Rustic Rafters Campground…

As I write this post it seems almost a lifetime ago that my kids and I were at Rustic Rafters, but in reality it was just the other day. I keep feeling like its time to start prepping the fire for lunch! Splitting wood, getting the fire started and working on a hot bed of coals for the burgers while my two little campers sit on the cabin steps whittling.

My kids and I had the pleasure of spending another long weekend at our getaway of getaways, Rustic Rafters. Nestled away in northern Michigan, Rustic Rafters is the quintessential “Up North” campground. With spacious sites, beautiful showers and charming cabins, this place is everything you need for a basecamp for your wilderness adventures or to just sit in camp and watch the sun move across the sky!

We were the first people to stay in one of Ray’s new bunk houses! Designed and hand built by him they are fantastic for a large family or hunting party! The bunk houses are laid out with a table, chairs, coffee pot, fridge, microwave and toaster. There are two sets of bunks on either side of the cabin with a heater between them and to top it all off, a beautiful porch with a table and benches for eating out!!

Our meals were true Cowboy fare! Saturdays dinner consisted of flame grilled steak and beans followed by a breakfast of bacon and flapjacks. That was chased by a round of grilled burgers for lunch and then a mess of eggs and flapjacks the next morning. Everything was cooked over an open fire and hot coals, imparting that delicious, smoky flavor that can only come from cooking outdoors. The children and their sophisticated pallets have decided that brown eggs taste better than white and I was right in my decision to go with them. Originally being met with skepticism and doubt, I had to convince them that the browns were the way to go and take it on faith that I knew what I was doing! Their little faces certainly mirrored the doubt in Dad they were feeling inside!

Fosters Market in Lake City has some of the freshest meat around and the staff is always helpful. Bill came to our rescue when we had a S’mores Emergency and was able to save the day! Thank you Bill!!

We did manage to stroll into town and visit the Family Diner. There has been a restaurant in that spot for as long as I can remember and its tradition to eat there at least once per trip! The food is great and the prices are very reasonable. As with Fosters, the staff was excellent and saw to our every need. They even have a gluten free menu!!

So when you go up north you need to do up north things. Looking for wildlife is near the top of the list and we were not disappointed. The local back roads provide the perfect venues for critter watching and we were treated to seeing a doe and her fawn cautiously picking their way along a creek, a lone turkey roadside and a badger! Yes, a badger!! He crossed the road in front of us in such a manner as to appear angry that a road was cutting through his swamp!

Having access to some private land I decided it was time for my kids to experience an up north rite of passage…their first bows! They took to them like fish to water! I found two nice little compound bows for them, attached the sights ( like a flat lander, or so I was told!) and we headed out to the back forty. Large McDonald’s cups were the targets of opportunity with a sawmill and its dust pile as our backdrop. After a detailed and lengthy safety discussion and many arrows being let loose, Noah was the first to put one through his target and was soon followed by his sister. With turns being taken and arrows flying it became quickly apparent that I had a couple of archers on my hands! In fact, Zoe asked about bow fishing!! I’m so proud of the both of them.

Cupping my face, my hands still smell of work and the forest. Hands that split wood, worked the fire, carried water and provided for my family. Hands that did real work….hands that affirmed our connection to the real world in a time of Facebook and video games and virtual reality. The skills I used were real, the knowledge I used was real and time we shared together was priceless!

Below are links to the places mentioned in the article and as always, thanks for reading!

http://www.rusticrafters.com

http://www.fostersmarketlakecity.com

http://www.family-diner.com

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A Cut Above…

The world of pocket and EDC knives is constantly evolving and changing. From blade designs and deployment methods to blade shapes and materials used, there are as many “different” knives as there are uses!

Leading the charge on the field of knife design is CRKT. Their spirit of innovation and embracing new ideas has brought many a creative yet functional knife to market.

The Main Show…

The DAKTLY is no exception to this! When the box from CRKT arrived I tore into it with excitement which quickly morphed into curiosity as I wondered how I was going to open this knife without loosing a finger or two!! With a bit of fiddling I figured out how to open it and a little after that I had mastered opening and closing it with one hand! 

