Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Visit From St. Nick (a poem)

Heard this from one of my cigar buddies and just had to repost it here!

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the flat I was all on my lonesome, except for the cat;
Earlier that evening, when I got home from work, My girlfriend was waiting, just to call me a jerk;
She called me insensitive, she called me a lout, She called her new boyfriend to help her move out;
Then before she left, just to "even the score," She flushed every cigar from my humidor.
With the smoke shops closed and an Arctic wind blowing, My girlfriend gone and my john overflowing,
I settled on the couch with my old cat Frisky, With lots of self-pity and lots of Scotch whiskey;
Because of the stress, or because of the booze, It wasn't too long before I started to snooze,
But I was not destined for a long winter's nap, When Frisky dug in his claws and sprung from my lap.
As I grabbed at my crotch and screamed out in pain, Thoughts of kitty homicide danced in my brain;
Then I heard a commotion from out on the street, Undoubtedly the noise that caused Frisky's retreat;
I went to the window and lifted the blind, And seriously thought I was losing my mind;
On the street a fat midget all dressed in red, Drove a team of small reindeer pulling a sled.

Whether real or not, onward he came, Whistling to his deer, calling each by his name,
"Now, Cohiba! now, Hoyo! now Monte and R.J.! On, Bolivar! on, Sancho! on, Upmann and El Rey!
To the top of the stoop! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As if sensing my need for a little more proof, Santa and his reindeer flew up to my roof.
I decided to embrace this psychotic break, Fighting these visions would be a mistake,
So I faced the fireplace where I knew he'd arrive, And out flew Santa like a bee from the hive;
I said, "welcome Santa, to my humble home." He replied, "who are you and where is Ramon?"
I told him that Ramon had sold me his lease, And retired to Miami to live with his niece.
Santa started to turn and his bag fell agape, Revealing boxes and bundles of familiar shape;
Then I noticed the robusto clenched in his teeth, Sending out the aroma of aged Cuban leaf;
I said, "don't leave yet", pushed him back in a chair, "You've a long night ahead, and it's freezing out there."
Then I ran to the kitchen to fix him a bracer, A cup of scotch and a sugar cookie chaser.

St. Nick must have thought it was juice from the udder, He shot down four fingers and started to sputter,
His nose and cheeks glowing a redder rose than before, He handed over the cup and asked for some more;
As we drank, he must have seen my look of despair And noticed my humidor, open and bare,
Because he handed me the most wonderful thing, An eight inch cigar with a fifty-four ring!
The wrapper was rich brown, like coffee with cream And smoother than silk with no visible seam;
A thin layer of oil caused the whole thing to glow, Like a deep polished wood, or moonlight on snow,
And the aroma it emitted was so rich and sweet, My brain almost mistook it for something to eat;
Once lit, the draw was neither too loose nor too tight, With a burn so slow I could smoke it all night.
And the flavor! How can I describe perfection? I have never smoked such a complex confection;
I could taste sugar and spice, wood and coffee, There was pepper and chocolate, cinnamon and toffee;
Each draw brought a different blend to the flavor, Some unique combination for my palette to savor;
Somehow each draw I took was able to surpass, The complete perfection of the draws that had past.

I said, "Santa, I have never smoked such a brand, But I noticed your picture here on the band,
And 'El Rey del Norte,' I assume that is you, Does this mean your days making toys are all through?"
Santa smiled a sad smile and slowly shook his head, "I fear the demand for hand-made toys is dead;
My elves are 'Old World' and stuck in their ways, They know nothing of computers or video displays."
"We let the parents take over, we thought we could rest, But we found that work is what elves like the best;
Then the idea hit me -- retrain all of my elves, And premium cigars could fill Santa's shelves;
I've been flying folks out of Cuba since '59, So I called in some markers, I asked for their time;
I flew a few dozen experts up to the Pole, To educate my elves in the art of the roll!"
"Now each year Cuba loses some of its best leaf, And no one has been able to capture the thief;
With this tobacco and skill, and magic and mirth, My elves roll the best cigars on the face of the earth;
I consider this 'recovery,' it's not really theft, Most of my product goes to Cubans who left,
Like the guy who once live here, your old pal Ramon, These folks deserve something for losing their home."
"My supply is quite small, It's used once a year, It's a really good workout for me and the deer;
I'd like to include you, but what can I say? Maybe if production increases some day."
Well I was not about to let opportunity pass, As Santa talked I kept refilling his glass,
And when his speech slurred and his voice became thicker, I discovered that elves could not hold their liquor.
By the time Santa left he was totally pissed, As an "Honorary Cuban" I was put on his list!
He restocked my humidor, it was filled to the brim, And he promised that next year he'd restock it again;
I helped him up the stairs and into his sleigh, He wouldn't be driving, the deer knew the way,
And as I watched the old elf fly into the night, I thought, "what a great Christmas, now who has a light?"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays everyone

