Author Archives: GAC

In The Field

 

In The Field

By Brian K. Brecht

 

A birthday present has brought a new perspective on how we see our 26th president. The book “Theodore Roosevelt In the Field” by Michael R. Canfield, highlights the focus Roosevelt had as an outdoorsman and self made naturalist.

Certainly his education, time as a Rough Rider and political life are part of the narrative, but in this telling, they are not the primary focus of the biography. Happily they are there as the backdrop to how and why Roosevelt spent so much time hiking, hunting, and riding through the various wildernesses of the world.

The image of “The Bull Moose” has been ever present when it comes to describing Theodore Roosevelt, but here we see just why that description was so appropriate. It also shows something of the contradiction that existed, if not just for Roosevelt but also the time of the late 1800 and early 1900’s. Something we see even today, the need for conservation, while allowing the hunter and outdoorsman to exist side by side.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the book highlights the notes and journals Roosevelt had written since his youth. Never realizing the volumes of writing he did not only as a naturalist but also as a professional, writing various articles and books for the likes of Scribbners. The book details his handwritten journals and has inspired us to revisiting our own journals from our various travels.

Whether you enjoy presidential history, science and conservations, or tales of the great outdoors, this book is sure to satisfy.

Polar Additions

Two new additions came this week to the GAC library, specifically for the Polar section.

South with Endurance

We continue to be fascinated but the Antarctic explorations of Sir Ernst Shackleton, specifically the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the Endurance.

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“South with Endurance” – Frank Hurley

This time however, we’ve been focusing on the expedition photographer, Frank Hurley. Hurley’s images have long fascinated us and we finally purchased our copy of Hurley’s “South with Endurance”.

This title brings to life the story of the Endurance and her crew’s struggle for survival, all through Hurley’s dramatic photographs. It’s a must have for any enthusiast of the Shackleton story.

 

 

 

 

 

Alone on the Ice

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Next, we recently came across a somewhat unknown Antarctic expedition lead by the Australian, Douglas Mawson. In “Alone on the Ice” by David Roberts, Mawson reveals himself to be every bit a contemporary of Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen, as leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Unfortunately that story has received nowhere near the attention as his fellow explorers. Robert’s book illustrates the desperate struggle for life Mawson finds himself in during the 1913 expedition, all while his fellow crew members prepare to depart from the far south.

A fascinating story on it’s own but also helps to fill in portions of the Antarctic history that surrounds the other great explorations. To our surprise, even heroes such as Frank Hurley and Frank Wild are involved here prior to their journey on the Endurance.

It’s definitely a recommended read for those who enjoy the tales of “the ice keeping what the ice gets”.

An Adventurous New year

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15966175_1366530133367066_4537273663744684641_nWishing all our members and followers, an adventurous new year.

2016 was a quiet year from a posting standpoint, but we had plenty of adventures. From the Alcan highway to Alaska, to visiting the Humble Administrator’s Gardens in Suzhou China.

We’re looking forward to sharing these stories and more, with you during all of 2017.

So join us in having an adventurous new year. And don’t forget to share our site and Facebook page with others who enjoy an adventurous lifestyle.

All the best!

The Gentleman Adventurer’s Club

Childhood Adventures

 

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The First Adventure

By Brian K. Brecht

I don’t think I appreciated the value of this trip when it happened, but now, looking back, I realize this was probably the first example of “an adventure” I ever had.

I’m not exactly sure how it all came about, but likely began as conversation between my best friend’s father (Paul Sr.) and mine, culminated in the idea of a weeklong canoe trip down the Thornapple River. How or why I really don’t know, it wasn’t as though I was kicking and screaming to go canoeing. In fact I think at the time I was somewhat reluctant to the entire idea.

But as the weeks went on, my best friend Paul (Jr) and I, secured the required permission from school to be gone for the better part of a week. The most frustrating moment was asking “Yoda”, our Algebra teacher, who did indeed look just like the diminutive Star Wars character, if I could go. He grilled me on “why he should let me go”, likely due to my failing algebra grade. But somehow, perhaps because I was going with Paul, he seemed to let my academic excellence slide. Perhaps feeling if I spent time with my best friend, he might instill in me the require algebraic knowledge he possessed and I did not.

