Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cart Portage

I’ve spent the last couple days going through all my gear to see what could be multi-purposed or left behind, trying to reduce weight as much as possible.  While we were at Canoecopia, I purchased a Cooke Custom Sewing (http://www.cookecustomsewing.com/) Explorer Hybrid canoe pack, which is comparable to the standard #3 Duluth canoe pack.  With everything packed, here’s what I ended up with:
Camp Bag: tent, ground clothes, stakes, spare stove bottle, sleeping bag and mat, pillow = 24 lbs.
Food sack: meals and snacks for two weeks = 24 lbs.
Wanagan: all cooking gear, coffee, tea, drink mix, soap, medicines = 10 lbs.
Canoe Pack: foul weather gear, camp shoes, Hippies, dry suit, clothing, SPOT, GPS, guide & maps, map case, and  everything else not mentioned above = 30 lbs.

So, with canoe, cart, food, water, gear, and provisions, the weight on the ground all came to 177 lbs.  With the canoe on the cart, I jiggled and jostled until the canoe was balanced, attached a tow line and pole to the bow, and off we went to give the cart portage a go.  All went well on the pavement and packed gravel, but in thick grass, I could feel every one of those 177 pounds.

The tow line was fastened to the bow handle and the forward thwart on the canoe, and then to a wide web belt I put around my waist.  It took only a couple miles to realize that with no skeletal support at the waist, that put all the strain on my spine, and I soon began to develop a sore back.  I stopped in the parking lot of the vo-tech school, lengthened both the line and pole, and after a short trial with the belt over one shoulder, pulled the belt up around my chest.  That helped a lot, but was still not the solution.  With this set up, however, I struck out and did 4.77 miles, which is just one mile shy of the Grand Portage.

It was obvious I needed a harness that would employ both my torso and shoulders.  My thoughts logically turned to the man-overboard safety harnesses that had seen Jean and I safely across several ocean crossings and thousands of miles of open sea.  I won’t need the tether, since that leads from the front of the harness, or chest, but will wear just the harness with the tow line looped through the back of the harness.  Short of putting a motor on the cart, I think that is as good as it will get. 
While a canoe portage wouldn’t meet with a second thought up in New England, you have to appreciate the humor in towing a loaded canoe through cattle and wheat country, in the part of the country Gen. Zebulon Pike called the Great American Desert.  I had a couple vehicles slow down to about 5 mph as they passed.  I had to assume they were giving me a good stare, as I couldn’t see them through their heavily tinted windows.  One woman did pull alongside and roll her window down to ask, “Are you alright?”  “Fine,” I said, pointing at the loaded canoe, “just out for a little stress training.”  “Oh, that’s cool,” and she pulled away with a thumbs-up.

The best reaction was from about a 12-year-old girl that pulled her bike alongside to ask, “Do you mind telling me what the heck you’re doing!”  I offered a brief explanation that didn’t register, so she added with a giggle, “What is this, your new car?”  “Sure, “I said, “and the other two wheels are supposed to be delivered next week.” 

With a smirk, she said, “Well, I don’t know about all this, but your clothes need a major makeover.”  Taking on the role of fashion police, she continued.  “First of all, it’s summer time.  It’s time to lose that hat.  And that red scarf around your neck just isn’t a good look.  It doesn’t work.  Also, the long sleeved shirt and long pants.  Like I said, it’s summer time.  You should be wearing a tank top and shorts, or at least a short-sleeved tee shire.”
I tried to explain.  “This is a wicking shirt.  The long sleeves are for sun protection, and the shirt draws sweat away to keep me cool.  And, I rarely wear shorts unless I’m going swimming, and they’re called trunks.”
“Trunks!!  No one has said trunks for like---forever.  Forget that word.  Promise you’ll never say trunks again.  They are called swimsuits.”
Feeling the generational gap, I said, “Men wear trunks, women wear swimsuits.”
“No.  No.  Men and women both wear swimsuits.  There are no trunks.”
“What is that, some PC unisex word to use the same term for both men and women?”
“Yeah, now you got it.  But never say trunks again.  And who the heck are you anyhow? as she changed the subject.

