Category Archives: Kayaking

Nevermind

For a variety of reasons/excuses – some valid, some less so – I will not be getting anything close to 500 miles this month. As of right now, I stand at zero for the month.

Don’t know where my motivation went. It probably evaporated in the heat wave. Or, possibly, it was hauled away by the construction workers who have closed the only bikeable road out of town.

General lethargy prevails.

On a more happy note, I have been logging a lot more time in my Kayak lately.

I have been considering moving to Greenland to live with the Inuit. They seem to have much nicer weather and more awesome kayakers.

Pipe smoking kajaker

This guy, for instance, can paddle his kayak, harpoon a walrus, and do an Eskimo roll – all while smoking a pipe.

Role model.

New Boat

I haven’t been blogging or riding bikes much lately. The local canoe store was having an ‘end of season’ sale a few weeks ago, and I got a good deal on a new sea kayak. So, I’ve been trying to get in as much time in the water as I can before it gets too cold out.

Regular bike bloggy-ness will probably resume after the river freezes over.

In the meanwhile, here are some pictures of me and my shiny new boat!

Me in my Kayak

Me and my new kayak

kayak

How to Go Camping: Part Two — Staying Dry

In our camping utopia, it never rains. In the real world, it might. You can mitigate the risk of getting wet by using natural features (hiding under trees, rock ledges, etc.) or you can bring some sort of shelter. Everybody knows what a tent is. The other options are tarps and bivy sacks.

The first (and last) thing to do before heading out for a camping trip is to check the weather forecast. Weather forecasts are worthless more than 24 hours beforehand, so check it right before you get packed. If there is a slight chance of drizzle, you can probably get by with just a bivy. If there is a chance of some rain, you need a tarp. If it might pour cats and dogs, or there’s a chance of thunderstorms, you want either a big tarp, or a tent.

Picking your spot:

First things first, though. As long as you’re not staying in a campground, you have some flexibility in where to lay down. If it rains, you might get wet, so pick a good spot. Look around for a spot that’s flat and level (or nearly so). If you lay down on a slope, you might slide off your sleeping pad, and that sucks.

You also want a spot that’s a few inches higher than the surrounding area. If it rains hard, you don’t want to sleep in a spot where water is likely to pool up.

Where to sleep

Pine Trees:

If heavy rain is not in the forecast, and if you only brought a bivy, you can sleep under the lowest branches of a big pine tree. All the pine needles above you will catch the big drops if it starts to drizzle. You might not stay 100% dry, but a good pine tree will keep a lot of rain away. Pine trees also smell nice. Additionally, they usually drop tons of soft fluffy pine needles on the ground, which are nice to sleep on. Make sure to look up in the tree to make sure there are no big, dead branches that might fall on you in the middle of the night.

Here is a diagram depicting the correct place to sleep when using a big pine tree to lessen the rain.

Artistic impression of hiding under a pine tree

Bivy Sacks:
A bivy is basically a waterproof bag that you sleep in. Put your sleeping bag or quilt inside it, and crawl in. Over the years, I have carried a Cabela’s one, a Hilleberg one, and one that I made myself. A bivy will keep the rain off you, but the ventilation is bad, and you might get sweaty.

Here is a picture of a bunch of my jackass friends sleeping in bivy sacks.
A bunch of jackasses in bivy bags

Tarps:
A tarp is just a rectangle of waterproof fabric. You set it up with two (or more) sticks, some string, and at least 6 stakes. They can be a little tricky to setup, until you’ve done it a time or two. They keep you dry in everything but wind-driven sideways rain. You can set them up under a tree to filter out some of the heavier rain – like this.

Tarp + tree

When I don’t expect it to rain, I carry a 58″x 104″ tarp which doubles as a rain poncho. This particular model weighs 8oz, and is made in Williamsport, PA. It rocks, and you should get one. You’re going to want a rain jacket of some sort anyways. You might was well bring one that doubles as a shelter.

This is the poncho setup as a shelter.
Equinox Poncho

Here it is in super-hero cape mode:
Equinox Poncho / Super Hero cape

If there’s a reasonably good chance of rain, I carry an 8’x10′ tarp. Weighs 14 oz, still made in Williamsport.

One of the best things about a tarp is that you can see out all around the perimeter. In the middle of the night, you might hear woodland creatures scurrying about. In a tent, you will be convinced that there is a family of grizzly bears coming to eat you. In a tarp, you can quickly look around and see that it’s just a chipmunk, and go back to sleep.

Tents:
When all hell is expected to break loose, a tent may be in order (although an 8×10 tarp is pretty weatherproof). Tents are expensive, heavy, and usually more trouble than they’re worth. They do keep the bugs out, though. Tents give you the feeling of “going inside” at the end of the day. I feel that this somewhat defeats the purpose of going camping in the first place, but some people get a sense of security sleeping “in” something. Tents are also nice in a crowded campground, because you can change your clothes without offending the sensibilities of the church ladies in the neighboring camp site.

