Congratulations to our own Colin Clifford, Maine’s newest Registered Guide. Colin is an alumnus working with us on this fall’s semester course. He traveled to Augusta today where he passed the test to become a Registered Maine Guide. He will be traveling back to the field school on the shoulders of stallions. Well done, sir.
Updates From The Field
Status updates, photos and other bits that aren’t fully developed blog posts.
Some knife sheath bling – made from birchbark and roots. Whatever your edged tool, it should always have a sheath, both to protect you and to protect your tool’s edge.
Hard at work carving paddles. Finishing them today, heading out on the trail next week to put them to use.
This morning we started carving canoe paddles. It’s a chance to learn about wood and wood grain, as well as traditional hand tools. Our preference is for a draw knife and spoke shave, with a farrier’s rasp near the end. There are lots of tool combinations that work.
Lucky The Wonder Dog, river safety officer. When someone goes for a swim, she jumps in the water and swims around them. #fulltangcaninelifestyle
Today is our first day of poling canoes during the fall semester. It’s hot and sunny, a nice bonus for enduring the cold water of the pond. We worked through the first five poling exercises, and also covered lifts, carries and canoe rescue. Tomorrow we’ll be poling on the river.
Plants Of Baxter State Park. The plant book I’ve been waiting for years to find. Amazing resource. Full post with link coming soon.
Paddling big lakes with big tailwinds is a skill that I haven’t seen discussed in the books, but it takes a certain knack to not get spun by the waves. Once you get spun, it’s easy for the waves to come over the gunwhales and fill your boat with water. In most cases it’s really [...]
Paddling the East Branch of the Penobscot is a lot of work. There are 4 big carries around waterfalls in the first ten miles of the trip, and there are also some rapids that require solid paddling skills. But the views are amazing, such as this photo of a few canoes paddling downriver with the [...]
I spent some time over the 4th diving in Lake Winnipesaukee with my son and one of my oldest friends. We took a few underwater photos while swimming down below the thermocline into the cool water, and it felt glorious.
As we roll into July, School Of The Forest programs are off to a great start. Yesterday was the first day of our program at The Libby Museum in the lakes region of New Hampshire. This program is run in partnership with GALA, a local non-profit that focuses on building more self-reliant local communities. This [...]
I took this photo at our last campsite on the Bonaventure, on the lower river a few miles upstream from the ocean. When I first saw pictures of this river, the clarity of the water drew me in and I knew I had to paddle it. After several trips it continues to hold a spell [...]
Fleshing a deer hide on the scraping beam. Getting the meat, fat and connective tissue off of the hide makes it shelf stable and it can then be stored by drying. It’s also the first step in the braintanning process. This hide is from a deer harvested last fall by this course participant. He’s eaten [...]
Beautiful stretch of weather here in the county. A couple of the guys decided to loose a few arrows in the field. #fulltanglifestyle
Practical exam on map and compass navigation for the Journeyman Certification Program this morning. Students have had weeks of instruction, now it is time to prove they can do it. #fulltanglifestyle
Instructors Ben and Christopher taking a break from poling on a recent canoe trip. #fulltanglifestyle
We had a cold front pass over us this morning and Adam Lougee snapped this photo of the clouds over the Guide Shack. I love looking at and studying the clouds. So much beauty right over head every day.
Walking across arctic Norway, axe in hand. Shot this photo when in Norway filming a tv show in 2014. I wanted to be able to prove to my kids I was actually there! #fulltanglifestyle
We had quite a bit of traffic, slowing the travel down a bit. #fulltanglifestyle
What a difference a week makes! The photo is Christopher taking the first paddle around the pond (aka Grand Lac Samsquanch) of 2018, 1 week ago. Today was sunny and 70 degrees, and we had a bunch of boats on the pond working through our introduction to canoe poling curriculum. It was a late spring, [...]
It’s a Guide Shack Saturday night. From the photo: radio, guide canteen, knife, hat, wood stove in the northwest corner (thankfully not needed for the first Saturday of 2018). Listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio. Dutch oven cooking outside. My 16’x20′ off-grid, off-pipe home at our field school in northern Maine. Content. [...]
Snow is finally melting. Still too much of it on the road to drive in, but the fields are just about snow-free. See you in a few months, snow. Now bring on the bugs!
Snowshoeing out to the road this morning to do some errands in town. With so much snow left on the ground it’s tough to believe the lupines will be blooming in two months. Spring still seems like a long way off, although it’s coming quickly.
