Monthly Archives: February 2012

In Search of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau

This weekend’s road trip was focused around the fascination we have recently developed for all things Lewis and Clark. Specifically my daughter Abeni’s interest in “Pomp”. The baby born of Sacajawea during the Lewis and Clark expedition. In fourth grade she did a report on him for social studies, but never gave much thought beyond him being a baby.

Recently she and I have been sitting down and looking over topo and recreational maps. The weekend before last I noticed a tiny marking on one of our maps, indicating it was the burial place of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

I asked Abby if she knew who that was and she immediately related it to her report on “Pomp”.

“JBC” as we called him during the mission planning had become pretty vacant after his joining the Corp of Discovery through his birth while on the trail. Not much is discussed about him in history. Unless you really do some searching, you forget about a highly intelligent man who not only was the youngest member of a great expedition, but someone who spoke several languages, understood art, business, philosophy, was a mayor, and was an example of how overlanding is used as he traveled not only throughout the west but also in Europe.

To find his last resting spot we had to travel through Jordan Valley, Oregon.

Jordan Valley began its history in 1863 as a party of prospectors with about 60 horses and mules discovered a favorable camping spot, and so it was agreed to go no further. Before unpacking his gear, one man scooped up some loose gravel, examined it in his prospector’s pan and saw the magic that makes men into prospectors.

In moments every man was digging and panning, and in one hour, all had good exhibits. Within two weeks, claims had been marked and located, and the creek was named Jordan after one member of the traveling party, Michael Jordan. Unfortunately as like other miners, Jordan was scalped by the Indians on the banks of this same stream.

Like many parts of southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon, the area is made up of rough volcanic rocks in the desert and surrounded by picturesque snowcapped mountains that surround the various valleys.

We started out early from Boise (with females all debating the start time) and made our way first down the back roads that lead to the Jordan Craters. We were not able to go down the final section leading to the craters since we were in our Xterra—a high clearance – non 4×4 vehicle that has left us stranded to many times to count. We are heading back soon with the Jeep. There are too many back trails to discover that require a good 4×4.

We happened across one of the many (still active) corrals in the area. These are used for rounding up sheep and cattle to transport from the range area. Many of these old corrals date back to the mid 1800’s. For some reason I am just drawn to these spots in the BLM areas.

After we hiked around a bit and let the pups run around we proceeded on through Jordan Valley – and then out to search for JBC’s final resting spot. We kept asking ourselves how he would have gotten back to this part of the country.

We know that Clark offered to take “Pomp” with him at the end of the expedition in 1806, but the offer was not taken up until several years later, possibly due to the death of his mother, Sacajawea. Records do indicate that JBC had attended a private school paid for by Clark and that later in life he did travel to tour Europe.

In October 1846, Charbonneau, was hired as a scout, probably because of his experience with military movements and his fluency in several languages. JBC joined an 1,100 mile overlanding movement from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to San Diego, California. Their mission was to guide 20 huge Murphy supply wagons to California for the military during the Mexican-American War.

Later in history he pops up as a fur trapper, mayor, and prospector. Its not apparent what caused JBC to contract pneumonia and die. Though there was a stage line in the area at the time, it is possible he may have been on horseback and fallen during one of his river crossings into the water. We have been in the same area as his accident several times and know that not only is it freezing cold, but the Owyhee River in the spring has snowmelt that often turns into whitewater.

Charbonneau was taken to Inskip Station in Danner, Oregon. This small yet fortified outpost was built in 1865, and is about 30 miles from the river and west of Jordan Valley. It is now a ghost town. Here, JBC died on May 16, 1866.

We were truly blessed on this trip and not only were we surprised at what we found at his grave side- but also had the opportunity to see three Golden Eagles in two different areas.

We finished up the day with a visit into the town of Jordan Valley where we feasted on a “traditional” Basque meal of Tots and Fries…

Totem

Mojo. Good Luck Charms. Trinkets.

