Snow Walking is Alive and Well…

..even if the book is still out of print.

This past week I have been re-reading Garret and Alexandra Conover’s definitive Snow Walker’s Companion: Winter Camping Skills for the Far North.

Snow Walker's Companion

Snow Walker’s Companion

Reading it again makes me wonder if I was paying attention the first few times I read the book, which is currently out of print. There is so much to be learned from the pages of this book. Coming off a 4 day winter trip of my own earlier this month on the Moose River near the Canada border, I appreciate filling in my knowledge gaps with the details that are laden onto each page. If you can find a copy at a used book store, snag it.

Over to Youtube.  I have been tagging potential videos for the past few months and took some time last night to view some of them on my TV set by the glow of the wood stove. 

I stumbled onto this gem, which is a MUST VIEW for all lovers of boreal trekking in the wintertime. It is stellar 50-minute piece of work entitled “Snowwalkers”.

This was a 10-day, 100km ( 62 miles) trip down the historic Missinaibi River in mid-winter. Released on Youtube on Feb 24, 2014, the video is to you by Laurentian University, the LU Alumni Association and Lure of the North. The video features Garrett Conover in action, portrayed here with justified reverence and capturing him in his usual, low key, hard-to-squeeze-anything-out-of-him style of leadership. I remember asking him numerous questions on the few trips that i had the fortune to take with him, and the answers were always preceded by, “Well, it depends….” I now realize how right he was.

See for yourself- invite some friends over, grab some popcorn and take notes until the book is republished.

Where the Wild Things are – Adam Bradley goes 4700 miles!

From time to time I post from other peoples’ blogs related to hiking, biking, and the outdoor experience.  Here’s one with content that stands out above and beyond what you’d expect.

On October 5, I posted an entry about my disappointment with Fatbiking the Arctic- to date, an apparently failed Kickstarter project which I funded.  This was in response to  Outside Magazine’s Oct. 4,  update on the project, which appears to have been halted in the town of Pink Mountain, somewhere near the southern start point of the Alaska Highway.  That article is here- Fatbike Expedition Comes to a Quiet Halt.

Today I will highlight an hour long interview with another Yukon/Alaskan adventurer, but this trip was a resounding success.

Krudmeister is one of my online friends, and I know that I’ll  meet him in person someday.  This April, Krud completed a 4,700 mile human powered trip on bike, foot, and canoe.

Here’s the lead-in, from Trail Runner Nation-    “Our second interview with Adam Bradley, aka Krudmeister, a record-holding long-distance trekker!  The last time we talked to him he had just set a world record for a self supported Pacific Crest Trail trek. This summer Adam did a self-supported, human-powered trek over 4700 miles from Reno, NV to the Bearing Sea in Alaska. This is an amazing story of endurance. We talk “Krudmeister” about his 2 1/2 month journey through some of the American Continents most beautiful country, the wildlife he encountered, and his determination to keep going day after day.”

Krudmeister rode his bike from his doorway in Reno, NV up through Glacier National Park into British Columbia, Jasper, the Icefields Parkway, then Alaska’s Cassiar/Stewart Highways, all the way up to Skagway, Alaska, completing that segment of 2,847 miles ( in just 31 days).

Chilkoot Pass photo by Adam Bradley

Then he backpacked his gear up the historic Chilkoot Pass, where he reached Lake Bennet.

Lake Bennnet photo by Adam Bradley

Here, at the headwaters of the Yukon River, he assembled a packable canoe,  and successfully navigated all 1,858 miles of  the Yukon River, where he reached the end point at the Bering Sea.

He used a small wood stove for cooking, kept his supply packages to two only, and also managed to send himself a shotgun, which him behind a couple of days due to a regulatory hassle.

Here’s the link for the podcast .

Here’s the link to his entire trip.

Enjoy.  What really impresses me is that he did this solo.  Krud not only put it out there, he delivered.   If Andrew Skurka gets on the March 2011 cover of National Geographic for 4,679 human powered miles through Alaska and the  Yukon territory, don’t you think Adam Bradley deserves increased national exposure?

Outside Magazine, HELLO ?

