Friday, March 29, 2013

Whitewater Clinic

Mulberry River.
Photo Credit: Turner Bend Outfitters
The Ozark Mountain Paddlers are holding a whitewater paddling training clinic on the Mulberry River this weekend in Western Arkansas. The Mulberry, listed as one of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers, begins in the Ozark Mountains and runs 62 miles before its confluence with the Arkansas River. The event will be held at Turner Bend, where the river gradient is 11 feet per mile, guaranteeing plenty of action. They assure us it will be a strenuous and exhausting weekend, and there’s no way to minimize the fact that the river is still flowing with ice water. If I survive the weekend, and spend more time in the boat than swimming after it, this should be a great start for the paddling season. Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Driven to Extinction

There are two horrifying shocks here, and I hope you’ll do your part to correct these tragedies.

First, I learned this from the ‘Today’ morning news show yesterday morning. The information came out during the story about a new giraffe being born at a conservation center in Connecticut. The director related that the birth was a double blessing. One, it created a healthy addition to the world’s giraffe population, as the giraffe is an endangered species. Two, it generated media attention that enabled them to bring attention to an extremely serious situation---that, on the average, a new plant or animal species is now going extinct at the rate of one species every twenty minutes. If you believe that every plant and animal was put on earth for a purpose, most of which we haven’t discovered yet, then we can’t begin to imagine what we lose with the disappearance of these species that we will never see again?

The second shock was that while we all know about some species being endangered or lost, I certainly had never heard that they were being lost at such an alarming rate. On the premise that you can’t solve a problem until you recognize it, this is a piece of information that should be common knowledge to every person on the planet. Every twenty minutes, a new species goes extinct because of what WE do and how WE live. Whether by personal contact, or social media, please do your part to spread this information so everyone understands the importance of our actions in protecting our environment. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Missouri River Adventure About to Begin

If you haven't been following Janet Moreland's plans, this is just a reminder that her blog link is in the right margin for your convenience.  It is called "Love Your Big Muddy."  She plans to push off in just 18 days to head for the mountains of Montana, where she will begin her push to be the first woman in history to do a 2,600 mile solo paddle trip down the Missouri River.  Once the Missouri meets the Mississippi River, the combined total distance to the Gulf of Mexico will be 3,710 miles.  Here's an article released today, which includes a video interview.  This will be an exciting adventure to follow.

Tarsands Pipeline Breach

A breach in the Suncor tarsands pipeline dumps hazardous mining waste into the Athabasca River.  More information available here.!/notes/athabasca-chipewyan-first-nation-case-against-the-tar-sands/for-immediate-release-first-nations-responds-to-suncor-tar-sands-tailings-breach/412459218851008

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sins of the Father

Possum Bluff is a beautiful stop along the St. Johns River......
until you see what man has carelessly done to spoil nature.

This picture is just a small token of the human garbage and trash that covered an area too great for the camera to capture. There is no word or thought offensive enough to characterize any person that would disgrace the environment and the world so as to destroy it for not only those who follow in hopes of enjoying the beauty of the natural world, but to also destroy the earth itself long term.

I’ve always heard that the single thing that separates man from beast more than anything else is the opposable thumb. I disagree. The opposable thumb is nothing more than a physical aberration not shared by all mammals. Just as there are other physical aberrations in nature, like the pouch of the kangaroo, the hump of the camel, the hoof of the equid, the stripes of the zebra, the neck of the giraffe, the trunk of the elephant, and so on, an opposable thumb does not elevate man above his four-legged brethren. Indeed, many other mammals have some type of opposable digit, like moneys, apes, marsupials, pandas, the East African maned rat, and even some frogs. What does separate the human from all other mammals is the ability to rationalize. Humans can create in their minds an excuse to forgive or minimalize any sin or atrocity. If something is too atrocious to rationalize, like the Holocaust, they can make believe it never happened. They can create in their minds a world, a life, or any other fantasy that does not exist in reality, and live their lives as if it does. They can create in their minds the absolute certainty that they, their beliefs, their opinions, their theologies, their values, and even their worth, is superior to that of any other living thing that exists on the planet. Even worse, they are able to divide the world into two spheres; those that agree with them are right, and those that disagree are wrong, even evil.

Nature and wildlife killed by our trash.

