Upside Down Fire

The upside down fire is a self feeding fire that does not require nearly as much stoking and feeding as the traditional teepee campfire. It can burn upwards of 5 hours, uninterrupted, if you do it right. Here are the steps you need to create the upside down fire, along with Dan and I’s own attempt to build it.

Essential Tools:

  • Fire starter (lighter, matches, magnesium stick, etc)
  • Twigs
  • Tinder (Manmade or natural)
  • Knife/ax/saw or some sort of sharp for collecting materials
  • If you are cooking, a vessel or surface to hold your food in

 

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Step 1: Collect your Materials

Once more, we are building this fire using the “twig” method in order to represent a situation in which you may need fire without having store bought materials. Using a small ax and my khukuri knife, we cut down small tree limbs and collected three major types of twigs:

  • Thumb Size
  • Pencil Size
  • Pencil Lead Size

Remember– Try not to pull trees/sticks from the ground. Instead, look for standing deadwood that is dry, easy to break and lacks the moisture than any sticks laying on the ground would.

For tinder, we used a combination of dried grass an a featherstick.

 

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Step 2: Build Your Base

Start with the thickest twigs you have, and lay them flat in your pit, one after the other like you are laying down a log pile. Create a layer as large as you want your fire to be. Then use the next thickest, and cross hatch them in a new layer above your first. Continue this pattern until you get to the thinnest twigs, and finally place your tinder bundle on top.

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Step 3: Light The Tinder

For the sake of this attempt, we simply used a lighter, but I would recommend using whatever fire making material or method you have readily available in your EVERY DAY CARRY or at the very least, your backpacking/hiking essentials.

It might take a bit to get the tinder lit long enough that it begins to feed itself, which can be frustrating, but once the twigs light, this fire is capable of burning for hours on end.

Being down by a river on a muggy day, it took upwards of an hour to get our tinder lit long enough. We ended up adding some scraps of napkins we had brought along with us as well. The air was thick with whistles and squeals of the materials as they dried out, but once it got going, we were able to cook over it and enjoy its warmth until bed time.

This method was fairly frustrating for us due to the wet environment, however, it is often a reliable and low maintenance fire building method convenient for when you have additional tasks and chores to do, or you wish to keep your fire burning overnight while you sleep.

 

 

Johnsen Lake

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On the way home from Nimblewill Creek, we decided we wanted to get some bass fishing in, and took to Fishbrain to scout out a good lake. Right off SR-19 near the town of Cumming, there was Johnsen Lake. Though it appears to be right off the road, there’s actually no access to it from there. You have to swing around, go down Northgate Pkwy, and park at the roundabout at the end of the road near Cladding and Compound Solutions. From there, there is a dirt path that is fairly easy to follow.

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It’s only a couple minutes walk, just take caution in there’s a lot of wood and metal scraps on the ground in the beginning. Once you cross a small stream bed, you’ll run right into the southern tip of the lake. Right away, there’s all these downed trees and logs that just look perfect for bass to  be lurking under.

20170618_120115Today, Dan went with a light green senko on a 6/0 offset hook, wacky rigged. I decided to get rid of our remaining live bait, and toss some worms and crickets out there on a 14 treble hook. Both of us were slow pitch jigging. No shit, on the first cast Dan comes up with a bass!

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Little fella, but a bass nonetheless. It took me a couple more ins and outs to finally get one. myself.

20170618_121552Pretty skinny.  Couple reasons a bass could come up real skinny in an otherwise healthy lake. Too much algae/vegetation, not enough food/insects/small fish, harvest slot fish, an old timer on his last legs of life, or even swallowing too many soft plastics that clogs up the fish’s digestive system. Regardless, he got a worm today, and we were playing C/R.

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Dan ended up catching a total of four, alternating between a wacky and a texas rig.

As usual, I caught a ton of gills.

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But at last, a second bass. And a pretty healthy one at that. Caught on crickets.

Johnsen Lake was a hidden gem by the expressway that had a lot to offer. Definitely a great bass population in that lake that are eager to eat up!

