Welcome to my Wilderness Journal

You may enjoy my September 2012 blog: Sharing Experiences of Great Mystery, which describes the purpose of this wilderness log, photo-art gallery, and poetry corner. In Peace, Bob

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scouting Part 1: On the Upward Trail with Pop

Norman Rockwell's image of Philmont's Tooth of Time

Journal Entry: Thanksgiving, November 22, 2012, Elk Grove, California

 We're on the upward trail, We're on the upward trail, 
Singing as we go....Scouting bound. 
We're on the upward trail, we're on the upward trail, 
Singing, singing, every body singing, Scouting bound

---Scouting Hiking Song

Private Hare in 1942 in the U. S. Army Medical Corps
Two-year-old Bob Hare in N. Grafton, Massachusetts, 1918
In this Thanksgiving weblog I give thanks to those who have protected and still defend our parks, wildlife, and wilderness and to those who defend our freedom to be who we are, speak our minds, and go where we will.

I owe so much of who I am and my love for outdoor adventures to my father, Bob Hare, and to Scouting. My father was a dedicated scoutmaster for over thirty years and my fondest memories of him are from hikes, campouts, and canoe trips.


Bob Hare at U. S. Forest Service Experimental Forest, 1979

Bob Hare, Retired U. S. Forest Service Researcher at Tuolumne Meadows in 1987


This weblog is not about a particular wilderness adventure but is rather about the man and the movement that led me to my love of adventure and taught me the skills and confidence to head solo into the wild

This blog is longer than earlier ones as I will weave into it the story of the key influences and turns in the trail that brought me to this place of thanksgiving today. Looking back over six decades of life one gets a panoramic retro-perspective clearly not available to a young person. While not evident to me as my life was unfolding, I can now see that there was a grace, a guiding Intelligence, a grand pattern, if you will,  that is most evident in strange coincidences, serendipitous events, and near-death escapes. Looking back, I can truly say that every experience I've had was a blessing because it has brought me to this day of Thanksgiving.


Arthur Hare with sister Bessie & mother Julia (an artist), Oxford
Bobby, Jim, and Pop with Lovett Road Pond catch, 1955


Shyness and Love of Nature is passed on from Father to Son to Son

As I learned to love nature and wilderness adventure from my father, Pop in turn learned his love of nature from his taciturn and kind-hearted Massachusetts Yankee father, Arthur Hare. I remember visiting Grandpa Hare in the mid 1950s to early 1960s at his magical old farmhouse on stonewall-lined Lovett Road near Oxford, Massachusetts. There was a hand pump in the sink that delivered rusty water, a mink that raided his hen house, a horse that would chase us when we tried to go to fishing at the lake, and bats that hung upside-down in the dusty attic window sills. There was a room filled with National Geographics and items from around the world brought home by his missionary children: Don in Brazil, Dorothy in China, India and Africa, and Elsie in Japan. Two of his children grew up to be scientists, Weston, who worked for DuPont and Bob, who became a botanist. 

Pop was born in Massachusetts in 1916 but the family moved to the rubber boom town of Akron, Ohio in 1918 where Arthur had landed a job as a civil engineer for the city. Arthur would take his family on Sunday walks in the woods, so the Hare family learned to appreciate nature and recognize wildflowers my name. Pop's boyhood was filled with outdoor adventures with his brothers: swimming, fishing, canoeing, bicycling, bird-watching, and butterfly collecting. Like his father (and like myself), Pop was socially quiet and shy and introspective and felt more comfortable gardening, hiking, and observing nature than chatting with others. In the 1950s when we visited his sister Daisy's family in Kent, Ohio on Sundays we no sooner arrived than Pop would say, "Who wants to go on a hike?" Immediately my cousins and my siblings and I would follow Pop like a Pied Piper across fields, creeks, and woods discovering and naming many birds, flowers, snakes, and insects. Once we came back with a young red-tailed hawk that fell out of it's nest. We took it home, built a roost for it in the girl's playhouse and fed it hamburger by hand until it grew up and we gave it to the Perkins Zoo (along with an alligator he got somewhere!).

