Tag Archives: natural

Adirondack Backpacking

Backpacking High Peaks Trail Imagine you went on a backpacking hike with an old friend.

Now head up to the high mountain peaks of the Adirondack Park outside of Lake Placid.

Lets begin with a nice relatively level 2 mile hike into base camp.

Now lets make it a 45 degree incline.

Now lets put in some large rocks and boulders to climb over as you go up.

Now lets add ice & snow on top of the trail, rocks and everywhere your feet should go.

Now bump up the weight of the pack close to 50 pounds.

Now take your boots and make them a half size small so your ankle rubs into blisters the whole time.

Add in 5 more miles up and downhill (one way), 15 degree nights, sleeping in bear country, and rules dictating no campfires.Backpacking the ice

THIS is what backpacking with Brian Cernik is all about ;)

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A Treefort Grows In Woodbury – Part 2

So now, three months after kickoff, with a backache and a handful of splinters later, and the treehouse is almost usable (as long as we keep our balance) :)

I picked up where I left off, laying 2×6 boards across the top of the bolted 2×8 boards. Hardware was a big component, as I felt that the nails and bolts could only hold it together so much, without attaching it properly.  I went back and forth to Home Depot and grabbed some 90 degree plates that could hold the boards upright so they wouldn’t tip side to side.

For the underside there were some 6 inch metal twists, called Hurricane Ties, that also provided further vertical support, and kept the beams from moving off the foundation.

I know that the recommended spacing for beams is 16″ inches on center, but due to the trees getting in the way I adjusted this (smaller and larger) to accommodate the three, as well as the opening for them to come up on the ladder.  Finally it got to a point where I could lay some temp flooring on top, and the boys lent a hand (mostly decorating the boards.)

They say you can dangle the decking as far as 3 ft off the side without a problem, but I was over that, as you can see in the picture.  This was mainly due to the shape of the foundation, so only the corners protruded, but I was a little worried about stability.  Back to the Depot!

After some more discussion with a surprisingly helpful guy there, I opted to install a support beam running the whole length, with columns underneath. This was a bit involved.  I had to dig a set of holes nearly 4 feet deep, fill the bottom with gravel, place the posts in and attempt to get them as level as I could with temporary boards attached.  AND THEN, I had to make sure the posts were aligned the same way so they were parallel to each other.  Whew!  Being a one man job this took time, but I got them in and filled the hole with some concrete.  The boys did their part again here, mixing and scooping with joy as the stuff slorped and plopped its way into place.

All was going along, and then tragedy nearly struck.   We had a crazy storm blow through, and the trees, having been already weakened by prior severe storms, waved frantically about until the top fork on one of the trees snapped off.  We were amazingly fortunate in that it missed the structure by inches, so I set to it with a chainsaw, and the boys lent a hand once more cutting the branches down to size and pitching them over the side of the nearby fence into the woods.  My hope is that we can incorporate some of them into the railings when the time comes.  Bonus!

Each step took time, and I was really only able to work on this, on those weekends when we were not running around somewhere else, and not trying to wind down too much :)  But in the end, I was able to get to the wonderful step of removing the temporary flooring, pickup some additional boards, and begin placing them in, making the finished size just over 8×12 feet.

The idea of a treehouse to me, always meant using whatever you had on hand, and making do.  Most of the grainy pictures you see in movies all look like some hackneyed attempt, that is barely holding together, yet lovingly adored and revered by the kids.  With that in mind, I rummaged through what we had in the garage, and combined the old (cut to size) and new 1×6 boards.  I realize the older boards are not pressure treated, and will have a much shorter life span, but the finished look is so much better for it with an unintended zebra effect.

I have a few tips for placing the boards and spacing them, as well as accommodating the curves around the trees – but I’ll save that for another post.

In the meantime we all get to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and plan out the railing and roofing to go in.  Though if the boys had their way I’d be figuring out secret passages, one button trap doors, and a zip line entrance.  What a great time :)

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A Treefort Grows In Woodbury – Part 1

So this year, after much procrastination, we’ve decided to finally build a tree fort for the boys.

Now, I never had a tree fort growing up.  It was the kind of thing every kid dreamed up, but few ended up with.  We would climb around in trees all the time, and made forts consisting of branches and old blankets down on the ground.  But nothing as formal or engineered as one with planks, turrets, and a spyglass.

