Mental Replenishment

Started the weekend off with a massive fish fry. Hundreds of fillets of blue cat, channel cat, flathead cat, crappie, large mouth bass and sand bass were fried up, feasted upon, packaged up and passed out to friends and family. It took me just over 3 hours to fry all the fish up. Clearly I need to invest in a basket fryer. Everybody enjoyed the fish and a good time was had by all.


I was now out of fish.

That simply wouldn’t do.  Having depleted my entire reserve of fish fillets I immediately set out that evening to replenish my stockpile with a glorious night of me vs the wild currents and school bus sized logs of the Verdigris river… 10ft+ out of its banks..

I got the boat in slightly after the sun started touching the horizon. Huge logs were everywhere zipping by the calm water by the boat ramp. The smell of fresh forest rain steaming off the leaves of the trees smelled so much sweeter than the stink of fresh rain on oily asphalt in the city.  I didn’t even have any poles in the water but the stress of a busy week was already evaporating away. The sounds of rushing water and wood on wood impacts were all around me as I turned the boat up river. With all the logs in the water I set the engine on forward idle to be safe. Usually this provides plenty of power to get me moving when the river has dangerous amounts of wood floating around, but not Saturday. A quick glance at the shore line let me know that my armor plated tank of a boat was moving backwards with the current. A bit more gas and I was on my way up river, forcing sticks and logs to move over as they got in my way. After a few minutes I had made my way to my bait gathering spot and got a good chunk of shad piled up in the live well.

As I left I noticed that the inlet to the little offshoot channel I was in had some very impressively sized eddy currents swirling around. This gave me an idea..

Up river about a quarter mile was a little dry stream bed, normally covered in weeds and other assorted vegetation just off the main channel. Figuring that the water was high enough to flood this area it seemed to me that it would be a likely spot for a great night of big cats. Sure enough it was flooded… A quick sweep with the sonar showed 25 ft of water shifting to 2 feet of water over a distance of about 8 feet. Jackpot.

Ok so first off I have to explain my anchor. I fish in a lot of nasty weather because I’m insane and I’ll fish in just about any environment short of an active tornado near enough to be of concern. Because of this I have had to equip my boat with large 28 pound double pronged naval anchors. This allows a lot of flexibility to let me do whatever the heck I want where ever I want to do it. So when the first three attempts to position my boat perfectly perpendicular over that drop off, with the butt of my boat hanging in the wind of that rushing river and the nose of my boat hovering over a 2 foot deep section of calm water, failed miserably and resulted in me scrambling to hoist my anchor up while getting pushed down river I was a little annoyed. Eventually I got it hunkered down but I had to motor up, move up into that 2ft deep channel and let nearly 40 feet of rope off on the front.

By this time the sun was down. It was near pitch black with only a tiny sliver of the moon barely detectable behind light cloud cover. There were so many mosquitoes that I couldn’t use my main LED lighting arrays with serious negative repercussions.  Using my head lamp resulted in so many bugs in my face that I couldn’t open my eyes without eyeball-on-bug contact. Me being me of course though, I was prepared.  Half a can of Off, change of clothes & ATV goggles got me in business.  I quickly set about to putting lines in the water.

The thing I love about the Verdigris river navigation channel is that it’s vastly under-utilized and has monstrous catfish all over the place. When I fish this river I forgo the usual method of fishing I do at my local fishing hole near home and put out several “wishful thinking” (80lbs mono, teflon coated steel cable leaders, shark hooks the size of your fist) poles as opposed to just one.  You see it can be risky to use small tackle here because most of the time whatever bites the end of your line is going to be a big, bad monstrosity of a fish. The biggest fish of my life (43lbs blue) and my wife’s grandfather (68lbs flathead) came from this river.

I set only two poles up with small rigging in what I imagined would be a futile effort to catch crappie to use as bait, and the rest with world record class rigging. Just as I put the 3rd cat line in the water one of my wishful thinking poles hit hard. It was in one of the pipe pole holders on the back of my boat and had been tossed into the deep rushing current of the eddy area of the main channel. You see the idea behind what I call my “wishful thinking” poles is that it acts as a size limiter preventing smaller catfish from being able to physically fit the hook and bait ball in their mouth.  A 4 inch long hook with 10 shad stuffed on it makes a very attractive meal to a big cat. It’s kind of nice having several of these big tackle poles in the water because you don’t really have to pay much attention to your lines. When something hits on this large of rigging the whole boat shakes and the oversized saltwater reel screams as line gets ripped off the spool. Looking up at that solid fiberglass pole bending over on itself always gives me an adrenaline rush. I flip the LED light array on as I jump up to remove the pole from the holder and the fight is on. This poor fish had the bad luck of biting down on the biggest baddest rigged pole in my collection. My fishing buddy and I call it “the gator pole” on account of an alligator we may have had hooked one time, but thats a different story. This solid (not hollow) fiberglass pole is indestructible, the reel is the size of a folgers coffee can and the rigging can lift a semi truck tire clean off the ground. After about 30 seconds a nice healthy looking 15lbs blue cat was squawking away at me at the bottom of my boat. A wonderful start to what I planned on being a very long night of outdoor therapy.

The night went on and the hours went by. Surrounded by the ambience of the pitch black river, my only companion was culmination of a thousand sounds of nature. The anchor ropes scraping against their pulley guards as the river futilely tried to take possession of my boat added an eerie atmosphere to the whole night. The sound of a beaver munching away on some sapling so close yet not visible. The worrisome much-too-loud splashing of some creature of the deep. The frequent slams of a log on hull impact would often interrupt my light dozing off. The howl of coyotes in the distance. The ear piercing screech of some very large waterfowl I’ve never heard before on the other side of the river. Frogs humming. Giant clumps of mud falling into the water from the shore line. Cicadas by the thousand in every tree. The ever present hum of a billion winged insects in every direction. All the sounds of the night are so vivid when you can barely see your hand in front of your face.  And throughout it all the most awaited sound of the night… WHAM! THUMP THUMP THUMP BUZZZZZZZZZZ! Fish on!

As the night went on the fish fights kind of blurred together. Memories of the previous fight fight would meld into the next and the next. The dreary state of my exhausted mind combined with the frequent adrenal rush of a good fish fight in an environment of personal challenge and solitude made for an evening of ultimate mental replenishment.  Like a vision quest the 10 hours I fished in the darkness felt like an immeasurable eternity. I never looked at the clock; only the barely visible shape of the shore line to make sure I hadn’t been torn from my fishing spot and the sky for signs of the coming dawn.  At some point in the darkest part of the night when I seemed to be the furthest away from the land of consciousness and civilization I awoke from my light dozing off to the sound of a pole rattling in it’s holder. I opened my eyes and looked around to see who it was. To my horror it was my ultralight 7 foot crappie pole. This pole had no leader, no shark hook, no strength. It had 6 pound line with a size 2 crappie hook with the pole strength of a fly swatter. The pole was grossly disfigured into a shape that no longer resembled a fishing instrument of any kind. The entire length of the rod had been bent into a circle with the last two thirds of it under the water pointing under the boat.

