Sunday, October 28, 2007

Out of shape again

I received the call from No1 son in Madison late last week informing me that Loveland Pass got a snow dump, the Packers were playing the Bronos Monday night, and "lets go dad!". I came up with a number of reasons why I should stay in Minnesota but was unable to persuade myself. So here I sit, tired, sore, mildly altitude addled, and very content. For some reason, I am adverse to any gratuitious exercise for exercises sake. I'll kayak, bike, ski, hike, or engage in any outdoor activity that promises a bit of a workout but you can't get me near a club or piece of exercise equipment. As a result my AARP eligible legs, which have been mostly in a kayak cockpit for the better part of the summer, feel like someone has been plunging ice picks into my quads and calves. Which is exactly how my upper body will feel sometime next April when I jump back into the kayak with toned and well muscled legs from a winter of cross country and telemark skiing. The problem with that first time out, doing whatever the incoming season tempts you with, is that the first time is so damn much fun that you don't want to stop, even though you know you will pay. Hmmm, let see.....if I ski run for run with a 28 year old cyclecross racer will I be sore tommorow? The same brain that says, "of course you will be you idiot!" also says "but its just so damn much fun!". So here I sit, waiting for tommorow so I can do it all over again. Ouch!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Full moon/Hunters moon paddle

Last night several of the usual suspects and a couple new ones did the 2nd Annual Hunters Moon paddle on White Bear Lake. It was a perfect crisp fall night in Minnesota and promised both an excellent sunset and moon rise. We were not disappointed. The Voice of Reason and I were a bit late and met up with an old classmate of the VOR's at the launch, who joined the regular crew for the evening. Upon paddling out to the usual middle of the lake viewing spot I was a bit surprised that no wine bottles had been pulled out of any day hatches per standard operating procedure. After savaging me for being late, the whining nd excuses began about cold fingers, too cold to stop paddling and drink wine, etc, etc. We did stop briefly and were rewarded by the sunset / moonrise in the photos. We retired to the B.Dahlie estate, in Mahtomedi of course, where the missing wine (and beer) was discovered along with a number of wild game hors de ouvres, spicy squash soup, and a couple of classic fall pies, pumpkin and apple. It was an excellent fall paddle with the weather, culinary, and cameraderie elements combining to make the perfect evening.

The actual full moon is this evening and will be the largest full moon of 2007. Here are some moon facts courtesy of the above mentioned VOR classmate (no blog name....yet) :

Tonight, those blessed with clear skies can enjoy a glorious Full Moon, (exact full phase at 0452 UT, October 26). In fact, the Moon will reach its full phase within a few hours of perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit, making it the largest Full Moon of 2007. On April 3, the Full Moon was within hours of apogee, the farthest point in the lunar orbit, corresponding to the smallest Full Moon of 2007. The difference in apparent size between the largest and smallest Full Moon is quite dramatic. But seen in the sky many months apart, the change is difficult to notice. Skygazers should also enjoy the Moon on Saturday, October 27, as it encounters the lovelyPleiades star cluster. Because the Moon will be so bright, it will be easiest to spot the Pleiades stars near the Moon with binoculars or a small telescope.

(Sorry, none of these links are 'hot')

Monday, October 22, 2007


Last weekend one of my all time favorite characters, former Green Bay Packers wide receiver and broadcaster Max McGee, died when he fell from his roof in a western Minneapolis suburb while trying to remove leaves. I don't think Max could play in Roger Goodells corporate NFL today. I think he would have been a bit too colorful, as were many of the characters that made the NFL what it is today. Max was not one of those guys who was lost when their football career ended. He and left guard Fuzzy Thurston started a restaurant called the Left Guard. There was one in my hometown of Eau Claire, WI. It turned into a little chain called ChiChi's which he sold for a few million bucks at the height of its popularity. He didn't need to clean off his own roof but I guess you would expect a guy like that to want to do it. The other great thing about being financially secure was that he didn't have to do the Packer broadcasts for almost 20 years. He did it because he enjoyed it and we enjoyed his commentary because we knew he would not pull any punches; if they sucked they sucked and he would tell you that. He also founded the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes; I guess you would have to expect something like that from a quality guy like Max McGee.

