Archive for March, 2009


Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

It is difficult for me to admit, but as the time quickly approaches I find myself more and more weary about the days to come. I was out in the sugar-bush making maple syrup on Saturday and I caught myself studying the flow of the Bad River. As I watched the fresh snow-melt make its way north to Lake Superior, I was awe struck by the vast amount of power the river has at flood stage.  Trees as wide as I am fat were packed together stopping for nothing; I smiled and waved at a large Oak making its way down stream only to see it laugh as it completely obliterated a beaver dam that stood in its way. 

This supreme demonstration of power brought home the point that our trip is incredibly dangerous and to be frank, quite idiotic. When it is all said and done, our skill and judgment will only protect us so much. Our true safety depends almost entirely on the mercy of the river. There are too many environmental factors that we cannot prepare for, the only thing we can do is minimize as many of the risks as we can and hope the ones that we can’t won’t happen. It is this voice that is nagging in my head that is making me really start to think! 

The voice is telling me that I am a fool and that I should just quit while I have a chance. I am obviously going to ignore its suggestion because if I quite before I even started, I don’t think that I could ever forgive myself. Ignoring my inner voices suggestion however does not mean that I can ignore the feeling that goes with it and that feeling is fear, that’s right! I am genuinely afraid of this trip. Those who know me know that this claim is not one for me to take lightly, knowing what I know about the river and its inherent dangers has caused me to look to my gut for guidance. 

As the weather starts to warm up and the days become longer, we are weeks away from beginning our on water  training for this trip. I am hopeing that this feeling of fear does not go away but rather I am able to harness it. this feeling is a healthy thing I think, in fact if I didn’t have it I think that would be more reason for alarm. I just truly hope I will be able to keep a level head and make sound and safe decisions when our abilities are put to the ultimate test. This post turned out to be a serious post just like Rich’s last post, so here is my serious face.

100_3439 Take care



Angry Phil!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

 I would like to point out that Rich is a jerk! I take the time to find recipes that could be made on trail in a cardboard box oven /solar oven (not a dutch oven) like rich suggested and what does he do? He makes some delicious bread and doesn’t even have the heart to call me over for a single piece. Oh well… I guess my free loading privileges have been revoked or something. Normally he is very nice and invites me over to eat up all of his left overs of peas n’ pasta. I still love ya Rich, but you cut me deep…If I had a kitchen at my disposal I would be cooking stuff all the time but given that you are the only one to have a fully functional kitchen you are obligated to feed your bro’s. The Bro Code says so. (Okay so maybe it doesn’t say it) but…Phil So Hungy =(. 

Slow Times and Closing Circles

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

Well, its been awhile since Phil and I have posted anything on the blog, mostly due to the massive amount of cold that still lingers up here in the north country.  Spring’s really doing its best but ol’ man winter isn’t ready to go back to the Old Folks Home quite yet.  Dag blasted old man!

The semester’s starting to come to an end, which means classes are wrapping up.  I got off easy this semester, and the only real class I had to to do work for was Ceramics.  Look, I make pretty bowls…


Mmm, College.  I can just feel my brain expanding.

So in light of all my free time I’ve learned how to cook semi decently, which I figure is a pretty good thing.  Phil found this wonderful video of a guy making no-knead bread, you can see the video here.  I would take a photo of the bread after I made it, but its already been eaten by my fellow housemates.  Which I guess is a good thing, right?  One of the cool things about this bread is it requires alot of sitting around time to make, but doesn’t require any really fancy ingredients.  If Phil gets his Dutch Oven idea to work we might be able to make bread while goind down the river, which would definetly be cooler than sliced bread, nyuk nyuk nyuk.

In addition to baking bread and throwing bowls I’ve been reading a great deal.  Over the last month I’ve been reading “A Walk Across America” parts 1 and 2.  These books were written by Peter Jenkins, who started walking across America in 1973 in Alfred, New York.  6 years later he waded into the waters of the Pacific Ocean in Florence Oregon.  During his journey, Peter meets some truly amazing people, from a mountain man named Homer to the black family who adopted him in Alabama to the woman who became his wife Barbara in New Orleans.  