The adrenal rush was exquisite. Wrenching the handle from the pole holder I quickly discovered that this was to be the biggest fish of the night. It’s a good thing I had a full spool of fresh line on the reel as this fish wanted to take all of it. I thought to myself.. 6 pound line.. no leader.. tiny paperclip thin hook.. I’ve got this…….  I set the drag low and began what would be the longest fish fight of my life.  The first 20 minutes the fish was the master. When it dove it took me with it. When it ran I struggled to keep up. The spool was about half empty, doing quick math I figured that was about 50 or 60 yards of line that had been pulled. My arms were getting tired, stress slowly began to replace excitement. The fight went on. 30 minutes passed by, 40 minutes.. Up river, down river, deep & shallow the fish went. An epic struggle to survive by one of the most delicious creatures on the planet. How long would the line hold up? How could 6 pound line possibly survive the abrasion of a big cat’s gaping maw. How could that little hook possibly grab enough meat to not tear through? Still line on the reel, no need to get hastey… Patience.. Patience…. At this point in my life I’ve fought enough big cats that the push and pull, take and give game of drag play has become second nature.  Without thinking my hands would switch from rapid line retrieve to drag release, retrieve release, pull and pull and pull and reel. At about the 1 hour mark the fish finally made a mistake. One last bolt swimming up river against the current was all he had left. The line went so slack I thought I had finally lost him, quickly I set to retrieve.. the dead weight of a 30 pound blue in tow. Finally I catch sight of the quarry, pole in my right hand, net in my left scooping him into the boat. Sitting back in my seat I looked at the eyes of that fish. It was as if he was looking back at me, giving me some look of recognition. Some invisible nod of approval at being caught after such a difficult and risky fish fight. The hook had somehow managed to get around the bottom jaw bone. The line felt like sand paper and was half the thickness it should have been.  For the first time I realized my left hand was shaking and my right forearm was burning with a cramp. I took a picture of it lying next to the 15 pound blue and 8 pound flathead. It dwarfed the other two so much that without a frame of reference they looked small in comparison. By all means not the largest fish I had ever caught, but definitely the best fish fight of my life. A meal of fried catfish for four, and a memory for a lifetime.

Several more cats were caught before sunup, but paled in comparison to the big fight of the night. Nothing really worthy of the tackle and bait I presented to the river. A little river turtle decided he liked my cut shad. A baby alligator gar hung around for a while eating bits of shad tails I’d toss in for him. My life jacket made a good pillow for an hour.

Finally, morning. One more cat and I’ll return to my family, to the hustle and bustle of the real world. To the responsibility and hard work required for high network uptime.

Well, I did catch one more but it wasn’t a cat. It was a very angry, very aggressive snapping turtle. Normally one would just cut the line, but I like my tackle. I got the net and scooped him up. Just as I placed him on the deck of my boat the real life river monster sprung like a coiled spring right off the carpeted deck at my mid section with and airborne snap, its’ jaw cut through a small portion of my net, and my tackle too. Boo. Lost a nice hook but gained a new appreciation for the ferocity of 40 million years of evolution.  Good thing I still had a firm grip on my net.

Rockies Retreat Weekend

Rough plan:

Depart Thursday Aug 29th after work for Colorado
Reach Woodland Park CO in time to order from the breakfast menu at McDonalds, stock up on supplies from the Super Walmart.
Head for Buena Vista.

Reach the trailhead at Alpine lake.

Alpine Lake

Reach lakeside mountain base camp friday morning. Spend day resting and relaxing, fishing, hiking,

Baldwin Lake – Base camp for Friday

Interesting things around Friday’s Basecamp:

Mount Mamma Abandoned Mine (Half mile from base camp)

Grizzly Mountain Hike (1 mile from base camp)

Ridge Hike to Cronin Peak (1.1 miles from basecamp)

Saturday: After a good rest head up mount white hike around a bit, then cross the valley over to Antero (2 miles apart)

great pics of the trip:

Antero Road

View from Mt White

View from Antero summit

Drive down mountain & head to the ghost town strip trail.

On our way to base camp 2 we will pass:

Ghosttown – St. Elmo

The Mary Murphy mine lower level

And the upper level after several steep switchbacks

Allie-Belle Mine


Iron Chest Mine

Eventually we will traverse the treacherous Tincup pass to get to Mirror Lake. I attempted this in the subaru one year and made it about half a block.

Tincup Pass summit

Reach base camp of mountain/objective #2 sometime in the evening.

Base camp for saturday evening: Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake Fish

Sunday: Leave Mirror Lake and head for base camp charlie. This will be a challenging trail with large rocks, but nothing dangerous. At the end of the trail is an area with at least 27 visible ghost town structures high up in a mountain valley. I have not been able to find any photographs or name for the area but it appears to have been a large mine.

Charlie1 Charlie2 Charlie3

download, rename this pdf to .zip and uncompress the file. import it into google earth for full view of trails and waypoints.



Traded in the Subaru.