In the winter of 1966 a benefit was held at a small bar (The Golden Spike Bar if my memory serves me) in Altoona, WI for a kid that was hurt in a car accident. The above mentioned Fuzzy Thurston was from Altoona and donated an official NFL football, signed by all the members of the team, to be raffled off for the benefit. I was standing next to the OldMan when he won the football. I believe he had a couple more glasses of Leinies to celebrate the event. All my childhood heroes including Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Willie Davis, and even Vince Lombardi himself signed the football. When my dad died I inherited the football and last night I pulled it out of its top secret storage facility just to take a look at Max's signature. I noticed he signed right next to his buddy, Paul Hornung, who said, "I just lost my best friend".

The thing I enjoyed about Max the most was his dry sense of humor. As a guy with a decent sense of humor and who values friends with a good sense of humor, I can imagine the loss his close buddies have felt. There are several good stories, including the classic Super Bowl I all night partying story, which you can read in any of the many tributes on the web. One of his great lines was, "When its third and ten you can take the milk drinkers and I'll take the whiskey drinkers every time". I suspect Roger Goodell and his corporate NFL suits would cringe at that statement these days. Max will be dearly missed on a number of levels.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Gales of November come early

Below is the Nearshore forecast for the next couple of days on western Lake Superior. I would dearly love to be up there to see 10-14 footers rolling in. There will likely be some great shots later today on the Duluth Shipping News website, which is where the photo above came from. There is a cool shot from yesterday of the Coast Guard heading out for heavy weather training. A nor' easter like this will have the surf rolling in at Park Point and there will likely be kayakers out surfing the big swells when the wind drops. This would appear to be one of those days when you really need to weigh that 'adrenaline pumping fun' vs 'downright dangerous' equation. I'd still love to be there!





Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My First Time

I attended a presentation last night on managing risk in sea kayaking. This event was sponsored by the Inland Sea Kayakers, a group that I belong to. It was a very good presentation and addressed the question of who is the biggest risk, a beginner in a T-shirt with the pfd strapped on the back deck or the expert who decides to head out and surf some 6' breaking waves by himself. In the matrix that was presented it was suggested that the 'unconscious incompetent' (T-shirt guy) and the 'unconscious competent' (Surf boy) had some of the same things working against them. Both the 'conscious incompetent' (knows they don't know what they are doing and seeks training) and the 'conscious competent' (in the process of training or trained and very cognizant of the risks) had a much better chance of coming back healthy and with good stories to tell. Which reminded me of my very first time in a sea kayak on Lake Superior.

It was 1997 and NumberOneSon had graduated from high school. He and I took a week and headed up to northern Wisconsin to do whatever we felt like. We canoed the Namakagan River, fly fished for panfish, mountain biked the CAMBA trail system, and ate like kings. I had talked about kayaking with my long time Madison buddy, The FrugalFisherman, and I figured if he could do it so could I. I had the usual fear of being trapped in the spray skirt upside down but figured I could learn how to avoid that. We were only about 40 miles from Bayfield so we called Trek & Trail, booked the four hour intro to sea kayaking course, and off we went. It was all brand new stuff. Bilge pumps, wetsuits, paddle floats, spray skirts.....paddle with your core, don't tuck the pull strap under the skirt, etc. All interesting stuff but I was impatient to get on the water. At the time they were using the Perception Eclipse, a boat that has the intial stability of one of those rolling logs they use at the Lumberjack Championships. But what did I care or know about stability, I was a veteran canoeist and had kinda listened to the instruction. When it was time to get on the water I hopped in the boat, put on the skirt per instructions, and headed for Basswood Island. I made it about 200 yards before I went over. I guess I had missed the part about 'if your nose is over your belly button you can't go over'. God it was cold. May in Chequamagon Bay, 3 weeks after ice out is no place for a wetsuit. I had only intellectually understood the wetsuit concept of your body heat warming the thin layer of (freezing) water between it and the neoprene. The concept became very clear at that point as did the realization that if I had to urinate I would require a tweezers to successfully complete the operation. The instructor paddled out quickly but I was only in chest deep water and told him I was fine. I was, however, freezing my ass off and my confidence was shaken at best. From the looks on the faces of my fellow rookies it was apparent that their confidence had also taken a bit of a nose dive. The instruction was excellent however and we all continued on and went through the rest of the exercises. I was, of course, very confident of my wet exit abilities at this point and since I was already soaked tipping over again held no fear for me.

