Return to the 1000 Steps

After a few cold weeks, Sunday we had some spring-like weather. My family and I took advantage of it by taking a trip to the 1000 steps.  As it turned out, a lot of other people had the same idea; the parking lot was nearly full.

In spite of having to pass a lot of other hikers going up and down, it was a great hike.  Upon reaching the top, we hiked out to the locomotive shed and the western overlook.

The trail-head for the thousand steps is located on route 22 about two miles west of Mount Union.  This is where the road follows the Juniata River through a narrow gorge known as Jack’s Narrows with high ridges on either side.

This was named for a trader by the name of Jack Armstrong who lived in the 1700s.  It was near this location in February of 1744 where Jack and his two servants were killed by Indians after a dispute over a horse.

1000Steps 12The steps were built in the 1930s by miners who climbed the mountain each day to work in the quarry. Sandstone mined from the quarry was taken to Mt Union where it  was made into  bricks. At one time Mt Union was the largest producer of silica bricks in the world.

1000Steps 4How long it takes to climb the steps depends on how physically fit you are but for most people will take between twenty minutes and one hour. At each 100-step interval you’ll see a number of painted on the rocks to tell you how many steps you’ve climbed.

Turn right or left at the top of the stairs to  continue exploring. Turning to the right will take you to a lookout that will allow you to catch a glimpse of the town of Mt Union.  If you turn left the path will lead you to a concrete building. This building housed the locomotive that moved the sandstone from the quarry to the bottom of the mountain.

If you still have some energy left, climb the steps beside the building that lead a little higher up the mountain. After a short climb you’ll come to trail that  leads further west along the mountainside.  After walking about half a mile you’ll come to a lookout that allows you to see the town of Mapleton along with the railroad, route 22 and the Juniata River.

If you’re in the south central region of PA and you’re looking for interesting hike, you definitely will want to visit the 1000 steps.  In fact, you might like it so well that you’ll find yourself making the trip every year.


Our Honeymoon in Hawaii

On February 12, 2005 – a little over 11 years ago – I married the love of my life. Crystal and I left the following day for an eight-day honeymoon in Hawaii. In the days following our return, I had written a day-by-day account of that trip.  Today, after some searching through old backup discs, I was able to find that account, and I’m re-posting it here.  Enjoy!

Our Hawaiian Honeymoon


Today was a long day of traveling. We crawled out of bed about 3:45 and took the shuttle bus to the airport. Our first flight left at 6:05. The plane ride was long and uneventful. After a layover in Phoenix, we left for Honolulu. Within a few seconds after takeoff, two explosion-type noises were heard, one on each side of the plane.

A stewardess came on the loudspeakers and said that the flight crew was aware of the noises and were searching for a cause. A short time later the captain informed us that the plane was being diverted to Los Angeles airport, where we would do a fly-by of the tower, allowing the people on the ground to alert the flight crew of any problems with the landing gear.

La'aloa Beach Park #2The fly-by didn’t show any problems, so our plane circled and landed. Dozens of emergency vehicles, including several ambulances and fire trucks, were near the runway awaiting our arrival. Applause broke out in the cabin when the wheels were on the ground. A fire police followed the plane as it taxied down the runway.

After hours of frustration and waiting in ticket lines, we took an American Airlines flight directly to Kona, HI from Los Angeles.

We arrived around midnight Hawaiian time, and finally went to bed about 1 pm – twenty-six hours after getting out of bed in the morning.


Place of Refuge #8

“Place of Refuge”

We slept in today, and then went shopping for a few essentials. Around lunchtime we traveled to the Pu’uhonua Honaunau State Park (also called Place of Refuge) and tried snorkeling at the nearby Honaunau Bay (also called Two-Step Beach). Once I got used to breathing through a plastic tube, I was hooked. Although the sheltered part of the bay I was in isn’t known for good snorkeling, I spotted dozens of fish and and a few large green sea turtles. Crystal didn’t fare so well. Her mask didn’t fit well, and water kept leaking in.


We left our apartment at about 9 am and headed south. We stopped at Kona Boys (the rental shop) to get a new mask for Crystal and a two-seat Kayak. We stopped at Honaunau Bay where Crystal tried out her mask. It wasn’t perfect, but worked much better than the old one. Then, we drove up a narrow one-lane road to Kealakekua Bay.

