Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lake Perry

Buddy, my 14-ft. Hornbeck Adirondack pack canoe, waits while
a disabled fishing boat limps back to its trailer.

Anyone that has ever done any type of construction, or just stood there and watched the construction being done, knows Ditch Witch.  It has been the go-to machine for trenching to lay pipe, cable, telecommunications lines or anything else that has gone underground since 1949.  Perry is the birthplace of Ditch Witch by the Charles Machine Works Company. 

On September 16, 1893, 100,000 men, women, and children would rush west from the county line when the gun fired at noon in order to lay their claim to Indian land the U.S. Government had opened for settlement.  By nightfall, 40,000 tents were erected in the new town.  The record for both speed and entrepreneurialship goes to Jack Tearney, who arrived on the town plat in 31 minutes.  By 4 p.m., he had erected the “Blue Bell Saloon,” and was selling beer for a dollar a bottle, a price he justified because of the lack of water.  According to inflation, that glass of beer would now cost $25.64.  He sold 38,000 glasses of beer.  The blossoming new town became known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” and within short order, others hoping to cash in on Jack’s success had erected about 110 saloons and gambling houses.  Most of them were within the half block east of the current town square.

It's no surprise that Lake Perry is ringed by oil pumping rigs.  It is
powered by that huge one-cylinder engine behind it.

Perry’s second historical name was Wharton, named after the train station built in 1886 by the Southern Kansas Railway as part of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.  After the land run of 1893, the U.S. Government established a land office in Wharton to oversee this and other land office towns.   The office administrator was J. A. Perry, so thus Wharton became the town of Perry, which remains as the smallest town in Oklahoma with its own newspaper. 

For those with an interest in the Old West, Perry played its part as the target of both the Dalton gang, and the Doolin gang, when they wanted to rob a train.  After one such foray by the Dalton gang, Charlie Bryant fell ill and was taken 52 miles WSW to Hennessey to see a doctor.  Deputy Marshall Ed Short spotted Bryant and arrested him.  During an escape attempt, Bryant and Deputy Short ended by killing each other in a gun shootout. 

When anything is seen on shore, it is usually just another head of cattle.
This time we chanced to catch a head of donkey.

If you wish to paddle Lake Perry, you may be confused to find two of them.  Google Earth gets confused too.  Perry lies on I-35, half-way between Oklahoma City and the Kansas state line.  There is the little Perry Lake south of town on 4th Street in the town park, which is east of I-35.  Then you will find Lake Perry south of town on Cty. Rt. N3180, which is west of I-35.  The names get used interchangeably.  The confusion could be avoided, and the names more descriptive, if the first was called the Perry Park Pond, but no one has ever called to ask my opinion. 

Lake Perry was built in 1937 as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps work project.  The lake and facilities remain much as when they were first built, which will be most evident in the restrooms.  The lake has a 13-mile shoreline, is a haven for bass and trout fishing, and has RV and primitive camping available.  The fees are $5/day for boating, another $5/day for fishing, $5/day for tent camping, and $25/day for RV camping.  Questions can be directed to (580)572-9465.  There is one small single-lane concrete ramp at L36.25014N, Lo97.33616W on the east side of the lake.

Do I stay, or do I go?  Do I stay, or do I (splash)...

I was anxious to get on the water both because recent high winds have left me sitting at home, and because the next 9-day forecast is full of non-stop severe storms and tornado threats.  I found the day to be full of surprises.  The first was the unusually high water level resulting from the recent heavy rains.  This left the water the color of tea with milk, and a visibility that only went to a depth of 4-inches if you really strained your eyes.  The water came all the way to the top of the ramp, and also flooded a bit of the loading float.  By comparison, the sky was crystal clear and blue with only tiny puffs of white cloud, and the wind was between 5-12 mph. 

Others were equally anxious to take the chance to get on the water.  I never see other paddlers with their canoes and kayaks in Oklahoma.  While on my 161-mile round-trip today, however, I spotted an SOT kayak on a trailer while I was enroute to the lake, and on the trip back home I saw a canoe on top of a Jeep.  Both were headed in the opposite directions.  Unusual for a Saturday, I only saw one other boat on the lake.  It was about a 12-foot aluminum deep-vee power boat that only ran in reverse because of the broken transmission in the outboard. 

