Monday, April 28, 2008

50-50 grind

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"

everyone else is still at work

It was only 11 o'clock and the crack of the days first Kuurs can echoed across the river. We had paddled nearly 20 miles since we launched back at the Transient Canoe Dock. We weren't nearly half way. The dew that fell that night had been resurrected and hung in the morning like laundry along the branches of the trees on the banks. Such fog they say, lures men from their wives and fish from their schools. We paddled, and around each river bend we witnessed the sun burning through the body of the fog and at our own skin. Our shirts had to come off, our sunglasses had to be put on, our first joint had to be lit.

There's something about submerged river stones with long moss growing on them that resemble the tops of balding men's heads, their long hair flowing in the current of the river. There's something about the way water swirls around the edges of your paddle after a J-stroke. There's something spiritual about the canoe parting the water. Overall something at the bottom of the throat arrives when you are out of your element, out of your routine, knowing that everyone else is still at work, under buzzing florescent lights, and you are loafing, enjoying "new perspectives".

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Something changed. No longer did the routine of collard shirt and razor burn seem as valuable.

Breaking down camp, pushing off towards an unknown, un-experienced series of hours, seemed exhilarating. Maybe along the banks our boat will be deposited as a trail marker or warning to those who follow. Maybe life will be different, maybe the river can expose layers in oneself the same way it carves at limestone.

Our first morning

The river took on a silence it hadn't revealed to us before. Only the shuffling of snow melt over riverbed or of robins picking over wet morning dirt were the recognizable sounds. That and the smell and smolder of last nights fire and the thought of coffee worked at the wrinkles in our morning eyes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

transients are everywhere

I climb into my tent feeling like an old man missing out on some quality drunkenness, get comfy, lay my head down on my makeshift pillow (a stuff sack stuffed with clothes and surrounded by a fleece,) and........chic-sh-chic-sh-chic-sh!

Something is scurrying around the tent floor near my head. Farts and thank yous are coming from the other tent, uncontrollable laughing and jokes fling tent to tent too, but this is serious! Some fucking nasty-ass-something has crawled Into my pillow and will probably burrow into my ear, and all I can get from the other tent is a laugh and a "loud and proud" one.

Somethings got to be done! I punch at my pillow, press down hard on every soft surface, hoping for my first kill of the trip, and finally silence comes to camp. No funeral, no remorse, no scurrying or odorous emissions, nothing. Sleep begins, only, its sleep with the knowledge that insect carcass now provides my comfort.

Five minutes later that little fucker is scurrying around again. Head lamp to forehead I tore everything in sight apart in that tent, and there he was, looking at me, I can't read facial expressions of insects, so who knows what he was thinking, this beetle the size of a pack of big red.

Gone. Scared to use my hand the gauntlet of the fist through sleeping bag method came down on his ass and finally put an end to the uninvited squatter.

only just beginning

I think we could have played chess to the constant glow of our cigarettes. We played and smoked for hours. It was exactly what we were looking for. Quiet. Well, In the distance fireworks and drunken howlings were reminders we were not alone. We expected that all the vomiting partyers were out only for a night of drinking on the river, leaving the next. We were out for four days, going long past the take out that was everyone elses. Our trip was only just beginning.

this is not a smile

To all the late night stragglers floating by, those who left late and cant find a campsite, fuck you. This is not a smile,  this is OUR beach, beeyotch!

"Kuurs" and extra virgin olive oil

     Eat my Psoas Major! Chew on my dainty filet. Ok, ok. Sorry. Actually, wait, that makes it all sound small. Well, Filet Mignon's big reputation makes it a perfectly acceptable indulgence for canoeing.
     After camp was set up, and the fire began to give birth to the perfect orange coals, I broke out my little backpackers collapsable  grill. I pulled from the cooler the white butchers paper the two fist sized filets were folded in. Opening it up, an almost guilty look came over us. We cheersed our Coors cans, I'm sorry; "Kuurs". A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper is all it needed before it hit the grill. The same to a few spears of asparagus, a sprinkle if chile, some herbed butter, mmm, dinner, our first night canoe camping ever, was awesome!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

why not engage the tongue?

