Friday, December 8, 2017

Paddle Camping Chair - Helinox

This is the Helinox chair I got.  Depending on inventory,
other colors are available.
Here’s a story somewhat like my purchase of the Sea-to-Summit Thinsulite Reactor sleeping bag liner.  I have ogled the Helinox Camp Chair for years, but could never justify $140 for a camping chair, but then three things conspired to change my thinking.  My Coleman folding chair was years old, had been repaired multiple times, was heavy but study, and while it is easy to repair, it continues to shed part.  Second, I’ve watched Larry Ricker, nibimocs, sitting comfortably at his campsite in numerous videos, even holding his dog in his lap.  I think Larry said he had a different model, but for all intent and purposes, they look and work the same.  Each video made this chair seem all the more appropriate for paddle/camping.  Thirdly, I received an email offering an enticing sale price.  Even then, I looked at the ad every day of the sale before making the plunge only hours before the sale ended.
 


This compares the two chairs in their packs.  Also, the Coleman chair came
with a light, felt-like bag that didn't last any time at all, so Jean made a duplicate
bag out of upholstery material.  The Helinox comes with a bag of sturdy material
with hand loops at both ends.  The zipper also runs the length of the bag, making
it very easy to put the chair in.
 
Here is a comparison between the two chairs, my current Coleman and the Helinox.  Why I couldn’t stand being tempted any longer becomes apparent.  The Coleman Max Quad Chair is $40, 10 lbs., steel construction, 8 X 38 in. packed size, oversized feet, oversized seating with drink holder in each arm, 600 pound capacity, with a 24“ seat height.  The Helinox Camp Chair is listed at $139.95, 2 lb. 9 oz., sturdy aluminum & polyester seat, 5 X 20 inches packed, 18” seat height, 320 pound capacity.  The two photos here show the best comparison between the two.  For packing efficiency, the Helinox is half the size and a quarter of the weight of the Coleman.  The Coleman is still serviceable, and serves well at an RV site or if we travel to an athletic event or something similar, but it is a load in the canoe, and would be next to impossible on a kayak, and therefore gets tied on top of everything else making the boat top-heavy.  Instead of being tied on top of the canoe packs, the Helinox slips lightly and comfortably in with my sleeping bag.  The combination of pack-ability and lightness finally scored a win.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Comanche Powwow - Part 2

This beautiful young lady is wearing what is known as a jingle
dress.  It originated from several bands of the Ojibwe, but through
dance competitions can be found now among most tribes.  It is covered
with row on row of light metal cones that ring when they come together
in response to the rhythm of the drum and singing.
 
One of the things I was most impressed with was that while many tribes have lost their language to a large extent, the Comanche seem to have their language intact.  Several speeches, prayers, and songs were done totally in their native tongue.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFTycnwlNGs


The music is provided by a ring of about 12 drummers and singers.  There
were 3 groups performing from different areas of the country.  These were the
Sons of the Drum Singers.  These are traditional songs that reflect different aspect
of tribal history and life.  Anyone that knows the song can join in, and there will often
be 2, 3, or 4 concentric rings of singers around the drummers. 
 

 

While we felt unwelcome and will probably never return for another visit, we feel the Comanche still deserve great respect.  They were always known to be independent and uncompromising when they felt they were being infringed upon, whether by other tribes or the Europeans.  While they were known for fierce and violent atrocities in conflicts, it is well to put ourselves in their place.  If our lands, hunting grounds, culture, lifestyle, freedoms, and lives were at stake, may we not have reacted likewise?


Many dances are open to various groups and ages, but when you get
to fancy dress, show in these two photos, you have to be very athletic with
good stamina.


Friday, December 1, 2017

NFCT

Laura and I at the Old Forge, NY, NFCT put-in.
 
If you don't know the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (or even if you do), here's a short video you will want to check out.  It's only 3 1/2 minutes, but beautiful photography and plenty of wildlife.
 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Comanche Powwow

Military veterans march on the colors for the opening ceremonies.
The red objects at either end are war lances being carried as guideons.
 

Jean wanted to visit a Native American Powwow, and had found two the same weekend: one near Tahlequah, and another at Lawton, OK, near Fort Sill.  She decided to visit the latter.  We were going to make an early morning drive in the darkness, and then spend the night near Fort Sill before returning on Sunday.  This was going to be an unusual trip in many regards, like having a rare bobcat run across the road in front of us shortly after starting out.


