Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nepal 2012 The Dream

Last year I trekked in Nepal to see the spectacular Nepalese landscape.

This year I will return to experience the happy and friendly Nepalese people.

Trekking to Everest Base Camp and Mountain Climbing have been on my Bucket-List for decades.  But really, my Bucket-List was just a dream of things that could happen in the future ... and those dreams were dormant. 
Then Cancer & Colostomy made me focus on what is important in life.
Now I am experiencing my Bucket-List, rather than just dreaming my Bucket-List.

For 36 days, October 6 to November 10, I will experience another Travel Adventure in Nepal.  We will trek back into the remote mountains to the village of Gudel and visit the families of our guides and porters.  Weeks later, we will attemp to summit Kala Patthur and Island Peak (Imja Tse).

Soon there will be a Plan and Route.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Building a Walking Trail

August 2012
Many of us take walks for exercise and enjoyment.  BUILDING a walking trail, with natural materials and crude manual tools, is also great exercise and very enjoyable.

Our cabin is in NorthWestern Canada, and very remote by most people’s standards.  It’s a 4-hour drive from my home to the end of the road.  Then a 28km ride by boat in the summer, or snowmobile in the winter.  There are no other cabins within a 1-mile radius, and no other cabin is visible from ours.  The terrain is rugged Precambrian Shield.  This is a spectacular place for solitude and connecting with the natural world, as no unwanted guests would venture to find us there.

Bordered with rocks & logs, with just the base in place
Bedrock is visible in many places, and plants grow with very little soil ... surviving the rain/drought cycles as rainwater quickly drains from rocky ledges into low-lying pockets filled with glacial till soil.  I have counted the growth rings on trees that are just 4 inches (10cm) in diameter – they are over 100 years old, so you know they are tough and have had hard lives. The ground vegetation is extremely fragile.  Reindeer Moss softens in the rain, then dries to a crisp in the relentless sun, and is crushed to a powder when stepped on.  We know places where someone stepped more than 15 years ago, and the footprints remain in that Reindeer Moss.   So we build walking trails, to contain all walking to those trails, and preserve our natural surroundings as it has been for thousands of years.

We choose a route that follows the natural contours of the land.  We want smooth inclines and declines, with no steps, thinking ahead for old people that will need to feel comfortable walking on this trail.  We minimize the damage to plants adjacent to the walking trail, and will even transplant to repair any damages done.  We use only natural materials available nearby – logs, stones, gravel, sand, glacial till, and decomposing trees (called punk).  We have no automated tools, just a pick, axe, hoe, bar, rake, and shovel … and a wheeled cart to haul the heavy materials.

Duff & punk hauled for the topping
Building the walking trail is hard manual labour.  We first scrape off the thin layer of topsoil or ‘duff’ and save it as a scarce and valuable commodity.  Rocks, deposited by the glaciers, are tightly interlocked and a long bar is needed to lever them out.  Big rocks are heavy.  Tree roots are a tangled mess that snag the dirt spaces between rocks.  The trail is then bordered with large rocks or logs … a visible message to ‘stay on the trails’.  The trail-base is a mixture of glacial till, sand, gravel, and stones. The topping is a mixture of the salvaged topsoil and punk … a soft surface for the feet.  Punk is collected from the bush, miles from the cabin, and transported in large barrels in the boat, then hauled with a wheel-cart up to the trail.  When building a walking trail, there are no physically-easy jobs .

Keeping Hydrated on a 8-litre day
Trail-building week was a hot one … 86-93 degrees F (31-34 degrees Celsius).  The combination of hard labour and the heat made me sweat profusely.  It was a struggle to keep hydrated, but necessary to avoid the heat-exhaustion and screamer-headaches.  As an ostomate I have reduced capacity to absorb water, so made conscious effort to count the litres … measuring days as ‘6-litre days’ and ‘8-litre days’.

Cooling off with a skinny dip

The best way to cool off, is to jump into the lake for a refreshing swim.  Knowing I would go right back to work after the swim, I chose to not get any of my clothes wet ... hence the skinny dip swim. 

Building a walking trail is a massive physical undertaking.  But it's great exercise with rewarding satisfaction for the work done.  And we now have a fine new trail that will require no maintenance for decades.  And someday, when we are old and constrained to short walks near the cabin, we will have a smooth comfortable trail, taking us quietly through untouched natural surroundings, protected to remain as it has been for thousands of years.
Go for a Walk

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Roofing the Cabin

Feb-Aug 2012
It’s a multi-season, big-effort adventure to get metal roofing materials to a remote cabin.  But a fun and rewarding adventure it was.