Me setting up my tent in a State Park campground

Here’s a matrix of my thinking on the pros and cons of various shelter strategies:

Shelter Type Advantages Disadvantages
Pine Tree
  • free!
  • no weight to carry
  • Can be hard to find
  • only good for light rain
  • Sap / Pine cones might fall on you
Bivy
  • lightweight
  • Easy to setup
  • Takes up no room in backpack
  • No room to storge extra gear
  • no ventilation
Tarp
  • lightweight
  • good ventilation
  • nice views
  • bugs, snakes etc, might join you
  • doesn’t keep out wind driven rain
  • can be a pain to setup
Tent
  • Keeps out everything
    • rain
    • bugs
    • wind
  • Privacy in campgrounds
  • Good ones are expensive
  • can be a pain to setup
  • Very heavy
  • take up tons of room in your pack
  • ventiation is sometimes bad

So, there you have it. You now know how to sleep in the woods without getting wet. Up next, how to stay warm.

Tent Pictures

I set up my new tent in the back yard today, and crawled around in it. It wasn’t too hard to set up. I didn’t really get the rain fly attached very well, so there’s wrinkles and stuff.

Here she is with no rain fly. Other than the floor, the whole thing is mesh, so on a nice night, you can see the stars without getting eaten by bugs. The door is cool, too. It’s only attached at the very top of the teardrop shape, so it doesn’t flop onto the floor when you’re getting in and out. There’s a pocket in the roof to stick the door into if you want to keep it open.

There’s a door on each side so you can get up to go pee in the middle of the night without having to crawl over your tent mate.


naked tent

Here’s an overhead view from my deck, showing my sloppy pitch of the rain fly.

Tent

The moment of truth. I was able to get into it and lie down without my head or feet touching the ends. With a big fluffy winter sleeping bag, I might touch. It was too warm to try it today. Unlike most other tents sold as “2 person” tents, I think I could actually share this with somebody and not end up wanting to kill them in the middle of the night.


Feet fit!

There are vents in the top of the rain fly to let out condensation, farts, etc. You can open and close them from the inside, so you don’t have to go out in the rain. That’s pretty nice.

Vents

There are little orange tie-out points all along the perimeter. I suppose you could tie it out really well if you were expecting a blizzard or something. I doubt I’d ever use them. The vestibules are fairly small. You could probably fit your shoes and a few odds and ends in them with no problem.


tent

This is first tent I’ve ever owned that wasn’t some piece of shit from Wal-Mart, so I’m probably a little bit more excited about this than a sane person would be. I’m looking over my maps for bike-camping opportunities. I’ll hopefully get a chance to field-test it soon!

New Tent: REI QuarterDome T2 Plus

I normally carry a sil-nylon tarp on my overnight adventures. Tarps have many advantages over tents. You get way more room, way better ventilation, and they weigh nothing. Well, mine weighs 13 ounces – not counting stakes, poles and guylines. The tarp works great on backpacking and kayaking trips into the wilderness. You can set up the tarp with either your trekking poles, or your canoe paddles, or sticks you find lying around.

Tarp

It’s less ideal on bicycling trips, unless you bring along some sort of poles to set it up. On my last S24O, we stayed at a crowded State Park campground. I didn’t have very much luck finding good sticks to set it up with, and I ended up having the whole thing crash on me in the wee hours of the morning, dumping water all over me. I also had mosquitoes buzzing around my head all night.

Less than ideal.

The tarp is also less than ideal you want to change out of your bike shorts without provoking lust in every woman in the campground. You don’t get much privacy under a tarp. Not an issue on a backpacking trip to the middle of nowhere, but not so good in a campground.

Tarp setup for an s240

So, I decided I needed a lightweight tent for biking trips in civilized areas during bug season. The problem is that I’m 6’5″ and most tents are too short, and either my feet stick out, or I have to sleep in a fetal position. Not fun.

After some Internet research, I discovered that the REI half-dome and quarter-dome series tents are available in a “plus” size, that’s 10 inches longer than a standard tent.

So, the question came down to half-dome or quarter-dome. The half dome is $100 cheaper than the quarter-dome, but weighs a pound more, and comes in unsightly “apricot” color.

REI Half-Dome T2
The REI half-dome T2 plus

The Quarter-dome weighs a pound less, costs a hundred bucks more, and comes in a nice green / gray color.

REI Quarter-Dome T2 Plus

REI Quarter-Dome T2 Plus

This was a tough call to make based on only Internet pictures, so I drove all 104 miles to the REI in Conshohoken to see them both.

I was able to hold one in each hand, and the half-dome felt noticeably heavier. A pound doesn’t make that much of a difference on a bike, but there’s always the off-chance I might carry this thing on a hike where weight really does matter. So, I sprang for the quarter-dome. (Plus, I really disliked the half-dome’s colors.)

I got it home, disassembled it, and weighed all the parts on the gf’s baking scale.

tent body 25.5 ounces
rain fly 25.625 ounces
Poles (in their sack) 18.125 ounces
stakes (in their sack) 2.125 ounces
stuff sack 2.75 ounces
Total: ~ 4.63 pounds

I think I can live with a sub – 5 pound tent that I can actually fit into. It was after dark by the time I got home, so no pictures of the real deal yet. Hopefully I’ll be able to set it up ad snap some sometime tomorrow morning.

