Wednesday, April 29, 2015

FREE camp for young adults with cancer & their families

Indian Rock Camps (AKA Camp Clearwaters), located in pristine Grand Lake Stream, Maine will be hosting a completely FREE week at their camps for children and young adults (up to 40 years old) with cancer and their families. While there exist several children’s cancer camps in Maine, none allow admission by young adults, until now! Jo-Anne and Ken Cannell are happy to host this annual CELEBRATION OF LIFE in loving memory of their daughter Gretchen, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 12 and bravely fought this fight for 14 years. The camp is free for Maine residents and reservations will be honored on a first come first serve basis. For more information, or to secure one of the limited spots please contact Jo-Anne Cannell at 207-796-2822, 1-800-498-2821 or by email at:

Monday, April 27, 2015


The son’s strokes are inexperienced, the father whispers instruction and the paddle digs deeply into the gin-clear waters. The child smiles, as the kayak slides effortlessly across the glass calm lake. A brilliant sun crests the horizon, igniting the morning sky. The man having seen a thousand sunrises relishes in his child’s enjoyment of the exquisite sight. Trout ripple, ospreys soar, a beaver tail slaps . . . the boy intently watches in silent awe. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wildlife Quiz - Black-Capped Chickadee

The black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), know more commonly as simply “Chickadee”, may be found in a wide diversity of habitats, including mixed woodlands, field edges and marshes to residential neighborhoods. Boasting an impressive range, Chickadees may be found throughout the United States and even as far north as Alaska and the Yukon. Though capable of over thirteen distinct and complex sounds, the chickadee’s name was derived from its most commonly known chick-a-dee-dee-dee vocalization. Though seemingly a simple sounding call, scientists have determined that through these five notes, chickadees can communicate to the other members of the flock potential threats, food sources, location and group movements.

Chickadees are notoriously tolerant of humans, easily tempted to take food from a person’s hand. This curiosity along with their endearing over-sized heads and diminutive bodies make the chickadee a favorite at birdfeeders. The chickadee’s popularity is apparent, as it serves as the state bird of both Maine and Massachusetts, and as the provincial bird of New Brunswick, Canada.

Caterpillars, small insects, seeds and berries comprise the diet of the Chickadee, with black oil sunflower seeds a winter favorite to be scoffed from winter bird feeders. Chickadees commonly hide food items for consumption at a later time when other food may not be as readily available.

The chickadee mating season starts in April and ends in Jun. The male chickadee contributes greatly to raising the young by providing food to the female and to the young throughout the entire brooding cycle. Clutch sizes very from between 6-8 eggs, deposited in nests usually constructed in the protected hole of a tree. Young develop rapidly and typically leave the nest 10–15 days after hatching. The maximum recorded lifespan of a chickadee is twelve years of age but in the wild, due to high rates of predation, rarely survive longer than a few years.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the distribution of the chickadee?
2. In what habitats can chickadees typically be found?
3. What are chickadees able to communicate through their seemingly simple vocalizations?
4. In what US States do chickadees serve as the state bird?
5. What comprises a majority of the chickadees diet?
6. When is chickadee mating season?
7. How many eggs do chickadees typically lay in a single clutch?
8. What is the maximum age of a chickadee?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. Chickadees may be found throughout the United States and even as far north as Alaska and the Yukon.
2. Chickades may be found in a wide diversity of habitats, including mixed woodlands, field edges and marshes to residential neighborhoods.
3. Through their seemingly simple vocalizations, chickadees can communicate to the other members of the flock potential threats, food sources, location and group movements.
4. The chickadee serves as the state bird of both Maine and Massachusetts.
5. A majority of the chickadees diets is comprised of caterpillars, small insects, seeds and berries.
6. Chickadee mating season starts in April and ends in Jun.
7. Chickadees lay in a typical clutch between 6-8 eggs.
8. The maximum recorded lifespan of a chickadee is twelve years of age.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Free an ATV with the “Z”

The hour was late and in attempting to hurry back to camp, I inadvertently misjudged my ATV’s ability to successfully navigate a sizeable mud filled obstruction and was immediately and hopelessly mired. Having suffered through multiple back operations and lacking a wench, I was in the middle of contemplating the long and arduous walk back to civilization when I suddenly remembered I had some rope and several carabineers packed into the back seat of the ATV. Equipped with the right tools and knowledge, even the most basic equipment can be fashioned into a simple machine able to greatly add to a person’s ability to maximize their strength, both reducing fatigue and the potential of personal injury.

