Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Choose your weapon: Deer Hunting, Briggs Outdoors 2012

American pride

First rule of sighting in guns....put the dog away.

54 Cal


Jonathan Browning Mountain Rifle

Rocking it old school
I really love hunting with my buddy Steve.  Not only is his farm literally world class Whitetail Hunting, his arsenal is too.  I wish I had the ability to own several types of muzzleloaders, but Steve has plenty more than that.  So you can imagine my smile when he reached into the safe and hauled out a matched pair of Jonathan Browning Mountain Rifles.  50 Cal and 54 Cal and said this was the weapon of the season. In the past we have used more Modern In-Line Muzzleloaders.  Not this year, trad man, all the way.  We spent our first day sighting these beasts in.  That exercise in itself was fun.  My gun is dead on at 25 and dead on at 50.  Click bang, poof and when the smoke clears....??  This is going to be interesting!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Briggs Farm Deer hunt: A Well deserved R&R.

High spots and overheads

Stands with views

A great place to let it all slide right off

Tradition has me in Winona on the Briggs Farm, muzzleloader in hand!  See you in a week!

Adapt or Die Part Two: Here we go again! Winter Fat Bike fun 2012


St.Elmos Fire: Fat Tire style

Perfect conditions
Well adapt or die part two here we go.  Shoulder season.  Not quite good enough for this and not quite good enough for that.  Enter the tool of the times, the Fat Bike.  Too much snow and this baby sucks, too little and well, its not a winter sport.  Just enough and you have the makings for some real fun, on par with any other sport in my opinion....

Demoing a Salsa Mukluk Ti and it is amazing!

We had those perfect Fat Bike conditions this weekend.  Got to say, I have not ridden, eaten and hit the sauna so much in a long time.  My Saturday morning ride was a bit stiff as the thermometer read a full whopping 1 degree. Amazing to be riding in that cold and dry of snow, the static and the sun made for some interesting visuals off the front tire!

Things really seem to be setting the stage for what could be an interesting winter here in the northland, lets keep our fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Things we lost in the flood: Thomson, MN and St. Louis River Flood 2012

Flood damage to brookie stream

Stream just before June Flooding

Typical brookie before flood

More stream damage
We are just learning what we truly lost in the flood earlier this summer.  As the winter comes on and the foliage dies off you can finally start to get a sense of the damage.  You can see the wounds that the earth has sustained and they are impressively deep.  My favorite stream is no exception.  The amount of water that surged through the watershed must have been insane.  The stream is completely blown out.  Holes that once had great structure are completely filled with sand.  Large amounts of streambank are just gone and of course now in the watershed.  Hundreds of trees are leaning into the water, many having torn out the bank with them.  Debris is choking the water.

I am usually pretty mum about where I fish and I am going to be the same on this post although many people may recognize the stream if they are local.  This was my number one brookie stream in the area. It was close, accessible and full of great fishing.  I can honestly say I am in mourning on this one.  Most of the flood damage has been a bitter sweet situation.  Destruction on a grand scale, which is lamentable, yet a changed landscape that offers new recreational opportunities.  This stream is not the case, it has changed for sure, but it is obvious that currently it is not for the better...

Fat Bikin!!: South Eastern MN style: Milltown Cyclery hospitality

Beat that

You can smell a good shop before you hit the sales floor and believe me Milltown smells good, these guys get it.

Look real close, what is wrong with this picture??  Pretty amazing!

Thanks to John Gaddo and Ben and the Milltown Crew for a great visit yesterday.  IMBA has pushed me to get more involved in the Fat Bike scene and because of that has me on an interesting project.  Because of that, I am out collecting facts and inspiration and that led me to Milltown.  This is the Fat Bike shop that is for sure.  The amount of stock, the amount of accessories and the amount of knowledge there is amazing.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Farewell to a four legged friend: Sage the dog has moved on.

Ever vigilant for evil squirrels

Rock star singer
So I am not known as a dog person.  I grew up with dogs.  A lot of them in fact.  My father was really into hunting and training dogs.  A trait that was passed on to my brother who to this day hunts with one of the best darn dogs in the business.  However my lifestyle and my traveling is not conducive to hounds.  Because of that I have had to live my life vicariously through other folks dogs.  Many of which, to be honest just annoy the heck out of me.  Like I said, I grew up with dogs, disciplined dogs!