The most evident thing for anyone wanting to paddle all the way around the lake is the absence of any place to stop for a break.  This may change at lower water levels, but I found two types of shoreline.  There was flooded vegetation that made it impossible to land or to reach the water from the land.  I did hear a sudden crashing and splashing that was obviously a deer that I had flushed out but never saw.  Where there was the rare gradual shoreline, it had all been fenced off with barbed wire.  This made it possible for cattle to cool themselves in the water, but impossible for a paddler to reach shore.  Every arm of the lake was blocked or constricted by barbed wire.  Most of the land around the lake has been taken over by livestock and oil pumping pads.  When I saw a sign forbidding waterskiing in any of the arms of the lake, I was mistakenly impressed.  I thought how nice it was that they were insuring the peace and tranquility for paddlers and fishermen.  After going around the lake, however, it was obvious the prohibition was to prevent skiers from having limbs amputated on the steel and wood posts and barbed wire. 

It was an enjoyable day in spite of the barbed wire, at least until I returned to the take-out.  There I found a group of about 15 loud ‘trumpian’ juveniles from about 5 to 16 years of age.  The total and continuous use of vulgarity, even with an adult woman in their midst, revealed the absolute absence of any parenting or guidance in their lives.  I always felt it was imperative for adults to monitor their language and behavior to provide a positive influence on youth.  I now feel perhaps the opposite is true: the young should avoid shocking their elders.  None of the group was capable of making a sentence, clause, or exhortation that didn’t contain a minimum of at least one four-letter F word.  There are nine parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles.  I never realized until now that f—k can be used in place of any or all of these.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough to avoid having my 73-year-old sensibilities negatively assailed.  The environment made me both sad and disgusted.  For someone that has spent his career associating with the dregs of society, that is indeed saying something---something sad for the future of our civilization.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How Our Planet Dies (Starvation?)

Credit: pinterest
This is a bee garden too beautiful for words, but the
same ends can be accomplished with a much more
modest beginning.
There can be little doubt that we are on the wrong track for our own survival.  Here’s a good indication.  The story on CBS that I heard stated that we have lost 80% of our pollinators in North America in the last 20 years.  Pollinators, for the most part, are bees and butterflies.  In real understandable terms, pollinators are responsible for one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat.  Without them, we cannot produce enough food to feed ourselves, let alone the rest of the world that we have historically exported to.  Between being on track to lose crops and potable water supplies from other causes, we all are looking at the foreseeable day when our children will suffer from both insufficient food and water.

Beautiful blossoms burst into bloom from new milkweeds
started this year.  There are annual milkweeds, but these
are perennials.  To tag them as weeds certainly doesn't fit.
I went looking for more data, and the picture gets more complicated depending on the species of bees or butterflies we are talking about.  For example, commercial beekeepers lost 44% of their hive populations in one year, 2015-2016.  Plus, not all pollinating bees live in hives.  Many species live their entire lives individually in plants and in the ground, but they also raise our crops.  Their numbers are estimated to have dropped by 96%, that is 96%, in the same 20 years.  Some species are believed to be already extinct.

This is our small beginning.  There are four o'clocks
in the background, orange milkweeds in the middle,
and bee balm in the foreground.  As they propagate, we
will continue to transplant further down the swale.

So, what can we do?  The current approach is to stop waiting for our governments to do anything.  We could start a whole on-line battle on what administration is eradicating the EPA, FEMA, the Food & Drug Administration and so on, and planning to destroy more efforts to protect food supplies, protect us from pesticides, etc.  And, the federal government isn’t the only problem.  Here in Oklahoma, the state is owned by the oil and gas industry.  There are ongoing problems with fracking, with water quality, with earthquakes, and too many other problems to get into, but the point is that the state has no intention of taking any measures to protect our citizens over the desires of the oil and gas industry’s demands for more tax gifts (otherwise called incentives), more tax breaks, more land rights, and so on.  They just won’t do it.  So if we can’t count on the federal government, and we can’t count on the state government, where do we turn?  The answer to that is the current move underway to get every homeowner to make a difference individually.  Here’s an example.