Nimblewill Creek

Get ready, this is going to be a long post! It was easily one of my favorite trips so far. Dan and I decided we wanted to try our hand at trout fishing in Georgia again. We did extensive research using the Fishbrain App (A great app for finding where folks have caught certain fish, as well as more or less the angler’s instagram– my user is shipyard if you want to follow me there!) as well as other online resources. Our first stop was the Chattahoochee just South of Lake Lanier since it was about 2.5 hours from Columbus, where I live. Well, as it turns out it’s solely Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area down there which does not allow primitive camping… or DOGS! They had campgrounds such as Sawnee on the Southern portion of Lake Lanier, but they were all booked up anyways. Besides, the no dogs is a deal breaker. Seriously? It’s the 21st century! Dogs are people, too!

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I mean look at that face. Side note, since moving in with Dan she’s gotten a little chubby (Or as the vet put it, she’s on the “upper end of where she should be”) so she is on a diet.

Anyways, we scrambled around all over the place to try and find a new location that wasn’t too far away from where we were. Dan honed in on Nimblewill Creek– a creek that advertised primitive camping areas all along a trout creek only about an hour north into the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dahlonega. Just what we were looking for!

A note on the advertised directions– know that google maps will NOT lead you to the creek and will instead take you down toward Bull Mountain parking area. You can use the directions off Dahlonega.org  however, FS 28-2 is not indicated on maps other than local maps. Instead, if you’re using a google map or something similar, FS 28-2 will be listed as “Nimblewill Gap Road.” There ARE signs on the road that say FS 28-2 once you reach it, though, and it’s no the same as FS 28-1…It took us a good 45 minutes to an hour of driving around aimlessly to figure this one out. It’s also a no service area, which is great for being unplugged, not so great for navigation without a local map. Feel free to contact me if you want more info about getting there.

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Finally, around 3p we arrived. The creek parallels a long dirt road with multiple pull offs on either side that serve as primitive camping sites. There were a few other folks there, so we just drove until we found a free site.

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Here’s what it looked like; A sectioned off area for the tent, and a rock fire pit. Ignore that bottle, that’s avocado oil that I brought along. The tent we use is a Coleman 4-man pop-up tent that I got off Amazon. It’s weathered through massive rainstorms before, even with just the small fly it comes with. Also it pops up which is really neat and sets up in 3 seconds. We went for the 4-man because Brook sleeps in there with us and she really likes to sprawl out.

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We could head in maybe 50 feet from our campground and the creek bed was right there. We grabbed our fishing supplies, which today consisted of my Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo Light and Dan’s Shakespeare Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod Ultralite. We used 4# test line, and size 14 treble hooks with 1/16th inch split shots. I prefer to use a split shot, but you do not have to use any weight when trout fishing. For bait, we had dead crickets, Berkeley Powerbait Trout Nibblers (In neon green, yellow, pink and orange) as well as general canned corn. This is all valuable stuff we learned from my friend when we went to Dick’s Creek the last time we went trout fishing.

Directly in from our campsite, the creek was shallow and clear enough to see directly to the bottom and not see any fish. So we headed downstream through a small goat path. The whole area was empty enough that we could let Brook loose. We were actually the only people we saw fishing out there. It didn’t take too long to start getting nibbles and catch the first rainbow, even though we were skeptical that there was even trout in the creek!

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Key was throwing the bait into pools beneath small waterfalls, as well as near overhanging rocks. I didn’t even see this guy; he was hiding in a small cave. One thing we realized quickly was that we forgot a trout line. Easy solution here– tie a bowline using paracord, thread the free (long) end through the gill, and then back through the loop.

