Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In Canada's Wonderful Northland

In Canada’s Wonderful Northland: A Story of Eight Months of Travel by Canoe, Motorboat, and Dog-Team on the Northern Rivers and along the New Quebec Coast of Hudson Bay, by W. Tees Curran and H. A. Calkins  (Pub. by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York & London, 1920, with 60 photos and maps, 331pp of text or 334pp with index.)

This is an extremely fascinating book.  The 1,800 mile trip that created its story was done in 1912.  It was the second of such scientific explorations of the still unknown Quebec, the first taking place in 1907.  That trip was reported in another book titled, “Glimpses of Northern Canada, a Land of Hidden Treasures,” which was published by the Canadian Government.  It was so widely received and in such demand, that writing this second book was a foregone conclusion before this trip even started.

To wrap our minds around such an undertaking demands we first consider that Quebec covers over 17,000 square miles, a fifth the size of the entire United States, and six times greater than Great Britain, and larger than the British Isles, France, Spain, and Germany combined.  It had been 400 years since its discovery, and yet save for the indigenous Eskimos, Indians, and a few trappers, so little understood that Voltaire, after the transfer of Quebec from France to Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris, made this statement.  “We were foolish enough to establish ourselves on the snows of Canada, among the bears and the beavers. …….(The loss of) These fifteen hundred leagues, being a frozen desert, are not a very considerable loss.”

Pinterest search, from near Fort George, circa 1900.

Besides understanding the need to explore and ascertain the new land’s treasures in minerals and other natural resources, the reader is given a clear understanding of the challenges endured, the lives of people among the Hudson’s Bay Company posts, the nature of local Eskimo and Indian groups, and even the struggles of living among teams of Huskies.  The challenges of traveling with scant knowledge of the region, little to no navigational information, no communications between the groups of the expedition or the outside world, sometimes little food or even wood for starting a fire, and savage weather are clearly brought to the reader.  The launch was used mainly to transport the supplies needed to sustain them for eight months, but the canoe was used for exploration, reaching the shore, and more importantly, while pinned down for days on shore, using the canoe in rough seas to recover supplies from the launch, which may be anchored a mile or more offshore to keep it from being bashed on boulders.

From the point of view as an adventure, a canoeing story, or acquiring a better understanding of history, this is a book well worth your time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Step One to Getting Back on the Water

Today was to start my return.  I made a list of jobs last night that I would tackle today to start rebuilding my endurance and strength, but by the time I was done at the hospital this morning, I felt feverish, washed out, and spent.  I had to take a step back.

To review, I had cryo ablative prostate surgery, came home with my new stitches and a plastic catheter through my abdominal wall into the bladder.  Once this is inserted through the abdomen, the balloon is inflated to prevent the tube from being accidentally pulled out.  A plastic collection bag was strapped to my leg for day use, and at night this was switched out for a much larger collection bag that lay on the floor next to the bed.  There is nothing pleasant about this process either for the patient or those that are providing aid.  The first week is just dedicated to healing and getting by.

Credit: Google search

The second week is dedicated to voiding trials, in other words, how much you are able to pee naturally versus what is left behind to be voided from the bladder catheter.  The collection bags are removed, and the tubing plugged to force you to get up and pee as needed. One of the post-op directives is to get plenty of rest.  This goes out the window real fast.  Every 40-60 minutes around the clock you head for the bathroom, measure and record the two voidings, and update the log for the doctor’s inspection.  It’s like having chemistry lab at three in the morning.  The patient doesn’t get any sleep, and any person listening to you stumbling around the house doesn’t either.  It is a long week.  A couple mornings I got up and just sat up for four hours so Jean could get a bit of uninterrupted sleep.  The objective is to start getting higher amounts voided naturally while leaving smaller amounts to be voided by the catheter, a measure of returning to normalcy.  I perhaps got up more than most, I understand, because I encountered a lot of incontinence.  I was peeing myself continuously, 24-hours a day, filling one Depends after another.  Instead of trying to lay in bed longer, I’d opt to get up and void my bladder rather than wet myself, my clothes, and the bed, although it was of course covered with a plastic absorbent pad.   

In my first week after surgery, I gained 18 pounds from fluid retention, so off I went to the emergency ward for a cardiac stress test.  My legs inflated like I had elephantiasis, and the skin was stretched until it was slick and shiny, and I couldn’t bend my legs more than about 30-deg.  The test included chest x-rays, ultra-sound, and the injection of Lasix to force me to expel the fluids.  In the few hours I was at the hospital, I lost 5 pounds.  This was followed by another week of Lasix pills to keep things flowing.

Then I came down with a severe case of gout, which took about a week to play out.  If you’ve had gout, I don’t need to describe it.  If you haven’t, it would be a shame to ruin the thrill of discovery.  It is one of those never to be forgotten experiences.  My dance card was filled with doctors and nurses.  I went back to the hospital again for an echocardiogram, and another day for an abdominal ultrasound.  This past Monday, however, I returned to the hospital in Oklahoma City again to have the catheter removed, and that improved my outlook on life a hundred percent.  Maybe that was what made me feel human again.