Our cabin is in NorthWestern Canada, and very remote by most people’s standards.  It’s a 4-hour drive from my home to the end of the road.  Then a 28km ride by boat in the summer, or snowmobile in the winter.  There are no other cabins within a 1-mile radius, and no other cabin is visible from ours.  We have 13 virgin lakes within a 2-mile radius. The terrain is rugged Precambrian Shield.  This is a spectacular place for solitude and connecting with the natural world, as no unwanted guests would venture to find us there.

But the trade-off … it’s a challenge to do construction projects at the cabin.  With the ‘full-travel-day’ to get there, every project must be thoroughly planned, as there is no recovery if a part or tool has been forgotten. 

And how do we get 21 foot sheets (7meters) of metal roofing across a 28km lake?

It’s not practical to haul the metal roofing in the summer across the water, as we don’t have a barge or boat to accommodate such a load. We decide to haul the metal roofing in the winter across the ice and snow, as we can build a long sled that can be pulled by a snowmobile.
So now this becomes a multi-season (winter and summer) project.

21 foot Metal Roofing sheet across the ice by Snowmobile

We modify a utility trailer to carry the metal roofing, and we truck this from our home to the lake.  February is best-choice for ice-travel when it’s reasonably warm, yet the ice is still 3 feet (1 meter) thick and can support a truck. Fortunately for us, someone has plowed an ‘ice-road’ part way across the lake to where they are fishing with nets under the ice.  We drive our truck and trailer loaded with metal roofing to the end of the ice-road, and unload the metal roofing onto the ice.  The metal roofing is amazingly heavy, so we decide to split it into 4 sled-loads.  We transfer a quarter of the metal sheets from the ice onto our sled. 

Try not to tip the load
on the winding narrow portage trail

Since part of our route to the cabin is on the ice, and part is through ‘portages’ over land, and the portages are narrow and winding, we have to load the sheets vertically.  This is a very top-heavy load, so we travel very slowly (about double our walking-speed) to avoid tipping the load and wrinkling the metal sheets.  The last part of the trip, from the ice up a rocky slope to our cabin, is the most challenging.  The trail is winding, narrow, and steep.  The snowmobile loses traction, digs into the snow, and gets stuck.  The vertical load wants to tip over on the uneven trail, so my brother walks behind to keep the load upright. 

Metal Roofing delivered to the Cabin

After considerable grunting, lifting, shoveling, and sweating we deposit our first load of metal roofing near the cabin.  Over the next 2 days, we repeat this process 4 times, until all the precious metal roofing is stacked near the cabin. 

We are finished the winter-portion of the project.

In Summer (July), 2 long hard days are spent on the roof – removing the old shingles, then installing the new metal roofing.  Our planning and material-list and tools-list were all good.  A chimney flashing didn’t fit as expected – and there is no practical recovery from this, as it takes 10 hours of travel-time to get another flashing.  So the chimney flashing part of the project will wait for next trip.

Chimney Flashing Installed

 In August, we return to the cabin for another week of solitude.  And of course bring with us the new chimney flashing. 

It took 3 trips, 7 months elapsed time, winter & summer, over ice & water, for this roofing project.

It took multi-season planning and was physically challenging, but it was a fine adventure and a rewarding accomplishment.  This new metal roofing should be good for at least 30 years.  At age 62, this may be the last roof I will haul to the cabin.

… and yes, I did this with a colostomy

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ostomate Carries a Moose

Oct 2010
As an ostomate I have been told … avoid extreme activities, don’t lift big weights, don’t over-exert.  As a hunter I have been told … never hunt alone, a moose is too big for 1 person to handle, you need a truck or a quad for moosehunting.    I ignored all these suggestions.

I was reluctant to write this story, not wanting to offend those who dislike hunting, nor those who decline to eat meat. I have full respect for those differing opinions, and make no attempt to change them.  I hope others will quietly allow me mine.

