Friday, January 13, 2017

Tailored Approach to Packing

This is the canoe pack I got from Cooke Custom
Sewing last year at Canoecopia.

I’ve assembled camping checklists offered by several different people on trips of different lengths.  This may help you fine-tune your own pack list.  There are two assumptions here that I feel are appropriate.  First, the greater the experience, the more refined the understanding of what is needed to accomplish a trip of a given length.  However, there are other considerations.  For example, the need for a bear can or how reaching a certain age can make some “nice to haves” nearly essential, like a comfortable chair.  Secondly, while name brands are given in several cases, the brand chosen may represent things other than the best quality, like the region where the camper who made the particular list resides.  It may be more appropriate to look for the suggested attributes that a product may offer, and see what other brands offer the same advantages than just trying to duplicate another person’s vendor choices.

Day Paddle Pack

First aid, water treatment, trail mix, toilet paper in bag with cat hole trowel, bug spray, belt knife, foul weather gear, paracord, headlamp (Black Diamond, waterproof),   Sol Thermal Bivy, tarp, bear spray, Bic lighter, duct tape, and a SPOT.  Carry-out trash bags.

3-Day Pack

Nemo Astro Insulated Light 25L sleeping pad, sleeping bag in compression bag, Sierra Design 2-man, 3 season tent, foil insulating pad layer, water purification, cook kit, food bag, headlamp, phone, GPS in waterproof case, Anker PowerCore 10,000 recharging power pack, first aid, Picaridin bug/tick spray, cat hole spade & TP in dry bag, compass, belt knife, garbage bags to put pack in or on, and baby wipes.  Carry-out trash bags.

5-Day Pack

Radio for weather, water treatment & filter, first aid, gloves, bear spray, Tuban folding bucket/collapsible sink, foul weather gear, REI Flex-Lite chair, belt knife, cook kit, stove, fire kit, toiletries, flashlight, bear food can, clothes, Thermarest folding sleeping pad, A Sea-To-Summit Comfort Light Insulated mat on top of that, Mountain Hardwear Down Ratio 15 sleeping bag, Snugpak Scorpion 2 four-season tent.  Carry-out trash bags.

Appalachian Trail Pack

Osprey Atmos 65AG pack, SPOT, phone/camera pouch on shoulder strap, Kelty Ignite Dri Down 20 sleeping bag, Six Moon Designs Solo Lunar LE tent, Thermorest Trekker Pad, Sea to Summit Aeros pillow, REI Black Diamond trekking poles, bandana, first aid, ear plugs, Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite sleeping bag liner (adds 20-deg), bug net, Anker PowerCore 20,100 recharging power pack, paracord, Black Diamond Headlamp, pack cover by Sea-to-Summit, Smart Water water filter bottle, Sawyer drip filter or Platypus GravityWorks filter & bag, MSR Pocket Rocket stove, cook utensils in 700 ml pot, Bic lighter.  Carry-out trash bags.

Not only is carry-in, carry-out a noble practice, but from a purely survival point of view, trash can attract wildlife just as much as food if not handled properly.  A simple solution is to put the trash in zip-lock bags, and then put those in larger bags, making them double-bagged, or back in the bottom of the bear barrel.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Seeking Out Molly Pitcher