Utilizing a very uniqe swing out mechanism, the DAKTLY leaps into service by depressing the safety / pivot release lever. Once done, this allows the blade to swing freely from its stored position inside the stainless steel “cage” that makes up the handle. Once released from confinment and with a press and push of the thumb the blade snaps into position! Now heres the thing…looking at this little knife and the way its designed one would not expect the type of blade lock up it deliveres! 

Central to the swing out mechanisim is an astethicaly placed ring. This ring provides great finger purchase as well as doubling as a beltloop clip and bottle opener when opened! This is where the safety comes in. Engaging the safety prevents the blade from accidentally opening when you clip it or put it in your pocket!

Lets talk about the blade…

Following on the less is more principle the blade has lightening cut outs and a very utilitarian profile that provides excellent control. Shipped razor sharp, it cut all materials put before it. Cardboard, leather, steak…more steak…mmm, steak! Ok, back to the knife! 

After dispatching several boxes that were just asking to be broken down and carving up a nice piece of beef, the DAKTYL had one more suprise up its sleve. Its a cinch to clean! Seldom when looking for a new knife have I ever looked at ease of cleaning but it is something that we all should pay attention to, especialy if like me, your using it as a camp knife! You don’t want any lingering bits of dirt, fish guts or blood hiding and just waiting to find there way into you either via food prep or cut! A good bout of food poisoning can cut short or at the very least ruin a perfectly good camping trip. Make it a survival situation and “You died from disentery!” (thank you Oregon Trail!)

Where this little knife really shined was fishing! Attached to my Agilite pouch, it was always on hand for trimming line and opening eyelets on jigg heads! With a click and a flick the blade was out and ready for duty. Now thats not to say that it remained on my fishing rig… It is equally at home on my waist, clipped to a belt loop! Clip it to your waist, pack or pouch…hang it around your neck with some paracord…it’s always handy and ready for any job you can throw at it!

I found the DAKTYL to be a useful knife of exquisite form. The fit and finish is spot on with an addictively smooth blade deployment and a precise, tight lockup. 

As always, thanks for reading!

For more information or to get yours, click here….

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Don’t Lose Your Cool!….

I love relaxing in camp. The tent, fire and camp kitchen all make the perfect backdrop for a scene of relaxation and contemplation. Add a nice cold Cola and I’m good to go! Now, I’ve used all manner of things to keep my beverages frosty…ice, styrofoam, insulated cups…you name it and I’ve tried it and most of those methods were less than ideal. Styrofoam cups are flimsy not to mention bad on the environment, I can taste the plastic of the insulated cups and ice dilutes what your drinking…unless its water!

Then along came YETI!… 

You know the cups, stainless steel, modern design? Well to be honest, I tried a few of the copies and knock offs only to find they can’t hold a candle to the real deal! So after hitting pretty good at the casino, I decided it was time to upgrade my cup game and get a YETI. I chose the 30oz Rambler and I love this cup! It keeps my Coke so cold that its almost hard to swallow! I can fill it with water and ice and drink from it all day with only replacing the water! The cups do what the ad’s say and ice keeps over night! Litterally, how cool is that!!

It fits in my hand nicely and in my Agitlite pouch on my chest rig even better! I’m totally self contained!!

The stainless steel construction makes them a breeze to clean and the rugged plastic lid seals up tight everytime. I have no complaints about this cup at all.

Sleigh Bells?!What?!…

Now, people have said to me “Scott, why don’t you buy a cheaper one?” “Hey, I got mine for half of that!” and so on and so on…but here is why I bought a YETI, I have had the clones, i have had the similar styles but none of them performed. Sure, they would keep things cold for a while but not all day and into the next like my Rambler. I have high expectaions for my gear, when I do something I give it all I have and then some, I expect my equipment to perform the same if not better. Thats why I spent a few dollars more, expecting more and I wasnt dissapointed. About a week and a half into my ownership of this amazing vessel, it develped a ring. I don’t mean like a ring around the inside….I mean like an honest to goodness ring! Like a sleigh bell!! I was dissapointed as anyone would be, here is this marvel of beverage containment that now sounds like it was part of Santa’s kit! I lived with the ring for a bit until I noticed that it wasn’t keeping stuff cold like it did before. Seems like the weld had popped… I sent YETI and email and had a reply the next day. I sent pictures and a video as requested to show what was wrong with my cup.

This is Jackie,your Time Life Operator!”…

The reply came back to contact customer service…oh boy I though, here we go….because we all know what this is going to be like…or so I thought! I called and on the third ring a polite young woman answered the phone and introduced herself. I explained I was calling because I received an email instructing me to do so. Without a word I hear clicking in the background “Oh yes! were going to get a new cup out to today!” Wait, what?! Where’s the – “your warranty is only valid on the first tuesday after the second blue moon in an even year during a month that ends in ‘Y'” – argument? Then she goes on “and may I say, your cup has the loudest ring we have ever heard!” You’ve got to be kidding me! She continues to appologize for the cup, assured me I would have my new one in five days and asked if there was anything else she could do for me. I asked if she could throw a truck decal in the box and she said that she was sure they could put together something! What a great company! I understand that when mass producing products things are gonna happen and stuffs gonna come out less than spec, it happens, but to stand by your product like that is what sets YETI appart from the rest!

A note to YETI, your great product and outstanding customer service has earned you a customer and raving fan for life!

Click here for more info or to order your own Rambler!

As always, thanks for reading!

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This is One Sharp Pen!

What is the definition Every Day Carry (EDC)?

Well it varies from person to person but is generally accepted as a lifestyle whereby an individual carrys with them on their person, or in a bag/pouch of some sort, a kit comprised of tools and gadgets that they feel will help them overcome any adversity they might face in going about their daily business. Now, that may mean a flashlight, knife, pen, first aid kit and many times a firearm. Loadouts very from person to person but there are some basics that are just understood and go unspoken. A pen, flashlight and cutting instrument of some kind. Now add to that anything else you feel you might need and you could end up with pretty big kit! The key here is to balance need vs weight vs probablity. Its a vicious triangle that can drive even the most patient of Boy Scouts mad!….”BE PREPARED!”
So taking that into consideration I’m always crusing for new gear and ideas to help maximize my “preparedness capacity” while reducing bulk or weight and I made a fantastic find!

SOG has developed a new line of tools for the EDC crowd they call the Baton Series! It is a collection of tools designed to be descrete and go unnoticed until they are needed. From a pen/scissors combo all the way up to a full fledged multitool, these gadgets are an EDC’s dream! I got to hands on with the Q1 which is the pen/scissors combo and after two weeks of daily use and abuse, I’m really impressed with this little tool. 

The Q1 has a retractable pen in the front, a pair of razor sharp scissors in the middle and a blade screwdriver and bottle opener on the back end! Pushing the pen stud forward exposes the ball point stylus, locking it into place. Pressing the stud into the Q1 body retracts the pen and helps prevent you from writing on your shirt as you put it back into your pocket!  The pen writes smooth and ink is applied to the paper via a pressurized cartridge allowing for writing in just about any position. The cartridge is easy to replace and the pen tip twists and locks instead of threading on or off. The only drawback I found was that the spring under the cap is quite willing to bounce away to the unknown when your taking it apart!
The screwdriver on the back is a nice addition and handy to have. Not a pryer mind you, but still a solid tool for those quick tightening jobs or your trying to pop open a cold one after a long day at the grind.

Now for the main show! The scissors are concealed within the body of the Q1 and are deployed by pulling it appart and put away by pressing it together! How cool is that!! Don’t be put off by their size, these little buggers are sharp and strong. In testing they made fast work of paper products and were just as effective at cutting 6-7 weight leather! Would I want to use them to make a shirt from the tanned hide of the deer I caught in my snare while waiting to be rescued from the wild? No, but I could…Could I use them to cut a strip out of my leather belt to reattach my radiator hose and get back to civilization? Yes!

The body of the Batons are annodized metal with a fit and finish that is spot on. The seam where the two halves come together closes up flush with no uneven spots or angles that could snag. Overall the design has a nice feel and is easy to write with. The rounded edges sit comfortably in the hand even after prolonged use.

In my opinion the Q1 from SOG is a true Every Day Carry tool and a must have. It has three of the most often needed tools through out the day and is marvel of SOG’s innovation and engineering

Click here for more information or to order yours!

As always, thanks for reading!

And for our Finnish readers: “Kiitos lukemisesta!”

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Fish’em if Ya Got’em!

