My Slowest Mile - A Story of Pain, Suffering, and Mild Stupidity

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Two links of boudin, a pop tart, and some cheese sticks, plenty of calories. Hell, it was just a few mile hike. Who cares about the 10,000 calories I was deficient of over the last 72 hours. I had an hours rest and a pop tart, I had done more with less. I loaded my pack. I packed food, clothes, shelter, a sleep bag, and a few essentials. I loaded the camera gear, my bow, binos, and a kill kit. Food and water rounded it all off. I was set. It was 56 pounds when all was said and done. Just shy of some training hikes back home. So off we went.

Mile one - it was a good one. I saw a mama moose and her calf, the aspens were beginning their seasonal change, and the mountains surrounded the horizon. It was my favorite part of the hunt, leaving the comforts of base camp, heading into the true wilds of the wilderness. I was headed to my home away from home.

Mile two - things began to turn.  I realized I left some stuff. First, it was my tarp stakes. After that, para cord. It was one thing after another. Everything began to weigh me down. Anger began to creep in. I stopped, and I told myself, "Suck it up buttercup and soak it in. Look around. You are where you love. You are in your sanctuary." So I pulled up my big boy pants and did. I looked and gazed in all directions. I took my camera out to distract me from the negativity of my mind. I looked up, turned around, and twisted my knee. It was bad, I must of torn something. It burned. My thought were racing "Now what? First the tarp stakes and now this. Eff my life. Why did we even come here today. There are elk in a drainage near camp. Why did I agree to this. We had already spent the day climbing a mountain tracking a dead elk that was nowhere to be found. I climbed up and down all day for nothing." I was pissed. I hated the thought of bivy now. My mind was completely in the gutter. Each rock that bumped my toe was on a hit list. Each change in elevation was torture. I hated the world and everything in it. I just wanted to go home. 

Mile 3 - bivy camp was less than a mile ahead. Each step was Torcher, I wanted the button. You know that button. That button, on Alone, where a helicopter flies down and sweeps you away. That button that takes you to the best steak dinner money can buy. The one that makes everything disappear. I wanted that one. I was in total despair. I wanted off the dang mountain.

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Oh wait... 

I forgot, I wasn’t on the mountain. I was on the valley floor, the least strenuous trail I had been on. If I stretch the truth, It may have been 500’ of elevation gain over 3 miles, and that is completely reaching. On any other day I could do it all in less than 40 min. Even worse, If you were a bystander watching me, you would of seen a snail tied to a tree. Painful to me but more painful to watch. Each step was harder than the next. One step, two steps, then three. I needed a break. My heart was racing, legs burning. Everything hurt. I repeated this over and over again. I took everything I had to put together a forward momentum of 5 steps. My mind was fighting itself.  The irrational side of me took everything I loved of the outdoors and made me hate it. I hated the trees, the trail, the mountains. I hated my backpack, my bow, and friends. I hated my food and I even hated my water bottle. My Water bottle? My Friends?  I was a failure in pure misery. As I slothed my way into bivy camp, I already wanted to leave, I wanted to go home, and I wanted nothing to do with the outdoors. I was done.

.86 miles took 48 min and 35 seconds. I stopped 31 times. My heart rate was 162 beats per min and I gained 217’ in elevation. It was my slowest mile. I stopped just feet from bivy as if the last five steps would have killed me. I felt like death, a zombie. I had bonked, I hit the wall in full stride. 

Bonking to me was somewhat a myth up until this point. I heard of it, thought about it, but never experienced it. By definition in the endurance sport arena, it is a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy caused by diminished glycogen stores. However, I think Paul Scott of Runner’s World Magazine, defines it better as a “collapse of the entire system: body and form, brains and soul.”

I was broken, I hurt emotionally, and I hurt physically. It scared me. I thought I had really screwed up. I sat and moved around slowly at camp. I ate, and ate, and ate. 2 days of food to be exact in a matter of hours. Those friends I hated no longer looked like the devil, they became the support I needed. I relaxed, built a fire, and even use the sat phone to call home. Hour by hour I regained my legs, my mind, and my soul. I was okay.

Note: this was totally preventable. What happened to me was exactly what will happen when you forego your natural instincts and exert yourself past what is considered normal. Listen to your body, slow down, eat, and rest when due. Preventing this is as simple as eating proper nutrition a few calories every thirty minutes to an hour while maintaining proper hydration and electrolytes. I fully understand this concept and practice it during training, yet failed to mimic it in the field. I learned a lesson that I hope to never repeat. Having someone with me that understood this first hand was an important factor in recovering quickly. The next morning I was back completely and put a full days work into our hunt.  

How To Find Water

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I was piddling around with some Go Pro footage from a past trip and decided put together this quirky How To Video. Enjoy!

The Plan You Leave Behind

Two weeks ago, I received a random message on Facebook of lost hikers in need of help. A father and two sons went missing in the Ouachita Mountains, they only told their family where they were goin and nothing more. They promised to call but there was only limited cell service and the only text the sent out was "we are LOST." My frequent posts of the pictures helped a friend of their family locate me which I helped them initiate a search for them. They were later found safe and sound after being lost for 2 days. To make a long story short, a hiker found them along the trail and led them back to their car. That was a story of luck, but when we venture into areas we are not familiar with we risk the possibility of something going south. With cell phones being unreliable in most backcountry areas, a solid plan left with a friend or family could be a last hope if something did go wrong. I have been asked several times what one of my trip plans look like. So below is the contents and a real example of one that we distributed to persons that have both a level head and trust.

12 things you should have in every trip plan:

  • Names and contact info of the traveling party (this should also include sat phone number or locator becon if traveling with one)

  • Destination

  • Duration of trip

  • Location of your transportation

  • Starting point & end point

  • Hazards along the way

  • Forecasted camp locations, daily mileage, direction of travel, etc.

  • Alternate plans

  • Local contacts, guides, groups

  • Local authorities

  • GPS way points or route of trail, river, camps, etc.

  • Links to any important info (river gauges, local weather forecasts, etc.)