The z-pulley system, learned during my experiences mountaineering on some of the highest peaks in North America, is commonly used in wilderness rescue situations such as rescuing a climber trapped in a crevasse. The “Zs” practical applications, however, stretch well beyond the mountains. In the back country, the “Z” is useful for hauling out mired ATVs, pulling a moose out of the woods and even for recovering a boat pinned in whitewater.

A simple arrangement of ropes, carabineers and pulleys, the “Z” provides a three to one (1 pound of force to move 3 pounds of weight) mechanical advantage, allowing heavy objects to be moved with limited manpower. Similar in function to a block and tackle system, the “Z” employs the use of (1) a length of high tensile rope approximately 100 feet long, (2) two pulleys, (3) two shorter lengths of rope of smaller diameter than the main line for tying the two prusik knots and (4) a length of high tensile rope for attaching the “Z” to the anchor.

To set-up the Z-pulley system:
1. Establish an immovable anchor capable of supporting the full weight of the intended load.
2. Thread rope through pulley #1 and pulley #2 and tie rope to ATV.
3. Using a smaller diameter piece of rope, tie prusik knot #1 a few feet in front of the ATV on the main rope. Attach the smaller diameter rope to pulley #1 using a carabineer or simply tie it into the eye of pulley #1.
4. Using a smaller diameter piece of rope, tie prusik knot #2 a few feet in front of pulley #2 on the main rope. Attach the smaller diameter rope to pulley #2 using a carabineer or simply tie it into the eye of pulley #2.
5. Attach pulley #2 to the anchor point using the smaller diameter rope and carabineer or simply tie it off to the anchor point.
6. The operator then pulls on the free end and adjusts the placement of prusik knot #1 as needed. When operating the “Z” system, constant attention should be paid to the anchor, movements of the ATV, and the condition of the main rope.

To help mitigate these dangers, people should be well clear of the ATV, anchor and lines unless they are operating the “Z”. It is also advisable to attach a jacket or life vest to the end of the main line close to the ATV to decrease the chance of the line breaking free and creating a serious flying hazard. Should the main rope slip out of the operator’s hands or the operator need a break from hauling, prusik knot #2 is in place to arrest and hold the position of the main rope, keeping the ATV from recklessly falling back into its beginning towing position. This mechanical safety, however, should be cautiously trusted.

While the “Z” hauling system can be set-up to function using carabineers instead of pulleys, the mechanical advantage is much less due to the added friction caused by the rope running through carabineers. The added money for a couple pulleys is well worth the investment. When buying pulleys for your “Z”, it pays to buy a special climbing pulley like the Petzl Oscillante. Climbing pulleys are able to be easily clipped on and off the main rope, while standard pulleys require a user to thread the main line through them to place them in the correct position. Costing under $20, climbing pulleys are a thrifty investment that greatly simplify setting up and dismantling the “Z” system.

Practice makes perfect, so before venturing into the backcountry and suddenly needing to set-up the “Z” (likely in the dark and during a thunder and lightening storm), I caution individuals to first setup and operate the “Z” first in their backyard as this tends to decrease frustration and increase safety.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Stay Warm and Comfortable Flyfishing this Spring

After long months of inactivity, anglers anxious to fly fish open waters would be well served to make a pilgrimage to Grand Lake Stream (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, B-4). Open April 1st to fly fishing only, hoards of anglers descend upon the stream, drunk on the prospects of pulling fat silversides from the stream’s turbulent, ice cold waters.

