Monday, March 30, 2015

Discovering Eden

Discovering Eden: A Lifetime of Paddling Arctic Rivers, by Alex M. Hall (pub. by Key Porter Books, Toronto, Canada, 2003, 218pp plus index, pb.)
The Canadian Barrens are many things, but one thing they are not is barren.  Imagine, on one trip of 19 days, seeing 50,000 to 100,000 migrating caribou, 237 muskoxen, 32 wolves, three wolverines, and two grizzlies.  Imagine a land where you can travel without seeing another human, and perhaps plant your feet where no other human has trod for hundreds of years.  This is a country where 50% of it is water.  There are still hundreds of rivers and hundreds of
People were the one thing missing from the Barrens, at least until the mid-1970’s.  Alex Hall decided in 1974 to spend his life being a canoe expedition guide, against the advice of the Canadian government, which couldn’t see such a venture succeeding.  Canoe Arctic, Inc., existed in name only for a few very lean years, but is still operated successfully by the author to this day.  Here is the link to his site, where you can view 25 photo galleries, and begin to plan your dream trip.
This is a fascinating and informative book.  Every paddler will find takeaways from these pages.  You will learn things you likely never knew about the native aboriginal peoples, the habits of caribou, and the life cycles of blackflies and mosquitoes, finding wolf dens and coexisting with wolves, close encounters with grizzlies, stampedes of thousands of caribou right through camp, and learning to keep provisions safe from bears.  Above all else, you should feel an even deeper appreciation and understanding of the wilderness and nature’s delicate balance.
Having run canoe expeditions all his life, you will find clear insight into what makes a successful canoe trip vs. a tale of horrors.  He makes it clear that an expedition is no place for democracy.  Someone has to take the lead, and that position needs to be respected by everyone in the group.  Trips are run at the pace of the slowest, weakest paddler.  There is never an argument over tactics.  Since safety is the foremost priority, discussions may be held over whether to line, portage, or run a rapids,  or the miles or hours to be run, but the least hazardous or threatening point of view is always accepted without further comment.  Everyone agrees to and adopts these standards beforehand or they don’t go---period.
In the latter half of the book, Hall will explain the changes that have occurred on the Barrens in the size of herds and packs, the changes that come as money and greed invade the territories to dangle the perpetual promise of jobs, the exploration and exploitation for diamonds, gold, copper, uranium and other metals, the desire to build year-round, all-weather roads that will open the territories to more mine building, and the damning of rivers to create the hydro-power needed to operate the mines.  Unlike other areas where these problems damage and destroy habitat, the changes that would occur in the Barrens wilderness will destroy ecosystems and the balance of nature itself.  With such short growing seasons, there are trees now standing that are hundreds of years old, some as much as a thousand years, and it would take that long again for their replacement.  Beds of lichen through the wilderness, upon which migrating caribou depend for food through the winter, take 40-60 years to be replaced.  The destruction of this food source would destroy the herds and all forms of wilderness life that feed upon them.  This book offers a great opportunity to learn about the area and the efforts being made to protect it, and get these lessons from a man that has made the Barren Lands and its wildlife the guiding forces of his own life.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rescuing An Easter Bunny

Go ahead and fill 'er up.
A neighborhood lady looked out her window to see their large dog walking about the yard with something in its mouth.  She went outside to investigate, and found the dog carrying a roughly week-old rabbit.  There were no other rabbits about, nor any indication where it had come from.  She took the bunny and put it back on the ground, but then saw a bunch of cats assembling.  The small creature could not expect such gentle handling from the felines, so the woman and her husband brought the rabbit to Jean. 
Jean started the bunny on PetAg’s KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer), which she served every three hours with a curved-tip Monoject feeding syringe.  For the first week, the bunny lived in a heated tub with two young squirrels that Jean is also rescuing.  Neither the rabbit’s nor squirrels’ eyes were open yet, but they constantly found each other, and all three stayed huddled in a ball.  The rabbit knew enough to claim the warmest spot by sandwiching itself between the two squirrels.

I'm lookin' gooood!
After a week, they were separated when the rabbit began to experiment with solid food.  The experimenting was quickly over, and the rabbit’s growth spurt turned nibbling into a voracious appetite.  It would start at one end of a piece of Romaine lettuce, carrot, apple, or celery and just keep chomping until it had inhaled the whole piece.  A couple times it was found to have contentedly fallen asleep with a piece of celery still sticking out of its mouth.  Besides the fresh produce and Timothy hay, it also began to learn what the rabbit pellets were for, and has doubled its weight in two weeks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Official Sounds of Spring

Great Blue Heron

Prairie Dog with his personal tornado shelter.

The tornado sirens were sounded as a test an hour or so ago, and that makes it official.  Spring has sprung on the Plains.  Tornadoes are on the ground in the City of Moore as I write.  They should have had enough bad luck a couple years ago with the major EF-5 tornadoes to last a lifetime.  It is a fact; lightning does strike in the same place twice, or more often, and so do tornadoes.

This was a noisy little fella.  He just barked non-stop.

Master of all he surveys.

On a happier note, the paddle last week gave us a few wildlife shots.  There have been quite a few RV campers staying at the lake.  Camping is free until April first, so several have turned out to enjoy the warm weather.  While loading Buddy back on the Ram, I spent awhile chatting with a fisherman that had decided to wet a line for a couple hours before his evening Bible study.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How Hard Will It Blow?

I’m glad I took advantage of a second chance to get some paddling exercise in before the winds returned.  Right now it is gusting to 25 mph, and will keep increasing until tonight when it is supposed to be reaching 50 mph.  While on the subject of weather, I’d like to recommend a site that I’ve been using and have found to be more reliable for planning than even local weather stations.  It is called  When you pull it up, you can do two things at once.  In the top right corner, you can reference the region of the country you want.  On this site I’m using as an example, I’ve pulled up Florida and a section of the Southeast.

While the local forecast may be giving predictions for thousands of square miles, you can determine conditions right at the lake or river area you want just by putting your cursor on the arrow at that location.  A window will pop up to give you every piece of weather-related information you may want now, and for the next 48 hours.


The second thing would be to obtain a forecast, and it doesn’t have to be for the same area.  There is a window top-center where you type in the name or zip code for a place you are concerned about.  For example, I’ve watched weather for friends paddling around Florida on the WindMapper at the same time that I’m getting a forecast with local conditions for a lake I want to paddle in Oklahoma.  I’ve found the information to be accurate and reliable, even down to an hour-by-hour analysis of conditions as they change.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Great Horned Owl

Look at those beautiful eyes.
This was a Great Horned Owl Jean got as a rescue animal.  It had flown into a barbed-wire fence around a pasture.  The farmer found it hanging there while riding the field to check on some livestock that were calving.  It had apparently been there some time, at least since the previous day, and was seriously dehydrated.  When Jean tried to give it water, it just about attacked the eyedropper.  When it was stabilized, we transported it to Wild Care south of Oklahoma City.  The avian veterinarian examined the owl, and unfortunately determined that the bird would have to be euthanized since the main artery to its injured wing had been severed, and the wing was dead, and would soon poison the bird itself.  While the objective in rescue work is to rehabilitate the animal, sometimes fate and the seriousness of the injuries make it impossible to create a miracle.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Best Information Ever on Lyme Disease

John F. Sullivan found and posted a video on the Facebook Mississippi River group this morning that is the best description of Lyme Disease that I've seen.  Even after having an exposure to this two years ago, there was a lot of information here the I didn't know.  Also, one of the problems with the disease is that a lot of doctors don't understand it or take it seriously, so self-education is all that more important so you know what to expect, how to detect it, what to do about it, and most importantly, how to try to prevent exposure.  Prompt action is critical to recovery, and I was fortunate that I was visiting our doctor on another issue when my wife suggested I discuss being bitten by a tick in Wisconsin, one of the nation's hotbeds of the disease.  He didn't waste a minute, but jumped on the problem right away, which undoubtedly prevented many more serious complications. 

Since not all of you may subscribe to the Mississippi River group, I thought it important to help spread the word by offering it here also.  Please take a look at this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Picture of the Day

Camped for the night on Deadman Island, Escambia Bay, FL.
It's a good thing I got out for a paddle Sunday.  The wind is back to 30, gusting to 39 or more, so there would be no way to get on an open lake today.  Even for my walk this morning, the windchill caught me a bit underdressed, and the wind groaned and whistled around obstructions. 
Have a great day. jim

Monday, March 16, 2015

Getting Buddy Wet

The lake shore used to be a hundred yards back where the trees line the bank.

It was 38 degrees yesterday morning, a definite cool down from the weird temps we’ve been having the last few days, but since the ice on the lake had melted, certainly a comfortable opportunity to get on the water.  The big draw was that the wind was forecast to be calm to light in the morning.   Anyone that knows Oklahoma knows that calm days are as rare as hen’s teeth, so I just had to go for it. 

They were more obvious in person than on this picture, and certainly more
obvious when moving, but if you look closely, what appear as vertical excavations
along the cliffs are about 13 pairs of light and dark reflections.

Whether I was too late or too early, it was obvious I wasn’t in the prime part of the waterfowl migration.  I saw a heron, a lot of prairie dogs, some coots, a large flock of pelicans, and a few flocks of ducks that were too skittish to allow me to get close enough for identification.  I heard an owl several times, and some wild turkeys.  There was one thing I saw, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before. 

The west side of the lake is edged by cliffs.  They aren’t spectacular by Lake Superior standards, but range about 25 to 40-ft high, and I understand were used at one time by Native Americans to hunt buffalo.  The animals were driven over the cliffs to other hunters waiting below to dispatch the wounded and butcher the harvest.  I saw an unending parade of alternate vertical light and gray lines playing along the cliff faces.  After a couple minutes of ruling out other possibilities, like an effect caused by my polarizing glasses, I realized it was the low-angled sun rising above the trees on the opposite side of the lake and reflecting off the wavelets on the lake.  It was a bit like watching the panning of shadows created by a car’s lights passing a picket fence.  They covered the full height of the cliffs and stretched north until the cliffs melted into woodland.

