Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reducing, renewing, recycling some gear

A while back, I decided to sell the two kayaks. I found the Pelican 10’ a bit small, at least when spending more than a few hours in it. The Mad River 12’ was more comfortable, but either it had growth heavier or my elbows have growth weaker; it was becoming difficult for me to lift it to the roof of the X-Terra. My goal was to use the sale proceeds to find a solo canoe, bigger than the 10’ kayak, but lighter than the double-hulled 12’ hybrid kayak. Turns out that everything sold a little quicker than I thought it might, including the Thule kayak racks on the roof of the truck.

Here is happiness: The Pelican went to a first-time kayak owner out of southern Minnesota, and the Mad River went to the younger of a father-and-son team who paddle the North Shore of Lake Superior. (Let the enjoyment continue.)

All of that equipment has been replaced by a used Old Town Discovery solo canoe; an 11’9” boat that was manufactured in 2003. Like the goods I sold, I found this craft through Craig’s List. It was owned by a gentleman who works part-time for a new company called Clear Waters Outfitting Company. While he was selling the canoe “private party,” the store had allowed him to display it in their warehouse. (They were smart to let him do this; I did not know about their shop until after meeting Todd, the gentleman I bought the Discovery from. I'll do business with them in the future, as they have a great store in Clearwater, MN.) It has abundant scratches on the hull, but more to illustrate the boats character than to indicate any serious damage. (The owner of a an old canoe that is unmarked by contact with logs and rocks has cheated himself and his boat from the privilege of a fast romp down the river.) It features a hand-made canvas cover, to protect packs and equipment from the elements on longer trips.

As far as transporting the boat is concerned, I gave my daughter a few bucks for an old set of Yakima cross-bars, and bought the appropriate mounts to make them work on my truck. Having already registered the boat in my name, I hope to float it for the first time this weekend.

Also last week, I pulled out an old Minolta X-700 35 millimeter camera (yes, film) that we've owned since the late eighties, and took it to a local camera shop to be reconditioned. Turns out that by the time the camera was moved through the shop, a small tear had developed in the shutter fabric… one that would only grow as used over time. Graciously, it was the shop’s decision to offer me a trade: They gave me a fully-reconditioned version of the same old camera to replace the one that had been damaged. Since I already have a number of lenses for the unit, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. So on an upcoming river trip—or as I see critters far-off in the meadow behind our house—I’ll shoot some prints in traditional 35 mm film. (This re-purposed camera will allow me to try-out a used tele-photo lens I picked up more than a year ago!)

With all of this new (or used) outfitting, I must now get more aggressive about finding time on the river, as the paddling season is fast dwindling here in Minnesota.

© 2010 Mike D. Anderson. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Headlines from shorelines all over

Grand concerns for the Grand Canyon
I saw a couple of reports today regarding the health and future well-being of Grand Canyon National Park. One came from USA Today (click here to read that version), and another came from Summit County Citizens Voice, a website within the affected area (click to link).

Seafood from the Gulf
In the aftermath of the biggest environmental calamity in history, fishermen and shrimpers are pulling the first harvest of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill. A story in USA Today today poses the simple question: Will it be safe for consumption? (Click here to read the USA today story.) I, for one, am among the thousands of people who hope Gulf seafood gets the green light; the people in this region have been through enough! But from the crude oil to the chemicals used to disperse the mess, there is good reason to do some testing, as well as tasting. (I hope the lesson that greater care and oversight are required in deep water drilling has been learned by everyone involved… and I hope the speedy recovery in the Gulf continues.)

Getting bigger before getting it right?
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal today about the expansion of crude oil pipelines and delivery systems for a company called Enbridge. (Click here to read the WSJ.com story.) The pipeline runs from Tioga, North Dakota or Cromer, Manitoba. The story didn’t just catch my eye because I was born and raised in North Dakota. It caught my eye because the name Enbridge sounded very familiar. While most of the world was fixated on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, Enbridge was involved in another spill catastrophe involving the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The spill began on July 25th, according to this timeline from the Michigan Messenger. According to an AP report, the company had been warned about problems related to their pipeline network, including the line involved with the spill. (Click here to see the version of the story run by MS-NBC.)