When I am trying to show someone the basics of kayak touring I always retrieve the memories of that day in 1997. I remember being awestruck when the instructor did a high brace and snapped right back up out of the water. I also try to remember it when we are gazing out at the waves and trying to decide whether to paddle or sit back and make another pot of coffee. When paddling in a group of different skill levels its good to recall when you were the novice of the group. Nothing is worse than making the decision to paddle after the rookie does the 'Minnesota Nice' thing and tells you they will be fine. Ten minutes into the trip when the same question is posed you get the same answer, 'fine', but now the neck and shoulder muscles are clenched and the head does not turn toward you to deliver the 'fine'. At that point we need to be cognizant enough to make the suggestion to head back to the coffee pot and give it a try later. Even though we always fall into the 'unconscious competent' zone a times, its good to remember how you felt when you went out for your first time. It helps center you back in the 'conscious competent' area where you can be most useful to yourself and your paddling companions.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Water, water everywhere.........

........but not a drop to drink", Rime of the Ancient Mariner -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Today, October 15, is Blog Action Day and we are supposed to write on something that interests us regarding environmental action and, as regular readers know, I'm interested in water. Lake Superior, Gitchee Gumee, the main subject of this little writing exercise of mine, contains 10% of the worlds fresh surface water. There are still a number of areas I paddle on the lake where I keep a tin cup on my deck and dip it in if I need a drink. I've written about taconite tailings, sunken 55 gal drums from World War II, and refinery discharges into Lake Michigan. All of that is good and important stuff to be aware of but todays environmental thought is much simpler and much more personal. Think about where your water and other resources come from and use 'em wisely.

It struck me up at camp this weekend that our water usage there is about a tenth of what it is at home. The reason for that is because we have to pump it out of the ground by hand. Its easy to let the water run when you're brushing your teeth or run the faucet until it gets cold. When you're getting about a pint per stroke it kind of makes you more of a conservationist. When its time to get clean at camp we take the wood we cut and split and lug it along with the water that was pumped, down to the sauna house. Standing under the running water while you shave, gaze at yourself in the mirror, etc is just not an option. Having to actually work for your water, physically work for it rather than writing a monthly check to the utility (and water is still a bargain!), makes you appreciate it and think more about conserving it. Water can and has run out. Aquifer levels fall and lakes dry up. Potable water is a big problem in a large portion of the world. Just take a little time to think about where your water actually comes from.

We had the pleasure of having fish fry on Friday night in Port Wing, WI with my friend TheGreatCircumnavigator. When part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was designated as the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area, the GC decided to commemorate the event. He got the word out that if we wanted to donate to the environmental cause of our choice he would do a solo paddle around the new wilderness area. A lot of us signed on and one afternoon, when the weather forecast was stable, he threw his kayak in at Meyers Beach and paddled the 75 miles to Bayfield, circumnavigating the entire archipelago and arriving early afternoon of the following day. He is also building, coincidentally enough mostly by himself, an environmentally sound home that is off the power grid. I ran this idea for a post by him and he mentioned the fact that we are one of the few countries on earth that flushes our toilets with drinking water. Most people use 'gray water', rainwater, or other non potable water sources. I'll bet if people had to pump it by hand we would figure out a way to collect rain water, rinse water, or other water that would typically just go down he drain or storm sewer.