In the opening seconds of his film “Waterwalker,” Bill Mason says, “So, the first white man arrived in North America, and he looks out over the land. He calls it a pristine, untouched wilderness. That’s got to be the greatest compliment he could pay to the native people that had lived here for thousands of years.” Science tells us that the Native American had lived here on these lands for well over 10,000 years, and had left it a pristine, untouched wilderness. The white man, and those that followed and were taught by the white man, has lived here scarcely a twentieth as long, and has built mountains made entirely of garbage, destroyed the earth’s protective layers in outer space, destroyed the climates of not only entire countries, but the earth itself, poisoned the oceans, the surface waters, and even the earth’s inner waters from which we drink, invented chemicals that poison and cause millions of cases of cancer every year, only to then have us scratch our heads and wonder why such cases have skyrocketed, have driven thousands of species of wildlife into extinction, have left irreparable scars on the land from clear-cutting millions of square miles of forests, strip mining, cutting off the tops of mountains, and thousands of other crimes. We have traded permanent damage for everyone for a few short term dollars in the pockets of the few. Because these sins occur out of sight, intentionally, and because these decisions and deals are made behind closed doors, intentionally, we too often ignore both the deeds and the consequences. We too often think that greed is an abstract sin that sneaks up on us, that it is vague and unknowable. Not so. We just rationalize it. It sneaks up on us, and is vague and unknowable only because we don’t pay attention, and the media won‘t inform us, because they, like our political leaders, are bought and traded like stock on the open market.

A beach or riverbank almost anywhere.
It’s not vague. It happens every day. Here’s a good example as reported on February 8th, and reported by Bloomberg, if that’s not absurdly ironic. It would appear the only reason they would report it would be because they could point a finger of guilt at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the culprit, as if their decisions aren’t controlled by business interests. What happened? Well, in the middle of the worst drought in 70-years, the Corps was required to release waters held in the Upper Missouri River reservoirs to Select Energy Services LLC for hydraulic well fracking for oil and natural gas wells. The very next day a water release was requested to maintain river flow and depth in the nation’s largest river system so the shipping of $2.8 billions in cargo could continue on the river, including grain, fertilizer, and coal and other commodities. That request was refused, as they were told the waters were off limits. To release the waters would have “significant negative effects”, including depleting drinking water supplies, loss of marine-wildlife habitat, and higher bills for hydropower users.” None of those “significant negative effects” applied the day before when the waters were demanded by the oil and gas interests.

Most animals that ingest or get stangled by garbage suffer a slow
painful death by starvation.
If you still think this is all vague and unknowable, here’s another example, one where we may all contribute directly to environmental problems. Kevin Callan wrote about a canoe trip taken by him and his family across Algonquin. In his words, “A father and son portaging ahead of us left a handful of litter every time they stopped for a break; just candy wrappers and some empty fishing lure boxes, but the trash was left behind deliberately and without remorse.“ There is not only no excuse for this, but the father is both setting a horrible example, and perpetuating the problem by raising a son who will continue to litter the planet for the next sixty years. Would that trash not fit back into the pack they just took it out of? Will there not be trash cans at the convenience store they stop at for gas on the way home? Are there not usually trash cans at the ramps where they take out? Isn’t there surely a trash can they could put it in when they get home? There is no way to rationalize this. It’s stupid and inexcusable, and it is certainly not a responsible parent that not only allows, but perpetuates such behavior. Period! If you think such actions are unimportant, or that they don’t matter, take the time to watch this video.

Other than the first photo, credit for the others first goes to



Friday, March 22, 2013

Breathing in Beauty & Nature

The first family activity my wife and I participated in after marriage was canoeing. We got a little fiberglass canoe called a Papoose, which gave me my first involuntary cold spring swim in the Brandywine Creek, in Northern Delaware. We never really had the time to develop a bond with paddling, and it was just a couple years before we began to look at larger waters that had horizons instead of banks and tree lines. That lead to sailing. We spent four decades sailing together, and I coined a phrase that I used often, and meant…”Breathing is the only thing better than sailing, but neither is of much worth without the other.” On bays, gulfs, sounds, oceans, and rivers, we logged 117,536.3 nautical miles under sail before one of life’s twists ran us hard and inexorably aground on the red dirt and rocks of Oklahoma. A return to the paddle and canoe was the only way to get back to water. There is nothing in life that exists without water. I don’t just mean to drink, but the soul can’t live without water. At least if I have one, mine certainly can’t.

I once had a minister inform me that there is no water in heaven, no rivers, bays, nothing. The only mention of a heavenly river in the Bible is Revelations 22:1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb.“ Well, that’s metaphorical. You can’t paddle a boat in a metaphor. What a bombshell. What’s heavenly about a heaven with no water? My immediate come back was, “Do they have shovels?“ Being met with a blank look, I elaborated. “I mean, if I have eternity and no physical ailment or pain, heck, I’ll dig my own bay.“ Even hell has rivers: the Rivers Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, Lethe, and Styx. They are the rivers of woe, lamentation, fire, forgetfulness, and hate. They don’t sound all that exciting, but maybe they’re just metaphorical as well. So it seems we need to concentrate on between now and then, because you can’t enjoy anything without water. If you don’t believe me, ask any artist worth his or her salt, and they will agree that they seek water in their subject, or paint water into their pictures. They will even paint a dry landscape, and then with artistic license, add a river or lake where none exists in reality, just to give the painting more beauty, more feeling, even more soul. Or, ask the developers and city commissioners in Oklahoma City that keep building artificial waterways in the city, and canals for riverboat rides, and then steal water from upstream lakes to fill their artificial waterways, like a Disneyland mirage. It’s kind of a selfish, greedy use of water, to deprive others of its use just to adorn their own surroundings with it, but at least they demonstrate the absolute necessity of adding water to augment the beauty of anything, including life.

