Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Other Side: Behind the Badge

Credit: google images
No one but doctors, nurses, school officials or someone involved in an accident are legally required to call the police to report crimes against them or the innocent. For everyone else, if you don’t like the police or how they do their job, don’t call them. If you’re too much a coward to deal with your own problems with drug-abusing, mentally ill or sociopathic relatives or friends, don’t call the police to respond and handle your problems and then complain about the perpetrator getting injured while resisting arrest or restraint. NO police officer goes to work with the intention of hurting anyone, but they have both a responsibility and a right to respond to threats that put them or others at risk. If you want to whine about the police taking command of a dangerous situation, don’t call them. If you could do their job better, then stop being a wuss. Put the phone down and handle it. Don’t sit on your hands as relatives and acquaintances go downhill for years and years, and then when they spiral out of control, hold the police in judgment because they can’t correct your years of neglect and avoidance in three minutes or less, or if a gun or weapon is involved, in three seconds or less. Officers wear a shield because they dedicate themselves to serving and protecting others, not abusing them. At least do your part by supporting those that stand between you and harm.

Watch this video for a different perspective---the perspective the media won’t show.

And this is a portion of an article from Lt. Daniel Furseth, DeForest, WI, Police Department.

“Today I Stopped Caring”

“Today, I stopped caring about my fellow man. I stopped caring about my community, my neighbors, and those I serve. I stopped caring today because a once noble profession has become despised, hated, distrusted, and mostly unwanted. I stopped caring today because parents refuse to teach their kids right from wrong and blame us when they are caught breaking the law. I stopped caring today because parents tell their little kids to be good or “the police will take you away,” imbedding a fear from year one. Moms hate us in their schools because we frighten them and remind them of the evil that lurks in the world. They would rather we stay unseen, but close by if needed, and readily available to fix their kid. I stopped caring today because we work to keep our streets safe from the mayhem in the form of reckless, drunk, high, or speeding drivers only to be hated for it, yet hated even more because we didn’t catch the drunk before he killed someone they may know…………but tomorrow, I will put my uniform back on and I will care again.”

The police are always visible, so they’re an easy target of blame for things they have no control over. It’s easy to see how the police get frustrated when courts release thugs, perverts, and drug dealers back on the street faster than the officer can finish the paperwork. It’s easy to see how they get frustrated when they are arresting the same criminal for the same crime for the sixth time, and the courts have still failed to take any action against the criminal. It’s easy to see how they get frustrated when the State and local governments put saving money above the interests of public safety. Yet, when public safety suffers, the police get blamed. It is easy to see how the police get frustrated when an officer is told by the deputy attorney general that prosecuting a women for eight outstanding criminal warrants for preying on others “wouldn’t be financially advantageous.” It is easy to condemn the police for what you don’t understand. It is easiest yet for the media to publish lies and half-truths, carefully edited video, stories and incidents out of context, all for the creation of distorted sensationalism. If you want better police, show them you stand behind them and support them rather than sending their families cards, flowers, and candles after they have been murdered as a result of the hostile and dangerous environment that you may have played a part in creating.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

River Paddlers

If you don't happen to subscribe to Mississippi River Paddlers on Facebook, here is a You Tube recap, prepared by John Sullivan, of all the folks that paddled down the Mississippi River in 2014 that he was able to get information on.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Demon River Apurimac

Demon River Apurimac: The First Navigation of the Upper Amazon Canyons, by J. Calvin Giddings, (pub. Univ. of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1996, 290 pp with appendices.)

Back on 25 August, I did another review of a book titled “Running the Amazon.” Unlike that book, which covered the full length of the Amazon, this book concentrates on just the headwaters of the Amazon, the Apurimac, the most difficult segment. It is interesting reading even if you, like myself, have no intention of venturing up into the Peruvian mountains. What this party went through is hard to even imagine, but this book puts you in closer contact with the experience than “Running the Amazon.” Part of that is the quality of the writing, and mostly it’s because they are concentrating in more detail on a shorter section of river.

They were paddling short pools, lining, and portaging around boulders as large as rooms, buses, and houses. Some they went over, some around, and some they even crawled under. They slept under some boulders for protection from falling rocks from the canyon walls. A whole grueling morning might have been spent moving 50 yards, or an entire day may have moved the group forward only a mile. Fatigue, stress, danger, and discomfort drove wedges between the members of the party. Eskimo rolls were almost as common as walking, and some members of the group had close brushes with death. On the plus side, they saw nature, wildlife, and scenery that only a handful of people can comprehend (beyond the highland indians that live there). They even climbed into the mountains to visit a long-lost Inca village.