With all that said, Sage was by far one of my favorite dogs out there.  Kind and courteous to a fault, for the most part loved to stay close and hang with the crew and of course had the best singing voice of all dogs, at least that I know.  You could just utter a wisp of a note and Sage was in for the howl and it was always fun to get her rolling.  She did it all think.  Paddling, hiking, skiing, mountain biking and I know she was truly a real friend to Ryan and Sherry and I am guessing they miss her pretty badly right now.

My favorite Sage moment was actually on the trip that these two shots are from.  It was a paddle up to the BWCA and I think we went into Mountain and Rose lakes.  I think it was there because to get there you have to paddle part of South Fowl lake and to do that you cruise down a long sluggish and Wild Rice choked stream.  Well, Sage had had enough and decided to hop out of the boat and swim it.  It was like watching a giant ball of cotton hit the water.  Her thick husky coat just floated her like a PFD and she swam that full mile just behind the canoes like she was supposed to do it that way.

In any case, here is to Sage.  You were an example that other dogs will have a hard time living up to and we will all miss you back here, I can only assume you are singing with the best of them right now.....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Horse thievery: Salsa visit Fall 2012

  Piedmont overlook shot: Photo by Gnat, Salsa Bikes

Spirit Mountain Flow Trail:  Photo by Gnat Salsa Bikes
So this is what I am talking about!

Watch this killer video on the new Salsa Horsethief bike.  The footage alternates from Salida CO and Moab UT to Duluth, MN.  Those are some huge destinations to be associated with in the world of off road cycling.

Earlier this fall the Salsa Cycling Marketing team came to myself and to Tim Ek (Duluth Ripper and Salsa athlete) asking a favor and that was to tour them around what we have for mountain biking in the Zenith City.

It was really fun for both Eki and I to see the reactions of other folks to the amount and quality of riding we have here in Duluth.  It was no real surprise to us and specifically to me.  I do this stuff for a living, but it is really gratifying to see the results in print.

To me this is what drives more great cycling. The cycling industry, advocacy and grassroots change are symbiotic.  The groups that are truly driving the edge as to high quality trails are going to be seeing more and more of this intertwining and it speaks volumes to what Duluth has. To have had Salsa put their time and effort and cash into showcasing their products here is like the canary in the cage as to what is coming.....and believe me we have not even started with what is truly coming.

We saw a similar relationship with Trek at Copper Harbor in this video and it really helped drive up CHTC's attendance over the season, as well as add integrity to the place as a true destination for Mountain biking.

Salsa bringing their crew to Duluth will do a very similar thing for COGGS and the Duluth Traverse.  Not only does Salsa get to put their product on some gorgeous trail and showcase it doing what it does best, the Duluth Traverse trail and COGGS are in turn showcased as well.

So thanks to Salsa for coming up and experiencing out trails and in turn influencing what is to come, and also congrats to COGGS for what they are doing in creating destination quality trails in our community!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IMBA World Summit 2012 Santa Fe: The rest of the story

Overend Park, Durango CO

Pedal the Peaks.  Bike savers

Aaron's bike getting the stink eye

Timeless Santa Fe, NM

IMBA World Summit Chapter Congress

IMBA folks and Dirt Rag folks= trouble

Dale Ball Trail System, Santa Fe NM

Stuff getting done Summit style

Winsor Trail

Winsor trail:  NM goodness

Hans Rey on the Winsor Trail:  Always happy, always ready to ride

From Duff to Dust.  Winsor Trail Santa Fe, NM
Bob Allen killing it in the Stider Bike races around the Square in Santa Fe, NM

So I finally have had time to pull out some more images from our trip to the IMBA World Summit in Santa Fe, NM.  To my dismay, I am also realizing that many of my images from the trip have been lost due to my fumbling around with Lightroom.  Not a huge loss but one key piece of the trip is certainly gone and that is a bummer!  Learned my lesson that is for sure.

In any case our trip extended from the Denver area to Salida and then to Durango where I had an awesome and rare chance to hang with my little brother.  We hung the bike up for an afternoon and went fishing on the Animas River.  We actually caught some fish, but it was hard going as the water was so low.

The next morning however we were able to hit the Overend Park Trails for a quick ride and thanks to Pedal  the Peaks Bike shop for saving Aaron's ass by fixing his bike and for hooking us up with our style of riding.  We looked on our phones for a good bike shop in Durango and saw that there were like 100 or something.  We quickly realized that 99% of them were XC shops and decided to google some more all mountain/freeride brands and Pedal the Peaks came up hot so we went there.  We were well rewarded for doing so, they knew their stuff.

