Tuesday, December 14, 2010



It was 13 degrees early this morning and I gave up any chance of trying out the new canoe.  I could float it and paddle around for awhile but, I doubt I would learn much about it in that short amount of time.  I need a few hours in it to discover all the idiosyncrasies about the craft, and every canoe has many.  I've got a problem with just going out to paddle.  I need purpose behind the effort.  The purpose today, if I went upon the water, would be to get a feel for the handling characteristics of the boat.  The effort to get it off the rack in the shed, move it to the truck and load it on the roof, drive to the cove and unload, put on life vest, launch and take a short spin around the cove, reload it onto the truck and back to the canoe rack doesn't seem worth the work required.  No;  I need an afternoon in the thing.  Of course, there's tomorrow.  Just maybe..
It remained blustery cold out today.  The dogs needed to stretch out so I gathered them into the truck and went to the lake trail.  There was not one vehicle track anywhere.  We were the only ones out here.  Shade, the black lab, ran full out feeling the happiness of freedom from the fenced in yard.  Douglas was right on her heels.
There was ice formed along the shoreline back in this cove.  The water moves slowly back here and cold has a better chance of working it's freezing magic on the water.  The dogs don't seem to care about water temperature.  They didn't plunge in, however;  they walked in.  Shade walked in and sat down.  Silly pup!  I think they know their tolerance levels.

One will notice the level of the water in the lake is very low.  This is regulated by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  It is a measure that protects against flooding, especially in the Spring.  I like to walk along the shoreline and pick up fishing lures that have been snagged and lost over the Summer months.  Every once in awhile an Indian arrow head is found.  It is so cold today that I am inclined to walk the trail and allow the scant line of trees along the edge of the lake to break up the breeze that is blowing.
The forest is a cold, cold lonesome place today.  A tree can be heard far up the side of the mountain rubbing against another in the wind, making a bumpy bump, screeching sound.  The lack of the color green and the predominance of brown colors flecked with the white of snow lend a coldness that when combined with the frigid air tends to chill one to the bone.  Thoughts of hot, black coffee enters my mind and I wish I had some.  The big stainless Stanley Thermos is home--someplace. 
My eyes scan all the nooks and crannies along the water and along the sides of the hills and valleys trying to discover some mammal out and about today.  The only thing I can turn up are Cardinals and Blue Jays.  I won't take my gloves off to handle the camera for either of those birds.  It's too painful and the effort would result in a clumsy attempt at manipulating the delicate controls on the camera.  I'll just settle for a few snapshots to document our presence here today.

I noticed down near the water a circle of rocks where someone constructed a stone fire circle.  Humans are funny critters when it comes to building camp fires.  It seems they always need to dig a pit or construct some high retaining wall to keep the flames contained within.  I've seen row upon row of rocks and even huge boulders rolled into the lineup of rocks to create these miniature Coliseums to hold the makings for fire.  I can see the thought process behind it but, it seems that some folks put more effort into the creation of these stone bowls than they do the placement and size of the fire needed.  The bad thing about stone fire circles is that they are left behind when the campers leave.  They are representative of human habitation and the lack of humans is, to a large extent, why I love camping.  I hate to walk up to a camp site and see a huge circle of rocks.  Usually there are tin cans and debris inside the rock circle.  Why, I don't know.  I guess by putting the nonburnable cans in where the fire was makes the camper feel more at ease leaving the wilderness litter free.  So, whats supposed to happen to the cans in the fire circle?  I guess the thoughtful camper figures rust will return the metal to the earth.   He may as well just thrown the cans into the woods.  As for the fire circle;  it could be built of Styrofoam as far as I'm concerned.  It's nothing more than litter;  an unnatural contrivance created by a non thinking, inexperienced camper left for everyone to see.  It will remain visible until some other human destroys it thereby returning the area back to near pristine condition.
 As you can see it doesn't take much to throw me into a rant.  I just hate to see gorgeous wilderness places ruined by ignorance.  But the topic of campfires is interesting.  Some of the burn marks from camp fires I've seen indicate huge blazes must have been set.  I guess bonfires are neat to have as long as they are guarded carefully and located in someone's pasture field or near a road where fire trucks can have access.  But, the wilderness is not the place for bonfires.  For me, a one to two foot diameter camp fire is more than sufficient to set ambiance and gain warmth.  I don't like to see the flame higher than a foot normally.  Rather than stone;  I usually set three or four inch diameter short logs in a square with the fire within.  Toward late evening, and when the wood fuel is near expended;  I push the small logs to the center in the fire.  When these burn out;  it's time to call it a day.   A huge fire only wastes fuel and does no more to provide usable warmth than a small one foot diameter fire.  If you stand near a bonfire, you will become too hot and have to move away.  Also the burning wood, fuel, is throwing heat away completely around the circumference of the fire.  You, however, are standing in one spot and one spot only.  Why waste all the fuel and create such a huge fire?
Now;  if I upset my canoe on a zero degree day and was lucky enough to get to shore and build a fire;  I'd probably create a bonfire and stand in the middle of it.  But, I'm hoping I'm never faced with that situation.  A long time ago a survivalist told me how to prolong life if lost in the cold of Winter.   He said;  "get out your blanket and cut slits in two opposing sides of it.   Or better yet, a military poncho.  Build a tiny fire of small blaze no bigger than your cupped hands.  Have plenty of wood pieces laying beside the fire.  Now step up to the fire and squat or kneel down with the blanket over your head and shoulders, surrounding the fire with the blanket,  keeping close to the flames and make sure the slits in the blanket are open a bit for the smoke to pass through.  You've created a small room with the blanket or poncho that will hold much heat."
I never forgot that..
See what a ring of stones starts?  It doesn't take much to get my thought processes going.  Right now my thoughts are to get out of here and find a cup of hot coffee.  The kids, dogs, won't want to leave though.  They're just warming up.
The woods are gray in color and the splotches of white snow lend a cold, cold feel to the already cold day.  As dreary as the day feels;  I still wish I were on Calderwood in my canoe meandering along the shoreline looking for otter and beaver.  I must be nuts.  I'm going home and cut some fire wood to take along on the next canoe camp out.  Stay warm and see you next time.