American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Monday, April 30, 2007

When you get a new knife

What do you do when you get a new knife?

If it's a Carbon Steel blade I used to give it a nice patina using cider vinegar. 20-30 minutes soaked with the vinegar gives a nice layer of protection from corrosion and the knife gets that old, used look.

The kitchen guys over at Knifeforums gave me an idea a few weeks ago which I've found to protect the blade with a more irregular patina and provide me with something to eat all at the same time.

Carbon Steel blades tend to patina differently when exposed to different acids and the kitchen guys suggested making some fresh salsa to help give a new blade some color. Dice up some tomatoes, onions, a chili, and a lime and add to a big bowl. Season with salt and pepper and top off with a bit of fresh chopped cilantro. Let the blade sit for about 15 minutes while the flavors in the bowl meld.

Rinse and wipe down the blade, crack open a bag of tortilla chips, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

The only problem I've discovered with this approach is the suspicion raised when my wife comes home for fresh salsa two or three times a week...

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ooh, I like this one...

I just got back from the woods where I carried and tested my new Bark River Bravo-1 in a custom JRE leather rig.

I'm thoroughly impressed.

You've got a big knife, a small knife, a firesteel, and a striker in one compact package. I'm really looking forward to getting this set dirty...

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 27, 2007

Back Dating Posts

Okay, I think the Internet problems have been worked out now.

I'm working on the Scottsdale posts and Blogger now allows back-dating so they'll be posted for the dates from 4/18 - 4/21.

4/18/2007 post is up now. I hope I can get to the rest before the day's out. Then it's catchup for THIS week...


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Internet Troubles

I'm having some issues with my Internet Service Provider.

While composing a post I lose connectivity and, when I refresh the page, what I've written has vanished. I'm also having some difficulty uploading my pictures from Arizona.

Once these two issues get sorted out you'll be seeing plenty of updates from me.

The ISP is aware of the connectivity issues and I'm still working on the picture uploads from this end.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

We're Back!

Got in late last night. Still trying to get used to being on Arizona time.

No Internet while we were there. Lots of updates and pictures coming soon.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Camelback Final Writeup

What a hike! I still didn't summit but I sure had a great hike. It took me 75 minutes to get up to a point that was simply beyond my ability. It was a brutal vertical followed by about 30 feet of jagged rocks
and I was wearing tennis shoes more suited to running on a treadmill than they were scrambling up and down rocks. While I might be able to get up and then finish the summit, I wasn't sure I could safely
get back down.

Discretion is the better part of valor they say...

Parts of the trail were wide, smooth, and well maintained. These were the sections were hikers
pass. The only other opportunity to get around a slower hiker came when the slower hiker would sit down to rest.

Just off the sides of the trail were some nasty drop-offs but some amazing views. Here, I'm just to the saddle of the mountain. From here I could see the airport and the hotel as well as points
far, far beyond.

End of the road--for me.

There's the summit in the distance. You can see just how tricky this section looks. Getting up
could be done but getting back after reaching the summit could have been downright dangerous. Sure, lots of people were doing it but I had already walked off trail once near here and found
myself with nowhere to go but back.

Is this really the trail back down?! Did I hike this on the way up?

So, I didn't set the mountain climbing world on fire on either attempt but I got some great exercise, saw some amazing sights, and had a great time. I even met a group from Plymouth, Indiana up on the
saddle. I grew up just north of Plymouth so it was quite a funny coincidence.

It looks like the mountain got the best of me...this time. I'll be back one day and I'll get all the way to the summit.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 20, 2007

Up Camelback Mountain 2

Well, I didn't summit yesterday...nuts.

I left too late, my legs were too tired, I didn't have enough water, and the trail was a bit intimidating to this flat-lander.

Now that the excuses are out of the way, I can admit that the trail might have been a bit beyond my abilities. Today I'm taking more food and water, a fleece, sunscreen, and a hat and shades to make it more likely that I can get all the way up.

These improved trails (pictured above) are NOT so improved in some places. The views from above, however, are worth some enduring of the heat, dust, and incredible inclines.

Let's see just how far we can make it this time...

See you shortly,


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Up Camelback Mountain 1

Camelback Mountain looms over the back of the Phoenician Hotel and beckons me...

I love the challenge a mountain offers and will, if able, attempt to climb and summit. Two years ago at PWYP in North Carolina I climbed Chestnut Mountain just to get to the highest point on the property for a couple of scenic photos. Chestnut and Camelback are, as mountains go, relatively small--the perfect target for a flatlander.

Official Site

The temperatures in Phoenix are right around 85 degrees and, as I mentioned previously, the air is DRY. I've got this cold lingering and I probably didn't get enough sleep. Oh yeah, I did heavy leg work in the gym yesterday...great timing.

