What I learned from David Pelly

I plan to devote several blog posts to presentations from the 2017 Snowalkers Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT. The quality of the presentations is top notch, with several giants of northern adventuring in the line up.   Here is the first:

David Pelly- “How Inuit Find Their Way – Navigation in the Trackless Arctic”

David Pelly at Snowalkers 2017

David’s talk was drawn from an article that he published in 2001 in ABOVE & BEYOND magazine -January/February 2001. Here’s the link to this highly interesting article

Canadians were well represented at this year’s SnowWalkers Rendezvous.
David presented leadoff slides of traditional Inuit tattoos. In 1982 David moved to Baker Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada, where David eventually learned to speak Unuit.
As examples of superior navigational abilities, David shared with us observations about the uncanny ability of a native named Tulurialik to discern from thousands of small piles of snow out on the tundra one that held a fox trap. David shared with us another story about traveling with Tulurialik on a snowmobile in complete white-out conditions where Tulurialik reoriented a snowmobile’s direction after recognizing a tiny protruding rock as a feature he remembered from passing through the area previously.
Possessing superior visual acuity, the Unuit subsistence hunter’s observations were fundamental to their survival. Men were raised as hunters and were usually taught by their grandfathers. They studied cloud masses and colors, indicating the location of distant land masses. Snow ridges reflect wind directions that offer clues to direction of travel on snowmobiles. Directions for wilderness travel as long as 200 miles are commonly transmitted orally, without maps. Mapping in the Inuit way is extremely sparse compared to the expanded view of modern maps. Descriptive place names and stories are techniques that increase the memory of a path of travel. Proportions do not matter- what matters are the indications of water borders (bodies of water).
As part of the presentation, David displayed a hand-drawn inuit map with minimal lines that looked nothing like I had ever seen.
“ I could actually do a whole half hour talk about this hand drawn simple map,” he said.

David’s talk was bittersweet, as things for the Unuit have dramatically changed for this culture, even in the past 15 years. I encourage the reader to check out the charitable foundation headed by David Pelly in the memory of his 20 year old adopted Inuit son, Ayalik, who had died unexpectedly in his sleep. Money from the foundation supports sending Unuit youth from Nunavut on extended outdoor adventures throughout North America.

Mid Year Update from Uncle Tom’s Adventures – What’s Up?

With half of 2017 gone, there are six months of adventures still available for the rest of year. Here’s what’s on my plate right now:

Finish up writing my first book!
I have completed the writing and the editing process for In The Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail.

Train, General Lee, Dick Wizard, Breeze CDT 2013

My CDT Trailjournal  has logged 275,000 web visits to date. The book is completely revised version of my 2013 Trailjournal, adding new historical material and dialogue.  I’ve scheduled a design meeting with the publisher tomorrow to discuss selecting the color photos for the book. I plan for 30 pages of photos, and have been going through thousands of them in the past two months. We’ll  be discussing fonts, graphics, and map placements. Copies of the manuscript are already out for final checks as well as possible endorsements. If all goes as planned, the book should be out by Sept. 1. It will be carried on Amazon, and will go into a Kindle version as well. Stay tuned!

Complete my recovery from my May 22 accident while descending the Bigelow range.

The real deal

I’m 95% through rehab on a torn hamstring and severely bruised back. Riding my mountain bike is better for me than hiking now. I have to take care not to overextend the range of the hamstring.

I’ll be giving a Sunday morning presentation (W0613)- Why Walking Matters: Benefits of Walking/ Improvisational Skills in Long-Distance Hiking.

“Tom Jamrog, Triple Crown thru-hiker, author, and Maine Guide with Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures. From the ages of 57 to 63, “Uncle Tom” thru-hiked four National Scenic Trails. Tom reviews the latest research on the physical and mental health benefits of walking, and discusses physical training and mental techniques that can bolster an aging hiker’s continued success on the trail.”

Hike a new trail in Newfoundland. -Private Trip- August 8-25
Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail is “One of National Geographic’s Ten Best Adventure Destinations in the World”

East Coast Trail- Newfoundland

From the East Coast trail Association’s web site:
The East Coast Trail unites 26 wilderness paths, along 108 miles of North America’s easternmost coastline. The paths of the East Coast Trail take you past towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, deep fjords, and a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout. Experience abandoned settlements, lighthouses, ecological reserves, seabird colonies, whales, icebergs, the world’s southernmost caribou herd, historic sites, a 50-metre suspension bridge, two active archaeological dig sites, and many more attractions.