These two books chronicle a story that is almost too amazing and spectacular to believe.  I’m not going to try to write a review of these works because once I start talking about them I can’t stop, but if there were only two books that I was allowed to have for the rest of my life these would be the two I would keep.

These books are significant to me for reasons other than the pleasurable reading they provide.  I read the first book my Freshman year of college.  It was given to me by a girl who was one of the first people I met at Northland.  I read the book in less than 48 hours, and loved every page.  For week I dreamt of doing just what Jenkins had done, training to go on a long-distance trip with the hope of finding a brand new life on the way.  It wasn’t until recently that it occured to me that I hadn’t read the second book, in which Jenkins completes his journey.  Now that I have finished the series, four years after I first started reading it, I feel that this is a real sign that my time at Northland is drawing to a close.  

It still hasn’t hit me yet, that I have to leave all my friends (except Phil of course) to go start a brand new life, but reaching the final page in “The Walk West” and closing the book has started me thinking more about my final days at Northland.  With very few classes I plan on making each day count, taking full advantage of my remaining days here, but always at a leisurly pace.  Jenkins writes in “The Walk West” that he realized that the trip he had made wasn’t about the terrain he had traversed, but the dozens of people that had helped him along the way.  I feel the same way about Northland.  It wasn’t about what I learned or didn’t learn, it wasn’t about what grades I got in what classes or the kind of degree I got (although these were nice perks).  Here at Northland the people provided the fertilizer that helped support and inspire me in my journey to adulthood.  They helped me find the things I really wanted to do and pushed me to do bigger and better things than I thought I was capable of.

The people at Northland helped make me who I am today, and I hope that the friendly faces Phil and I meet as we journey down the river will be equally as influential.

This turned out to be kind of a serious post.  This is my serious face…





Oh yeah, and I want to learn how to do Stykball aka “The Coolest Game In The Galaxy”


Later Days,



Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

To my dearest brother Christopher. 

First of all, WELCOME BACK! I hope your trip around the sun was fun and eventful.  As usual, I will not be around for your birthday because I do not have a car to drive down and see you; but I do have a blog at the interwebs disposal to wish you the bestest birthday ever and let all of teh internets know that I am extremely proud of you and all of your hard work you have been putting towards your medical degree. Best of luck! I am sorry being a commercial trucker didn’t work out for you, but hey, two years behind the wheel of a big rig is quite the accomplishment and although it didn’t work out, I am sure that the experience has helped you grow by leaps and bounds.  

That said, I have been sitting here for the past few weeks wondering what can I give you for your birthday. I originally was going to make you a miniature black powder cannon similar to that of “Big Bertha” But I decided that would be too simple and wouldn’t get you some needed  attention from some beu seeking Lady’s. So, I am presenting you with something that is way cooler than a cannon and will get a much more desired response of disgust from our beloved parents, especially mom. Assuming the secret has been kept safe, this gift will be as much of a surprise to them as it is to you. In fact if they are reading this, they should be afraid very afraid, muhahahahahaha! 

With no further delay, I present you with my good friend “Mino Gii-nei-bik” or “Gee” for short. 100_3868

His name is very simple and intuitive. It means “Good Snake”. He is a Mojaves Ball Python, and is quite possibly the friendliest snake you will ever meet. He enjoys being handled on a regular basis and has claimed territory on the back of my neck. He is most definitely a guy given that he has a tendency to seek out warm comfortable places; down girls shirts is his favorite. A few of them here at School are kind enough to let him do so. 

He is nearly one year of age and is already 2.5 ft long. He will grow to a total of 5 ft and can weigh upwards of 40 pounds. He has a life expectancy of 25-35 years, so I hope you are ready for some commitment.

He eats one full grown mouse a week. The older he gets the less he will have to eat given his extremely slow metabolism. When full grown he will have a diet of rats and rabbits but most likely only one a month.  I have tried feeding him pre-killed mice, but he has proved to be a very picky eater. He has the instincts of a hunter and will only eat live prey. I must say, he has proved himself as an excellent assassin. There is hardly any suffering on the part of the mouse. 

