How to Make A Pulk

A pulk is simply a sled used to pull cargo  (in my case, cargo = kids), generally when you’re snowshoeing or skiing.  You can spend a lot of money on a really good one, which is probably worth it if you’re looking to do multi-day trips or cross country ski extensively with kids in tow.  For most uses though, they are easy to make and so handy to have.

Materials:

  • 12-14′ 3/4″ PVC tubing.  There is some debate between the 3/4″ and the 1″.  The 1″ is stronger, but it has less give.  I’ve used 3/4″ with a good amount of success.  The other significant downside to this material is that it becomes brittle in very cold conditions, and can snap.  The major advantages are that it is cheap, easy to find, and generally works very well.  So if you’re not in a situation where a snapped pole is going to be a Very Big Problem, I’d recommend throwing some duct tape in your pocket and going with it.  (I have used my pulk for 3 years and I’m still on the original poles).
  • 15-25′ polypropylene rope that is a slightly thinner width than your poles.
  • 4 snapping carabiners.  These don’t have to be the heavy duty climbing variety but should be big enough that you can manage them with mittens.
  • A sturdy plastic sled.
  • Optional: 4-6 1/4″ u-bolts and a drill.
  • A webbed belt, a backpack with a hip belt, or a handmade waist belt.

That’s all you need, and making the pulk is even easier.

The first thing you need to do is decide how you are going to connect it.  The simplest way of doing things is to clip in the poles right to the rope in front of the sled. Simply tie two loops in the rope very close to the nose of the sled.

If you are going to be towing heavier loads or need more maneuverabilty, it’s a better idea to wrap the rope all the way around the sled.  Take your u shaped bolts, and mark where they will hit in the back corners of the sled rim, as well as in the middle (about where the handles generally are).  Optionally, you can also add two to the front rim.  Drill holes for the bolts and put them in so that the u is on top, nuts screwed in on the bottom underneath the rim.  Run your rope through all the holes, and tie two loops on the ends close to the nose of the sled.  This will give you more control and help prevent the sled from fishtailing behind you, and it gives you the option of crisscrossing elastic cord from u-bolt to u-bolt to hold gear in place.

Set the sled aside, and cut your pipe so that you have 2 6-7 foot lengths.  Run rope through the pipe and tie a loop on each end of each pipe.  Clip the carabiners into the loops.

Clip one end of the carabiners onto the sled end.  The other end of the carabiners needs to be attached to you, preferably close to your hips where it’s not going to throw off your gait.  The easiest thing is to take a sturdy hiking backpack and clip into that.  To start out just find *something* you can clip those carabiners into that won’t rip.  If you decide this is something you’re going to use fairly often, then it’s worth getting yourself a hip belt just for the pulk. I sewed myself a hip belt with D-rings attached to either side (tutorial coming) and use that very comfortably. If you don’t want to make your own hip belt they are easily available, just look for one with something you can clip into or handsew some D-rings onto it with heavy duty thread.

 

How to screw your shoes

With all the recent posts about the need for traction, it seemed time to revisit the time honored tradition of screw shoes. Screw shoes work great on ice and mud and tend to be less slippery on wet rock then yak trax or stabilicers. They do have their downsides– the screws do eventually fall out and you can often feel them a little bit in your shoes, (NOT the sharpness, the lack of give in the midsole where the screws are). While you can take the screws out at the end of the season your shoes really aren’t the same afterwards, so we suggest using an older pair to start with.

Materials:

  • 16-32 1/4 – 3/8″ hex head screws
    3/8″ stay in considerably better, but 1/4″ are less noticeable when you’re wearing the shoes.
  • Power drill
  • Oldish pair of sneakers
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  1. You will be putting the screw into the outsole and midsole of the shoe. The midsole will compress when you run so you want to be sure there is some extra padding.  It should go without saying, but this is particularly important if you run in a more minimalist shoe!
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  2. Pick a spot to drill the screw in. You want to focus on where your foot makes the most contact with the ground, and on the thicker parts of your shoe. The tread of your shoe will dictate to a large extent where the screws go.20131229-110306.jpg
  3. Get a good grip on your shoe and drill that screw in !20131229-110444.jpg
  4. Repeat as many times as you want. 8-12 per shoe is a rough guideline. Keep in mind that over time a few are going to fall out.20131229-111216.jpg

And you’re done! Lace up your newly souped up shoes and head to the trails.

Hunting Season

Have you been wondering how much longer you need your blaze orange?  Some sort of hunting is legal much of the year, but the real seasons you need to think about around here are Turkey, Pheasant, Quail, and Deer.