FSTPKR: Human power from Reno to the Bering Sea

FSTPKR: BLC to the Bering Sea.—-< Click. Now!
You absolutely have to check out what Krudmeister is up to this season. It is practically inconceivable to me that someone has both the interest and the skills to undertake a solo excursion that combines bicycling to Alaska from Reno, then backpacking the Chilkoot Trail out of Skagway, then assembling a kayak and following traversing the length of the Yukon River, all the way to the Bering Sea! What is even more inconceivable is that in this day and age, there will probably be no one who will read about Krud’s adventure in the sport section of a newspaper, where we are exposed to the daily whining of multimillion dollar base and basketball stars.
Krud is one of my virtual friends. He figured into a couple of my gear acquisitions.  I came to know  him when he and Scott Williamson broke the Pacific Crest Trail Speed record, I think in 2006.  I went to my local Patagonia outlet and showed them his blog. He was and maybe still is a Patagonia customer service employee.  He was trumping up their Houdini jacket, and one of the employees gave me one, that I used on my PCT and Long Trail thru hikes. It is still as good as new.

Then he posted a picture of some wildly garish New Balance shoes that I tracked down through my brother Roy, who works for the company. They are a product that is sold in Japan.
I though of Krudmeister yesterday when I was aglow with the shoes on my birthday.
Krud, want a pair to wear when you get back?

An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe : NPR

An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe  by Emma Jacobs

via An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe : NPR.

Joe was the native guide on a 200 mile canoe trip I took on the Grand River in Labrador several years ago. He was the kindest, most humble, and most knowledgeable outdoors man I have ever met.  Joe, and especially his brother Horace, are probably the last of the line to possess the encyclopedia of skills that encompass trapping, bush survival skills, hunting, and survival in the harshest environment I have ever traversed.  For a glimpse of this life, read Rugge and Davidson’ Great Heart, now back in print.  I consider Great Heart a treasure of a read, one that I have enjoyed several times.  The book inspired my own motorcycle trip to Labrador in 1993, when my friend Alan MacKinnon and I were the among the first motorcyclists to traverse the newly constructed gravel-and-sand Trans Labrador Highway. The mosquitoes there were so bad that nothing I have encountered since seems too bad, including a month in Alaska and 6 months on the PCT.

Fat Tires, Snow ! and the Yukon

 

Superb photos of  riding super fat tire mountain bikes in  the Yukon, where you have these huge dogs that might pull you around.  Just find a quiet moment, sit back, take a breath and drink in the imagery.   Four superb photos here–>Flickr: Anthony DeLorenzo’s Photostream. Photos taken by Anthony DeLorenzo, “Just a guy who lives North of 60 and loves to ride bikes”.  Anthony lives in Whitehorse, Yukon with his wife,  not-so-wonderful dog named Starbuck, and his bicycles. I’m now following Anthony on Twitter.

Lost in the Wild

Lost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North WoodsLost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North Woods by Cary J Griffith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

O my God! I was totally absorbed into, and moved to tears by this book. It is a dual soundtrack experience, the true story of two young men who become thoroughly lost in the same area, but several years apart (1998, 2001) . The writing is excellent, not much to skip over, plus there are actual maps to refer to.
You are viscerally transported to the boggy, nearly impenetrable landscapes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quentico Provincial Park. We’re talking big trees, thick boreal treescapes, black flies, and mosquitoes.
Both stories start off as many of us have experienced, one a solo backpacking weekend, the other a Boy Scout canoeing expedition where the lead Eagle Scout guide become separated from his charges.
I’ve read stories like this before, where the rescuers open a shelter and 100% believe they will find a corpse inside. What comes to mind is the incomparable Great Heart, by Rugge and Davidson.
There are innumerable factual references to wilderness survival skills here as well, as the author successfully yo-yoed me up and down into the consciousness of two suffering, desperate men. The break was needed. Brutal stuff, observing death approaching, in this case cadaver sniffing dogs, capable of detecting a corpse sunken beneath the cover of a sphagnum bog.
I got a glimpse into the portal to real-life terror this past June, in the deep snow cover over the invisible Pacific Crest Trail, when I was twice lost. The courage to survive can take many forms and some may not be easy to stomach.
Best quote of the book: “A great thirst is a great joy when quenched in time.” Edward Abbey.

View all my reviews

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous, 2009 Part 1 of 3

Nov. 13-15  in Fairlee, Vermont on the grounds of the Hulbert Outdoor Center, a decades old historic camp on the shore of Lake Morey.  It sold out, as usual,  with 100 winter campers and a few snow walker wanna bees in attendance.
Last year at this time I made an entry about the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous,  where the big event was Alan Brown “torching some tents” , generating over a thousand of hits on my YouTube channel.  The Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous (SWR) is a November weekend focused on old-school human winter travel, be it assisted by snowshoes, cross country skis, dogsleds, or rubber boots.

We had a never ending ride over there from Lincolnville, ME taking a full 7 hours due to a wrong turn that put us in Portland, where we made the best of it by decimating the lunchtime Italian extravaganza at Ricetta’s which has a huge pizza/ salad/ smorgasboard of delights.

We got to Vermont in time to indulge in libations and snacks and then settled into supper and the evening program.

The folks who are regulars at this event continue to amaze me.  Marcia and I ate our dinners next to Joel and Bev Hollis from MA, a normal looking couple who have no problem taking off for a couple of months each summer and canoeing some arduous boreal rivers that have killed a number of lesser folk.

“Hey, Joel,  where did you go this summer, ”  I asked, not even considering the possibility that they do normal things, like remodel their kitchen?

“Northwest Territories,” he replied.

“And kayaked some river? “

“Yep, the Yukon” , he replied.

“How much of it”,  I asked ?

“All of it.”  So that would be about 2,000 miles, which took them some 70 days.  Unsupported.  Yep. The Hollis’s are the real deal.

Then I turned to my friend Dick Hampton, and asked him what he was up to.  He talked about heading up to do a 35 mile loop off the St. John River this winter. We’ve done a couple of winter trips together, and when I asked him to give me a call if he wanted company,  he sheepishly replied, “Every once in a while I do crazy things, like walk over frozen rivers alone.  I am thinking I will do the trip solo.”

So a small sample of what this crowd is up to.

The program ran from 7:30- 9 PM.
The talks were started up by three readings from Willem Lange, who also opened up last year.  He even asked one of my friends what he had read last year, and then proceeded to read the same three stories.   Didn’t matter, I have one of his books, with those stories, and still enjoyed the surprise endings.
Next was Sayward Chartrand’s commuter assisted presentation about the past three years she had spent teaching in a tiny high school Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec.
Zabe McEachern wrapped up the evening with a photo presentation and stories of a recent winter skiing trip she made to Norway, with close commentary of the snowshoeing and skiing cultures.
The Saturday program looked to be one of the best I’ve experienced there. Insert a bunch of sleep relted-images here and then catch Saturday’s entry.

Camping on Two Wheels, final installment

Returning Home
Day 5 = Baddeck, NS, CAN to Cobscook Bay State Park, USA

We’re heading home.

It was back onto the TransCanada, with our first stop at Truro to gas up. The day was humid and overcast with gray skies. We planned to get back into the US of A today, so wasted no time in getting back on the road. It felt as if it was going to rain. We all agreed that our next stop would be for a late breakfast at the very same restaurant we enjoyed on the way over to Nova Scotia.

