Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend at Ethan's

Click pictures to enlarge.
I'm proud to count Ethan Becker as a friend, and this weekend, I had the pleasure of camping at his spread on Half Moon Ridge over in eastern Tennessee. Ethan is quite the character. From 1976 until just recently, he was the steward of the seemingly ubiquitous Joy of Cooking which has been in print since 1931. In addition to that job, Ethan has long been an outdoorsman active in designing equipment, from backpacks to survival knives, all marketed under the Becker Knife and Tool brand. He is a man who wears many hats and wears them well, and he's just as comfortable sharing time around a campfire as he is cooking in the kitchen.

My company for the weekend included people who are users of Ethan's outdoor knives, the Becker line currently made and sold by the longstanding Ka-Bar company. As such, these folks all have outdoor interests that run the gamut—camping, hiking, paddling, fishing, mountaineering, outdoor survival, primitive skills, conservation, you name it. Also in attendance was Jeff Randall, who runs a a well-known survival training school and who designs and markets his own line of outdoor knives under the ESEE brand. Any time you get Jeff together with Ethan, part of the fun is watching the insults fly back and forth. They're competitors but also close friends, and it's always about trying to get the other one's goat. There's rarely a dull moment.

In addition to trading barbs most of the weekend, we did share and practice a little in terms of wilderness skills. Jeff demonstrated an ingenious rope tension system that can be tightened and loosened with the pull of one rope section. My buddy "Moose" provided instruction on simple but effective knife skills and on bow-drill fire making. Ethan gave a primer on camp cooking and served up some tasty chili Saturday evening, and Derek followed suit with a steak-and-potato breakfast the next morning. I also had a great time talking kayaks with Randy and Kay, and I hope we can get together for a couple of paddling trips in the not-too-distant future.

For our accomodations, Ethan had already cleared a spot on one of his hilltops, put in a four-star outhouse, stacked a pile of firewood, hauled up a giant water reservoir, and dug an impressive fire pit. All that was left was to pitch a tent or sling a hammock. Hammocks were by far the more popular choice, and I finally got to try out my new Hennessy Explorer Ultralight. I was quite pleased with how easily it sets up and how well it sleeps. With a ground pad under me, I was plenty warm, and I slept soundly into Sunday morning until Ethan motored up the hill on his John Deere Gator and people started stirring around. In addition to the Explorer, I also picked up a Hennessy Expedition, and I'm looking forward to a few hammock trips with my son this summer and fall.

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