Inspiring short film on the ‘revival of cedar canoe culture’ among indigenous North Americans:
“The revival of cedar canoe culture and Tribal Journeys is one of the most significant cultural movements of our time. It serves as an example of healing through tradition for indigenous cultures throughout the world. Knowledge of the earth and sea, customs, language, and spiritual practices nearly erased from our human experience are triumphantly reestablished and celebrated through the canoe pulling and ceremonies of each Tribal Journey. Coastal natives, reconnect with the ancestors, with the traditions, with each other, with the water.
We are taking our canoes out of the museums and putting them back in the water and showing the world our culture is alive.”
A sudden down-turn in the temperatures in mid October didn’t put us off a planned canoe trip on the river Wye. We set off for a short trip with an overnight wild camp on the river, Autumn sunshine and the trees just beginning to turn, we had a brief shower once we got on the river, but sheltered under a huge oak tree, with acorns dropping all around us as the squirrels above were busy feeding before winter. There were a lot of pheasants around too, and we saw them scatter as the sound of a Goshawk called loudly from the tree just above us, something I’d never heard before – I still haven’t ever seen one of these elusive predators, even though the Wye valley and the Forest of Dean are one of the best places to see them, they are making a great comeback in recent years after being persecuted, like many birds of prey to the verge of extinction in the UK in the past. But the pheasants certainly know about them!
We canoed downstream in the most beautiful sharp autumn light late in the afternoon, the shower brought out the best rainbow I’ve ever seen, reflected in the river and reaching right across the sky. Arriving at our camp spot as dusk drew in, the temperature was dropping sharply, so with one strike from the firesteel on some birchbark and dry twigs gathered along the way we had a fire going, and set about organising the camp. With a bit of rain still in the air Hawkeye set up his usual tarp rig as a back-up, but we planned to sleep out until any rain came. In fact the sky cleared completely during the evening, but that meant the temperature really began to drop fast – with the fire roaring we were warm but a little apprehensive about how cold it would get during the night. The owls hooted all around the valley in the dark, and the sound of the fire crackling and the river running past made for a fantastic evening around the fire. We ate strips of rump steak on sticks over the flames, and big roast potatoes cooked straight in the embers – the best way: the ferocious heat in the embers cooks the potato much hotter than an oven, and really brings out the best sweet flavour, we both agreed that you need no more than potatoes cooked this way with some butter for a great camp meal. They were in about 40 minutes, then pulled out to cool: the surface turns to a kind of charcoal egg-cup, once cool you can hold that, break open the top and scoop out the soft potato inside, your hands get a blackened, but holy smoke it’s worth it!
Rainbow reflected in the water...
Getting the fire going and the camp set up at dusk
The stars were soon out, full moon rising too over the treeline, and later we retired to the swag and sleeping bags with the fire still providing plenty of warmth. I fell asleep with the freshening air, looking up at a billion stars, with the sound of the owls and the river, an unforgettable magical experience.
Sure enough during the night it got very cold: I pulled the canvas swag over my head to keep off the breeze, and slept soundly, perfectly warm and dry: still nothing better for me than an australian canvas ‘swag bag’ and sleeping out, no tent required. Worst case if you get heavy rain a small tarp over the top would do the trick, but unless you get heavy rain you can sleep right out there in the open, in comfort too.
Hawkeye woke early, and got the fire re-started from the remains of last nights logs, then poked my swag with a stick to wake me so I wouldn’t miss the most beautiful morning scene on the river I’ve ever witnessed: the cold meant a thick mist was swirling around over the water, shifted around by a light breeze, the river and the forest around was stirring. H had the Kelly Kettle on too so I had no excuse but to jump up, get some clothes on quick and enjoy some hot tea by the fire, just watching the day begin. The cold was such that a thick frost had formed on most of our gear, and it felt like a winter trip rather then autumn! Warmed my hands on the fire as they were getting numb it was that cold, definitely sub-zero by one or two degrees.
The Kelly Kettle fires up for some hot tea on a cold morning
Cold morning camp scene
The sun begins to wake up the valley...
After some coffee and hot porridge on the fire cooked in the trusty crusader mugs, we got into the canoes and pushed off to explore up river, paddling quietly through the swirling mist, the forest all around – a magical experience I’ll never forget.
Canoeing through the mist...
