My Knife Collection and Which Ones I Actually Use

February 28th, 2009

As you can see I own quite a few knives.  Most of which just sit in a drawer or on a shelf looking pretty.  I have very few knives that I would trust in a “survival” situation.  In fact I only use 3 out of all these regularly.

These 3 or 4 seen in this picture are the only knives I use on a regular basis.  The top blade is a Frost Cutlery blade I got awhile back in a dealer kit I purchased.  Since I got this knife in a kit I’m not sure exactly what they call it.  The blade is 4.5″ total length 12″.  The hilt on it sucked and I shattered it the first time I tried actually using it for anything more than carving sticks, so I have replaced it with a custom hilt I fashioned out of a solid piece of bamboo I had lying around.  I carved it a bit longer than the original hilt to give me more chopping force.  Using the original bolts and some gorilla glue to secure it,  I then wrapped it with 550 paracord and soaked it in a bowl of water to shrink the cord and get a nice tight wrap out of it.  Honestly I think the blade will snap before the bamboo will.

The second blade which I carry with me everywhere is a Smith and Wesson® ExtremeOps folder I got for christmas a few years ago.  Since then I’v litteraly beat the crap out of it,  Using it to split firewood, throwing it at trees during boring moments at camp, and prying anything that won’t move when I want it to.  I think its the most use I have ever gotten out of a pocket knife without it breaking on me.  The blade length is 3.25″.

The third knife isnt really a knife at all but a Leatherman® Squirt P4.  This is my multitool of choice when I go into the backcountry.  This leatherman has pliars like most leatherman tools but the other option for this particular tool had scissors.  I used a micra for awhile that was great, but I was tired of lugging my big tool up into the woods when I planed on doing a little fishing.  So I got the squirt with pliers because of my fishing habit, those hooks can be a pain in the butt to get out of a fish without pliers.  Its also got a file on it which is great for sharpening dull hooks.  This tool also has the most comfortable grip out of all the multitools I have ever used despite its tiny size.  I got turned onto this multitool by earlylight over at Sectionhiker, go check out his article on knife size if your into ultralight gear or anything camping for that matter he’s got a great site.

The fourth one I use sometimes is an old swiss army knife.  Im sure you all know the benefits of the swiss so I wont go into it, The only reason I dont usually carry it is because the squirt takes care of anything the swiss could do, so I usually leave it at home.

I left out a few knives in the top photo because of their size or because they are just deco blades.  Couldnt really fit a machete in there with all the rest of em without making the other blades look tiny.

Weight isnt much of an issue for me when I decide what knife to carry,  I dont want to be hampered by a tiny “ultralight” knife that will break when I need it most.  I like to be able to rely on my blade and its nice to have a larger knife around for camp chores.

National scenic status sought for Pacific Northwest Trail

February 16th, 2009

I for one am glad this is happening. It means the section of the pnt nearby on blanchard wont be logged at all, which is what the hiking community around here has wanted for years.

This view of the Oyster dome from the Bat caves is amazing.  To bad there wasn’t more sun that day.

“The designation is sought in a sweeping public lands bill pending before the U.S. House of Representatives, and is intended to bring better maintenance, funding, signage and visibility to the trail, which stretches from Glacier National Park in Montana to Cape Alava, winding through three national parks — Olympic, North Cascades and Glacier — and seven national forests.

Along the way, hikers take in the Rocky and Selkirk mountains, the Pasayten Wilderness, the North Cascades and Olympic Mountains, ending at a wild beach on the Pacific Coast.

Designation would bring national recognition to the trail, and put it among its better known peers including the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails.”

This view from the top of the oyster dome is a part of the pnt and one of the great views one can get on the trail.   The samish overlook is about 2 miles away near the wedge cut you can see in the trees on the next hill over.

Coleman Exponent Xpert Stove

January 31st, 2009

“”This 4-season stove operates a butane-propane cartridge that has a patented fuel extraction system that delivers steady performance at all temperatures and altitudes. Lightweight and durable aluminum and magnesium alloy components. The aluminum cartridges can be punctured when empty with the included “Green Key” and then crushed and recycled. The stoves are adjustable from simmer to high.”"