The four o'clocks are going gang busters.  They reseeded
from plants we had there last year.  The pollinators
love them.
We have a small swale (little gully or ravine) that runs down our back yard.  It is a mess to mow, and serves no useable function in our yard or lawn.  We are turning it into a bee and butterfly garden.  People are being encouraged to turn small tracts of ground into feeding stations for bees and butterflies.  Most people are familiar with the monarch butterfly, for example.  Twice a year, they migrate from between 3,000 and 5,000 miles to get between their summer and winter ‘homes’, with the difference in distance depending on starting and finishing points.  No single butterfly survives to make the entire trip.  Four different generations will be born, breed, hatch, and die before the great, great, grandchildren reach their destinations.  They feed and pollinate along their flight paths as they move.  Between insecticides, human lack of understanding, and loss of habitat, the monarchs are losing the ability to find enough food to keep going.  Our part comes in not understanding that many plants are essential, and spraying to kill anything that is not lawn destroys vital biodiversity.  Milkweed, for example, has been widely eradicated for this reason, and milkweed is what monarchs almost exclusively feed on.  People are being asked to dedicate poor areas of property, fence lines, back corners of yards, or fields not being actively used, to natural regions where they establish plants that are of value to bees, hummingbirds, ladybugs, and butterflies.  It reduces the property owner’s maintenance costs and time, provides critical plants for nature, and can be beautiful.  Many people think such an ignored area will look ratty, unattractive.  However, there are many plants that bloom for most of the summer, are beautiful, and like milkweed, for example, come in a wide range of colors and growing patterns.  Many folks call these areas bee gardens.  Here is one small link to explain this idea, but once you get started looking, you will find hundreds of such sites, and pictures of beautiful, not ratty, bee gardens.  They can vary between ‘left to nature’ and exquisitely fancy.  Please get hooked on this effort and jump right in.

Nibi Mocs update

Congratulations to Larry Ricker.  His NibiMocs site reached 500 subscribers today.  I'd like to think that some of you helped him reach that mark, and for that I say thank you.  If not, you still have the chance to join the ranks.  His links are in the original post.  You will really enjoy his videos, and you'll fall in love with Sam the Faithful. 

On my own front, I know I've been lazy in getting new posts out.  I've just been so depressed from not getting going myself that I've hardly had the motivation to move.  Again, I'll try to remedy that here shortly.  I just downloaded a bunch of pictures, and will start today on processing them and writing the narrative to accompany them in the posts.  Come back!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Help Larry Reach His Goal

Larry's campsite on Alder Lake.
Credit: LHR Images
Larry Ricker, who has a few aliases, like nibimocs and LHR Images, is an avid canoeist, photographer, and videographer.  While traveling with his sidekick, Sam, The Faithful, he paddles and camps throughout the Northern U.S, especially The Boundary Waters.  He has amassed a treasure trove of videos and photography that have to be loved by any paddler and nature-lover.  His work reveals his great love for what he is doing, and his gentle giant demeanor makes him easy to enjoy watching and listening to.  He’s what most of us would describe as the perfect paddling and camping companion.  If you aren’t familiar with his work, you need to do yourself a favor and check out his You Tube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/nibimocs.
Larry also likes sharing his work, meeting people on line, and hearing their comments and questions.  He would love to have you subscribe to his video channel.  At the sight above, just click ‘subscribe’ in the upper right corner, watch, like (if you do), and comment.  As of now, he has 485 subscribers, and is pushing to make 500.  Please be one of his 15 friends to help him reach his personal goal.  Subscribe, then sit back and enjoy.  Although, you may find that after watching a few videos, you’ll find you have to grab the boat and gear to hit the water yourself.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


One of Jean's babies on the backyard feeder.
Oklahoma is being Oklahoma.  For us or the squirrels, outdoor life is on hold while the wind holds at 25-30 mph, where it is supposed to hold day and night for most of the next week.  At least with the bird and squirrel feeders, they don't have to depend on climbing and jumping through the treetops.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

An Ounce of (footing) Protection

Here's the idea in progress.  It looks a bit nicer when the loose
gravel is removed, and isn't hard on the bottom of the canoe
as I had feared.

I reported back on January 2nd, how I had broken my tailbone on New Year’s Day while trying to start the year off with a bang.  It wasn’t quite the kind of bang I had had in mind. 

I tried to use one of the steepest ramps in the area, because the shoreline wasn’t accessible due to riprap.  The ramp was covered with slime after not being used for months.  While trying to step from the canoe, my feet flew out from under me faster than if I’d been on ice.  While forced to endure a forced period of inactivity for healing, I tried to explore how the injury could have been prevented. 

