More Bang For Your Buck

At one point last summer I was passing through the EMS store down Babylon. I courteously allowed them to relieve me of some of my money [about $10 bucks] and picked up the orange Sea To Summit Delta plate. Together with the green “squishy” bowl, this made for a fairly nice dining kit to go with my titanium utensils.

Then, a bit later in the season. TOG and I were in Walmart on our way to go out on the lake upstate. We grabbed complete the red and gray set there… total cost?… about SEVEN BUCKS! StS sells a single set that includes a matching bowl for $30 over on Amazon.

Both versions of the plates seem to be made from the “food grade Nylon 66, BPA free” that StS advertises. Both have a nice honeycomb pattern on the bottom; I assume that this adds strength. However, both kinds have developed a slight upward bow in the center after use. The only major difference is that the StS version has the thumb grip on one edge… I do have to admit that that is a feature that I greatly appreciate. You get grimy enough in the woods without sticking your thumb in your stew.

The Walmart kit of two plates, two bowls and two sets of Delrin utensils all came in the nice nylon and mesh drawstring bag which is plenty large enough to also carry a bunch of small food or condiment items. Is a really decent extra and also makes it easy to hang up your cook gear with your bear-bag to keep the critters away. I am not too excited about the collapsible cup/bowls, but they are nice enough I guess… it’s just that they seem like they would be awfully easy to somehow collapse during use, the ridge-rings don’t make them that utilitarian as actual bowls, and I always have something else to drink out of.  Now, the utensils are really nice. I already had one of the knives, and it is easily sturdy enough to cut into a steak. The spoon is also quite exceptional as it has a large, deep bowl, and is also long enough to reach down into most freeze-dry pouches and MRE retorts. WallyWorld used to sell these same utensils at $.89 each piece, so you can see that $7 was an excellent deal for this entire kit. [I believe they currently sell the knife/fork/spoon as is set for about a $1.89… I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you pick up a set as a spare].

I was certainly not displeased with my existing combination of the orange plate and green bowl, so they will continue to be my “go to”.  They come in at just over 8 ounces, which is perfectly acceptable given my usual car and kayak camping circumstances where a couple of pounds extra weight is not particularly problematic. As for the others, the good news is that the WallyWorld set will just stay Upptacamp, so that it is always there if we get a whim to take the kayaks out on the lake

This is a really classic case of discovering that you can get 90% of utility for 50% or less of the cost.

[BTW- I subsequently purchased a second WallyWorld set for elfLiza and I to go in our picnic tote down in NC. I have a dreadful feeling that the price at that time ended in $o.*1… and I am fairly certain that is their code for clearance items]

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Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking [6]… A Truly Antsy Backer™ Escapes Upptacamp

My buddy, TOG [The Other Geezer] and I escaped up into the Northwoods for a couple of nights, and I got to take a break in the incessant refreshments of my emails. TOG teaches at the vo-tech, and we always get up for a couple or three days during the February school break. This was about the 10th year in row.

We are fortunate to be able to get away Upptacamp at least eight or 10 times a year… Mostly during the better weather. This fall we missed out on a two, and the last time we had been up was Columbus Day weekend. Since we’re only 4 miles from one of the nicer, and taller, ski mountains, TOG was actually heading back up again the day after we came down to go skiing with another of our friends. I don’t do the falling off the mountain thing.

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We had to cut steps into the six-foot tall whitewalls to get out of the lane, and then TOG stamped out a path up top with the snowshoes while I excavated a slot just wide enough to walk through out of that lump on the porch. We were actually walking over nearly 3 feet of snowpack. There’s a flight of steps that go up to that deck in the picture below… four by my memory.

[Also, note the 2 1/2 foot long “brow” hanging off the snow shed roof]

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This is the view out back to the trout stream. Yeah, IT’s under about 4 feet of snow because of the drifting.

file_000-3 We also like to eat.

I brought along Frenched rib lamb chops, venison, and fresh burger. TOG raided his meat locker for bacon and sausage from his pigs, and a dozen fresh eggs from the chickens… his pets make him breakfast.

We spent a lot of time reading our Kindles with our eyes closed, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t worry about the cube crisis for a single moment. And, of course, I came home to no shipping email.

[today, back home here in lower Maine at the Château, I had 72° on my porch]

Upptacamp Work Week

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While you can’t tell from the photo, our three days trip to TOG’s camp up in the woods was mostly rainy and drizzly.

I added two feet onto the nearside of the deck. Last year I built the shed, but I only made the deck 6 feet wide… that was way too narrow. You had to sit right up against the doors to the shed, there was no place to put a little table to hold the grill, and you always felt like you would trip on the other guy’s feet. Next summer, we hope to run the deck the rest of the way out to the creek side of the camp, and tear-down, and rebuild the entry. There is a 4′ x 4′, 20 pane window from the creekside that we replaced last year. It’s going to look really sweet in the end wall of that entry shed… let in a bunch of light and we’ll have a view out from inside.

We also got the last two kitchen cabinets up, tore down and disposed of an old 14′ x 14′ tent platform that is gone all rotten, TOG had 3 yards of mixed gravel and stone brought in, and moved it, shovelful by shovelful, to regrade the path and fill an old stump hole, and we set up the old Franklin stove and a sitting area for yard fires. Not too shabby a loadout for two guys in their 60s, and considering the TOG as a collarbone fracture from skiing last winter that didn’t heal right.

