Roaming the Ozark Mountains
This week we were fortunate to get to spend some time in the Buffalo River Valley portion of Arkansas. As always the woods are peaceful, the scenery is gorgeous and the wildlife is everywhere. Here are two photos of the elk that we saw as we walked along the Buffalo River.
For those of you not familiar with the area, the Buffalo National River was established in 1972 as America's First National River and flows freely for 135 miles making it one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 United States. The park encompasses over 95,000 acres that surround the free-flowing Buffalo, much of which is linked together by a network of trails that accommodate hiking and equestrian activities. These trails allow you to hike to locations that showcase both the natural and human history that have shaped the Ozarks.
Here are a couple photos of the massive bluffs that tower over the Buffalo
Of course the most beautiful areas are those actually on the river - which are comprised of everything from running rapids to quiet pools, all surrounded by the bluffs and forest, as you float through the Ozark Mountains down the Buffalo to the White River.
Although my friends and family don’t want to let other people know about the Buffalo River - so that they can keep it to themselves – you really might want to take a trip to the Ozark Mountains to see it; especially in the fall since that’s when the trees turn the mountains a spectacular set of colors. If you want a little taste of what the area is starting to look like now that it is October, you should check out the recent article from Arkansas Living Magazine titled: “Autumn in Arkansas – Through the lens of Tim Ernst”:
If you want to make the trip, here’s the link to the National Park Service’s webpage about the Buffalo National River:
Here's their hiking page for information and maps about the park's trails:
UST Hammer Beast Multi-Tool
Like most of the outdoor enthusiasts that we know, we’re always on the lookout for Hiking, Camping and Shooting gear that serves a useful purpose – even if we don’t really need it. Well last week we ran across just such a piece of gear; the UST Hammer Beast Multi-Tool.
Unlike most multi-tools, the UST Hammer Beast is built around a smooth-faced hammer instead of pliers like Leatherman-type tools. The Hammer Beast also has ten other tools to include: pliers, wire cutter, flat head screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, nail puller, file, saw, knife blade, bottle opener and a wrench. The tool has a durable anodized aluminum handle for rust resistance and it’s orange so that you can easily spot it if you drop it in the backcountry. The Hammer Beast measures 5.75 x 1.75 x 0.6 inches and weighs 10.8 ounces.
Here’s a photo that will give you a good look at all of the tools when they are open:
So if you’ve got room in your pack, or travel kit that you take with you when you’re hiking or camping, you ought to check it out. You can purchase the “UST Hammer Beast Multi-Tool” at Amazon.
Collings Foundation “Wings of Freedom” Airplanes
Every year the Collings Foundation flies a "Wings of Freedom Tour" with their vintage WWII airplanes. This weekend they were in our area, so we went early so that we could to see the planes fly in. Here are some photos of the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, B-24 Liberator and P-51 Mustang as they arrived.
Once the planes were parked on the ramp we got to take a closer look at them – both from the outside and the inside. Here are some of those close-up views.
If you want to see these magnificent examples of living history, here's a link to the Wings of Freedom website with lots more detail and the complete tour schedule:
Lansky QuadSharp Knife Sharpener
Since a sharp knife is critical to so many outdoor activities, we have lots of tools to try to keep our cutting edges as honed as possible. That leads to us having several ways to sharpen our blades – from files and 6,000 grit whetstones to use at home - to small sharpening stones to use in the field (as can be seen on our Camping/Tools page).
We recently added another small tool to our kit; the “Lansky QuadSharp Knife Sharpener” since it’s a compact tool specifically made to maintain your knives at the exact angle you need their edges to be while you’re in the field. The QuadSharp has preset carbide “V” grooves for four sharpening angles to help you sharpen your blade in 3 or 4 strokes:
The QuadSharp also has a sturdy metal body, an 800 grit ceramic benchstone for fine polishing, and can be used on regular, serrated (by sharpening one serration at a time by pulling the ceramic element against the grooved side of the serration) and filet knives. Measuring 4 ½” x 1 ½” x 3/8”, and weighing ~3 ounces, the QuadSharp is a small tool that’s easy to add to your gear and easy to use in the field when you can’t get to a larger sharpening stone.
You can purchase the “Lansky QuadSharp Knife Sharpener” at Amazon.
Books You Might Want to Read Before Planning Your Next Hiking Trip in New England
For those of us who live in Massachusetts there are lots of great hikes all around us; some that you can reach quite easily (e.g. Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, Leominster State Forest, Douglas State Forest, Mass Audubon's Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, etc.,) - and others that you need to drive a couple of hours to get to the trailhead (e.g. Acadia National Park, the White Mountains, Franconia Notch, Mount Monadnock, the Berkshires, Smugglers’ Notch, etc.). Luckily there are lots of great books out there to help you find interesting New England hikes – both near and far.