The problem was that I was using Crocs for water shoes.  Crocs have taken some recent steps to remedy their reputation for having no footing.  While they would appear to be a perfect solution to the need for water shoes, they in fact have been cited countless times by actual users for their failures in not providing foot protection or surefootedness.  I had begun to use them just in winter, because they fit well over the feet of my drysuit.  During the summer, I use proper Stohlquist Tideline booties.  So, the question remained as to what could be used in winter over my drysuit booties.  I wrote to REI with that question.  They recommended three solutions:
In all of these, they recommended going a size larger than normal to accommodate the drysuit.
Now that you’ve been given the ‘right’ way of solving the problem, the Scotsman in me has to admit that, as always, I went looking for an ‘economical’ solution to the problem.  This comes from my habit of NEVER throwing anything away if there’s a way of redeeming some remaining value from it.  To begin with, in fairness to Crocs, while they lack good footing even when new, these were several years old so were even more slippery than normal.  I wanted to add non-skid to the bottom of the shoes.  As most men, I believe that many of the world’s ills can be cured with either Duct tape or epoxy.  I couldn’t make a solid coating of epoxy on the sole of the shoe, because that would lead to cracking of either the epoxy or the shoe’s sole.  If I put non-skid only on the highest treads, the rubber in between would allow the shoe to perform normally while the non-skid would provide good traction.  For the non-skid, I went out on one of our country roads and scooped up a few pounds of gravel.  After a few screenings, I was left with something a bit more course than 36 grit sandpaper.  I brushed epoxy onto the shoe treads and then rolled the soles in the grit.  After I was able to be up and about somewhat comfortably, I went back to the ramp and tried out my new ‘slime busters’.  Now you have two options.  If you don’t have any water shoes, by all means get proper shoes. However, if you have old shoes that you think you can redeem, this solution actually works quite nicely.  I would still never try using this approach while trying to walk on or over rocks, but for just making it down a slimy ramp in one piece, it works.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Response to Trump

In response to Trump's short-sighted, unenlightened, and destructive
withdrawing from the world's efforts to protect our planet and our
future generations, many local governments and businesses have
stepped forward to make their own commitments.  This response
from the CEO of NEMO, manufacturers of camping gear, is very
responsive and well-reasoned.  I would encourage you to take the
few short minutes to read his response.
A Letter from NEMO Founder Cam Brensinger in Response to the Paris Agreement Withdrawal

Yesterday’s decision by the President to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is very disappointing to our team at NEMO. 

As passionate participants in outdoor activities ranging from mountaineering and backpacking, to skiing and climbing, surfing and paddling, and hunting and fishing, we are keenly aware of threats from receding glaciers, extended fire seasons, more extreme storms, weakening winters, rising sea levels, expanding tick populations, shrinking cold water fisheries, and much more. The outdoors is part of our identity and livelihood and a cherished asset we hope to preserve and pass along to our children. We can disagree about the solutions, and the climate agreement may not have been perfect, but its measures were voluntary and embraced by nearly every country in the world, not to mention so many of the world’s most informed scientists and biggest businesses. 

The business community knows addressing climate change is not only a moral obligation, but also the biggest economic opportunity of this century. And the U.S. military knows climate change is one of the top threats to our national security. If we care about our way of life, our economy and our security, tackling the difficult problem of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and rising surface temperatures should be the patriotic endeavor of our generation, much like putting a man on the moon and winning the cold war was for our parents.

Solving this problem as a nation could unite us together, heal some of our internal wounds, and provide the economic foundation and boost to our national morale we need to retain the mantle of the world’s only superpower for another hundred years. Failing to step up to this challenge will signal our inadequacy for that privilege and responsibility. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

Today we promise to double our own efforts toward sustainability. And because we are eternal optimists, we believe the historic misstep made by our government yesterday will ultimately have a paradoxical effect. Americans have a long and proud history of coming around to do the right thing. We aren’t always the first ones to embrace progress, but we usually finish strong. Let’s not let a lack of federal leadership dissuade us. And let’s not point our fingers at each other. Let’s instead come together, regardless of our other differences, and tackle this threat so our children can someday speak proudly of us and enjoy the same wonderful adventures outdoors we have enjoyed.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lake Hefner, Oklahoma City

The trail leads through the park and around the lake.  Here is a great
spot where a nice landing shore combines with grass and park benches
for a beautiful spot for stretching muscles.
The National Crime Index ranks cities across the country according to how safe a resident can expect to be.  At 100%, such a city would be the safest possible place to live.  Oklahoma City has an index of 7, meaning that only 7% of the cities in the country are more dangerous than OKC.  93% of all the cities in the country are safer.  Crime rates are higher in Oklahoma City than the national average, making almost any place else safer.  For example, the chance of being a victim of a violent crime nationally is 3.8/1000 residents.  The statistical odds in Oklahoma City are 7.7, or more than twice as likely.  Then individual posts on line, like this one from 2013, add to the negative reputation: “Hefner is one of the most crime-ridden areas in OKC.  It is the city’s number one hot spot for theft, burglary, robbery, and prostitution.  Avoid Hefner at all cost.”