Once again, think about where your water and other resources come from and please use them wisely. Little things add up and collectively they will make a difference. You don't see the "Think globally, act locally" bumper stickers much anymore but its still a very admirable sentiment.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kayaker and/or hunter?

Should a guy who buys a $250 Walmart kayak and takes it out on Lake Superior be called a kayaker? Should a guy who buys a license and a rifle and heads out into the woods be considered a hunter? I had the pleasure last weekend of providing a little mentoring for NumberOneGrandson, the 14 year old grandson of Gurney Granny. He had taken the Wisconsin DNR's Hunter Safety Course (required by the way) and passed. And trust me, there are a few who don't pass. He had the proper gear, knew about safe gun handling, proper tree stand safety, and absorbed the constant barrage of advice and information being thrown at him by me, PodMan, and TheKingOfIronwoodIsland, and Grandma. Even though he had a nasty cold he managed several hours in the stand, even though no deer were sighted. He seemed to enjoy it however, and is ready for the 'real' gun season (this was a special youth hunt), which begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving. With a bit more experience under his belt I think we can safely call him a hunter.

I received the following article from the RetreadRanger, who is in mourning due to the untimely demise of his beloved Yankees. The headline reads, "Shaken by deaths, extreme athletes vow to press on". Apparently these guys paddled out to an island, ran to the top and back down and then jumped back into their four double kayaks and paddled back towards the mainland, even though the forecast 6' seas and 40mph wind gusts had materialized. They were all wearing either shorts or tights but no wetsuits. Someone apparently had a radio becuase the Coast Guard responded and was there in 90 minutes or so. Some of the quotes in the related article are telling.... "the group had discussed, then decided, to risk the return voyage from Anvil Island, despite increasingly choppy water.", " He scrambled into the middle equipment hatch of the kayak containing Mr. Juryn and his male paddling partner.", “The weather conditions were forecasted. They were known. It was a poor choice on their part,” “They (the Anvil Island kayakers) wore life vests, but otherwise they were all poorly dressed for the conditions.” , “We should have turned back,” Mr. Faulkner lamented. “But this is our love. We were all experienced paddlers, and we were carried away by our own testosterone.”, "We were all wearing tights or shorts. We were exposed. Wet suits would have saved their lives, but you never really think it will be you.”

While these are not the $250 Walmart kayak types it still raises lot of questions in my mind, including the 'experienced kayaker' label that the Globe and Mail puts on these guys. It also raises questions about the whole concept of extreme sports. I admit to being biased; I subscribe to Sea Kayaker and let my subscription to Outside lapse. My interest in riding a mountain bike down Mt McKinley, running an 'unrunnable' river in Outer Slobbovia, or swimming across Lake Superior has waned in my dotage. I'd would like to get some feedback on this incident however. How crucial are extreme sports to our psyche and should someone have to risk their life to bail your ass out when you screw up? Are you 'experienced' if you decide to press on after an exhausting run, deteriorating weather forecast, and no proper gear? Open someone middle hatch and climb in during high seas? Does this aid or hinder the general publics perception of kayakers as a whole?

Let er rip blog readers, it will be fun to hear the range of opinions. I just wish we didn't have to dissect a tragedy like this. However if it makes one paddler think before launching I guess I'm happy.