From here, the hole in my stomach is supposed to close on its own in about four days.  The incontinence should slow and stop over time.  I sure hope so.  I know it happens to some guys, but spending the rest of my life peeing myself continuously is not a happy thought.  The idea for a bumper sticker couldn’t help but present itself:  “Incontinence pisses me off.”  So, I’m not completely back yet, but I’m on my way.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Missouri River Breaks with Lisa Swanson

In case you don’t subscribe to Missiouri River Paddlers on Facebook, I’ve shared this video here to make sure you don’t miss it.  This is Lisa A. Swanson’s trip through the Missouri River Breaks.  Great music and breathtaking scenery.  Be sure to enlarge the picture.
Ignore the low volume  in the beginning.  It only lasts about 10 seconds.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mississippi Mission

Credit: Lancy Loney's Facebook page

Here’s another one just getting started tomorrow.  I’ll add their blog to “Favorite Blogs” in right column.  As with Dale Sanders and company, it may really be interesting to follow their adventure.  This trip, by Corey Smock and Lance Loney, is called Mississippi Mission 2015, and is dedicated to raising funds for suicide prevention.  Check out:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Paddle Pilgrim

Credit: author's webpage

Paddle Pilgrim: An Adventure of Learning and Spirit, Kayaking the Mississippi River, by Dr. David R. Ellison (self-published, 2013, 122pp, 85 b&w photos)

If his biographical site is current, Dr. David Ellison is a Professor of Children, Youth, and Family studies at Trinity Lutheran College in Everett, WA.  His trip down the Mississippi River was done as a sabbatical and took place in 2012.  It wasn’t until near the end of the book that I learned that he had written it to supplement the blog he has done during the trip.  That helped to explain the brevity of the book.  At 122 pages, fairly large print, and 85 pictures, making almost one to a page, it is a very, very short book.  So, I had to go searching for the blog.  It may be found at, and has the pictures from the book in color, along with many others that weren’t in the book.  You may find the blog of interest.  Also, here is the link to a video he did about his trip that I found on his Facebook page.  He started the trip in a folding kayak, which did not survive, so you’ll later see the red kayak he replaced it with.

It’s unfortunate that the book wasn’t done as a stand-alone project, but it does provide the reader with a flavor of the trip.  In spite of the tougher paddling, he likes the river above Minneapolis much better than the remainder of the river because of the abundance of wildlife and more enjoyable scenery.  Also helpful was having companionship on that first leg.  Jim Lewis, author of Ka-Ka-Ska-Ska, which was reviewed in this blog previously (2/18/15, accessible in blog archives), accompanied Dr. Ellison on that initial section.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Canoeing The Great Plains

Canoeing The Great Plains: A Missouri River Summer, by Patrick Dobson (Univ. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NE, 2015, 193pp.)

This is a very readable and enjoyable book.  It is about the restorative and rehabilitative powers of water and a canoe.  Patrick Dobson reveals he was without direction and pretty much at the end of his rope.  He didn’t know who he was, where he wanted to go in life, or how to meet his responsibilities.  The situation is well explained by the title of the first chapter---  ‘Doomed.’

The story starts in 1995, so he’s had time since then to test how his trip helped him mend and grow.  His journey began as he stepped off his porch in Kansas City and started walking, walking about 1,250 miles to Helena, Montana.  His intention was to return to Kansas City by canoeing down the Missouri River, but as he walked across the plains, the closer he got to Montana, the more apprehensive he became about the fearsomeness and size of the mighty river.   A talk with a fishing guide in Helena didn’t help when she assured him that he would die. 

His canoeing experience amounted to passing out drunk in the bottom of a canoe ten years earlier with no memory of how he got home.  Thinking he might benefit from some paddling instruction, he sought the help of an outfitter, who recommended an instructor.  The instructor took Dobson and his 16-ft. purple canoe to a Helena park lake.  When he tried to teach the author how to J-stroke, Dobson flipped the canoe.  When he tried to teach the author how to sweep, Dobson flipped the canoe.  He finally told his student to always wear his PFD; he was going to need it.  Hoping his instructor would contradict the fishing guide’s doom and gloom, he asked the instructor if he had paddled the river.  The response was basically, “Not me.  Too dangerous.”  Mr. Dobson’s start was as unsteady as his confidence, but the river quickly taught him what he needed to know.  Not only did the author make a go of it, but he became so comfortable with the river life that his apprehension grew about how he would manage when he got ‘home.’  He had learned enough by the time he was within a couple weeks of his destination, that he took another dejected paddler under his wing, who was about to quit, and helped him finish his trip as well.  Along the journey, you will share every emotion and every mosquito between Helena and Kansas City, and by the last page, you also will feel better for the experience.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Big C

I've been asked whether or not I was going to blog about my predicament, being diagnosed with prostate cancer.   I still have mixed thoughts on that.  The main thought is that everyone has health issues in their lives, so you all may not be interested in hearing about mine.  The only reason I bring it up here now is to explain why you'll be exposed to a lot of book reviews in the next couple months.  I'll have surgery in a couple weeks, and will be inactive until the end of July.  Then it becomes an issue of how long it will be before I feel like sitting up in a canoe for 10-12 hours a day.  In the meanwhile, I'll be doing a lot of reading on canoeing, kayaking, and camping.  At least I can give you some insight into a number of titles and authors.

There is, however, another side of the coin as to why you may be interested in all this.  I found it very difficult to find information on this problem.  Without speculating as to why this may be true, I've learned a lot.  Whether for men, or women wanting to take care of the health of their men, I'll share if asked.  Until I can get back on the water, I hope you enjoy the reviews.