The grave of Molly Pitcher
Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is a town caught between two periods of history.  While being modern enough to serve the needs of its residents today, it is a colonial town that dates from our nation’s earliest history.  It was laid out in 1751 by John Armstrong, Sr., and named after his home town of Carlisle, Cumbria, England.  The jail, which now serves as office space for Cumberland County, was built to resemble The Citadel in Cumbria. 
Carlisle was an important hub of commerce from the earliest fur trading days, welcomed pioneers to what was then the American frontier, and served as a point of origin for expeditions pushing further west. The Appalachian Mountains had pushed back against the Western Expansion for years, but it was from Carlisle that they were finally assaulted by the pioneers.  It was the point from which much of the settlement of the Ohio River Valley occurred, was critical in providing protection for settlers during the French and Indian Wars, and was a munitions depot during the American Revolution.  It became the site of the U.S. Army War College, which continues to operate to this day.
One of the local key figures of the Revolution was a Carlisle woman who became known as Molly Pitcher.   She was born Molly Ludwig on October 13, 1744.  She married John Hays in 1769.  As the British forces began to push south from Canada in 1777, John enlisted in Proctor’s First Pennsylvania Artillery.  Molly accompanied her husband into battle and served as a nurse.  She would aid in any way she could, even carrying water into the field of battle for soldiers.  Her acts of kindness and service became so common that Molly became known throughout the Army. The expression between soldiers about “here comes Molly with her pitcher,” became so common that she became best known among the combatants as Molly Pitcher.  When John was severely wounded in the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, he fell to the ground by the cannon he had been serving.  The gun was ordered to the rear, but instead Molly sprang into action and took her husband’s place and kept the cannon in the action.  After the battle, Gen. George Washington sought her out and thanked her personally for her bravery and valiant action.  She returned with her wounded husband to Carlisle to nurse his wounds until he passed away.  She was awarded a pension in 1822, and at her death on January 22, 1832, was buried in the Carlisle Cemetery with full military honors.
We went to the cemetery to seek out Molly Pitcher.  Several areas around the city remain much as they did in that era, including streets designed for horse and wagon.  I had to creep down the alley with only an inch to spare at the outer ends of the truck’s mirrors to avoid scraping them on the stone buildings and walls on either side.  As soon as we entered the gates of the cemetery, the worn path became obvious, and led us directly to her grave site.  Located directly behind her grave is that of the first American soldier to be awarded the rank of colonel, a member of Thompson’s Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion of 1775-1776.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

On the Conodoguinet

After several day trips on Lake Opossum, I was able to plan a trip down the Conodoguinet Creek. (con-o-dough-GWEN-it)  The Conodoguinet is a 104-mile tributary of the Susquehanna River in South Central Pennsylvania.  It is an outflow of Lake Opossum.  After the stream passes a Carlisle municipal water treatment plant with no portage trail possible, about 35 miles remain before joining the Susquehanna.  It is well described by its Native American name, meaning “a long way with many bends,” as well as a continual series of riffles and Class I rapids.  It has one 130-foot long covered bridge in Cumberland County, not in the section I would be paddling, that was built in 1870.  There were four other covered bridges that have all since been swept away in flood waters or replaced with concrete bridges.
I would do a 13.5 mile stretch that was all floatable except for the low-head dam that needed to be lined or portaged shortly after launching.  The water level was low, but in spite of bumping a few times, was a lot of fun.  At one point there is a series of five rapids as the creek passes under an Appalachian Trail bridge.  Several hikers lined the bridge railing with their cameras to document my demise, but all went well.

A small rock sculpture done in mid-stream likely to last only
until the next freshet.
The water was crystal clear and alive with fish.  The rock formations in the bottom were interesting, but the edges of the layered shale rocks looked razor sharp, suggesting the obvious desire for a helmet in higher water levels.  We followed several busy highways, including parts of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-81, as well as commercial sites.  Yet the creek appeared pristine and wild.  Except for an occasional siren or whining motorcycle, which were hardly audible, the only sounds were birds.  There were a lot of birds including heron, owls, orioles, egrets and others.  I even got a visit from a water snake.  Our daughter had been watching my SPOT track.  I hadn’t planned on an end point before I put in, and didn’t know where I would stop, but with only a couple hours of daylight left, she decided on the park that she felt would be an obvious take-out, and was sitting there waiting for me when I pulled up to the ramp that afternoon.  We have such a smart daughter.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Is the Blight of 2016 Over?

No, it's not a new boat cushion, but a coccyx cushion. 
But it does seem a nice setting for it.
The paddle on New Year’s Day was supposed to be a way to break 2016’s general ‘suckiness.’  The injury to my tail bone leaves the 2016/2017 sucky balance in question.  The medical pronouncement is that nothing can be done for it unless it is bad enough to require surgery.  No thank you.  For the sake of comfort, they prescribed the use of a cushion or donut to reduce spine and pelvic pressure, 2-3 Aleve or similar per day, and warm bath soaks, which all deal with symptoms rather than a cure.  I asked how long it takes for something like this to heal, and the nurse said, “My sister broke her tail bone years ago, and she still has problems with it.”  So much for the good news.  I guess I just need to sit on it awhile and see what hatches.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Paddling in the New Year