This was in many ways the first of those experiences to push myself, and do something I wasn’t completely comfortable with. Hearing someone talk about a weeklong canoe trip sounds great! But going out and doing it yourself, becomes an exercise in “I just don’t have time, I really can’t afford it”, or “why should I bother”. In this case, it wasn’t up to me, but up to the two fathers who crafted the idea of some father and son bonding.

For Paul and his father, this was nothing out of the ordinary. Both had been long time hunters, campers, and general outdoorsmen. For my dad and I, this was unusual. My Dad loved the outdoors, to be sure. He got his hunting licenses every year, he worked outside whether freezing cold or blistering heat. He taught me how to shoot and explore the forests around our house as best as he himself understood. But my Father fell into the same category (guess where I got it from), of there’s always a reason why we couldn’t go “do that thing”. So I think part of my resistance to this endeavor, was a lack of belief it would actually happen to begin with. But here I was, asking “Yoda” to sign my permission slip, in the middle of the fall semester, and wondering what the hell I do now, that he actually signed it?

Paul and I had become the best of friends in a very short time. We’d only known each other since the start of freshman year, but to this day he remains one of only a few men I call brother. So to head out on this adventure with him seemed only right.

We set out on a bright but chilly morning, putting in on the southwestern shores of Thornapple Lake. I can’t remember a boat launch specifically, or if we just put in where we could find access to the water. I do remember, it being a rather cool October morning, the wind cresting over the water as I looked out over our piled supplies.

I remember being awestruck and confused by the amount of packing Paul Sr. put into the FullSizeRendercanoes. We had two canoes, conveniently one for each “family”. Dad and I in one, Paul and his father in the other, both fathers, taking the steerage position at the back of the canoe. Paul Sr. clearly had done this before. In a time before carbon fiber, or plastic camping gear, Paul Sr had fashioned two, white, (heavy) wooden camp boxes that, by design, fit perfectly between the gunwales of the canoes midsection. In one, all our food and cooking supplies. In the other, tools and camp needs, most of which I didn’t understand why we would need.

Along side this, packed the rifles, the tents, the packs, and all the things I was completely unprepared for, but somehow managed to bring along. I’m sure, all thanks to my dad.

We kicked off, the canoes now sitting much lower in the water than when we first dropped them in, and soon we were paddling across the Lake to the river mouth on its western side. I remember feeling irritated right away, as we paddled straight into a headwind and wondered what in the hell had our fathers gotten ourselves into. I mean come on! Wasn’t this a vacation? Why was it so much work? How was this supposed to be fun? We leaned hard into our paddles and after about 30 minutes of fighting, we pushed ourselves out of the face of struggle, and into the waiting mouth of the Thornapple River.

The goal wasn’t distance or some dramatic feat, it was merely to head west and put out, by the end of the week, just prior to the east side of the town of Hastings. It was enough to get a sense of remoteness I think our fathers were looking for, all the while, close enough that we were within range of civilization should we need it. So to my surprise, the time along the Thornapple felt much more remote than we probably were.

Once we breached the mouth of the river, the winds calmed and we moved easily with the current. There are moments when you see your father in a different light, a new light that burns away the cover of the every day, and reveals the man you had always admired below. This was one of those. My father guided the canoe easily through the currents, coaching me through when to change sides, when to paddle harder, when to keep us from tipping with the current. It was those moments, when you get the chance to see your father for what he always wanted to be, and not the man he has to be day to day. You can appreciate everything he wanted to be but perhaps has put on hold for his family and responsibilities. Its only in hindsight that I’ve realized this.

At one point we wound up speeding through some small rapids, and Dad kept his cool the entire time. As the river sped faster and faster, it began curving to the right. It became clear, the river waited for no one. It was a classic scenario where, if entering the rapids at the wrong angle, regardless of their diminished strength, it would easily spin the canoe around and possibly overturn her. Dad slowly pulled the nose of the canoe into the arch of the bend, and gently slid the canoe sideways into the rapids. The canoe, never even rocking, blended together with the rapids, and gently drifted on, all in one with the churning water.