PS Just read KiwiBirds post on the same incident. More info is available in the link on her site.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Paddle Mania

On our trip to Voyageurs National Park a week ago I inaugurated my new Greenland stick. I had taken a paddle carving course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN last spring with my buddy from Madison, TheCommish. The wood we used was basswood, which was harvested and dried locally in paddle sized boards. My first attempt, the Norwegian War Club, was heavy but very serviceable. RonO made the comment that I wasn't going to break that one while I tried to learn the reverse sweep roll. When GalwayGuy was learning to roll his Sitka spruce greenland stick snapped and shortly after going to the War Club he hit his first sweep roll.
In any event the wood is strong and supple and I wanted to carve another sleeker and lighter paddle. I stopped by the school and invested in a basswood board with every intention of carving a paddle and having it done by mid summer. Which of course had no chance of happening. Enter RonS of Novorca paddles. He offered to run it though his CNC machine to rough shape it and let me carve on it with my trusty Mora knife. This was just the head start I needed and the deal was done. After a bit of reshaping and carving I started the coats of tung oil. The one thing I like about the carving method is the total lack of sandpaper. When I built my Chesapeake LT 17 the biggest pain in the ass was the endless sanding that was needed. As Mark Hanson at North House said, "You think the Inuit had sandpaper!?". My kinda guy. The paddle works great.

RonS suggested longer and narrower which would give a bit more thrust and less resistance in the water. He was right and the paddle feels perfect! I can pick up the tempo with a minimal increase in energy expended. My only problem was that the tung oil seemed to dissolve in the water! I weighed the paddle when I got back and then 5 days later. It lost 3 ounces! RonO recommended Formby's oil but I think I'll go with the old tried and true Watco oil, the same stuff I've used on wooden canoe gunwales. Four or five coats and I'll be in bidness again. I guess I might as well play a bit more in Gitchee Gumee between stints in the tree stand. Maybe the paddle season is not over yet!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Micro climate on the South Shore

The weather was perfect at our camp on Reefer Creek this weekend. The temps were in the high 50's, there was a low hanging fog and a north breeze off the lake that kept the temperature down. The fog made the fall colors vibrant and intense.....and I forgot my camera. In my haste to load up Rookie the dog and escape the retail garage sale mania, I forgot both camera bag and wine bag. Not to worry, there was beer in the cooler but it was agonizing to see the fog, the colors and the myriad of mushrooms that had popped out after the rains, just begging to be photographed. I threw on a 'shroom shot from last year but I can only hope that this recent crop is still there next weekend. Recent heavy rains, including the one Friday night, had the river raging. The soil in this area is heavy clay which means aspen, balsam, black spruce, and some oak and maple. We also have some majestic white pine that survived the loggers at the turn of the last century. Reefer Creek is one of the numerous streams and rivers that flows north into Lake Superior. When it rains the river comes up fast and goes down equally fast. The spring floods are legendary since it can be 70F a couple miles inland and 35F at the lake. This means big ice jams at the mouth of these streams acting just like a cork in the bottle. That time of year if you get to cool just head downstream, north to the lake.

Reports from the VOR, who was manning the retail garage, had it in the high 80's and humid in Minneapolis on Saturday. That is most definitely not my kind of weather. I've stated many times that I'll take zero farenheit over 90F any day of the week. I was invigoratingly chilly when I climbed down from my tree stand at dusk on Saturday. When I left the camp Sunday afternoon I drove the two miles up to the lake to check out conditions and there were surfable rollers coming in from the north and the temp was 54F at the mouth of the Iron River. Duluth harbor got up to 60F, the top of the hill in Duluth (one of author Jim Harrison's favorite drives in the country) was 70F, and by the time I reached Minnneapolis 2 hours later at 4pm, it was 84F. Its October for god's sake, this is just plain wrong! In any event we will be heading north again next Friday to enjoy the fall. I'm hoping for a bit of frost

Friday, October 5, 2007

Off to camp

The kayaks will languish in the garage this weekend while I pursue the wily whitetail deer. They will have plenty of visitors however since the VOR is determined to reduce inventory by conducting a hated garage sale ("Would you take a quarter for that??"). One of my fondest childhood memories is the Old Man throwing a couple guys out of our garage as they argued over who got to buy a set of bowls. I come by my garage sale antipathy honestly!