But, while the dark side of Lake Hefner has been well publicized, is there a counterpoint?  I suppose it would be the effort the city has put into trying to create a beautiful and inviting green space with broad appeal.  There is Stars and Stripes Park with a large children’s playground, a golf course, two marinas for recreational boating, fishing, a nine-mile long paved jogging and biking path, an airport for radio-controlled planes, a YMCA sailing school, a convoluted shoreline at the south end of the lake with many forested bays that are havens for birds and waterfowl, and upscale restaurants along the east shore that provide dining with a view across the lake.  Lake Hefner is enjoyed and loved by thousands of local residents.  In spite of all this positive development, there are always stupid people that will seek out, or be drawn to, places where they can display their stupidity and perverted and evil natures.  Police have had to investigate assaults, robberies, and a problem with homo-sexual prostitution.  One sting alone netted 34 arrests for this activity, and police have begun regular patrols through the area.  Indeed, I saw the Oklahoma City Police patrolling even the most isolated areas around the lake while we were there.  So, what is the take-away from all this conflicting information?  I guess it would be that with any place, especially municipal parks where you can encounter two-legged wildlife, commonsense and good judgment should be practiced by the visitor.  Visit with a companion or more, utilize well-trafficked and populated areas, visit during daylight hours, especially in the mornings, and remain aware of your surroundings, which is really not different than warnings recommended for visiting shopping malls or anyplace else.  Our bottom line was this.  My wife had severe misgivings about visiting Lake Hefner.  She had indeed refused to go with me if I paddled there.  As I prepared for the trip, however, she finally agreed to go with me at the last minute.  In the end, we both greatly enjoyed the park and our day there. 

An egret poses nicely on a piling in a pier.
There are two things a paddler visiting the park should know.  There have been reports of overzealous marine enforcement on the lake that borders on harassment.  A lady I spoke with at the lake office said that has been addressed, and more efforts are being made to be more user-friendly so as to encourage more use of the lake.  One of the most unusual requirements has been for carrying running lights for paddle craft in broad daylight.  The city also requires the paddler to have a boating permit in possession while on the lake.  These are $6.25 daily for boating, another is required for fishing, and they are available also by the season.  The city has a number of local vendors where permits can be obtained.  See https://www.okc.gov/departments/parks-recreation/lakes-and-fishing/boating.

The lighthouse is along the east shore near several restaurants.  In
the evening, it makes a nice feature in a photograph of the sunset.
With a 100-mile drive to reach Lake Hefner, we got an early start.  Including a stop at Walmart’s sporting department for the boating permit, it was still 11:00 before we made it to the ramp.  (L35.54922N, Lo97.59534W)  The water was still cold, but it was a rare, calm day with air temperatures reaching 74.  Even though it was a Wednesday, the shoreline was well-populated with fishermen.  On the water, however, I was the only paddler, with fewer than six fishing boats encountered during the day.  I enjoyed the company of hundreds of waterfowl including egrets, herons, grebes, pelicans, Canada geese, gulls, Chinese geese, and osprey.  The Chinese geese are not at all sociable.  I saw one nesting on shore and wanted to take a picture, but the drakes were so noisy and aggressive, that even though I was already a good distance away, they made it clear that I’d better vacate the area or risk wearing a huge, violent goose as a hat.  I took the hint.

Ibi pausing for a rest in the southwest corner of the lake.

