Friday, April 29, 2016

Our First Jackson Pollock!

You can see the fifth door I was blathering about on the left shutting in what I refer to as the closet unit of the dresser, nightstand, closet combo that I made. Inside there is a retractable hook that can hold about a dozen shirts of any guest needing to use it.

The main purpose of this post is to show the new artwork we obtained for above our Murphy bed. Since we are too cheap to actually afford a real Jackson Pollock painting, we did the next best thing. I glued together some scraps of oak from this project and made a box frame over which I stretched some canvas that we had left over from a previous project. After tarping a large area and pouring some different colors of acrylic paint into various holes of an empty egg carton, I said go and turned the girls (age 9 and 3) loose. After 40 minutes of painting and an occasional rotation of the frame by me to allow for even access, this is what they came up with. I couldn't be more pleased.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hanging Five of Them

Finishing is always tough mentally for me to get through. When I'm working in the garage making sawdust, gluing and clamping things together, there always seems to be progress at the end of the day. With finishing, I have to sand one side of the door, stain them and let that dry. Then I have to apply a coat of poly and let that dry. Then I need to repeat that operation two more times and let the door full cure for a day. Then I flip the door over and repeat all steps again. It takes a long time and at the end of the day, little is visible of my effort except for a few microscopically thin layers of invisible finish.

To make matters worse mentally, I don't really have room to do all the doors at once so I had to break them into two batches. I finally got the first batch of five doors done and hung, the four you see here and the lone door that goes to the closet until next to the murphy bed.

Things went well but I did have one problem. I made my face frame out of two inch wide material. A dimension I pulled out of the air as looking pleasing. At the time, I had no idea what kind of doors I would build but when it came time to build them, I calculated the door widths with an overlap 1/2" on all sides, a number that seemed solid and pleasing. What I didn't calculate was that it only left me an inch between sets of doors where the hinges were to go. The hinges I bought turned out to be slightly over 1/2" in width meaning that everything couldn't go together without interference. In the end, I pushed things together as tightly as possible and centered the four center doors seen above as well as possible. The two sets of doors that will go on either side won't lap the face frame evenly all the way around. It will be close to about 1/8" overlap on the hinge side closest to the center and 7/8" on the other side where because those hinges will be only next to a wall, they can eat up more of my two inch face frame space. It's hard to describe but it all makes sense NOW, after I have the doors nearly done.

As I write this, I will be applying the last coats of poly onto side one of the remaining doors so that perhaps later tomorrow, I can flip them and repeat all the steps again. Once those are hung, all the desk and murphy bed walls will have the woodwork complete. I can then turn my attention to more mundane details like trim, making some organizing units for desktop junk and turning my sights onto decorations. I have always had a dream that I've wanted to fulfill and I think I will write a post on that coming up soliciting your help.

The Doors

More planing, ripping, cutting and then tablesaw work brought more rough lumber into what you see above. I'm just making plain shaker style doors for my upper cabinets but I might put an edge detail on the door with a router. I'm going to wait until they are out of the clamps to decide. I made the joinery simple so it could all be done on the tablesaw.

Again, as you can see below, it is nice to have a lot of clamps. Most of the doors went together easily and were square but a couple I had to put some diagonal pressure on them to square them up. I had two doors where a piece of wood on the rails split outward when I was clamping things together. I should be able to split the wood off completely when the glue has dried, glue the split piece back into place and sand in smooth so nobody would ever know it was there. It happens when working with wood and grains that aren't always true.

Next up will be finishing both sides of the doors. That will take awhile and will have to be done in batches but after the first batch is done, I should be able to start hanging the doors while doing subsequent batches of finish work. I can't wait to get them on.

Monday, April 25, 2016

BMW Convertible... Not a Little Red Corvette

I never was a Prince fan by any means though I know quite a few of his songs. His much too young passing though made me reflect on a memory of when I met the man in person... well sort of... and I thought I would share that time on here.

Old readers will know that I used to live and work for a period of six years up in the frozen tundra called Minnesota. I lived in a smallish town about an hours drive west of the Twin Cities so I made it there more often than I cared for one reason or another. On one such trip, I was driving back with a few of my friends in my car and I was in the slow lane of a four lane road.

