Pennsylvania is loaded with state parks, the DNCR website lists 121 state parks and conservation areas. At one time it was said that no matter where you were in the state, you are never more than 30 minutes from a state park. Although, that might not be completely true… it’s pretty close. For me 8 parks are within about a 30 minute drive and 16 within about 1 hour!!! So this past weekend I decided to get out and visit a few… I actually was at 4 if you count the short hike before the rain at Prompton State Park on Friday.
Saturday, I visited Gouldsboro, Tobyhanna and Promised Land State Parks for a little kayaking. To be fair Gouldsboro and Tobyhanna border each other, but they are separate parks. Throughout the day I saw eagles, osprey, hawks, beavers, herons and more fish than you can shake a stick at. Check out the video below to take a virtual ride along in my kayak with me.
A few weeks ago I got out to do a little paddling at nearby Prompton State Park, it was windy and we got a late start. This past Friday I was able to get out for a longer paddle at the Sholoha Marsh Reservoir in Pike County PA. The last time I kayaked here I saw a black bear swimming across the lake, this trip there was no bear but we did see, what at first, appeared to be fog rising off of a small island…. upon closer inspection it was a massive swarm of bugs.
It’s been an interesting year already, especially when it comes to the weather. I was 4 hours south in Virginia in January and it was colder there then back home in north east Pennsylvania. 2 weeks ago I was backpacking in the Delaware State Forest and the temperature got down to 19F overnight, but by the time we got back to the car a few hours later it was 50F! Last weekend it was 76F on Friday and we had a tornado hit nearby on Saturday. This weekend lows in the single digits with it getting near 60 by mid week.
None of that stops me though, I always have that urge to get outside and at least scout potential spots for future trips. This weekend I randomly found myself back in the Pinchot State Forest at the Thornhurst Tract with no particular plans. Along Choke Creek we have heard about some waterfalls but never knew where they were. We’ve tried a few times to locate them but were never close. A few weeks ago while hiking the Choke Creek Trail we ran into an older couple driving down the forest road who offered us a ride back to the car, part of the Pinchot Trail System uses the forest roads. We declined the ride, but had a very nice conversation with the couple. The gentleman knew these woods well and pointed us in the right direction to find the falls.
Keep in mind, these aren’t lost falls or anything and with enough searching on the internet they could have been found easily. But, that defeats the purpose of getting out and exploring.
Check out the short video from the hike below.
My 2017 started with me working… boring. However, working on New Years Day earned me a floating day off which I took last Thursday (my weekends are Friday & Saturday) giving me a 3 day weekend. I wanted my first weekend of 2017 to be a trip instead of just a hike. I figured, since it was January… heading south would be the best course of action. Turned out I was wrong.
Having less than 24 hours to come up with a plan I decided to drive the roughly 4 1/2 hours south to Shenandoah National Park. At first I thought I would grab my hammock and winter quilts and do a 2 night backpacking trip. In what would turn out to be a fortunate turn of events… Continue reading
The end of the year is always so hectic, with holidays and weather pecking away at spare time. It feels like I just posted about returning to Overlook Mountain last week.. but it was in October! So, here is what I’ve been up to.
Another Maine Road Trip
In 2015 I did a solo October New England road trip, and loved every second of it. In 2016 I wanted to return to Maine and spend more time in Acadia National Park. At first, I planned on going with a friend of mine. Continue reading
The Catskill Mountains… one of my favorite places to hike. Back in January I headed out to Woodstock, NY with a couple friends to hike Overlook Mountain. We
Overlook Hotel Ruins in January fog
had heard of the old hotel ruins near the top and wanted to check them out. Being that is was January it was a little cold, kind of icy and very, very foggy. The cold and ice we had prepared for with layers and microspikes and the fog made discovering the ruins one of my favorite memories so far this year. The skeleton of the old hotel slowly peeking through the fog made for an eerie, yet beautiful sight! However, there wasn’t much to see from the fire tower or the overlook due to that fog. The cold temperatures did make for some very interesting ice crystals that were growing sideways on all the tree branches and fire tower structure.
Fast forward to October, the three of us once again made the trek out to Woodstock, NY. The mountain is a completely different place, the ice and fog were replaced with blue skies and red, yellow and orange foliage. The
The old ruins have a much different feel in the Autumn colors.
structure of the old hotel almost hidden by the trees that have taken up residence there as they begin to shut down for the approaching winter. This time the views from the fire tower were spectacular, what an awesome 360 degree view of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley. The overlook lived up to it’s name… although, the view from the tower is much nicer I believe.
To get a better idea of the experience, check out the video:
As a hiker and a backpacker I’m always looking to improve my gear, whether that means it is lighter or more durable or even that is multi-purpose and cuts down on the amount of gear I need. Over the years I’ve re-evaluated almost all of my gear. I’ve switched from a tent to a hammock, upgraded to folding carbon fiber trekking poles, I’ve made adjustments and tweaks to things I’ve already adjusted and tweaked. It seems never ending. Then there’s things I am so sure about, that I will never change… until I change.
