Sunday, November 29, 2015

Barkcamp State Park, OH

The pioneer village general store is also used by the park staff
for registering campers.

Barkcamp State Park is in Eastern Ohio a short distance before reaching the West Virginia state line on I-70.  The interstate, originally called the National Road, was the first federally funded highway in America.  If you exit I-70 at Exit 208 and go south a short distance, near Belmont, OH, you will reach Barkcamp.  It has a small lake, Belmont Lake, with a 4.5-mi shoreline for a relaxing afternoon paddle, hiking and bridle trails, and 123 large, treed campsites.

The original orchard barn built nearly 200 years ago.

The lake is fed by Barkcamp Creek, and the name for both comes from the fact that there was actually a barking camp here.  During the great logging days, crews that stayed in this work camp stripped felled trees of their bark before the logs were delivered to the sawmill.  This was the first part of Ohio that was settled, with many Revolutionary soldiers from the East pausing here to await receipt of their land grants in return for their military service.  

Shed and livery.

At that time, this area just west of the Ohio River was called “The West.”  This beautiful area of rolling, wooded hills was valued by Native Americans and pioneers alike, which led to several battles in the area.  A reconstructed pioneer village is here, but the barn is original.  It was built in the 1800’s by Solomon Bentley, an orchard owner, and is still utilized at the park for nature and conservation programs.  Lewis Wetzel, (1752-1808) the infamous guerilla-style Indian fighter from what is now Wheeling, WV, frequented the area, and is said to have inscribed a stone located near the barn. Wetzel died in Mississippi, but his remains were returned and interred at McCreary Cemetery, Cameron, WV, only 34 miles from Barkcamp.   

The reverse side of the general store and camp office.

On the topic of conservation, Pres. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, was one of this nation’s greatest conservationists, even being called the conservationist president.  Upon coming to office in 1901, he created the U.S. Forest Service, and led the way toward creating 150 national forests, 4 federal bird reserves, 5 national game preserves, 5 National Parks, and set 230 million acres aside under public land protection, along with protection of 18 National Monuments, like the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon.  Roosevelt felt this nation was blessed and made great by its gift of natural resources, but he cautioned that “to show that this nation is worthy of its good fortune,” we must practice sustainable usage of its resources.  He would turn over in his grave now to see that his Republican party endorses rampant stripping of all resources, even on protected federal lands, through oil and gas drilling, fracking, clear-cut logging, strip-mining in wildlife areas, and mining for metals and coal on protected lands, even privately-owned lands.  Last year, Ohio Valley Coal Co. filed for a permit to run a coal mine directly under Barkcamp State Park, a move resisted by the Sierra Club.  The Columbus Dispatch reports that in Ohio alone mineral rights have been applied for in 18 state forests, 24 state parks, and 53 natural areas, all endorsed by Republicans who have forgotten their own heritage.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Coyle House

Curiosity creates wonderful things, and curiosity is easy to satisfy.  People seldom get an opportunity to talk about themselves and share their lives, so it is a rare occasion when people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to share of themselves.  Charles Kuralt made a career out of following his curiosity, and it helped him build “A Life on the Road,” which was also the title of his autobiography.    It’s a principle I’ve seldom had the chance to pursue, but here’s one small example of the idea at work, which gave me a chance to meet some nice people.

I love the colors and the great attention to detail.

We were on our way with the family to visit Kings Gap Mansion and state park, near Carlisle, PA.  We were just riding down the road when we passed a house that riveted my attention.  It was an old home, but it had been beautifully and tastefully preserved.  I wanted a picture of it, but when we returned that afternoon, the sun was in the west and the house was covered with the shade of a large tree.  I was determined to return the next morning and ask permission of the owners to take a picture of their home.

I found the owner in the driveway when I returned the next day.  He introduced himself as Clyde Widener.  A bit suspicious at first as to why I was there and what I wanted, he warmed quickly when he understood that my interest was in something that he had dedicated a lot of himself to.   Their home was the Coyle House, built in 1901, as part of the Coyle Lumber and Millworks.  The millworks, still operating diagonally across Old York Road from the Widener’s, was started in 1879 and originally ran off the water power created by Yellow Breeches Creek, which runs directly behind Widener’s home.  (I have paddled the Yellow Breeches.  Well, I paddled most of it, and swam the last bit while upside down.)  The millworks was operated by four generations of Coyles for over a hundred years, being sold after the death of William Coyle in 1992.  They still make solid wood windows, doors, and cabinetry, in addition to special custom jobs.