In our search for a river to enjoy in that ‘between now and then’, we’re planning a paddle in Wisconsin this summer on the St. Croix Scenic River and Mississippi River. If you want to visit the beauty of a river and the nature that surrounds it, switch to full screen and watch this 18-min. video.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Native Americans Unite

160 tribal nations in both the U.S. and Canada have signed an agreement to join forces against both the Northern Gateways and Keystone XL pipelines to stop them through the courts or by whatever means necessary.  President Obama still has approval of the Keystone pending.  Read further at this link:

Happy Vernal Equinox

Coots searching for warmer weather.
So, happy vernal equinox, or spring if you like.  What marks the arrival of spring is the vernal equinox, when the north-south axis of the earth neither leans toward nor away from the sun, thus day and night are equal in duration.  It also marks the time when we in the Northern Hemisphere see the most rapid lengthening of the period of daylight, at a daily rate of 2 min. 37 sec. per day (at our latitude).  The days will continue to lengthen until the summer solstice, but at a slower rate.
For those of us who yearn to have a paddle in our hands, more than anything else, it calls us toward the beginning of another great season of time on the water.  Unfortunately, while the calendar knows it's spring, the weather doesn't.  We're looking at a drastic drop in temperatures and the chance of rain and snow clear through the weekend.  But then........

Monday, March 18, 2013

Maiden Voyage - Wet

Buddy's debut picture at Lake Watonga.
It was a beautiful afternoon on the lake, and unseasonably warm.  There was a 15 mph breeze with occasional 20 mph gusts out in the open.  I was very happy with the way Buddy handled.  It balanced well even with the wind angling off the bow or stern, accelerated quickly, and tracked well.
A few coots swam away as I paddled across a finger of the lake.
I've gotten very used to the rudder on Ibi, the Superior Expedition solo decked canoe, but Buddy has the identical footrests, only they are static, and not connected to a rudder.  Nevertheless, habit had me constantly trying to push on one peddle or the other whenever a gust of wind hit me. 
The water color varied considerably over the lake, as did the clarity.  The trees had been cut off just inches below the surface.  There was usually about 6-inches of visibility, or just enough to avoid them with some quick maneuvering.  That helped get a feel for Buddy even more.
Much of the surrounding buttes are gypsum, which gives rise to the local mining industry and the U.S. Gypsum plant near here.  Gypsum is a form of alabaster, and comes from a Greek word meaning chalk or plaster, and besides fertilizer, plaster drywall board is indeed one of its most common products.  Since gypsum dissolves in water over time, it gives rise to our unusual tasting water, commonly called gyp-water.
While in the headwaters, I heard the roar of rushing water.  Here I found the largest outlet of Big Spring, where water rushes from an underground cavern and pours out from under this ledge.
Some fellow sunworshippers enjoying the unusually warm day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Photo credit: Old Town Canoe
Some appropriate showing of the green.

Enjoy some green beer, or anything to celebrate the remembrance of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Also, all you Scots be sure to remember Tartan Day, Saturday, 6 April.  It's not as well publicized as St. Patrick's Day, but just as important in remembering and celebrating all Americans who are of Scottish descent.  It is named for the Declaration of Arbroath, signed in 1320, declaring Scotland's independence as a sovereign nation.  It is celebrated by the wearing of tartan.  Don't be embarrassed to wear your kilt to work, or a tartan tie.  If you have nothing else, wear a plaid shirt.  That's not really tartan, but in a pinch, is better than pin-stripes.

There are estimated to be around 7,000 officially recognized tartans.  There are a number of sites where you can look up your family tartan for your clan or sept.  Sept is a division of a clan.  For example, MacNeil is a clan.  All the rest, like Neal, Neil, Neille, O'Neal, O'Neil, McNeal, MacNeal, and so on, are all septs of the Clan MacNeil.  Once you identify your clan, you can obtain a family or clan tartan.  If you're not prepared to invest in a kilt, there are many products produced in a family's tartan from ties, shawls, skirts, sashes, and so on.  So show pride in your family and Scottish heritage.  Wear your tartan year-round, but especially on Tartan Day.

Tartan of Clan MacNeil
Just a note on tartans.  If you look up your tartan, Scot or Irish, you will generally find two.  There will be the ancient tartan, which generally appears more muted in color because wool was originally died with barks, herbs, berries, etc.  Once modern dies were developed, most clans had another more brilliant tartan officially recognized.  Both are proper.  It just depends on whether you prefer historical accuracy, or a more modern and colorful edition of the same basic design.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lake Watonga

After leaving American Horse Lake, the only remaining option was to stop at Roman Nose State Park and launch Buddy in Lake Watonga. At only 55 acres and 6 miles of shoreline, it is a really small lake, but sufficient to get the feel for how Buddy handles. Both the lake and nearby town bear the name Watonga, having been named after Arapaho Chief Watonga, whose name meant “Black Coyote.”

Chief Henry Roman Nose and his wife.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
An interesting part of any trip to this state park is the history of its namesake, Chief Henry Caruthers Roman Nose, chief of the Southern Cheyenne. He was born in 1856, and given the name Woquini, meaning Hook Nose. As a young man, he grew up in the turbulent period of war between the whites and Native Americans. He was a warrior in many Cheyenne raiding parties, and participated in the Red River War. He was captured, arrested, and sent to Fort Marion, in St. Augustine, FL. While there, he learned to read, speak, and write English. (For anyone who has visited St. Augustine, Fort Marion was the Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos. The name was changed in honor of Gen. Francis Marion, of Revolutionary War fame, and later changed back to its original name. The fort was used to imprison Native Americans from Cheyenne, Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, undoubtedly other tribes, and of course the Chiricahua Apache leader Geronimo.)

Castillo de San Marcos, or Fort Marion, Florida.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
After release from incarceration, he was sent first to the Hampton Institute in Virginia, and then was sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a boarding school in Pennsylvania, where he was taught tinsmithing. The Carlisle Institute was the model for off-reservation schools across the country intended to “assimilate” Indians into white society. (If you have any interest in history, you owe it to yourself to find and rent the movie “The Education of Little Tree. “ ) When he became a Christian, he took a new ‘white’ name at his baptism. He chose the name Henry for Richard Henry Pratt, the commander of the fort at St. Augustine, and Caruthers for Mrs. Horace Caruthers, his teacher and friend in Florida.

Entrance to the park from the east.

When he returned to Oklahoma 1881, he found that during his six year absence, traditional Indian culture had nearly become nonexistent. He became disillusioned, and accepted a 600-acre plot of land that had been part of the Cheyenne wintering grounds. On a flat area, near a creek, and well below the rim of the surrounding hills and gypsum buttes, the tribe’s tepees were sheltered to some degree from the strong winter winds.

The wintering grounds today, where tepees can be rented for camping.
In 1887, Chief Roman Nose moved to his allotted land with his wife, and remained until his death in 1917. Both he and his wife are buried at the Indian Cemetery, just west of the Watonga airport. The chief’s 600-acre tract was one of the original seven tracts set aside as Oklahoma State Parks in 1937.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Maiden Voyage - Dry

Nothing different was being done with the Photoshop Elements 10, but all of a sudden it refused to cooperate. When I would save the pictures to the file, nothing would come up but the image of a blank sheet of paper. Anyhow, I went back to my instructor from last year, and she got me back on track.

Trying to find water around here is a battle, but you’ve heard me grind away on that subject before. I had wanted to paddle American Horse Lake in spite of it being only 100 acres, as a fish and wildlife officer had told me it was a good place to see wildlife. So I made the 122 mile round-trip to American Horse Lake. I had made several previous efforts to find the lake in the past without success. The sign on the highway just says, “American Horse Lake,” but doesn’t say how many miles it is off the highway, so we’ve driven back into the hinterlands on previous trips until we’ve given up after deciding, “There’s no way it can be out this far.” On this occasion, armed with my DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer and a determination to get Buddy in the water for the first time, I headed cross-country. Fortunately, I counted the crossroads first on the atlas so I could find the turn, and then counted the roads as I passed them, because, for eleven miles, not a single road was marked with its county route number. Nothing. Once I got to the lake, I was greeted by this.

Still closed from last year.

 And then in the process of typing this post the electrical power went out.......f!!%&
Now one would think that another sign would have been posted out on the highway so no one would drive 22-miles out of their way for nothing. Nope. Anyhow, I wasn’t going to drive all that distance and not at least see what was there, so I struck out across the field on foot. I was to learn later that the dam, which dates back to 1966, has indeed been repaired, and water is now being allowed to flow into the lake. What rain we’ve had has only pooled in the bottom of the ravine. With our ongoing drought, it will probably take at least another year or longer to fill the lake. Lake Optima, was built in 1978 a bit further west, and over 35 years, has never filled.

