Monday, October 20, 2014

Oh no! We're Gonna Die

Oh No! We’re Gonna Die: Humorous Tales of Close Calls in the Alaska Wilderness, by Bob Bell (pub. By Todd Communications, Anchorage, AK, 2006, 215pp.)

The book is a collection of 33 short stories about being in the wilderness of Alaska. Its aim is more toward hunting than paddling, but there is a wealth of information about being in the wilds, learning about the habits of all kinds of wildlife, the nature of the wilderness itself, and staying alive long enough to get back home, and all of those should appeal to any paddler. While a large amount of detail goes into dealing with bears, especially grizzlies, the purpose of the book, beyond spinning many enjoyable, humorous tales, seems to be the lesson that things can go sour very fast. It emphasises a truism about small insignificant wrinkles in one’s plans, and how they grow exponentially to become life-threatening disasters. If you enjoy the outdoors, you should enjoy the time spent with this book.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Credit: From Nige Ayers, camping near Surlingham Ferry
Pub.  You can enjoy his blog, "Canoe and Trail Outdoor
You’ve done it a thousand times. You’re paddling along watching for birds, wildlife, obstructions in the water, other traffic, which all keep your mind occupied. Then you hit an open stretch where nothing is happening, and your mind suddenly turns inward. It was during one of these meditative sessions that I started thinking again about exercise. How much good is my paddling doing me beyond the pleasure of the time on the water? How long and how often do I need to exercise for my body to reap any benefits?

There are a couple tricks to keep ‘exercise’ from becoming a dirty word. Vary the activities so you don’t get bored, have a companion, which makes time go faster and makes you accountable to someone else, play a game or make it a game by competing with someone else, keep a chart of your stats, add music, or if exercising inside, do it in front of the TV so your mind doesn’t dwell on your body, reward yourself with new shoes, fitness gear, or even paddling gear when you reach a goal.

I was thinking of basic activities that nearly anyone can do, can be aerobic, and are fun. Paddling certainly qualifies, but what if the wind is blowing a gale. The next thing would be to move off the water and ride a bike. Here in NW Oklahoma, however, it is not uncommon that there’s too much wind to even stay upright on a bike, so that leaves walking. No, plodding, that would make it three P’s---paddling, peddling, and plodding. So, how much is needed?

Most agree that a caloric burn of 3,500 calories is equal to one pound of body weight. Assuming we don’t reward our workouts with sodas or extra food intake, but also try to cut the calories we consume, that comes roughly to a loss of 2.6 pounds/month or 31 pounds a year. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? To get that, we should walk an additional 3 miles a day over our current exercise level. So, 3 miles a day for a month would be 90 miles a month, but since we’re hopping on the bike some of the time, let’s just go with a round 100 miles a month, whether paddling, peddling, or plodding. Taadaa! 3-P-100, an easily attainable goal with any determination, and with exercising variety worked in. Then, if we can’t get on the water, or we miss a couple days of walking, just hop on the bike and crank out some fast miles to make up the deficit.

There is confusion over exercise and calorie burn levels, so I researched Harvard Medical, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and a couple others, and this is a distillation of what I learned. The first obvious thing is that we need to get out and move around for anything worthwhile to happen, and it needs to be aerobic. Running down the road to a creek and stopping to watch the turtles while our heart, respiration, and body return to baseline values doesn’t do anything. The issue is how long we keep the body working and the vital signs elevated. It doesn’t need to last for hours, but it does need to be vigorous enough to raise the heart rate, increase the rate of breathing, and break a sweat. We’re all guilty of wanting to look for an easy out. I was looking at one exercise chart that listed caloric burn rates for things like dusting furniture, doing laundry, shopping, and even brushing teeth and bird watching. We’re kidding ourselves. Unless we’re brushing our teeth vigorously for five hours a day or chasing the birds and trying to catch them with our bare hands, we’re just being silly. Yes, even breathing burns calories. If you lay in bed all day and never get up, calories are still burned to fuel the body, but the levels are so low, and the muscle toning benefit for the heart and lungs is totally lacking. Nothing is being accomplished to maintain proper health. For that we need five hours of exercise a week, with at least two of those being some form of strength training. If you want to lose weight, more time needs to be added to meet the levels above.