Most often associated as an object that produces a positive influence over the fortunes of a person, or set of persons upon possession.

Backpackers, Mountain Bikers, Hockey Players, and Overlanders have something they carry with them to bring about good fortune, protection, prosperity, or spirituality. Some carry it for fun.

Some believe there is a combination positive spiritual energy produced from the physical form of the object and the spiritual energy through the faith that is placed in them by those who possess them.Others just carry charms for unknown and often trivial reasons. Whichever camp you reside in you have to admit it there is a draw to know what others carry and why is it so interesting to understand the stories behind them.

When I think of items I have carried on the trail and the stories behind each item, I find I have had a quite eclectic selection. Here I will list a few and when I carried them or came about them.

I guess the first one comes to mind is a tiny set of prayer beads I carried for years. I am not Catholic, and my first introduction to prayer beads was some years earlier while in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The set I am referring to was a tiny set that could go around your middle finger. I found that they helped me to concentrate on a task by working my fingers over the beads. This is probably due to the fact I am a kinesthetic learner and having an object in my hands as I digest information increases my ability to process and retain. I picked these up while visiting a Russian Orthodox monastery in Texas while on a road trip with my good friend Amund. He actually taught me the value of the beads and some years later I found myself using them on a regular basis in my own spiritual walk. I do admit to carrying other beads with me- specifically a set I picked up in 1990 while in Desert Shield. They were great conversation starters and on subsequent trips to the middle east I still carry them today.

The next item of mojo would have to be a Hawaiian girl. She sat on the crossbar of my mountain bike and was with me on many trips across Texas, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. She is still a faithful companion. My sister-in law gave her to me as a key chain, but for me she was destined to the bike from the moment I saw her.

With Hula on the mind I also have a Hula Chicken– not quite mojo but gets plenty of looks at my desk. I still get the feeling its a rooster with a grass skirt….something just doesn’t add up on this one….

I currently carry an “explorer squirrel” in my survival pack. He’s pretty cool and is a reminder for me of my relentless pursuit of adventure and (SQUIRELL!!!) my sudden distractions….

I have seen some pretty incredible charms. I have a co-worker that has a Metro Man (from Mega Mind) character. For her it is a reminder of giving up all the fame and glory for focus on inner self.

Picking up various trinkets and charms on a journey can be fun. And though I do not believe in any power in them, I do believe having an object to focus on can be a benefit. A very close friend and team mate carried a Ranger tab in his ruck to keep him going as he was going through the course.

Mojo charms are usually symbolical in nature and rely more on the power of owner’s suggestion. In most of the research I did during my post grad work showed less than 25% of those who carried good luck charms felt their luck had actually improved Still I am always curious and intrigued by what others are carrying on their totems, so if you would post up pics on the Adventure IQ facebook page what you carry as a charm and tel your own story.

Maps…I Love Maps

There is something about maps for me. A graphic representation of the earth’s surface as seen from above. The blue, green, red, white, and black depictions. The topographic features that look so odd until you know how to read them so well you begin to depict body features as contour lines… Yes I need help.

I remember as a boy looking at a puzzle map given to me. It was while I was sitting at the breakfast counter in Tempe and looking at the jigsaw cutout of Idaho with a skier in the middle that I made the decision to move to the state. I was six and then thirty-odd years later I followed that dream. When we would travel on the road I would look at the map to see where we were going on road trips. I had postcards of maps. I loved those maps at roadside stops with the little star depicting, “YOU ARE HERE”.

In the military I would learn land navigation and how to look at terrain in terms of tactical advantages. I became very good at the art and skill of using a 1:50000 scale topo map, the compass, and the protractor. I was so good I taught it on a regular basis, was selected to compete in orienteering races, and show new officers how lost they really were.

Before the days of geocaching we would use maps for similar games. I still pull out a map every now and then and go looking for the geeky treasures with old school map and compass.

