It is no secret that I love gear, so when I came across this Uberleben Stoker flatpack stove I knew I had to give it a try. I already own a Solostove Lite which I love. In my opinion you can’t have too many twig stoves.
This afternoon I headed to my local State Park to get it’s fire burning and have some food. Conditions out on the trail aren’t always perfect and today’s weather I feel was a good representative of that. The temperature a balmy 38 degrees in addition to 15-17MPH winds and snow flurries thrown in for good measure. It has been very damp and wet here lately so in order to get the fire going I decided to bring some dryer lint and two small pieces of fat wood and in no time the belly of this beast had come alive.
I filled my pot with 12 ounces of cold water and placed it on top. I continued to feed the fire a steady diet of leaves, twigs and sticks. The one thing I have noticed with these twigs stoves is they are constantly hungry. In these conditions it took 15 minutes for the 12 ounces of water to boil which I felt was reasonable. On a warm day with light wind I’m confident boiling time would be around 8-9 minutes.
I poured the water into a Goodto-Go single serve dehydrated meal (Chicken Gumbo) stirred and sealed and let rehydrate for 15 minutes. I put another 12 ounces of water back into my pot in order to boil for coffee.
The Stove: A little on the heavy side (14.5 ounces with canvas sleeve), this extremely compact and simple 5 panel stove assembles in about a minute or so. The first time I put it together it felt a little clumsy to me and I was skeptical that it would be as sturdy as I have read. All the pieces fit snug together giving it a solid base. This stove is made from heavy duty 304 grade stainless steel which is anti-corrosive. After I had it assembled I truly liked its feel, solid as a tank. You will have no issue what so ever placing a heavy cast iron skillet or pot on this stove. Another great feature about this product was the large opening to feed the fire and the nicely placed holes for consistent airflow.
What I Liked:
Ease of assembly, compact, large opening to feed the fire, Sturdiness, airflow and lastly the price.
What I Didn’t Like:
A little heavier than I would like and extremely sooty during disassembly.
I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives and highly recommend this compact, affordable twig stove. I hope this review of the Uberleben Stoker Flatpack Stove was helpful and if you have a product that you would like me to review please feel free to contact me.
The temperature is a balmy 39 degrees right now with filtered sunshine, a perfect time to head for State Park and enjoy lunch and a hot cup of coffee.
I attempted this on Wednesday but struggled to keep the fire in my twig stove going. Everything has been so damp and wet lately. However today was a success and the embers were glowing with a vibrant autumn orange.
Lastly check my authentic Lake Placid 1980 Winter Olympic knit hat….
For the past year now I have had this desire to paddle across Raquette lake and into the Marion river. Here I would make the flat half mile carry to Utowana lake continuing through Eagle lake and reaching Blue Mountain lake, a total distance of about 14 miles. On Sunday September 30th myself and three other friends did just that.
We arrived at Raquette lake just as the sun was rising and the fog was rolling across the surface of the lake like the stage of a rock concert, however the silence was deafening. It was a cool 39 degrees as I unstrapped my kayak from the roof of my car. Yes I brought my heavy kayak for this adventure. For some reason I have always been intimidated by the size and notorious winds of Raquette lake. The weather report for the day was calling for 8 MPH winds and I had visions of white caps dancing in my head. With that said I chose poorly and that decision would haunt me a little later in our adventure.
The water was like glass as we set out to cross Raquette lake under the watchful eye of Blue Mountain towering 14 miles in the distance. With only a small navigation snafu we reached the mouth of the Marion river in 3.30 miles according to my GPS. The Marion river was beautiful with its mirrored reflections of autumn beginning to paint the landscape. We twisted and turned up the river several miles before we reached a somewhat large beaver dam. We knew this dam would be here and that we would have to exit our boats in order to get around it. Once we got over the damn it was only another quarter mile or so to the Marion river carry.
This carry from the Marion river to Utowana lake follows the former road bed of the Marion River Railroad. It is only a half mile long and was the world’s shortest railroad. Here is where my kayak would come back to haunt me. Without gear my kayak weighs in a 52 pounds at 14 1/2 feet long. I probably had at least 8 pounds of gear stowed in the boat. So I had the pleasure of carrying 60 pounds on my shoulders for a half mile. A huge departure from my 17 pound canoe…
Once we reached the put in on Utowana lake we were about half way through our journey. In other significance this is where the wind would finally kick up as we paddled our way up through Utowana and into Eagle lake. The entrance from Eagle lake into Blue Mountain lake has two routes that go under bridges and around a small island. Entering Blue Mountain lake we would see the only other paddlers during our trip. From here it was about a mile or so to our take out spot in the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake.
Once we were off the water and boats loaded I was ready for my long trip back home. As I approached Old Forge I had thought I might want to stop quick at Fulton Chain Craft Brewery. But I was exhausted and just wanted to get home. I made a quick stop to top off the gas tank, grabbed some coffee and kept rolling for home. Not only did I rack up another 425 miles on my car I was part of some great memories with some amazing friends. I look forward to doing it again soon somewhere in the Park.
I was scheduled to photograph the Palio “Half Marathon & 5K” on Sunday September 16th in Saratoga Springs, NY. Looking at the weather forecast for the weekend not only did I notice it was going to be great weather wise but there was little to no wind forecast as well. I made plans to meet up with a friend on the 15th to paddle in the eastern Adirondacks. I have not spent much time in this side of the park so this would be exciting for me.
September 15th 2018: I pulled out of the Dunking Donuts drive thru here in Endwell at 0530 with 179 miles of driving ahead of me in order to reach Lewey Lake which lies between Speculator and Indian Lake, NY. Once I got off I-88 and went over the hills and through the woods the fog was pretty dense, the curves sharp. And then the Grim Reaper himself loomed in the distance. An 18 wheeler lumbering up, down and around for the next 40 miles with no place to pass. I finally arrived at the Lewey Lake campground at 0845 as the sun had begun to burn off a good portion of the fog. Shortly after my friend Linda would arrive from Saratoga Springs. As fate would have it the boys and I had camping reservations at Lewey Lake this past August. However we had to cancel due to their working schedule.
By this time most of the fog had burned off and the skies were a brilliant blue complimented by marshmallow clouds. Linda and I were paddling along the shoreline of the lake making our way to the south end and the entrance to the Miami river. Once onto the river we encountered two low beaver dams that were easily paddled over. I loved how the Miami twisted and turned. We made it just over a mile before encountering a very large beaver dam. It spanned the entire river I’d say about 30-40 feet and at least 4 foot tall as well. Linda and I decided not to attempt to get around it and slowly made our way back into Lewey lake continuing to navigate its entire shoreline.
This was a fun day paddle and to be honest if I was a little more prepared I would have thought to hit Thirteenth lake as I made my way across the Park towards Warrensburg. However it was getting close to Beer O’ Clock and the Northway Brewery in Queensbury was calling our names. As luck would have it the brewery was literally right next door to my hotel for the evening.
As the nights and days slowly turn cooler and the leaves begin to shed their greens for the reds, oranges and yellows of Autumn I hope to return at least once this season.
Over the past 24 years I’ve been traveling the Southern Tier of New York west from Binghamton towards western Ohio where my wife is from to visit family. Just beyond Jamestown, NY the interstate spans the beautiful Chautauqua lake. My wife and I have always commented to one another that we should stop sometime and check out the area, but in reality we never have.
On September 9th 2018 I had the opportunity to join my friends and take part in the 4 for 44 relay race that encircles Chautauqua lake. This race which began and ended at Southern Tier Brewing in Lakewood, NY was a 44 mile relay race. Each team consisted of 4 runners who would each run 3 legs of varying distances.
The festivities began the afternoon before as we all would meet up at Four Mile Brewing in Olean, NY. I don’t think I have ever seen that many traffic circles in my life. Anyway I personally enjoyed the place and their beer was pretty solid. They also had some great munchies as well and puzzles….
After spending some time at Four Mile Brewing we made a beeline for Jamestown to check into our hotel rooms and head over to Southern Tier Brewing for packet pickup and you guessed it more beer. I began to have flashbacks from a few years ago when I raced with my friend Diana. The night before the race she forced me to drink way to many beers.. Hmm I’m beginning to see a pattern here!