It should be a glorious weekend in the northwoods. The color was peaking up in Voyageurs last weekend and should be the same at Reefer Creek. We are only 2 miles from the south shore of Lake Superior and kind of have our own mini climate. There should also be tons of migrating birds. We are at the point on the west end of the lake where a lot of bird species think, "Hmmm....this looks like a pretty good place to cross; distance looks manageable". The bucks should be making their ground scrapes in anticipation of the rut and the bears will be fattening up for their hibernation. Its amazing what you can see while sitting quietly, 15' up in a tree. As I mentioned yesterday, I will have a companion in the tree for the first time. The eldest grandson of the GurneyGranny (she comes by her nom de guerre honestly also) will be taking advantage of the two day youth hunt. It will be interesting to attempt to impart some deer hunting knowledge and also to see how a member of the computer generation can adapt their attention (deficit) span to sitting quietly and observantly in a tree. Knowing this lad for a number of years gives me a certain amount of confidence that he will do just fine. It should be a quality hunt and I hope he can begin to develop a good hunting ethic. No one is watching you when you hunt so you need to develop your own code of behavior. There is some interesting discussion on this topic from the Orion Institute. I look forward to good friends, good food, and a blazing hot wood fired sauna. Oh, and perhaps an adult beverage or two once the bow is safely stowed away.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ore boat stabbing

You can't make it up. Two guys on the Mesaba Miner got into a knife fight at 3am as she was upbound, about 10 miles north of our beloved Apostle Islands. Apparently they were in their early 20's and drunk. They made port in Duluth at around 6am and the stabee, who turned out to be OK, was taken to the hospital and the stabber was grilled by the Coast Guard and the FBI for 10 hours. Other than wondering why it took 10 hours for two Federal agencies to get to the bottom of what appears to be an altercation between two acquaintances, I wonder about that age old relationship between alcohol and young men. One of PJ O'Rourke's greatest quotes is, "Giving money and power to Congress is like giving alcohol and car keys to teen age boys". Other than the more than deserved rip on our legislative bodies, it underscores that volatile mix that has been a problem for a couple of millenniums. On a related drunken youth note, the Ely6, subject of a couple posts on this site, had their preliminary hearing for their 79 counts of harassing BWCAW campers. The disturbing thing about that was that these teen and early 20's types had a 37 year old yahoo acting as their 'mentor'.

What to do? I sure as hell don't know and am as guilty as anyone regarding stupid youthful drinking escapades. I guess, like parenthood, its one of those things that everyone gets to do but some people are much more adept at than others. Freshman level course, Drinking 101 perhaps? The homework would be fun but its not the answer. Like most things parents need to take the lead. My dad took me downstairs when I was about 15 or so, popped a beer, handed it to me and proceeded to fill me in on the possible scenarios should I decide to go out and drink 6 or 8 of them on my own. It certainly didn't prevent that from happening but made me think, which I guess is about all you can ask for. No solutions, no monumental revelations, but certainly something that people have puzzled about since the 6th century BC when people discovered that their barley had 'gone bad' and made you feel funny when you ingested it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Good gear

For me last weekends Voyageur trip was likely my last weekend in my tent until next season. Bowhunting begins in earnest this weekend and I've volunteered to mentor a soon to be 14 year old who just got his Hunter Safety Certificate and is as pumped as humanly possible. I recall that feeling like it was yesterday. We'll see how long he lasts up in the tree. Some good gear made its debut this year in my boat. First and foremost is the Cooke Custom Sewing Lean 3 Plus tarp, affectionately christened The Bat Cave. It has dozens of sturdy tie points, is strong, light, and quick drying, and has the much needed bug netting to keep you sane on Lake Superior when those offshore winds bring the biblical style plague of stable flies. I bring lots of line and stakes in a small mesh bag and a 1/4' climbing style rope for a ridgeline. You can configure it in dozens of ways and rig it high enough so even 6'4" guys like me can wander in and out without getting garroted by the support lines.

