Thursday, September 25, 2008
We unzipped our tents and emerged into a dark murmuring cloud of morning fresh, rain-exaggerated, mosquitoes. Small smears of some other animals blood, perhaps our own or upstream puking partyers, began to appear on our foreheads and arms.
The whisper of the camp stove couldn't rival the hum of the cloak of mosquitoes we wore. As if they knew we were leaving they dined on us as we had dined on the beauty of the river. And we dripped from their chins.
The reality that it was our last morning on the river settled over camp.
There was a lot of silence this morning. No crack and crunch of a morning Coors echoed through the corridors, no spark or poof and smoke of a morning cigarette, only the wheeze and sighs of lungs barely capable of words.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Setting up the final pole in my tent , I felt the male and female ends, as soon as they were put together, split away from each other. I broke a tent pole. Fuck! I had no tent repair kit. For the rest of the night my abode would have what we referred to as the "gangster lean". During the night I woke to a pool of wet tent floor and wet sleeping pad, steeping in a puddle. I realized that in my drunkenness I set up my tent on a slope and what must have been a “beach gutter”(an avenue water travels down when you set up your tent like an inexperienced ass hole) The compromised integrity of my tent, along with poor site selection, found me awake during the most uncomfortable night of the trip.
One learns lessons based on, as I so articulate and eloquently call "retard fuck ups"
We watched the grass kneel in it's faith to a water that shrugged it's uninterested shoulders past it.
The sun began to drop behind the tree line and fracture into slivers that divided the river into a keyboard of light and dark.
We marveled above it, our eyes full of coors tapping out the contention that ;
ones life is built upon experiences like this.
only the writings and sketches one leaves behind is what one will be judged upon.
How you express yourself, inspired by such moments, is what defines you.
Above the treeline tarnished silver dollars stacked. The sound of thunder slapped and quickened our set up of camp. Tent poles become increasingly disagreeable and rain-flys flap with an unsettled fervor when darkening clouds ponder their course.
(and we lie in it)
Monday, August 4, 2008
Don't do it!
I promise, It will fuck up your life.
Go for three days or more; carry everything you need. Leave the routine, ditch your car, stuff your canoe, filter your water, eat in front of the woods' thousand watching eyes. Make dialogue with river and bank and you will be changed.
(Not like a simple defrag, a refresh or reboot, but a total reinstall!)
There is one thing you learn on a river, one truth that exposes it's naked self;
....the insignificance of things, everythings
Be prepared to return to a fit of throwing out, abandoning, disregarding, losing interest in, and saying good-bye to things, and people, many things, important things...so you once thought.
It is realistic that you might come home and break up with your not so significant other, propose marriage or confess undying love or devotion.
You will discover a desire to write blogs, take photos, make love, author free lance articles, cook on a backyard campfire, wander in the woods alone in the rain, read stories of adventure, cause fender benders, watch your income plummet due to daydreaming and your penis rise in the most inappropriate of situations or......... worst of all......... write poems.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
When nature called, or yelled as it did after chili cheese dogs, the routine began by grabbing the machete, wielding it around unruly like, stuffing a roll of toilet paper under the arm and strutting off into the woods with a curious grin.
The machete was a duel or truel use item. Not only did it provide an air of manliness to our journey it made us look bad ass in front of beach infringers. The machete made quick work of breaking down wood for the fire and most importantly it was a marvelous poop shovel.
As the night was winding down, and the chili had time to corrupt my innards, I found myself headed straight for the machete which was lodged in a stump of drift wood on the beach like Excalibur.
Because of the cool that the ferns and trees provided far up and off the bank of the beach, I thought it would be a perfect place to make compost.
It’s an odd moment there, squatted over a hand dug hole, looking down pondering such deep philosophical equations as; “I should have dug a hole #1 and a hole #2”, before you realize mosquitoes are going to town on your balls and ass.
The natural reaction would be to shoo them away with a swatting hand, but no, the risk is way too high that your hand’ll catch the drizzle over an undug hole #1 or even worse you’ll miss and squash a nugget against a cheek, this is no good. In such situations survival experts and natives alike recommend a good dousing of OFF pre-poop excursion which allows for an unobstructed hands free evacuation zone.
When your planning a canoe trip, monk fish steamed in buttered corn husks or scallops with a tangerine saffron burre blanc most likely won't make the menu for the third night or later. The later into the trip the lower the quality gets. Well, at least in theory.