Oh well, I'm going.

See you in a bit,


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In the Desert

Here's a view off the patio of our room in Arizona.

The air out here is quite a bit dryer than I had even expected. It will be important to drink plenty of water.

There's a mountain right behind the hotel and I'm going to attempt to climb it. It looks pretty brutal but I'm going to ask around to find out whether or not there are improved trails going up.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Off to the Desert

For the first time in my life I'm headed for the desert. I'll be in Scottsdale, Arizona for the next four days. I hope to get out and experience a bit of it but don't know just what is in the cards...

I've got the camera, my water bottle, a firesteel, and a brand new knife so I'm prepared for an adventure.

See you soon,


Vintage Knives Moose Update

A while back I wrote this post about the Vintage Knives Moose pattern slipjoint. I mentioned to Spen the other night that I'd been playing around with this knife again and he pulled his out of his pocket. It appears that the slipjoint bug never really goes away.

This knife has gotten easier to open without losing the "walk and talk" it had fresh out of the box. The blades still look great with some mild patina--something I try to get on my knives.

The badge has quite a bit of wear from carrying in the same pocket as my keys. The bolsters, however, still look great. I put a drop or two of Tuf Glide into the pivots once a month and suspect that has had something to do with the smoothing of the action.

The blades have both been convexed using sandpaper over a mouse pad. I started with something like 320-grit and worked up to 600, 800, 1200, 2000, 2500, and then green chromium oxide and, finally, the black stropping compound from Hand American. Other than the occasional touchup to the strop, the blades have not needed any edge work.

Pup is also the guy that convinced Bob Dozier to remake a custom he and I worked on a couple of years ago combining his Pro Guide handle with the Master Skinner point.

There's also the Delta Traveller (DT,) a variation on Bob's Arkansas Traveller pattern, seen here. The DT is a Vintage Knives exclusive and Pup has offered them in a variety of interesting handle materials including green canvas micarta, the gold micarta seen above on the Pro Guide, the brown micarta seen on my DT, black canvas micarta, and a variety of bone and antler handles.

I've always had good luck dealing with Pup and he's great for a conversation any old time. If you're in the market for these knives or knives like them I'd encourage you to drop him a line or give him a call.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 16, 2007

Middlefork Savanna Picnic

Yesterday the kids and I went out for a picnic and a hike. We decided to try someplace new and the Middlefork Savanna seemed as good a choice as any. We'd been here once before to visit the Wildlife Discovery Center (see March 22, 2007 post.) The reptile house is closed on Sundays so we didn't get a chance to revisit Shelly and the others but Curly and Navajo were still outside to greet us. After spending a few minutes with the rescued birds we headed up the trail to find a place for our picnic.

As you can see, this isn't a huge preserve but 4.5 miles of trails over 175 acres of property gives access to an array of habitat and wildlife.

Jake spent much of the day expressing his independence by walking down the trail solo. Laura carried her ground pad and I brought in the food for the picnic, the camera, and the coats.

Here you can see the "official" start of the trail just beyond the split rail fence. The grassland/wetland is the first environment you encounter. I don't know if that's how it always is or if the wetlands have just developed here due to the recent rains and snow melt.

Focused? Yeah. Determined? You bet.

We found a bench and set up our picnic. Laura sat on the ground with her 1/4 length ground pad, Jake sat next to the food, and I ended up standing behind the bench or sitting on the back of the bench. The kids were very friendly to the joggers, dog walkers, hikers, and bird watchers that passed by our picnic.

It was an absolutely beautiful day for a picnic. It's hard to believe that we're just getting rid of the remains of an April snowstorm and 20 degree temperatures.

Jake launched several solo expeditions from our "basecamp" and each one would take him a little further up the trail than the previous one. Here, he's returning from a trip to a nearby bridge.

Gratuitous Bark River Mini Canadian pic. We had Landjager sausages, baguette, Montgomery Cheddar Cheese, some cookies, and the kids both had orange cream soda to wash it all down.

What a great day to get our daily dose of "Medicine In the Sky."

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 15, 2007


Found this link this morning and thought you'd enjoy the read: Nessmuking

A whole site dedicated to the ultralight hiking/canoeing philosophy of George Washington Sears aka Nessmuk.

I've only scratched the surface but intend to get back there shortly to delve ever deeper into the site and the information contained therein.

Give it a look,


Saturday, April 14, 2007

AktoMan's on the move

I'm having a hard time understanding some of the terminology (kists, merks, etc.) but AktoMan's been on the Southern Upland Way for a while now on his way across Scotland.

