Saturday, January 30, 2016

Epic Wanderer


Epic Wanderer: David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West, by D’Arcy Jenish (pub. by the University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2003, 293pp. plus index and bibliography)

As a fur trader, explorer, surveyor, artist, mapmaker, and an entrepreneur, who spent 28-years in the Canadian wilds, David Thompson did as much for Canada as anyone else we can name, and yet, he died penniless and obscure in 1857, being unknown to the public until the “David Thompson’s Narrative” was published in 1916.  Thompson's
 story began after he left a school for the poor in London at the age of 14, and sailed in May, 1784, for Churchill Factory, Hudson’s Bay, to work as an apprentice in the fur trade.

Thompson quickly became known to Hudson Bay Company partners for his meticulous work ethic, mathematical skills, and navigational abilities.  His thirst for exploration and travel was something they were happy to satisfy, as he traveled all over Canada, recorded the magnetic heading of every stream, did celestial observations to record the exact location of every bend, island, cliff, rapids, falls, and transformed all this information into the best maps of the time.  His maps were created on huge paper sheets that would cover entire walls.  Plans for establishing forts, trading posts, and seek natural resources  were all based on his maps by those both in Canada, the U.S., and back in London.  He established the boundary between Canada and the United States.  Also, Thompson had traveled more than any other man.  Only three other expeditions had been led to the Pacific, those by Simon Fraser and Alexander Mackenzie in Canada, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in the United States, but Thompson had traveling more than any other man, covering over 50,000 miles.  He also kept extensive journals on both his work and all of his adventures.  This book is taken from those journals, and will give you as precise an understanding of the man and the young and previously unknown country as you will find anywhere. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ibi's Day Out - 3

Credit: WindPaddle Sails
My set-up looks a little different from what this picture shows.  
First, my sail is yellow to match Ibi’s deck.  Then, this young 
lady looks a heck of a lot cuter with her sail than I do with mine.  
What can you do?

From the north end of the lake, I continued south to the very southwest corner of the lake where a stream connects to Lake Elmer Thomas.  Another sand and gravel beach there made a wonderful place for a lunch break.  With the wind blowing straight out of the southwest, the water off the beach was flat, and the wind would carry me straight back to the campground.  I had carried my WindPaddle Cruiser sail along, and since I rarely get the chance to use it, I popped it open for a downwind run back home.  It carried me right back to the beach, where I could relax and enjoy the full moon over the lake.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ibi's Day Out - 2

About halfway down the lake, I saw an island in the center, and decided to investigate, since it was time for a break to stretch my legs.  I expected that the landing would be thick, red, clay-based mud, but it was firm gravel and sand, so I was out for a walk.  To my surprise, an old building sat in the middle of the island, obviously dating back before the flooding of the region, and constructed of the same red cobblestones seen in Medicine Park.  The lake level was down about four feet, but during higher water, the washing of the waves against the foundation of the building had undermined the walls, which had collapsed.  A concrete front porch is still evident, but trees have grown up through the center of the remains.  I originally thought it had been an old home, but I called the lake office to investigate it and the two large concrete structures I had found in the first bay north of the campground.  It turned out that the building had been a small store.  The concrete structures, and another between them that is totally submerged, were piers for a bridge that carried the road out to the store.

As I entered this bay, I was curious about two huge monolithic
concrete structures I encountered, this one with a cormorant
perched on top.  The docking cleats mounted on top were even
more bizzare.  Looking closely, you can see one on the top near
the right end.

Viewing the two structures together with the docking cleat again
visible on top.

Looking across the prairie towards the mountains as 
sunset approaches, and viewed from the north end of the lake.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ibi's Day Out on Latonka

This is what Lake Latonka looked like the morning I got up for
what was supposed to be my paddling day.  That is what led us
to take the day in Medicine Park.

The settled weather forecast for yesterday finally arrived today.  I loaded Ibi on the canoe cart and walked her to the beach for an easy launch.  Jean walked along to see me off.  Lake Lawtonka has a 19-mile shoreline.  I paddled north to do the shoreline in a counterclockwise direction.  I was earnestly hoping that I’d get a chance to see an elk along the shore, but wildlife was limited to coots, herons, cormorants, geese, a few sandhill cranes, even fewer lonely mergansers, but a lot of pelicans.  I continued north until I reached a long peninsula that juts to the southwest.  Once I rounded it, I could reach the headwaters and a marina/campground complex along the Meers-Porter Mill Road.  Just then, unfortunately, a breeze sprang up from the south.  Considering how unsettled the weather had been, I was concerned about being too far downwind if the wind strengthened, so I cut across to the western shore and paddled south along the base of Mount Scott.

