Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September Solo Trip with Homemade Gear

Got to spend 3 glorious September days on a brief solo trip last week. Apart from getting some much needed silence & solitude, my overall goal was to test out some of the homemade gear made over the off season. Also wanted to check out the tripping capabilities of the 14 foot Chestnut / Peterborough.

In particular, the homemade wall tent made over the winter needed to be used in the field to see if it needed any tweaking. Totally copying Robin L's awesome setup, I brought along the frame made from closet rods, a wanigan, a home-made chair and other little projects. I also purchased a folding cot off Amazon and it would be the first time I slept off the ground on one. Given that the nights were to drop down to around 4 degree celsius, a bulky wool blanket was brought along to supplement the sleeping bag. For paddles I brought along the repaired Sassafras tripper and the painted Ash blade

Knew going in that with all the stuff, it was going to be a triple portage but a simple, familiar route was selected in the Haliburton Highlands. It involved a direct launch to the water from a public dock (Raven Lake Access Point) with only a single 350m portage to get into the next lake (Gun L). I'd secured the most isolated campsite on the lake which is tucked into its own private bay, but in the end, the whole lake was empty for the duration of the trip.

All the gear at the end of the only portage.

The little Chestnut performed admirably with such a load, but a 15 footer would've carried this equipment better.

canoe loaded

Paddling into the isolated bay

The small site doesn't look like much from the water. It is basically a rocky spit sticking out into the lake, but being surrounded by water, there was a lovely view from most directions and a great fire pit built in the centre.

Site 71b from the water

View from shore looking west

The wall tent was set up so that  the back side could be staked down into the thin topsoil and the front side tie outs secure with rocks.

The 7x7 tent is quite spacious already, but the storage under the cot was great giving the tent even more of mansion-like feel. The canvas tent pole case was unrolled and re-purposed as a ground sheet under the tarp. Also brought along a mosquito net that could be suspended from the tent frame  if needed. The bugs weren't bad at all, but the netting was still useful for that evil mosquito hour before sunset.

View out the tent door

There was a slight chance of rain, so like Robin, I used an old tarp on top for additional waterproofing. Dimensions aren't perfect match but at least the old tarp still has a use and isn't collecting dust in storage.

 Home for the trip

After setting up camp, it was time for a firewood run. This little part of the lake doesn't see many visitors, so the shoreline is dotted with fantastic dry wood.

Plenty of fallen birch trees meant a nearly limitless supply of guilt-free bark to really get the flames blazing.

It was a beautiful first night. The next morning was cold and misty, but magical. The tent worked very well as the whole site was covered with thick dew and condensation but the breathable canvas meant a dry and cozy interior.

Misty morning sunrise

The lake was too tempting to resist so the first order of business was to paddle around for the sheer bliss of just canoeing.  

Back after an hour or so with sunlight illuminating the whole site, I started my first attempt at using the reflector oven made back in 2015. Tried my hand at making some biscuits with whole milk powder and coconut oil.

Is this going to work?

Well in the end, the oven did its job, but the thin material warped heavily and became quite flimsy. To be expected I guess since the material was never really meant to be used as an oven. The biscuits tasted fine but investing in a proper reflector will be needed for future trips. Also realized a good pair of gloves would be smart as finger tips were singed in the making of breakfast.

After that little gear experiment, had a nice little break in a shady spot under the pines to contemplate what to do next...

A decision was made to try some fishing. Back for the May trip with my son and his classmate, I had ordered a simple little collapsible fishing rod online. Seemed like a functional little rod for the boy since since outgrowing his Spiderman plastic toy. To transport the disassembled rod and mini tackle-box, I re-used an old cigar box with a sturdy clasp. Made a little handle with jute cordage and we were good to go.

 Son's fishing set

The fish were biting like crazy during our August trip to this same lake, but I guess they figured a grown man using his son's fishing set was inappropriate, so I got zero bites.

After giving up, it was time to replenish the wood pile given the fire the night before and for breakfast.  This time I sourced an old downed maple in the hills behind the campsite. The upper limbs would need to be sawn and split. Right before the trip, I finished making a new folding bucksaw and a case based on the Ray Mears Folding bucksaw/axe case. Mine was made from some waxed tarp material and hand stitched. It's a neat way to keep these essential bush tools together. The axe fits into an exterior sleeve attached to a simple bag for the saw components. Some leather and knotted paracord secure the top flap

Saw & Axe bag closed

Opening up to get the saw

The new 21" bucksaw was made with cherry scraps. Researched some designs and decided I wanted one where the handles are slotted so the the blade could fold directly forming a guard. Using some 3/4" Chicago screws to mount the blade means that there is no fiddling with any hardware like my old saw.