There are a few rules that must be followed with him. The first is, do NOT trust him for a second. He may seem very calm and lethargic, but the second that you take an eye off of him, he is gone. He is lightning fast when motivated. He is very smart and seems to have a memory for where stuff is. I have not had any problems with him but that’s because I have not taken any chances. All snakes are escape artists, so when it comes time to upgrade his home, it will need to have latches/ locks on it. 

Keep him away from the hedgehog. Here’s why!









Although, compared to a mouse I think it would be a very uncomfortable meal,  it would be wise to not take any chances. He has eaten mice that have been 5x bigger than his head. I don’t mean to scare you by making him seem like this big bad predator, I believe the cat is a step up on the food chain, so keep the cat away from him. 

The second rule is, DON’T baby talk the snake, this guy is a bad ass, he is not a sissy like your cat. I mean just look at what his teeth look like. Is this something you want to be talking down to? I don’t think so! 

ist2_371885-python-skull1The source of this picture is unknown so I can’t exactly give credit to the owner otherwise I would. 

Well, That is pretty much all I have to say about this guy at the moment. I will give you some more in depth care instructions when you come up to get him. I will continue to take care of him until that time comes, but I wanted to let you know that has of now, this snake is yours.

Happy Birthday Chris, stay out of trouble and keep it real.

Love, Phil . 

Book Review: The Complete Paddler

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

paddlerAbout a week and a half ago we were contacted by David Miller with a request to review his book The Complete Paddler: A Guidebook For Paddling The Missouri River From The Headwaters To St. Louis, Missouri.  We were more than happy to accept and we recieved a copy in the mail a few days ago.

Instead of reading the whole book, I chose to instead only look at the stuff that could be more broadly applied.  The vast majority of this 300+ page guide is a step-by-step guide of every mile of the Missouri River, starting at Three Forks and ending in St. Louis.  It is thoroughly researched with an eye for detail, as Miller recounts campsites, towns, and obstacles in and around the river.  All these items are marked clearly on the dozens of maps he provides.  These sections would be extremely valuable to any person interested in paddling any section of the Missouri, but don’t really apply to Phil and me.

That said, the broader sections where Miller addresses long distance paddling in general are extremely interesting.  He addresses concerns like what elements make for a quality campsite, what kind of gear he found essential and how it can be transported, and many other pieces of information essential for the aspiring long-distance paddler.  Although Miller travels primarily by Kayak, he does a good job of also keeping in mind Canoers and other craft, which Phil and I greatly appreciate.

This book gets straight to the point, with no concern for narrative and an eye for detail, this book is like a high-protein CLIF bar wrapped in bacon and peanut-butter when compared to the flashier and more elegant writing of Mohlke and Harris.  


My only concern with the book is that Miller seems to be a bit brand-heavy.  His recommendations for gear don’t take price into consideration, and as poor college students Phil and I see money as a big issue when shopping for gear.  While Phil is always coming up with new ways of building gear, I’m always on the lookout for a bargain, and these are not issues Miller takes into consideration.  If you want to camp like Miller, make sure your wallet can handle it.

All in all, a valuable resource that we will refer to often on our trip south.  Thanks for the book David!



Hey Rich, when You get a chance slide the book my way, I would like to get a look at it. Oh, do you have anymore Cliff bars? I found some bacon and peanut butter. 



I have had the privilege of reading approximately 70 pages of this book  and so far, I must say that this is possibly one of the best paddling/camping guides I have come across. The thing that stands out to me is Miller has a nack for safety. He notes the dangers of “widow makers”, hypothermia, wind, Meth labs, stupid people  and other apparent dangers that many guide books often over look. He also takes it a step further by taking preventative measures aka “risk management”. Two things that Miller suggests to bring in his gear list are ear drops and eye drops. These are things that I usually have stashed away in my first aid kit on any water based trip, yet I have never seen them listed in any other guide book I have come across (perhaps I am not looking at the right books).  The fact that these things are mentioned leads me to believe that he knows how crippling of an injury an eye/ear infection can be in the back country and how prone people are when they are exposed to silty water for hours on end. 

