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When Good Outdoor Gear Goes Bad

We’ve all had camping equipment become defective from time to time. A tent pole that breaks, kayak skegs that leak, hiking boots that don’t fit any more and cause blisters. But sometimes you get gear that actually turns on you… that tries to kill you.

If there is anything that is ubiquitous in the camping/hiking/kayaking works it’s velcro. Velcro is wonderful when it works right but a PITA when it doesn’t. I have an older pair of sandals that use velcro fasteners. They’re wonderful sandals but they no longer stay on my feet. The velcro has somehow worn out. At first I thought it was just dog hair (we had huskies) so I managed to remove all of that but they still wouldn’t stick well. They stick a little bit and then, at the worst possible moment, suddenly release. Like when I was carefully picking my way across some logs at the beach.

I once had a pair of tennis shoes try to drown me. My Mariner Express kayak, one of my favorite boats, is a little narrow in the foot room department. Probably not for most people but for my size 12-1/2 feet it is. I know about this problem and I am careful about what footwear I have on when I paddle. I buy my  paddling footwear with an eye to minimalism. No long, hard soles and not much heel overlap. Next to bare feet, I want minimum extra stuff in my paddle shoes.

But one day I wore my tennis shoes. A tennis court doesn’t care that much how big your feet are.

So I climbed into the kayak, moved my feet around to get them onto the foot pegs, and pushed off. And when I was just a few feet from the dock I edged smartly and started to turn the kayak, caught the paddle in the water when I moved it forward for another stroke and went over. Capsized accidentally for the first time in I dunno when. The paddle was gone, ripped out of my hands when it caught the water. So I popped the spray deck and prepared to swim out.

However my tennis shoes had other ideas. They were not built for water (they were actual tennis shoes) and resisted getting out of the boat. Never mind that it was upside down and I was in a position that made breathing difficult; if not impossible. My tennis shoes were wedged into the farthest part of the cockpit and would not come out. I dog-paddled a half-roll to the surface, and got a big (but wet) breath and thought about this for a minute. Then I gave a mighty heave and pulled my feet out of the tennis shoes, exited and swam to the surface. For once, the velcro had held.

Then my tennis shoes popped out of the cockpit on their own and floated to the surface!

My friend, Pam, bought a new mummy sleeping bag after years of sleeping in rectangular bags. On her first trip she erected her new tent (a replacement for her 1972 dome tent and one that did not leak for a change), had a nice evening meal, and crawled into her new sleeping bag. A short while later she discovered that she had neglected her good-night tinkle and so prepared to get out and fix that little problem.

But her mummy bag had a velcro flap which closed and secured itself when she zipped herself up in it. Pam could not get out of her bag. The flap didn’t just hold the bag closed around her face, it locked the zipper tag so tugging on the inside tag wouldn’t pull the zipper down. Only after herculean effort did Pam manage to finally free herself from the mummy-bag-of-death.

Next time, she says, she’s sleeping with a knife.

Craig Jungers
Moses Lake, WA


Dave Kruger’s Kayak Diaries

About a decade ago I discovered Wes Boyd’s web site. Wes was a bigger guy and had done a lot of work finding a kayak that fit him and also paddled well. His choice was a Nimbus Telkwa and when I ran across one on craigslist I bought it and happily paddled it for years. I introduced my son-in-law to the Telkwa at the 2006 kayak symposium in Port Townsend, WA (which, sadly, no longer exists) and he also found one on craigslist and bought it. We both still have our Telkwas although I have added one or two other boats to my collection over the years.

Wes’ web site also had a collection of brief essays about kayaking and camping by Dave Kruger (not the Dave Kruger of canoeing fame in the midwest). Dave’s writing first appeared on Paddlewise which was (and still is) an email list for kayakers that attracted a large number of very accomplished paddlers; many of whom went on to write for magazines like Sea Kayaker (including, ahem!, me) and others. Dave’s posts were easy to read and included none of the technical bits you see so often. His approach to rolling, for instance, is to never capsize. This is not as simple as it sounds. At any rate, I became a stalwart proponent of the “Dave Kruger approach to rolling” and, as I have grown older, I’m almost fanatic about it.

Dave lives in Astoria, Oregon and spent many years kayaking the waters nearby. Most of his stories center on paddling with friends while they explore the Columbia River, various bays along the coast of Oregon and Washington (including Willapa Bay where my wife’s relatives live), and occasional trips farther afield. Dave has paddled Haida Gwai (the Queen Charlotte Islands of BC) as well as the Broken Group (a Canadian National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island) and writes about them in a way that makes the reader feel like it’s a personal letter from Dave.