The cooking house still stands directly behind the Wideners’ home.  Meals were prepared there to both reduce fire risk in the house, and also keep the house cooler during the summer.  A hand pump by the back porch was used to pump water up from the cold creek so they could bathe right there on the porch.  There was a lot less traffic by the house in those days.  Mr. Widener took special delight in showing me the moldings around the eaves and windows.  When they bought the house, many of those custom-made moldings were in bad condition, and several sections were missing entirely.  On a lark, he went over to the millworks to see if there was any way they could make a molding that would come close to matching.  To his amazement, they still had the original handmade molding cutter blades from a century before.  It’s refreshing to find that there are indeed still a few places in America where everything isn’t thrown out with the release of the newest catalog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Handmade by Jean

This is just one design of dozens of Jean's handmade gift
enclosure cards for weddings, births, graduations, or any
other occasion you can think of.  She really does beautiful
work, if I do say so, but you're welcome to agree.  Many
are hand-painted, making them real collector's items.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kings Gap Mansion

Kings Gap Mansion from the front lawn.  A tent is set up to the
left for a wedding.

The James McCormick Cameron summer mansion at Kings Gap, PA, is but a footnote in this long trail of old money, but an impressive footnote well worth the visit.  To start at the head of the trail, James’ grandfather, Simon Cameron, was Abraham Lincoln’s first Secretary of War and a United States Senator four times.  The family began buying up land around Harrisburg, Carlisle, and Lancaster, PA, having five simultaneous summer estates available for the family’s use during Simon’s life.  A son, James Cameron, served as Secretary of War under Pres. Ulysses S. Grant.  James McCormick Cameron was born in Harrisburg in 1865, the end of the Civil War.  He attended Harrisburg Academy and Exeter and Harvard College, and studied law under his father.  After college, he decided to enter the steel business, which had also been part of his grandfather’s commercial enterprises.  James operated steel furnaces, owned the Iron and Steel Company, owned the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company, was director of the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad Company, was director of the Harrisburg Bridge Company, director of the Harrisburg Railway Company, and a member of the Dauphin Deposit Trust Company bank.

The front of the mansion as seen from the driveway as approaching
the entry portico.

The panorama of the surrounding countryside as seen from the
flagstone patio.

Wanting to escape the summer heat in the city of Harrisburg, he decided to build a mountain-top mansion in 1908 to enjoy the cooler breezes.  Being afraid of fire, the mansion was built of Antietam quartzite stone, which was quarried from a nearby ridge.  Being innovative for the time, it was also the first structure in the area to utilize a new construction technique employing steel-reinforced concrete for interior elements of the building to make it as fireproof as possible.  It was originally designed as an Italian villa of 32 rooms with large windows and a huge flagstone terrace to partake of the cooling breezes coming up the mountain.  While caretakers remained at the mansion year-round, the family only stayed there from May until October, between 1908 and 1948.

Another view from the terrace, half of which is covered for shade, 
leaving half open in full sunlight.

The water tank and tower to supply water to the gardens and the
mansion.  An apartment sat below the tank.

The property also includes a water tower, large gardens, ice house, caretakers’ house, generator building, and carriage house.  The first floor of the mansion is open to the public on Sunday afternoons from Memorial Day until October, and both floors are open the first two Sundays of December for the Christmas celebration.  The 200-ft. long building was enlarged to 38 rooms during a renovation project begun in 2000 to include an environmental education center.  The property’s 2,531 acres on South Mountain comprises the Kings Gap State Park with 18-miles of hiking trails.  Current uses of the mansion range from an orienteering course, conference center, educational courses, overnight lodging, and is a favorite venue for weddings.