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2007 Jeep Wrangler X Unlimited Four Door (1 year newer than the Subaru)
96k Miles (600 less than the Subaru)
V6 3.8L 21MPG highway (2 mpg less than the Subaru)
Axle Gear ratio: 4.10 (same as Rubicon, fantastic!)
Dana 44 rear axle (very happy with that!), Dana 30 front axle
Automatic Trans
Four door extended length hard top (thanks for the recommendation, you were right)
Lots of towing capacity
Mint condition interior
34.36 inch tires that don’t rub at all in a turn…
1” Body lift At least a 3-4” suspension lift
Child seat latches
Very smooth ride for a jeep (the other pre-2006 wranglers I test drove made me not want to get one at all!)
Great handling – the suspension & body lift were done RIGHT on this Jeep, very professional job.
1st gear in 4 wheel low feels like one could drive up a brick wall
Plenty of space all over the engine, super easy self maintenance
Purchased a 1yr full coverage warranty
Only 1 previous owner

Safety & Standard Features

3.8-Liter, OHV, 12-Valve SMPI V6
Availability Standard
Type & Description Six-cylinder, 60° V-type, liquid-cooled
Displacement 230.5 cu. in. (3,778 cu. cm)
Bore x Stroke 3.78×3.43 (96×87)
Valve System OHV, 12 valves, roller followers, hydraulic lifters
Fuel Injection Sequential, multiport, electronic
Construction Cast-iron block, aluminum alloy heads
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Power (SAE net) 205 hp (153 kW) @ 5,200 rpm (53.9 hp/L)
Torque (SAE net) 240 lbs-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel Recommendation Unleaded regular, 87 octane (R+M)/2
Oil Capacity 6 qt. (5.7L) plus filter
Coolant Capacity 13.36 qt. (12.64L) Std.
Emission Controls Three-way catalytic converter, heated oxygen sensors, electronic EGR and internal engine featuresMeets Tier 2 Bin 5 (federal) and LEV 2 (CA) emission requirements
42RLE—Automatic, Four-Speed Overdrive
Availability Optional
Description Electronic governor, electronically controlled converter clutch
Gear Ratios 1st 2.84
Gear Ratios 2nd 1.57
Gear Ratios 3rd 1.0
Gear Ratios 4th 0.69
Gear Ratios Reverse 2.21
Axle Ratio 4.10
Overall Top Gear 2.83
Transfer Case:
NV241 Command-Trac
Type Part-time
Operating Modes 2WD High; 4WD High; Neutral; 4WD Low
Low Range Ratio 2.72:1
Center Differential Type None