Guide a trip of The Whole Hundred ! (Abol Bridge->>Monson)
September 1-10— SOLD OUT

Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness is a huge, largely uninhabited region, beginning on the outskirts of Monson, ME. Many thru-hikers consider Maine the best part of the whole 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. The Hundred Mile Wilderness appears on many hiker’s Bucket List. This southbound trip will take place over 9 nights and 10 hiking days, allowing for ample time to settle into a comfortable schedule. We will take advantage of a mid-point resupply service, so that we will not need to carry food for the whole 10 days. This trip is suitable for a hiker who is able to carry 30 pounds on a 10 mile average per day. We’ll stay in lean-tos, and/or tents, space permitting.
Price Includes: -Ground transportation from Lincolnville ME, mid-point resupply cost (you provide the food, etc.) packing list, and on-trail skills instruction. Meal assistance is available by arrangement.
-Up to 2 hours of pre-trip preparation consultation (via phone) is provided to participants. Group size is limited to 4.

19th Annual Winter Camping Symposium-Oct 26 -29, 2017.  YMCA Camp Miller, 89382 E Frontage Rd, Sturgeon Lake, M.

Tenting with Bad Influence on Moosehead Lake

I will be presenting at this excellent immersion weekend in Minnesota. Topics to be determined.  I gave the Keynote address here in 2014.

23rd Snow Walkers Rendezvous -November 10-12, 2017 at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont.
Includes presentations, workshops, information about wilderness trips and amazing food! Participants may choose to stay in cabins, tents or commute to the event.
I hope to offer a new presentation: Winter Fat Tire Biking/Camping in new Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.





Day 1: Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2015

I’m back in Fairlee, Vermont to attend my favorite annual gathering of the year, The Snow Walker’s Rendezvous. The event consistently attracts 100 fans of winter foot travel, be it walking, hiking, snowshoeshoeing, or skiing. It runs from Friday night to Sunday morning. I have been attending for over 15 years.

Friday night’s program kicked off with two of presentations that focused on winter backcountry skiing expeditions of 4-10 days duration in Quebec, specifically the Groulx Mountains, just north of the Manic 5 dam that is located several hour’s travel north of the St. Laurence River. That area is totally unique in that a map displays a perfect circle of blue water  just above the gigantic dam, a geographic feature that was created millions of years ago when a  asteroid hit the earth there.

The first two presentations took place in the deep winter of Quebec, Cacada!

Number one  was by a two young folks who were in group of five that spent 10 days in the winter wilderness. Their trip was totally self-supported. One of the speakers was Andy Staudinger. The other was Emily Hughes. In 2008, Andy skied the length of Vermont, built a voyager canoe, and then paddled the length of Vermont, and managed to portage the boat and all the team’s gear back to base camp at Kroka Expeditions.

The second presentation was from Don Tedstone ( Quebec ):Winter Travel in Les Monts Groulx Don has 7 successive years of 10 day winter trips to the same area. He is an advocate of “hot camping”, and shared stories and photos of the trips and his expertise in building his own silicone-coated nylon tent and stainless steel stove and stovepipe to heat the tent.

Don's creation
Don’s creation

Here is a picture of the tent the Don designed and made himself.

The featured attraction of the evening was Tim Smith’s humorous and candid review of his experience on what turned out to be the final episode of The Discovery Channel’s “Dude, You’re Screwed” survival show.

The real Tim on the left and the "Screwed Tim" on the right
The dim Tim on the left and the “Screwed Tim” on the right

Tim is the founder of  the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, and is a Registered Master Maine Guide.

Tim enlightened us with the fact that the 1 hour show was composed of actual events, staged events, and trumped-up drama. The show is set up to be a game, where the contestant (Tim) is kidnapped and then helicoptered away to a very remote wilderness area (Northern Norway) above the Arctic Circle. The copter leaves Tim with one cameraman (who provided him with no direct assistance)  and a small pile of assorted gear. The on-screen clock then started down from 100 hours, the amount of time Tim was allotted to reach civilization.

