Articles from the Press

Press Vol 1

Articles from The Press Republican

By John Gibbons

 

 

3/6/05

Serve up some snow — but effectively

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

Most people don’t stop to consider how essential water is in a survival  situation. Water is the second-most-important need.

The first is shelter for warmth or shelter for protection from heat. You can  die within hours without shelter. Without water, it may take three days or  longer to die.

In the winter, you are usually surrounded by snow. Snow is between 50- and  70-percent water. The remainder is air.

The problem with snow is being able to melt it into water. If you eat snow,  the calories burned will be greater than the hydrating benefit you attempt to  gain from eating the snow. Eating snow may alleviate thirst over the short term  but will put you in a dehydration deficit in the long term. This deficit is  caused by the water needed to burn calories to melt the snow in your mouth.

Snow does contain a small amount of pollution but is usually insignificant  with short-term use. Snow is otherwise sterile, and water from snow is  considered reasonably safe to drink in a survival situation. It requires no  other treatment.

The human body puts out about 500 BTUs of heat on a regular basis. This  wasted body heat can be used to make an efficient water melting device. Carry a  small plastic oven bag (oven bags are durable) and about 2 feet of parachute  cord. I am partial to the reusable plastic squeeze tubes with a closure on the  bottom.

Duct tape it to a string, place about a cup of snow in the bag, and tie the  top with the parachute cord in a loop that will fit around your neck. Allow the  bag to hang from around your neck to about the middle of your chest or a little  lower and place the bag inside your coat.

If you wear long underwear place the bag on top of the underwear, not next to  your skin.

In about an hour, you will have approximately ¤ to ½ cup of water from the  snow melted by your body heat.

 

2/20/05

Domestic beer key to bannock doughnuts

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

Why not try something different with that morning cup of  coffee? How about bannock doughnuts with a spin?

The basic ingredients for bannock are simple:

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1 cup flour

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1 teaspoon baking powder

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¼ teaspoon of salt

Usually, you would add water to make a stiff doughnut, but,  for bannock doughnuts, you forget the water and use a beer instead.

That’s right, I said beer.

Pour in enough beer to make a stiff dough. Next add

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½ teaspoon nutmeg

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½ teaspoon of cinnamon

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3 tablespoons of sugar

Make sure you use a domestic beer. The first time I made  these doughnuts I used a foreign beer and it resulted in a skunky after-taste to  the doughnuts. It should take less than half a can or bottle to make the dough.  The domestic beer adds a nice yeast flavor to the doughnuts.

Now pinch off a golf-ball size amount of dough. Roll this  into a ball and then flatten it. Poke a hole in the middle of the dough. A cup  of bannock will make about six to eight doughnuts. If you add too much liquid,  just add some more flour to make a stiff dough.

Next, heat up enough oil in a pot to cover the doughnuts.  Better yet, use a deep fryer. In camp, I just use a pot with about four inches  of oil in the bottom. Heat the oil to about 350 degrees. Don’t let the oil  smoke.

Drop the doughnut into the oil and cook for about two  minutes. Turn the doughnuts with a fork and cook on the other side for another  two minutes. Pull the doughnuts out with the fork and drop them on a paper towel  to absorb any excess oil. There is nothing better then a good bannock doughnut  with a hot cup of coffee to begin your morning.

 

2/6/05

Tracking: a pastime with varied purposes

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

While I was walking through the woods with my 5-year-old son Jared recently,  we were checking out animal tracks. The day before, he had asked me when we were  going back into the woods.

Jared and I have been tracking since he was 3. Tracking is an activity for  both young and old, but especially for kids because they are so curious. That  leads to the question: What is the goal of tracking?

Tracking can have nothing to do with hunting or trapping, as it is so often  thought. However, that skill is useful for both. The first goal of a tracker  should be to identify the animal and then try to figure out what the animal is  doing. Consider how it walks, where the tracks lead to, then maybe even track  the animal for a while. Winter is an excellent time to do this because there is  snow on the ground.