I don't care if your Thomas Keller, Daniel or the late great Julia Child, chili cheese dogs and burgers RULE! If you haven't had one, I promise you'll love them and if you don't - you should be shot - along with vegans. It's American heritage, like tacos are Mexican, chili, burgers and dogs are American. They are so revered in this country they enter into the realm of lore. When America cooks out what do they eat? They eat Hot Dogs and Hamburgers; preferably with chili and cheese.
Thank California for this. Nowhere does chili come standard on a burger or dog other than California and more specifically Los Angeles. Thank you Tommy's Burgers, thank you Fat Burger, thank you Gerry's Orange O.
On the river, when clouds are stacking, darkening and wind is flirting with the underside of trees and rain flies......short prep meals takes on a significant value.
So when planning the last night's meal of the trip and you want calories after a long day of paddling, easy prep, or flavor that makes you sink into your tired self and moan, consider chili cheese dogs.
Chopped onion, grated mild cheddar, a heap of chili, a sliver of French's yellow over a Nathan's hot dog, on a campfire-stone toasted bun; can I get a God Damn!?!?!???
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
We had to set up the tarp to keep ourselves and our gear out of the heat. Just staking the guy lines of the tarp boiled pints of sweat from my already soak turban. We scouted the island, collected what wood we could, found a somewhat level spot for camp, walked into the water and laid down. It was like the river, as it took our breath, took our worries. Across the river, a break in the tree line exposed a distant mountaintop, which turned out to be the best view from a camp we had, There in the water, the river our lounge chairs, we cracked our final beers and lit the last of the smokes.
"Super fucking hot!"
"Let's take the first beach possible, ok?"
"Yea. We need to stop."
It wasn't even 11:00 before we found a beach. Not just any beach either. Along this second half where beaches were supposed to be fewer than people; there...... before us.......... the biggest most expansive beach we've seen the entire trip. It wound around a bend or two coughing up the perfect drift wood for fire, soft sand and views. Like drunken castaways we beached and began exploring.
Monday, July 7, 2008
The river begs for more respect. Humbly, it offers the unique sound of its own body shifting around obsticles in life and earth, or of caressing your feet as they dangle off the sides of the boat, its thousand tongues dripping back into themselves. Paddles have an uncanny way of flattering the waters they dip into. On quiet days one can stare for hours at the swirls and flutter that ripple across the skin of the river made by a wooden paddle. Light tends to choose unfamiliar hiding places in the folds of such affection. No other form of travel seems more natural. And no other way of living seems as fitting as nomadic or transient camping.
When you're one of them it seems ok. When it's you standing in a canoe howling unintelligablly or your own radio blaring down the corridors of the river it might seem fine. I love and respect the holy trilogy of canoe, river and beer. But when you canoe for the silence and awe of nature; nothing sucks more than a fat frat boy in a canoe singing Bon Jovi off key, no any key.
Monday, June 16, 2008
"If we stay on the water our skin will resemble microwavable bacon. Yet, if we beach at the next available spot we could get behind on schedule." We weren't sure what to do. The main problem other than sun was the supposed lack of beaches suitable for camping we were warned about.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
We had prepared for the portage as if we were in the true wilderness back country, our machetes bushwhacking around unrunnable rapids or lining our canoe down the corridor of a rock garden. Neither were anywhere near the truth.
Along the way, as though I were Lewis and he were Clark, we began naming the bends and beaches. The eddys and banks which had significance to us but no name we knew of, began to take on personality.
Our creative sick humor juices began to flow.
When we reached the portage, which was more like a well marked airport landing strip than a back country bushwhack, we realized it was a dam we were portaging. A Dam not a class IV marvel we could ponder over lunch or shooting falls that no canoe can maneuver. On river right there was a well worn dock like bank, we pulled our canoe up lengthwise and began unloading for portage. This was no normal expedition packed canoe. We had 3 bundles of wood, a cooler with a block of ice and enough beer to kill a large moose, 5 huge dry bags and a very unorganized amount of bags for trash, accouterments, cameras, cell phones and cigarettes. We looked at each other......shook our heads. "We got at least three trips" our eyes said. It was only a hundred yards, no one was around. As soon as we started stashing our goods a couple in a canoe paddled up, ruining our solitude.
The painter asks cordially, "have you been to yet or heard of the Finger Banks?" Our creative names were paying off.
The couple was immediately interested, as if there was a section of river that they were never told of, or should try to avoid. They curiously said "no". "Yea, and the Taco Drops are supposed to be extremely dangerous.", he continued on. I could barley hold my near laughing voice from the edge of cracking as he continued with his recommendation to avoid the treacherous swells and undertows that were notorious at the Tea Bag Falls.