Altogether, it was a richly rewarding exercise.  I got a chance to do a portage dry run to test the cart, towing set-up, and test myself, and got a free fashion makeover all at the same time.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Credit: npr.org
The Price of Freedom, Opportunity, Personal Rights, Voting,
and everything else we take for granted.

Planning for the NFCT

Taken as a whole, the two guides, the 13 maps, and some help
from Google Earth, and the tools on the NFCT site, and you are
all set.

Planning for such a trip takes some time, so don’t be in a rush.  First, get acquainted with the NFCT by checking out their official site at http://www.northernforestcanoetrail.org/  You will find a wealth of information here from a description of the trail, an interactive map that will enable you to follow the trail on the screen while seeing all of the points of interest and resources available for the entire trail, or any point along the way.  You can read the blogs of previous Through-Paddlers, and their insight will prove valuable as you read the guides and begin to comprehend the obstacles being encountered.  Read the questions and answers section for a good overview.  Then, become a member.  Membership helps to support the work on the trail, and also offers discounts on the guides and maps you will need to purchase; a win-win.
To really appreciate the trail, you have to comprehend the amount of work contributed by an army of volunteers along the length of the trail.  They build steps in wood and stone to help paddlers ascend steep banks for portages and campsites, clear and create new campsites, build lean-to’s, picnic tables, fire pits, privies, sign-in boxes and kiosks, and follow-up with ongoing maintenance.  There won’t be a day go by that you won’t reap the benefits of hundreds of helping hands.  

The Official Guide

There are two guides for the paddler planning to tackle the trail.  “The Northern Forest Canoe Trail: The Official Guidebook” is a 302-page detailed breakdown on every twist and turn from Old Forge, NY, to Fort Kent, ME.  The second guide is “The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Through-Paddler’s Companion,” by Katina Daanen.  Katina is herself a Through-Paddler, and writes to address the specific needs of the paddler on the trail.  This is 240 pages plus index.  So, wouldn’t you expect them to be pretty much the same?  Well, No!

Most trails follow a specific route, and that trail’s official guide carries the paddler along that route, and in a prescribed direction.  The Florida Saltwater Circumnavigation Paddling Trail goes counter-clockwise around the coast of Florida, and the other trails, like the Georgia Trail, the Intracoastal Waterway, all follow the counter-clockwise movement around the Eastern United States.  The rivers, Missouri and Mississippi, go in one direction from source to sea.  All references, all mileage counts, all shore identifications, all navigational markers assume you are following the prescribed route.  If you are not, the consistency of downstream and source-to-sea makes it easy to realize that all references will be reversed.  No problem.  The NFCT guide, however, assumes you are a section paddler picking rivers you can float, or rapids you can run.  This approach is undoubtedly used because they feel the bulk of their visitors will be sectional paddlers.  For the Through-Paddler, however, it becomes confusing at times.  This is not to take away from the trove of valuable information the guide provides, just the mental gymnastics needed to be going in one direction yourself while the guide is going forward, back, forward, back, etc. to follow the current flow of every stream you encounter.

The Through-Paddler's Companion

Katina Daanen puts all the confusion to rest with her “Northern Forest Canoe Trail Through-Paddler’s Companion.”  Every section of trail includes all the information needed to progress steadily with all the  portages, types of portages, the map to use for each section, the distances involved, types of waterways or challenges to be encountered, the services available, points of interest, and lodging/camping options, and a narrative to tie everything together.  Additional information is added on poisonous plants, pests, wildlife, and how to handle them, route planning, skills needed, boats and carts to use, safety and awareness, camping, water and food, and much, much more.  She helps you pronounce all of the unusual names, and lists every applicable service available in every town along the way with address, phone number, and, using the NFCT kiosk near the landing as the reference point, the distance needed to walk to get to each one.

