“Uh, dad…this tastes like plastic!”

What do you do with two kids and a raging case of cabin fever? You go snowshoeing of course! Now I know what your going to say…yes, they are expensive….yes, they can be hard to find…no, it’s a lot of fun to go trudging through the snow! It’s even more fun when you’ve used snowshoes you’ve made yourself!

So I got this idea that the kids and I should make our own snowshoes…ambitious I know, but it has all the makings of a great project! Coming up with a design, material choices and execution…YouTube to the rescue! I found a video that gave a step by almost step instruction on how to accomplish this task. After a quick trip to home depot we had settled into the basement to construct our shoes. The process was surprisingly simple and within a few hours, they were done. The kids enjoyed the build process and were all smiles with the finished products.

A few inches (like 5!) of snow fell over night and the next morning they tried out the shoes. Wow! They actually worked! The kids trudged around the front yard compacting the fresh snow and getting a feel for how they worked!

Later that week we had another snowfall and I decided it was time for a winter hike! Loading up a sled with food and beverages, off we went into the woods! It was absolutely breathtaking. Snow covered the trees and the ground hushing sounds and giving everything a fairytale kind of look. As we hiked down the trail you could just hear the little rapids gurgling under the heavy ice with the creek splashing out of holes here and there, letting you know that it was still flowing under it’s winter covering. The park seemed more alive than ever with tracks in the snow betraying their makers and being evident to the goings on in this oasis of trees surrounded urban sprawl.

The deer tracks were outnumbered by coyote and closely followed by fox running to and fro and criss-crossing the trail. Most were old but some were fresh. Fresh enough that I kept my head on a swivel looking out for hungry predators. We climbed up to a fantastic overlook and rested while taking in the beauty of the frozen woods. After our break we ascended a bit more until the trail began to wind down off the tree line and plunge straight into the woods. We came to a clear, flat open area that is a vernal pond during the summer teeming with life. This day, the only evidence of life we saw were yet more tracks crossing the frozen pond desperate for food.

We stopped at some felled trees who’s stumps made for nice seats and a table to set my stove upon. The stumps were in a bit of a divot opposite the pond and worked well because it gave me the opportunity to teach my two how to hunker down and get out of the cold wind! First order of business was making the hot chocolate. Sure, the packets were a little old…sure it tasted a bit plastic-y but it was hot and it was chocolate and that was all that mattered!

Down and out of the wind, they sipped hot chocolate and ate Pb’n J sandwiches while I heated up a pot of spagettio’s. With now full, warm bellies Noah and Zoe set to doing what most normal children do when unplugged from electronics and released into their native environment…they began to play and use their imaginations! Gasp, imagine that! They ran around, rolled around in the snow, climbed over logs and played with sticks!

The sun was starting to go down and with it the temperature. Gathering our things, we packed out our trash, reloaded the sled and began the hike out. We rested again at that same overlook and watch the shadows of the trees stretch out long and grey over the undisturbed snow below.

By the time we got back to the truck we were plum wore out! Once loaded and inside, the warmth from the heater felt good. We stripped off our heavy outer layers and sat silent for a moment reveling in the heat pouring out of the dashboard! On the drive home we talked about the tracks we saw, laughed about the funky hot chocolate and what a good time we had together!

Enjoying the outdoors is one thing but being able to share it with your children just makes it so much better! I love you guys!

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A Lady Called Hank…

This past Fall, what was once a lifetime obsession and desire was finally fulfilled. On the day before leaving for deer camp I took ownership of a lever action .30-30 Cowboy Rifle…not just any lever action .30-30 Cowboy Rifle mind you, but an honest to goodness American made Henry! What a beautiful rifle!

My love affair with lever guns began when I was seven years old in a Ben Franklin store in northern Michigan. That summer I had been guarding the homestead with my trusty rubber bullet firing chrome plated plastic six shooter slinging “lead” at foam cups and desperados alike! The first few days after arriving at my grandma’s farm were tough, but once “they” realized this new sheriff wasn’t leaving things quieted down as the bad guys moved out of pistol range to the hills and tree line on the edges of our farm.

