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.