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We continued moving downstream and throwing into these pools. Brook was so well behaved, sticking by us the entire time. The score was 2-1 Dan at this point (we always end up competing…) Eventually, we came to an area where there was a family camping nearby. A woman told us that yesterday, anglers were having luck in this particular spot so we decided to cast our lines. From the side I was working with, I had to cast through branches which was a little tricky… not to mention I’ve lost countless lures and rigs to the trees. But from here I could actually see dozens of trout resting in a pool. 20170617_165748

Quickly caught two more, but the family took notice and then the little kids started wading into the area I was fishing, wanted to toss their lines in. I would have stayed longer, but of course I wanted to respect their space…and not hook a small child, so we moved on. After approximately 2 hours, we called it a day and returned to our site to clean the fish. Victory poses:

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We ended up with a total of six trout, which wasn’t bad at all, especially for starting so late in the day. We went to the creek bed by our site to clean the fish and prepare it for cooking.  Here is our guide on How to Clean a Fish in Three Steps which is the method we utilized. Here is the end result:

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It was then that we realized I completely forgot some of our supplies at home… namely, butter, salt, pepper and tin foil. We threw some ice on the pan, tossed it in the cooler, and had to make an almost hour round trip into town to the gas station to get the supplies.

Once we returned, we were ready to go. Dan is the primitive cooking guy, so he seasoned and primed the trout with simply butter, salt and pepper, wrapped them up in tin foil and tossed them onto our camp grill.

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We lit up a fire as well, consisting of one tee-pee fire and a second long fire. We had local logs, and ignited it using the twig method, along with toilet paper as our manmade tinder (it was pretty wet everywhere, since it had been raining the past few days).

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While the trout was cooking, we sliced up some potatoes, threw them in a pan with avocado oil and tossed it in the long fire to cook. A quick explanation of the long fire– basically an extension of your main flame, only you make it horizontal instead of vertical. We used two logs and braces, with kindling and twigs in between (on a lower plane) which we lit. The fire is kept contained by the braces, that way you can place a pan atop the braces, directly over the twig fire.

We covered the top of the pan with tin foil because potatoes tend to take a while to soften. When the trout was done, we just placed the foil packets aside, added fresh diced onions, cheese and mushrooms (STORE BOUGHT! In general, even in a survival situation,  if you can prevent it, it is not wise to consume wild mushrooms. Often, highly poisonous mushrooms can look strikingly similar to edible mushrooms and cause a host of ailments, including but not limited to death– both from consumption, or the inhalation of smoke produced from attempted cooking).

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Once it all cooled down, the meal was complete and ready to eat.

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Nothing is more satisfying than a catch and eat meal. If only we had grown the potatoes in our own vegetable garden as well! The trout was cooked absolutely perfectly, though. It was falling off the bone. Trout does have a lot of pin bones to avoid, though.

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Yes, we did bring out plastic cutlery, but rest assured we brought in and hauled out a contractor bag with all of our trash.

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No feeling quite like the peace and calm of a night out in the woods, no cell phones, no internet, and nothing but us and our dog. The stars were stunningly beautiful above, and the silence breathtaking.

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Had to bust out the marshmallows to complete the good ole American camping experience. Good thing I also brought napkins because as you can see, Dan got it all over his face.

Now, what was Brook doing during all this time? We fed her the same time we ate; we brought her special food from home. She was off leash, and is smart enough not to go near the grill or fire, luckily. For the most part, she spent her time right behind us. Brook is a great dog to have in the woods at night. She goes into full guard dog mode, and literally stands at her post all night until bed.

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There’s her guarding right behind Dan.

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Here’s her guarding next to our tent. She looks/listen/smells what we can’t and always alerts us of human or animal movement at night. Knowing that we have no phones, and are fairly isolated in this area, it’s a reassuring habit.

At around midnight, after chatting, talking, laughing and enjoying the wilderness all night, we bunked down in our tent. Equipment wise, we brought thin inflatable sleeping pads and thin blankets. I brought sleeping clothes, though Dan didn’t. I’d recommend it if not just for feeling cleaner and more refreshed in the morning. Brook sleeps in the tent with us because she is our daughter.

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She stole my blanket… she also absolutely loves that spot right behind my knees when I sleep on my side.  But in this picture, you can also see the sleeping pad and blanket I brought.

