Monday, July 27, 2015

Near drowning at the Picket Fence - and a back story

Email subscribers, please click on the headline to reach an easier to read format. MK

The Rogue River's 34-mile Wild and Scenic section is touted as a "family" trip with all but three rapids falling into class one, two or three difficulty, meaning that with reasonable safety measures, including wearing life jackets and staying sober, people who get dumped into the river won't drown.
But a young man on a recent Rogue trip nearly did drown at Blossom Bar, one of two class four rapids. Although pinned underwater at the rapid's Picket Fence, he survived. That's good. What isn't good is when we fail to take a lesson from near disasters, which is why I'm writing this post. I invited the near-drowning victim to tell his story, which follows. I also have a personal tale about running Blossom and the Rogue in general.

A paddleboat crew stares down the Picket Fence in Blossom Bar during a 2014 mid-June trip. The "fence" comprises a line of boulders, some submerged, some not, that present a significant danger at all water levels.To miss the "fence"boaters, must navigate right, duck into an eddy behind the large rock, then spill over a narrow pour-off not visible in this photo. 
First, let's clear up the idea that Blossom Bar is invariably deadly. It is not. Many reports state that 99.9 percent of everybody who runs the rapid does so without significant trouble.
Check out these two excellent articles:
Blossom Bar is a dangerous rapid, a column by outdoor writer Zach Urness, formerly of the Grants Pass Daily Courier.
Recent history of drownings on the Rogue River by Daily Courier's Jeff Duewel.
A 2013 rundown that starts with how Telfer's Rock in Mule Creek Canyon got its name. 

I have personally navigated Blossom Bar more than 100 times over the years, most often rowing a raft, and have never had trouble with the Picket Fence, although I've hit plenty of rocks below and almost flipped once. PK has run it successfully even more times. We have, however, witnessed numerous accidents at the "fence", serious inconveniences that have resulted in rafters abandoning their crafts, jumping into the current, and in one case, stabbing the raft to deflate a tube and thus send it spiraling into the current.

(Interestingly, son Chris Korbulic rowed a trip that ended July 27, 2015, just a few days after our trip. When he went through Blossom July 26, a bunch of rafting gear was on the Picket Fence. In a rafting accident the day before, a large boat got wrapped on the fence, and all four adults aboard abandoned ship. Before they left the scene, they planned for the raft to be rescued and emptied a lot of the gear onto the fence. Apparently, two men jumped into passing rafts but the two women were too scared to do so and spent the night on the rock! When Chris went through, the boat was stuck on a rock in mid-rapid and attempts to rescue it were underway. Chris didn't know exactly how the women escaped.)

That said, the majority of drownings in the Rogue's Wild and Scenic section do occur at Blossom Bar, and the victims are invariably sober, wearing life jackets, and most get "pinned" in powerful hydraulics created by the horizontal line of rocks dubbed the Picket Fence.
This mid-July trip was the first I've been on in 30+ years when someone in my own group capsized and got snagged by the fence.

The potential drowning victim is an athletic 25-year-old from the East Coast who has lived in Oregon a year. He has asked to remain anonymous, citing the Internet's power to store information forever and nefarious people's capacity to misuse it.
He plays water polo and is  a strong swimmer but has  little whitewater experience. On our trip he paddled an IK (inflatable kayak). Our group included an experienced hardshell kayaker and a skilled canoeist, who coached the novice boater. He had capsized his IK a few times on Day 1 of our 3-day trip, but successfully negotiated the Day 2 rapids, including the Class 4 Mule Creek Canyon. He says:
Midway through the second day, we pulled out of Mule Creek Canyon and I was feeling confident after easily navigating the "White Snake" and "Coffeepot" rapids after they had been talked up a fair amount. Approaching Blossom Bar, we pulled off the river to scout the rapid for at least 15 minutes. I was told exactly what I needed to do and given the option to walk around if I wasn't feeling up to it. 
We had practiced my "right hand eddy turns" several times throughout the morning. We watched a few rafts go through, navigating the Picket Fence and the area below, and making it look pretty straightforward. I don't think we saw any smaller crafts go through while we were scouting. 
That's because most outfitters no longer allow passengers to take IKs through the tricky and potentially lethal upper section of Blossom Bar. Instead, clients walk around with their IKs and paddles (sometimes just the paddles) and resume paddling for about three-quarters of the rapid. MK
Eventually, I got in behind the experienced kayaker and followed close. The plan was to start left, then paddle hard to get into the eddy to buy time before navigating a narrow slot at the right end of the Picket Fence.
A screen grab* of IKs  on a different trip negotiating the entrance to Blossom Bar and past the Picket Fence. This photo was taken at a higher water level than we had. But in any case, from the top of the rapid, the eddy (green relatively quiet water that must be reached) is not visible. The current on the left is extremely powerful.
It was made clear to me how dangerous the Picket Fence could be and how important it was to get into that eddy. I saw it approaching, but I was out of position and was sucked directly between the last two boulders where a post of sorts sticks up, to form a V. I tried to push off,  but my boat climbed the rocks, tipping me out.
What followed was a fight for my life, and it was instantly apparent that was what it was. I was sucked under my boat between the V-shaped boulders. I struggled to get to the surface, clinging to my boat with one hand, instinctively grasping at the floating thing above me to pull myself up. It didn't work. 
I fought for air four or five times in what seemed like a minute but was more like 20 seconds. I couldn't get my head above the water. The sensation of being sucked down, and fighting repeatedly to get air, was terrifying. I could hear my kayaker companion screaming to let go of the IK, so I did, and quickly caught a breath and found myself out of the water crouching on a rock. Keep in mind, all of this is happening incredibly quickly and was overwhelming. 
Whew! He had escaped the Picket Fence, but still had a little problem. MK
Anyways, when I stood on the rock at the end of the Picket Fence, I was in a bit of a shock about what had just happened. A whitewater canoeist in our group was near, and I could hear him yelling directions. But my kayaker companion was too far away to be heard.
I understood that swimming was the only way out. Getting back into the water was the last thing I wanted to do, especially as I was unsure about whether I would get sucked down again. The prospect of the swim after the near drowning was much scarier than the swim itself. I slipped into the river, floated through a couple of turbulent areas, then swam hard into the eddy on the left bank where my kayaker companion was waiting. 
I hadn't witnessed when the IK capsized and the young man disappeared beneath the "fence." But I was among those who watched first with trepidation, and then  amazement, at what happened next. Most people in his situation, when forced to "swim" the still-surly rapid, actually float with their feet in front of them to ward off rocks, working their way to one side of the river or the other. Not this guy.
His first adrenalin-fueled swim was to river left, maybe a third of the river's width, to reach his kayaking buddy. Then, after they discussed his options, he turned around and swam from one side of Blossom Bar to the other, power stroking the extreme and erratic current in between eddies. I held my breath the whole time. Especially when a commercial raft cut in front of him as he rested in an eddy.The canoeist waited on the other side with a throw rope and the kayaker stayed close to him during his heroic swim. He says:
Fortunately, frequent eddies broke up the current and provided rest stops, which allowed me to make it almost straight across to a raft waiting for me, and I didn't need the throw rope there either. In retrospect, it may have been possible to bushwhack/hike down on the left side, but we didn't consider that in the moment, and I felt ok about the swim.
A raft of rubberneckers blocked me on the last leg of my swim across, which was frustrating and got me extremely upset. If you see someone in the water, either offer to help or get the hell out of the way! Finally I made it to the far shore to one of our rafts and I climbed aboard.
This paddler has successfully steered around the Picket Fence and is navigating the boulder field that comprises the rest of the rapid. Photo taken in June 2014, a trip that sent four inexperienced boaters in IKs through the rapid without incident. The water level at that time was higher than on our recent trip. The red IK is just above where our heroic swimmer powered across the rapid.
I was rowing the "waiting raft" and I got a front row seat to one of the most remarkable  athletic feats I've seen.  MK
Overall, it was a true near-death experience that I survived due to good luck, strong lungs/legs, and good advice at a timely moment from my experienced kayaker companion. I also got excellent support from the rest of the group to allow me to return to normalcy the next day and enjoy paddling the tamer rapids on the way out.
The Lesson
If I return to Blossom Bar in an IK I would have a 90% chance of navigating it successfully. On the other hand, I have a lot of fun things I like to do not involving rivers, and I would like to continue doing them. It's not worth it to prove to myself, or anyone else, that I can do it.
Next time I would absolutely walk around or ride in a raft, and would recommend others do so until they have lots more experience and practice than I did that day. There are a lot of fun things to do and see on the Wild and Scenic trip, and skipping Blossom Bar would not take away from that at all. I also want to reiterate that it was my informed choice to try it and my mistake(s) that put me in that position.
In other words, next time he doesn't need to prove to himself or anybody else that he's man enough to take it on again. Amen!