Unlike the Grand Canyon, which Giddings has also paddled, the Apurimac is the Colorado River on steroids. Rather than miles across between the canyon walls as in the Grand Canyon, the canyons on the Apurimac are as narrow as 50 yards and not more than a couple hundred yards. The walls go up thousands of feet, up to 10,000 feet at one point and nearly block out the sky, drop rocks and boulders into the river below almost continuously, are often so sheer that there is no way to climb out and escape if there is a problem, and frequently polished so smooth that even a finger-hold cannot be found. Nights are spent on ledges too small for a tent. Portages are done along rock that offers no more than a toe-hold. After reading this, you will never be able to look upon your worst experiences the same way. At the end, the author said, “Glad to be headed home! I shall never return.” If you seek something wild and incredible, this book may be the best way to get it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rediscover North America

This is a trip you won’t want to miss following. The group of six depart the Gulf of Mexico on 2 January, paddle up the Mississippi, and just keep going for 5,200 miles until they hit the Arctic Ocean. This is a huge trip, but lets be fair. These guys, except one (who missing checking off just one box), are young, fit, athletic, more experienced than most people that have been at voyaging for a lifetime, plus not even mentioning that they were the winners of the Canoe and Kayak Expedition of the Year Award last year for their Trans-Canada trip. You can pretty much check this trip off before they even begin. Done! Still, the route is bound to bring some surprises and a lot of adventure. If, however, you’d like to learn how to do this sort of thing successfully, just watch these guys.

For a good overview, read the article from the St. Cloud Times at this link:

Then follow the blog at:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Full Disclosure

Hey, what's in the box?  I think it wants out.
If you ever decide to come for a visit while traveling through the area, it’s only fair that we be honest about what you should possibly expect. Lets say we’ve spent some time relaxing while sitting around swapping war stories, and you excuse yourself to use the facilities. Walking into the bathroom, you turn the light on. While powdering your nose, you hear rustling in the greenery draped across the top of the mirror. As you see movement, your eyes focus on a bat clinging to the wall. The rest is up to you. Do you ignore it and carry on? Do you open the door and call out? “Ah, Jean, I think one of your critters is loose.” Or do you run screaming from the bathroom?  These are all decisions you should make before visiting the home of an animal rescuer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Florida Circumnavigation Complete

Mary Mangiapia
Today, 10 Dec. 14 at , 4:48:49 pm, Mary Mangiapia completed her Florida Circumnavigation Saltwater Paddling Trail with her landing at the Fort Clinch State Park boat ramp. This made her the first woman to complete the trail solo and in a single trip. The official length of the trail is 1,515 miles, but real-life circumstances usually make it longer. Also, to make sure Florida had been completed without question, she paddled past Ft. Clinch, across the St. Mary’s River to land on Cumberland Island, GA, before turning about to again cross the inlet and land at Fort Clinch.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Quest By Canoe

Quest By Canoe: Glasgow to Skye, by Alastair M. Dunnett (pub by G. Bell & Sons, Ltd, London, 1950, 183pp.)

This is a cool paddling story in the true spirit of John “Rob Roy” MacGregor. Two paddlers, Alastair (the author) and Seumas, published a periodical for young boys called Claymore. Its goal was to promote Scottish culture and a thirst for adventure among its young readers. When the magazine fell into financial collapse, the two men, like many that have taken long expeditions, saw unemployment not as a failure, but an opportunity. They turned their attention to an adventure of their own. They had two 13 1/2-ft. canoes built in skin-on-frame, each with a 32-inch beam. Since most shores in Scotland are shingle, the bottoms were sheathed with strips of wood, so their resulting weight came to 80-pounds. The canoes were in three pieces, held together with a wire running from one end, through a groove under the hull and to the other end, and tightened by two turnbuckles.

The adventure was in the mid-1930’s, between the two great wars. They never said what year it was, but later in the book spoke of encountering the Yacht Endeavor as it was campaigning to compete in the America’s Cup. That would place it in 1934. The trip didn’t start until late August, so a common admonition was that they had started too late in the year. They would paddle from Glasgow through the Scottish Isles to Skye. With stories of their trip published in local papers, they became known as the Canoe Boys, and their movements were closely watched by those that gathered along the shores and at each landing.

Once they reached Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, progress slowed. They never said how long the trip was, but tracing their route on Google Earth yielded about 210 miles. The distance was not shocking, but the lengths of unforgiving and inaccessible coastlines and stretches of open water exposed to Atlantic gales indeed were. As adverse weather interrupted their advances, they spent a few days in Tobermory, and then crossed to Calve Island to spend two weeks on a farm helping harvest crops of hay and corn. Hay was cut by hand, and corn stalks cut and shocked. Another stop got them involved in herring fishing. The farmhouses were lit by oil lamps, and music was played on gramophones. Their greatest diversions were dances held two or three nights a week. If you remember the scene of Celtic dancing in the hold of the Titanic during that movie, you can appreciate their description of the dances. They say the Highlanders have a well-marked sense of rhythm, and the dances progress with a “triumphant zest” and are “performed with accurate violence.”

