Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Here, once again, is a Christmas story to enjoy during the Holidays. I will be closing the Ckayaker office for the next week or so, but look forward to returning in the New Year. Stay well!

The three Inuit stood beside their snow-machines and stared at the snow shelf. It clung precariously to the dark cliff and jutted out towards the black curling water. The last time they'd passed this point, the shelf had stretched out into the middle of the river making for an easy passage. At that time only a small smokey hole indicated the presence of a river beneath the ice. Now the unusual warm weather of the past few days had changed things dramatically.

"Looks dangerous, doesn't it?" Alaku nodded ahead at the narrow snow shelf barely wide enough for a snow-machine. "What should we do?"

"Still wide enough to get by, but it won't be there when we return. We'll have to find another route home..." Kudlikuluk was obviously ready to try running it in spite of the clear danger of sliding sideways into the cold, rushing water.

It was decided to undo the snow-machines from the kamotiks, the wooden sleds each man pulled behind his snow-machine. Instead, the sleds were attached by ropes. They would follow several meters behind the snow-machines, but more importantly, should anything go wrong, the driver could quickly reach behind and cut the rope, freeing the snow-machine, thus allowing it to escape if need be.

Kudlikuluk was first to go. He circled his machine below the shelf and then gaining speed, headed right for the cliff. At the last moment he turned onto the shelf, carving a wide arc in the snow as he passed up-stream to the safer ice beyond. At that moment his kamotik was jerked into following his track as the trailing rope went tight. The first sled was over safely. Following the same maneuver, each of the other men guided their snow-machines and sleds across the tricky bridge. There was a heart stopping moment when Anguti's snow-machine suddenly started sputtering and briefly lost power just as he accelerated towards the shelf, but then it caught and ran the shelf without incident. From there, they followed the river-side cliffs further up the river without incident.

The short few hours of day-light had long since turned into night when the three reached their destination, a small windowless cabin built years previously from discarded panels of plywood filled with rigid insolation. For the next several days, the men checked the gill nets which they'd strung under the ice earlier in the fall. Gradually a pile of lake trout and arctic char piled up on their kamotiks. Another day and they'd begin the trip home for Christmas. Each one was looking forward to their arrival in their small community. They already had enough fish to see that everyone would enjoy a good meal on Christmas Day and beyond.

To pass the time during the brief day, each of the four had dug a hole in the flat ice of the bay under the cliff. Lying on their tummies and peering into a hole dug through the ice, they fished in the old way using a bright dog's canine tooth as a lure and a three pronged fishing harpoon. Slowly bobbing the lure up and down would attract the fish and a quick jab with the spear could catch them - if you were skilled. Alaku wasn't happy however. It had been getting more humid than he liked. The weather was about to change and he was uneasy. The others still wanted to catch more fish. After all Christmas was still more than a week away. Having lots to eat would be welcomed by the community. When the wind picked up during the night and the cabin began shaking, Alaku's words were on everyone's mind, but they said nothing.

With two days to go before Christmas, the weather finally cleared enough to try heading home. With luck, there was still time to make it before Christmas. The three of them were tired of being cooped up in the tiny cabin with little but fish to eat. The days of waiting had dragged slowly by and with little to do, the three men spent most of the time in their sleeping bags trying to stay warm. Now that the storm had broken, they quickly began the task of digging out the sleds and snow-machines from the new-formed snow drifts and began securing the load of fish onto the kamitiks. Wrapping the loads of fish up inside large canvas tarps, the cargo was then laced to the cross-stringers of the wooden sleds using seal-skin ropes which didn't freeze like modern rope. With a last look around,the three snow-machines roared into life and one behind the other, the men headed a few miles upstream to where a small tributary entered the main river. At this point, the cliffs were lower and in one spot a gully had formed where the snow-machines had a chance of climbing out of the river valley to the plateau above.

Alaku was the first to try the gully. Half way up his snow-machine began bogging down. The two men watching at the bottom ran up to help. First the sled was unattached and slowly lowered back to river level. Alaku pulled the front skis around and gunned the engine, spinning it around and then headed down. Another version of the rope trick was decided upon, this time Kudlikuluk attached his machine to the front of Alaku's. Both men circled to gain speed and then charged the gully. Just as Alaku began to bog down in about the same spot, Kudlikuluk's rope went taught and he was able to pull with enough force to bring the heavy load to the top of the gully. This tactic was used to bring all four of the kamotiks up to the plateau above the river and glad to be out of the river gorge at last, the men headed home happy to know there were no more obstacles between them and home to slow them down.