Scouting Years in Ohio, College and World War II

When Pop turned twelve his older brother Don took him to his first scout meeting where he was quickly enrolled. Here's Pop's description of his first scouting experiences in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

My brother Don and I were active in the Boy Scouts, Troop 42, sponsored by Goodyear. We were in the Raven Patrol, and Don was Patrol Leader. We met in a fine old Scout Hut in Goodyear Heights and attended summer camp at Camp Manatoc. I remember the old camp song, "Oh it's a zim-zam-zoc, for good old Manatoc, shout out the chorus loud and strong, and if you're a scout, you will never doubt, it's the best camp that you'll ever know. Hit the trail, never fail, and you'll live to tell the tale, it's the best camp that you'll ever know." ...We dressed like Indians with a loin cloth and some boys even had a scalplock haircut. Don and I were winners of a contest by Goodyear and we took a fabulous trip to Niagara Falls and Washington, D.C., where we shook hands with Herbert Hoover.

Pop must have attended Camp Manatoc during its first summer of operation in 1932, when it was completed in the midst of the depression, thanks to the generosity of Akron's rubber companies. Eighty-one years later about 4000 Boy Scouts each year experience “the spirit of Marnoc” (the love of the outdoors) which is found in the woods of Camp Manatoc. 

 

Pop (left) learning from Akron U's Professor Acquarone how to teach field botany, 1939

 

Pop studied botany and zoology at Akron University,  getting both his Bachelor's and Master's of Science degrees. He chose to do his thesis on the parasites of the fish of Portage Lakes---which required him to spend a lot of time fishing! That was Pop. 

Pop studying the fish of Lake Nipissing, Ontario, 1939


With a $700 Knight Grant Pop was able to attend Washington State College in Pullman to work toward his Ph.D in plant physiology. Working for his trip costs as quartermaster, Pop spent the summer of 1941 on a college field trip to the Canadian Rockies collecting plants and having many wild adventures. The trip included visits to Banff and Lake Louise.

Departing 1941 WSC Canadian Botany Expedition (Pop front right)



Returning WSC Botany Expedition (bearded & sunned Pop front right)
















Pop’s biggest adventure in Canada was trying to climb the Peyto Glacier alone without ice axe or crampons. He left camp and descended for several hours to powdery blue-green Peyto Lake with his fishing gear. With no luck fishing in the cloudy water he decided to climb the glacier. He almost got stuck in the quicksand-like glacial alluvial fan feeding into the lake. Near the top of the glacier he fell through a collapsing snow bridge and would have fallen to his death in the crevasse except for the metal plant collecting case he was carrying which arrested his fall and let him plant his feet on the wall of the crevasse and heave himself out.  

He tried to avoid the glacier on the return to camp by climbing the steep south ridge but found a sheer drop-off at the top. Now without food he had a long dangerous climb down the ledges he just came up plus the perilous crevass-crossed glacier, plus the quicksand alluvial fan, plus the two hour climb back to camp. He made it back in the dark (or I wouldn't be writing this weblog!) to the relief of the entire botany expedition members. I'll let Pop end this adventure in his own words: 

"They were all glad to see me as they had been searching for me for hours. Never was I so glad to see a place. I staggered in and sank down on a seat and could hardly move for a long time, while the girls fluttered around, feeding me, removing my boots, and trying to find out what happened. The old battered vasculum [plant collecting cylinder that saved his life] I felt like keeping and framing."

 

Pop (right) with resting botanists near Peyto Glacier, 1941

A Peyto Glacier Moulin today

Pop's return journey to Peyto Lake and then a climb to camp






























A few months after the Canada trip Pearl Harbor was attacked. Pop tried to join the Navy but his draft board would not release him so he was drafted in 1942 into the Army. Pop served first in the Medical Corps, moved on to Officer Candidate School, and then entered Air Cadet School as a second lieutenant at Fort Bliss, Texas. Due to partial blindness in one eye caused by a sandstorm he had to drop out and became an instructor in the Signal Corps for the rest of the war. He was stationed mostly in Southern California.
 

Pop found time for some canoeing and fishing as a young lieutenant in 1943

 

Honorably discharged in 1946, Pop continued his love for scouting as a young Baby Boom parent of a growing family near Akron, Ohio. 

 

 

Assistant Scoutmaster Bob Hare (left) with Troop 104 at Camp Manatoc, 1955






 

Some of my earliest memories are attending Troop 104 meetings at our Baptist Church where there was talk of jamborees, outings, morse code, first-aid, and knot tying. I also recall trying to keep warm around a fire while snow camping in the deciduous woods of Ohio using WWII surplus equipment. Later, I was a Cub Scout in Pack 4.