By this point, the calendar had progressed to the end of October, their canoes and lines were rigid with ice, and bad weather was becoming relentless. In fact, even the steamship that transported them and their canoes back to Glasgow had to anchor in a bay for two days because the storms were too great for a ship to endure. So, for a peek back in time, and a view of the lives of Highlanders in the Hebrides, you’ll enjoy how this canoe trip weaves all these experiences together.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Horse

This is the Christmas decoration Jean crafted for the back door.  Beautiful job!  While she was down on the floor working life into this horse, the cats were doing their level best to help in any way they could.
I was surprise to see Mary wasn't underway from Palm Valley bridge this morning until I checked the St. Augustine weather.  That took all surprise out of her not being on the water.  It must be frustrating to be so close to being done with the circumnavigation only to be faced with a couple days of adverse weather.  The winds will be blowing 20mph right out of the north, but being funneled down the waterway, may even top that a bit.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Picture of the Day

Beautiful shot by Alex Comb, Solo Canoe
The Christmas tree is decorated, and shopping mostly done, except for a couple hold-outs that don't want to give us a clue as to what they'd like to celebrate the big day. 
I've been watching Mary Mangiapia's progress all day.  She is about to finish the Florida Saltwater Circumnavigation Paddling Trail.  Today she paddled from St. Augustine, FL, to the Rt. 210 bridge at Palm Valley.  This should mean a completion the day after tomorrow.  If you'd like to watch her finish, her Spot link is

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy Birthday

When we were visiting my brother this past spring, he learned that Brad Keselowski was one of our favorite drivers in NASCAR. I was quite surprised to received a numbered, limited-edition scale metal model of Brad’s car from my brother, along with this note. “You know you’re still young when someone gives you a toy car for your birthday.” I’ll have to keep the car close as a constant reminder of that. The die-cast model was fascinating with its operable roof flaps, rear spoiler, and every detail inside, including dashboard, fire-suppression system, window netting, even seatbelts. The underbody has more parts than I can identify.

A tip of the hat to Jean as well was the car being packaged in peanuts for safe shipping. No, not Styrofoam peanuts, but the real things. That will keep her squirrels happy for some time to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Diary of a Wilderness Dweller

Diary of a Wilderness Dweller by Chris Czajkowski (pub by Orca Book Publishers, Custer, WA, and Victoria, BC, 1996)

Chris Czajkowski and Lonesome
It would be hard enough for most men to go into an untouched wilderness with no roads, no trails, no resources or assistance, and make a life out of nothing. I was totally captivated by this woman who did exactly that under the most trying circumstances. She had selected a plot of land from a map. When she arrived, she found a jumble of rocks and boulders with no soil and without enough flat ground to pitch a tent or even lie down. Most people would have collapsed in despair at the useless and impossible situation, but alone in the wilderness with no place else to go, she determined to make do, and so she did. She decided that whatever skills were needed to accomplish her task, she would figure them out. She said, “Skills will always find a way of arriving, it is attitude that is important. If you think you can do something, it will happen. I can live this way because, even during my blackest moments, I have never doubted that I can do it.”

Her cabin.
Chris grew up in a small village in the north of England. She traveled widely through Asia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, South America, and then was attracted to the mountains of British Columbia’s Coast Range, near Bella Coola, 300 miles north of Vancouver. She filed for a plot of land from the Bureau of Land Management that was accessible only by foot and canoe, as the nearest road, a dirt logging trail, was 27 miles away. The nearest banks, supermarkets, traffic lights, or cell phone service were 150 miles away. She was isolated and off the grid by choice, but not a recluse. With voter turn-outs of around 15% in this country, it’s hard to imagine a woman’s determination to vote in the federal election in spite of it requiring a three-day trek both ways to reach the nearest polling place.  

Her cabin on the lake.
Photo credits: google images
For anyone attracted to doing something daunting, challenging, even intimidating, this book is a must read. I can just give you a taste of some of the things she faced. She was sleeping in a trapper’s cabin with her dog, Lonesome, when the dog was alerted. Rolled up in her sleeping bag like it was a cocoon, she was trapped when suddenly a bear thrust its head through the glass of the window next to her. She fought to find and undo the zipper. When finally free, she grabbed the axe and opened the door. The only thing that came to mind was beating the axe against a steel drum to create enough noise that the bear retreated.

She also had close and harrassing encounters with bears at her own cabin site. She was living in a tent while building the cabin, but one bear convinced her to move away from the site. She slept on a pile of lumber on the logs at the lake’s edge that served as the float plane landing, and covered herself with a tarp that was covered with ice or frost each morning.

During construction, she was carrying irreplaceable glass windows into the cabin for setting. She tripped and fell, but rather than trying to break her fall, held the windows high to prevent breaking them. Instead, she struck her head and broke her eyeglasses. Her spare pair were many miles away with her gear awaiting transport by float plane. She couldn’t see with one lens, so did without. The glasses would have to await her next trip out. Her poor sight made all the tasks more difficult and more time consuming. Then Lonesome again started to warn of something moving in the brush. She assumed it was a bear, but she could only see movement, but not make out what was there. Fortunately, Lonesome persuaded it to move off.

Between designing the cabin in her mind, finding and felling the trees she needed, making her own sawn boards, figuring out how to move and lift logs weighing hundreds of pounds, and tackling every task alone, she met each challenge one small step at a time. This is both an enjoyable trip into pristine wilderness and lakes, and the chance to spend time with someone willing to attack the impossible, but then shrug the accomplishment off as if it is no big deal.