Aroostook river is still locked up in ice and we’re still on snowshoes waiting for spring to arrive. Day 2 of the spring ‘18 Wilderness Bushcraft Semester. #fulltanglifestyle
Spring semester starts today. 4 feet of snow on the road. Time for plan B.
Osprey bringing food back to the nest. As the ice recedes on Rust Pond, the birds are showing back up. I watched some mergansers this morning, and saw a bald eagle yesterday.
Watching the sun set over some open water tonight. Beautiful. The ice isn’t gone, but it is going.
Interesting article from the CBC on graduate students mapping the traditional canoe routes. Here’s the link. Photo above is a map of traditional canoe routes of New Brunswick. Our field school on the Aroostook is on it. From the article: The Wabanaki are made up of the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Abenaki nations stretching [...]
Public Service Message: Remember to pull those rabbit snares tonight! You don’t want the kids catching you with a rabbit in your snare on Easter morning. You’ll never hear the end of it.
Cree snowshoes in Ouje-Bougoumou on our 2017 trip.
During one of the thaws on the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition. Photo by Dragan Uzelic.
Sunset at the waterhole, sublime. One week to go in our winter wonderland. The group is fuctioning as a team, everyone is contributing, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than tucked in the woods alongside a frozen lake in Aroostook county, Maine. #fulltanglifestyle
When it gets warm we don’t travel, we make things. Dragan and Blake made mokatagens. Low-tech knife making in the field. Getting cold tonight.#fulltanglifestyle
Cooking supper on the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition. Having a great time so far. #fulltanglifestyle
View at the road: toboggans, sleds, snowshoes, snowmobile. Winter. #fulltanglifestyle
Guide Shack breakfast on the woodstove. Simple off-grid lifestyle on the Winter Woodsman course. #fulltanglifestyle
Back to the Guide Shack after a day tracking in the woods. The woods life in winter means living on snowshoes. Love this shot of the field school.
Snowshoes are lashed to the toboggans and we’re having a leisurely stroll down the lake. Enjoy days like these because they don’t happen often.
Snowshoeing across the crown of Maine on a cloudless morning. Not all expedition mornings are perfect. This one was.
18 years old and still getting the job done. Our 2 Egyptian cotton Ungava tents made by our friends at Tentsmiths. They have introduced many people to the sublime beauty of the winter trail.
Cold here this week, but not snowshoe expedition cold where you hug the cook fire.
From a past Boreal Snowshoe Expedition, the morning sun shining through the Balsam Fir trees. The warming effect of the sun is dramatic in the morning.
A well-used tent stove can keep you cozy and warm, a little home in the frozen forest.
Traffic jam on the Aroostook river.
First spring trip with newly carved paddles. Making the gear you use results in a whole different level of connection.
Spinning bowdrills during a firemaking exercise on the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition. Context is everything. This exercise is significantly more challenging in the field than in a warm, dry, indoor location. Add the snow and cold and it becomes even more so. But that’s when it’s real.
Membership has its priviledges.
Morning coffee on the beach. Cool and cold mornings are the norm during the end of the fall Wilderness Bushcraft Semester. The cooler temperatures make the hot coffee taste that much better.
Drying snowshoe bindings while cooking dinner on the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition.
Two JMBS instructors by the river at the field school. It’s a long road getting your skills to the level where you’re ready to teach with us.
Our semester isn’t all misty morning canoeing; there’s a lot of academic work as well. Studying plants in the field here.
One of a long line of amazing campsites in northern Maine. If this looks like heaven you should think about paddling with us.
Feet up while people cook their dinner over the group fire. Not in a rush. The foreground is in focus, while the background is not – exactly how I feel after a long day teaching and guiding.
Misty morning on a remote lake. The canoe was small black spot that appeared to be floating in the mist.
Next up, a private axemanship course for a group of engineers and tool designers, teaching how to wield this simple tool safely and powerfully. From the left: Snow & Neally, John King, Spiller. Maybe an awesome new American axe in a year. #fulltanglifestyle
Wood canvas canoe on a recent river trip. This boat has run a lot of whitewater. #fulltanglifestyle
Leftover ends from paddle blanks, 1 new board and some screws: new shave horse. Boxed ends makes it rugged. #fulltanglifestyle
Fleshing moose hides, braintanning step 1. Wilderness Bushcraft Semester week 7. #fulltanglifestyle
Starting WBS week 6 carving netting needles. Will be making nets/hammocks on the river.
A little knowledge and the right tools equals great eating with minimal inputs.
Surging toward the finish line with the canoe paddle project. Remote paddling trip next week.