Once out of Durango it was World Summit in Santa Fe.  I personally busted butt that full week and was only able to ride a few times, and certainly did not take many photographs.

Both my rides were on the Dale Ball System.  By then I was used to the dusty, dry and loose conditions and because of that Dale Ball lived up to its name and of course, I had a ball!!

The highlight ride of the full trip for me was indeed the Winsor Trail.  We had some real conflicts of quality levels on most of the trails we rode heading to Santa Fe, but the Winsor trail actually lived up to the hype.  It was a really cool ride.  We started with snow and ice at the top and then descended all the way into Santa Fe and ended of course with Cactus, sun and sand at the bottom.  I was able to ride with Hans Rey and a bunch of other really cool advocates.  Of course the night before Aaron and I and most the crew had been up to something like 4am.  We had to shuttle at 7.30 and again of course had no plans.  To say I was shocked when Aaron was pounding on my door at 7am to get the shuttle rolling is an understatement.  When I asked him how we were going to do this (meaning the shuttle), his reply was legendary.  "By sheer fu%*ing will power" was the answer and I have to say, that is indeed what it took to rally up there.  But once we did it was all worth it for sure.

That next day we headed to the Angel Fire Bike Park. This was my first experience with lift served gravity mountain bike riding.  Of the myriad of trails down the mountain four or so of them were in the realm of the Spirit Mountain Flow trail we had just built.  In fact Bruce, one of the main trail builders at Angel Fire had actually attended our Trail School only a few weeks before.  So it was great to have him as a guide.  I hit some of the biggest air of my life and basically pounded the hell out of my EX 9.8.  I used all five inches of travel that is for sure.  My arms and face were sore from all the grins and jumps that is for sure.  I was so busy riding that I did not snap a single pic which is a bit of a shame but I will always have that experience in my heart regardless.  I think I saw the future that is for sure.

We actually ended the trip by heading to Bentonville, Ark.  The bummer is that these are the images that seem to have vanished off my hard drive and that is unfortunate.  Bentonville is the home of Walmart and we were lucky enough to ride with Tom Walton himself, hang at the Phat Tire Bike shop (prettiest bike shop in the USA, great job Chris!) and see the amazing work that the Walton family has done in that community.  Trails being a huge component of the revitalization effort there.  We ended up riding all over the town on purpose built, pro designed single track and it was truly amazing.  Couple that with the arts scene and the food scene and you have a community development plan to be jealous of.  I pulled a lot of ideas for Duluth from there that is for sure!

In any case....that is the rest of the story in grand detail.  Of course there are all the small details, like the fact that Elias had a flat on EVERY ride we did and other things, but I will leave that to beers and bars as we hang out.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Frozen out: Deer Hunting 2012 Bigfork, MN

Crystal Clear Morning

ATB:  All Terrain Boat!  Loaded for adventure.  Two guns (rifle for deer, shotgun for ducks) deer stand, extra gear etc.

Looks like water right?  Not.  Its ice and enough to stop you.
Yesterday I broke down the stand a bit early to make sure I could get home on time.  Since I was down early I decided to watch the sunset over some decoys and see if I could bring home some more fat mallards.  The morning however had been seriously quiet on the waterfowl side and I had my suspicions that something had changed.  The sky felt empty, like something had moved on.

My suspicious thoughts were justified when I dropped in on a few spots after lunch.  All the small ponds and rivers were totally iced in with about a half inch of extremely clear and smooth ice.  The Wild Rice was frozen solid.  The food source that was keeping the waterfowl around was closed for the season and they had moved south.

It was really interesting to experience that.  To watch the ducks come through, then to see them leave.  It means winter is here, this place is so cold and so inhospitable come winter, that the waterfowl just leave, they cant survive.  It felt like being left behind and part of me had to wonder what we are truly getting ourselves into up here during the winter.....

Images from the deer stand: Deer Hunting 2012 Bigfork, MN

Wake up!

This one is for all the deer hunters out there...the ever present Nuthatch.  Keeps you awake, keeps you entertained.