 Slotted handle guards the teeth of the blade

 Handles flip around

The new tripping saw

By the afternoon , the heat missing all summer long started cooking up the site so half the wall tent was flipped up and converted into a baker tent style shelter. It provided some decent shade relief. The wool blanket was removed the cot and a perfect afternoon nap ensued.

 Flipped up into Baker Tent mode

The rest of the delightful day was spent relaxing by the shore with some coffee, some bourbon and my last H. Upmann Royal Robusto from 2011.

 Why can't everyday be like this?

The evening seemed warmer than normal so a decision was made to keep the tent in baker mode. The roof was lowered a bit and the nylon tarp added back in case of rain. It was great to sleep with the open view and feel immersed in the surroundings.

The sunset was pretty sweet for my last night...

Apart from the reflector oven fail, I feel that the field test with the wall tent was a success. Obviously the weight concerns with the frame would limit portage heavy trips. It'll be more useful for poling trips with minimal carries. A significant amount of weight could be saved by using a ridge line between trees which might be considered in the future. Eventually, I'll be adding a stove jack into one of the panels and hope to use the tent again in the late fall with a recent acquisition of Kni-co woodburning stove. More about that in another post...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Tom Thomson Paddle Art Contest Over

The deadline for the Tom Thomson Paddle Art Contest run earlier in the summer has now ended.  Algonquin Outfitters has posted a facebook album of the various submissions which will be auctioned off for charity on September 29th . Many of the works were done on the laminated poplar paddles provided with the $25 entrance fee. A few creative individuals custom carved their own design.

In particular, the skull paddle re-purposed from an old damaged blade shows some real creativity. The paddle even has damage noted over the right eye which was noted in the original report by the Dr. who conducted the autopsy on the scene.

 Image Source: Algonquin Outfitters -facebook album

Monday, September 11, 2017

Musee des Beaux-Arts (Chartres) - circa 1760 Model Paddles

An older looking website of the Government of France showcases some of the accessories of the famed Chartres Canoe Model dated to around 1760. It is believed that the canoe (and accessories) were meant as a votive offering to the Cathedral de Chartres by Abenaki converts to Catholicism in Quebec. The patterns on the blades are some of the oldest surviving paddle decorations in Northeastern canoe culture.

Image Source Link:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

TAUNY Adirondack Paddles - Ted Comstock Personal Collection

Missed this event until it was over, but TAUNY - Traditional Arts in Upstate New York had display of vintage Adirondack guideboat and canoe paddles from the collection of Ted Comstock. The paddles feature various blade shapes and unique grip designs including a few with the "lollipop" style...

Ted Comstock Paddle Collection

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New Contender for World's Oldest Birchbark Canoe

Some interesting news out of Maine. The Pejebscot Historical Society in Brunswick carbon dated an old birchbark canoe in their collection. The results indicated that it was constructed sometime between  between 1729 and 1789. Museum records date the canoe to the mid-1700s.

19 Foot Wabanki Canoe
Image Source Credit: Pejepscot Historical Society

The nearly intact boat has spent the last three decades in a barn behind the museum, exposed to extreme temperatures and humidity. Despite this fact, it has remained in remarkable shape.

Pejepscot Historical Society/Larissa Vigue Picard via AP
Image Source Credit: CentralMaine.com

The two other canoes thought to be among the oldest were originally located in Europe (i.e. the 21 ft. Galway / "Grandfather" Canoe) found in Ireland and the Enys Canoe found at the Enys estate in Cornwall, England.

The museum has begun a fundraising campaign  in order to raise the $10 000 needed to restore the canoe and build an appropriate display. Work will be done by well known bark canoe builder, Steve Cayard.

One of the unique things about the Pejebscot Historical Society canoe is that it was built without any European technology at a time when metal fasteners and other innovations were being adopted by local Wabanaki builders. In addition, rather than use canvas cloth dipped in pitch on the stem pieces, the builder used tanned deerskin, something Cayard had never seen before in a surviving canoe. Thwarts were attached using an older method as well, basically by splitting the inwale and jaming in the tenon rather that using a chiseled mortise. More footage of the canoe and details of this exciting canoe news can be found in a video clip here.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: FA Hopkins - Relics in a Primeval Forest

Here's another work of famed Voyageur artist Frances Anne Hopkins. Dated to 1885, the oil painting showcases a smaller trade canoe anchored to shore with line and a paddle shoved into the beach sand...

Relics of the Primaeval Forest, Canada, 1885
Frances Anne Hopkins (British)
Painting, oil on canvas, 107 x 152.5 cm
Source: Art Gallery of Ontario tumblr page 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

James D. Julia Penobscot Paddles - Lot Update with new photos

It appears the set of two Penobscot Paddles recently offered by Auctioneers James D. Julia had no takers during their annual Summer Fine Art, Asian and Antiques Sale.

