2021 Week 31 – Bug Off

The last 4 posts were a recap of my week-long trip to OH, PA & NY to visit the Allegheny National Forest. With the daily rain, and summer temps, the mosquitos were out and looking for blood but I brought a solution to that…

After seeing ads and reviews over the past year I decided to pickup a Termacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller prior to the trip. This device comes in many different models and is powered by battery or Butane/Propane canister. I chose the latter as I use that fuel for cooking while camping.

The Thermacell uses heat from a tiny gas powered flame to heat a small pad containing a repellant solution. They claim a 15′ “zone of protection” and I think that’s pretty accurate. I noticed an immediate improvement as soon as I fired up the repeller and set it on the table next to where I was hanging out. It was especially useful under the tarp where I was spending a lot of time during the rain showers. It’s not going to work as well of there’s a lot of wind, but the bugs are usually not a problem when it’s windy.

The pads last for approximately 4-hours and cost around $2 each (cheaper in bulk). There is a very slight sweet smell but it’s not off-putting and a lot better than some of the other scented candles that don’t work very well. This being the backpacking model it’s quite small and portable. If you have a larger space to cover they make bigger units for that.

If you’re looking for something to help keep the bugs at bay while enjoying the outdoors check out the Thermacell line of products and see if they’ll work for you.

And finally… Our friend Rick (The Tenderloin Connoisseur) has a new Podcast that drops each Monday to help start your week off right. Check it out here!

2021 Week 29 – First Summer Road Trip (Part 3)!

Last week we ended up in Buffalo, NY after visiting Cleveland and Niagara Falls. This time around we’re going to dip into the Allegheny National Forest and get away from the city. We left Buffalo around 9am and started our journey south.

Ever since I was a kid I remember seeing barns and billboards along the highway with “See Rock City” on them.

When I happened to find a “Rock City Park” in Olean, NY I was excited to check it out. After doing a little research on my return I realized the “real” Rock City is actually on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee but the one in Olean was impressive nonetheless!

After climbing around the rocks for about an hour it was time to move on and check out the town of Bradford, PA. Bradford is the home of the Zippo lighter and Case knife factory (and museum). It’s a busy little town with a lot of little shops in it’s downtown. Unfortunately the Visitors Bureau was not open when I arrived, I think they were at lunch. They DID have a nice setup outside with maps and visitor information, which is what I was stopping by for anyway.

Before lunch I decided to checkout the Zippo/Case museum and see what it was all about.

The Zippo/Case museum was quite impressive, if you’re into these products it’s worth your while to stop by if you’re in the area. The inside lighting made it difficult to get any good photographs without a lot of glare so I concentrated on other items outside.

Lunch was at Togi’s Family Restaurant where the “special” was their version of a Big Mac. It was quite tasty & a LOT bigger than I ws expecting. The hand cut fries were cooked perfectly too.

After the big lunch, and fighting off the feeling to take a big nap, I continued on my way to the next stop, the WWII Museum in Eldred, PA.

What a great museum housed in a very small town in rural PA. This place was HUGE and had more items than a lot of other similarly sized museums I’ve visited over the years. Evidently a lot of the items had been donated by area families over the years and a local hero named Mitchell Paige had a lot to do with its success. He had an entire section of the museum dedicated to him.

After a successful day of traveling it was time to head up to Tracy Ridge and setup camp for the night. Tracy Ridge is a primitive campsite at the top of a bluff. The sites are spaced far apart and this evening there were only 3-4 of us in the entire area. This is my ideal situation for car camping, Plenty of room and lots of piece and quiet. Unfortunately this is hard to find these days with so may people out doing the same thins I’m doing. Traveling and camping during the week is the trick to get access to some great spots.

There were some storms off in the distance that I would need to keep an eye on as it had rained every day of the trip this far, so I expected today to be no different.

Mother nature pulled no punches and let me have it after dark. the lightning got pretty severe at one point but it blew through quickly and I was able to get a decent nights sleep. She came back in the morning just to say good morning with a nice little downpour as I was breaking camp down. At this point once you’re wet you just deal with it and make the best of it. I had another big day ahead of me and it was time to head out!

Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of the Allegheny National Forest road trip next week. Thanks for reading!

