‘OSG’ update: A first-aid oversight

By Chris Engle, contributor

Hey there, “Out, See, Go” readers!

Earlier this month I talked about 12 ways to be a better outdoorsperson. Among my suggestions was to construct an extremely compact first-aid kit.

The idea of making such a kit as small as possible is to make you more likely to bring it along.

Take this example: My wife and I have one child. The iconic object which comes with a first child is a diaper bag bulging with every baby-care product under the sun: Diapers, lotion, butt wipes, face wipes, hand wipes, pacifier wipes, pacifiers, toys, medicine, fingernail clippers, milk bottles, water bottles (later replaced with sippy cups), stale snacks (replaced by fresh snacks with every outing), and extra diapers in case the first half-dozen are soiled or otherwise spontaneously combust.

After two years of toting this unwieldy sack of baby stuff we stopped bringing it on short trips. For that we paid dearly — no spare diapers, no hand/face/butt wipes, no snacks when we needed them most.

In other words, NO FUN.

In time we found a happy medium of grabbing a diaper or two, a snack and some hand sanitizer on the way out the door. This is my current m.o. as a stay-at-home dad and it works.

Same goes for a first-aid kit. Cramming too much stuff into a kit makes it hard to pack or carry, thus making it a good candidate to be left behind. A first-aid kit that can fit into a pocket is much better than not having one at all, even if it doesn’t have everything under the sun.

And this is where I have to include a correction to this month’s blog. My recommended kit left out a few small but quite important things. A reader named Dave called me out:

“Add super glue to your first-aid kit to hold together bad cuts. They do in the (emergency room). Also emergency kit for bird dogs.”

A warning for anyone about to close a cut with super glue: It burns like the devil. But Dave’s right — it works, it’s waterproof, and as someone whose dad was an ER nurse for 13 years, they do use it there.

His other point about bird dogs is also valid. If you bring along a dog for hunting or companionship, make sure they’re taken care of. This means being able to treat cuts, especially on the pads of their feet. Most pet stores have the proper ointment for that.

One more note about dogs and first-aid kits, again based on personal experience: Bring tweezers or surgical pliers. This was my biggest oversight in my first-aid suggestions.

These utensils would’ve come in handy when Miley got into a porcupine a few years ago. Initially I couldn’t do much more than put her in the car and drive her home. The next two weeks were spent pulling deeply embedded quills from her front legs with tweezers.

There’s all sorts of outdoor hazards which warrant having tweezers or pliers on hand, the most likely of which are splinters from firewood or impromptu piercings from fish hooks.

So there, I think that covers it. I’d be happy to hear any more of your suggestions. Email me at englemobile@gmail.com.


A tarp acts as a rain fly for a small backpacking tent at camp in the Pigeon River Country State Forest.

Out, See, Go: 12 ways to be a better outdoorsperson

By Chris Engle, contributor

It’s January now and prime time for cabin fever to kick in. I’ve been fiddling with the idea of a camping outing in February – my first winter camp in a few years – but until then I thought I’d share some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head lately.

Over the years I’ve read lots of magazine articles teaching really intensive skills for really intensive adventures. The thing is, each time one of those articles is published, I worry another person is scared off from getting outside and trying something new because they don’t have the time or tools they’re convinced they need.

Northern Michigan doesn’t have mountains. Aside from the Pictured Rocks we have no sheer cliffs. Venomous insects and snakes are almost nonexistent.

What we do have are lots of lakes, pretty extreme temperatures and some vast wilderness, so a little preparation, basic items, and know-how goes a long way for local explorers.

Here they are, in no particular order of importance, my suggestions men and women can use to improve themselves outdoors.

Learn to sew. I’ll lead this list with one skill that far too many people reserve for the ladies: sewing. Remember your guy friend from high school who took home economics as a way to meet girls? Well, he learned how to bake a killer pie, balance a checkbook down to the cent, and sew an awesome flannel shirt from scratch – not to mention he probably scored a few phone numbers in the process.

My mom taught me how to sew when I was a teenager. My first project was to mend a tear in my bedskirt. I still have that bedding set stashed away. It’s Realtree camo, by the way.

Since then I’ve sewn up tears in my hiking pack, repaired jackets, replaced buttons, stitched stuffed trout shut for the frying pan and fixed countless shirts for my wife and daughter. There’s definitely a sense of pride that comes from making old things new again with a simple needle and thread. It also saves a lot of money you would’ve otherwise spent on new gear.

Buy a glue gun and use it everywhere. Whatever a needle and thread can’t close up, a glue gun definitely will. A $3 glue gun bought me a couple more seasons with my old neoprene waders when their rubber boots began to dry and crack. Glue guns make great gifts for Valentine’s Day.