So here’s the video of the trip… watch it full screen if you can, hope you enjoy it.
We’ve been asked a few times about our views on inflatable canoes, and in particular the open varieties like the Sevylor Colorado or the Back Country by Stearns – the ones that try to emulate a true open canoe. Well we really had to shrug our shoulders as we hadn’t actually tried any of them. So time to change that then!
We decided to start with a video trip report of the Sevylor Colorado with a canoe-camp visit to the Upper Wye. We’ve produced some photos of the Colorado in action and a video – the highlights of a great 2 day trip where we learned a lot about this craft. See the video review for how it pumps up and also how it paddles.
What were our thoughts then on the Sevylor Colorado? Well we were much more than pleasantly surprised! It was a great, fun boat to live with, tough and durable, makes no noise when paddling, easy to lift and of course folds up in the back of a car at the end of a trip. It was much quicker and easier to inflate than we expected too. On the water it handles very differently to a hard-shell canoe, and is basically slower, but more maneuverable – it’s not for speed: but the flexibility it offers of putting in anywhere, transporting easily, and even storing easily makes it a phenomenal product for the relatively low price tag. The idea of being able to just bring your canoe along in the car “just in case” you decide to Get Out on the water is a great one, and it really is a reality with this boat. I’ve heard it used from the beach in the surf and around the coats of Dorset for which I think it would be excellent. Kids are happy in it too, as the inflatable nature of it makes them feel more secure. Inflatable open canoeing now fits in our plans for the future, particularly when travelling on quick overnight camp trips and going ‘minimal’. The canoe itself makes a fantastic camp bed with just a tarp pulled over it. It doesn’t handle anything like an open canoe, although it was great fun in the little rapids we encountered, but then it’s not meant to replace a real open canoe – it’s meant to fill another need: ultimate portability on the river… and it does that perfectly.
The Colorado ready to go
The Apache Canoe
We like our tech - solar charged!
Colorado and Apache - some difference in speed though!
The Colorado makes a great bed!
A Canoe and a swag - what more do you need?
Go to www.canoesandkayaks.co.uk for a great Colorado deal
Took a trip to the River Wye at the end of May with our Australian visitor “OZMan” to show him what it’s like in a country that has rather more water and lush growth than they get down under. A fantastic trip again in gorgeous late spring weather, OzMan even took a dip in the river and climbed tup to the top of Yat Rock, he was really struck by the beauty of our English countryside. I lent him one of our genuine Australian swags so he’d feel right at home! Somewhere along that lazy river as the evening drew in towards dusk I spotted a rare “Hobby” falcon flashing over the surface of the water catching bugs, something I’ve never seen before – a really beautiful bird, with a very distinctive agile flight full of twists and turns as it races after dragon-flies and moths, eating them on the wing. As the canoe drifted silently on the water we came very close, right under a branch where it had stopped to rest for a while, so I could see that striking red underside and dark moustache features. But it’s in flight you want to see this bird – a really magical experience, and one you’d be unlikely to see except from down at the water level in a canoe, approaching silently on the water.
Last weekend saw us make it on the first river trip of the year, finally after a very cold and rather drawn out winter this year. It was fantastic to finally get out on the water, and with the river Wye in quite a bit of flow after yet more rain the river itself felt as eager to move down stream as we were! A highlight was taking our new red Old Town Discovery 158 out for a maiden trip, and I have to say she is a lovely boat – there’s something classic about the red colour – perhaps it’s from the Bill Mason days (see below), and whilst our green one blends in visually with the surroundings, the red one seems equally at home out in the wilds. There was really no sign of spring yet, despite it being the very end of March – just some wild garlic in the woods with it’s rich pungent aroma as you walk through breaking the leaves and releasing the scent, and a few daffodils of course in the churchyards and gardens. But otherwise it felt like we were there at the very start of spring – the first day was much like winter, cold wind and grey clouds, no greeness in the trees at all. But when the sun came out after the nights camp on an island in the river, and all the birds in the valley burst into song it seemed like suddenly spring had gotten underway. Buzzards soared in breeding pairs above our campsite, the river flowed past, and overall it was a pretty special trip – here’s to many more this year! View the trip in video below:
Some still photos of the trip:
En Route through the Wye Valley, "Old Red" on the roof rack...
