Friday, July 19, 2013

Raining Again


The family camping trip turned into a rain soaked weekend. The rain seems to have been non-stop for nearly a month or more. The Kerr Scott Reservoir shut down all water activities such as swimming and boating because the water was nearly 22 feet over the banks. This didn’t bode well considering this was the location of the camping trip along with the potential of three different species of black bass fishing.

But rain and river and lake flooding is just a nuisance to most of us. The closest the majority comes to actually having it effect a way of life is by knowing a farmer that is having trouble getting into the fields. Just a few generations ago weather such as we have had over the last couple of months completely affected everything about one’s life.

Today, I can make changes in the itinerary by taking the family to see the Linville Caverns, Linville Falls, and Linville Gorge. During breaks in the clouds we can try throwing a cricket or artificial lure into the water. If we do not catch anything it does not really matter. We can go underneath a shelter that has a picnic table and grille, start a fire with a butane lighter and some fire starter while remaining dry, and ‘rough it’ by cooking a few hot dogs.
The tailwaters from the Kerr Scott Dam.

It was not long ago when this weather could have made it all but impossible to catch a fish due to the high water. Hunting would have been difficult due to the animals being bedded down. Dry wood and leaves would have been non -existent killing any good chance to start a fire for both warmth and heating or cooking raw meat of any fish or animal that may been caught. Any crops planted would have taken their toll on the land owner or tribe since the land would have been tended by man power rather than machinery. There would have been no government assistance in the form of money and no grocery store to stock up on any food sources destroyed.

Today, we become angry or disappointed when the weather keeps us from our activities. We are agitated because we cannot play a round of golf, fish, hunt, or even mow the grass because of rain. We sulk because one or days off of work is taken away due to bad weather.

Back then, just a few days of bad weather meant the family would go hungry. A few weeks of bad weather meant the family could go hungry for an entire season. There was no day off of work.

Today we look at weather forecasts and plan our activities around the predictions from as far as two weeks away. If severe tropical systems are present we watch them develop from little more than a large thunderstorm all the way to a full-fledged hurricane. We stock up supplies days in advance and protect our homes and boats and property.

Back then there were no weather satellites, weather balloons or storm chasing aircraft. Hurricanes that hit the East coast gave little warning. They did not carry names. Instead they carried the name of the year it came in. For instance, if you check old tombstones, you may see a family plot with something along the lines of ‘The Smiths, Father, Wife, Son, and Daughter taken by the Great Storm of 1893.’

So while we enjoy our outdoors activities, we still can learn and appreciate them a little more when obstacles appear in the way. Think about how our ancestors and those before us may have handled the same obstacles.

 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Camping


My idea of camping may not be how most people think of it. Camping for me is but a part of the hunt. Because of this, I tend to pack light since I have the potential of having to bring an animal out at the end of the hunt. For instance, I did a five day bear hunt in the Mount Mitchell Bear Sanctuary a few years ago. I was excited when I found out the sanctuary was going to open for a few draw hunts and realized this may be a good opportunity since the area had not been hunted before.

The hunt itself was actually only three days, but I went in two days early to scout the area to locate the best opportunity for success. My camp consisted of a small tent big enough to fit two people, a cold weather sleeping bag, single burner stove, bread, peanut butter, hot dogs and a couple of cases of Mountain Dews. The temperatures would reach highs in the mid to high 30’s so I did not have to worry about a cooler. It worked out well.


My idea of camping...
Last year I found myself on a three day hog hunt in which I would be setting up camp as well. This was a lot different than the bear hunt as the highs would reach the lower 90’s during the day and the night would remain in the 70’s. There was also the potential for sudden thunderstorms. I had to plan slightly different, but still did not want to over pack. I used a one man dome tent, a sleeping bag to lie on top of instead of in, peanut butter, some deer and wild hog sausage, soft tortilla shells, and again my Mountain Dews. The person I went with brought some wild game sausage as well and a stove. We both had coolers packed with ice. We moved all my food items from my cooler to his because I was fortunate enough to arrow two feral hogs the first night of the hunt and filled my cooler with the hog quarters.

