Monday, August 25, 2008

Last weekend at the land.

Okay, I'm still a week behind so these pictures are from last weekend when I was able to go down to the hunting property and check the cameras and do a little hog hunting. I ended up shooting 2 hogs and was cooking them in the smoker most of last week. It is WAY less work than butchering them the traditional way and the meat ends up pre-cooked and pretty tasty as well.

I was anxious to check the antler growth of the two mature bucks that I regularly see on my property and have been getting pretty excited. The one I call stickers was really coming on strong and had a great sticker (hence the name) coming off his left G2.

Here's a picture showing it - notice however that there is some blood at the base of the sticker - it looks like he injured it somehow. (Sorry the pictures are crooked, I just set this camera up at this location and hadn't realized it was off kilter)

Here's a picture from a few days later, the sticker is drooping down and it appears like it is barely attached.

And my last picture of him, it has now completely dropped off. :(

The buck I'm calling "Double Wide" has put on some decent growth, but I still don't think he is going to end up as wide as last year. I think he must be a very old buck and is actually on the decline.

I got some pictures of a new buck that I haven't had on camera yet this spring. He has a split G2 on his left side.

And I think I can confirm that July and August are a critical time for deer in my area. I went through 300lbs of protein pellets in the last 3 weeks and with only 3 feeding tubes the younger deer are actually camped out waiting their turn! I have another picture with 6 bucks in one picture.

I sure hope I am able to see some of these guys during hunting season this year!

I also set one of the cameras up as a true trail camera to try to get a better idea on where the deer are traveling to and from the feeders. Well, I still don't have that great of an idea on where the deer are traveling, but I have a pretty good idea what route the pigs are using!

I did get some pictures of some deer but only a few and I got pictures of pigs nearly every day.

I moved the camera to a new spot and am hoping to get more pictures of the deer travel patterns so hopefully I will have a better chance of seeing them during the day during hunting season. Even through the summer most of the pictures of the deer at the protein feeder are at night and the best hope of catching them during the daylight is to catch them on the move making their way toward the food source.

That's about it for this week. I spent this weekend helping some friends move and picking up another friend at the airport in Dallas and driving them to Abilene. Not much time for anything blog worthy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Going for broke, 3 posts in one day! ATV rescue mission.

Well, I can officially call this a bust for getting anything done today at work. I was going back through the pictures from our vacation and thought these would make a good post.

A couple years back I brought our ATV's to camp and one of them ended up getting run off a mountain by one of our friends. It is amazing if you happen to get off one of the trails how far down the mountain they can go. Luckily the guy riding it was able to bail off before the ATV went over the side and wasn't hurt. The ATV on the other hand ended up seriously injured and 2 years later still isn't really back to where it was before the mountainside excursion.

Fast forward to this year and a very similar situation. Some of the other people at camp had brought a couple ATV's up (they do each year) and were letting a friend ride one of the ATV's and he ended up running it off the trail and down the mountainside. Again, he was able to bail off before the ATV went down the side, and again the ATV was seriously injured.

Here is picture of where the ATV went over the side. Can you see it down there in the trees? Trust me, it is down there!

Well, being experienced ATV rescuers we came up with the perfect setup to get the ATV back up the mountain. It was WAY to steep to think we could push or pull it up by hand but we strung together a little over 300' of rope and used a little brain power to save on the man power.

We decided to use Mike's truck to pull using my trailblazer as an anchor point.

If it seems like my trailblazer is a little close to the edge to you, it felt like it to me as well. I was actually standing on the downhill side when we started to pull but moved over to the uphill side after the tires slipped a little toward the edge. Thankfully it stayed put and we didn't have a bigger rescue mission to deal with! That last picture might also help in getting an idea at how steep this spot really was, we actually had to repel down to the ATV using the rope.

Here's the ATV all hooked up and ready to go. We actually moved it about 20 feet to get it to this spot. It's initial resting place was a bit farther back in the trees standing on end up against a tree.

The plan is actually working!! Look, here it comes up out of the trees (it was actually down in the trees to the left in this picture, not the trees immediately behind it).

A little farther!