Fishing is often fast and furious during the first three weeks of April, with hungry salmon eager to bite hard on any imitation smelt patterns. Widely considered one of the top landlocked salmon rivers in the state, Grand Lake Stream regularly produces salmon of between 16 and 20 inches in length, with larger fish always an exciting possibility. Regulations set a length minimum for salmon at 14 inches and a one fish bag limit on salmon. The dam pool is by far the most popular (and also most crowded location) so those wishing for a quieter and more pristine experience, it is good to explore other areas of the stream.

Those new to the “stream” will be well served to hire a Maine guide to help them identify the best fishing spots and pick a winning combination of line, flies and gear to ensure a successful and rewarding fishing trip. No matter what your skill level, the local Professional Maine Guides, having worked these waters their entire life, will depart upon you some new understanding that will make you a better fly fisherman. The Grand Lake Stream Guides Association ( is an organization composed of local Registered Maine Guides striving to continue the traditional standards of the guiding in the Grand Lake Stream area. This devoted group of professional guides is dedicated to promoting a quality, ethical and legal outdoor experience for all. Guides can be procured through the local fishing lodges or contacted directly through the “members list” on the guide’s association website.

My Uncle Charles "Kim" Vose and Cousin Brett Vose (207-796-5403) are both long time Grand Lake Stream residents, guide association members and in my slightly biased opinion, two of the best guides in Washington County. If looking for a fishing guide in Grand Lake Stream make sure to give them a call! 

Anglers arriving later in the month would be well served to explore additional fly fishing areas in and around Grand Lake Stream. Another destination, a short drive from Grand Lake Stream, is the impressive St. Croix River, open to fly fishing beginning April 15th. Two spectacular options exist on the river, both offering pools and riffles prime for fishing salmon and trout. The first location exists in the small town of Vanceboro (Map 46, C-3), approximately a quarter mile down river from the Vanceboro dam; anglers will find ample 16-18 inch salmon and 13-15 inch native brook trout, ravenous from their long winter spent under the frozen surface of Spednic Lake. The second fishing location exists in Princeton (Map 36, B-2), about a half mile down river from the Grand Falls Dam. Here in this pool, landlocked salmon congregate, having dropped down from Big and West Grand Lake in search of forage.

Fly fishing this time of year can be a struggle, as the combination of cold and wet takes it toll on those unprepared to meet the challenge. Cold water zaps heat from the body 25 times faster than air so it is critical that when fishing, care is taken to stay warm and dry. Maine’s spring is notoriously fickle and daily temperatures can range from below freezing to mid 60s. Being prepared with insulated waders, gloves, hand warmers, layered clothes, good food and hot coffee can make sure anglers remain comfortable as well as safe. A mistake made by many anglers is fly fishing with the same waders used during the summer. These waders are simply ineffective when compared against the larger and more insulated waders designed specifically for warmth and with over-sized boots to better accommodate heavy socks and heater packs.

Feet are typically the area most susceptible to the wet and cold and even in the extreme cold, feet usually sweat and sweat will make feet damp and chilled. Wearing more socks will not make feet warmer but will instead impede circulation. Instead, a simple two-sock system should be used comprised of a thin nylon/spandex “liner” sock (no cotton), used to wick moisture away from the skin, and a second thick wool/nylon sock, for warmth. Care should be taken to ensure toes can still wiggle within the wader, as a restrictive fit inhibits blood circulation, making feet cold. On very cold days, chemical heat packs placed between the two socks provide additional warmth for very little bulk. Though I have yet to try them, several hunting friends raved about the effectiveness of the new Thermacell boot heaters in keeping their feet warm during late season deer hunting.

Fingers are the second body part that will suffer in the cold. I carry at least two pairs of gloves so that I can replace them if I get a hand wet unhooking a fish. Synthetic, hydrophilic gloves constructed of neoprene or fingerless wool gloves are the most popular options. In extreme cold, I will put chemical heater packs in both my pockets to warm fingers quickly if they take a dunking. The obvious trick to successfully fishing in gloves is practice, learning how to effective fly fish while wearing them. A couple quick practice sessions at home on the lawn go a long way in learning what works and what doesn't before venturing a field.
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