Buy a knife sharpener or whetstone and learn how to use it. A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one because you have to force the blade through whatever you’re cutting. Once it’s through, the blade will keep going, sometimes into your other hand. A sharp knife makes for light work and cleaner cuts. There are videos online that teach sharpening skills.

Get some waterproofing spray. When my older brother bought his first pair of Airwalk sneakers, he applied five or six coats of waterproofing spray over the course of a week, letting each coat dry for about a day. They looked brand new for five years and even now, 18 years later, they still look pretty good. Imagine what the stuff can do for your boots.

Don’t worry about knots. I was never a Boy Scout or sailor so I don’t know many knots. Even so, I’ve gotten through life outdoors just fine with square knots and fisherman’s knots. If not knowing knots is the thing holding you back, don’t let it.

Whittle things. Seriously, the way to a woman’s heart is with a well-whittled marshmallow stick for s’mores by the campfire. And ladies, present your man with a handcrafted weenie roaster and you will send his heart racing — and not just because of the cholesterol.

When my dad was a kid he whittled a giant fork and spoon for my grandma. To this day the utensils hang on her kitchen wall and she counts them among her most prized possessions. Remember that come Mothers Day.

Own two tarps. Use one for dirty work like hauling leaves and covering your wood pile at home. Keep the other one clean for camping and tie some ropes to the corners in case you’ll need it for emergency shelter or shade.

Forage things. Mushrooms can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. So can berries, but if you stick to recognizable ones like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries you’ll be ok. Even dandelions are edible, goldenrod can be brewed into tea, and wild mint makes a great backcountry breath freshener once you’ve wooed your lady friend with your whittling skills.

Learning to forage means learning to recognize good plants from bad, and that should definitely come in handy next time you go to the bathroom in the woods, if you know what I mean.

Build a fire. Start small with kindling of dry twigs, pine needles and thin strips of birch bark. Once that’s going, add larger twigs and pine branches. Add a log once you’ve got some coals going. Don’t be afraid to crouch down and blow on the embers – it’s amazing how much hotter they’ll burn with a little infusion of oxygen. Get good at these things before you get into the teepee-versus-log cabin-style campfire construction debate that’s been raging for millennia.

Assemble a super simple first aid/survival kit. When it comes to kits, the smaller the better. I’m talking fit-in-your-pocket small so you’re more apt to bring it along. Things to include: A CD or small mirror and whistle for signaling (blasts of three means distress), waterproof matches, large and small bandages, cotton balls or gauze, medical tape, Motrin or Tylenol, and burn ointment. That’s it. Put it all in a 1-quart Ziploc bag.

Knowing basic first aid is just as important as having a kit, so bring that know-how along too.

Have a sense of direction. A compass is only good if you have one – duh – and know how to use it. Will Phillips, tweeting @TheThryll, posted this on Twitter: “If you get lost in the woods, a compass can help you get lost more north.” So true.

You can hone your sense of direction while driving by quizzing yourself on what direction you’re headed. Learn how to read the sun and shadows while walking in the woods. If you get lost, stop, relax and listen for road noise or a creek to get your bearings. Panicking will only make things worse.

Buy a headlamp. The headlamp is the greatest invention since the discovery of fire. A lightweight LED headlamp leaves your hands free for other tasks – fishing, gathering wood, cooking or whatever. $30 goes a long way in the headlamp department and the investment is worth every cent.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to add your own in the comments section or email me your thoughts, englemobile@gmail.com.

– Chris Engle is an avid outdoorsman and stay-at-home dad who lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County.

Me and my dog at Section Four Pond during a July 2009 hike with friends.

Out, See, Go: Adventure is relative

By Chris Engle, contributor

A friend of mine works for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado. His job is to four-wheel and backpack his way up Colorado mountainsides and clear trails with his chainsaw. On his days off, he posts pictures to Facebook for every 14,000-foot mountain he summits in the Denver area. He’s at 24 and counting.

Another buddy in the Forest Service – coincidentally they’re both named Eric – has fought forest fires on an island in Washington’s Puget Sound. He and his fellow firefighters spend days at a time living in the backcountry working 14- and 16-hour shifts digging trenches and bulldozing fire breaks in the trees. They sleep in tents and eat out of cans and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

I, on the other hand, feel like I live on the opposite end of the high-adventure spectrum. I’ve rarely wandered outside of Michigan and have never left the country. I didn’t go to a university where they offered rock climbing or backcountry canoeing as electives. I regret that I’ve never seen Yellowstone National Park or the Appalachian Mountains but it doesn’t mean I never will.