The sun lit the southern sky briefly at mid-day, then darkness set in again. They stopped a few times to make tea and have something to eat. Once again the weather was turning against them by late afternoon. They all noticed the snow starting to drift across their tracks. Two machines roared to life. Anguti's wouldn't start. Try as he might, the machine would sputter and die as soon as he touched the accelerator. It sounded like there was ice in the carburetor. Anguti quickly dug into his toolbox and came up with some tools. The other two cut out some blocks of snow with an old saw and made a snow-screen. This would make working in the wind a bit more pleasant. Within a few moments Anguti had the carburetor removed and dismantled, Sure enough, he could see ice blocking one of the tiny jets. By holding the still warm tea-kettle against the carburetor inside his parka, he had it melted. Checking to see no more ice was there to cause problems he had the machine re-assembled quickly and it started! The men headed out into the dark landscape, one behind the other homeward bound.

The land was mostly small rolling hills and somewhat monotonous. Suddenly sensing something unusual, Kudlikuluk looked behind him to make sure everyone was together. He was alone! Swinging around in a wide circle, he retraced his route. "Now what...?" he said almost aloud. Coming around an outcrop a few minutes later, he found the others once again huddled around Anguti's stalled snow-machine. By now the snow was drifting higher into the air and making visibility more and more difficulty. He must have water in his gas as the same problem was recurring. They decided to leave the machine and it's load of fish and continue on. To stay and repair it would leave them out in the coming storm. To leave immediately, they could probably make the community in time for Christmas. Making others happy was their primary goal.

Anguti sat on top of Alaku's kamotik and the two remaining sleds once again headed towards town. About an hour later, it was Alaku who looked back to make sure Anguti was alright. His sled was gone! What the...!! He turned back and this time drove for over a kilometer before finding his sled with Anguti sitting beside it, out of the wind, enjoying the last of his hot tea from his thermos. "About time you got here!" laughed Anguti. "Don't you ever look back?" Embarrassed, Alaku looked down at the broken link which had held the sled bars to the hitch bar on his snow-machine.

Kudlikuluk roared up the trail as they finished attaching the sled this time with a rope instead of the preferred solid pipe arrangement used in this hilly country. Hoping this would be the last problem they'd have to face, they headed home once again, but they all knew these delays were making their hopes for Christmas less likely to happen.

Even in the dark, the men had a good idea of where they were. Their spirits, which had been getting lower as the visibility got worse and their difficulties increased, now began to rise again in the more familiar surroundings. Coming around a low hill, a glowing light suddenly appeared where no light should have been. It would appear for a moment, then disappear in the blowing snow. Slowing down, they cautiously approached the light. It was a snow-house! Someone was out here in the middle of nowhere in a snow house! What were they thinking? Who could it be? Why weren't they celebrating Christmas in the community?

As they drove up to it, they watched someone struggling out of the low doorway and stood up. It was Maggie, probably the happiest and fattest lady in the world! She stood up and greeted them wearing her usual dress, a bulky store-bought parka, baggy leggings, and beautiful, hand-sewn sealskin boots on her feet. She beamed out a big welcoming smile and invited them in for tea.

"Where you guys been? You missed Christmas!" Maggie laughed at them.

"What do you mean, missed Christmas? Christmas is tomorrow..." Alaku grinned back.

"Boy, you guys are really lost! Lost in time too. You've lost a day, somewhere up the river!" Maggie laughed and turned to go into the snow house. "And it looks like you've lost a sled full of fish as well. Some fishermen you guys are...!" Maggie seemed to find this part the funniest of all. She laughed so hard, she started to cough.

The three men looked at each other trying to puzzle this revelation out. Following Maggie into the snow house, they were greeted by her two little children, whose faces peeped out from under thick caribou skin covers. The snow-house was brilliantly aglow. All around the snow house Maggie had stuck candles into the snow walls, lighting the interior up like a giant lantern.