So here we are walking around town and we decide to go into Ben Franklins…that’s when I saw her, perched on a shelf just below the cowboy hats was Betsy! I looked at my mom with glee and joy in my eyes, she looked at me with a kind smile and said “ask your father!” I made my case to my dad…. “Oh Dad! This is what I need to keep the rustlers from stealing our cattle and those pesky coyotes at bay!”

“but we don’t have cattle…” my dad said!

“I know, but…” and I tried again to convey how dire the situation was. With a bit more convincing, she was mine! The brown plastic stock molded to look like wood and metal, gold metalic paint on the band around the barrel and tube magazine, the beautiful sleek lever! What a “gun” it was. We had so many adventures rescuing stagecoaches and catching bandits! But like everything Ol’e Betsy gave in to the ravages of time and before I knew it, I had to let her go…

Betsy may have gone but the passion for those rifles remained and I always hoped that some day I would own one. A stout marlin, a handy winchester but never did I ever imagine the day would come that I would own a Henry! The gun that started it all!

Chambered in .30-30 winchester Henrietta or Hank for short, is a an all around general purpose hunting rifle. The tube magazine holds five rounds and loads through a cutout just below the muzzle and holds five rounds. The action is unbelievably smooth. I have tried other rifles and worked the actions only to feel snags, hang-ups and catches in the lever arc. The Henry has none of these issues which directly reflects on the quality of the build. The trigger pull is crisp, releasing the external hammer striking the firing pin and sending the round downrange. Boom! The buckhorn rear sight and front brass pin are easy to use and quick to come on target.

The checkering is beautiful and deep enough to provide adequate purchase on the exquisite wood used for the stock and fore grip. The grain of the wood and the finish is stunning. I’ve never seen a firearm like this before, it truly takes my breath away and you can tell by the fit and finish this is a quality firearm made from quality materials. Henrietta could easily be a safe queen but in my mind that would be disrespectful to the hard work and love that went into the crafting of this beautiful rifle

This gun was on target right out of the box! I was hitting an 8″ ringer at 50yds seated and standing every shot! Not only was she a standout on the firing line but in the staging area too as everyone who walked by “Ooh’d” and “Ahh’d” upon seeing her! Even my dad wanted shoot it!

With the deer trip in the bag I was looking for any excuse to take Hank out and stretch her legs. Along came Christmas and with it a scope and mounting rings from my Kids and my Dad! I got the scope mounted and zeroed and decided it was time for a coyote hunt!

I called my buddy Mike and off we went in search of Yotes! Of course, I had somehow managed to pick one the coldest Sundays of the year to sit in an open field calling wild dogs! The bright sun, hanging in a deep blue sky, lit up the ice crystals in the air making it look as though diamonds were floating about. As the wind bit our faces and frost formed on our lens caps I set up my caller and Mr.Wiggles (rabbit shaped decoy on a motorized base). Mike and I settled into our spots and began the wait.

What a fantastic way to spend a morning!

Scanning the tree line we did see some movement in our scopes and we heard a few yips in reply to the calls but that was it. Must have been too cold even for them! To no surprise Hank functioned without a hitch. Unbothered by the 8°f cold, she still racked and loaded rounds just as smoothly as if she were warm! Having had the cold settle into our feet and hands we decided it was time to go get some food and head home. I gathered up my caller, fetched Mr. Wiggles and called it a day!

Click here for more information on Henry Rifles!

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Algonac State Park

A short drive north of HQ is a true gem of a park, Algonac State Park. Situated on the west bank of St. Clair River, the park boasts two campgrounds (one of which is waterside), hiking trials, archery range, skeet shooting and a new covered pistol range! Did I mention fishing?