A prairie lake full of clams?
I was surprised to find the drained lake bottom covered with small clam shells, so I called fish and wildlife. The clams are called corbicula fluminae, which are an Asian freshwater clam that will reach the size of a 50-cent coin when mature.  Each clam produces both sexual functions at maturity, first producing eggs and then releasing sperm to fertilize them. Each clam can release about 2,000 juveniles per day, and up to 100,000 juveniles over their reproductive life. They are introduced to a new lake generally by water transfer from other bodies of water, like when the lake is stocked with fish. They serve two functions, both to filter and purify the water and as a food source for game fish, which thrive on the bivalves.

Filling this will take awhile.  The base of the vegetation
marks the normal shoreline.  This would normally
be a nice side-branch of the lake.

Here are the trees that are left when a new lake is flooded.  On the
crest of the hill is the boat ramp and landing pier.
There's a lot of scientific theory as to why the sky is blue.  The color actually
comes naturally when fishermen drop their rod and reel overboard and
start cursing a blue streak.



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oiling Buddy's Wood

The beauty of oiled, matte-finished wood. 
Nige Ayers, of Simply Canoe, asked me when the maiden voyage would be. As I mentioned last night, there was that great temptation to grab the canoe and go, but I thought better of it. It’s really more important to seal the wood to keep water stains and dirt out of the wood, so I moved Ibi outside and set Buddy on the saw horses. Deks Olje #1 Matte is a finish I used for years on our sailboats. While I preferred varnish on most surfaces, Deks Olje was reserved for surfaces where sure-footedness or wear was an issue. It is a great alternative to varnish, protects and seals the wood grain, and is easily maintained. Assuming you’ve kept it up and not allowed the sun and water to do too much damage, all you have to do is wash the wood with a fine Scotch-Brite pad, let dry, and put on a few more coats of Deks Olje. There is no stripping or sanding needed.

All you do is mask surrounding areas of fiberglass so they won’t get stained, apply a coat of #1 Matte, and allow time for it to soak into the wood. It will only take about 15 minutes between the first two coats, but each coat takes a bit longer. I got four coats on Buddy’s wood today. Since it’s still cool outside, I wanted some time for it to sit in the sun and dry. After the last coat, you would wait for it to be pretty well absorbed, then take a rag with a little Deks Olje on it, and wipe all the surfaces. That removes any excess that may not have been fully absorbed, and removes any runs or heavy spots, and voila, you’re done. You now have wood that will hold a beautiful, golden, honey finish for months.

Here’s a link with more information.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Hornbeck Homecoming

I had looked around on Google Earth to find a place convenient for both myself and the driver to meet, and settled on the Cowboy Travel Plaza at I-35 and Rt. 52, east of Stillwater, OK. As soon as the driver called back to say he was only 93 miles away from there, I jumped in the Ram and headed east, as I had just about the same distance to cover. We each arrived at the plaza within ten minutes of one another. With the Hornbeck Fourteen transferred to my pick-up, the driver headed on for Austin.

Still wrapped in her plastic-wrap cocoon until this morning.
It was midnight by the time I got back home, so I didn’t get a chance until this morning to unwrap all the plastic from the boat and get my first look at it. Hornbeck did a great job on her, and the cherry wood trim is beautiful. I’ll have to oil the wood right away…well, almost right away, as I suspect I’ll have to get afloat and try her out first.

Meet "Buddy."  It has two structural thwarts, adjustable foot-rests, a formed foam seat, a
thwart just behind the seat supporting the backrest, and a removable portage yoke
still mounted in front of the seat with padded shoulder rests. 


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hornbeck Fourteen

I received a phone call around 4:30 from the KAS Transport driver saying he had just come through St. Louis, two days early.  I'm to meet him at some safe spot off the highway to transfer the new canoe (Buddy) from his truck to my pick-up, so that he can continue on to Austin, TX.  He'll call back in a couple hours to update me on whether the transfer will be yet tonight or in the morning.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Great River Rumble 2013

This was at one of our rest breaks last year on the Missouri River.
The officers and volunteers of The Great River Rumble have done it again…planned another great paddling event. Each year they organized a week-long paddle on a different Mid-West river. Their popular annual gathering and paddle is scheduled this year for the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers from 27 July through 3 August. It will involve a paddle of 111 miles from Grantsburg, WI, to Red Wind, MN. The eight day paddle begins with the gathering at Red Wing. The next morning, Saturday, 27 July, everyone boards buses for their shuttle to Grantsburg. All the boats are carried on a huge transport trailer provided by the event’s primary sponsor, Canoe, and a baggage truck carries all the gear each day between camping spots. Meals may be purchased from caterers, or from local cafes or restaurants when camping near a town. Several powerboats accompany the paddlers to provide assistance, rescue, first aid, or otherwise look after the flock. The event ends the following Saturday night with a Farewell Banquet. A map of the route, all planning details, and registration information can be found at:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Grey Owl

Photo credit: wikipedia
A discussion of the writings of Grey Owl is hardly complete without some knowledge of the man himself. I might guess that not everyone knows of him, because when I tried to search the internet for him, mostly all I got was Grey Owl Coffee, Grey Owl Street, Grey Owl Realty, and a smidgen about his namesake, the Great Grey Owl. I had to dig to find him buried in the digital tombs of the internet. That means not many people have been looking for him. If you love nature, the water, and paddling, this is a man you want to know better, and his writings even more so.