I can't believe how fast the holidays have snuck up on me. Ive been working everyday, and will be until christmas. Christmas eve/xmas morning ill spend with my dad and family, and then the day after christmas ill be heading to Green Bay to visit even more family for the weekend with laurie. I hope everyone has a great holiday, and to those who are like me, make sure you get a chance for a good cigar and a few too many great drinks!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why Cigars?

I often get asked why i am so into cigars, whats the appeal, etc. I figured as i sit here smoking a Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic Toro (a cigar i highly recommend) that i would answer some frequent questions i get about this hobby.

So, onto the main question, why do i smoke cigars? Cigars bring a lot of pleasure to my life on multiple levels. First, as most people that really know me are aware of, i tend to be on the anxious side and fairly stressed in general. Cigars were the first thing i found that really makes me sit down and relax and just take it easy. When having a cigar, there are many things to kick back and enjoy. From the fantastic flavors and aromas that different tobaccos from different countries possess, to enjoying a totally hand made product that takes an amazing amount of skill to put together. So much thought and skill goes into each and every cigar, from the care it takes to grow,dry, ferment and age the leaf, to the actual blending of the cigar, and then finally onto the construction.

Yes, there are some health concerns when it comes to cigars, but i feel that as long as consumed in moderation, its something im willing to deal with. Cigars arent an addictive product like other types of tobacco, no matter what other people say about them. Ive never once thought to myself, wow, i really need a cigar right now. I can go days or even weeks without a cigar and be completely fine about it. Not that i wouldnt want to enjoy a cigar during that time, but ive never needed one like people do that smoke nasty cigarettes. The day i feel like i need a cigar on a physical level, is the day i stop smoking cigars because then it wouldnt be an enjoyable activity. The only addicting part about cigars is buying, collecting,and trying out all of the new stuff on the market. The downside being that its a bit of an expensive hobby.

Another thing about cigars that really drew me to this hobby, is the community surrounding them. I became very active in the online cigar community, and have made to be what i consider some very good friends around the world. Ive traveled across the country for cigar events just to hang out with these people, and have been humbled by the generosity of many people who share my passion for cigars.

There is always something new to learn about the world of cigars as well. Im constantly reading about whos blending what, whos putting new product out, history behind brands and about legends of the industry.

Another really fun part is trying different drinks with different cigars. A cognac may work with one cigar, but then not at all with something else. Its interesting to see which liquors/beers go with what blends.

If anyone has any questions, lets hear them!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who is reading this?

Just out of curiosity, i was wondering who out there actually reads my blog. Im sure most of my readers (if there are any) arent big cigar fans,but im wondering if anyone reads my reviews. Ill still continue to post, probably most of my blogs will be cigar related, but hopefully ill be able to post an occasional non cigar blog. So, for any of you out there who read my blog, please comment! Id like to know who my readers are.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Illusione cg4

This is a cigar I've had a few times, and have really enjoyed. Illusione is a boutique brand of cigars that are Nicaraguan Puros made by Dion Giolito. The Illusione line is blended with tobacco from first generation Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 seeds. (borrowed some info on this cigar from a few different sites). The wrapper is a nice dark Colorodo with a nicely constructed cuban style triple cap.
The size im smoking is a 5 5/8inch by 46 ring, a classic corona gorda. This is a medium bodied cigar with a very bold and rich flavor. The draw is very cubanesque, with just the right amount of resistance. This is a leathery cigar with some cocoa coming through, and definitely an earthy characteristic. The espresso flavor im getting is powerful, like a freshly pulled shot from your favorite cafe. Its not bitter, but very pleasant. I think its funny that i really enjoy a coffee flavor in a cigar, yet dont yet dont enjoy drinking coffee. The finish is very long and really coats the palate. This is a complex cigar to say the least. Some of you may wonder about my tasting comments, and notice that yes, i do record reoccuring flavors among many cigars. This is probably because i smoke a lot of nicaraguan cigars for this blog and they all have a familiar taste from the Nicaraguan tobacco, but each cigar has its own unique profile, even if im getting some of the same flavors between brands.