So dad and I were at loose ends ratteling about the motor pool trying to find something to do when the idea hit us…Alogonac!! We had gone the week prior and for some shooting & fishing and had a really good time. The drive is not too long and follows along the shoreline of Lake St.Clair, winds its way through several small communities and St.Johns Marsh ending in a splendid waterside drive on the banks of the St. Clair River. What a beautiful sight, marshland with tall grasses and cranes on one side and the open waters of the lake on the other. We are so lucky to live in Michigan! After arriving at the park we headded right to the ranges. Algonac has had an archery and shotgun range for quite some time. The folks that go there are generaly friendly and it has a nice atmosphere. I’ve seen everything from families to groups of friends shooting on the ranges.

The pistol range is new and much welcomed addition. It was built this summer, is covered with four lanes and the ability to accomodate all types of shooters. The benches are nice and spacious and your targets are hung at about 10 yards out. We loaded up and began blazing away! You have to bring your own targets and I suggest some extra clothespins to hang them! We did pretty good with our marksmanship skills but sadly I managed to kill a few clothes pins. The next time we go I plan to bring a bunch to leave!

I got to use my OPSMEN headset again and they are still going strong! The padding is holding up and are just as comfy as the day I took them out of the box!

With our need for the smell of burnt gunpowder saited we headed for the beach and fishing… what a great catch we had, enough for a fish dinner when we got home. Sadly though, we neglected to bring chairs and were less than comfortable by even the the most spartan of standards!

And that brings us to our return trip! Seeing that we had a blast the week prior we thought “Lets go again!” and this time we took chairs! Packing the truck, we opted to have a picnic instead of shooting and loaded up some dogs, buns, beans, rocket stove and the grill and hit the road.

The chairs were a welcome addition as was our rod holders and my cowboy hat! Just as we had settled in for a quiet day of fishing reclined in our chairs, hat brims pulled down low, the bells on our rods began to ring! Game on!

A mess of perch and one big bass later we opted to leave the beautiful beach with our now fish laiden stringer and head into the park for grilled dogs and fire beans! It was a peaceful day, the kind of day that recharges your soul and shows you what life is really about.

More information on Algonac State Park can be found here…

And you can read my review of the OPSMEN headset here…

As always, thanks for reading!

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Dango T01

Ok guys, lets be honest here for a second… We all have wallets and we all hate them! They’re bulky, lack organization in spite of the flaps, pouches and flimsy card “organizers” and slowly rot away in our pockets resulting in unrecognizable park passes and a noticeable funk that permeates our pockets and imbeds itself in our cash! Not to mention that we carry WAY to much stuff in our billfolds! This is not a new problem. Legend has it that Caesar’s wallet was over stuffed, old and tattered and if he had carried it in the front pocket of his toga it could have saved his life!

So what can we do?

Lucky for us Dango Products has a solution in its series of wallets! Taking the concept of the wallet and turning it on its head, they have made a unique product that not only serves to streamline and prioritize what we carry but its revolutionizing how we carry it!!

Blending Aluminum, silicone and top grain leather, Dango has managed to create an amazing wallet!

Excitedly I open the box… WOW! The presentation was exquisite and conveyed the feeling that I was now the owner of something truly special. The contrast of rustic, brown leather framed by gleaming metal held together by a proportional black band almost took my breath away! The wallet has some heft that lets you know its there and on duty. This is a wallet that not only helps you live your day to day life, but one that might possibly save it!

Dango calls this thing the T01 Tactical Wallet….I call it nothing short of amazing! Constructed from aluminum, the wallet body is solid with a bottle opener on one end, lanyard loop on the other and several spots that could be utilized as an improvised hammer! On the back side of the wallet is an aluminum plate that covers and protects what really sets the Dango apart from the rest…

An awesome multi-tool! Made of high carbon, stainless steel, the multi-tool deploys rapidly from the wallet and is ready for action with a straight and serrated edge knife, nail puller, paracord lock, ruler, phone stand (yes, phone stand!), hex wrenches…the list goes on! This tool is more than enough to get you out of trouble or way deep in it!! You can use the tool by itself or locked into one of two stages in the wallet frame if you need more of a grip for what your doing.

