2 night winter camping trip – Day 1

I went on another winter camping trip.

Why? Ya i’m not really sure either. I think winter trips are just a bit more fun because they are more of a challenge to stay warm and just comfortable. Before I get into it, there are two things I learned on this trip:

  1. I need a pillow, like no joke. I cant sleep at all in a tent with no pillow.
  2. Related to number 1, don’t ever feel like you aren’t a real camper because you have to bring some comforts with you that more hardcore campers feel is cheating. Camping isnt about being hardcore or being more rugged than the next guy, its about having fun and making memories. And hey, I love no sleep as much as the next guy, but I have a lot more fun when I get at least an hour of sleep. So the point is, don’t worry about being made fun of or judged. If you need to bring a home comfort to make the trip more bearable, just do it. You do you.

Now on to the trip.


We walked into the woods through the two track, 5 of us on day 1, to make camp next to pigeon lake for the night. There had not been snow for days before our trip despite the freezing temperatures, so the ground was covered in a hard crust of snow that made it more tiring to walk into with our packs on. I had packed a little differently than I do for most trips, as I planned on doing some bush crafting on this trip. For 30 minutes we hiked in, mostly down hill through snow to get to our overnight spot.


As soon as we arrived, we felt the harsh wind hit us from the south. We soon realized that because of the valley the lake was in, the wind was tunneled right to our spot. We immediately set to starting the fire. Before I set up my tent, I wanted to warm up my hands and possible even some tea. Brandin and I decided to make a fire up the hill about 30 feet, mostly too stay out of the wind a little more.


I’m just too cool to look into the camera. (PC – Thea Near)

Well we quickly realized what a dumb idea that was. I mean who wants to walk 30 feet up a snowy hill every time they want to go by the fire.  So instead we started a fire down the hill closer to our tents. (awesome GIF provided by my dad).




After Brandin had built the fire, we went to setting up our tents. The first night we only needed one tent since the rest of the group was not there, so we quickly set up the tent and went immediately back to the fire. We decided that since it was about 4 that it was dinner time. Luckily I had planned way ahead and bought some good steak with Italian bread, so we fried up the steak with some potatoes and toasted the bread for a filling dinner on the first night.



Dinner came and went, and it was time to clean our dishes (because I am weird like that and cant stand dirty dishes). So we dug out some snow and started boiling some water in all of our pans.



After that, Brandin and I spent the bulk of our time cutting wood to keep the fire going. The pictures down below show the valley we were in, with the lake in the middle giving us absolutely no protection against the howling wind rushing into us. This meant our fire was burning hot and rapidly, causing us to have to constantly feed it wood. Factor in that with the fact that the only wood we really had access to was dead, dry jack pine, it meant that Brandin and I were getting more wood every 20 minutes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


(From day two, notice there are three tents instead of two)

One thing Ive learned from this trip is that since it’s winter, dark falls early and it starts to get cold and boring quickly. We sat around the fire for a little while and talked but at around 9 I was ready to go to bed. Which was a mistake. I had no pillow, just my sleeping pad and mummy bag, which made for an uncomfortable and FREEZING night. I may have gotten 1 hour of sleep total that night, because it was much less sleeping than it was me in the fetal position trying not to die.


Overall the first day of the trip was a lot of fun. Winter camping is a mix of relaxing with busily moving to stay warm and keep the fire going. Next Friday I will be posting Day 2 of the trip!



Making Your Own Survival Knife – Part 1

I have always been fascinated with creating things, whether its writing, graphic design, YouTube or Photography, i love creating things myself. There is a certain feeling of accomplishment when you can make something beautiful out of nothing. I have always loved knives, so I decided it was time for me to learn how to make one myself. I started with a 5/8 inch thick steel sheet, and cut it into what I thought would be a good block for my knife template.

From there, I grabbed my grinder and just started grinding away steel until I had a shape that roughly resembled what I wanted the knife to look like.