Building The Superior Quality Ghillie Suit

To build a durable ghillie you must use durable materials.Pictured here is palm tree raffia from Madagascar purchased from Hobby Lobby as “Madagascar Grass.” Each hanging color you see here comes in a bag for $5.  The dye packs are $2 each and can dye about 5 times the amount shown here. The salt cans (2) cost about $3 each. Be sure to hose down the raffia right after hanging it up before it dries out.
After allowing the raffia to completely dry using a pair of shears the grass is easily cut into manageable piles for later use. I wrap the piles individually with a couple rubber bands when not in use.
The BDU of choice is a high quality multicam with a velcro neck collar. The collar greatly helps with holding down the camo mask, shown later. The pants/jacket shown here were purchased at an army surplus store for about $60 each. Click to enlarge
Many websites sell ghillie netting and ghillie kits with cheap netting prone to fray and rott. You can easily spot the garbage from the good stuff – the garbage looks like plain nylon twine tied together to form a net.It is soft and flimsy when handled.
The good stuff is UV, abrasion & rott resistant interwoven nylon. Its strong, and has a life span longer than the BDU’s you sew it to.It is stiff and not flimsy when handled.
A lot of people suggest using dental floss to sew with, but in my experience it is a poor choice. Unwaxed dental floss is very prone to abrasion and fray. It doesn’t last very long even when glued. Waxed floss doesn’t absorb the glue and ends up with very poor adhesion.  Don’t even think about heavy fishing line.Having tried various things nothing stands up to the test of time and abuse like heavyweight nylon upholstery thread. It is abrasion, UV, mildew & moisture resistant. It also adheres to glue like a champ.
I’ve tried several different types of glues, shoe glue, Goop, rubber cement, and various fabric glues. A product called Liquid Stitch is by far the reining champ. It can be used indoors, doesn’t give off any nasty fumes and adhere’s fantastically to threads and fabrics. It’s also very flexible when it dries and can be used to “rubberize” portions of a ghillie that need extra durability (thumb loops, tie straps). Cost $6 per tube, usually requiring 4-5 tubes per suit.
I use about 90% palm raffia and about 10% burlap strips. Walmart, Academy & pretty much any sporting goods store sells pre-dyed camo burlap hunting blinds. Simply unfold it a bit and cut long strips out 5 at a time to mass produce strips. Cost $15.
Start the building process by laying your netting down on the floor stretched semi-tight and anchored down with some dumbbells or something heavy. Lay out your pants and jacket & safety pin them in place. Cut out the netting to form fit your suit as you see fit; full body for the traditional ‘walking bush’, rear only for the traditional crawl suit, or, like this build, an archery specific cutout.Once the netting patterns are completely cut out, fold the netting over the pants and jacket & safety pin them in place. It will take a long time to sew all the netting in place and the pins will keep the netting aligned while you sew.Start by sewing the perimeter or the netting to the BDU fabric. Put stitches into every single inch of that netting perimeter  anchor it down good. Once you have that done sew across large open areas of the netting and make several spot stitches within the smaller areas. The idea is to keep the netting secure but not  too tied down to the fabric. You need to leave room to tie on the ghillie material. Apply a good amount of Liquid Stitch to all visible thread.
In the picture I have attached tie down strands and rubberized them with Liquid Stitch, as mentioned above.Note the stitching on the shoulder leaves a little extra netting in the pleat gaps as well as runs along the strong seams of the jacket.
Stitch your thumb loops to the sleeves and apply a thick coating of Liquid Stitch to both the stitching and the loops themselves. You’ll need to get your fingers dirty to really rub in the glue but it’ll pay off. The loops will gain tremendous durability by the “rubberization” process.Word of advice – don’t get any glue on the hairs of your arms or legs.. Trying to remove it results in lots of pain.
One completed thumb loop (right) & one awaiting gluing (left).
Starting from the bottom of the jacket, begin attaching the dyed raffia. I have found that an index finger knuckle to fingernail is about the perfect length for spacing. You can mix up the pattern any way you wish, but my personal preference is to go with a perfect balanced mix using a color rotation as I attach the raffia.After each cluster of strands is tied I bend them down into a V so that they overlap with their neighbor strands.
The vertical spacing depends on how long your strands are. The need to be far enough away that they don’t bunch up, but close enough to overlap with the previous layer.Note – “Madagascar Grass” as Hobby Lobby calls it is very tough stuff. It looks like a cactus at first but after a about a weeks worth of trampling through the woods it will be properly conditioned & quite a bit more frayed than you see in these pictures. The ends of the raffia split and tear forming a much greater camouflage texture.
Properly tied down ghillie leaves very little of the original jacket fabric still visible. Not pictured here is the burlap, added later in random places about 10 inches apart, it really gives the suit a perfecting look. By attaching the ghillie in intentionally spaced overlapping rows you leave room to lift up a section & tie in additional material as you see fit – burlap strips, un-dyed raffia for the dead of winter, etc.