Tracking is useful for identifying animals in your area. The first step is to  make a list of all the animal tracks you find in one outing. A good book on  tracking, such as Peterson’s field guides are great places to start. These books  illustrate the tracks and help you identify them. Next, get a book on good  techniques of tracking, like one by well-known survival writer Tom Brown Jr.

The most important thing is just get out there and learn the easy tracks like  rabbits and deer, then identify as many more as you can. The rest will follow.

 

1/2/05

Outdoor pancakes rely on good starter

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

There is nothing in the morning quite like sourdough pancakes, an Alaskan  tradition that will work equally well in the Adirondacks. Their taste can’t be  beat!

To begin, all sourdough starts with “starter.” Here is a great recipe to make  sourdough starter.

Combine 1¾ Cups flour, one Tablespoon sugar, 2½ cups warm water, and one   package of yeast. Let the starter sit in a warm place for 12 hours.

After this, put it in the refrigerator or use it. If a liquid forms on the  top, just stir it in to the starter because it is caused by the fermentation  process and is just alcohol.

When using starter, always leave about a cup and add ¾ cup of flour and 1½  cups of warm water to it for every cup of starter you take. This will keep it  going forever. Never add eggs or anything else to your starter. You can add a  little sugar once in a while to help feed it.

Starter is alive because of the yeast, so it needs to be fed once in a while.  It can be frozen for up to a year.

A great recipe for pancakes comes from Richard Pronneke. It is found in his  book, “One Man’s Wilderness.” This is a book based on his journals when he lived  in Alaska. The recipe makes about five pancakes and requires no eggs.

Combine one cup starter, 5 tablespoons flour, (about ¾ cup), ½ cup powdered   milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, ½ teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt. Drizzle   in enough warm water to make a thin batter, then add one tablespoon of bacon   grease.

Some people will tell you that you are supposed to let the starter, flour,  sugar and water work overnight to inoculate the batter. This does make for a  stronger taste of sourdough. I just make the batter and use it at the same time  and find it lacking nothing.

Sourdough pancakes are a tradition that you should not miss. Don’t forget  real maple syrup to top them off.

 

12/12/04

Heading outdoors? Be prepared for the winter cold

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

Last weekend I was camping near Lost Pond. This marked the beginning of the  winter season for me.

The temperature was 11 degrees. I know this winter will see even colder days.  I thought this would be a good time for me to review winter gear requirements  for the season.

For really cold weather, one of the most important pieces of equipment on a  winter trip is a down or synthetic parka with a good insulated hood. Below this,  wear an insulated vest followed by a fleece sweater. Finally, put on a layer of  heavy polypropylene and a layer of light polypropylene shirt and pants. A good  set of wool pants with wind pants or insulated pants over the top will complete  the bottoms. A set of underwear closest to the skin rounds out the outfit. On  your feet, plan on a set of felt insulated pack boots and wool socks. Let’s not  forget a fleece or wool cap for your head. This outfit will see you through some  of the coldest days or nights in the winter.

The advantage of this system is that it can be layered. Removing the coat,  vest or outer garment will make for comfortable hiking in most cases. I always  carry a rain jacket that can be put on as a wind stop as part of the over all  package. If this winter results in a lot of ice that may hinder travel, then the  answer to this is to always carry a pair of grippers or crampons for climbing.  Snowshoes or skis are a must for snow travel and required by the DEC when the  snow season is in full swing.

Finally, if you are camping out, taking an extra stove as a back up in the  winter is a prudent move. You will also require more water in the winter. A tip  to keep water bottles from freezing is to turn them upside down. The water will  freeze from the top down or wrap them in a wool sock or store-bought insulator  to stave off freezing. At night fill them with boiled water and you have a hot  water bottle to take into your sleeping bag and aid in keeping you warm.

 

This part added 6/17/05

In the morning start with hot water in your bottle. This will keep the water  from freezing most of the day. Wrap it in insulation and turn up side down.

Always bring a rope. You can double it around a tree or shrub to lower  yourself down an ice slide. Afterward you just retrieve the doubled rope by  pulling one side.