2021 Week 22 – Camping Do Over

May last camping trip was a wash out so I decided to try it again last weekend. This time there was no rain but the temps were a lot higher. I decided to take a different route, bypassing the I-69 construction, and wound my way south through Jasper and Ferdinand, Indiana

Ferdinand has a monastery similar to the one down the road in St Meinrad. But this one has a brewery and food! I stopped in for a late lunch of Pizza and Beer. While not they best pizza I’ve ever had it hit the spot, especially with the Sister Betty Blonde Ale I washed it down with.

After lunch I decided to finish out my last 9-holes of Disc Golf at St Meinrad. I expected to see a lot more people on the course being a Saturday but was pleasantly supersized the crowd was more like a week day. There was no need to rush and I was able to enjoy a nice round.

The Indian-Celina Lake Campground I like to test equipment at is just inside the Central time zone. In fact it’s so close my electronic devices (and car) will constantly switch back and fourth between time zones. I’ve started wearing an analog watch (Citizen ProMaster Diver with EcoDrive) to make sure I know the actual time. The Citizen is a great watch that uses the sun to keep itself charged. It also keeps amazingly accurate time. I think I’ve only corrected it twice the entire time I’ve owned it. This thing is built like a tank and it’s a nice change from the Apple Watch I wear during the week.

Another item I tested out last weekend was an Exped MegaMat sleeping pad. I bought the MegaMat last October but had yet to take it out to try it in the real world. It’s been great to lounge around on in the house over the winter but it really shines outside in a tent. The MegaMat comes in several sizes and I opted for the XL (extra long) version since I like to stretch out.

One really nice feature about the MegaMat is it self inflates. After you unroll and open the main valve it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to about 95% of where I like it. I can then take the manual pump that’s included to top it off and make it perfect.

This sleeping pad is thick and a little bulky so it’s only really good for car camping or a very short hike to the campsite. It feels like a memory foam bed when you’re laying on it and if you’re a side sleeper you’ll be happy to know it’s supportive enough to keep your hip from digging into the ground. It was worth every penny and I would not hesitate to purchase it again.

I have another camping trip planned in a couple of weeks and I’m gearing up for a trip to the Allegheny National Forrest this summer. So look forward to more trip reports and gear reviews throughout the year.

2021 Week 20 – Mini Road Trip Part 2

Picking up where we left off last week. After I finished checking out Spring Mill state park I headed to another item on my travel list, Hemlock Cliffs.

Located on National Forest Rd, in English Indiana, Hemlock Cliffs is a little out of the way and on this Friday afternoon the parking lot was pretty empty. I could see this place getting really busy on a weekend. The trail loop out the the cliffs is about 2 miles long and easy to moderate in spots. It’s NOT accessible buy wheel chair or stroller as it has some narrow parts and several sets of steps.

Here are some short videos I made of the various waterfalls in the area.

While heading to the next destination I saw a sign for the Winzerwald Winery in Bristow Indiana and decided to check it out. They had a nice tasting room where you could get 4 samples for $4. I chose the flight of their “dry” wines which consisted of the following:

  • Black Riesling (Red)
  • Blaufränkisch Rosé (DEEP Red)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (Red)
  • Grüner Veltliner (White)

All were quite good but I settled on the Grüner Veltliner to purchase and enjoy at home. Winzerwald Winery also sells a Pumpkin Spiced wine that I was too scared to try this time around.

Pumpkin Spiced Wine…

I was surprised to see the number of wineries in the area. On Google maps I counted at least 12 within an hours drive of this one.

Next we’re headed to one of the reasons for the trip. The 18-hole Disc Golf (DG) course at the Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana.

Unfortunately this is where the trip goes south. After 9-holes of DG the skies opened up and there was no end in sight. Between the rain and lightning I decided to cut the trip short and head back to Indy. I’m glad I did as the rain continued into the evening and setting up all your camping gear for a single night is just not worth the effort (or the cleanup afterwards). I already have a return trip planned and hope to finish out my round of DG and get a night of camping in the books.

That’s it for now, enjoy the warmer temps this week. I think summer is finally making an appearance!

Trip Report – Hoosier National Forrest

I’ve been planning an overnight getaway to the Hoosier National Forrest (HNF) for a while now.  I prefer weeknight trips to avoid the rush of weekend warriors that fill the campsites throughout the US.  

