The Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

A great view from the trail around Spruce Mountain in the Dolly Sods

[courtesy of Chris Meadows from FB]

What I love about the outdoors community online is their openness. Chris was fine with my using his photo over here, and just my mention on FB of not having been to the Sods since the 1970s garnered an invitation to join George Carr from LocoLibre Quilts in September for a trip back down there… George and I only know each other through email exchanges and here he is, willing to ask me to come along with him for an outing.

My mention of plans to relocate to North Carolina led to an immediate invite to join the Tarheel Hangers Group of hammock fans, and I’ve already had the offer of the use of someone’s mountain cabin up around Franklin, NC.


The Return of the “Mystery Lake Paddle-In and Hang” ~trip report

Obligatory Flash’s Feetz Photo…


I was lucky enough to be able to go up to Flagstaff Lake early and get out across to the site on Thursday afternoon, so I got to enjoy some “quiet” time before the rest of the crowd arrived on Friday. This photo was taken up by the fire pit out on the cliff and much closer to the water…  we didn’t use that one last year because of the heavy winds. This year it was the perfect site.


I was able to set up in a nice spot… back from the edge, but with a great view.








and then got my little “day-hanger” set up out closer to the lake for chillin’out with a view.


We ended up with an even dozen folks coming out this year. It was split quite evenly between the gang who came last year and the new-to-the-lake guys. Of course, people hung in the usual wide variety of hammocks. I can’t tell you what each one is right off, but we had Dutchware Chameleons, a couple of Warbonnets, some ones from Papa Smurf at Dream Hammocks, and probably a couple that I didn’t catch.

One of the greatest parts of a group hang is that you can see and try out all of the rigs that other people have brought long. It is the easiest way to keep from having any kind of buyers regret.

Primo though were the two DIY jobbies from our lady “FizzBee”. She was rockin’ a purple top quilt in the Dragon Scales fabric from Ripstop By the Roll  and a mosquito net made from a mesh with gold lamé llamas on it… and her hammock had built-in edge lighting LEDs!

Also worth mention is that the two dogs along were each housed in their own “puppy tents”.


Our flotilla consisted of my two Wilderness Experience PUNGOs [the green ones], three sea-kayaks, my old aluminum Grumman canoe, and another much nicer canoe with wooden thwarts and woven seats.

Despite this, we again faced the problem of those “boatless refugees” who needed to get across at widely different, and needless to say, inconvenient times [up to 10pm and well into most of our crowd’s Caipirinha hour].


In this however, we got really lucky. Our new friend Brenden had a power boat, and made a couple of mercy runs across and back between beers to fetch in the late-comers.

He actually cleared out of the site up on top to make room for us to use the tree-pairs up there.

This is his wonderful family and friends who made us so welcome… Brenden being the one in the plaid with the big grin!

THANKS, big guy!






It’s hard not to enjoy a setting like this… some folks went for a paddle up the lake, some folks broke out their Kindles for a read, and listened to the loon calls.







This group are all pretty experienced campers, and we all keep a pretty clean site, but I have never seen anyone successfully keep up with the chow table!

That’s what happens when you like to cook and to eat as much as we do.


Pancakes, bacon and ham, steak tips, potato/zucc/asparagus/sausage foil paks on the coals, smoked salmon and crackers, MREs [mine, of course], a wide selection of freeze-driedz, and much, much more crossed the table and into our mouths.


We had incredibly great weather with highs pushing 80° and lows in the 50°s… nearly perfect hammocking weather. Bright sunlight, nice sunsets over the lake and the distant mountains, a crescent moon, great star-viewing nights, kingfishers, loon song, the honk of the Canadian geese, and an eagle sighting. The only real sad part was that on Sunday it was headed for 90° and would’ve been the first “sunburn day” in Maine this year… and we were packing to get off and away.

We’ll be going back again next year fer sure….