This cigar is similiar to Tatuaje, another nicaraguan puro, but has its own unique twang to it. Illusione has much more espresso flavor, while tatauaje is much spicier. I really like the simple packaging behind this brand. Simple white band with black lettering, presented in a simple hinged cabinet box. There is something to be said for simplicity in a cigars packaging. I like a brand that doesnt have to rely on flashy packaging and gimicks to make you want to buy their brand.

Im enjoying a glass of Goose Island Nut Brown Ale with my cigar today. This is probably my favorite beer from Goose Island, and works very well with a nice full flavored cigar. The nuttyness of the beer balances out the heavy espresso flavor of the tobacco.

Overall, i recommend Illusione cigars to anyone looking for a complex Nicaraguan smoke. This cigar is great now, but also has wonderful aging potential.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo des Dieux

I hadnt planned on having a cigar today, but i was looking around in my humidor and saw this cigar that i got from my friend Andy.I couldnt resist, this cigar was just calling to me. I havent had this one before so i didnt really know what to expect. This cigar measures in at 6.1 inches by 42 ring gauge. The construction is perfect, with a pefectly applied Cuban triple cap.

This is a really elegant size in my opinion, and one that definitely gets overlooked. Im not even going to go into that much detail about this cigar other than to say it is excellent. This is a very complex medium bodied cigar with a nice woody characteristic with a very nice sweet taste. This isnt your typical cedary wood taste, this is something different that i cannot put my finger on. I am not quite sure how old this cigar is, but from how even and delicate the flavor is, im willing to say it has at least 3-4years on it. This is one of those cigars that will really benefit from this kind of aging. Once i get to the point where i can start aging boxes (when i have the money and storage space) this is one i will definitely get and hold onto for a while.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Alec bradley MAXX Traditional

Today i am smoking a new cigar to me, another by Alec Bradley called the MAXX Traditional. This is a line branching off of their regular MAXX line, but in the more traditional sizes. This one is a Toro measuring in at 6inches by 50 ring.
Wrapper-Nicaraguan Habano (a personal favorite wrapper)
Binder-Costa Rican
Filler-Columbia, Hondura, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

The draw on this cigar is great, and the wrapper has a great spicy aroma. So far on the flavor side, im getting alot of an earthy and woody taste that i think comes from the Honduran tobacco Alec Bradley uses. The ash isnt super firm, but isnt falling all over me, which is alway a plus. This cigar is smooth, and i mean really smooth. I usually like a really peppery smoke, but i think this one fits the bill when i want something not so spicy. I could definitely see myself smoking more of these. The smoke is really thick and almost chewy.

This is a really nice cigar for after lunch. Its medium bodied with a really approachable flavor profile. Im a little surprised with a habano wrapper that this isnt a spicy cigar, but that goes to show how versatile this wrapper is. You can put it on a full bodied ass kicker of a cigar and it goes great, but they you can put it on a lighter smoother cigar like this and it works just as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

H. Upmann Mag.46

The H. Upmann Mag.46 is one of my favorite Cuban cigars out there. Ive smoked through a box of them, but the one im smoking today is from my buddy Butch. This cigar has Upmanns new band on it, and i really like it over the previously used cheaper paper bands. This is a Corona Gorda sized cigar, one of my favorites.

The draw on this cigar is perfect, a cuban style draw with just the right amount of resistance. The constuction and wrapper on this cigar is flawless, with a beautifully applied triple cap adorning the head.
I havent smoked a ton of recent production cigars from Cuba lately, but im guessing this one has under a year or so on it by the taste. Yes, it has signs of youth, a little unbalanced but showing a ton of potential. With some Cubans, i feel like i am wasting them if i smoke them while too young, but i dont feel that way about this particular cigar. This one is still very good young, just not at its full potential. H. Upmann's cigars have always had this classic Cuban flavor profile to me, with tons of crisp toasted tobacco notes and lots of creamy coffee notes as well on the palate. The Mag 46 isnt what i would call an elegant cigar in the realm of Cubans, its much more wild than that with flavors that start strong and never let up. This is not an overwhelming cigar by any means, but definitely one that wakes up your palate. When you light this cigar, you know your smoking a Cuban. Cuban tobacco has a very distinctive "twang" that i have never seen replicated with any other country's tobacco.

