Monday, January 31, 2011

The Next Morning at Canton

I walked down to the lake at first light and was surprised to see the lake covered with skim ice. It was 32-deg. when I called home at 0800 after the sun was already up. The lake water must have been right at freezing for one cold night to make it suddenly flash over to ice. A fisherman came in and launched at 0600, and there was enough ice that his path was still visible two hours later to show where he had pulled away from the ramp and traveled around the point.
While the maple and brown sugar oatmeal was working in the cozy, I stood with my morning coffee and just looked around. I was a bit disappointed in myself when I realized I was looking at a widow-maker. That is a dead tree limb, so named for the occasional one that falls in the middle of the night killing a camper. They usually come down when a storm or wind comes up during the night. It had been calm all night, and it would have missed the tent anyhow, but the fact that I hadn’t seen it before only served to remind me that I had forgotten to scan the treetops yesterday afternoon when picking the tent site.

On the subject of tents, the North Face Rock 22 two-man tent did very well. It was easy to set up, has two entrances inside two vestibules, waterproof floor that rises about 6-8 inches above the ground, a fully-enveloping rain fly, and a couple nice stowage pockets and a hanger inside. Like all tents, the two-man tent is really a one-man tent. A three-man is really made for two, and so on. The two man tent gives me enough room for the bedroll, pack, and my boots when I take them off. That’s it. Best of all, as cold as it was, there was not a trace of condensation in the tent.

All the gear worked well and deserved a five-star rating each, except one. The blue dense foam sleeping pad I got from Walmart is a one-star. It’s not much more than half the width of the sleeping bag, and while it earned its sole star by insulating me from the cold ground, it had me up three times during the night shoving it back under the sleeping bag, and it left me this morning with sore, aching shoulders. That’s certainly not the best way to start a whole day of paddling, so a more appropriate solution for this problem is under consideration.

I knew where there was a herd of buffalo, and had hoped to get you a nice close-up picture of one, but my efforts didn’t go quite as planned. They were standing about 300 yds. back in the field in a wooded area. I whistled and waved my hat, hoping their curiosity would attract them out closer to the road. They came within about 75 yards, and refused to come closer, so what I have here is the best I could do without a nice SLR camera and telephoto lens. About that time a carload---full carload---of young Indian men pulled up behind my truck. The land is Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian tribal land, and the buffalo are theirs as well. It seems some idiot had shot one of their buffalo with an arrow, and seeing me linger by the gate to their field had brought a war party out in force. I explained the reason for my presence, and seeing me with nothing but a camera seemed to put their minds at ease.

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