Grey Owl lived from 1888 to 1938. He was born as Archibald Stanford Belaney in Hastings, England, to a farming family. He attended the Hastings Grammar School as a youth, and one of the things that will first strike you right in the face as you read his writings, is how a grammar school student, who went to live with the animals in the wilderness, should be such an astounding writer, thinker, observer, and intellectual when our students today with higher education and college can so often fail to string a dozen words together into a cohesive thought. Okay, that’s the end of my editorial. As things went poorly for the family, this 12 or 13-year-old went to work for a timber company. That didn’t last, however. Always a prankster, he dropped some large fireworks down the chimney of the company’s office woodstove. Nearly destroying the office building got him fired. On March 29, 1906, he boarded the SS Canada bound for Halifax, ostensibly to study agriculture.

He shortly left Toronto for a move to Temagami, Northern Ontario, where he worked as a wilderness guide, forest ranger, and trapper. He had always been a voracious reader, and nature and Indian culture and lore fascinated him. He began to feel he could identify with the Indian, started telling tales about being born of a Scottish father and Apache mother, and that he had moved from the U.S. to Canada to join the Ojibwa tribe. He lived with the Ojibwa, learned their language, took the Ojibwa name Wa-sha-quon-asin, meaning great grey owl, and began signing his name only as Grey Owl. He never looked back. Through his studies and work, he became a devout conservationist and naturalist. He moved to the Canadian Shield and settled in Northern Saskatchewan on Lake Ajawaen.

Grey Owl wrote nearly a century ago, but his words are still timely in regards to man’s greed and shortsightedness in his dealings and brutality towards wildlife, natural resources like minerals, oil, and timber, and even our dealings with each other. He said, “It would seem as though the making of money would excuse almost anything, and that nearly any undertaking, however unethical, can be termed “business” and so get itself excused, provided it is successful and does not muscle in on some big-shot monopoly.” He wrote “The Men of the Last Frontier”, “Adventures of Sajo and Her Beaver People”, “Tales of an Empty Cabin”, and “Pilgrims in the Wild.” In addition, he appeared in films, was a traveling lecturer, and wrote countless shorter articles.

He later joined the 13th Battalion of the famed Black Watch, and went to France as a sniper in World War I. He was wounded twice, developed gangrene, and was sent to England for treatment in 1916. After the loss of a leg, he returned to Canada.

In 1917 he was summoned to the Court of King George VI and met Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. The king and his daughters believed they were meeting a real Indian. By this time, most other people believed he was Ojibwa as well.  A couple people that knew his real background kept his secret. It wasn’t until after his death, and a search of his papers, that the public learned that Grey Owl was Archibald Belaney. It hardly mattered. Grew Owl had lived his life as an Indian, and would forever be known as a paddler, conservationist, and a man at one with nature. After dying of pneumonia in April, 1938, he was buried near his cabin on Lake Ajawaen in his beloved wilderness.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Pal, My Buddy

This will seem a long way around the barn to get where I’m going to make a point, but a little history is worthwhile. The Chestnut Canoe Company of Fredericton, New Brunswick, was founded at the end of the 1800’s, and along with Old Town, of Maine, became the pre-eminent designers and builders of wood and canvas canoes. The Chestnut canoe was so well regarded that Teddy Roosevelt acquired them for his South American expedition. The company closed, however, in 1979.

Nova Craft of London, Ontario, has done a great job of preserving many of those old trusted designs by lofting their lines to produce new molds that enable these canoes to be built in new, modern materials. While these designs include the Prospector, Bob Special, and Cronje, it’s the Pal that I’m working my way to. This design began as the Ajax. It had such universal appeal as the boat that seemed able to do anything, that paddlers developed such affection for the canoe that it became common for them to refer to their’s as “My Pal.” That’s how the name was changed from Ajax to Pal. I have no association with the Pal, but love both the name and the concept of forging a close bond with one’s boat. I believe wholeheartedly that it is possible to develop a personal attachment to a boat, sailboat or canoe. They help you realize your dreams, and carry you to one adventure after another. You develop a feeling of trust and confidence in the craft, and it helps more if they have pleasing lines that appeal to the eye. Such a canoe could indeed become your Pal. Of course since that name is both taken and well known, my pal will have to be my “Buddy”---same idea, different name.

