Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Snowshoeing of the year

Today was my first opportunity of the season to head out side and make tracks in the snow with my new snowshoes. Earlier in the year, actually it was in August, I had made a pair of Ojibway style snowshoes. Read the post here. I had been dying to try them out.

We don't really have a lot of snow on the ground right now but there is enough for snowshoeing. I was very pleased with the way the snowshoes performed. I found they were light under foot, tracked straight, and kept me afloat on what little snow we have. They are much longer than my new style GV's so I was concerned that I was going to have to walk with an extra long stride but that wasn't the case at all. While walking normally the shape of the frames fit together very well and there was no stepping on the sides of one shoe with the other.

There is, however, a bit of a learning curve. My GV's are much shorter in the toe area making it easy to cross step in front of one foot with the other. Not even thinking about it, I had turned to talk to Zoe and stepped on the front of my own snowshoe and down I went. Snow was tossed in all directions and in the end I was covered in the white stuff.

Home made Ojibway style snowshoes

It was very windy -18 degrees C (-28 degrees with the wind)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Voyageurs

I was digging around in the National Film Board of Canada's film archives this afternoon, (avoiding writing an essay) and came across this reenactment of the fur trade area. The film describes the life of the Voyageurs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Acid Snow

I've heard and read that snow is more acidic than regular lake water and I've often wondered if that is true. I know from experience on winter camping trips that drinking water made from melting snow certainly has a different flavor. It's a known fact that acids taste sour but I'm not sure that I would call the flavor of snow, sour. So I thought I'd look into this a bit with a quick Google search.

Essentially acid snow is just acid rain in a solid form rather than liquid. As a droplet of water falls through the atmosphere it removes water soluble particles such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide and combines with them to become more acidic. Typically acid rain has a pH of 4.4 and snow 4.8. My guess would be that the higher pH level of snow can be explained by the fact that a solid will absorb particles less readily than a liquid and will therefore be less acidic.

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with 0 being purely acidic and 14 being purely basic, a pH of 7 is neutral.

While winter camping I used to melt snow for all of my water needs (I don't mind the flavor of snow) but in recent years we have started chopping a water hole in the lake ice so we can have access to fresh liquid water. It is much more convenient to have liquid water available and it saves a lot of time that used to be spent on making water from snow.

Photosynthesis, respiration and decomposition tend to lower the pH levels in lakes and typically the pH of natural water is between 6.5 and 8.5.

So I guess there is some truth to snow being more acidic than water but I'm not sure that this explains the difference in flavors.

Our water hole on the lake ice

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cold weather sleeping system

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to my sleeping system for winter camping. In the past I've used a MEC Hybrid -20 down/synthetic mummy bag with a home made fleece liner for those cold nights. But with the arrival of Zoe's new Hybrid -20 there are a few more options.

1. For those very cold nights the two -20 bags zipped together provide lots of room, maybe too much room with a fairly sizable air pocket between us. But with the addition of our MEC Raven -7 down bags the air pocket is reduced. The benefits of this system are that we are in our own bags but still able to benefit from shared body heat. (Actually I'll likely be the one producing heat) The down side to this would be the added moisture produced by two bodies in the same bag causing them to ice up quickly during a multi day trek. This could be addressed with the addition of a couple of vapour barriers which I don't have at the moment but intend to make before out next camping trip. (which is planned for New Years eve) With the bags in this configuration I measured the loft to be around 11".

2. A second configuration would be to not zip the bags together but still have the Raven inside the Hybrid. Advantages are less moisture due to only one body, disadvantages are no shared body heat. A vapour barrier would add to the warmth of this system.

3. If I was on my own in an extremely cold situation I have a Marmot -5 synthetic bag that is an extra wide that can be used as an over bag. My original thought was to put all three bags together but when I did this and got inside, it was certainly warm but I found that there was very little room to move around and the down bags were being compressed, reducing the insulation value.

I guess I'll have some fun this winter testing these ideas.

Let it snow!

Raven -7 inside the Hybrid -20. 11 inches of lot!

MEC put some thought into these bags. The zipper on Zoe's regular is in the same position as my long. The difference in length is made up in the foot box. Great!

My Raven -7 inside the Hybrid -20 which is inside my Marmot -5 extra wide. All I need now is a vapour barrier.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cree Hunters of Mistassini

I came across a link to this film on Murat's Paddle making blog. The film was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and depicts three Cree families and how they survive the winter in the James Bay region of Quebec. There are some fantastic images of the tools used and the men using them while hunting and trapping. Of particular interest to me are the variations of snowshoes that were used as well as the hand carved snow shovels that everyone seemed carried with them, their ice chisels used to open holes for fishing and trapping beaver. Their use of the canoe is also interesting in that they paddle well into the winter season even when there is slush and some ice on the water. As a paddle builder and canoeing instructor I found their paddles and paddling technique interesting. The film also portrays the Cree peoples feelings, beliefs, and rituals regarding the land.

