January 31, 2013

9 Ways to Winter Warmth

  1. L.L. Bean Signature 1933 Chamois Shirt (One of my favorite shirts. Believably the softest material made by man; a modern Signature cut is a pleasant update from the original)
  2. Filson Clip Suspenders (Suspenders are classic and rugged. Filson has made these since the beginning of time, or so it seems. If you own an axe, you need suspenders. I need suspenders.)
  3. SOG Tomahawk (No part of throwing a tomahawk is sissy. A matter of fact, I believe it makes you more of a man. Backyard or backcountry, you need to tote this and learn to toss like a pro.)
  4. Filson Whipcord Pants (Warm in the field and even looks great on Sunday mornings. How can you go wrong with an American made pair of wool pants so versatile and handsome. You can't.)
  5. Best Made Co. Elkskin Chopper Mitts (Every outdoorsman needs a great pair o' mitts. These are "a bit" on the pricey side, but Best Made Co. only ends to stock quality made products.)
  6. Filson Wool Large Duffle (Filson dominates the duffle bag market. This new wool & bridle leather combination is a classic look that makes for an ideal made in USA carry-all.)
  7. L.L. Bean Shearling Boots (Timeless Bean boot style withstands everything. Lined for ultimate warmth & winter satisfaction. Winter just got easier. Red soles mark the 100th Anniversary.)
  8. L.L. Bean Wool-blend Socks (OK, so you own the boots. Chances are you've never worn the socks. Biggest mistake of your life. Well, other than stumbling into a hungry brown bear.)
  9. SOG Darkenergy 247a Flashlight (Every man needs a great flashlight. Something tough. Something bright. Something that will last a lifetime. Cross that off your list. This is the one.)

January 24, 2013

CRKT Free Range Hunter

From my last post on CRKT you remember I'm a fan of their American designed knives so I wanted to share with you a review on the CRKT Free Range Hunter. Whether you hunt or not, don't let that sway your decision. This is a man's knife. Holding a 4.25" clip point blade on a fixed blade handle makes you feel a little bit tougher. Folding pocket knives are great, but there is something reassuring about gripping a fixed blade that you know cannot collapse on your fingers while at task. I recently gave it some exhaustive use on the trails (sharpening branches for roasting hotdogs, chiseling through thick river ice, and the simple task after of slicing through a block of cheese and she performed flawlessly on all counts).

It makes sense that this knife was custom made by an Alaskan Hunting and Fishing Guide, because it's a one-stop-shop for any tough outdoor task. The Free Range Hunter comes with a well-crafted sheath and with a textured handle that when combined with finger grooves provides an ultimately unheard-of grip. My only complaint lands with initial sharpness. My standard test involves shaving a couple arm hairs. This knife needed a little work on the leather strop, but that's no problem. She seems to hold a good edge after the fact.

See the photos below from the trail and check out additional stats at the CRKT Website.

January 22, 2013

Cabin in the Woods

We rent a cabin with friends deep in the Maine woods every winter. It's a yearly tradition that started a few short years ago. Every January we pack our bags and head from our separate areas of New England to converse on the back country of my great state. I'm the only Mainer of the group. The others hail from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our paths met at Long Lake this trip.

Four days were spent exploring the hidden trails on snowshoes, skiing the local mountain, and sliding (like kids) down the hill in the front yard towards the lakefront. Makeshift cookie sheets made for slides until we were able to shovel out of the driveway and make it to the store for a couple saucers. A greased cookie sheet, I'll have you know, flies down a hill. The snow fell like crazy for days, piling up on the nearly frozen lake that we had great views of from nearly every room in the cabin. 

Board games, tending to the fire, and ice-cold beverages make for great ways to spend the evening hours. Dinners of racks of ribs, steaks, and shrimp cocktail top off a successful day. This trip was extra special, for an awfully special reason - and I'll tell you about that next Tuesday.

January 17, 2013

Mountain Snowshoe

A warmer than usual January has been at our doorstep this month, but when fresh snow falls, I'll surely take advantage of it. Waking up to nearly a foot of snow overnight - the decision was unanimous - outdoors we go! Luckily we were able to slip away to Douglas Mountain, about an hours drive from home. Unpacking the snowshoes from the truck, we went off in search for the summit. Reportedly a stone look-out tower (built earlier in the century) will mark the peak. Adventure - what I call a good afternoon.

This trip provides a chance for me to become more familiar with some gear I've been waiting to use:
Snowshoes have a way of making a 3 mile hike feel like an entire afternoon workout.

Stopping to see the depths of holes carved by a local Woodpecker. The wind today is brisk and I've folded down the fleece lined ear flaps for warmth. Some of these holes are rather recent.

A small spring-fed spring flows across our path. We pause briefly to watch the cool water flow over snow covered rocks and make it's way South.

Ice is just now forming near the source of the spring. The snow clings to the rocks, waiting for ice to take over the width of the stream. 

 The job of a man is never done. Quickly lifting a few trees out of the path....

Lunch hour. I loosen the straps of my pack and rest it against a birch tree. We spot a downed tree that will make for a bench. We brush the snow from our seats.

Locally-made pepperjack cheese and crackers. Good for what ails you.