Credit: & Nova Craft
The Superior Expedition, or its sister, the Kruger Sea Wind, is an unbeatable expedition boat, so Ibi will retain a revered position in my little fleet. In an expedition, however, the objective is to make miles in a fairly straight line. When gunkholing (poking about in small, nearly inaccessible watery places) or paddling small streams, it isn’t often necessary to carry a 600-pound load like the Superior does. Also, when the boat you are using has a large turning radius, and weighs 70-pounds when a fair amount of portaging is needed, you have to wonder if there are not others better suited to the task. What I needed to bridge the gap was a smaller pack canoe, but one still able to carry 450 pounds if I wanted a week’s trip. I’ve spent the last year looking, studying, and comparing. Finally, I ordered the Hornbeck Fourteen from Hornbeck Boats It has been built, and in fact was picked up at the builder’s on Friday, February 22nd, by the trucking company. I now have to wait for them to assemble a load coming in my direction. Waiting for them to gather a load of canoes and kayaks bound for the “Great American Desert” could take awhile.

Credit: Hornbeck Boats.
From Hornbeck's site, this is in carbon fiber.  I promise plenty of pictures of
Buddy when she gets here.
Hornbeck Boats, of Olmstedville, New York, has spent 35 years building ultra-light boats for the Adirondacks, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and the Boundary Waters of Wisconsin and Minnesota where portaging is the norm. On the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, for example, there are 62 portages totaling 55 miles of carrying. That’s enough to make anyone a true canoe-head. This requires a light boat able to both handle rough waters on a windy lake, as well as not over-tax the paddler in handling the boat ashore. For those of us with a few years on us, getting a much lighter canoe on and off a vehicle more easily is also a plus. The boat also needs to track well enough for a solo paddler, yet able to maneuver quickly in tight spots or a riffled stream. The Fourteen is built in Kevlar, carbon fiber, or a composite of the two. I chose the Kevlar, which weighs 30-pounds. It also comes in a low, medium, or high twelve-inch profile depending on the weight being carried or how open the waters are where the boat will be used. I chose the high-profile. That means a bit more windage, but also a bit more freeboard when the wind and waves pick up.



Monday, March 4, 2013

Head Winds End Trip

For those following the St. Johns River trip, an update on Gus Bianchi’s effort to complete the river ended at Astor, on the south end of Lake George, FL. I was prompted to call him this morning after seeing reports of forest fires in Salt Springs, where they were to end the trip, causing road closures and evacuations. I had noticed Gus’ SPOT had ended at Astor, but thought perhaps he had forgotten to turn it back on, so a follow-up phone call was in order.

Gus reports they had had strong headwinds the day before reaching Astor, but had found some protection in the twists and turns of the river. Once they reached Astor, however, the forecast was for continued strong northerly winds. Lake George is huge, and can generate dangerous seas even for larger powerboats. The area around much of Lake George also provides no place to get ashore in the swamp, and the county prohibits camping at those few spots where one can get on dry land. Unless they wanted to spend a lot of time just sitting out the weather, the trip was at a dead-end.

Fortunately, they had gotten out just in time. Forest fires had already closed down I-95, requiring a change in route to get home, and then fires broke out in Salt Springs Park and Ocala National Forest, where they would have been had it not been for the headwinds. In short, Gus is now home, and all ended well.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Week That Was

We’ve finished the St. Johns River story for now. Actually, in reading it, you have finished it; I have not. I thank you for visiting the blog and hope you will return---often---and bring some friends with you. Being able to tell the story and share the pictures is almost like experiencing the trip twice. If humanly possible, I will get back and complete the St. Johns. Gus, on the other hand, returned to the river last Saturday, and should complete the trip as far as the Salt Springs Recreation Area, off Lake George, some time today. I have to admit that when he called me to say he and another paddling companion were going back to the river, I accepted the news with a twinge of pain of the heart that surpassed the pain in my leg. If it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself, yes. Sitting here in arid, cold Oklahoma, after the Blizzard of 2013 and the loss of electrical power, makes that easy. However, I’m glad he was able to check another river off his bucket list, and I congratulate him for that.

While Coleman made a very nice folding camp chair, they gave little thought
to the carrying bag.  It is a very loose material that pills, abrades.....
delaminates, and just wears through.
There have been three things keeping me busy and entertained. I’ve been busy cleaning, rethinking, and repacking all my gear. With the help of Jean’s time on the sewing machine, I got a new bag made for my Coleman folding camp chair, and a new bag for my tent pegs. Both have a draw-string top.