Though we might have felt relatively alone over the last day or so, people seemed to swarm around the portage. When we arrived at the end of the 100 yard portage there must have been 4 full troops of scouts, cub scouts, brownies and other unwanted ass holes. We were one of at least 12 canoes ready to suck their feet from the mud and launch. We lugged our gear across in two trips, sweat pissing from our heads. We took a shit in the campground outhouse, bought a weather proof map, and a sticker with a canoe and paddles like a cross bones and skull and pushed off, the entire State's youth council behind us.
Never was I happier to leave a campsite.
We broke camp, took a final dip in the river, dr bronnered ourselves, cracked a Keers, wiped sand from nearly everything, played a game of speed chess, humped some drinking water for our nalgene's, closed our eyes, faced the sun, inhaled the remains of the morning and set out into the mist.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The one thing I hate about camping is doing the dishes. At home its one thing, I'm very comfortable in the kitchen, camping though, nothing ever really seems fully clean. I think I'd rather stab myself in the side of the neck with a large chisel dipped in honey mustard, ewwgh, or grow a mustache than do dishes.
Barista's' offer the finer points of water quality and ratio to grounds, we just drink it, dark! The darker the better. "Broker Coffee" it's referred to in the sales world, "Martyr Coffee" in the terror arena, "Cardiovascular Bliss" in others. Water from the river makes the best morning brew.
We zipped out of our tents in the morning. The grog of more than our rationed portion of beer and cigarettes heavied the luggage underneath our eyes. No sounds of people, no traffic, no phones or clocks or responsibilities other than coffee, a leisurely breakdown of camp and the ever increasingly enjoyable "pushing off" again, the trickle of river our morning news.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
By the second morning, waking up alone not in the warmth of your
woman's coals, sucks.
Yes, you enjoy the freedom, the time with friends the adventure, the isolation and separation from routine that canoe camping imparts. The subtle but important things tend to take shape when you are away from them. The curl and smell of your womans hair, the edge of her cheekbone, the
physiological comfort she imparts grows in value. All those things that dont even enter your consciousness when you are gone, lose all respect and value whatsoever when your back and
confronted with their insignificance. Meaningless arguments and quarells, bills like cable and home phone, coworker conversations and jobs even, are worthless in the face of love and companionship.
Only knowing home is coming and she will be there in it, waiting, stokes the fire and keeps you going
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
I can't believe I'm writing this down. Unfortunately, this is not the first time. Many people have asked me for this. Under duress and usually under the influence, I give it to them.
"Mom's WT Tuna Noodle Casserole"
1 block Velveeta cheese
1 can Campbell's cream of mushroom soup
1/2 stick butter
1 carton white mushrooms
1/2 package frozen peas
2 cans of tuna in water
1 Bag Egg Noodles
This is a two-burner dish.
boil water for the noodles
As soon as is ready, cook the egg noodles
On the other,
Saute the mushrooms in butter 3 min on low to medium heat
Cut the Velveeta into chunks and add to skillet.Add can of cream of mushroom soup, frozen peas and tuna and mix well
You're not really cooking anything here, rather just heating and mixing the (gourmet) ingredients
As soon as this mixture is softened and mixed to a saucy concoction add the cooked noodles and toss
Finish with fresh cracked pepper and serve.
This is the easiest, most retard proof recipe one can put into words. I know, it sounds like a drunken 3 in the morning concoction, but I promise, if you don't tell anyone the ingredients, and you are not too heavy on the sauce to noodle ratio, people will remember this casserole and ask you for this recipe. I promise guilty compliments, praise and a full stomago.
When I was young my mom made tuna noodle casserole. I had no idea of the ingredients, all I knew was I loved it. One day ten years later I asked her how to make it. I was appalled! But that could not override the wonderful memories of the dish. So I decided to make it by her recipe at camp.
Tuna noodle casserole on two lopsided backpacker stoves propped in the sand is not easy. Cooks are use to the hunch over a counter to prepare and plate. Its another thing over backpacker stoves and a cutting board in the sand. Your "mise en place" is not what i'd consider professional.
We are not talking the camp cook that has a fire pit, a full set of cast iron, spit roasting a pig along the Colorado cause he's got 24 to feed and 4 rafts with him to lug it all. That's practically military. For a small group with limited space the concerns are different.