Lake Hefner was built in 1947 to improve water supplies for Oklahoma City.  While the south end of the lake is fairly natural and attractive, the north two-thirds of the shoreline is riprap, and the banks are high enough to provide little view of the surroundings.  The dam is at the north end.  The lake covers 2,500 acres with a 16.4 mile shoreline, and is up to 76-feet deep.  
On the way home, we stopped for dinner at the Tower CafĂ© in Okarche, OK.  This is a small town that sat on the old Chisolm Trail, and at the eastern end of the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservation.  In all, it was another day well lived.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Editor Note

I managed to find a couple pictures from American Horse that were from the afternoon of the trip and in another file.  Those have been added to the post for American Horse if you wish to take a look back.  Thanks.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Building Infrastructure for Ants


I've heard and read about this activity.  I even think I've seen it in movies, but this is the first time I've seen such construction on so large a scale.  When we visited Lake Ellsworth, we walked up to the dam.  Nearby we saw this line in the grass that extended from the woods clear across the grassed area above the dam.  Large ants had build a highway through the grass.  For ease of movement, everything that impeded their progress had been removed.  Grass had been cut off either side of the path and removed.  Gravel or leaves that they had to climb over or walk around were likewise removed.  If they couldn't pass it in the course of normal walking, it had to go.  It was really fascinating, and best of all, they didn't have to wait for federal funding to get the highway done.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

American Horse Lake

Several of the arms off of the lake have considerable stump fields.
American Horse Lake is located in Blaine County, OK, northwest of the town of Geary.  I spent some considerable time trying to find the source of the name for the lake without success.  The lake came from the damming of Squaw Creek in 1966, which runs through a ravine or canyon.  The lake has a 6.8 mile shoreline and depths of up to 70 feet. 

This was my second attempt to paddle American Horse Lake.  The first visit a couple years ago was when the lake was drained and closed for a reconstruction of the dam.  While water has returned to the lake, according to one visitor, the level is still below normal.  The first visit when the lake was dry was interesting in the number of rods and reels that I found on the canyon floor after being lost overboard through the years. 

Blaine County was created out of the 1892 Land Run across lands promised to the Creek and Seminole Tribes after their forced relocation during the 1820’s and 1830’s.  The area was also the home of Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck.  Not surprisingly, he became known as ‘Ducky’ and passed away in Los Angeles in 1985.

This shot of Buddy was taken on the St. Croix National Scenic River
between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

We had been experiencing April weather in February, when I made this trip, and between warmth and the healing of my bone fracture, it was time to hit the water.  The state was under a blanket of dense fog.  The forecast was for the temperature to climb close to 70 degrees, and the fog to clear off by noon.  Hoping for clearing skies, I took the time to enjoy blueberry pancakes with my wife before heading south.  Just south of town I saw a roadrunner crossing the road in front of me.  It finished its frantic run by taking flight when it reached the shoulder.  I think that was the first time I have ever seen a flying roadrunner.  The new experience sent me to Google.  It turns out that they rarely fly, because they can run at 20 mph.  They are more inclined to fly to evade a predator (Wile E. Coyote) or to descend a steep bank or hill, but can usually fly only for a minute.  The latter was the case this morning, and when the roadrunner reached the edge of the road, it took off to fly down through a deep ravine.  We always think in terms of car travel, but roadrunners got their name from routinely racing alongside horse-drawn carriages and wagons.  Anyone that has spent time at sea is accustomed to seeing porpoise racing alongside boats and ships, and it seems horses provided just the competitive pace the roadrunners enjoyed. 

Looking up an arm of the lake.  The fog still just clears the trees. 

Between the towns of Greenfield and Geary, I headed west on Cty. Rd. E0940.  It is an 11-mile run west to the sign for the lake pointing south on Cty. Rd. N2520.  When I came through a tree clearing, I saw a herd of a dozen white-tailed deer just off the road on my left that I suppose were equally disoriented by the fog.  My camera was still in its dry bag.  That was not going to be an issue, because as soon as I slowed, they threw their tails in the air and headed for the cover of the woods.   

American Horse Lake offers some confusion for those wanting to launch powerboats onto the lake.  Varying signs I saw said no powerboats capable of more than 6 mph, electric trolling motors only, or bank and tube fishing only.  Any of the above is a boon for paddlers.  There is one concrete ramp and a few picnic tables.  Primitive camping is permitted (no toilet facilities) for a maximum of 3 days.  You would need to carry water.  While the lake’s search page mentions a water well, the hand pump has been stolen and not replaced to date.   

