Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Full Disclosure

Hey, what's in the box?  I think it wants out.
If you ever decide to come for a visit while traveling through the area, it’s only fair that we be honest about what you should possibly expect. Lets say we’ve spent some time relaxing while sitting around swapping war stories, and you excuse yourself to use the facilities. Walking into the bathroom, you turn the light on. While powdering your nose, you hear rustling in the greenery draped across the top of the mirror. As you see movement, your eyes focus on a bat clinging to the wall. The rest is up to you. Do you ignore it and carry on? Do you open the door and call out? “Ah, Jean, I think one of your critters is loose.” Or do you run screaming from the bathroom?  These are all decisions you should make before visiting the home of an animal rescuer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Florida Circumnavigation Complete

Mary Mangiapia
Today, 10 Dec. 14 at , 4:48:49 pm, Mary Mangiapia completed her Florida Circumnavigation Saltwater Paddling Trail with her landing at the Fort Clinch State Park boat ramp. This made her the first woman to complete the trail solo and in a single trip. The official length of the trail is 1,515 miles, but real-life circumstances usually make it longer. Also, to make sure Florida had been completed without question, she paddled past Ft. Clinch, across the St. Mary’s River to land on Cumberland Island, GA, before turning about to again cross the inlet and land at Fort Clinch.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Quest By Canoe

Quest By Canoe: Glasgow to Skye, by Alastair M. Dunnett (pub by G. Bell & Sons, Ltd, London, 1950, 183pp.)

This is a cool paddling story in the true spirit of John “Rob Roy” MacGregor. Two paddlers, Alastair (the author) and Seumas, published a periodical for young boys called Claymore. Its goal was to promote Scottish culture and a thirst for adventure among its young readers. When the magazine fell into financial collapse, the two men, like many that have taken long expeditions, saw unemployment not as a failure, but an opportunity. They turned their attention to an adventure of their own. They had two 13 1/2-ft. canoes built in skin-on-frame, each with a 32-inch beam. Since most shores in Scotland are shingle, the bottoms were sheathed with strips of wood, so their resulting weight came to 80-pounds. The canoes were in three pieces, held together with a wire running from one end, through a groove under the hull and to the other end, and tightened by two turnbuckles.

The adventure was in the mid-1930’s, between the two great wars. They never said what year it was, but later in the book spoke of encountering the Yacht Endeavor as it was campaigning to compete in the America’s Cup. That would place it in 1934. The trip didn’t start until late August, so a common admonition was that they had started too late in the year. They would paddle from Glasgow through the Scottish Isles to Skye. With stories of their trip published in local papers, they became known as the Canoe Boys, and their movements were closely watched by those that gathered along the shores and at each landing.

Once they reached Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, progress slowed. They never said how long the trip was, but tracing their route on Google Earth yielded about 210 miles. The distance was not shocking, but the lengths of unforgiving and inaccessible coastlines and stretches of open water exposed to Atlantic gales indeed were. As adverse weather interrupted their advances, they spent a few days in Tobermory, and then crossed to Calve Island to spend two weeks on a farm helping harvest crops of hay and corn. Hay was cut by hand, and corn stalks cut and shocked. Another stop got them involved in herring fishing. The farmhouses were lit by oil lamps, and music was played on gramophones. Their greatest diversions were dances held two or three nights a week. If you remember the scene of Celtic dancing in the hold of the Titanic during that movie, you can appreciate their description of the dances. They say the Highlanders have a well-marked sense of rhythm, and the dances progress with a “triumphant zest” and are “performed with accurate violence.”

By this point, the calendar had progressed to the end of October, their canoes and lines were rigid with ice, and bad weather was becoming relentless. In fact, even the steamship that transported them and their canoes back to Glasgow had to anchor in a bay for two days because the storms were too great for a ship to endure. So, for a peek back in time, and a view of the lives of Highlanders in the Hebrides, you’ll enjoy how this canoe trip weaves all these experiences together.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Horse

This is the Christmas decoration Jean crafted for the back door.  Beautiful job!  While she was down on the floor working life into this horse, the cats were doing their level best to help in any way they could.
I was surprise to see Mary wasn't underway from Palm Valley bridge this morning until I checked the St. Augustine weather.  That took all surprise out of her not being on the water.  It must be frustrating to be so close to being done with the circumnavigation only to be faced with a couple days of adverse weather.  The winds will be blowing 20mph right out of the north, but being funneled down the waterway, may even top that a bit.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Picture of the Day