Summer has finally begun and to me and my family, that means fishing! With the weather being as nice as it was Saturday I packed up the kids, a lunch, rods and trusty old truck tent and headed out. Our destination of choice is a DNR public access point 20min from home. 

We pull in and it quickly becomes apparent we weren’t the only ones looking to enjoy the lake today! Trucks with boat trailers as far as you could see filled the main parking lot and the spaces edging on the lake shore were dotted with various vehicles in multiple states of use, none of which really fit the bill for a day camp.

We pick our spot and I back the truck in. As soon as the engine was off my kids were outta the truck and unloading our gear! I’ve got two fantastic little helpers and quickly their nimble little hands went to work assembling the poles for the truck tent! As I unrolled and opened the tent into the truck bed, my son went around attaching the straps to the body. Once that was done we inserted the poles and up she went! The Backroadz tent from Napier Outdoors is a constant companion in my truck. It’s great for camping trips or quick shelter from the sun or rain! We use it a lot for day camping. In fact we have even used it last winter on one of the nicer days to take food down by the water to eat and play boardgames! 

Time for lunch!

My daughter grabbed our food, a blanket and climbs up into the tent. Tossing in and smoothing out the blanket, she sat down and helped me pass out the food. As lunch was winding down she produced a couple of card games and playing commenced. I’m not sure how but her brother and I kept losing, can’t prove it but I think she was cheating!!

We enjoyed the shade of the tent and the gentle lake breeze passing through it. The view out of our little shelter was amazing and we sat there quietly taking it in. I’m fortunate to have kids that enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, they are always up for adventure!

With our lunch over Noah grabbed his pole and turned toward the lake and Zoe decided she wanted to put her head down for a snooze. The nice thing about the access point is that you can park right at the waters edge so I was able to sit down and watch them both!

With her nap over, Zoe and I joined Noah on the rocks casting our lines. Well, they were casting their lines, I was untangling reels, removing seaweed and untwisting  crossed lines! Not to mention replacing tackle! I was support crew and totaly fine with my desginated role, as long as they were having fun, I was having fun! My chest rig was a God Send in that I wasnt constantly going back and forth to a tackle box and rooting through it looking for stuff! 

Another resident of the trucks backseat is my chest rig adorned with multiple pouches from various companies and filled with an assortment of tackle. It’s fantastic for fishing and keeping everything at hand when your working your way through bushes (or fences!) Trying to reach that secret spot where the big ones lurk! Organization is a must and the way I’ve got it kitted out works well for me.

Sadly, the fishing gods weren’t smiling on us and we didnt take anything home except for fun memories of a well spent afternoon!

As always, thanks for reading!

Here are links to the gear…

Tent: Napier Outdoors 

Chest rig: High Speed Gear

and Pouches: AgiliteBDS TacticalExplosive OPS Gear

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Go Take a Hike!

Spring has reared its flower crowned head here in Michigan and we Michiganders are crawling out from our dens and wiping the sleep of hibernation from our eyes. Sunday was beautiful and I was determined not to waste it indoors. I called up my favorite gal pal, geared up and headed out.

A short while later and we were at the Nature Center at Stoney Creek Metro Park. Now, those of you that live in SE Lower Michigan know that we have some of the best state and county run parks around and Stoney Creek is no exception to this. After an obligatory walk-through of the nature center we headed out onto the trails. We took the habitat trail that has plenty of ups and downs and skirts along many vernal ponds where the wood frogs were meeting up for their springtime frolics.

Right at the start we ran into this guy, a run of the mill garter/gardner/racer (whatever you want to call it) snake. He was a pretty good size and crossed the path with what looked like more than a few frogs in his belly! 

We continued on down from the center and to the creek bank. The trail for the most part was dry with a few spots a little more water than mud. We began to move away from the creek and more into the surrounding woods climbing a good size rise. About mid way up the trail to the right was a little sign informing us to be aware of Michigans only poisonuos snake, the Massasauga Rattler. Now I’ve been stomping around the woods a long time, been to plenty of woodland lakes and ponds and I have only seen one of these creatures. Aggresive, feisty and endangered, for better or worse they are making a comeback in our state. 

The rise lead to a drop and took us right up alongside a beautiful pond. It was alive with frogs and the air electric with their calls! The weeds and grasses provided shelter for them and was broken here and there by fallen trees. What a great view.

