Our Kevlar canoe made portaging seem like nothing more than
carrying a piano on your shoulders through a wooded, rocky trail
Our leader, Ron, leading the way in his solo canoe
The height of canoe fashion with waterproof knee high sealskinz socks and Tevas
The backcountry never saw such sparkling teeth by the campfire
Colorado hikers John and Dan ready to hit the watery trail
One calm afternoon of mirror like reflections on the lake
Loons called out at night as we sat by the fire
Hail to canoe fans,
Recently some of my hiking buddies invited me to join them on a Boundary Waters canoe adventure in the 1700 square mile, 1 million acre area in northern Minnesota that is famous for backcountry wilderness to get in touch with nature and sore shoulders. It was a rolling 2 day drive from Colorado to Ely, Minnesota, gateway to a universe of canoeing. It seemed that every car, truck, restaurant and shop was catering to canoeing and all the accessories you can imagine and some you can’t to make the backcountry experience unforgettable.
Our hearty group of 6 paddled off for a six day adventure of paddling, portaging between lakes, and paddling some more to find scenic camping spots without the benefit of any signs or recognizable landmarks since the wilderness designation means you’re on your own. Actually the only sign we ever saw was a notice that the forest service was tagging wolves in the area which surprisingly didn’t register high on the safe and secure meter. A few of us tried to get lost in the dense woods but managed to make it back to our campsite before dark thereby denying the wolves a chance to practice their pack hunting tactics on a stray, clueless animal.
I was even able to put my dental education to use when I convinced the unwashed members of my party to practice good dental hygiene around the campfire, and we flossed nightly before heading to the tents. It was a fitting prelude to a restful night’s sleep on the rocks and roots that somehow grow under the tent after it has been pitched on a seemingly flat, even surface. Overall a great trip with guy bonding 24/7, and the wind, cold and rain didn’t deter our spirits and kept the mosquitoes and black flies at bay. We stayed an extra night in Ely to indulge on the mouth watering walleye and fresh pie served up at the Chocolate Moose restaurant, and I noticed we walked out with an all knowing canoe swagger in our step as survivors of the Boundary Waters. To top it off, Pat joined me in Colorado a few days after my return to share the Indian summer weather with the aspens turning gold in the mountains. Hope your fall is shaping up and you’re ready for the next round.
Boundary Waters veteran Bob
One of the baby screech owls Lauren rescued
Sand Hill Crane adults and chicks in Florida
Skipping across the bay with my kite in Texas
Hola wildlife fans,
My Florida college student made her dad proud when she discovered three screech owl chicks had fallen from their nest, and despite efforts to return them to their mom, they ended up back on the ground in the back yard of the new rental house. Following a Google search for the care and maintenance of screech owl babies, Lauren lovingly fed them raw liver until the local wildlife rescue center could pick them up and take them to their facility and raise them to the point where they could be released into the wild. I got to visit them last week with Lauren while I was in Florida, and one of them stared at me with such intensity that I kept waiting for him to speak up like in the Dr. Doolittle movies. The lady who has cared for them since Lauren handed them over said they would be ready for release in about 2 weeks, so hopefully they’ll fly off to a happy ending.
In other news, my kite sailing in Texas resulted in more fun rides across the water with fewer crashes, and Pat even spent some time there with me. She’s back in FL and I’m back working in CO until our next rendezvous in Washington DC in a few weeks where we’ll hop on a 17 hour plane ride for a dental project in Madagascar. It’s a new place for both of us where I’ll fix some teeth during the week with the promise of lemurs on the weekend. When that’s done we’ll hang out in South Africa for 10 days to see the big game before finishing up in Cape Town.
I drove to work in light snow 2 days ago but it looks and feels like spring has finally arrived in the Rockies. Hope your weather is free of tornadoes and floods, and write some news form home.
Africa bound Bob
Hiking on the Bear Creek trail
The Saturday Knights on their morning jaunt
A tufted ear stubby tailed bobcat in my yard
Two bobcats enjoy the artificial turf
Hola spring hopefuls,
Last weekend brought a full range of weather to Colorado, so for starters a hike in the snow was in order with the Saturday Knights, a band of old guys that likes to traipse around the backcountry no matter what the conditions. The trail and trees were decked out in their best winter coverage and it made for beautiful scenery until the sun started melting it all and dropping snow on our heads and down that little exposed part of our necks on the way out. By the next day, the thermometer was flirting with 70 degrees, so I traded my snow gear for shorts and a tee shirt to bike downtown to see some friends.