My so called central gear that I never questioned was my camp stove. Sure, I’ve upgraded and downsized but never questioned the method. I have been a canister stove user from the very beginning. I have owned several dual burner Coleman camp stoves that I always took car camping with me. When I got in to kayaking I switched to the Coleman Peak system, basically a very hardy single burner canister mount stove. Just this past winter I downsized that once again to a no name burner I bought on Amazon that weighed less that half as much and took up much less space. I love canister stoves. Except when it gets cold.
Having noticed that my canister stoves are noticeably less efficient when the temps approach and dive below freezing, I started researching fixes. I don’t do a lot of camping in temperatures like that but I do still like to hike and snowshoe. Having the ability to have a hot meal or cup of hot chocolate while doing so makes the experience much more pleasant. I just don’t like the idea of burning through fuel at accelerated paces. I thought about inversion stoves and insulation and 4 season fuels, but all added gear, weight or cost. Then I came across wood burning gasifying stoves.
After a little research and watching a lot of YouTube videos on the subject I had narrowed my selection down to three different stoves. The BushBuddy was my first choice, but it according to their webpage the original builder of the stoves has retired. He had an apprentice who is now making the stoves but there was a bit of a wait and it costs $100. I also looked at the EmberLit Ultra, a modular titanium design that packs flat, that was about $70 and even though it packs flat it still is taking up extra space. Third I looked at the small Toaks Titanium Stove, it’s more like the BushBuddy and about $45. It’s light and packs down into a pot… but for me it’s assembled size seemed way to top heavy for something with a fire burning inside of it.
Last I looked at the Solo Stove Lite. Almost identical to the BushBuddy in design, cost $70 and had immediate availability. I decided to purchase a Solo Stove Lite and their 900ml pot (Called the Solo Stove 900 Pot) for an additional $45. The stove and pot only weigh about 3 ounces less than my current set-up with a full fuel canister, but also takes up a little less space in my backpack. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve to get the most efficient burn time, but it’s going to almost always take longer than a canister stove to boil water. The big bonus is, after the initial purchase…. that’s it. You might need to buy matches or a lighter every now and then but never fuel. Think about that… never buying fuel for backpacking again. I like that a lot.
So this past weekend I got out to give the new Solo Stove a test. I definitely need to work on the initial fire, and have gotten some good pointers from a viewer on YouTube, can’t wait to try it out again this weekend and see if I can do better. Here’s a look at this weekends field test.
The summer just flew by. Even though I’ve been out hiking, kayaking and camping all year, it feels like I haven’t done much! So, since I worked on Labor Day I took my 3 day weekend this past week. With my normal days off being Fridays and Saturdays I decided to take Thursday off and head out late Wednesday to Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County Pennsylvania. That extra few hours on Wednesday makes it feel so much longer, probably because there’s no need to rush the following morning.
I got to the park and headed to camp site 95 in the walk-in tent section and got my hammock up and grabbed a bite to eat just before the Sun set. I was eager to test out some gear… some new and some I just hadn’t had a chance to try out yet. I recently purchased a new Paria Outdoor Products Sanctuary SilTarp after my recent backpacking trip. I was looking to shed weight in any gear I could and this tarp is only 15oz packed. So I got to test that out. I also gave my DIY emergency blanket under quilt a try… still needs some work but it’s a good start. Early in the year I found a steal of a bargain on an Exped Scout Hammock Combi for $68, usually goes for more than $200. This was the first time I used that, for 1 night anyway, I switched back to m ENO Doublenest for nights 2 and 3. I also gave my new Fire Knife from Light My Fire a good test… took a lot of practice to get the hang of, but I’m getting better with it. Continue reading
This was supposed to be the year I got out and did some multi-day backpacking trips. I thought by this point I would have 3 or 4 under my belt. Unfortunately, the weather never panned out for the days I could go… that is, until this past weekend.
My normal days off are Fridays and Saturdays, a friend took Friday off and wanted to get out and do something… no need to try to plan anything out, I already had several trips planned that I could never get to. We decided to do part of the Quehanna Trail out in the Moshannon State Forest, Clearfield County, PA. This
A little Elk watching before we hit the trail.
was the first multi-day trip with the new gear, so we didn’t plan on huge mileage. There is a 20 mile loop we wanted to complete, starting at Parker Dam State Park, taking the QT to the West Cross Connector and then back to the park. Continue reading
Bradys Lake is a 229 acre man made lake located in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. This is the 3 rd time I’ve kayaked here and haven’t been disappointed yet. The lake is very secluded, and sits 3 miles off the nearest main road in the middle of State Game Lands.
On this trip I tried out some new audio/video set ups. The first was a new GoPro mount on the stern of my kayak, unfortunately it failed pretty quickly (this is why you tie off GoPros). I also used a Tascam DR-05 for audio to try and pick up better audio around the lake, as luck would have it, nature decided to be oddly quiet on this trip. But I learned a lot about the set up and look forward to future attempts. Let me know what you think.