A Quick, Down and Dirty Job with the new DeWalt Tools

I had to replace the stoop boards leading onto my back entry yesterday since they had finally rotted way after umpteen years of being buried under the roof drop snow though the Maine winters. The stoop is on the north side of the house, and the boards never get enough light to dry out even in summer rains. Add in that the years of sand and grit going thru the cracks had built up to touch the undersides, and there is no wonder they were getting poggy.

It was just a little throw-away job, but the perfect example of the ones that get postponed from the hassle of getting out “all those tools”.

The DeWalt crew made short work of it.


The DeWalt DCS570, 7 1/4″ circular saw gave a wicked clean, smooth, and high-speed cut on the 2×12 stock, despite the fact that I had mounted an old, used blade [24 tooth framer].

I was very impressed with how quickly it powered through the 2 x 12 Stock.It was equal to what I would’ve expected out of my old SKILPro.

I was equally impressed with the blade break feature… almost instant stoppage.

I used the DCS367 recipro for the cutout to fit my post footing. Even though it was just eye-ball guess-timated, it was close enough for government work.

Finally, I ran the 3 1/2″ treated deck screws in with the little Bosch impact driver… 12 in less than 2 minutes. The Bosch set is quite powerful for its small size.

I don’t think that I had mentioned previously that one of the nice things on the DeWalt batteries is their charge level indicators… 3 LEDs that let you see what’s left. I used the same battery in both DeWalt tools [the smaller 2Ah one] and there was no power drop at all.

I was done with the job in twenty minutes, and that included getting the 2×12 down from the barn and the clean up afterward.

A Tale Of Three Tool Kits~ Part One

I have often mentioned my 90%/50% Rule [If you can get 90% of the utility for 50% of the cost you’ve made a good deal]. However, I was also raised to believe in the idea that you should buy things for the long-term. This means purchasing with the idea of getting the best quality, and then not having to replace the item [at least for a long time]… especially for things that you know you will be using regularly. Ever since I started spending my own money, I have been a fan of L.L.Bean’ clothing, Sears-Roebuck’s “Craftsman” brand, Toyota, my Bark River and Grohman knives etc… established brands you know you can count on for not only the finest quality, but also for standing behind their products with good service and warranties. For me, most particularly, this policy has always taken the form of spending full price for excellent, professional grade tools.


Now that the Château is up for sale, I have been dealing with the collection of “Everythings” that has accumulated from four generations of my forbears, and however many families that actually includes. This also means that I have been selling off all the contractor’s grade tools that I’ve accumulated over the last four decades. And it means that since these tools were worthwhile when first purchased, they had a reasonable resale value, and I’ve been able to make a considerable amount back… I can’t call this “profit”, but I can call it a depreciated return on investment.

This is only a portion of the tools I had up for sale. By the time this photo was taken, many items had already sold.

Realizing that I would still want to do many things with power tools that I have done before, but not at the contracting type level, I have been looking into the new generation of 20V battery powered toolkits that provide a wide selection of tools. All of which are powered from the manufacturer’s proprietary battery system… you have to choose a product line or suck up the cost of multiple battery systems and chargers. One of the biggest advantages though is that there are no more grimy power cords to deploy and have snaking all over underfoot. [In the clean out I’ve found I had accumulated 14 of them, ranging in length from 10′ to 100′]

While I was in North Carolina with the Rev. elfLiza a Bosch drill-driver and impact driver set went on sale at an irresistible price point of $99 including a charger, two batteries and a “fitted” case. They were only 12V, but had the advantage of being much smaller in the hand that most of the 20v offerings. Since she lives in an urban setting where Amazons”Prime” means overnight delivery, I picked it up.

My buddy, TOG already had a similar drill driver from Makita that I really liked using, so I pretty much knew what I was getting… Decent power and the big advantage of being small enough to drop right in the pouch of my tool belt or stick in a hip pocket. While I had purchased the set with the full intention of leaving it behind in North Carolina for use down there, I discovered I liked it so well, and it was so small that I could tuck it under a seat, and it went in the car and came back to Maine with me.