This leads into the age old discussion of whether Cuban cigars are "better" than other cigars. In my opinion, its not that they are better, just different. Every country has a signature flavor to their blends, it just depends on what you like and what your in the mood for. If i want a big bold and spicey cigar, i usually go with something Nicaraguan. If i want something complex and creamy, i go Cuban. Its all about what you like for flavor for a cigar. There is a certain mystique to a Cuban cigars for a lot of people, the whole forbidden fruit aspect of it. It was like that originally for me, but now it just depends what mood im in and what flavors im looking for. The one thing i will give to the non cuban cigar companies though is their quality control. This is one of the areas i think that Cuban cigars can let you down a bit. I have had many more plugged (unsmokeable) Cubans than any other cigar out there, which is always disappointing, but sadly, is sort of expected when you buy a box of Cubans.

The H. Upmann Magnum 46 will always have a place in my humidor and is a must try for any brother of the leaf.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Alec Bradley Tempus Lancero

Todays cigar is a new one for me, an Alec Bradley Tempus lancero. This cigar measures in at 7.5 inches by 41 ring. This size cigar to me has always given off a feeling and look of elegance. A lot of people dont like this size though, people want a shorter fatter cigar for some reason in todays market. This cigar is made up of the following:
Origin: Honduras (Raices Cubanas)
Wrapper: Honduras
Binder: Indonesia
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras

I dont smoke alot of Honduran tobacco, but you can definitely taste the fuller flavored Nicaraguan flavors coming in over the Honduran. If you are going to make a lancero, you better be sure you have a very flavorful wrapper, because the wrapper to binder/filler ratio is so different than a more standard shaped cigar.

So far this is a medium bodied cigar, with bitter and heavy earthy flavor. The wrapper looks like a bar of dark chocolate. There is also a very woody flavor coming through on this cigar, but overall it is very one dimensional so far. That bitterness is almost like a strait espresso flavor. You need to take your time with a lancero, because of its small ring gauge. If you dont, it will burn hot and bitter. Im taking my time with it, but getting impatient. I want to like this cigar, its affordable, very nice looking, and one of my favorite sizes. Not a lot of companies are making lanceros. Overall, not what i expected, but not bad. Would i try it again? yes, but i would probably try another size since this one wasnt my cup of tea.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oliva V and Bells Porter

Tonights cigar and drink combo is one of my favorite cigars, the Oliva V and a newer beer to me, Bells Porter. Oliva V's have become one of my go to cigars over the last year, with their silky smooth and oily Sun Grown Habano wrapper. This is another Nicaraguan Puro (ive been gravitating towards Nicaraguan puros lately) that doesnt disappoint. This is a spicey cigar with an ample amount of ligero in the blend. A lot of companies are using too much ligero these days in their blends to up the spice factor, but suffering when it comes to balance. The blenders at Oliva dont make this mistake in my opinion. The other two types of leaves, seco and volado must be used to create a nice balance of spice and smoothness to round out the cigar, which Oliva does nicely. This is not a cigar i would recommend for beginners, as it is tongue tingling spicey with ample amounts of black coffee and bitter chocolate. The spice has that definite black peppercorn kick to it. This cigar is producing ample amounts of smoke with a very roasty room bouquet, and has just the right amount of tug on the draw, not too loose, not too tight.

Onto the beer. I picked up Bell's Porter on a friends suggestion, and his taste didnt disappoint! This beer is great with a full bodied cigar like the V, having its own roasted coffee flavors with a slight bitterness that really works well with this malty beer. This is an almost black porter with a tannish brown head. Smooth and flavorful b ut not overwhelming like some porters and stouts can be.

The nice thing about the Oliva V, is that it doesnt break the bank to pick one up. These are an affordable cigar that delivers. These have definitely made it into my cigar rotation and i always manage to have a few tucked away in my humidor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Halloween is probably my favorite "holiday." You get to dress up as something ridiculous and eat a ton of candy! This year i dressed as a vampire and laurie dressed up as a cat.

We went to a halloween party last saturday at one of Laurie's friends, and are possibly going out to winnebago this coming friday for another one. Tonight we carved pumpkins and roasted pumpkin seeds, which was a pain in the ass! Picking all those seeds out of the goop took forever, but the end result is very tasty.

Laurie carved a cat pumpkin (yeah, she has a thing for cats) and i did the Tatuaje logo on mine (my favorite non cuban cigar company).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nub Connecticut and Tatuaje Cojonu 03 reviews

Well, here i am, friday night with nothing to do, so its time to smoke some cigars! Laurie is gone tonight doing some stuff with her mom, and my plans fell through for the evening, so i figured i would smoke a cigar (or 2) and do some tasting notes.