I collect all kinds of maps. Old maps, foreign maps, aviation maps, underwater survey maps. I have maps from just about every travel….well most. I even have maps of places I have never been to….but will some day. As a student pilot I would comb over aviation charts (not maps) and dream about all the travel I would do by plane. Idaho to Texas is still on the list as well as a coast to coast trip in a single-engine Cessna….time and money being the only barriers right now.

There is something about spreading out a sheet of roads, gulches, hills, and valleys that is not present with a gps. There is something lost by navigating by an in-car system of printing off directions from google or mapquest. The personality of the terrain disappears. We get caught up in “getting there”

Tonight I have a new Benchmark Series map of Idaho. I’m looking directly at an area I plan to do some exploration in. I’m also seeing places we have already been to and my thought is, “holy wow…I didn’t know that was there….” as I saw that the son of Sacajawea is buried a few hours from us.

I often wonder where we should go for our next grand adventure. I have done topographic analysis of the trail that goes from west to east in the Highlands of Scotland, conducted map reconnaissance of the Trans-American Trail, and spent hours in study of the Appalachians.

Looking at a fresh map of my own state makes me realize we don’t have to go far. There are so many things to explore in our own part of the world. Though we may put hundreds of miles of dirt behind us, the trail head for the next adventure begins only 5 miles from my door.

20120222-214117.jpg

Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway

I woke early Saturday morning with unknown plans for the day. The threat of weather forecasters about the doom and gloom of snow coming in canceled the plans that my buddy Travis and I had made to explore the Oregon Trail Main route going from Glen’s Ferry to Boise- a back country trail. So when I awoke to partly cloudy skies and Travis sleeping in- I headed out the door to my back-up plan. With both dogs in the Jeep, electronics and survival kits tucked in their spots, a guide from department of transportation, and a cup of coffee we headed out the door for the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway.

The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway technically spans more than fifty miles in Southwest Idaho. I did just over 150 miles for the day. I enjoy this area because it reminds me much of what  early pioneers would have seen when they arrived to create a new life for themselves in the sage brush covered valley. Today’s rich agricultural lands and the small towns found along the byway are the legacy passed down to us by those early Idaho pioneers. I love the legacy for all of us to discover and enjoy as we drive a travel.

I did several side trips and strayed from the actual path recommended by the Idaho Department of Transportation. The first of these stops was to the Sawtooth Winery. I enjoy wine history. I think this is because when living in Europe, I had the opportunity to tour local monasteries that produced local unknown and unlabeled wines. I am by no means a wine guy, but I do love interesting stories surrounding wineries. It was closed.

Not to be dissuaded I continued south on Idaho 45 and just before the crossing at Walter’s Ferry I ventured over to the Idaho Western Heritage Byway and then to some back country trails that skirt the Snake River. I figured this would be a good place to let the dogs go play for a bit.

The trails were passable and we had the place to ourselves. We were also rewarded with the first of several Bald Eagle sightings for the day.

After the pups had a chance to run around a bit, it was time to go connect with the byway. Since I was also ready for lunch and wanted to keep the Jeep fueled, I headed to Dan’s Ferry, an old Phillipp’s 66 station where they serve some of the greasiest, yet best tasting chili in all of Idaho.

Next we traveled North and hit Map Rock Road for the beginning of the byway. We made several stops to explore along the way. Map Rock and Trapper’s flat are some of my favorite areas to stomp around in. These are better known for fishing and camping spots, but I like to hit them for rabbit hunting.

One of the attractions of the Snake River Scenic Byway is the number of orchards, vineyards, and wineries in the area. There was a particular one I wanted to visit since it was new. Located on Chicken Dinner Road is Huston Vineyards. I pulled in to have a look around. I enjoy the atmosphere of wineries, specifically when they are doing tastings. There is something about the social experience that is inviting.  Since I am driving my participation is at the observer’s level. But I do have light conversation with one of the owners, very friendly people, buy a bottle of wine for a co-worker’s birthday (a wine expert) , sample a great tasting Thai salad, and head on my way. Highly recommend visiting Huston Vineyards when you out that way.