This week another good book that you might want to consult prior to hitting the trails is making its debut: “50 Hikes in Eastern Massachusetts” in which Madeline Bilis shares her thoughts and advice about hikes in the Boston area. Madeline’s book has detailed information on 50 hikes for people in the eastern half of Massachusetts, of all skill and experience levels. From Cape Cod to Middlesex Fells, from Walden Pond to the Boston Harbor Islands – all sorts of hikes that are both beautiful and close to Boston.
The 256 page paperback book has detailed information on each of the 50 hikes, to include 50 color photographs and 50 maps, gathered by Madeline as she spent a year and 160 miles walking, researching and writing about the trails.
“Eastern Massachusetts is the loveliest place on earth. I can say this with 100 percent certainty, because I spent the better part of last year exploring all its nooks and crannies, trails and coastlines, hills and meadows. Every weekend for months, I went on a hike—oftentimes several—in this part of the state. Then I got home and wrote furiously, cataloging every one of those hikes for a new guidebook I was writing: 50 Hikes in Eastern Massachusetts.”
"It’s true that Eastern Mass. doesn’t have incredibly challenging hikes — it’s largely trails that are flat and easy, but also very beautiful."
In our opinion, if you live in New England, you should seriously think about adding Madeline’s book to your Hiking reference library. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon:
“50 Hikes in Eastern Massachusetts” by Madeline Bilis"
We’ve added it to our New England library which already included the following:
A High Level Overview of the AT
If you live on the East Coast of the United States, and like to hike and camp, you undoubtedly know about the Appalachian Trail (AT) at some level; you may have even hiked a section of it. But since it’s so big how do you really sort out what you want to see? Where to hike or camp to see it? And how to go about planning and taking your trip? We’re lucky enough to live near 6 of the States that the AT traverses (and are within reasonable driving distance of 3 of the other states) so here’s some information that we have complied over the years to help us with our AT adventures.
First off, some background information about the Appalachian Trail. As the world's longest “hiking only” trail, the AT is approximately 2,192 miles (3,527 km) of footpaths along the ridge crests and major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains - from Katahdin (Baxter Peak) in Maine to Springer Mountain in northern Georgia – crossing the boundaries of 14 States as it meanders along the East Coast.
The States that contain some part of the AT are:
Conceived in 1921, built by private citizens, and completed in 1937, today the AT is managed by the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers in thirty hiking clubs performing trail maintenance. The AT was designated as the first National Scenic Trail by the National Trails System Act of 1968, covers ~250,000 acres (1,000 km²), sees approximately 3 million visitors each year and would take an average person 165 days to thru-hike (although Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy, a speed hiker, hiked it in 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes in 2017 – a feat that we don’t recommend).
If you hike the entire AT you would cover approximately 464,500 feet in vertical elevation as you went up and down along the trail.
To keep people on the trail the AT is marked for daylight travel in both directions using a system of “white blazes”, rectangles of white paint approximately 2 inches wide and 6 inches high on trees and other objects such as posts and rocks. There are ~165,000 white blazes on the trail.
If you’re serious about planning a hike along the AT then here are the primary resources that you might want to consult for maps, hiking/camping information, weather, fees, rules, required gear and all other manner of vital information:
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
National Park Service
National Park Foundation
WhiteBlaze.net - a community of Appalachian Trail Enthusiasts
Appalachian Mountain Club
Appalachian Trail Distance Calculator
Appalachian Trail Mileage Chart
If you’re in New England, like we are, another great resource is the Appalachian Mountain Club's Boston Chapter’s website – especially the page for their Hiking/Backpacking Committee:
Appalachian Mountain Club's Boston Chapter
Appalachian Mountain Club's Boston Chapter Hiking/Backpacking Committee
Finally, here’s Backpacker Magazine’s write-up about the Appalachian Trail and the definitive book about the Appalachian trail “Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers' Companion – 2019. They both have lots of great information about what to expect and how to go about hiking the AT – especially if you are planning a thru-hike of the entire AT.
Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers' Companion - 2019
Mountain Weekly News's list of "The 36 Best Books About the Outdoors"
If you’re looking for some interesting Summer reading (to either take on the trail with you or to just take to the couch with you), here's Mountain Weekly News's list of "The 36 Best Books About the Outdoors".
We liked their list a lot because it has quite a bit of variety - both on topics and geographically - and it's not just the usual list of "How To" books; which, no matter how good, get a little repetitive after reading a few in a row. Here’s the complete list of the books on their list by category.
Adventure Stories (9 books)
Climbing (3 books)
Environment (2 books)
Fitness (3 books)
Hiking and Camping (12 books)
Hunting and Fishing (2 books)
Mountain Biking (2 books)
Survival (3 books)
You can read their summary reviews of each book here:
Hopefully reading a couple of these books will give you even more motivation to get out on the trails and into the backcountry!