I am starting with a cigar called the Nub. Yes, stupid name. Ive only had one nub before, the habano wrapper. The one im smoking tonight is the Connecticut, which i was a little hesitant to light up, as im not a big fan of this wrapper. The Nub is a very odd cigar from the get go. This size is 4 inches by 64 ring gauge (ring gauges are done on a 64th of an inch scale, so this one is one inch thick). The filler and binder are Nicaraguan. I really dont like a cigar with a ring gauge bigger than say a 54, but i figured i would give this a shot. This particular cigar is a torpedo, which makes the obsurd ring gauge a little easier to handle, as it tapers at the head. Other than the odd size of this cigar, its got a nice light connecticut wrapper that is visually appealing with no major veins on the leaf. The draw is very good, which is always a worry with a cigar this thick (thicker cigars can tend to draw too loose, burning hot and bitter). Im drinking a Dead Guy Ale , which may be on the heavy (flavor, not body) side for this particular cigar.
As far as the flavor goes, this is on the light side for my taste, especially for an evening smoke. This is a very creamy cigar, with notes of honey and a toasty flavor. The finish is on the dry side with a little bit of grassyness For me, this is much more of a cigar to have with a cup of tea in the morning or early afternoon, not with a beer like im having now. Oh well. This cigar is producing ample amounts of smoke, not surprising with the amount of tobacco crammed into such a small package. The ash is on the flakey side and the burn is relatively even. The odd thing about this smoke is that when you look at it and see how short it is, you think its going to maybe last for 30-45 minutes, when in reality these little guys last for about an hour and a half! It has about as much tobacco as a churchill (average around 7 inch by 47-49 ring).
Overall, not bad smoke, but not a favorite. This is too light for my palate, but might be ok with a cup of tea early in the day. I might have to revisit this one down the road.

The second cigar of the night is one of my absolute favorite smokes, the Tatuaje Cojonu 2003. Tatuaje is in my opinion one of the best non cuban cigar company on the market. This is blended by Don Pepin Garcia for Pete Johnson, who owns Tatuaje. Im pairing this cigar with Pyrat XO rum. This is a Nicaraguan Puro with a Nicaraguan corojo wrapper. The Tatuajes are rolled in a Cuban style, with a triple cap and bunched by an expert Torcedor in Garcia's factory in Miami. These are made in very small batches which keeps quality very high. This is a very complex cigar right from the start, with loads of spice, leather and a signature underlying flavor i find in most of Pepin's cigars that is hard to describe, but anyone who smokes Pepin's smokes knows what im talking about. This is definitely a full bodied cigar, not for everyone. The sweetness of the rum works well with this peppery cigar, a nice contrast of flavors on the palate. This cigar builds in strength as smoked, with the spiceyness changing from a black pepper to almost an allspice type flavor and an earthy note underneath the spiceyness. At about the halfway point there are some sweeter notes, but not too sweet. This is definitely a cigar that would go great after a big meal. The nice thing about Tatuajes is that they are full bodied, but not overpowering like alot of the other full bodied smokes on the market. Its strong, but still very balanced and complex, which is not an easy feat for cigar blenders. This is hands down one of the best cigars available, and if i could only smoke a few cigars for the rest of my life, this would be on the list.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beer suggestion 10-5-09

ABV: 6.2% ABW: 5.0% IBU: 35

For those of you out there that enjoy a good beer as much as i do, i figured i would start to do the occasional beer suggestion for those who enjoy my blog.
Great Lakes brewing company is out of Cleveland Ohio and makes a number of very tasty beverages. My current favorite of their beers is their Amber Ale called Elliot Ness. This is a nice malty beer with very nice crisp hoppy notes on the palate. Im no where as near as good at describing beer flavors as i am with cigars, so thats about as good as i can do as far as a flavor description. I am currently having one with an Oliva V cigar, which pairs nicely. The cigar is on the heavier side, and while the beer is not what i would consider a heavy beer, it works very well with a stronger spicy smoke.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

2 years...

2 years ago tonight i lost my buddy jon, so i smoked a RASS, his favorite cigar i supplied for our many cigar nights. I cant believe its already been 2 years, and i really miss meeting up with him for cigars, drinks, and some of the best conversations. I told myself i would smoke a RASS every year on this date, and so far ive been successful. So this one was for you bud.