Beautiful gardens included flowers, herbs, and a pond.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Monarchs

It was a Sunday bike ride, part of my 3-P-100 (paddle, peddle, or plod 100 miles/month), that took me by several fields of Helianthus, a lower classification of sunflower.  In this one, I found a bunch of late migrating monarch butterflies.  I was hoping to get a picture of one with its wing outstretched, but there was enough of a breeze that as soon as they landed, like a sailor furling his sails, they would immediately flatten their wings.  The breeze would swing them into the wind where they could then pretty much ignore the wind as they inspected the blooms.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Low Overhead

The huge I-beams and hanging channel iron made it clear we weren't
going through here with the canoe intact.

We were on our way to a family reunion at Nockamixon State Park, near Quakertown, PA.  It was a convoluted route, so I had sought the assistance of Google Maps routing, and so the memories flooded in.

I drove tractor-trailers cross-country for several years to meet certain financial objectives.  It was in the early days of commercial GPS, and the first routing programs were of course for automobiles.  Regardless, trucking companies immediately latched hold of the technology, and so for many years drivers of eighteen-wheelers found themselves unwittingly following routes designed for compact cars.  If this led to a problem, both the solution and the consequences of any resulting wrecks fell on the drivers’ shoulders.  The driver is always responsible for everything.  The further one got to the North and East, where many remnants of the Revolutionary and Colonial periods of our history still remain, the more common the problems became.  Where roads were designed for horses and carts, or at most a team of horses and wagon, the driver of a 65 or 70-foot long vehicle would occasionally find himself facing a dog-leg in the middle of a railroad underpass where the kink in the roadway was too tight for anything much larger than the normal family car.  Or, a railroad grade would be so high above the roadway that a truck couldn’t cross it without getting hung-up on the tracks.  Or, the time my route brought me to an underpass that was literally so low a horse would have to duck its head to pass under.

So, on the way to Nockamixon, this is what Google brought me to.  While routing programs have improved greatly, problems can still pop up in front of the driver.  We had Ibi on the canoe rack, so even our pickup and canoe couldn’t get through here.  The objective of the height restriction is obvious---the 5-ton weight restriction posted to the left of the bridge.   One way to positively limit weight is to limit the size of vehicle that can pass through.  We found our way around the obstruction okay, but we couldn’t help but think about the fix we would have found ourselves in if we had been towing the RV with us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dry Paddles in Pennsylvania

We made the trip east for a family reunion.  This is not be a paddle-trip adventure, but I hope there are things of interest to our readers.  Ibi, our Superior Expedition decked-canoe was on the Ram for the entire 2,802 miles, but with family commitments and the need to have the truck available for kid shuttles, the only time the canoe got wet was the day and a half that we had showers.

"If you don't mind, you're blocking the doorway."  This is a couple
keeping house from our last litter.

We got underway and stopped to provision the RV in Enid, OK.  Since Jean’s latest batch of four squirrels were making the trip with us, we paused for their feeding, which was still taking place every four hours.   While headed up the Will Rogers Turnpike (U.S. Rt. 44), I saw a huge cluster of red and blue flashing lights ahead.  That awesome display of lights had to be a wreck, so I slowed and pulled into the left lane.   As I got closer, the lights slowly resolved into a pick-up towed trailer with a porta-potty mounted on top.  It was a comfort station for convicts working on highway clean-up, although we never saw a road crew either before or after encountering the potty-mobile.  That was the first time I had seen that.  A deputy sheriff drove the pick-up.  I can’t imagine this trained professional showing up for work every day to be assigned potty duty.

Beautiful morning glories growing on a red honeysuckle vine.  The
hummingbirds love them during the summer, and the combined foliage
makes a great haven for small birds now that the days are getting colder
and windier.

We stopped for the night at Marshfield, MO, at RV Express.  It is convenient for its closeness to the highway, and also a number of points of interest nearby.  While it is a very clean and friendly park, it is very small.  It is large enough for us, but small by the standards of the average RV park, and this was to provide an hour of entertainment.  A giant motorhome came in right behind us.  As if it wasn’t large enough on its own, it was towing a large panel trailer.  This must have been the driver’s first experience with handling the rig in such a tight spot, and since it was bearing Florida registration, one had to wonder how they managed to get from Florida to Missouri.  Anyone but the driver would have figured that the larger the vehicle, the wider the turning radius that would be needed.  The rig had to be worth a major fortune, and again proves that money doesn’t solve all problems.  The park is a single oval loop with one way in and one way out.  He needed to make a 180-degree turn, but instead of taking the outside radius to make the largest turn possible, he took the inside radius.  He made it less than half-way around the turn before he realized he was stuck, and was then jammed with a high curb both in front and behind him.  He had no idea how to maneuver the rig, and little inclination to follow the directions of the park manager, who was trying to help.  He and his motor-coach had a strangle hold on the entire RV park for nearly an hour.