"My husband and a few others have been out looking for you people. Since yesterday. Today is Christmas, or it was." Maggie had become a bit more serious as she looked around for some tea mugs to hand out. "We were beginning to wonder where you three had got to with all that fish you promised us!" The twinkle in her eye seemed to sparkle in the multi-candled snow house.

None of the three could quite believe they'd lost track of the time, but the dark days of being storm-bound in the little cabin must have been the reason. About an hour after arriving and several mugs of tea, frozen fish and dried caribou later, Maggie's husband and two other men arrived. Anguti's snow-machine was on one of their sleds and his fish laden kamotik was being pulled behind the other. Maggie and her husband decided to stay over in the snow-house and treat their children to a few days of living in the old way. The rest all headed to town and to the feast which had been delayed too long already!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Here Comes Da Sun!

In a small community called Arctic Bay, in the northwestern tip of Baffin Island, it's dark today. All day. I subscribe to a fellow blogger who lives in the community and the photo you see above was 'stolen' right off his post for today. I hope he doesn't mind, but given he was once an RCMP officer, I ought to be more careful, I suppose.

In any event, I highly recommend visiting his blog and getting to know more about life in Arctic Bay. It's an interesting place in many ways. Those of you living or visiting near Peterborough, Ontario can get another glimpse of Arctic Bay. At the Canadian Canoe Museum, in the kayak section, there's a video of some 'Arctic Bay-miut' building a traditional 'qajaq'. The craft is an interesting blend of traditions, some from much further west and some from Greenland to the east. I found it fascinating to see how the qajaq brought both places together.

For all of us in the northern hemisphere, the good news is we're getting the sun back, starting today, the winter solstice. Not many of us will get to enjoy the 24 hour sunlight they'll be seeing in Arctic Bay in a few months, but there'll be enough sun to keep most of us happy. For a while...

Friday, December 18, 2009

GPS As A Verb

It was the dis-connect between my charts and what I could see around me while paddling on Georgian Bay a couple of years ago that finally pushed me to buy a GPS unit. A year later, I bravely headed out once again on Georgian Bay, this time from Honey Harbour. Within a half hour I was lost once again! How could this happen, especially now I was equipped with both charts AND a GPS unit?

The fact of the matter was that I wasn't using the GPS enough to really learn - and remember - how the thing worked. Once out on the water, I found myself scrambling to recall which button did what and how to apply it to my situation. I realised that I needed to find an interesting way to practice using the device so that these situations didn't recur, but what?

Accidentally discovering a 'geocache' this past summer in Newfoundland has proven to be my key. Eager to learn more about what I had found, I joined the geocache internet site and, as I've reported on other posts, am now a geocache addict. In the process, most of the mysteries of using a GPS device have now disappeared. I feel much more comfortable and confident using it while paddling. In fact, I can't wait to head somewhere warm this winter to begin geocaching and exploring while kayaking in ernest.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2010 - The Year of the Inuit

It's been a while since I've pasted anything about my favourite place, the arctic, but here's something interesting. The Inuit are having a year long festival of sorts to let folks get to know them and their world a little better. I think that's a great idea, especially because so many people here in Canada and around the world still think of people living in 'snow-houses' and eating raw seal blubber for diner every night. There is still a bit of that life-style when Inuit are 'out on the land' as they say, but there is so much more! This new web-site is a great way to see what's really happening in the arctic these days and a chance to bring yourself up to date. Check it out at Inuit2010.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Changing Opportunities In A Warmer World

The photo shows a vigil held on a beach in Ottawa last fall. People had gathered to bring attention to the problems posed by global warming. What were they thinking! Obviously not many kayakers were present at the event. With the undeniable increase in the average temperature of the planet, we will have more liquid water and less ice. In turn, this will raise ocean water tide lines several meters above present levels when all is done. For kayakers, the result will be even more water available to paddle on! That's the good news. On the down side (a minor point, really), there will be fewer places to paddle. For example, many island countries will be disappearing especially in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. If you want to explore the Maldives you'd better start making plans soon. The Florida Everglades? Do them now, because they'll be gone as well along with much of the southern state itself. The off-shore high-rise Miami hotel island tours will probably be a replacement venue. Fewer gators, but lots of sharks! Texas and the gulf regions? Look for big changes ahead. Homeland Security folks might want to look into getting some floating stations...