Sunday, September 21, 2008



The Tetons

Well, im back in the flat boring nothingness of Illinois. Yes, im glad to b e home. No, im not glad to be out of Washington. its too flat here and the air doesnt feel/smell right. I had a great time driving back home with my dad though, other than the insanely long hours behind the wheel. He got to Washington on the 12th. He wanted to do a serious hike, so i took him to Lake Minotaur, one of the hardest, yet shortest hikes on our district. It promptly kicked his ass but he still had a good time. The next day we did some bouldering and a short hike to the tunnel i had been wanting to walk through, which we did (it smelled pretty bad in there). Monday we left and drove to Twin Falls Idaho for the night, and then onto the Tetons! We did a 15 mile hike through the Tetons on Wednesday, then it was off to Devils Tower via a drive through Yellowstone on Thursday. In the Tetons/Yellowstone we saw a moose and some buffalo. This was a 10 hour drive, and we went pretty much strait to the tower to take pictures.

We decided to drive strait through from Devils Tower to my dads in Rockford, a 15+ hour drive. We made it, with some of our sanity in check,but not much. Having someone in the car on a drive like this made an insane difference, and i didnt feel like i was going crazy all of the drive.
I got back to Dekalb on saturday, to a very excited laurie, who made me an amazing pot roast dinner. This was a huge surprise, considering laurie has never been one to cook, and it turned out very tasty!
Back to work tuesday.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008



Over the 3 months I have been out here I have learned a lot, not only about the environment and how the forest service works, but about myself and what is important to me. This list covers everything from things I have come to understand about myself and about some simple and not so simple things about the world that I hadn’t encountered/thought about before my time here. (This is a very long list. Sorry, but 3 months is a long time and a lot of things come up!)

· Peanut butter tastes good with just about everything from milkshakes to pasta

· Everything tastes better after being in the wilderness for a few days.

· I will eat lentils and falafel (not only will I eat them, but have actually come to like them!)

· After a few days in the woods, you stink, everyone stinks, and its not a big deal

· Shitting in the woods isn’t great, but you get used to it.

· A shower after 8 days out is one of the most amazing things ever.

· Radiohead is actually pretty good

· It is possible to go without getting on the internet everyday (this was kind of hard at first since the internet is my main form of communication with many people)

· The average national park user is a slob. I cant believe the amount of litter people just leave in the woods.

· Not to rely on restaurants to cook the majority of my food. I have been cooking almost all of my own meals this entire summer.

· People being late for work consistently and making me late makes me very irritated.(ok, I already knew this, but the actions of several of my crew members just re-affirmed it for me)

· Patience is still something I need to work on

· What homesick really is

· After a few weeks, you kind of forget about TV (not that I’m not looking forward to watching some stuff when I get home)

· How much I truly miss Laurie when she’s not around. Long distance relationships are not easy, but it sure makes you realize just how important the other person is to you.

· Age definitely does not dictate maturity (another one I pretty much already knew, but new examples are always popping up to really hammer this one into my head)

· Seattle is probably the coolest city ever.

· Doing your own thing and not just following what everyone else around you is doing makes some people very uneasy and confused. I don’t need to be doing what you’re doing to have fun. Im fine, worry about yourself.

· I really don’t like being bossed around. This is different from a supervisor letting you know what you need to do. That im ok with. What im not ok with is people on equal footing with me ordering me around while standing there with their thumb up their butt.

· Being talked down to makes me want to punch said person in the face.

· How to successfully work in a group, even with all the personal and character differences between group members (most of which I have highlighted above).

· I can’t grow a beard very well.

· Just how often I repeat myself

· There are things that are nice to have with you when backpacking, but you figure out pretty quick what you need instead of things you just want when you have to carry it all on your back. Small things add up to extra weight very quickly.

· I need to continue to work on getting in better shape. This summer is hopefully just the start.

· Mosquitoes in very large numbers can drive a person to just about the breaking point

· Working for the forest service is actually pretty cool, but it is the government so there is of course plenty of bureaucratic bullshit to deal with along the way.

· The average person wants to help with environmental issues; they just don’t know how to go about doing it. This just shows how important environmental education really is and that it is something that needs to be stepped up. (well, I think so at least)

This was a very long list, sorry. These are just the things that come to mind when I think about my experiences over this summer. I have really learned a lot about what it takes to get out there and make a difference in the environment, and it’s really not easy work. Also, it may piss some people off along the way. We had people get mad at us for pulling noxious weeds because they thought they were pretty. I’m sorry, but these plants are taking over the forests and pushing out all of the native plants that are very important to the ecosystem here. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty to get involved in an issue or field you feel passionate about.

What am I going to do with the knowledge and experience I have gained over this summer? I still have no idea, but I think im one step closer to figuring that out. Im thinking something to do with trees…..

blake attacking Lee.

