Monday, December 31, 2012

Gear Review: Mountain Hardwear Ampato Jacket

This past week, I took an afternoon and went to GSMNP for a little personal time and to test out some new gear.  One such item was my new Mountain Hardwear Ampato Jacket.  This jacket incorporates MH's DryQ Elite fabric, which is basically GE's eVent fabric.  I am seriously pleased with this jacket, and below is my field review and follow-up review video:

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Kids First Hike

This past Friday the weather forecast was exceptional, for November, so Amy and I planned little family outing to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Our son who is four just loves going to Elkmont to hike, camp, and fish.  Unfortunately, the campground is now closed and the water is too cold for him to really wade in, but the hiking part is still doable.  The biggest dilemma was what to do with the 14 month old baby.  Enter my wife who found a nice Kelty TC 21 toddler carrier on Craigslist.  I quickly checked it out and bought it from the lady, and now we were equipped for our adventure.  As the days passed I had to find a hike that would be both easy to access via vehicle since it technically is still tourist season and the roads can become clogged, but additionally it had to be an easy hike with lots of sights to keep my son entertained.  The plan was that I would carry the baby girl, and my son would do the entire hike on foot instead of being carried.  A year ago he wanted a hiking backpack of his own, and although he uses it multiple times a week he still had not used it on a hike.  It has a 1/2 gallon water bladder and lots of storage, so by the time I loaded it with water, his rain jacket, and a change of pants it probably weighed around 6 pounds.  Not an insignificant amount of weight for a 4-yr old that probably only weighs around 40 lbs soaking wet.  Regardless, he was anxious to start on his hike like a big boy and I was ready to try out the new Kelty pack.

Additionally, I rigged my wife up with my Osprey Stratos 24 pack and it had an additional insulation layer for each of us, a backpacking cookset, safety and first aid gear, and some additional snacks. (estimated weight around 12 lbs)  My son threw on his pack, and I strapped the baby girl to my back and away we went.
Baby Sis enjoying her new ride

The plan was to hike to Walker Sister's Cabin near Metcalf Bottoms, a roundtrip hike of 2.2 miles.  The cabin itself was a one way in spur, that would the apex of the hiking trip.  I thought a good little treat would be for me to fix everybody some hot chocolate once we arrived at the cabin for a peaceful little break.  The scenery was nice, and the weather was splendid making for a beautiful hike.

I was not surprised to see other people on the trail, but I was to find a couple other families with kids on the trail.  That was nice for our son to see other kids hiking with their families, and it added to his entertainment.  It took a while for us to hike the 1.1 miles to the cabin because it was mostly uphill, although a mild gradient, due to my son making multiple stops to investigate multiple sights.
Our Son sporting his backpack and Leki Hand-me-down

Eventually, we did make it to the cabin and the kids enjoyed checking it out and listening to mommy talk about how people lived 100 years ago.
Trey ran into another little boy at the cabin and they shared stories about how they thought life was in the cabin...
Trey and his friend in the cabin
While the kids were playing around the cabin and listening to stories, I was trying to make everybody some hot chocolate to enjoy while relaxing.
Oww Oww, look at that shirt...

Eventually it was time to leave the cabin to try and make it back to the car before it got dark.  Just before leaving though I could not pass up the opportunity to filter some fresh water from the onsite spring for the return hike.  On the hike back our son started complaining that he was getting tired, but he had already walked about 1.5 miles.  We found that if he was talking to mom while walking that he didn't not notice that he was tired, it was not until there was a break in the activity that he began to get tired.  I almost think it was more of a boredom issue that a physically tiring event.  I was quite proud that he managed to do the 2.2 miles on his own, and he is already asking when we can do another one.  Additionally, the Kelty pack performed quite well considering it was a used purchase.  I estimated that the total weight including the baby girl was around 28 lbs, and the shoulder straps, back panel, and hip belt were comfy throughout the hike.  A downside is that it is bulky and heavy when empty, but it was quite sturdy and the baby girl never really complained during the entire hike.