Now I need to find time for an s240 to see how it works in the real world.

Bike Shop(s) for Sale

If any of you want to live out your Yehuda Moon fantasy, I heard this weekend that Big Earl’s bike shop in Mifflinburg is for sale.


View Larger Map

The shop has two locations, one on either end of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail. The eastern location is about 3 blocks away from BikePA route V. The BVRT is scheduled to open in November 2011, so there’s potential for even more business in the not too distant future.

Big Earl’s is run by a Mennonite family, and the story I heard is that they have so much business, running the shop is starting to interfere with their agricultural activities, and so they want to sell it, so they can focus on farming.

You’d probably have a steady business of both the local Amish/Mennonite cyclists I talked about yesterday, and college students from Bucknell.

The only real competition would be Campus Cycles in Lewisburg, and anyone who’s had the… ahem… pleasure of dealing with them knows they wouldn’t be much competition at all.

I don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my entire body. Otherwise, I’d consider buying it myself.

Anyhow, just thought I’d put the word out.

Klinutus’ Bachelor Party

See this shady character? This is Klinutus.

Klinutus is a shady fucker

You see, Klinutus asked my evil sister to marry him a while back. As it turns out, my evil sister has highly questionable taste in men, and so she said yes.

Since there’s going to be a wedding, there has to be a bachelor party.

My evil sister forbade employment of the traditional bachelor party accouterments, like strippers and whatnot, so we had to make other arrangements.

It was decided that we would undertake an overnight whitewater canoe / camping adventure instead. So, we loaded up our canoes, tents, moonshine, etc. and headed to the north end of the Pine Creek Gorge.

I was still hopeful that someone had secretly arranged for strippers to meet us someplace along the water, so I wore my sexiest outfit.

My sexiest outfit

I was traveling light, since I was in a kayak, but the other six fellows had canoes loaded to the gunwales with camping gear and booze. I sat patiently waiting for them to get everything loaded before we hit the water.

Waiting to get started

By my estimate, about half of the participants were already thoroughly intoxicated by the time we got underway. The first rapid swamped two of the three canoes.

Dumping water out of a swamped canoe

As the day went on, the paddlers got drunker, and more canoes filled with water. At one point, Klinutus even had to throw a rescue line to retrieve a reveler from a watery tomb.

At long last, we arrived at our campsite for the evening. I was feeling quite smug by this point, because I had managed not to fall out of my boat all day. I waited by the shore for the others to unload their canoes. Then, I popped my skirt, and got out of my kayak, only to find myself swimming in water well over my head. Evidently I was not as close to shore as I thought.

Soggy and cold, we made camp, rigging our tarps with canoe paddles.

Klinutus' rig

We stayed at the Hoffman camping area, which was quite lovely, as it’s only accessible by canoe or bicycle. It’s a nice open field, and we had the whole thing to ourselves.

Hoffman Camping Area

There’s very little light pollution in this part of the state, and it was a clear night in an open field, so the stars were out in full force. Everyone seemed to enjoy the view.

Drunken stargazers

That is, when they weren’t busy tending to the campfire.

Campfire

There was much deep and insightful conversation about various and sundry topics around the campfire before everyone went to bed.

The following morning, it took people an astoundingly long time to get back underway. We didn’t launch the boats until almost 11:00.

The water wasn’t nearly as choppy in this section, and we were able to float along and enjoy the scenery for another 10 miles until we got to the take-out.

Floating along Pine Creek

Floating along Pine Creek

Floating along Pine Creek

It was quite a lovely time, even without strippers. Amazingly, nobody drowned, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

There are a bazillion more pictures here and here, if you want to see more.

Books: Juniata, River of Sorrows

Juniata, River of Sorrows

Juniata, River of Sorrows is two stories in one. One of them is about the author’s 100 mile fishing trip, where he floated the whole length of the Juniata River in a Jonboat. The other story is about all the grizzy conflicts between white settlers and the Indians who lived along the river in colonial times.

The stories are interwoven every other chapter, so you don’t get too bored. I personally don’t much care about how many bass the author caught on his fishing trip, but it helps to cut away to the fish stories when you can’t stand anymore talk about the Indians disemboweling settlers and burning people alive.

I think it’s really cool to hear about how much crazy stuff went on around here, where most people think nothing exciting ever happens. I grew up not far from Sunbury, so I had heard about Shikellamy, but I didn’t know he was such a badass.

I live only about 10 miles from the confluence of the Juniata and Susquehanna rivers, so this book is perhaps of more interest to locals than to the general public, but if you like to hear exciting stories about Indians and stuff, you might like it even if you live way out someplace in the Louisiana Purchase.

I give Juniata, River of Sorrows 4 Jihadis out of 5

4 Jihadis out of 5

You can read a free chapter online, if you want to get a feel for how it goes.