You want to communicate you plan in an easy way to understand.  If cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent, renting a satellite phone or purchasing a GPS locator beacon is an effective but not always reliable way to reach out for a rescue or help.

Here is an example of a trip plan we used on one our river expeditions:

 

To Whom It May Concern,

We will be embarking on a river trip on March 20 – 25 down the Pecos River

Attached are GPS coordinates for the trip we are headed out on this week and can be loaded on google earth to review. We have outlined our camps by each day and have several alternate camp grounds marked as backup plans. We have also marked several points of interest and hazards that we will be exploring or facing. Our put in location and take out locations are also markeed. We are utilizing a shuttle service and they will be keeping are vehicles at there house and will be available if need be. The contact information is at the end of this email along with other resources.

There will be Four Persons in our group and here are their names and contact info:

            Daniel Underbrink

            Mike Kulbeth

            Luke ******

            Dan *****

 Local Person Contact and shuttle: ******************

We will have a satellite phone but it will not always be on. The canyon walls can affect the reliability of it but we take multiple hikes to the rim during the trip so this will be the best time for us to receive and communication or contact you. Please Store this number and Answer immediately or you need to reach us. This phone does accept Text messages and this will be the best form or communication.

Satellite Phone Number is (863-***-***)

The Drainage area for the river is very large and we will be taking every precaution necessary for our safe return. There is rain in the forecast but I feel it will be safe as it is only isolated in a small area of the drainage area.

The following links are as described:

We need to be contacted immediately if any Flood Watches or Warnings are in effect for any of the Gauge points or areas these gauges are located

River Gauges – There are always uptick with any amount of rain please use your best judgement not to alert anyone unnecessarily as false rescues can be very expensive and the stress of waiting for a no rise in water levels can be tough on persons. If water levels are expected to rise let us know via text and we will contact you all to discuss.  I am thinking any Amount in a rise Past 300 CFM or a 1-3 foot Rise (pending Gauge, see details Below) will need to be of low concern but still would be nice to know so we don’t wake up in a puddle of water

Pandale Gauge – This is where we are putting in- This link will forecast if any Flood warnings or watches are in affect for the area. It will be shown as a dotted line. We need to be Contacted immediately if any Flood watches or warnings are in effect.

http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=ewx&prob_type=stage&gage=pdat2

http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Gauge2/detail/id/33920/

Panda Gauge Info and Descriptions - these will tell you what we will face at different water levels 

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(8.2 meters), Life threatening major flooding occurs below Sheffield downstream to Amistad Reservoir. Flow at Pandale Crossing is over one third mile wide and two hundred thousand cfs. Flow inundates the channel bottom above Pandale to Amistad Reservoir and is life threatening to campers and river recreationists.

23

(7.0 meters), Major flooding is well into the flood plain and can wash campers, vehicles and gear downstream. Roads and crossings in the Pecos River flood plain and tributaries are extremely dangerous to motorists. The Pecos River at Pandale Crossing is near 1/3 mile wide.

19

(5.8 meters), The Pecos river at Pandale Crossing is over one quarter mile wide and extremely turbulent. Campers, river recreationists, and RVs camped near the river can easily be swept downstream as the major flood wave moving downstream causes very rapid rises.

15

(4.6 meters), Major flooding makes low water crossings along the Pecos River and tributaries potentially deadly. The flood wave moving downstream causes rapid rises dangerous to campers on the low banks below Sheffield to Amistad Reservoir. Autos and gear can be swept downstream.

10

(3.0 meters), Moderate flooding is well into the flood plain making secondary roads and crossings along the Pecos River and tributaries very dangerous to travel. Swimmers and tubers should leave the river as flow is dangerously turbulent. Campers vehicles and gear in the flood plain can be swept downstream.

7

(2.1 meters), Minor lowland flooding is a significant threat to swimmers, tubers and campers on the low banks of the Pecos River above Pandale to above Langtry.

5

Lowland flooding makes low water crossings at Pandale on the Pecos River and tributaries flooded and impassable.

 

Sheffield gauge – Upriver Gauge from Pandale Use Above Link to navigate to it – Important Gauge

This gauge works off and on and needs to be monitored, as it’s a good indicator of what is going to happen at the Pandale Gauge.

http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=maf&gage=spct2&prob_type=stage

Independence Creek – This Is a major Drainage area for the Pecos if this is forecasted to Flood. We need to be notified of the extent of flooding or water rise. The gauge typically does not Work but if the area is in a flood warning or watch, we need to be contacted.

Girvan Gauge – This is quite a distance upstream from our put in site this will be an indicator of what the river will do downstream and we will need to be notified of any Forecasted Water rise or floodwarnings or watches are in this area.

 

http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=maf&gage=givt2&prob_type=stage

http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Gauge2/detail/id/78645/

Local Rescue Personnel – Border patrol

http://www.cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/border-patrol-sectors/del-rio-sector-texas

We will be in limited Contact with Our Wives and family and will alert everyone in case of an emergency. In case they are predicting minor Flooding or a drastic water rise please do everything you can to contact us through the Satellite Phone ( text message and Calls)

 

I would be very careful who you send this information to, they will need an understanding of many things including river Gauges, Water levels, forecast, weather, and local area all play huge factors in predicting what a river will do. Small upticks on a river gauge graph can look like a massive flood but only be an inch or two. The projections are showing no forecasted rise in water level, things can change very quickly and we need to be notified and prepared. This is not to scare persons but these are the realities to spending time in the remote wilderness and needs to be said and understood.

Thanks for keeping an eye out for us see you in a week!!!

Daniel

I send these plans to my Father only, for I feel he will not alert anyone unless completely necessary and will stay calm and be very calculated in his decisions. If rain was not in the forecast, I would still only send this to him. You too will need to choose people that will stay controlled in there thinking but know when a danger may present itself that could lead to a situation out of your hands. If you want to know how a well planned trip turned bad but survival was possible due to a prepared and well executed plan continue here

 

Budget Meals for the Backcountry

It is very easy to spend a bunch of money planning an adventure. Getting three square meals, fuel for the journey, and a few comfort items adds up quick. Dehydrated meals can run anywhere from 5-15 bucks a meal, add in a snack or two, a few drink mixes and you are up to 50 bucks a day. That can be a hard meal to swallow when you start extending trips out past a day or two. To save some cash, try to be proactive throughout the year to pick up deals on meals, stash away some freebies, learn DIY meals, and pick up a few extras on routine trips to the grocer. Below Ill share some of the ways I save some dough and field prepared meals that are simple and easy on the trail.