Such wonderful colors.

These beautiful flowers definitely contribute more to the world than the people we met in our next experience.  On day three, we were east of Columbus, OH, when we stopped at a truck stop for gas, lunch, and, of course, to feed squirrels.  We were sitting in the parking lot when a car came in carrying four scruffy characters.  The show started as soon as they poured out of the car.  They quickly made it clear that they were from effin' Philadelphia, but then that was an adjective they attached to everything.  They went on non-stop about how they had driven all the way from effin' Philadelphia.  They had stopped for effin' gas when they discovered that they had an effin' flat.  They were livid when they discovered that ‘the effin' truck stop ain’t got no effin' air.’  The car and trunk were stuffed with a wide range of items from chunks of wood to loose clothing, all of which they threw out in the parking lot.  A couple men walked by and spoke to them.  They had strong accents, likely Slavic, and yet spoke better English than our effin' Philadelphians, who were undoubtedly the pride of those who have dedicated their lives to maintaining the educational and cultural standards of Philadelphia.  They returned to the convenience store for a bag of ice for their cooler.  Naturally, after dumping the ice, they threw the large plastic bag in the parking lot to blow around.   As they limped off, I went out to retrieve their trash and dispose of it.  I guess this is just how they were raised in Philadelphia.  All the while, Jean’s birds were sitting on the dinette table looking out the window with rapt attention to all the yelling and screaming.  Jean was waiting to see if the vulgar language had added anything to their vocabularies, but apparently even the birds have higher standards.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Downstream Toward Home

Photo Credit: Amazon

Downstream Toward Home: A Book of Rivers, by Oliver A. Houck (pub. by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA, 2014, 214pp plus bibliography)

The author shares a lifetime of experiences along roughly 30 rivers and streams that are scattered all over the country, and spanning the years between 1954 and 2013.  The book is a series of short stories that show that rivers just don’t flow and eddy along banks and rocks, but through people’s lives as well.  They include things like describing the types of people and vehicles most likely to help with a shuttle.  He tells about driving down a lonely country trail to check out a potential take-out.  The road ended in a turn-around littered with trash.  As he got out of his car and began to explore, he was still concealed behind some bushes when he observes a man dressed in a business suit and polished black leather shoes throwing dirt into a hole.  His suit jacket is neatly folded and laid over a branch.  He shovels and shovels to fill a rectangular hole just the dimensions needed to bury a human body.  The author quietly turns and follows his tracks back to his car.

The book covers a lot of trips for whitewater drops, but also many where he investigates environmental problems caused by poor governmental planning, or human stupidity or short-sightedness where people kill wildlife just to be killing wildlife, like trapping large birds in leg traps and then shooting them and throwing their bodies out to just float about in large numbers, or crayfish wars.  There are also numerous trips into wild isolated places where humans rarely invade.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Keen Edge

This photo is just a prop, but for safety reasons, a blade should
be left sunk in the chop block.

The hatchet or small axe is a perfectly appropriate camping tool, but often gets inaccurately blamed for being unsafe.  The only thing unsafe about a hatchet is the user.  We’ll cover a few other safety points here, but the one we’ll concentrate on now is the flying chunk of wood aiming for your face and eyes.  Physics demands that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  When we chop down with the hatchet, anything unrestrained will fly up, frequently sending a piece of wood flying into the face to cause injury by breaking eyeglasses, puncturing an eye, or causing a cut or puncture wound of the face.  This is simple to prevent.  If handled properly, it is something that should never happen.