Even so I’ve still taken some really great camping trips with family and friends and some of my best memories come from time spent in the Pigeon River Country State Forest with the two Erics.

I hiked the Shingle Mill Pathway with Eric Collins – “Colorado Eric” – and another friend Nathan in July 2009. We took our time covering the 12-mile loop.

The first day we stopped at Section Four Pond, an emerald-green sinkhole lake once stocked with trout. We fished for an hour in the hot sun before a thunderstorm rolled in and, for the next 20 minutes, it rained harder than I’ve ever seen before. We took shelter under overhanging branches – I chose to sit in a patch of poison ivy.

Once the storm passed Nathan caught a beautiful little rainbow trout that glimmered in the sunshine like a piece of silver jewelry.

That night, by the fire, Eric unpacked a small Rubbermaid container with all the fixings for three smores. He recited a line from “The Sandlot” as he assembled his sandwich of chocolate and marshmallow.

“First you take the graham,” he said. “You stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the mallow. When the mallow’s flaming, you stick it on the chocolate then you cover it with the other end.

“THEN you stuff,” he said, taking a bite. We were rolling laughing with his ridiculously spot-on memory of the 90s movie.

MY FIRST TWO winter camping adventures were shared with Eric Dasso – “Washington Eric” – at Cornwall Flooding in the Pigeon River forest.

On the first trip we spent over an hour chopping through two feet of ice with a hatchet to try and catch a meal of panfish. Our cone-shaped hole tapered to just a couple inches wide when we finally broke through the bottom. Maybe it was all that chopping which scared the fish away but we never even got a bite.

That night our tarp shelter crinkled in the wind so much that we hardly got any sleep.

On the second time out I had a 30-minute lead ahead of Eric snowshoeing through the woods to our campsite. The sun set, it got cold, my sweat froze and I got nervous. My snowshoe caught a hidden branch and I fell. My bag chair, camera tripod and sleeping bag came loose from the straps of my pack and sank into the snow. I was miserable and it was the scariest moment I’ve ever had in the woods.

I collected my things and eventually made it to camp in the dark. I had time to build a fire and dry some of my clothes before Eric finally showed. He had reluctantly followed my tracks into thick tag alders knowing I’d made a wrong turn. Instead of taking the correct route, he pursued me to make sure I was OK.

Now there’s a friend.

THAT’S what these kinds of trips are good for. Whether it’s one night or 10, special bonds form when you spend time together in the outdoors.

Another friend of mine, Alex Code, has climbed rock cliffs in at least six states and met his girlfriend on a month-long canoeing excursion they were leading together in Canada. They had 20-some college freshmen tagging along as they paddled from lake to lake, spending as much time on the water as they did on shore.

He taught one girl, who had never canoed before, how to hold her paddle sideways while portaging over a bog so that it would stop her fall if she were to break through the floating mat of moss.

Another student ran screaming into the woods when the constant swarms of mosquitoes caused him to crack the first night.

He’s spent the night on a rock ledge jutting out from a cliff face and resumed climbing the next day.

Alex told me these stories Saturday while we fished together on Manuka Lake. This was no high-adventure trip, just a short drive and a very short walk onto the ice where we caught a couple bluegill and a bass.

I told him about a five-day hike I took along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula – my longest and greatest backcountry trip ever but a cake-walk compared to his experiences.

“I’ve always wanted to do that,” he said. “I love that place.”

– Chris Engle is an avid outdoorsman and stay-at-home dad who lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at englemobile@gmail.com.

Out, See, Go: Yup, that’s ice alright!

Yesterday, the opening day of rifle deer season, I drove my family to the first buck pole Gaylord’s seen in a few years. DerMiner’s Parkside Market, across the street from Otsego Lake State Park, had three small bucks hanging from the A-frame pole by noon and about every car traveling that stretch of Old 27 was stopping or slowing down to check out the deer. That’s pretty standard for “St. Antlers Day” in Northern Michigan.

But that wasn’t the only spectacle on the snowy highway that day.

To the west, almost the entire surface of Otsego Lake was covered in ice. This is a typical sight for the first week of December but is highly unusual for now.

One of my hobbies, if you could call it that, is to keep notes of every fishing trip I take. My notes go back to 2007, two years after I moved to Gaylord from Alpena. From that year on I have hundreds of entries summarizing the lakes I visited, whom I was with, what I caught, where on the lake or river I fished, and any other interesting details I wanted to log for future use. It’s actually really helpful when it comes to planning fishing outings throughout the year and I’ll blog about it another day.