I must warn those with weak stomachs about the graphic nature of some of the images in this film. The film portrays real hunting and trapping practices.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We got skunked!

For today I had planned the ultimate hunting day, I would sit with my buddies Reg and Dave for a goose hunt in the morning, then spend the last part of the day looking for deer. As it turned out I only got one nice mallard and I didn't see a single deer. However the day wasn't a total bust, I got to explore some new country and ended up seeing and hearing some wildlife. While sitting in my deer blind a squirrel came over for a visit and sat in a tree just 5 yard back from me and ate his nuts or what ever he had stashed in the dead tree that he was sitting on. Shortly after the squirrel left a lone coyote showed up out of no where and stopped to look at me for a few minutes trying to figure out what I was. All he could see was my head poking up from behind the blind. Just as the sun was setting I could hear a small heard of Elk just 50 yards to the east of me start calling. Unfortunately they didn't show them selves for a photo.

The squirrel was a bit of a character, often he nearly fell off of his branch while enjoying his meal.

This Coyote stopped just long enough for me to get a blurry (low light) photo of him.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Make'n holes in ice

I just finished putting the finishing touches on a new piece of equipment for winter camping. To make collecting water for drinking while winter camping easier I decided to make an ice chisel. Now I'll be able to open a hole in the lake ice, provided we are camped near a lake to obtain fresh liquid drinking water. For the last few years I've been melting snow which works fine but is time consuming and uses a lot of fuel if a stove is used. Plus there really isn't much moisture in snow so it takes a lot of it to fill the water bottles. Another draw back of melting snow is that the area right next to camp can get a bit messy with ash from the fire and saw dust from cutting wood, making it difficult to find clean snow. On recent trips some of the fellas have used an axe to open a water hole which works also but they got very wet and inevitably iced up from the spray. One of the benefits of collecting lake water is the opportunity to star gaze with an uninterrupted view from the lake ice.

Measures - 10" X 3" X 1/2"
Weight - 5 lbs
Handle - 60" hardwood with a lanyard
Blade - high carbon steel with 45 degree bevel

The chisel is big and heavy so there will be some trade offs. On the plus side it will open a hole in the ice in short order but on the negative side it is a bit too heavy to use as a probe while traveling on dangerous ice. (which I tend to avoid anyway)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A dusting of snow but still no ice

The above MODIS Rapid Response System image, dated November 3rd shows a light dusting of snow in the La Ronge area but no ice can be seen on any of the lakes. The yellow arrow pointing to Lac La Ronge shows no ice, which is to be expected on such a large body of water. The red arrow points to Lamp Lake, and to my surprise there is no ice on this smaller lake. Blue arrow points to Kingsmere Lake in P.A. National park.

The MODIS Rapid Response System provides near-real time satellite (Terra and Aqua) images of much of North America in true color.

An interesting side note; the red 'X' is located over Montreal Lake and the geographic centre of the province.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Saskatoon snowshoe club

The Saskatoon Snowshoe Club is getting geared up for the coming winter and snowshoeing season. If you are looking for a group of people to explore the winter landscapes around Saskatoon, then head over the the SSC's website and check out all the group tours that are planned. A membership to the club is free so be sure to fill out the online membership form in order to receive updates for up coming group tours and be sure to tell all your friends.

Let it snow!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bears asleep in the woods

The first snowflakes or 2010 fell on Saskatoon this evening. And as always the first snow fall brings thoughts of winter adventures that put me in a good mood.

At this time of year the bears are good and fat and likely looking for a den to spend the winter in. I often wonder, as I wander through the winter woods, where 'do' the bears hibernate. What does a bear den look like? There are many more bears in the woods than we are aware of and they have to go somewhere for the winter. My guess is that they are closer by than we might think.

I came across a youtube video of the Rick Mercer Report. In it, Mercer is in Algonquin Park tagging black bears. This video shows clearly what a black bear den looks like and just how docile, even a sow with clubs, really are during the winter.

