Oct 08 2015

Putting Potholes in the Picture

Of Time and the River

Who has a good word for potholes? Certainly not urban commuters, whose drive to work often resembles a gymkhana, with the only prize on offer being a chance to keep the car out of the tire and alignment shop for one more day. And what about cyclist commuters, those hardy iconoclasts whom you sometimes glimpse though a rain‑streaked windshield, darting among the phalanx of creeping cars like nervous herring swimming through a pod of killer whales? They play the game for even higher stakes, since dropping a wheel into a pothole often means a sudden, violent flip over the ‘bars, with mild concussion perhaps the happiest outcome.

In short, potholes don’t have much of a fan club. But there’s one exception: paddlers. Of course, hitting a pothole at speed when shuttling cars is never a good idea, particularly if your boat isn’t securely tied down. But river potholes are a whole ‘nother story. They’re scenery, not traps for the unwary. (Well, most aren’t, at any rate. Some are big enough to capture a boater, however. Read on.) I have fond memories of long days spent exploring the potholed cliffs along the river that ran past my grandad’s camp. I can still recall my wonder at finding water and pebbles — not to mention an occasional listless trout — in sculpted hollows many feet above the river’s surface. The sense of wonder even survived my disappointment in learning that flash floods had deposited the trout and pebbles in these cliff‑face aquaria, and not some mischievous river sprite. In fact, it was the realization that natural processes were responsible for the apparent miracle that engendered my nascent scientific curiosity.

And, in due course, this same curiosity gave birth to an article for Paddling.net. Which, in turn, gave rise to an influx of reader mail, much of which drew my attention to the paucity of illustrations. “Why didn’t you have more pictures?” my interlocutors demanded. The answer was simple: I wrote the column before I’d got my hands on a digital camera, and my stock of slides simply came up short on potholes.

That was then. Nowadays, I’m a digital girl through and through. Farwell is of a different mind. He keeps threatening to unearth his father’s old Smith Corona Sterling portable typewriter, leaving his computer to gather dust on a shelf. (No worry about power outages. No broadband fees. No helpful reminders that he’s using an obsolete browser whenever he checks a reference. Only words on paper. Hmm… There might be something in it.) Still, I’m not ready to go back to the future just yet. So let’s head down to The River for a virtual field trip. But first, we’ll pause on the riverbank for a short, illustrated course in pothole formation… Read more…

Potholes Like You've Never Seen Them Before

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Sep 24 2015

Covering the Ground: More Thoughts on Groundsheets

Covering New Ground

When, back in July, I wrote about groundsheets, I didn’t think I’d get much mail around the article. Groundsheets just aren’t the sort of thing to get most trekkers’ pulses racing. Or so I thought. But I was wrong, and I should have realized this at the time my article went to press. After all, groundsheets are arguably an essential component in what someone, somewhere, is sure have called the paddler’s shelter system, and their selection warrants careful consideration. This is especially true if you’re one of the many who occasionally forsakes a tent for a simpler shelter like a tarp.

Anyway, and for whatever reason, my virtual mailbag was soon heavy with the weight of reader mail. Or it would have been, if electrons had greater mass. The result? My “one‑off” column on groundsheets has spawned a second. Of course, this second column would have been impossible without the generosity of the readers whose letters I reprint below, and I extend my hearty thanks to them all.

Now let’s get down to business, and the first item on the agenda is one that’s near and dear to me: The versatile poncho… Read more…

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Sep 23 2015

In Short Order: Toast of the Town

It Ain't Your Father's SOS

Farewell, summer. The sun is poised to dip below the equator, and fall is definitely in the air, with the first snows of winter only a few short weeks away. But carpe diem — seize the day! Those same few short weeks are some of the best times of the year to be on the bike, on a hike, or on the water, and every golden autumn day is a treat to be savored.

There are downsides to the season, however. Days are short now, and the understandable desire to make the most of the hours of daylight means that many trips end with a scramble homeward in the gathering dark, after which the tired paddler must still shower and eat. So late suppers are the norm. Urban trekkers can take their pick of restaurants and take‑outs, many of which serve meals well into the small hours. But rural denizens like Farwell and me have fewer choices. It’s home cooking or nothing for us. Not that “home cooking” necessarily means preparing a meal from scratch. Heat‑and‑eat canned and frozen entrées are readily available menu stopgaps. But it is possible to prepare a scratch meal from simple ingredients in next to no time, while saving some cash in the process. Most of the time, that’s what I do.

And so can you. The only requirements are a willingness to spend a few minutes in the kitchen, plus a reasonably well‑stocked pantry and a fridge. The result? A meal that’s simple, good, and quick… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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