It did rain. There’s a section of the TCH between Amherst, Nova Scotia and Sackville, New Brunswick that is always cold and windy. Here, the TCH passes over a huge marsh that sits between Chignecto Bay and Northumberland Strait. Not only did the rain increase in force, but the combined effects of the horizontal wind, gusting up over 40 MPH, and the thick fog, made steering the motorcycle downright frightening. At one point I was struggling with muscling my bike back to upright as the power of the elements combined to push against the left side of the motorcycle. Hard. The surface of the road was awash with water. I was relieved that I had mounted a new set of tires on the bike just before the trip, the narrow patch of rubber holding steady. It was very hard to even see, but the head and taillight in front and back of me helped guide me toward the center of the travel lane. At this point it was every man for himself; deep survival mode. I managed to view Pat’s bright headlight in my rearview mirrors, but couldn’t make out where Steve was.
Eventually we moved past the flat marsh onto a gentle uphill where I found the exit for the restaurant. Pat and I pulled in about the same time, and 5 minutes later Steve came in, after taking the wrong exit and finding his way here. I was relieved that we made it without an incident.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, banging off the mileposts of Moncton, Sussex, and St. John before we finally reached the border crossing at St. Stephen/Calais. We also gained an hour, as we moved from Atlantic to the Eastern time zone. There was hardly a wait at the border, and again, tourist numbers seemed way down on both sides of Customs. We were quickly waved through.
In Calais, we took a left turn on Route 1 and eventually arrived at our destination for the afternoon, Cobscook Bay State Park.

It is always easy to find a site at this excellent state park, sited right on Whiting Bay. The price was half of what we paid to camp in Canada, as well, just $14.95 for the three of us. Due to the slack numbers of campers, we had our pick of the best sites. We chose one large site right on a cove off of the bay.

A water spigot was at the end of our driveway, and although it was a bit of a walk back toward the entrance where the single wash house was located, he hot showers were clean and free, although the only swimming pool available here was way too big, way too cold , and was called Whiting Bay.
The evening was mostly pleasant, although we were forced into our tents while it was still twilight due to the unrelenting onslaught of both mosquitoes and no-see-ums. I hadn’t felt like cooking, was still full from lunch, so I made out just fine by placing a can of Campbell’s Italian Wedding Soup soup up against the exhaust headers exiting the BMW’s engine block. Enough residual heat remained to heat the soup to “almost piping hot”, it was eminently palatable, and eating out of the can meant I didn’t have to wash any dishes.
I put major trust in tightness of my tent, and opening up the storm flaps all the way so that I received unrestricted views of the night sky. I awakened in the night and focused my vision upward. The North Star and the Big Dipper were the first objects I saw when I opened my eyes in the dark. It was just the sort of scene that will define this trip for me, as I drift back to it in the months to come.

Day 6

Cobscook Bay State park to Lincolnville, ME
We were up early again today, with the morning sun golden as it framed our activities in dismantling the campsite and heading back home. The energy shift that happens when you turn the handlebars and head for home has now completely taken over.
It is easy to get up early when you go to bed as it is just getting dark.
In the morning, we caffeined up, and I recorded a exit summary video from Steve, with background from Pat.

We eventually fired up the bikes and headed back down Route 1 to our last destination before home, Helen’s Restaurant in Machias , where the pie is so good you eat it for breakfast.
Canada worked its magic again. The Maritimes delivered the good stuff.

Camping on Two Wheels, con’t

Day 3
Baddeck campround–>circumnavigate via Cabot Trail—>Baddeck campground

190 miles

Today was easy. Ride the Cabot Trail, a 280 mile long highway in Northern Cape Breton, a world class ride of spectacular natural beauty.

We left at 8:15, after brewing up some Rock City coffee .

I had a bottle of yogurt drink that I ate before we left.
It was the right decision to turn up the left side of the big island. We didn’t see many cars at all for the first 55 miles, taking us all the way up to the French culture town of Cheticamp. The lack of cars on the way made it especially easy to extend the capabilities of my motorcycle, as I cracked the throttle up the steep hills, and let the bike lean way over in the sweeping turns.
In Cheticamp we checked into the Tim Horton’s coffee/donut shop. I was in a very good place. I had a coffee and toasted bagel with cream cheese. The air was refreshing, probable due to the constant wind, cooled as it passed over the offshore waters.

Cape Breton is an island located in the north of the Province of Nova Scotia, Canada. The Trail winds around the northern shore of Cape Breton passing very close to the shoreline. The ride also includes traveling across through the magnificent highlands of Cape Breton National Park.