The guideons were war lances and used to show the unit
designation and military branch affiliation.  The bead work on
the shaft represent campaign ribbons.
 

Living in Indian Territory is unique in many regards.  Until this weekend, we have viewed all those unique differences as positive.  We are of course surrounded by old tribal nation reservations belonging to about any tribe you can name.  Some of the reservations have been broken up to the point that one would never guess they were on an ‘indian’ reservation, and others have tenaciously clung to their reservation identity.  In most, the native population think of us as fellow Oklahomans, but in others, we are still invading white men and are viewed with a racial bias no different than one would expect in a black community in some areas of Chicago.  Our most favorite powwow visit was at the six Kaw nation’s powwow.  These include the  Kaw or Kanza, Ponca, Osage, Pawnee, Tonkawa, and Otoe-Missouria tribes, who were originally the Winnebago.  The event was held at the tribal grounds named after Chief Standing Bear, just south of Ponca.  Here we seemed to be viewed as any people with a deep interest in understanding and appreciating their tribal heritage and culture.  We were extended a friendly hand, a welcoming hand.  Several families nearly adopted us.  One would invite us to sit near them so they could explain each facet of the tribal regalia and the imagery surrounding the various dances.  Another would suggest what we might have for dinner, where to find it, and ask us to join them for dinner.  Both officially and personally, it was made clear frequently that we were both welcome and expected to return.  The Comanche powwow, unfortunately, took us to the other end of the spectrum.  It became clear that this was a closed event, a family or tribal event.  During the day there were no fewer than thirty unfriendly references about whites and another twenty or so about non-Comanches.  A few people were openly hostile and rude, while most were just unfriendly and aloof, unless I had my wallet in my hand.  That sounds negative.  Let’s just say we left with a feeling of being very unwelcome.


The one thing the Comanche, and most other tribes, do a great job of
is carrying on their Native American cultures and traditions through all
ages of their community.  The babies, also often decked out in their own
regalia, along with mother and grandmother, will all be seen participating
in every aspect of the powwow.


These boys have just completed registering for their
participation in various aspects of tribal dancing.
 

For the Comanche tribe, the powwow was a success and a great draw.  There were representatives there from both North and South Dakota, North and South Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, New York, and others who also traveled great distances to attend.  The two extremes were a representative of the Athabaskans of Alaska, and in a cultural exchange, a group of six from Siberia that had come just to attend the event.  Some or all of those from Siberia were professional singers.  One sang a song in his native tongue, and another that is noted as a ‘throat singer’ showed off that skill.  The only way I can describe the sound of his deep-throat singing is to point to the sound of the Australian aboriginal didgeridoo, only he did all of this without any instrument.  If even that doesn’t paint a picture, take a look at this, and you’ll see where I came up with the idea of the didgeridoo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaBI1SqIhak
Now here are a couple examples of the deep-throat singing that sound very unusual to our Western ears.


Young men also shown after dance registration.  One can't help
noticing the sense of pride clearly exhibited while in their native regalia.
 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

September at Canton Lake, Pt. 2

Credit: Wildlife Heritage Foundation
I wish I had gotten a photo or two.  I was sitting on the settee when I
detected movement outside.  Then I was too enthralled to go after the
camera.
 