As the years went by I started adding other non-fishing related notes including ice on/ice off dates. A coworker who commuted past Otsego Lake every day would start paying close attention this time of year, and again in spring, and would let me know when the ice appeared and when it broke up so I could log it in my journal.

Since 2007 the earliest I’ve seen it ice up was last year, when winter came early and Otsego froze over around Nov. 24. Never, in my 30 years, have I seen ice this soon.

This probably seems insignificant to most people but if you’re reading this blog then you are probably one of the few who actually cares about this sort of thing. Good for you!

Early ice, in my opinion, means a few things.

First, the dreaded gap between putting the boat away and breaking out the ice shanty will be much, much shorter this season. I don’t deer hunt so I’m usually spending these weeks drumming my fingers in anticipation of ice fishing season and it drives my wife crazy. I think she’s secretly happy to see me get out of the house when it’s time for me to go punch my first holes in the ice.

Secondly, early-season ice fishing is usually pretty good. All those weed beds that built up over the summer haven’t completely died and collapsed yet, leaving some good shelter where fish still like to hang out. Seeking out those weed beds you fished in fall is a good strategy come winter.

The water is also well oxygenated so fish are still active. Things change a lot come February when two feet of ice deprives lakes and their fish of vital oxygen. That’s when the Department of Natural Resources starts putting out press releases about inevitable fish die-offs. My journal entries for the last six or seven Februaries are pretty pitiful.

Just because there’s ice out there right now doesn’t mean it is safe. There’s still one large, open spot north of Otsego Lake State Park and some of the area’s deeper lakes probably don’t have ice yet.

The most important thing now for ice to build is steady, cold temperatures and minimal snow. Any snow we get during this crucial time of first ice will make it spongy and unstable. Even under the best circumstances I’m still going to give it two weeks before I venture out.

When I finally do I’ll probably be heading to Thumb Lake, about a half-hour drive north of Gaylord in Charlevoix County. In December of last year I landed my three biggest splake ever, including a 20-inch monster. They were hanging out in shallow water near the boat launch and hit my waxworm-tipped jig like a freight train.

Now that all Michigan fishing licenses are good for all species, there’s no need to spend extra money to fish for trout. That’s good because ice fishing is about as low budget as hobbies get.

Even though I’m getting amped for ice fishing, hunting isn’t quite out of the question. Tromping through the woods on snowshoes in search of rabbits and grouse is a lot of fun and a good way to burn off those extra Thanksgiving calories. Remember: You have to stay out of the woods until Dec. 1 when rifle deer season ends. It’s the law and for your own safety.

Alright, my neighbor just texted me to say he got a spikehorn buck this morning. It’s time for me to do my neighborly thing and give him a hand hanging it up in the garage.

Good luck with whatever you do in the next few weeks, and happy Thanksgiving!

– Chris Engle is a stay-at-home dad, an avid outdoorsman and outdoor columnist for the Gaylord Herald Times. He can be reached at englemobile@gmail.com.

Out, See, Go: My picks for colorful hikes and drives

By Chris Engle, contributor

One thing that’s always amazed me about Gaylord is how I can drive 10 minutes in almost any direction and go from city to country to wilderness in that short window of time.

Sometimes it’s even less.

Here’s a great example: The Alpine Soccer Complex is a huge expanse of manicured turf on Ohio Avenue, one of Gaylord’s busiest side streets. It hosts huge tournaments and regular scrimmages and is a stone’s throw from our hospital and St. Mary Cathedral, the heart of the Catholic diocese for Northern Michigan.

But drive north past the complex and Ohio Avenue abruptly turns into Morgan Road. Soccer fields and residential streets give way to farmland and groves of trees. City water towers become silos and barns.

It’s also the back way to Vanderbilt and the Pigeon River Country State Forest which I learned when my friend’s dad, who coincidentally lives just off Ohio Avenue, took this way on one of my first fishing trips to the Pigeon. Now I have a bit of a special attachment to this route.

Which brings me to my next point: This is the time of year when we’re all scrambling to fit in a colorful drive or hike on a weekend or after work. Thankfully, with Gaylord’s proximity to some great back roads and foot trails, we don’t have to drive an hour just to get somewhere to drive some more.

So here’s my list of great hikes and drives, ranked in order from closest and easiest to farthest and hardest, keeping in mind they’re all within a stone’s throw of Gaylord.

Five Lakes Natural Area

Location: Five Lakes Road, off Murner Road or North Townline Road, 10-15 minutes from Gaylord.

Specifications: 1.1 miles of gentle, narrow trails.