 

Scouting Years in Long Beach, Mississippi

 

Pop landed a new job in 1958 as a U.S. Forest Service plant physiologist researcher in Gulfport's Southern Forest Experiment Station. Pop quickly became Assistant Scoutmaster for Long Beach's Troop 205 sponsored by the Presbyterian Church and run by a most colorful, gentle, and generous Reverend Wharton, who everyone called "Rev" but, being an Ohio Yankee, I always heard it as "Reb"! I admired in Rev the same quiet and gentle strength I saw in Grandpa Hare. 

 

Post-meeting hijinks at Troop 205, Long Beach

Troop 205 bike ride, 1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Scout Hut was next to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad tracks and was built sometime before WWI. Like Grandpa Hare's home it was full of memories and memorabilia, in this case brought home by former scouts returning from WWI and WWII deployments around the world. The meeting hall was dripping in military helmets, canteens, war trophies from the South Pacific, and mangy animal skins. We had our own museum with rattlesnakes in formaldehyde jars, decaying insect collections, arrowheads, minerals, and old National Geographics. There was even a glass container of powdered chocolate from Scott's 1912 South Pole Expedition. One day we emptied the jar and enjoyed fifty-year-old hot chocolate!

 

We had a quonset hut gymnasium and a complete woodworking shop. The Monday and Thursday night troop meetings were a magnet for footloose teen age boys looking more for a rumble than learning morse code or earning merit badges. There was a lot of profanity, smoking, fights in the dark outside the hut, and I even remember seeing a switchblade stabbing and one kid handcuffing another with a liberated set of police cuffs. As a gentle young man I had to find my way in all this. Whoever became the unfortunate target for the night was held down to receive the dreaded "redbelly" treatment and I had my share. But somehow Scouting did it's magic for many of these boys too. Decades later, some of these boys showed up at Pop's house to thank him for helping them choose a good path in life.

 

Bobby at ten recently in Mississippi

Moving to Mississippi, the Magnolia State, was hard on me, as it was for my mother who missed her Buckeye State of Ohio. In 1958, on my first day in the fourth grade at Long Beach I was called a Yankee carpetbagger---nearly a century after the end of the Civil War. Mississippi was then a bastion of segregation and repression of civil rights. Blacks lived right across the tracks from us but knew they would be shot at if they ever walked on the public beach just three blocks away. At McCrory's Five & Dime I discovered "White" and "Colored" drinking fountains. At nine years old I did my first and only act of civil disobedience and drank from the "Colored" fountain. Unfortunately, nobody noticed. But I had made my decision to remain a Yankee in the Deep South. I and another Yankee from Ohio, Penny, were the only ones to remain seated at high school gym rallies when the band played "Dixie." This didn't help me when I ran for class president.

 

 

 

I mention all this because it clearly reinforced my natural tendency to turn to nature and art rather than to people for my identity. I developed a stutter, didn't have any close friends in high school, and never found the courage to ask the girls I admired out for a date. As with so many aspects of my life, I followed in Pop's footsteps in this regard. Pop had one date in high school beating me flat out.

 

As Pop wrote in Hare Raising Tales (1941): "All of us children except Don tended to be backward romantically. Actually, I was enthralled by girls for many years but was too shy to do anything about it. So I worshipped them from afar. I had many love affairs of which no one but myself was aware."

 

My example of this is how I secretly admired a Long Beach classmate, Lynelle, from the seventh grade through the eleventh, when we moved to Florida. We passed notes in seventh grade class, though I sat in the front row with Coach Ehlers' desk right in front of me and she just behind me. Ehlers probably warned me twice about this my excited chatting with her and then told me to wait after class. When the students were gone he pulled out a huge wooden paddle drilled with holes (for improved aerodynamics or to release the heat of impact?). This crewcut former fullback from Mississippi State meant to leave an impression on me and did not hold back. I never gave Lynelle another note (which was my failing). Never being asked out by me, Lynelle moved on to other love interests but I kept her photo with me for next seven years. In 1969, while stationed as an army voice intercept operator on Mt. Meissner, Germany, I released her photo into a babbling mountain brook. I did finally dance with Lynelle at the twenty-fifth Long Beach High School Reunion in 1992. I told her how much I had loved her and this brought my secret love full circle. Lynelle told me she had married a fine man named Bob and they had raised a wonderful family. I was truly happy for her.