She has authored eleven books with other titles like Cabin at Singing River, Lonesome: Memoirs of a Wilderness Dog, Nuk Tessli: Life of a Wilderness Dweller, Wildfire in the Wilderness, Ginty’s Ghost, Snowshoes and Spotted Dick, A Mountain Year, Wilderness Dweller’s Cookbook, and The River Still Sings.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Bushy-Tailed Condo

The instincts that animals have always fascinates me. Ten squirrels Jean released back in April, eight in Oklahoma and two in Virginia, were orphans that had been rescued and brought to her when only a few days old. With no parents to teach them how to survive, their instincts nevertheless kicked in and they started building a couple large nests within minutes of being released. Jean had been feeding them different types of feed suited to their ages, but still they started foraging for food, and as time passed, they found the commercial food less and less desirable. The food didn’t go to waste, however, as we discovered that some of the food left at the base of a tree for the squirrels was being eaten by deer, including a couple fawns.

I took this picture of the nest box next to the canoe just
so you can better gauge its size.
Jean released two more rescued orphan squirrels a couple weeks ago, a male and a female. She is more concerned about these. Unlike the other squirrels that have had an entire summer to mature and prepare for winter, these two are going out into the world in the fall with freezing temperatures and ice and snow storms expected at any time. Jean read an article that revealed that a full 40% of juvenile squirrels in Michigan perish in their first winter due to inadequate shelter and preparation, thus Jean decided that since I have some time on my hands, I should build a nest box. Admittedly, our winters are much more survivable than those of Michigan, but with all the work she has put into raising them, she wanted to improve their chances of survival.

Sixteen feet off the ground.
As you can see from the picture, the nest box is really good size---22” tall in the back and 9 ¼” on each side. The entrance hole is 3” in diameter. It took about four hours to build, including shopping for the wood. An error in the design was discovered for the top of the box. It was also shown as 9 ¼” wide, but that fit into the sides of the box rather than covering the sides, leaving plenty of room for melting snow, ice, and cold rain to get inside. It also allowed moisture into the end-grain of the wood to promote rot. The top should be at least 10 ¾” wide. I also added a shelf to the front so they can more easily enter and exit the box. I offered several options for finishing the box to protect the wood, but Jean opted to leave it natural. Bright colors attract predators, and even stains worried her about the chemicals involved. Even natural, we should get three or four years service out of it. Once done, the directions called for the box to be set in a tree 10-30 feet off the ground. My small ladder helped me get it up about 16 feet, and that will have to do.

Open house
If you have interested in building shelters for different types of animals and birds, the link below will take you to a site with plans for 16 different critter shelters from something as small as a bat to as large as a Great Blue Heron.

Ahhh. Home Sweet Home
Last night was 20-degrees. The squirrels experimented with the nest box for some time, but with the cold nights appear to have moved in full-time. The loss of the leaves from the tree, the absence of pecans this year, and high winds tearing apart their home of leaves and twigs, the nest box and Jean’s feeding should get them safely through the winter.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Inside the Oil Sands

There's so much information or misinformation about oil tar sands and pipelines that it's hard to absorb it or believe it.  Part of the problem comes from the source of the information.  Credibility comes into question if oil sands and pipelines are promoted by the oil industry, or if concerns over the environment are advanced by the Sierra Club, but here is the Business Insider releasing photographic documentation about the tar sands operation.

This is an on-site photo essay of what the oil sands operation really looks like. Compare these with the beautiful Canadian boreal forest photographs that you are accustomed to seeing in expedition reports.

Credit: Business Insider  Be patient, it may take awhile to load, but it's worth it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lake Carl Blackwell - 3

The cattle just kept pouring out of the tall brush, and I was apparently the most interesting thing that had happened in some time. They all followed me back up the shore. Finally I stopped and turned facing them, and just stood there. When they saw that I wasn’t going to break into song and dance and provide a floor show, or roll a 1,200-lb bale of hay out of the canoe, they lost interest and slowly began to wander off.

Just a few of the curious herd.
On Sunday, the winds came back up from the SW-WSW, gusting 25-35mph. The RV was on an open, exposed point and was buffeted back and forth with the gusts. Sitting inside with our books, we could even hear the wind moaning as it played across the tie-down lines on the canoes. Sweeping the full fetch of the lake, the wind sent big whitecaps rolling down the lake.

This all meant I went from paddling to plodding. has a ramp locator site where you can find confirmed boat ramps anywhere across the country, so I took the GPS and walked through the campground confirming boat ramp locations. That gave me a 3.8 mile stroll for the day.

The shallow headwaters area of the lake was incorporated into
pasture.  The problem is that once the area is no longer used, no
one comes back to clean up the mess and return it to a natural state.
Campground fees aren’t bad for the complete facilities provided. They are $20 for camping with water and electric, but there is no senior discount. Everything else is extra, such as $5 for access for day use, $8 launch fee, $10 for each PWC, $5 for a horse trailer and use of bridle trails, and $5 for trout fishing with a limit of 3 fish.

Carl Petty Blackwell, Sr.
Carl Blackwell graduated from OSU, then called the Oklahoma
Agricultural and Mechanical College, in 1918.  He eventually became
the Dean of Agriculture and Director of the school's agricultural
experimental station.