This picture demonstrates a principle, not an actual requirement in the way of essential elements.  How we prevent free-flying wood is the requirement, not how we accomplish it.  We start with a safe chopping surface that avoids chopping into the ground.  Anything in the ground will damage the hatchet or axe blade, whether gravel, rock, or even the sand and dirt itself.  This chopping block is a section of tree trunk I acquired from a neighbor after she had a dead tree cut down.   When chopping, we need to secure both ends, the ends on either side of where we are cutting.  If I am holding one end of the piece of wood, something is needed to secure the other end, or it will fly into the air.  At home, where I have them available, I’ve just stuck the free end through a cinderblock.  At a campsite, I can stick the free end of the wood I am cutting under the fire ring, under a rock, or a log, or anything my imagination can conjure, just so I restrain the free end once cut.

Now, some other points:
1.      Always stand solidly on both feet, not balancing, straddling, or reaching across something.
2.      Chopping motion should always be directly down, vertical, into a cutting block, not in a swinging motion or arc.  Swinging is how hands, legs, and feet get injured.
3.      Always make sure the hatchet head is firmly attached (handle solidly set in the head, wedged, even epoxied in place), but never chop around bystanders.  Even the handle can slip from your hands.
4.      Be sure the blade is sharp, and kept sharp.  The duller a blade is, the more dangerous it is, since more force is needed, and the more likely it is to skip or glance off the wood.
5.      When splitting kindling, don’t try chopping it.  The smaller the pieces being split, the more important this is.  Use the hatchet as a wedge by setting the blade lightly into the wood, and then tapping the wood against the chopping block or driving the hatchet head with another piece of wood or something that won’t damage the hatchet head or handle.  NEVER split a piece of wood being held in your hand or braced with your foot.
6.      Cutting requires full attention.  When you become tired, or muscles are fatigued, it is time for a break.  Wood cutting calls for finesse, not force.  Avoid knots, and look for straight wood grain or cracks in the grain that betray the wood’s weak spot.
7.      Always keep the blade in a sheath or sunk in the chopping block.  If you need to carry the tool a short distance, be sure the blade is turned away from the body in the event that you trip.
8.      Lending a hatchet or axe to someone else is not a good idea unless you are 100% confident of their skill and maturity.  It may be their leg they chop, but it will still be your trip that will be ruined.  If they are someone likely to imagine themselves an Indian brave and the hatchet a tomahawk, keep the tool secured so you don’t suddenly see it flying through the air.  This reminds me of an advertisement I saw for “tactical tomahawks and throwing axes for beginners.”  There’s a scary image.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Triangle Tires

Delaminated tread and blown Triangle tire.

It’s not my place to tell you what you should or should not buy, so I’ll just lay out the facts and let you make your own decisions.  We had purchased an RV and were planning a trip to Pennsylvania with it.  The trailer hardly got used, spending most of its life stored in a shed.  In preparation for the trip, I crawled under the trailer to inspect the tires, and found myself lying there on the ground confused.  Half the tread was gone.  I couldn’t understand how the tires had worn so badly.  Trailer tires almost never wear out.  When they are replaced, it is because of age, not tread wear, but looking at the tread I thought, “Wow, I’m going to have keep an eye on these and replace them in another year or so.” 

So, we took off to Carlisle, PA, 1,400 miles away.  When we arrived, I checked the tires again and was surprised twice.  The first surprise was for how we managed to make the trip without blowing a tire, and again because the tires were now totally bald.  One showed a trace of tread, another a pale image of tread, and the remaining two were as smooth as racing slicks.  They needed to be replaced at once, but I needed to solve the mystery about what could have happened to them.  There was no sense putting new tires on if there was a problem, like axle alignment, that would destroy the new tires as well.  I called the RV dealer we had purchased the trailer from to pick his brain.  He hemmed and hawed a bit, and then said, “Look.  I need to be honest with you.  It is a bit embarrassing, but here it is.  The trailer manufacturer is not in the business of selling tires, but of building RV’s and getting them out the door.  They buy the cheapest Chinese tires they can find to put on as standard equipment.  We’ve had people leave here (Iowa) and not even make the West Coast before they are calling back to complain about their tires being bald.  Put good tires on the trailer, and you shouldn’t have any problem.”

