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.

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:
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
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

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: