31 March, 2009


Was thinking recently about some outdoor things I'd still like to do. Some are big hairy goals, others I may even pull off this year. So, here's the list at the moment:
  1. Try telemark skiing; looks so graceful!
  2. Fish a big western river; Colorado, Montana, Idaho or something.
  3. Downhill mountain biking at a ski resort.
  4. Grouse/woodcock hunting in NW lower Michigan.
  5. Do a triathalon; even one of the mini ones.
  6. Catch and land a big muskie.
  7. Heli skiing in British Columbia or Alaska.
  8. Midnight mousin' for big trout on the Pere Marquette.
  9. Catch a salmon on a fly.
  10. Ride a full century (100 mile ride in a day).

Some of these seem pretty doable soon. Others maybe within a few years. And still others may be lifetime goals. But it was cool to think about the list.


30 March, 2009

Change of Seasons

Seems we're in the midst of my least favorite time of year in Michigan. Ski season's over. Too cold to ride my bike yet. Fishing's somewhat slow unless you want to drive three hours. Small game season's basically over. And the weather's so unpredictable -- plan for lousy weather and it turns out decently.

But I seem to be able to always find something to do. Shooting range seems to be the activity of choice this time of year. As long as it's not raining too hard, it works. Had a nice, and very uncrowded, morning at the range on Saturday. Even shot the CZ on the 100 yard range and learned some lessons about the velocity of .22 ammo. Nice drop!

Did some re-rigging of fly gear for May steelhead/trout trip to the UP, and even some outside household chores before yesterday's mix of rain and snow started. Hoping for some good hard rain to clear the roads of winter debris and temps consistently over 50 degrees to get my bike out in the next couple weeks.

Enjoy whatever you're doing to pass the time in this transitional season!


27 March, 2009

More Gear

OK, a few more faves...

iPod 2Gb Shuffle
It looks cool. It clips on about anywhere. It's small. It holds a ton of tunes. And it's cheap. What more could you want? Well, now I see the new one's even smaller, holds more and costs only ten bucks more. Wow. Great for skiing, at the gym, even love it in the car.

Springfield XD Handgun
I enjoy guns I shoot well. And I shoot this one really well. Mine's a full-size in 9mm in the older (non "M") series. The grip safety is a nice advance over the Glock design and adds a measure of safety. Whenever I shoot this gun, I'm glad I own it. Easy to maintain, too. Strips for cleaning in about 30 seconds. I'm curious to try the big brother in .45 ACP sometime.

Line Prophet 100 Skis
I live in the Midwest, so I don't get them out a lot. But when the conditions are right, these rock. My last outing was two days of 8" of fresh pow and they were just superb. Haven't had the chance to get them to UT for powder days (man, I wish I was there this week -- 21" at Alta!!!) but they seem like they'll be a great tool. For a powder ski, they're surprisingly versatile. Only thing that doesn't seem too work is serious hardpack and ice - only because they chatter.

Simms G4 Jacket
The best GoreTex shell I've ever owned. Super-functional with a zillion pockets all in the right place. A well-designed hood for the really bad days. And the GoreTex ProXCR seems like it will be virtually indestructible. Plus, it's orange and it looks cool. It's Simms. Need I say more?

Custom Bootfit
I had a MUCH more comfortable and high-performance ski season as a result of Rob Parent of Sun and Snow. I've had mid-range bootfits, but never the whole deal -- carbon fiber heat-molded footbed and all. Over several sessions, Rob stretched, ground, tweaked, and manhandled my boots until they were like slippers. Slippers that deliver AMAZING energy transfer to my skis. Think about turning and WOOSH! there you go! And, surprisingly not very expensive.

Ross Essence FS Rod/Reel Combo
Mine was $130 -- rod, reel, backing, line, leader. Tie a fly on and go fishing. For the price, you can't beat it. Sweet little rig (mine's 5/6 wt.) that works on a lot of streams. If you're thinking about dabbling in fly fishing, I highly recommend this as a place to start.