I went to a tire dealer just a couple miles from where we were staying.  My daughter and son-in-law had done business with Highlands’ Tires in Carlisle, so I felt he’d steer us right.  I asked for Goodyear tires, but they didn’t have the tire I needed.  I told him I didn’t want any Chinese tires, and he said, “That’s tough.  Almost all tires are made in China now.  The Chinese do made some really bad tires, but they can also make some good ones.  I do have some Triangle tires in the size you need, and they do give good service.”  So I bought four new Triangle ST205/75R14 tires.  It was an expensive hit on vacation, but I had no choice.

A year later, we were making the same trip a second time with roughly 4,500 miles on the tires when a tire blew.  The outer steel belt delaminated violently, not only blowing the tire, but tearing the tandem wheel skirt off the side of the trailer causing more damage.  While again trying to solve the mystery as to why a tire should blow so prematurely, I wrote to Triangle Tires on their website.  I laid out all the conditions the tire had been used under, the diligent monitoring of tire pressure, the fact that the trailer is stored inside and therefore the tires were not exposed to UV degradation, and sought their input on the cause and a solution.  They never responded.  I wrote a second time, and they never responded.  I had also given them my phone number and mailing address, as well as email address, so it wasn’t a problem of not being able to contact me.  They chose to just blow me off. 

In the previous post, I had the account of the second Triangle tire delaminating and then going flat on the paddling trip to Medicine Park, OK.  I limped back home and went straight to the Goodyear dealer.  When they took the remaining Triangle tires off, they found a third had already delaminated across half with width of the tread, and it was ready to fail as well.  That was three tires that had delaminated by the time one tire was only a year old, and two more tires were only three years old.  When they asked if I wanted to keep the remaining Triangle as a spare, I told them I wanted to be rid of them all, and put on four new Goodyear Marathons.  I’ve had a long association with Goodyear tires, and a happy one, so I’m confident we have now finally solved the problem. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Highway Angels

Credit: Google images

No one needs to be introduced to the idea of river angels.  They are indeed a band of angels that line major shorelines and rivers to help paddlers with a wonderful home-cooked meal, a camping spot, a trip to the grocery, laundry, and even first-aid or medical assistance, all to help them continue on their way.  We had a chance recently to encounter a couple of highway angels.

We were headed for Medicine Park, OK, and Lake Lawtonka with our RV.  Driving south on Hwy. 54, south of Weatherford, OK, I suddenly heard a noise and felt a rumbling vibration.  I hit the brakes quickly to reduce speed, and Jean asked what was wrong.  “Blow out,” I said.  Like most rural roads in Oklahoma, there were no shoulders, and there were steep banks falling from either side of the pavement.  I was screwed, and had traffic behind me.  I turned the hazard lights on and crept along looking for a place large enough to escape with the trailer.

Finally I saw a farm drive ahead, and turned in.  I pulled off to the side of the driveway so I wouldn’t block anyone needing to get in or out, and walked toward the house to assure the owner that I’d be there only long enough to deal with my problem.  As I got near the house, I saw a man working on his fence line.  He was Ken Rose.  He not only had no problem with us being there in his drive, but asked if I had a good jack.  We have one, but not one I’d call ‘good.’  We had used it previously, and it fell a bit short of what I had hoped for.  Ken suggested I pull on up to the garage and use his 3-ton floor jack.  It made the job of changing the RV tire not only safer, but a breeze.  Ken’s wife, Susan, meanwhile had come out to invite Jean inside, or asked if we needed anything, like a drink or restroom.

I checked the spare tire air pressure as I put it on, and it was a bit low, so I asked Ken if there was a place where I could stop to get air as we continued south.  He said, “Sure, just follow me,” and led me around to his compressor.  Like most farmers way out in the country, he was set up to deal with almost any problem with tractors or trucks, and he turned it all right over to help us out.  They were angels indeed, because we would have been in a poor fix without their help.  It’s a shame they are so far away from us, because they are the type of folks that would be wonderful to become friends with.  Thanks to their help, we continued on to Medicine Park to enjoy several nice days.  It is heavenly to find we in fact have angels around us.  We’ve since purchased five new Goodyear tires and a two-ton floor jack.  More on the tires later.


Credit:  Abbey and the Vets
The headwaters of the Mississippi River as they started their
trip this spring.