Of all the area around Five Lakes, this nature area is the only public access. It is owned by Gaylord Community Schools and maintained by the Otsego Conservation District as a public place to view wildlife and native plants.

A long dock extends into one of the lakes to offer glimpses of frogs and fish and a beautiful panoramic view of the lake.

More about the nature area can be found here.

Pine Baron Pathway

Location: At the end of Lone Pine Road, off Old Alba Road, 10 minutes from Gaylord.

Specs: Clover-shaped network of trail loops, each about 2 miles long. Two-track trail with gentle inclines is good for walking and biking. Off-road baby stroller friendly.

This is my favorite local hiking trail year round but the best part about this pathway in fall is all the colorful mushrooms.

The hiking/skiing pathway is maintained by the Department of Natural Resources and is as much a logging area as it is a recreational area. Massive stumps line the pathway in some spots as a monument to the historic use of the place. It’s still actively cut each year which generates new growth for upland birds and new stumps for the dozens of mushroom varieties which grow there.

Sturgeon River Preserve

Location: Whitmarsh Road, off Old 27 North, where the road crosses the river.15-20 minutes from Gaylord

Specs: Two short trail loops on 40 acres. The trail is steepest at its entrance.

This is the newest member to the family of hiking trails in the Gaylord area. It was purchased in 2011 from a private landowner and donated to Gaylord-based HeadWaters Land Conservancy with the intent to make it into a public preserve.

Volunteers have been working to build the trails which meander through hilly and rugged country near the river. The trail purposefully steered clear of the fast-flowing Sturgeon River to avoid problems with erosion and damage to aquatic habitat, but the river can be viewed from the roadway and a short stretch of the trial.

A sign at the entrance pays homage to the late “Rusty” Gates, owner of Gates AuSable Lodge and founder of Anglers of the AuSable who was also known to venture north and fish the Sturgeon River.

Just driving here is pretty in itself because of the rolling hills and thick forests of maple trees.

Deadman’s Hill Overlook and Jordan River Pathway

Location: At the end of Deadman’s Hill Road, off US-131, about 4 miles south of M-32 in Elmira. 20-25 minutes from Gaylord.

Specs: 100-yard walk up gentle incline to overlook area. There is also a 3-mile trail loop over steep terrain into and out of the valley, an 18-mile loop for 2-day hikes, and a 1-hour scenic drive through the valley. Outhouse available at overlook.

The overlook is one of the most popular sightseeing destinations in the area because of its unmatched view looking west over the 18,000 acre Jordan River Valley. Even so, there’s plenty of room for everyone to take pictures and soak in the sights.

The trail runs south along the ridge offering a few different vantage points to those who want an easy out-and-back hike of about a mile or so. The 3-mile loop requires commitment, with good shoes, a bottle of water and at least a few hours before sunset. It gets dark fast in the valley.

If you want to see the entire valley by car, Jordan River Road meanders through the whole thing. Get on the dirt road off US-131 just south of Elmira and take it deep into the valley. Good tires and smart driving is helpful in some sandy spots at the beginning.

You’ll have at least three or four good spots to get out and see the river, including the first spot where the river practically pours out from the base of the hill. That is the origin of the river which eventually ends 25 miles away in East Jordan.

Before you leave the valley make sure to stop at the Jordan River National Fish Hatchery which is free and open to the public. The raceway houses are open for viewing some of the 2 million lake trout reared there annually.

That should be enough to get you started. If all else fails get yourself a good map, a tank of gas and a bag of snacks, and go find your own favorite spot.

– Chris Engle is a stay-at-home dad, an avid outdoorsman and outdoor columnist for the Gaylord Herald Times. He can be reached at englemobile@gmail.com.

The Ryder Cup is due for a major overhaul and Phil Mickelson is the man to do it!

By GolfPRGuy

After a few days of digesting yet another Ryder Cup loss for the U.S. it is very apparent that the time for major change has come, and Phil Mickelson just might be the person to make it happen.

I was one of the Tom Watson supporters when he was first announced as captain two years ago, and felt he would bring firm leadership and figure out a model to take the cup back home. But after a series of mishaps beginning with picking Webb Simpson, then not putting the rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed back out on Friday afternoon after they whipped a set of Euros in best-ball and finally climaxing when he benched one of the teams best players, its leader, and one of the greatest players in history for the entire day on Saturday, I quickly realized that Watson was way out of his league and not ready for the Ryder Cup in the 21st century.

The bottom line – I’m not sure even if Watson had made the proper decisions that the U.S. could have beaten this European team, which was a combined 110-under-par for the three days compared to just 78-under for the U.S. team. It could have been closer though.