Back on the road I observe more reflections of the past including the old Huston School building, which I couldn’t find any history or records of. Dotted throughout Southwest Idaho are buildings like that are abandoned.

The amount of wildlife can vary on this route. In fact I would be cautious if driving this early morning or late evening due to deer on the roadways. I was blessed with several hawk observations and highly recommend taking a good set of binoculars and birding book with you. Photographers take your better lenses for distance and a tripod along. I saw my second bald eagle on the route after leaving Huston perched right above an old barn. Beautiful.

After making my way down to Homedale, I took another side trip to a BLM area we call “Spanish Charlie” this is a set of trails I have done on ATV but had never ventured out on with any of my Jeeps. I love these trails because there are times in the year you can find yourself completely alone. They also take you over into Oregon, and for some reason I still find crossing the boarder in the middle of nowhere very cool. Must go back to my military roots.

The byway starts off at Walter’s Ferry and ends in Nyssa, Oregon. Since I spent the majority of the day on side trips and tours, it took me longer than the recommended time of 2 hours to complete. In fact I would make this an all day affair. I never made it to Nyssa, and instead opted out in Caldwell since it was late and I needed to get back. The guide that I ordered for free is a good starting point, but recommend a detailed map as well. For a quick look at the location of the area, check out the Idaho Byways site.

The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway is a well woven tapestry of the things that make Idaho great including places, people, and scenic lands that encompasses the spirit of the west. Rich agricultural lands dating back nearly 4 million years ago are still found today along the byway. These were created by the fire of volcanoes that once dominated the area. In addition, there is evidence of mass flooding 15,000 years ago demonstrating the power of water as it reshaped the land from Idaho to Oregon via the Snake and Columbia River. Truly a great day trip, and when coupled with all the exploration that can be done here by linking several byways and back country trips could be an interesting 3-5 day self-supported adventure.

Please check out the web page and leave comments for us on Facebook

www.adventureiq.com

Video of this trip

Lewis and Clark (Roots of Overlanding Series)

This summer we are going to begin an annual routine to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail. Admittedly we are not going to follow any kind of order that really makes sense- except that we will dedicate as many days as we have off to doing the journey. My daughter is fascinated with Sacajawea and I am an early American History nerd, so this is an easy way to get her to read and study and give us something in common.

This year our Lewis and Clark trip begins

The Corp of Discovery is the first true overland expedition that took place in the US. The challenge undertaken in 1804was equivalent to sending a man to the moon in the 1960’s. It was a vast undertaking that required a monstrous amount of planning and  preparation. Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition and outlined the mission’s  goals. Their objectives were primarily to look for a trade route to the Pacific for economic needs. Included was both its scientific and commercial value, to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and to discover how the region could be expanded economically. Not only was the trade route necessary, but also the ability to lay claim to lands west, set up trade with the Indians, and send a message to Russia, Brittan, France, and Spain the intentions to one day occupy and fortify the North American West.

There are volumes about the expedition so I don’t want to provide a history lesson here. Instead I would encourage yo to read Undaunted Courage by Steven Ambrose. My point is to merely outline how this adventure is similar and provides an early outline to the art of overlanding.

Like Lewis and Clark - finding "mojo" with the locals is a good thing. I love how kids flock to new adventurers. All these kids got candy bars, crayons, and coloring books.

Every time I read a journal entry, a synopsis of the trip, or see a movie – I am reminded just how intense this trip was and how it compares to the modern overlander. The Corp of Discovery traveled by several means, horse, watercraft, and foot. In the modern age we often times find ourselves traveling by aircraft (either to a jump point- or even midway through an adventure), loading our rigs on a barge or ferry, and even walking around some remote ghost town.