Parts of the drama of the show were believable, like disorientation of Tim’s sleep cycle cues. Tim deduced that he was above the Arctic Circle, due to the fact that the sun never set. However, without a watch, there was no way that Tim knew when to sleep. His first sleep occurred close to 24 hours of being moving and awake. This introduced the dramatic element of Tim habitually dropping off to sleep, even while he was keeping his makeshift coracle (primitive boat) upright while he was careening down a rapids-filled river.

For those of you who have no subscription  to the Discovery Channel, here’s a YouTube link to the episode that I just found that is currently active.  These clips go offline quickly, until someone puts them up again, so if you would like to be thoroughly entertained for 45 minutes, check it out right away.

Day one here was as good as I hoped for tomorrow should be even better.

Nuts and bolts:  

Meals & Lodging: Simple lodging is available at the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Cozy 3-4 bedroom heated cabins provide comfortable accommodations. (As well as your tent!) Meals are served buffet style in dining hall. The Center is located on Lake Morey, and is easily accessible from I-91.

Program registration -$60; student/limited income-$45. Registrations accepted until program is full.

Meals & lodging packages are available for the weekend (Fri. Dinner through Sun. Breakfast, 3-4 occupancy/room)

Commuter & tent rates available

If you want to experience a most interesting weekend in Vermont next year (November 11-13, 2016), then ask to be put on the mailing list so that you won’t be left out in the cold-   Mailing your request to Lynn_Daly@alohafoundation.org

Two great presentations from the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous (Nov. 2014)

Two superb presentations took place in November at this year’s Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT.

If you would like an overview of the whole Nov. program, I recommend tuning into Alex Gusev’s six minute YouTube video. Alex is handy with the camera, and weaves several presentations into a compact package.

Now, on to the two highlights of the weekend:

The first was Scott Ellis’ multimedia presentation entitled “Finding Simplicity in Winter Camping”.  I appreciated Scott’s low-key approach to having adventures outdoors.  Scott’s got tons of experience, and puts together informative videos about taking minimal gear and having fun in all conditions.  For his presentation he loaded up some clips from his videos.  Here is the full length version of him taking a piece of plastic sheeting, building a makeshift teepee, and putting some heat and comfort in his shelter by setting up a wood stove stove in there.

The second top-shelf presentation was by Paul Sveum , ” 21 day Snowshoe Trip in the Boundary Waters”.  His talk  highlights a twenty one day winter trip that takes place in march of 2014 in Minnesota, from the end of the Gunflint Trail (Saganaga Lake) 75 miles into downtown Ely. It was a particularly cold trip, with night time temps getting to 55 below zero.  Paul is an instructor at the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School way up north in Marsadis, Maine. The video captures an adventure of a lifetime, with a cast of characters that you rarely get to watch in action.  

It’s these types of programs that keep me coming back to Vermont every November to catch the latest installments from the Masters of Winter Wilderness Travel. It’s all set to repeat in Nov. 13-15, 2015. The event cuts off reservations at 100 folks, and if you have never been there- consider going. Stay tuned to this bog, where I’ll post the registration link sometime next fall.

Snow Walker’s Rendezvous – welcome to winter 2014

Last weekend, I attended the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Vermont .

Home made tent and stove
Learn by Doing

I experienced the weekend through a new lens-through the eye of a newly Registered Maine Guide.  Other Maine Guides were in attendance, including Master Maine Guide Tim Smith, and another new friend I made at the weekend, Portland-based Lou Falank.

I really enjoyed hanging out with Tim on Saturday night.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith has been finding his way into the conter of the bushcraft/backwoods survival skills spotlight for some time now. He developed and continues to run his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School,  the highly respected Maine-based ” University of Outdoor Skills” .  Tim’s long-term immersion programs are the longest and most comprehensive bushcraft, survival and guide training courses in North America.