Are you into city paddling? Seaside places like New York will open up to new paddling adventures. For example, it is predicted you'll be able to paddle through Times Square on New Year's Eve - surely a unique experience! The truly adventurous can look forward to crossings of the Arctic Ocean from Canada to Russia. In short, whole new opportunities will be opening up as others close down. We're re-writing the coastal kayaking maps of the world, so don't bother buying any more coastal paddling guides. They're almost out of date! Sadly, Canada's coastline will not be changing very much at all thanks to all the high cliffs we have everywhere. As usual, it will be same old, same old, for us, I'm afraid. We'll probably even be keeping the same old Prime Minister (yawn)!

With all this to look forward to, it makes one wonder why so many people have gathered in Copenhagen for the next two weeks to try and prevent us paddlers from having a little fun... I highly recommend getting together with some kayaking friends this week and next and holding a beach vigil - while you still have a beach - to protest! Personally, I'm going skiing. This may be one of the last winters to go unless I follow the retreating snow line as it moves farther north...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Paddling Surprises

Last year at this time, I was no longer paddling. Two years ago, I was on my 100 day paddling challenge to myself, but missed paddling for a few days on account of a snow storm. I was back on the water by December 4th, however, paddling day #90. It was -6°C and snowing still. Today I went for a nice paddle in windy, lumpy conditions. It was #57 of the year, so I'm way off my mark of '07, but ahead of where I was last year. In '08, I only managed to get out 51 times in total, I don't recall why I didn't continue paddling into December last year. It was great to out there today. Plus 6°C, sunny with a nice breeze, cresting waves driving down the lake. Perfect!

In fact, two odd things happened. First a large fish, perhaps a bass, nearly slammed into my bow as I was surfing down some waves. That's never happened before. I've seen fish jump out of the water now and then, but never so close as to nearly smack themselves into the hull. The other oddity was a large brown bird, most likely a young snow goose, flew right up to the kayak and only veered off when about a paddle length from me. I was sure it was out to get me!

All in all, an interesting day on the water! I decided to have a quiet lunch under some overhanging trees. It was much too wild to eat out on the lake itself.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Look What I Missed!

It's no secret that I've become a geocaching fanatic recently. I've discovered it's a fun way to motivate myself to get out, to hike and see places in my neighbourhood which I've passed by, thinking there was little to interest me. How wrong I was! With one kayaking/geocaching adventure weekend now completed, I'm eager to do more.

I began wondering what I missed in the way of caches during my summer's travels. The map above gives you some idea. I either paddled or hiked past hundreds of caches! They are hidden almost everywhere. Had I been more aware of this activity, I could have added a whole new layer to my travels making them even more interesting.

Most of the caches are on land, but some are within reach of a paddler. The fact that those water-side locations are few in number has only increased my eagerness to begin placing some caches some of which would only be available to those paddling. I have a few places already chosen and I'm sure there will be more to come...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dreamtime With Paul and Freya

Freya continues to hurtle along Australia's south coast on her 'Race Around Australia'. In a few short weeks she will complete the circle only done once before.

I was looking around for some biographical information on the first person to paddle around Australia: Paul Caffyn when I discovered a short piece on his page. Here is a brief excerpt:

"In December 1981, Paul set out from Queenscliff near Melbourne and spent the next 360 days achieving the first kayak circumnavigation of Australia. This 9,420 mile paddle is acknowledged as one of the most remarkable journeys ever undertaken by kayak. Paul had to contend with a tropical cyclone which nearly swept him off a small offshore islet in the Coral Sea, raging surf, tiger sharks which frequently bumped into the kayak in the Gulf of Carpentaria, crocodiles, sea snakes and three sections of sheer limestone cliffs. To overcome the three 100+mile plus long sections of cliffs, Paul used Nodoz tablets to stay awake and lomotil to keep his bowels dormant during these overnight paddles. The longest stint along the awesome Zuytdorp Cliffs in Western Australia, took 34 hours of continuous paddling. After 10 years of trying to interest a publisher in a book about the Australian trip, in April 1994 Paul finally self-published his story as The Dreamtime Voyage.

Sadly, most of Paul's books are not readily available, but perhaps Freya's journey will prompt a publisher into returning them to the market. In the meantime, go, Freya, go!

