Camping and Halloween

This weather has been amazing for the last week - perfect camping weather. But I have been busy writing proposals in response to RFPs for work. Writing those proposals (about 65 pages each) have reminded me of writing essays for university, with the initial scramble to organize content, then getting lost in the content, then staring at it hopelessly and wondering what the hell has been written on the pages, then a burst of clarity as the content seems almost all written, then a sense that nothing is in the right order, then after a bit of formatting and ordering, the whole goddamn piece comes together and all is well.

My evening walks on the marina though give me pause for reflection. So while that's been a lot of fun in a weird way, camping is much more fun, and with this nice weather - well - I'd rather be camping.

Given that I didn't get a chance to go camping a few weekends ago, and given that I have taken to ruminating about camping, and given that I'd like to provide something of interest to my hundreds of thousands of readers, what follows is a description of some of my core camping equipment - the rest are little things that don't need a product description (e.g. fork, cord, socks) - it isn't complete, but I'll complete it along with way.

Oh, and by the way, here's the pumpkin we carved tonight.

MSR DragonFly Stove
Loud, adjustable flame, runs on naptha white-fuel, lightweight, awesome. Boiling time for 1 liter of water, 3 1/2 minutes. Love it.

Cooking Pot & Lid
Cheap aluminum pot and lid, holds 1 liter of water. Blackened on the base from soot, excellent heat conduction. Lid useful. I think I'd like to get a pot grabber.

Folding Frying Pan
non-stick folding frying pan. Excellent for bacon and eggs, a luxury cooking piece, but folds down, and easy to store. Useful but not vital. I try to bring it in case I catch a fish and want to fry it up.

Nalgene Bottle
This terrific invention is good obviously for storing water in a spill-proof way, but I think the fact that it does not hold on to stain or odours makes a big difference over conventional plastic. Also, on a cold night, you can fill it with boiling water and use it as a hot water bottle.

Stainless steel mug
For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea. For tea.

Camping Mattress
Primarily I use this for insulation. But it sure helps protect you from bumps and stones and sore hips. This mattress rolls up small, and when you take it out of the storage bag, and undo the valve, the foam structure within expands and draws air into the mattress. Fill the last bit of it with a few well placed puffs of air and seal the valve, and you have a guaranteed warm and comfortable night ahead of you. Heat conduction is a very important principle to keep in mind while in the bush - water conducts heat away from your body 27 times faster than does dry air. The cool earth saps your warmth less so, but still significantly. This is why if you don't have a sleeping bag, at the very least lay down a bed of spruce boughs for insulation.

Sleeping bag
Barring a bed of spruce boughs, my sleeping bag is a mummy-style bag - the hood easily holds a pillow (I always bring an empty pillow case and stuff it with cloths or leaves for a pillow), and it is rated down to -20 Celsius. I've slept in it at that temperature and the only part of me that was cold was my nose. Do not be tempted to stuff your face down into the sleeping bag though - condensation from your breath will moisten the bag and reduce its insulation qualities and make your night miserable. Make sure not to lay it too close to the fire too, sparks will make holes in the synthetic fabric. Mine contains synthethic insulation - down is more expensive and heavier. As long as your sleeping bag is dry, I'm fine with synthetic. I don't need to wear clothes inside it as it is warm, but you can buy a cotton liner for washing.

Compression sack
This is an awesome piece of equipment, ensuring that your sleeping bag is squished down as small as possible for transportation. Remember to store your sleeping bag at home unpacked, preferably hanging in a basement (dry basement), or in a closet. That way you don't risk reducing the insulation qualities of your bag.

I bought my dome tent at a house-sale in Parkdale one night a few years ago. A couple was going to go to BC and live on an island and were selling their old gear and I picked this 2 person tent up for $40. 2 Folding fibreglass rods assemble as the main structure, and a third provides form to the fly which affixes to the top of the dome. The fly adds a layer of insulating space above the tent, which in turn increases insulation, decreases condensation and makes the structure water resistant. Some really cool tents like some from Hilleberg tents in Sweden have the fly layer part of the main structure. I want one of these:

It is a good idea to know how to use a compass for camping. Otherwise a compass isn't much use. Basically, use it as a reliable indicator of direction. Stop, observe the needle point to North, and rotate the circular section until the North on it matches the North the needle is pointing too. With the pointy bit, take a bearing on a distant object in the direction you would like to go. Note this object, perhaps on a piece of paper or map. A tree, a ridge, a river bank. Walk to it. Wash and repeat. This way you navigate a series of straight lines, and keep on track. During a clear evening, note the direction of the north star. That helps at night if you are out on a lake. Saved me one evening years ago out on a lake in the fog - I could see above the fog into the sky, but not around me.