Hawaii 022

Kealakekua Bay

After a Hawaiian helped us launch our kayak, we paddled across the bay to the Captain Cook Monument. We spent several hours there eating our lunch, snorkeling, and just relaxing on the large boulders. The scenery under the water was amazing! There were colorful coral and fish everywhere. Schools of fish would swim by so close you could nearly reach out and touch them. Within an hour we had used up the film of our underwater camera.

In the afternoon we left the bay and returned our kayak. After we cleaned up and rested up at our apartment, we drove up to the visitor’s center on Mania Kea. We had hoped to travel to the snow-covered summit, but because I badly underestimated the travel time it was already dark when we arrived at the visitor’s center.  We each had some hot chocolate and looked through the telescopes at various stars and planets. Then we headed back to our apartment.


Today we drove an hour or two up the coastline and visited Hapuna Beach. As usual, we had to fight a lot of traffic, and the drive seemed longer than it was. There we spent most of the afternoon sun bathing and walking on the beach. We also swam and played in the waves for a short time.

We waited until the sun went down to get some sunset pictures, and then returned to Kona. We ate at Denny’s before returning to our apartment.


Today we slept in and then visited the Volcanoes National Park. The drive was a bit tiresome, but it was worth it. We viewed the craters and steam vents near the top of the mounting before descending the Chain of Craters road to the sea. From the end of the road, we hiked about forty minutes to view some lava flows. The surface flows were interesting, but the more spectacular sight was where the lava flowed in the sea.


This morning we spent some time at the Kahalu’u Beach, just a mile south of our apartment. Crystal rested on the beach while I snorkeled. The coral in this area wasn’t spectacular, but there were plenty of fish and sea turtles.

State Park #5

Kekaha Kai State Park

After my snorkeling session, we traveled about ten miles north of Kona to a secluded beach at Kekaha Kai State Park. For much of the time we had the beach to ourselves, or at least the portion visible to us. I started to feel sick to the stomach after an hour or so in the sun, so I left Crystal to soak up my share of the sunshine and took a nap in the shade.

We had planned to hike to one or two other beaches that were within walking distance of the one we visited, but it was getting late by the time my nap was finished, so we headed back to Kona and ate some excellent food at Pancho Lefties.


We left at mid-morning and stopped at Wendy’s for brunch. Then we continued to Honaunau Bay and put our snorkel equipment to use one last time. The bay was a bit rough, especially getting in and out of the water. Crystal stayed in the more sheltered area. I ventured into the rough water for a few minutes, then returned and put on a life jacket for the remainder of the time. The fish weren’t as plentiful as in Kealakekua Bay, but the coral was beautiful.

After soaking up some sun, we again drove into Pu’uhonua Honaunau State Park and hiked the “1871 trail” before returning to Kona.


Kona Airport

Kona Airport

Today we cleaned up the vacation rental and checked out around 11 a.m. We visited White Sands Beach (the one without any sand) near our vacation rental, and then made various stops around town until our late-afternoon flight. One of the highlights was a stop at Jamba Juice, where we purchased some delicious smoothies. The picture to the right is Kona Airport.

Our tour guide

We owe our success in finding our way around the big island of Hawaii almost entirely to a book loaned to us by a family member. “Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed” was a big help, guiding us to the best beaches, snorkeling locations, and other places of interest. The information was accurate and useful. In one case, it warned of a rip tide at a snorkeling location, even correctly specifying the direction the current would carry me. The information is categorized by geographical region, letting you explore more while driving less.

A Night in the Igloo

Tent camping in cold weather never seemed very appealing to me, but for a long time I’ve wanted to spend a night in an Igloo.  Thanks to winter storm Jonas, I finally got that opportunity this year.

The 2010 Igloo

The 2010 Igloo

The first time I built an igloo was after the blizzard of 2010.  The snow was powdery and it took several hours of spraying down snow with water and packing it before I got it constructed.  That structure was too small for camping, but Landry and I were able to have a picnic inside.

When the forecast called for a blizzard this year, my boys started talking about building an igloo.  I told them I wouldn’t be doing it unless the snow was wet and packed easily.  But after Jonas dumped two feet of light, powdery snow, I changed my mind and built it anyway.  Igloo 4Like before, it took a lot of water and a lot of work.  This time I made it large enough for three people to spend the night. The end result was a bit odd-shaped; it wasn’t perfectly round like the igloos you see in a story book.

