Saturday, January 21, 2017

Up the Wide Missouri

Now it must be dutifully reported and lamented that Brian "Fox" Ellis, noted raconteur and historical personality, does not share our vision for a group of geriatric groupies following him on tour.  WE envision toting his traps and pelts between performances, warming up crowds of followers wearing historically correct headgear and perhaps chanting the Bear Song.   HE, we fear, sees old people dressed in pelts on sidewalks, perhaps dispensing little samples of Peyote buds and comestibles of uncertain origin. Then, there is the cost of healthcare to consider.

This bitter disappointment did not in any way lessen our enthusiasm for his performance at the famous Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville Ga. 

Images ruthlessly hacked from the internets

We were accompanied by the Someday '59 clan.  Brian, Lynnetta and the three brilliant home schooled youngsters ALL know the proper pronunciation of Sacagawea  and a couple can explain the three part diphthong required. Like the rest of the audience, we were carried back to 1832 when Prince Maximilian traveled up the Missouri visiting and recording the lives of tribes he met only a few years after Lewis and Clark.

Karl Bodmer accompanied the expedition and his art has become the basis of much we know about the tribes of the Missouri

We LIKE Western Art Museums.  We learned at the Rockwell in Corning New York to appreciate the huge canvases that inspired our leaders to save these scenes as National Parks. (And, we think, there is a lot less fawning psychobabble amongst the visitors.) If you appreciate the cowboy and horses and saddle leather, grand landscapes and detailed bronzes of the first Americans, you will enjoy the Booth.

Back at our own Airstream campsite, there were table games and Great Pyrenees dog fondling, witty repartee and multiple installations of colorful hammocks.  We watched as multiple levels of nylon were erected and perhaps learned more than we can use about mounting and dismounting a hammock.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nineteen Thousand of Our Closest Friends

The Visitor Center at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was pretty quiet when we parked the Airstream Friday afternoon. Signs were going up for the Crane Weekend starting next morning, papers were being shuffled, volunteers arriving.

As usual, there were just a few of us, all with binoculars strapped on.  Out the path to the comfy two story glass-walled Observatory, high walls screen the view, but the cacophony of  calls from the assembled masses of Sandhill Cranes was building and flocks of 6-10 were above us calling. It is hard to exaggerate the noise of 10 or 12 THOUSAND cranes, each loud enough to be heard 2 1/2 miles away. Cornell calls it a rattling bugle.  The Whooping Cranes are almost pleasant by comparison. 

The view from the observatory is breathtaking.  The pond in the foreground hosts hundreds of ducks of  many varieties, huge flocks of Snow Geese are feeding way off to the left by the tree line and all across the acres of cut corn in the mid distance are thousands of Sandhill Cranes in full voice.  Every so often a Bald Eagle makes a pass and stirs everybody up; a few deer will show themselves along the treeline. Way out there is a white dot of a Whooping Crane, another closer to the right.  

SEE VIDEO from this time last year   

We set up camp at the Joe Wheeler State Park FIFTY miles away.  (Planning was a little scant on this venture).  We were in storage with a winterized empty trailer two days before launch; all preparations went well except for this tiny planning error that had us up really early to travel back and watch the empty field fill with cranes.


There are about 20 Whooping Cranes at Wheeler this year thanks to the efforts of Operation Migration which over twelve years led small groups of newly hatched cranes toward Florida following behind ultralight airplanes. 

They established a new flyway which now hosts 100 birds.  There are fewer than 400 Whoopers now, back from lows in the teens.  So it is with a bit of a smirk that we report that 13 of these treasures were hanging out off-refuge by the ball fields near Chaz's fuel stop. 

Visit the refuge nearly any day between Thanksgiving and Valentines Day and you will find friendly volunteer hosts, just a small number of like-minded visitors and the same cast of thousands.  On Festival weekend, expect lots of folks from little guys enrolled in children's workshops, storytellers, songwriters and the Auburn Raptor Center folks with 6-8 of their feathered friends, bird enthusiasts of all ages, guys with camera lenses the length of your leg and ladies on walkers with iPhones and big smiles. 

 As we report often, it will be the stories we heard from our fellow visitors that will remain with us. We totally loved Brian "Fox" Ellis as John James Audubon and Meriwether Lewis; we offered to follow him around as groupies to hear the rest of the 30+ historical characters he portrays. (He's getting back to us on that.) 

Patty wore her Give a Whoop T shirt all around town in the evenings and marveled at the local pride in the refuge and  perhaps encouraged a few more to visit and support our Nineteen Thousand friends.