To start off and set the stage for budget planning, I want to go over a no brainer and a technique you are probably already doing. Start with stashing condiments, tea, and coffee. I am not advocating stealing, but simply asking your server or order taker for a few extra ketchups, mayos, and the like. The following are commonly found single serve packets that you can pick up throughout the year. I keep a bag in my Pantry and just toss in any extras I do not use with my takeout. After a few months you will have more than enough to get you through a week long hike or river trip.

Commonly found Single Serve Condiments:

  • Ketchup
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Butter
  • Jelly
  • Pickle Relish
  • Limon Juice
  • Parmesan 
  • Red Pepper
  • Salsa 
  • Salad Dressing
  • BBQ Sauce 
  • And many other Spices, sauces, and dressing

Hotels tend to leave complimentary Coffee and Tea bags in your room for that morning kick start. Ask for a few before you check out,  they always seem to accommodate me when I do. if you crunched for time and procrastinated Amazon and Pack it gourmet are great place to order individual items if your local take out is too stingy.

Now for the stuff that costs you part of that hard-earned pay check. To minimize the impact of the main courses of an outing you will need to be proactive. Too often I find myself trying to get creative and unique but 5 days into a 10-day trip home comforts often are the best thing you have in your pack. In addition, being overly creative tends to get expensive and not always the most appetizing on the trail. Stick with the basics. When I hit the Grocery store I will add 3 extras items to my basket that I set aside for my next trip. These are standard items that I can use in conjunction with my newly acquired condiments.

Grocery Items

  • Tuna Packets (I get the ones in the foil packets that come in different flavors)
  • Chicken Breast in a can (usually found next to the tuna)
  • Mash potato packets
  • Raman noodles (non flavored and flavored)
  • Lipton noodle meals
  • Instant Rice
  • Grits
  • Oatmeal
  • Meal Bars
  • Single serve mixed nuts
  • Tomato Paste tubes
  • Real Bacon Bits
  • Shelf stable Cheeses
  • Chicken, beef, or veggie Bouillon Cubes

 

Now that you have the staples downs you are ready to put some meals together.For breakfast, I tend to eat on the go or mix up some simple morning fuel and add a twist.

 

Buttery Bacon Grits

  • Grits - 2 Packets of instant
  • Two Butter packets
  • Handful of Shelf Stable Bacon Bits or Bacon Jerky

Cook Grits as specified on packet. Stir in the butter and bacon.

 

Blueberry Granola

  • ½ cup vanilla flavored or plain granola
  • 2-3 tbl of powdered milk

Add ¼- ½ cup water, mix and eat immediately

 

Unless I am at a base camp, lunches tend to turn out as more of hourly snacks that keep me fueled for the journey and I can eat on the move. Meal bars, trail mix, and tuna packets tend to dominate the course but some of my favorites are simple but effective fuel sources that don't tend to linger in the gut. These are staples for me on the trail when in motion

  • Date rolls
  • Peanut or Almond Butter (I get the Justin Single serve packets)
  • Tuna salad
  • Dried Sausage
  • Pro Bars
  • Macaroons
  • Beef Jerky
  • Mixed nuts
  • Energy gels 
  • Dried Fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Meal replacement powders

 

Dinner is my important meal, I try to pack the most nutrition I can before I go to sleep. After I set up camp Ill snack on some beef jerky, reup my electrolytes, and cook dinner. I am not going to lie this is where my dehydrated meals come into play. I have been using Heathers Choice as they seem to have the best health benefit, taste great, and calorie dense dehydrated food on the market in my opinion. (no we are not sponsored by Heather's Choice) But dehydrated meals get old fast if you don't have a large variety or find something that does not agree with you so I also try and bring comfort foods that I know I can always stomach. (I wrote a previous post in regards to some of the fresh cooked foods here) below are a few additional recipes that are quick, cheap, and taste great. 

Tuna or Chicken Salad

  • 2 Packages of Single serve tuna (I like hickory smoked tuna)
  • 3 single serve mayo
  • 1 single serve mustard
  • I Single serve dill relish
  • 2 salt a peppers
  • Mix contents and serve. To add additional calories, serve in a tortilla or add bacon jerky to the mix.

Trail Side spaghetti

  • 1/4 cup of macaroni noodles or Raman (Raman will cook much faster)
  • 1 Tbl of Italian seasoning 
  • 1/4 tsp of salt and pepper (4 or 5 little packets from your local take out)
  • Parmesan cheese and red pepper packets (think takeout pizza)
  • Tube of tomato paste
  • Cube of chicken bullion 
  • Dried sausage for the meat eater

Boil water. Add chicken bouillon and dissolve then add noodles. (turn off heat or lower flame so it doesn't over flow) - cook until noodles are tender. Once noodles are done pour off water until you are left with a 1/2 cup. Add in seasoning, salt & pepper, and a small bit of tomato paste stir until tomato paste is dissolved and mixed in evenly. Add cuts of dried sausage wait a few min then add red pepper and Parmesan and enjoy

 

But don't just stop here

Invest in a dehydrator, for the cost of a days’ worth of dehydrated meals, you can purchase one on Amazon. This allows you to make your own Beef Jerky, Dried Sausage, Dried Fruits and even take leftovers and turn them into backpacking meals. If you just put in a simple search to google you will find an abundant of recipes and how to videos that will keep you busy for months leading up to a big adventure. Don’t forget the Preparation can be just as much funs as the trip itself.

