Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nothing Exceptional

There's nothing earth-shattering here, but I'm grateful for those that come to check up on the blog, and didn't want to leave you hanging.  The materials to make the electrical repairs left Hodgkins, IL, this afternoon, and are on their way.  While waiting, I've tended to the usual autumn tasks like flowerbeds, disconnecting the irrigation system for winter, and caulking joints in the house's siding.  Tomorrow it will be a little painting of the caulking joints to blend them in.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh for Two

This is both frustrating and extremely disappointing, but to keep things in perspective, compared with what folks are dealing with along the East Coast, this is a non-occurrence.

We’ve lived here for five years, but it wasn’t until the canoe was on the truck, the gear was loaded, and the Corps of Engineer maps and atlases were in the map case, that the problem would rear its head. Three hours before we were due to pull out of the drive, Jean discovered a problem with an electrical circuit. It wasn’t working, then it was intermittent, then off again. Having looked forward to this trip for so long, and being anxious to get on with it, I decided to just turn the circuit off and deal with it on my return. We were going.

A couple swans and a mallard at the Will Rogers State University, Claremore, OK.
As we drove toward Catoosa, OK, my decision haunted me. I didn’t know what the problem was; I didn’t know where it was; and I didn’t know if turning the circuit off solved the problem. We arrived at the Microtel near the junction of I-44 and historic U.S. Rt. 66, just a few miles from my launch at Rogers Point. I don’t like gambling with electrical problems, so my mind continued to work overtime. I didn’t get to sleep until 3 a.m., and was awake again at 5:30. When Jean woke up, I told her we were heading home. To keep it from turning into a busted trip, Jean suggested shifting it into a road trip and visiting one of the local sights. We decided to visit the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. On the way, I drove into Rogers Point Park so she could see the creek and Verdigris River where I would have put in, and then continued on to Claremore.

One of a large collection of original art featuring Will Rogers.
Will Rogers became known as the New Mark Twain for both his American humor and extensive writings. The memorial would befit a president. It is built of local limestone on a 20-acre hill overlooking Claremore, and houses Will Rogers writings, recordings of his speeches, his 71 movies, photographs, artifacts and memorabilia from his roping lariats and saddles to the clothes he wore and items from his pockets when the plane crashed in Pt. Barrow, Alaska, and took his life along with famed pilot Wiley Post. Rogers purchased the land in 1911 to be the site of his retirement home. His family donated it to the State of Oklahoma, and the museum opened in 1938, three years after his death.

Will Rogers riding "Soapsuds" before the Memorial Museum.  Directly behind
the statue is the gate to the family burial vault where Will Rogers and family are located.
His boyhood home is located only 20 miles north of the memorial, and was where he first began to learn the rope tricks that would begin his fame. His roping lessons came from a freed slave on the farm. From the farm, he worked as a cow hand in South America, joined Wild West shows and the circus, went into vaudeville, the Ziegfeld Follies, began to get movie contracts, wrote daily columns for 600 newspapers across the country, became a political humorist, had a regular radio program, and the list goes on. His fame became so widespread that he was nominated for president at the Democratic Convention in 1932, but lost the nomination to Franklin Roosevelt on the fourth ballot.

Looking across the front lawn and valley, above Claremore.
In the museum is a statue of Rogers, a casting from the original located in the Statuary Hall of the capitol, where his statue is located to look toward the House of Representatives so he “can keep an eye on Congress.” Standing next to his statue and looking out the glass doors and across the front lawn, you see the sunken gardens and another statue of Rogers on his horse Soapsuds. Directly next to the statue of Will and Soapsuds is the entrance to the crypt under the sunken gardens where Will Rogers, his wife, Betty, some of their children and other family members are interred.

A look out the front door reveals Will and Soapsuds on their last ride.
By the time we finished the visit of the museum, we decided not to make the run up to his boyhood home and ranch, as we still had nearly a four-hour drive home. After a 381-mile run, we returned home with dry paddles. If you happen through Oklahoma, I’d recommend a visit to the memorial museum. Be sure to see the roping movie. Will Rogers still holds the Guinness World Record for being the only man in history to successfully rope a running horse and rider with three lassos. If I remember the sequence correctly, he roped the horse with one, the rider with the second, and both the rider and horse with the third. He could also throw a lariat that would rope both the rider and horse with a figure-eight. One loop of the eight took in the horse, the eight was made and the second loop captured the rider, all while the horse and rider were running past. And I promise not to mention the Arkansas River again until its done.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Going With Food For A Month