Visibility was still limited when I launched, and blowing mist made the camera a challenge, but we paddled the circumference of the lake.  The water is clear.  The ravine was not bulldozed when the dam was built, so many trees that grew there are still in place in the lake.  There are two main braches and a number of fingers that make exploring the shoreline interesting.  The shoreline is blanketed with countless nickel-sized white freshwater clams.  I spotted one blue heron, and three or four kingfishers.   

I turned on the heater and listened to the radio as I headed from the lake for home and the Super Bowl.  The radio announcer said, “Regardless of what the forecasters promised, we just have to admit that the rest of the day is going to be plain yukky.”  It was fine with me.  I had been in the canoe and on the water. 
This was a day very well lived.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Coming Storms

If I suddenly disappear, it may be that we have joined Dorothy and Toto somewhere over Kansas.  We have tornadoes forecast starting this evening, and the chances continue at least through next week.  I've moved things around so we can drop directly into the storm shelter, made sure the spiders are vacuumed out, water jugs are at the ready, the battery-powered light, rations and screw-lid bucket are in place, and the phones are fully charged.  Then it's just a matter of staying glued to the TV and computer-generated radar screen.  The broadcast stations out of Oklahoma City do a very good job of analyzing storm probabilities and tracks.  So good a job, in fact, that they preempt all other broadcasting so there is no option but to sit and obsess over the possible looming doom.  It is rather like lying on your back looking up at the guillotine blade.  It becomes quite impossible to look away or think about anything else.

On a happier note, this is the latest litter of critters to come out of the shop.  These bunnies have already hopped off to their new homes.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Oklahoma Bike Ride

Everyday can't be a paddling day.  When the wind is blowing hard, it's
time to resort to the gears on the bike.  Out where there are no
visible address markers, gate signs help you find your way.
Open Oklahoma prairie. 
Name something that takes whatever it wants, wherever it wants, whenever
it wants, with or without permission, takes, takes, and takes, and never
gives anything back.  That, of course, would be the oil and gas industry. 
Years and years of the state legislature giving the industry concessions,
tax breaks, and incentives have left the state 900 million dollars in debt. 
                     Part of that is the lobby arm-twisting, and part of it is the stupidity of
the legislators allowing themselves to be led by the nose, or corrupt enough
to be bought off.  In any event, education suffers, infrastructure
suffers, emergency services suffer, everything suffers, but when oil and gas
is asked to chip in and pay their way, to show appreciation for all they
have been given for free, they still want more.  So, here, while they can't
afford to help rebuild the roads that their heavy, oversized truck loads
destroy, they can still afford to put yet another pipeline across
private land.
There are no end of dirt roads.  These sometimes allow the only chance to
see sights never visible from the paved highways.

When a highway is paved, what happens to the dirt road grader? 
 Sometimes it is just pulled off to the side of the road to provide
decades of interest to break up the endless prairie.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Lake Ellsworth - Part 2

A juvenile Great Blue Heron leapt into flight from Chandler Creek.
I continued up the lake until I was far enough into the headwaters to have only a foot of water.  Telegraph or phone poles and fence posts were found frequently that were left from the days before the lake was built.  Lacking water depth, I crossed to the north shore and followed it west as I continued to explore the shoreline.  Only 25 feet or so from the shore, I repeatedly felt strands of spider web across my face.  Others were draped across the canoe and other parts of my body, so by the time I got back, I had a decent population of stowaway spiders with me. 

The shore varies from gradual to rocky and bold like this spot where
the lake turns into Hassenbach Arm.
Coming around the point on the north shore brought me to Fisherman’s Cove.  This area is primarily for tent camping.  The cove on the south side of the point looks downright heavenly with acres of mowed grass, a long, gradually sloping shoreline, and trees for pitching a tent under.  It couldn’t look better.  If you round the point to the north side, there is another concrete ramp, but the fisherman’s bait and tackle concession has been abandoned and vandalized.  The town of Lawton is working on developing the property, but the bad news is that they are looking to rent it to a dune buggy and ATV operation.  That would be the end of the quiet for miles around.

An egret hiding in the foliage at the head of Hassenbach Arm.
Another takes flight from its tenuous perch atop a wood fence
post submerged but for an inch above the lake's surface.
The lake was flat calm when I left Fisherman’s Cove, so I struck out straight across the lake and around the north shore of Treasure Island.  It appears to be a nesting or resting place for migratory waterfowl, and the island was so densely covered with large flocks of Canada geese and pelicans that getting ashore would be messy through all the guano. 