 

 

The dapper TV artist, Jon Gnagy
My art bible

 

I got mine at the hardware store


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with Scouting, nature study and books, art was an important interest and support for me. Though we had no art classes in school I did have a mentor, Jon Gnagy and his 15-minute "Learn to Draw" black-and-white television series. The episodes came on Saturday afternoons and I was always ready with my “John Gnagy Learn to Draw Outfit” that I had bought, as advertized, at a certain hardware store in Gulfport. Jon had a soothing voice and a calm, skilled and deliberate manner that led me "step-by-step" into the magical world of aerial and linear perspective, creating 3-D illusion through tones and shading, and breaking reality into an assemblage of cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones. Now I realize he was basically offering for young people a complete art schooling modeled on 19th century Parisian ateliers. All the equipment had a French flair to it. I loved using my pastels, paper stomp, kneaded eraser, pencil sanding block, fixative and atomiser. Jon, who was of Swiss-Hungarian Mennonite heritage (and sported an artistic goatee), also had a romantic-nostalgic old world sensitivity for covered bridges, swallows nesting under old barn eaves, and old canals. This dove-tailed perfectly with my imagination and my dreaming of a more peaceful earth-based lifestyle.

 

1964 Muir Stamp (I like his floating head)

I escaped into James Fenimore Cooper's "Leather-stocking Tales" starting with The Last of the Mohicans and read all the Tarzan books while balanced in a branch of a live oak tree in the far corner of our semi-wild back lot. I was secretly building an inner life identified with a Rousseau-like "noble savage" and a Thoreau-like yearning for "simple living and high thinking". I saw none of this in the materialistic modern life around me so I learned all I could about the American Indians and the exploration of the American West. I also wanted to somehow join the Canadian Mounted Police (I loved the red jacket and the stetson hat).

 

California seemed like a golden land of shining mountains and giant trees. I started "California dreaming" after I went to the Long Beach Post Office and came home with a new stamp for my collection--one that honored a man called John Muir. I didn't know who he was but I knew I wanted to stand in the holy light of his redwoods with a hiking staff like him. 

 

   

Not having a social or sports life, all my energies went into being a scholar, drawing, bird-watching, nature-collecting, and most importantly, advancing my scouting career. I was the nerdy kid with glasses who actually wore his scout uniform on Scout Day at school--complete with my thirty-three merit badges filling up every space on my sash. Scouting, nature, and art gave me a way to feel good about myself and envision my future. And looking back I see that it worked out just fine.

 

Scoutmaster Hare with Troop 205 at Camp Tiak, Pine Burr Council, B.S.A, 1959

Our new summer camp was Camp Tiak, set in the hot chigger-infested piney woods and red clay earth of southern Mississippi. Tiak was built in 1955 with funds donated by Picayune lumberman L. O. Crosby, Jr. Mr. Crosby was a generous philanthropist who admired the work of Ernest Thompson Seton, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America. Mr. Crosby donated the funds for a museum and library that was dedicated in 1967 at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. By coincidence in 1972, I was working at the Seton Museum when Mr. Crosby paid a visit so I got to thank him personally for building both the summer camp and the museum I worked at and which changed my life for the better. 

Pop's 1952 and my 1962 OA Ordeal Level membership cards

I took to scouting with Pop's enthusiasm earning my Eagle badge in 1961 and working for four summers on Camp Tiak's waterfront and handicrafts staff. Pop was elected in 1952 in Akron to scouting's honor camper "Order of the Arrow" and I was elected by my Troop 205 in 1962. I remember the weekend initiation "ordeal" in which we were not allowed to talk, labored to improve the camp, and slept out alone with no covers in the woods that echoed all night with the plaintive calls of the whippoorwill. On Saturday night we were led by torch-bearing honor campers dressed as Indians across the earthen dam (where I once saw a six-foot diamondback rattler) to a secret location lit up by a bonfire where they initiated us into the brotherhood by cutting our forearms with a knife and exchanging blood with other boys as "blood brothers."

 

Pop awarding me the Eagle badge at Troop 205 Scout Hut, Flying Eagle Patrol

 

Young Chief Bobby in full regalia, circa 1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was immediately drawn to scouting's Indian woodcraft and lore, which I later learned was the influence of Ernest Thompson Seton's "Woodcraft Indians" on early scouting

 

The totem pole I carved for Camp Tiak
I loved Ben Hunt's books

 

 

My sources of woodcraft design were the books of W. Ben Hunt and Grey Owl Indian Crafts of Jamaica, New York was my source of feathers, horsehair, beads, hairpipes, buckskin, and ermine tails. Following one of Hunt's designs, I carved a fifteen-foot totem pole, which stood for twenty years by Camp Tiak's administration building until it was knocked down by a scout-driven truck.  