I began this project, in the same way I begin most of the unknown – I Googled it.

This turned up a number of sites, but most were plans to purchase, with few tips.  I flipped through a book at home called The Dangerous Book For Boys and found some helpful hints there to mount the boards onto the tree, and lay them at 90 degrees to form a subbase.   After that it was your typical construction.

So a jot later with a basic plan, and we headed out to the local Lowe’s hardware store.

After finding the bolts we needed, we grabbed a friendly salesman who seemed to have some semblance of knowing what he was doing, and got some advice.  2x8s for the frame base attached to the tree, and 2x6s for the flooring base on top of it, with planks on top of that.

I figured we’d build a base, and sort out the top (covered roof, railing, etc…) later on.

So we got home, unloaded and began to work.

Step 1- bolt the base to the trees.  If you look at our “plan” you see three circles representing each of the trees we’ll be using.  I put one in using a single 1/2×6 inch bolt, then attached the other side with a lot of up & down to make sure it was as level as I could get it.

I quickly found the leveling part was the tough one, as these boards were heavy, and lifting them solo 10 feet above the ground wasn’t easy.  After some quick thinking I placed some 4 inch screws just below where the boards will be attached.  This way I can lift them up slightly to drill it out and bolt it into place, while the other end is resting on the screw.

Then I go back to that end and attach it too.  Repeat this to wind up with 3 bolts at each point where the boards meet the trees.  Needless to say I now have the boards up, but still need to put 3 bolts through at each spot. The bolts themselves are very hard to get in, and I’m using just a hand ratchet, not an air gun like some folks have for their Indy car racing.

It will take some time, but we’re off to a good start. Next step is to finish off the bolts, then the 2×6 boards go on top roughly perpendicular.

In the end I’m hoping for a platform somewhere between 8×10 and 10×14.  Final dimensions depend on how far it will stick out away from the tree, and how easy I can put up support columns underneath the corners.  Fun, fun!!  :)

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The First Rule of Making Soap Is…

DO NOT TALK ABOUT MAKING SOAP!!

Actually, there are tons of online articles – so here’s mine.

Perhaps I had my own project mayhem to uncover, or perhaps I liked the smell of bubbling Olive Oil, or perhaps I just wanted to give the wife a nice creamy bar for a reasonable price.  In any case, I started with looking at how it is made, then looked at the ingredients I already had.

I came across a few handy dandy articles, beginning with the Art of Manliness, which is what got me thinking about this in the first place.  In a nutshell, you take fats & oils, add diluted Sodium Hydroxide (Lye), and voila!  I’m not sure how, but the lye breaks down the oils in  a process called saponification, which in turn creates what we call soap.  Different oils yield different results.  Some moisturize better, some produce more bubbles, and others create a harder soap.  From that article I picked out a decent soap ratio from another site, plugged it into a soap calculator, and it was a matter of locating more stuff to mix it together.

Since we had some Orange essential oil, I thought to mix up a bar of my own version of Orange Clove.  Most of the ingredient oils we already had for cooking, but finding some Palm Oil was a bear.  Eventually a tub turned up at Whole Foods, labeled as vegetable shortening.

To save some bucks I picked up the pot and mixer at the local Goodwill.  Wooden spoons came from the dollar store, and in the end I have lots of leftovers for my next batch.

Once the oils hit 95 degrees on the stove and blended together, I slowly added the lye mix.  After about 30 minutes of mixing, it all thickened together, and I added in the orange, bergamot, and clove essential oils, and hard ingredients like orange peel and coriander powder.

I had prepped a wooden mold I built the week before, by lining it in parchment paper.  The pancake-like mixture was poured into this, covered, and left alone for 24 hours to cool and form.  

It is still semi soft at this stage, so this is when the block is cut up into bars.  I had measured out dimensions of 1.25″ thick X 3.5″ long X 2.5″ wide.

Once they were cut up, I laid them out to cure.  Because you use a chemical to create them, it can be pretty harsh on the skin otherwise until it finishes the reaction, which while mostly done, will complete over time.

Some people say you can use the soap after two weeks, but others say waiting a month is best.  As for me, I was too giddy (or maybe it was the fumes), but I gathered up some of the soap chips from the cutting and lathered up.

