Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

Wet & Dry Wisdom For the Novice Canoer

July 13, 2017

I recently ran across my list of “personal lessons-learned the hard way” after my first canoe trip down the South Branch of the Potomac with a local volunteer water conservancy organization. Although the trip occurred a few years ago, I thought it might be of interest to other novice paddlers before they get their feet wet, so to speak.

1. If the outfitters tell you they furnish PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices), get yourself to the nearest Walmart and buy your own. That holds especially true if you happen to be a female with a bra size larger than B. Believe me, I know. Buy one and put your name on it. It will support your back, keep you from worrying about swallowing half the river, and won’t float away when you really need it because you used it as a seat cushion or just didn’t wear the uncomfortable thing. Another note for the ladies: wear a real sports bra…continually fiddling with your straps interferes with your paddle stroke.

2. While waiting to “put in”, don’t stand about with your hands in your pockets. No matter where you stand, somebody will be coming through toting a canoe or kayak. They can’t watch out for you. Stay alert and ready to jump out of the way. Speaking of pockets…wear clothes with zippered or Velcro pockets. Things will pop out or float away no matter how hard or deep you stuff them.

3. Geese often fly up the river…wear a hat!!! preferably washable and wide-brimmed front & back with a strap so you can cinch it tight under your chin. Ball caps float away faster than errant PFDs. Don’t wear anything leather unless you don’t mind spending the time to saddle soap it after.

4. A note to everyone, especially the men if you intend to father children in the near future…or even if you don’t. Canoe seats left in the sun get HOT! Take care, especially when wearing shorts.

5. If you worry about leaving your wallet or keys in the car, put them in a water-proof bag before stashing them in your pocket. Plastic key fobs are apparently water proof but it’s best not to test it.

6. Bald eagles look extremely condescending as they watch you pass by. Inwardly, they are no doubt cursing the fools in the river that are ruining their fishing time.

7. Speaking of being IN the river (unfortunately also based on personal experience):

There are no little rocks when your canoe hits them full on.

Canoe trips are an excellent time to test those supposed water-resistant watches.

Canoes do not stop just because you aren’t in them. Follow the adage, one hand for the paddle and the other for the canoe. Hang on to it the best you can. You don’t have to worry about sinking because you wore your very own personal flotation device, DIDN’T YOU!? If your feet touch bottom, try to angle the canoe toward shore. You ain’t gonna make a flying leap onto that pony, especially if it flipped over.

Note: Crawling over algae-covered rocks on hands and knees is safer than continually slipping, sliding, and definitely falling. Even TEVA water shoes can’t fight algae. You might want to wear long sleeves and possibly shades for the next week or so to avoid nosey questions.

Now would be the time to thank me if you stowed your stuff securely, cinched your hat on tight, and wore your personal PFD. If you didn’t, dollar bills dry rather fast if spread out on the car dashboard.

8. After the trip: now your snacks are all gone or soggy and all gone (happy fish). Make a stop for a quick sugar pick-up BEFORE trying to drive all the way home. Your family and the other drivers will thank you. Don’t forget to apologize to the counter person for the soggy dollar bills.

On a final Note: If a fellow boater or kayaker asks if you’d like to see a copperhead trying to swim across the river… just politely say no-thank-you and PADDLE AS FAST AS YOU CAN!



What’s Beneath Our Feet?

January 6, 2016

DSCF0079A few years back I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Adaments mountains in the Canadian Rockies for a heli-hiking trip. We stayed a a great mountain lodge with great food. In the morning we were helicoptered to a high mountain area, to be picked up for lunch and taken to another area in the afternoon, then back to a warm shower and utter collapse. By the fourth day I just wanted to stay in bed for a day, DIDN’T!

But by the second day, the guides learned that it did no good to expect me to keep up with the others. This, as it turns out, is a great way to get a private guide.  Everyone else in the party was bound hell-bent-for-leather to cover as much ground as possible, to see as much as possible.  I still don’t get it.  Every inch of these mountains held something new to look at: incredible glaciers sights and rock formations, streams muddied from a rock slide, canyons so deep that if you fell you’d drop until winter came, a yipping pica (which I am told is more heard and seldom seen), bear scat (didn’t stay there long), and incredible varieties of ground cover including an eyeful vast meadows of fireweed and similar flowers.  As near as I could determine, the other hikers never saw any of it. Of course, I could have done without the extreme close-ups of the black skeeters that spiked through my pants and clouded my vision when I raised my head. I was told that the game of choice was to see how many you could kill in one slap. I got seven but still didn’t win. But, to me, it poses the question: Why is everyone in so much of a hurry to get somewhere or “see more” that they can’t see what’s right under our feet?  At least, the way that I “hike”, I run the least risk of stepping in that bear scat.DSCF0064


Harriet Homeowner’s Plumbing Career Goes Down the Drain

August 7, 2011

     I have come to the firm conclusion that it was the fault of the women’s liberation movement that my toilet blew up. It used to be when something went wrong with the plumbing you screamed for the nearest male, be he husband or hapless passing neighbor or, in our house, my father.  And, if he had any sense, he called the plumber.  Now, thanks to the modern image of the independent woman, we gals are expected not only to hold down a job but run the household and know how to repair it.  Luckily, my father did not believe in helpless females and, at an early age, I was initiated into the mysteries of wiring switches and lamps, drilling holes, sawing tree limbs, and hammering nails albeit not always straight.  But, whenever faucet washers needed changing, I politely watched my father for a few minutes, then quietly slipped away, the echoes of his frequent expletives fading behind me.

