July 2014


Beth and I spent the holiday weekend on a backpacking trip along a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The original plan was for us to leave the house Friday morning and start the hike. Then turn around early Saturday afternoon and head back, arriving back where we started on Sunday. Unfortunately, Hurricane Arthur had some input on that plan (it poured all day Friday), so we shortened the hike and left on Saturday morning instead.

This was a trail Beth chose, as she hiked it last fall during Outdoor School. Only then, it poured the whole time. Her teacher said it was the worst he had ever seen it during a backpacking trip, and he has many, many of those under his belt. She was miserable during that entire trip, and wanted to give it another shot during better weather.

Well, the weather was better, and according to Beth, the trail was in much better condition. But it was, I think, the muddiest trail I have ever hiked on.

The trail was a tad damp.

The trail was a tad damp.


When Beth did this last fall, very little of the trail was above water, which was mostly “six inches deep” (according to her). Maybe it was!

Parts of the trail were pretty steep:

And steep in places

And steep in places

This was about the only place there was a “view” (though all of the trail was beautiful). It never came above the treeline.

It never emerged from the treeline

It never emerged from the treeline

There was a huge colony of some kind of liverwort growing on this pine tree.

Liverwort!

Liverwort!


Nice!

At one point, she thought she recognized the Little Swift River Pond campground, and we diverged from the trail. Only it was not the Little Swift. It was South Pond. Beth remembered these boats:

At South Pond

At South Pond


Only it wasn’t “these” boats, it was some other boats. Then, since we had unknowingly taken a side trail, we had difficulty finding the trail again. Beth consulted the map (as did I), until we concluded that we were at South Pond, not at Little Swift. We backtracked until we found blaze markings again, and continued on. This shows the importance of not pressing on when you’ve lost the trail. It’s better to go back until you find the markings!

I just have to show more photos of muddy trail. An awful lot of the trail looked like this.

The mud was deep

The mud was deep

And a lot of the parts that didn’t, looked more like this:

And so was the water

And so was the water

In spite of the slogging, there were rewards. I saw some “Common” wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), which is not nearly as common as “regular” wood sorrel (O. stricta).

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)


I think the only time I ever see this purple-veined sorrel is on backpacking trips! I suppose the “montana” part of its binomial name suggests a reason.

It was pretty common to see moose scat on the trail in the places that were not too muddy (or under water), so we were hoping to see a moose or two. This bog was an excellent place to find one, but we didn’t.

A nice bog

A nice bog


They probably saw us though.

Here’s one that grows on my property, but which rarely blooms there:

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)


You can Kalmia angustifolia, just don’t call me late for dinner!

This one was perhaps the highlight of the trip for me:

A white "pink" lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)

A white “pink” lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)


This is a pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba), even though it’s white. I had never seen one. There are white lady’s slippers that are pretty rare, and belonging to a different species, and I have never seen any of those either. But this one can be identified as a member of the “pink” species, because it has a slit running down the front of the flower. The other species in the genus have little round openings at the top of the flower – more like a slipper vs a shoe without its laces.

Here’s a shot of the pair where I tried to get the entire plant(s) in the shot:

The whole plant

The whole plant


Nice!

We stopped for “lunch” around 3:00pm, or maybe later. It was chilly outside, and once we quit moving, Beth was getting chilly. I had my sleeping bag stuffed (very snugly) into my backpack, making it nearly impossible to get anything else out of it without removing the bag. So I tossed it to her while I prepared some pasta.

It was chilly!

It was chilly!

Neither one of us remembered to bring a spoon or a fork, which made eating the pasta something of a challenge. Not as hard as eating the soup would be later that evening! So as the sun was setting, I started carving a make-shift spoon out of a small sapling someone had cut (and conveniently for me, left 12″ or so sticking up out of the ground). It soon grew too dark for knife work though, so I laid it aside until morning. But once the sun came up, I made quick work of it, and we were able to eat our oatmeal with relative ease.

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

I think the most abundant plant along the trail was bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). When we started the hike I noticed that most of them had already dropped their sepals (which most people understandably mistake for petals). I suggested to Beth that if we had been there two weeks earlier, we would have been treated to a carpet of bunchberry blooms. But later in the hike, we transitioned into an area where they still held onto their sepals:

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

We stopped at “the view” again on the way back and rested up a bit. There was only a little more than a mile to go by then. I was admiring the mud stains on my pant legs:

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!


Luckily, those pant legs zip off, so I was sure to do that before going into the tent.

One plant I was looking for was the Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispudula), which belongs to the often-featured-on-this-blog, Wintergreen (G. procumbens).

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)


I first saw this on a backpacking trip a couple of years ago, but didn’t know what it was then (I identified it from the photos I took when I got back). So this was the first time I was able to look at it and know what I was seeing.