That’s what another website has to say about it anyway. You can’t get this stove from the Coleman store anymore since its an older model. I got it on a clearance sale for 20$ a few years ago and have used it many times since then.  The only beef I have with it is you have to use the powermax fuel if you don’t buy their adapter.  And powermax fuel isn’t the easiest thing to come by, it took me a year to find a store around here that had it.  So I had this stove just sitting there for the longest time that I couldn’t use.  I eventually broke down and bought the adapter for it so I could use the standard fuel canisters, shortly after that I was looking around in my local sporting goods store and noticed they had the powermax fuel that I had searched for so diligently.  Go figure, at least now I have the option to use either fuel type.
Other than the fuel issue its a great little stove. pretty lightweight, and durable. Though not the smallest stove, it gets the job done quickly and efficiently, boiling water in just over 3 minutes.  I cant remember the exact times the canisters are rated for. but you can run it full blast for an hour and not run out of fuel.  Which comes in handy for those long simmering back country stews that are so good.

Overall if your looking for a cheaper stove that gets the job done and if your store carrys the powermax fuel canisters than its a good buy.  But if your looking for something more lightweight and more multi-fuel then I would look elsewhere.

Delorme Earthmate PN-20 GPS

January 28th, 2009

I purchased the Earthmate PN-20 recently and it is the best gps unit I have ever used.  Mind you I haven’t used that many, but still.  The main things I like about the PN-20 is its high accuracy and the ability to upload satellite, aerial, topo, and whatever maps I might come across, as long as they are properly formatted, onto it for use in the field.  There are 2 different handheld gps units Delorme offers, the PN-20 and the PN-40, I opted for the cheaper of the two and found a great deal on the PN-20 at tigergps.com for around $160, whereas if I had bought it directly from Delorme it would have cost me $200.  Still it was kinda pricey but I sold my old gps so I needed a new one preferably with better features than the old and the PN-20 fits the bill.

So far I haven’t Logged that many miles with it, barely 8 miles in fact, but the ease of use has surprised me.  It comes with topo 7 software you load on your computer and it allows you to download maps from the Delorme server for a price, fortunately it comes with $140 in free map downloads so hopefully I wont have to pay for downloads for quite some time.  I loaded some Satellite and Aerial Maps of Blanchard Mountain near my house and went out there the next day and hiked around the mountain to test the accuracy of the gps and the maps it contains.  It tracked my miles as 2.41 but in the parking lot before we left I noticed it had .38 miles already on it.  I couldn’t figure out how to clear it soon enough as the people I was with were eager to hit the trail, so I just subtracted that from the final mileage.  Also this thing drains batteries like no other, It takes 2 AA batteries, I had put some Energizer Max batteries in it that it came with and they died up at the bat caves.  I have yet to try my NiMH 2500 mAh Energizer rechargeable’s in it but hopefully they last a lot longer than the 3 hours I estimate it was on from the time I got it to when it died.  I am amazed at the amount of imagery and different map types it can use.  I can even upload pictures to it and it will auto-sync the pics up to my tracks and provide me with a good way to figure out exactly where I took that picture of a squirrel or bear.

These are the different map types it can use:

  • » USGS 1:24,000 quad maps
  • » NOAA nautical charts
  • » High-resolution color aerial imagery – U.S. States
  • » High-resolution color aerial imagery – Select U.S. Cities
  • » Black-and-white aerial imagery
  • » 10-meter color satellite imagery

From what I was reading you can upload your own scanned maps and have them work but I have yet to get that to work.

This thing also keeps track alot of other data that my old gps unit didn’t, such as how long I have been moving or stopped, usefull to see where I have to take breaks later on.  it keeps track of your current speed, speed max, and speed average along with the usual coords and trip odometer.  Elevation of course is a standard feature of most gps units but as this one is loaded with topo maps its a hell of alot more acurate than most road gps’.  Another fun feature is the Sun/Moon rise and set, also the tide chart will come in handy when I hike around at the beach.  It has alot more data info fields but I cant list them all as this paragraph would be way to large.

I cant rave enough about this, the only drawback I can see is the short battery life which my rechargeables will hopefully remedy.

The Oyster Dome and Bellingham Bat Caves

January 20th, 2009

samishoverlooksun

The bat caves and oyster dome have to be one of my favorite hiking destinations.  I usually try and get up there at least once a month in the summer, sometimes as often as 2 times a week.  It helps a lot that its only half an hour from my house.  The trail ranges from flat to scrambles up very steep slopes.

