Friday, February 5, 2016

Losing Sight of Shore

Credit: Losing Sight of Shore film page

I just saw something on Facebook that made me excited, amazed, and angry.  It starts with the Upworthy trailer for the planned documentary about four British women that rowed across the Pacific Ocean totally unsupported.  They covered 8,446 miles over ten months.  Leaving San Francisco, they made provisioning landings in Hawaii, American Samoa, and finished in Cairns, Australia, making them the first to complete this trial of endurance.  Below I include the links to their blog and the upcoming film.  They just arrived back in Great Britain yesterday.

The excited and amazed parts will be self-evident to anyone that looks closer at what these four women accomplished.  The angry part comes from the fact that this is the first I’ve heard of it.  They left an American city, provisioned in another American city, then landed on an American protectorate, set a world record, and kept at it for ten months, and this is the first I’m hearing of it.  The American media is yet again asleep at the controls.  I listen to the news programs every day, usually two or three news programs a day, so it’s not like I live under a rock, and this is the first I’m hearing of this effort.  I told my son that the only way the U.S. media would have heard of this would be if they had taken Howdy Doody along (alias Donald Trump).  While these women are doing something positive, amazing, challenging and uplifting to the human spirit, the news can’t get away from his vulgar, valueless, negative, senseless, comedic rants.  Instead of what these women are doing, the news wants to cover Donald Trump’s wife posing nude and Jeb Bush dragging out is 90-year-old Mommy to lead him through his campaign.  If you want to get away from Howdy Doody for a while, check out these links for something positive.

Sorry, I know that began to sound like a political rant.  It isn’t, just an angry rant.  These women deserve more credit and recognition than is apparent, and congratulations to them for such a great accomplishment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In the Cause of the Paddle

Credit: Alex Comb

What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more 
rapidly and inescapably than any other.  Travel a thousand miles by 
train,  and you are a brute.  Peddle 500 miles on a bicycle,
 and you remain basically bourgeois.  Paddle a hundred in a canoe,
 and you are already a child of nature.

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Epic Wanderer


Epic Wanderer: David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West, by D’Arcy Jenish (pub. by the University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2003, 293pp. plus index and bibliography)

As a fur trader, explorer, surveyor, artist, mapmaker, and an entrepreneur, who spent 28-years in the Canadian wilds, David Thompson did as much for Canada as anyone else we can name, and yet, he died penniless and obscure in 1857, being unknown to the public until the “David Thompson’s Narrative” was published in 1916.  Thompson's
 story began after he left a school for the poor in London at the age of 14, and sailed in May, 1784, for Churchill Factory, Hudson’s Bay, to work as an apprentice in the fur trade.

Thompson quickly became known to Hudson Bay Company partners for his meticulous work ethic, mathematical skills, and navigational abilities.  His thirst for exploration and travel was something they were happy to satisfy, as he traveled all over Canada, recorded the magnetic heading of every stream, did celestial observations to record the exact location of every bend, island, cliff, rapids, falls, and transformed all this information into the best maps of the time.  His maps were created on huge paper sheets that would cover entire walls.  Plans for establishing forts, trading posts, and seek natural resources  were all based on his maps by those both in Canada, the U.S., and back in London.  He established the boundary between Canada and the United States.  Also, Thompson had traveled more than any other man.  Only three other expeditions had been led to the Pacific, those by Simon Fraser and Alexander Mackenzie in Canada, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in the United States, but Thompson had traveling more than any other man, covering over 50,000 miles.  He also kept extensive journals on both his work and all of his adventures.  This book is taken from those journals, and will give you as precise an understanding of the man and the young and previously unknown country as you will find anywhere. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ibi's Day Out - 3

Credit: WindPaddle Sails
My set-up looks a little different from what this picture shows.  
First, my sail is yellow to match Ibi’s deck.  Then, this young 
lady looks a heck of a lot cuter with her sail than I do with mine.  
What can you do?

From the north end of the lake, I continued south to the very southwest corner of the lake where a stream connects to Lake Elmer Thomas.  Another sand and gravel beach there made a wonderful place for a lunch break.  With the wind blowing straight out of the southwest, the water off the beach was flat, and the wind would carry me straight back to the campground.  I had carried my WindPaddle Cruiser sail along, and since I rarely get the chance to use it, I popped it open for a downwind run back home.  It carried me right back to the beach, where I could relax and enjoy the full moon over the lake.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ibi's Day Out - 2

About halfway down the lake, I saw an island in the center, and decided to investigate, since it was time for a break to stretch my legs.  I expected that the landing would be thick, red, clay-based mud, but it was firm gravel and sand, so I was out for a walk.  To my surprise, an old building sat in the middle of the island, obviously dating back before the flooding of the region, and constructed of the same red cobblestones seen in Medicine Park.  The lake level was down about four feet, but during higher water, the washing of the waves against the foundation of the building had undermined the walls, which had collapsed.  A concrete front porch is still evident, but trees have grown up through the center of the remains.  I originally thought it had been an old home, but I called the lake office to investigate it and the two large concrete structures I had found in the first bay north of the campground.  It turned out that the building had been a small store.  The concrete structures, and another between them that is totally submerged, were piers for a bridge that carried the road out to the store.