     When the toilet mechanism in my house started emitting spits and hisses instead of flowing water, my first thought was to call the plumber.  But, at ten o’clock at night, I contented myself with using one of my father’s best plumbing curses and filling the tank by bucket.  My first big mistake was relating the incident at the office the next day.  “That’s simple to fix…no need to waste money on a plumber…etc”.  My second mistake was to believe that.  If it were so simple, certainly I, the very image of modern independent, career woman, could easily handle the problem.

On Saturday, I gathered my tools, fetched a bucket ans sponge, and proceeded to empty the tank.  So far, so good…except that the water cutoff valve was frozen even after a liberal application of liquid lubricant and I had to trek to the basement to shut off the whole house.  That should have been my clue right then and there.

I couldn’t see how to take the toilet mechanism apart so I opted for replacement.  The instructions said “screw in, screw out”.  Great, except that I had the increasing feeling that the mechanism wasn’t the only thing about to get screwed.  I couldn’t make anything budge without it looking like something was going to rip apart.  Creeping doubts gave way to uneasy fear and I decided the wiser course was to retreat and put it back the way it was.  So I did.

Back to the basement.  When I turned on the water I could hear the roar as it flowed full force into the tank.  Whatever I’d done, it must have fixed the problem.  Or so I thought.  But did the cutoff valve on the toilet mechanism work? I didn’t need an overflowing tank. I hurried upstairs and lifted the lever.  Gulp! It did not work. I swallowed panic and began to diddle with the mechanism.  That was my third mistake.

The instructions never mentioned that the bloody thing came apart if you twisted it the wrong way.  I saw the rise of the Yellowstone geyser just in time to duck.  That’s when I set the neighborhood record for the twenty meter water cutoff dash.

As I crept back up the stairs nursing skinned knuckles and a stubbed toe, I noticed that the dog had taken refuge on the high ground of my bed.  I cautiously stuck my head inside the bathroom and entered the combined worlds of South American rain forest and Great Dismal Swamp.  Water dripped steadily from the ceiling onto a sodden carpet and the wallpaper was already starting to curl.  Cry?  No…laugh…hysterically!  The dog prudently departed the bed and slunk away to hide under a table.

The next Monday the plumber arrived, fixed the toilet in fifteen minutes, and charged me for an hour.  It was worth it.  I will go on being a liberated woman who rewires her own sockets, lays her own kitchen tile, and services her own car but, when it comes to plumbing, I don’t care if I’m seen as liberated just as long as my toilet works.

Deja Vu and Marcellus Shale “fracking”

July 24, 2011

I chanced upon a program this morning that actually seemed balanced and fair-sided on the issue of fracking. They concentrated on the Marcellus Shale area in Pennsylvania but I stopped to listen since we are facing the same conundrum in West Virginia. There’s no doubt on the benefits of obtaining such a store of natural gas to add to our energy supply. The cons of the process of fracking are more problematic. I listened to the complaints from the affected well owners about methane and other forms of contamination. They aren’t imagining these problems. Yet, on the same program, the official company line is stated as there being no proof that their drilling methods are responsible for the problems of the well owners.  Now here comes the “deja vu”.  Flashback, to another party of various company officials, this time a full-blown congressional hearing.  And, one by one, they state without hesitation that there is no proof that their “product” is the cause of the problem being investigated.  The tobacco company officials are ready to swear that there is no proof that smoking causes cancer. And now I really begin to worry.

The “Feel” of Quiet

July 24, 2011

Sunday morning. A clear sky. Not humid yet and an ever so slight breeze. It “feels” like a quiet morning here in the mountains.  “Feels” like quiet? Yes, feels. True, the usual cacophony of birds is absent. They’ve finished their territorial calling and are mostly busy with raising their brood. Still, I can hear a distant Blue Jay imitating a red-shouldered hawk, the coo of a mourning dove, and the buzzing wings of a hummingbird. The occasional green frog twangs at the pond. The cicadas have started, their incessant buzz contributing to the calm. So, it really isn’t all that quiet. It just feels that way. The weight of the air cloaks my shoulders like a soft blanket. It dampens all the twitters, buzzes, and twangs into a distant and barely perceptible din, like when you’re in the library and you can hear the voices of the world passing by through the closed window. The resulting calming effect enwraps a body. It’s quiet. You can literally “feel” it.