The question remains: What does the PGA of America do moving forward to developing the model to compete with the Europeans? Phil Mickelson made it clear that Paul Azinger’s Pod formula was a successful model to get the job done, which he expressed in the post round news conference by basically tossing his captain under the bus. While I did not agree with the platform Phil used to express his displeasure, he wasn’t wrong. I also can’t say Watson did not deserve Phil’s criticism after he benched him on Saturday. I know Phil is aging, but would Phil Jackson sit Koby Bryant or Michael Jordan out for the first half of an NBA finals game because they might be tired or their shot was off? I think not.

The days of the PGA of America selecting a captain as an honorary entitled position is long over. We need a consistent and successful model moving forward. The U.S. is never going to win every Ryder Cup. The Europeans are great players, but so are we and winning the Ryder Cup more than twice since 1999 needs to change.

I think the formula moving forward is simple, and I think Phil might have been putting himself out there to take over the reigns. The PGA of America needs to have a meeting with Phil, Paul Azinger and Tiger Woods and make Phil the captain for the next five Ryder Cups, along with having Paul Azinger as the co-captain in 2016 and Tiger Woods a vice-captain. Phil and Paul could further develop the pod system that can be carried on for the next twenty years and also implement that Pod system for the Walker Cup and the Junior Ryder Cup.

Tiger Woods would serve as a Vice-Captain, who would still be playing. But he could take the reigns in 2026 after Bethpage and other Vice Captains could include Fred Couples, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley and David Toms. They are all players who can relate to the current players.

Phil could still play in the Ryder Cup, possibly through 2020 at Whistling Straits, but his presence, along with Azinger’s pod system, would develop a Ryder Cup culture for the U.S. that is much needed when competing against the Europeans. Adding in Tiger Woods to that captaincy team for the next ten years and then having him transition into the captain position for another five Ryder Cups beyond that would put the Ryder Cup in great hands and certainly bring the cup back to the U.S. on a more consistent basis.

Out, See, Go: My top-ten favorite outdoor smells

By Chris Engle, contributor

Top-10 lists are kind of silly. Not because of the point they’re trying to make – that these 10 things are better than anything else – but because the order of the rankings is so subjective.

A good example is the “all-time greatest rock songs” list. No matter who’s doing the ranking, be it VH1, Rolling Stone, etc., the top 10 always includes Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” and Lynrd Skynrd’s “Free Bird” in some particular order.

By now you’ve probably ranked these songs according to your own tastes and maybe even discounted one or two.

I don’t blame you – as a 90s kid I automatically put Nirvana closer to the top. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is not the greatest rock song of all time in my opinion but it had a huge impact on my generation and generations since. That’s what earns its place.

My dad taught me that songs or bands can’t be judged solely on whether they were a hit at the time, but by the influence they had on the musicians who followed. Nirvana certainly had that ripple effect.

So, with that in mind, here are my top 10 favorite outdoor smells. Some aren’t that great on their own but made the list because of the memories I associate with them. Nostalgia plays a huge role in deciding what constitutes a“favorite” anything, especially smells.

Speaking of smells, “Teen Spirit” was a contrived brand of deodorant fed to teenagers with cheesy commercials in the 90s. Coincidentally, there were also a lot of sweaty teens in Nirvana’s music video for the song.

Alright, on to the smells:

#10: Campfire

This is an easy choice since about any great camping memory can be triggered by the scent of a campfire. The smell reminds me of roasted hot dogs and good times with friends and family. A campfire brings light and comfort on cool nights and companionship when you’re camping alone.

#9: Fresh-cut cedar

Every September my dad and I rebuilt our duck blind with fresh cedar boughs. The combination of fall air and cedar takes me right back to those early mornings waiting for the silhouettes of ducks to fly in. There’s a reason people put cedar in their closets and in keepsake chests: It smells awesome.

#8: Hot pine needles and sand

When sand gets superheated by the sun it roasts any dead pine needles on top, making the air heavy with the smell of pine. This is a common phenomenon at many state forest campgrounds in Otsego County and the surrounding area and it smells really, really good.

#7: Burnt gunpowder

File this one in the “unpleasant on its own” category. A jar of this scent would probably not be a hot seller but it pairs great with wet grass, fall woods or anywhere else a hunter chases game. It’s the smell of adrenaline in the field. All senses are on alert when this aroma hangs in the air.

#6: Thunderstorm

If there’s anything better than the sound of a good thunderstorm it’s the smell afterward. A regular rainstorm smells great but its hot cousin smells better. A thunderstorm leaves the scent of ozone in its wake which says:“The storm is over, time to go play!”

