Jus’ Jungle Boots ‘N Jewelry

I’ve been reading about the lost colony of Roanoke, the pre-white man Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks during Sir Walter Raleigh’s time, the late fifteen hundreds.  I’ve always wanted to explore the area ever since reading Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Gold Bug.  It would’ve been best to explore the beaches, sand bars and islands before they were developed. Then, my last blog post was of Konrad Lorenz swimming the Danube with one of his dogs.  He says he would lie, “amongst scenery that shows not the slightest sign of the existence of human civilization.”  Then “…I need a dog which accompanies me faithfully but which has retained a wild exterior and thus does not spoil the landscape by its civilized appearance.”

All this exploring of wild places, and in Lorenz’s case with a dog.  I had to go.  I’m far from the ocean but the local river would provide about as close to a beach walk as I could find.  And since the river floods in spring, there isn’t much development on it’s immediate banks.  I hoped the water level had dropped sufficiently to provide a margin on which to walk.

It was quite a while since I’d been there.  The last time I was still recovering.  As I approached what had been an obscure parking area overrun with poison ivy and brambles I found instead a manicured lot with several, groomed trails and new signs.  No fires.  More people, more rules.  Too genteel, not for me.  Last thing I wanted was to run into off leash dogs.  Instead I drove to the back of a farmer’s field opting for the backdoor approach.  I thought to cut through the trees and brush to the river but found vegetation prohibitively dense.IMG_1670But we eventually found enough of a break to bushwack to the water.
IMG_1681We found all sorts of animal tracks in the silt.  Here were racoon but we also found smaller mammal tracks, maybe muskrat, birds and very fresh deer.IMG_1683Enough to keep Mak mesmerized with smells both in the mud and off the water.IMG_1677And since we were pretending to be Edward Teach (Blackbeard)257264-Sepikand BecerilloESP-Becerrillo-artistico-sepia-1600px ESP-Becerrillo-sepia…we couldn’t help but notice the low overhanging branches, perfect for ambushing anyone that might be tracking us.  (I’m such a little kid!)
IMG_1690We were besides ourselves as we always get in wild places.  Mak lunged around a submerged log and got slapped with aquatic vegetation.

IMG_1696I decided instead of slipping on silt and clay banks, I’d make the jungle boots earn their keep and wade with them.  It was far safer given the tugs of my hydraulic dog.  A muddy leg, wet, bleeding and with squashed mosquitoes.  Was I in the Conquistador Club yet?IMG_1703This outing was something to grin about.
IMG_1704 Mak noticed there was no river bank left.  From here it was amphibious only.IMG_1705 Then we got to blocks of basalt.  This was the worst footing, a great place to break a leg.  I think the blocks were to minimize bank erosion since the drop off was very steep into deep water.  The rocks were slippery with sharp edges but walking on land was too sloped.  It was no bargain either.IMG_1707It was getting late, this was our turn around point.  Mak and I sat here for a few mintues before retracing our steps.
IMG_1713 By dusk we arrived back at a mud bank I’d thought to make a fire.  I was slimy with sweat had no swim shorts but since the boots were soaked I had foot protection to go in.IMG_1722 I stripped down to nadda and went in.  No chance of being seen at this late hour in this remote spot.   Okay, so here’s the creepy part.  In this photo  taken with zoom, I’m leaping up and you can see my right arm has just swept around behind me.  I’d been down in the water when something took a few tentative bites at my ass.  I kid you not.  I maintained my camera smile even though this shot was taken of me mid-panic.IMG_1726The mouth didn’t feel sharp, more like lips taking an initial test, and was maybe two to three inches open and three inches wide.  It felt too blunt to be a snapping turtle but my brain immediately expected a painful chomp that never came.  I laughed at my panic reaction,  figured I must have felt the prodding of submerged branches, but I didn’t want to go back in so deep since it was too dark to see anything and I didn’t have my knife in hand. IMG_1728Now here’s the creepy part.  Once I  had a fire going I waded back out above my knees and shone the 200 lumen spotlight in the water and guess what I found?  Nothing.  It was just an empty flat stretch of sand.  (Twilight Zone music)  So I had been nipped by something big but I’ll never know what it was.

Here I was bare-assing it, wearing only jungle boots ‘n jewelry.  Mak is looking at me thinking, I never see you out here in your birthday suit!IMG_1731cropThe fire.

IMG_1734aMak and I before heading back on the last leg.IMG_1740 Driving out.IMG_1744

An Afternoon with Konrad Lorenz

ba4e92beead3When, on a hot summer day, I swim across the Danube and lie in a dreamy backwater of the great river, like a crocodile in the mud, amongst scenery that shows not the slightest sign of the existence of human civilization, then I sometimes achieve that miraculous state which is the highest goal of the oriental sages. Without going to sleep, my higher centres dissolve into a strange at-oneness with surrounding nature; my thoughts stand still, time ceases to mean anything and, when the sun begins to sink and the cool of the evening warns me that I have still another three and a half miles to swim home, I do not know whether seconds or years have passed since I crawled out on to the muddy bank.

