Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Finally, A Day Out

Slowly resolving health issues and a favorable, cooling turn in the weather finally aligned to force me out of the house.  I waited to leave in mid-afternoon, since we are only 20 miles from a Corps of Engineers lake.  Being a Tuesday also gave me the campground practically to myself.  There was only one RV in the circle where I decided to set my tent, and there was no one home there, so I was looking forward to a quiet, restful evening and night.

I pulled the camp bag out of the truck, which contains my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tent, pillow, and an old pair of sneakers (to change into from my booties when coming in off the water).  I dropped it on the spot for my tent, picked for its absence of water-collecting depressions, overhanging dead branches or proximity to old trees, and a good easterly exposure to greet the morning sun.  The wannigan was pulled and set on the picnic table.  It is nothing more than a 5-gallon bucket with a screw-on lid to make it watertight and trap food smells.  It holds my stove, cooking pans and utensils, fuel, coffee and tea bags, dish detergent, hand sanitizer, scrubber pad and brush, large mug, matches and lighters, very small  bottle of cooking oil, a tight roll of trash bags to pack out any trash, and a medicine and vitamin bottle.  As I put a couple cups of water on to boil for dinner, a Mississippi kite flew into the tree next to me and sat above my head screeching at me all the time the water heated.  He finally flew off in search of something more bite-sized.

I poured the water into my cozy with the noodles for my mac and cheese while I set up the tent.  While dinner prepared itself, I pulled out my folding chair, put on two more cups of water for coffee, and returned to reading Down The Wild River North.   There was a nice breeze filtering through the trees, so I sat and quietly watched the lake as I enjoyed my bachelor’s banquet.

After dinner, the width of three fingers between the horizon and the lower limb of the sun meant I had three-quarters of an hour before sunset, so I decided on a walk down through the just-rebuilt Canadian campground.  An EF-3 tornado that swept through the area on 24 May 2011 completely destroyed all the trees for several hundred yards through the campground.  The twisted stubbles that remained had to be removed.  What remained of the campground buildings and facilities were so ravished that the earth in the area had to be swept bare.  The new facilities the Corps of Engineers have just finished are beautiful, strong, and state of the art.  The new restroom/shower buildings, which double as tornado shelters for campers, are designed to withstand a strong tornado.  In addition, the construction project put in 77 new camping sites, playground, boat dock, and several additional amenities. 

For those readers living in the Canton Lake area, the Corps and volunteers that work at the campground are asking for your help.  While funds helped rebuild infrastructure, they didn’t allow for buying and planting trees.  The volunteers are asking for help collecting aluminum cans to recycle for tree-planting money.  The cans may be dropped at collection barrels near the camp ranger booth.

The rains we’ve had this year were instrumental in them getting a bumper crop of new grass growing, and I was amazed at the number of rabbits that have re-established themselves in the campground.  Then I came the closest ever to a roadrunner before it turned and ran into the brush at the lake’s edge.  It has been four years, but still, it is encouraging to see how wildlife is able to return after an area has been completely destroyed.  Finally, I settled onto one of the new park benches and just enjoyed the breeze coming off the lake.

As I walked back to my campsite, I heard a pack of coyotes barking, howling, and yipping on the other side of the dam spillway.  My first thought was that the construction around the spillway had kept the coyotes away from the rabbit population, enabling them to thrive.  That idea was quickly dispelled in the middle of the night, however, when a pack of coyotes woke me as they came hunting right through our campsites.  They don’t miss much, and are very hard on a rabbit population.  Perhaps the rabbits are able to hide in the riprap (large rocks and boulders) along the lake shore.

A nearby owl lulled me to sleep last night, and a cicada greeted me first thing this morning.  It had settled on the concrete bench of the picnic table next to my stove.  It had been our first cool night, so perhaps the cool concrete slowed it down, but it was very lethargic and only moved a couple inches the whole time I made breakfast.  Anyhow, it’s nice to have the chance to visit nature again.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Photo with permission from 2012 Kaw Nation Pow-wow

Only after the last tree has been cut down;
Only after the last river has been poisoned;
Only after the last fish has been caught;
Only then you will realize money cannot be eaten.
Sitting Bull

Please watch this video.  It speaks a clearer message than any political candidate.
Paste to web search page if link fails to connect.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dale Gets It Done

Photo Credit: Shannon Silvey Williamson

Dale Sanders celebrates at the Gulf of Mexico with a hug from Anna, his grandniece, in whose honor he paddled Source to Sea down the Mississippi to benefit juvenile diabetes research.  According to his SPOT, he landed on a small island at the mouth of the river about 1:40 pm today, 15 Aug.  At the age of 80, this would make him the oldest man to complete the passage in a single, straight-through trip.  If you haven't followed the trip, the links are still in the right margin under Favorite Links.  Congratulations to Dale, Anna, and their families.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bear Attacks

Cover Credit: biblio.com

Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, by Stephen Herrero  (pub. 1985 by Nick Lyons Books and Winchester Press, Piscataway, NJ, 260pp of text plus 27 pages of notes and index, b&w illustrations)