The wind is still blowing pretty good. It’s not howling like it has been for the last couple weeks, which was just grating on the nerves, but still going strong. It’s was supposed to let up today, but the weatherman lied. After getting the grandkids off to school, it was getting a bit late, so I’m off tomorrow morning to give the Arkansas River a go. I’ll be starting from Roger’s Point, Catoosa, near Tulsa. By clicking in the right margin for Ibi’s SPOT, you can follow along, or switch the display from map to satellite for a more realistic presentation. Jean will update briefly while I’m on the river, and I’ll give you the full report with pictures on my return.

Alpine Aire and Mountain House Freeze-Dried Foods
I don’t usually eat this high on the hog. Normally it’s Knorr noodles and an envelope of tuna for dinner, but my son was supportive enough to present me with a gift of some pretty fancy and delicious victuals by Mountain House and Alpine Aire. Except for a couple 2-day meal bags, they are all done up in gallon zip-lock bags with one bag containing everything needed for the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and hot beverages. If I tell you what’s in the feed sack for this trip, I expect a number of people will want to sign on.

Morning Coffee.
I’ve never gotten into fresh perked coffee since I left Thistle and moved into the canoe. After trying a number of unsatisfactory options, I settled on Folgers individual coffee-bags. Just like foil-sealed tea bags, they stay fresh and serve a great cup of coffee every time. They’re a bit pricey, but what’s the value of a hot cup of coffee on a frosty morning?
Breakfast: Choices of granola, blueberries, and milk, or blueberry pancakes and syrup,
or a selection of flavored oatmeals.
Morning snack: granola and fruit bars while underway.
Lunch: This is pretty much my normal fare---tortillas with peanut butter and fruit jam. Tortillas are pretty indestructible. However, several mornings I have packaged soup which I thicken a bit with either potato flakes or stuffing mix to make it stick to the ribs a bit longer.

Dinner: Choices of Shrimp Gumbo, Turkey dinner with garlic, buttered mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, Fettuccine Alfredo and Tuna, Shrimp Alfredo with sun dried tomatoes, Hawaiian-style Teriyaki Chicken, and of course, Mac and Cheese.

For around the fire or star gazing: Pop-Tarts and hot drinks of cocoa or apple cider. The Pop-Tarts are an old stand-by. We used to use them on the night watches when doing ocean crossings under sail. For paddling, the foil envelopes keep them intact. No matter how long they’re in the food pack, even if you lay on them, sit on them, whatever, what comes out of the envelope is just as tasty, as long as you’re not concerned about presentation.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Arctic & Mississippi Paddling

I feel like a kid at Christmas.  My parcel arrived today from the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.  I could hardly wait to tear it open.  They sent me the guide book and nine maps that cover the Upper Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to the Iowa state line.  The Corps of Engineers pick the river up from Minneapolis, with one set of maps covering from there down to the Ohio River and Mississippi confluence at Cairo, IL, and another set from there to the Gulf of Mexico.  Right now I'm concentrating on the Arkansas River trip, but I can see these maps and the guide providing a lot of interesting inspection this winter.  Next, I'll order the two sets of maps from the Corps of Engineers.  They are done as double-sided maps, spiral bound into book form. 

I'm grateful to Norm Miller for steering me to this video on his Expedition Canoeing site.  If you didn't see it there, you'll enjoy this.  It is a 9:50 minute video from a 2001 canoe trip into the Arctic as seen from the eyes of a young boy traveling with his parents.  Besides enjoying the youthful exuberance, you'll greatly enjoy the wildlife.  The footage of the caribou migration was wonderful.  Here's the link.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Manning A Lighthouse

Every summer two volunteers go a couple miles off the Maine coast to tend the Seguin Island Lighthouse.  It is pretty footage of both the lighthouse and island, and for anyone fascinated by lighthouses, like myself, I think you'll enjoy this video.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Dry Great Salt Plain

In spite of the drought, the juniper had a bumper crop of berries. 
They look like berries, and are called berries, but they are actually
 miniature cones with tight, fleshy scales
We took a road trip to the Great Salt Plains in Northern Oklahoma to get out of town for a few hours. The drought has been really hard on all of us in this part of the country, but we were heartsick to realize how horrible it has to be for the wildlife. The Great Salt Plains is on a major bird migratory route. This is the time of year to see tens of thousands of birds and waterfowl here, so we went with my longest camera lens in hopes of getting some wildlife pictures. There were about a dozen ducks in the stagnant water between two parts of the dam, and that’s it. No cranes, no pelicans, no geese, not even any birds in the trees and brush. In Orwell “1984” fashion, the wildlife management area, the hive of wildlife activity this time of year, appeared dead.

A view across the corner of the salt flats.
From the ground, the wildlife management area is closed to entry, so you can’t get close enough to see the roughly 28 square mile saltpan. A look across the corner of the lake just shows a white band in the distance, but from the air and space, the salt flats stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding land. The waters are normally roughly 50% of the ocean’s salinity, but with the loss of water, the salinity must now be higher than that.

The Great Salt Plains Lake and salt flats.

The Great Salt Plain Lake was down so low there was not enough water to get within four feet of the sill of the dam. The dam is a stepped structure, almost like a salmon ladder. Two of the three sections were dry concrete. The wetlands, which the fowl depend on for food and rest on their migration, were totally dry. The tracks of deer could be seen where they had moved up and down the river bed looking for water.

This is the Salt Fork River, a branch of the Arkansas River.  All
that's left is some salt residue.

The killdeer seek food in the few remaining brine puddles.

Ironically, I'm parked in an area for fishermen.  I'm also standing in
the middle of what should be the Salt Fork River, north of the
Great Salt Plains Lake.  The only thing in the riverbed now are sandburs.

As the river dies, so do the businesses that depend on it.  Red's Corner
Mini-Mart provided live bait, ice, cold beer, and tackle for the
fishermen that have taken their business elsewhere.


Sunday, October 21, 2012


I have mentioned it before in passing, but I have a wind chime outside my home office window that is tuned to the gong on Matinicus Rock sea buoy, Maine. I can hear the chime clanging away as I sit and read “The Complete Wilderness Paddler.” According to the sound, a nor’easter has been breaking across the shoals the last week.

Black-Eyed Susans outside of town are hardy
enough to withstand gale-force winds.
The wind has been carrying on like we’re in Oklahoma or something. A couple days ago it was gusting to 57 mph, the day before 45, then 35 the day before that. The wind was strong enough to pick up a plume of dirt 600 miles long, extending up into Nebraska, and easily seen from space. The dust storm blowing across I-35 blocked out visibility and lead to numerous chain-reaction crashes, one involving 27 vehicles. As for the future, the wind is supposed to ease off for the weekend, and then continue through next week. In the meanwhile, I sit and anguish over getting started on the Arkansas River trip. To go paddling here, there seems to be no such thing as a good weather window, except for those five days a year that fall into that category while one is unavoidably locked into some activity that prohibits getting on the water. The only way to make a trip appears to be to pick a date, say “screw the weather”, and go. I’m about at that point.

I have the Oklahoma and Arkansas DeLorme Atlases and the printed Corps of Engineer maps of the river set aside. This afternoon I’ll make a final check and review of the kit and swap out a few summer items for the drysuit, watch cap, mummy bag, and fleece undergarments that I’ll unavoidably need before reaching the end of the river in latter November.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Tyranny of Oil

This is a look down an oil pipeline in Oklahoma, one of a spider web of such lines. I’m not a political person, but, in my opinion, there is so much wrong here it’s hard to wrap one‘s mind around it. Since the word “pipeline” is itself a political word, it‘s hard to put gas into your car without being political. The issue is that energy companies have free reign nearly anywhere and over everything. If you own land here, you don’t own the mineral rights. Someone else can buy the mineral rights from under your feet to make money off your land. The dynamics of this played out in the Fairview Republican, the local newspaper, over the last couple weeks. A land owner expressed a concern over an oil pipeline being run over the aquifer that supplies drinking water for the entire Northwestern area of the state. The next week, an owner of mineral rights sent an opposing letter to the editor saying the woman should be quiet so those that own the mineral rights can get their money.