This animal nirvana is an unequaled panacea for mental strain, true balm for the mind of hurried, worried, modern man, which has been rubbed sore in so many places. I do not always succeed in achieving this healing return to the thoughtless happiness of pre-human paradise but I am most likely to do so in the company of an animal which is still a rightful participant of it. Thus there are very definite and deep-rooted reasons why I need a dog which accompanies me faithfully but which has retained a wild exterior and thus does not spoil the landscape by its civilized appearance. – Konrad Lorenz

The above comes from the Dog Days chapter of Lorenz’s Man Meets Dog. It is easily the best chapter of the book and over the years I’ve read it again and again. In Dog Days Lorenz, in tune to subtle nuance, perfectly captures the symbiosis of spending an afternoon with one’s dog.

And for the true Lorenz fan, your very own Lorenz action figure!  :)   Seems kind of lonely without a plastic dog companion.Konrad-Lorenz

Plans for Mak

Another weekend with more runaround.  Drive here, there and everywhere.  With mom in long term nursing care, I never seem to get a break from all the driving.  I don’t mind driving but sometimes I’d like the focus to be elsewhere.  There’s hope though.  Watch this video.  If this dog can do that, I’m teaching Mak to drive my truck while smoking cigars and raising his middle toe at other drivers.  That’ll allow me to sit shotgun and write more blog posts.

Isn’t Life Grand?

We’re now past a stretch of very humid weather, the kind that makes clothes stick to clammy skin.  Though the temperatures remained relatively mild, low to mid eighties at most, I must admit I was at times a tinge uncomfortable. But as I continue to read about the lost colony of Roanoke, I’m reminded how utterly soft us Western World people have become.  In the sixteenth century people lived, struggled and fought in places like Florida with no air conditioning, no modern conveniences whatsoever, eating half rotten supplies and everyone both native and foreign fearing for their lives much of the time.

As we sit plucking at our thin, moisture wicking, engineered shirts during the summer, we should remind ourselves how easy our lives have become, how much closer to nature most of humanity has existed.

It’s hard to imagine myself and the soft people around me in the sixteenth century in Florida heat, sitting under a cloth tarp brushing maggots off the salt pork we will be eating while swatting hordes of mosquitoes, and sweating under plate armor and clothes made for European chill.  Florida is known for daily summer showers and humidity.  Everything must have gotten damp, bedding, flour, gunpowder, everything.  Keeping mildew from leather and rust from metal must have been a constant chore.
conquistador-reference2In fall of 2011 we experienced an October blizzard.  Leaves weighted by snow broke branches and whole swathes of the state lost power for a week and more. At the time, we neighbors got together and shared meals from rapidly thawing freezers and for a brief time enjoyed the kind of community that eludes us during normalcy.

One woman who ate with us had lived in the tropics and shared that she had lived without power in the jungle for extended periods of time.  Food was kept stacked in one area of camp and when they wanted to eat, they would chase rats off the pile.  She reminded us most of humanity has lived that way for millenia.  Only recently that we’ve softened through techonology.  I was impressed.  As with Julie and Miki Collins, I admire their ability to shirk off creature comforts and thrive in the process.

So the next time I’m whining about conditions, I’ll try to rember that I could be sitting in some campaign tent a few centuries ago, clothes rotting off my body, stomach upset from vermin tainted food, arrow wounds festering under a mishmash poultice, looking for some, any, dry powder, as I hear natives war drums beating in the surrounding country,some of us soldiers praying in Latin (not me, thanks) and all of us sweating, swarmed by mosquitoes and just wanting a long cold drink of water and a good night’s sleep.  Oh yeah, we’d all have beards, stink enough to scare a buzzard off a shit wagon and be teaming with body lice.  During this diametric opposite of the spoiled “me generation,” our choices would have been remain on the spot to be butchered by the natives or desert and risk execution, starvation and be butchered by natives.  Instead I sit here feeding leftover steak to the dog and wondering, hmm, if I’ve got room for a iced caramel macchiato…

On the Ocean

…an old man stood at his window stating at the dark clouds gathered along the horizon.  Sleet had begun to fall, washing the landscape a dreary gray and glazing the bare trees with a thin layer of ice.  But John White did not notice the frozen rain or numbing chill that had seeped into the room; he had drifted to another time and place.  He pictured himself onboard a ship, the wind filling the sails and the restless Atlantic stretching away as far as the eye could see.  Once more he tasted salt spray on his lips, felt the swell of the ocean beneath his feet, and heard the dull boom of breakers beating monotonously against the distant shore.

- from A Kingdom Strange, The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, by James Horn

Patricia Gilmore Tall Ship
I can relate.  When I took a tour in the North Atlantic, I couldn’t sit down.  It felt I was connecting with a former life (though I don’t believe in that sort of thing) felt a recklessness well up inside.  It felt so right to be out there on the ocean. IMG_0879cropAnd though I’ve posted this Frazetta before, it seems so appropriate and hangs on my study wall:25054

Last Wet Fire Post – Then I’ll Shut Up About It!

