Archive for April, 2009

Maiden Voyage

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

canoe-005We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel up in Ashland.  We’ve got most of our gear and Phil and I are taking our final classes at Northland (Intro to Music and Environmental Math for Phil, African Music and Culture for me).  We got out of class yesterday at 4:00, loaded all our gear into the car, and drove five minutes west of Ashland to paddle around “The Slews” right off Highway 2.



After running into a number of dead ends, we found the mouth of the Snake River(?)(“Fish Creek”, but close) and tried to paddle up it.  Due to the shallow depth and many overhanging trees we were unable to get far, so we got out and wandered around for awhile.



After we were done wondering we headed back out into the bay.  We decided we wanted to experience a bit more chop and wind resistance, so we decided to paddle across a small section of the bay.  On the way over to the north side the wind was in our face, so the going was rough, but the way back was no problem.  

We’re playing around with setting up a photobucket account to dump all our pictures into.  We’ll post the link when we figure that out.


Update: We figured it out:


The Engine Part Deux

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

I showed up to work at the Native American museum on campus a few weeks ago, where to my surprise, Connie was waiting for me. Connie is one of my Native American Professors whom I have gotten to know quite well over my years at Northland. I became really good friends with her two years ago when she lead myself and a group of students to the Gathering Of The Nations pow-wow via road trip. She had gotten wind of this canoe trip and had heard about my work that I did on my first paddle and was persistent in helping us out. 

When I first saw her she had that savage look in her eyes that said “you are coming with me”. With a mind to keep my scalp I figured it best to do as she said. I hesitantly got into her car where she drove to Timeless Timber. When we got there she threatened me with pain of death to pick out the best piece of wood I could find. Like a kid in a candy store I was let loose to roam where my eyes rested on a piece of cypress. It was the same piece that I had thought about getting before opting to go with the yellow birch for my first paddle. I picked out the board and took it to her. She proceeded to pay for it. Following the purchase she gave it to me and ordered me to make a second paddle for my canoe trip. I was taken back by this gesture of kindness so I did exactly that.

The paddle I made from it is similar in design to that of a Polynesian war paddle. Its blade is round and pointy, I ended up clamping on a scrap piece of wood to the grip which I turned into a ball and socket design.  This grip is a little unorthodox, but it fits wonderfully into my palm. The grain work was also incredibly beautiful so I followed its grains and left some of its natural beauty in the paddle. The paddle itself is several inches shorter than my first paddle and the blade is significantly wider. I made it this way with hopes to use it as my power paddle in rough conditions when I need to paddle on my knees. 

100_3870100_3871100_3872100_3877100_3879100_3878I am very please how the paddles turned out. You will see on the first paddle I made it has a effigy burned into it with the word “MAHNG”. That is the Ojibwe word for loon. On my most recent paddle I burned my impression of a magpie into it which is Connie’s favorite bird. The text says “Halhata” which is the Sioux word for Magpie. It is in Sioux because that is Connie’s heritage; it just seemed appropriate to honor the person who gifted me with the wood.  I look forward to taking them both out this May it will be interesting to see how they compare. 

"Halhata" with bunny

"Halhata" with bunny

Until next time, take care!


Good Idea, Bad Idea.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

This is something that has been on my mind for the past couple of days and as of today I have decided against it. Those who know me, know that I am all about preparing for the worse case scenarios possible. Often times preparing for worse case scenarios often involves experiencing these scenarios first hand in a “controlled setting” so I will know what they are like should they ever happen in the field. Of course a “controlled setting”  in no way makes scenarios safe it just helps minimize the risks involved. An example of this was I once went 4 days with out food or water with close supervision. In doing so I learned that dehydration is not fun and will lead to the worse headache you can imagine. The upside of this was I learned that it is possible for me to survive for extended time periods with out  water which has caused me to maintain a positive mental attitude on trips where the canteen went dry. 

I recently discovered the school is currently hosting Wilderness First Responder(WFR)  training and part of their training involves three very intense hands on simulations with the worse case scenarios imaginable. I was talking to the instructor who has been working as a paramedic and instructor for 0ver twenty years and I was curious to know if I could take advantage of the “controlled” conditions and test my limits while at the same time giving the students some hands on experience with a real situation during their final simulation. I volunteered myself to be used as a victim in either a belligerent drunk situation, or a hypothermic camper scenario. 

For the drunk option I would invoke my mad skills as a method actor and have a few beverages before the simulation. The only reason I would do this is because it would give me the opportunity to be a complete jerk to some of my fellow class mates. I would only have enough to drink to where I could feel a heavy buzz yet still answer coherently, it would have been no different than being at a college party and in reality would not teach me anything that I do not already know. 