The author’s Ph.D was in animal behavior.  When his wife refused to visit Glacier National Park following the gruesome killings of two young women there, Dr. Herrero decided that his interests in bears should be used to reach a better understanding of bears, encounters and attacks, bear behaviors and habits, and what can be done to make bear and human interaction safer.  What followed would be a 17-year study of black and brown bear encounters dating from 1872 to 1980,  including analysis of 414 records of encounters that led to 357 injuries, as well as interviews with victims, witnesses, and other experts in bear behavior, and personal interaction with the animals.  To paraphrase the TV warning, reader discretion is advised.  Some of these accounts are gruesome in their detail.
There are no sure-fire rules or guarantees.  Many of the deaths investigated by Dr. Herrero were of seasoned outdoorsmen, game wardens, and park rangers with decades of experience with bears.  One had 42 years of such service.  Herrero quotes a psychology professor who said, “Studying nuclear physics is child’s play compared to studying child’s play.”  Both human and animal behavior is difficult to predict, and there’s always the odd terrorist or mental deviant, again, either animal or human.  Herrero says of himself that he is a scientific odds maker.  In short, his research can improve the odds, but can’t make guarantees.  Due to the absence of foolproof rules, he provides a lot of information that would help enable those concerned about safety around bears to do their own situational analysis.  These include things like where bears conceal themselves, how they feed, what makes them aggressive, how to avoid encounters, detecting bear activity, how close is too close, campsite safety, firearms and deterrents, when to know you are being just plain stupid and inviting trouble, and much more.

If you want a good read, this book is hard to put down.  If you seek insight, this book should give you the best possible understanding of why bears do what they do, and what you need to do to insure that encounters with bears are both survivable and enjoyable.  Some of the deaths were almost unavoidable, but many were the result of what we might call stupid human tricks.  This should go a long way toward correcting errors and myths, and making sure none of us do anything unwitting in the outdoors.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Just Cool It

Credit: Google images.
The seldom used, but very effective, neck gaiter.

With the mercury hitting 105 F), and indices reaching 115 or more, being hot becomes not just an issue of comfort, but an issue of survival.   Heat exhaustion or stroke can be fatal in pretty short order, or can cause organ damage or failure, especially in babies or young children, people over the age of 65, those with pre-existing conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or lung disease, pregnant or nursing mothers, or people on medications that make them more susceptible to sun and heat problems.  The problems become even more dangerous if you are engaged in strenuous exercise, like paddling.  Here are some tips on how to beat the heat.

1.      Go easy and take frequent breaks.
2.      While stopped, take a swim or soak for a while to lower body temperature, as well as invigorate yourself.
3.      Wear loose, light colored clothing.  Wear synthetics, especially those with an SPF rating, since they evaporate sweat faster, creating a greater cooling effect.  Avoid cotton clothing, period.
4.      Cover the body---long trousers, sleeves, wide-brimmed hat, shield the face, such as with a light, synthetic balaclava or neck gaiter.  These and the hat can be frequently pulled off quickly, dipped in the water, and put back on to enhance cooling.  You can also dip a hand towel in the water and wrap it around your neck.
5.      Plenty of sunscreen.  Your skin is a once-in-a-lifetime gift.  If you abuse it, you will lose it later in life and regret it when it’s too late.
6.      Perhaps schedule activity for cooler times, like putting in earlier, taking a nap or rest during the day, take out later, or even paddle at night when river hazards are not a risk.
7.      Eat fruits high in water content for snacks.  Eat lighter meals.
8.      Drink a lot of water, every 15 minutes whether you are thirsty or not, or a glass of water every half-hour.  If you are not peeing, you are dehydrated.  Make the water more pleasant, encouraging consumption, by flavoring or using athletic drinks for some fluid consumption.  Add salt occasionally to replace the minerals being lost through sweat.  Sports drinks like Gatorade are a help with this, and for cutting weight in your gear and minimizing waste, use Gatorade powder in your own water rather than carrying bottled liquids. 
9.      Hydrate before you start out.
10.   Avoid diuretics, like coffee and alcoholic beverages.
11.   Camp in the shade, but still in the open rather than in dense woods or vegetation, and closer to water.  Leave the fly off the tent if the weather will permit, or sleep under just a tarp, or use the tarp over the tent to shield it from the heat of the sun.  Sleep in a hammock.  Use a battery-powered fan in the tent.  Place a space blanket or ground cover between the ground and the tent.  There is a recommendation for removing several inches of earth to place the tent on cooler ground.  I don’t know about this.  The space blanket has much more merit, plus you won’t make a hole that will fill with water when the thunderstorm comes through.
12.   As uncomfortable as it may be, sweating is good.  It is nature’s way of cooling your body.  If you stop sweating, your skin or face is red, you have a quick pulse, are dizzy or have a headache, become nauseous, feel exhausted or lethargic, can determine that your body temperature has elevated, you are going into heat exhaustion and are IN TROUBLE NOW.  Get out of the sun, wet yourself down, drink more fluids or sports drinks (especially if you have access to cold drinks), relax, but leave the beer alone.
13.   Postpone the trip until September or change your latitude.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Abby and the Vets

Beautiful picture of the upper river from Abby's blog.