The snowshoes Rick is wearing are the Ojibwa style. From what I can tell, most of the researchers are wearing the new style snowshoes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pulk Tarp

I just finished making a tarp for my pulk. It'll be used to wrap my gear in to keep all the odds and ends from being lost on the trail. I usually pack my gear into large duffel bags so there aren't too many odds and ends but it will be nice to have everything contained nice and neat. The tarp can also double as a ground sheet or as a wind break. It's just a piece of ripstop nylon with webbing loops on all four corners. It measures about 13 x 5.5 feet. It's a bit too long but that shouldn't be too much of an issue. To test it out I wrapped up a bunch of sleeping bags. It looks like it's going to work well.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Made a new sheath

I just finished making a new leather sheath for my Gransfors Bruks small forest axe. The one that comes with the axe is very nice and fits well but it only covers the bit. I wanted something that would cover the entire head. I take my axe on all my canoe trips so it's going to get wet and corrode. To prevent this I like to season the metal head with bore butter which is actually used to season muzzle loader barrels but works just the same on any metal surface. If I used the original sheath that came with the axe bore butter would get everywhere and make a mess of everything. By covering the whole head it keeps the butter contained and eventually the butter will build up in the sheath and season the axe every time it is placed in the sheath.

Finished sheath made of oiled leather for moisture protection

Shows the snap and stitching detail

I first drew out the pattern on the computer and printed it off, then transferred it to the leather piece.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Paddle socks

I just found a great buy. While making my usual rounds through the sporting goods section at Canadian tire I came across a rack containing Gun Socks made by Yukon Gear. The label on the package said that they were 54" long, silicone treated and will fit guns with or without scopes. For some time now I have been thinking about getting something to protect my paddles while in transport to the lake and back, and possibly while out on trips. The best part is they were under $12 each. I bought all that was on the rack.

Gun Socks as paddle socks

Package label

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sydney Castel's Pukatawagan Song

Sidney Castel, the Cree pop music phenomenon, lived in the remote northern settlement of Pukatawagan, Manitoba. He was most famous for his Pukatawagan Song and the Thompson Song. He had just finished recording a new CD, Live at the Beaver Lodge, released by Sunshine Records, when he passed away at age 68. (worldwidesunshine)

I ended my 2008 trip in Pukatawagan and found the people to be very friendly and helpful. There are no roads to Puk, the only way in or out is by plane, boat or train. I chose to take the train back to the south but didn't know where to purchase a ticket. When I asked a local where the post office was, thinking that a ticket could be purchased there, the fellow responded "what post office, there is none, this is the north." In speaking with another local I was advised to just toss my stuff on an open rail car and hitch a ride when the train came in a couple of days. As it turned out I caught a ride with a fellow that worked for the rail company. He was driving a high rail (suburban with train wheels) back and forth on the track.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Super sized cord lock

I've added the following to the Pulk v4.0 post but here it is again.

I think I'm going to use a shock cord lashing system to secure the load into my pulk. It took nearly 35 feet of shock cord to "lace up" my pulk and the way I secured the ends was to use a super sized cord lock. Now the cord locks that are available for purchase are way too small! The 3/32" shock cord would never fit so I decided to make my own. I cut a one inch piece of pvc pipe to 4 inches. I then sanded down a wooden dowel to just fit in side the pipe. A 3/8 inch hole was drilled in through both. A very stiff 2" spring was sent down the pipe from the end that didn't have the dowel sticking out. To cap off the end I used a 1/2inch piece of pvc pipe. It just happens to fit very snug inside the 1 inch pipe. This plug was driven in with a mallet until the desired tension was reached. Now I am able to pull the shock cord tight and secure it with the cord lock.

super sized cord lock

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nut Point Hiking Trip

On the Labour Day long weekend Zoe, myself and our friend Shaun hiked the Nut Point Trail which is located just on the north edge of La Ronge SK. The trail head is located in a parking lot at the Nut Point Provincial camp ground.

The trail follows a the Nut Point that extends 15.6 km out into Lac La Ronge.

Our plan was the hike a portion of the trail on the first day and set up camp.

Along the trail we hiked through mixed forests of deciduous and coniferous trees, over high granite outcroppings and descended into dark, damp bogs. Many of which have a boardwalk over the wettest areas. The trail also passes through the Mallard fire that burnt in 1999.

Much of the trail follows exposed bedrock. This section was comprised of some interesting metamorphic rock.

Being a point that has development on both sides doesn't lend itself to viewing wildlife but we did flush this Spruce grouse out of the under brush.

The weather on the first day was very nice though windy. Luckily our campsite was on the lee side of the point.

The view from the Nut portage was impressive as well as the small but comfortable camp site that is located there.