Map from, Australia.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oprah's Secret Paddling Life

For those who follow such things - I don't - the news is out that Oprah Winfrey will be ending her career as a TV host and general commentator on all things entertaining as of September 2011. You might be wondering what she will be doing with her life after that point...

Wonder no more. It appears Oprah has a secret life! Never one to wonder who she was meant to be, she's been seen out trying on her new career, kayaking. In the picture above a bunch of paddlers hit the beach. Is one of them Oprah? I'm sure of it, because a few minutes later, the camp all set up, she was changed out of her paddling gear and caught on film imbibing the post-paddle drink of the day: Fireball.

I can hardly wait for her new TV series: Paddles With Oprah! This may just be the shot in the arm our sport needs to pull out of the post-recession blues, not to mention all of us getting into more classy camp clothing...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paddling Out To Lunch

It was a beautiful day, so I took myself out to lunch. The spot I had in mind doesn't take reservations, but I went anyway, hoping there'd be room. I launched and headed up the river to the beach I'd reserved, in my head at least...

Under the bridges and out on the lake.

A perfectly calm lake awaited me...

Almost there. It should be just around the corner...

Yes! Not a soul about. I'll enjoy a quiet, leisurely lunch lanqushing by the lake...

It turned out Wilson was there. I don't know why. He never spoke the whole time I was there. Typical. Anyway, it was a perfect lunch, cheese, nuts, hard cider, quiet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Train Wreck Paddle

When I was in my teens, my brother and I took up scuba diving. It wasn't long before we'd explored our local lake and began looking for other lakes to explore. One place we never managed to get to was a small lake where it was rumored a train had been wrecked and fallen into the water. It would have been a perfect dive site, but the chance to visit never arose and soon life took over. Until this morning...

I was looking for some new geocache sites to visit when one appeared on the screen, called 'Train Wreck'. I checked the Google map. It was THE wreck from my youth! Here's the cache description:

"This cache is located near a very active train line. Do not use the train track to get to the cache. This cache is meant to be found by boat.
"This is a traditional cache, which is located underwater next to an old box car in Orford lake. The depth of the cache is less then 3m. You will need a dive mask once you get to the site. The cache is a Nalgene water bottle.
"It is recommended that you use a canoe or kayak. There are two place to put into the water.
"The government picnic area located at 
N 45º17.419’ W 72º16.136’
 fire truck water intake location at 
N 45º17.605’ W 72º15.653’ parking is available across the street.
The lake offers a nice afternoon for kayaking. A good secluded place for lunch is at 
N 45º17.765’ W 72º15.767’"

Well, well, just what I like. Two of my interests coming together to complete something left undone from the past. I'll be checking this geocache out next summer. I'll have to free dive as I no longer have scuba gear, but I'll definitely be paddling my kayak to the site.

The photo? Not a train wreck, I know, but a few more million years and this lovely scene will be a sandy beach. Those waves are slowly wrecking that huge rock...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Changeable Weather

Any time one goes out for a paddle, it's wise to go prepared for changing weather. This rule is especially true in the Fall and today proved no exception. Have a look above at conditions while I was getting ready to launch. 15°C, calm. T-shirt weather?

I hadn't been on the water fifteen minutes when everything changed. A stiff breeze came up and within minutes, breaking waves had built up making things quite lively.

Even trying to take pictures started to get tricky! I was glad to be warm and dry in my drysuit as I played in the waves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

KayakWays' Qajaq Barn

If you know anything about the two people in the photo above, you'll know they're a dynamic pair. Never ones to wait for things to happen, they've made an enormous impact in the development of traditional kayaking skills during their travels around the world.

Well, once again, they haven't been sitting around. They've made an exciting new thing happen, this time along the Maine, New Hampshire border. They've built a barn!

Not just any kind of barn. It will be a place to build qajait, traditional craft, based on those in Greenland. I suspect it will become much more than that. It will become a gathering place, a center of excellence, a destination for those seeking more than just another roll, or a new boat. I can't wait to get down to Brownfield, Maine and have a look around!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Living Life Upwind

Kayaking is gradually become a cold weather - cold water activity as the season crawls slowly into winter. What we wear becomes important and for me what I wear can mean how I smell! Living life upwind can affect the lives of those down-stream, which in turn can affect you!