Race morning came and I was feeling pretty good, as we would start the race in the first wave at 0700. Bob was our first runner followed by Jo (Without an E), she gets very testy about that, next would be Diana and lastly myself our fourth runner. The course was really nice and not flat either by any means. I particularly liked the Beamis Point area. My first leg of the race was 4 miles, the second 5.20 miles and the last was 3.25 miles. All three of my runs were listed on the course guide as moderate. However according to the course guide my last leg had 300 feet of gain and I think all 300 feet of that was in the first half mile, my legs were zapped!
We all had a wonderful time and I truly enjoyed running with Bob, Jo & Diana and would do it again in a heartbeat.
As a side note Jamestown, NY is home to the Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz Museum.
August 30th 2018: I got started north late in the afternoon arriving Old Forge, NY around 6:30PM. With still at least two more hours of driving I decided to call it a night. I find the older I get if I don’t have to drive at night I won’t. So instead I pulled up my chair to the bar at Fulton Chain Craft Brewing, ordered a beer and food and chatted with the locals about the upcoming “Adirondack Canoe Classic” affectionately known as the 90 Miler. This event starts in Old Forge and finishes three days later in Saranac Lake. A bucket list experience for me!
August 31st 2018: 0600, A beautiful sun kissed morning with the boat launch at Long Pond still 90 miles distant. Full tank of gas, coffee and I’m ready to hit the road. I would meet my friends Jan and Hugh who had already been camping there since Thursday. They had gone in the day prior to make sure we could secure a campsite being it a holiday weekend.
I arrived right on time 0840 and began unloading my gear. The pond is a quarter mile from the parking area and on my first trip Jan came walking up the trail to greet me. Two trips total and my canoe loaded we were off. As I setup my tent and sleeping system Jan and Hugh made some coffee before our 12 mile adventure that would take us through Long Pond, Slang Pond, Turtle Pond and Hoel Pond.
The takeout for the canoe carry from Long Pond to Slang Pond is a really nice sandy area. A short 0.2 mile carry on a well maintained trail brings you to put-in on Slang Pond. This is a little mucky but easily done. I personally loved the channel connecting Slang and Turtle Pond. The take out on Turtle Pond again was a real nice sandy spot. In order to get into Hoel Pond you could either walk your boat through the culvert that connects the two or carry up and over the railroad tracks that split the two ponds. I opted to carry up and over!
The wind kicked up pretty good while on Hoel. Hoel is the only pond that day that isn’t complete wilderness and does have some homes along its shoreline. We would break for lunch at a small sandy spot in a cove on the northern end. Afterwards we would begin our way back to our campsite on Long Pond. As we passed between Turtle and Slang Ponds we bumped into Linda McFarland sitting on her kayak having her lunch. We chatted with Linda for a little before continuing.
Back at our campsite we began to prep our dinner. I was hoping for a stunning sunset this evening and views of the Milkyway as well. However the clouds started to roll in and we even got a few sprinkles of rain.
September 1st 2018: I woke several times during the night peering out my tent to see if the cloud cover had given way to millions of stars in the night sky, I would not be so lucky. However the loons were very active and their call never tires.
Not long after sunrise we were up brewing coffee. For me I keep coffee simple while camping as I use instant. Fire up the Jetboil and in 3 minutes coffee is poured. Hugh and Jan prefer the drip method while camping. My go to breakfast while out in the woods is oatmeal. One cup quick oats, one small box of raisins and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
While Jan and Hugh were starting to break camp I tested out Jan’s Placid Boat Works “Rapid-fire” kevlar canoe. This beauty is 15′ long and glides very nicely through the water. It is a little different than my 12′ Hornbeck kevlar/carbon canoe but both are great boats. It’s late morning now and we have our canoes packed and we begin our paddle out. But first we are headed to explore Pink Pond. Pink Pond is really and you enter it from Long Pond through a twisting channel with low water. Just before entering the channel to Pink Pond we bumped into a DEC Ranger who had just finished checking the campsite there. We had a small conversation and she was on here way.
Back at the take out on Long Pond I made two trips to my car. One with gear and the other with my canoe. Jan and Hugh would do the same. After everything was loaded onto and into our cars we said our goodbyes as I was headed for St. Regis Canoe Outfitters in Saranac Lake to take a shower.