Lets not forget a fleece or wool hat, neck gaiter and fleece balaclava to  make an outfit. You can always put the extra gear in your pack if you don’t use  it.

Sun glasses or goggles are a must for winter travel. If in a group bring at  least one sleeping bag and each person should carry an insolite pad. If alone  you still need the sleeping bag and pad.

Seems like a lot of gear. But in the winter a mistake or accident shows you  the need for  all these things.

A group or person should also carry a Satellite phone, cell phone or 2 meter  radio. It depends on what works in your area. Some will argue against this.

 

 

Press Vol 2

Press Articles 2

 

Tracking: a pastime with varied purposes

    

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

 

While I was walking through the woods with my 5-year-old son Jared     recently, we were checking out animal tracks. The day before, he had asked     me when we were going back into the woods.

Jared and I have been tracking since he was 3. Tracking is an activity     for both young and old, but especially for kids because they are so curious.     That leads to the question: What is the goal of tracking?

Tracking can have nothing to do with hunting or trapping, as it is so     often thought. However, that skill is useful for both. The first goal of a     tracker should be to identify the animal and then try to figure out what the     animal is doing. Consider how it walks, where the tracks lead to, then maybe     even track the animal for a while. Winter is an excellent time to do this     because there is snow on the ground.

Tracking is useful for identifying animals in your area. The first step     is to make a list of all the animal tracks you find in one outing. A good     book on tracking, such as Peterson’s field guides are great places to start.     These books illustrate the tracks and help you identify them. Next, get a     book on good techniques of tracking, like one by well-known survival writer     Tom Brown Jr.

The most important thing is just get out there and learn the easy tracks     like rabbits and deer, then identify as many more as you can. The rest will     follow.

 

 

    

With knives, size matters

    

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

 

In the woods, tools can make your life easier. If you want to build a     fire, you need a saw and an ax.

A saw alone will help you do a lot of work. Splitting wood with an ax or     hatchet will make your fire burn better.

Always gather dry hardwoods. A winter night camping with a hardwood fire     made from hardwoods like beech, oak or maple makes for a great atmosphere.

This brings me to thoughts on camp knives. What would be the best     selection of knives to take on a camping trip?

Many types of knives are useful in camp. A pocket knife will do 80     percent of the work needed around camp. It can cut up game, cut rope, used     to whittle or do kitchen chores.

A good multi tool comes in handy to fix stoves and lanterns. A multi tool     will work well as the only knife because it has a pocket blade in it.

If you want to split wood into small kindling, an ax or hatchet will do a     good job, but a large fixed blade knife can be used for this job. A sheath     knife or folding lock knife with a larger blade of 4 to 6 inches can do all     of the chores a pocket knife will do.

However, a pocket knife is not going to be useful to split wood when you     really need it. If the wood is wet or if you need fine kindling wood, a     large knife can tackle this job. If I could only have one, I would take a     large sheath knife or folding lock blade knife.

Many people do not like lock blade knives. I like the low profile they     put out when carrying them in public.

My pick for the best all around knife is a large folding lock blade     knife. Or why not take all three with you if you can?

In the end, the best knife for you is the one you have on you. It does     you no good if you leave it at home. Many people will argue with me about     which is the best knife. I expect this. We should agree, however, on one     thing — your knife needs to be sharp.

In a survival situation I want a larger fixed blade knife 5 in minimum.

 

 

 

    

Dine on pine: needles, bark

    

By John Gibbons, Outdoor Tips

 

With Christmas fast approaching, my thoughts turn to evergreens. I wonder     have you ever tried pine-needle tea?

The white pine is easily identified by its five needles in a cluster.     This tree is found throughout the North Country.

To get started, clip about a teaspoon of the ends of the new growth     needles. You can use any part of the needle, but the new shiny green growth     is the best for tea.

Next add a cup of boiling water to the clippings. Steep this tea for     about 10 minutes. It is best to strain the water into another cup. This     separates the needles from the liquid. Use a metal strainer for this     operation.