Another thing that I like about this book is that I am not belittled as a reader. Miller gets straight to the point and puts himself on the same level as the reader. He does a careful job to limit claims like “experts know that it is important to do yadibadyblah but rather, he takes ownership for his claims. He does this by using a lot of “I” statements. By doing this he acknowledges that there may be other ways to do things, but what he has mentioned in his book is what works for him.

Rich’s big criticism of Miller is that  “Miller seems to be a bit brand-heavy”. This is true but…Miller breaks down the reasons as to why he chose what he did.  For example, Miller suggests that travelers get the best tent they can afford, he then goes on to promote a Sierra Orien AST3  with another “I” statement. After doing so he lists all the reasons why he chose this tent and what consumers should look for when trying to make a purchase.  He basically boasts equipment that are “bombproof” from wind and weather when used properly. Well, as Rich pointed out, we do not have the financial backing to be purchasing “bombproof” equipment, so we are forced to improvise with what we have by essentially making the entire campsite “bombproof” with the use of multiple barriers such as tarps, logs, cliffs, rocks and even our canoe if need be to serve as additional wind/rain shields.

I may be getting ahead of myself here given that I have not read the entire book yet, but it seems to me that he leaves out a few techniques for dealing with certain situations. For example, in the section on (Reading The River), Miller says: “Around sharp bends and when upstream dams are releasing water, you find yourself pulled along in a 5 to 10-mph current. paradoxically, although you gain speed when you run with the current, where it pulls you along fast you will frequently need to paddle to increase speed to maintain control of your boat. ” Miller is absolutely correct with this statement, however he fails to point out to paddlers that the opposite also applies. A person can use back strokes to allow the current to go faster than they are. This is my preferred technique for shooting rapids that are class 3 or higher when in a canoe; by doing so, reaction time is increased and the paddler has just as much control as they would paddling faster than the current. That said, I am not sure if it is fair to make this criticism given that the nature of this book is a guide book, not a skill book. 

I look forward to chipping away at this book and if the rest of it is anything like the first few sections, Mr. Miller is worth his salt. Thanks for the book David, it may prove to be a valuable resource indeed.  


Tribute to the Waters of the North.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

(See ethical question at the end of “a pound of flesh”)

In the four years I have spent in the north country, I have come to greatly appreciate the most valueble resource known to humankind. No, I am not talking about oil or other fossil fuels. I am talking about water. We are blessed to live in apart of the world where fresh water can be found in abundance. The thing is, I have always been taught truly fresh water does not exist anymore and that every bit of it needs to be purified. 

Well, a few years ago, I was leading a trip in the Porcupine Mountains state park as a high adventure guide and I broke out in hives and proceeded to have the worse allergic reaction of my life. I took a few benadryl tablets which cleared up my reaction. Being awaken by my near death experience I took inventory of everything I had ingested and narrowed my suspects down to two things, wild evergreen and iodine purification tablets. Not wanting to take any chances of a repeated reaction I chose to exclude both of these things from my daily rutine. 

Not eating wintergreen was easy enough for me to accomplish but not using iodine created a new set of problems. My only other option at the time was to boil the water. The problem was, the area was on a camp fire ban at the time and we only had a litre of fuel left for our stove which needed to last us an additional three days of camping. This left me with quite the ethical dilemma, do I make a fire and break the law in front of the boy scouts when in a leadership role? Do I evacuate myself leaving them with their ever competent scoutmasters? Or do I tough it up and drink the water straight from the source? A few other options were going through my mind such as purifying water through photosynthesis or making a solar still out of Tupperware and a few other wilderness survival techniques, but none of them were realistic given that all the other options take vasts amounts of time.

I didn’t like the idea of being a bad influence nor did I like the idea of evacuation from a camping adventure, so I chose to risk fate and drink unpurified water. I only drank water from spring fed rivers or very large lakes. I refused to drink standing pools or ponds. I was amazed when six months came and went and I found myself giardia and tapeworm free. 

Blood tests have shown that I was correct in my assessment and it was indeed the iodine that caused the allergic reaction. Since then I have used bleach as my personal method for purification when leading trips. From a risk management perspective, it is down right stupid and negligent to encourage people to not purify their water which is why when in a leadership role I always purify. But…when I am camping on my own time, I have come to trust much of the flowing rivers and streams as well as Lake Superior as sources of potable water.