Check out his regular updates.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Found this yesterday

While surfing around yesterday I found this interesting article : Commission This

The author raises a very good point about a reviewers integrity and the obvious bias found in reviews by someone with something to gain by a positive review. I have always maintained that this blog would remain free of advertising and any product I review will be purchased through regular channels by me. This is, in my opinion, the only way to give you an accurate and truly unbiased review of a product.

The closing of the article sums it up nicely:
Chasing nickels to drive a bit of revenue to your blog means more blogging time and less get-out-and-have-fun time. I'd rather be out there walking upright on dirt.

If I were to receive product from a manufacturer for review you can bet I'll mention that in my write-up.

So, thanks goes out to you Tom for writing that article. I, for one, appreciate the choice you've made.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Inspired by this post on Knifeforums I decided to make a bag out of paracord that can be used to carry wet or bulky gear on the outside of my pack.

For the project I used six sections of paracord measuring six feet long.

Instead of the overhand knots I also used square knots. This way I can readjust the size of the mesh should I find things falling through.

I have already successfully used the mesh sack, stuffed with a fleece jacket, as a pillow while laying around in the woods.

Believe it or not, this is a far simpler project than I would have originally suspected. I'll be doing another one of these one of these days with natural cordage. Obviously that'll be after an extended stay in the woods.

For now, the paracord bag will work just fine for me...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kicked Out

Losing my mind...

The house went on the market officially this morning. We had realtors and prospective buyers through from 9:30 this morning until just minutes ago.

Unfortunately that comes right on the heels of some unexpected wet, snowy weather. The streets are unplowed and unsalted and cars have been all over the road all morning.

I spent the day with Jake and Laura at two of the local forest preserves but we didn't get out of the car as it was too wet and slushy to play much.

This shouldn't go on too long but it's sure driving me a bit batty at the moment.

Updates may be spotty for the next couple of days...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bigger or Smaller

Which makes the best kit? Larger firesteels, knives, axes, etc. or smaller, more portable tools?

I'm a big fan of the Light My Fire Army Firesteel but I also have been known to tote a Boy Scout Hotspark around. Both throw excellent sparks but one is a fraction of the size of the other. Weight savings or robustness? The Army Firesteel (left) is good for 12,000 strikes, the Scout for 3,000 (center,) and the Hotspark (right) for some fraction of that.

Knives too. Larger ones may chop better but they are heavier to carry and may be much harder to use for longer durations. Both knives pictured, the Aurora on the left and the Mini Canadian on the right are small enough to carry and large enough for most bushcraft purposes. I am a huge fan of the Mini Canadian as it cuts like a much larger knife. I can't split wood the same diameter as I can with the Aurora but it's more than enough to get some fuzz sticks, tinder, and kindling to get a fire going.

Plus, I can carry the Mini Canadian on my belt every day around town, to the grocery, out to dinner, and elsewhere without raising an eyebrow. Get much bigger and a belt knife is going to attract some unwanted attention.

It seems that everything comes in a variety of sizes these days. Tarps, backpacks, flashlights, sleeping bags, ground pads, etc. At some point you need to strike a balance between utility and weight; portability and robustness.

I'm not sure I'm fully committed one way or the other just yet...

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 09, 2007

Harvesting Birch Bark

On outings I make it a habit to harvest some birch bark. I don't peel it from live standing trees but rather from blowdown (dead branches, twigs, etc.) and standing deadwood. In this way I have the smallest impact on the woods.

Birch is an especially handy tree as it can be used for so many things. You can make syrup from the sap, containers from the bark, and spoons from the wood. These, of course, are just three examples of the many things the birch gives us.

There is also the polypore which can be used in place of bandages and the tinder fungus which can be used in our firestarting endeavors.

Once I've gathered a handful of bark, I stuff it in my shirt pocket and try not to smash it to bits. As I gather it from smaller branches and twigs it is usually curled up in the shape of the branch. Once I get home I lay it flat under a weight and it'll dry to flat sheets. A couple of these flat sheets will go back into my pocket for the next outing. If I need it to get a fire started I'll just scrape up the inside of the bark, strike my firesteel with the spine of my Mini Canadian (or the awl on my Swisstool) and that should be enough to get me going.

Taking five minutes on every outing and another half a minute upon returning home seems like a small investment to provide me with a constant supply of birch bark tinder.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday Hike with Jake

While my regular hiking buddy napped, my number two and I headed to the local woods to check out the condtion of the trails and see if we couldn't stir up some wildlife. The temperature was in the low 40s with only a slight breeze.

We were armed with what I normally carry which included a 32oz. (1L) Nalgene bottle, a Scout firesteel, and my Bark River Knife and Tool Mini Canadian--more than enough gear for a short day hike.