As the air began to cool, and the sun settled, we saw two grown quail come out of the hedge row behind our camp.  That’s a real rarity here, at least by my experience.  What was really neat was the 8-10 half-grown young that suddenly began stumbling out of the hedge row to join them.  They reminded me of a bunch of kindergarteners out on a field trip.  They ran this way and that, jumped in the air, reversed their track back and forth like any bunch of youngsters.  The parents stood tall, stretched their necks and swiveled their heads being hyper-vigilant of everything.  Shortly they were all hustled back into the tall grass and disappeared.
The sky was just barely getting a hint of light.  The windows were again all open, and we were suddenly fully awakened by a scream immediately outside our bedroom window.  It wasn’t possible to tell whether the scream was from a large bird or a squirrel.  The cry wasn’t distinctive as to the species, just a scream of sheer terror, the faint hoot of an owl, and then absolute silence.  I guess it was what a hunter would call a ‘clean’ kill, but there was nothing clean about some poor creature suddenly becoming breakfast.  There was an oak tree right outside the RV’s bedroom window, and a bit later we saw a squirrel venturing down the tree, so one of its kind was probably what had become the morning’s victim. 
There was a nice breeze on the lake first thing.  We decided to have a nice breakfast first before I launched at the ramp.  Jean fried turkey bacon and set a pack of frozen blueberries out to thaw over a low flame.  I then made pancakes, and with a pot of coffee, we sat down to a much nicer breakfast than that poor squirrel had been having. 
The wind was out of the south-southeast, or the full length of the lake, so was rolling small waves onto the ramp.  I set Ibi parallel to the water’s edge and used my legs to keep it from pounding on the concrete.  With a quick, or what translates to a quick launch for a senior, I got in and shoved off.  It was immediately obvious that landing would not be as comfortable.  There was no alternative landing option there.  To either side of the ramp are piles of concrete just dumped from a truck and allowed to harden into boulders.  Either side of that is non-stop riprap that stretches to the next ramp a mile away, or to the base of several cliffs. 
I pulled the Falcon Sail up as soon as I cleared the shore.  I sailed as close to the wind as I could, and with a light occasional paddle, worked to the south and nicely upwind.  The wind was continuing to build as I decided to stay upwind, but sailed on and off the shore on a beam reach using the paddle only for bracing. 
If the wind had just held where it was when I launched, it would have been an exciting paddle-sail, but it was obviously intent on strengthening quickly.  The alternative landing ramps were to the northwest as the shore dropped away in a large crescent called Big Bend.  There were two landing options I could escape to as whitecaps started to build.  I knew landing at the ramp where I had launched was out of the question.  There was a bit of cover from reeds by the next ramp.  I had the paddle cart with me, and it would only be a one-mile walk back to the campsite.  The next ramp was far enough around the bend that it would definitely be a safe landing, but then about a three-mile portage with the cart. 
I fell off on a nice broad reach and flew down the shoreline in two jibes.  As I passed my put-in ramp, my suspicion about not being able to safely access it now without banging up the canoe was confirmed.  The second ramp was marginal with some small waves rolling onto it, but it looked safe and serviceable.  I dropped the sailing rig, raised the rudder, and side slipped alongside the ramp.  Everything worked out fine, and I just had a nice one-mile stroll back to the camper with Ibi following quietly behind. 
As I walked past one campsite where two men were talking, one called out, “That water out there is getting a bit lumpy, isn’t it?”  They had already decided not to take their fishing boat out on the lake.  Within an hour, the couple fishing boats I had seen on the lake when I launched had also disappeared. 
This was probably my second shortest paddle.  I had only gone two miles, but with the sail I had likely not paddled more than a dozen strokes.  I can’t really pass it off as a paddle, so we can just call it a drill or an exercise.  I got Ibi wet, and it still counts as another outing on the water.  Back in the comfort of the RV, we listened to the wind and the rattling of cottonwoods. 
The highlight of the afternoon was looking out the window and seeing a large roadrunner right alongside the trailer.  He was working his way down the tree line.  He would see something in the grass.  I never could tell what he was after, but he would drop his head and rush off 20-30 feet straight at it with his legs flying.  Whatever he was pursuing, his aim clearly appeared to be  dead-on. 
The next day, Friday, would be our departure time.  We had aspirations of a few quiet days, and chose mid-week Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.  We anticipated having the campground almost to ourselves.  Boy!  Add that to our ever-growing list of plans that didn’t bear fruit.  People started coming in Wednesday evening, and it never stopped.  By Thursday night it looked like the Fourth of July weekend.  Everyone else in the state with a camper had had the same idea.  I told Jean, “Don’t worry.  Just wait until November.”
  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

September at Canton Lake


After backing into our campsite, I was startled by the abundance of holes in the ground.  I first thought of our experience with the wolf spiders during our last visit, but then heard all the  cicadas  singing.  I looked at the holes again and realized they were larger, and we were having a cicada breeding cycle.

We went home last night to take care of Jean’s animal farm.  The evening air was alive with bugs.  I made the comment that the area really needed more people to build bat houses to draw enough bats to handle the bug population.  It was like the sound of the car being hit by large rain drops.  It’s a good thing I have two bottles of Turtle Wax bug and tar remover.  If you haven’t tried it, it really works.  Spray it on, give it a minute or two to penetrate, and wipe the bugs off.  It love this stuff.