After a lot of filing to get the excess metal shavings off of the corners, I proceeded to grind in the bevels. Of course I don’t have access to a big belt sander like most knife makers do, so I got my hands on the next best thing. A hand held belt sander. The problem with this is its hard to make any kind of rig to control the angle of the bevel. So I had to eyeball the angle, fortunately it came out close, but there were differing angles as you went up the blade, it really didn’t look too bad but it wouldn’t have passed quality control.

None of those imperfections really mattered however, because the next step was heat treating the knife to harden the steel. A plethora of YouTube videos made it look much easier than it was. First I tried using a large propane torch and shooting the flame into a brick where the knife sat, this did not even get the metal close to hot enough. So I decided to go a more traditional route and cover the metal in charcoal. I spent about 20 minutes heating up a mound of charcoal until the metal was red hot. ( I didn’t test it with a magnet, my first mistake).


I pulled it out of the coals with my tong and proceeded to dip it into peanut oil. Unfortunately it seemed that the charcoal had stuck to the metal, and through the quenching had fused into the metal. This not only bent and ate into my steel, warping my knife, but it fused a mount of charcoal remains onto the metal, which was NOT easy to file off. Needless to say, the end product looked like this. Back to the drawing table…..

Realizing What Is Important In Life…

Last weekend I spent some time at Ludington State Park to relax and spend some time away from the rest of the world. Truth is, I have been struggling with some relationship issues for the last month and I needed to get out of town to spend some time with some good friends and reflect on my life.

If you are like me, you struggle with letting go of things whether its stress, relationships or just problems in general. The only way I can really let go of things is to just spend time away from my phone and computer, sever contact with the outside world and just spend time with good friends and once again realizing why I should appreciate my life. I let the problems of my life halt me in fear so much, it stops me from being happy. I haven’t been really, truly happy for the last 10 months, and hopefully this was the start of my healing process.

Sitting there, by the fire having good conversation while surrounded by people who love me and care about me really helped me realize what I should be focusing on in this life. Not fear, not the stresses of my job, not damaging relationships, but family and my own personal emotional health.

If you haven’t been truly happy with your life for a while, I encourage you to focus on whats truly important in your life and let go of those things that constantly drain you emotionally. It is a hard process, I am still going through it, but it will be worth it in the end.



DIY Fire-starter For Your Next Adventure!

One of the most important parts of camping is having a warm fire to cook food on and warm up by, and if you are like me, sometimes you have a hard time actually starting the fire. While there are plenty of products you can buy that will help make your next fire much easier to get going, there are also a myriad of great DIY methods. One of the best ways, is Char Cloth, which is cheap and very easy to make!

Having a flint and stone out in the woods can be a huge start to getting a fire started, but from my past experiences, sparks can be a  fickle way of starting a fire, so its important to have something that will light on fire at the smallest spark. Thats where Char Cloth comes in. The Art of Manliness says that “Char cloth is created through a process of pyrolysis, which Wikipedia tells us is the ‘thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperature in the absence of oxygen.’ Basically, char cloth is created by combusting an organic material in a way that releases its gasses without burning it up completely”. This makes a material that will combust at the slightest spark, making it the ideal method of starting a fire in a survival situation.

What you need: 

  • Altoids mint tin (or any enclosed tin)
  • Small pieces of cloth
  • An open flame



The first step is to place the cut up pieces of cloth into the tin can as flat as you can ( I placed them in all clumped up and they didn’t char as evenly as they should). Next poke a small hole into the top of the can for the gasses to be released and place into an open flame.


As you can see, I messed up my first batch and had to switch tins, so don’t be scared to mess up, you can always retry. The process of pyrolysis can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, but generally you just want to wait until you cant see any gas coming out of the vent anymore. Once the gas is not coming out, that means the cloth is ready.


Open up the can once it is cooled down and your cloth should be completely black and feel more brittle than it did before. Test it out by using a flint and steel to spark it, it should light up very easily.


Once you have perfected your process, repeat as necessary. Make sure you bring with you on any camping trips for the next time you might have to make a fire and have no other methods available to you.

Know of a better way to make it? Comment below!


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Hiking the Smokies: Part 1

So to preface this post, we had our plans dramatically changed on our drive down to Tennessee.