I have always believed in getting the best gear you could afford and that philosophy goes all the way down to the gear I buy for the kids. There's no point in cheaping out on kid gear just because they'll outgrow it in a matter of months. Jake's sporting his Columbia coat that offers him protection from the wind, water, and cold. His boots are waterproof and well broken in.
Before we even hit the trailhead we found some nice deep deer tracks in the mud. This one was at the base of a sapling where the deer had clearly been browsing new spring buds.
My tools. This is stuff I carry every day. The Mini Canadian is one of the best knives available today. It's got phenomenal geometry, great heat treat, A2 steel, micarta handles, great ergonomics, and, best of all, it's a fantastic value.
Jake fueling up. Sugar, sugar, and more sugar...sure, it's not what you or I would choose but for a three year old it's the perfect choice. A large Easter Egg of candy plus a few big glugs of water kept him moving over a couple of muddy miles.

A good (short) day in the woods with Jake. No wildlife to speak of (excluding the boy) but plenty of sign that they'd been in the area before we came tromping through. Another couple of hikes like this and he'll be added to the roster of "regular" hiking buddies. Like his sister, he can put in the miles without complaint. It surely helped that he was hopped up on Easter Candy both before and during the trip.


What goes up...

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Don Ladigin's "Bombshelter"

When in Florida I find myself some time to read and that invariably means a trip to Books-A-Million (BAMM) and the Vero Beach Bookcenter for "supplies."

This last trip found me at BAMM looking at magazines and the occasional book. On a previous trip I had found Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backpackin' Book and found it quite entertaining as well as educational. It's got lots of great tips buried within the other information I already knew.

This trip, I found a companion book, also illustrated by Mike Clelland, called Lighten Up! on the subject of ultralight backpacking. Again, the book is written and illustrated in an entertaining style and contains some tidbits I just couldn't pass up. The image above is scanned right from the book and shows a way to pitch a 9' X 9' tarp using a single piece of cordage that is similar to the style I use but different enought that I now want to get out and give it a try. They talk about the Integral Designs Sil-Tarp in the book but the tie-out configuration on the tarp pictured reminds me more of a Guide Gear or Kelty tarp.

I hope to give this a try sometime this weekend. Two knots, some cordage, a few pegs, and a tarp...sounds easy enough.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 06, 2007

Administrative Duties

I've been spending quite a bit of time lately working on administrative duties with the blog and also around the house. It's really getting in the way of getting outdoors for some adventure but it is also allowing me to learn some things about those of you who visit here.

I'm getting lots of visitors through Google now who are looking at the older posts. I'm also getting a bunch of traffic through Pablo and Sam--Thanks for that guys.

The house goes on the market on Monday so that's one monkey off my back. Today we had the photographer and the realtor in to finish up "staging" the house and most of my gear has been packed off to my parents' house or unceremoniously dumped into bins and stuffed into the crawlspace and garage. Yeah, the house looks great but it's also fun to sit and reflect on the various mess kits, firesteels, backpacks, shelters, and other outdoor gear that I currently own.

I've got my pack loaded at 20.5 pounds and it'll support me for long expeditions if I ever again get the chance to take one. That's shelter, sleeping bag, knife, axe, saw, firesteel, cookset, mess kit, hammock, etc. and I'm plenty comfortable with all the gear to know that I could walk out the door with what I've not packed away and be confident in my ability to handle whatever Mother Nature would throw at me.

Oh, one more thing, one of my regular readers, and good friend, is turning 40 tomorrow. I'm SURE she didn't expect me to post it here for everyone to read but then I'm not one that is so easily figured out. :) (Hint:You can go back to 4/7/2006 and read the post if you want to know just who it is.)

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Project

I mentioned that I was working on a project right?

Well, it's coming along now. Slow and steady wins the race right?

Hopefully only a few more days and I'll unveil what I've been doing.

Thanks for your patience,


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spring has...wha?! BRRR!!!!

Well, what has happened to the weather?

It was sunny and in the 80s for the better part of the Florida trip. I come home and it was nearly 70 here yesterday and this morning I was greeted by COLD wind and temperatures.

The trees are budding and wildflowers have come up all over and, through the window, it looks like Spring has finally arrived. To step outside and see my breath was a bit of a shock.

Now, where'd I put that Swannie Ranger?

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 02, 2007

Michel Blomgren's

I'm sure many of you are aware of Michel Blomgren's website but for those that are not, please take a look.

Michel has produced several videos on outdoor survival and bushcraft and just recently completed a North/South traverse of Iceland. He offers those videos (five and counting) for free on his site.

For those of us who don't speak Swedish, he's graciously included subtitles in English.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Travel Day

We're headed for home later today. That means a day full of tying up loose ends, doing laundry, making sure we've packed what needs to be packed, and we've got enough snacks, drinks, and entertainment to keep the kids happy on the flight home and the subsequent drive from the airport to the house.

See you tomorrow,