Archive for the ‘Nature’ 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!

Enjoy!

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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

 

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.

A Day at the Nature Center

June 22, 2011

As I mentioned in the About Me section, I’m currently taking courses to get certified as a WV Master Naturalist.  In the past weeks I’ve stroked a black snake, gone birdwatching, grubbed in wet soil (mud), and made some pretty great like-minded friends.  The object is to become knowledgeable enough about nature to volunteer for the state in teaching others about appreciating the wonderful world around us. As part of the certification process we start volunteering as soon as opportunities present. So yesterday, I spent the day at the Cacapon State Park Nature Center manning the desk while the park naturalist lead a hike, taught kids fishing, and put on a live reptile and amphibian show.  I found out it’s great fun to point out the various exhibits. It’s also a good way to spend time doing research since I’ll feature a Nature Center in my forthcoming book, currently titled “Shadow on the Mountain”. Guess where the mountain is located.  I’m essentially living in my setting. How’s that for reality? Nature Centers are wonderful places to educate, not just children, but adults. We had quite a few and they were just as interested in seeing the rattlesnake as the kids. Pity the snake doesn’t feel the same way about people. By the way, Happy Summer Solstice!