 

The Camp Tiak entrance sign is still the original large old growth pine round

 

With the help of my grandmother I made an Indian outfit to use in summer camp Order of the Arrow tap-out ceremonies, held every Wednesday "Parents" night. 

 

After a whopping fried catfish and hush-puppy dinner in the Mess Hall cooked by our beloved diminutive black cook Burro, the scouts and their guests were guided to and seated in the lakeside campfire amphitheater by torch-bearing staff dressed as Indians. Then one of our group fired three arrows tipped with lit sparklers from a hill, which was our signal to light our torches in three bays of the far lake shore and launch our three canoes. One canoe had the drummer, a second carried the medicine man, and the third carried the chief. We dramatically chanted and drummed our way to the amphitheater beach where our aluminum canoes (which I had painted with appropriate Indian symbols) noisily scrunched up onto the beach and we tried desperately to keep from falling ingloriously into the water as we disembarkedI sometimes played the role of the medicine man and would raise my arms to address the audience where we stood next to the raging bonfire. Overcoming my stammer and finding my most commanding voice, I would say, "Silence...while the mighty chief Allowat Sakima speaks!" The major problem with my outfit, apart from the wig and the streaked brown body paint, was my severe near-sightedness---so everything was pretty much a blur.

 

Eight Confederates and two Yankees ready to take on the mosquitoes and portages of the northern lakes, 1962

 

In 1962, though I was one year short of the fourteen-year age requirement, Pop took me with Troop 205 to the Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base for a nine-day adventure portaging and paddling canoes for 120 miles through the lakes of northern Minnesota and southern Ontario. I enrolled seven of my fellow Camp Tiak staff to join me, Pop, and my brother Jim on a 1965 expedition to Sommers for more rain, wind, insect bites, great fishing, beautiful sunsets, calling loons, and endless portages. 

 

1965 Crew with guide big Ray Matson. Brother Jim is front left.

 

 It was on these canoe trails that I truly fell in love with the astounding beauty, long days of hard labor and problem-solving, extreme discomfort, and moments of serenity that is wilderness travel. I got bitten so badly by the bug  that I came back alone to Sommers in the summer of 1966 for "Swamper" canoe guide training that qualified me to be hired in 1967 for a full season of guiding scout crews into the Quetico-Superior Wilderness. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My lost year in Florida and my escape to the North Woods

 

We moved to Gainesville, Florida in 1966 so Pop could finally complete his Ph.D. work in plant genetics that had been interrupted by his being drafted right after Pearl Harbor was attacked in World War II. This was really hard on both me and Jim. I had only two social anchors in Mississippi, my Scouting activities and my status as a "smart" kid in a small school. Thrust into a large university town with a huge high school I had neither so I fell back on my art and dreaming of a Thoreau-like escape to a cabin in the Canadian wilderness.  

 

Jon Gnagy advanced "Learn to Draw" book

 

My 1967 oil painting of mountain glacier and lake after Jon Gnagy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Canadian wilderness seemed to me to be the antidote to the confusion, violence, and emptiness of modern life. My parents thought I would join my father as a student at the University of Florida but I knew I needed to set off on my own adventure and follow my dreams, however idealistic.  

 

Graduate Bob wearing his L.L. Bean Ranger Oxfords

Mom wanted to buy me some dress shoes to graduate in. I convinced her to let me order a pair of L.L. Bean Ranger Oxfords. I had no use for dress shoes as I had no use for having my picture taken for the class yearbook. I left for Ely, Minnesota and Sommers Canoe Base the day after graduating from High School. In Pop's WWII duffel bag I had carefully packed my kit for the north woods, including a Canadian trapper's wool coat (a capote) I made from one of Pop's old army blankets, my compass, some Peterson field guides, a knife in a a fringed leather sheath, a pair of mocassins, and leather pouches. I also carried a folded wooden painting easel and I had a wooden art case with all my art supplies.  It all weighed about 100 pounds, which caused me endless trouble as I dragged this gear about on my circuitous trip to Ely.