The bottom line is this.  They are both outstanding guides.  If you are a sectional paddler/vacationer, get the official guide.  If you are a Through-Paddler, then the Through-Paddler’s Companion is a must.  If you suffer from a touch of OCD, like myself, by all means get them both.  I bought the official guide with the maps on line after becoming a NFCT member, and then got Katina’s ‘companion’ from her (autographed) at Canoecopia.  In either case, the guides accompany the essential maps.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail

I guess I had it bass ackwards.  If I had the time and was able to do them all, I envisioned doing the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) as a training ground for doing the full Mississippi River, and that as a ground breaker for the Missouri River.  Then I saw the video with Norman Miller seeing Kris Laurie and his cousin (http://www.avoidingbarges.com/#) off on the next leg of their Missouri River Source-to-Sea trip.  As the paddlers pushed away from the shore, someone behind the camera suggested to them that once they got the Missouri done, they should go try the NFCT.  After getting deeper into the true nature of the NFCT, I now sense the trail is more a doctoral dissertation than an indoctrination.

In my naiveté, when I approached the idea of the NFCT, I was drawn to the pictures of flatwater paddles through quiet, pastoral streams in company with beaver, loons, and moose, shade-dappled banks topped by round barns, white-spired churches, and classic Victorian New England architecture.  But wait, I thought, all of New England is mountains.  There’s no way to have flatwater through mountain ranges.  As I continued to dig deeper, shreds of reality began to invade my tranquil mental images.  Two guide books and a stack of maps later, here is some of that reality.

First, if you don’t have an acquaintance with the NFCT, it is a 740-mile water trail through four states (New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) with about a three-day foray into Quebec.  It includes 22 rivers, 56 lakes, 3 wildlife refuges, 40 communities, many with provisioning, lodging, and outfitting services, and 62 portages.  There are 35 segments covered by thirteen maps.  It starts in Old Forge, NY, traverses the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain, plays tag with some of the Appalachian Trail, and finishes as far north as one can go in this country, by the Canadian border, in Fort Kent, ME.  To tackle the trail with confidence, the Through-Paddler should be experienced with paddling through Class III rapids, open big-water crossings, navigation, poling, lining and tracking, portaging, and primitive camping.  And, the paddler should be able to deal with leeches, mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums, ticks, and wildlife.  If done by segment, some areas are perfectly suited to novice paddlers.  The segment paddler can pick and choose both location and timing.  The Through-Paddler, however, does not have such luxury, and must conquer the challenges as they appear.

Now, here’s the hook.  Let’s go back to the 62 portages I glossed over real fast.  They are supposed to cover a total of 55 miles, with the longest portage being 5.7 miles on the Grand Portage, and with much of it wheel-able.   Heck, I thought, that’s a nice long walk, but no big deal.  But, then there’s more of that reality stuff.  Those 62 portages that total 55 miles come with the assumption that you can do all those Class III rapids, including the 162 miles upstream against the Class I, II, and III rapids and current, can manage the lining and tracking and poling, and that by some huge miracle you reach each and every stream when it has optimum water levels.  However, what happens if you don’t possess all those skills, especially while managing a sluggish, loaded canoe, or find yourself faced with dry creek beds and rock gardens?  Most of those deficiencies can be allowed for by portaging around those obstructions. 

Two of the emphasized skills that are required---and stressed---are common sense and good judgment.  If you are paddling solo, you need to take extra precautions.  Any risks experienced are now that much greater when there is the chance of injury or the loss of camping gear and food during a capsize.  If bravado overpowers good judgment, perhaps the scattered broken canoe parts along the trail will encourage greater consideration.  If your skills are so great that you can honestly negate those risks, great, but if not, then you have to mitigate those risks by hitting the portage trail.  In my case, after planning out the entire route, I totaled all the potential portages that could result from great caution or bad luck, and came out with an estimate of 189 miles of portaging while carrying or dragging a canoe loaded with a hundred or so pounds of provisions and gear.  A few of those portages have double-digit mileage, and dragging is done over roughly 6,000 feet of changes in elevation over the course of the trail.  Now, THAT is reality.  But here’s another reality that helps to offset those fearsome stats.  If you had only one canoe trip to make in a lifetime, the NFCT, the longest totally inland water trail in America, should be it.  The trail offers the solitude and beauty of the Boundary Waters, raging rapids to Class V, as well as those meandering streams that I found beckoning to me, challenges for both the novice and experienced paddler, every kind of spectacular scenery from bogs to mountain crests, long lists of flora and fauna and geology, chances to proclaim your navigational skills and then get lost, and share the tons of history lived by thousands of years of Native Americans, trappers, lumberjacks, traders, settlers, and exuberant fishermen.  The trail is awesome.  Most people pick and choose the sections they want to do so they are almost always going downstream, and time their trips for the best water levels.  Finishing the trail as a Through-Paddler, however, is a totally different animal.  There is no best time of year to make a Through-Paddle.  The trail changes so much through its course that all kinds of variables will be encountered regardless of season.  Part of the challenge is in mentally and physically meeting those variables and overcoming them.  Succeeding as a Through-Paddler is a huge accomplishment, and only 27 people can stake their claim as a Self-Propelled Through-Paddler.  There are other categories, however, such as an Integrated Through-Paddler, those who utilize a shuttle for completing one or more legs, and the Sectional Paddler, who does the entire trail, a piece at a time, usually going downstream, and over several years.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Paddle Cart