There are a couple caveats with the use of the lake. It is infested with zebra mussels, so all bilges and bait wells have to be emptied and cleaned. The hull has to be dried and scrubbed with hot 10% chlorine-water before going to another body of water. The other is that the lake rangers provide no vessel recovery services. In big, bold, all cap warnings, the boater is advised to provide for alternate plans to rescue himself regardless of the nature of the emergency.

The first cove to the west of the ranger station and store is Blackjack Cove. There is a buoyed line north from there to the opposite shore, which they call the ski line. Boaters, skiers, PWC users, etc are urged to stay east of that line where the water has been swept free of obstructions and is deepest. Venturing west of the ski line means the boater may encounter snags, stumps, and rocks, some just below the surface. The other significance of Blackjack Cove is that the main launch ramps near the ranger station are closed due to the lower water levels, and boaters are encouraged to use the ramp at Blackjack.


We were going to stay an extra day, but the next day’s forecast was for thunderstorms with 50 mph winds in the evening and hail, so we pulled out after breakfast and headed home.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lake Carl Blackwell - 2

An egret seaching along the shore for breakfast.
Lake Carl Blackwell is beautiful. It lies 6.8 miles west of the west edge of Stillwater, OK. It can be found on P.32, Grid D-5 of the DeLorme Oklahoma Atlas and Gazetteer, or P. 47 of the Lakes of Oklahoma map book published by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and Department of Wildlife Conservation. The lake, facilities, and surrounding lands are owned by the Oklahoma State University. It was built in 1937, is 3,370 acres, with a shoreline of 59 miles. The ravines or canyons the lake filled created a half-dozen fingers that not only give the lake its long shoreline, but also a number of havens for fish and wildlife. All the facilities are concentrated in the southeast corner of the lake, leaving all the rest of the shoreline natural. The surrounding lands are used by OSU for agricultural research. The shoreline is quite varied from mud, gravel, rock ledges, bluffs, reeds, and prairie grass.

There are many obstructions at or just below the surface.  Here
a spine of rock ran a hundred yards or more out into the lake.
The day paddling west along the shoreline was wonderful. I was hoping to get all the way to the bridge at Perry Road. If I could find a way to launch there, I could continue exploring the shoreline without having to backtrack. Unfortunately, with the lake being down about 6 feet, the headwater stream, Stillwater Creek, dried up and left me stranded in mud before the bridge came into sight, but I was close.

In the photo above, as I worked along the shore, I came around a point and found a spine of rock extending a hundred yards or so out into the lake. Rather than running all the way around, it appeared there was a small break between the boulders and the shore. I approached ever more slowly as more and more rocks came into view. I figured I could just inch my way through as I found an opening between the rocks. I was looking into the sun, so my vision was not the best, but proceeded, knowing I could always change my mind and go around in hopefully deeper water. I was half-way through when the rocks all around Buddy suddenly exploded. Some hit the canoe, one came half-way into the canoe, some slid beneath me as I felt them thumping my butt as they squirmed between my thin hull and the bottom, and they all threw a wall of water into the air that thoroughly soaked most of my upper torso. The dozens of rocks turned out to be carp bottom feeding in the shallow water. These fish fascinated me, as they would push themselves further and further into water only a few inches deep. I found one that had dried itself out so much that its gills were out of the water. It would lay over on one side to wet gills on one side, and then roll over after a bit to wet the other side.

A carp feeding in shallow water.
I was on the lake for six hours, but only went 12.5 miles, so obviously enjoyed plenty of time exploring, taking pictures, and even enjoying lunch and a couple rest breaks ashore.  A few flat boulders on the shore gave me a nice place to eat lunch. While there, I wanted to get a picture of Buddy, but I had the 400mm lens on the camera, so had to walk a good distance down the shore to get enough of the canoe in the picture. As I was walking back up the shore, I started hearing someone walking in the water behind me. I turned around to find some cattle that had materialized out of the tall weeds.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving for Good Videos

You will inevitably decide that there’s nothing good on TV. That’s by design. The worse the programming, the more programming packages you will buy in search of something that isn’t there. If you really want something rewarding, here are two videos you should enjoy.

Missouri River Canoe Trip at

And John Sullivan’s Canoe Voyaging Southern Wisconsin at

Both have some beautiful music.  We'll get back to Lake Carl Blackwell tomorrow.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lake Carl Blackwell, Stillwater, OK

Looking across the lake from a pocket of grass along the shore.
When we left Guthrie Lake on Saturday, we stopped in Guthrie for a few more days of provisioning at WalMart, since it was right on Rt. 77 (Division St.) and easy to get to. We had planned to make a stop at Langston Lake, but no camping was indicated. We knew camping was available at Carl Blackwell, so off we went.

Juvenile yellow crown night heron.  I wish I had gotten a better
picture, but I got one chance and it was gone.
When we arrived, the office staff indicated we had picked the worst weekend of the year to visit. OSU is reputed to have the largest homecoming in the United States, and we had pulled in for homecoming weekend. Of course she also said Oklahoma has more lakes than any other state in the country, and we know that isn’t true. Oklahoma has 177 lakes, which doesn’t start to compare with 11,842 in Minnesota, or 15,291 in Wisconsin, or 64,980 in Michigan, or 3,000,000 in Alaska. Now, if she had said we have the most artificial, man-made lakes of any other state, bingo. Anyhow, in spite of all the hoopla, Oklahoma lost to West Virginia 34-10.