What’s bushcraft?  The JMB website explains: ‘Bushcraft is the active component of our interaction with the natural world. Both art and science, bushcraft is doing, making, crafting, traveling, building and living in the natural world. It is an inclusive term for doing things outdoors and is composed of activities such as, but not limited to, primitive skills, modern survival, classic camping, expeditionary skills, prepping, hiking, paddling, crafting and outdoor living, as well as more specialized disciplines such as hunting, fishing and trapping. Bushcraft has no political agenda or worldview, isn’t about preparing for the end of the world, and isn’t an “ism”. It is made up of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who share a love for being active outdoors.’
Now Tim’s going to be on our living-room or palm-based screens in upcoming episodes of Dude, You’re Screwed on the Discovery Channel.  Tim’s episode should be entertaining us before 2015 rolls around, sometime in early December.  Stay tuned for more details.

The normally bushcraft-distant New York Times gave considerable column length to the show in their Dec. 20, 2013 review :  “Dude, You’re Screwed” centers on five men, most with advanced military training, who take turns running gauntlets designed for them by the others. Episodes open with essentially a staged rendition — the mark is kidnapped, hooded and bound at the wrists, then spirited off to who knows where. Unhooded, he’s left to fend for himself with just a handful of tools provided by the team. (As for suspension of disbelief, wouldn’t the participants know their destination when they’ve presumably gone through passport control?)
While the contestant in the game — all the men refer to it as “the game,” though there’s no prize — makes his way through various struggles, the other four men observe him remotely, and sometimes say grim things like “Moisture kills out here.”
But more often, their mood is light. Its like the home run contest before the All-Star Game, an essentially meaningless display of skills where titans watch one another show off. But the casual mood also serves to take the edge off the very real struggle of the man in the wild.
I want to see this show, but I don’t subscribe to the Discovery Channel.  If tell you when it’s on, can someone help me see it?  

I also had a great time talking with Lou Falnak.

Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe
Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe

Lou runs his Mountain Bear Programs and Guide Service.
Lou has provided programs as a director, instructor, and co-facilitator at camps & schools across Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. He’s a Registered Maine Guide. His L.O.S.T.(Learning Outdoor Survival Techniques) Program specializes in bringing youth from a wide variety of backgrounds into the outdoors to learn skills and experience community. He’s making a difference in the lives of children in the Portland area, bringing after-school bush-crafting skills to the next generation.

Lou and I hit it off. We’ll get together in the near future, after Thanksgiving, to do something together in the outdoors.

I  was recruited to kick off the weekend at Friday night’s whole group meeting ( the event cuts off at 100 registrants) with a half hour reading from my blog. This was old school, no iPhoto or Powerpoint, just one guy trying to entertain the faithful by reading a half-hour story of an actual deep winter adventure in the Maine woods.

I  read about my one-week walk across the frozen Moosehead and Seboomook Lakes.    Here’s the link to the talk- this time there are photos and three video clips –The Great Slush Walk of 2009.

Mark Shaw exits our hotel room
Mark Shaw exits our hotel room

I plan to include at least one more entry about the weekend.

There was so much to be excited about !

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014

Tent City at Snow Walkers' (2013)
Tent City at Snow Walkers’ (2013)

I am presenting a talk in Vermont at this event, upcoming in November..

My talk/ photo display will be : Winter Walking the West: Preparing and Adapting for Snow Travel in the Sierras and the Rockies

It’ a great weekend of all things winter foot- travel related.  It sells out at 100 registrants every year so far, so get in touch with Lynn if you are interested in going.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014
November 7-9
Hulbert Outdoor Center
Fairlee, Vermont
Friday, November 7 – 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Saturday, November 8– 8:45 am- 9:00pm
Sunday, November 9 – morning – workshops & informal hike/ bike

Join us for our 20th informal gathering of friends (and friends of friends) who love to travel traditionally in the winter wilderness. We’ll have slides, and films and lots of information to exchange. Bring your favorite items from the North to display: maps, books, photo albums, sleds, tools, etc. All are welcome to display tents and share traditional camp set-ups.