The proof is in the pudding they say, and it seems to lather up like a champ.  Of course, my skin dried up like a senior in the sun afterwards, and I needed lotion on my hands like when I was a teenager, but I was pretty impressed overall and can’t wait for the month to go by for the finished product.  The scent is what I was shooting for, and I’m looking forward to making other  blends.  I think a Woodshop one, an earthy Vetiver, and a Lemongrass are in order.  Woo-hoo!!

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Born to Run – Barefoot??

I am a barefoot runner.

There – I’ve said it.   Now some of you are scratching your heads, or asking ‘why?’  Or ‘what does that mean?’  Or even ‘Are you crazy?!’

Let’s go back to the beginning here.

You see, growing up I was fortunate enough to live near the woods and fields.  I can remember spending hours and days, and perhaps even a week, walking around barefoot in the summer.  We would run to our friends down the road, run to the pond through the fields, or even biking around the neighborhood.  All while wearing not a sock, shoe or flip-flop.  It was glorious.  Not much at the time, but looking back I loved it so much.  It was like a feeling of freedom.  Squishing through the mud.  Feeling the grass blades underfoot.  And I just… didn’t care to wear anything.  My parents left me well enough alone, so I pretty much was able to do what I wanted.

Years later, and just a few months ago, a friend on Facebook posted a picture of new shoes he had gotten.

The second I saw them, I had to ask what they were.  They seemed a bit bizarre, and yet made sense without knowing anything about them.  He tipped me off to a book he had been reading by Christopher McDougall, ‘Born to Run.’

I downloaded an audio copy (I listen to them while I’m driving to & from clients in the car).  But I didn’t have a chance to listen to it, but added it onto my own personal queue.  A few weeks later I got around to listening, and was completely engrossed.

In a nutshell he talks of how mankind’s natural instinct is to run barefoot.  All people all across the globe do it on a regular basis.  Some say that is why we were able to evolve as a species, and surpass the other mammals.  Not only that, but by wearing shoes it prevents a natural gait and stride, limits the arches our feet were designed for, and can typically cause more problems the shoes are meant to resolve by means of added support.

I was sold well before I reached the end.

I’ve had back problems for years.  Much of this stemmed from a snowboarding accident (Cernik!!)  Though I’ve been managing just fine with Chiropractic help.  But unfortunately it makes running difficult, and my back begins to hurt if I run further than 200 feet.  Not so with barefoot.

I decided to take the plunge last week.

The recommendations, more than anything else, are to ease into it.  If you’ve been running for some time, you’ve already got the stamina to keep going, but your arches and soles may not be quite so prepared.  Tales are common of people doubling over, miles into their run in pain.   My chiropractor was even less kind when I asked him for his opinion of it, and he dismissed it ‘as a passing fad.’

Having little running experience, other than those two months back in college, and my love of nature and hiking, I made sure to start off easy.

I stripped off my shoes, decided today was the day, and ran out the front door.

Next thing I know I’m at the end of the driveway, and I just kept going on the pavement down the road.  Now most people (myself included) think how painful this could be.  But you see that is also why you take it easy.  Your soles need time to toughen up, and your eyes can be your greatest asset as you dodge the rocks and pebbles that can cause the sharp quick stabs on your undersides.

Before I knew it, I was at the end of the road, and turned around and headed back home.  All in all, a short 1.2 miles per mapmyrun.com

The next day was Saturday.  Nico had his soccer practice, so I took it upon myself to scoot around the grassy fields.  Per the same site, my 5 laps equaled about 1.5 miles.  A little easier on my feet this time thanks to the comforting grass and cushioning soft earth.

And that brings us to today.  A run on main street with the kids on their bikes, and taking turns with Michelle holding the dog.  The time went by quickly, but I certainly felt it on my feet far more this time.  1.82 miles, per a new Android app EndoMundo (thanks Will)

3 days down, and I can feel the difference.  My toes have small blisters on them, and hurt for no less than 2 hours after finishing the runs.  To top it off, what I thought was a blister on one, turned out to be a rock embedded in my foot. But I haven’t given up hope.  McDougall’s book centers on people living in Mexico called the Tarahumara.  They run with thin soled sandals, that allow the natural feet to capably run, while protecting against small rocks and such.  Needless to say I’ve already ordered a pair at InvisibleShoe.com.

My hope is to run a 5K either barefoot or with the Tarahumara sandals.  Either way, I’m not only getting in shape, but able to enjoy it too.  For the first time in years, I’m really looking forward to running… barefoot :)

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