Sliding the CRKT Knife back in it's sheath, we tighten the straps of our snowshoes and continue up the trail. For some of us who despise cardio, it's a painful elevation gain.

The view begins to appear through an opening in the treeline. 

 A small staircase leads to a small observation deck situated on top of the tower. We peel off our snowshoes and make our way up. 
 Views of Sebago Lake and the flat surroundings to our East.

 Snow-covered mountains can be seen West. The eye can see as far as Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Surprised by the grandness of the view, we take a few moments and silently take it in.

 Snowshoes with a view.

Up here the air seems cleaner, the soul seems more alive and the smile is glued on. Another warm and satisfying journey through the woods.

January 14, 2013

Wolverine 1000 Mile: 30 Days In

I recently posted product shots of my new 1000 Mile boots that Wolverine sent out. 

During 30 days of daily use, the boots have molded perfectly to my foot shape. Taking on a very custom feel, they always remain comfortable even when standing for long periods (and I have a bad back). More than anything, the 1000 Mile's look amazing. I've kept them shined, but they naturally have a deep luster that simply draw the eye. I can't begin to count the number of questions and comments I've received in and out of the office.

To celebrate one month of wear (not so much tear) I asked Laura, of Forefront Fashion (Maine's most well-known street-style blog), to step out into Portland with me and take a few photos. We took a walk around a snow-covered route, overlooking the heart of downtown, and got caught up on the latest. The below Polaroid framed shots are hers. I simply added a vintage filter and frame. 

Scroll down for a behind-the-scenes look on steps to care for these and other quality leather boots.

I've been taught 3 steps to care for boots. Additional tips or suggestions? Please leave a comment.

  1. After each wear, wipe off dust/dirt/grime with a soft cloth, buffing slightly.
  2. Regular conditioning using a leather lotion is important to protecting the leather and preventing cracking. I use my fingers and rub in thoroughly, wait and wipe off excess.
  3. An occasional mink oil treatment to the soles and stitching will maintain water-resistance. 

Wolverine supplies an excellent cloth to do the dirty work. A brush will remove any stuck on grime.

The Horween Chromexcel leather forms great wear characteristics the more miles you put on them.

Tough, breathable, hand-stitched and American made.

Ready for an outdoor adventure!

Lace up your new pair of Wolverine boots here, and explore.

January 9, 2013

Fall Camp

I'm going to rewind for one post, back to an early fall camping trip that brought us North, nearby the U.S./Canadian border, to a remote sporting town of Rangeley, Maine. Think of it this way: if Acadia National Park is the ideal vacation hot-spot to explore the Maine coast, fine dining, and tourist shops then Rangeley is one of the most serene areas in Maine to relax by and cook over a campfire, cast a trout line, and sleep beneath a patch of the most serene sky that one can find. And trip intentions were just that - a weekend escape with the dogs to kindle fires and breathe in the scent of rising pine smoke from wood split by my own hand, to take one last bitterly cold afternoon dip in the lake in front of our remote campsite, and settle in to the sounds of silence that is so often unfound.

Packing simplicity of car camping. Two large drawstring bags contain each of our sleeping bags and respective pad, mine a bit cushier because you might as well retain comfort when relaxation is the key. An Igloo cooler sloshes our bacon and beer back and forth amongst the ice. My Maine Guide Tote holds shorts and the much anticipated longer pants that the fall air will require. The black Bean's duffle in front contains our spacious 6-man tent and last bag contains fry pans, fishing poles, an axe and other fun gear.

What we call "Canadian Geese" are beginning to make their voyage South. Imaginably, they will hold out in Florida until the snow decides to melt. I would aim to follow, given the opportunity. 

I snag a close-up shot of one of the oldest dams in our State, Aziscohos Dam, completed in 1911. I think there is a unique beauty to it. Aziscohos is a unique lake, named by the Abnaki Indians, it means "Small Pine Trees".

Trees sometimes tend to sprout, grow and survive in some of the strangest spots. Here, I find a deep dark crevice with full-grown trees clinging to life as they hang over the edges. I love to venture off the beaten trail, particularly in remote areas, where I can imaginably stand where no other ever has. A unique feeling rolls over your entire body when you venture miles into the woods, and admittedly others probably have stepped over this exact square foot of ground before, but to humor myself and for the sake of adventure, I pretend not. 

Morning coffee backfires. I'll note that placing a heaping tablespoon (or two) of coffee grounds into a mug of water makes for the best camp coffee. This morning, I set two Best Made coffee mugs on the split side of a log, balancing between two sturdy chunks of wood. One tends to forget in the foggy-morning-mindset that fire causes logs to shift. As my coffee reached a peak boil, the kind of boil that causes the aroma of fresh coffee to spread across the woods, the log rolled and I lost my caffeine into the bright red embers of fire. It was the last of the grounds.

The greens of summer can be felt fading away.

Water rushes through a power-creating pipe downstream.

Lunch is served. Grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches with the ideal amount of black. These were fortunately not lost to the flames. 

Early beginnings of a firewood pile.

Front-porch Sittin.

Dream Cabin.

Trophy Salmon and Trout fishing. Maine is simply a planned-vacation away.