The other option would be to get into the frigid  ravine and induce a mild-moderate state of hypothermia during the final simulation. This is something I have always wanted to do, mainly because hypothermia is my biggest fear next to boater traffic on this canoe trip. The rule I have always been taught during my search and rescue course and WFR  is that it is not a major concern so long as the combined Water + air temperature is more than 100 degrees and the person has means of getting out of the water. With this in mind, I would like to do it this under perfect conditions where I could pull the plug at any time and still see how my body reacts. This would certainly help me know more about its dangers and help me make sound decisions as to traveling conditions which could potentially save our lives by preventing certain situations.  On top of personal insight, the trainees will get to see what it looks like and learn how to make proper diagnosis. 

With this perspective, it seems perfectly logical to want to do this and seems like a Win-Win situation…but when I take myself outside of this perspective a whole bunch of personal risks become involved. At this point, I must weigh the risk vs gains. To me, the gains immediately outweigh the risks but that is because it is my idea, of course I will see it that way  Deep down I know that this is incredibly stupid and all I need is someone to tell me it’s incredibly stupid to talk me out of it. I already know that by lowering my core temperature can potentially cause serious circulatory system damage as well as respiratory distress but these risks are low. The more serious risk of the whole thing is that it is not uncommon for men to become sterile after extreme cold exposure and being a man who wants to have kids someday this raises alarm. The second major concern about this is that it puts the instructor at risk, if something did happen, all of a sudden it would be on her shoulders and any court in the U.S would view it has neglect. 

Most people my age have dumb ideas all the time. In fact I have a feeling most people never grow out of this.  What makes me different is I let people whom I respect and trust about my intentions before I go about them,  Although I have a tendency to pose them like they are no big deal and that it is the best idea ever I still like to bounce the ideas off of different people. I can only imagine how much stress I have put on my parents over the years by telling them about my bad ideas before they happen. In this case I went to a good portions of my friends telling them of my grand intentions to do this idiotic feat. All of them encouraged it and thought it would be a wonderful experience. I was kind of dismayed by this because I secretly wanted to be told it was a bad idea and have someone discourage it, so I told someone whom Rich would have physically prevented me from telling. (It is a good thing he is not here) his dad. ( I was gonna go to my dad next). 

In a few short sentences via facebook I told him of my grand intention and he proceeded to tell me exactly what I needed to hear. He tactfully implied that doing this would mean that I was a moron. So with the old geezers words of wisdom I have decided to heed his advice and not put myself into induced hypothermia or become intoxicated for the WFR training. Instead I will be role playing and be in the cold water for no more than five minutes so the scene will still seem as real as possible with out the major risks involved. I am sure just that short exposure will still drive home the point that getting into a situation where we would spend time in the cold water would not be fun. That should be enough. 

I guess my parents as well as Rich’s parents should be glad that I am open about my bad ideas and am more than willing to share them which can often times make me look like an idiot which is better than being one.



I’m gone for 6 days and this is the first thing I see upon returning. God dammit Phil.


Exciting times.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

Last weekend myself and Rich went off to pick up our vessel that shall be taking us to New Orleans and I must say she is better than I was expecting. We have named her “Huckster” which is what Tom called us in a post at one point or another; myself and Rich liked this name so much that we decided to use it. Anyways as I am sure all of you loyal readers are curious to see her,  I give you “Huckster”.



You will see in the last picture the most recent changes that I have made to the canoe. The first and probably most important is the yoke.  I made a center yoke to replace the center thwart to make it easyer to portage. Rich’s dad Mike was kind enough to make us a blank out of a scrap piece of oak. The most difficult task of this was removing the old thwart. It took quite a bit of WD-40 and pounding via hammer to get the nuts loose. I remedied this problem in the future by using wing-nuts to hold on the new yoke.

I also made pads for both seats out of foam, duct tape and gorilla glue. Red Green would be proud.  Finally I drilled eight holes into the gunwale to attach bungee cords to hold our gear in instead of tying it in on a daily bases. 

Aside from the canoe, it has been a very exciting week. I received a very generous donation from a professor who requested to remain anonymous.  I will honor their request but I feel obligated to say an additional thanks and show off what their contribution has been used for. All this person asked is that I pay it forward in the future and make a similar contribution to someone who is doing something that I would like to be apart of. This will not be a problem, I promise!  Anyways I give you our new home…

100_3874 100_3875This Eureka Mountain Pass 3XTE Tent is quite the upgrade from my old “Hippie Tent” which has seen many many years of abuse and field testing. I was not sure if it would be able to hold up to the rigors of this trip however, so it is much relief to have this new Cadillac of a home. I guess you could say we are taking Dave Millers advice to go with the best we can afford and this is the only tent we could find and afford that met all of the requirements  met in his book The Complete Paddler. I know some people frown on Eureka tents and insist on using Marmot or MSR, but I say that if their good enough for the Boy Scouts they are good enough for me.  I will be donating my old tent to our good friend Rob whom I know will give it a good home. So here ya go Rob, I give you the “Hippie Tent”. Enjoy!

