The past few weeks have been brutal here in Wisconsin. With windchills as low as -60*F, no one has even considered going outside for a considerable amount of time. The deep freeze has finally broken and Sara and I have been eager to get out on the trail, so the other day we did just that. It was a beautiful day and at a balmy 30*F, it felt like the tropics compared to what it had been (funny how relative temp is). We decided to pick up where we had left off and this brought us to the southern part of the Scoopernog section of the Ice Age Trail, heading south. It had snowed just a few days before and what a treat it was hiking through the forest. It was picturesque and beautiful; a perfect day to be in the woods. A few miles in we found a campsite for backpackers and decided to make a fire, cook lunch, and just enjoy what the day had to offer.
It's been a while since I started a fire out on trail and to be honest, I really haven't had to deal with starting a fire in the winter time, but I've learned a few things since the last hike and this time I made sure to collect a tinder bundle along the way, before I was going to need to start a fire. Sara helped out a ton and while I am usually teaching her little tricks I've learned from my time in the outdoors, we both are learning along the way.
I enjoy using only natural items for starting fires, it's a bit more challenging than using man-made objects and it's good practice incase you don't have anything else and you need to get a fire going. My only cheater item I always have with me besides my knife, is my trusty magnesium block and "flint." The Mg block is my go to, simply because it works and its reliable. you don't have to worry about it getting wet or breaking and as long as you don't lose it, it will work all the time, every time.
As it turns out, Sara is quite good at directing the spark onto the Magnesium and we had ourselves a nice hot fire in no time. After that, we put the food on to cook, warmed ourselves, and simply enjoyed the afternoon together. It was a wonderful and special time and I can't wait for the next one! More pictures of our adventures will be in the gallery. Thanks for reading!
*DISCLAIMER* consuming wild edibles can be extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. This post is not intended to give anyone the knowledge to consume wild edibles in any way shape or form. Now that we have that out of the way, Let's continue! :)
Lately, we have been on a big nature kick, even more so than usual and in the past two months we have casually completed about 20 miles of Wisconsin's amazing Ice Age Trail. During this time, we have both become more and more interested in what the world has to offer, while we are out on the trail. I (Topher), spent most of my life living in the countryside of rural Wisconsin and have always had an intimate relationship with nature. Over the years, I've collected a decent knowledge base pertaining to surviving in the wild, but my knowledge of wild edibles has always been lacking. Sara, being the awesome woman that she is, decided to surprise me with, Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman's, "Edible Wild Plants." This is a good book in my opinion for anyone who is interested in learning about what plants are and aren't okay to eat in the wild. Seeing as how it is winter in Wisconsin right now, almost nothing is available to eat as far as wild edibles is concerned, but there was one plant that held out for us to try. The Staghorn Sumac is a small tree or shrub, that is common around the part of the state where we live now. It is easily identified when fruiting, by its fuzzy red fruit clusters at the ends of most branches. hidden inside of these dense fuzzy clusters, are dozens of small red fruits.
We decided to brew them into a tea after removing all of the individual seeds from the buds. Using a French press, we steeped the seeds in almost boiling water for about 15 minutes, before serving and enjoying. Staghorn Sumac has a bright lemony tartness with a mildly bitter finish, especially as it cools down from what I noticed. Sara says she didn't notice much bitterness, so I guess taste is subjective, but overall we both enjoyed the brew very much and we can't wait to try some fresh fall fruits this year!
Sara & Topher
We are a working artist couple based out of Austin, TX. This blog chronicles our life and artistic ventures, as we work to make the world and environment a little better every day.