I had to quit taking pictures at this point as we had a near catastrophe when the rope came apart at a knot after it went through the pivot point of my trailer hitch. Thankfully it was when the ATV was on somewhat of a shelf on the rocks and the guys guiding it up were able to keep it from rolling back down the hill. Other than that little snafu, this worked very well, we ended up stretching one of the ropes out pretty good so we have marked it as unusable for any future lifting tasks.

Here's the ATV at the top. You might have thought some of the previous pictures were a little blurry and that's because they are because it was getting dark. It was pretty close to full on dark by the time we got it to the top.

The last bit ended up pulling pretty easy and we ended up pulling up faster than the owner could push up the steepest part of the mountain. He ended up having to use the rope to climb the last little bit up.

Another picture at the top. You can see that the ATV took some serious damage on it's trip down the mountain.

The amazing thing was that we were able to get the thing started and were able to actually ride it back down the mountain (at about 5 mph). There is a LOT of cosmetic damage and one of the front wheels needed to be replaced just to make it easier to to pull it back up the mountain but the only other real damage that was obvious was the rear axle was bent pretty bad. The rear tires wobbled back and forth about 3" but it made it back down about 2 miles from where it went off the edge. Of course there is a good chance that the frame might be bent, but it is still amazing to me that it could actually move under it's own power after something like that.

Okay, I think I'm done posting for today. That gets me caught up through vacation for the most part so now I've just got this last weekend's visit to the land to post. Who knows, that might take a week! ;-)

2 posts in one day!!?? More vacation stuff.

Well, I should be working but I thought I would try to make another post while I was at it. The big hike for the week in Montana was to Pine Creek Lake. Elevation 9,077'. The hike is a mere 5 miles but it starts out at 5,600' elevation so there is the challenge of climbing a mere 3,400' of elevation in the 5 miles. The first mile of the trail is actually pretty tame, but it is all uphill from there!

We actually hiked to the lower falls earlier in the week as a family and we got some pictures with Eli at the lower falls then.

From there the trail starts with the switchbacks to get to the top of the falls and the switchbacks continue for was seems like forever. Last winter was a big snow year in Montana so I was hoping that there would still be some snow at the lake although it was the very end of July when we were headed up there.

I started to see some snow on the other side of the valley and then hit some snow with still about a mile left to get to the lake.

As we made it to the top I was greeted with the large snow bank I had remembered the last time I was up there although that year we made the hike around the first of July instead of the end of July.

This is one of my favorite views with the double waterfalls and the little catch lake underneath.

But the view of the lake itself truly is worth the hike.

I thought this was a good picture of the trail on the way back down. If you open up the picture to the larger size and look really closely you can see some of the switchbacks going down the mountainside.

One thing that I decided on this hike was that I need to get in shape for my elk hunting trip to Wyoming in September. I thought I was going to have a heart attack and it took 4 hours to hike up there. Where we are planning on hunting in Wyoming is only 7,000' elevation and I didn't really start having problems until about that elevation on this hike, but it made me realize that it would for sure be a good idea.

Well I think that's it for this post. It sure was beautiful up there.

Okay, I'm slow. Another report on our vacation.

Well, just for giggles I took one of my trail cameras with me on vacation in Montana a few weeks ago. I tried a few spots with little success and then setup on this spring in a burned area.

It was on public land and I figured there was a chance at losing the camera but I didn't. I got 2 pictures of hikers looking at the spring but they didn't seem to notice the camera.

I was hoping for a bear but no luck. I did see a 2 year old bear in person about 50 yards away that was completely oblivious to me until I woofed at it and it ran up the hill.

There were a bunch of different cows and calves and they were VERY curious about the camera. At first I thought a bear must have been there because when I went to get it the first time it was crooked on the tree and there was mud on the front and back of the camera.

There were a bunch like this where they were checking out the camera up close and personal. They ended up getting mud all over the camera and knocked it off kilter a bit. I saw the mud and thought a bear must have messed with it, but it turns out it was just an elk's muddy nose.

It was fun and I was glad I set it up. The SD cards are really amazing, the one with these pictures on it went through the laundry when we got home and it still works!

Monday, August 4, 2008

First report from our Vacation in Montana

Okay, after not posting for a couple weeks, I think I may end up with some overload. We're back from our annual vacation to a church camp in Montana and had a great time. I brought my new to me motorcycle (a 2006 Suzuki DR650) and one of our ATV's also. I posted this as a ride report on so I thought I would post it here on my blog as well. I'll be posting on some trail camera pictures of some Elk that I got and also some of the hikes that we went on as well. Not sure if I will get those posted today or not though.