On a related educational topic, a report was recently released naming Oklahoma as having the 49th worst educational standards in the country, losing only to Tennessee. (This number varies with the report being referenced. One placed Oklahoma as high as tenth worst.) Several of the lowest hanging fruit from the Bush of Knowledge had taken up residence in a campsite near us. I’ve never understood why campgrounds seem to increasingly discriminate against tent campers, or forbid them entirely. If this group was representative of tent campers, my inability to comprehend such dislike should be satisfied. Campground literature clearly states “quiet hours are to be observed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and the message is repeated with a sign at the entrance to each camping area and in front of about every third campsite, yet these miscreants kept the ruckus up with loud talking, hooting, screeching, and imitating coyotes until 1 a.m.

Finally able to lay its beak down for awhile, a pelican
pauses for a rest.
They began raiding every campsite looking for firewood by pulling into sites and scanning with their high-beam headlights, and then gathering anything they could carry. One log they picked up was 8-inches across at the small end and about six feet long. It was heavy enough it took three guys to carry it. This was the “kindling” with which they planned to start their bonfire. One of the girls yelled, “You’re on your own. I’m not going to help. I’m not going to jail for arsenic. Ew! It’s got ants all over it!” Apparently enough beers make arson and arsenic the same thing. The biggest shocker, however, came in the morning. One of the guys took a plastic bag and walked around their campsite picking up their beer cans. Giving credit where credit is due, I erased a black mark from their camping score. Then they made breakfast and threw egg shells on the ground all around their fire ring. Oh well. Here’s your black mark back. So close and yet so far.

The paddle down the lake will follow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Many of you would argue, with some sound reasoning, that it's January rather than November, but happy thanksgiving just the same.  Here's a wreath for the season that Jean and the granddaughters put together.  Several wild turkey feathers were used that we gathered during a walk through the woods.  I won't say where, since I don't want them all shot.  Their discarded tail feathers make a nice colorful addition for decorating.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Travels With A Kayak

Credit: Author's website
Travels With A Kayak by Whit Deschner (pub. by Eddie Tern Press, 1997, 251pp)

This is an unusual book, but one that you would enjoy. As far as the paddling is concerned, the author writes about his whitewater trips around the world. The locations span 30 years of international paddling and sound like at least a semester of geography---Nepal, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Great Britain, Alaska, the Everglades, and on and on. The writing style is back-handed, tongue-in-cheek, humorous. He strikes me as someone with a life-long subscription to Mad Magazine and with Saturday Night Live programmed on DVR. His facts are humorous, his humor is---ah, nope, the reverse won’t work. He has imaginary conversations with people long dead, and some with people that never lived. In short, the author could keep you simultaneously enlightened and entertained around a campfire anywhere. The book will do the same thing without you having to spend years dragging bags through airports.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sawbill Journey

The above link is for My Sawbill Journey by Jerry Vandiver.  The music is as wonderful as always, and the photography by Paul Sundberg is stupendous.  You'll love this.  Please check it out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Sad Season

Credit: Alex Comb, Solo Canoe
The last couple weeks have been a rush to beat the early crush of winter. Last week I was scraping, priming, and painting door frames during the Fairview Air Show. It was the 63rd Fairview Fly-In, the oldest free air show in the country. I rubber-necked to watch the planes making their final approach to the airport while I painted. Then it was the RV that needed to be cleaned and winterized before being put in storage. This weekend marks the end of the NASCAR season at Homestead, FL. And, I see Steve Earley (Log of Spartina) lamenting the end of his sailing season due to fog, cold, and launching ramps being closed with huge blocks of concrete making access impossible. It’s all just too depressing to think that such beautiful scenes as that above may be months away. Keep paddling becomes keep warm. Sad!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Guthrie Lake

With the lake area so developed, I was able to
get a picture of only a heron.
Guthrie Lake is also located south of Guthrie, OK, and to the east of Liberty Lake. Guthrie Lake was built in 1919 as a 205-acre recreational lake for the city. It can be found on the DeLorme Oklahoma Atlas and Gazetteer on P. 32, Grid I-3, or Page 89 of the Lakes of Oklahoma map book prepared by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Like Liberty, Guthrie also has a 5-mile shoreline, and also has its boat ramp closed due to about a 6-ft fall in lake levels, and the fishing dock is high and dry.