A BMW convertible appeared behind me going slightly faster and as it passed us by, two of my friends almost at the same time made comments on the gold hubcaps. I on the other hand noticed the driver wearing a stocking hat in the middle of July and who had olive skin and a more than a five-o'clock shadow of a beard going on. I said in the form of a question, "isn't that Prince?"

My friends immediately affirmed that it was and said that he lived just down the road from where we were, a factoid that was new to me. At their encouragement, I sped up and was soon cruising side by side with Prince and his wife at the time in their BMW convertible. A few seconds passed but it seemed much longer, Prince looked over at us and gave a bemused smile at the four faces staring back and gave a slight wave before mashing the accelerator and leaving me behind in the dust. Perhaps a mile later, he turned off down the road that leads to his recording studio/house and that was the last time I ever saw the man.

Decades later when social media was everywhere, I heard that every so often Prince would send out a tweet saying there was a party at his house and hundreds if not thousands of strangers would show up to party with him. Had I still lived in that smallish town down the road and followed him on Twitter, I would be telling you right now about that party.

"But it was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right." - Prince Rogers Nelson

Friday, April 22, 2016


As you can see in the above photograph, the office continues to be an office despite me fixing it up but with the drawers now completed and installed, almost all the dirty work is done. I still have to make and install the upper doors on the cabinets and that will involve pre-drilling pilot holes but with a vacuum cleaner in hand the debris should be minimal.

I have made my share of drawers over the years but always struggle with installing the fronts onto the drawer bodies. The process of holding it up to the drawer body, getting all the gaps looking good, clamping (if I am able to) and then drilling and screwing from the inside takes about six hands and I only have two. I thought this time I would just measure up from the drawer body to the opening and then just repeat those measurements on the floor but when you are desiring small but even gaps between drawers, there is and was a lot that could go wrong.

In the end, I went back to my old standby method which works but isn't elegant. I stick a few pieces of double sided tape onto the drawer body and then hold the drawer front up and eyeball it into place. Since my tape can't support the entire weight of the drawer front, I have to apply some pressure with one hand while I gently ease the drawer out enough that I can apply my longest throated lightest clamp. All my light clamps had short throats and can't reach deep enough to hold the drawer front in place to the body. All my clamps with deep throats are heavy and the weight of the clamp can pull the drawer front down out of position unless clamped tight enough to mark up the face of the cabinet. Also, because I am down to one hand at this point, I only have one hand to work the clamp. Sometimes it took me a few attempts but eventually I got the drawer front clamped in place and quickly screwed to the drawer body.

I made a jig for the drawer handles that registers off two sides of the drawers so the holes for the handles end up perfectly where I want them to be every time. It is one of those things where it takes 15 minutes of work to make the jig and another ten to drill all the holes versus 30 minutes to mark and drill them all by hand. The time savings isn't much the quality of the hole location makes up for it.

Another drawback I always have with drawers is that I have yet to buy any drawer handles that come with long enough screws to go through the drawer box and drawer front. They are designed to work with prefab stuff that is supper thin and which the drawer front is just laminate on the face of the drawer box. I made the trip down to the hardware store looking for replacements. Ideally, I needed 1-3/8" fasteners but could only find 1-1/4" or 1-1/2" in the size I needed. 1-1/2" would be too long and there weren't enough threads in the drawer handle to accommodate the extra length. 1-1/4" would only give me 1/8" of thread engagement, or so I thought. When I got home, the handle design had the threads about 1/8" inset from the face that seats against the drawer front meaning I had exactly 0" of thread engagement. So I ended up counterboring the holes 1/4" on the inside to give me the ideal amount of thread engagement and as a bonus, his the screw heads so they aren't visible inside the drawer.

So to cut this long boring math story short, the drawers are now done and functional. I can start moving things into them and start building the doors for the upper cabinets above the desk and the upper cabinet of the dresser/nightstand/closet combo to the left of the Murphy bed. Those should go fairly quickly and then it will be down to all the little details that come with every project.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Let's Talk Turkey

When I was young, seeing a turkey, a deer or a fox were rare things that mostly happened to avid hunters who spent lots of time outdoors. For those of us who didn't hunt much, we felt very fortunate to see one of these creatures. Three decades later, turkeys aren't so rare to see anymore, I have a fox that lives in the woods behind my house that I see a handful of times during a year and the deer are almost as common as house flies. Still, this is the first place I have lived where I have had a front row seat to the life cycle of the turkey.