I wasn’t wild about the little, squared off fabric case that came with the Bosch Combo, and I ended up I substituting a small Gladstone tool bag that I had up in a closet. It was a perfect fit for the entire kit… drill & driver, both batteries, charger, plus two sets of specialty drill bits and a DeWalt driver-bit set in a hard-shell case that I already had. Pretty much anything I am likely to want to do with a drill/drive can be done with what’s right in the bag. Despite their small size, the batteries charge up fully in just over a half an hour, so I can’t really imagine any work slowdown ever occurring at my expected level of use.

Additionally, I had an older set of Ridgid brand battery tools that I bought while I was building the Château.

IMG_4847This had the hammer drill, a smaller drill-driver, a 6 1/2″ circular saw and a work light, as well as the charger, three large batteries and two small. They were state of the art back then. I offered them up for sale both on Craigslist and at barn sales with the other power tools, but no one was buying, even at the decent price I offered. They all still run well and were great tools when they were purchased, but the batteries are now about two generations behind, and don’t hold a charge as well as they used to. I had tried several times to sell them all for $35, and have ended up hanging on to them more or less by default.

In retrospect, I’m grateful that no one took me up on the deal. My lady friend is coming up for several weeks from North Carolina, and I will simply send this set back down with her to replace the Bosch set that I absconded with. That way, that I will have perfectly OK tools available there until I make the actual move.


All this post is by way of preamble. Even with these two perfectly usable sets in hand, I knew that in the long run I was going to want something better and featuring a wider variety of tools to replace my pro setup. I had sufficient money from all of the sales of my other tools, so…

…and THAT will take us to Part Two of the series which I will post separately.

The Dewalt DCK694P2 20V Max XR 6-Tool Combo Kit Quick Review ~~ “A Tale Of Three Tool Kits”~ Part Two

This will be a broad look at the DeWalt Combo Cordless Kits. Reviews of the individual component tools will come as I get a change to work with them in the coming weeks.

After reading a lot of reviews, and looking at a lot of the various “Combo” sets in some of the big box home improvement stores, I ended up choosing to go with Dewalt’s 20 V Max “XR” system. Even then, it was a real problem choosing from all the varieties of kits offered. Not only do the tool selections very from kit to kit, but DeWalt also offers them in 18V as well as 20V, and brushless versus brushed motors.

See what I mean…?

I went through a lot of Internet research, and I’ll share some sources that I’ve found the most worthwhile right here in case anyone else is considering a similar purchase.

I finally limited my choice to two six-tool kits: the DeWALT DCK684D2 and the DEWALT DCK694P2.  They offer DeWalt’s heavier duty, brushless motors [the lower cost sets have brushed motors], and having the power I am used to from my contractor grade tools was one of my primary criteria. DeWalt claims that the brushless motors run far cooler, and have “run-time” between battery charges that can be more than 100% greater.

Trust me. There is a good bit of difference between these two very similar looking sets…

Since I was already well equipped in terms of drill drivers from the previously mentioned Bosch and Rigid sets [see Part One], the three tools that made the most difference to me as I tried to hone down my choices, were the reciprocating saw, the 7 1/4″ circular saw, and the new multi-use “oscillating tool”. The same three models were offered in each of these kits, so the real choice was down to the other amenities offered by the drill drivers and the battery sets.

[Interestingly enough, all most all of the tools seem to have LED lights built in, so the “work light” DeWalt puts into all the combo kits to boost the “tool-count’ is especially redundant]

There is a basic cost difference between these two sets of approximately $100 due to the bump from a 2Ah battery set in the x84 series of kits to a 5Ah battery pair offered in the x94s. The 694 kit also upgrades you to a hammer drill. A real “buyer’s remorse” concern with many of these DeWalt Combo sets arises from the fact that the prices on these can change up or down overnight and by as much as $50-$100 over the course of a month. If the price on a set “lurched” it could make it more or less desirable in an instant. After much obsessing, and way too much compulsive researching, last weekend it seemed that the price on the 694 set had dropped by nearly $100 overnight, bringing it to within $20 of the cost of the 2Ah one. I made my choice, pulled the trigger and placed my order.