 

I was so identified with scouting that I wore my uniform on the plane to Washington D.C. and as I walked around the Mall and climbed the Washington Monument. I didn't know it but I was repeating what Pop had done in 1932, thirty-five years earlier, when he visited Washington with the other scouts from Akron. They walked around the Mall and ran up the Washington Monument stairs in their scout uniforms. I didn't, however, get invited to the White House to shake President Johnson's hand (he was busy bombing Hanoi).  

 

Exhausted, I walked along a railroad track (which Pop often did) back to Dulles Airport; caught a night flight to New York City; got sick on the bus to Worcester and decided not to try to visit Aunt Bessie in her Oxford convalescent home; and took a bus from Boston to Freeport, Maine to get some more wool clothes directly from L.L. Bean's factory store. 

 

L.L. Bean's Freeport, Maine Factory and Outlet as I saw it in June 1967

In the bus station in Portland, Maine I saw a young man in a U.S. Coast Guard blue wool uniform with a nifty un-brimmed cap. This seemingly small event was to play a large role in my life in a few months.  

 

This WWII photo shows the uniform I liked

 

Finally, my bus rolled into Montreal. There, I dragged my gear half a mile to the train station where I locked up my gear, noted departure times for Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), and took the Metro to Expo Island which I explored in the dark

 


Expo 67 Islands in St. Lawrence River

Returning to the train station I took a bus across the St. Lawrence Bridge and found myself in the red-light district. As I was standing in my scout uniform entranced with some strip club's sidewalk photos of inside attractions I overheard a well-dressed man telling his date, "They sure don't make boy scouts like they used to!" Finally I made it back to the train station where I collapsed on the inviting grass of St. Patrick Basilica's churchyard and fell into oblivion.  

 

St. Patrick's Basilica, Montreal. Bob Hare slept here in June 1967

The next thing I knew I was being shaken awake into broad daylight by an Irish priest who asked if I was alright. I apologized for cluttering up his parish and joined the throng walking by on the sidewalk. 

 

I took the Metro back to Expo67 and watched a reenactment of the French voyageurs arriving in their long birchbark canoes. After a full day of touring the international exhibits I went back to the train station where I struggled through my weariness, anxiety, and my stutter to remember my high school French and managed to get a ticket on the Lake Louise Vista-dome Train for Port Arthur, Ontario. 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed the train ride that ran through the Canadian forest and along the north shore of Lake Superior. Occasionally, I saw a moose lumbering away from the tracks. In Port Authur I was allowed to curl up on a couch in the bar of the small hotel/bus station until 1:00 a.m. when I hopped a Grey Goose Line Bus for Fort Frances. 

 

My Grey Goose Coach took me north of the Quetico-Superior to Fort Frances
My prized Hudson's Bay blanket bought in "The Bay"

 

In Fort Frances I went into a Hudson's Bay Store and bought a 3.5 Point multi-color striped Hudson's Bay Blanket, the kind the Voyageurs traded with the Indians for 3.5 beaver pelts. I carried this and dragged all my gear across the bridge back into the USA at International Falls, Minnesota. Somehow with buses I made it to Ely and called the base to pick me up.

 

 

Shakedown Guide Trip, Sommers Canoe Base, June 1967 (New Guide Bob is 2nd row left)


Base Director Cliff Hanson and Canoe Guide Bob

 

After a shakedown guide trip to brush up on our guiding skills and a photo op with kindly Cliff Hanson, the base director, I was introduced to my first crew, #703B, from Southeast Missouri Council. Apparently, I was a lot more anxious than I thought about my new guide role and taking on the responsibility for the safety of ten souls in the Canadian wilderness for the next nine days. I promptly passed out

 

But, when I came to, we moved on to get our paddles, packs, tents, cook gear, axe, folding saw, and nine days of food from the Bay Post. Then we had a swim test in the chilly waters of Moose Lake and we swamped our canoes and I showed them how to paddle the canoe back to shore.

 

My 1968 watercolor of a portage done from memory at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California © 2012 Bob Hare

 

After a farewell breakfast in the mess hall we launched our crew of four canoes onto Moose Lake and we headed out on the route we had agreed on. Our first portage, three-quarters of a mile over a ridge to Wind Lake, was one I had never taken before. I found the portage, stepped into the water,stowed my paddle,threw on my pack, and heaved and flipped the ninety-pound wooden-ribbed and planked canoe onto my shoulders and trudged off into the rain and up the slippery trail. Behind me was my train of upended canoes and heavy packs trustingly following their young newbie guide. I got a bit ahead and more than a bit lost. Somehow, between the effort of carrying nearly my own weight up a mountainside, only able to see my feet with fogged-up glasses, and the pain of the yoke biting into my shoulders I had left the trail at some turn and was off onto a deer trail. 