First off, flame temperature is a bitch on modern ultralite stoves. They are meant to rapidly boil the water that will hydrate your crushed Ramen Noodles. Mmm, yumm. Simmering capabilities without hotspots now a days seems to be the bragging rites of stove makers. (which means it's a problem with all stoves)
They are meant to rapidly boil the water that will hydrate your crushed Ramen Noodles. Mmm, yumm. Simmering capabilities without hotspots now a days seems to be the bragging rites of stove makers. (which means it's a problem with all stoves)
Also, prep area. You have to practically build a kitchen every night with less than desireable furniture in less than cleanly accommodations. The canoe itself, when turned upside down provides the almost perfect work surface. Don't melt the Kevlar! Sand? Forget it. It's everywhere. As long as its not in the food. It might look like pepper........
with less than desireable furniture in less than cleanly accommodations. The canoe itself, when turned upside down provides the almost perfect work surface. Don't melt the Kevlar! Sand? Forget it. It's everywhere. As long as its not in the food. It might look like pepper........
Now I've played up the idea that canoeing can be a culinary adventure. But, just because Cheetos and cold cuts make their way onto the menu, by no means, has food not been a central feature of the trip. Who didn't love Cheetos at one point in their childhood? To refuse the foods that gave us pleasure, is denying our past, denying our culture. Taking those items from the past and reinventing them is natural for cooks. We are all guilty of this. It is a necessary practice. Thank god though, for this desire in chefs. We would still think the International House of Pancakes is a fine dining establishment, were it not for the dudes in the back getting stoned and getting creative. Nothing is better than a chef with the munchies, or the food scientists in their stainless steel dungeons creating concoctions like foi gras cappuccino.
Please do not compare this desire with the value of the traditional. "Oral tradition is not manifest only in words." Recreating a dish, no matter how novice it might be, that had been cooked for you as a child or has some significant memory, is revealing of your past. Your young self might not have enjoyed as sophisticated a palate as you might now have, but those memories are no less valuable than your most expensive dinner to date.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
In the presence of a river or stream I have always felt in the
presence of some inexplicable, spiritual and creative power. Watching
water travel by, in the middle if its own expedition, with its own
divergences and obstacles, is the nearest thing to religion or church I know. I felt in the presence of whatever it was that inspired Octavio Paz's masterpiece "Sun Stone/ Piedra Del Sol", or Neruda's "Macchu Picchu."
The perfect beach. As soon as it came into view we knew we had found the spot. It spread out across the bank on river right in the shape of South America. Parts of its sandy banks were falling off into the water in shelves. The water was quiet and shallow there, the sand soft.
There were no river bend stores, no corner convenience. We had to bring everything. Our own Manhattan sized apartment. As for the important things, we brought 3 packs of smokes and a case of beer each. That's 8 beers a piece a day. That's it! We had to ration.
By late the second day even beaches suitable for camping were in short supply. We started to worry.
We were told before hand and were reminded when asking others, beach space is slim for day two. We paddled nearly 15 miles looking for a beach worthy of two tents, our canoe, a camp kitchen, a chess set and two city punks.
Around every bend the mirage of a perfect beach disappeared. On and on, bend after bend....no beach. The sun was going down and we were anxious to find a spot to set up camp for the night. Bend after bend we saw nothing but steep muddy banks and private property signs posted.
Experience after experience continued to be left behind us. The trails the stern left behind us were ripples which they disappeared into. Such was the nature of the river. Part of the beauty was pushing on. The further along we went the more valuable the experiences.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Around us one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life floated by. The ferns that lined the banks of the river were gorgeous. They seemed to consume the light that made it through the treetops and shade in massive pillars. They glowed in spots, like unattended green campfires scattered along the banks. Nowhere had ferns been so vocal before, so vibrant to me.
The sun eeked smiles from our faces, so much so we could have been shoving a moose lip and bever dung sandwiches down our throats. The meal didnt matter a bit. I was half way through my sandwich before I realized I never took the paper out from between the slices of cheese. Man, paper never tasted so good.
We put our oars aside, tied the anchor line to the to the stern, spread out its collapsable teeth and tossed it overboard. It immediately straitened us out in the middle of the river and slowed our forward progress.
We lost track of our selves in our chess game but every time we looked up we realized the anchor wasn't working. We were inching our way down the river, like the drag on our boat was being let out slowly by the mountains behind us. This continued the entire meal and game.