Partial list of folks sharing their experiences:
Katherine Donahue NH Steaming North: 1st Cruise of US Revenue Cutter Bear,Alaska & Siberia,1886
Ruth Heindel VT Stories from the Poles: Science and Adventure in Greenland and Antarctica
Paul Sveum NH 21 Day Snowshoe Trip on the Boundary Waters
Mirelle Bouliano QU Skiing Northern Quebec
Craig MacDonald ON Richmond Gulf Traverse 1979
Bruce Lindwall NH Back Country Skiing the Sierra Crest Trail
Tom Jamrog ME Winter Walk the West: Preparing & Adapting on the Pacific Crest & Continental Divide
Scott Ellis VT Finding Simplicity in Winter Camping

Alex Medlicott NH First Aid for the Winter Trail – Cold Injuries; prevention,recognition;treatment
Ann Ingerson VT Sewing Your Own Winter Gear
Tim Smith NH Axe Handling
Ross Morgan VT Knots for the Trail
Paul Sveum NH Food Planning for the Trail
David & Anna Bosum QU (Tentative) Cree Culture
Film – “On the Wings of Mighty Horses” – Sakha Republic
Geoffrey Burke NH Build your Own Toboggan
Loranne Carey Block NH Felted & Knitted Sock Fiber Arts for Camping
Tour of the Tents & Stoves Traditional Equipment Display
Used Equipment – Sale/Swap Bring your fiddle, guitar or musical instrument for evening fun…
AND MUCH MORE…………………………..

Meals & Lodging: Simple lodging is available at the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Cozy 3-4 bedroom heated cabins provide comfortable accommodations. (As well as your tent!) Meals served buffet style in dining hall. The Center is located on Lake Morey, and is easily accessible from I-91.
Program registration -$60; student/limited income-$45. Registrations accepted until program is full.
Meals & lodging package for the weekend (Fri. Dinner through Sun. Breakfast, 3-4 occupancy/room)
Commuter & tent rates available (see registration form) Thanks for mailing or faxing your registration after Oct 1. Sorry we cannot accept phone registrations.

Registration Questions: Lynn_Daly@alohafoundation.org

Tim Smith at Snow Walker’s Rendezvous

The 2013 edition of the Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT was a superb.  Many tents were set up with wood smoke puffing out of 4″  stovepipes. Over 100 people attended the sold out weekend.

We opted for a heated bunk room, took in the displays at the vendor tables, and scored up front row seats in the big room for Friday night’s  program.

Willem Lange kicked off the program with a reading of a couple of his highly entertaining Vermont- based stories. Will’s vitae includes 8 books, numerous careers, and founding the Geriatric Adventure Society.

For me, the highlight of the evening was Tim Smith‘s talk-  “Nature as Wallpaper” .  Tim is a nationally known bushcraft and survival skills instructor, with his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School running courses out of Marsadis, Maine.  He posted an entry about his talk on his blog.

Tim  told attendees that his talk would be on the web, soon.   Here is the podcast of that presentation-  it’s short, but drives right to the point.  Tim is an authentic voice connecting people to the natural world.  I hope to take a course with him.

iTunes Link | Play, Download Or Subscribe In iTunes
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 13:45 — 15.7MB)

Day 2 Snow Walker’s Rendezvous

Big doings at the winter outdoor skills corral today.
There were some impressive whole group presentations today.
In the morning, Ed Belchner shared slides and stories from the early 1970’s in his program “40 Years into Nahmakanta by Snowshoe, Ski, and Dogsled”. Ed attempted a  southbound AT hike in winter and struggled through the snow and ice until he decided to get off the trail at Nahmakanta Lake, where he straggled into an ancient camp and initiated a lifelong relationship with the camp and its owner. Very cool to see what the in and outside of the now extinct Nahmakanta Lake Camps and to view Antler’s Camps as well. Both are now just legends of the AT.
We also heard from Maddy McNair, who is recognized as the top woman polar guide in the world.

Maddy McNair

Maddy McNair is the real deal. From her website:  “Matty has journeyed to both Poles setting several very impressive world records. She led the first women’s expedition to the North Pole in 1997.  She also guided the Ultimate North Expedition; a dog sledding journey from Cape Columbia to the North Pole, arriving at the North Pole in just under Robert Peary’s 1909 record time of 37 days, thus proving that his disputed dash was in fact possible.    Maddy has the distinction of being the first American to ski to both the North and South Poles.  In 2004/2005 she completed an unsupported ski expedition to the South Pole, accompanied by her children Sarah and Eric, who became the youngest persons to ski to the South Pole.  Adventure appears to run in the family.   She presented photographs and tales from some of her expeditions.

