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In Praise of the Birch

In Praise of the Birch

by Kevin Estela August 07, 2015

How many times have you seen or heard, “birch bark is great for firestarting”? I know of a dozen books on just one shelf of my bookcase that reference it and know this advice appears in magazines, online, on television and in the sage advice of seasoned outdoorsmen and women. It really is a great natural tinder with a high oil content (explaining the black smoke when it burns) and when you come across it, you should take it as you never know when you’ll need it or if you’ll find more further along in your journey. That being said, I want to discuss a few other uses of birch not commonly referred to. Many of you know the birch is great for fire starting but did you know it can be eaten, drank, made into containers and carved? Trust me, there are more uses but I’m only given so much space here. Let’s dive in and look at this tree BEYOND fire starting.

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First Aid In The Field

First Aid In The Field

by Brian Griffin August 05, 2015

An image very similar to this one, seen in a previous blog post, sparked an in-depth conversation on first aid in the field. I was asked how we handled the situation by one of the guys at Fiddleback Forge. Indeed we were very fortunate the nicks to the arteries weren't any deeper than they were, and the loss of blood was minimal. Also, because of years of study and experiences in the woods, we were very much prepared for just such a situation. My assistant is a former EMT, and we had everything we needed to stabilize the situation in our first aid kits.

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Environmental Awareness

Environmental Awareness

by Brian Griffin July 06, 2015

It's summer time and lots of folks are hitting the trails again for the long summer day hikes and back packing trips in to the deeper bush to get away from it all. I have been really impressed with the number of couples and groups I have met on the trails here recently, for whom hiking and camping are new experiences. Back in the early spring I was given the opportunity to teach a couple from South Florida how to start a fire under very wet conditions, here in the southern end of the East Appalachian Temperate Rain Forest where I live. A few weeks ago, on a very hot day in June, a group of young girls made their way back to the parking area of a Cumberland trail access point with two complaining of leg cramps and muscle spasms. They had meant to go for a short walk, but then ended up hiking for hours. The only thing they had taken with them was a new found enthusiasm for the outdoors. Luckily I keep plenty of water in my truck, and I had a few bottles of gatorade in a cooler. Last week I had to explain to a group of young men from Nevada that the ledge they were walking towards was not a ledge at all, but just leaf covered dead-fall spanning a gap between two stone outcrops, and that the absence of vegetation in that spot was the first clue. In their defense, the light was low, and they were wanting to get near the edge to see the sunset over the Tennessee River Valley. Luckily for them it is an area I know very well. It is in this spirit of looking out for those who have discovered a new found love in the outdoors, that I thought I would post a few bits of knowledge that could come in handy somewhere along the trail.

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Why Baton

Why Baton

by Brian Griffin March 18, 2015 1 Comment

Depending on where and with whom you have it, a conversation on the subject of batonning can be quite controversial. It can quickly lead to some heated debates, with both sides passionately presenting supporting arguments. The usual arguments against it are: “knives are made for cutting, axes are made for splitting”, “a knife is not a froe”, “knives are not made for striking in this way”. It is true enough of course, knives are indeed not froes, most knives are far more versatile. Truthfully, only splitting axes are made for splitting, much like felling axes are made for felling. As for what a knife is made for, well that is determined by the designer and the maker. Knives can easily be purposed-designed for all sorts of uses, and they should be chosen based on realistic expectations.

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