Each year our goal has always been that “next year” we won’t have any work left to do and we can just come up and enjoy hanging out on the trout stream. …yeah, right…

This was not exactly the backpacking trip we had thought we would do up to Cranberry Pond… But…. we got to sleep in beds.

We each have separate plans to get back up later this month. [when my other buddy comes up for the white-water rafting trip over on the Dead River, this will be our launchpad and our fallback accommodations if it’s raining]. And then TOG and I will be back up for our traditional four day weekend over Columbus Day.

Fall-back Planning &….

TOG and I have been discussing alternatives for this weekend if the pack frame should not appear in time for use.

[Massive Digression: Just north of where I live is the Soco River. It winds down from North Conway in New Hampshire, just below Mount Washington, and out across an agricultural plateau called the Pequawket Valley. There is a section of about 30 miles of flat water with just one short portage around a low dam that is a very popular canoeing trip. There are all kinds of canoe rental companies that will rent you one, drop you off, and pick you up at points along the river. For several years TYG [TheYoungestGeezer] and I operated a “country cab” business and we discovered that we could make a great deal of cash-money on Sundays shuttling impatient people back to their cars who were unwilling to wait until the rental companies came at the pre-planned time to pick them up.

One Sunday afternoon while I waited for victims, a 20-something was struggling to tie his own canoe to the top of his fancy-ass Cadillac pickup truck. He was whining about scratches and generally getting very frustrated. Late in the afternoon, I realized that he had given up and just plain abandoned the canoe… just walked away all pissy and left a perfectly good 14 foot aluminum Grumman canoe floating out in the reeds. Some people truly do have more money than good sense. I guess the Cadillac “pickup” truck was a pretty good indicator of that. Now, Mama didn’t raise no fool… that sucka was on top of my van as quickly as I could get it tied down.]

Anyway, to move on to the point. If the pack should not show up in time for me to figure out using it for the weekend, we may just go up behind the Bigelow’s to Flagstaff Lake, drop that old canoe in, load up our gear and the Labrapuppy, and undertake a paddle up to one of the many islands that dot the north shore. TOG can try out his new fly fishing rod and I’ll try out the fishing grenade. Camping’s still gonna happen.

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I am really loving this site where you can print out free US Topographic maps

 

Upptacamp

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“Upptacamp” is a word brought into popular usage up here in Maine by a regional comedian named Bob Marley.

It is as much about a state of mind as it is about anyplace, and it certainly is not about any place in particular. There is no one Upptacamp. Every person, every family, every hunting or fishing group, every pair of buddies, everybody has their own.

I took this photo on the way upptacamp a couple of falls ago. It is the view from “Height of Land” looking out over Lake Mooselookmeguntic. Upptacamp for us is off the right-hand edge of the photo, about as far away as the other side of the mountains in the distance. 30 miles as the crow flies, 50 by the road.

I’m getting pretty excited by the idea of actually getting out to go camping. The pack frame that I am going to be testing is confirmed to be on the way. I should have it on Tuesday or Wednesday. I got a great deal on a used U.S. Army bivy bag that is Gore-Tex and will eliminate the need for a tent. I got an equally great deal on a superlightweight sleeping bag. Both of them ran me less than $60, and both of them have also arrived. I had already pretty much worked out my cooking gear, and almost everything else I need is stuff that I already have or that I’ve cobbled together.

Ed, or TOG has even agreed to try out MREs. A couple of those military rations each [together with a few add-ins to make them more palatable and add that gourmet touch], some gorp, and some snack food, and price of chow for two guys for three meals comes in at almost no-cost at all. We are usually all up on a sirloin steak or two, mushrooms, a full dozen eggs, pound of bacon, pound of burger, burger buns, sticks of butter, cartons of soda, and giant bags of chips… Oh, and a couple full-sized Cadbury chocolate bars. Runs us out the store at $30 bucks [or more] apiece. …That was the cost of the bivy bag.

Hopefully breakfast on Sunday might just bring TOG around to understanding my fondness for the MRE’s… on deck are pork sausage patties in maple gravy, hash browns with bacon, spiced apple slices and a cinnamon bun… all mil-spec. We’ll kick it up by taking along some Starbucks Via coffee pouches.

Saturday night may not be so thrilling. There are already a couple of enchilada dinners up at the cabin. They are more like tamale dinners. They are not the best MREs, but they’re certainly not the worst. That is reserved for what was called Country Captain chicken… Most people make the sign of the sign of the evil-eye when they speak about that one. But the refritos that come with the meal aren’t bad at all, and we’ll carry along one of those munch-sized bags of actual Fritos. Once you stir in the jalapeno squeeze-cheese and add the salsa package that comes in the meal and then crunch the real Fritos on top… Well… It reaches edible.

Anyway, my living room is scattered with boxes, bags and stuff bags of gear that I’m sorting through. Hopefully I will return from next weekend with a bunch of photos and material for a few posts on the actual experience of CAMPING! The weather will be the final arbitrator on that. Right now it’s about 50-50.

But we get to go Upptacamp. Rainy days upptacamp are why God made Kindles, bunkbeds and covered porches… You just can’t have a bad experience when you are Upptacamp.