Cold cracking. Epoxied three of our royalex boats over the weekend that cracked last winter. Fleet back at 100%. #fulltanglifestyle
Oiling a canvas pack, DIY waxed canvas. Equal parts boiled linseed oil and wax, heat until the wax melts, brush it on. Dry it for a few weeks. #fulltanglifestyle
A brisk 42 degrees at the field school this morning. Wearing my orange tuque for the first time this season. #fulltanglifestyle
Morning meeting during week 1 of the fall 2017 Wilderness Bushcraft Semester, our 41st long-term immersion program.
The ocean was like glass as we paddled toward Rum Key on the Maine coast.
Great trip paddling near Acadia National Park. Love spending time on the ocean, and the weather was perfect.
Living on the trail for 4 weeks out of a canoe teaches you a lot about gear: what you need, what you don’t, and how to pack efficiently.
Paddling across Grand Lake Mattagammon during the Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester. Four weeks of professional training and experience for wilderness guides and expedition leaders. College accredited, GI Bill approved. Next WCES begins in July, 2018.
No Filter. Drinking it raw and untreated.
Seasoning new carbon steel skillets by rendering pork fat in them. They’re light, inexpensive and perfect for a traveling cook kit. Treat them like cast iron (no soap, keep them oiled) and they’ll last forever. From Agri-Supply.
Loading canoes in the morning on the St. Croix river.
Being able to stop and hold your position in a rapid is a critical skill for a river guide. A pole gives you this ability.
One of my favorite spots in Maine; a remote lake with no road access. During the log driving days, they used dynamite to create a sluiceway, redirecting and enlarging the natural outlet for floating logs downriver to a sawmill. It’s just wide enough to float a canoe these days.
Professor Paul Sveum carrying his boat up for another run through the rips.
The fire is the central point of a remote campsite, such as this one on the Maine/New Brunswick border on the St. Croix river. We’re in Maine, but the far side of the river, visible in the background, is Canada.
Afternoon spent practicing heel hook self-rescue in the kayak. Will be testing for a sea kayak guide license this fall.
Pails hung over the fire on a spring trip. During the Wilderness Bushcraft Semester everyone learns to manage the fire and cook for themselves.
We are a species of countless wants, but very few needs. In this photo is my kit for canoeing remote rivers; when I have it my needs are met. An old canvas pack, an axe and my big hat. Seen here at Kicking Horse Pass on the Bonaventure river, Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, in the morning [...]
Professor Paul Sveum with is wood canvas canoe at the field school. The area behind him is now part of Grand Lac Samsquanch. Found this one when going through some old photos.
Field school riverside teaching area, where the blue and white trails meet. We’ve got over 3 miles of trails at the field school.
20′ wood canvas canoe under a maple on the Maine and New Brunswick border.
The Bonaventure River has long stretches of whitewater and quickwater. You start in the mountains and end at the ocean. In between is a long, sometimes steep, downhill run.
Canoeing in the mist on the Bonaventure river in Quebec. One of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve ever been. Clear fast water, Acadian forest and mountains.
Map of our local canoe routes in northern Maine. Not many blank spots on the map left to explore after 19 years.
View from the summit of Copplecrown mtn. Its the big mtn in the Jack Mtn logo. NH is beautiful.
Misty morning on the pond.
After a great weekend at the Snow Walkers Rendezvous in Vermont I decided to take the scenic route home. It’s been a few years since I’ve driven the Kancamangus highway across New Hampshire’s White Mountains, but I have a lot of history there. From swimming in the rivers as a kid to backpacking as a [...]
In the woods today. Leaves are mostly down, cool but not cold, no bugs. Heaven must be like this.
This is a tricky rip to run as to do it well you have to do a long downstream ferry in a narrow space and keep your boat under control. The guy in the photo struggled with poling early on in the course, but ran this rip like a boss without hitting any rocks. Getting [...]
We arrived at the campsite just as the rain began to fall. I unloaded my boat, but left her tied to the bank because the plan was to go pole up and down the rips when the rain stopped. There were a bunch of big hemlocks on this section of river, and they filtered the [...]
I loved this shot of the 20 footer, just below Little Falls under the brilliant red maple. She’s been my best and most consistent model for the past 15 years, and I never get tired of looking at her.
Bright red maples as seen from my canoe. Autumn is stunning.
Snubbing Little Falls on the St. Croix (downeast) during the fall, 2016 Wilderness Bushcraft Semester.
Paddling amongst the whitecaps with a brisk tailwind. Paddling in strong tailwinds is a seldom-used skill. As the waves increase in size they want to spin you. If you get spun it’s easy for the waves to swamp you. These guys had just come around the point into calm water. We hugged the shore for the [...]