Lee being Lee.

Yeah, thats right. real men backpack in a kilt!

Ingalls Lake

Up above Ingalls Lake

Our last trip was to Ingalls Lake. This was a 5 day trip to work on campsite restoration and minor trail maintenance. Ingalls Lake is a highly visited site in the wilderness, which means it needs that much more work done to keep it looking nice. Camping is no longer allowed at the actual lake, since there are very few places to camp around the lake and the few sites that are there are in terrible shape. The sites have been closed for some time now, and are starting to look better, but are going to need some major time to be fully restored. Our job was to make sure these sites are still coming along in their restoration and to make sure that no one is camping in them. If you want to camp near the lake you have to camp in the Headlight Basin, about a half a mile down from the lake. We did the majority of our work on these campsites. We were working on de-compacting the soil to promote vegetation to return to the areas trampled by hikers/campers. We also installed rock icebergs to stop people from enlarging the existing sites. The way these work is that you bury a big rock so just the top sticks out of the ground, that way no one can put a tent there since this rock is in the way. We put these around the edges of the existing sites to keep people camping on the already impacted soil. People tend to want to spread out; this is our way of discouraging this and saving surrounding vegetation. Also, we worked on closing user built trails in the campsites. These are trails that people have worn in going from place to place instead of using the designated trails. It looks really bad when there are 6 trails going to the same water source when one would do the trick. We close these trails by filling them with brush and rocks, hopefully keeping people off of them so vegetation will return and also directing people to the already worn in trails and helping prevent further erosion to the landscape.

The lake and surrounding area were absolutely stunning. We had an amazing view of the south face of Mt. Stewart from our campsite and during all of our hikes.

The lake and basin is surrounded by soapstone (Serpentine), which is pretty, but really damn slippery when you are trying to climb it. Our days were filled with working on the campsites, and our afternoons were spent climbing/hiking/scrambling around the surrounding rock and trails. The weather was perfect other than Friday, which was windy and cold. The first night out, Adam, another wilderness ranger I live with hiked in with his friend because they were climbing Stewart the next day. We stayed up a little later than normal drinking Yerba and looking up at the Milky Way, counting shooting stars. Our last evening out we had a visitor at our camp, another goat! This one was not nearly as obnoxious as some of the others we have encountered this summer. This being our last trip, everyone got along very well, with plenty of stories and craziness between the crew members. It will be sad to leave Washington, this place is amazing, but I am very anxious to get home to see Laurie and my family. Not being with laurie for 3 months hasn’t been easy. My dad will be here soon and we planning on doing a few hikes here, then heading to the Tetons and then off to Devil’s Tower before arriving back home.

Ingalls Peak. We climbed up the scree field to the left of the peak.

One of the hikes we went on included some major scrambling along this ridge.

Getting ready to leave. Wow does my hair look gross in this picture.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lake Josephine, Chain Lakes, and Doelle Lakes

Fog, lots of fog...

This past trip was rainy, cold, windy and muddy. It rained most of saturday and sunday, and was probably in the high 40s to lower 50s as far as temperature goes. We hiked 5 miles in on the PCT to camp at Lake Josephine, and were completely socked in by fog for most of the weekend as well. Sunday we did a 15 mile (round trip) hike up very steep, muddy terrain to the Chain lakes and Doelle Lakes to hang some signs, get rid of some fire rings, and pick up some garbage. This was the longest hike ive done, and it was pretty brutal. The 2 nights were miserable. We were so damp that it was hard to keep warm, luckily it was a short trip. I wasnt able to get alot of pictures on this trip, mostly because of rain and fog. The lakes were actually pretty amazing from what i could see of them though.

Lower Doelle Lake
Oh, we also got snowed on a few times as well. Not a very exciting trip report, sorry. Tomorrow morning i leave for my last trip out here! We are heading up to Ingalls lake to do some work on campsites and soil erosion for 5 days. Ill hopefully get one more blog up before i leave washington (leaving the 15th!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Climb On!

These 2 pictures are of the first route i did up Barney's Rubble.

I havent been rockclimbing in about 8 years, so the opportunity to get back up on a cliff wasnt one i was going to pass up! I went out with Adam, Blake, and 2 of Adam's friends who happened to be in town. Adam and his friends are damn good and very impressive to watch. I was a bit on the rusty side... We did 4 different routes, 2 of which i wasnt able to complete. We did 3 up a rock called Barney's Rubble and then one up a route called Classic Crack.
The third route i did up Barney's Rubble. This is one of the 2 i was able to complete.