The 2014 season hasn’t been posted yet, but as far as the birds go, in general turkey season is in May and late October/Early November, and Pheasant, Quail, and Grouse begin in mid October and go to the end of November.

The 2013 deer season is still in progress. In 2013 the Deer archery season ran Oct. 21- Nov 30, the shotgun season was Dec 2- Dec 14, and the primitive firearms season is Dec 16-Dec 31.

It’s not been an issue for us before, but as someone who runs with my dogs, I was surprised to learn that there is a coyote hunting season and it began in October and it runs until March 14.  You’d have to be a complete moron to mistake my Brittanys for coyotes but a) there ARE some complete morons out there and b) there are plenty of dogs that, from a distance, *could* be mistaken for a coyote fairly easily.  I’m thinking Zeke will wear his jingle bell all winter.

As a side note, MA has a legal bullfrog hunting season (who knew?), as well as an oh-so-restrictive snapping turtle season running from from Jan 1 – Dec 31.   It’s also worth mentioning  that trapping is allowed for most of the winter.

There is, of course, no hunting on Sunday.  On the trails we run on regularly, all but Ravenswood allow hunting, and even on Ravenswood trails, hunting is permitted on the trails that leave Trustees of Reservations property.

The full hunting schedule can be seen here: http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dfg/dfw/recreation/licensing-hunting/2013-hunting-and-trapping-season-table.pdf

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New England and Coywolves

I’ve been doing some interesting reading about the coyotes in the area.  They are all over Cape Ann, a fact which has been highlighted by the recent shooting of a coyote at East Gloucester Elementary school.

We all know that Cape Ann coyotes are relatively huge and often run in packs. Well, it turns out that, for one thing, Eastern coyotes are not true coyotes but a hybrid between the Western coyote and the Eastern red wolf, often called coywolves, and they are considered by some scientists to be an emerging species.  Here’s a link to a peer reviewed publication studying the genetic makeup of coyotes (coywolves) in the northeast.

There is some pretty interesting research going on, much of which is highlighted here at http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com and a related site.  In addition the Audobon society is having a morning talk about coyotes in the area on January 11 that sounds great.

So…people and coyotes (coywolves) are going to be sharing space on Cape Ann (and the rest of New England) for the foreseeable future. Now, I don’t know the specifics of the East Gloucester incident.  I don’t know if the coyote was ill or injured or if it was behaving in a threatening manner, or if it had simply decided to have a snack on a school grounds.  What I do know is that gunning down every coyote who is unlucky enough to run by a school or playground is not a solution.  The question is not whether we share our space, but how do we best do it?  How do coyotes and people co-exist with a minimum number of interactions?

How to avoid interactions from occurring:

  1. Do not let dogs (especially small breeds) outdoors loose without constant supervision.  Fences should be at least 5 feet tall and there should not be any places where coyotes can crawl underneath. While a fence does not guarantee total protection, it is a good deterrent to coyotes or humans who would snatch or harm pets left outside alone.
  2. Dogs taken outdoors by their owners should always be leashed unless in a fenced yard, where they should still be supervised and checked regularly.
  3. Dogs should not be tied outdoors unfenced and unsupervised in coyote-prevalent areas. Accidents have happened.
  4. Cats should be kept indoors unless trained to remain at home.
  5. Dogs and cats should not be left outside for any period of time unsupervised, especially at night, even in a fenced enclosure.
  6. Invisible fences do not protect your pets from predators. While they may keep your pet in your yard, they don’t keep predators or other animals out of your yard.

Do’s and Don’ts in Coyote Country:

  1. 1. DO chase them away and make noise (bang pots and pans) if you don’t want them in your yard. Of course, if you don’t mind them then watch them from a window quietly as to not scare them away. Cape Ann coywolves are generally very comfortable around people. If they are unwelcome, let them know they are unwelcome, preferably in a manner that does involve gun shots.
  2. DO make noise when you are outside especially if coyotes are often in your area (like a den site nearby). They will often change their course of direction when they hear people. Bring a whistle or horn to scare them away from you.
  3. DO NOT feed coyotes or other animals.  Even if you are feeding birds (e.g., suet) or other animals (like raccoons) coyotes will be attracted to your yard just like any other animal looking for an easy handout.
  4. DO NOT feed your pets outside for the same reason as #3.
  5. Just as importantly, DO NOT let your neighbors feed wildlife. Coyotes travel tremendous distances and a coyote regularly coming to your neighbor’s yard for a free handout will surely pass through your yard to get there. A habituated coyotes is a potential problem coyote.
  6. Absolutely DO NOT let your cat outside if you are truly concerned with its health. Coyotes are just one of many mortality factors for outdoor cats.
  7. DO leash your dogs. Although coyotes may follow a leashed dog out of curiosity (to the concern of the person), it is extremely rare for them to actually get within contact of your pet.
  8. DO enjoy their presence and the fact that having this wily predator adds to the mystique of your (potentially even urban) neighborhood. Try to minimize your conflicts with these creatures by following these simple precautions.