I have since been camping many times without purifying my water and have yet to get any water born illnesses. There is no way to know for sure what water is safe and what isn’t and even by being very selective you never can tell for sure and every sip I take is a risk of all sorts of parasites and bugs, I know that this is something my mother and doctor would not approve of,  but experience has shown me that water from the north is relatively safe.

So this post is a tribute to the best tasting and cleanest water in the world, cheers mate!


A Pound Of Flesh: Camping on the North Shore

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

Our midsession break is this week, and Phil and I decided to make use of this extended time off by going camping.  Our friends Daniel and Rob where more than happy to join us and our merry band set off early Wednesday morning for the North Shore of Minnesota.

Our first stop was our favorite army surplus store in Duluth where we made a series of last minute purchases for the trip and we got Rob a gloriously awesome hat.












We then proceeded to drive the one and a half hours north of Duluth to Grand Marais, a small town on the North Shore mostly used as a source of supplies for people hiking or staying in cabins on the Gunflint trail and other BWCA attractions.  The campsite we were staying at was 10 miles north of Grand Marais, a little place my friend Drew Henry and I found several years ago.  We were relieved when we finally found it and took many pictures.
































That night we made a delicious meal of Peas and Pasta, and saluted the end of the day with a ceremonial firing of the cannon.




That night we were awoken to strange sounds surrounding our tent.  The yelps and moans of these strange creatures reverberated around us.  Our solution to chasing away these creatures was simple and effective…the power of Osahno Woh!  Our tribal chanting convinced the coyotes that there were creatures in the woods more ferocious and lethal than they, and they ran with their tails between their legs.



The next day we hiked up the Brule River, home of the famous Devil’s Kettle.  Although it turns out the Kettle freezes over in the winter, here’s what it looks like when you can actually see it.


Devil's Kettle during summer


Devil's Kettle during winter


























Not so hot NOW are ya!

Although the main falls were frozen over, the smaller falls just downriver were still going strong.  More chanting resulted.

After hiking the Brule it was only 11:00, so we figured we’d go over to the Cadence River and see what we could see there.  There were a good 3-4 inches of ice over the river, so we decided we would just walk on it until we ran out of river.









































While hiking a particularly narrow section of the river, we discovered the body of a deer that had recently fallen from the top of the crevice.












In what I will always look back on as certainly one of my odder moments camping, we decided there was no need to waste fresh meat…







































After hacking off a large part of the deer’s leg and cleaning it in the river, we made a quick foray into Grand Marais to buy some extra supplies, and then went back to our campsite.  There, we cooked up a grand feast of Peas and Pasta while Phil marinated the venison, wraped it in tin foil, and let it bake over some coals.












All inall, this trip was a great success.  In three days of camping we managed to:

-Almost get eaten by coyotes

-Walk on a series of frozen rivers

-Fish for unpurified water from said rivers

-Find a dead deer and eat it

Never a dull moment.


I have an ethical question for our readers: Is it alright to leave this deer in same area it died, or should we have moved it off the frozen river?phil-serious

In my post above I disclosed how fresh the water is and how I am willing to drink it straight from the source. I will stand by this statement even when this trip proved to us that there dead animals in the river. One side of the argument is the deer will most likely be mostly eaten by birds and yotes within a week. This  eases my mind in the sense that all that will remain is the bones and dangly bits. The vast amounts of water flowing in a few weeks time should in theory wash all this away, leaving any nasty remnants to be diluted enough to the point that our immune systems can handle the trace amounts of death, not to mention these dangly bits and bones are an essential source of food in the rivers own Eco system.

The other side of the argument is that since we found the animal we are obligated as stewards of the land to remove it. There have been documented historical accounts of disease from  carcasses in the water and people have gotten seriously sick from too much exposure, in fact people have died.  So once again the question remains, should we allow nature to take its course and allow animals to rest where they fall where their body’s will be disposed of through natural order, or do we intervene and relocate the carcass to an area not so close to the water in hopes to preserve human health in a place where we are the guests. 

100_1231  100_1327This is a question I am almost certain will come up again as we make our way south, so speak up! what is your opinion on the matter?  It just might influence our next decision.