Smartwool PhD Light Ski Socks
During the bootfit, I found out I was wearing socks that were too thick. So I switched over to these. Amazing the difference a good, comfortable sock makes. Feet stay warm and cozy, boots fit great! Best $20 you'll ever spend!


25 March, 2009

Mind Your Manners

Every outdoor pursuit that interfaces with others has some etiquette. Whether it's the singles line at a ski lift, the three-second between rounds rule at a shooting range, not being a "hole hog" on a trout stream, giving others the first shot upland bird hunting, letting cyclists know you're going to pass them -- whatever. They all have some social norms that make it more pleasant (and often safer) for others.

But like much of modern life, it often seems there are those who have no manners. Or maybe they don't know the simple etiquette. Given the rudeness one seems to run into in day-to-day life, more likely the former.

If you're learning something new, whether from a guide or instructor, or just a knowledgeable friend it's often worthwhile to ask about some of these things. Most folks who've been active in a sport or pursuit know what they are and would happily share so it's better and safer for everyone. But in many cases these norms are subtle and not noticed by newbies.


24 March, 2009

Operation Paper Puncher - Part Deux

Took the CZ 452 .22 rifle to the range on Sunday for some fine-tuning and testing. I couldn't be happier with the results. For such an affordable rifle, it shoots incredibly well, and with some low-cost modifications -- even better!

Started on the 25-yard range and was hitting dime-sized groups very quickly. Trigger kit (from Eric Brooks) brought pull down to about 1-1/2# which was perfect. New Bushnell 3-9x scope seems to adequately clear the bolt, although I may look at taller rings so I can adjust fore-and-aft a bit more.

Moving to the 50-yard range I was able to stay at about a 1" to 1-1/2" group. Nice!!!

Interesting variable was ammunition choice. CCI Stinger is clearly the best choice for this rifle. Accuracy fell off considerably with lesser CCI or Winchester Wildcat. Fortunately, when you're shooting something as small as a .22 more costly ammo is still pretty affordable. The beauty of rimfires!

Couldn't be happier with the performance of this low-cost rifle. And it's a great way to really work on my own marksmanship without worrying about recoil and with knowing that the rifle shoots better than I'm capable of. Fun project and a great way to pass a nice afternoon outside!


20 March, 2009

Helmet Up!

This week's news of Natasha Richardson's seemingly minor fall and its tragic outcome was sobering. I was a late arrival to a helmet for skiing, but now I'm a firm believer. I've heard multiple doctors comment that had she been wearing a helmet, things would have turned out very differently.

While I avoided helmets for a long time -- thinking they made me uncool somehow -- I got one a couple seasons back and now really enjoy it (a Giro G10). It's warm when it needs to be, ventilated when it doesn't. Super comfortable. And with the SkullCandy TuneUps connected to my iPod Shuffle, I even have my own little audio environment.

So, if you're not skiing in a helmet, maybe this event will get you thinking about it. BTW, when you do, I highly recommend purchasing from a local shop with knowledgeable staff. Proper fit is important and it's surprising how much that varies from brand-to-brand.


13 March, 2009

Motown Mumbling

OK, this isn't really about the outdoors, but it's on my mind...

If you haven't been following the whole chain of events with Detroit City Councilwoman Martha Reeves comments regarding the free Jay Leno performance at the Palace of Auburn Hills, you should. Fascinating. And indicative of SE Michigan's problems.

I love Detroit. I go downtown to Eastern Market to buy meat and produce, I love a Tiger game at Comerica Park, the BBQ at Slows, late-night coneys at Lafayette, Motown Brewing Co's great beers and comfy atmosphere, visiting the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Detroit is gritty, industrial, and cool.

I live in the suburbs. Yes, Councilwoman Reeves -- I drive in and spend my money in the City of Detroit. Yet you say the suburbs "don't matter" and all that's out here are shopping malls.