The T01 comes with a paracord fob that helps get it out of your pocket and can be undone to access the cordage if needed. The same can be said for the lanyard accessory. Dango makes the “Tether” which connects like a lanyard to the wallet and a belt loop ensuring that your stuff is secure and wont get lost! I love the lanyard! Following the paracord up from the wallet you come upon an rugged, over built clip that more than locks your wallet to your trousers! I would expect my pant loop to rip way before the clip will give way!

While we’re on the topic of accessories, I would be remiss if it didn’t mention the “Capsule” this is a neat little thingy that you can attach to your T01 or keys or really anything else for that matter. It’s a great little container for many purposes. If you have meds you need to take on a regular basis, you could put I.C.E. information in it and even a small fire starter kit. Or you could do like I did and make it a small fishing kit! Its big enough inside for a small cork bobber, a hook, some line and a sinker! I use the body of the “Capsule” wind the line around when fishing with it!

All in all, I think Dango Products is onto something with its wallet lineup. So if your in the market for a new billfold that does more than sit in your pocket, check out the T01. You wont be disappointed!

Click here for more info and to order!

And be sure to use the coupon code!

Offer – 10% off

Code: EDTactical

Valid: 10/9 – 11/10/1

As always, thanks for reading!

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EARMOR!

When is earpro more than just earpro? When it’s EARMOR by OPSMEN, that’s when! These things are pretty cool, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

Right out of the box I knew the M31 headhpones were going to be fantastic. The fit and finish is spot on and their stylish looks and low profile design really impressed me. Now, I’m used to using plugs or those big ugly, clunky headphones you use when operating a chainsaw or lawn mower…

As I liberated these sage green marvels of modern technology from their cardboard prision, they oozed sexy, tacticool appeal! I popped in some batteries and put them on, again expecting clunky, I was surprised at how comfortable they were! the headband has a generous amout of padding to lessen bumps and knocks and the ear seals are pure heaven! It feels like they are made of clouds with a side of squishy! The cups sealed around my glasses without a problem and silenced everything.

Pressing the sealed buttons I fired up the electronics and right away, the world returned to my ears. The raised icons on the rubber armor let you know what buttons you are pushing and internal tones let you know when you raise/lower the volume or turn the unit off. Pressing the “up” button as high as it would go cranked surrounding sounds to “11” and realy upped my situational awareness. The sound passing through the circuits was clean and free of distortion. People’s voices sounded like they normaly did and it was easy to pinpoint the location of a noise. The enhancement was so good, I could hear my dad whispering across the room!

So I load up my guns and head to the range to put this new earpro to the test! Peter’s is the neighborhood range with a knowledgeable and friendly staff. In addition to gun sales and the range they have class offerings and are always quick with advice!

I arrived at Peter’s Indoor Range, put on the headphones and went through the double doors that separated the show room from the lanes. As I opened the inner door my senses were greeted by the smell of burnt powder, hot brass and the concussion of guns being fired…but no sharp, painful noise!

I could hear the start of the “pop” and the echo from the report, no big boom! I could feel it just not hear it! I normally use the little foamy plugs but no more. The OPSMEN EARMOR blow them away! When the firing linexpensive quieted down the electronics kicked back on and I could hear all the goings on around me… loading of mags, racking of slides and then a “BO…” The circuits detected the gunshot and when the sound exceeded the factory settings 82dB they cut out and let the headphones do their job!

I can honestly say that this was the first time I’ve been shooting and my ears feel comfortable and protected. It didn’t matter if I was shooting or one of the other lanes was sending lead, the M31 did exactly what it was supposed to do. Oh, did I mention they have an audio input jack on them? That’s right, you can listen to your tunes while ringing steel and they sound great!