All showered I made my way to Lake Placid for a late lunch at a BBQ place called Smoke Signals. I have never been there before so I figured why not, it was excellent. After lunch I would hang around in Placid for a little before making my way east over route 73 to the Adirondack north way. Thinking in my head I need to hit another pond I came up with Cheney Pond just outside of Newcomb, NY.
Arriving at the trailhead it is a half mile drive down a very steep, narrow, rough rutted road to the pond. I’ll admit I was wondering if I’d get out. I eased my way tot he pond discovering a family camped right near the small hand launch. Cheney is relatively small but secluded. I would spend an hour just exploring the shoreline which according to my GPS is 1.5 miles. Back in my car and again very slowly I inched my way out and found this adventure had made me thirsty. As luck would have it Paradox Brewing was only 20 minutes away in Schroon Lake, NY, I was saved!
My destination for the evening would be Lake George, NY as I was to be photographing the Big George Triathlon early Sunday morning. This is a half Ironman distance 70.3 miles. The triathlon consists of 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike followed by a half marathon. I would find a great place to car camp along route 9N in Lake Vanare for the evening.
September 2nd 2018: I slept great as I have a killer sleeping system setup in my car. And I was lakeside in Lake George by 0630 to do my part in photographing the triathlon. This would be my fourth year doing so and every year I photograph the bikes. I love doing this especially when they come into transition which can provide some dramatic images. Afterwards it was time to hit the road and head home.
This was a super fun weekend and I look forward to doing it again next year.
Michael had talked with us about taking a cruise as kind of a high school graduation present. To be honest I had no desire to take a cruise and I still don’t. However Julie being the voice of reason she usually is promptly stated how inexpensive it would be to feed Michael on a cruise as to a traditional vacation, she now had my attention.
Our trip to Florida began back on November 24th 2017 “Black Friday” as I booked our cruise online with Carnival Cruise Lines. We would fly into Tampa Bay the day before, relax at our resort by the pool with drinks and set sail to Cozumel Mexico the next day.
Fast forward to February 2018 as I received an email from Carnival stating that they had changed our port from Cozumel to Havana Cuba I re-read the email a dozen times to make sure I was reading it properly and each time I became more upset. I approached Julie about it and she was equally annoyed. We stewed on it for a few days and came to the conclusion that it might not be all that bad. So chatted with the boys and they seemed on board as well. Heck if there are palm trees Michael is all set.
Several days later Julie being the researcher she is began diving into the specifics of traveling to Cuba. First our enhanced drivers license would not work and we would need passports. There is an additional $500. Next she discovered due to the relationship with the United States, Cuba would require us to purchase additional visa’s to even get off the boat, another $300. Then once off the ship we would not be permitted to roam freely and would have to be with a tour group. Even with the tour group you couldn’t breakaway. For example if Tourist A wanted to visit a certain shop or restaurant everyone would have to visit the same place, another $600 for the tour.
So on top of the flights, Cruise, hotel cost we would add another $1,400 to our trip. We were not happy to say the least. So we talked about it and decided to cancel the cruise. We had put a $600 deposit down the day of booking and the remaining was due by June. I contacted Carnival and they returned $400 of the $600 and we decided to just visit Florida instead since we already had the flights paid for and at least the first nights hotel.
I’ve never personally used Air BnB, VRBO or Home Away so I jumped online and began to search places near Tampa to stay. Long story short I found a great condo in St. Pete’s Beach only a 5 minute walk to the beach, two bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, living room and a back patio. I contacted the owner and our dates were available since it would be August. Let me just say the the cost of the condo for 4 nights and a car rental was just under a $1,000. I didn’t know what to expected when we arrived at the condo since I only saw pictures of it online. We opened the door and the place was awesome, clean and comfortable. Definitely felt like a home away from home.
The goal for this vacation was to have fun and just relax and and not try to cram 4,000 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag running around here and there. This actually felt like a vacation. We visited the Tampa Aquarium, took a guided kayak tour of Florida’s Shell Key Preserve, enjoyed a lot of food, beer & ice cream, went to a Waterpark with my cousin whom I have not seen in several years and relaxed a bit on the beach. I even read two books. Heck I barely took any photos.
Julie the boys and I had a great time and Michael has expressed possible interest in living in St. Pete’s during next summer.