 

Mikes DYI Bulk Trail Mix

  • Bulk Mixed Nuts
  • Bag of Raw Almonds
  • Bag of Raisins
  • Bag Shaved Coconut
  • Peanut M&Ms (heavy on the M&Ms, you’ll thank us later)
  • DYI Dehydrated Fruit (Bananas, Apples, Cranberries etc.…)
  • Yogurt Covered Raisins

Use a giant bowl and mix it all up. Proportion it to meet your caloric needs in individual sandwich bags or vacuum seal for shelfs stability and future use. Be careful when vacuum sealing dehydrated fruits they tend to clump and stick together. Using grated coconut helps remedy this. Once it’s all mixed in just separate into Ziplocs or vacuum bags and you’re ready to roll for many trips and days ahead.

 

So to keep the spend down and the quality up do these tips throughout the year to plan for your next backcountry trip. Load up on freebies - save all unused single serve condiments and throw them in a designated bag in the pantry.

  • Grocery shopping - pick up one or two items each trip to the store that I save for camping trips, trail runs, and kayaking trips. 
  • Look for sells on Dehydrated meals and closeouts at your local sporting goods store
  • Think outside the box and prepare your own dried or shelf stable meals a head of time.
  • Invest in a dehydrator, this alone opens up a whole new way to planning meals with Health and wellness in the forefront
  • Be creative with what you have on had and  think about your normal everyday comfort foods.

Finding My Flow

Finding My Flow

2 miles in I am still feeling a tightness to the point of pain in my tibialis anterior muscle that I can't seem to shake. My hamstring is burning and every step is telling me to slow down, stop, but I can't. I have 8-10 more miles to go and my team is counting on me. The pain I know will subside, but when?

4 miles in I am now focused on my breathing, I have been so focused on my legs I am letting my heart rate increase to the wrong zone. I am deliberate now. With the pain decreasing each step forward I am focusing in. I take one breath per 6 steps, then one breath out per 3 steps. This slows my heart.

I become zoned in, six steps then three, six steps then three, it becomes my rhythm. My pace. My surroundings are a blur. It is this state that I try to maintain. When I do, I forget the pain, I forget the boredom, and the stress.

It is this that I strive for each run, climb, or hike. It feels great when I do, but many things derail me. A dragging toe on a root, a passer by, or a simple thought of an email I forgot to send. These small thing make huge impacts on my mental state. I notice when I am bored I shorten my run. When I am not warming up I slow my pace. When I am thinking of work or life, I burn myself out. When I zone in and focus, I go that extra mile.

I am still learning, getting faster, and improving with each stride. My goal of completing an ultra is becoming a reality, yet seems that I have along way to go. Will I be successful? I don't know but I do know I will continue to push my self, learn, and give it my all each and every day.

Daniel Underbrink

A Step back and Much Needed Help

A Step back and Much Needed Help

December will be here before I know it and after trying on my own I know I don't  know as much as I think I do. A 100 miles is no gimme in the running world and way fitter, much faster, and far better people than I have failed at it and for me to think I can do this is alone has been humbling. In the recent weeks, I have been struggling to keep on track. My eating habits have taken a back seat, workouts have been fewer than before, and my longest run is only 11 miles.  I knew this would be tough times for my pursuit as we just welcomed a new healthy baby boy to our family.  Because of all this I enlisted some hired health, in the form of a coach. He is not the standard run of the mill nutritionist/trainer but someone that works with me daily, educates, guides me, and calls me out when i am doing something that is counter productive.  I am just a short week in to the program and already can see an improvement in my self. I think more than anything I see the little things that make big impacts. I am way more focused on my food, though he would tell you different, and most importantly I see everything I am not doing. This week has really been eye opening for me. 

- Daniel Underbrink

 

Gear List For the Mission Uncharted Survival Race

Gear List For the Mission Uncharted Survival Race

The race is simple, but the choices hard for 30 Miles, 15 Lbs of Gear, food, and water, and 3 days on the Wild Azalea Trail as we embark on a team survival race in Central Louisiana.  

listen to our planning click here

My Gear list

Kifaru Duplex frame and Apollo pack

Kifaru Para Tarp

Marmot 35 degree down bag

Nemo Sleep Pad

Para cord

Flint and steel

Tinder

Compass

Titanium cup

100 oz Water bladder & water bottle

Garmin Fenix 3 GPS watch

Pocket Knife

Sock (extra)

First aid kit

Iodine Tabs

Headlamp

2 lbs food

Trekking Poles

Luke will be bringing additional gear and food. Water will be scooped up from natural sources along the way to save weight and allow for additional sleep comforts. Sleep is essential to recovery to keep the pace fast and muscles fresh. High calorie to weight foods will fuel our progress.

* We know the trail and the local water sources and understand the risks of starting off with little to no water. This is not recommended to anyone 

The Hidden Dimension of Planning an Adventure

The Hidden Dimension of Planning an Adventure

Expectations are high, that moment of no return, your headed out. It is one way in and one way out, miles need to be covered, elements endured, and the end goal has no exceptions. But is your expectation the same as your adventure bud’s? Are your ideas aligned? Do you want the same out of the trip as they? Do you ask these questions during planning? We plan logistics, mileage, days, gear, and food. Yet, how many times have you discussed the goals of the individual? 

You send out a group text that reads, “ITS ON, LET THE TRIP PLANNING BEGIN.”  The next series of texts roll in with aligning of dates, checking in with your significant other, coordination to and from, and a few sights you may see while out. Then as time inches closer, you begin discussing gear and food. Then you discuss that some more. About a week out, you realize you need more gear and start hitting up your personal gearhead at backcountry.com and convince them to ship everything overnight for free (yes you can do this, don't tell anyone.) You send pics of the new pack and whatever that thing you thought you need but will never use.