In 2009 I was recovering from cancer and a colostomy, so didn’t hunt, and wondered if I would be able to hunt again.  It became a must-do on my Ostomy Bucket list

There are 3 parallel forces that take me hunting.  Philosophically … I easily connect with the natural world, and feel very comfortable and belonging while alone in the bush.  And Practically ….for the past 20 years, several families anticipate the steaks, roasts, and burger from my moose hunts.  And Ancestrally ... there is something buried deep in the reptile part of our brain that makes us hunters, gatherers, and survivors.  And yes, perhaps spending too much time alone in the bush, conjures up such thoughts :)

A Canada Moose stands 6 feet (2metres) tall at the shoulders, and can weigh up to 1500 pounds (700Kgs). 

My location is NorthWestern Canada.  I drive 4 hours from my home to the end of the road, then 28km by boat to my cabin.  I will be alone, and I will hunt every day for the next 10 days.  Here is a typical day. 
I woke to the alarm at 4:30am.  Made a thermos of coffee and ate a bowl of porridge.  Left the cabin at 5:00am.  It was very dark this morning, as it was cloudy and with almost no moon.  When it is this dark, it’s good to have the route in my head, and take clues from surrounding terrain to avoid being lost or hitting rocks.  After a dark 4km boatride, I transferred to a canoe and paddled 400meters up a small creek. Canoeing up the creek is more difficult than the lake travel, as I am low to the water, the creek is only 2meters wide with tall reeds growing on both sides, and VERY winding.  I did some moose cow-calls that can be heard (by bull moose) for up to 5 kms.  

By 10:30am it was obvious that no bull moose would be showing this morning, so I reversed my route and returned to the cabin.  Lunch, a short nap, a few chores, then back out for the evening hunt from about 4:00pm to sunset at 7:30pm.
These are long days, with 8-9 hours of sitting, silently, and moving only my eyeballs.  Many similar days passed.  On a typical moosehunting day … nothing happens.
One morning, I thought I heard a moose walking slowly in the creek, then quickly climb the bank, splashing as he lunged out of the water.  This added to a number of events that have tricked me over the years.  The noise was actually a flock of ducks that had probably slept in a bay on the creek.  A few started to move and stretch their wings, then they all stretched and splashed thru the water as they took flight.  Not a moose, but a new, exciting, and uncommon observation anyway.

On day 7, I woke to the alarm at 4:30am.  It was drizzling, and the forecast was for light rain all morning.  Staying in bed seemed tempting, but I decided to go hunting anyway.  It was so dark – no moon and heavy clouds.  Navigating in the dark was difficult as the terrain-clues were harder to see, and distance from shore was difficult to judge.  I traveled at lower speed, but it seemed like I was going way too fast for conditions (like overdriving your headlights, except there was no light).  At 9:30am the drizzle was tempting me to go back to the cabin, but then I heard a branch snap.  Doesn’t count as a moose until I have at least 3 clues (branch snaps, grunts, raking antlers, walking in water…) or actually SEE the moose.  He was just a silhouette, standing in the heavy bush.  I had to use binoculars to positively identify him.  I wanted a broadside shot, so waited.  Finally, at 40 yards, he turned and stood broadside, and I hit him with a good double-lung shot. He walked away, about 30 yards and went down.  I watched him thru the binoculars.  

I took a few pictures, then gathered my things, and went back to the cabin.  I assembled the gear I would need, ate a hearty meal, then returned to the site.  He had gone down in a burned area, so the entire forest floor was black and all the dead trees and shrubs were black.  And of course my clothes were blackened with the char.  I was glad that he wasn’t a big moose (there are no small moose when you are working alone).  Young or big or full-of-shit guys talk about quartering a moose.  A moose is only as heavy as the pieces you cut, so I cut him into ninths.  I hauled each piece about 50 yards, and loaded the 9 pieces in the boat.  

It was 5:30pm when I got back to the cabin.  It was tough lifting to get all the pieces from the boat up onto the dock.  It took 2 full hours to clean the pieces and  wrap them in bedsheets (to keep them clean and keep any flies off them).  
It was dark by the time I finished.  

It was a long hard day for a 61-year-old ostomate to handle a moose by himself.  
Despite the excitement of the day, sleep came easily that night.

This was an exhausting but immensely rewarding day for me.  Another Ostomy BucketList accomplishment 
… yes, I can still moosehunt with an ostomy.

And I earned freedom from ‘the rules’…
avoid extreme activities ... NOT
don’t lift big weights ... NOT
don’t over-exert ... NOT
never hunt alone ... NOT
a moose is too big for 1 person to handle ... NOT
need a truck or quad for moosehunting ... NOT