On the way back around after passing over the top of the Cape, we stopped at a sort of convenience store somewhere near Ingonish. It was time to grab some food that we would eat later. They didn’t have too much to choose from, and I ended up opening up a cooler and found something that was described as a ground rib sandwich. They had no means for making up sandwiches. I also grabbed a Gatoraid, as it was really getting hot out and I needed to rapidly realign my electrolytes. The sandwich was pretty poor, sort of gritty, cold , and the sauce was probably thinly coated catsup.

Pat collapsed on the grass in the shade outside of the store.

I’ve ridden the Cabot Trail three times before. Those rides had been completed counterclockwise. Most people who ride motorcycles or bicycles prefer that direction because counterclockwise places the rider in the outside travel lane, where you get closer views and allows safer egress for viewing. Or stopping to brew up coffee, which we did at a picnic area on top of Old Smokey ( mountain).

At our brew up, we witnessed a bit of parking lot drama from our picnic table under a open sided shelter. An RV rolled into the lot, and oriented itself closely to the last available picnic table. Just as the elderly couple was taking their time before exiting the RV another small vehicle pulled beside them and a man jumped out of the driver’s side, carrying a cooler, which he plunked down on the table, seating himself assertively. The woman from the RV stopped walking in mid track when she looked up and saw Interlopers! She threw her hands up in the air, frowned, and stomped back to her RV. Then the white RV drove back and forth for a while, blocking everyone’s view, and eventually rumbled off.
Even in the wilderness, where people are obviously on vacation, the “ jerk world” may encroach on your space. My definition of survival extends to these types of scenes, events where you might need to quickly adapt to some sort of situation.

We packed up and rode back toward Baddeck, enjoying the very brief Englishtown Ridge ferry ride on Rt. 312.

Our second event of the day was to visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck.
(From Wikipedia) Alexander Graham Bell (3 March 1847 – 2 August 1922) was an eminent scientist, inventor and innovator who is widely credited with the invention of the telephone. His father, grandfather and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech, and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work. His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices that eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the invention of the telephone in 1876.
Many other inventions marked Bell’s later life including groundbreaking work in hydrofoils and aeronautics. In 1888, Alexander Graham Bell became one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society.
In reflection, Bell considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.

After we toured the museum, it was on to the local supermarket, where we each gathered up supper and tomorrow’s breakfast items.

We headed back to the campsite, where all we had to do was get into our swim suits and hit the uncrowded pool again.

We started a fire later on, with ample deadwood all around the site. We roasted up hot dogs, and made up a batch of chili-cheese dogs, spooning out chili from a can and topping them with sliced cheese.

Camping on Two Wheels, con’t.

Motorcycle trip Day 2.
Fundy National Park , New Brunswick, CA to Baddeck , Nova Scotia, CA
346 miles

Our second day on the road started out just the way I like it: cold, a bit cloudy and with no mosquitos to speak of. I was up first at 5:30 AM. We took our time packing up. I heated up water for my coffee and ate a “petite dejeuner” of some leftovers from my MRE from yesterday: crackers, peanut butter and raisins.

Our first adventure of the day was to head up to Moncton, where Steve had learned there was a BMW motorcycle dealer who might be able to assist him in solving his lack of front brake problem. Steve had directions from the woman who checked us in at the gate of the campground.

It took about an hour to get there. We rambled around town a bit, after getting some really bad directions from a wrecker driver at a stoplight. Two electrical workers at a stoplight put us right and we eventually reached the Atlantic Motoplex, founded under the name Atlantic Yamaha some 15 years ago with a transition to the name Atlantic Cycle for a few years, then back to Atlantic Yamaha for 6 years. With the addition of BMW Motorcycles, and Ducati motorcycles (exclusive for Atlantic Canada), the final name change has been to Atlantic Motoplex.

It was the biggest motorcycle shop I had ever seen, inside a brand new cavernous room the size of a city block. There were hundreds of motorcycles on display along with an acreage of clothing and accessories.
In the corner was a BMW sign, and I knew it was not good when Steve was still standing there, waiting, some 10 minutes after I wandered through the shop and checked in with him. A really young guy was manning the desk, alone, and he talked to Steve briefly, very briefly. We were soon walking out. Done .
“ They don’t have any slots to take me in. Next opening is in two weeks. No parts.”
The only hopeful news was that , while they wouldn’t even send out a mechanic or let us talk to one, we were told that what Steve had jury rigged is just fine, and that he could function on a single caliper up front. Steve was given a rubber wedge ( free) to jam in between the nonfunctional brake pads. Bye! Thanks, guys.
Yet another example where bigger is not better.