Last year, two or three hens gave birth to about two dozen chicks and would parade them on the edge of our lawn heading west in the morning and east in the evening. We watched them grow up to be fine young jennies and jakes but as winter approached, they moved on or perhaps due to the late morning and early evening darkness, they passed unnoticed. This spring however, we have certainly gotten a show as two of the surviving jakes are now full fledged toms and have really been flaunting their stuff as they pass by.

I have strived to get a great shot of them flaunting their stuff but it has proven challenging despite having two opportunities a day. They don't run a tight schedule nor do they make any noise and by the time I spot them, they are almost already across my lawn. By the time I grab the camera and get outside, it is always too late. Other times I make it outside but the toms aren't around and I have a thousand photos of the hens and really don't desire anymore. Still other times the weather is such that the pictures don't turn out or I don't want to go out. Yet other times everything aligns but I scare them away as I sneak in for the (photo) shot. The two best pictures I have in all my attempts are these slightly out of focus ones that I have taken through my dining room windows using a telephoto lens. The woven wire structure encloses a tree sprout that I planted early last fall to try to repopulate all the trees I have lost in the last four years. The same trail that the turkeys use is also used by a whole herd of deer at least twice a day and thus the only way trees can survive in that zone is if they remain fenced until they are too big to be molested by the deer. I have a friend who has permits to bow hunt deer within city limits who I may let thin out the herd behind my house a bit this coming fall. But for now, the turkeys I just love to watch and try to snap that perfect photo of a tom strutting his stuff.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Trivia Master

I have always been a fan of trivia contests. My first experience was as a young man in boy scouts when we challenged the scout masters to a game of Trivial Pursuit with the losers having to provide wait service for the next evening meal. We almost won. Later I would enter trivia contests whenever opportunity arrived. One of my favorites was a three day trivia contest held by a local radio station up in Minnesota when I live there. My team would take turns over three days and three nights answering trivia questions but I would generally stay up for the entire time. We never won but we did place well most years.

Flash forward to a few years ago when a group of professional people we know, half of whom are part of the gourmet dinner group, invited us to join their trivia group. We play trivia to raise money for a local charity group twice a year and of those times, we come in second place a couple times and third place a few times. Last year was the worst finish with a fifth place, always out of about 15 to 20 teams.

For me, it has always been a lesson in frustration due to one couple. They are very intelligent people but just not at trivia. It takes a different kind of brain to be good at storing random bits of knowledge. Each team has a maximum of 10 players so we have a variety of ages and experiences that round out our team but all answers must be a group consensus. The couple I'm talking about like to try to overthink questions all the time and reason them out. The type of trivia questions asked are not ones that can be reasoned out for the most part, you either know them or not. So we end up spending all our time between questions trying to convince them that we know the answer. Because they like to control writing down the answers, they sometimes go against the group consensus and write down the answer they feel is correct. The result, every time they cost us a half dozen points during all ten rounds and that is enough to take us from first all the way down to fifth place the last time.  I know it is for charity and that is what matters but it still rubs me wrong every time the 'reason' my correct answer into one of their wrong ones.

So a couple weeks ago, it was time for the spring version of the trivia contest and when we were called to be informed the time, we were also informed that the problem couple were out of town and sadly couldn't make it. We were ecstatic! We started off in the lead but in the middle half dozen rounds we hoovered around third to fourth place. Being for charity, in an effort to raise extra funds, each team is allowed to buy three stickers that will allow us to double our score for a particular round that we feel we answered well. All the teams ahead of us had used all three of theirs while we still had two left. So when we used our last two doubling stickers, in the final few rounds, we came from behind and won the event! It was a lot of fun.