Then the energy company can run a pipeline across your land any time they want, whether you like it or not. Oil companies can not only run pipe lines across your land, but they can also erect any support facilities they wish, whether it be pumping stations, or tank farms. The claim on your property is supposedly granted by the government because of eminent domain, meaning that the general public benefit overrides your personal right to protect its use. Eminent domain is supposed to be a governmental power, but the government has acquiesced and extended that power to the oil and gas companies. The public benefit usually claimed under the current economic environment is that it provides jobs. The truth, especially in the Keystone XL case, is that it is a foreign company doing the work, using foreign employees except for a token use of local laborers and truck drivers, and all that oil is not for American energy independence, but for the highest bidder, which means it is going to China. 
Major oil pipelines in the U. S.
There is no agency responsible for oversight or regulation if it‘s an in-state line, even if the pipeline passes over critical drinking water aquifers and rivers, and no enforceable safety standards apply until AFTER a rupture and spill occurs. The state foolishly grants the oil companies all kinds of tax breaks, supposedly to encourage them to drill here for oil and gas, as if they wouldn’t drill here anyhow. If there is oil, they will drill. With the energy companies not paying their fair share into the state coffers to cover the cost of repairing the damage they cause to roads and other infrastructure from thousands of heavily loaded trucks, the deficit falls on the local tax payer. Once the last gallon of crude has been sucked from the ground, the oil companies pack their trucks and move to the next sweet spot, leaving all their damage, and toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, behind for others to worry about.

When Enbridge planned to build the 731-mile Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, BC, there was an uproar heard around the world. The people in British Columbia had suffered the damage done by the sinkings of both the Exxon Valdez and the Queen of the North in their waters. The pipeline would cross some of the most pristine and environmentally sensitive areas on earth, including the Great Bear Rainforest. Then the flood of tanker traffic needed to handle the oil coming from the pipe, and carry it through the twisting and rock-studded channels of the Northwest, on what would become a supertanker expressway, virtually guaranteed one disaster after another. Sierra Club, International Wildlife Federation, the National Geographic, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and photographers and film-makers from around the world were summoned to support the First Nations’ native people’s desire to protect their homelands. Finally, on October 5th, Jeffrey Simpson of Canada’s ’The Globe and Mail’ reported that the Northern Gateway appears to be dead. After decades of fighting and hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Enbridge for publicity and court battles, the fire of enthusiasm for a Northern Gateway Pipeline seems to be smoldering and dying.

Gas pipelines in the U.S.
When Trans-Canada and Conoco-Phillips wanted to build a similar pipeline, a route was sought among a less resisting and more apathetic public. Why not build it across the United States? So, the Keystone XL was designed to be a 36-inch diameter pipeline that will run 2,100 miles and carry 590,000 barrels of oil each day from Canada, through Cushing, OK, and to the Gulf Coast, where much of it will be shipped to China. There has been some resistance. One 70-some-year-old woman in Texas tried to stop the pipeline from coming across 450 acres of her ranch and was arrested for trespassing on her own property. Meanwhile, Trans-Canada is rushing the construction to get the pipeline in place before too many people notice. The project has been underway since 2008, and still you seldom hear a word about it.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Voluntary Simplicity

Review: Voluntary Simplicity: Toward A Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich
By Duane Elgin (219pp. 1993, Pub. by Quill, Div. of Wm. Morrow & Co., New York)
“You can’t tell a book by its cover.” For the second time this past year, I have found truth in that statement after feeling that I had been hoodwinked by a book‘s title. I read the title, and assumed it was about what it said---either finding or creating simplicity in life. I felt even more confident about the seemingly straightforward title when I saw that it was listed in the book section of Piragis Northwoods Company’s Boundary Waters Catalog. They said of it, it is “One of our most requested titles.” Perhaps that means too many other people are making the same mistake I did.

In fairness, in the beginning is does discuss some of the considerations facing someone wishing to exchange personal growth and peace for the corporate world’s insistence on ever greater consumerism, greed, waste, pollution, and the ever present expectation that we don’t fit in modern culture unless we are forever competing with the ’Jones’. Further, it explains that simplicity of life can come from different sources---voluntary simplicity or poverty. “Poverty is involuntary and debilitating, whereas simplicity is voluntary and enabling. Poverty is mean and degrading to the human spirit, whereas a life of conscious simplicity can have both a beauty and a functional integrity that elevates the human spirit.”

A life of simplicity is not meant to be a life of deprivation. “Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.” Simplicity means being selective. It means prioritizing. We wish to have what we need, what we value, and what enriches us, but avoid the trappings of acquiring for fad, fashion, the hope of finding happiness in possessions, of becoming slaves to our things because of the demands of storage, of our time, and of the expense of maintaining things that demand attention but that add little to our lives. We go back to the New England Puritan adage we’ve probably heard our grandparents use---”Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.” A study by E. F. Schumacher, noted statistician and economist, found that people in the study discovered a new sense of freedom when they carried less baggage in their lives. The less they felt they ’needed’, the freer they became, and the more they could dispose of. The more they disposed of, the happier they became. Greater simplicity freed time, energy, expense, and promoted greater personal growth and self-improvement, family relationships, and other satisfying activities.