On the first day our plan was to hike part way and set up camp. We ended up stopping at the Nut Portage and as it turns out it is one of the best spots on the trail to camp. Second only to the point itself. Then the second day we did a day hike to the point and back to our camp where we stayed another night. On the third day we packed up and hiked out. This spot isn't used much by campers so fire wood was in abundance.

The saying goes "Pink sky at night is a sailors delight, Pink sky in the morning is a sailors warning". I guess sailors doesn't always know what they are talking about, though we enjoyed a great sunset and magnificent starts that night. The weather wouldn't hold.

The wind on the second day continued to blow and the clouds gave up their contents for most of the day as we hiked to the point and back as a day hike.

The view from the point the day that we arrived.

Despite the rain, wind and cool temperatures our spirits were high as we walked along the trail back to camp.

I asked Shaun if we should still go even if the forecast was calling for rain. He said that he likes the rain.

We were lucky enough to have cut and stashed a small amount of fire wood under the tarp before it began to rain. Upon arriving back at camp we moved the fire under the tarp and began to dry out. We only had a small amount of wood so we were only able to have a small fire but we managed to keep warm and enjoyed our second evening around the fire drinking two of the three litres of wine we packed in as well as smores.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where's the snow???

I know it's only the begining of September, and as far as I'm concerned summer lasts until November but I just finished building a pair of traditional snowshoes and I'm dying to try them out. My first pair of snowshoes were the new style with aluminum frames and Olefin decking. I like them but the problem is they are very loud. The deck material produces a defening crunch on the snow reducing any chance of seeing wildlife. A number of people that I snowshoe with use the traditional wooden / rawhide style of which are much quieter which is why I've decided to go that route. Another reason I chose to use wood as the material of choice is that I'm trying to, somewhat, revert back to more traditional materials. I'm trying to come up with a blend of new and old, low tech and high tech. Some of the materials of old perform just as well as the new space aged materials so I see no reason to use them.

Using Gilpatricks book Building Snowshoes as a reference, I chose the Ojibway design mainly for its simplicity in the construction. Unlike many Ojibway snowshoes which are symmetrical I've decided to make mine asymmetric with the widest point forward of center. They measure 62" X 12". The filling for the main body is 3/8" nylon webbing. For the toe and heal sections I used 1/8" nylon cord. Three coats of Spar Varnish was applied to seal the wood and filling. As for the bindings, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. For now I'm thinking about just using lamp wick but am concerned that it will not hold my foot secure. I am seriously considering the MM 103-U binding from American Mountain Man. Or may make my own.

The form

Frame strips soaking in water for a couple of days

Frame strips steaming or 2 to 3 hours

Frame bent on the form

Near disaster when one frame strip split (I repaired it with epoxy)

Repaired split

Cross braces

Mortis and tenon joins the cross braces to the frame

Finished snowshoes 62" X 12"

Friday, August 6, 2010

Song of the spokeshave

Graham Warren, author of Canoe Paddles, A complete guide to making your own, has posted the following video on Youtube.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It doesn't get any better

Zoe and I spent the long weekend down at Lake Diefenbaker on her parents sail boat. John and Ginnie have a Nonsuch 26, the Valhalla, that will sleep 6. They met us at the Elbow marina on Saturday morning and after tossing our sleeping bags and cloths aboard and a quick hello we were off. Now this is the second year that we've spent a weekend on the boat and this is also the second time in a row there has been perfect weather for being at the lake but not sailing. There was no wind! The lake was perfectly calm so we had to motor around, not my favorite way to travel but it was still nice to get out on the water. Because of the lack of wind we couldn't sail so we had a very relaxing weekend reading, eating, visiting, swimming and napping (sometimes two naps a day). A little bit of down time was much needed, Zoe had finished her last final that Friday and needed a break and though I haven't been studying I have kept pretty busy. We spent the entire weekend on the boat and only set foot on land once to go for a walk along the top of the coulee in which we were moored. Our walk was cut short by an approching storm and we just made it back onto the boat and got everything battened down before the wind and rain hit. John and Ginnie are active divers and sailers so every year John goes down to the lake bottem and anchors a line into the sediment to which a large float is attached. These are located in sheltered bays and in deep coulees and serve a safe place to spend the night. The first night we spent in Massy Sputoon, a very nice and quiet coulee the second night we moved to Sage coulee which is a nice spot but well used by fishermen. All in all it was very nice to get out of the city for a while.

Sunset over the coulee

Self portrait from under water, I love the water proof and shock proof cameras

John is checking something next to the boat while we cooled off in the lake

View from below deck

John is transporting Ginnie and Zoe in "little Tote" to the main land for our walk along Sage Coulee

The Valhalla, 26 foot Nonsuch