My wife's idea of roughing it. You don't see the generator,
two tents, and other 'necessities'.
The reason I mention all of this is my wife has another idea of camping. When I first mentioned going camping with her a couple of years ago she was quick to point out the only reason she slept in a tent as a child was because she was not old enough to get her own hotel room. A couple of years ago I convinced her to give it a try. She only agreed after I agreed that we could take the dogs with the family. We ended up having a great time and here we are again planning another family camping trip.

This one will be at Kerr Scott Reservoir. This week however instead of trying to do some online study on where to fish the reservoir and the likes, I have been forced to do the manliest of things; shop with my wife. We have looked at fancy gas stoves, inflatable mattresses, cast iron skillets, and even some contraption that looks like a trap for hot dogs. Our tent that we purchased for the family a couple of years ago is as large as half of our house. That was another concession. My tent I used for hunting would not do. Fortunately I do not have to bring the generator so my wife and daughter can dry their hair this year. Yes, the campground has electricity. I have never thought about having a hair dryer while camping, but then again, I would need hair for that.

At least I have found a way for her to enjoy the outdoors. Well, kind of.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Threat of the Asian Tiger Mosquito


After working hard this previous weekend in getting a project completed and then enjoying the fruits of the near completion of the project, I sat on the swing on our front porch and enjoyed a brief rain shower.  My mind floated from one subject to another regarding both the project, a book I am working on, and this column.  Then I felt a slight sting on my left calf.  There it was a pesky mosquito.  I swatted at it and cashed in a direct hit.  A few moments later I staggered into the house, my wife alarmed by my condition.  All I could voice was “the mosquito slapped me back!”

Around thirty years ago a tire shipment to Texas brought along a few aliens.  Since then, the Asian tiger mosquito has populated 27 states including our very own North Carolina.  In fact, North Carolina is one of the few states where it has been spotted in every county.  Decorated in rich black with small white bands, the little beast is easy to identify.
Image www.mosquito-va.org
 

It is also very aggressive.  Instead of waiting for specific times to feed, it prefers to eat whenever it is hungry including full daylight when other mosquitoes are less aggressive.  And it prefers biting knees and ankles.  Have you ever had a swarm of mosquitoes attack your ankles?  It is not fun!  You constantly look like you are doing some type of Swedish dance while hopping around on one foot while grabbing the other and then switching legs.  I have heard of a few people who actually got jobs doing the dance skits at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg while trying to protect their lower extremities from the aggravating buggers.

Yet another issue is the increased level of disease associated with the Asian tiger mosquito.  The name sounds bad enough, but having the ability to carry around 30 different viruses sounds like it should be Spiderman’s next supervillian.  Back in 2005 and 2006 it was blamed for an epidemic resulting in two hundred sixty six thousand people becoming sick with over two hundred fifty fatalities.  Some of the diseases it can carry include Dengue fever and West Nile virus.  I wonder if our native mosquitoes were to hijack their way over to Africa would the virus they spread be called the East of Mississippi blah?  Anyway, this fellow is definitely a supervillian.

As with any mosquitoes, it is recommended to drain any standing water.  That means no bird baths, no water buckets for the dogs, and even clean out the gutters on the house.   All I need, another honey-do addition to the ever growing list!  Even with this knowledge I do not see how to stop the breeding grounds.  First, it has not stopped raining in the last three months it seems.  Second, it has been found that this particular brute of a blood sucker can mate and lay eggs in a pool of water as small as a bottle cap.  A BOTTLE CAP!

DEET has been determined to be effective in warding the invader off though.  Now, I know a man named Deet who works with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in recruiting new hunters and promoting the hunting heritage.  Walter Deet James may have just the ticket here.  Hand out Asian tiger mosquito hunting permits and we will draw in enough new hunters to ensure the heritage of the outdoors continues into the next millennium!  And I have become acquainted with a few mosquitoes in my 40+ years here.  Some of these guys are trophy size!

So be on the lookout for these dapper looking irritants.  And remember to be on guard, because they can slap you back.