Before I start, we’ve had two new folks join Log of Ibi as subscribers.  Thank you for joining us, and a continued ‘thank you’ to all of you that have been long-time subscribers.  The second-most-recent to come aboard was Anne Muntean, a paddler from Ogden Dunes, Indiana.  The most recent, just yesterday, was Sandy Tarburton, the Membership and Communications Director for Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  Thanks, Sandy.  I’ll be out there paddling while knowing you all will be peeking over my shoulder the whole way, and not feel so alone.

Ibi, a heavier Superior Expedition decked-canoe on the PaddleCart
after the new stainless axle replacement

 I’ve had the PaddleCart (http://www.paddlecart.com/) for quite a few years.  It is everything it was promised to be and has served me extremely well.  On the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a reliable canoe cart is essential, and there has been a long list of carts that have failed to make the grade.  While reading blogs from previous through-paddlers, I’ve seen reports of broken plastic wheels, failed bearings, failed axles, and failed frames.  The PaddleCart is one that has had no breakdowns on the portage trail.  It is rugged, yet light, being made of welded aluminum, and it can be quickly disassembled for storage in any stage of readiness.

The old aluminum axle about to be replaced was
again slightly bent at both ends.

Nothing is perfect, however, and in spite of the dependability of this cart, there have been a couple things I’ve had to address as glitches in R&D.  First, I purchased the Dually, which has four large wheels and tires.  This model greatly aids moving the load through mud, sand, grass, gravel, or normal trail obstructions.  The four wheels also mean you have immediate backup for flats or bearing problems.  I started getting flat tires from sand burrs.  The first thing I did was replace the thin, standard equipment tubes with thick puncture-resistance tubes.  As a further precaution, I installed tire liners like those I had purchased to stop bicycle tire flats, and put them in each of the four tires.  In the five years since, I have never experienced another flat tire.

Buffalo Gal is ready to go with a new axle, and I anticipate
no further problems.

If you order a PaddleCart now, you will not experience this last issue.  The cart was originally all aluminum, including the axle rod.  The projected load capacity, consequently, was low.  I called PaddleCart, and emailed them, saying that they needed to change to a stainless steel axle.  The weight of many boats would reach their load limits while empty, and any camping gear and provisions would make them overloaded.  My aluminum axle had been bent.  A couple paddling friends asked to borrow my cart to bring their boats from the beach, through the state park, and to the parking area.  I found out later that instead of moving them one at a time, they had erred in loading both boats on the cart at once.  I straightened the axle, but with the weakening of the axle from the metal fatigue caused by bending and straightening, particularly with aluminum, I’ve never been able to fully trust the cart since.  I knew I had to get the new stainless axle before attempting the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.   I never received any acknowledgement to my communications, and perhaps others were telling them the same thing, but they did change to a stainless axle.  As a small company, they couldn’t afford to eat the expense of a recall, but they did supply the replacement axle and carriage frame at cost.  I now have 100% confidence that I can portage indefinitely with no further concerns.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Taking Buffalo Gal for a Walk

Buffalo Gal with the NFCT decal on the bow.