As we descended the trail towards the car for that last mile, I decided to try my hand at dead reckoning. I would look ahead for a land mark, estimate the distance to it, and add that to the distance covered already as we approached it. Then find the next landmark and do the same. Eventually, I switched to estimating where the next 100-feet would be, because I was pretty tired, and that made the arithmetic easier. I was pleased that by the time I figured we had another 500 feet, we could hear the stream near the parking lot, and we could also hear the occasional car. I stopped dead reckoning at T-minus 200 feet, and we were pretty close to 200 feet from the parking lot then. This was my first attempt at that, and I rather liked the results!

We got to the car around 1:00pm and drove south to Dixfield. We stopped at a diner and had lunch, and then drove home (about three more hours).

I have to say I’m pretty sore now, but I think I’ll know a lot more about that tomorrow!

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This morning I took a lap around the property with camera in hand. Here’s what I found.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)


The “regular” milkweed is in bloom now. I have a lot of this stuff on our land now. When we first moved here, there were only three or four plants, but I let it grow. This year there are about a hundred of them. I’ve been eating them too, and like them very much!

But not as much as these:

Blueberries! (Vaccinium angustifoilium)

Blueberries! (Vaccinium angustifoilium)


There are a lot of lowbush blueberry plants here, mostly in the woods (as were these). They do not produce a lot of fruit though, probably because they are in the woods where they don’t get a lot of sun.

The dewdrops are still blooming:

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

And the sarsaparilla’s are producing fruit:

Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) fruit

Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) fruit


The roots of sarsaparilla can be used to make a root beer, but the fruits are not edible.

The berries on the wintergreen plants that still have them are huge. They are about the size of a pencil eraser most of the year, but these two were the size of dimes.

Huge wintergreen berries

Huge wintergreen berries

The wintergreen is getting ready to bloom. This one was the farthest along of any I saw today. I expect that by the end of the holiday weekend, they will open.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) ready to bloom

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) ready to bloom

I installed Miss Nancy’s thwart yesterday.

Thwarted!

Thwarted!


It did not go as smoothly as I would have wished, and thus, the title of today’s post.

When we reglassed her hull last summer (!) she was not on a mold. A canoe mold (for this type of canoe) is a series of plywood cross sections mounted to a T-beam made from 2×10 lumber. I do not have a mold for Miss Nancy though, so when I was ready to put the glass on, I just propped her up on a pair of sawhorses and went at it. Unfortunately, the weight of the glass & epoxy on the unsupported hull caused her gunwales to turn inwards, giving her an exaggerated “tumblehome” (meaning, her widest point is not from gunwale to gunwale, but rather, it is below that point – the gunwales come in towards the center). A little tumblehome is good, because you can heel the canoe over pretty far before the gunwales dip below the surface, at which point the river/lake rushes in, and the canoe capsizes in seconds. The downside to tumblehome is that the gunwales are not as good at turning the waves away. They just come in over the gunwales. I would rather take on water that way than by the other way, but this was just way too much tumblehome.

I decided to address this by cutting the thwart a bit wider than her “resting” position suggests, so before I cut it, I placed a spreader clamp between the gunwales and carefully started cranking on it. Crank, crank, crank. OK, one more. Pop! I split her stern deck:

Stern deck... oops

Stern deck… oops


Though disheartening, this too is fixable. Since the deck is already split, I might was well keep the gunwales spread apart as I intended. I plan to make a maple wedge whose width equals the width of the crack, and which tapers to a point. Then slather it with epoxy and insert it into the crack. I just need to be sure that the wedge is slightly higher than the rest of the deck so I can sand that down until it is at the same level. I do not wish to have to plane down the whole deck, which is a mistake I made on her bow.

When I put the bow deck in place, the starboard side just would not stay in position. It wanted to slip above the level of the gunwale. I even had a board clamped over it to stop that, and though somewhat effective, it was insufficiently effective. To fix that, I started planing the deck down to match the gunwales. Unfortunately (there’s that word again!) I ended up reducing the thickness of the deck by more than the thickness of the inlay.

Bow deck problem

Bow deck problem


So I’ll need to redo the starboard side of the inlay. I guess I’ll route it out (by hand) and cut a new piece of zebra wood to match, glue it in, clamp it down, and wait for the epoxy to set. Then I can sand the zebrawood inlay to match the level of the deck. I will do the expoxy work on both decks on the same day, because neither one of those jobs will require a full shot of epoxy, and that stuff is expensive. Like $130 per gallon. I guess it’s not that expensive – a shot of epoxy is about one fluid ounce, so that’s a whole dollar. But combined, the two deck repairs should use most of one shot. Why waste it?

Repairing my mistakes is not work that I enjoy so much, and because of that, I will have difficulty mustering the requisite ambition to actually do it! Especially when it’s hot & humid outside. But I will.

Other than the deck repair, all she needs is to have her seats mounted.

She’s so close!