Abby Kaeser, of Bloomginton, Indiana, is just two weeks into her Source to Sea paddle of the Mississippi River.  Being joined by some vets for their Warrior Hike Expedition 2015, the six paddlers departed July 22nd, and plan to travel from Lake Itasca to Morgan City, LA.  One of the points of interest in reading her blog will be comparing this late season departure with those started earlier in the season.  Early and late seasons bring totally different challenges.  Abby starts her blog with a description of her kayak and an inventory of her gear, and a proposed schedule for stops along the river.

I have added Abby and The Vets to my Favorite Blogs, and it can be accessed by simply clicking that tab in the right margin.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Scrap the I-Phone. It's Illegal to Take Pictures

I don’t like politics.  It has become, or maybe it always was, synonymous with lies, manipulation, deceit, corruption, greed, pride, idolatry, ah, did I mention lies, and crushing control of any people deemed to be irrelevant or inconsequential.  Unfortunately, since the majority of us remain apathetic voters, the irrelevant include people like us, people like Americans, you know, those who claim the benefits of being the brave and the free, but who are too disinterested, too timid, and too intimidated to take 30 minutes every couple years to cast a vote.  Admittedly there are many things more important than politics, but the crime is that we are controlled by politics, also spelled m-o-n-e-y.  In a book by Patrick Dobson, he defined his mission as a journalist as “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.”  That is a mission worthy of a journalist, but it has eroded into ‘afflict the weak and patronize the wealthy and powerful,’ and so those things that are indeed more important than politics are the very topics we never hear about.

Here’s are three perfect examples.  We have already heard, very briefly, how Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration in Florida has been ordered to not use words like ‘climate change, global warming, or sustainability’ in any communications, emails, or reports.  We already know that the worst thing you can do to a Republican is to tamper with the 2nd Amendment.  That’s the mantra they scream, that their guns are at risk, and overpowering big government is trampling personal liberties and the Constitution.  Of course when they can use big government to their own benefit, to squash personal liberties that they find inconvenient, that is okay, which means an attack on the 1st Amendment is totally justified if it helps conceal the abuses committed by commercial interests, big business, and the wealthy.  Then it is okay to tell people that their freedom of speech goes only as far as being told what they may or may not say, and which words or phrases have state approval, and which ones clearly don’t.  http://fcir.org/2015/03/08/in-florida-officials-ban-term-climate-change/

If you think this is an isolated incident, it is more like the continued loss of personal freedoms that are inconvenient for Republicans.  Just a month after the attack on free speech in Florida, a Republican controlled Board of Commissioners of Public Lands in Wisconsin issued a gag order restricting their employees.  They are directed to not do any work related to climate change, can’t even answer emails directed to them on related issues, and can’t even talk about climate change issues while at work.  It was felt that such things distracted employees from their primary mission---making money.  Their official position was, “That’s what we want our employees working on.  That’s it.”

Now, it’s illegal to take pictures in Wyoming.  In May, Republican Governor Matt Mead signed Senate Bill 12 into law.  It’s called the ‘data trespass law,’ and here’s how it works.  If you are paddling down a stream and see a creek or pipeline flowing some foul smelling, strangely colored liquid into the stream that is obviously a pollutant, and you take a picture of it to report the violation to a government group, like fish and wildlife or natural resources, without first tracking the effluent back to its source and asking the polluter’s permission to take the picture, you could be subject to a fine of $5,000 and a year in jail for obtaining evidence of a violation without the violator’s permission. Taking samples or preserving data by any other means would also be illegal.

Government can’t be everywhere, and it’s logical for an honest government to rely on its citizens to make it known when illegal, hazardous, or dangerous situations exist.  This law does just the opposite.  It is a blatant effort to protect the illegal activities of those permitting or causing dangerous runoff from cattle or pig farms, those dumping raw sewage into waterways, the illegal dumping of hazardous chemicals by industry, the failure to prevent leakage from tailings ponds at mining operations, the improper handling of crude or other materials, and so on.  This rips the First Amendment right out the Constitution and makes it clear to every citizen that he would be wise to hear no evil, see no evil, and certainly to speak nothing about the evil.  It is designed to protect the financial interests of industry and the wealthy over the health and safety of the public.

If anyone should jump to the conclusion that this is a diatribe against Republicans, that simply isn’t the case.  I have included references for all of these so you can check them out for yourself.  These are actual laws that have been enacted, and perhaps it is just coincidence, or perhaps part of a larger plan, that all of these have come from Republicans.  I give myself an equal opportunity to be sickened by stupid politics and dumber politicians regardless of party affiliation.  These should, however, give one serious reservation about what is taking place in our country, and should be kept in mind when picking a candidate for office.  Special consideration should also be given to the $900 million dollars the Koch brothers are spending to buy the election so as to deny American citizens the right to have a say in the destiny of our country.  That’s just my two cents.  If we as a people are stupid enough and apathetic enough to permit a one-percent minority to control the other 99% of us, we deserve what we get.  In that case, I will change my beliefs.  As Henry David Thoreau said, “Everyone must believe in something.  I believe I’ll go canoeing.”