The next cop-out is that our busy schedule doesn’t permit time for exercising. Five hours sounds like a lot of time, unless we’re indeed on the water, so some sources break it into 300 minutes a week. It sounds better. And, if you can’t take off an hour for exercise, do it in 10-15 minute blocks, but count only the time after you’re breathing heavy and the ol’ ticker is thumping. The short spurts of strenuous activity reduce blood pressure. Another trick is to take part of our walk, a mile or more, right after dinner. This reduces the formation of fats and triglycerides.

Caloric burns vary according to the level of exertion, body weight, and age. For example, as a guideline, if we canoe at 3mph, we will burn 413 calories an hour for a body weight of 130 lbs, to 651 calories for a paddler of 205 lbs. There was no breakout of kayaking, but maintaining a moderate rate will produce just slightly lower results. You’ll just go faster with a bit less effort. For peddling at 10 mph, rates will run between 236 and 372 calories for the same body weights. For walking at 3 mph, the figures come out to 195 to 307 calories an hour, again for the respective weights. For your own weight, you can do a Google search, or better yet, practice a little algebra.

I hope you’ll give it a try. 3-P-100. You don’t even need extra gear, like a pedometer. Just reach in the pack and grab the GPS, and you’re all set.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Canton Day Paddle - 2

Buddy waiting on a mid-lake island created by the drought.
I pushed off from the ramp at 0950 and returned at 1300, so it was a short but nice paddle that gave me time for lunch on the water and a chance to see a few migrating birds. In spite of a couple stops, I managed 6.5 miles. I took the WindPaddle sail. For the second such trip, I paddled up wind in hopes of being rewarded with a nice sail back. For the second time, as soon as I came about to paddle back, the wind failed me. On the previous trip the wind turned 180-deg. and caused me to paddle against the wind both ways. This time the wind just died to a plate-glass-smooth calm.

Male avocet with its curved beak.  Unlike birds that peck or
target prey, avocets feed by sweeping their bill back and forth to
stir up seeds, aquatic insects, and small crustaceans.  The female
has an even more curved bill, and its head, neck, and chest are
There were spiders having much better luck sailing than I was, but scientists refer to it as flying or ballooning. The spider will spew out a long silk that will get caught on the breezes, and when it is long enough to drift with the breeze and provide transport, they hang onto the end and go for a ride. I saw four such spiders sailing up the lake in the light air today. Three were entirely airborne, and one, apparently not engineering its transport system correctly, was on the water surface being dragged along by the silk thread. Scientists say spiders have traveled hundreds of miles this way, even landing on islands in mid-ocean.

Sandhill cranes with their distinctive red cap.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Canton Day Paddle

The water level is slowly coming back up at Canton Lake. The change is so slow that it’s hard to tell unless you know specific places to look for differences. For example, the boat ramp at the end of the Canadian Campground is located in a cove. Months ago the entire cove was dry, and it was still necessary to walk out a good ways to reach the water’s edge. The difference on the daily Corps of Engineers levels report shows that the lake level has progressed from -81% to the current -79%. It is hard to imagine that 2% could make such a difference, but there is now enough water in the cove that powerboats can be launched from the ramp.
I had this turtle nicely framed in the shot while it was sitting on
top of the log, but by the time I pressed the shutter, it
was in mid-air.
A tornado a couple of years ago completely destroyed all recognizable traces of the campground as it was. Only scattered debris, some concrete rubble, and twisted tree trunks remained after the storm. The Corps of Engineers redesigned the campground, and while the camping spaces are a bit too close together now, the number of sites was greatly increased. Each space now has a level concrete pad and covered picnic table. Each separate camping area has new restroom and shower facilities that are designed to be tornado-proof up to an F-3, and young trees have been planted. Wait 30 years or so, and it will once again be a nicely shaded campground. While the Corps of Engineers can’t undo Mother Nature’s destructiveness, they have done wonders to rebuild a new facility.

The light was just right to highlight the folds in the layers of
earth.  Before the drought, I could paddle right against the
face of the cliff.  Erosion of the cliff face has created the
raised knoll along the base of the cliff.
On a topic unrelated to the campground, they are also building a new relief overflow around the dam. In the event of that “100-year storm” that would flood the area, to prevent destruction of the dam gates, the overflow relieves the lake of destructive flood water levels.