We scavenged the carry strap and drawstring, and with some heavy car
upholstery material, made a bag that should last for years.
Second, after shoveling all the snow, I got Ibi all cleaned up and capsized her bow line. To capsize a line means to turn it end-for-end so that hardware that tends to wear or abrade the line now bear on fresh line. It basically at least doubles the life of a line.

Pretty, but the Blizzard of 2013 left hundreds of square miles without power
and collapsed roofs on businesses and homes.
Third, I ordered and received two books from Amazon: “Paddling Northern Wisconsin” and “Paddling Southern Wisconsin,” both by Mike Svob. (Both updated and revised in the last year, and republished by Trails Books, Neenah,WI.) Along with the DeLorme Wisconsin Atlas & Gazetteer, I’ve spent the last week exploring lakes and rivers throughout the state. That has been a really entertaining and an enjoyable way to spend some time.

Illus. credit:
There’s a fourth item, but to keep from running this post too long, I’ll cover it tomorrow. It really deserves some attention of its own.
Have a great day. Cheers, jim



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Florida Caverns State Park

The rig, all alone, in the equestrian park lights, no noise.
Our return to Oklahoma couldn’t have been timed better. We were only a day ahead of tornadoes, rain, and cold temperatures. The cold front ahead of the storms made it too cold for Jean’s tropical birds, so while we spent a night in a Walmart parking lot near Marianna, Florida, on the way south, we needed a campground with electricity on the return trip. We stopped at Florida Caverns State Park just north of I-10 at Marianna. (3345 Caverns Rd., Marianna, FL 32446 (850)482-9598) It is a small park. I asked if we could get a campsite that was remote and quiet. There is an equestrian camping area, and there was not a single horse or rider there, so we had the stable area all to ourselves. Nice!

It is possible to paddle a short segment of the Chipola River for about an hour.
The launch is just upstream from where the river disappears into underground caverns.
Native American villages occupied the area for thousands of years. The caves, described in the writings of Friar Barreda in 1693, had been used by the indigenous peoples for shelter, burials, and for clay gathering. They were also used for concealment so the Confederates could hide from Union forces during the Civil War, and so the Seminoles could hide from Andrew Jackson during the Seminole wars. The lands became Florida’s seventh state park, and the Civilian Conservation Corps labored from 1936 until the beginning of the Second World War to build the facilities here. Besides constructing buildings and clearing land, they removed tons of rock and installed lighting so visitors could tour the caves.

The other end of the paddle trail runs into the 'blue hole', where
swimming is permitted during the summer.  A wooden arched
walkway spans the blue hole.
The park sits on the Upper Chipola River. Chipola means ‘sweet’ water in the Choctaw language. There are two river channels. Part of the river runs underground through caverns, and when the water levels are higher, it flows through a man-made channel that was used during the 1800’s to float logs downstream.

The Chipola River remains much the same as when paddled
by Native Americans.
This chameleon says he likes the color of this canoe just fine.
As settlers continued to push west after 1800, there were frequent skirmishes back and forth across the border between the U.S. and what was still Spanish territory. These included raids to capture escaped slaves, attacks against Indians that were concealing slaves, raids to capture Indians and sell them into slavery, and reprisals against landowners north of the border. The latter motivated Gen. Andrew Jackson to lead a campaign against the Seminole Indians in 1818. His forces marched across the Chipola natural bridge on May 11, 1818, during a 12-day march between Fort Gadsden on the Apalachicola River to the Escambia River. While they destroyed the Seminole stronghold in the Apalachee region, this military foray into Spanish territory caused problems for the U.S. both at home and abroad, but paved the way for later acquisition of Florida from Spain.

The Chipola is a small stream that can become big, as shown by this "1975 High
Water Marker" shows, which is about 3-ft. above the top of this RV.
The romance is gone.  I heard Jean say, "Look at this big bunch of mistletoe."
"Oh yeah," I said as I rushed over and gave her a kiss.  She looked at me and said,
"No, I just wanted you to get a picture of this huge bunch of mistletoe."
What Florida means...wildflowers everywhere.



Friday, March 1, 2013

St. Johns River - Day 10

The next day would be my last for this trip. I paddled from Hatbill to Jolly Gator Fish Camp, at the Rt. 46 bridge, and saw three more snakes and a few more gators, making the total 281. The distance was 13.5 miles. More importantly, the right leg was acting up again. I had jumped the gun and returned to the river too soon. Jean came down to Jolly Gator for lunch, and to pick me up yet again. The final numbers are:

281 alligators
5 snakes
Birds in the millions.
111.2 miles paddled
1397.3 miles to Florida
1388 during return
1257.5 miles in shuttle and local travel while in Florida.

There were a number of occasions such as this.  The birds would fill the
air, and there'd still be as many or more on the ground.
A Great Blue Heron with an Ibis fly-over.
American White Pelicans