Ok. My puny little story. 
How was it that I was rowing a raft in Blossom Bar after giving up rowing about 8 years ago? My difficult decision then had an impact on an annual women's river trip that had continued for 18 years during which I was one of four women rowers. I attempted to sort through my conflicting emotions in this August 2009 blog post  and I still stand behind the major reason, which was that I just got sick of river trips of all sorts.
I now go once a year as a passenger. I have no regrets, except that I lost my identity as a stud-woman. You’d be surprised at the people who marvel when women can do things done most often by men. You'd also be surprised at how cool it is to be a stud woman, if only pretend. I knew it was only show because every trip I was sick with anxiety before running that damn rapid. Seriously. I did run it more than 100 times, most often without a hitch, but I never got over the anxiety. And I hate anxiety.

On day two of our recent trip, a novice rower was hurt in an incident unrelated to river running. I was the only person who could jump in and take the oars. In the meantime, he replaced me as a passenger in the raft piloted by PK. Several hours later, he recovered and was ready to row the mostly flat water to camp.

In the meantime, I was navigating relatively easy class two and three rapids, but I knew class 4 Mule Creek and Blossom Bar were coming. I'd rowed Mule Creek last summer when the novice rower, in whose raft I was a passenger, got pitched out. I had to take the oars, get the boat into position to pick her up, then row the rapid. I was surprised and relieved to learn that I could still do it.

And so on the recent trip I found myself dipping the oars alone on the long flat mile between Mule Creek and Blossom Bar, deliberating whether or not to row Blossom. Actually, I knew I didn't want to. But my not rowing meant that  PK would have to row our raft, "park" it ASAP after passing the Picket Fence, then walk over the hot steep rocks to where I was in a holding pattern. He said he was good with it, and when I saw his face on the rocks above me, I knew it was time to boogie down the right bank to where our raft was parked about a quarter of the way through the rapid. But PK handled the hardest part.

Last words about this: I'm 70 years old. I will likely not row Blossom Bar again. Unless I really must. If I do, somebody will probably video it, and, depending upon the outcome, I will either be the "amazing elderly woman who rowed Blossom Bar" or the "the poor elderly woman stuck on the Picket Fence" or wrapped around a rock below. Or worse.

I think I'll settle for no amazement and go on my ordinary way.
I love river camping but not river running. Took me a long
time to figure that out. Lessons learned.
A video of another trip at Blossom Bar at the same water level we experienced.  Watch the next video in this link too, the one entitled "Blunder at Blossom Bar." This gives you an idea of the rapid's danger and how hapless rowers can run amok. Or even non hapless ones. Shit happens, even when you're experienced. Especially at Blossom Bar.

*A screen grab is an image or text taken from elsewhere on the Internet. In this case, I Googled Blossom Bar images, discovering that even a couple of my photos were there. 
Previous posts about the Rogue

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Road Trip Canada 2015, Banff and Jasper

