Our Most Popular Blog Article

Our all-time most popular blog article is about how to resole mukluks. Not about adventure. Not about sea kayaking or great discounts, mukluks. But really it’s not about mukluks is it? It’s about how to repair something that has been worn or broken. It’s about crafting something for yourself when there is no one else who will do it for you.

This phenomenon reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a theory of human motivation explaining what makes us do what we do.

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg

At the base level of the pyramid it’s all about basic survival. On our most animal level we need to take care of breathing, eating, and staying at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Once that is taken are of we need to feel safe. To fight or flee perhaps. Maybe this is why people take guided sea kayak trips with us vs. going it alone.

But once those needs are met the pyramid goes on to say that our more human traits come out, eventually leading to self-actualization. This is figuring out who you really are.

These days it seems we have an app for everything and an answer for everything else. But I say the proof is in the pudding. What can you actually DO? What can you do for yourSELF to prove that you are even human? Heck any Monkey or Crow can learn to push buttons to get a result. (Not to debase Monkeys or Crows)

Learning a hands-on skill is FUN but not in an adrenaline producing way, but in a feeling of knowing who you are as a Homo sapiens, or “wise person”. It is a deep knowledge of not only yourself and what you are capable of, but a way to give back to your world by shaping it through this use of your hands.

We hope that you get to shape your world and experience this joy.

But if you don’t, or you want to learn a new way to experience it we created the Lost Skills Symposium series, with our first gathering being about how to make and use edged tools. Think about it. Without the knife where would you be as a species? Do you know how to make one? How to sharpen a knife or axe to a razors edge? Can you build other tools with your new tool? If not you should plan on joining us this spring at On Edge, A Lost Skills Symposium.

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Filing a new knife blank

 

Find yourself, find out what you can do. You’ll never be the same!

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Traditional Winter Camping

Imagine journeying through a winter wilderness untracked by other travelers. The bugs have gone away along with the summer crowds, and what is left behind is a glimmering white expanse covering the frozen lakes and rivers. The silence of your surroundings is broken only by the crunch of your snowshoes and the occasional call of a distant raven. Your breath steams and the crisp bite of the cold air feels refreshing as you pull your laden toboggan. Passing along a forested path, you enter a magical world as the tree branches bend low all around you, weighed down by a heavy blanket of snow. And when you stop to examine the tracks of an otter where it had crossed the lake, you can see how it slid on its belly between every few steps.

With night approaching, you pitch your canvas tent near the shore and then grab your axe and saw. Once the night’s supply of firewood has been gathered, you use an ice chisel to cut a hole in the ice for fresh water, and place the full pots on the stove to boil. The heat from the wood stove fills the tent, and you strip off layers of clothing and hang them to dry in the eaves. The smell of baking bread, frying meat, and bubbling stew fills you with anticipation as the stove’s heat soaks into your exhausted body and relaxes muscles made sore by a hard but honest day on the trail.

You are traveling much as the native people of the northern forests have since time immemorial, using tools and techniques developed through centuries of refinement. Judicious introduction of a few modern tools and materials have improved the durability and convenience of your equipment; but leather, wool, steel, wood, and canvas still make up the backbone of your kit. This specialized equipment, combined with some specialized knowledge, has allowed you to travel long distances in the harshest of seasons in relative comfort; and to experience the beauty and tranquility of the winter wilderness that few other travelers have seen.

– Kelly Hargesheimer

If you have ever wanted to experience winter camping in comfort and style stay tuned to our winter calendar. Also coming up our Ready For Winter Symposium October 14-16, 2016

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The Energy “Food Chain” – Getting Our Homes Off Junk Food

We’ve all heard that the less processed our food is the better for our health. As well, the more local you can acquire your food from, whether it be the town farmers market or your own garden, the better, as it uses less energy to get it to your mouth.

Well, food is energy.

Most of our homes “eat” high on the energy food chain, gaining fuel for the furnace and vehicles from minerals, or in other words materials which have been processed in multiple ways, all of which are non-renewable. Some energy is derived from renewable sources such as corn, but again, the dirt that this corn from is being depleted, and so we’re back to minerals. Once spent, these materials change into something no longer good for producing energy. And as we know many of these spent fuels whether radioactive or in the form of a poison solid or gas, are no good for us.