Fighting Shotgun Class with Gregory Cruz of Interactive Gunfighting
This weekend the rain finally stopped here in New England and we were able to enjoy a “Fighting Shotgun” course taught by Gregory Cruz, the founder of Interactive Gunfighting. It was a great day – and lots of ammo was expended. If you’ve ever wondered what over 2,000 spent shotgun shells looks like here you go:
The class ran 8 hours and covered a variety of topics to include:
During the day we each shot 200 rounds of bird shot, 25 rounds of buck shot and 15 slugs, using a wide variety of pump and semi-auto shotguns manufactured by all sorts of companies and decked out with all types of iron sights, optics, slings and other gear based on personal preference. Since we shot three different kinds of ammunition, Greg even took the time during one of the breaks from shooting to cut open birdshot, buckshot and slug shells so that we could talk about the pros and cons of each type of ammunition. (FYI - you can read the blog post that I wrote on this topic back in November of 2017 if you want the details)
As to the level of instruction that we received, it was top notch since Greg has had an extensive and widely varied career. Greg is a military combat veteran and wounded warrior nominated for the Silver Star for Combat Valor, awarded the Bronze Star with Combat V and Purple Heart. A former USMC Grunt/Sniper and Scout Sniper Instructor Greg served in Panama, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. An experienced Law Enforcement Officer, Greg served as the Chief Firearms Instructor at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy. Greg was also a founding member of Department of Homeland Security/Federal Air Marshal firearms program post 9/11. Greg has been a weapons instructor for over 20 years and from 2014 through 2018 was the Smith & Wesson Academy’s Chief Firearms Instructor. A highly experienced competitive shooter, firearms and tactics instructor, and lifelong student of the tactical/shooting arts, Greg really brought practical knowledge to the class. You can find out more details on their website (https://interactivegunfighting.com/) or their
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/InteractiveGunfighting/
One of the things that I liked the most about the class was Greg’s emphasis on splitting your shooting stance (i.e. your legs) and your posture (i.e. your upper torso). Since accuracy and repeatability is so dependent on your shooting body position, and your mechanics, Greg’s focus on this was great. The shooting drills that we ran through helped you understand how to get a good stance to “drive the gun” (much like a football linebacker’s stance is how I always think about it), when and how to change your posture or rotate your torso to engage targets from different directions, and when to move your feet or the angle of your knees to reorient your stance.
The ever increasing speed of the sustainment reload (rapidly "topping off" the shotgun's magazine tube when you have a break from shooting so that the magazine is full when you reengage the targets) and combat reload (reloading the shotgun by putting a single shell into the chamber as soon as the previous shell has been ejected - done in extreme situations where there is an immediate threat and no time to fully reload the shotgun's magazine tube; sometimes called a tactical reload) drill was also great since you really had think and to work to keep up.
We all had fun and learned a lot during the class. So if you are looking to really learn how to utilize your shotguns – check out what Greg and Interactive Gunfighting offer.
For interesting articles, and some humor and some inspiration, we like to check out Semi-Rad; especially since they often highlight exactly what we've thought when we were hiking on the trails.
It's a website created by Brendan Leonard who, in addition to running the Semi-Rad site, is a contributing editor at Adventure Journal and a columnist at Outside. He's also had stories in Backpacker, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Men’s Journal, Sierra, Adventure Cyclist, and other publications.
One of the reasons that we like Leonard's musings is because he "created Semi-Rad.com to as a channel for those of us who aren’t elite climbers, skiers, ultrarunners, and alpinists - the folks who love to get out there, but maybe don’t take it too seriously." Like us, we love the outdoors, but can't live and breathe it every minute because we have other things going on in our lives.
Here’s a couple of hiking cartoons that we especially liked. You should really check out the Semi-Rad site!
“Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning"
Everybody thinks that they know what a drowning person looks like - since we've all seen in on TV and in the movies hundreds of times.
But they’re WRONG! You learn this during lifeguard training – unfortunately most people don't have this training.
To help you identify the differences between Hollywood fantasy and reality here's a great article by Mario Vittone (updated online on “Soundings” on 4 May 2018) that describes the "Instinctive Drowning Response" and what a real drowning person looks like in the water.
SPOILER ALERT: A drowning person does not flail their arms and scream “Help Me!” at the top of their lungs since they are too busy trying to breathe, avoiding getting water in their mouth and can’t really control their arm motions since they instinctively feel compelled to place them flat on the water to try to press themselves out of the water.
With Summer quickly approaching you might want to read Mario Vittone’s great article so that you're a little better prepared when you hit the water. Here’s the URL:
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