We rounded the bend around midday and decided to stop for lunch. This was fascinating to me as, again all this was new. Stopping for lunch? How? Where? Was there a McDonalds along the shore? We drifted into the bank; I remember it was somewhat steep, which was fine, as we weren’t really looking to pull out of the water. We found a small manageable spit and slid the canoes up along the bank. From the larder nested between the side rails of the “Paul(s)” canoe, we pulled bread, turkey, ham, mustard and ketchup, all which seemed a grand feast in this remote environment. It was here I started to realize the benefit of these excursions. We take for granted the availability of such staples in our every day. But when presented in a manner, that by all accounts should seem a struggle, they somehow seem manna from heaven. We weren’t starving, or under any hardship, we had just started, but I had forgotten how something so simple as a turkey sandwich, can be so rewarding after fighting the wind and weather for even a few short hours.

This was the first stop of many, but the first in my realization of what I should expect along the way. The second came quickly at its heels when I complained to my father of a slight stomachache. Nothing serious but clearly nerves, anxiety, and being in unfamiliar territory were working against me. My father’s solution… beer. One of our essential stores was a case of BuckhornBuckhorn beer my father had in our canoe. Perhaps there was some method to his madness; perhaps it was simply a rite of passage, but his cure for a stomachache? A slug of beer, and by god, I was going to drink it. It was enough that I had a couple sips, and then we were repacked and on our way again. All the while, I was thinking to myself… my dad just gave me beer!?!?

The continued ride with the current was wonderful as I slowly settled into the experience ahead of me. Looking back I realize that has always been one of my problems, that of just leaning back and embracing the experience. I remember at one point just watching the scenery go by and enjoying the calm that the river brought. Dad and I hung back in the second position and let “the Paul’s take the lead. At one point I remember some kind of bird coming up in front of us, and Paul Sr, saying to Paul Jr, “get you’re gun out!” Paul reached back and pulled out the shotgun neatly planted along his right side. As the flock took off (I think they were ducks), Paul took his shot as they pass in front, unfortunately still at a distance too far out from our canoes. In the end, he missed his target(s), but I remember being a bit awe struck at how easily it came to my best friend to grab, load, aim and shoot at what could have been our dinner that night. I had a lot to learn it would seem.

Thornapple River

We continued on, the river cold and black, the sky, overcast, gray and cool. There were jokes, discussions, various points of nature, which for some reason every little change in landscape seemed interesting. But there were also moment of quiet. Time to just watch, to listen, and envelope yourself in the surroundings.

As dark approached on the horizon, it was time to find the first campsite of the week. We found an easy sloping bank which would give us plenty of cover under the trees and a high enough shore to get the canoes out of the water and us on dry land. We landed the boats, climbed out and gave ourselves a good stretch. We noticed two things right away, first was an old abandoned foundation that sat down the bank and under the trees. It was difficult to discern what it used to be, but the foundation would make a great fire pit and provide some break from the increasing wind.

The next thing, we were not alone. As the night darkened, and the campsite became bathed in firelight, we heard rustling in the nearby trees. Slowly what emerged was a heard of cows who were moving from their pasture, back toward the home barn. Reminding us we were still close to civilization, there came a pickup from wherever the farm was, and they came by to check on who was hanging out on their river’s edge. After a nice enough exchange, they left, the cows followed, and eventually we moved to our tents and settled down for a crisp night sleep.

The next few days provided more Midwestern fall beauty and new challenges along the river. One I will never forget was the logjam. At the beginning, when commenting about the wooden food crates and all the “extra” equipment, the one that went into the Paul’s canoe which I just couldn’t’ understand was a chainsaw. A chainsaw? We were on a river? What on earth was that for? I learned by midweek exactly what for.

We rounded a bend again and the river began to narrow, at a few points becoming no more than 20-30 feet wide. Our pace slowed to navigate the slower current and shallow depths, and eventually found ourselves at a total roadblock. Clearly in years past the river, the weather, Mother Nature at her best, proved to a handful of tress, it was time for them to come down. And down they were, directly across the river, completely blocking our forward progress.