June 2015
Glacier-fed Moraine Lake is located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Canada's Banff National Park not far from the town of Banff.  It plays second fiddle to iconic Lake Louise, but this gem about killed me. Its brilliant turquoise made my chest ache and I got a crick in my neck staring at the mountains. I kept gushing to PK, who was also properly impressed. We escaped an alarmingly large and noisy crowd of gawkers by taking a quarter-mile trail to the far end of the small lake. Of all the tourist spots we visited in Canada, Moraine Lake was among the most beautiful and by far the most crowded. Few people ventured along the easy trail, however. Too bad for them, but lucky for us. Keep in mind that we visited right before the real tourist season began about five days later when children escape school and families rev-up their vacation engines.
Tackling Banff and Jasper in one post is ambitious. I'll try to stick with the "high points" of which there are many, ha ha ha. 
A hanging glacier clings onto some of the Ten Peaks around Moraine Lake. It's all just too much to take in day after day. Not complaining. Marveling.
Here's the thing about visiting great national parks no matter what country. One amazing sight is quickly overshadowed by the next and you eventually begin to think it's all a beautiful dream. You're sharing it with a gazillion people, probably, and for some, crowds diminish the magic.

Most of the time, I'm not one of those people. I feel privileged to experience environments that make my teeth tingle. Sharing them with people from all over the world feels right and good. Aren't we lucky, I think, looking around at the foreign-looking faces and hearing the strange languages, to be here and see this? Aren't we fortunate to be alive now, when nations have determined to preserve extraordinary landscapes and cultural areas in national parks and World Heritage Sites? You don't have to be rich, young or an extreme athlete to experience these awe-inspiring places.

Then I think, sending beams to people who have trotted across the globe, let's make eye contact. Let's talk about why we all traveled to see this place and what, with this common value, we could also share. 

But then the moment's gone and eye contact doesn't happen and we go our separate ways and all the beauty belongs to mountains and the lakes, streams, and waterfalls, the bears and moose and marmots, and to the night skies. We didn't come here to commune with people, but with nature. 
Canada's great national parks form the northern end of the Rocky Mountains.
The parks are situated on the border of Alberta and British Columbia.
To tell the truth, my deepest nature communing occurred in far less grand places. Small places, like an impossibly clear deep pool on the Chetco River in Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness, a wall of feathery maidenhair ferns on one bank and a serpentine rock outcropping on the other. 

Alone, I was, but for a moment, except for a cloud of midges drifting above the surface, but not obscuring my clear view of the river bottom maybe 15 feet below. We drank from this stream. Imagine that. We probably still could, if fire hadn't blackened the area 15 years ago and if the access road to the trail was still open. 

I digress. My memories of "true wilderness experiences" have little to do with what we're enjoying now. And what is that? We are not IN the wilderness, but it is damn close. Banff and Jasper have hundreds of miles of backcountry trails, and even if you're not on a backpacking trek, even a quarter mile or a half mile off the highway delivers you to a place where you can experience moments of solitude as you drink in the incredible landscape. As a bonus, you get to carry bear spray, just in case. And wonder how you'd do, your first time using it, on a huge and hungry predator headed for its next meal. You.

The famous Lake Louise in Banff National Park.  I got booted off this dock trying to catch a view without a horde of people. Not the greatest sky or time of day to get a good photo.

But, hey, we're all giving it out best shot.

This lovely young woman was just engaged to the guy holding her sari, who was hoping for a gust of wind. I guess they thought it would be nice to have a photo with the sari streaming and with Lake Louise as the backdrop. All cultures melt together at great national parks. Here, and also in Yellowstone on the front end of this trip, PK and I guessed that at least half of our fellow vacationers were Asian, Indonesian, or European. 

Johnston Creek plunges through Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, where smart nice people have constructed an elevated catwalk along a good stretch of otherwise-impassable narrows. The walk provides access to sheer-walled canyons that most people never get to see.  If you visit Banff, this easy hike is a no-brainer. We were unable to complete the approximately 6.7-mile round trip  due to issues that may later come to light. (suspense!)
The first of two falls in Johnston Canyon. We turned around here due to the aforementioned unmentionable issue. Wait for it. Not this post, though.

PK turned 66 on this day and in this place, halfway between
Banff and Jasper on a quick hike that took us above the tree line.

The highway between Lake Louise and Jasper is called the Icefields Parkway. The entire 143 miles is billed as one of the world's best panoramic scenery shows, and yes, it is amazing. This is the foot of the once-great Athabasca Glacier. The entire area is also known as the Columbia Icefields as its glaciers feed the Columbia river system and much more.
Me at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier, just to prove I was on the trip. It was cold on an otherwise warm day with strong winds sweeping down the glacier.