#5: Tent nylon

A dry tent unrolling at a campsite marks the beginning of a great camping trip. A musty tent still damp from the previous outing marks a not-so-great beginning but it will dry out eventually. Maybe.

#4: First snowstorm

If there’s anything that can relieve the sadness and despair that comes with seeing winter’s first snowflakes (sorry, I prefer the other three seasons), it’s the smell of that snow. The dampness of fall is wiped away and the air takes on a crispness like a freshly opened bag of potato chips, and everyone can agree the first chip tastes best.

#3: Bacon

What’s a camping breakfast without the sweet aroma of bacon frying on a Coleman stove? Also, bacon is totally hot right now and I have no choice but to pander to the pork-wagon. I draw the line at bacon-flavored toothpaste though. Is bacon really that great?

#2: Outboard motor exhaust

This is another one for the “unpleasant” category for most people but I absolutely lust over this smell. It signals the start to a day of fishing and I drink the first cloud of it in like a hot cup of coffee. It is stronger than caffeine but that might just be the oxygen deprivation talking.

#1: Spring rain

The number-one slot is a tough one to fill but a spring rain just has so much working in its favor. A good April shower signals the end of a six-month winter and means that May and June, my favorite months, are just around the corner. The birds are singing, things magically turn from brown to green, and I finally get to wear a t-shirt outside. Man, that feels good!

There you have it. I’d love to hear what you think I left out, what I got wrong, and what I got right. Show me your teen spirit.

Chris Engle is a stay-at-home dad, an avid outdoorsman and outdoor columnist for the Gaylord Herald Times. He can be reached at englemobile@gmail.com.

When I Become USGA President I am Changing the Rules of Golf


Over the past 100 years the United State Golf Association (USGA) has claimed to be the guardian of golf and with that to be looking out for the best interest of the players and making sure the rules of the game are enforced.

While I can respect some of what the USGA has done, I believe the organization has actually hindered the modern game and needs to be shaken up and re-organized. Perhaps similar to what is happening to the NCAA right now with college sports.

For example, if the USGA leaders were protecting the game why did they not create rules that set a limit as to how long a golf course could be (say 6,800 yards versus unlimited length)?

Why did they not put the limit on the ball back in the 1980’s when the research was starting to show it could be made to go unfathomable distances? Why do they keep making rules so difficult for the average player to understand?

When I become the next USGA president these are some of the things that I am going to do to protect the game for the next 100 years!

The first thing I am going to do is accept that the USGA is not the only governing body in the game any longer. We may oversee the amateur game, but when our rules cross over into the professional tours and all of the money that is involved in today’s sports world, it is time to work together with other groups in setting the rules. I am going to cross party lines and ask the PGA Tour, PGA of America, R & A, and the Masters Committee to work together and create a ruling body of golf that creates and oversees the rules of the game.

This new five-person committee will re-write the rules of golf to make the game simpler and more fun for everyone to play. When new rules are presented this committee will discuss the positives and negatives, and then vote on adopting the rule with a majority vote. There will be no more one organization making rules decisions that can negatively affect the livelihood or careers of golfers, not to mention making the game easier for everyday players.

Some of the rules that I will push to have eliminated once this committee is formed will be:

For all professional golf events we will eliminate the use of a scorecard and only rely on electronic scoring. In today’s world with the technology available at a PGA Tour event, a major championship or any other professional event everyone knows every score hole-by-hole. That someone can still get disqualified for signing a wrong scorecard and potentially lose thousands of dollars is, well, ridiculous.

For amateur events, if someone signs for a wrong score there will be no more disqualification or penalty stroke. It will simply be corrected.

If a ball comes to rest in a divot then the player will be entitled to free relief. The fact that a player can get relief from a man made obstruction, but not divots that man has been making all day is not right. Had this rule been in place in the 1998 US Open at Olympic Club, the great Payne Stewart might have three U.S. Opens.

Out-of-bounds will be eliminated from the game and the stroke and distance penalty will go away. This is one of the biggest problems with slow play and just because we have to put white stakes out to protect someone’s yard doesn’t mean we have to make the game tougher. I would suggest either allowing a free drop from the stakes, or play everything as a lateral hazard. I will let the committee argue this one!

All hazards will be only one color and players will have the option to drop two club lengths from the point of entry, or go back as far as you want keeping in line the point of entry and the hole, or replay the shot from within one-club length from your previous shot. No one should be confused over color and options anymore, especially Tiger Woods.

I will push for the new rules committee to begin rolling back the yardage on golf courses. The longest a golf course can play in any tournament format will be 6,800 yards and the future handicapping system will only be recognized from 6,800 yards or less. This will hopefully eliminate back tees. If owners across the country all eliminated their back tees tomorrow, pace of play would improve significantly overnight.