Another fine piece of gear is the Kelly Kettle or volcano kettle as its sometimes known.This rig boils a liter of water in under 5 minutes. Normally I like gear that does more than one thing but this unit reduces the amount of fuel you need to carry significantly, can burn dang near anything, and is just plain fun for us pyromaniac types to play with. Coffee water, dish water, luxurious washing or sun shower water all are easy with the Kelly. I've glued some D rings under my deck and just bungee the kettle in there, out of the way. Another little piece of gear for the Kelly or your campfire is the small piece of plastic tubing with a brass reduction nozzle on the end. You can get your fire roaring with just a couple breaths as the ManFromSnowyLegs discovered. This is also great sport for the pyro types among us.

The Sagebrush dry bag is another outstanding piece of gear. I use it on my deck to keep my digital SLR and its spare lenses safe and dry. I don't like a deck bag since the tend to interfere with my Greenland paddle stroke but this one can be pushed forward and then slid back when needed. This also gives you room for your map case. Since I'm not naturally a trusting soul I stuffed the thing full of paper toweling and rolled the boat 3 or 4 times. Dry as a bone. It has a dry suit style zipper, is made of Hypalon (the same material as the deck of my Feathercraft), and comes with a simple back pack attachment so it can be used in the woods also.

The stylish bandanna around my neck is to dry my hands before grabbing the camera and is in no way to be construed as a fashion statement.

The Kelsyus beach chair is the item for which I've been most maligned but once people sit in it they change their tune. Its small, light, comfy (note my 'resting' shot at the top of my blog) and has a mesh bottom so it dries quickly. I bungee it on my back deck which seems to work just fine. It also serves the added purpose of being a de facto breathalyzer test. If you have to lurch forward on to your knees to stand up rather than rising straight up from the chair, its likely that you have been overserved and should leave the fire for your tent.

Last but not least the simple dish dryer. Get some plastic screen mesh and clothes pins at the hardware store. Hang em on a line and and air dry em. It gets them out of the way and saves you the onerous task of drying dishes. You still need to wash em however.

Any camping hints from blog readers will be greatly appreciated. Enjoy the upcoming season.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fifteen hats

As I watched the changing headgear on our trip to Voyageurs National Park, I had to ask how many hats everyone had brought. The total was fifteen. Plus the Irish Pirate purchased another one at the Kettle Falls Hotel bar (the famous 'Tiltin' Hilton'). When you're up on the Canadian border at the end of September you have to be prepared for everything from 80F heat to snow. Rain hats, wide brimmed sun hats, stocking caps, baseball caps......I think people went a bit overboard myself. As I mentioned in a previous post, my Filson duck hunters hat is perfect for all those conditions. Granted, no one would touch it due to its rugged, weatherbeaten, 'broken in' patina but its great nonetheless.

The park itself is a gem. You can go from big water to sheltered bays in less than a mile. We did have some wind but were able to hop from lee shore to lee shore and not have to simply put our heads down and paddle for a couple hours as often is the case with a windy day on Gitchee Gumee. Our route often looked like the course of the steel ball in the pinball machine but that was part of the fun. As I mentioned this is a multiple use park but most of the outlying visitors centers closed for the season Sunday. We only saw one houseboat underway and probably a handful of fishermen. You usually got a wave and most boats would slow down when they saw us. As we all know, this is not necessarily good because when the boat comes down off plane you get the giant bow wave but its nice to share the water with courteous fellow boaters.

If you want to avoid the power boats there are plenty of nooks and crannies to slide into and there are rocks the size of Volkswagons that most prudent power boaters want no part of. There are a number of designated campsites, many of which have bear boxes and picnic tables as well as open air pit toilets. This is true boreal forest with lots of conifers interspersed with some maple and aspen. The fall colors were peaking and the weather was unseasonably warm, although we did get some rain including a thunderstorm that seemed to last all night. I'd like to hit this park in the spring before fishing opener or maybe even mid October. It was pretty much deserted this weekend and I would imagine you would have the park to yourself if you did the early spring or late fall trip. Its been five years since I've been there but it won't be another five until I get back.