At first the igloo was not very sturdy, but as the week went on we got a few days of warmer weather that caused the snow to soften and then harden again at night.  I also took some opportunities to pack more wet snow onto the structure.  But the end of the week, the igloo was very sturdy.

Igloo 1On Friday night we decided it was time to put it to use.  The nighttime temperature was forecasted to get down to about 15 degrees, so the challenge was going to be staying warm.  Our sleeping bags were cheap ones, not rated for winter weather, so I wasn’t sure they’d keep us warm with each of us in separate bag and not benefiting from each other’s body heat.  So we used blankets instead. I covered the floor of the igloo with a piece of plastic, and then put a piece of egg-crate foam and a blanket on top of that.  Landry, Camden, and I laid on that and used three more heavy blankets on top.  I also draped a folded blanket over the doorway tunnel to help keep the cold air from coming in.  Cullen, our youngest son, wanted to join us, but there wasn’t enough room, and I wasn’t sure if he’d stay still enough to stay under the blankets.

It turned out to be a reasonably comfortable night.  Our body heat warmed up the interior to the point that a few drops of water fell from the ceiling. Igloo 3 A more perfectly shaped ceiling would have caused the water to run down the walls instead of dripping, but it wasn’t enough to cause a problem.  But by the middle of the night the dripping stopped, meaning that the interior temperature had fallen some, but as morning came it started again as it began to warm up.

Igloo 5I’m not sure I’m ready to strike out into the wilderness to go igloo camping, but as long as I’m a short distance from a warm house, I’ll be ready to do it again the next time winter sends us a bunch of snow to work with.


How to attach a trout net to your fishing vest

Recently I purchased a trout net to use when I go fly fishing.    My former net worked well for some purposes, but for catch-and-release trout fishing, it was wasn’t so good.   It was rather bulky, was made of aluminum which made clanking noises from time to time, and it was not very gentle on the fish.  I ended up purchasing a Promar LN-208 Landing Net on Amazon. The next question was: how would I attach the net to my fishing vest? After trying unsuccessfully to use the supplied lanyard to attach it in a practical manner, I finally decided to go a different route and purchased a Magnetic Net Holder . I was little concerned about the magnet being strong enough, but once I actually attached my net with the device, I knew it would do the job. No amount of jumping up and down or moving about will cause the net to come loose. It is also strong enough that when you’re through using the net you simply put the handle behind your head and the magnet “finds” the other side and clips firmly into place. I’ve made a YouTube Video that demonstrates this process. I’ve also used the net in my first Fly Fishing Video as well.

One end of the net holder attaches with a split ring and the other end with a snap hook. The question is, which end goes where?  The product photo showed it with the snap hook attached to the vest.  That allows you to easily move the net to another garment without having to mess with detaching a split ring.  However, in my case I was more concerned with being able to switch to another net easily, so I put the snap hook on the net side and use the split ring to attach the holder to my vest.

Pop Can Fishing Challenge

A couple of years ago I made a video on how to catch a fish using a pop can.  Now you can catch a fish with a pop can and possibly win a prize as well!  For the month of June, we are doing a pop-can fishing challenge.  The winner of this contest will receive a brand new Shakespeare Contender rod and reel combo.  You can find more details on the product by clicking the following link:

This contest is open to U.S. residents excluding those in Alaska and Hawaii.  You must be 18 years of age or older to participate. If you are a parent or guardian, you may have your child catch the fish and enter the contest in your name on their behalf. Just make note of that fact in the email you send me in step #4.

On July 1 or shortly thereafter, a winner will be selected by random drawing out of those who have successfully completed the following steps:

  1. Make a pop can fishing rig.  My video that shows how to do it is here:
  2. Catch a fish with the pop can rig.  The fish must be at least six inches long and be of any species.
  3. Upload a video showing the catch to YouTube.  The video must be family-friendly, and at the beginning of the video you must mention this contest and the name of my channel (you may refer to it as either Great Cove Media or Great Cove Adventure Films).  It would also be helpful to link to my contest video in the description of your video, but that is optional.
  4. Finally, send me an email at and give me a link to the video you uploaded.  I must receive this email on or before June 30, 2015.