This might mean we see significantly lower scores in golf tournaments, but that is ok. Shooting 15-, 20-, or 25-under-par, in my mind, will be good for the game and show the game as being easier and hopefully get more people to try the game. Besides, when was the last time you watched something really difficult on TV and wanted to go try it.

I could probably come up with several more ideas to make the game easier and more fun with new rules, but for now this should keep the new committee busy for the near future.Gaylord Country Club

A memo to all golfers this spring: Enjoy the game regardless of course conditions!


Finally, after one of the longest and coldest winters in history, golf courses in northern Michigan are now open and have apparently battled the elements and avoided the tough conditions many courses in the southern part of the State are enduring.

Many courses have opened later than normal and may take extra time to get their fairways and greens in shape following one of the most brutal winters ever. Golfers heading out to their local courses or making that special golf trip this spring should be prepared to accept course conditions that might not be as perfect as in previous years.

Do not be upset with your local golf courses about the conditioning. It is not their fault. Point the finger at Mother Nature. The upper Midwest experienced some of the worst ice storms and frost levels in more than 100 years. Courses are scrambling and working hard now to get their facilities up to par, but it will take time.

Be happy about getting out and playing this wonderful game. Take time to appreciate all of the good things golf brings to us. One of the problems that the American golfer always has is often called the “Augusta National Effect,” as in expecting every course to match the lush, green landscape they see on television each spring when watching the Masters Tournament. Superintendents, who work in a different climate area and can’t possibly maintain a budget or staff to match Augusta National, deal with very high expectations when it comes to course conditions. It’s ludicrous.

Public and private golfers should take note of the history of golf’s origins overseas in Scotland. Golf is not a game of perfect conditions. Courses overseas are often brown, imperfect and have slower green speeds. Yet, the golfers love to play there, and Americans spend great amounts of money to travel there and play. So why then do we expect so much from our courses and conditioning here? If our courses were brown in a few spots and firm with slower greens, the game can still be enjoyed. It would also be easier and take less time, but that is a story for another day.

For now I suggest to golfers and course operators: Let’s start the season by rolling the ball. Yes, this former PGA golf professional said it. Let’s play “winter rules” through the green this spring, enjoy the game and not be upset about the conditions.

In this era of trying to make the game more enjoyable, easier and make it play faster, this spring would be the perfect time for “winter rules.” This would allow golfers some positive relief and allow them to enjoy the game more.

Be patient golfers. Your superintendents are the best in agronomy and they will get your course back to its prime condition. It will just take some time!

Father’s Day at Wings Over Gaylord

Tiffany Larson

I have to admit, trying to come up with a great idea on somewhere to take my husband for his first Father’s day was haunting me for weeks. Our son was born in December, and in just a few short months we had transformed from a young couple with no children, to a mother and a father. I wanted to be able to give my husband a great day to celebrate all we had accomplished, but between late night feedings and sleep deprivation my creative side was clearly lacking. When I had pretty much given up on making father’s day special, a co-worker mentioned the Airshow that happens in Gaylord every Father’s Day weekend.

I logged online and found out all the information I could on Wings over Gaylord. This is an awesome airshow that features a ton of unique aircrafts including a B-25, a Super Decathlon, and a 942 Consolidated Vultee SNV-1 Valiant. Let me first say, I have no idea what any of these things are, but I can tell you that my husband was ecstatic about all of them! I decided that the best way to celebrate father’s day was to make it a family event, so I purchased tickets for myself and my husband, my in-laws, and my parents so that we could all go together. At only $10.00 a ticket (for a two day show), I could not have found a better deal!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We headed down around 10:00am on Saturday even though the aerial performances did not start until 1:00PM. Parking was very organized, simple, and free! It was a little bit of a walk from parking to the runway, but nothing major. We had a lot of fun just walking around, there were plenty of things to see- and even some inflatable bounce houses for the kids to play on. Not my child of course- he was only a few months old and sleeping very soundly in his stroller. We brought our own chairs and set them up right on the side of the runway and watched the aerial show until 4:00PM when the show ended for the day. It was amazing to be able to see all of the planes up close!

Overall, it was an incredible weekend, and my husband said that it was the best Father’s day gift he could have received.  We are very much looking forward to this year’s airshow. I think we are making it a Father’s Day family tradition. This year I am even more excited because I plan on surprising my husband with a helicopter ride that they do right at the show!  I would highly recommend Wings Over Gaylord to anyone, for a $10.00 ticket you can enjoy two days’ worth of unique entertainment for the whole family.