Staying on top of water quality issues, with direct access to the EPA
I first learned about the Enbridge spill because the EPA sent me an email. Not that I’m all that important… but I had signed-up for newsletter notifications from the agency by visiting this page on their website. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, don’t take it from me. Get it directly from the Environmental Protection Agency by email. (Click here to sign up.)

Fracking is freaking some folks out
The practice of extracting natural gas from deep shale beds by using water and chemicals to fracture the rock has been getting a lot of attention, lately. The technique, known as “fracking,” is the subject of a recent HBO documentary, suggesting that the practice can compromise water supplies in adjacent lands. Fracking was also the focus of a story today in USA Today. (Click here to read the story.) Or, to see the trailer for the HBO feature film, see below.

If you have a water-quality story to share--especially of the "good news" variety--drop me an email, okay?

Mike Anderson

Monday, August 23, 2010

Our conservation efforts turn a corner

If one is truly passionate about spending time on the water—whether in recreation or in various conservation efforts—there can never be enough time navigating, renewing, and being renewed by, our rivers, streams or lakes. That is certainly the case where I am concerned; over the past couple of years, a blend of personal responsibilities, workplace demands and physical challenges (the kind that come with age) have greatly reduced the time I can spend on the water. I’m still cleaning up trash and debris when I get the chance to float a river, but not in the tonnage I did a few short years ago. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. And a while back, it occurred to me that there are ways I can advance matters of stewardship more effectively in the future.

With that in mind, I’m going to adjust this blog to focus less on my direct activities with river clean-up, and use it to focus more on sharing the ideas and accomplishments of others. Whether a Boy Scout troop removing trash from a riverside road here in St. Michael, or a dam removal on the Penobscot in Maine, I’ll pass along stories I find from all over, in the hope that this site becomes an idea resource to anyone who’s inclined to improve the rivers, streams and lakes that are dear to them. In shifting to this approach, I will be allowed more time for what is next.

Footprints and Photographs
There is a classic phrase used in the conservation community to encourage the careful use of parks, trails, and waterways: “Leave only footprints, and take only pictures.” I love that quote, because it frames, concisely, such a true and simple solution to many of the problems facing our natural places and their wildlife inhabitants.

Shortly after starting the river blog back in 2007, I was hit with a couple of epiphanies. The first was that CleanUpTheRiver.com was preaching to the choir; it is a blog most likely to be read by people who are already sold on the idea of stewardship.

Another important understanding occurred to me: Conservation begins with appreciation. If someone takes the time to see and experience the outdoors, they just naturally become more inclined to protect those places.

With FootprintsAndPhotographs.com, I hope to help folks see, experience, and appreciate the outdoors. The past few years have been a great opportunity to learn a little about natural photography, which is a nice compliment to the kind of writing I like to do. By sharing some photos and narratives from the places I've had the chance to visit and absorb, perhaps I can remind people how good we have it... and foster greater appreciation for the outdoors.

I plan to remain engaged in hands-on river clean-up. But the accomplishments I’m seeing from around the U.S. (and the world) are much more impressive than my own. So it makes more sense for this blog to focus on those kinds of inspirational issues and ideas. At this writing, I have sold our pair of kayaks, and am shopping for a solo canoe that might serve as a better platform for writing and photography in the wild (Julie and I still have the tandem Old Town canoe for when she wants to ride along). And I’m taking my camera to some off-water hiking and biking trails, too.

I have a head-start on the new blog, as I began posting entries in January of this year; I did not want to make the new site known, however, as I wanted to make sure I was happy with its contents before I shared it with others. While far from perfect, some stories and pictures are ready for you now, and I invite you to stop by for a visit, at http://FootprintsAndPhotographs.com/.

© 2010 Mike D. Anderson. All rights reserved.