Letters from Base Camp

IMGP0095On Georgian Bay and the North Channel, much of where we camp consists of rocky ground and regular tent pegs are basically useless. Exposure to high winds on open ground makes it essential to anchor your tent securely. I've seen more than a few improperly anchored tents blown away by high winds and even moderate winds, even though the owners had all their belongings inside the tent as well.

Here is a way to make sure your tent or tarp is properly secured that is easy and keeps your equipment in good shape.

Find a stout stick, at least 12 to 24 inches long. Place it through the tent peg loop and lay it on the ground so that the loop sits in the middle of the stick. Next find two suitable rocks, large enough to pick up with two hands, but safe to carry, and place them on the stick at each end. Make sure the stick is on the side of the rock furthest from the tent. Here's a photo of what it should look like. It's important to make sure that the fabric of the tent or the tent loop is not underneath the rock. Nor should you ever place a rock or heavy object directly on or inside the tent. High winds cause the fabric to vibrate or scrape on the surface and this will wear a hole right through the fabric in short order. If anchored properly, the tent will not be damaged and it will remain secure even in heavy IMGP0099winds.

I've included video of a tent in high winds and pictures of what the anchors look like.  I must admit that the rocks in these pictures are a little small.  My general rule of thumb is, if you can pick it up in one hand, it's too small.  Go with as big a rock as you can safely carry or use several rocks per side.  Make sure they are ballanced and holding the correct direction of pull.

It seems our warm 2011 summer just keeps on giving. Early forecasts from Environment Canada indicated that the fall colours would be excellent. And last Saturday's day trip on the Channel sure bore that out! During the growing season chlorophyll creates an abundance of green pigments in a leaf's cells while any other pigments that may be present are masked. But with autumn trees reduce the flow of water to their leaves and chlorophyll is destroyed. This demise allows other colours to be expressed. It's the variety of these rich colours that we so enjoyed this week: the orange maples, the yellow birches, the scarlet oaks, the burgundy sumachs; and the solid green of the pines provided such great contrast. I'm publishing a couple of photos that catch some of that glory. During a quiet moment I also pulled out my paint set. Thanks to our Benjamins art trip teacher Bob Little  and Marlies Schoenefeld for reminding me that it's about capturing the essence of what we see around us that matters, rather than the detail. What a relief! My latest water colour now sits over the computer where I'll get to admire fall's beauty even when it's over (but alas I'm feeling a little shy about publishing that).The good news in this area is that the fall colours are only at about 70% of peak. So whether viewed with a camera, paintbrush or your naked eye, there's still time to enjoy nature's palette from the water or a trail. --


"If there is magic in this planet" wrote the American Naturalist, Loren Eiseley, "it is contained in water". I love Eiseley. If you have not read this author yet, make a point to do so. This line has always stuck with me. Water nourishes us and makes life possible in so many ways. Not only do we need it to live, but we use it for quality of life as well. Our world is 3/4 water and less than 3% is fresh. Yet all land life on earth literally depends on that small fraction. Eighty percent of that small fraction that is fresh water is now tied up in Ice Sheets (though for how long is anybodies guess) Much of the rest of what is left is contained in ground water. That leaves less than about 0.15 % available in lakes, river and streams . Only a small fraction of this is actually contained in the atmosphere at any one time, to fall out as these beautiful snow flakes that are right now outside my window. That part of the cycle last from only a few hours to a few weeks at most. Compare that to to a drop in a lake which can be contained as such for decades to several centuries. Ocean water can be much longer still and water locked up in the ice sheets can be there for millennium. (It is a sobering thought indeed to consider that when the earth was first being formed, literally all the water on earth was contained in the atmosphere, the environment being simply too hot for liquid water to form for any length of time - imagine the weather forecast around the time the earth became cool enough to form rain)If you're having a hard time imagining these numbers try this little experiment. I use to do this with high school students in the lab. First, fill a one liter container with water.

(That is 1000 ml if your metrically challenged.) Now poor just 25ml (2.5 %) of that into a 100 ml glass. Put some salt into the left over liter of water to

symbolize the un-potable ocean water that makes up most of the water on earth. Now take just 6ml of the 25ml of water out to another small container to represent the water that is not frozen in glaciers. Poor the left over 19 ml into an ice tray to represent it's real earth storage. Of the remaining6 mls of water (about 0.6 % of the total) about 4.5 ml of this represents ground water. The last 1.5 mls (about one drop from an eye dropper) represents all the fresh water that now exists as surface water in rivers, lakes and such, inlcuding our Great Lakes.It is rather humbling notion to consider while paddling in what seems to be an endless supply of the stuff and more humbling still when we consider what it takes to make this remaining stuff "safe" to drink now. Treat it as the rare element it is and paddle and camp with care.

Once there's more than one person in a room, you get a relationship. Most times that's a beautiful thing, but sometimes it's not. Personalities differ, life experiences and priorities vary, egos collide, and the result can be ambivalence and even conflict. The challenge is to find the commonalities, not the conflicts

So sea kayak trippers always amaze me. They start out as strangers over breakfast on day one, then find it difficult to say goodbye only a few days later.

Why is that?

I believe one big reason is finding common ground. It's no-ones "turf" out there. Sharing an outdoor experience is definitely a big factor: helping each other tether a tent to bare rock, knowing your paddling partner is right there beside you through a gusty choppy section, seeing a bunch of smiling faces when you surface after your first wet exit, sharing a glorious Lake Superior sunset. We all face the new environment together.

But mostly I think it's a decision. The decision to "show up". To take what comes and be our best selves. To revel in the adventure and nature we all love - together.

-- Rick

P.S. BTW, I can find it hard to say goodbye too. I don't forget any of you, but lucky for me I get to experience it all again with a new group. It's one of the many rewarding things about being a guide and instructor.

What our customers are saying...

Thanks for a great trip! It was just what I needed and all that I had hoped for.

- Alan