There are many places to stealth camp if weather or time make
it necessary, like this gradual shore into a field without a human
or building in sight.
Getting back to the west shore, I paddled under the railroad bridge and into Chandler Creek.  The bridge just cleared my up-reached arm by a couple feet, and has no opening.  The train had come through the evening before at 1620, so I kept an eye on my watch so I could be back by the bridge in time for a nice picture.  It became obvious, as I waited, that the trains run on an as-needed-basis rather than on a schedule.  Meanwhile, at the head of the creek, I found two bridges.  One was the 62/281 bridge, and next to it, on its east side, was the original concrete bridge that spanned the stream before the lake was created.  It sat in the water making a complete barrier to further paddling up the creek.

Two bridges in Chandler Creek.  One from before the lake was
created now sits in the water, and the new bridge just behind it.
There are big differences between Lake Ellsworth and Lake Frederick, which we had just left.  On Ellsworth, the potential for stealth camping is almost limitless, while on Frederick, it is very spartan.  On Ellsworth, camping is limited only by one’s imagination.  Please be sure to pack in/pack out to preserve this happy situation.  Also, Frederick and Latonka are the party lakes with loud drinkers and fast boats.  Ellsworth is for quiet, basic camping and enjoying nature---at least until the ATV’s show up.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lake Ellsworth, OK

Union Pacific freight train crossing the junction of Lake
Ellsworth and Chandler Creek.
On leaving the Wichita Wildlife Refuge, we proceeded east on Rt. 49 to I-44, north of Lawton.  We traveled I-44 just one exit before jumping off onto Rt. 281/62 north for Lake Ellsworth.  The map shows Lakeside Village, but it’s not easy to find.  It will be the first turn to the right when headed north after passing the commercial intersection of Rts. 62 and 277.  At this intersection is the Valero truck stop, and the only place around to find WiFi.  As you turn onto NE Pine Ave, you may spot a small sign for Ralph’s Resort (580-492-4763).  The ramp is there at L34.79975N Lo98.37323. 

Just below our campsite was a sandbar that made a gathering
place for birds and waterfowl.
After leaving Quanah Parker, Lake Ellsworth, with its 53 mile shoreline, is huge by comparison.  It was created in 1962 by the damming of East Cache Creek, its main tributary, but two secondary branches making contributions to the lake are Chandler Creek from the west and Tony Creek from the east.  Ellsworth and Lake Latonka, which we wrote about earlier, are the water sources for the City of Lawton and the Fort Sill military base.  It you cross the railroad tracks to the east from Ralph’s, the campground is a short distance on the left.  For launching a canoe or kayak, there is a nice beach to launch from there rather than going back to Ralph’s.

The gates of the Lake Ellsworth dam.
There is a sand bar on the east side of the campground where ducks, birds, and pelicans congregate.  When I arose our first morning hoping to hit the water, it was so foggy we couldn’t see the sandbar or out onto the lake.  My handheld VHF radio had decided to stay home, so having no way to get weather, we just had to wait and watch.  The area has no WiFi, so even my ‘smart’ phone was dumb on the subject of weather.  We drove down to the Valero truckstop, where I was able to downloaded a weather app on my new phone.  Guess what we learned.  We were under a dense fog advisory.  Tadaaa!

East Cache Creek continues 40-feet below the dam.
Unless there are city vehicles going into the maintenance yard across from the campground, nothing stirs unless a train comes through.  It is dead quiet and serene.  Except for one evening, we had the campground to ourselves.  We sat during the evening and watched killdeer, a rabbit with a couple young, several woodpeckers, pelicans, cormorants, bluejays, osprey, cardinals, and a small flock of 6 or 8 bluebirds.  When Treasure Island, which sits in the middle of the south end of the lake 8/10th of a mile offshore, began to peak through the fog at 1115, I rolled Ibi down to the water.

The first day of paddling had to wait for the fog to burn off.
Ralph’s Resort is in the SW corner of the lake.  The marina is just inside the low railroad trestle the crosses by the ramp and blocks the mouth of Chandler Creek.  It does a nice job of blocking lake access to any boats much larger than a bass boat.  I paddled east past the dam and into the Hassenbach Arm.  There were a number of coves and branches off the Arm to explore, and where I encountered a large number of egrets, herons, cormorants, and osprey.  They were the only ones out fishing this area, as over the course of 4 ½ hours, I only saw three boats, so this is a very paddle-friendly lake.