In the afternoon I attended two small group workshops.
You can never be too careful with an axe and one person who knows about axes and their use is Maine’s Tim Smith.  Tim runs Jack Mountain Bushcraft.   In addition to more than a decade of 1-7 day bushcraft, survival, guide training and outdoor living courses, Tim has now taught 21 semester-length, college level, field-based bushcraft courses.   Tim walked us into the woods, where he demonstrated proper felling, limbing, and sectioning techniques.

Tim Smith

I learned a lot from Tim, and hope to take a course from him someday.

The second skills session that I attended was by Kevin Slater and Keiran Moore, entitled “Tips and Tricks of Winter Travel”.
Kevin runs Mahoosuc Guide Services.  An active guide for 25 years, Kevin has traveled extensively in the north by canoe and dog team.  He has done expeditions in Maine, Quebec, Labrador as well as a pioneer descent of the Grand Canyon.
Kieran Moore lived with the Dogrib Cree in the Northwest Territories between Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes  from the early 1970’s until 2002 .  Moore experienced communal subsistence hunts into the barren lands both by canoe and dog team, observing a vanishing way of life of a people at the farthest reaches of the tree-line and beyond.  Moore is a fabled storyteller, and we have been held spellbound by some of his recollections of life with the Cree when he presented at a previous Snow Walkers Rendezvous.
Both men traded skills demonstrations:
Slater reasoned out out the contents of his day pack for an instructional session, as well throwing together a scaled model of a winter survival shelter, and a talk about how to build an  emergency snow pit.

Kevin Slater ready to dump his pack contents

Moore demonstrated two Cree subsistence techniques: how to use three crafted sticks to set up a ice fishing gill net, and the use of cordage and an appropriately sized piece of fabric to pack up and transport a sectioned caribou.

The highlight of the large group session Saturday night was Ed Webster, an expert on the history of Mt. Everest.
From www.climbing.about.com 
“Ed wrote one of the best books ever written about Everest, Snow in the Kingdom , an account of the first ascent of Mount Everest’s Kangshung Face.
In 1988, American alpinist Ed Webster teamed up with Robert Anderson, Paul Teare, and Stephen Venables to climb a new route up Mount Everest’s massive 12,000-foot-high Kangshung or East Face. The four, in contrast to most expeditions, attempted it in the best possible style—on a new route; without supplemental bottled oxygen; without radios and satellite telephones; and without Sherpa assistance.
Below the South Summit, Ed saw prayer flags strung between rocks and purple-robed Buddhist monks chanting a blessing ceremony. Not thinking he was hallucinating, he simply watched them before passing out. When he awoke he realized the perilous place he was in and that if he continued on to the summit of Mount Everest that he would never return alive. “From out of my mental haze came the inescapable conviction that if I continued I would probably be killed.” At 28,700 feet and 3:30 in the afternoon, Webster turned around and started down. Life was more important than summit. Stephen Venables continued solo to the summit, becoming the sole expedition member to reach the top and the first British climber to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.”

We only were treated to 10 minutes of slides and a phenomenal demonstration of what it was actually like to actually walk and breathe in the Death Zone.  It’s one thing to experience, another to read about it, and to hear and watch Ed gulp air for 10 loud breaths and then walk two steps and do it again I’ll never forget.

Ed presented a gripping 30 minute history of North and South Pole discovery, using original photographs from the Nansen, Peary, and Cook expeditions, and he made sure we knew that Matthew Henson belonged in that pantheon as well.

I agreed with several  of other people who attended that the quality of the presentations at this year’s Snow Walker’s Rendezvous was the best yet.
So it sold out again at 100 people and will be held next year in Vermont the weekend of November  8,9, and 10.   For more information, past program lists, or to be included on the mailing list, please check out the website   http://www.alohafoundation.org/hulbert-outdoor-center/community-programs/outdoor-conferences/snow-walker-s-rendezvous/.  Sign up early if you are fortunate enough to get the chance.  I’ll be there!

Day 1 Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous

There are over twenty winter, heated tents housing the hardiest participants this weekend in Fairlee, Vermont. The event sold out again, with 100 of us in attendance.