When Wes Boyd closed down his web site someone else volunteered to host the collection of Dave Kruger’s essays but neither he nor I could remember who it was. All was not lost, however, because of the Internet “wayback machine” (Google it) Bob Myers found the articles (but not, alas, all the photos). I am adding them to this web site in hopes that readers will learn that there is more to kayaking than tidal streams, river bars, current rips and Deception Pass. There are quiet waters, cozy coves, good meals with close friends on a secluded beach, and paddles during which you never get more than a little wave now and then. You can find the list of his essays in the right sidebar.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


Ancient Pathways – the Cariboo Trail

Paddlers on the famous Bowron Lakes in British Columbia, Canada often make a trip to visit nearby Barkerville which figured prominently in the 1861 Cariboo gold rush. My visit to the area in 1972 made me aware of the historic nature of the area and when I moved, much later, to the

The Cariboo Trail

desert of central Washington state I noticed a few of the historic markers which marked the Cariboo Trail.

There was more than one Cariboo Trail but the one that begins near Vancouver, B.C. is more correctly referred to as the Cariboo Road. A tributary to that road began in Walula, Washington near Walla Walla and ran up to Moses Lake and then along what are now known as the Sun Lakes up to Coulee City and thence north into the Okanogan and onwards to Canada. There are remnants of this trail scattered along the way and it’s been an interesting project for me to look for these remnants and hike and/or mountain bike them. Continue reading Ancient Pathways – the Cariboo Trail

Moving Back to Linux

I have enjoyed as much as I can stand of Windows. I can’t afford a Macintosh. My Dell laptop has disintegrated and is in pieces held together by rubber bands. My options are limited. But there are options.

Linux has been around since the early 1990s but has not made any real inroads into the public

New Linux Desktop

My new Linux Desktop

consciousness despite it being secure, robust and versatile. This has been mostly due to the perception that Linux is difficult to install and even more difficult to configure; especially when it comes to printers, network cards, wireless networking (wifi), monitors, sound cards, etc. Indeed, for many years it really was a chore to set a Linux desktop up and use it. Continue reading Moving Back to Linux

Impervious to Harm

This morning, as I was pouring my first cup of coffee, the bubbles and sound of the liquid flowing into my cup reminded me of an incident a few years back that involved a much greater volume of water dropping into the Yakima River near Ellensburg, Washington.  This portion of the Yakima is mostly Class 1 and 2 and attracts many Puget Sound river rafters who rent their inflatables in the tiny hamlet of Thorpe and then ferry up to Cle Elum twelve miles or so up the river and float back down to where their their cars are parked alongside the road.

No Place to be Playing Once This Starts to Melt!

It’s not a difficult float  but there is one well-marked hazard on the trip where an irrigation canal dumps its water into a fairly narrow section of the river from a height of about twenty feet. The canal doesn’t have water all the time so there are two large billboards about 1/2-mile upstream that can be opened to advise all boaters to exit their boats river-left due to extreme danger ahead. The roar of the water dropping into the river underscores the capital letters: DANGER AHEAD!

You would think that anyone in a raft who is unfamiliar with these waters would eddy out and walk down the bank to take a look. You would be wrong.

Continue reading Impervious to Harm

Adventures in Video Land

I’ve been involved in photography for 40 years. I have a Nikon in a closet somewhere to prove it, too. At one time I was a professional photographer using Nikons and Hasselblads (and an SWC) and even owned a Linhof Teknika for a time. I grew bored with the whole thing when I felt I was spending more time taking photos than engaging in the activity I wanted to document.

A few months back I bought a digital Olympus Stylus Tough 6000 waterproof digital point-and-shoot camera and have enjoyed using it. It’s the first digital camera I’ve owned with enough resolution to be useful but its video capabilities have been disappointing. Fun, but still disappointing.

So for Christmas my wife asked me if I wanted a GoPro Hero video cam I

The GoPro Hero - taken with the Olympus

jumped at the chance to get involved more in making videos. Maybe I’ll decide that it’s not as much fun as I think it will be. Maybe not. At any rate it’s something new and it’s applicable to almost everything I do outdoors including cross-country skiing, mountain biking and kayaking.

And the fact that she found it used on Amazon and could use a coupon to buy it was even nicer. Under $100 investment. How could we go wrong?

Possibly in many, many ways. But it seems like a good idea.

The Complexities of Sea Kayaking

It’s been a long time since I’ve published anything new in this blog. This is mostly due to a complete knee replacement I had done on my left leg in June, 2010. Most of the summer of 2010 was dedicated to recovering from the surgery and regaining motion lost some 22 years ago in an industrial accident. Part of that recovery was done using mountain bicycles. At one time in my life bicycling played an important role. Last summer a Trek 4500 mountain bike played a big part in my physical therapy.

My Carbon Fiber Trek (OCLV) (Successor to the 4500)

As I slowly regained the ability to ride a bike I progressed from short rides to longer rides and by the end of August I was riding alone on rough paths into remote desert canyons. At this point I realized that if new kayakers were approaching paddling the same way they might have approached mountain biking they were vastly underestimating the potential danger. And people who are teaching kayaking to new paddlers need to understand that the complex nature of the sport is subtle and not readily apparent to new participants. Continue reading The Complexities of Sea Kayaking

In Praise of the Coaster

On the western edge of North America there is one small kayak which has become almost legendary. First produced commercially by Matt and Cam Broze of Mariner Kayaks in Seattle, the Mariner Coaster has achieved this status not because it has been used on expeditions but because it was, for many years, virtually the only sea kayak playboat suitable for rock gardens and surf as well as being fast enough to carry a kayaker and some gear to suitable spots to play in.