This picture in 2011 shows me taking a break on the Big Bend
Campground boat ramp.  The same ramp (below) is nowhere
near the water now, and both the ramp and boarding float
are buried in weeds.

When I arrived at the campground, I saw about 50 people working in the campground. My immediate thought was, “Wow, they’re really going at the project. It must be to get everything done for spring before winter comes on.” I later learned that everyone was there to trap the hundreds of prairie dogs so they can be relocated elsewhere.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Just a comment on comments before moving on. My son sent me an email saying he thinks he is finally able to post comments on my blog posts. It makes me doubly happy to learn he is reading them. I’ve never achieved the interaction I’ve wanted with those who read the posts, and thanks to all of you who do, but I love seeing feedback and shared experiences from all of you. Indeed he did post a comment to the last picture of the day. He did say, however, that the process for setting up the Google account that enables leaving comments probably required more authentication steps than needed for launching a missile. I have heard from others that they felt uncomfortable answering all of Google’s privacy questions, but I haven’t heard of anyone having any problems coming from having followed the process. So I don’t know if the demanding process is due to something I’ve done in setting up my profile filters, or is just the result of wading through Google’s demands, but if you can pull on the high-top boots to wade through the mire, I’d still love to hear from you.

I do try to hold the line on a few things. While I do unavoidably fall prey and get hooked in sometimes, I try my best to avoid discussions about politics, religion, race, and some other hot-button issues that serve no purpose beyond alienating people. One of the reasons I enjoy paddling is the chance to get away from all that media-generated stress. I also don’t feel comfortable communicating with people shielded in a cloak of mystery and calling themselves ‘anonymous.’ I did try giving one such person a go, but he started linking commercials to my posts, and that was a definite faux pas. I’d love to hear from the other 98%. Happy paddling.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Picture of the Day

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what
dies inside of us while we live.
Norman Cousins

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wake of the Wnd Dancer

Jacket cover credit: Barnes and Noble
Wake of the Wind Dancer: From Sea to Shining Sea by Paddle and Shoe, by Karl Adams (iUniversity, Inc, Bloomington, IN, 2003, 269pp.)

My first surprise in this book appeared when I opened the cover. The author, Karl Adams, had autographed the title page of a copy of his book and presented it to the Collins Memorial Library at the University of Puget Sound. I now had this gift in my hands thanks to the interlibrary loan program.

This was one of those books that was hard to put down. Part of this, I guess, is that it closely relates to the kind of paddling expedition that I’ve dreamed of doing. In fact, dreaming is where this story starts. As a youth, Karl had often dreamed about the expeditions that early explorers had made across our country, explorers like Ponce de Leon, Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando de Soto, and Lewis and Clark. When he retired in 1985, he decided to put together a trans-continental trip that would combine all of their routes from the Columbia River of Washington and Oregon, to the southeast coast of Florida. The route would take him up the Columbia River and Snake River. He would then portage his kayak 355 miles through the mountain passes of the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains, pulling his kayak up through passes that reached 6,325 feet in altitude. Once he reached the Missouri River, he would paddle it to meet the Mississippi. Going down the Mississippi, he would turn up the Ohio River from Cairo, IL, for 46 miles to meet the Tennessee River at Paducah, KY. This he followed for 215 miles to meet the entrance of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which would take him to Mobile, AL, and the Gulf of Mexico. Turning east, he paddled the West Coast of Florida. His intention was to continue south until he rounded Cape Sable, the southern most point of the U.S. mainland, but an approaching Hurricane Floyd had him divert into the Okeechobee Waterway, which cuts across the lower part of the Florida peninsula. He rode out the storm in a motel in Stuart, and then continued south to Miami to conclude the trip.

In all, his trip would take him 5,111 miles in 201 days. He made great time during the trip, making an underway daily average of 40 miles a day. The hardest part of the trip, he said, was pulling his kayak and a couple hundred pounds of gear through the western mountain passes. The second hardest part of the trip was getting the cooperation of his wife. She threatened to divorce him when he proposed the idea of the trip, again when he bought the kayak, again when he started, and again while he was underway and vowed to continue. By the trip’s end, she decided to remain married to him, but only on the condition that their marriage would be on a daily basis. Each morning after the trip, she would let him know if she would remain married to him for yet one more day.