Monday, January 2, 2017

the day the music died

Our blog trailed off in mid-sentence somewhere in Maine in late June.  I first blamed the little tiff between Apple and Google that sent my  favorite Blogsy App into despair and eventual oblivion (and one less tech-savvy writer into mild hysterics.)   It might have been the niggardly data plan we had  in Canada or maybe that gifted Bloggers like Pilgrimage to Here,  and  Watsons Wander were traveling the same paths and reporting brilliantly. Whatever the reasons, the travelogue with pictures faded away. 

We have always shied away from shining too much light on the folks we engage on the road while maintaining that it is those people and their stories that light up our lives. Thinking back over a month in the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, spectacular park lands, warm citizens and tasty treats, it is still the Stories that we treasure above all. Here are a few guarded glimpses into lives we admire, people we met and a couple we did not engage and wish we had.

Mostly Airstreamers 

Last year's flood on the Cheticamp River destroyed half of the campground in the The Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Because it is far up the Sunrise Trail, the staff is very solicitous of indolent slugs like us who arrive without reservations.  They found us a tiny but usable site in the tenting area and proximate to the kids playground (which thrilled Patty.) We had barely unlimbered the camp chairs when the Airstreamers began to drop by. 

Ella Brown came by and had us in hysterics within seconds.  She and trick dog Charlie Button gathered a crowd as she reprised her totally unsanctioned performance at the Wally Byam International Rally pet show. She told us about that rally in flood-ravaged West Virginia and the generous outpouring of dollars and volunteer help provided by our  Airstream friends and a little about the totally internet based  We-don't-need-no-stinkin-paper NOVA unit. Long may they prosper.

In the assembled crowd was Laine Carpentier. Now Laine won't blurt this out, but she is one of the most famous and beloved creators of Teddy Bears in the world. As we shared some of our trailer hauling, craft show gypsy lives, some few hints emerged of a long life following dreams and seizing adventures.  Husband Bob filled in more details as he pulled in next morning with a fifteen foot Salmon rod anchored across the hood and windshield.

 "You know, I've caught 16 pound Salmon in  that little stretch just 70 yards from this campsite." 

The Cheticamp and especially the nearby Margaree are famous salmon rivers, luring fishermen from around the globe. Bob paged through his Fish Book -- pictures of big fish and big name fishermen from over his 20 years fishing here -- and momentarily took a call from buddies on the river about the fish they caught while he was sharing his time with us.  Into the mix were the highlights of their lives together -- commercial fishing all up the Pacific coast, an adolescence in the midst of the first surfing boom, developing lands near Aspen grub staking a free life, multiple Airstreams, an inordinate amount of bragging about his talented mate, heartaches and medical crisis and plans for the future.  On the last page was his Honorable Discharge; he would not want to be confused with Americans who crossed the border under a cloud.

In the crowd that first night was Stacy whose sparkling white Argosy immediately caught our eye.  It was just as bright inside, accented with bright colors and touches that proclaimed her creative insight and experience.  This is just one of several little trailers that she has restored "but this one is a keeper.  We have space for everyone in here." 
She was camping here while the two kids attended the French Language summer camp.  We were in instant grandparent mode.  There was a birthday party for Stacy with camping friends and we all trooped over for the school's evening recital (which would be entirely in French !!) 
HE shifted side-wise into the seat in front of us -- thirty-ish, slight of build, dark, with a short curly beard. I ventured a bon soir. He smiled shyly and looked back to his wife surrounded in the aisle. 
SHE wore a traditional scarf binding her hair, but nothing could mask the radiant smile she exchanged with a succession of well wishers.  She clasped hands warmly with the women, nodded appreciatively to the men whose faces popped up in the wall of bodies. Fluent French, halting English in torrents. Welcomes from the stocky ruddy-faced fishermen, effusive praise for her dress from his sturdy wife, "Your children are lovely" from the sleek sophisticated woman in French ..."so nice to see you..."
When she settled into her seat and exchanged a smile with her somewhat ill-at-ease husband, he cut his eyes to the old folks sitting behind.  Yet another radiant smile.  

The smiles and greetings continued through intermission and nearly closed down the aisle as we exited.  We were left in the joyous wake, marveling at the acceptance these Syrian newcomers found in this isolated, not-so-cosmopolitan little village. This, you will remember, was the summer of 2016 when a miasma of hate had found voice in America and everywhere we went in Canada new friends politely tilted their heads quizzically waiting for an explanation... 

Much later, I  stumbled on a survey of Canadians asked what characteristics made their country unique.  Canadians answered Diversity more frequently than Hockey.