Once we returned to the car, our son wanted to play "School" in the old schoolhouse.  It was a fun day for all of us on this family hike, and I am anxiously awaiting the next adventure...
Instructor Trey

Until next time, God Bless.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Exped Sleep System Review

About a year ago I picked up an Exped Shrink Bag since I liked the concept and design.  Later I discovered that it was made to work as a pump with Exped sleeping pads, and they have a pretty solid reputation as well.  So, recently I found an Exped Airmat Basic UL7.5 on sale and pulled the trigger along with an Exped Schnozzel.  I have been very pleased with the performance of the pad as a lightweight summer pad.  To date, I have probably used in a dozen times with the coldest night down around 45 degrees.  The pad is rated down to 55 by Exped due to the lack of any insulation, however I found it comfortable down to around 50 before I began to feel coolness from the ground.  Below is a video review of the setup and I hope somebody may find it useful.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Another Gear Review - Cross Mountain Bag

This past year has been very busy, and my fishing time has been extremely limited. With the baby girl, crazy busy work load, a new house (with yard), and a rental property to manage my time to fish has been basically non-existant. So, my way of making the most of getting outdoors has been to do some backyard camping in lieu of going to the Smokies. Throughout this time period I have acquired some new gear, and in an effort to assist others who may be looking to make a purchase I have started making video reviews. Below is my latest review of a sleeping bag that I have had for almost a year now and have probably slept in it 30 nights. Overall a decent bag for warm weather camping and it is easy enough to extent its range another 10 degrees by either adding midweight base layers, bag liner, or just adding a lightweight fleece blanket. Something I do when the temps drop is I actually use my sleeping pad with a Therm-A-Rest fitted sheet inside the sleeping bag instead of the pad sleeve. This gives a comfortable and warmer surface to lay on instead of the nylon top and bottom of the Cross Mountain. I hope this review helps anybody who may be looking at this bag.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Smokies Fall Fishing... Here Already?

Things shook out such that I had this afternoon free, and I threw my gear in the car and took off. There was a Rod Run in Pigeon Forge and Fall Festival in Townsend, so I expected there to be a significant amount of traffic. I chose to take my chances with Townsend instead of the tourist trap of Pigeon Forge. Surprisingly, I made it all the way to Elkmont quickly with almost no traffic, threw my pack on and headed up the trail. I have a couple areas up the trail that I can hit when I don't really want to go all the way up to Goshen Prong Trail, but still want to separate myself from the rest of the crowd. On the hike up I passed three fishermen, and all three told me that they had slow days and wished me luck. I thought "luck, surely it isn't that bad today". I geared up at the stream and noticed that the water was pretty low and extremely clear. I rigged up with a yellow stimulator and a barbie bug dropper, and began to pick up strikes quite quickly. Unfortunately, I was having difficulty getting a solid hookset. Eventually I figured out why, as I finally pulled a 3" rainbow from the run. I did manage to find some larger trout, but they would inspect everything I threw at them before refusing. After a couple hours, I chose to change tactics and search for staging browns. I found half a dozen in different runs just sitting there that would probably go over 18". However, I could not tempt any of them to budge from their positions (kind of suspended probably a foot above the bottom) for the appetizer I was showing them. Looking back, I wish I would have went in search for some beautifully colored brookies in the higher elevations. Although I have had pretty good luck the past few trips to the park, especially considering my extremely limited fishing time this year, I found today's fishing to be particularly difficult. Regardless, it was still a blessing to get out and enjoy the scenery as the leaves are just starting to turn colors. I expect the next few weeks will have the roads appearing more like parking lots, and I will wait until the crowds reduce before I make a return visit. Also, I have lots of new camping gear that I need to get out and put to use soon, maybe I can go down to Cherokee National Forest where the crowds are much smaller and do some fishing...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Table project is complete

In late December I chose to take on a different kind of project for 2012. We bought a house in the fall, and I thought it would be cool to build our dining table.  This project, which I will post more on later, played a key role in my lack of fishing this year. It was difficult for me to justify taking a day to fish when my family didn't have a table to eat at.  Here is a photo of the finished project, but I will post later a detailed report on how the table progressed.

Friday, June 15, 2012


My buddy Scott just got a new 3 person toon and wanted to take it out. With low flow on the tailwaters, we figured some small lake action would be a good option. Also, we wanted to try somewhere different. So, we chose to head over the mountain to Chilhowee lake. It is an amazingly beautiful deep lake surrounded by tall uninhabited mountains. It took us a while to figure out exactly what they wanted and where they were concentrated, but eventually we got into some consistent action. Scott even caught his first fish on a popper. I think he enjoyed it, I just need to get him out on an area river for smallies now.