 
We had all the windows open at night, and it was cold enough during the night that we had to get up and throw a quilt on the bed.  The two cats agreed with us on the temperature, and were soon under the quilt with us.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning.  Since the afternoon was supposed to be about 90, the sun soon had the morning air warming up.  Jean took off to care for the animal farm, and I got Ibi ready for a paddle.
 

There was almost no wind at all, which is a freaky rarity in “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ cross the plain.”  I pulled the Falcon Sail up and set it close hauled for the northeast zephyr.  I sat there looking at the twist in the sail wondering if it wouldn’t benefit from a couple light battens.  I’ll think on that some more, and maybe get some input from Patrick Forester, the sail’s builder.  I paddled on in the expectation of a broad reach coming back once I reached the north end of the lake.  

I saw a lot of birds today from egrets, herons, and a bunch of osprey whistling from trees along the west shore.  The breeze really was a zephyr, and barely strong enough to move smoke.  When I reached the end of the lake, it was flat dead and giving the indication of reversing.  Shortly, it did just that.  I lowered the sailing rig and continued paddling east across the end of the lake.  There were at least a hundred or so swallows hard at work harvesting bugs, but they had a long task ahead of them if they expected to make a dent.  It was interesting, however, just watching their aerobatics as they swooped and cut, then made hairpin turns to grab a morsel they had either missed or only spotted on passing it. 

I was only a couple hundred yards from my take-out when a breeze filled in from the east.  One of the advantages of this sail rig is how it just pops up when needed, so I was not about to waste a good breeze.  I hauled the sail back up and got a steady 1.5 mph for the short distance to the ramp. 

After a great dinner of chicken with pepper jack cheese, I grabbed the Turtle Wax and cleaned off the hardened bug remains from the front of the car.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Great Lakes--Broken Lines

Credit: soulcenteredphotography.blogspot.com
 
If you haven’t seen the roughly 25-minute film called “Great Lakes—Broken Lines,” you may wish to take a look at it.  It is not only a beautiful and enjoyable film, but it carries a critically important message.  While the group ‘For The Love of Water’ biked, climbed, paddled, and sailed part of the Great Lakes country by land and sea, the message was told about how this world’s largest accumulation of clear, pristine, fresh water could be destroyed for decades, perhaps generations, by the failure of a sixty-year-old oil pipeline that carries 230-million gallons of oil a day through this fragile environment.  The owners of Line 5, Enbridge Energy Partners, built the line with a life expectancy of 50 years.  The line has exceeded its service life by a decade, and still Enbridge makes it plain they have no intention or plans for replacing it.  The film hopes to bring attention to the importance of protecting the area from the risk of an oil line failure, while also calling for people to force Enbridge and the State of Michigan to adhere to the safety standards that are in place, but are being ignored and violated.  Here’s the link to Vimeo:  https://vimeo.com/180350618


Friday, November 17, 2017

My Other Ride

My favorite three rides are the green Mohawk Odyssey 14 Royalex for
the occasional bumpy, rough river ride, the yellow Superior Expedition decked
canoe for long trips,...
 
and the 14-ft. Hornbeck Adirondack Kevlar pack canoe.  Their
weights respectively are 57, 78, and 25 pounds.
 

But, when time and weather don't allow me to get away for
some paddling, I enjoy my other ride.
 

I have the Specialized Expedition, and Jean has an Electra Townie.  When
we got the bike rack, the people we purchased it from wanted to
send them a picture once we had it installed.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Back to School

Buffalo Gal and Ibi on the Canton ramp ready to go.
 

We were forecast to have a severe storm hit us at 3a.m., so between that and the temperature rising along with the humidity, I had given up the tent finally in favor of a night in the air conditioning.  During the night, we had lightning, moderate rain, and wind, but much of the storm must have either fizzled out or passed us by.


James and Maggie in the Micmac.  This was the common English
spelling of the Indigenous tribe from Northeast Maine until the 1980's.
They have since preferred Mi'kmaq.  Anyhow, the canoe is still
going strong after 39 years.
 