Just outside Jasper, we scored a campsite in the tent area of Whistler's Campground that has more than 800 sites! Our site was remarkably open with a meadow across the way and trees shielding us from neighbors. A warning at the restroom gave pause. Grizzly bears actively hunting elk calves in the campground! Those bastards! Eating baby elk! That's nature for ya. We did not see any bears but a few elk.
The next morning we hopped aboard the Jasper Tramway to near the top of Whistler's Mountain. We debated whether to go in the morning or later in the day, after visiting other nearby wonders. Good thing we went early as the weather began closing in as soon as we stepped off the tram.
There it is. Weather closing in.
PK trudging into the clouds. We stopped short of the summit as it was socked in. And COLD. 
We saw a few marmots scampering about. This guy was not the least bothered by wind and sleet.
A view from near  the top includes the town of Jasper, which is pretty darn small, in the scale of things. But isn't every human construction small when compared with the natural world?
This photo was taken while driving from Maligne Lake back to to Jasper. Typical scenery. The lake itself was shrouded in clouds and it was raining hard. This was one of the few times weather interrupted our fun on our month-long trip. According to weather records, June is the rainiest month in this part of the world.
This photo was taken in Banff, but just so you know..... if you visit Banff and Jasper and southwestern British Columbia,  you can go for days and never be out of sight of snowy peaks. Our total days of continuous-spectacular-mountain-views was seven including the North Cascades in Washington state. 
We used Lonely Planet's guide to Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks to hit the high spots during our short time there. For the next part of our journey, we benefitted from a Canadian friend's advice about our route back to the USA, which was full of wonderful surprises. More about that coming soon.

Earlier posts about Road Trip 2015

Road Notes, first couple days across the Great Plains of Canada

Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Changing Times in North Dakota

Getting Along on the road and Yellowstone Park

Riding the Trail of the Couer d' Alenes

Road tripping in the Four-Wheel Camper

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Seven Days in Canada - Road Trip Notes 2015

July 9, 2015 
North Dakota between Minot and the Canadian border was rolling, green and blustery. Oil and grain operations exist side by side, and, and with typical North Dakota fury, strong winds whipped up "potholes", as small bodies of water are called here. Shale oil and gas extraction continue into Saskatchewan. A Canadian guy working the border told me, with pride, that "North Dakota uses fracking and we don't!" Not quite the case, it turns out. Fracking is as common and controversial in Canada as it is in the USA.
A fracking site. (Screen grab.)
When we entered Canada from North Dakota the morning of June 11 we were among few tourists heading into Saskatchewan. The stern customs officer confiscated a dozen eggs due to a virulent bird-flu outbreak in Minnesota, from whence we'd come, and questioned us in detail about whether we were carrying firearms. We are not among the 30 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, who say they own a gun, and we passed into the country without hassle.

Conversely, when we returned to the USA via a small border crossing in Grand Forks, B.C., the customs people were keen on all things pharmaceutical. We speculated that some Canadians, living with strict gun control, might be itching for an AK-47 or two. And that US citizens with dozens of over-priced prescriptions prefer to buy them where they cost half of what Big Pharma gets away with in the USA. Oh yeah, Canada has price controls for prescription drugs. What a concept!

Saskatchewan and Alberta, along the Trans Canada Highway, are mostly flat and featureless. Our strategy was to get to the great national parks, Banff and Jasper, ASAP and with as little pain as possible. The distance between the border at Portal, ND, and Canmore, Alberta, our starting point for park exploration, was 670 miles. Google maps said we should figure on driving for 10 hours and 25 minutes.

Google maps doesn't know that we rarely drive more than five hours at a crack. Why should we? We're retired! We took two days.

Also, full disclosure, on this trip we slept in our Four-Wheel pop-up camper 10 nights, in motels 8 nights, and with friends or family, 11 nights. On long driving days we usually motel it, especially if the weather is threatening as it was our first two days in Canada. By the time we reached Swift Current, SA, a late- afternoon downpour was underway as we bolted with our small travel bags into a hotel.