Paddling in Newfoundland, where one wears cold water gear all year around, presented a problem for me a few years ago. Not having easy access to places to wash out my fleecy top and pants resulted in the development of that 'paddler's aroma' we all know so well. Once, using my car to head back to the put-in, I was horrified at the odor it gave off having sat in the warm sun all day. The lady who drove with me never said anything, but I had no doubts about what she was thinking. 'Nice day of paddling, but...!'

After that trip, I began to re-evaluate my cold weather clothing choices. Now, I look at fleece differently. It's warm, easy to wash and dry when facilities are available, but rapidly takes on odors. Wool, on the other hand, is warm, easily washed, although is slow to dry. However, and this is the crux, it is much slower to pick up odors. For this reason, I have been buying wool garments rather than synthetics. I especially like the merino wool clothing put out by people like Icebreaker, Helly-Hansen and Mountain Equipment Coop. They tend to cost a bit more initially than similar fleece clothing, but at the end of the day, I'm a lot more pleasant when standing to windward!

Monday, November 2, 2009

That's A Lot Of Geese

Instead of going for a paddle the other day, I went bird-watching and geocaching on a local pond in Danville, Quebec. This pond, situated virtually in the town itself, has been a lay-over spot for migrating snow geese for several years. At first only a few hundred had been showing up, but more recently they number well over 100,000 birds!

In the photo above, I was standing in reeds and bull-rushes well over my head trying to get some video footage on the swirling birds. This still was among the mix I took. It gives the feeling of drowning in reeds and birds which was exactly how I felt at the time!

We have a few hundred on a pond closer to the house, but the shear number on Burbank Pond in Danville is staggering. A sight to see!

Oh, and lots of fun geocaches in the area as well!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kayak Kandy

An interesting observation I have stumbled across recently is that kayakers like their candy. Not only that, but licorice is widely regarded as the kayaker's choice. I'm not sure why that should be, but given I happen to love licorice, I'm not going to fight the facts!

My present favourite is Walker's Licorice Toffee, seen in the photo above. Until recently, I only knew of one source where it was available: in Nova Scotia, home to many very competent paddlers and licorice lovers. They even like salted licorice which is a variant all to its own.

American kayakers enjoy the stuff as well. The above photo is one favoured brand. Notice the red and white colours. I suspect it might also come in blue...

Over in Europe, Holland is king of the candy makers and lots of different types of licorice is made and eaten there, no doubt by good paddlers. I like the little tin that Potter's use. It isn't waterproof, but handy nonetheless.

The French produce this roll-up licorice for their paddlers...

... while the Finish go for bars of Panda brand licorice.

Naturally, the Italians like to dress up their licorice a bit more than others and wrap each piece individually.

Down under paddlers have several excellent licorice choices both in Australia and New Zealand. The licorice log in the picture above is from New Zealand. The yummy stuff below is Australian.

See you at the candy store, errr.... beach!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last Days of Fall

Yesterday, a warm, sunny calm day, came out of a cold, rainy weekend. I wasn't the only person to take advantage of it to squeeze one more day out of a season of generally poor weather. Three other kayakers were on the lake as well as this boat with the surrey top. Everyone was bundled up to keep warm, but there was no need. Even the 9°C temperature seemed warm in the sun.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

350 And No More

If you happen to live either in the far north or the far south, then the news that the climate is gradually changing isn't really news any more. The bear in the photo certainly has been experiencing change for some time. Change that isn't good for his well-being! Change that may well be the end of him and his kind.

World leaders have made a number of attempts to address the issue of high carbon dioxide levels beginning in Rio, thence to Kyoto and in December, in Copenhagen. Nothing has changed. We continue to produce more carbon than the planet can absorb and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now exceeds 350 parts per million, the level above which we ought not to go for fear of causing uncontrolled change to our way of life on the planet. It's in the vicinity of 387 at the moment.

Sadly, Canada's leaders are still in denial over this issue and do nothing to help either here at home or around the world. Fortunately many individual Canadians do understand the issue and are making changes, but so much more needs to be done, especially now that we must not just slow down carbon production, but reverse the trend we have started. Today is a good day to begin...

