Friday, December 29, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Day 2 on Fort Cobb Lake

The end of the road.  The green to the right behind the sign is where
we took out across the farmer's field (authorized).
We had to greet today with a high degree of both flexibility and equanimity.  We decided to make this trip because of the wonderful weather forecast---3 clear days with winds of 8-13 mph.  At least for today, they lied.  With strong winds blowing straight into the cove, there was no reason to rush onto the water.  We took the time for a wonderful breakfast of French toast.  Within minutes, the wind had escalated to 25 mph.  White rollers began marching into White’s Catfish Cove after crossing the expanse of Ft. Cobb Lake from the southwest.  Paddling was definitely off the schedule for today.

This 12 or 14-foot double-barrel shotgun illustrates just how serious
they are about their hunting around here.  It looks like it could use a
new stock though.
We took a nice long walk and checked out other campsites and the open lake, which looked like it had been frosted with white icing.  The day was beautiful, but for the wind, and that was a deal breaker.  With the days really shortening and my poor paddling muscle conditioning, paddling the full 35 mile perimeter of the lake was not even a pipe dream.  A fall back option was to do one side of the lake, take out at the furthest north ramp, and then return to do the other side on the following day.  Many lakes, however, will shallow-out and turn to marsh and reeds before reaching the ultimate headwater, so the last ramp is sometimes impossible to reach.  I had wondered during the night if Jean could find it by road as well as whether I could reach it by water, so after lunch we decided to go exploring and drive north to check it out.

Where White's Catfish Cove meets the lake is the foot of Caddo Hill,
and the best of the fall colors here.  We were starting into another deep
drought, and that steals most of the colors, but still not bad.
The road was “interesting.”  It finally petered out to a ride across a farmer’s field, dodging side to side to keep tree limbs from removing the canoe from the rack.  When we finally got to the end of the rutted lane, we found the broken derelict remains of a long-ago ramp and piles of dumped trash and broken glass.  It was workable, barely, so I got the GPS coordinates for a planned future run, whenever that might be.  While we were out, the wind had lightened and turned to the north.  It filled me with enthusiasm for an afternoon paddle, but on the way back Jean pointed to the huge mare’s tails being dragged across the sky. 

All that is left of the ramp is a pile of concrete slab rubble to make
people realize that they've reached the end of land before diving
into the lake.
By the time we got back to the campsite, the wind’s strength had continued to build from the north, and the temperature began to plummet.  When I sat down at 8 p.m. to write my journal, the wind was roaring and whistling around the RV and sounding like a Nordic winter storm.  I thought we’d wait to see what the morning brought, but it wasn’t sounding promising.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

November on Fort Cobb Lake

Credit: Google Images
Fort Cobb is a bit of a misnomer.  Unlike some towns, like Fort Sill, that actually grew out of  ‘old west’ military installations, the town of Fort Cobb is three miles NW of the site of the actual military fort, which was located at the fork of the Washita River and Pond Creek.  Pond Creek was later renamed Cobb Creek to fit with the fort’s name.  The fort was created in 1859 by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs to establish the Washita Agency.  The fort that would house the Washita Agency was named after the Secretary of the Treasury, Howell Cobb.  Four companies of cavalry would be assigned there under the command of Maj. William H. Emory to protect the local Washita Indians from attacks by the Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne tribes that had in turn also been relocated there from their natural homes.
With the coming of the Civil War, Emory feared his command would be cut off if Texas and Arkansas seceded, so he relocated his forces to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Texas Confederates quickly seized the fort, but they soon left, and Fort Cobb was left abandoned for most of the war.  U.S. forces returned to Fort Cobb in 1868 to find only the walls of a stone building remaining, and a few broken pieces of adobe structures.  The latter were thatched over for storage buildings, but most of the soldiers lived in dugouts in the ground covered with tents.  Forces under Gen. Philip H. Sheridan arrived the following winter as part of his campaign to force the remaining hostile tribes onto reservations.  Fort Sill was established only 50 miles away early in 1869, so on March 12, 1869, Fort Cobb was abandoned for good.  The only thing remaining to mark its existence today are a few trenches.
While the town of Fort Cobb was northwest of the original fort, Fort Cobb State Park was created in 1959 with the damming of Cobb Creek 4.6 miles north of the town.  (L35.1745N Lo98.4402W, P. 79 of the Oklahoma Water Resource Board book, “Lakes of Oklahoma.”)  Our 110 mile drive down to Fort Cobb State Park took three hours.  Part of the extra time was due to missing a turn.  We were going west from Binger when we came into a long construction zone.  I had been concentrating on meeting traffic with the RV on the narrow temporary lanes.  I finally decided we had gone too far for our turn onto Rt. 146 South, so we needed to turn around.  For the most part, shoulders have yet to be invented in Oklahoma, nor were there any good, safe turnaround locations.  We had to turn onto a dirt side road, but that left us backing across the main road through a blind intersection to turn the rig around.  I asked Jean to go back and signal when it was clear for me to back across the highway.  As I backed across, she walked across by the rear of the trailer to come upon a skunk in the tall grass, which left her trapped between the skunk and the side of the trailer.  It was about half-grown and just as startled as Jean was, but as it turned its business end toward her, she ran around the back toward the other side of the trailer, and yet another catastrophe was averted.
Trying to figure out where we could have gone wrong, it made sense that the problem would have occurred in the construction zone.  Sure enough, when I got back to where I felt the road should be, there was again no sign for the state park, but the route sign stood nicely hidden behind a large piece of construction equipment where even a careful observer wouldn’t have seen it coming from the east.  We made the turn and headed south as we followed the DeLorme Atlas ever more carefully.  When we reached the road that the atlas indicated should have been the turn for the state park entrance, again there was no sign for the park, and as I looked to the right I was faced with a huge hill like I was looking up an Olympic ski jump.  Surely they would not be having RV trailers pulled up that hill, but I noticed traffic approaching from behind us, so I committed and made the turn.  That indeed led us into the entrance and the park ranger station.
We had never been there before, but found a paved campsite that was absolutely beautiful…level, smooth concrete, with plenty of room, and high enough to drain well.  We pulled in, not believing our luck, and got set up.  It was 3:30 p.m.  Once I was about done, I got out to walk around a bit, and there in front of the longer than normal lane to the campsite, on what would have been the blind side of the truck, was a small brown sign designating the space as reserved for handicapped usage.  My dubious luck was obviously holding, so we undid our set-up, moved to another space, and repeated the whole process over again.

Our campsite on White's Catfish Cove

American Pelicans and Cormorants enjoying the evening.
A nearly full moon rose to illuminate White’s Catfish Cove.  This was the fall’s last hurrah, and all the wildlife were out to enjoy a beautiful evening.  In the short while before darkness fell, we saw cormorants, Blue Jays, woodpeckers, flock upon flock of Canada geese, seagulls, a couple hundred or so coots, heron, ducks, an owl, a bull frog, a few pelicans, and two packs of coyotes calling back and forth between themselves.  About the only thing we didn’t see in the cool evening were mosquitoes.  Finally, a win.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mississippi By Canoe

Here's an hour-long video of a canoe trip down the Mississippi.  It is exceptionally well done.  You will love it.  I promise.  And, if you are ready to make the trip, let me know.  So am I.

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.

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


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.