The morning was beautiful, though the temps were to rise well into the 90’s.  (This post obviously has lingered since mid-August.)  The lake was calm.  Our son was to come down and join his daughters for our second day of paddling.  James was bringing the Micmac stripper canoe I built back in the summer of 1974.  He and Maggie would tandem the 17-ft. Micmac, Lucie would take her second day in the 15-ft. Mohawk Odyssey, and I would paddle my 17-ft 9-in Superior Expedition “Ibi.”  It was a day paddle, but we took plenty of water and a cooler of sandwiches.  The lake remained calm as we paddled to the headwaters.  We were going to continue around the north end of Canton Lake, but we rafted in some reeds to have lunch together.  While we ate, the breeze filled from the south, so I told James that we may want to be cautious about how far we went, as all the way back would be against the wind and waves.  After we emptied the cooler, James concurred that maybe we’d better work our way back up wind.
 

Maggie enjoys a sandwich after we had run into the reeds to raft for lunch.
 

It was only Lucie’s second day in the Mohawk with a double-blade paddle.  Since she was paddling solo, she was the one we were most concerned about, though we needn’t have bothered.  While she complained a couple times about her arms getting tired, she was resolute and plodded on.  I recommended she use more waist rather than arm muscles, put her paddle behind her neck to stretch the tired muscles, and to paddle closer to the shore and reeds to escape some of the wind and waves.  I was very proud of how she carried through, and told her so when we got back.  Once back at the campsite, Jean cooled us down with iced tea, then iced fruit smoothies, and James and I capped it off with an ice-cold beer apiece.
 

All rafted together in a stand of reeds.
 

James shortly had to leave---the never-ending fast-paced life of a writer.  Jean went on to do Thai chicken over charcoal.  The chicken was seasoned with peanut butter, soy sauce, and garlic.  That was fantastic, and was kept company by beans and rice and a tossed salad.  Jean likes to tell the story about a particular tailgate party while James was a midshipman at the Naval Academy.  Jean did this Thai chicken as shish kibobs and we had a never-ending line of midshipmen scarfing them down as fast as they could be cooked.  I jokingly always add that middies will eat anything that doesn’t outrun them.


James
 

As our last night, it was nice and quiet.  I took down the tent and dried it out, and we listened to the bird serenades: orioles, yellow finches, mockingbirds, herons, egrets, and several roadrunners.  The menagerie was complimented with several large rabbits running around, and raccoons.  

Day 7:
We were awakened this morning by the sound of rolling thunder.  At least it was cool, a true blessing of 73-degrees for the middle of August.  It was time for us to break camp again, and time for the girls to head home to get ready for the opening of school tomorrow.


Lucie

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Canton Day 5: Pancake Day

Lucie, swinging a double-blade Bending Branches Slice Solo Canoe Paddle
 
There were no storms last night, and I got my first full night’s sleep in a comfortable 72-degrees.  I started the morning slowly.  I was awakened first by the sun at 7a.m.  There were then a couple large, loud, raucous, screaming birds directly over my tent to make sure the day had begun.  Once they had guaranteed I wasn’t going to roll over and doze off again, they took off and went about their business.  In their place, I could hear a swarm of humming, buzzing insects that must have numbered ah---well, you know, a swarm.  Soon they also drifted off.  I was then left with the sweetest chittering and twittering of small birds in the cedars behind the tent.  Opening the tent to identify them would likely scare them off, so I just laid back and enjoyed the concert. 
With the rear windows of the trailer open, I could also hear Jean moving about in the galley.  It was 8a.m. when I rolled out of the tent.  With all the commotion coming from the galley, I had anticipation of at least coffee being ready.  She saw me walking down the hill and came out to meet me.  Ah!  Maybe that means breakfast is ready.  Instead she said, “Did you sleep well?”  Without a pause for a response, she continued, “The holding tanks are full and need to be emptied.”  No coffee, no breakfast, just holding tanks full of sh--- , and I haven’t even been using the facilities in the RV, and we haven’t used the on-board shower. 
After breaking everything down and hauling the camper to the dump station, I found a kindred spirit in a neighbor when I returned.  Alvin, our next door camper, walked out to the driveway with a wry smile on his face.  I stopped to say good morning, but he greeted me instead with, “Ah, been off to empty the tanks, huh?”  To his chuckle he added, “I emptied ours yesterday, and then the kids came by last night.  Now I have to go dump them again.  Kids have absolutely no concept of water, what it is, or how to manage it.”  They were apparently lavishing themselves with long, drawn-out showers.  It can always be worse, I guess is the message to myself. 
Once I was done with setting everything back up again, Jean was back from her two hour trip home to take care of her birds and cats.  Then, finally, we got to think about breakfast, or brunch.  With pancakes, blueberries, bacon, and at long last, coffee, it was a breakfast, or brunch, worth waiting for. 
Going from parent to grandparent doesn’t change anything except the stress is greater, the patience is shorter, and the frustration is that much stronger.  God doesn’t have children being born to young parents for any reason other than they are physically and emotionally more flexible and adaptable.  If the wisdom that comes with experience was critical in the equation, we wouldn’t be having kids until we reach age 60, but obviously the flexibility of youth trumps wisdom hands down.  I have had mixed results with trying to get the granddaughters interested in paddling---some great times, but also some catastrophes.  After the last foray out with the girls, I threw my hands in the air and swore, “That’s it.  I’m never taking them in the canoes again.  I just can’t handle the stress, the yelling, the fights.”  Finally I cooled enough to reason that I could stick with only taking one out at a time—personal time, me and her, and thus end the sibling battles.  Today was Lucie’s day.  She had the 15-ft. Mohawk Odyssey and single-blade paddle.   After a failed attempt to teach her proper paddle strokes, I traded her single-blade for my double-blade, and she did much better.  If she learned to enjoy paddling, she would then have the motivation to learn more technical paddle strokes.  Until then, she could just have a good time and enjoy herself.  With no sister along to stir the sibling rivalry pot, we both just enjoyed ourselves. 
The lake is surrounded with riprap.  So even though the air was calm and the water flat, I had to keep reminding her that the shore is not her friend.  It would grind both her and the canoe up and spit them out in pieces.  She needed to paddle well away from the shore in open water.  Once she could handle the boat comfortably, she could then close with the shore and enjoy paddling through the reeds and constricted channels.  With a few pointers, she continued to improve, and after a couple more hours, was managing tracking and maneuvering with great confidence.  In the end, she said she enjoyed the boat and had a great time.  Any way you cut it, that’s a win.