Heading south

Sunset through the woods on the walk out.
So as my other post mentioned.  I am canoeing to my stand.  I am canoeing in during the pitch dark, through partially frozen Wild Rice rivers, ducks flushing in the stillness.  The first morning it was dumping snow and if I turned my head lamp on I could barely see due to the fat flakes slapping me in the face.  The second morning it was 19 degrees and the ice was sloshing around my boat, sounding like a million mixed drinks.  The moon and stars were so bright I did not need a headlamp and could navigate with no problem.  Once in the stand I was overlooking a high ridge.  On one side of me I could see the river itself, on the other I had a wide valley, partially logged to watch over.  During the days I watched flock after flock of geese, ducks and swans fly literally under my stand.  At one point I was certainly thinking I should toss the rifle and just grab the shotgun and have a go at them instead of the deer!

I also have to say that I have a new lens in my life.  A 70-200 EF.  I have no idea how to use it yet, but I brought it along and shot some stuff with it.  The Swan in the post was hanging around my canoe when I walked out on the first night.  It was nearly dark and yet that lens was so fast that I was able to bring home an image.  My two days on the stand were wonderful.  Red neck meditation.  At one point a full pack of wolves opened up around me and I almost fell out of the stand from the surprise.

The first day out I saw more animals than I think I have ever seen while hunting.  But I did not see a deer.  That did not surprise me as there are not a lot of deer in that part of the state.  However on the second day it hit pay dirt.  A small buck came straight through the spot where I thought a deer might and while I let it pass, I felt that I was successful.  I had found a wonderful spot to hunt, had seen literally no other hunters (the only access to this spot is via boat) and in a world where there are few deer, had one walk straight into my set up.  Victory.

Scouting Mission: Deer Hunt 2012 Bigfork, MN

Looking for deer stands where there should be duck blinds


Name that duck!!

Winter coming
So like I had mentioned in my earlier post, we had not hunted the space around the Cabin on opening day of Deer season for decades....literally decades.

For hunters you know what sort of challenges this presents.  Most people hunt in groups, usually families and most certainly life long buddies.  The also tend to pick areas, stake a claim and hunt them traditionally and religiously year after year.

That said, our challenge was multi-layered.  While there is certainly enough space out there for all of us, space starts to get really limited when you put it under the lens of deer hunting.  What that means is that you need to both find a place you can get to easily and efficiently, and you also need a place where in the event you actually shoot a deer, you can get it out easily.  Most hunters are never more than 200 or so yards from their modes of transportation, and to most hunters these days that means a truck or an ATV.  The main point however is that a deer is a big thing that you need to haul out after you shoot it.  Also, most deer are shot at dawn or at dusk and in both cases you are either entering or exiting  the woods in the dark, so you want to be able to get out and in fairly simply.

So you can see the issue, all those spots are spoken for and to walk into that with little to no scouting time, to both know if a deer even lives where your going and to make sure your not screwing up a fellow hunter or worse yet setting up to have hunters walk in on you is really, really tough.

My uncle has been hunting a spot really close to the cabin during the late deer season for years and he decided to go back there.

That spot is tight, so I decided to move on to some other ideas I had.  That being of canoeing into my stand.  This in itself presents a whole hosts of challenges.  Darkness, paddling in the darkness, ice, cold, where to put the deer if you shoot it?  That is just the start.  In reality you are truly backcountry hunting at that point and to be even more honest, that is by far my favorite type of hunting.  So I took my canoe and on Tuesday last week and Friday before the season I paddled some awesome country, saw a ton of ducks, shot a few and found perhaps the prettiest deer hunting spot I have had in many years.  The big question though, was there any deer?

The coolest part of this process was that I was able to literally see the fall migration of ducks, swans and  geese come through.  Every river and puddle I checked out had myriads of mallards.  It was really cool to be in the boat, thinking of deer hunting and at the same time hunting ducks, perhaps my favorite thing ever....

Images of Deer Camp 2012: Fairview Cabin, Bigfork MN

Fairviews front yard

A good place to come back to after a long day on the stand
My family has had a cabin in the Chippewa National Forest since the early 1930's.  In Minnesota terms it is pretty far north.  For a long time my grandfather and his family hunted this region during the deer season.  However the number of deer trumped family tradition later in the life and instead of hunting in the great deerless woods of the north, gramps started coming south to where deer are as common as crows.

Now I live close to the cabin we call Fairview and it is really easy for me to head over for the opening weekend of deer season and hunt with my Uncle George.  The past few seasons we actually headed to Hackensack but due to access issues and other things, we decided that for the ease of having the cabin so close and also so close to so much public land that we should go there this season.  To me, the cabin has so much family history, tradition, lore and comfort, it was an easy thing to say yes to.  Now the deer hunting itself?  That is another post.