…. And promptly screwed myself.

In my rush to buy I ordered the wrong set. I acted too quickly, and without reading in detail, without looking closely enough [ I probably had my glasses up on my forehead], and I ended up getting one of the x94 series hammer drill kits alright… but it was the four tool one that did not include the oscillating tool… that’s why all of a sudden the price was so inviting. My mistake was compounded by the fact that the particular Amazon vendor my order went through had only a 30 minute window during which you could cancel your order… of course I didn’t see the error until the next morning. And, of course, it was also Memorial Day weekend so their customer service was closed. You can probably guess… the tools shipped on Sunday night, and I couldn’t talk with CS until Tuesday morning. Despite the difficulties, and after some finagling, I actually found myself quite satisfied once the tools came and my final cost evaluation was done.

Eventually, I had bullied my way up through several levels of CS management with the seller and was able to get a 5% reduction in the charge on the cost of the 594 kit. Then I went ahead and ordered the oscillating tool as a “standalone kit” that also came with its own single 2Ah battery, a [2nd] charger, and a tote, as well as a plastic tote box of DeWalt brand O-tool blades, accessories, and some of their own proprietary shaped sandpapers. To finish replacing the corded tools I had sold, I also went ahead and ordered a nice, easily portable DeWalt 2 gallon wet/dry vac that operates both corded and cordless… since this was not included in any of the kits it made no difference in my final price.

This is my shot of the new gear fresh out of the boxes… no blades or accessories attached.

What I ended up with:

  • 996 hammer drill/ driver
  • 887 impact driver
  • 367 reciprocating saw
  • 570  7 1/4 inch circular saw
  • the new 355oscillating multi-tool with the bonus of everything that was included from buying a standalone kit
  • the 581 wet/dry corded/cordless vac
  • two charger bases [one not shown]
  • two 5Ah Max batteries and a single 2Ah one
  • [the only tool that has not been replaced so far is a jigsaw. The Bosch version that I sold was their top-of-the-line unit and I got a very good price for it on eBAY… so good in fact that my replacement cost is a “wash” when the DeWalt cordless unit drops back to levels I have already seen. Even more so if I choose to get a re-furb]

My total cost for all of these top-end DeWalt tools was only $65 more than if I had purchased the lower cost set [the one I had originally intended to get] together with the shop vac. I am satisfied because the cost is really deferred by the fact that I got the more powerful hammer drill, a total of three batteries and two bases including the higher powered batteries, and the nice accessories kit that came with the oscillating tool. All of the tools are about as good as I could get, and all of the expense was covered by the sale of the corded “contractors” tools, and the other accumulated tools I let go. [In fact, I will come out quite a bit ahead once all of the other extra contracting and shop stuff has sold or gone to auction]

Wrap Up:

Why I got the DeWalt lineup:

  1. All the sites I read reviewing the cordless tool “combo sets” from competing brands always placed DeWalt high at the top of their favorites
  2. I really wanted to stay with the larger 7 1/4″ Circular saw that I was used to, and I also have have a metric shit-ton of 7 1/4 inch blades for various materials that are still in excellent shape. In the circular saw comparisons that I read, the Dewalt unit was consistently the highest rated unit, and additionally, I had just never warmed up to the 6 1/4″ Ridgid saw despite its smaller, more handy size.  Other than the size, the argument is that the left-mount blade is easier to see and keep on track for most right-handed folks. I prefer the wider base on the board that the right-mounted blade on the 7 1/4″ saw gives. I have 40 years of practice looking down the back of my right knuckles. I can hold my speed square in place with my left hand, the saw is rock-steady on the board surface with no tilt-off,  and the cut off board end falls away to the right… that’s just “how I work”.
  3. The DWS570 circular saw unit also has a heavy aluminum base plate with flat edges rather than one that has been stamped out of lighter material where the edge curves up. This may seem like a small thing, but it makes it much easier to guide the plate with a speed square for more true and exact cuts.
  4. Lastly, I am really excited to try out all the stuff I can do more easily with the new Oscillating tool… small/tight sanding/ flush cuts/ scraping, etc. I want to do some furniture restoration and refinishing when  get to Carolina, and I think this tool will be perfect for those needs.

What I like about the tools comes right down to their convenience:

  • NO cords/Light weight…. I don’t know how many times I have put off doing a small job around the house simply because the set up, with the extension cords, power cords, the out-of-reach outlets and the heavy tools themselves made it seem so daunting. The trouble I had to go to seemed out of proportion to the accomplishment.
  • Anywhere/ Anytime…. I can carry a power tool up to the barn for a quick, one-board job with no hassle. I am done and back before I would have gotten set up with my contractor’s gear.
  • Quick Charge/ Long Use… My mistaken order actually got me the larger, 20V Max XR 5Ah batteries that I might have had to buy down the road. They are advertised to charge in only 90 minutes and the brushless motors on the x94P2 series tools are supposed to deliver incredible battery life and up to 100% longer run-time. Right now I cannot see any circumstance in which I could possibly run down all the batteries and end up “powerless” unless I intentionally left the charger or extra batteries behind.
  • I am already truly loving how easy the 2 gallon shop vac is to carry around and use. It makes staying ahead of my cleanup much simpler… and that makes the job go quicker.

The Cons:

  • the DCD996 Hammer Drill is likely over-kill for my probable use. Any need likely will be so limited that the old Ridgid hammer drill would have done just fine
  • I also suspect that time will tell me that I have no real need for any drill/driver chore that is bigger than I could have dealt with using the Bosch pair… those have surprising power for something that small and being only 12V
  • the 5Ah “Max” batteries weigh a hefty 1.3 lbs each which is a trade off of a considerable load in the hand for the long use between charges. They make the tiny Bosch pair look mighty inviting for any chore involving the drill or driver. [The whole Bosch drill with its battery only weighs 2.3 lbs.]

Right now, these tools a completely new to me. I have not had any time to put them through their paces and get a feel for them. For that reason I am not going to go any further with “reviews” of the individual tools.

Once they get some use, I will post my experiences and review each one individually.

Bonus Review To Come:

There is actually a fourth tool kit for me to talk about and review. In the things that were left in my barn several years ago [by a man who promised, “only for a little while” and, “I’ll pay you $25 a month”…. and then never did, and ended up unable to return at all] there was a LNIB Dremel 3000 Rotary Tool in a case, and with two full, and different, sets of accessories. I haven’t even had time to power it up, and it is still in the plastic bags inside the case. …Gotta get to that, too.

Back To the Lake Hang 2018

By this time next week some of us will be on our second night hammocking back up at Flagstaff Lake above Rangley, Maine, and we’ll be sitting around the fire waiting for the late-comers who couldn’t get Friday off to call from the landing on the opposite shore so we can hang a light out to steer by [Relax!… the landing is off to the right of this view and is only about a half-mile paddle].

This was my friend, Brian’s setup right down by the waters edge last year. The weather forecast is looking really fine for us to have a wonderful pre-Solstice hang. There are 12-15 friends planning to be there… and I’ve never had a bad time out with this crowd. Way too much food and fun with others who love being out in the woods as much as you do is a fine recipe.

This time I will try to take photos instead of just hanging around forgetting about you visitors passing through Moosenut Falls.

[here’s a link back to my post from a few weeks ago>> ]