Unlike backpacking where weight is a major concern and space is limited, Canoe Camping allows you to bring anything and everything you'd would if you were "drive-up" camping. But, if you bring ultralight-backpacking equipment on a canoe, it allows you to bring even more food and beer along, ie. "essentials".  Instead of a 15 lb, two burner Coleman stove, two 2.5 oz Snow Peak Giga Power backpacking stoves make more sense, they weigh less and take up less space; hence,  more wine and cheese.
     This is where pure gourmet gluttony enters the picture. Ok, so camping doesn't scream out fillet Mignon with black truffle potato gratin or soft shell crab sandwiches on fresh camp cooked sourdough, but that's only because you don't have the balls! 
     I'm fucked up. People accuse me of over-doing-it or "doing-it-up". Yes, I am a guilty motherfucker. For me, it's not just camping with freeze dried dinner and trail mix snacks, its a gourmet adventure. A waterfall or gorgeous mountain view from a river bend-beach is why we come, but, that experience can be enhanced by a procuitto, cappicolla, bufalo mozzarella, tomato & basil panini on fresh baguette, drizzled with a fine extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepp, which just happened to be our first lunch on the river. I mean, come on! Am I wrong? While your eyes and ears are getting high from the views and sounds of nature that some consider spiritual, why not engage the tongue? 
     Canoe camp-cooking is a pain in the ass. The more you can do ahead the better. I got my mandolin out the night before we launched, and dealt out the thin cards of a potato dish that drives you out of your mind. Potatoes, butter, cream and truffles, dude. 

8-10 purple potatoes (red can substitute)
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup melted butter
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup white truffle oil
1 black truffle (if you cant find one, use more white truffle oil)

Slice the potato super thin on a mandolin (don't have a mandolin?, get em consistently even and as thin as possible).
Butter a Pyrex baking dish
Lay out a layer of potatoes
Drizzle with heavy cream, butter, extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of garlic, a sprinkle of shallots, salt,  pepper and Parmesan.
Lay out another layer of potatoes, 
Drizzle again with heavy cream butter, extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of garlic, a sprinkle of shallots, salt, pepper and Parmesan
Repeat this until the Pyrex is full
The cream, butter and oil should fill up 3/4 of the height of the Pyrex
dust the top with an extra sprinkle of parm and bake, cover in foil, at 350 for 45 min
remove from oven when you have a nice light brown crust and the insides are bubbling out the edges.
let sit to cool
slice into 4 in squares
shave black truffle over each piece
drizzle each with white truffle oil 
and serve beeyotch
(or in this case put in Tupperware and refrigerate 'til you leave)

as for the fillet?.........

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Finally our canoe camping trip was a canoe camping trip. The river began to emerge from behind the shouts, fireworks and passerbyers who decided to stop on our beach to piss. As the sun went down, our faces orange with campfire, the machinery we've been trying to escape began to subside.
Unstuffing our tents from their sack, I was over come with the sounds of tent poles and zippers wailing, the first couple snaps and pops from the fire, the cracking can of beer, feet over dirt, the river gurgling against the sand of the beach.
Unstuffing my sleeping bag the slight thump of stereos and fireworks in the distance were drowned out by the hollering in my stomach. And I smiled, cause no matter what was happening around me........we had food, REAL FOOD!

Friday, April 4, 2008

relative relative!

Pushing off, the hull portioned the river into two distinct halves, our oars plunging into and tearing at the silk ripples of the two divergent personalities flowing calmly and silently on either side of us. The river's two faces began competing for our attention.
Up ahead was a group of 13 or more canoes, held together by a network of hands, floating, bows and sterns in all directions. A hundred yards behind us, tied loosely to each other, a barge of rafts and beach type floaties hurled drunken woo-hoos and splashing around.
"What the fuck did we get ourselves into?" We looked at one another. All we could do was dig our torsos into the river up ahead. This is where our thin keel and kevlight hull became our friend.
We passed group after group, all friendly, all saying hi as we tracked passed them at what seemed like effortless high speeds. We were told back at the crowded outfitters office that because we were leaving early enough, if we paddled hard we could pass the lazy vacationers, pass the beaches they were most likely to camp on and find relative quite away from the crowds.
We did. We found a perfect spot on a bend in the river with no other campsites in sight. We were exhilarated. We were camping.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


1. One spending no money on canoe or equipment rentals, ie. self-outfitted.
2. Vagrant
3. Fleeting.
4. A sudden pulse of voltage.
5. Passing before the sight or perception, or, as it were, moving over or across a space or scene viewed, and then disappearing. (Milton)