As I entered this bay, I was curious about two huge monolithic
concrete structures I encountered, this one with a cormorant
perched on top.  The docking cleats mounted on top were even
more bizzare.  Looking closely, you can see one on the top near
the right end.

Viewing the two structures together with the docking cleat again
visible on top.

Looking across the prairie towards the mountains as 
sunset approaches, and viewed from the north end of the lake.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ibi's Day Out on Latonka

This is what Lake Latonka looked like the morning I got up for
what was supposed to be my paddling day.  That is what led us
to take the day in Medicine Park.

The settled weather forecast for yesterday finally arrived today.  I loaded Ibi on the canoe cart and walked her to the beach for an easy launch.  Jean walked along to see me off.  Lake Lawtonka has a 19-mile shoreline.  I paddled north to do the shoreline in a counterclockwise direction.  I was earnestly hoping that I’d get a chance to see an elk along the shore, but wildlife was limited to coots, herons, cormorants, geese, a few sandhill cranes, even fewer lonely mergansers, but a lot of pelicans.  I continued north until I reached a long peninsula that juts to the southwest.  Once I rounded it, I could reach the headwaters and a marina/campground complex along the Meers-Porter Mill Road.  Just then, unfortunately, a breeze sprang up from the south.  Considering how unsettled the weather had been, I was concerned about being too far downwind if the wind strengthened, so I cut across to the western shore and paddled south along the base of Mount Scott.

Mergansers aren't common here, so I was pleased to see them.

The white American pelican, however, can be seen in flocks
of hundreds.

Isn't it nice to be able to take your hard-shelled camper wherever
you go.  As an aside, I just learned that Chesapeake Light Craft
has designed a tear-drop camper trailer for the same construction
methods used for their canoe and kayak building.  They are now
finishing the construction manual and video, which should be ready
shortly.  If you'd like a closer look, go to:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

This was the bison we sat and watched for about a half hour.  In
the background is Quanah Parker Lake.

So here I sit at 4:30 a.m., awake and unable to get back to sleep.  It isn't waking up that's the problem, but my mind waking up.  It won't shut up and let me get back to sleep.

So, anyhow, leaving Mount Scott, we continued into the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.  Elk were reported to be in the area, as well as buffalo.  The 59,000 acre wildlife area runs along the north boundary of the Fort Sill Military Reservation.  The artillery explosions continued all day, every day, and signs along the roadway, reading “Caution, Impact Area”, warned against getting out and wandering about.  Also, this is still a wild area in spite of the presence of humans passing through, and an artillery officer had been struck and killed by a rattle snake just before our visit.  We saw buffalo, properly called bison, but elk are best spotted at sunrise and sunset, and we missed out there.

Flocks of wild turkeys wandered about and just seemed as unconcerned
about us as could be.  For the best pictures, we could just move ahead of
them and wait for them to come to us.   Pretty cool!

At one time the American plains were home to 60-million buffalo.  They were hunted and slaughtered to near extinction, and by the turn of the 19th century, could be found only in two small herds making a total of 550 buffalo in the entire country.  In 1905, a move was begun to acquire and reintroduce buffalo to the Oklahoma plains.  I thought it was hilarious that they had to turn to the New York Zoological Society and the Bronx Zoo to acquire 15 buffalo, 9 cows and 6 bulls.  Maybe it’s just my sense of humor, but I equated that with an eskimo having to go to Zimbabwe for ice cubes.  They were crated and loaded in boxcars for a seven-day, 1,500 mile trip to the railhead at Cache, OK.  Hundreds of people, including the Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, came out on October 18, 1907, to see their crates reloaded on wagons for the 13-mile ride to the wildlife refuge.  From 550 bison nationwide, there is now a healthy herd of 650 bison in the Wichita refuge alone, and annual auctions are held to sell Texas Longhorn cattle and bison to maintain proper herd populations.

Everyone has seen a colt frolicking in a sand patch on its back, feet flailing in the air as it dusts itself and scratches its back.  Seeing a 2,000 pound bull bison doing the same things is something else again and makes a significantly greater impression.  He’d lay on his back and twist and turn until he had gyrated out of his dirt patch, then get up, move back to the best spot, and do it again.  After he had resolved all the itchy patches on his back, he rolled onto his hunches and knees (carpus), and rocked forward and back scrubbing his belly on the ground.  With all that taken care of, he got back on his feet, had a good shake all over, and returned to grazing.

This is Antelope Flats, a prairie region in the refuge where the
wildlife roam free.

During all this I made an inspection tour of the lakes in the wildlife area.  There were Lakes Elmer Thomas, Johnson, and Quanah Parker.  We also found another campground we hadn’t seen mentioned before, Camp Doris, which puts you right in the middle of the wildlife refuge.

Here's that elk I missed seeing.  I borrowed this picture from the
wildlife service photo file.

Okay, wish me luck.  I'm going back to bed.