Canoeing for a smile.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Day 4 and a Test



Okay, so we finally got out of town for a few days, got the canoe wet, enjoyed some nature and wildlife, and that brings me back to this eternal question that way too many people seem to be incapable of figuring out.  I know you folks who share the love of nature get this, so I'm preaching to the choir, but how the heck to we get people to understand the importance of protecting the beauty and careful balance of nature?  So which is natural, was put there by nature and belongs there, and which doesn't occur there naturally and was discarded by some mindless, careless, slob that couldn't dispose of his own trash properly?  Gee, I wonder.

Back to our story, after I left the tent about 7a.m., I got the trash out of the RV and carried it up to the dumpsters.  When I opened the lid to drop the bag in, there sat a raccoon gazing back at me.  I made my deposit and then closed the lid.  I left him inside to keep the bin from filling with rain water.  With a couple layers of trash bags on the floor of the dumpster, he was dry and should have plenty to eat.  If the rain stopped later, I’d go back and check on him and let him out.  (I did return, and he was gone.)

Jean and the girls were still sleeping in the RV, while I was on the hill behind our campsite in the tent.  The storm hit at 2:45a.m.  It raged for a couple hours, but then settled into a heavy rain that continued all night.  I had sealed the tent seams, but a couple stitches still wept, so I guess I have to do them again.  At any rate, this time the weeping ran down the inside of the fly, so I still stayed dry. 

We have a covered picnic table, which would have been real nice had we not failed to notice that the concrete pad is a couple inches below ground level.  This gives us a cold-water pool immediately off the RV steps, so we have to tip-toe down the exposed edge of the asphalt driveway.  There was never a time when we were confined to the trailer all day, so we still got out for a few walks, and did plenty of reading.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Death with Dignity

