This juvenile Great Blue Heron seemed to enjoy milling about on the ice. He'd walk back and forth, change positions, and just stand for what seemed like forever. After getting photos and watching him for a while, I actually got bored and left before he did.
Lots of water birds are predators. I've been fortunate to photograph Grebes, Coots, and Mergansers over the winter as they were catching fish. None of them can do it quite like the Great Blue Heron, though. And, yes, I've posted lots of photos of herons catching fish, but I never cease to be impressed, especially when they take on something sizable.
by Marc Hutchison One
year ago, I wrote an article for Brian's web page dealing with small stoves for
camping, hiking, and survival. Those
stoves included wood burning, pressurized canister, and fire tablet. This past
year I've had a ton of fun using a tiny stove that is very popular in the
hiking/backpacking world. It's called
the "Alcohol Stove". This is
a non-pressurized stove that you fill with fuel, light it, allow the stove to
"prime" (once the stove heats up it will vaporize the fuel and allow
the jets to blossom on the stove), then you're ready for business.
this past year, I've purchased several alcohol stoves and created a few home
made versions. For informational and
picture purposes concerning this article, I'm only going to focus on 2 stoves
that I've purchased. For the record, I'm
not associated in any way with the makers of these stoves. I've just used them countless times and I
know I can depend on them without any reservation.
The Venom Super Stove
(made by Zelph Stoves):
equipment pictured: ESEE "Izula" knife, Stoic 700ml cup, "Light My
fire" fire steel)
you're doing a month long solo trail hike or spending a few days in the woods
camping with family, you don't want to experience any complications or failures
with your equipment. This being vitally
important concerning your cooking gear. The beauty of the alcohol stove is
there are NO moving parts, no hoses, no seals, and no computer chips to malfunction
and render the stove useless in the field. Case in point: Roland Mueser, author of, "Long - Distance Hiking:
Lessons from the Appalachian Trail", conducted a survey of stoves used by
thru-hikers (one who attempts to hike/backpack an entire trail in one
uninterrupted journey) and he found that the alcohol stove was the only type
with a zero percent failure rate.
addition to simplicity, this style of stove is clean burning and odorless. The two most popular fuels to
use with an alcohol stove are HEET (in the YELLOW bottle) and Denatured
alcohol. Both of these fuels burn clean
and will not leave any soot or coating on
your stove and cooking gear.
This fuel is
non-combustible and is safe to light with a match, lighter, or even scraping a
fire steel rod with the spine of a knife resulting in the sparks igniting the
fuel. Both HEET and Denatured alcohol
are readily available in most stores across the country
Tip: The use of
rubbing alcohol (70% and 90% Isopropyl) will leave that nasty black soot on everything. But, they can be used as a last resort in an
stoves can be used in all temperatures. I've read articles where freezing temps will hamper the stove's
performance, but in my experience, I've not had any issues when the temps dip
below the freezing mark. Here are a couple suggestions that will
actually enhance the performance of your stove.
First, if using the stove in windy
conditions, always use some kind of windscreen. This will keep the flame from blowing all over the place which makes for
a longer boil time.
While in the woods, if I don't have
a windscreen with me, I'll try to use natural objects like rocks, wood, or
some other item that will block the wind.
For this article, I tried using bricks as a wind screen and they worked
just fine at keeping the wind from the stove. In fact, it only took 3 minutes and 45 seconds to bring one cup of water
to a rolling boil. The stove went on to
burn for 10 minutes before running out of fuel and it was very windy outside
(1.5 ounces of fuel was used for this experiment). Note: Before putting the bricks around the
stove, the wind actually blew out the flame before the stove had a chance to
"wind screen" preference is to use a small wood burning stove. Just place the alcohol stove down into the wood
burning stove which blocks the wind nicely and also provides a larger area for
your cup, pot, or pan. The following pictures
illustrate this procedure (Note: the wind was howling, the temp was 29F, and
the snow was blowing. I used 1.5 ounces
of fuel and 2 cups of water. The soup
began boiling in no time).
used: Backwoods "KDC" knife (designed by Brian King), MSR Stowaway
pot, "LMF" fire steel, Emberlit "EL Mini" wood stove).
Tip: If placing your alcohol
stove on the bare ground, always try to use something like aluminum foil underneath
the stove which will reduce conduction (heat being sucked into the ground which
will make for longer boil times and waste fuel).
of the major benefits of this kind of stove is how compact it is along with
it's ultra light weight. Most alcohol
stoves weigh anywhere from less than 1 oz. for a home made cat food can up to
almost 4 ounces for the Swedish made Trangia stove. As you can see from the following pictures,
you can carry everything you need for a day hike inside a small cup which
doesn't take up hardly any space in a backpack.
equipment in picture: Backwoods "Battle Axe" knife, Stoic 700ml cup,
LMF fire steel).
As I mentioned earlier,
it's incredibly easy to make your own stove. The following link is an instructional video on making your own alcohol
stove by using a small cat food can and a hole punch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pajkt594Ruw
With all the positive
attributes of the alcohol stove, there are a few issues that need to be
addressed when using this style of stove.
- You can't see the
flame very well during daylight hours. Never look directly into the stove or place your hand directly on top
when trying to see/feel if the stove has successfully been lit.
- Make sure you have
a stable area for the stove. You don't
want it to tip over while burning. In
addition, make sure your cup or pot is sturdy before you begin cooking.
- The alcohol stove is not suited to make large buffet
meals. If you're determined to prepare
4-course meals with the finest ingredients and insist on carrying a
professional "Viking" stove system while on the trail, then you will
be sorely disappointed in the alcohol stove. It's a small stove that works
perfectly for boiling water for dehydrated foods and your trails drinks
(coffee, tea, etc.). But, don't let
these limitations stifle your imagination. Did someone say blueberry pancakes?
- The alcohol stove
doesn't have a simmer control. Some
stoves, like the Trangia, have a simmer ring, but generally this style of stove
is either on or off.
- This style of stove
is not as strong as some of the other stoves on the market, so just use caution
when packing them in your backpack or vehicle.
So far, I've never had any issue with the 2 above mentioned stoves. They are very strong and sturdy and I've
never worried about them in my various backpacks. Note: If you were to crush your stove while
in the woods, you can always look around for a soda/beer can and make your own.
In conclusion, if you'd ask
me why I own several alcohol stoves, I would answer by saying they are so
light, reliable, and simple to use that it has earned a permanent place in my
vehicle bag and backpack. And, I always
want a few extra stoves on hand when the power is out at my house. For clarification, I have other means of
cooking, but I like having several items on hand to accomplish a task. If you're reading this article and have never heard of these stoves, hopefully you've
learned something new in the world of hiking, backpacking, and survival
gear. If you decide to make your own or
to purchase one, remember this piece of advice..........make sure you're alone
when you go out on the back porch in the freezing cold to whip up some pancakes
and coffee. You definitely don't want
your family or friends to think you're nuts for not using the main stove and coffee
maker in your warm kitchen. I speak from experience.