While Liberty was in a pastoral setting, Guthrie Lake looks like it is much closer to the city. Except for the headwaters, the shoreline is developed most of the way around. The Lakes of Oklahoma map book shows primitive camping across from the public area between Coltrane and Lake Roads. We never found a campground, couldn’t see it on Google Earth, and a local resident fishing there also said he didn’t know of a campground. We weren’t planning on staying there, but if that is your plans include camping, dig deeper, as the campground isn’t obvious. Perhaps using the contact number of (405)282-0496 would be recommended before making the trip. Even with our problems at Liberty Lake, for an enjoyable camping environment, I’d give the tip of the hat to Liberty over Guthrie.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Liberty Lake - 2

Well, Tchaikovsky had swan lake, but I had pelican lake, and
some Canada geese, sandpipers, and killdeer.
This all sounds really negative based on where I left off with the last post, so before moving on, let me balance this. When we came home, I sent a picture of the hole and comments on our experience to the Guthrie city hall. I received a response back from Anthony Gibbs, chief of special projects, saying that he was sorry we had encountered such problems, and that projects are indeed underway to correct the problems and not just greatly improve the campground, but build a new one. He said they have had continual problems with the area where we were. The ground is unstable, and even without rain, the service road is so close to the lake, and the ground so close to the water table of the lake, that it stays soft and has been a perpetual problem. The current campground will be stabilized and will become the parking area for day use activities. A new campground will be built further to the south that will feature gravel drives, leveled camping pads, and both water and electric to all sites. Also, the five-mile section of Academy Road from Guthrie to Liberty Lake will be paved. The new city manager and council, he says, are the most pro-active and determined to provide improved recreational and camping facilities for the public of any in the town’s history. The plans are well underway, and construction should start in July. So, if you plan to visit Liberty Lake and use camping as a launch pad for visiting the attractions in Guthrie, things should shortly be looking up. If the little lady wants something more posh than mud and blue herons, Guthrie also claims to be the bed and breakfast capitol of Oklahoma.

The next experience occurred about 3 o-clock in the morning. I heard a sound like rope being pulled through the canoes or racks, and at the same time Jean said, “There’s something on the truck.” I grabbed the flashlight, slid into my shoes, and bounded out the door in my underwear. There stood a Great Blue Heron on the hood of the Ram. In its haste to get away, it was dancing about on the hood trying to get clear of the tie-down ropes to fly away. It finally found a clear flight path, and took off screeching loudly. I was left with a half-dozen scratches on the hood of our truck, but they should compound out. The bottom line is this---when you go off in search of adventure, be careful what you ask for.

One pelican-killdeer sandwich.
As the sun was setting Friday night, a large flock of American Pelicans had gathered on the lake just offshore from us. A smaller group of Canada geese had also settled in, and after the heron had gone, we listened the rest of the night to honking geese and freight trains that actually were a lot more soothing than one would expect.

With the sunrise, a breeze came up from the south that had a fetch the full length of the lake, and the pelicans were gone. I paddled south, and once I reached the headwaters, there were the pelicans and geese. They had moved there into the lee of the land to seek a calmer breeze and smoother water. I paddled the full perimeter of the lake, and by the time I returned to the north end park area, three fishermen were already sitting along the bank wetting their lines.

And, lastly, three little first-year sandpipers working the shore.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Liberty Lake, Guthrie, OK

Liberty Lake is located south of Guthrie, OK, and was built in 1948 as both a water supply and recreational lake for the city. It can be found on the DeLorme Oklahoma Atlas and Gazetteer on P. 32, Grid I-3, or Page 110 of the Lakes of Oklahoma map book prepared by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The lake has a 5-mile shoreline.

From Kingfisher to Guthrie, we traveled 30 miles on Rt. 33. This is one of many of Oklahoma’s white-knuckled, take-your-life-in-your-hands roads. While there have been some upgrades, for many long stretches the lanes are only 10-feet wide, there is no safety edge outside the white line, and there are no shoulders. The white line marks the edge of the pavement, and then it drops off at a sharp angle into a deep ditch. The road is heavily used by large oil and gas industry drilling equipment and oversized loads on 18-wheelers that travel at high speeds. If anything goes slightly wrong, you have a choice between being wrecked in a head-on collision on the highway or being wrecked in the ditch. The very morning we returned home, two first-year junior-high school English teachers, ages 24 and 27, were killed on Rt. 33 in a head-on collision east of Guthrie while carpooling to school. Ironically, the road at the location of the collision has been slightly improved.

Looking south down the length of the lake.
Guthrie is an Oklahoma tourist attraction due to being the first capitol of the Oklahoma Territory, and of the state once statehood was achieved. It also has well preserved Victorian architecture from the 19th century, and is a National Historic Landmark. Unlike many towns and cities, like Oklahoma City, where urban development has destroyed much of its heritage, the central business and residential area of Guthrie remains mainly intact. Guthrie began in 1887 as the Deer Creek station for the Southern Kansas Railway, which was later acquired by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa-Fe Railway.

The sun setting across the lake.
At sunrise on April 22, 1889, the population of Deer Creek was zero. At noon, two million acres of Indian Territory lands that had been assigned to several tribes was opened for white settlement. With the firing of a gun at noon, 50,000 to 60,000 settlers rushed across the line and headed west to stake their homestead claims. By nightfall, both Guthrie and Oklahoma City had been created with populations each of 10,000 tent dwellers. Within mere months, Guthrie became known as the Queen of the Prairie with modern stone and brick buildings, the first being the National Loan and Trust Co., municipal water and electricity, a mass-transit system, and even underground garages for horses and carriages. Eventually, after being successful in acquiring a meat-packing industry and getting several railroads to converge there, Oklahoma City began to steal Guthrie’s stardom, and eventually became the state capitol in 1910.

