Photos And Updates From The Field

Photos, status updates and other short bits.

Ferrying firewood across the river in a canoe

Sometimes you get to a campsite on a remote river and the firewood has been picked over. Especially if it has been used for a while. But there is almost always firewood on the other side of the river. In this (grainy) photo, I’m transporting a canoe full of firewood for the night’s cook fire [...]

Float plane and one of our red Esquif canoes on a nearby lake

From the spring. We went up to our local lake for some paddling and Maine IFW was stocking remote trout ponds by float plane. They would load the young trout from a stock truck into the floats of the plane, then it would fly off and dump them in the ponds. Since I was a [...]

Ready To Carry

wood canvas canoe, ready to carry

My wood canvas canoe, rigged up and ready for the carry around Allagash Falls. Notice this canoe has a center thwart, not a carved yoke. Notice how the paddles are tied to the thwarts so that when it is carried, the weight of the boat is distributed by the paddle blades onto the shoulders as [...]

Guru Tessa

Tessa was meditating on the edge of the forest, holding her knife and spoon she was carving tight to her hands with her magical powers. Someone walked up and snapped a photo while she was deep in meditation. #FullTangLifestyle

Endless Winter

Endless Winter

This photo is 10 years old and was taken on a -20 F day with a stiff breeze while we were out on the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition. It was a great group of people and a few of the guys got it in mind to take a “tasteful nude” photo with the toboggans. So they [...]

Forty below zero is where the F and C temperature scales cross. And it is wicked cold.

It has been a cold and wet start to June in northern Maine. To keep things in perspective I will occasionally look at this picture from a few winters ago when the thermometer in my truck registered negative forty degrees below zero. This is the spot where the F (freedom) and C (Canadian) scales cross.

Coltsfoot Flowering

coltsfoot flowers in the early spring

Tussilago farfara, coltsfoot. The first flower we get in the spring. This plant flowers before the leaves come out. This ground was covered in snow six days ago.

Guide Shack At Night

The Guide Shack, my off-grid cabin home for 12 years, with the solar-powered lights shining into the darkness. A warm and dry retreat in the cold Aroostook winter. So many great memories, and so many more to come. Shot on January 25, 2023.

River Scene 824

From a recent canoe outing on a perfect fall day. These are the types of photos you look at over winter to get excited about open water.

Moose By The Pond

When people aren’t around, wildlife has the run of the field school. This moose is a local resident, and helps to keep the cattails from taking over the shallow edge of the pond. Photo credit to Christopher. #fulltanglifestyle

It’s been ten years since I took this photo. The kid is now in middle school. The basket has been retired and sits in a corner of the guide shack holding fishing gear. Of all the photos I’ve ever taken, it remains in my top ten. And a reminder that life happens fast.

paddlling at sunrise in the mist

Shot this on a northern Maine lake at the end of the fall semester. It’s a campsite on a big lake that we revere for epic sunrises. It took a while for the sun to burn through the fog, giving us the mist effect.

It’s still August but the nights are getting cool. When the night air is cooler than the river water we get dramatic morning mists. I shot this on the morning of August 23, 2019, as the sun was just peeking over Squapan Ridge and the river valley was full of mist. I stood there for [...]

A Mattress Made Of Grass

When made well, a grass mattress is portable luxury. Unlike thin sleeping pads, grass mattresses can easily be made to rival a modern mattress in thickness and comfort. They can also easily be transported, unlike bough beds. And they can be made from a variety of materials including grass, weeds, cattails, reeds, and more. They [...]

Smudge Pot

smudge pot

Smudge pots are a way of life at the field school in June and July. Take a metal coffee can, punch a few holes in it, attach a piece of chain to the rim and keep a small, smoky fire going. The smoke keeps the bugs at bay. It’s getting harder to find a metal [...]

Pipes On The Trail

I’m not a habitual smoker, but on expeditions I do enjoy the occasional pipe. There’s a great heritage involved, a kinship with the voyageurs, not to mention the smoke keeps the bugs away from your face. In this photo we were on the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec, an arm of land that juts out into [...]

Water Drops On Lupine

When I see water droplets on lupine leaves, I think of tiny jewels that are there only for me to appreciate. I love how the drop of water stops and spends time at the center of the plant where the leaves go together after a rain. And then the sun comes out and shines on [...]