Sweeten the liquid as you would any other tea, and you have a     surprisingly tasty beverage. This tea does not taste like turpentine or     something equally bad, and it is high in vitamin C.

In a survival situation, the pine tree will also provide food where no     other is available. Take a cue from the native Americans who inhabited this     area: Adirondack means bark eater. The inner bark of the white pine is     edible.

Start by taking a hatchet and pounding on a square section of the tree     with the blunt end. Next cut a patch of the bark in a square. Do not go all     the way around the tree. This will kill the tree.

Then, peal back the bark, exposing the inner bark. Many times the inner     bark will come with the outer bark of the tree as you peel. If not, pull the     inner bark off the tree.

This inner bark needs to be dried or boiled to process it for use. If     boiled it can be eaten as is or with other things such as bullion for     flavor. This makes kind of a wild noodle.

If dried, the bark can be pounded into flour and used to make ash cakes,     a dough cooked in the ashes of the fire to make a biscuit. It can also be     eaten as it comes off of the tree.

However, processing it makes it more palatable.

Have a great Christmas and don’t forget that white pine. It is not only     for decoration. It could save your life.

 

 

 

    

Campfires: Here’s how — and how not

    

By John Gibbons, Contributing Writer

 

A long time ago, the only way to cook food in the woods was with a     campfire. Now we have backpacking stoves and liquid fuel. Campfire cooking     seems to have become a lost art. Some say this is a good thing.

Campfires can cause forest fires and deplete the forest of wood in     overused camping areas, and campfires are banned in some areas of the     Adirondacks.

However, to be skilled in the outdoors, a person needs to know how to     build a safe fire. Fires are indispensable in an emergency, to say nothing     of the feeling you get from standing around one. Though I have gone several     nights in the dead of winter without a campfire, the nights with a campfire     were always more cheerful.

It is important to keep the area around the fire free of debris. This     creates a safety zone. Piling mineral soil onto a tarp will create a base     for your fire that can be scattered after use.

You do not need to put rocks around in a ring. This just creates scarred     rocks. Remember to keep the fire small and never burn wood larger than your     wrist.

Gather only dead and downed wood. Do not peel birch trees for tinder.     This hurts the tree and leaves a scar. You can usually find birch bark on     the ground. Consider using other tinder. Fine-shaved pieces of wood from     dead and down trees make great tinder. A saw and an ax or hatchet will go a     long way to help gather and, if need be, split good dead wood.

What is the best fire? A tepee fire or a log-cabin fire is what I     recommend. A tepee fire has sticks piled vertically in a circle to form a     tepee. This fire is great for making a hot fire or producing good cooking     coals.

Always cook food on the coals of a fire. The log-cabin fire is formed by     placing sticks horizontally in a criss-cross manner. This fire puts out a     lot of warmth. It burns slower and is a good fire for sitting around. So     what is the best fire? It depends on its use.

    

Bean-hole beans: a campsite staple

    

By John Gibbons, Outdoor Tips

No camp experience would be complete without making baked     beans in a bean hole. In days gone by, beans were a staple of camp life. Now     we have dehydrated foods and lots of canned goods.

In the old days, you used dried goods in camp. If you     want to reach for a little piece of history, make some camp beans. Don’t     forget the bannock, bacon and coffee to round out that traditional     experience.

To begin, Take a pound of dry navy beans and wash them.     Be sure to pick out any stones.

Soak these beans in water overnight. In the morning, put     the beans in your pot and cover them with two inches of water. Put the     kettle on to boil.

Simmer the beans until the skins pop open when you blow     on them. Take them off the stove and drain the water. Reserve two cups of     the bean water.

This should take about 45 minutes.

While the beans are boiling, dig a hole in the ground.     The hole should be one foot deeper than the size of the pot and 1½ feet     larger in diameter.

Line the hole with rocks. Do not use river stones, as     they may explode.

I get asked the question: Do you have to line the hole     with rocks?

The answer is no, but it will work better with the rocks.