100_3755These certainly are exciting times. I will be field testing the tent for the first time tonight can’t wait to see how it compares. 


Old Man Winter.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

A morning hike drove home the point that winter certainly is not over. I woke up around six this morning and went rampaging through the campus ravine. There was an inch of this all too familiar white stuff on the ground. It was the real nasty kind that gets everything wet when touched too. I decided to go back to bed when it started to rain.  Upon arousal from my slumber, a quick glance out the window revealed that the snow has since been washed away. On a happier note, we now have possession of the canoe and I have begun making renovations to it in preparation for our trip. The most recent task is to give it a good cleaning and equip it with a yoke to aid with portaging. 



Wasting time.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

Time is drawing close and I can taste the river. I finished all of my classes for winter semester all I need to do now is get through the two Maymester courses then I am done with my undergrad. Yesterday the weather was perfect; it was a scourching 63 degrees and it was well spent. bow-drill-jpMy good friend John Patrick and I spent all afternoon honing in on our wilderness living skills by making bow drill fires. They day ended in great success!  I got my technique down to a science and can create an ember every time; however I still need to work on making a natural tinder nest. I got one successful fire with with a mixture of dried cattail fluff and shredded cedar bark, but the majority of the fires made with it were made with laundry lint. Myself and JP were schooled by the survival instructor who came out and played with our sets. He had a fire going in under a minute. Way to rub it in our face Grieg!

snakeMy good friend ‘Gii’ also came out to soak up some of the Rays. It may have been the first time outside he seemed to like it. We are going to pick up the canoe tomorrow and I can’t wait! It is time to get some paddling in, until then take care.


“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get”

 -Mark Twain.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

So I’m not sure what this has to do with canoeing the Mississippi, but I thought it was cool so what the hell.

Last night Phil and I went out to the indian reservation a few miles east of Northland to help make Maple Syrup.  Phil did this last week too so he showed me the ropes while I stood in awe of the scorching furnace used to boil over 200 gallons of sap.



The furnace with the sap in the square box on top

The fire that had been built was so hot, the full size logs that we were throwing into would fully ignite in less than a minute, and the metal sides of the furnace glowed red hot all night long.


Inside the furnace

The work we were doing wasn’t physically difficult.  All we need to do was stoke the fire every once in a while and make sure the sap was siphoned into the container at the same rate as it the water was being boiled off.  This required us to stay awake and check things every half hour or so.  We started boiling around 8:00pm and finally finished around 8:30 the next morning.  Phil was a real trooper and only slept for about 45 minutes, while I lay down on the ground and knocked out at 2:30, waking up around 5 to see Phil still dutifully throwing stuff into the fire.  Now that the sap has been boiled down, Steve and Joe will take it and refine it further somewhere else.  The whole process should be done in a week or so, and then Phil and I will receive a jar or two of pure Maple Syrup!

While this is not an activity I would want to do on a regular basis, this is not an experience I will am soon to forget.  Joe and Steve told some great stories over the night, and it was really amazing to see the whole process through from start to finish.  I hope we have lots of special experiences like these while we make our way down the Mississippi. (See how I tied in our trip at the end there?  Pretty slick, eh?)


Phil and Steve


Phil and Wool Blanket



For those of you who have never done this before I figure I should tell a little bit more about whats going on here behind the scenes. First of all, out of 200 gallons of sap (one week worth of harvesting) only 5 gallons of syrup is made. For all you math buffs out there, that is a 40/1 ratio. Myself and Rich will probably get a couple of jars out of that syrup for the trip but the primary reason to be out there is to gain the skill and help out some wonderful people who are being hit hard by the recession. Joe along with Steve and his family live completely off the grid, they harvest their own crops, generate their own wind and solar energy. They heat their home with a wood stove and do all of their own canning and preserving. Not to mention they live right on the shores of lake superior. 

The sugar bush is about a quarter of a mile walk off of a backwoods dirt road. There are exactly 65 trees that are tapped and sap is collected from them by Steve once or twice a day depending on the weather. There may be one more boil that happens before the season is over and the sap stops flowing but so long as they are able to fill the tank, I will be out there lending a helping hand. The sap that is made has no additives or preservatives. 100% natural and because it was made over a wood hearth there is a natural woody/smokey flavor in the sap that makes it have a real sharp tang when drunk straight. None of this sap is made for profit it is all given away as gifts and sees Steve and his family through next winter. 

One of the tricks I used to stay awake, is I keep a teapot full of sap boiling that I can use to make tea at anytime throughout the night. If you ever have the opportunity to make tea out of pure tree sap(not syrup), do it! it is delicious and it has enough sugar to keep one awake and slightly wired. 

Until Next time,