We still had not eaten any real breakfast, and were unable to locate a diner on the two mile access road back to the TransCanada Highway , Rt. 2. That had to wait until 11 AM . We were practically in Nova Scotia where we found an excellent restaurant just before heading into Amherst.
Today morphed into another hot humid one, and once into Nova Scotia, we picked up Route 6 out of Amherst, a secondary coastal route that follows the north shore until it dumped us back into the TransCanada Wighway in Pictou.
I struggled with keeping up a decent attitude with the now 90 degree , record-breaking heat. We gassed up , I drank a big bottle of Gatoraide, bought a bunch of gum and we were again on our way. Gas in Canada is sold by the litre, here for $1. 50 , or approximately $6 a gallon.

No sooner than we hit the open road, we ran into trouble. There was a massive road construction detail smack dab ahead. They sure do things differently in Canada. We had to sit on the broiling hot tarmac for a full half hour before we are allowed to proceed up the way. Of course we didn’t initially know that, so we found ourselves sitting on the bikes, at the ready if the long line ahead of us started to move. I eventually took off my gloves, helmet, and unzipped my protective jacket. I was still miserable in the heat and humidity.

Eventually we rolled on, but for just 1 mile when we were detoured off the TransCanada for more adventures in misery. I asked the flagman what was going on this time. He told me that there was “ a safety emergency” ahead. A tanker truck that was carrying propane had rolled off the TranCanada, but he assured me that we were going to be back on in “ a couple of miles” . The couple turned into 8 miles, and the huge amount of normal traffic, including a large percentage of tractor trailers, was now forced to slowly wind its way over a very narrow road with no shoulders. There was no way the trailers could fit on the asphalt, so they were occasionally churning up the gravel on the sides of the road, throwing up god-awful clouds of dust, grit, and sometimes small stones. As motorcyclists , we were forced to take one of two despicable alternatives; either to close the helmet face shields and squint through the dusty plastic and ride in the oppressive heat, or leave the shields up and cough up dust.

It was at this point in the trip that I seriously began to question my whole relationship with this motorcycle touring thing. What made it worse is when I glanced over at the side of the road and saw a pristine stream moving through the woods, bubbling over some rocks. I began fantasizing about walking in the wilderness, and a whole negative cascade of thoughts started flowing.
“Why am I doing this? I could have taken this week and gone backpacking. If I was hot, I could just go for a swim! “
“Why are the three of us each riding a separate vehicle, each paying $25 every time we fill up? Maybe we should have taken a van, towed one motorcycle and taken turns riding it!!??”
“ I just want to be hiking, and sleeping in the shade under a tree!”

Eventually were routed back onto the the TransCanada, and my attitude was re-adjusted. The afternoon moved along, and temperatures cooled as we rolled over the Canso Causeway onto Cape Breton as we approached our final destination of Baddeck.

We pulled into the Adventures East Campground off Route 105. It was primarily an RV facility, but we did have our choice of any of the 10 unserviced tent sites. They also had modern heated washrooms, picnic tables with fire rings on all sites, free (hot) showers, and best of a swimming pool! It was hot again, and our first priority after snagging a shaded tent site was to lay in the pool and get our body temperatures down.

We saw a luna moth on the door of the wash house.

The place was a bit expensive as campgrounds go ($26.00 plus 13% tax), but we ended up staying there for three nights anyways, as the location was perfect for our purposes, and they did have that pool.
The place was empty. Aside from one other night where there was a couple tenting, we were alone in the tent loop. The RV section was nearly empty as well.

After the pool soak, I showered, and we went back to the site to cook up supper. Another MRE for me, but I did fire up the wood stove to boil water. After the water was hot, I added enough damp material that the fire produced a good smolder, which helped us in deal with the mosquitoes.