Katina Daanen’s “Through-Paddler’s Companion” lists every portage, but more importantly, it breaks each portage into what portion is wheelable, and what is not.  She even breaks some of them down to ‘wheelable with difficulty,’ indicating where roots, rocks, or other problems may make using a cart difficult.  Unfortunately, most of the hand carries, versus portage cart carries, appear early in the trip, and one is 1.3 miles.  Later, the portages are longer, but are mostly wheelable with an appropriate cart. 

With a new hat on top, and my Keen hiking shoes on the bottom,
it was time to give it a shot.

With the canoe yoke done, it was time to make a portage and try everything out.  The wind yesterday was blowing about 20-25 mph, but I tried to make a portage as we took a break from watching the radar for tornado development.  It was like carrying a sheet of plywood on a windy day, as the wind tried to spin me and the canoe first one way, and then the other.  The pads pressed into my neck muscles and caused a lot of strain.  I went about a quarter mile, and was done.  After a bit of thought, I decided the pads must be too close, so I moved them outboard on the yoke so they had a 20 cm separation.

This morning, I tried the portage again before the wind got up to normal strength.  It was only about 15 mph.  The separation of the pads made all the difference in the world.  I walked a full mile with two short stops of 2-3 minutes to give the shoulders a break, one at a half-mile, and the second at about eight-tenths of a mile in.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but upon my return, I took a tape measure and measured the spread on the Adirondack pack canoe yoke.  It is 19 cm, so I know now I’m in the right ballpark, and am happy with the results. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Yoke's Final Touches

The finished yoke.

With the end fittings installed so the yoke can be attached to the gunwales of the canoe, this is what the finished yoke looks like.  (I don’t think you can beat the beauty of cherry wood.)  Instead of probably $110 for the commercially created yoke with shipping cost and hardware, I probably have less than $10 in this, plus the satisfaction of creating it myself.

End clamp detail.  To keep the bar from twisting and coming undone,
the outboard end is routed to grip the top of the gunwale, and the
inboard end is cut to sit over a brass key set into the step or post.

 The pads are two pieces of 4 X 8” by ¾” inch marine Harborlite plywood.  Harborlite is certainly not cheap, but I had this on hand from previous boat projects.  Any exterior plywood with the end grains sealed and the entire block then painted would provide good service.  I contact-glued four pieces of closed-cell foam together to fit on the plywood.  Two bolts were set through the plywood and epoxied in place, and the end grain of the ply was also epoxied.  The bolts are 3.5” apart so they will span the width of the yoke regardless of where the pads cross the yoke.  Two pieces of aluminum bar stock were cut and drilled to fit over the bolts and grip the yoke, and two wing nuts completed the need for quick but secure tightening.  The finishing touch was wrapping the pads in vinyl covered material.  I would have preferred stapling the vinyl on with Monel or stainless staples, but had depleted my supply on hand, and such things are not available in NW Oklahoma.

The yoke and pads fitted on Buffalo Gal, the Mohawk Odyssey 15.

Here’s something you may wish to consider if you haven’t already done so.  In the lower left corner of the picture with the yoke in place on Buffalo Gal, you will see a bright orange sticker.  This is a USCG “Vessel Identification Sticker for Canoe, Kayak, or Rowboat."  The one I have on the boat is an earlier edition of the one pictured, but the function is the same.  Before attaching the sticker to the boat, you should take an indelible marker and provide your name and a couple phone numbers.  The rugged adhesive holds the vinyl sticker in place for years. The Coast Guard, along with Natural Resources departments and police agencies, have had problems for years with finding small craft sunk, stranded, or floating down a river with no identification on them.  They don’t know if the boat has been stolen, if it simply floated away from the shore, or if it means that someone is in distress.  Being able to establish ownership and contact someone with knowledge of why the boat may be where it was found, and if they know whether someone is supposed to be paddling with it, goes a long way to returning lost or stolen boats, or to initiate searches and rescues if there’s no apparent reasons why the paddler and boat have been separated.  The USCG Auxiliary has had the stickers on hand in years past, so they may be the first place to find several free stickers for your craft.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Great Salt Plains Lake, OK

Credit: Google Images
Indian Blankets are the Oklahoma State Flower, and the park
had a great display of blossoms on hand.