Academy Road, which leads south from the west side to Guthrie to Liberty Lake, is a 5-mile unimproved dirt and gravel road. There are both good and bad things about Liberty Lake. The good is that the lake is away from the city and in a beautiful, rural setting. Unfortunately, water levels are low, again about 6 feet, and the boat ramp is closed. The bad points are several. The grounds have next to no facilities, no water at the sites nor even a hydrant in the campground, and poor maintenance. The only water is a hose on the side of the gatekeeper’s building. There are no restrooms or showers, but the porta-potties had just been serviced and were clean. There is apparently only one site with electric, and with the campground built on the side of a hill, only a couple sites where an RV can be leveled, making most of the sites primitive. There are no shortage of regulations, which are enumerated in a fine-print, two-sided tri-fold flyer, and also no shortage of fees. Day use of the park is $3.00, but free for seniors. Camping for up to 7 days is $14 a day with no facilities, or $17 on the one site with electric. There is no seniors’ discount for camping. The boat ramp fee is $5.

The campground service road.
I had two experiences here that I hope to never repeat. I’m very reluctant to criticize a campground. I can almost always make myself comfortable and happy, and accept that with a thousand tasks to perform, a campground cannot be groomed like my own yard. It is, after all, camping, but I found myself very unhappy here. The regulations say that one can only drive on the service roads provided, but the foot-and-a-half deep by 69 ft. long hog wallow that was to serve as the service road had not been created by just the last light rain. It has obviously been there a long time, and the fees collected had not been used for the dump truck load of rock that would have corrected the problem. I didn’t want to drive across their grass and possibly leave ruts, so in trying to do the right thing I did something very, very foolish that I will never do again. I felt I could navigate around the hole. The infamous Oklahoma red clay collapsed beneath me, and I sat there helpless as I felt both the truck and trailer slide sideways into the wallow, burying everything up to the axles. The trailer laid well over on its right side so the doors were level with the surrounding ground. I stood there looking at the mess for some time feeling really stupid. I envisioned needing to re-mortgage the house to get a tow truck all the way out there in the country on a weekend. Fortunately, we carry a good supply of wood blocks for jacking the trailer level. It would take Jean and I two hours of jacking and blocking to get the rig out of the hole. By that time, there wasn’t anything on either the truck or trailer that wasn’t covered with mud, and Jean and I were totally exhausted---much to exhausted to go paddling.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Picture of the Day

After a stressful afternoon (but still enjoyable), it turned into
a nice, quiet sunset and evening.  We had the campground
all to ourselves.  Liberty Lake, Guthrie, OK

Thursday, November 6, 2014

At Lake Elmer - 2

Here are a few more pictures from Lake Elmer.  This morning we have had several large flocks of sandhill cranes flying due south.  They know the weather is about to crash.
Here is the bridge where the feeder stream leads into the lake.
To the right is one of the spider blocks.

The end of the ramp, and the float just touches the water.  Elmer
is a shallow-water lake with a depth of about 8-feet at the south end.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

At Lake Elmer

Lake Elmer is located just northwest of Kingfisher, OK. It can be found on the DeLorme Oklahoma Atlas and Gazetteer on P. 31, Grid H-8, or Page 72 of the Lakes of Oklahoma map book prepared by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The lake was built in 1962, and then closed for renovation and restocking through 1978-1979. A fish kill in 2009 pretty much wiped out the lake as a fishery, but it was drained, upgraded again, and restocked with bass, sunfish, and catfish. It has a 3.4 mile shoreline, and additional information on current water levels or quality can be found by calling 580-762-2248, but it currently appears to be down about five feet. Because of the low water level, trailer launching for any but the smallest boats may be difficult to risky. Its primary use is as a recreational fishing lake. The Water Resources Board map doesn’t show any camping, but the Dept. of Wildlife Conservation does allow up to three days of primitive camping there.

Looking across Lake Elmer you can see some of the brush
anchored along the shore to protect fingerlings.

More fish havens and an egret working the shoreline.

One advantage of a small lake is the draw for wildlife into
a small area, making them easier to observe.

A cormorant taking flight.
The road back to the lake (Rd. E0780) is a round-top, unmarked, but paved road. We were a bit disappointed when we first saw the lake, as it appeared a lot of land-clearing trash had been dumped into the waters. When I launched Buddy on the lake and started to paddle its perimeter, however, I was delighted to see that intensive efforts have been exerted to provide a flourishing fish habitat. What I misinterpreted as trash is actually shrubs and tree tops that have been placed along the water’s edge to provide protection for fingerlings. They have even been anchored in place with cinderblocks wired to the brush. Besides these, many spider-blocks of different sizes have been added, as well as a tire reef. (Spider-blocks are many lengths of tubing cast in concrete to almost make a tubing bouquet where fingerlings are safer from large fish.) Even with these in place, there is still plenty of open water to enjoy.

The nearby town of Kingfisher came into being overnight with the Land Rush of April 22, 1889. It was named for an early resident actually called King Fisher. It also straddles the Chisholm Trail, and a statue of Jesse Chisholm is prominent in town.