For more information click the links below and as always, thanks for reading!

OPSMEN EARMOR homepage

OPSMEN Facebook page

Peter’s Indoor Range

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Another Truck Tent Adventure!

What do you do when you have two kids, a truck tent and the weekend off? You go camping of course! I spent the past weekend with my kids up at our favorite place, Rustic Rafters. We packed up the truck and headed out Friday after I got off work. Traffic was backed up in the construction zones and we didn’t make camp till late! Arriving at our destination we had less than a half an hour before sunset to set camp and get the truck hastily unloaded. We were up to the challenge! Like a well oiled machine, the kids set right to work unloading and stacking our wood from the truck while I grabbed the totes and table and started work on unfolding the tent.

Before the organized chaos began I fished out my reflector sticker pack from Gear Aid and stickered the kids! There was no way I was going to let it get dark and be able to keep track of them! They worked like a charm and the kids loved the fun camping shapes! Being retro reflective, the light from your torch bounces off the stickers and right back at you and gave me an extra bit of peace of mind!

With the wood stacked next to the fire pit my little helpers set to building the tent poles and hooking up the tie downs. As Noah was coming out from putting in the last pole, Zoe was going in and unrolling the air bed I passed up to her. Noah went into the truck and came back with the pump! Bam! We were in our bags, watching a movie on my tablet in no time! I was so proud of them!!

The water from the trees made a pop-pop sound on the tent and the kids thought it was funny. About 12:30a that pop-pop had transitioned to more of deluge with a side of splash-splash! I had opened the front vent on the rainfly to let the sweet pine air flow through the tent and lull us to sleep, but now I found myself getting wet from the rain coming in. I quickly sprang up, more like undulated on a squishy air mattress and promptly closed the vent. I went back to sleep expecting to find all manner of condensation in the tent and on our sleeping bags in the morning…Much to my surprise, there was no moisture! The bags were dry and so was the inside of the tent! I wish the same could be said about our firewood!

We rolled out of the tent, rubbed the sleep from our eyes and hoofed it to the bathrooms and returned to camp and began working on our breakfast fire.….Yeah right! The unexpected rain from the night before had gotten our wood wet but just on one side, no biggie I can work with that…the real problem was that even though my waterproof matches were waterproof, the box and striker strip were not… I managed to get one lit, the tinder going and then nothing…out it went. The box disintegrated in my hands and I was left standing there, with cardboard mush and no fire. I felt the gaze of my now ravenous children burning through my soul, their little eyes showing the worry and despair at no fire, no sizzling bacon and certainly no pancakes!

This was a perfect teachable moment….

The situation was not as dire as they thought. I always have a backup plan and a backup plan to the backup plan… I set the example by staying calm and upbeat. “ I got this guys” I said as I walked to the truck and grabbed my “Bad Things Can Happen Bag”. I knew that in these damp conditions it was going to take all my fire starting knowledge to get one going. I started at the basics and had them next to me as I did. We made feather sticks, looked for dry-ish kindling…inside the bark of fallen trees, brown pine needles still on the tree and birch bark… Tinder came in the form of dryer fluff that I always have in my bag.

Out came Old Reliable (fire steel) and poof! Moments later we had a roaring fire! They were part of the process every step. I showed them that level heads prevail and where to look find what you need in nature and to never give up or lose hope… It was a great life lesson and not something that cant be learned sitting in front of a tv playing video games! This is what camping is all about! We stayed in camp that day, me, cleaning and organizing while the kids worked on their new found wilderness skills.

With three meals down and the sun beginning to set, we got ready for bed and gathered round the fire. As Noah and Zoe roasted marshmallows I played my guitar. All was right with the world. A beautiful tapestry of stars poked through the foliage overhead while the fire glowed and crackled at our feet and my children on either side of me, breathing easy and enjoying just being.