We got away for the weekend to take our granddaughter camping at the Great Salt Plains Lake State Park, north of Jet, OK.  The lake is formed by the joining of Medicine Lodge River, Driftwood Creek, and the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River.  In spite of supposedly being fed by three tributaries, the years have been too numerous that all of those have dried up leaving the outflow of the lake as dry as the empty riverbed below.  The outflow is just called the Salt Fork of the Arkansas, and seeing it with water flowing was a pleasant shock.

None of the canoes got to go for the ride as winds were forecast to gust to 25 mph on Saturday, and 30 on Sunday.  Down in the river valley between the surrounding hills, and below the walls of the dam, we could see the tree tops dancing, but we just had a good breeze in the campground.  Even that died down enough Saturday evening for a campfire, and for Maggie to make s’mores.

It would prove to be a wildlife weekend, and guess who forgot the camera.  Grrrr!  That’s the one thing a blogger should grab even before his pants, but I ended up with pants and no camera.

Jean sat at the picnic table Friday evening and watched a doe and two very young fawns.  Being on a major flyway, this area is always great for seeing birds, and this weekend was not going to disappoint.  We saw scarlet tanager, cardinals, orioles, gold finch, and of course egrets and Great Blue Heron, and all day we were fascinated by a pair of Bluebirds as they rushed about to feed their five young fledglings.  Then, each night we were serenaded by nighthawks and owls.  We also got to enjoy a full array of wildflowers that were in bloom in reds, oranges, yellow, white, blue, purple, and salmon.  Next time, I’ll even take the camera.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Making A Portage Yoke

Two of my three canoes came with portage yokes.  The Superior Expedition has an adjustable tractor seat, which if you remove it and put it back in inverted, a portage yoke was fitted to the bottom side of the seat.  My ultra-light Kevlar Hornbeck 14 also came with a removable cherry portage yoke which quickly attaches to the gunwales with bolts and wing nuts.  The Mohawk Odyssey 15, however, has no yoke, and being made of Royalex, is substantially heavier than the Hornbeck.  There were two solutions.  The first is to buy a yoke and mounting gear ($95.00 + shipping for an ash yoke and gunwale hardware from Piragis; or, from Jem Watercraft, the gunwale mounting hardware is $40 alone, without a yoke, or $57 for both yoke and hardware.). Or secondly, make a yoke and buy your own hardware.

This is the whole pattern with the panels taped together and transferred
to the rough-sawn wood.  If needed, you can zoom in for closer inspection.

The first necessity was making a pattern for the yoke.  Neither of the yokes from the other two canoes, due to their proprietary design, would work as a pattern for a classic portage yoke.  Jem Watercraft, however, does have a free pattern for making a yoke.  There is one little wrinkle you need to take note of.  For the pattern to be printed to scale, the printed pattern panels, of which there are five, need to measure 9-inches in length.  The first time I printed it, the panels measured 8 13/16”.  When I realized the printer was set to “fit” rather than “actual size”, just clicking “actual size” corrected the problem.  Not checking the scale will obviously make your pattern useless.  The pattern is printed as five panels, which you assemble by just joining the patterns, A to A, B to B, and so on, and taping them together.

Then, there’s the choice of woods.  Ash is the most common, but cherry is also listed as a choice for those who care more about aesthetics.  My choice was simple.  I have zero ash in the shop, but about 1,000 board feet of cherry, so cherry it is.

The pattern will give you a long yoke that you can cut to length 
to fit your canoe.  This has been planed, had the edges rounded 
with a 1/2 inch router, and pre-shortened a bit.  A bit of wood was 
left for final fitting, as the Mohawk has both sheer and tumblehome.