A few other notes:

  • If I get a large response and lots of participants, I will likely be adding prizes so more people can win.  If I do this, I’ll make you aware of that in updates throughout the contest period. These updates will be in the form of videos posted on my YouTube Channel.
  • If the product to be used as a prize becomes unavailable from Amazon by the end of the contest, a similar replacement will be selected and shipped to the winner instead.
  • You participate at your own risk. Realize that performing an overhand cast with a pop can rig means the hook is flying past your head at close range.  I recommend using an underhand or side-armed throw instead.
  • I have an old-fashioned definition of family-friendly.  If your video contains objectionable language, people in skimpy clothing, or anything else that makes me uncomfortable watching it with my children, it will be disqualified.
  • The video you create needs to conform with YouTube’s terms of use and community guidelines.

That’s it!  If you have questions, leave them below.

Fishing Gear of 2015

I often get comments on my Youtube videos asking about my fishing gear. So I’ve decided to give you a run-down of the rods and reels in my arsenal this year.

I’ll start with a photo of them, and then fill you in on the details of each one.

rods and reels

From left to right:

1. Shakespeare Micro Underspin Rod and Reel Combo.  This is a great rod for the kids, but I enjoy using it as well.  The underspin reel is like a spincast reel but has a lever instead of a button. This makes it work more similar to a spinning reel than a spincast. The 4′ 6″ ultra-light rod is great for battling even the smallest of fish.

2. This is an aging ultra-light rod (not sure of the make and model at the moment, although I might give it a closer inspection later) with a Zebco 202 spincast reel. It seems that Zebco used the 202 model number on a wide variety of reels. Some of those were very low quality, others were not so bad. This reel is in the not-so-bad category. It has a smooth drag and casts great.

3. This is a Shakespeare Contender spinning reel on a Shakespeare Excursion spinning rod. The reel had been part of a combo but the rod fell victim to a car door and had to be replaced. For small fish, this is my favorite rig. I spool it with 4 lb test monofilament line and it allows long, smooth casts. It’s pure joy to use.

4. This spinning rod is a hand-me-down rod from my older brother. It is about 7 feet in length but was longer before it also feel victim to a car door. I added a new tip and it still works great even if the tip is a bit stiffer than it should be. The reel is a Quantum Optix size 20 spinning reel.

5. This is a Zebco 7-foot Hawg Seeker Spinning Combo that a buddy of mine picked up for me at a garage sale. My son Landry uses this rig when we are targeting catfish.

6. This rod is a 7-foot Zebco Catfish Fighter. I’ve had it for several years and am very pleased. It is not an expensive rod, but it seems to be great quality for the price. The reel is an old Shakespeare that came from a Shakespeare/Ugly Stick combo. I managed to break the original rod pulling it off a snag, so I replaced it with the Catfish Fighter.

7. Last, but not least, is my 9-foot Zebco Catfish Fighter with a Okuma Avenger ABF 50 Bait Feeder Reel. This is my best catfish rig. The extra length adds 30 to 50 feet of distance to my casts vs the 7-foot version. I’d like to say I’ve battled lots of 30-pound flathead catfish with this rig, but I cannot. The largest I’ve caught to date with it is 10 pounds. This summer seems like the perfect time to change that. 🙂

Raising Meat Rabbits: One Year Later

Even though I have produced several videos on the topic of raising meat rabbits, somehow I’ve managed to wait an entire year before finally writing my first blog post about them.

Somewhere around the beginning of May 2014, I purchased two meat rabbits, a buck and a doe, from a friend of ours.   We received them just after they had been weaned from their mother at about six weeks of age.   I started them out in a small wooden hutch I got at my local Agway.  A few weeks later when it was time to separate them I built a wooden hutch for the buck and left the doe in the hutch I purchased.  Later on, I built a larger hutch for the doe to give her more space to move around.

The first problem I had was that I didn’t know what breed the rabbits were.  Even after a visit to the rabbit barn of the local fair and doing search on-line, I couldn’t find a rabbit that completely matched.  A few weeks after posting a video on YouTube asking for help identifying the breed, somebody suggested that they were Broken Black New Zealands.   A quick Google search confirmed that this was correct – the photos matched perfectly.