 

I reached the ridge crest and could see Wind Lake below when I sat up onto, and turtle-like swung my canoe over, a high fallen log. When I put my feet down on the other side they slipped on the slick mud right out from under me. The canoe crashed down onto me pinning me under it with the high end still elevated on the log. The canoe desperately wanted to slide down the steep slope to the lake but my pack was pinned on the uphill side of the yoke with the rest of me flat on my back on the downhill side. The sliding canoe was pinning my chin to my chest choking the life out of me. I didn't have the strength to budge the canoe uphill and off my neck. I was barely able to call feebly for help. I was absolutely immobilized under a canoe coffin! 

 

Fortunately, my trusty bowman and the rest of my crew soon appeared and pulled the canoe off their helpless guide. We all made it down to the lake and nothing was said about the event again though they all must have wondered what the next eight days might be like and whether they should turn back. Looking back, I can see I've sometimes needed to materialize my worst fears at the outset of a new venture and then I can put self-doubts behind me. For the rest of the summer I never got lost or fell again, though I traversed scores of portages with many rougher than this one. So, we had a fabulous trip and I had a wonderful summer. I grew into, dressed the part of, and basked in the colorful forty-year tradition of Region Ten canoe guides--a tradition that was based on the French voyageur fur trade of the 1700s. When our crew spotted another Sommers crew across a lake we'd yell out "Hol-Rye!" (which was a tasteless rye cardboard-like cracker we had for lunch) and the other crew would echo back "Red-Eye!" (which was our flavored powder drink). We'd pull up along side and share reports of destinations, wildlife sightings, portage conditions, and fishing results.

 

"Quetico Superior Route, passing a Waterfall" by Frances Anne Hopkins

This summer as one of Charlie's guides was not only a fabulous wilderness adventure, but I also learned how to be a leader, to believe in myself, to trust my judgement, to overcome my stammering and lack of social confidence. I learned how to build a confident and well-organized crew that could handle emergencies, such as getting off a wind-chopped lightning-struck lake and building a fire in a downpour and getting everyone a hot meal. On one trip we had a boy with a broken leg four days out. Two of the strongest paddlers paddled and climbed to a fire lookout and called in a rescue plane that I prepared a landing for. This was Seton's original goal with the Woodcraft Indians that later became the Boy Scout movement---building young peoples' character, confidence, physique, and skills so they contribute to a healthy society. This is what I owe to Scouting and to my father.

 

As the guiding season drew to a close in September the hard frosts hit the north woods and the strange wavering green aurora borealis appeared over Moose Lake. My plan had been to ask Sandy Bridges, who was the winter custodian of the base, if I could spend the winter helping him out and doing my nature writing and drawing on the side. I had thought I might also introduce myself to Sigurd F. Olson, the famous north woods writer and conservation champion of the Quetico-Superior who lived in a cabin just down the dirt road toward Ely. But I hesitated at this fork in my path, I couldn't find the courage to ask for what I wanted, fearing I might not be welcomed. Instead I let the discomfort of the impending winter steer me back to Florida to bask for a while in the memories of an adventurous summer of canoe guiding.

 

I had a new plan based on seeing an article on the U.S. Coast Guard that I saw in the guide's library (where I read Sig Olson's books). I thought back to the Coast Guardsman I saw in Maine. I would become a Coast Guardsman. I liked the idea of saving lives and they had a neat uniform. I could fulfill my military duty to my country without being part of the war in Vietnam which I opposed. So I caught a plane to Akron, Ohio to visit my mom's parent's, my Granny and GG, on my way back to Florida where I was going to enlist before I got drafted in the Vietnam War escalation.

 

My scouting story does not end here, though this weblog must. I will continue the story in a future posting. As a prequel, I will post this photo of me not wearing the neat Coast Guard hat, but rather one like my father's twenty-five years earlier in another war.

 

Specialist Bob Hare at Security Service School at Goodfellow AFB, 1968

 

  May all Beings be well, happy, free and awake! In Peace, Bob