Here the pattern transfer is done with a sharp stylus, awl, or tack.  To transfer the pattern to the wood, I use two methods.  To transfer a pattern to planed wood, I use carbon transfer paper.  If the wood is rough finished, you can either plane first, or with a hard wood, like cherry, getting rid of most of the wood makes the planing that much easier.  Make a series of dotted perforations along the pattern lines, remove the pattern, and pencil a line to join the dots.  For transferring patterns to smooth wood, there are several techniques illustrated on You Tube.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Camping's Top Secrets

Cover Credit: Rowman & Littlefield

Camping’s Top Secrets: A Lexicon of Camping Tips Only the Experts Know, 3rd Edition,  by Cliff Jacobson
(Pub. by Falcon Guides, part of Morris Book Publishing, Guilford, CT and Helena, MT, 2006, 242 pp. plus appendix and index.)

The book lists subjects from A to Y and covers every potential subject from weather, rigging a canoe, treating drinking water, maintaining, improving, and selecting tents and shelters, animal and insect encounters, cooking, first aid, maps, compass and GPS use, camping clothing, gear, sleeping bags, wilderness ethics, knives and axes, lightning, packs, rain gear, selecting and using line, survival, and an appendix of recommended reading and his list of recommended suppliers and products.  How much more could you seek in a book review, or the book itself, other than to say that these are but a few of the 79 topics covered.  Unlike a lot of book that become dated, with the third edition, the author keeps his information up-to-date with the newest materials and techniques.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ghost Town 2

This is the easily identifiable Oklahoma-style home of the period,
and many surviving cookie-cutter homes may still be found in almost 
any of the old towns.

The town of Lenora sprang up in the bend of the Canadian River on Cheyenne-Arapaho land when it was opened for non-Indian settlement in 1892.  The first post office appeared in 1896 when this little dot on the map was the largest town in what would become Dewey County.  By 1900, it would have a population of about 400, and at one time there was consideration of moving the county seat from Taloga to Lenora.  It then claimed a hotel, restaurant, two saloons (the mark of any successful Western town), two doctors that would make house calls night or day, three general stores, a meat market, confectionery, drugstore, hardware store, harness shop, a bank, lumberyard, a well-driller, cotton gin, gristmill, a school, churches, a weekly newspaper, and several civic organizations including the Masons, Eastern Star, Royal Neighbors, Woodsmen of the World, and Odd Fellows.  As the world marched by, Lenora withered, and even the post office left town in 1955.  At the time Morris’ book was published, the Methodist church was still in use and a gas station and garage still operated on Main Street.

One of a home's most useful tools just discarded.

There is now little evidence of any of this Land Run prosperity.  There are a couple of the old houses still standing, one of which stands by itself, while another one or two are so entangled in weeds, brush, and trees to be made unidentifiable.  The Methodist church was abandoned for a new one, and I believe we found the old garage with a painted admonition still visible on the wall to keep work areas clean.  Beyond that, even the ghosts have left town, and Lenora exists in name only.

This is the South Canadian River.

Found in the woods near the new bridge is the trestle of the original
bridge that the settlers would have used.  It is interesting in some of
these areas to find old relics.  At one site, I found the remains of the
original bridge trestle written about as the one used by covered supply
wagons carrying settlers and U.S. Army supplies from one fort to another,
like from Fort Reno to Fort Supply and beyond.  If interested, you can
read more of the Fort Supply and wagon train era in archives for June
10,11, and 12, 2012.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lenora Ghost Town

The church is buried in wild vegetation, but the gate at the end of the
sidewalk that led to the door can't help but make one think of the families
and newlyweds that ventured into the world from this sanctuary.

I asked my brother if he had been reading my blog.  He said that he had found it, but it just looked like a bunch of stuff about Oklahoma.  I apologize to my paddling readers, but in a state where there is more history than water, it is easy to go adrift.  I feel justified in some of it, because my paddling takes me into the history, like the articles about Medicine Park and Comanche Village, but some of it is just the result of life’s twists and turns.  This is one of those.

In the church's entryway was an old Lehman cistern water pump, which
has a series of cups on a continuous chain that rotate down into the water
as one cranks the handle on the side of the pump.