I came home later in the afternoon and as I was cleaning out the fireplace I glanced out the window and saw 2 bobcats hanging around my artificial turf in the back. It was a rare treat to see these normally elusive predators, and I called the neighbor to bring her little girls over to have a look. Mom and the girls quietly came by, and as we watched the cats from the deck, one of the young ladies, who probably tips the scales at 30 pounds started to descend the stairs to get a closer look. I mentioned to her that a bobcat might see her as a nice mid afternoon snack, so she reconsidered her position as a menu item and came back to enjoy the view from above.
The rest of the week the weather has see-sawed between blizzards and balmy, so I’m hopeful it will make up it’s mind and I can either leave my ski racks on the car or get ready to see the flowers start to appear. Either way it’s a good excuse to get outside and commune with the elements. No matter what the groundhog says I’m ready for some spring weather and hope your flower boxes are in order too.
Bobcat fan Bob
Route finding on the map is more fun in a blizzard!
Little blue markers are few and far between on the trail
100 Proof Yukon Jack fueled pink shorted John’s irreverent stories
The wood burning stove kept the hut warm and melted snow for water
Hi blizzard fans,
A few weeks ago I joined 7 cross country ski friends for a jaunt to one of the cabins in the Colorado 10 Mountain Division hut system, named after the legendary World War Two troops that trained in Colorado. We always hope to find fresh snow on the trails, and mother nature delivered with over 2 feet of powder that fell continuously for the 3 days we were out. That combined with the 30-50 mile per hour winds made it all the more interesting, but we all made the five mile ski to 11,300 feet in good spirits, and spent a few days enjoying good company, food and wine. The 2-3 foot snow drifts on the way to the outhouse in the middle of the night were challenging, and made crawling back into a warm sleeping bag even more rewarding. We skied out a few days later with no sign of our trail, and after getting temporarily lost in a sea of white, we picked up the trail and made in out in time for a visit to a new brewery in the town of Buena Vista that served up fresh Reuben sandwiches from savory grass fed beef. That led to a back seat nap for me on the drive back with the promise of a hot shower once I returned home.
I put a few days of work in before boarding a flight to Florida to hang out with Pat for Valentine’s Day and spend a few days in sunshine and 80 degree warmth, including a day of windsurfing before heading back to Colorado to finish out the winter. It seems like I’ve shoveled our driveway more than I can remember in the past, but spring is just around the corner. Hope your winter has plenty of snow and ice to help you appreciate the prospect of warmer weather.
Joe’s rental kayak with sunken boat in the background
The gators looked well fed and no threat
South Pole Mike and I cruising the St Lucie River
Greetings fellow rule breakers,
My December holiday break was wisely spent in warm, sunny Florida while the rest of the country was whining about the ice and cold. First up was a nice dinner with Pat to celebrate 32 years of marital bliss, and since it was stone crab season in Florida I got to break my way into the claws on my plate while Pat munched a salad like a good herbivore. The next day I headed north to Ocala to meet up with Joe, one of the Antarctic docs I worked with last year who recently moved with his family from frigid Maine to Tallahassee, Florida, which he describes as “easy living.” Ocala was a good middle of the state meeting place, and we planned to canoe the crystal clear Silver River the next day. I lobbied for a 5 mile downstream, one way canoe ride with his wife and kids, and then driving the canoe and kayak back on my car’s roof rack instead of having to paddle upstream to return the boats. When I called the canoe rental concession earlier in the week and asked about this option, I was told it was not allowed because they didn’t have a shuttle service, so I simply figured once we were on the water who could stop us? Joe and I drove our cars to the park downstream and I left my car there and we drove Joe’s car back to the hotel to get his wife and kids. Pat had to work and didn’t want to be a part of my plan of deviance anyway. Our group assembled at the put-in point after Joe gave the rental guy his name and we both handed over some cash for the canoe and kayak. No papers to sign or any check to see if we had a drivers license or had just shot our way out of prison, and off we went.
The river was beautiful and soon we spotted a number of birds, turtles and gators. Once on the water Joe’s family agreed to go to the downstream park as long as it was clear that ABF (all Bob’s fault) was the explanation we would give at the end. The kids liked to chant “ABF, ABF” as we cruised along, and as a special reward near the end of our run we saw a few trees full of monkeys left over from a 1940’s attraction that never took off but the monkeys remained wild in the swamps bordering the river. I said once I had “cued the monkeys” it would be the conclusion of Bob’s adventure travel trip. Once ashore I strapped the canoe to the roof of the car and drove back to the park, much to the consternation of the lady at the entrance gate who declared that I was a “bad boy” and the canoe rental guy that couldn’t quite get why I hadn’t asked him, knowing that he would tell me “NO!” We paid him for the extra hours on the water and bought him some beer to soothe his temper, and figured that since all he had was Joe’s last name that he was now on the “no paddle” list similar to the TSA’s no fly list and he may be banned from future rentals throughout the state. No harm, no foul and I thought the kids learned a valuable lesson of asking for forgiveness and not permission when you know the answer is “no.” Joe mentioned that he might send them to me when they are teenagers to keep those skills sharp.