Credit: Google Images
 
This will be a slight break in our camping/paddling story to handle a bit of current events.  We just came home from having to have a cat put down.  If there is any indication of anger in this post, I’ll confess up front that I’m filled with anger and rage.  I’m pissed. 
When Jean did her wildlife rehab work, not every story had a happy ending.  In fact, most didn’t, since many times by the time we got them, the animals had suffered for prolonged periods from pain, stress, starvation, debilitating to lethal physical injury, dehydration, or any combination of the above.  One owl hung upside-down in an ice storm, and was literally frozen to the barbed wire fence it got tangled in causing a wing injury.  It hung there for two days before a farmer, assuming it was already dead, went to investigate.  In spite of its poor start, this turned out to be one of Jean’s greatest success stories.  Part of her success also belonged to our local vet, who helped at his own expense.  But what happens if no effort or expense can produce a positive outcome?  Such was the case with this kitten.  The reality that nothing more could be done finally made it obvious that a gentle, humane death was needed to avoid further and increasing suffering.  So, we took the kitten to the vet to have her put down by lethal injection. 
I watched the cat as it quietly and comfortably went to sleep.  The only thing it would know of its demise was a small injection under the skin that it would barely feel.  It would slowly drop off into a relaxed sleep.  Not unlike anyone undergoing surgery, it would not know or feel what followed.  It was only after it was incapable of knowing anything about what was happening, while it was asleep, that the fatal injection that would stop its heart was administered.  
What pissed me off was not that this was needed for the cat, and that the cat was entitled to a humane and quiet end to its suffering, but that humans are denied the same peaceful and dignified end.  The policy of euthanasia, or right to die, has become known as ‘death with dignity’ in political circles.  The move to get this personal right legalized has been fiercely fought by conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians on the premise of sanctity of life.  This is the most distorted and hypocritical position possible.  The politicians, especially, deny pre-natal care to the mother and fetus.  Once the child is born, they deny funding for most health care, food for the starving, child care, education, housing and more.  The sanctity of life extends only while the infant is in the womb.  Before or after, for the rest of its life, it is on its own.  But what if it is incurably sick or infirm?  There is no provision for ending its suffering except to put it into a coma and keep it there. 
If you want death with dignity, you have to qualify for it, and in many states where the Republicans and evangelicals hold sway, you also have to fight for it through the courts for months, or maybe years.  To join those who qualify for a humane and dignified death you have to be a mass murderer, serial sociopath of some other type, perhaps someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, who kidnapped and sexually attacked neighborhood young people, then murdered them, cut them up, cooked and ate them for dinner.  Such people, who have caused no end of suffering to their victims, their families, and society at large, are granted the most gentle and humane death granted by the state: lethal injection, the same method used on the kitten. 
A neighbor of ours did not qualify for death with dignity.  He was a responsible worker, husband, father, and not a mass murderer, so he did not qualify for humane consideration.  His only option was to be starved to death.  Liquid was administered to prevent dehydration, but no food or nutrition was permitted.  He lay like that for over three weeks as his body got weaker and weaker, and then his organs slowly failed one by one as they died individually from lack of sustenance until finally his heart joined the list.  Meanwhile, the exorbitant hospital bills sapped the ability of his survivors to provide for their own existence as they sat and daily watched him weaken and fade away as he starved to death.  We have been shown that the brain continues to function through unconsciousness, coma, and even after death for a while, so while the ‘patient’ may not be exhibiting signs of his or her pain and suffering, they are nevertheless experiencing it themselves.  A mass murderer is treated with humane care, while a responsible husband and father is starved to death while his family watches.  There is no sanctity there, and I refuse to believe any God would wish to cause such suffering.  Such a God could be no God at all unless his aim was to sanctify pain and suffering.  We need to stop rewarding the guilty and persecuting the innocent. 


Monday, October 16, 2017

Red, Red, Everywhere

L-R: Maggie, me, Lucie, at Big Bend
 
We had a pair of bright orange and black orioles plucking bugs off the hill behind our campsite; (hopefully spiders), a couple rabbits, and a very diligent hummingbird.  The hummer first came to check out the red crossbeams of my canoe rack.  Then Jean strung a red, white, and blue star-studded bunting under the picnic table canopy, and the hummer returned and seemed to check every red star in its 10-ft. length.  She then ran two strings of red, white, and blue lighted stars, and the third day the poor frustrated bird returned to check out each red star.  Unfortunately for its poor body and soul, in all that clutter of red, not a single blossom or hummingbird feeder.
 
It was too windy for a campfire, but I got charcoals burning in the grill so the girls could do s’mores after dinner.
 
I was able to be of service during the day today.  The couple in the site next to us found themselves in a bad way.  John is 84, and they still have a huge fifth-wheel camper that is a bit more than they can handle.  He made a bad turn and either pulled a muscle in his back, or as he surmised from the noise he heard, perhaps injured a rib.  The one thing he knew for certain was he was in a lot of pain and having trouble walking or moving.  They were supposed to be at the campground another five days, but decided they needed to get home.  I got his trailer on his truck and put away the chocks, hoses, power cord, and accessories.  I offered, and came as close as I could, to insisting on driving them and the rig home, since they live only an hour and a half away.  He wouldn’t hear of it, and assistance is only of value as long as it’s accepted.  He said the truck was comfortable enough, and that as soon as he got behind the wheel, he’d be fine.  His wife’s concern was getting him home in time to get him to a doctor.  Once he was all loaded, off they went out the drive.
 