While it sound bracing, the keen eye will note woodsmoke emitting from some stove pipes. These folks aren’t suffering, but are languishing in shirtsleeves within their
little shelters.
The program began with several large group presentations.
Elizabeth Bradfield kicked off the weekend with a gripping poetry reading. She read from Approaching Ice and held the attention of the large group with her polar imagery and genuine voice.
The highlight of the evening for me was viewing 30 minutes of “The Romance of the Far Fur Country”, an almost forgotten silent movie produced in 1920 by the Hudson Bay Company in celebration of their 250th anniversary in North America.
From the website:
“lIn spring of 1919, two cameramen from New York City set out to film Canada’s northern wilderness. They first boarded Canada’s most famous icebreaker, the HMSNascopie, and headed from Montreal toward the Arctic Circle. For the next nine months, the film crew lugged their crates of gear by foot, canoe, dogsled and icebreaker, trudging through the Arctic, the boreal forest and up some of the fiercest rivers in the world.
The filmmakers perched their cameras in places never before filmed. By the time they completed filming at the end of December, they’d gathered 75,000 feet of film, some eight hours of viewing time. The footage was rushed to New York where editing began. By mid-April, a first draft was complete, and clocked in at four hours. A month later it was cut in half.”
This restoration project is currently in progress with the cooperation of Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, the British Film Institute / National Film and Television Archives in London, England and additional funders such as the Manitoba Arts Council.
Marcia and I retreated to our bunks to settle in for a night of vivid dreams, with images of trails and winter.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2011- Part 3 of 3

After breakfast on Sunday, I went to a workshop by Andy Williams  on How to Build A Sling Fireplace.  I’d never seen anything like this.

Sling Fireplace

There is nothing about this thing on the web, or at least my search’s results.

The materials list includes fire place screening, two sections of tent poles, flexible galvanized air craft cable, key rings, a few aluminum cable swages, and P-Cord.  The unit rolls up and fits into a recycled Thermarest stuff sack.  It is suspended between two trees and the fire is build in the air, resulting in a massive charge of air that quickly feeds the fire through the screening, and has the distinct advantage of leaving the surface of the earth scar free, as well as burning all the fuel into powder.  The downside is that the materials cost about $40 due to the 18 feet of 1/8″ cable that runs about $1.29 / foot.

After this was demonstrated and discussed, I wandered out to the back porch where Don Kivelus was re-running his “Trail Stoves:  Their Selection and Use workshop.

Fire + Stove = Winter Comfort

Don told us that dry wood yields 7,500 btu \ lb., with that figure remaining the same no matter what type of wood is used. If you have dry pine available, you arr going to need a lot more of it than you would if you  were harvesting dry oak.  In this part of the US, the best you can expect from wood that is seasoned out doors is 15% moisture content. On the positive side,  pine dries quicker that hardwood.  Don advised us to never harvest dead wood that is lying on the ground, due to the relatively high moisture content that is present in the wood.  Look for dead vertical standing spruce. Beware of leaning softwood tress, as each degree of lean generally equals a degree of moisture contained in the wood. Here we learned about stove damper basics, and firebox management and such.    Don stressed the importance of choosing the right clothing to take with you into the winter bush, with wool still taking preference to synthetics.  The second most important thing that you must have with you in winter camping is good fire building skills.

This year I didn’t win any of the dozens of door prizes that were given away.  I also didn’t buy much , with the exception of two Opinal knives

Opinal knife

Opinels are French picnic knives that have been around for over 100 years.  They are easy to use, and are designed to be safe, employing a stainless steel locking collar that prevents the knife from accidentally opening or closing. Opinel knives were ranked as one of the “100 most beautiful products in the world”, by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  They are only $12, and come a three sizes.  They feel good in the hand and fit easily in a pants pocket.

Snow Walkers’ rendezvous is all about improving winter camping skills.  One of the past things I heard Don tell the group was that lessons get delivered in the midst of ice, snow and cold.  If you are not listening, you lose.  Each of us is a student who needs to pay attention. The goal is not only to survive, but to be comfortable in uncomfortable conditions. Once you get cold and on the road toward hypothermia,  you get cranky, frustrated, and become disturbed in your focus.  This is an area that I fervently avoid.

I hope that some of my readers will attend next year’s Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous, at the Hulbert Outdoor Center, at Lake Morey, VT on  November 9-11, 2012.  I plan to be there.