Mergansers aren't common here, so I was pleased to see them.

The white American pelican, however, can be seen in flocks
of hundreds.

Isn't it nice to be able to take your hard-shelled camper wherever
you go.  As an aside, I just learned that Chesapeake Light Craft
has designed a tear-drop camper trailer for the same construction
methods used for their canoe and kayak building.  They are now
finishing the construction manual and video, which should be ready
shortly.  If you'd like a closer look, go to:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

This was the bison we sat and watched for about a half hour.  In
the background is Quanah Parker Lake.

So here I sit at 4:30 a.m., awake and unable to get back to sleep.  It isn't waking up that's the problem, but my mind waking up.  It won't shut up and let me get back to sleep.

So, anyhow, leaving Mount Scott, we continued into the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.  Elk were reported to be in the area, as well as buffalo.  The 59,000 acre wildlife area runs along the north boundary of the Fort Sill Military Reservation.  The artillery explosions continued all day, every day, and signs along the roadway, reading “Caution, Impact Area”, warned against getting out and wandering about.  Also, this is still a wild area in spite of the presence of humans passing through, and an artillery officer had been struck and killed by a rattle snake just before our visit.  We saw buffalo, properly called bison, but elk are best spotted at sunrise and sunset, and we missed out there.

Flocks of wild turkeys wandered about and just seemed as unconcerned
about us as could be.  For the best pictures, we could just move ahead of
them and wait for them to come to us.   Pretty cool!

At one time the American plains were home to 60-million buffalo.  They were hunted and slaughtered to near extinction, and by the turn of the 19th century, could be found only in two small herds making a total of 550 buffalo in the entire country.  In 1905, a move was begun to acquire and reintroduce buffalo to the Oklahoma plains.  I thought it was hilarious that they had to turn to the New York Zoological Society and the Bronx Zoo to acquire 15 buffalo, 9 cows and 6 bulls.  Maybe it’s just my sense of humor, but I equated that with an eskimo having to go to Zimbabwe for ice cubes.  They were crated and loaded in boxcars for a seven-day, 1,500 mile trip to the railhead at Cache, OK.  Hundreds of people, including the Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, came out on October 18, 1907, to see their crates reloaded on wagons for the 13-mile ride to the wildlife refuge.  From 550 bison nationwide, there is now a healthy herd of 650 bison in the Wichita refuge alone, and annual auctions are held to sell Texas Longhorn cattle and bison to maintain proper herd populations.

Everyone has seen a colt frolicking in a sand patch on its back, feet flailing in the air as it dusts itself and scratches its back.  Seeing a 2,000 pound bull bison doing the same things is something else again and makes a significantly greater impression.  He’d lay on his back and twist and turn until he had gyrated out of his dirt patch, then get up, move back to the best spot, and do it again.  After he had resolved all the itchy patches on his back, he rolled onto his hunches and knees (carpus), and rocked forward and back scrubbing his belly on the ground.  With all that taken care of, he got back on his feet, had a good shake all over, and returned to grazing.

This is Antelope Flats, a prairie region in the refuge where the
wildlife roam free.

During all this I made an inspection tour of the lakes in the wildlife area.  There were Lakes Elmer Thomas, Johnson, and Quanah Parker.  We also found another campground we hadn’t seen mentioned before, Camp Doris, which puts you right in the middle of the wildlife refuge.

Here's that elk I missed seeing.  I borrowed this picture from the
wildlife service photo file.

Okay, wish me luck.  I'm going back to bed.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Last Visit to Mount Scott

Just a couple of the remaining pictures from Medicine Park and
Mount Scott.

These boulders do roll down the mountain.  There were thousands
we saw that had already made the trip, and some of them leave
you with the impression that they could rain down at any minute.

Some more yellow and orange lichens, and trees in crevices but
determine to survive the best they can.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Computer is Shaking