I thought the horrid weather forecast for the weekend would keep people away.  I’m sure it did to a degree, but here they came nonetheless with screaming kids and loud stereo systems.  Whatever happened to the idea of getting away from everything?  Now they just come and bring everything with them.  The sound of slamming doors was continuous.  Quiet time supposedly starts at l0p.m.  Most of the din was contained by eleven, which is better than some I’ve encountered.  I guess I finally drifted off to the sound of the wind in the cottonwoods at about midnight.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

An open site across from us on the bank of the lake.
 

Day 3:  The storms were to pester us all week.  The good thing was that they usually came in late afternoon to evening, and left the days sunny and clear.  It was 9p.m. when I zipped the tent shut, and there was an immediate terrible, and much too close, simultaneous blinding flash and terrible crash of thunder.  That was the opening rangefinder shot, and once my position was bracketed, the fire and rain and wind continued unabated until 4a.m.  The storm’s method of the attack was something I hadn’t seen before.  The wind came in waves as steady and regular as waves hitting a beach.  The wind came in a rushing squall from behind me.  It rolled over the trees on top of the hill, over me and across the adjoining field, down the hill and into the trees to the south of us.  Just then another wave of wind could be heard approaching from the north, through the trees and over the hill, across the field, and so on.  It was a regular march that continued for an hour or more.
 

The wind also had the tent kind of breathing as it passed me.  It would first come from the west and mash the tent in.  Immediately after that the tent seemed to exhale as it puffed outward as though it had suddenly been fully inflated.  I know this routine will sound familiar to those of you accustomed to living in tornado country, but the tent and I stayed on the hill.
 

Obviously, since I was lying there noticing all of this, I wasn’t getting any sleep.  I was very pleased and thankful that the tent was staying dry in spite of the constant downpour.  The other thing keeping me awake was the forecast for golf ball-sized hail.  With the car, truck, and RV sitting there, I certainly didn’t relish waking in the morning to find them all sporting a new hammered metal look.  Every new wave of intensity had me laying there cringing in dread.  Of course as soon as you have one thought fixed in your mind, everything changes.  Even though I had resealed all the tent’s seams, a couple stitches began to weep and drip ice water on my left shoulder.  The next drip joined forces with its predecessor so they could then roll down my chest and onto the sleeping bag.  I reached into the pack and pulled out my Cabela’s Guide foulweather jacket and draped it over my upper body to shed the continuing drip, drip, drip.  My thought was then that trying to sleep under a raincoat would be too hot and stuffy to make sleep possible.
 

With that thought, the wind picked up more and the temperature suddenly dropped.  That seemed to herald the approach of the ice storm, but solved the problem of being too hot.  I waited in anticipation of the hail, but it thankfully didn’t materialize.  With the colder air, I pulled the sleeping bag liner over my legs, checked the time on my phone and saw that it was 4a.m., fluffed my pillow, and dozed off until the birds started singing at 7a.m. in earnest and right over my head.


The packing sack laying on the liner itself.
 

A word is needed about the Sea-to-Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme sleeping bag liner.  That’s a long name for something that only measures 3 X 5 inches in its little stuff sack.  I found it at a national sporting goods store on my way to Old Forge, NY, last spring or winter (unable to distinguish between the two).  I about choked on the $70 price tag for the little thing, but Jean insisted I get it, or it would have stayed on the rack.  Made of their insulating, Thermolite, hollow-core moister-wicking polyester fiber, it opens up to a large 36 X 84 inch sack that is supposed to add 25-degrees F (14-deg. C) to the warmth of a sleeping bag.  It is made in a mummy shape, but is so stretchy, that it will envelope you no matter what size or style of sleeping bag you are in.  Besides adding warmth, it can be used instead of the sleeping bag in those intervening temperatures between being in a bag or not.  It also helps to keep the sleeping bag clean.  I did things backwards with this purchase, and read the reviews on it when I returned home.  Yes, it has received great acclaim because of its comfort and warmth, but is pricey.  Since it works well, and can almost disappear in your pack, it’s a nice piece of gear to add, especially if you can find it on sale.