Into the tent we headed, tuckered out from the days chores. We each slipped into our own sleeping bags and soon, the little ones were fast asleep. I followed shortly there after. It was quite cozy with the three of us in there! Round about 3am I was awoken by the calls of coyotes. Calling and yipping as they moved about the forest. They make an eerie sound those calls…and it never fails to mesmerize, almost enchant if you will…these wild spirits running free, no master but instinct and hunger looking for their next meal.
Building on the previous days fire lesson and stoked up another one and I again cooked.

We had a fantastic breakfast and decided to break camp, shoot some arrows and do some exploring. We took the truck and headed out into the woods. Stopping at our secret spot, the kids jumped out and grabbed their bows. They have come such a long way with their archery and I was impressed by the results. Noah broke out his BB gun and finished off the targets. We mounted up, arms tired from pulling on bow strings and headed for the trails.

With their heads hanging out the windows we eased our way down the two tracks and around mud holes. The kids have learned that those are the best places to look for animal prints and excitement would build as we approached them. Several times we stopped and got out of the truck and see if we could read the story in this mess of prints around these windows into the soul of the forest. My Two have gotten quite skilled at the “Who, When and Which Way” of reading sign and then the imaginations start to run and off we go!
Our tracking and being observant was rewarded when Noah spotted a doe with her fawn and a bit further on when Zoe pointed out a spike horn and a doe sprinting through the bush. The kids get such a thrill from watching wild life and Rustic Rafters is our ground zero for that!
The sun was hanging high in the sky as we wheeled about and onto the highway heading home. Another great adventure in Northern Michigan in the books and a few more yet to go!

As always, thanks for reading!

links:

Napier Outdoors Truck Tents….

Gear Aid…

Rustic Rafters…

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Truck Campers Travel Journal!

I love camping. You can ask anyone, my friends…family…you name it and they will tell you how much I enjoy camping. Each time I pack up and head out, it’s a different experience…either because I forgot something crucial at home or camp gets raided by critters! Add to that I’m constantly trying to improve the experience and things can get a little jumbled and disorganized.
That’s where the Camping Journal comes in!

Made by Mike Young and costing only $12 there is no reason why you shouldn’t have one of these in your camper, tent bag or backpack! It catalogs and covers everything from fuel expenses to meal plans and even has a place for writing down favorite memories of the trip. So I get this thing in the mail and suddenly I have another reason to take the kids camping cause we have to test it out!

This time I didn’t forget a thing! I used the Camping Journal to plan our meals, build a shopping list and make sure nothing was left behind. It worked exactly as promised, now granted, your only going to get out of it what you put in to it, but the layout and design makes it simple to use and integrate into your routine.

The meal plan page covers BLD, ingredients used, cook method and a spot for prep work and cooking instructions. The next page holds info on your trip…the who, what, where of it all with details about the campground right down to cell service and local radio stations! At the end of each “Trip Section” there is a spot to record your activities and stand out memories. There’s even a blank page that I plan to use for pictures!

I have recorded two trips so far and started planning a third to see the fall colors up north. In the short time that I’ve used the Journal I have improved my organization, stepped up my cooking game and created a record of our travels! How cool is that, right?! I can look back at what worked and what didn’t, devise a new plan based on that data and record and compare the results. “But can you measure fun?” you ask….You bet I can! I’ve got two kids and trust me, they let me know if their not having a good time!!

But for me, and this is the best part of the whole thing, I’ve taken to using the Journal as a tool of perpetuity!

After each trip I make sure that I write a little letter about our trip in the space provided to my kids. My idea is to share with them the pride I feel as they develop their wilderness skills, the awe and wonder I feel when I experience things again through their eyes and just how plain happy I am that they are in my life. I hope years from now, when I’m gone, that my kids will reminisce about our trips into the woods, look at the pages and letters I have written to them and fondly remember the good times that we had and encourage them to do the same with their kids.

Isn’t that what its all about?

The Camping Journal is available at the link below. I highly recommend that you get one for your adventures!

Click here to get yours!

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