It was funny (and totally coincidental) to see a writeup in the latest Indianapolis Monthly this month.  Even more so that they featured one of the areas I was going to visit.  Kind of made me feel better that I’d picked a good spot to visit!

I started southeast of Bloomington in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area.  Specifically at the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower.   This is one seriously tall tower! My plan was to make the trip to the top after some exploring.

After checking my map one more time I headed down the Out-and-Back Terrill Ridge Trail. I had been told from a co-worker that there were some good camping areas at the end of the trail as well as a pioneer cemetery.

As you van see it’s a pretty flat twin track trail that is used to access the cemetery. There was a sign indicating you could drive back there with permission. At the end I found the cemetery but there were N0 Camping signs everywhere so I continued to scout around.

About a 1/4 mile back there was a bend in the trail and I totally missed the sign that showed the spur trail that take you back to a Lilly pad covered pond and several disbursed sites.

Having marked a few GPS waypoints for future reference I headed back to the car. Unfortunately my IT Band started to act up half way back to climbing the tower was out of the question. I just wanted to get off my feet! It’s kind of funny an IT Guy ends up with IT Band issues…

I decided to head down to the Saddle Lake Recreation area and scope things out. They have 2 camping areas. One that’s primitive (North Face) and one that has electricity (South Slope). I decided to drive through the first one and see if there were any spots available. Sure enough the weekday excursion paid off. Plenty of sites! Since I didn’t have a reservation I stopped by the Camp Host site to see what I should do.

That’s where I met Wendy & Jerry. The had been hosting at the North Face campground since April and the had a pretty nice little setup going. This was Jerry’s first year as a host and he said he was really enjoying it. Wendy had been hosting for several years prior.

They bickered a little about which campsite to assign me, each thinking the one they had in mind was better than the other. In the end we ended up in North Face Site 18 in the and it could not have been more perfect. It was a big site with plenty of room for my 3-man tent. You could have setup a 10-man tent and still had room.

I purchased a couple of bundles of firewood and Jerry offered to bring them by once I got settled. He came by about 20-minutes later to deliver the firewood and see how I was getting along.

After a filling meal of Mountian House Chili Mac, a few IPA’s I brought back from San Antonio, and a nice campfire I retired for the night to rest up for Day-2. The tacos dipped into the 50’s and it was a very comfortable night.

As usual when camping nature is usually your best alarm clock. I was awakened by numerous song birds each singing their identifiable melody. The air was cool and, as usual, a little damp. The tree cover helped minimize the dew and kept things a lot drier than I was expecting.

I packed up camp and made sure the fire was completely out by stirring up the ashes with a stick and feeling for any warmth. We were all good!

I was heading back to Indy today but I wasn’t in any hurry. I remembered seeing an interesting rock slide the last time I was in the Marengo, Indiana area and decided to check it out before taking a tour of the Marengo Cave U.S. National Landmark.

The rock slide was right next to the road (Highway 64 near Milltown, IN) and it looked like a huge hole deep into the rock. There was a mining operation in the area as well so that might have caused the cave-in.

Marengo Cave is a nicely run operation. The whole property is clean and very well taken care of. They have camping sites available as well as places to hike and have a picnic. There are 2 tours available and you can buy a discounted package to tour both. Since I want to visit again I choose to take the shorter of the 2 tours that lasted about 40-minutes.

The Cave was discovered by 2 kids in the late 1800’s when the took a candle down into a sink hole and eventually found the first of dozens of rooms in the cave system. It’s an interesting story and the caves are worth a visit if you’re in the area.

I was passing through a little town when I saw the sign above. I had to turn around to come back and get this shot. I thought it was pretty funny.

So all in all I’ve only scratched the surface of the Hoosier National Forrest and I have several trips in the planning stages for next year (maybe one more this year if the weather cooperates). There are so many trails and places to camp it could take years to see them all. I feel fortunate we have such a well run National forrest in Indiana and I plan to visit again soon!

This trip came about from a casual conversation with a co-worker and the tips and suggestions he provided made this a very enjoyable few days! Do you have a favorite place in the HNF? I’d love to hear form you.