Departure day comes with anticipation and the high of the unknown is in full effect. The nervousness kicks in and you are stepping into the point of no return. You have planned for months, have every detail outlined, and now it is just that age old saying, one foot in front of the other. Everyone is full of energy, invincible, talking of what lies ahead, and knowing nothing can get in our way.  This is "Day One" in a nut shell

The first few steps into the wild the groups ultimate goal is aligned, there is a start point and an end point, daily mileage goal, approximate camp locations. Why does it matter anyway, we are all in this together and that’s is all you need, right?  Well no... Not exactly… 

Wide awake I begin to break my camp, it was the 2nd night of a 3 night trip and we still had a ways to go. With many miles and a few major obstacles a head of us I knew we needed to get on the water to make our destination. I had work in a few days and could not miss it. This was my first problem. I was in my head. We had a long way to go and I had no flexibility in time. I knew we had to make certain amount of mileage for me to be able to complete the trip. We had to get on the water, waste no time, and paddle. My idea and the group’s idea where the same with the exception of when to start and when to end each day. I wanted to get on the water and go, they liked the morning to be relaxed and feel alive with that freedom of today. Though not one way or the other was wrong, it was just misaligned. We never discussed it, there was no plan. So there should be no expectation. Right??? But there was, it was my expectation, and mine only. It was never discussed so it was never aligned.

There are always differences to the path that we discuss in the planning stages. Though the ultimate goal may be aligned with the group, it is the individual’s goal that are the most important. I like to call these “the hidden dimension or micro goal.” These are the individual goals of each team member that may not be inline with our own. There is the guy that wants to climb that peak on day 3, the person that want to spend a day fishing, or one that wants to put in a PR (personal Record) mileage day, or just a lazy day to work on their bushcraft skills. There is nothing wrong with these things, but they are the hidden dimension. These are the things that propel a team to accomplishment, fulfillment, or even failure.

Though in my situation it worked out to make the trip that much more pleasurable for me, and I am better because of it. I learned a lot about myself on that trip but It doesn’t always work that way. We must be open and honest with how we feel, our abilities, and speak of our micro goals. If we do not it can make ourselves or others feel left out, demoralized, exhausted, or just completely unsatisfied.

So what do you do? How do you do this? What questions should we ask? How accommodating should we be? I don’t have the ultimate answer for you but I have a few things that might help make a great trip better and build a stronger bond with your friends along the way.

What activities do you want to pursue? 

On our river trips, Mike is a diehard fisherman, he always wants one more cast no matter how many there were before it. On the other hand, I want to explore as many miles as I can. Don’t get me wrong, I looooove fishing, but not the way Mike loves fishing. I know when we plan a river trip we each take this into consideration. I am typically the logistic guy. I will plan a long hard day (me the mile man) to get to a good camp site that has a big productive fishing area (Mike the die hard). We fish along the way yet keep a pace of our aligned goal. It is a give and take. 

 Little paddle jam session on our 100 mile stand up paddle trip

 Little paddle jam session on our 100 mile stand up paddle trip

Know when to split up

Not in the sense that you leave your buddy unsolisited in the bottom of a canyon, which i am sure people want to do to me sometimes. I mean, split up in a positive and communicated way to pursue each micro goal with the ultimate goal intact. When out paddling I am known to paddle just to paddle, not a problem if you know me, though it could be if you have never been on a trip with me. Mike understands this and he knows I will be waiting at the next hazard staying put until he arrives. He will hang back slowly working his way towards me fishing the nooks and crannies of each passing rock. This works well for us as a team. I stop explore, fish a little, take pictures, and he will fish till we need to move on. If we are behind schedule he will pick up an push on to that next honey hole. This works well in a river where the hazards are done together and flat water are done individually. They are like solo trips with a team. If things seem out of place I will double back with no issue and move on if things are fine.

Luke taking an uncommon spill after entering a large rapid

Luke taking an uncommon spill after entering a large rapid

Hone in on the camp fire chat.

This is where you need to put lots of focus. This is where feelings come into play. If your buddy is sitting at the end of a hard day hike talking about blisters, heart rate, dehydration, or even illness, this is when we scale back tomorrows hard day or utilize a built in rest day to improve our health, scout, or do that thing we wanted to do. There are times and places to push people beyond their limit (future blog post) but for this conversation it’s a time to focus in and listen. 

We were on a 7-day river trip when a fellow team member ran into a series of misfortune. A near miss in a rapid, daily mileage that was hard, bad water, and multiple portages that resulted in a leaky boat. Time was not on our side so we pushed him beyond his limits. In retrospect, an extra day to regroup, a solid repair to the kayak, and time to regain some confidence would have resulted in the same outcome to the common goal but a happier group of campers.

Mike pondering the evening bite on the pesos river

Mike pondering the evening bite on the pesos river

Group Size

More is not always merrier when it comes to wilderness travel. The more people the more hidden dimensions (micro goals.) We sometimes too often invite everyone and their dog for multiple reasons. We do it to bring down cost, don’t want to leave a friend out, share the weight, or just to introduce friends to your passion. Though it is the most fun to share an experience, it is not always fun when goals become misaligned. I personally feel that even numbers are best. This allows for safe travels on a “no man goes alone policy” if there is an emergency. Odd numbers work but the individual micro goal becomes even more important as there could be some things that can’t be pursued such as rock climbing with a bunch of fishermen, Fishing with a bunch of through hikers, lounging around on a time limited mileage pursuit. Though having friends along make for a rich and fun experience It is always an option to leave your buddies at home and take on the underutilized solo trip. 

Daniel on a 5 day Solo SUP Trip down the Devils River

Daniel on a 5 day Solo SUP Trip down the Devils River

In the end, an extended stay in the back country is a fulfilling endeavor that takes knowledge, skill, and a lot of communication. We see the destination as the goal, but deep inside we find our own goals. They are different for each person, the are special, and they our our own. Communicate these in your planning, plan for them as a team, and be okay to set them aside for the ultimate goal.