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Right away my young mind goes to “GREAT! Now we have to take everything OUT of the canoes, then carry it down river then…” I can honestly say, teenagers don’t appreciate the experience at hand. Regardless, thanks to Paul Sr’s forethought, the portage around the fallen tress wasn’t necessary. As though some superhero pulling his sword from a hidden sheath, Paul senior reach into the canoe, and pulling it above his head almost in a defiant stance, removed his chainsaw and gave the pullcord a hefty yank! The saw fired right up and soon he was climbing the morass of logs, sawing through them with ease, clearing our path to freedom.

There was a level of elation at the experience, watching the two dads, beat back nature with a defiant “stick”. Thinking us now superior, we reloaded the tools, and began to paddle under the remaining logs to the other side. But no, Mother Nature wasn’t done with me yet. The clearing we had made was just enough to slide the canoe and all the gear and passengers underneath. However in my exuberance, I failed to realize, that the wooden supply box was right behind me, so when the time came to lean back and glide under the logs, my head locked back against the supply crate, and my forehead smacking directly into the logs I so arrogantly attempted to avoid. I remember having a small goose egg on my forehead for the remainder of the trip, just to remind myself that we (or I) was in no way king of this river.

The river eased us on for the remainder of the week. Our last night was spent on a small peninsula of land that jutted into the right side of the river. A comforting dinner, and an evening helping Paul Jr clean the dishes. That meant heating the solidified grease in the cast-iron frying pan, and pouring it over the fire to get rid of it. As boys will be boys, it clearly was a reason to let two young boys play with fire.

The fathers just sat back and watched and let Paul and I enjoy our selves. We spent our evening huddled next to the fire, discussing our most recent D&D adventure, while the men drank beer and talked about the things Fathers talk about.

As I prepare for my next adventure, heading to the UK in the fall, I want to remember that time on the river and what it gave me. And to not take for granted the experience at hand.

Of the Southern Continent

The facade of the Scott Polar Research Institute – *photo from the official website

Preparing for our Grand Tour of the UK, beginning in September, we found a likely destination from a great website called “Atlas Obcura”.

Always enthusiasts of polar exploration, Atlas Obscura highlights the Scott Polar Research Institute, and organization dedicated to the history and exploration of the Arctic and Antarctic poles.

Definitely check out the article.

GAC

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/scott-polar-research-institute-museum-library

 

 

 

Latest and Greatest

Hello fellow adventurers! Here’s hoping you’re making the most out of your 2016.

We have a few posts dropping soon, some from over the winter, others, some more recent fun.

As we look to some planned trips this year, pirate hunting, trips to the Yukon, finding some long admired treasures in the UK, and a Wing Hunt in October, we wanted to ask two questions.

1st what are the most recent adventures you’ve been having? We’d love to add some of your adventures to our roles.

And 2nd, what are the adventures you’d like to see from us going forward? We have lots of thoughts in mind, but want to hear from you.

Shoot us a message or reply to this thread. We want to hear and plan some adventures that you’d like to see the most.

Finally we’re exploring some ideas for our next site design, continuing our Expeditions and Club Chair sections, but also looking at some Gentlemanly Lifestyle and Leisure ideas. Again, if there are topics you’d like us to cover going forward, just let us know.

As always, keep searching for those every day adventures.

The Gentleman Adventurer’s Club

Adventure Defined

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What is Adventure?

We spent this year making unexpected changes; career, location and focus found new twists and turns as the year drew on. As we shifted our plans to accommodate, I found myself questioning what kind of adventure I was looking for.

I’ll expand on this as we move into 2016, but in my searching, I remembered an article from one of our favorites sites “The Art of Manliness” called “The Churchill School of Adulthood — Lesson #5: Don’t Give Up Your Sense of Adventure”.