The trip led to a chance meeting with Anthony Grippando in
his new fishing kayak.
I hated 2016.  It was the worst year ever.  I was happy to see it go, and didn’t really celebrate its replacement, but I am determined to do my part to make this year better, or at least until the 20th.  So I was determined to get on the water today, especially since the Oklahoma weather was cooperating with highs in the 50’s and winds less than 15.
I headed to Canton Lake to launch on the Canadian side.  When I reached the launch, the lake’s water level was really high.  This meant that the shoreline was all jagged riprap with no sandy edge or bank to launch from, and that left me with just the concrete ramp.  It was slicker than any concoction you can conjure.  I backed Ibi, my Superior Expedition pictured in the header above, into the water and removed the cart.  If I stepped just an inch into the water, my footing was already tenuous.  I got one foot into the canoe, but had to kind of fall into canoe to keep from slipping on the ramp.  It wasn’t graceful, but I was launched and underway. 
The wind was supposed to be 6-8 from the south, but quickly built to 12-15, or about double what was forecast.  It was still workable, and as I drifted away from the ramp, I yanked the Falcon Sail up, and off we went.  I travelled up the lake under sail alone and reached 5.1 mph.  I was getting stronger gusts and waves large enough that I was just beginning to feel a bit of a surfing ride.  I wasn’t going anywhere, but was just out for a chance to be on the water.  I decided that before I got too far away, I should turn and try paddling back against the wind.  It worked fine with me hugging the cliffs in spite of the constant crashing of the waves against the cliff base.
 When I got back up near the ramp, I turned into a side branch that brings a stream in from the west.  As I got close to the head, I was surprised to see another paddler.  When I pulled alongside and wished the fisherman a Happy New Year, I learned he had just gotten the fishing kayak the day before, and was out for a fishing maiden voyage.  The paddler was Anthony Grippando, and the kayak was an Ascend H12 fishing kayak hybrid.  It is 12 ft. by 32-in wide, has a tunneled hull for extra stability if standing to cast, and boasts a 450-lb. capacity for all those fish enticed aboard.  After wishing him luck, I paddled and sailed a bit more, and then headed back to the ramp.
Now I was faced with getting back ashore.  I got one foot on the ramp and had zero friction or traction.  I scrubbed my foot back and forth hoping to clean away a spot I could get a footing on.  When I felt I had something that might work, I prepared to get out of the canoe.  I normally undo the paddle leash as I prepare to get out so I can use the paddle for a crutch to steady myself, but I realized that if I slipped, the canoe would take off with nothing to restrain it, so I retied the leash to the gunwale.  I gingerly stepped out, and used the paddle to steady myself as I carefully put weight on my other foot.  All looked well and manageable……..BAM.  Both feet shot out and put my butt hard on the concrete faster than I could realize I was falling.  Sure enough, the canoe shot out, but stopped when it fetched up on the leash.  This was the slickest ramp I had ever seen, but admittedly it is a steep ramp.  Even while sitting, every time I moved, I slid further down the ramp.  I fell in about 4 inches of water, but was shortly up to my chest.  Thank heavens for the Stohlquist drysuit.  The water was ice-cold.  I rolled onto my knees and tried to crawl up the ramp.  Even crawling, I would slip and slide on the ramp as I held the paddle in one hand to keep the canoe in tow.  Stohlquist had just cleaned and serviced my drysuit, replacing the gaskets, and returned it as bright and yellow as when it was new.  It was now covered front and back, waist down, with the same slime that covered the ramp.  I could not stand until I had crawled completely out onto dry concrete.  There was no one around, thankfully.  If I had seen anyone videotaping, I may have been tempted to just slide below the surface and end it all.
 There are four observations in closing.  (1) I had hoped to go back to the lake tomorrow, but my tail bone hurts bad enough to make sitting here at the computer painful.  Tomorrow may be a no go.  (2) In spite of the fiasco, it was a nice chance to get on the water between arctic fronts. (3) I know of another campground at Longdale, the east side of the lake, where there is enough sand to allow launching off the shore alongside the ramp, which also has a much more gradual ramp surface. (4) I use my rubber Crocs over my drysuit booties.  On a slippery surface like this, they have zero traction.  This has worked for 5 years, but maybe I need to research some better booty footwear before I do permanent damage to myself. 
This was posted the following day.  I am doing fine while up and about and moving around, but getting up and down or sitting is still painful.  It looks like this may take a few days.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Try a Happy New Year Soup has 150 recipes for foods used mark the death of the old year and to celebrate the birth of the New Year.  There are seven ingredients that are common among food celebrations at this time of year that include beans, greens, and pork most commonly, but also fish, cake, fruit, and noodle & grain dishes.   Beans, black eye peas, lentils, and other legumes are most popular throughout the South to promote prosperity in the New Year.  A good reason for this may be that they are inexpensive, so don’t bust the budget and carry you into January already in debt for celebrating a new beginning. 