It was one of those days when nothing was happening, and nothing was going to happen, and we felt imprisoned in our little burgh.  We just needed to get out of town for a while.  It was time for a drive.  I had seen a short piece some time back about Oklahoma ghost towns, so I did a quick internet search.  The closest ‘ghost town’ to us was Lenora.  There was little information to be found except that it was once called “The Pearl of the Prairie.”  So, it was time to go pearl hunting. 

The pulpit, a couple old pews, and heater were left behind in the old
church when the congregation moved to the new Methodist Church.

 I went digging for more information later, and the history was not easy to find.  Most of what I found started with a book, “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma”, by John Wesley Morris, 1978, Page 120.  Lenora was named for two of its earliest settlers, Lee Moore and Nora Stovall.  It was home to John “Joe” Ventioner, a U.S. Deputy Marshall, who ended the criminal career of outlaw “Red Buck” Weightman.   I don’t know if this story is about Deputy Ventioner, but a lawman in town swore he would give away all of his guns.  He uttered his vow in disgust when he failed to hit a dime thrown into the air on his 86th birthday.

An old garage and store are all that are left of a once prosperous
Pearl of the Prairie.
The story about the demise of George ‘Red Buck’ Weightman, one of the most ruthless outlaws of the West, began before Ventioner’s involvement.  Red Buck, so named because of his red hair, was part of the Doolin-Dalton gang.  He had killed numerous men, plus three U.S. Deputies, was a horse and cattle thief, bank robber, and would kill any man for $50.  He had tried to shoot Marshal Bill Tilghman in the back, but was stopped by Bill Doolin.  After a train robbery in Dover, OK, the gang tried to hide out on a minister’s farm, but Red Buck murdered the Baptist preacher while stealing his horse.  While stealing a rancher’s herd, he shot the rancher for objecting to the theft.  Doolin felt Red Buck was such a liability, he kicked him out of the gang, but that didn’t do a thing to slow his criminal career.  After assembling his own crew, Red Buck committed several more murders throughout Oklahoma and Texas.  Hearing the Red Buck was back in the area, Ventioner and two other marshals gave chase.  They followed the crew to a farm near Arapaho, OK, south of Lenora, on March 4, 1896.  In the gun battle that followed, Ventioner killed Red Buck, whose partner, George Miller, shot Ventioner in the abdomen.  Red Buck went to the Arapaho Cemetery.  Ventioner went home to recuperate.
George 'Red Buck' Weightman on display when no one
claimed his body.  Credit: True West Magazine

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Something Old, Something New

No we’re not planning a wedding, or I’d also have to find something borrowed, something blue.  However, this part of the country is hardly more than about 150 years old, for the most part, so old and new can often be found side by side.  We were just out for a ride when these two presented themselves.

I have had several pictures of homesteads that were established by folks from the Land Runs.  Even when they disappear, there are traces left behind, like old fences, gates, foundations, and here, a concrete silo.  The farm itself has disappeared long ago, and the land that surrounded the home and barn are now part of a field of wheat.  The silo was well built, and may even have survived a tornado or other severe weather, and would prove too difficult to remove.  So, it has remained, and a tree had grown up through the cylinder to provide a huge shock of vegetation, and is all that remains here of perhaps an entire generation of folks that lived close to the earth.

One of the cleanest, best maintained well sites around.

Traveling in any direction will clearly highlight the Oklahoma state symbol, the oil well.  I know, the state bird is the scissor-tailed flycatcher, and the state flower is the Indian blanket, but the oil well is the true Oklahoma symbol through and through, and much more evident than either the flycatcher or Indian blanket blooms.  There is no aspect of Oklahoma that is not over-shadowed by the oil and gas industry, from the legislature and governor, to education, to the state budget and tax structure, to law and order, elderly care, medical or psychiatric care, to science, which one Oklahoma U.S. senator claims doesn’t exist, to anything else you care to mention.  The real state symbol, therefore, is not hard to find.  At least a bright yellow field of canola adds a bit of color to this one.

Monday, May 2, 2016

No Parking

I guess this is Native American humor.  When you have little, look on the light side, so here's a 'no parking' sign on the prairie, in the middle of nowhere.  In spite of what the sign says, there's no place to park, there's nothing to look out on, and there's no point.  Oh, maybe that is the point.