I bought my 2006 DR650 with 1,100 miles on it on July 22nd and hauled it on vacation with me up to Montana on July 25th. I've ridden street bikes for over 20 years and ridden ATV's for a couple years but the DR650 is my first off road bike.

I ran several easier gravel roads during the week and on Friday decided to try to take the bike up Arrastra Creek. I had gone up the trail about 2 miles earlier in the week but it was getting late and decided it was too challenging for me. After thinking about it a few days I decided I would give it another try.

The trail is closed to full size vehicles but open to both motorcycles and ATVs. I also brought one of my ATVs with me so I had a friend come along on the ATV and he is the one that took most of the pictures.

The trail starts out pretty easy but gets rocky less than a 1/4 mile in.

I was a little leary of the rocks, most were loose and some were pretty large. It got worse as we got farther along.

The switchbacks were endless. This was a decent representative of most of them. They got steeper and tighter to the point that my friend riding the ATV couldn't stop and take pictures anymore or he couldn't get going again so I don't have any pictures of the worst ones.

Keep in mind that the 2 tracks you see are about 2' apart, this is an ATV trail, those aren't vehicle tracks.

This is where I turned around the first day. I don't think I'm a very good dirt bike rider yet, but I'm stubborn so after a short pit stop we decided to push on.

Looking back on the trail from the pit stop.

After a week of ownership I think I made the right choice between the KLR650 and the DR650. I am tall (6'2") but only have a 32" inseam so I can flat foot the DR pretty easily on flat ground, but on a trail it is a different story. Being a novice off road rider, I think the KLR being taller and heavier would have had it ending up on the ground a few times, the DR came close to being on the ground a few times, but because it was lower and lighter I was able to keep it from falling over.

Here's a picture of me crossing a little stream on the bike.

More pictures of the trail. These rocks were very challenging to me going up and even more so going down.

This was the first destination. A small lake at just over 9,200 feet elevation. Where were were staying about 10 miles down the road was at 5,600 feet.

I think this is my favorite picture of the ride.

And a closeup with my ugly mug in it.

We were making good time and my confidence was building so we decided to make a run to the top. There were some no tresspassing signs that I hadn't remembered from the past, but they were off the trail and I decided that meant we could stay on the trail but just not to leave it.

The trail to the top is much steeper and rockier than the ride to the small lake. We didn't get any pictures on that part of the ride. At several points I was spinning the rear tire (I still have the stock trail wings on there for now) with both feet down on the ground helping to push the bike up the hill. Coming back down was even more difficult, the large rocks didn't help much while you are creeping down to a steep tight and loose switchback under heavy braking. They would just stop the front wheel in it's tracks and then I would have to catch the bike and get it over the rock and on down the trail. I talked to a couple experienced riders who have been to the top and they both said it was a very difficult trail for them as well. The margin of error if you got out of control going down is very slim.

Here's a picture from the top looking back on the switchbacks that we came up. At the very top left of the picture you can see the trail that I took a picture of looking back from where we stopped for our pit stop coming up.

Here's one with the bike in the picture. Yes that is snow and yes it was August 1st when we were there.

A couple more pictures to end on from the top. My GPS read 9,993 ft where I had the bike parked. Not that high compared to some spots in Colorado, but since we started at 5,600 feet less than 10 miles away we did some serious climbing to get there.

I was happy to get the bike up and back down without dropping it. Probably not the wisest choice of trails for only having owned the bike for just over a week at the time but it worked out. It was much more difficult than I thought it would be compared to having ridden the same trail on an ATV in the past. Not sure if I will get better and this will change or if it will always be more challenging on the bike than on an ATV. It will probably be a while before I get to ride a trail anywhere close to as challenging as this one was (most likely until next year when I go back to Montana).

I did ride the DR on pavement for the first time and it rode pretty well I thought. I do think I am going to buy a full face street helmet to wear on longer rides where I won't be doing any serious off road action though, the off road helmet was really noisy and that little visor thing can sure catch some wind at 90.

Well that's the end of my first report. I had a great time and thought I would share my first real ride.