As you can see, being for charity, they didn't waste a lot of the proceeds on fancy trophies but our children sure enjoyed having the trophies. We did get gas cards in the amount of our entry fee so we did get to essentially play for free if you don't count the purchase of the stickers and the various raffles held in between rounds. It was fun. I just hope that the problem couple is away the next time we play so we can defend our title.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bodies Everywhere

With vacations and a lawn quickly greening up that needed a bit of maintenance before the grass got too tall, it seems like the drawers have been sitting in pieces out in my garage forever though it has only been a couple weeks. I finally strung enough time together to finish adding the detail cuts to the pieces, in this case, a dado slot for the bottom panel to slip into. After that, it was just a matter of gluing and clamping up all ten drawer bodies in three batches because that is all the clamps I had that were long enough.

These two drawers were the last two I cut using the dovetail jig after I had all the problems worked out so they look great. Some of the other eight drawers that I am going to use for filing cabinets and office supply storage have some gap issues where I didn't get the boards realigned for the second and third attempts at getting them cut correctly. Because the dovetail joint has so much glue area, they are still more than strong enough for the job at hand and won't be really visible unless you spend a time looking at the sides of a filing cabinet drawer instead of the files in it.

I have the last three drawers that I need to finish sanding and then I am going to mount all of them into the carcasses in the office. Next I need to make another run to the sawmill for some more lumber to make the dressed up front to the drawers that the handles will attach too and I will also get lumber for making the doors to all the cabinets while I'm there. Once all that stuff is built and attached, I can finally move all the piles of office stuff stashed around the house and put them in their final home while I finish up the rest of the details for this project, not a moment too soon.

Here is a picture of what I did to turn four of the drawers into filing drawers that will accept standard hanging files. I found some lightweight aluminum angles and cut them to length and screwed them to the drawers. Back when I laid all this out on paper, the angles were going to attach flush with the sides of the drawers which were made from 3/4" stock which is what I thought I had available at the time. However, because I ended up buying my wood at a local sawmill and finishing it to where it came out slightly over 1/2" thick, things had to change a bit. Also, for some reason, I ended up with my drawers being about a 1/4" to shallow so that the files wouldn't hang. I ended up cutting and gluing on a 1/2" spacer on each end to lift the rail up high enough so the bottom of the files don't drag on the bottom. It all works in the end which is what matters in the end.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Back to Drawers

My boards all glued, planed and cut to final size.

These photos were taken the day before I left on vacation but I saved them until now. What you see above are a stack of drawer sides on the left, drawer fronts and back in the middle and parts for the drawers that will go with the Murphy bed unit. I have years of experience of making box joints on my tablesaw and could have done that here but I decided to go with dovetail joints. The biggest reason is safety because my filing cabinet drawers will be 22" deep and that is pushing the limits of what I can safely hold steady upright as I run it through the blade of my tablesaw. I have done longer but always with clamps which makes it a slow and tedious process for just a single board much less two and a half stacks.

As a treat to myself and to use up some gift certificates given to me for my birthday, I bought a dovetail jig a couple years back. I used it for the first and only time thus far when I made the display bookcase for my bedroom wall awhile back. On that, I used half blind dovetails which meant I cut both mating parts at the same time. This time however, I wanted full dovetails which meant I had to cut all the tails on the drawer sides and then go back and cut all the pins on the front and back pieces.

I read the directions, set up the jig and routed all the tails. Everything looked great so I set up and cut my first board with pins and after a few adjustments, got them to fit only to realize my tails weren't deep enough. A lot of sanding would make this unnoticeable but would make my drawers wider than they can be to fit in my already made cases. I scratched my head awhile and kept making adjustments to get it right and then recut all my tails for a second time. I checked my board with already cut pins several times in the beginning and it everything looked great. However when I finished the entire stack the second time, I was quadruple checking and found that the last ten boards or so were back to being not deep enough again.

Frustrated, I quit for the day and it came to me as it always seems to in the early morning hours when I suspected that my router was the culprit. There is a lock lever that holds the bit height adjustment at a set position but a quirk of this router means that unless I force that lock into position with a bit of pressure, it can and has slipped in the past. I have especially noticed this when using the router mounted to a router table and the weight of the router acts against the locking mechanism. So I undid all my jig adjustments from the day before, reset the router bit height making sure to apply pressure to the locking mechanism and recut the ten boards for the third time.