 

- Daniel Underbrink

A gaze that cut through my bravery

A gaze that cut through my bravery

Approximently 13 miles due west of  Sarita, TX we head down a caliche road, crossed an old wooden bridge where the alligator gar lurks, and continued on the dirt road to the crossings known as the turkey foot. Each passing gate my uncle would spout off the Spanish phrase "abrieta la puerta tu loco guajolote" which translates to open the gate you crazy turkey and i knew that was my cue. This continued on and off, pasture to pasture, as my dad and uncle reminenced their days hunting and working the land we crossed. We were headed to the log cabin for a family weekend in the middle of the vast ranch land to just unwind from the busy lives they lived. When we arrived it was a castle in the woods. Layed out to compliment the crooked live oaks and the meadow that surrounds it. For the curiosity of my age, it was perfect. It was also home to a couple of wild hogs we captured and raised from an area not to far away. As we settled in, dusk drew to darkness, I remember the fruit bats darting between the shadows, the coyote's howl, and our pet wild hogs that came in for dinner. It was all perfect to a young child except for what was perched in the high corner on the cabin wall. A majestic beast that stared in a gaze that cut through my bravery and burned an image in my soul.

Decades later that beast is now headed towards me as I make short bursts of high pitched sounds that mimic the field mice that scurry the sendero ahead. It is beautiful, keen, and curious. Barely noticeable as it cuts through the tall grass, yet it's curiously to my sound draws him closer. 

Looking down at my phone there is no response, I send another text with multiple question marks hoping that my urgent tone is replied to. I have to be quite so am am not spotted. Nothing, no response, so I make a call  in hopes of permission to the question I just texted him.

Weeks prior on our game cam we picked up several of these solitary animals. Their population in this area is becoming very high. Their normal range is 5-50 miles but here on our land we are seeing them way to often and we are concerned that they are having an impact on the fawn population.*

The phone continues to ring and I am getting antsy as a distracted voice sounds through my ear. I am whispering to him about what lerks infront of me. In a hushed voice I ask permission to take what creeps forward. Time is limited, I need to act soon. I must request to take the beast of my childhood due to the respect of my fathers fondness it, he enjoys their suprise presence on the cameras. I continue to mouse call between the whispers as it continues to draw closer.  As the permission was granted I slowly lower the phone, raise my rifle, wait for the perfect opportunity, and slowly squeezed the trigger. 

That day years ago in the cabin gave me an affinity for the creatures. They have haunted my dreams and blessed me with their presence. I have watched them catch birds, play with mice, and stroll the brush lines across the vastness of the land. While there is never regret in my action i do feel a sadness with the result yet taking this life gives back to the natural balance of our land. The fawns will prosper, and the cats will live on with the sacrifice of just one.

- Daniel Underbrink

 

*Though the predation of bobcats on deer is debated it is known to occur, Texas Parks and Wildlife writes.  

"...Although studies have shown that most of the deer found in bobcat stomachs is carrion, an adult bobcat is strong enough to bring down an adult deer. Its usual method of attack is to jump on the deer's back from a ledge and bite the base of the deer's skull while tearing and slashing with its claws. When the deer drops, the bobcat pulverizes its throat in seconds with fast, strong bites. If a bobcat comes across a fawn, it will not hesitate to make a meal of it..."

Her Only Request

Her Only Request

With a grin stretched ear to ear something caught my eye deep in the Colorado backcountry as I settled into my new surrounding, set my tarp, and begin prepping for the evening hunt, but my mind was home reliving that fateful day so many years back. It was the only thing she requested as we rolled down the dirt roads deep into the South Texas brush country. Though she didn't need much, the request was fair, and I was certain I could provide. It was a simple request, an expected request. Nothing out of the ordinary, but she made certain I knew her needs. See, this wasn’t because of past experience, it was because we just began dating. It was just weeks into our relationship, and i decided to bring her out to meet my world, not the world we courted in, my world, one so different from hers. We pulled up to a shack that just weeks prior was filled shin high with scat, trash, and years of soil blowing through the busted up windows. Yet, it was different now, a luxury condo in terms of it's beginning but nothing that resembled anything from her's. Yet to me it was good. New plywood walls, freshly swept floors, and a touch of light powered by the generator hidden just beyond the crooked old fence. It had a wood burning stove, a table, the things we didn't have here at our mountain camp. But it wasn't those things that she requested, it was a private request and yet I didn't quite get it right as she sat on her request in unbearable relief so many years ago.

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I may be divorced after posting this story

Update:

a pic has surfaced since the original post of the shack

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My Favorite DIY Backcountry Food

My Favorite DIY Backcountry Food

Just writing this makes me as overwhelmed as I feel when I begin meal prep for a backcountry adventure. Shoot, I don't even know what I want for lunch, much less what I'll be hungry for 60 miles from the nearest road two months from now. What will it be that gets me through, do I really need 4000 calories a day? Will I really be that hungry? Will I even take the time to cook that freeze dried chicken wrap when I still need to make 20 river miles by dark?  I can't even look at dried sausage anymore without thinking of the 14 links I ate 2 years ago for 7 days straight. Or even stomach a cliff bar after I thought pumpkin spice was the greatest flavor ever, just the smell alone now will have me hugging the toilet.  I now know that it is a mistake to bring identical meals for trips over 3 days. I know that food can be just as important to your mood as a stove is to cook it. I don't have the magic recipe but I do have a few that keeps my mood up and the belly full and is a hit around the camp at the end of a hard day.  So with all that said, here are a few of my all time favs.

Kayak Camper Fish Nuggets

2 Cup         Cornmeal and Cornmeal flour mixed 50/50

2 Tbls        Tony’s Cajun Seasoning 

1 -2 Tsp         Cayenne Pepper (less if you are running short on water)

Mix the above Ingredients and vacuum seal flat for packability. 

8 oz         Penut oil in plastic container (the used oil can aid in fire starting)

1 dz            Mustard Packets 

1 dz            Hot Sauce Packets  

1 dz            Ketchup Packets 

Pack above ingredients and packets in a Large 1 gallon zip lock bag. Place an extra Gallon Zip Lock inside or double bag it.