For protection, we had our knives and bear spray. Probably all you need. Georgia’s population of bears is only about 2000 total, and stick to distinct portions of the state (including the mountainous region of North Georgia), so the spray is reserved for any unwelcome visitors… bear or not. Personally, I believe in preparedness without paranoia. Do I think being isolated and without signal in the woods could be dangerous? Potentially, but not in how folks that don’t do a lot of camping or backpacking would think. I will always argue that you are far more likely to be hurt or approached by unwelcome human contact in the populated city center than the middle of the woods. Sorry, that a bit of a rant!

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Fast forward to the morning. We woke up as the sun rose at around 7a. Dan was still asleep, so I poked out of the tent and went for a walk down by the creek. There were a few fly fishermen down there. The soft bubbling and morning view was so tranquil. Funny thing, Brook managed to get the tent unzipped after I left, and came running toward me 100mph to my surprise while I was down there. She found me!

By the time we made our way back, Dan, the camp-chef, had breakfast in the making. Breakfast was things we brought with us– eggs, steak, and cheesy potatoes o’brien. Eggs and potatoes cooked over our portable charcoal grill in a pan, while the steaks were sizzled over an open fire atop a steel camp grill.

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Talk about a feast. It was a little much for me so early in the morning, so Brook got the remains, little spoiled dog. We took a bit of a food coma nap after that. When we woke up, we packed everything up into the truck, made sure the site was left a little better than we found it and began the 3 hour, 40 minute trip back (to which I was the driver, ugh).

I highly recommend this area for trout fishing and camping. It was absolutely perfect in terms of the experience we were looking for. The sites are all right along the creek, so you hardly even have to walk (definitely don’t have to drive) to fish the creek. Most of the area was very clean, though we did spot some scattered beer cans, etc in the woods. Best of all, it was unplugged, and not crowded at all. Truly one of my favorite fishing trips thus far.

 

 

 

Dick’s Creek

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In the past few days, Dan moved up to North Carolina with Brook, and I am still in Georgia. My friends and I decided to plan a camping/fishing trip for the gang and our resident North Georgia native chose the beautiful, mountainous region of Dahlonega. The campsite we picked was located in an area called Dick’s Creek. This was a stunning creek bed, tumbling over a few waterfalls and stretching as far as the eye could see. We drove about 3 hours to get there, and nestled into a site in the corner. The trout was stocked seasonally with both browns and rainbows. Since we had never trout fished before, my friend advised us on a few different types of bait to try: canned corn, and salmon eggs. Similar to when we’re freelining for bass, you want to use as small a hook as possible with little to no weight.

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Of course little Brooky had to come with us. That’s basically my negotiation piece for anyone that asks me to hang out… its either both of us or none of us! Anyways, we head down to the river, and Dan and I decide to throw a couple lines in right at the base of that magnificent waterfall picture above. Brook didn’t like when we got more than an arms reach away from here, so she was yipping a little bit… It didn’t take us too long to start bringing ’em in! I started up on a piece of corn and reeled in a really nice Brown trout.

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Dan caught a few shortly after. We were able to walk up and down the creek to try different spots, and kept all our catches on a trout line in the water so they would stay fresh for the open fire cookout to take place later.  Honestly, we would have stayed in the same spot, but as usual once folks caught onto that we were bringing em in, they all congregated to adjacent locations and casted directly in front of us. Being Georgia, these people also had on overalls without any shirts underneath, etc…

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Here’s a picture of one of the rainbows I caught as well. We ended up with a total of 5 trout. We and my friend (after he fell into the creek, gave up, and went out again) brought in 6. He taught as a very simple way to clean the trout. Just make a clean cut behind the gills, then slit the bottom from cut to anus. After that, simply pull out the guts, toss them away and squeeze out the blood pooling near the spine. The camping trip was a huge success, lots of games, drinking, cooking, and fun. We had burgers and buttered trout cooked open the fire. Truly a good ole fashioned American time. Brook was having a great time, too, running 100mph around our camp site.

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Really fun first time trout fishing. Sadly since then, a wildfire burned most of Dick’s Creek area down to the ground. I am happy we were able to experience it before that disaster.