I live off-the-grid, which means that I get all of my electricity from solar panels, and all of my heat from wood and the sun heating a fluid that runs through tubes in our floor. Because of this you could say that we get all of our energy from the sun. The sun is the biggest nuclear reactor around, however it is at a comfortable distance of 86 million miles away, where nuclear reactors were meant to be, in my opinion.

How we use fuel is often a subject of debate, such as which is better; coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc… It is less often mentioned which is the best fuel after we have ALREADY used it. The answer seems to be that so long as the after-mess is left on earth, that NONE of them are a good option. The left-overs either poison our water, our soil, or our air. Again, another good reason to leave the energy making to the sun, where the spent materials are not polluting our back yards.

Nay-sayers have been forever saying the solar energy is too expensive, just like eating organic food is too expensive. How much does it cost to safely bury a spent fuel rod? How much does chemotherapy cost? What does your childs asthma medicine cost?  There is always a cost, whether hidden or in your face.

That’s all well and good to say, but what about numbers? I can tell you that in the past 12 years of living off-grid, I have saved $12,096 in what I would have given to the electric company at $60/month including installation. How much do you spend on electricity? My solar system cost about $10,000 when it was expensive to build it, plus $1400 for new batteries a couple of years back. This means that I am already ahead. Nowadays the cost of my system would have come down to almost 1/2 that, due to new solar panel technology and less cost per watt of energy. I admit that I did a lot of the work myself, such as building the rack for the panels, and renting a digger to put the wires in the ground to the house, but even if I hadn’t, I would still be at the break-even point.Off-Grid House

As a bonus, just this last week our sister state of Minnesota agreed that adding one of the largest solar installations in history to the grid would not only be good for the planet, but actually cost LESS up front. Read more about that awesomeness here.

So don’t let the people making all the money off non-renewable energy fool you. It is less expensive AND better for the planet to go directly to the source; the sun, for your energy needs. Don’t let them tell you that we can’t get enough energy from solar alone. Just like eating healthy food, we’ve doing it since time began.

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Cornucopia Mountain Bike Trails

The Cornucopia area has some amazing terrain, with a 500 foot vertical drop from the sand trails at the top of the Bayfield Peninsula, to the clay, loam and then sandstone down near Lost Creek Falls.

But at this time there is no good maps of these trails. Below I try to explain a bit more about biking opportunities in our area, but  advise you to bring a GPS or map & compass to make sure you can make it back out. There are a LOT of trails and roads.

Cluster 1: Lost Creek Falls

There is a trail head off of “Trail Road”, about 2.5 miles south on Highway C from Cornucopia. This is a walking trail, but I have biked most of it. Only a few parts are too steep and slippery for biking. It could be cleared a bit more, and switchbacks added at the steep spots to make some really nice single track. At the end you come to a deep ravine with a small creek running through it. Drop the bike and take a walk down to Lost Creek Falls. There are actually several falls on this creek, for those willing to climb around a bit to find them. 2 miles round-trip

Cluster 2: Siskiwit Lake Loop

I call this a loop because your goal is to circumnavigate Siskiwit Lake, an inland body of water great for boating and fishing located about 5 miles south of Cornucopia. Take Highway C south to Siskiwit Lake Road, take the road about 2 miles. You will hit a T, make a left, hit another T, make another left and then immediately right in to the campground parking lot. From here you can head west and “just keep going left” on roads and trails until you eventually make the 9.5 mile loop back to your car. (So long as you make the correct lefts, otherwise it could add up to 12 miles or more.) Very pretty roads and trails with sandy berms and slight hills. Some sandy riding during dry spells, and clay mud puddles during wet spells. 9 to 12+ mile loop.

Cluster 3: Siskiwit Lake West

Also known as the “South Shore Trail” to ATVers and Snowmobilers, you take the above Siskiwit Lake Road, left at the T, but then at the next T make a RIGHT, and head straight until you see the power line cut. Park and bike the power line until you hit the multi-use trail. You can head left (south) for nice trails, or right (north) and have a 3 mile all downhill ride. Very fun going down, but I prefer a shuttle ride to get me back up as it’s a slog to ride up parts of Klemick Road, which is what the trail eventually dumps you on to.