The above guidelines were reprinted with permission from easterncoyoteresearch.com .

Winter Running Doesn’t Have to Be Miserable

Here in Gloucester our first storm was a doozy in terms of mess if not in accumulation, and now the sidewalks are buried and the roads are an ice slick…we often get funny looks for running in the trails all winter, but in many ways you are far better off in the woods than out on the roads!  Less ice, no cars to dodge, narrow roads and angry drivers are not your problem, shelter from the wind except on exposed stetches, no cement-hard plowed up snowbanks to navigate…and the woods are peaceful and beautiful and wonderful in the winter.

That said, winter running in general and winter trail running in particular is something that gets easier with experience and the right gear.  So for those of you that haven’t tried it before, here are some tips to get out on the trail this winter.

1.  Dress appropriately.  I can’t stress this enough.  And by “dress appropriately” I don’t mean “put on every warm item of clothing you own.”  Nothing will make you colder than getting good and sweaty on a winter run.  A good rule of thumb is to dress for weather 20 degrees (F) warmer than what it actually is.  Yes, you will be cold in the beginning, but you will warm up quickly and be glad you didn’t put more on.

2. Good gloves are your friend.  Good mittens are an even better friend.  If you are one of those people whose hands are always cold, splurge on a really, really good pair of mittens, because nothing makes a winter run miserable like cold, achey hands.  On really cold days the instant hand warmers are mighty nice.  And wear a hat.  Preferably a bright hat as it’s hunting season for much of the winter in New England.

3.  Do not wear cotton.  Don’t wear any cotton anywhere but especially don’t wear cotton socks. Cotton holds the moisture you sweat out right next to your skin, doesn’t insulate when wet, and next thing you know you are chilled to the bone.  Synthetics and wool will wick the moisture away and retain their insulating properties even wet, meaning that you can stay nice and cozy even in very cold temps.

4. Protect your skin.  Aquaphor works great to protect exposed skin; so does coconut oil. I prefer either of those over vaseline but experiment and see what works for you.  Along the lines of protecting skin, protect your dogs’ pads if you run with a canine trail buddy.  There are all kinds of booties on the market but these are my personal favorites: http://www.gundogsupply.com/scott-nylon-dog-boots.html

5. Know where you are going.  You are out on a run in the woods in July and you make a wrong turn…ooops!  Looks like you are on a 2 hour run today!  and it’s kind of funny in a hooray-we’re-on-an-adventure sort of way.  In the winter, there’s less margin for error.  Know where you are, where you are going, where the nearest roads are if you need an unexpected out, and consider carrying a map. (full disclosure: we get lost all the time.  However, this is an article about best practices).

6. Add some traction.  If you are going to have fun running in the woods, it’s really worth adding some sort of traction to your shoes.  You can be old school and hardcore and all that good stuff and drill 1/8″ screws into the bottom of your shoes…most of us have tried this for at least one season but most of us have also moved onto other methods.  Also it bears noting that this technique is going to be catastrophic for you if you’ve embraced the whole minimalist shoe trend. Between yak tracks and stabilicers, most of us find that stabilicers stay on a little better.  I’m quite intrigued by kako icetrekkers as they look pretty nice to run on but haven’t gotten any first hand reviews.  Traction will make the difference between feeling like you are on a trail run and feeling like you are on a trail shuffle.

8. Deep snow = gaiters.  Waterproof shoes are a matter of opinion…some love them because they keep the water out in shallow conditions, others hate them because once water gets in, it is not going anywhere. But almost everyone likes gaiters.

9. Consider snow shoes.  Running snowshoes have gotten incredibly light and maneuverable.  Yes, it is certainly different from regular running but it is an unbelievably challenging and FUN workout.  Give it a try.  Around here we are pretty partial to Dion Snowsnoes.

10. Keep an open mind, have fun, and forget about your pace.  Odds are good you won’t hit your pace in true winter conditions. A planned interval workout may not always happen. Think in terms of effort and time on your feet.  In the same week I ran 8 miles at sub-7:00 pace on the treadmill and 8 miles over 10:00 minute pace on the trails.  My average heart rate was higher on the trails.   A good dose of sunshine and fresh air, (yes, even frigid fresh air), will do so much more for your day than another run on the dreadmill. We promise.

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