Next, build a fire in the hole. Let the fire burn down to     coals. Shovel out the coals.

Next, add the following to the beans:



      

1 large onion, chopped

 

½ pound bacon, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

¼ cup catsup (optional)

½ cup brown sugar

 

Now, add the two cups of water, plus enough to cover the     beans. Stir the mixture up and place the pot with the lid on it and handles     up in the hole.

Shovel the coals back in around the pot and cover with     coals and a layer of dirt. Leave the handle out so you can find it.

Cook for six to eight hours.Carefully uncover the pot. If     you have never had beans cooked this way, you are in for a treat and you     will experience a little piece of history.

 

 

 

    

The cattail can be the staff of life out in the wilds

    

By John Gibbons

 

My grandfather, Euell Gibbons, was enamored of the common cattail. I was     thinking about this as I was hiking around the Paul Smiths Visitor     Interpretive Center early last fall. I was impressed with the number of     cattails in the bog area.

If you want to enjoy wild foods, you really need to learn about only 20     plants. A good place to start is by reading Grandpa’s book “Stalking the     Wild Asparagus.”

The first and one of the most important wild foods you should learn is     the common cattail, Typha latifolia. Grandfather called these plants     “the supermarket of the swamps.”

You will find these plants in wetland areas. They are common in the     Champlain Valley but harder to find in the Adirondack Mountain areas.

The cattail is easily found by locating last year’s stalks, which are     long, sword-like leaves. Then look for a cigar-shaped, furry seed head     sitting atop a slender reed, a sign of last year’s crop. In the spring and     summer, the cattail leaves are green, but they turn brown in the fall.

The cattail has five edible parts.

The young shoots can be cooked like asparagus. They are referred to as     “Cossack asparagus.” The green seed pods can be boiled like corn on the cob     and are called “cat on the cob.”

The pollen that forms on the seedhead can be mixed with flour to form a     great additive. The rootstock, or rhizome, can be opened and mashed in a     slurry of water. The water is then poured off, and what remains is a wet     flour that can be used to bake with.

Finally, a soft spike at the end of the rootstock can be boiled and     eaten.

The cattail can provide food in a survival situation, either raw or     boiled. It can provide a source of flour and an additive to extend flour.

It can also help in other ways by providing reeds for baskets or mats.     The fluff that forms on the seed head can be used as an insulation in the     fall or winter by stuffing it into your clothing.

The same fluff will help catch a spark when using spark-based fire     starting. Add a mixture of birch bark and fluff together to get a fire     started.

The cattail is an important plant. It is one of the first     you should learn.

 

 

    

Take no chances: pack survival kit

    

By John Gibbons, Contributing Writer

 

I am writing this with a hot cup of coffee in hand. I think about how     warm and content I am. Instead, I could be outside, cold and in need of     protection. This got me thinking about what we really need in an emergency     or survival situation. It also made me think of the statement, “Anyone who     goes afield should take a survival kit with him or her for emergencies.”

Why take a survival kit? A good survival kit will provide the necessities     when you really need them. Every good survival kit should start with     clothing. Start out by wearing and taking clothing that will keep you warm     and comfortable during a night out in the woods. This may mean carrying a     down jacket in a day pack. Always layer your clothing so you do not overly     perspire. Getting wet cools you down. Carry a wool hat and mittens.

Many people have died because of exposure. Exposure is hypothermia, a     cooling of your core temperature to the point of death, or hyperthermia, the     heating of your body temperature to the point of death. Exposure is the No.     1 cause of death in a survival situation.

The next important cause of death is dehydration, lack of water. If these     two problems are taken care of, a healthy person could live several weeks     with hunger as the side effect. Learning to fish, trap and gather wild foods     will aid in preventing hunger. However, it is no guarantee of eating.