That’s all for now! I’ll be adding more trail details and maps in the future.

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Introductory Safety Course

This course offers you a way to get an “immersion” sea kayak experience in a short amount of time.  Additionally, we require that all renters pass our safety course before they can go out.

What does the course entail? Why is it so important? Please stay with me…

People are often surprised that this course can take up to 3.5 hours to complete, but sea kayaking on Lake Superior requires judgement and skills. I often hear “we have canoeing experience” or “I have a short kayak that we use at home”. This is great experience, however sea kayaking on open water requires a completely different set of skills and invites many new potential hazards. The ISC is meant to give you an introduction to the skills needed to be safe, and to show you the skills that you still need to develop in order to be safe and have fun out on the water.

The course begins with  “The Beach Talk” as we call it, and is about an hour long discussion to help you become familiar with the Wind, Weather, and Water specific to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands area. Also included at this time is a session on gear use and care, (Renters pay for breakage from mis-use, so this is valuable information) as well as brief introduction to advanced sea kayaking gear to lend breath to the talk. This on-land time also gives you time to ask questions about your personal trip. We often have participants alter their routes/campsites after learning what we teach during the beach talk.

Assisted rescue

Assisting another boater via a “contact tow”

After the beach session we teach the foundational paddle strokes and techniques to help you move more effectively, efficiently, and safely on the water, along with more advanced strokes to try on your own as you advance in your skills.

Finally, (and this is to pass the course) you must “wet-exit” your boat, and get back in while in deep water. We teach an assisted rescue, in which another kayaker helps you, and a “self-rescue”, or one in which you use a paddle float to get back in. We save the rescues for last, as it can be be a chilling experience! But one that is valuable for sure.

Paddle Float Rescue

A photo of someone performing a paddle float rescue while in waves. (larger waves than what we have during the course for sure!

For those with prior SEA KAYAKING  experience, we offer a second option. Instead of taking the full course, participants may sign up or for the “refresher/challenge” course which gives you the option to challenge the on-water portion only. You must demonstrate (without instruction) the two rescues mentioned above, as well as the ability to paddle the kayak in the conditions present, utilizing the strokes that we normally teach during the full course.

If you do not pass the challenge, you must either take the full safety course at that point, or choose not to rent. You’re payment from the challenge course can go towards the full course.

You may take either course in a tandem or single kayak. Hope to see you on the water with us!

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Romans’ Point

Cornucopia Wisconsin is the closest town to the most visited part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; The Mawikwe Bay sea caves. What isn’t as well known is that just to the west lies another beautiful cliff and cave formation named after the Roman family that settled here close to 100 years ago.

View from a sea cave at Romans' Point.

View from a sea cave at Romans’ Point.

Locals also sometimes call this area “table rock” because of the areas that you can hop out of your boat and walk around while still in the water up to your knees. I’ve snorkeled around out here and found everything from old cast iron stoves to ice saws, probably 100 years old, preserved by the chilly waters. Did they fall off a boat? Maybe they were left out on the ice during the winter and forgotten when spring came.

Kayaking at Romans' Point

Kayaking at Romans’ Point

As far as kayaking goes, Romans Point is secluded, but a bit safer to paddle due to being protected from 3 directions from wind, and access to several take-outs. Our trips utilize sit-on-top (or SOT) kayaks, which are super-stable, and great for the shorter distances we paddle during this trip.

This is a great trip for anyone, including families with kids. We often put smaller kids on a tandem kayak with their parents or brother & sisters, to make a great triple. Not only is it fun, but on our guided trips the 3rd person goes for free!

Great scenery, caves, boats, snacks, and companionship make for an all-around great trip at Romans Point. To sign up for a guided trip, or to rent your own kayaks, please go to www.lostcreekadventures.org

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Sharing Traditional Knowledge: Harvesting Black Ash

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by Kathy Kae, originally published in the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission newsletter

At black ash gatherings, Grandmothers smile as they hear the pounding of the log begin. You can see a happy look in their eyes as they tell stories of when they were little watching their Grandmothers weave baskets with all their splints spread out around them. More and more we are returning to our traditional ways and we value our Elders’ stories as they see younger generations continuing what was once a part of their lives.