From our recent trip to northern Quebec. A great group of people. Here we were out checking hare snares and looking for marten tracks. We had a tip that someone had seen Bucksaw Jenkins tracks somewhere between Chibougoumou and Chapais, as he was wintering in the James Bay lowlands, and we were concerned that he [...]

Twilight At Munsungun

One of my favorite places in the world at a beautiful time of day. Miles from the bustle of the modern world, deep in the North Maine Woods, with no signs of people as far as the eye can see.

Fur In The Trees

Photo from a past trip out on the land with David and Anna Bosum. Only a few spot remain for our March, 2019 trip. If you want one of them, register soon.

Dutch Oven Salmon

Two landlocked salmon in a 16″ dutch oven over a fire. On canoe trips where we do a lot of fishing I often bring my 16″ dutch oven because the fish just taste better when cooked in it.

Chopping a strainer out of the river.

We were coming down a fast, narrow stream in early spring. On a bend in the stream was a full-width strainer; an obstruction spanning from shore to shore. After a short debate, we opted to cut it rather than unload and carry around it. So we poled a boat out into the current and held [...]

Forest Trees Of Maine is a fantastic guide to the trees of Maine and surrounding areas. If you’re at all interested you should get a copy. Get a free pdf copy through the Maine Forest Service. Order a print copy through the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Order a print copy through Amazon. [...]

Hot coffee and doughnuts are a great combination, even better when made outside over an open fire. When I was a teenager, two of my friends made up a little song about this amazing combination after getting some of both early one morning at a diner on the way to go ice fishing. All I [...]

On a remote river shuttling firewood across the river. Because at any established campsite the good wood is picked over, but just across the river there’s usually a lot of it. This is the boat that was recently damaged in a wind storm, in action on the Bonaventure river in Quebec last June (2018).

Putting a mattress of green fir boughs on a raised bed in a long-term cold weather shelter. It’s easy to make these more comfortable; add more mattress. Like everything else we do, you can learn something about this type of shelter and bed by building it, but to really know it you have to live [...]

Finishing pack baskets with dogwood rims. Snow flurries here this morning and cold and windy today, so we’re in the guide shack with the stove roaring. Last project on the last day of the fall Wilderness Bushcraft Semester.

Pack Basket Afternoon

Back from the trip, finishing projects on the last few days of the semester. A few people wanted to make pack baskets, so we’re making them. It will be a push to finish them, but that’s what we do.

Canoe Poling Class

Teaching poling and watching everyone come through a rip. Poling is a traditional canoe skill that we use daily. It’s a great way to descend a rapid with complete control, stop in the middle of whitewater and travel upstream against a strong current. And to do it well, you stand in the canoe.

Cool today, lit the first fire of the season in the Guide Shack. Enjoying the heat and looking out the window at the yellow aspen and birch foliage. Two weeks left in the semester, our last weekend in camp. Off-grid and loving it.

Canoeing season is almost finished for the year here in northern Maine, with night temperatures below freezing. But we still have one trip left on the fall Wilderness Bushcraft Semester. I’m excited to get out one in the boats for a few days one last time in 2018. If you’re interested in learning the way [...]

Cairn On The Allagash

Someone spent a bunch of time building this cairn on the Allagash. I didn’t get a great picture of it because I couldn’t move the sun to where I wanted it. Whoever built this did so for the sake of building it, not for compensation or recognition. Everyone on our trip appreciated it’s beauty.

Grave Of The Unknown River Driver, Baxter State Park. Along the park tote road about 20 miles from the south entrance. Near Nesowadnehunk Stream, presumed drowned on a log drive. More at Downeast Magazine.

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.

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.

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 [...]

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 [...]

Scraping A Deer Hide

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 [...]

Map & Compass Testing

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

First Paddle Of 2018

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. [...]

The Melt Is On

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.

Still On Snowshoes

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

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.

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 [...]

Waterhole Sunset

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

Twin Tents

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.

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.

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.

End Of A Long Day

Feet Up

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.

Old-School Axes

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 

DIY Waxed Canvas Pack

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 

Carbon Steel Skillets

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.

snubbing down a sluiceway

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.

morning fire photo

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.

Pack, Axe & Hat

Pack In The Mist

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 [...]

Rips On The Bonaventure

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.

Kancamangus Pass

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 [...]

Poling Haycock Rips

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 [...]

Canoe In The River

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.

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 [...]
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