Credit: U.S. Geodetic Survey

Yesterday, in a single day, there were 19 earthquakes in Fairview according to the USGS.  The larger ones were 3.7, 4.0, 4.7, and 4.8.  Yet the injection wells in this area last night were going full-bore with lines of trucks waiting to unload more fluids at the injection wells at the same time that the earth was trembling beneath their feet.  There have been another eleven so far today.  We get news warnings about the impending “big one”, and advice from experts and scientists about how the home owner can mitigate their damage.  How damned stupid is that?  Why concentrate on how to mitigate damage and totally ignore the cause of the earthquakes?  Why are we not hearing anything about what the state is doing to prevent the quakes, namely shutting down the injection wells and fracking so as to prevent the big one, rather than advice about securing TV’s and bookcases.  Wells in affluent neighborhoods around Edmund have been ordered to stop injection, while wells operated around Fairview are being told that the same measures are a ‘suggestion’, which they openly state they fully intend to ignore.  France and Bulgaria have outlawed fracking because of the risks.  Pennsylvania has stopped fracking statewide because of the hazards.  Florida has already unanimously passed a ban on fracking in one house of their legislature and anticipate its passage.  Michigan passed a liability presumption law that holds any company or person injecting a single, repeat, single, hazardous chemical near public water liable for all damages.  In the last five years, over 100 bills have been introduced in 19 states dealing with hazards posed by fracking and injection.  What progress have we made in Oklahoma to deal with potential threats to public health or earthquake causation or promotion?  Are we really so bound and intimidated by oil and gas companies and lobbyists that all of our legislators, the governor, and regulatory agencies are willing to follow blindly into disaster and widespread financial loss just to appease oil and gas companies?  Yes, I know drilling interests say earthquakes are not related to fracking and injection, and their spin machines rave about how devoted they are to environmental protections, and we are in the position we find ourselves because too many uninformed people blindly and unquestioning swallow whatever they dish out.  The media just parrots what they say word for word.  We are in the position we are in because financial interests have been allowed to operate in the shadows with no challenges to what they say.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Captured Heartbeats

Photo credit: from Rich's Facebook page

If you haven’t caught up with Rich Brand yet, this trip will be an interesting one to watch.  This will be a circumnavigation of the Eastern United States that will total roughly 7,300 miles.  Those that have done the trip before ran about 6,000 miles.  The difference is that this trip is planned to run around the Gaspe Peninsula and up the St. Lawrence Seaway rather than the normal course through the Hudson River and Erie Barge Canal.

The paddler is Rich Brand from Denver, CO.  He pushed off from north of New Orleans at 11:03 this morning (Sunday, the 3rd).  
The map for tracking his progress may be found at:
His Facebook page is at:
And his blog is at:

For your convenience, so they can be accessed directly from here, the tracker map has been added in the right margin under Favorite Links, and the blog is under it at Favorite Blogs.

A Trip to the Top

From the top of Mount Scott, you can look down the chain of 
mountains that, one behind the other, line up to look like the
teeth of a saw.

Mount Scott was named for General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), the longest serving army general in U. S. history.  He was commissioned a captain of the Army’s Light Artillery in 1808, shortly before his 22nd birthday.  Serving as a commissioned officer for 53 years, he held a general’s rank for 20 years.  You can name any conflict between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, and Scott was either there or otherwise involved.  He campaigned for the Presidency in 1852, but was defeated by Franklin Pierce.

It is amazing that delicate flowers can persevere to grow in the
most hostile and uninviting places.  Maybe there's a lesson
about life here.

A road corkscrews around the mountain to its top.  It has several overview pull-outs where motorists can stop for photography, but the view of the plains and mountains from the summit is worth the wait.  The road was opened in 1938.  A private company was given the contract to build the road in 150 days.  They went bankrupt and destroyed all their equipment when they faced solid granite walls 20 to 60 feet thick.  Engineering was obviously new in the area, as they were surprised by how hard granite was to drill and break, even with explosives.  Ironically, the boulders are broken up by lichen, a symbiotic combination of algae and fungi, which sends its roots into the granite, making it more and more porous over time and susceptible to weathering.  The mountains become smaller boulders, rocks, stones, gravel, sand, and ultimately the ubiquitous blowing Oklahoma dust.

Unlike most mountains where earth settles into the crevices to help
settle boulders in place. these just remain in place out of habit and
some fine and seemingly insecure balancing acts.

Leaving Mount Scott, we continued into the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.  Elk were reported to be in the area, as well as buffalo.  The 59,000 acre wildlife area runs along the north boundary of the Fort Sill Military Reservation.  The artillery explosions continued all day, every day, and signs along the roadway, reading “Caution, Impact Area”, warned against getting out and wandering about.  Also, this is still a wild area in spite of the presence of humans passing through, and an artillery officer had been struck and killed by a rattle snake just before our visit.  We saw buffalo, properly called bison, but elk are best spotted at sunrise and sunset, and we missed out there.

I found the orange and yellow lichen interesting.  You can see 
the orange here, with a touch of yellow, but a lot of yellow around
the pictures purple flowers.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Credit: Celebrate the Seasons

Happy New Year
Happy New Resolutions
Happily Achieve with Small, CONSISTENT Steps
Happy New Attitude, even in the Worst of Times
Happy New Canoe, Kayak, or SUP
Happy New Paddle
Happy New Destinations
Happy New Campsites
Many Happy Returns from Trips due to Constant Thoughts of Safety First
Happy New Year