That struck a chord. Our family had taken a three-month sailboat cruise up the New England Coast many years ago. Having what you need for vessel operation, navigation, and safety, and then adding the personal things you’d like to have, and getting it all into a 29-ft. boat definitely requires selectivity and prioritization. By the time we had been underway a few weeks, I began to think of the rich experiences we were having in contrast to all that STUFF back home that I hadn’t needed or missed. If all that had disappeared, I could have continued on in much greater contentment than having to go back home and paint this, repair that, weed here, fertilize and trim there, pick up this, find a place to store that, and so on. I found simplicity and peace at sea, but it was definitely not part of my life ashore..

In the latter chapters the book suddenly swerves off the road. You begin to find that simplicity is not just for personal enrichment, but is a tool for dealing with the collapse of society, the environment, world economies, and wars over dwindling resources. You can adopt simplicity as a way of heading off world collapse, or, failing that, as a way of surviving after world collapse. The author makes the point that we are in civilization’s winter, the beginning of the end that doesn‘t have to come, but which is inevitable without drastic changes. If simplification became widespread, we could reverse this trend. He points out that 98-percent of all homes have a television, that the average person watches four hours of TV a day, and endures 35,000 commercials a year. More than advancing particular products, the commercials try to define happiness, satisfaction with life, attitudes, values, and lifestyles geared to ever-increasing commercialism. He says the most precious resource of any civilization is the shared consciousness of its citizenry, and our consciousness is being prostituted to the highest corporate bidder. “By programming television to achieve commercial success, the mind-set of entire nations is being programmed for ecological failure.” The remainder of the book deals with individual activism to change political and economic priorities, social reform, saving the world’s environment, seeking alternative energy programs, solving world hunger, etc. While I did found the book thought provoking, I think I needed one whole book just on how to change me, as the title suggested. Saving the rest of the world’s billions of citizens and their cultures would probably take at least a couple more volumes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Expedition Canoeing and Kayaking

Credit: 2012 Trans-Territorial Canoe Expedition
I just found this site on Norm Miller's "Expedition Canoeing and Kayaking" Facebook page.  This is about a group of young men that made a 2,600 canoe trip this summer across Canada's territories, almost all of the trip being above the 60th parallel.  They started from Juneau, Alaska, and ended at the shores of Hudson Bay.  This is a must see blog if for nothing more than the stupendous scenery pictures.  You'll enjoy this.  I plan on going back and following the blog for the whole trip starting August a year ago.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adoption Complete

Sailing Thistle toward an open horizon with the
wind and sun over our shoulders.  Heaven.
We’ve been without internet for a few days due to weather damage to part of the equipment bringing service to our house. Once the technician arrived, he had us back up and running in short order.

A couple from DeRidder, LA, and ourselves have been negotiating over Thistle for the last week. They arrived Monday for a thorough inspection of Thistle and all her gear, and liked what they saw. They agreed to give Thistle a new home and family, and this morning we stood in the yard and watched Thistle roll out of the yard for the last time.

Between living in Western Oklahoma and my age, that marked the end of sailing for the rest of my life, and to the greatest possible extent, the loss of my identity. No matter what else I did to pay the bills, I was a sailor first---a sailor that just happened to be doing something else to prostitute myself to utility, gas and oil, insurance companies and others.  My conscience would nag at me constantly about her sitting in the side yard, so she will have someone else to look after her now.

There were two nice surprises in the transaction. The new owners seem really dedicated to sailing and to putting Thistle to serious use. The second surprise was that they spoke sailing. We sat up into the evening last night and swapped sailing stories. It was wonderful for both of us to share our common language with another couple after a long, long social dry spell.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Passing of Men and Seasons

Derek Charles Hutchison
Photo: University of Sea Kayaking
I learned today of Derek Charles Hutchison’s passing. He’s known to many folks as the father of modern sea kayaking. I have a DVD of his from the University of Sea Kayaking. Many of the things we today take for granted, like bulkheads and sealing deck hatches, we can thank him for.

Late season nectar from a Russian Sage.
I’m shot. It’s been a long day with sandpaper and paint brush in hand. We’ve had several of these. Yes, I’m being evasive. I don’t want to jinx it, but maybe we’ll have good news in a week.

Besides paint and varnish, we, the bees and I, have been tending to the last of the flowerbeds. We’ve already had a few freezing nights, so it’s time to get the beds tilled, mulched, and readied for the long winter.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sphinx Moth or Hummingbird?

Sphinx Moth or Hummingbird Hawk Moth
Photo Credit: wikipedia
Another day has come and gone without getting on the water, but there are other things in nature to demand our attention. If it’s past sunset, perhaps even past twilight, and you see a hummingbird, chances are good it’s not a hummingbird at all, but a sphinx moth, also called a hummingbird hawk moth. Just like hummingbirds, they appear to be as fast as a shot, quick maneuvering, they hover in the air, have a long proboscis, and feed on nectar. You can spot them during daylight, but they seem to prefer the evening. If you like variety, keep watching, as there are supposed to be 1,450 different types.

Hornworm, the sphinx moth larvae, on Jean's Four O'Clocks.
The larvae of the moth, called hookworms, are easily spotted, because they are huge. We always find them on Jean’s Four O’Clocks, which they seem to love. When they are ready to produce a moth, they burrow into the ground for 2-3 weeks before they come out as a pseudo-hummingbird with an impressive 10cm wingspan.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Hangin' Out

I don't know how she does it.  Her back half is on the tower, but she hangs her head and front legs off in space and goes sound asleep.  Maybe I should try hanging upside-down when I have insomnia.  Anyhow, we're hanging out too.  I'm working in Thistle---cleaning, varnishing, and waiting out the weather.  Oklahoma City set a record low temperature for this date at 31 degrees, and they're forecasting severe storms and possible tornadoes for Friday and Saturday.  So, I'm not going anywhere until that has passed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Going Stir-Crazy

The "No Wake" buoy usually floats well out into the lake to slow
boats approaching the landing.  Now it looks like it's been dropped
in the middle of the desert.  Notice the beer bottle that had been thrown
into the lake.  I don't think there's anything more ignorant than people
throwing their trash into a lake, river, or out a car window. 
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months since our 103-105 degree paddle on the Missouri River. I don’t know if they got it, but the forecast was for snow in the Oklahoma panhandle today. We’ve been going stir-crazy, and we just needed to get out of the house and out of town. We grabbed a couple Subway sandwiches and drinks and drove to Canton Lake to sit beside the lake and have lunch. Even this was depressing, as the lake is more sand lot than lake, and it’s been this way now for a couple years. Any bit of rain we get is sent straight through to Oklahoma City. Today, the lake is at 56%, which means the level is down eight feet. No water is coming into the lake, and at the moment, nothing is going out. Being a shallow lake to begin with, that doesn’t leave much. The floating pier at the landing has long since been pulled out on dry land and sits forlornly in the parking lot. There are weeds, brush, and cedar trees growing where there should be water. The blowing sand has buried the riprap breakwater that guarded the landing. The sand has formed a dune that buries the boat ramp in several feet of sand, and the ramps are barricaded by highway construction barriers. Oh my!


A boat ramp normally submerged under several feet of water is now
submerged under a sand dune.

Another stranded "No Wake" buoy.  Again, notice the broken beer bottle
waiting to slice the foot of some kid trying to enjoy a swim.  Between the
convenience store, gas station, boat landing or park trash containers, and
the trash can at home, this slob would pass dozens of waste containers before
the end of day, and still had to throw his trash into the lake to put others at risk.

Instead of waves on the water, wind waves in the sand.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Arkansas River - 5

While wintering at the confluence of the Missouri, Meriwether Lewis’ time spent in St. Louis was to gather supplies, but also to pick the brains of the Chouteau’s to learn what information they had been able to gather from fur traders working along the Missouri.

Two expeditions were sent to explore and map the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Lewis and Clark’s Expedition up the Missouri River and to the Pacific Northwest has become so famous that the two men’s names can’t be uttered without being said jointly, not unlike macaroni-’n’-cheese. Roughly contemporary with their trip was the other expedition sent to the southwest to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers. This was led by 27-year-old Lt. Zebulon Pike, who was promoted to captain during his trip.