I havent ever climbed a crack before, and holy hell is it different. My hands look like ive been fighting a brick wall and they hurt like hell today from learning how to hand jam. (hand jamming is where you cram your hand into the crack, then expand your hand by either cupping your fingers, flexing your thumb, or just making a fist so your hand wont slide out of the crack so you can get leverage) Granite is very rough, so cramming your hand in between the rock and then putting most of your weight pretty much takes all the skin off the back of your hand when you slip out.
Even though i only made it up 2 of the routes successfully, i was pretty happy with myself, considering i havent climbed in so long and hadnt ever done a crack climb before. The cuts, scrapes and bruises are definitely worth it! Im not sure if ill have a chance to get out climbing again before im done here, but i hope so!
Adam setting our route up Classic Crack. (which defeated me many times....)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

8 Mile lake

This last trip was for 4 days at 8 Mile lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This trip was a little different because in addition to the normal crew, we had 3 other people go with. Amelia, another intern in the forest service, Carly, a wilderness ranger, and Carlys boyfriend Jon tagged along. We went out on this trip to do some plant control on Canada Thistle, a rather nasty weed. This wasnt like our usual weeding trip. Normally when we are out weeding, we are in an area where you can just sit and pick the weeds out in the open, usually in a field. This particular weed, while still abundant, is really hard to find. It likes to spread out and hide in very thick underbrush, so finding it requires alot of bushwhacking. This made it more difficult, but more fun because it meant i got to go climbing around through the brush and jumping from fallen tree to fallen tree (i took 2 really good falls, but didnt get hurt thankfully). Saturday morning was the first day of weeding, and i was working around this rather thick patch of brush when something started to growl at me, which of course no one else heard and therefore didnt believe. Well, i couldnt see what it was, so i just kept on working. A few minutes later i came around the corner to find a nice fresh pile of bear crap, so i think i was very very close to pissing off a bear. Im glad it didnt decide to eat me.
This is the meadow we started picking weeds in, and ended up crashing around in the brush around it.

Sunday we went on a hike up to the Caroline lakes and then up to Windy pass (appropriately named, it was windy as hell). This was a 10 mile round trip hike, and it was definitely not easy. Halfway down from the pass the rain started, and didnt really stop until early monday morning, so we had a rather wet evening.
View from Windy pass
Monday was the hike out and a little more weeding. We were all working under this ridge when my crew leader suddenly calls us all over and tells us to hurry. I get over there to see a little black bear climbing around on the ridge! This was the first bear ive seen out here so i was very excited. We watched the bear climb around for a while (he was probably about 100 ft away from us), and he didnt really seem to be very interested in what we were doing, which is a good thing. Of course i didnt have my camera with me, it was in my pack down the trail and i didnt feel like wasting time going to get it, knowing if i did the bear would be gone by the time i got back.
Im off work now until friday,but then i have to work for 10 days in a row to finish up my internship! We are taking a 3 day trip, followed immediately by a 6 day trip. Monday the 8th will be my last day of work out here, mostly to turn in gear, say goodbye to everyone, that kind of stuff. My dad is flying out on the 12th to do some hiking and drive back with me. We are hoping to stop at a few places along the way too, to do some hiking and camping.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Days off

After working for 13 days in a row, we had 8 days off! I go back to work next thurs, so im doing quite a bit of relaxing before i have to strap on a backpack again. So far ive spent many hours in the hammock with a cigar and a beer, time in the lake on the kayak, and done a little bit of hiking. There is this old abandoned mining tunnel i had heard about so i went to find it, but i forgot my headlamp and only had a flashlight and it was way too dark to try to go through it with the light i had. Im going to go back to it, hopefully with a few people with headlamps so we will actually be able to make our way through.
entrance to the tunnel

Into the dark
looking back at the opening of the tunnel.

I took a day trip into Seattle yesterday, which was fun, but would have been more fun if i had someone to spend the day with in the city (Particularly laurie). I started out going to the Mac and Jacks brewery, but unfortunately they werent doing any tours that day. I picked up a few pint glasses and a growler of their African Amber Ale (soooooo good) which i pretty much finished off last night. Its only a little over 2 hours to Seattle, so not a bad drive at all depending on traffic. I also did some shopping at REI, Pike Place market, and a nice little cigar shop at the market as well. Im not sure what ill be doing for the rest of my days off, probably more of the same. Its going to be around 108 degrees today, so im hoping to go out kayaking in the lake again to cool off.

Hooray Beer!