I decided to do a mixed bean soup, which I think is so delicious that it would be great to share it.  The best part for a bean soup is that the preparation is done to reduce or nearly eliminate the food’s gas.  I got a kick of a new term I picked up today for this today, the chair trumpeter.  I hadn’t come across that one before.  It’s obviously something to be avoided both for the trumpeter and all those listening to the music. 

Another great thing about the soup is that it can be done in large quantity and enjoyed for a week.  This is something Lynn Johnson will appreciate.  We heated with a Fisher wood stove for decades.  Wood stove heat is one of the most enjoyable there is, but the down side is that it dries the house.  To kill two birds at once, we’d make a huge pot of bean or vegetable soup and set it on the back of the stove.  The simmering returned moisture to the house, and the soup was always on to enjoy after getting chilled working outside, or when company came in with appetites needing to be satisfied.  So, give this a try.

Mixed Bean Soup

Pour two cups of mixed, dried beans in a large sauce pan and cover with several inches of water.  Allow to soak for a minimum of overnight, or up to 24 hours.  Pour the soaked beans into a colander, drain, and rinse with running water.  This is how you get rid of the gas in the beans while also getting them clean.  Pour the beans back into the pot and cover with at least 2” of water.  Bring to a boil, covered with a lid, for a minimum of 10 minutes.  Turn the fire off and let sit for 30 minutes.  Pour into the colander and drain and rinse.  Be sure to watch the pot in this first boil in particular, as large quantities of gassy residue will come off and can make a mess of the stove.  Repeat the boil, soak, drain and rinse at least a second time. 

While this is going on, dice 2 cups of onion (two large onions), at least 2 stalks of celery, a couple carrots, and 4 garlic cloves.


Return the beans to the pot.

Pour in a full container of chicken broth, about 14 ozs..

1 tsp. olive oil.

Add chopped vegetables (I cheated by using a can each of carrots, whole corn, green beans, and diced Mexican flavored tomatoes.  I enjoy something resembling more of a stew than a thin soup.)

Begin heating.  Bring liquid level to within a couple inches of top of pan.  Including broth, this will be about 7 cups of broth/water.

Add to taste 2 tsp. savory leaves (or this can be replaced with 1 tsp. dried sage and 1 tsp. dried marjoram), 1-2 tsp. black pepper, ½ to 1 tsp. each of cumin and turmeric.

Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 2 hours.  In the last half-hour or so add 2 cups of shaped pasta of your choice.  If not simmering on the wood stove, refrigerate and reheat individual servings in the microwave.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lazy Days

We seem to be in the middle of the lazy days of the holiday.  Nobody is reading blogs right now, so I figured I'd share this as a mark of the times, and come back in a couple days when everyone is home, exhausted, and ready to do something enjoyable, like just reading.  This couldn't typify the apparent mood any better.  These were our two granddaughters "relaxing" in the canoe.  There was a front approaching that would kick up the wind and bring it around on the nose.  I was trying to get them to lay on the paddles a bit more to get in before our conditions turned foul, but they just couldn't be bothered.  If they had been any more blase', they would have rolled right out of the canoe.  It's a good thing the Micmac has good initial stability.  We were still a mile from the landing when the wind hit.  It wasn't anything to be concerned about safety-wise, but being right on the nose, gave them some time to consider the cost of their indolence.