The problem with recutting things like this is that no matter how well I tried to align things perfectly, the subsequent passes don't precisely end up following the earlier passes. That means that no matter how well I cut my pins, they weren't all going to fit nice and tight as they should and there will be gaps in them on some of my boards. The gaps will be small and won't effect the strength of the joints but they do hurt my pride a bit. Fortunately, they will be mostly hidden since they are on filing cabinet drawers and won't be obvious. The plus out of all this is that I learned an important lesson so when I go to make something again with dovetails that will be highly visible, I should be able to turn out something attractive.

Dovetail jig in action. The vertical board is the one I am cutting and contains the dovetail pins that will form the joint. The board that my router is resting on is a scrap board added to reduce splintering of the wood.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Final Hike

I don't mind sharing thousands of acres of pristine hiking with a few people but because it was spring break there was literally hordes of people everywhere. That meant that there would most likely be people at all our favorite resting points which typically are at scenic locations. We contemplated hiking a few of the lesser known trails but in the end, opted to do a bushwack hike where there were no trails, or at least established trails. I had done this hike decades ago but hadn't returned in the time since. We discovered it by looking at a map and seeing a particular 100 feet long stretch of a road on the way to a popular trailhead where the park boundaries came right up to the road instead of having private property in the middle. There happened to be a church around the corner where we can park our vehicle without suspicion and then sneak down the road and drop into a hollow which I won't name on this blog.

Although there is a faint trail in places especially where geography dictates the path, it doesn't get a lot of traffic. I suspect most of the traffic is from locals or neighboring landowners and that is sparse at best. The hollow falls down to where it eventually intersects with the Buffalo river and if full of waterfalls. The one feature that we really love is that it is one of the rare places that still has virgin native timber of massive scale in the lower parts where the timber cutters couldn't get too. Due to our late start, we didn't get that far down the hollow to see them but we did see the waterfalls and discovered a cave that we hadn't seen before. The picture above is where we took a snack break and is on the lip of a 30 feet waterfall. In the heavily trafficed part of the park, the moss would have been all scraped off by lots of foot traffic but here it was a nice lush carpet.

We were admiring a large tree behind me in this picture frame when someone looked up and noticed the cave up in the nearby bluff. After about ten minutes of searching, we were able to find a way up onto the bench leading into the cave.

As you can tell by the rock table and chairs, we weren't the first people to notice and explore the cave which only went about 40 feet back into the bluff. Although it isn't noticeable in this picture, the cave was centered on a large fault line in the rock and the rock that formed the roof and floor are a different material than the chunky block like rock that formed the walls. I'm guessing the rock on the walls was what was in the middle but was softer or dissolved more readily in water and thus the cave was formed. In the back, water fell quite readily through the cracks so it was still in the process of making itself even deeper.

This is the base of the 30 feet waterfall I was referring to up above where we had a snack break. The previous night we had a pretty good thunderstorm move through the area so all the springs and runoff areas had water in them. Much of the time I have spent hiking here, I visit these sites when rain hasn't fallen in a week or two and they are dry. It was nice to see them wet for a change.

I think this was an accidental shot from my phone camera. My father and daughter had been playing chicken to see who would walk through the waterfall and I had been taking pictures of them when I must have taken this one. However, I thought it was neat and displayed the impressive shutter speeds these phone cameras can have. Because of their quality, it has totally changed the way I view and think about photography on my hikes.

Unfortunately between the waterfall and the backside of the overhang, there was of course a fire ring with human debris left for all to see. Such a drag for those to follow who have to witness such things. We of course picked up all the foil and debris, scattered the charred rocks and kicked the charcoal remains into the water to be dispersed. When we were done, all that remained was the rock art seen above. That however doesn't bother me and I actually enjoyed seeing so we left them behind for future hikers to this region.

When we finished up our hike down and then back up this (unnamed by me) hollow, we drove back towards home but stopped at a little pullout along the road to visit an old cave. Back several decades ago, all the caves in these mountains were open to the public to visit. However with more people comes more problems and the natives of these caves, bats, started suffering as a result. White Nose disease has wiped out almost 80% of the bat species out east and we don't want that to happen here in the Midwest and so necessary precautions have been taken, namely all caves are now closed to humans. The picture above is a hammermill used by the Confederate army during the Civil War to break up large chunks of earth and bat guano into smaller particles to be further processed into saltpeter and then gunpowder. The North found out about it and stormed the cave, freeing the slave labor and scattering the components used in the process. This hammermill was quite a ways down the mountain from the cave.