There are all types of baskets such as pack baskets, market baskets, hamper-style baskets and smaller fancy baskets. Some basket makers use color either from natural dyes or store bought dyes. Others prefer to stay with the original color of the wood which allows the baskets to be cared for properly by dipping in water at least once yearly to keep it from becoming brittle. (Dyed baskets bleed when dipped) Over time, the sun deepens the natural color to a beautiful golden brown hue and if the basket is taken good care of it can last up to 100 years!

So what does it take to make a basket? You start with a few friends and laughter and mix that with a lot of hard work, commitment and creativity. But first, you start with the tree.

There are several different types of ash, as well as crosses of ash. White ash is commonly used to make handles but is difficult to process and use for weaving. White and black ash is a common mix but what you are looking for when weaving is a true black ash.

Using an increment borer, a small sample of the growth rings is taken from the trunk to determine the proper thickness of the rings. This is the least invasive way to check them. Before cutting, asemaa (tobacco) is put down to show proper respect and to thank the tree for its gift of life. The proper tree is then cut to desired lengths and carried out.

When considering a beautiful black ash basket, it is important to remember that the processing of materials is 75% of the work. Depending on the size of the log, it can take several days to pound and prepare all the splints. Therefore, it is wise to show great appreciation to those who are willing to help pound and process, not only to value their hard work, but so you don’t find yourself alone next time it comes to pounding!

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To keep the log as fresh as possible, the bark is left on until the pounding begins. (In the spring, the bark pops nicely off the tree and is used for making bark baskets). Next, the log is scored to determine the width of the growth ring that will be lifted. With the flat rounded edge of an axe (some people use a metal pipe) every inch of the strip is pounded at least two times, sometimes three. This not only makes the growth rings pop off the log, it also processes the strip and will help with the splitting. Traditionally, a wooden club was used for this. However, it required that the log be pounded much more intensely than with metal.

For each strip that is pounded down the length of the log, several growth rings pop off together. The strips are then separated and each put into a “splitter” which is a wooden vise held between the knees. The top of the strip is scored halfway across with a knife and the strip is pulled up and outward, splitting the growth ring down the middle. These are called splints.

Each splint is left with a smooth inner side and a rough outer side. A knife is used to shave the outer side smooth. Today, a rotating sander is often used but it is important to know how to shave the strips manually with a knife to honor the traditional knowledge that our ancestors passed to us.

Finally, the splints are ready to cut for weaving and you’re equipped to make baskets. Oftentimes, sweetgrass is added to trim the top of the basket and bassword cordage is sometimes used for handles—especially for the bark baskets.

There you have it in a nut shell. If you are determined and dedicated enough, you’ll do the hard work that will give you the materials needed to make wonderful black ash baskets that will last a lifetime!

 

A note on the responsibility of basketry: My mentor, black ash basketry Master Artist and Michigan Heritage Award recipient, Wasson (Renee) Dillard from the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa in northern Lower Michigan stresses the importance of honoring the traditional knowledge of our ancestors and of making sure we show proper respect for the gifts the Creator has given us. We do this by offering asemaa to the tree and telling it what we are going to do with it and that it will live on in the form of baskets.

 

If there are leftover parts of the log that we don’t use, we burn it in a clean fire and never in a fire that contains trash. The tree has given its life so we can make baskets and we should honor it by respectfully disposing of what we don’t use.

We also, as basket makers, have a responsibility to educate others concerning the emerald ash borer and the devastating effects this invasive species has on ash stands. Before harvesting, you should have a clear understanding of what an infected tree looks like and if so, that it should not be moved. To find out more about the emerald ash borer, please see: http://datcpservices.wisconsin.gov/eab/index.jsp

To learn how to make baskets out of Black Ash please come to a workshop at http://www.lostcreekadventures.org/blackash

 

 

 

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