For this soggy morning I spent perhaps an hour splitting tinder.  Under the big pile in the foreground, on top of the blue plastic pail lid, is a pile of splinters the size of toothpicks.IMG_1519 I lit tiny twigs on a piece of birch bark I’d dried by the fire the previous day then stored in the truck cab.IMG_1520I had a little blaze going just under the protective edge of the tarp.IMG_1523I surrounded it with soggy pieces of unprocessed wood to dry and kept split pieces in reserve and as dry reinforcements for when the flames faltered.IMG_1528Next came the stove and a second cup of coffee.IMG_1527The rain continued on and off so sipping coffee, I was granted the pleasure of watching the dripping tarp with one eye.IMG_1539While my other eye, Marty Feldmand-like, enjoyed the quiet blaze.marty_feldman_512IMG_1558And basked the pleasures of wearing a random assortment of clothes perfectly suited to the environment but that in society would land me in the asylum.IMG_1518

The Ol’ Rite of Passage

With all that rain and NOAA weather radio finally speaking of Hurricane Arthur, I lay in the truck at dawn and thought, hmm, might be time to pack it in, my toughness at life au naturel nothwithstanding.  But I got up, walked Mak and “brewed” up signature instant coffee/hot chocolate hybrid served in the pro pit bull, anti profiling mug. IMG_1514Swayed by the mood elevating properties of caffeine, I looked on the pile of soaking firewood.  Go home?  Nah?  Not yet.  Not until I burn off some of this stuff.  I like the challenge of making a fire from wet wood.  One of my proudest moments was back in ’84, adventuring with a girlfriend of the time.  We drove north in pounding rain arriving well after dark.  The downpour was so heavy we never got out of the car, just climbed in back, lowered the seats and slept.  Next morning I took it upon myself to build a fire.  Everything was super saturated so I found and cut standing deadwood, split out the dry heartwood, made shavings and lit the whole thing with one paper match.  She was looking over my shoulder and the pressure was on.  Just turning 21 I had to prove my competence and manhood.  In reality, she would have been fine even if we’d needed gasoline and newspaper.  But it was a rite of passage in my own mind and I was exceedingly please to have passed.

Luckily for me, this stuff though very wet on the outside had some modicum of protection from the tarp.IMG_1487Still, this wasn’t going to be some two-bit, half-assed prep like I’d done after the previous night’s rain, as seen in these shots:IMG_1301IMG_1302IMG_1298IMG_1300IMG_1299If I was going to have any chance at fire, I’d really have to put in time splitting kindling.  And this time, as I prepared, rather than being watched by an easy-going girlfriend, I’d have the ever watchful, alert eyes of Mak  judging, critiquing the handling of each twig.IMG_1351

What Did I Forget?

EVERYTIME I take a trip I forget something.  Doesn’t matter how many lists I make or how many times I confirm that I’ve got everything on the list.  Something will always be forgotten to either make the list or make it off the living room floor in the final packing.  This time?  Dog bowl!  I’ve got so many of them at home there was no way I was going to buy a cheap one.  Instead, I took the empty juice bottle I use for water once it’s transferred out of the 5 gallon gas can and, using the MX-8069, cut the bottom off.IMG_1229The best part of the bottle bottom is that it had a weirdly shaped convex hump in the middle which made it difficult for Mak to gobble kibble.  That slowed him down a bit and prevented him from swallowing his entire meal unchewed in his standard time of 0.003 seconds.IMG_1572

Rain? Oh, Goodie!

The remnants of hurricane Arthur brought a very welcome change to the steamy heat just before the Fourth of July.  At home, one can take steps to avoid the heat but in the field?  Well, good thing Heroes ‘N Pirates has a capable and experienced Field Commander ’cause that meant he could cool his imaginary epaulets and Mak’s tootsies in a mountain stream.  I mean, ya gotta know where to bivouac, right?IMG_1449 IMG_1452When we got back to Field Command, thunder and rain rolled in.  I thought it was just a passing thunder shower, as we’d been having them daily.  But the rain went on.  And here’s my confession.  I love camping in the rain.  I love listening to rain on the tarp or a tent.  With a tarps as large as the ones I use truck camping, there’s quite a bit of runoff with which to mesmerize oneself.  Here the runoff is back-dropped by a campsite so saturated one can actually see standing water.IMG_1481aNothing in the forecast, which I’d monitored closely prior to leaving, mentioned hurricane Arthur.   So I’d chosen not to bring aluminum poles.  Instead, I used wooden ones the idiot who had previously occupied the site had cut from green trees.  The uneven tarp surface created an impressive, steady shower which I washed hands, feet, river sandals etc.:IMG_1482a Then the temp dropped down.  Way down.  I got chilled then donned the M-65 field coat and began snacking on granola bars.IMG_1491 But I was hungry for a legit meal.  I generally eat my first meal late in the day.  Here the stove heats tomato soup next to the pile of firewood I’d hurridly moved out of the downpour.  IMG_1496 It was tomato soup with chunks of artisan bread that had gone stale.  I hate throwing food away.  Being raised by parents who survived WWII will do that.  In any event, with Parmesan and hot sauce, I looked forward to a warm meal.IMG_1499 Once the light faded there wasn’t much to do but cuddle with my boy and look forward to the next day. IMG_1502