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Our doe had her first little of kits (baby rabbits) near the end of November.  I was a little pessimistic that everything would go well.  For one thing, I had talked to others who had problems with mothers cannibalizing or rejecting their offspring.  I had also read that a person wanting rabbits for reproduction should purchase quality breeding stock, not just some rabbits destined for the auction as mine were.   Yet the doe did remarkably well.   On day 27 after she had been bred, I placed a nest box into the cage, and she immediately went to work preparing it for her kits.  On day 31, five healthy baby rabbits were born.

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Out of that first litter, I kept a doe to increase my production and butchered the other four at 10 weeks.    On January 30th she had a second litter of 13 kits.  One of the kits didn’t thrive and died after about two weeks, but the others did well.  This is in spite of the fact that we had a cold February with many days below freezing and many nights below O degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter the rabbits were kept in 30×30 metal cages located in a non-insulated shed.  I recorded a video showing my set-up.

I’ll be sharing more about my rabbits in the future.  In the meantime, check out the videos and ask any questions you have.

The Scenic View at Tower Road

Early this week I decided to take a detour at the top of the mountain and see the fall colors from the look-out on Tower road.  I wasn’t disappointed.  To get there, turn off route 30 at the Mountain House and head north on Augwick road toward Cowens Gap Start Park.  About a mile back you’ll see a dirt road bear off to the right, which is Tower Rd.  Take that road and travel about a mile and half to reach the lookout.  Just before you arrive, you’ll come to a fork in the road – you can go either way because it is just a loop at the end.    About halfway around the circle, park on the side of the road and walk to the edge of the cliff to catch a nice view.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad – a Review

Diesel EngineI was looking for a interesting place to visit with my wife to celebrate her birthday when I ran across the website for Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  I liked what I saw, but it took me a few days to decide which tickets to purchase.    The cheapest option was the standard coach class tickets, but there were several upgrades available. Premium coach presumably gives you more spacious seating, but perhaps there are other differences that I’m not aware of.  The parlor car gives you access to alcoholic beverages, and first class includes a meal aboard the train.   There are a handful of menu choices available for first class passengers, but the selection is made at the time of reservation.  I finally decide to go the frugal route and get standard coach tickets.

Steam EnginOur visit was on Sept 27, 2014.  By coincidence, this was during the during the annual Steel Wheels festival in Cumberland, which added a few more sights to our experience.  As part of this event, there was a steam engine that puffed back and forth across the bridge near the station in Cumberland, giving good opportunities for picture-taking.  Also, Amtrak had an exhibit train on-site that visitors could walk through. The exhibits inside showed the history of Amtrak and also gave glimpses of the inside of a modern Amtrak train.  Lastly, there was an old caboose that you could explore as well.

The WMSR train leaves for Frostburg at 11:30, but when I called to purchase the tickets  I was told to be there at 10:45.  My advice:  follow our example and get there at 10 AM.  By 10:45, the lines are getting long and the place is very crowded.  If you get there early, you can walk right up the counter and get your ticket, and the spend the extra time walking around or visiting shops at Canal Place.

Canal PlaceThose of us with coach class tickets were free to sit in any available seat on any of the coach cars, with the exception of one car which was reserved by a church group.  There were double bench seats on either side of the aisle. Being accustomed to coach seats on a plane, I was afraid the seating would be cramped, but it was not.  There was plenty of leg room.  We also found the cars to be clean and in good repair. The seats are reversible so you can face toward the front or rear of the train just by moving the backrest.  This is especially handy if you have a group of four and prefer to face each other.  If you want the best view, sit on the right side of the train as you’re facing the front ready to depart the Cumberland station.

Snack BarDuring the trip, we were allowed roam freely among the coach class cars.  In one of the cars there was a snack bar with a variety of items to eat and drink.  This included hot dogs, cold sandwiches, chips, and candy bars.  A small selection of gifts were also available, all of which are also available at the gift shop at the Cumberland station.

SceneryThe windows were clear enough to take decent photographs, but for better shots you could venture to a small picture-taking car at the front of the coach class section.  This car had no seats, but had grab bars and open windows to allow for clear photographs.  You could also get good photographs by standing in the area between the cars.

Upon arrive at Frostburg, we exited the train and has some time to explore a few shops or grab a bite to eat.  To get to main street, you had to climb up the ridge using a long series of steps.  Partway up was a good place to stop and watch the steam engine being turned on the turntable to prepare for the return trip to Cumberland.

All in all, we were very pleased with the trip.