When the lakes were frozen and the ground was covered in snow, our youngest Nomad (Trevor) asked me many times if we could go canoeing. Of course, with the lakes being frozen, going canoeing was out of the question.
As the end of April began to bring Spring in and we are having warmer weather (up to 60°F most days), the snow left, the lakes thawed, grass and flowers are growing and the water is filled with life. So, last weekend, Trevor and I broke out the canoe, a couple of paddles and hit the lake.
When the lake was frozen, there was something sticking up above the surface. It was dark in color and odd-shaped. We were not sure what it was. So, of course, we headed for it first. The result? It was a log that seemed to have one end sunken and the other end above the water.
After checking out the log, we headed to the south side of the lake. We saw grass and shrubs sticking up. We headed over to it and it seemed to be an island. But, it was mostly submerged. Although some parts of it only had a few inches of water, if you got out and stood on it, prepared to get wet.
We continued on southward, hugging the shore. In a cove we saw a beaver lodge. The part that was above the surface was about 12 to 15 feet in diameter. We knocked…but no beavers came out to greet us, so we continued on. We hadn’t paddled a few hundred feet and we heard a rustling noise in the trees by the shoreline. A few minutes later and, wouldn’t you know it, a beaver came waddling out and plopped into the water. He went under before we could ask him to say “cheese.” We did however catch a turtle sunning on a log nearby watching everything. He posed happily.
We left the southern cove, headed across the center of this 218 acre lake and went to the northern cove. We found an inlet that seeped into the lake and tried to follow it through brush and grassy marshlands. Good thing our canoe had a shallow draft. We got to a point where we came to a small beaver dam and had to turn around.
Trevor and I canoed on over to the east side of the lake where we found an exit creek that flowed out of the lake. It was hidden from normal sight. We, of course, had to follow it. And we did for a while until we heard the water start to rush faster as it ran through a large pipe, under a back country road and onward. Later Trevor looked up the pathway of this creek and he said it runs all the way to Minnesota. Funny how little creeks run through lakes, along other valleys and end up in the most peculiar places.
We turned around, paddled up-stream and made it back to the lake. By this time, we had been paddling almost non-stop for over 3 hours. We decided to head back to the house and Trevor had his fill of canoeing. Besides, I had other plans.
Once we got back and put the canoe up, I rounded up the other Nomad boys, grabbed a small box of matches and headed into the woods behind our place and towards a creek that runs through our property. There was a clearing with some older dried wood, pine straw and leaves. I camped a lot as a kid; many times by myself. I learned how to start fires safely and put them out safely. It was time to teach them.
So, I rounded up some tinder, grabbed some smaller dry pieces of wood and some larger ones. I mixed some dry leaves and pine straw with the tinder, dug a small hole and placed the bundle in the hole. I struck the match and it immediately went out. Not off to a good start in being the example. I quickly pulled another one, struck it, placed it under the tinder bundle and “viola” I had success. For any of you who have started camp fires, you will respect the fact that this is the time when you can get light headed from blowing on the small flame to make it bigger.
Before long I had the tinder bundle firmly on fire and began with my smaller pieces of wood and finally my larger ones. We had a fire good enough for warmth and cooking small items. At this point I knocked the wood flat and began to heap the dirt onto the fire that I dug out of the hole. I stomped firmly to pack the dirt in so I could smother the fire. When the ground was no longer warm and no smoke seeped from within the dirt, I knew the fire was out.
Then, one by one the boys each gathered their supplies, prepared their ground by clearing debris and digging a small hole and setup their camp fire station. With some coaxing, oversight, a lot of blowing and mad dashes for more dried leaves, each of them successfully started their camp fires to the point that their larger pieces of wood were on fire and the fires no longer needed immediate tending. We were near a creek, so I showed them how to douse their wood and use sand and mud from the creek’s edge to smother their fires. We had success all around.
Trevor Building A Fire
Ethan Building A Fire
Noah Building A Fire
Now I am confident that if they are lost in the woods and have at least a few matches that they can, at bare minimum, keep themselves warm as well as create a signal fire. It was a chore but it was loads of fun.
My day started with canoeing and ended with fire. It was a fantastic day with my boys and the great outdoors. Next thing on the list is teaching them how to create a friction fire without matches followed by basic structure building. I am going to need to block off the entire day for that one. But I will do so happily. Safe Travels.