To make a media show out of the fact the Leno is performing in Auburn Hills (part of the Metro Detroit AREA) rather than in the City of Detroit is pointless, divisive, and makes this region look foolish. And, by the way with the NCAA Final Four at Ford Field, there's really no venue large enough in the City that's available. Plus, don't we have bigger fish to fry just now?

This is the sort of malarkey that makes moving to Manistee or Baldwin and spending more time on the rivers and in the woods so attractive.

Rant concluded.


10 March, 2009

Summer's Coming!

With my return to cycling, and re-discovery of fishing, I'm finding I like summer a whole bunch more than I used to. And last week, we started to glimpse that it was coming. Not sure what it was, I could just tell.

So many cool things I'm looking forward to. Riding bike on a weeknight on Huron River Dr. Late summer Kings in Ludington (at left). Small-mouth bass on the Huron. Tiny trout creeks in the UP.

Was out with a friend last night whom I shoot with a lot and we were talking about how much we're both looking forward to not freezing our a$$es off at the range. Nothing like sitting still, leaning on a concrete bench in the cold to chill you to the bone. We're both looking forward to that nice 70 degree day where we can slow down, shoot the 25-, 50-, and 100-yard ranges progressively. Maybe shoot some clays, too.

I think I'm most looking forward to cycling. I hate riding cold, so I just STOP in the cold seasons. Nothing quite like a ride on good hot day. Just feels right. Time to get tuning things up! Seems perfect for Spring weather -- 40's and drizzling right now.

Oh, and I'm looking forward to flip-flops again. Love my Reef Mick Fanning's! Comfy and with a built-in bottle opener.


06 March, 2009

Fish On!

All fired up for UP fly fishing after presentation from Brad Petzke of Northern Waters (http://www.riversnorth.net/). Learned about Atlantic salmon in the St. Mary's, the Escanaba river, and how great the Manistique is for steelhead in both Spring and Fall. Also the Sturgeon, which I fished with Dad and buddy Paul last year. Pretty setting.

Now I'm eager to get back up there. Trip planned in May for trout and steelhead. Working out the logistics with Dad now. I think I will want to spend a good bit more time up there this year to take advantage of the unique fishing.

If you're in the Ann Arbor area, I highly recommend the speakers series at Colton Bay Outfitters. Thus far I've attended Kevin Feenstra's on swinging flies for steelhead, Tommy Lynch on midnight mousin', and Brad's last night. Mike Schultz has done a top-notch job of assembling great talent for this series. I've learned lots and gotten much inspiration from this series.


02 March, 2009

Project Paper Puncher

In recent months, my .22 target rifles have become a favorite platform for tweaking. And the results have been impressive. Ammo is cheap, and with minimal recoil, I can focus on shooting and improving both my performance and the rifle's.

Last summer I added a CZ 452 bolt action in .22LR. If you haven't looked at CZ's, they're well-worth it. Beautifully constructed, and very affordable - mine was under $300. Right out of the box, they're a solid investment.

Naturally, I couldn't leave well enough alone...

After some online reading, I decided an Eric Brooks trigger kit to bring the pull down, and take up the creep a little would be a good investment. For $30 it's a can't-lose mod. Crisp, light, super-short pull.

Then a Montana sling, which necessitated replacing the sling swivels with some Uncle Mike's. The sling is beautiful and just adds to the aesthetic, even if it's not really functionally necessary for a bench shooter. And again, didn't cost much.

I'd originally planned to just shoot this one with iron sights. But then a friend gave me a cheap scope and I figured out that optics on an accurate rifle like this were just a ball. So, this weekend I added a Bushnell rimfire scope. Was planning to to go the range on Sunday, but 15 degrees in 25 mph winds didn't really sound like a fun day shooting on a concrete bench. Maybe next weekend.

The end result is a minimal investment in a rifle I truly enjoy. It looks great, shoots even better, and brings me hours of entertainment.

But there is one more thing. I think an R&D machined trigger guard to replace the lousy stamped steel stock one is a must-do. It's the one aesthetically clunky thing on this otherwise exceptional firearm.

Shoot straight.