Continue up the jacket until you reach the neck & begin on the arms & front.
Once all the raffia is on tie on a few strips of burlap here & there. Don’t worry about pre-fraying it, it’ll break up REAL fast when you start moving around in the trees.In this picture the ghillie around the neck has not been trimmed yet. Depending on your choice of head covering you may want to leave or trim around the neck line.  For this ghillie I chose to make a ball cap cover out of a fully clothed (no mesh) camo lighted bill ball cap, shown later.
For the pants, build just like you did the jacket. For this suit (archery build) I would likely be spending a lot of time crouched on my knees.  The knee pads shown here are not stitched on, simply apply a large amount of Liquid Stitch to the pants, slap on your foam padding, apply some more glue & then the fabric covering.  As a bit of artistic boredom I glued on some raffia bits to the front of them to see how it’d look. I expected it to be gone within the first days use but surprisingly most of it has held up after four outings.No matter what design you go with on the pants make sure you have a section around the ankle for ghillie material. It’s very important to hide your boots if you find a need to go prone.Not required but highly suggested – suspenders. Sew & glue a sturdy set of suspenders to your suit to achieve maximum comfort and ergonomics. It’s a pain in the butt to walk around in the woods with sagging pants.
Now make your head cover. There are many ways – boonie hat, mesh, netting alone, hoodie, etc.  My personal preference by FAR is the plain jane ball cap.  I love having a bill to move the ghillie away from my eyes and to provide side curtains for my face. Unless I’m looking right at you my face is mostly obscured the entire time.It’s very easy to cut the netting for ball caps. Simply cut out 6 good sized pizza slices and sew them to the hat. Glue it up good & you’re set.
This hat happens to be one of those hats that have the dual LED lights on the front, added bonus for those times when you need a light quick.
Tie on your strands, trim around the face & eyes as needed, toss on a little burlap & you’re good.When you put on your cover run your hands along the inside of the hanging ghillie and flare it out so that it rests slightly on your shoulders. This keeps it from from your neck line.
Once in the field the gaps in the netting allow for live vegetation to be inserted. A face mask completes the camo covering for the head.
Trimmed neckline for the hat.Getting poked in the ears and the back of the head constantly is very annoying.
Archer Specific ghillie layout: Leave the bow arm bare on the inside as well as the portion of the chest that the string would be in conflict with. Even the smallest strand of raffia or burlap is enough to throw your shot a mile off as well as endanger yourself and your equipment. A simple strand of raffia or burlap left untrimmed in the wrong place could throw your string off your cams & ruin a really good day.Additionally, I leave a small elastic archers brace attached to my left sleeve to keep the jacket fabric out of the way at all times. (not pictured here) Once the brace is in place netting & additional ghillie can be applied to the back of the forearm if trimmed properly.
Brand new untrimmed & unconditioned archers guillie, pardon the messy room we’re still unpacking believe it or not.
Conditioned front.
Conditioned left.
Conditioned back.
Conditioned right.Conditioning is very important for a suit made of raffia. The suit is ready for use, but not completely broken in. Right now the only part of my suit that is conditioned to my complete satisfaction is the ankle portion. I’ll post another series of shots in a few months of the suits’ conditioning progress.
This picture shows the effectiveness of the suit WITHOUT live vegetation tied in. With live vegetation taken from the plants pictured here it the effectiveness would be ten fold. Note the use of shadow placement.Even without live vegetation in the tie downs the texturing of the raffia gives the suit a very planty-like appearance.In this picture I am in my one knee down one knee up shooting position with head tucked down.
Same as the previous picture, but zoomed in a bit so you can see me looking at the cameraman. I can see completely through with both eyes in that small space in the head area.
One of the suits I use for paintball, this one is winter only using the same material as the archery suit.
Another well conditioned light ghillie. The raffia on this suit is 3-9 years old and has seen very heavy use.

2012 Archery Season Opener

Spent two days in the woods hunting creek beds at Heyburn(Monday) and Lexington(Tuesday).

My morning hunt at Heyburn was fouled by a couple guys with beagles and shotguns stampeding through the forest hunting some sort of small game. 33 ticks from Heyburn as well, much more than in the okc area.

Lexington Went much better as I was not bothered by any other hunters and the deer sign was much more fresh and abundant. Camped a choke point creek bed crossing for several hours with no luck. Saw one set of big boy buck tracks, must have been huge. Slow stalked right by a bedded doe on the way back to the truck and didn’t realize it. Once my scent cone reached her she bleated like the sky was falling not more than 50 feet right behind me before going into warp. All in all a good couple o days hunting. My new ghillie performed as expected but I need to improve on my cover scent for sure.










2012 Iwo Jima Tank Build Log