There are multiple ways up the mountain in a car but I like driving up most of the way to give my legs a break, the trail is hard enough without adding another thousand feet of elevation gain.  To get to the Samish overlook drive north on I-5 till you get to the Alger Exit #240, take a left and head west on Lake Samish Road. Take the first Left onto Barrel Springs Road and follow it for 3/4 of a mile till you see a large gravel road on the Right and a sign that says “blanchard hill trail system”.   Follow this gravel road up the mountain. there are 3 parking lots. The first one fairly close to the paved road, this is where you can find maps  and info about the trail system on a bulletin board in the parking lot. Even if you are planning on starting from one of the other parking lots pick up a map here for reference. the other lot is 1/4 of the way up on the right fork of the road. If you follow the left fork for about 3 miles it leads you to the Samish Overlook.  From here the trailhead is at the north-west corner of the parking lot.  Just keep to the right fork at the first 2 trail junctions and a sharp left onto the trail that leads to the caves.  Be sure to look around on the steep sections as this last trail junction is in the middle of one and easy to miss if your looking at the ground alot.   Or if your in for the famous view from the oyster dome then youl want to continue on up that last grueling hill gaining nearly 400 feet in elevation where at the top you take a left and go on up the hill a bit more to the oyster dome.

This is easily one of the most grueling hikes I have ever been on, and yet it also has one of the most rewarding views in the entire north cascade range.  I usually chicken out and take the trail from the Samish Overlook parking lot where the hang gliders and para guys take off from.  there are 3 noticeably steep sections on the trail which nearly require you to scramble up using your hands as well as just foot power.  Also if its been raining recently there’s usually a creek running down part of the trail as well as the 3 or 4 regular creek crossings you have to negotiate. although none of them large enough to worry about, the biggest crossing is probably 4 feet across in 4-6 inches of water.  Most of these crossings are completely dried up by late summer but in the early spring they can be very fast moving (though still shallow).

caves

the Caves are on a short offshoot trail with a sign saying “Bat Caves” and someone just happened to put a batman sticker on this sign.  A ways past this sign you get to the boulder field known as the bat caves.  sorry about the photo, its the only one I have showing a layout of the boulders, even though its only showing the lower 1/4 of the area i still think its a fair representation of the area.  there are 3 “main” caves known as the upper, lower, and middle caves.  The biggest cave has to be the middle cave although it could be alot bigger since it ends at the bottom in a murky subterranean lake.  The other two are fairly easy to find, when you hike into the area the trail widens and nearly disappears then narrows again into 2 separate trails going to the different caves.  The best “lookout” spot to see most of the area would be to the right but you have to scramble over a few of the boulders to get to it.

My most recent foray up there was a great training hike as I am trying to carry more weight in a pack on all my hikes to make it easier when I have to lug a larger pack around.  My bag wasn’t to heavy in the 10lb range.  But it was heavy enough to make my legs sore the day after.  There was a bit of snow on the sides of the road and a spot on the uphill section that was slick enough that I wasn’t sure if my car was going to make it.   But we did and the hike was great as usual, bit more snow at the bat caves but mostly in the crevasses in between boulders.  There were 2 other people with on my hike, Clinton is a good friend that usually comes with me on these trips, and he brought along a girl who’s name escapes me right now.  She had a much harder time than we did mainly because she was about a foot shorter than us tall guys (both Clinton and I are about 6’2″) plus she just wasn’t used to hiking up burly trails.

There were quite a few other people on the mountain besides us.  10 cars in the upper lot and we passed at least 20 people going up and down on various trails.  But it wasn’t nearly as busy as the event they have up there, once a year or so when they fill up the parking lot with cars and have pavilions set up everywhere.

The trail is pretty well maintained although after big storms there are blowdowns on parts of the trail that stay there for 6 months or so till they get cut out by the pnt trail maintence guys.  Its all DNR land so there are signs everywhere and more recently logging survey markers. THEY WANT TO LOG THIS MOUNTAIN!  If you ever want to hike this trail in the best condition you’d best do it soon as they want to start logging by 2010, there will be  a core 2000 acres on the top of the mountain by the lakes and oyster dome they will preserve (supposidly) but they want to log the rest.  When this starts to happen you will deffinetly see posts up here about it and my efforts to deter loggers.  I’m sure at least a few people from Bellingham will go chain themselvs to trees up there, we call Bellingham the hippie town around here for good reason.

Heres a good map of the mountain for refrence and whatnot

http://www.hikerandom.com/images/map-blanchard.gif

I got this image from the PNT website if you want to see their other maps of the pnt go there.


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