Moving down the trail, we circled the pond and the cacaphony continued, the frogs obivious to the loss of their human audiance. The terrain got a little rougher here with more ups and downs, rocks and other debris. We came to another pond just as lively as the first. Standing at its side and resting on my walking stick I could feel the life energy all around me…from the frogs in the water, the rodents and reptiles hunting the froggs and the almost perceptable pulsations of the trees as sap rose up their trunks and out to their branches nourishing the naked limbs that provided a canopy to the goings on below. It felt as if God was standing there, next to me, shooting a sideways glance my way and saying “pretty neat huh?”

Spring is also a great time to glimps the world of fungus! The forest takes care of itself in so many ways. Fallen trees are broken down into soil by insects and fungus and those effected logs are then further processed down by the critters going after said insects, ripping the rotting wood apart!

Life is abundant in the park and makes it self known in many ways…But sometimes you need to know where to look! There is a healthy deer population and there presence was evident by munched on mushrooms on trees and their prints in the soft dirt of the trail.We avoided slopping through the muddy spots so as not to ruin and prints or tracks. Just wish the other hikers would have done the same. On the edge of a clearing with a good porus treeline on three sides we spotted this!

Fox? Coyote? Don’t know, but it was still neat to see! We kept moving and came out on this breath taking view!

I stood there just waiting for a deer to walk out into the open! More hills and dips and we decended into an old riverbed. We were nearing the end of the trail which was a good thing because we were hungry!

Discussing our meal otions it was decided we would consult google for suggestions instead of fishing and foraging! It was that conslutation that lead us to the Washington Grill! Great food, great service and a wonderful atmosphere! 

I opted for the “Porker” burger without a bun, its a 1/2lb angus patty topped with pulled pork, bbq sauce, bacon and cheese!! Delicious!!

Stoney Creek Metro Park is located at 26Mile Rd just west of Mound Rd. Day and annual passes are available. The Washington Grill is located on VanDyke Ave. just south of 30Mile Rd, on the east side. This was a day well spent and I cant wait to go back later this spring when the tress are leafed out!

For more information or to plan your trip, click the links below

http://www.metroparks.com/parks/stony-creek-metropark/

http://washington-grill.com

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Getting Back to Nature at Rustic Rafters!

clip_image002Nestled away in the wilds of Northern Michigan is a pure jewel of a campground, Rustic Rafters!

With 5 cabins a whole mess of camp sights, pavilion and some of the nicest showers I’ve ever used while camping, Rustic Rafters gives you an excellent base camp for whatever adventures you are embarking on.

Just north of the campgrounds on the main road is a huge atv trailhead. To the east is Houghton Lake, a touristy town replete with gift shops, hotels and restaurants.

Going west you’ll run into the little town of Lake City, the seat of Missaukee County. Built around Lake Missaukee, or Muskrat Lake as it used to be known is my preferred location for resupply. Foster’s market…the burgers in the meat dept. are to die for!!

And if your looking for fishing, your in the center of the action with several popular fishing lakes a short drive from camp.

clip_image004The camp sites are well spaced with plenty of green between you and your neighbor and each one has a fire ring, picnic table, water and electrical hook ups.

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The showers are divine! Not only are they clean, but the interior decoration is nothing short of awesome and captures the feel of being “up north”! The camp ground is really family friendly with two play areas and plenty of open land to run around. By the pavilion are horse shoe pits for a casual game or a family tournament! Did I forget to mention the volley ball net? Don’t forget your bikes! The road that runs inside the property is great for kids to ride on and it makes a nice after dinner stroll for mom and dad!

 

clip_image008If you’re looking for wildlife, look no further. Deer routinely meander through the camp sites and can be found in the surrounding fields at dusk. If your lucky enough, you might catch a glimpse of a bear or track of a cougar on the back roads and two tracks where the more adventurous go!

clip_image010As the evening moves into night the howling of the coyotes, the crackling of the fire and the star filed sky make a perfect end to a day of exploring or site seeing!

Ray and Marjean are your hosts and their dog, Worthless, is the campground mascot! Ray regularly drives the property when he’s not building new cabins to check on his campers to see if they need anything. Oh! be sure to have dog treats for Worthless!

Click here for more information and to make your reservations!

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