A remnant of the log driving days, this stream was straightened and made deeper with explosives back in the day to facilitate floating logs downstream. It’s way off the beaten path of well-used canoe routes, but it and the pond above are among my favorite places in northern Maine. I’ve always loved getting out and [...]
Coffee before sunrise on a recent trip. It always seems to take longer to boil when you're standing around watching it.
Lining into a pool, Kicking Horse Pass on the Bonaventure river, Quebec.
Coffee And Water. Making coffee and disinfecting drinking water on the trail.
Paddling past Maine's highest point, Mt. Katahdin, on a recent trip.
Lining on the St. Croix river, downeast.
Water break on the St. Croix river. Wilderness Bushcraft Semester, fall 2016.
This afternoon I'm recreating my classic roles of Ken and Justin Bieber. Playing with my daughter, good to be home.
Gift from my friend George. The people who come through our programs always impress me. Solid people I'm fortunate to work with.
Empty field. Long term course number 37 completed and it was a great one. Next up, family time.
Congrats to Maine's newest registered fishing guide, professor Paul Sveum! Fish are scared tonight.
Improvised tumpline for a canoe barrel made from rope and nylon webbing. Leaving for our final WBS trip today.
Making maps this morning using a compass. This is the glue that ties our navigation exercises together.
Field school pond and field, guide shack on the left.
Sunrise over the greenhouse. Hard frosts and falling leaves, autumn in the happy valley.
New winter shelter coming together. A big cone.
Wilderness Bushcraft Semester back from a succesful trip on the St. Croix river. Maine's boundary waters.
Putting meat in an improvised smoker. We'll eat well on our upcoming trip.
Congratulations to Maine's newest registered guide, Ryan Holt! Wear the patch with pride.
Free hand ash basket. Coming together after pounding out the splints.
Morning with hatchet and push knife resulted in new pack basket mold.
Just heard this gem on the radio: "don't take advice; 90% of advice people give you are their regrets or fears." From Alton Brown.
Two weeks stuck in camp with no truck. Daily interaction with this whiskey jack.
Sealing a crack in a birch bowl with pitch to make it water tight. Rock boiling next. #fulltanglifestyle
Carving a coal-burned spoon with a newly made crooked knife. #fulltanglifestyle #friluftsliv
Moon rise in Portage Lake, Maine.
Moose Tracks. Not just an ice cream flavor, also sometimes marks left by animals on the ground.
Pounding ash for pack basket splints. #fulltanglifestyle
Pounding ash for pack baskets.#fulltanglife
Leaving on a canoe trip, putting the new paddles to use.
First cast on the new, as yet to be named field school pond. Taking suggestions for the name.
Friction fire clinic: hand drill, just before lunch.
Friction fire clinic: bow drill on a Monday.
Using a cabinet scraper to smooth a paddle grip.
Kids on Rust Pond. Summer winding down.
Ocean Canoeing. Morning on Passamaquoddy Bay, nearing the end of the Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester.
The boys have made it to the ocean! The Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester has made it to the salt water. Currently in Passamaquoddy Bay along the Maine/New Brunswick border. Two more days and they take out in Eastport, Maine.
Organizing the barn this AM: canoe mold, deer hides, traps, snowshoe molds, tools, pack basket materials, knife blanks, etc. Been a while since its been neat and tidy.
Wild Food Walk. Big turnout for our foraging walk with GALA at Knights Pond. Beautiful night, lots of wild food!
Does the land have moods or reflect what is inside of us? I used to know the answer, now I'm back to not knowing.
Starting the day with a swim in this beautiful water before anyone else is awake. Feel like the richest man in the world.
Leaving camp on their way to the ocean via the Aroostook, St. john, Eel & St. Croix rivers.
Using a scythe to cut the grass. Old school mower and weedwacker.
Chaleur Bay, Quebec. Rekindling my love for the ocean and kayaking this summer.
Great photo by Nicolas Twine of the field school library under the Milky Way at night. Nicolas shot a bunch of great photos this past spring that I’ll be sharing.
Foraging for juneberries on the shore of the pond. Rose family, Amelanchier genus. Delicious!
Sunset paddle in the kayak after a day of storms. Sublime. #friluftsliv #nh
Remote trips, especially solo, aren’t safe or even possible without solid canoe skills; poling, lining, and paddling. On the Bonaventure I poled the upper section, lined ledges, and as shown here, lined through the ’embacles’ (french for log jams). As this was just a short drop inline with the current, I didn’t bother to tie [...]