This is the cave itself where the bat guano mining occurred. My photo is deceiving because I took it by sticking my phone camera through the iron fence that now surround it along with a couple of security camera. Post civil war, the cave had parts large enough that the locals used to hold community dances and such inside. Although I have been in many of the area caves before they were closed down, sadly I never got to go inside this one. Now, I only get to imagine what it looks like inside.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Transitioning Into Hiking

After we got off the river, loaded up on ice cream and unloaded our gear at the cabin we were staying, we had time and energy to do a short hike. The MIL and littlest girl stayed home for a round of napping and the rest of us drove past some of the well marked hiking trail heads which were packed full of people on spring break. We stopped at an unmarked place along the road though there is now a pull off area instead of the ditch we used to park in, right before the road plunges through a fault in the cliff line to the valley below.

We were looking for an area of this beautiful wilderness to ourselves and we were rewarded when a short hike later we emerged along a knife ridge to where it ends in a cliff and had a 300+ degree view of the world around us. It is a beautiful spot and we lounged in the sunlight for quite awhile before starting back. My oldest asked why we don't tell people the name of this place and we were just in the process of telling her how we liked to keep it secret so it doesn't get overrun like all the other trails were at this time when loh and behold, I looked up to see another hiked standing just down the trail. He had seen our car in the pullout and stopped to see what there was to see. How I wished it was still just a ditch and not a pullout.

With an aging MIL and a three year old wanting to do a hike the next morning, we decided to do a short two mile hike along the river figuring that it would be early enough it wouldn't be crowded yet. Although we saw a couple smoldering fires right along the trail, we didn't see any people. I've been coming to this place for over 35 years and it has gone from a wilderness where you never saw people to one where people are everywhere to the point where you now see trash and evidence of man everywhere. At the smoldering fire, there was broken glass everywhere which we picked up to pack out and flung the now charred rocks of the fire ring into the river below. When we left, there was no evidence that anyone had been there. I wish the previous people at that place and the two other fire rings we also destroyed had felt the need to do the same.

When we got to the valley we were heading for 2 miles down the trail, we took some photos of the mineral stained bluff that ring it. See the second photo of this post. We drove back to where we had started to pick up the other vehicle and saw the elk herd had come out of the woods for their morning breakfast so I took the above photo of them. We dropped our youngest daughter and MIL off at the cabin and after a quick bite to eat, drove over to Cave Mountain for a longer hike for those of us more physically able. Below is a sign on top of Cave Mountain at the entrance to an old cemetery that I thought looked kind of foreboding against the overcast skies.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Canoeing the Buffalo: Day Two

Dawn finally came and the rest of my family finally woke up. I always love seeing daylight come when camping out and the bluff across the river was hit with the first sunlight of the day. It was a beautiful sight though my panoramic feature of the camera blurred it when I was taking a picture. Sometimes I get so focused on capturing sun lit objects in the morning that I forget to turn around and look to see where the sun is rising. However I eventually did and was rewarded with the beautiful view seen below.

After breakfast and packing up camp, we hit the river quite a bit earlier than the day before so we didn't have to paddle hard. It was still quite windy at times and we had to work to cross a couple pools, mostly we stayed in the lee of the large bluffs along the river and floated along. Because we were still making good time, we stopped early beneath a bluff seen below for lunch and decided we would finish lunch with some ice cream at a nearby town when we got off the river soon after.