river over-romanticized

Our expectations were of great wilderness adventures. We were going to gather our own firewood, fish and fillet dinner, cook on a river stone griddle and paddle miles without ever seeing a soul. It quickly became obvious we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. What ever it was we were foolishly over prepared.
When we arrived at the outfitters we inquired with the girl at the counter if paddles could be rented. We had our own but an extra paddle seemed like a good idea in the case of a capsize where a paddle goes missing. She looked at us with a "you are certainly not from around here are you" look. "It's a lazy river, I wouldn't worry about it" she said. I can only imagine what we looked like to the girl at the counter. We were over-decked in gear. Our ultralight rain and wind breaker's seams were taped and sealed. The big logos on our chests I'm sure told our stories verbatim. We were such out of towners we arrived at the wrong put-in. As a matter of fact there was no put-in there at the outfitters office at all. The outfitter we arranged transportation with's main office was 20 miles away.
Once we were on our way to the put-in, we stopped for beer and bickered over what kind to get. We are from the city. Heineken seemed like the obvious choice yet I wanted something more fitting to the trip, something a little more hillbilly. We ended up with a case of Heineken and a case of Coors cans, which for the duration of the trip was called "kuurs" with a back country inflection.
We finally pulled into the outfitters main office parking lot, and immediately shit ourselves. The parking lot was packed; kids, families, teenagers, college kids with rafts and floaties, groups in vans; everything I've grown to despise. Now, keep in mind, this was my idea. I chose the place, I built up the adventure. So when we looked at each other while waiting in line, all i could think was "what have I gotten us into?" the rental office was crowded and loud- everything we had hope to avoid........but it was there........our status was established, our status as Transient Canoers. Hmm, I liked this. Our new status distanced us from the ruckus.
We embraced our new Title. We wanted nothing more than to be independent, to be distinguished from the crowds at the outfitter's office. We wanted to be on our own. We loaded our canoe at the transient put in, far from the noise and crowds and set out into the cold and clear waters.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two Transient Canoers

The sense of adventure, if it could be a tangible thing- was a slab of fat pork belly, awesome and satisfyingly gluttonous. Once we finally strapped the canoe to the roof, Modest Mouse and gutteral burps from road sodas filled the air. Our excitement streamed through the windows, the mountain air stuttering against the straps on the gear in the back of the truck like the eyes of a roomful of men when a young woman enters. Who were we? Two idiots that spend more of their time thinking about art than baseball, or who would rather talk the faint hairs on the slight curve of a female neck than stats for fantasy football. What were we doing spending a week on a river canoeing? 

clean air and cold rivers

Since deciding on a canoe camping trip over backpacking I can think of nothing but the sound of quiet; water over rock, the smell of crisp air and the smolder of half-out morning fire. The birth of a river that begins and begins again each spring, swelling and contracting arteries that were once roadways to native canoes. Or more, the lack of sounds........phones and cars, traffic and humming light, televisions and children, the harsh rusting crank of the machinery of routine. Nothing sounds as beautiful as a paddle dipping into the waist of a river or a stream working its hips around a chute or cluster of stone. Even the smell of your own skin, in a boat, in the sun, takes on a name other than yours. 

there will be no paintings there will be no poems

Canoe camping's purpose is to take the painter out of Brooklyn, out of his studio, away from concrete and distraction and take the poet out of Boston away from his office, away from routine and responsibility.......... or both........ away from themselves. 

as far as gear goes....

Gear gets a bad wrap. The Bear Grylls' and Survivor Men of the world bushwhack and suffer. Backpackers that brag of their 30 mile hiking days with trail running shoes and a 14lb pack and look at the outdoors as a challenge. The outdoors, to me, is a more religious place, more than any church, mosque or synagogue. You see, men obsess over gear for good reason. Any object that can make me endure another Sunday in my church is awesome and worth the research and money.
I've always enjoyed the planning of a trip. Mapping, gear lists, drunken imaginings of whats to come, preparing for weather, choosing dates, pulling out storage bins full of that smell of gear etc. Gear though, like camp stove, tent and canoe are small measures of pre-trip excitement you fawn over and clean out. They are actual objects that help one imagine the adventures they are about to embark upon and provide a sense of comfort in knowing you are heading out into the woods with all the right tools.

3 nights 4 days (camp list)

(camp kitchen deserves its own post) otherwise....
1 Sierra Designs Observatory Tent
1 REI Classic Dome Tent (cause no, we weren't going to sleep together)
2 ThermaRest (old school) sleeping pad
2 Thermarest Trekker Chairs
2 Sierra Designs Sleeping bag
1 Kelty Noahs Tarp w/ two poles and a set of sand anchors
2 large dry bags w/ shoulder straps
1 Medium dry bag
2 small dry bags (for accouterments)
1 Brunton Liberty Manteless Lantern
Club Special Vinyl Chess Set
2 MSR Medium Camp Towels
1 rusty machete
2 Nalgene Water Bottles
Leatherman Wave Mulitool
Petzl Tikka Plus Headlamp
2 bottles bug repellent with Deet
Full Bodied Camera with multiple lenses
Backpackers First Aid Kit
Bungee Cord
Toilet Paper
2 Bending Branches Bent Shaft Paddles
2 PDF (life preservers)
2 GCI Sitbacker Canoe Chairs
1 17.5 foot Bell Northwind Kevlite Canoe