You don't need a Four-Wheel Camper to enjoy Canada. We never once on this 30-day trip used it for its intended off-road purposes. Perhaps on a longer trip we would have. But it was cool to hang out with the tents in campgrounds because our truck with its pop-up camper often requires less space than a car hauling a family with two tents. Plus we're accustomed to the tent-camping lifestyle having practiced it for several decades. We feel at home with tent pitchers and campfire makers and people who brush their teeth in the woods and are not opposed to hiding behind a bush for "number one."

Compared to a tent, our deluxe-on-the-inside tiny camper is the Taj Mahal and we are rich. Compared with behemoth RVs, which we are occasionally forced to park amidst, we are paupers to be pitied. If they don't run their generators at night, we won't crank up our sound system. Or hide behind a bush.
PK is dishing up a dinner I prepped mostly at home and froze, reheated in a super-good nonstick pan. The Four-wheel Camper has a two-burner stove, ample refrigerator with freezer, queen-sized bed, furnace, radio and iPod plug-in, and plenty of storage. However, there's no room to dance.
On this two-day drive, and on other "let's just get there" days on this month-long road trip, we were entertained and often enthralled by three books on CD: The Round House by Louise Erdrich, 5 stars; The Tiger, a True Story of Vengeance and Survival, 5-stars; Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult, 3.5 stars.

Good books make the miles fly, and we both enjoy being whisked into worlds created by spoken words. Nothing wrong with  Lone Wolf, by the way. Like every Picoult book I've read,  the end of each chapter makes you have to start the next, and so on, the very definition of "page turner." It's just that the other two books were deeper and more thought provoking, and with Erdrich especially, beautifully crafted. Although John Vaillant,  author of The Tiger, a True Story of Vengeance and Survival, provided a riveting narrative about a little-known part of eastern Russia where tigers and people still co-exist, sometimes with bad results on both sides. The book provides fascinating history about this little-known part of Russia, but takes place in modern times. Highly recommended.

Back to the road. Along with listening to recorded books, PK and I amused ourselves by creating a list of things we learned or saw on this trip, May 24 to June 23, 2015, especially regarding Canada.

The best time to visit Banff and Jasper and British Columbia may be when we were there, early to mid-June, before summer vacation begins. Crowds were sparse, for the most part, at popular attractions. (A couple exceptions will be described in a coming post.)
Many campgrounds in Banff and Jasper were closed, but we had no problem getting sites. However, at our last Canadian campsite Thursday, June 18, the camp host informed us that starting the next day - when school let out - every site was reserved until school resumed the second week in September.

Forget the cell phone, unless you have someone you really need to keep in touch with.  We tried getting one of our phones online via two cell service providers. The first failed completely and refunded our money. After four days and several frustrating hours with the second provider, the phone got service. Why bother with a cell phone? We didn't need to make calls. I used it in a campground once to create a wifi hotspot. However, son Chris Korbulic was on a massive first descent on an island off Papua, New Guinea, and we were desperate, as parents tend to be, to hear what the hell was going on. We did get a few calming updates via the phone— he lived another day!—but wifi is widely available and we could have managed. But mostly, I'm afraid we're addicted to a pleasant voice telling us that in a quarter mile we should turn left onto highway such and such, and that, a right turn onto a specific road is coming up, and we've reached our destination when we've reached it.

August 2016 update: During our recent road trip to Vancouver Island, we paid Verizon $2 a day for service. Great deal. Verizon also provides this service for Mexico.

We learned that it is actually possible to navigate with printed maps! 

Many campgrounds in B.C. and in Banff/Jasper have dishwashing sinks outside the restrooms, often with hot water. Such a great idea.

Rental RVs are a huge trend. It seemed that every third of fourth RV was a Canadream, or a CruiseCanada, and occasionally, CruiseAmerica. Smart way to travel, it seems.