The rest of my holiday was spent enjoying time with Pat and her family, hanging with Lauren and her dogs, biking on some new trails with friends and windsurfing and kiting when the wind gods were smiling. I also got to dine with my mom and dad, and did a final canoe run on a river near our Florida place with Mike and his family, another Antarctica hiking buddy who just returned from a dark, soul crushing winter at the South Pole. Now it’s back to work and the Colorado snow country until the next jaunt to the warmth of the south.
Bad boy Bob
Sailing along the bay with the wind at my back
Hi kite fans,
Last month my buddy, Dave called and told me his wife decided she didn’t want to go to Texas to hang out while he perfected his kite sailing skills, and asked if I would like to join him for a week on the water. It took some arm twisting and almost 10 minutes to cross out my schedule and book the tickets, and a few weeks later we were on the beach and ready to make it happen. I’ve been stuck at “mid-beginner” for what seems like a few years now, and was determined to either get the hang of kite sailing or put my gear up for sail and move on to a more suitable old guys sport like golf. I signed up for what turned out to be a “breakthrough” lesson and within a few days I was zipping across the water with my kite firmly attached to my waist, and had a ball. We spent half our time at the beach known as the flats in South Padre Island, and the only mishap was when I decided to take a shortcut across the soft sand and ripped out the plastic underside of the car that we had initialed on the rental agreement that we would NOT be driving on the beach. Fortunately between my dental and Dave’s machinist skills we were able to reattach the piece that I had left on the beach that afternoon and we could continue to sail with a clear conscience. I’m more hooked now than ever, and will be looking for a place to rig my kites and sail in Florida when I go down to visit Pat and Lauren for the holidays.
It’s back to work for now though, and I went to an implant lecture today with Jack, the dentist I share an office with in Colorado Springs. I picked him up this morning with light snow on the ground and the thermometer pegged at 12 degrees F. When Jack asked what I thought of the weather I reminded him that a year ago I was down south on the ice and a day like this would be considered a pleasant summer day. So it’s all about attitude and perspective, and I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one with more holiday fun to follow. And, if you really want to get in the holiday spirit, since Hanukah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day you can order a Menurkey from an enterprising 9 year old who created a turkey menorah.
Hello fire-free fans,
Pat, my mom and I converged on Maine a few weeks ago for a week of visiting friends and indulging every day in lobster in the form of salads, sandwiches and whole plate loads. We drove, biked and boated around the state, and had our share of rain in between days of sunshine. The LL Bean store open 24/7 was fun for a late night shopping excursion, while the whale and puffin cruise left us wondering if those little specs in the water were puffins or bobbing Coke bottles.AcadiaNational parkwas beautiful when we could see it through the fog while Bar Harbor seemed to have succumbed to the tourists who thirst for ice cream and knick-knacks. The best part of the trip was reconnecting with friends we hadn’t seen in a few decades and we all lied endlessly about how none of us had aged at all!
I flew home to Colorado Springs to the most destructive forest fire in the history of the state, and stayed with friends for a few days until the evacuation of my neighborhood was lifted. The day I flew in, the flames looked like a scene from the apocalypse, and while Pat and Lauren worried about irreplaceable photo albums and stuff collected during the past 20 years in our house, I was hoping my windsurfing, biking and ski gear were safe. We were lucky that our house was untouched, but just a mile away the neighborhood was reduced to ashes, and a number of my friends lost everything they couldn’t haul off in the rush to evacuate. Everyone agrees that the 1600 firemen from all over the country and the local police did a great job, and we all had a sobering lesson of the transient nature of a lifetime of accumulated possessions.
In more southern news, it’s -23F at McMurdo and -92F at the south pole right now, as I contemplate the 40 day countdown to my Antarctic adventure. I’ve got three more weeks of work before I head toFloridato spend some time with Pat and Lauren and soak up some heat to carry me through the frozen months. My computer savvy buddy Rod set up a web site titled frozendentist.com, so you can read all about my time at the bottom of the world.
Hope your summer is going along well and write some news from home.
(not) burned out Bob
Hiking in fog shrouded Maine
Lobster-Meister Matt serves up a feast
A house reduced to ashes in a nearby neighborhood