Remember how I said I was a bad planner in a post a couple weeks ago? Well keep that in mind while you read this post. We were about 3 hours out from Cades Cove when we realized we still hadn’t arranged for a shuttle to pick us up after our last hike to Mt. Leconte. So we called about 3 shuttle companies (all booked up) before we called the Appalachian Conservatory and spoke with a representative. That representative told us he was a little worried since we wouldn’t arrive in Cades Cove until around 6, and it was a 5.1 mile hike up the mountain to Russel Field.


Since we would have to rearrange our first night and stay at a halfway point called campground 10, we wouldn’t even make it to Mt. Leconte when we had planned, which means we would have to route the trip so that we returned to Cades Cove on tuesday, a day earlier than we had planned.

Our new route was a hike up the Anthony Creek Trail about 2.5 miles to campsite 10, where we would stay for the night. The hike started out well, but I quickly realized that we packed too heavily and didn’t wear the right clothes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After about 1.5 miles we were joined by another hiker named Cordell, who surprisingly was staying at the same campsite as us. He was relieved of course, because his friend who was supposed to hike with him had flaked out in the last second, so we were both a little happier having some company for the night.


Cordell told us he was from Florida, and he too had about a 10 hour drive to Cades Cove. He was more prepared than us however, as he had walking sticks and told us that they are a must have on a hiking trip like this, which we soon discovered was true, but more on that later. As we got to campsite 10 to settle down for the night, we tried to start a fire, but the wood was too wet. Instead we just tried to eat one of our dehydrated meals. We boiled up about half of the water that we had left, and poured it into our beef stroganoff. Right afterwards, we saw water spilling out of the package and discovered that somehow the bag had a 2 inch gash in it, so we ended up wasting an entire meal as well as 8 oz of water.

As the darkness fell, we tried to sleep, however the birds chirped all night. I don’t mean pleasant chirping either, it was extremely loud and annoying chirping. And remember how I said I was going to make a post on how to make the sleeping pads? Well that is being post poned, as we discovered very quickly that the ones we made were not at all comfortable.

The next day, we packed up quickly and started our remaining 2.6 miles up the mountain to Russel Field. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I guess I underestimated just how rough this trip would be, as the hike up the mountain easily took us 5 hours, which were 5 of the hardest hours of my life. Unfortunately I decided to put my camera away in favor of not falling down and breaking my leg while climbing the mountain. So I have no pictures of the rest of the way up.

PJ Hoffmaster Park

Muskegon, MI

July 8th, 2017

6:00 pm

I really like hiking. Something about it helps me forget about my anxiety and everything that is stressing me out. One great thing about living in muskegon is all of the great hiking trails that are literally within 5 miles of my apartment. Since we had never hiked on muskegon trails, we decided to try the “walk-a-mile” trail, which is as you can guess, one mile long.


The trail was fairly easy, especially for someone who doesn’t usually hike like me. (except for the constant mosquitos.) Thea and I quickly walked through the trail, although we stopped a few times to look at all of the chipmunks running in the leaves below, and one time to walk on a tree 15 feet above the ground. (See below).


The trail winded around until it came to the beach, (after climbing this sand beach of course), and we walked on the beach until we reached a spot adequate enough to hang our hammock and read while the sun went down.


Sometimes reading at the beach can be a much better use of time than staying home. Ive found that when I stay at home and try to get rid of my anxiety by watching tv or playing games, I really only delay my anxiety. When I go to the beach, it helps me slow down and reflect on my life and really forget about the problems in my life that plague my mind. This is one reason I love nature, it really forces me to focus on the moment, the wind on my face, the sound of rustling trees and crashing waves, and he smell of fresh air. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, constant stress or anything related, try to get outside at least twice a week. Try to enjoy nature, feel the sand in between your toes, the sunshine on your face, the wind through your hair. Feel alive. Remember that no matter what is plaguing your mind, you are alive here, in this moment, and the choice to be happy, to forget everything, is all yours.


It’s a short trail, so there isn’t much to say about it, but if you are ever in the area its a great place to visit.