This is my primary method of starting a fire. I do not - on stubborn and likely misplaced principle - carry matches with me. I tried making a fire bow on my last solo trip. I used pine for the shaft and baseboard. This was a bad combination. I had everything working but the resin seems to have made the going tough. I'll try next time and keep y'all updated. A classic flint and steel works well as long as you bring char cloth or have tinder fungus prepared (boiled in a solution of ashes for saltpeter and dried out). I'd like to try that too.

More below - but I'll write up some details when I have more energy.

Fishing rod, gear, license
Sheath Knife
Folding Knife
Stuff bag

I saw these things.

Wonko the Sane

Ducks Quacked Tonight and a Year Ago I Had Some Thoughts.

A year ago I had some thoughts. I've been at this blog thing for over a year - not including the original Wonko Web.

Pablo got a good saw too, similar to the one that I was interested in. It was warm enough today that when I walked Monty out in the dark by the marina, I could shut out the lights of the island and pretend that I was camping. The stars shimmered, the ducks quacked, the wind blew and the night was dark.

Spring is in Atlantic City winning cash galore, so I'm in the condo with all the lights off except for my computer screen and a lantern with a candle quiet in the background. I am listening to this David Bowie song. Listen to it too. It will bring you back to the days when you listened to it more.

Oh You Pretty Things

Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake off your bed
Put another log on the fire for me
I've made some breakfast and coffee
Look out my window, what do I see
A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me
All the nightmares came today
And it looks as though they're here to stay

What are we coming to
No room for me, no fun for you
I think about a world to come
Where the books were found by the golden ones
Written in pain, written in awe
By a puzzled man who questioned
What we were here for
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though they're here to stay

Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Don't you know you're driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Don't you know you're driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the homo superior

Look out at your children
See their faces in golden rays
Don't kid yourself they belong to you
They're the start of a coming race
The earth is a bitch
We've finished our news
Homo sapiens have outgrown their use
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though they're here to stay

Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Don't you know you're driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Don't you know you're driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the homo superior

Algonquin Park

My Dad and I drove up to Algonquin Park on Friday morning in the dark, and by the time we reached just outside of the park the roads were covered in ice, slush and strong winds of 70kph were starting to blow and 6 inches of snow and a nasty storm was being forecast and so we somberly came to the conclusion that we would be tempting fate by canoeing through whitecaps and snow in the freezing wind. 7 hours after leaving we made it back to Toronto.

I spent the weekend keeping a brave face on.

Canoeing Algonquin Park

In 3 days, 14 hours and 24 minutes I expect to be headed out the door on my way on a solo canoeing trip into Algonquin Park. I can think of nothing else really. I plan on doing some fishing.

These photographs are of my Dad - we went camping a year ago, and one morning he took the canoe out into the mist and explored the lake.

I'm goin' camping!

Holy fiddlesticks! I'm goin' camping! In a couple of weeks I am headed up north with Monty the hound to canoe into lakes and set up camp.

I think this will be a solo trip, Mbah might come too, but perhaps not. Regardless, this is a perfect time of year - cool, no biting bugs, and I can watch the changing season like I can't anywhere else.

Don't know if I can get the buck saw I want in time, but here's hoping.

Well, I have challenged myself - I will make my first fire by using a stick and firebow. I never bring matches with me camping, just use my firesteel, but last time I tried using a stick and firebow, well, the pine I used for a base just squeaked a lot. Cedar should make a better base. I suppose if I can't make it work in the first couple of hours, I will resort to the firesteel, but I expect it will.

The trip I am planning is twice as far as I normally go, as I have found a good route with only a few hundred meters of portaging - and I do not want to stress Monty's back legs because of the surgery he had - one route has only 135 meters of portage - that might be ideal.

Nothing more for now - just excited and doing some planning in my head.

On Looking Up By Chance At The Constellations
By Robert Frost

You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn't reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

Campfire on the Beach

Yesterday afternoon I took the pooch to Cherry Beach - hardly anyone was there, it was getting cold, windy and a rain was beginning to wet the sand and texture the water in the bay.

I picked up an armload of wind-dropped deadwood and scavenged the bank for weeds and came across scads of dried milkweed pods.

I picked up an armload of wind-dropped deadwood and scavenged the bank for weeds and came across scads of dried milkweed pods. I used these for tinder - they took to a spark from my knife and firesteel like gasoline, and despite the wind and the gathering waves, I soon had a roaring fire on the sand, keeping me warm. Adding driftwood to the embers kept the fire going for a while.

Monty - wild-eyed and happy - returned from the rocky surf with a tennis ball, over and over again. I thought about camping. In 2 weeks I'm off in a canoe.

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