhaps the injury occurred while defending herself, or her calf, against a small pack of coyotes. No matter how it happened, the limping made you feel for the wild beast as she tendered it with every forward step. The two soon ignored my presence and continued onward toward their destination. I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. You simply never realize the joys you'll encounter in the out-of-doors until you put yourself there.