The Mariner Coaster as pictured in a review by Sea Kayaker Magazine, Summer of 1994

The genesis for the Coaster was a little boat designed and built by Robert Livingston. As Matt Broze says in his history of Mariner Kayaks (www.marinerkayaks.com) Robert brought his little Ursa Micro along on a trip to Cape Flattery (the most NW’ly

Robert Livingston's wife in his Ursa Micro, the inspiration for the Mariner Coaster. Note the spiffy PFD.

point of mainland USA) back in the middle 1980s.  Back then a 13.5-foot sea kayak was unusual to say the least (even white water kayaks tended to be 11-feet long or longer) but the Ursa Micro was surprisingly fast (due to low wetted surface) and incredibly maneuverable. Matt and Cam were so taken with the boat that they asked Robert if they could use his design in a production boat.

Robert had designed the Ursa Micro using his new design program “BearboatSP” for a trip along the coast of Portugal. Back then you could not rent kayaks so his idea was to make a boat that could be taken apart into three pieces and transported with his luggage. (Robert is still designing, building and paddling boats and his tastes still runs towards smaller kayaks; except that he still likes his Mariner I.) Continue reading In Praise of the Coaster

Winter Sports

It’s been over a month since I updated this blog and, frankly, nothing much has happened.  While the east coast of North America is suffering under record snowfall and cold those of us in the Pacific Northwest portion of North America are experiencing record warmth. Normally temperatures here in January and February barely reach freezing and lows from 10 to 15 (F) are common. Not in 2010. Nearly every day for a month our temperatures have reached into the 40s and we’ve had several days with high temps in the low 50s (F). And it often doesn’t even get down to freezing at night. Moses Lake, where the lake house is located, normally is frozen from about November 15th to March 15th. Last year it was a week late to freeze and a week early to thaw. This year it was a month late to freeze and it thawed completely February 7th!!!

Our normal winter activity is cross-country skiing but the warm temperatures

Hailey, 8, giving the camera her standard greeting at the Moses Lake Ice Rink

Hailey, 8, giving the camera her standard greeting at the Moses Lake Ice Rink

translated into more rain than snow in the mountains where our usual favorite areas are about 3000 feet in elevation and are suffering from a lack of snow. You have to go up to 4000 feet to find enough snow for decent skiing; and even then it can be problematic. Nothing less fun than skiing in the rain.  Or driving 2 hours each way to ski in the rain. This left me with a problem. I don’t walk well and can’t bicycle so I had to cast around for winter action. Luckily a friend suggested regular ice skating parties and we remembered that while we were involved with Boy Scouts we collected ice skates whenever we found them at yard sales and thrift stores. We dusted off the box of about 8 pair of skates and invited a bunch of kids to meet after school on Wednesdays.

This escalated into skating whenever we had nothing else to do. The rink is free and covered but not heated so we bundled up well during the cold periods but now that we’re in these early spring-like conditions dressing warmly is not as important. So we now go skating on a whim and since the rink is only about 8 blocks from the lake house it’s easy to run over and skate for a while.

We could have skated on the lake until the end of January but the ice, which was thick enough to support a pickup truck, started thinning rapidly with the warm weather and rain. Besides, the lake doesn’t have a snack bar and a recreation center with batting cages, computer games, ping pong and pool tables. A nice hot cup of chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles has become the thing to do after skating. And no long ride home.

Hopefully the warm weather won’t make it difficult to keep ice on the rink. When there is a wind at temperatures over 40F it’s difficult to keep parts of the ice frozen solid. Anyway, now that the lake is water again we can go back to kayaking once the water and air temps get comfy. Next weekend it’s predicted to be nearly 60F and sunny so I expect that to be it.

I also expect an update on the new shop next week when the roof trusses arrive.

Doheny Beach, CA in the Princess

It’s hard to believe that a week ago we were camping on the beach just 50 miles north of San Diego (Dana Point) in the Princess with two sea kayaks on the truck roof and sunshine (mostly) outside. On December 19th we loaded up the truck and trailer and headed south for some escape from

Our 1970 Streamline Princes (21-foot) at Doheny Beach State Park

Our 1970 Streamline Princess (21-foot) at Doheny Beach State Park

the snow and ice. At 5pm the next day we rolled into Doheny Beach State Park in Dana Point, California for a 5-day visit. Our schedule included sightseeing at Disneyland, a visit to the restored mission at San Juan Capistrano, a wonderful morning at San Onofre State Beach (about 11 miles south) with the California Kayak Friends gang (www.ckf.org) and (on the way home) a paddle in the bull kelp off Monterey, CA with sea otters. Continue reading Doheny Beach, CA in the Princess