Friday, October 23, 2009


It's not news to remark that cultures tend to borrow from one another around the world. Just think what our food would be like without all the 'borrowed' spices we add in to make things interesting! Most people reading this blog have 'borrowed' the idea of a qajaq to make their lives more interesting and fun. When paddling Crotch Lake recently, I was reminded of another borrowed item that seems to be popping up with more and more frequency: The inkshuk!

I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I do recall being on a small island in northern Foxe Basin years ago with a couple of Inuit hunters. We had stopped, partly because the ice was blocking our progress and partly because we were thirsty and needed to make a tea break. While we had our tea and waited for the tide to release the ice, we wandered around the island. It was covered with inuksuit, built over the years for no apparent purpose. Or so I thought...

With little to do while we waited, we began fooling about, piling one rock on top of another, building inuksuit! We went on to add to some of the others, making them more elaborate and higher. It turns out that people had been stopping on this little island for years and they did exactly what we were doing. They passed the time using the resources at hand: flat rocks.

Today, paddlers and others continue this fine traditional activity all over the place. Crotch Lake had dozens of inuksuit built from the abundant supply of stones by visitors over the years. So here is yet another cultural attribute that's been passed on by the Inuit to to rest of us!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Putting On The Gloves

I tried to take advantage of the rare sunshine yesterday, but as you can see from the photo my paddle was over-taken by a cold front moving in from the south. Rain began over night and continues on and off this morning. Not far to the north, I understand snow is falling. Winter is slowly coming our way.

The air and lake water are colder now, and I've begun wearing neoprene gloves to stay comfortable. I don't care for the loss of feel on my paddle that brings, but I care even less for freezing cold hands. In another month, I'll switch again this time into mitts and by December I'll have gloves on inside the mitts. It's all part of the routine for this ever changing time of year.

On the bright side, the lake is empty. Even the fishermen have given up and put their gear away for another year. They'll return when the ice thickens enough to allow them out with their snow-mobiles and ATVs. Meanwhile, I paddle in peace and quiet with the loons, the ducks and the geese. It's one of the best times of the year to be out paddling!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bannock In The Wild

For the very first time in the history of this blog, I'm hosting a 'Guest Writer'! Mairi Watson, who lives just outside of Ottawa, was a fellow paddler on the geocaching and kayaking trip to Crotch Lake last weekend. She kindly sent me this piece about the bannock I made for the group on Saturday night. Here is her post:

Bannock is a truly Canadian food. It is traditionally cooked over an open fire either in a pan or twisted it on a stick. If you haven’t experienced making bannock you should give it a try or do what I did and get someone else make it for you.

During a recent kayak camping trip on Crotch Lake in Ontario where night time temperatures dipped to chilling lows of -8, a member of the group, our very own “ckayaker”, treated us to bannock which he expertly prepared on site. The cooking method he chose was to twist it on a stick and bake it over the campfire, so after the dough was prepared it required kneading and shaping. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I am very disappointed that I missed the photo opportunity that presented itself when our pastry chef was shaping the bannock into a long “rope” in preparation to twist it on the stick (try and visualize this and you will understand my regret at not getting a picture).

Cooking the bannock was the next step. This is done by holding the stick over an open fire, turning it occasionally, to evenly bake the bannock. I imagine in warmer temperatures this does not take very long, however, be warned that when temperatures are below zero this process proved to take a long time especially when continuously being asked, “Is it ready yet”?

In the end I must say it was worth the wait. There is something special about eating bannock that has been traditionally prepared fresh before your eyes.

Thanks for the experience!!

And thank-you Mairi for submitting this post!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Geocache Kayaking

A few weeks ago I read a trip report by a canoe paddler about his trip to Crotch Lake, Ontario. He mentioned there were 'geocaches' on the lake. This perked my interest and last weekend a group of us went kayak-camping on the lake to see if we could locate the caches. Here is a photo essay of our adventure.

First we did some team bonding to prepare ourselves for the grueling tasks ahead. Notice the clever way we took advantage of each other's boat wake to reduce our paddling fatigue in the chilly Fall weather...

Once we were warmed up and had established a base camp, we headed out for the first geocache. Shocked to discover the site was not located where the canoe paddler had said it was, we then followed the GPS track which eventually led us to this lonely beach where the land search began in ernest...