It was a great shake down trip for the four who had never been canoe camping and three of whom don't know how to swim. I know it was a great trip because all of them said they would like to do another trip again. For the more experienced paddlers among us, it was also a good trip because we hit a weather window and had two days of sunshine with a nearly full moon shining on us at night. The next day it would be much colder, overcast and with quite a bit of rain falling off and on. That would certainly have made my collapsed tent a bit more challenging.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Night of Wind

A not quite full moon rose above our horizon early in the evening. (It would be full the next evening.) It is always neat to sleep under the light of the full moon because it makes it seem almost like daylight when only a thin piece of nylon are between you and the moon. As I left you in the last post, I had gone to bed in my small non-self-supporting flashlight tent that was suffering trying to stay upright in the gusty winds. I never take a watch with me when going on canoeing or backpacking trips so I don't know what time it was but I was dead asleep when a terrible noise awakened me in the middle of the night. Lying on my back looking up and seeing the moon through a mesh screen, I immediately knew that my fly had been blown off the tent.

I scrambled outside in my bare feet hoping to retrieve it if it had been blown into the river twenty feet away but fortunately it was still attached by one stake and was only halfway to the river. I quickly gathered it up and stuck it in the remainder of my tent but there was no hope of putting it back on because all the stakes had been scattered.

I next turned my attention to some light aluminum chairs that I had tucked between the fly and the tent for the night as they were also nowhere to be seen. I walked up and down the beach in the direction my tent fly had flown but couldn't find them. I figured they had made it to the river and was walking back to what remained of the tent when the nearly full moon highlighted them about 40 feet in the opposite direction. I gathered them up and stashed them in my tent as well. The photo above was the moon high up above me at that point. I restaked the body portion of my flashlight tent and piles some more gravel over the stakes and crawled back into my sleeping bag. Sand kept being blown in through the mesh openings but at least the rest of the nylon tent protected me from being totally sand blasted the remainder of the night. I somehow drifted back to sleep.

A couple hours from dawn, another blast hit the tent and it finally came down in a heap on top of me. I laid in it for awhile but finally decided that I had enough sleep anyway and crawled out of the wreckage. In the light of the full moon, I packed up all my gear and made a pile on the beach just as the moon started to set on the other side of the canyon behind a ridge. I walked over to the kitchen area not expecting to find any coals left in this stiff wind but on the bottom side of a knot of wood that remained from a large stump I had tossed on the fire the night before, I saw a single cherry red coal. I quickly gathered some wood and had a fire going as I waited for dawn and everyone else to wake up.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Canoeing the Buffalo: Day One

I used to do a lot of canoeing and kayaking in my younger years but once I got married and started having kids, it got shuffled off to the side though it has always lurked in the back of the mind. With one child aged nine and the other three, we decided it was time to get back on the water. Since neither my wife or kids had ever been on an overnight canoe trip, we opted to do a gentle low mileage trip on the Buffalo River in NW Arkansas along with my mother-in-law (also new to boating) and parents.

We put the two kids in the middle of my parents boat and the MIL in the middle of the boat paddled by myself and my wife. To increase the enjoyment of the trip, we taught my wife some of the fundamental steering strokes for paddling at the front of a canoe the night before.

Day one went well. By the time we drove to the area of the river we wanted to float, did our own vehicle shuttle and loaded up the canoes, it was late morning before we set out but it was a nice sunny, albeit a bit windy day. We stopped for lunch and then a bit later at the confluence of the Little Buffalo and Buffalo Rivers. The picture at the top of this post shows the confluence. It is beautiful country for sure.

The river is spring and rain fed and because it has been dry of late, it was shallow in most areas and we definitely scraped quite a bit especially at the heads of the shallow rapids we encountered. Because we only opted to go 11 miles over two days, we were looking for a campsite by early afternoon and above we had beached our canoes to check out this large gravel and sandbar on the inside of a river curve. We decided it was a go and unloaded the boats.

Between all of us, we had two self supporting dome tents and one little flashlight tent seen above which isn't self supporting. In other words, it relies on stakes to maintain tension to keep it upright. The two domes tents were set up but due to the wind, required weight in them to stay put. I tried setting up the flashlight tent in the sand but there just wasn't enough support for the stakes to keep it in place. After trying various things, I moved it to gravel closer to the river and made piles of gravel over the stakes to hold it in place. That worked better but all afternoon, I would occasionally have to go restake part of it that had come unstaked in the a high gust of wind. The girls and my parents all crammed into the two larger domed tents leaving me all by my lonesome in the flashlight tent as we bedded down for the night. As it turned out, that was for the best but more on that in another post.