Beautiful shot by Alex Comb, Solo Canoe
The Christmas tree is decorated, and shopping mostly done, except for a couple hold-outs that don't want to give us a clue as to what they'd like to celebrate the big day. 
I've been watching Mary Mangiapia's progress all day.  She is about to finish the Florida Saltwater Circumnavigation Paddling Trail.  Today she paddled from St. Augustine, FL, to the Rt. 210 bridge at Palm Valley.  This should mean a completion the day after tomorrow.  If you'd like to watch her finish, her Spot link is

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy Birthday

When we were visiting my brother this past spring, he learned that Brad Keselowski was one of our favorite drivers in NASCAR. I was quite surprised to received a numbered, limited-edition scale metal model of Brad’s car from my brother, along with this note. “You know you’re still young when someone gives you a toy car for your birthday.” I’ll have to keep the car close as a constant reminder of that. The die-cast model was fascinating with its operable roof flaps, rear spoiler, and every detail inside, including dashboard, fire-suppression system, window netting, even seatbelts. The underbody has more parts than I can identify.

A tip of the hat to Jean as well was the car being packaged in peanuts for safe shipping. No, not Styrofoam peanuts, but the real things. That will keep her squirrels happy for some time to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Diary of a Wilderness Dweller

Diary of a Wilderness Dweller by Chris Czajkowski (pub by Orca Book Publishers, Custer, WA, and Victoria, BC, 1996)

Chris Czajkowski and Lonesome
It would be hard enough for most men to go into an untouched wilderness with no roads, no trails, no resources or assistance, and make a life out of nothing. I was totally captivated by this woman who did exactly that under the most trying circumstances. She had selected a plot of land from a map. When she arrived, she found a jumble of rocks and boulders with no soil and without enough flat ground to pitch a tent or even lie down. Most people would have collapsed in despair at the useless and impossible situation, but alone in the wilderness with no place else to go, she determined to make do, and so she did. She decided that whatever skills were needed to accomplish her task, she would figure them out. She said, “Skills will always find a way of arriving, it is attitude that is important. If you think you can do something, it will happen. I can live this way because, even during my blackest moments, I have never doubted that I can do it.”

Her cabin.
Chris grew up in a small village in the north of England. She traveled widely through Asia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, South America, and then was attracted to the mountains of British Columbia’s Coast Range, near Bella Coola, 300 miles north of Vancouver. She filed for a plot of land from the Bureau of Land Management that was accessible only by foot and canoe, as the nearest road, a dirt logging trail, was 27 miles away. The nearest banks, supermarkets, traffic lights, or cell phone service were 150 miles away. She was isolated and off the grid by choice, but not a recluse. With voter turn-outs of around 15% in this country, it’s hard to imagine a woman’s determination to vote in the federal election in spite of it requiring a three-day trek both ways to reach the nearest polling place.  

Her cabin on the lake.
Photo credits: google images
For anyone attracted to doing something daunting, challenging, even intimidating, this book is a must read. I can just give you a taste of some of the things she faced. She was sleeping in a trapper’s cabin with her dog, Lonesome, when the dog was alerted. Rolled up in her sleeping bag like it was a cocoon, she was trapped when suddenly a bear thrust its head through the glass of the window next to her. She fought to find and undo the zipper. When finally free, she grabbed the axe and opened the door. The only thing that came to mind was beating the axe against a steel drum to create enough noise that the bear retreated.

She also had close and harrassing encounters with bears at her own cabin site. She was living in a tent while building the cabin, but one bear convinced her to move away from the site. She slept on a pile of lumber on the logs at the lake’s edge that served as the float plane landing, and covered herself with a tarp that was covered with ice or frost each morning.

During construction, she was carrying irreplaceable glass windows into the cabin for setting. She tripped and fell, but rather than trying to break her fall, held the windows high to prevent breaking them. Instead, she struck her head and broke her eyeglasses. Her spare pair were many miles away with her gear awaiting transport by float plane. She couldn’t see with one lens, so did without. The glasses would have to await her next trip out. Her poor sight made all the tasks more difficult and more time consuming. Then Lonesome again started to warn of something moving in the brush. She assumed it was a bear, but she could only see movement, but not make out what was there. Fortunately, Lonesome persuaded it to move off.

Between designing the cabin in her mind, finding and felling the trees she needed, making her own sawn boards, figuring out how to move and lift logs weighing hundreds of pounds, and tackling every task alone, she met each challenge one small step at a time. This is both an enjoyable trip into pristine wilderness and lakes, and the chance to spend time with someone willing to attack the impossible, but then shrug the accomplishment off as if it is no big deal.

She has authored eleven books with other titles like Cabin at Singing River, Lonesome: Memoirs of a Wilderness Dog, Nuk Tessli: Life of a Wilderness Dweller, Wildfire in the Wilderness, Ginty’s Ghost, Snowshoes and Spotted Dick, A Mountain Year, Wilderness Dweller’s Cookbook, and The River Still Sings.