Riverside Meal Preparation

Catch a few fish 1-2 per person on the river a few hours before you are hungry, on a day that you are not pressed for time, or need to meet milage goals. Filet Fish on a river rock and cut into small bite size chunks and place in the extra zip lock bag that is holding all the sauce packets. Store fish nuggets inside the hull of your kayak out of direct heat and sun (should keep for a few hours.) Once at camp and everyones tummy's are growling. Set up your camp stove and pour oil into pan and begin heating oil. (be sure the surface is flat and that the stove will not tip and pour scalding hot oil on your friends or self.) Open fish nugget Zip Lock and Squeeze all the mustard and hot sauce packets onto the nuggets. Slosh around until evenly coated. In second zip lock pour in seasoned cornmeal mix. Add a few nuggets to the cornmeal mix and shake until nuggets are fully coated. Once coated cook 4-6 nuggets at a time in oil and repeat steps until all the fish is cooked. Ketchup is use for garnish. Remember pack out what you brought and that is including the used oil.

Chicken Noodle Soup

1/4 Cup         Freeze Dried noodle Pasta broken in 3rds 

2 Tbls        Freeze Dried Diced Carrots

2 Tbls        Freeze Dried Diced Celery 

2 Tbls        Peas

1 tsp        Dried thyme 

1             Bay leaf

2-3 Tbls        Granulated Chicken Bouillon             

pinch        Black Pepper

pinch        Salt

Mix the above Ingredients and vacuum seal for packability. 

Camp Side Preparation

I Use my jet boil on this one. Bring water to a rolling Boil. Add Pre packed Ingredients to a Boiling water be careful not to over flow. Turn off heat and seal using Jet boil lid and leave set 10-20 min. Smaller Jet boils may not have enough room so utilization of bigger pot and stove may be required. Freeze Dried Ingredients can be found at online retailers like PackitGourmet.com.  You can substitute The freeze dried pasta with dried Angle hair pasta, the celery with a tsp of Celery Salt and Leave out the salt carrots and peas and still have a really great soup. 

Bacon Cheese Grits

2 packets         instant grits 

1/2 Bag             Real Bacon bits or Bacon Jerky

1                        Wax covered Sharp Cheddar Cheese  (this will keep a few days in cool pack)

Sunrise prep

Boil enough water according to packaged grits instructions. In your serving boil,  place grits into bowl. Cut up cheese in to small chances and place on top of grits. Once water is boiling Pour over cheer into bowl and let stand until gritty are tender stirring a few times to help melt cheese. Once gritty are fully cooked ad bacon and serve.

Elk Camp Coffee

3 tbls         Instant Coffee Granules  

1                 Hot Chocolate Mix

2 cups        Hot Water

Mix all in large coffee mug and enjoy

The above are a few of my go to recipes that i pre make at home for a fraction of the cost as the big box store type. I hope you enjoy and i will try and post up a few more in the coming weeks. 

 

Daniel Underbrink

Caroline Dormon Trail

Boots Trail.jpg

I set off mid morning with my pack and a few essentials to do an out and back on the 10.4 mile point to point trail. The trail is lightly used and rated moderate, but once on it I found it to be an easy hike and well defined. My hike for the day consisted of 5 mile hike 5 mile run and a return hike to mile 2 to camp for the night that put a total of 15 miles on my shoes. Weather was forecasted to be in the low 30s with clear sky's. With a hammock and sleeping bag as my shelter, I settled in near a small creak that looked to be a regularly visited campsite. I built a small fire to cook my meal and settled in for the night. Woke up at 3am made me some coffee and breakfast and hit the trail for a night hike through the woods.

 

This trail is located near Provencal, LA off Longleaf Vista Road in Kisatchie National Forest. The forest is a mix of Pine a Hardwoods on a rolling terrain with an elevation gain of 781'. Trail is easy and a great place for trail runs, mountain biking, and birdwatching. Primitive camping is allowed but be sure to check the notices at the trail head prior to your hike for any current restrictions. 

 

Trail Treats I Dream Of

Trail Treats I Dream Of

Too many times we find ourselves wishing we had something a little extra packed up to eat, those simple comforts from the civilized world. So next time you have that special trail craving, write it in your trip journal for next time. Here is a list of treats from the last time we were days deep on an adventure.

  • Skittles
  • Paydays
  • Wasabi Peas
  • Chocolate
  • Spicy Peanuts
  • Gin-Gins
  • Snickers
  • Cheese 
  • nut butter
  • Hard candies
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Summer Sausage 

Strange but Natural

Strange but Natural


This pursuit as I like to call it, the dream of an ultra. Has taken me to a different place than I have ever been. Running is such a strange thing for being something so natural. I am finding that the first five miles is much harder than the next five. Why? I am not sure, but to me it is. I have been putting in 35 miles a week the last four weeks and the time on my feet feels great. Soreness is fading with each step and my core is feeling stronger than ever. I never understood the runners high people talk about, but I am starting to feel it more and more. Every mile I decide to go further seems to be in my reach and it thrilling to know I just may be able to accomplish this pursuit. So with the weekend at the door step I think its time for a new challenge, so I am going for a long run.

- Daniel Underbrink

Bring them with you, it may just work

As a father, I want what every parent wants, for my kids to be happy. Yet in this day in age, monetary happiness is all to easy to come by, all I have to do is buy them a new toy or hand them a smart phone. What we as parents have a hard time doing is instilling deep inner happiness in our kids.  This is hard. It is a marathon. It takes time, a lifetime for that matter. Now to say I  have the answer would be wrong, but I can share a theory. As humans, we disconnect from the world. A world that God created for us.  A world to be a part of. In such a short time we have disconnected from that world and created our own. I believe deep down our soul longs for that world, for that wilderness, that adventure, to explore Gods world and praise Him in it. Our kids are no different. A child changes when in the outdoors, they play in freedom and see life as it is, not as it is displayed. Nature walks are being used as therapy for ADHD children. They say they are noticeably calmer after a short time in the woods. It works for all kids.  Everyday our children’s brains are on stimulation overload. Yet the woods, helps them decompress the way a child was designed to do. To decompress through play. Getting a child outdoors is not about the activity. You don't have to plan much. Pack a few snacks, some water, find a nature area, and go there.  Let them run free till they are ready to go home. To many people over think it. My favorite saying is "camping is simple, just go outside and stay there till morning." When you think about it like that, it really is that simple. There are things you may want to bring for comfort, but truth is, you don't need much to survive one night. For me I hunt. It is as much a part of my family as my last name. Some of my best memories with my dad are in a deer stand or in the woods getting ready for deer season.  I want those same moments with my sons. I want to share my passion with them with hopes that they can find the same peace and happiness in the woods as I do. If nothing else they will get to see The wonders God has created first hand. So go, take them and watch their imagination explode in wonder. 