Our eyes were glued to the GPS screen as we made our way through the camp site's heavy brush, up cliff faces and through fire pits, as the ever elusive geocache slowly came within our grasp. Suddenly one of our party was yelling and screaming and jumping around in glee. The geocache prize was ours! We painstakingly open it to reveal it's mysterious contents. An incredible find, but wait! There was no writing implement to record our visit... Then, like a bolt from the blue, a pen was discovered some distance from the cache site itself! How wild can this adventure get?

Staggered by the thrill of it all, we took a moment to sit down and listen to our leader's calming words, "It's just a silly geocache, people. Get a grip on yourselves. We're here to paddle, after all..." We returned to our senses, grateful for these wise comments from our leader.

We placed the geocache back in it's hiding place and then quietly returned to our kayaks. He was right. This was a paddling trip. It was late Fall. We had to remain stable and cautious out here in the wilds of rural Ontario.

But, wait a second... Isn't there another geocache around here somewhere...? In the end, we found all three lakeside caches and set about hiding one of our own. It will be spring before anyone returns to Crotch Lake to dig them up again. meanwhile we're hooked on mixing kayaking and geocaching as a way to enjoy being out on the water.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change

Just when you think you have a clear view of things, something gets in the way and you seem stuck. What to do? For a lot of people, it seems the answer is to just ignore the view and focus instead on the ground beneath their feet.

Sadly for us on this planet, we can pretend all we like, but the view at our feet isn't going to help us move ahead. That tree and it's kind are going to change us and block our view of the future forever unless we change our focus and look to the scene beyond...

In the late 1960's I collected seal blubber samples in the Canadian arctic. The samples were sent south to be examined for various substances including mercury. In most cases, mercury was present along with a variety of other harmful chemicals. Suddenly it was clear that a seal hunting culture was being threatened by activities far, far away. Suddenly the future for a whole culture of people was in doubt and clouded by the unknown.

Today the threat is even bigger, extending not just to an isolated group of arctic hunters, but to everyone's well-being and that of our children. We have contributed to the changes our planet is undergoing, perhaps to the point of no return. We must change our ways. We must ignore whatever it is that's blocking our view of the future. We must move beyond our self-interests and together act.

Don't be that tree in the photo. Be the view beyond!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Early Snow

I know it happens every year, but to wake up to snow in the air and the beginnings of accumulation on the ground always comes with a bit of a shock. October snow happens around here and it doesn't usually stay past mid-morning, still... It is one of the those little reminders that there are things that need doing and soon. Paddling is nearly done for another year.

I'll be heading over to the boathouse later today and packing up all the gear I want to have at home for winter paddling. I'll have to decide whether to bring the kayak home or not. What if I go south to paddle during the winter months? What boat will I want to take with me? What paddle?

It's fun to think ahead to where I might end up paddling, but at the same time, it's sad to think another year of paddling is coming to a close locally. I'm often the only boat on the lake these days. In another month ice will be forming in the bays forcing us all of the lake until spring.

In the meantime, I'm going kayak/camping this weekend so I'm going through all my cold weather gear looking for warm stuff. Over the years I've accumulated a host of ideas and equipment for staying warm when it isn't. It will be fun getting into that world again!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And Then There Were Five

Long time readers of this blog will recall my fascination for the Corvidae family: crows and ravens especially. These clever birds are said to be smarter than dogs which strikes me as odd, but there you are.

For years we have had a pair of crows which often sit in trees near the house and keep an eye on our behaviour. They are usually accompanied by a third crow which we believe to be an offspring. This year there are two addition birds in the group suggesting they've raised two young this year.

The whole family was out enjoying the beautiful October day we had yesterday, but I only managed to catch the two adults with the camera. Like the young everywhere, the 'kids' were busy fooling around and wouldn't pose for their annual family photo.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In The Boat Again...

It's a bit like the song, 'On the Road Again' by Willie Nelson. After a paddling dry spell with too much rain and too many days of being forced indoors, I had to get out and, as they say, 'get the smell of the house out of my clothes'. I finally got back in the cockpit and pushed off from shore. I was paddling again.

It was a glorious day, crisp air, sunny skies and just enough wind to put some back into the strokes. I began by heading towards town...

Then I headed upwind for a bit...

And finally I went around the point...

All in wonderful colour. Heaven better be this good or I'm not interested!