We tore a trench into the floor of that river that must have been a mile long. The faulty anchor and the current steered us though. Only the occasional straightening with a paddle saved us from the annoyance and cost of hiring a little person as a professional steer-er. We were very happy.
It wasn't 'till after lunch when we pulled in the anchor. we realized we never locked down the collapsible teeth of the anchor properly. No wonder it never caught, never kept us stationary.
We created a psuto table out of the Mikasa foldable table wear and the thin cuttingboards from the camp kitchen, a chair for the bowman from a bundle of wood, set up the chess set, hurriedly assembled our sandwhiches, cracked a kuurs an moved pawn D-2 to D-4.
The chessosphere, or sangwichsphere was amazing. The Cheetos were like a classic French wonder of culinaria. Even the paper stuck to the slices of cheese that we had forgotten to remove had a wonderful oaky finish and was complimented by ambient mountain peaks reaching up over the treetops that lined the banks.
Nowhere had dining atmosphere been so overwhelming.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
The plans changed. We wouldn't float, cause it would be too expensive and annoying to have to lug around a midget to steer for us while we played and ate. Rather, we would anchor in the middle of the river at the most beautiful stretch we could find. Also, we wanted to have everything preped, so as to minimize the fuss of setting up a chess set, creating a seat for the painter in the bow, plating and eating a meal worthy of the place, all while in a very unstable canoe.
What to cook? That was the question. The more and more we thought about it, the more we kept coming back to the idea of a meal that complimented the fine beverage we brought along, kuurs, the banquet beer. The choice was obvious. Spam and cheese sandwiches on wonderbread with a canapé of cheetos. Perfect!
Unfortunatly I couldn't bring myself to actually purchase spam or wonderbread for that matter. Cheetos on the other hand I had absolutley no problem with.
We ended up with packaged presliced, with paper between each piece black Forrest ham and muenster cheese sandwhiches. You know the kind, the stuff you get when the deli line is way too long and you are in a hurry. You buy the presliced because its convienient even though you know its incredibly inferior to fresh sliced deli meats. Why is that?
I waste much breath on the importance of food. I'll romanticize, I'll personify a skirt steak, a salty queso fresco. I'll argue its value over atmosphere. It is most certain, in my mind, that several Wellfleet oysters with a minionette can make any back alley dumpster seem like elegant dining ambiance - but - the right atmosphere CAN make even paper taste wonderful.
The idea was to have lunch relaxing and floating IN the canoe AND play chess at the same time. A painter, a poet, a retard or a nerd, you pick. The difficulty seemed to be in how we might steer the boat while eating a gourmet meal, drinking a bottle of wine and playing a game of chess. Another obstacle was prep. I've never sliced or plated anything in a canoe before.
I was facinated by the idea. It was so outrageous and rediculous sounding to me that it was perfect. It became one of the sales tools used against the painter, unbenownst to him, to convince his participation in the canoe trip originally. (not that he needed much coaxing)
Monday, April 28, 2008
It got so hot as the day went on, digging in to the river with our paddles, we had to dunk our cotton shirts into the river and put them back on to cool down. There is no better air conditioner, we had found, than wet cotton against your skin or wrapped around your head like a turban.
The river was lazy, as the girl at the outfitters office mentioned. But that was no stopping us. Any and every branch and downed tree or rocky outcropping became obstacle in a course that lasted 4 days. If it got our attention, we were under it, around it or figure 8ing the fucker! One downed tree in particular, about 14 feet long, the length of which protruded from the surface of the water, jammed against boulders, offered the perfect grind, like a skateboard to a curb! We spotted it, swung the bow over and tracked a line towards it, yanking it out strait so that we were parallel to the tree when we reached it, 50-50 grinding against it, and CRUNCH!
Oh My God, what was that? "I think we got a hole in the canoe", I hear from the bow. A branch stump hidden underwater must have sunk 2 inches into our canoe, port side. The sound was like canvas being torn over a megaphone. "Pull over, pull over!" Through my head went the thoughts- I don't have a repair kit- I borrowed this canoe- Holy Shit!
This was the first reminder that we were in the middle of nowhere. I guess if we were stranded with a sinking boat some puking still drunk "hey bra" kinda guy would help us out. I'd hope.
We beached the canoe to examine the damage, I climbed from the stern walked around towards the bow and saw - nothing- I couldn't believe it. The Kev-lite material our canoe is made from is an incredibly resilient product or shall I say in englich, ROCKS! There was nothing but a scratch.
we hoped back into the canoe and headed towards the "Finger Banks"