There we are on the right next to a couple of nearly identical rental RVs. 
Grizzly bears are abundant in Banff and Jasper and warnings are common. However. They are not the fear-inducing alarm-bell ringing warnings we saw and heard in the USA's Glacier National Park when we visited in August 2010. True, a couple people had been killed by grizzlies near Yellowstone in 2010. But still. PK and I bought bear spray in Glacier ($34 each!) and turned around after about a half hour of hiking through an area we were pretty sure was rich in roaring bears just like the one in photos. Hungry for the neck. Going for the gut. Agonizing death.

Bear -scare photo in Glacier National Park, USA. Note: In
Yellowstone Park, where we spent a couple days early in the trip,
you can RENT bear spray canisters.

The spirit of the Canadian national park's grizzly bear warnings are more along the lines of protecting the bears from stupid people. In other words, Look, folks. If you provoke or surprise the bears, or tempt them with careless camping, you put them in danger because a bear that attacks people is doomed. Those are not the words used, of course, but that's what they mean. Also, in Banff (and maybe Jasper) it is illegal to hike/backpack in bear country with fewer than four people. Don't be stupid is the underlying message.

The few "rest areas" we used along the Trans Canada Highway in Alberta were filthy urine-soaked stinking messes. No flush toilets. Wet floors. No sinks. One just east of Calgary, I could not bring myself to use. Other areas we visited in Canada offered restrooms in the true sense of the word.

Just west of Calgary, Alberta, and not far from our destination the second night out of North Dakota,  we got a hint of magnificent things to come. We stayed that night in Canmore, a lovely tourist town just outside of Banff, and the next morning, we launched into the best of the Canadian Rockies. Blog with more photos, fewer words, coming soon.
One thing can be said for sure about these two Canadian national parks; the postcard shots are everywhere and the scenery stretches over days on the road. On hiking trails, it could go on for months. Maybe a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Vacation weight gain? Zucchini etc to the rescue

Today's take from our two zucchini plants, which have suddenly roared into high production. I grated most of a medium zucchini then nuked the "noodles" for a minute and a half.
PK and I returned last week from a month away. We biked. We hiked. We danced to the Rolling Stones. We ate too much, or at least I ate too much. We sat on our butts for nearly 5,000 miles of travel to the Midwest and back, via Canada. Great trip. But. Butt. 

I gained five pounds. PK doesn't seem any fatter. Still a skinny SOB. But me? The enlarged rolls around the middle are insidious, hideous, entirely ridicuilious. (re-dick-u-ill- e-us). And also bilious.

I've developed a self-defeating habit for one who is privileged to travel. I relax my low-carbish diet on vacations as I relax everything else. Sometimes that's OK,  such as when we're dependent upon others for sustenance or when the sustenance supplied is not commensurate with what my overfed body expects. Hence when we returned from Africa in 2013, I had lost a few pounds.

But on this trip we were self-medicated with food and well treated by all the hosts who went out of their way to please us. Great stuff! Sandwiches every day, potato salad, pasta salad, desserts! And now ..... overstuffed, as witness the pants that won't zip. 

After this morning's weigh-in and a scary look at my belly during down dog at yoga, I determined to rev up a carb-correction plan that includes substituting zucchini, cauliflower, green beans and other veggies for rice, pasta, potatoes, bread and other delicious items that make a person gain weight not just because they're caloric, but also because refined carbs produce blood sugar spikes that lead to appetite spikes that lead to driving spikes into the heart. (Spikes in heart—for desperate cases only.)

Zucchini is going bonkers in the garden and so.....

Two servings. Select a fresh medium or medium-large zucchini, preferably one in which seeds have not yet formed. Seeds make for weak noodles.

Grate into longish strands using a box grater or a food processor. 

Microwave in a covered glass bowl on high for a minute. Check after a minute to see if the noodles need another 30 seconds or so. They should be hot and limp, but not slimy or falling apart. You want them to hold together for whatever sauce you'll douse them with. They're great with a bit of crunch left.

The short story here: it is easy to make zucchini "noodles" using a box grater, or a food processor or a mandolin.

Microwaved zucchini noodles should be well drained before dressing with sauces. 
My virtuous lunch comprising reheated marinara meat sauce topped with zuke noodles, shredded Parmesan, and fresh basil.