We’ve mentioned being fans of the AoM for some time, and they have an entire series called the “Winston Churchill School of Adulthood” I would recommend reading. Lesson #5 in particular, is enjoyable when looking to define what your personal sense of adventure might be. They start with some basic tenants such as;

  • A chance for failure/harm.
  • The inability to completely plan out what will happen and how things will go.
  • Challenge and the calling forth of one’s abilities.

But then expand on those given modern variables and environments. I’m using the article as something of a template as I define both my own personal approach, but also the GAC’s to our adventures in 2016.

I hope you’ll enjoy the Art of Manliness as much as we do, and their articles from “The Winston Churchill School of Adulthood”.

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/01/14/the-churchill-school-of-adulthood-lesson-5-dont-give-up-your-sense-of-adventure/

Far East Adventures

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Whisky Samurai

By T. Dietz

We’re at the tail-end of a five week trip to South East Asia spending a few transition days in Tokyo when I’m ready for a night with no kids, alone time with my wife, and a great whisky. A fitting end to a great summer holiday adventure that covered so much-from an elephant safari to diving with sharks and giant moray eels in Thailand. As we at the GAC have pointed out on more than one occasion, we like to finish our adventures (of all and any kind) with a whisky (see our previous whisky tasting article).

I’ve been to Japan, and Tokyo in particular, several times and know first hand of the Japanese’s passion for cocktails and whisky. So instead of heading down to the Shangri-La Hotel bar or the Park Hyatt Hotel’s New York bar, where too many people need to have a drink because of the bar scene in the film Lost In Translation, I turn to the interwebs for the “best whisky bar in Tokyo”.

Up came a number of great bars highlighting chemistry major-be-proud alcohol concoctions, FullSizeRender 8 copyhand shaved ice, dinner-jacketed bartenders, and rarified whiskies from around the world. Many, like the Society at the Park Hotel or the Bar High Five, would easily of met my need for the evening. But, I was intrigued by several articles that highlighted the oldest master barman in Tokyo, Mitsui Yoshida. He is known for having trained many of Tokyo’s great mixologists, his perfect ice and Yoshida Martini, and one of his specialty cocktails called the Kaikan Fizz. Turns out he is bar tending at a bar called Y&M Kisling and one on the “best of” list. Unfortunately, he only tends bar a couple of nights a week and it was not a night that my wife and I had free. BTW, yes, GAC adventures can include your beautiful blonde wife.

IMG_1659 copyThe Y&M Kisling sounded intriguing in and of itself. A small venue that was named for the French painter Moise Kisling and highlighting his painting Jeune fille en rouge, 1925. Although M Yoshida would not be there we figured his protégés would be. Off we went to the Ginza district of Tokyo.

 

 

We were let off at a plain looking office building that, without the sign, would provide no insight IMG_1658 copyas to what was up on the 7th floor. We jumped on a tiny elevator that made us intimately acquainted with one other vertical traveler and up we went. We weren’t off the elevator five seconds when a door swung open and a gentleman in a crème-colored dinner jacket and dark pants invited us into what felt initially like someone’s apartment. A few feet of richly stained wood paneling opened up into an intimate narrow, low lighted old world bar right out of the early part of the 1900’s. Ambience perfection. Just four very nicely dressed patrons were huddled at either end of the long bar- barely looking up from their IMG_1660 copyconversation, drinks and smokes- and we were escorted to the middle section. The bar was pristine with a variety of chilled glasses on display and a deep selection of distillates and spirits. And at its center, the Kisling artwork stood out in riveting contrast to the subdued surroundings.

My wife and I both smiled at what was likely going to be a great evening despite the Master barman’s absence when he just appeared and bee-lined straight to us. With a dignified bow and two other bar tenders standing in military attention at his sides he asked what we’d like to drink. I couldn’t help myself and despite the apparent obviousness of his presence I turned to my wife and said meet M Yosihida, legendary barman.