3-P-100 for October was 108 miles.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Being Caribou

Credit: Being Caribou

Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot With a Caribou Herd, by Karsten Heuer.  (pub. by Walker & Co, New York, 2007, 48pp.)

REI decided to close all its stores and internet shopping site for Black Friday.  They felt that being outside was too important, and the best way to be thankful for what we have is to go outside and experience nature.  So instead of shopping, they are promoting the day as a nature day.  Now that is a non-capitalistic statement worth celebrating.

Well, this is the second time this has happened, but I actually don’t mind.  While preparing this post, I looked up the book shown above only to find it is listed as a children’s book.  I may be on Medicare, but it seems I still enjoy an occasional children’s book.  It was a coffee-table style book with a lot of wonderful photography.  I now see there are more mature editions in paperback, presumably with more words and fewer pictures, but either way you go, it is a great story about a wonderful experience shared by the authors.

Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison decided to live the lives that many of us only dream of.  Wanting to learn more about caribou, and wanting others to share their fear that oil exploitation may destroy the caribou calving grounds and perhaps even the lives of the caribou herds, they decided to follow the caribou into the Arctic and along their annual migration to produce both a book and film on the migration life cycle of the Porcupine caribou herd.  Their trip was made with 60-80 pound packs as they walked 1,000 miles over five months, following the roughly 127,000 caribou.  The book I read is only 48 pages, but is filled with beautiful color photography.  Please also watch the 72 minute film on the trip at:

Another film done by Heuer and Allison , that you will greatly enjoy, is about a cross-Canada trip in search of Farley Mowat.  Mowat was a prolific Canadian writer and environmentalist who died last year.  He had produced two movies and wrote five books, which were translated into 52 different languages, which have sold over 17-million copies.  This video can be found at:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Every Trail Has A Story

Every Trail Has a Story: Heritage Travel In Canada, by Bob Henderson.  Pub by Natural Heritage Books, Toronto, 2005, 242 pp plus notes and index.

The author and I share one thing in common.  It is the sense that it is not enough just to paddle a river or lake and marvel at the scenery and wildlife, but to seek greater enrichment by finding the feeling of the place, the history of those that have paddled there before, the stories of their lives and experiences that give the best flavor of the locale.  The author recounts the stories he has discovered, and the places he has specifically sought out because of stories he has heard. 

Henderson tells of special, spiritual places like Indian Stone, Warrior Rock, and Sweetgrass Butte that have had personal connections not just with whites, but for First Nations Blackfoot, Ojibwe, and Nez Perce people for thousands of years.  Their personal connections to these places are reflected in the petroglyphs.  He tells of swimming in the clear water off old fur-trading posts and finding pieces of old clay pipes left by the Voyageurs.  He gives you direct insight into the lives of fur-traders, like the baptisms celebrated by those making their first cross-country trips. 

You get insight into the lives and desperation of the gold-rushers.  For example, prospectors were required to carry a ton of supplies into the Yukon to they wouldn’t be looking to others to rescue them.  One man carried his load across the nearly 4,000-foot high Chilkoot Stampeder Gold Rush Trail.  When he reached the river, he built a boat to carry his gear into the prospecting area.  His boat was wrecked in a rapids and all his supplies were lost.  It took months to hike back over the same trail to the Pacific Coast, reprovision with another ton of equipment and food, and carry it back to the Yukon River and build another boat.  Pushing off into the river with determination, he started down the river and wrecked the second boat in the same rapids, again losing everything.  He pulled himself up on the river bank and committed suicide on the very spot that had twice defeated him.  Few of these men prospered.  Eighty-thousand of them crossed the mountains in two years.  Some failed and returned home.  Others moved to try new areas.  Some moved on to Alaska, and some became so entwined with the land they never returned home.  One, who entered the gold rush as a young man, remained until his death at the age of 88.  They would travel 300 miles on a sled to get groceries, or nearly the same distance a couple times a year to get mail.  So much took place there that Mark Twain wrote, “How wearing to have to read one hundred pages of history every three or four miles.”

He adds accounts of trips on skis, pack horse, and dogsled, of winter camping, a series on interesting women that have blazed trails across Canada and Labrador, and explores the fascinating world of the hermit or recluse.  It is an interesting book, and reflects the author’s excitement in exploring the wilderness.