Calm days that are as rare as hen's teeth.

According to the Corps of Engineers, Canton Lake is still down 13-ft below normal, or 79% below normal capacity.  It’s even lower than during my last visit, and I was hoping it might slowly rise, but that’s not the case so far.  I went as far to the north as I could, where more birds could be expected, and paddled the full width of the lake with the paddle blades churning and dipping mud and barely keeping Buddy afloat.

Boats are prohibited from entering the buoyed swim area.
I am given to understand that in the last several years, there have been
zero infractions. 

It was a wonderful morning to be on the water, and by the time I returned to the ramp a few  fishermen were joining me to enjoy the Sunday morning.  With the warming, the breeze began to fill in from the south.  With the winter’s idleness, my muscles were saying that 7.1 miles was acceptable for the first time out, so after Buddy was back on the truck, I enjoyed my lunch before heading for home.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

American Falcon

Hah!  I think I finally got the picture files working—mostly.  We’re about to find out.  Anyhow, this is one of Jean’s rescued critters.  This is a kestrel, part of the American Falcon family.  This one came to us with a broken wing.  After being stabilized, it was transported to WildCare, south of Oklahoma City.  They have an avian veterinarian that works with their staff, and they specialize in helping the animals recover, heal, and strengthen until ready for release back into the wild.

As with many of the wildlife, they seem to have a much better understanding of humans than we do of them.  While some will fight and protest being handled, many remain calm and receptive, seeming to understand that we are trying to help them.  This bird was very calm, and quickly accepted hand feeding, but retained his alert wariness.  This is important in handling wild animals, always avoiding any tendency to treat them like a pet, which would destroy their ability to live or defend themselves in nature.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

One Inch Above the Water

Cover photo credit:
One Inch Above The Water: Running Away on America’s Rivers, by Jim Payne (pub. by Lytton Pub. Co., 2008, 294 pp., pb)
I love books.  I find that plunging into a new book is much like meeting new people.  Some are engaging, delightful, entertaining, and they draw you in to become part of their world.  Others are dry, standoffish, and cold.  Finally, there are those that are flat-out burdensome.  In such a book I find myself getting to the last page only out of a sense of obligation, especially if I’m supposed to write a review of the book.  I don’t know if anyone reads the reviews, but I take it  as commitment of sharing---inviting you to share what I’ve enjoyed, or saving you time that would better be invested elsewhere.  This is a book that is friendly, engaging, and one you will enjoy.
The author is someone many of you will identify with, or at least I did.  He was a political science professor at Yale, Wesleyan, and Johns Hopkins, and as he put it, he got tired of writing books no one would read.  So, at the age of 57, he decided to run away from home.  Well, he didn’t really, as he was still married, but he did plan several trips of a week to several weeks duration.  He got a Klepper pack canoe that was more conducive to travel, especially when mass transit was involved, and took off to experience something more natural than a classroom or office.  He did the Potomac River, starting at Washington, D.C.; the Columbia River, from Canada to the Pacific Ocean; the Hudson River and Lake Champlain from New York to Quebec; the Florida Keys; and the Mississippi River from Vicksburg to New Orleans.  He said, “My answer to the futility of worldly accomplishment was to balance work with play, to paddle over the horizon in search of adventure.  Each day I paddled, this formula was making more sense.”
As a professional writer, he has that ability to take you on the trip with him and feel as though you are sharing the experience.   You share the struggle against the current and waves, and the discomfort of being wet, food-bored, and never knowing where you can stop to rest or sleep.  But you also get to meet the interesting people along the way, to enjoy the humor in unusual experiences and dilemmas, appreciate our nation’s history in many ways, like sleeping in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s bed when all he was just looking for a spot of grass for his tent, and being uplifted by the stillness and beauty of nature.  He discovers that the joys, memories, and rewards of a trip are somehow proportionate to the struggle, and even the discomfort.  One evening while cowering under a tarp in a deluge, he looked across at some moored yachts, their occupants warm and dry as they watched TV.  Instead of being jealous, he felt sorry for their lack of adventure and dulled senses.  To really enjoy life, he said, is to step outside of your comfort zone and experience it.
Unlike some books about paddling around the world, or Australia, or South America, while they may be interesting to read and marvel over, they are way beyond the ability or inclination of 99.9% of their readers.  This book is a good outline for trips that involve a high sense of adventure and interest, are actually within about anyone’s capability, and reasonable in both the realms of time and finances.  This is a book of stories you will enjoy spending the time with.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Walking Off The Edge

If some of you have been wondering if I've walked off the edge of the earth or something, no, in some ways it's worse than that.  The reason I haven't posted anything in so long is I'm suffering from the wonders of modern technology.  Our computer died.  We replaced the computer and our old Vista program with a new Windows 7, and the nightmare has been unending.  We spent close to a month getting document files changed over, and now I can't work pictures.  As soon as I figure out how to get the picture files to work, get the digital photo program and the Adobe Photoshop programs to talk to each other, I'll be back in business.  Until then, I'm just dangling from the edge.