Without hesitation, my wife ordered up the Yoshida Martini. In an instant, hands were flying around as a perfectly frosted Martini glass was placed in front of M Yoshida and the mesmerizing art of cocktail alchemy played out, perfectly orchestrated. M Yoshida pulled out his pristine ice and chilled everything he used in the process-constantly replacing the ice fresh. Never once did he use a jigger but rather his years of honed skill to pour the exact amount of ingredients into the shaker – a dash of orange bitter, Gordon’s gin, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth and lemons. His concentration was absolute and his “assistants” never took their eyes off of his efforts nor were a step behind in having what came next at his fingertips. His stirring of the mix, which you can see in the lead-in picture, was performed with the utmost concentration. He finished the cocktail with an absolutely perfect pour and squeezed a lemon a few inches over the glass from left to right. He then presented the drink to my wife with a hand gesture but never looking up and bowed. Over the course of the evening we watched this choreographed mastery many times.

M Yoshida didn’t move until after my wife took her fist sip and smiled. Another bow followed. He then turned his attention to me and what would I like. I said that my experience with whisky FullSizeRender 9 copywas good but extremely limited when it came to Japanese malts with only a 12 year Suntory Hakushu (tasted at our GAC whisky event) under my belt. He quickly brought out a number of Japanese whiskies – a 17 year Nikka, a 12 year Taketsuru, and a 12 year Hibiki.   I tasted each one and favored the Nikka. He nodded in approval and moved away to other patrons while I enjoyed smooth brown liquid. Over the next bit my wife and I relived some of the adventurous trip we were just finishing up and decided it was time for another round.

Having enjoyed the Yoshida Martini so much she elected for it a second time and M Yoshida again enthralled us with his time-honed skills. In broken English he asked us where we were from. We said the San Francisco area and he was excited to tell us he’d been there for a visit years before. I told him again how much I liked the Nikka and he then just stared at me – kind of like when you’re deciding on whether you should do something or not. He turned to one of his assistant bar tenders and after a brief and hushed conversation the IMG_1669 - Version 2 copyassistant bar tender left the bar and went to the wall seating behind us. He lifted one of the seats and reached in. He quickly took the bottle to M Yoshida and then returned to the wall seating to put it back in place.

The bottle was in Japanese with beautiful artwork on it. M Yoshida opened the bottle, took a glass and poured ever so small a portion. He breathed in the aroma and then slid the glass in front of me. I honestly can’t remember the smell. I felt I was drinking something that doesn’t often come out for his patrons. He waited for me to taste it and when I did I just thought it held up to the best whiskies I have ever had. He smiled for the first time and the bottle was taken back to its hiding spot. After some searching I figured out I had tasted from an older stock bottle of Karuizawa whisky, a rare and expensive malt. Nope, I didn’t even think at that point to pull my phone camera back out being completely in the moment.

But two more treats came when first I noticed that the bill did not include my special tasting and then M Yoshida came around from the bar with his assistant and asked for my camera which he gave to another assistant to memorialize our evening adventure in Tokyo.

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Iceland

Iceland

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We love highlighting other writers and like minded adventurers, friends who try to step out of the norm and explore the world around us.
 
We’ve highlighted our friend Matt Brisbin before and his blog :The Mountains are calling and I must Go!”. This year, as careers changed for both Matt and I, Matt took the time to explore distant Iceland.
 
It looks to have been an amazing trip and something we wanted to share with our audience as well.

The end, but the beginning!

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Catching Up

Well THAT was unexpected!

As 2015 draws to a close, we’ve realized our sophomore year has seen some interesting challenges. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes, the greatest adventure is life itself.

This year we’ve seen changes in family, changes in career, changes in lifestyle, and changes in focus. All these things bring something new, challenging and adventurous to our plans and goals.

In 2015 the GAC found itself split between two coasts, and the “hop in the plane and take off” excursions, became more difficult to pull together. Nonetheless, Tom and I still found ways to seek out adventure, as did a number of our members.

In the coming weeks we’re going to shotgun through some of the stories we wrote, but never posted, and those we meant to write, but never had the time.

Its helped to remind us, we found adventure where we could, and we’ll continue to seek out adventure, no matter what path life steers us down.

As always, we hope you’ll seek out your own adventure, and continue to follow us through 2016 and beyond.

Wishing you the most joyous of holidays, and many inspiring adventures in 2016.

The

GAC