Kerne Bridge - the sun was shining finally
"Old Red" - our new Old Town Discovery 158 canoe in classic red. This was her maiden voyage. Fantastic craft.
This should do for a campsite for the night - an island in the river
Evening sky draws in...
Kelly Tea on the go...
Only just into Spring, we still needed the fire for warmth. We cooked some strips of rump steak on sticks, and some potatoes in the embers.
What a morning - the view from the swag on what seemed to be the first day of spring.
A classic canoe documentary from the early 1980′s, still made available from the Canadian National Film Board:
“This feature-length documentary follows naturalist Bill Mason on his journey by canoe into the Ontario wilderness. The filmmaker and artist begins on Lake Superior, then explores winding and sometimes tortuous river waters to the meadowlands of the river’s source. Along the way, Mason paints scenes that capture his attention and muses about his love of the canoe, his artwork and his own sense of the land. Mason also uses the film as a commentary on the link between God and nature and the vast array of beautiful canvases God created for him to paint. Features breathtaking visuals and exciting whitewater footage, with a musical score by Bruce Cockburn.”
“Join outdoorsman Bill Mason in this short documentary as he and his family go canoe camping in the wilderness. Gain an appreciation for the art of canoeing while watching a small group experience the sheer joy and beauty of Nature. Along the way, the Masons experience countless adventures and some breathtaking scenery, including Indian rock carvings at Lake Superior.”
Another fantastic canoeing film available there is the documentary “The Voyageurs” from 1964, covering a subject featured heavily in Ray Mears’s recent series about Canada, “Northern Wilderness”:
“This short film tells the tale of the men who drove big freighter canoes into the wilderness in the days when the fur trade was Canada’s biggest business. The film recreates scenes of the early 19th century with a soundtrack by an all-male chorus.
The STORM Kettle from the Eydon Kettle company has been getting good use all winter, keeping out the cold, but I’ve just cleaned it ready for Spring season and plenty more use. What a great piece of gear it is… I definitely prefer the black finish to the standard metal finish of most “Kelly Kettles”. I’m packing now for our first real canoe trip of the year, where we’ll be testing out an inflatable “Sevylor Colorado” 2-man canoe from Brookbank Canoes, as well as a new Red Old Town Discovery 158 so stay tuned. Some stormy and damp weather ahead which I hope blows through before the off-date… if it’s windy and cold then the STORM kettle will be pressed into service again, hoping for some Spring sunshine though…
The Campfire Tent has been getting good use during this winter snow: kind of a ‘Backyard’ test for a snowbound winter camp here. The campfire tent proving itself again – giving great shelter from strong and bitterly cold Northerly winds, whilst allowing the openess for cooking, observing nature and snowbound views, and generally ‘messing about in tents’! In this weather the views have been absolutely stunning and I haven’t missed a thing – including a huge shooting star one evening. I set up just before the snow came in 10 days ago, and after the main snowfall the roof of the tent had about 5 inches of snow weighing it down – that’s a LOT of weight, and happy to say the canvas, stitching, poles and guys all stood up to the test. The pegs have been completely frozen into the ground so they aren’t going anywhere, which has helped in the very strong winds we’ve had. Walking the fields all the activity of nature is written into the snow in footprints – from tiny mice trails and bird footprints, to thin and whispy deer tracks and big badger prints – all the activity you’d normally miss in the dark is recorded for the following morning.
Also here is a backyard test of a new “Hekla 30 firebox“ from Tentipi, a great bit of kit I’ll write more about in detail later.. The tent itself is from Green Outdoor and features in the Winter Camp story below. For now here’s the video:
Here’s the Backyard Test of the fantastic new “Campfire Tent” from Green Outdoor (who also make the “Bush Shelter” tent featured earlier as a ‘lightweight’ campfire tent option). As part of our ongoing “Baker Tent Hunt” series this full size tent looks really promising and is beautifully made – it passed the ‘Backyard Test’ with flying colours, easy to put up, withstood some strong winds and provided great shelter with the all-important open frontage of the classic Campfire or Baker tent. Stay tuned for the full experience in our forthcoming Winter Camp… [Update: that report now available here: See Winter Camp ]
And here’s Bill Mason’s original tent from his book “Song Of The Paddle – An Illustrated Guide To Wilderness Camping”:
Inspiration for the Campfire Tent - Bill Mason in Song of The Paddle