Just below a series of ledges on the Bonaventure. I should have ran this one on river right, but these are the things you learn during a first trip on a river and why I like to paddle them solo before doing them with clients.
After an overnight rain, the Bonaventure was misty. In the background is a class 2 ledge. The water level was perfect for the ledges and rapids – much lower and it would have been scratchy.
I continued on to Bonaventure, Quebec. Solo river trip, headed off the grid in the AM. Atlantic sunset.
Dropped the boys at the International Appalachian Trail in Matapedia, Quebec. They're hiking back to Maine. #woodslife #iat
On to the International Appalachian Trail in New Brunswick.
Empty parking lot. 35th immersion program completed. On to the Gaspe tomorrow to canoe the Bonaventure river.
The Bowman PackBack: 2 pack baskets on a pack frame. Bottom basket is for a sleeping bag. Will be on the IAT in New Brunswick next week.
One last trip for the semester; running the Big Machias river. Water is way up, should be great whitewater.
Smoking a newly-made pair of braintanned buckskin shorts at the Bob Waggetorium.
Brown ash pack baskets: starting to weave.
Pounding brown ash into strips, making pack baskets. End of week 8, 1 week to go.
Moose bone arrowheads made as part of a final project. Wicked shaahp!
New knife. Blade from an old file, stacked birch wood and bark handle, made outside with simple tools.
Becoming a canoe pole. Peeled spruce ready to be fitted with copper pipe shoe to become a canoe pole.
Stretching a hide in a frame. Racing the incoming storms. Lots of cool final projects going on.
Been out putting up trail signs- our 3 mile field school trail system is now color coded.
Making wooden wedges to split a tree the long way for canoe paddle blanks.
Braintanning: scaping hides and feeding the black flies.
Using a fir bough as a brush to varnish a canoe paddle. Use what you've got.
Rock boiling in birch baskets by the river.
Problem with red squirrel getting into bulk food solved.
Rocket stove morning: reducing maple sap into syrup and creating a gumbo from scratch. Struggle to survive out here.
First day on the water, poling practice. Just one swimmer, great day.
Damp weather after after a long stretch of dry.
New garden bed in anticipation of spring. 77 frost-free days a year here at the field school, USDA zone 3b.
Taking bearings for a trail to add to the field school trail system. South Boundary Trail: SOB.
Using a draw knife to rough out a canoe paddle on a clear Tuesday morning.
Monday morning friction fire, tinder bundle workshop.
Learning the way of the axe while gathering firewood to cook with.
Long but great first day, ready for sleep before 7pm. Glad I have my JB pillow case for a great night's sleep.
Big pan of breakfast on a big rocket stove. First morning of the semester.
Back to snow in the county. Semester 35 starts tomorrow.
Barehand fishing: no hook, no net, no spear.
Busy morning in the woods, but this calm water caught my eye.
Open water, getting that canoeing itch!
We lost one of the greats today. RIP Steve Watts. A true gentleman.
Ice is out on the pond. Earliest I ever remember having open water.
Tapping trees and boiling sap into maple syrup with a bunch of kids. Bucket with lid in the foreground.
Home. Morning coffee with kids and dog. There's no greater comfort than coming home to family.
End of the trip, back to the world. Farewell winter! #bushcraft #woodslife #guidetraining
Old man winter on the ice. Last full day of 4 weeks in the woods this winter, coldest day yet.
Bitter cold and windy, need the chisel to open the water hole. #guidetraining #woodslife #bushcraft
Sleet is over, now getting ready for the deep freeze and cooking supper. #woodslife #guidetraining #bushcraft
Tentbound. This is our view as we listen to the sleet and rain fall. Glad to have a big pile of firewood.
Setting up a hot-tent camp alongside of a lonely, frozen lake. #guidetraining #bushcraft
On the trail hand-hauling toboggans on a beautiful Boreal Snowshoe Expedition day. #guidetraining #bushcraft
Tracking a fisher on the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition. Size, toes and C-shaped palm pad are keys.
Breakfast of oats and coffee in the woods. #winter #guidetraining #bushcraft
Loading sleds and jumping off on the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition, session 2.
Next to an open lead on the Aroostook River, checking the ice with a chisel.
Making improvised snowshoes at a remote camp.
Assembling a toboggan for next week's trip with Derek Faria and Paul Sveum. Great company in the workshop!
Up early to surprise my family with a loaf of dutch oven sourdough bread. Out of the oven while kids were waking up.
60 degree F temperature swing in 30 hours. -15 yesterday morning, 45 and rainy now. Glad I'm not on the trail today.
Group shelter built last week. A warm home in the frozen forest.