By the way, this is my first post using the Blogger app, so I hope it works.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

We took mamaw and papaw to Fairfield Glade this weekend for a little cruising and fishing. Caught a cooler full of slab sided gills just coming off the beds. Here is are some shots of my son all excited with a couple of his fish.
It has been a very busy spring so far, and I have only been on the water once since my previous post. I hope to get out some more soon, or at least discuss some recent camping gear purchases.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Epic Quill Gordon Day

I had originally planned a trip to the mountains Sunday to watch David Knapp tie, and get a couple hours on the water. However, a change of plans for Saturday prompted the wife to suggest I take advantage of the weather and go fish. After a lengthy deliberation of about 1.5 milliseconds, I said okay.

While driving in I saw somebody in about every other pull-off either gearing up or fishing. When I arrived at the trailhead I was surprised to find plenty of open spaces. So, it appears that most everybody was focusing their efforts roadside.

I was anxious to try out some new Patagonia gear, so I had a little more clothing on than was probably necessary. Thankfully, I elected to pack in my waders and put them on after walking a couple miles up the trail.

This is where things began to get interesting....

I found this nice little run and saw one small head poke out of the water, so I decided to give it a go.

I rigged up a #12 Quill Gordon and made my first cast to the middle rear portion of the run. My fly hadn't drifted more than 2 ft before BAM! I caught this little guy.

Keeping with Buzz's posting requirements I took his picture because I figured he would be the only fish of the day. What I didn't expect to happen was to catch 5 more fish on the next 5 consecutive casts.... I actually had a group of hikers see me land the second one, and they hung around to watch me land the next four fish. Eventually they started applauding every time I landed one. I have to say it was quite an experience.

The 5th fish in the 6 fish streak was this 12" beauty that ran me up and down this little run.

I believe this is the best rainbow I have landed on the TN side of the park.

I caught a few more, but eventually wore out this run before moving upstream in search of more water. This was when I met up with RKeeton from the message board and had a nice little chat while searching for more water. I ended up walking another 3/4 mile or so upstream with less than stellar results. I caught a couple more, but there was absolutely no surface activity going on. Thinking that I may have walked above the Quill Gordon hatch range, I walked back downstream and soon got back into the action.

Throughout the day, there were not large numbers of Gordons hatching. However, of all the ones I did see bouncing on the water, none got away free. I did see large numbers of brown stoneflies in a size 16, but had no reason to switch away from the Quill Gordon.

It was an absolutely beautiful day to be in the mountains and on the water. I would hate to speculate as to the quantity of fish landed today. However, a day like today causes one to completely lose track of numbers and just enjoy God's creation. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to enjoy such inspiring scenery and spectacular fishing.

Tight Lines and God Bless!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Review of Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover Jacket - Men's

Originally submitted at REI
The Patagonia Nano Puff pullover is wind- and water-resistant and highly compressible. Very warm for it's weight, the pullover can be worn as insulation or outerwear in cold climates.

Don't Hesitate, Get One Now
By Travis the Chemengr from knoxville, TN on 2/12/2012

5out of 5
Fit: Feels true to size
Sleeve Length: Feels true to length
Chest Size: Feels true to size
Pros: Stylish, Windproof, Warm, Comfortable, Lightweight
Cons: Doesn't Breathe
Best Uses: Hiking and Camping, Cold Weather
Describe Yourself: Avid Adventurer
Was this a gift?: No
Been eyeing these for a while, but couldn't justify it with the mild winter we have been having. Then I found the mango version on clearance, and jumped on it. This pullover is the softest puffy I have ever tried on. Medium is large enough to fit over a Cap 1, R1 pullover, and R2 vest layering combo comfortably. I am 5'-8" and 165 lbs. Also small enough to fit under my MH Epic Jacket if needed during rain/snow. Can't wait to try this out on an upcoming late winter fly fishing trip. Recently wore the R1, R2, Nano combo while 20 deg and 25 mph winds and very low activity, and stayed toasty. Windproof and highly compressible. Excellent warmth to weight ratio.

Durability is only concern as the material is ultra light weight and thin. But Patagonia quality leads me to believe this will not be an issue.

Fantastic pullover, and I highly recommend it!

19" Clinch River Brown