Pike's Peak
Photo credit: Becky Hale
Royal Gorge
Photo Credit:
On July 15, 1806, Pike left Fort Bellefontaine, near St. Louis, with a much smaller group of 20 soldiers. They went up the Missouri and Osage Rivers to the present border of Kansas and Missouri, and then struck southwest for the Arkansas River. There Pike split the group, with the fewer men going downstream on the Arkansas to the confluence with the Mississippi, then up the river to arrive back at St. Louis in time to winter-over there.  Zebulon Pike led the larger group up the Arkansas to the Rocky Mountains. On November 15, they spotted a prominent mountain peak that Pike labeled Grand Peak. It has since been known as Pike’s Peak in his honor. On December 7th, they reached Royal Gorge, the great canyon of the Arkansas.

Pike was far from finding himself in love with what we call the Great Plains. He wrote: “The vast plains of the Western Hemisphere may become in time as celebrated as the sandy deserts of Africa; for I found in my route, in various places, tracts of many leagues where the wind had thrown up the sand in all the fanciful form of the ocean’s rolling wave, and on which not a speck of vegetable matter existed.” When the map from the expedition was published by Stephen Long in 1820, the area of the plains was labeled the “Great American Desert.” This played a major part in the decision to relocate all the Native American tribes into the Great American Desert, thus leaving richer, more habitable lands to be settled by the white man. The continuing expedition along the Red River and Rio Grande is worthy of your interest, but since we are concerned with the Arkansas River, we will leave Captain Zebulon Pike here.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Who Lives, Who Dies

Photo credit:

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why (True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death) by Laurence Gonzales (278pp., 2005, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, NY)

If you look at the book jacket illustration and say to yourself, “I’m never going to be on top of Mount Everest, so I don’t need this book,” you are wrong---and could be dead wrong. If you are planning a paddling or camping trip, going backpacking, or getting into a train, plane, or automobile, planning on going to work, or planning on getting out of bed, you need this book.

Deep Survival is about developing mindsets that allow people to analyze their environment, their situation, to remain cool, develop a plan, and execute bold, decisive steps to survive. These steps help the survivor deal with the wilderness, mountain blizzards, plane crashes, situations like the World Trade Center, the jungle, but more importantly, survivors learn to survive stressful situations everyone encounters in daily life. The same things that save a person in the jungle, could also save them in the office or at home.

The book begins as a clinical explanation of how emotions and the brain work. It seems a bit too analytical at first, but it moves quickly into real life situations that show how these physiological aspects come into play in a crisis. Almost every kind of emergency is picked apart to show where the victim’s world flew apart, while the survivor managed to pull it all together.

Only about 10-20 percent of people can remain cool in an emergency situation. The rest will get into trouble and possibly die. The minority are those who can assess their situation clearly, plan and take corrective action, confront their changing environment and quickly adapt to it. Many survivors find they actually find a thrill and joy in the life-threatening situation. Acting like Rambo isn’t the solution. Those stereotypical super-hero types are usually the first to die. This doesn’t mean you are doomed if you don’t now fit into that 10-20 percent, but it does mean you may have to make some changes and train yourself in ways you may not have anticipated.

You need to understand that as soon as you find yourself in a survival situation, you immediately lose half or more of your intelligence, logic, ability to accurately analyze your situation, and take corrective action. “Your IQ rolls back to that of an ape.“ Just as you immediately acquire tunnel vision, all your other perceptive and cognitive abilities shrink as well. Your abilities will be dictated by what you have managed to hard-wire into your brain through training and roll-playing. Just as with a gun-fighter, or his modern counterpart, or a martial arts champion, there is no time to think or reason in a crisis situation. You can only perceive and react, and in a real Catch 22 model, your ability to perceive is likewise determined by the same preparation. Your mistakes first come from seeing less, hearing less, and making wrong moves that spiral into ever greater mistakes.

The book analyzes how and why people get lost, why they react as they do under stress, why they’re unable to think clearly or solve problems, and why they get rattled and panic.  No one is immune to stress, but how you respond to stress is what determines your survival or loss.

For anyone who enjoys the outdoors, or wilderness, or being in alien environments like water, snow, cold, heat, mountains, caves, or just confronting daily life, this book is essential. It is also invaluable for policemen, firemen, pilots, the military, and all those that routinely confront danger. The universal nature of the lessons to be learned is supported by Josh Kaufman’s recommendation of their application in business. Kaufman is author of “The Personal MBA: Master The Art of Business.“ There is just way too much of value in this book for me to explain all you can find here. You just need to survive long enough to check it out for yourself.