- Luke Kulbeth

Lake Martin, LA

Boat ramp view of Lake Martin during a summer storm.

Boat ramp view of Lake Martin during a summer storm.

A water wonderland that captures the imagination and allows relaxation to set in. From gators to birds this place is as eery as it is beautiful. A paddlers paridise and a day trippers dream this is a place that makes me excited to call Lafayette Home. You can bet I will continue exploring this place in more details as the weather continues to cool. 

- Daniel Underbrink

The boardwalk at the Cypress Island Preserve maintained by the Nature Conservancy.

The boardwalk at the Cypress Island Preserve maintained by the Nature Conservancy.

The best time to visit is during is beginning late January when large flocks of birds come to rear their young. The 2 .5 mile levy trail is open from fall to spring and is an easy hike for mosts abilities. For more information please visit www.nature.org

Alligators are a common  sight along the 6 mile loop around the banks of Lake Martin

Alligators are a common  sight along the 6 mile loop around the banks of Lake Martin

The long run

The long run

A sponsored link popped up in my Facebook feed with a video of a bunch of crazy people running across the desert over a span of 7 days gaining more elevation than Mt Everest, spanning a distance of 273 Km across every landscape imaginable. At first thought, this had to be the most terrible idea in the world, yet as I continued to watch it was everything I dreamed of, I wanted this. I quickly shared the link to broadcast to the world I would take on this challenge but I put a disclaimer in there. I said, 2018, with a big question mark behind it. Seemed like a good goal, far enough out I could learn to run or even chicken out where no one would remember the crazy idea I once had. Yet, as I watched the video over and over again I decided that I should pursue this now, today. 

Fast forward nine months and I am off to a good start and I on my way to my first Ultra Marathon. The first one being just eight months away, i took to the trail with a distance of 20 miles in mind. I grabbed a quick bite, laced up the shoes, and headed for a pretty cool spot near my home that had 6 mile trail loop. I set up at the trail head and took off down the trail.

Mile one, I started to doubt myself, my shins tightened, heart began to elevate, everything felt foreign. My steps felt rough, and my energy low. I stopped at an outlook and thought why am I doing this. I should be fishing, paddling, something other than this, but with determination out weighing my thoughts, I slowly headed my way to the next mile.

Mile by mile I begin to loosen up, into a zone I began to move. With each passing mile, my will became a rhythm. On loop three, well that's where my determination kicked in. I began to see a goal turn in to reality. I passed some kayakers, a gator, and a few sightseers. I passed a lot of things but fatigue I could not. I stopped at mile 15 and took a snap shot of my GPS and headed to my cache of supplies just 2 miles in the distance. Pain begin to set in and fatigue was real as I approached mile 17.

Though I didn't reach my target distance I did reach a milestone, I just ran longer and further than anytime in my life. I PR'd my pace, time, and distance and it was then I knew that i could do this.

- Daniel Underbrink

  

#hammocklife

There is something about a hammock that conjures up the image of complete relaxation, But taking one along on a multiple night stay in the backcountry can present its own challenges. With our recent nights strung between two trees I must say they were quite restful but the conditions we faced played the biggest roll in that comfort. Hot steamy nights under the canopy is where these began their evolution. Humid night, low wind, and high temps allow the hammock shine where most tents, bivys, and some tarps setups fail. First off, hammocks need sturdy trees or post to secure the setup, which begins limiting places for their use (Though with proper gear and training they can be secured to cliff faces, boulders and by other means.) Second, a full set up for all weather conditions (tarp, bug net, insulation) can become just as heavy and volume consuming as a tent. This, along with being wrapped up like a caterpillar waiting for it's wings in stormy conditions can make for lonely hours or days when weathering out a storm. Gear storage becomes another issue, the rain flys/tarp are typically designed for maintaining dryness in the hammock, not so much under it; so storing gear to keep it out of the elements just isn't going to happen. Lastly, when the mercury falls added insulation will be mandatory or specialty bags and quilts will be useful to maintain warmth throughout the night. Though these are things to be noted when planning to use a hammock as a primary shelter. They do have many benefits that can outweigh some of there drawbacks: Quick and Easy setup, changing configuration quickly when conditions do change, and they can be one of the most comfortable shelters you have that accounts for restful nights which lead to feeling refreshed in the morning. So if your choosing a hammock for the first time start with looking at the major brands like eagles nest outfitters (ENO) look at their specs on material, weight, and accessories and use them as a base line to pick the price point that works for you. There are great hammocks out there for budget minded folks all the way to set ups that will run you a couple hundred dollars. One is not necessarily better than the next but they all have there draw backs so do some research or shoot us a message and we will be happy to help!

Victory in a pursuit

Tired, sore, and on edge we roll into base camp knowing that we have 24 hours left of our hunt. All was grim as stormy weather and a plethora of hindsight left us at our mental limits as we planned for our final pursuit. Leaving spike camp just hours before, we tossed around ideas as our ambitions grew. A 3:30 am start, along with an tough climb, the high meadow that seemed worlds away became the accord. Nevertheless, Mike headed up the mountain to scout it out and glass our morning destination. As Mike’s silhouette faded into the valley we all pick up the pieces of the prior days and began the chatter on the victory of our pursuit in a different shade. As the light faded the storm intensified, we all scramble to the cook tarp to post up for Mike’s return. Thunder and lightning erupting, we see Mike strolling into camp, head hanging low, we knew the story was a repeat of the days before. He told his tale of the weather, the storm, the stalk, the encounter, and a dance with the giant that to this day roams. Then ever so slightly each word intensified by the flashes of lightening, he changed his tone and uttered the words of success that lay on the mountain above...

- Daniel Underbrink

Mike Kulbeth showing off the arrow of success 

Mike Kulbeth showing off the arrow of success