So what should you bring? The correct clothing, a multi-tool knife, a     collapsable water container, water-purification tablets, a magnesium fire     starter, fire-starting fuel (Vaseline and cotton), 50 feet of parachute     cord, a small compass, two large garbage bags (contractor’s size) for     shelter, 25 feet of wire for snares (22 guage), 25 feet of fish line, fish     hooks, two rubber worms, sinkers, a small metal pot or cup and a bandana     that can be used as a bandage. Add more if you want. When you think about     what could happen to you, a survival kit just makes good sense to take     along.

    

Sparks can fuel the flames of survival

    

By JOHN GIBBIONS

 

Fire is very important in a survival situation. Without fire you cannot     purify water, regain lost heat or cook food.

I remember the first time I made fire with flint and steel. I struck a     small piece of flint that I purchased from a black-powder dealer to a steel     file. The spark shot down onto a mixture of Vaseline and cotton. It lighted     right away. The key is to guide the steel down across the flint. In this way     you can aim the shower of sparks.

You can make the Vaseline and cotton mixture by smearing a gob of     Vaseline onto three all-cotton cotton balls. Then simply work the Vaseline     into the cotton. I store my mixture in an empty 35 mm film container. I keep     it in the top pocket of my vest with an artificial flint called a magnesium     fire starter. If you have never used one of these little gems, I suggest you     buy one. They are inexpensive and can be found at many sporting goods     stores.

The magnesium fire starter takes some practice, but once you learn to use     it, you will never want to be without one. The fire starter has an     artificial flint imbedded into a block of magnesium. Magnesium is scraped     off a block on the starter with a knife or quartz rock. These scrapings are     best piled on to a small amount of birch bark.

Buff the bark by rolling it back and forth with your hand against your     pants leg. This will break up the fibers. Now make a little nest with the     bark and scrape the magnesium onto the bark in a little pile. Using a knife     or quartz rock, scrape across the artificial flint to make a spark. Direct     the spark onto the pile of magnesium. This takes a little practice. The pile     will light and set the birch bark ablaze.

Why not just use a lighter?

I have found in windy and wet conditions that using the Vaseline and     cotton mixture with a fire starter will work every time. A lighter tends to     blow out, can run out of fuel, and will deteriorate with age. The magnesium     fire starter will stay ready when lighters and matches become ruined.

The next step is true flint and steel. By learning these skills you just     increase you chances of starting a fire when you need one. But remember, you     have to practice.

    

 

 

Bread on open fire rounds out breakfast

    

By JOHN GIBBONS

 

Taking an old-time camping trip can be a great way to     appreciate how our forefathers did it. A couple of years ago, my friend Rick     and I canoed to Little Square Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area for a     three-day trip. We were going in by canoe, and we carried only a tarp to     sleep under and planned to cook on an open fire.

We brought with us only the basics that included the     three traditional old-time camping staples — beans, flour and bacon, the     latter the cured kind that keeps well.

At camp, I boiled the bacon in a few inches of water in     the frying pan and then fried it to a golden crisp.

Then I made that traditional trail-bread bannock for our     morning meal to go with the bacon. The recipe is really simple. Here are the     ingredients:

                 

 


1 cup flour

 

1 teaspoon baking powder

Þ teaspoon salt

¼ to ½ cup of water

 

    

To make the bannock, combine the dry ingredients and work the  water in a little at a time until you have a stiff dough. If it’s too soft, work  in a little more flour. Make it into a ½-¾-inch-thick round loaf about the size  of the bottom of a medium frying pan. Drop the loaf into a hot, well-oiled fry  pan and cook. When the bottom is brown flip it over and cook the other side. If  you have an open fire, you can prop the pan up on a log and cook the other side  without flipping it. Expose the uncooked side to the heat of the fire while it’s  still in the pan.

I like to use my pot lid over the frying pan while the bread  cooks to make a little oven.

The bannock tastes much like an English muffin. Use a  toothpick or wood sliver to poke into the bannock to check for doneness, much  like a cake. Try this at home in your kitchen. If you add more water to the  mixture you get a passable flapjack recipe.

John Gibbons is the grandson of wild foods legend Euell  Gibbons. He is the author of “An Adirondack Guides Cookbook.”

All rights reserved John Gibbons 2005