James D. Julia  Auctioneers
Summer Fine Art, Asian and Antiques Sale
(August 16th-18th, 2017). 

They have since posted additional photos of the paddles (some blurry) taken unceremoniously on the warehouse floor. Below are shots of the stepped grip paddle...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: Patrick Cambell - Travels in the interior inhabited parts of North America...

Two more historic illustrations can be found in Patrick Campbell's Travels in the interior inhabited parts of North America : in the years 1791 and 1792The first image illustrates a cleared farm hacked out of the dense forest in the background with labels identifying key features.  In the foreground are two sets of canoes in an early Wabanaki style with exaggerated pointed ends (see Enys canoe post for a surviving example).

The details on the etchings are quite elaborate with the artist capturing the gunnel lashings and even the curved "fiddlehead" etchings and other decorative elements along the hull.

Decorative etchings on the hull

Another image in the text showcases a family traveling with their canoe upstream...

Canoe closeup

Friday, August 18, 2017

Musee de Quai Branly - Cree Paddles

Found some additional Cree paddles located in the collections of the  Musee de Quai Branly  (Paris, France). The first is a 62" pole grip paddle with a painted blade dated to between 1930-1935. The relatively straight sided blade culminates in a distinct pointed tip.

Géographie : Amérique – Amérique du Nord – Canada
Culture : Amérique – Cree
Date : 1930-1935
Dimensions et poids : 158.5cm  x 12.5cm, 647 g
Donateur : Paul Coze
Précédente collection : Musée de l'Homme (Amérique)
Numéro d'inventaire : 71.1931.44.155

The second paddle dates to the same time period. It is plain with a distinct bobble grip. This one is shorter, roughly 56" with a a narrowing blade that shows signs of edge damage from use.

Géographie : Amérique – Amérique du Nord – Canada
Culture : Amérique – Cree
Date : 1930-1935
Dimensions et poids : 141.8 x 11cm, 631 g
Donateur : Paul Coze
Précédente collection : Musée de l'Homme (Amérique)
Numéro d'inventaire : 71.1931.44.156

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Historic Illustration - William Armstrong "Numbering the Indians" 1856

Paddle related artwork by Canadian Artist William Armstrong (1822–1914) has been featured on the blog before (previous posts here). Another public domain image is in the collection of the Toronto Public Library.

Numbering the Indians, Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island (Ontario)
Armstrong, William, 1822-1914
16 August 1856
Image Source Link: Toronto Public Library
Public Domain

In this particular scene, a few of the subjects are seen holding simple, non decorated slender paddles, most of which feature no discernible grip area...

Image Closeup

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick 3 day trip

Had another short trip with my older boy back to Gun Lake in the Frost Centre. Realized after the fact that I had forgotten my camera's memory card in the computer at home so my old camera could only hold about a half dozen shots in its internal memory. So not too many photos to share.

The weather was pretty decent the first two days (got sunburned!) but then it started to turn for the worse. Our extremely wet and cool summer meant no fire ban this season and water levels were about 10" or so above last year. Unfortunately that meant more bugs (many people have said this is the worst bug season in years) but our elevated campsite had a steady breeze off the lake which kept the bloodsuckers at bay. Perhaps the fear of bugs also kept other paddlers away because we had the whole lake (with 7 or so campsites) all to ourselves for the first 2 days.

The day we arrived, a crew from the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails came to the site to dig a new hole and install a brand new cedar thunderbox. It smelled awesome which is pretty weird when describing a toilet. They also removed all the garbage and food that previous campers dumped into the privy despite warnings written all over NOT to do this disgusting and dangerous habit. Glad that this potential bear attractant was removed from our site withing an hour of us arriving.

A short paddle from the site  was a marshy stream and a waterfall. There were signs of fresh beaver activity too including what looked like a bank beaver hole dug into the muddy shoreline.

Later on that evening a beaver swam right off our site while we were sitting on rocks. We were basically about 15 feet away and stayed perfectly still while it calmly swam right by us. My boy has never seen a beaver in the wild and thought it was the highlight of the trip! Next goal is to see a moose but we will have to go deeper into the bush for that.

Further down the lake were amazing stone cliffs with trees growing out of seeming impossible places. The echo along these walls was neat and probably helped to amplify the look calls at night.

Fishing was awesome too. There was a large shallow rock shelf right off the site that dropped at least 8 ft down.  Within minutes of casting he started getting hits including a huge bass that jumped right out of the water and got free of the line.  He was disappointed that he couldn't reel it in but for the rest of the trip we kept talking about the "big one that got away".

Much of the rest of the trip was spent just lazily paddling around and practicing some paddling strokes. The little guy is learning pretty well and makes for a great bow paddler. He's really good at drawing left and right when given the command and we practiced some sculling draws to help pull the canoe sideways to the rocky shoreline dock.

All in all a decent trip!

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