Like the expedition of 1804 had trade items such as beads, knives, face-paint, etc…who among us who has traveled in 3rd hasn’t taken chocolate, hats, t-shirts, pencils, patches, etc to trade or give as “gifts”. Overlanders tend to have their own currency they travel with.

like our Overlanding forefathers I have had to recruit not only team members for the expedition, but to hire guides and interpreters to get to where I was going or get help I needed. Lewis and Clark often found themselves negotiating these needed services.

When I read the account of the expedition for the first time several years ago I was blown away by the amount of provisions and equipment took along. Books, desk, barrels of food, grease, and whiskey, trade goods, scientific equipment, a blacksmith shop, pots and pans, etc. Then I look in the back of my rig with its shovels, jacks, air compressor…then the the front with radios, maps, gps gear. So glad my iPad is a more compact version of Lewis’ information system.

Years ago Melissa and I took a Wilderness First Aid course through NOLS. We were fortunate that the instructor in the course had a background in extended wilderness travel and had even served as an expedition medic in traveling to third world countries. Often times when in the backcountry or abroad- you are your team doctor for any kind of ailment or injury. Today’s equipment is much more advanced than what was carried by the Lewis and Clark team, but none-the-less, it is still highly valued and takes up a considerable amount of space in the rig.

Finally, not to drone too long on a subject of comparison I love- but navigation. Clark was an extraordinary map-maker and highly valued on his team for his use of celestial navigation aides. I have numerous maps, two-GPS devices, and years of experience in navigation in the wild. The tools may change, but the competencies to be a great navigator never do.

I love studying the similarities and each time I venture into my own Terra Incognita, I am reminded of these brave explorers and feel a special connection to living completely self-supported as they did.

Processing Adventure Experiences

As a pilot and a diver I use checklist…maybe as a driver and even as someone who holds debriefs, I should use them as well

I have made a living at understanding the intricacies of taking an adventure based activity and helping clients assign meaning and application to their day to day lives. With that said, taking an adventure experience and simply learning from it is something each of should be doing anyway. Whether that application is to future adventures or application to work, family, etc is up to each member of the activity.

The process I use is something I learned as a ropes course facilitator and leadership development instructor in Texas. The process uses  simple “What Happened”, ” So What” – How did we act/respond/do”, and finally “Now What– What do we do different, how do we learn from this, how does it apply to other aspects”

I find that using this with all members of the adventure helps to internalize the adventure for everyone.

An example where we have used this recently was on a Geo-Caching trip to Swan Falls. The Swan Falls Dam is an old hydro-electric dam that at one time supplied power to the mining town of Silver City. The dam was built in 1901 to generate electricity. It is the oldest hydroelectric dam on the Snake River. The area is a favorite place to visit for us and is filled with dozens of Geo-Caches, with lots of variety of types of caches. The closest town to Swan Falls is Kuna about 16 miles away.

Normally I am very precise in checking out our vehicle before heading out to the back-country. As a habit I carry survival gear, water, food, and fuel in case we should get stuck. I normally stop off at a gas station to top of our tanks. During those stops I also grab snacks such as soda, chips, and candy bars.

But I have been dieting. Ignoring my desire to consume empty calories, I forgot to fuel the Jeep prior to departing. On top of that, I had just spent the weekend cleaning out our spare gas can and had not refilled it with petrol.

So there we were, unknowingly setting out for Swan Falls Dam, already on empty. A few hours later, after traversing back-country trails, climbing in and out of canyons, and enjoying the throaty power of our off-road rig, I noticed my mistake. We made an immediate decision to abandon our last three geo-goals and head the (now) 20 miles back to town. Milking the Jeep by driving reduced speeds, coasting down hill, and watching the RPMS we made it back to Kuna without having to walk.

In the parking lot of our favorite burger joint, with milkshakes in hand we did a debrief. Below is an example of what could be heard in the cab of our rig:

What:

“We failed to fill the Jeep up with gas prior to heading out.”

So What:

“We almost ran out of gas”

“I was worried”

“I changed my routine”

“We worked together to keep ourselves calm”

“We had a plan if we should run out of gas”

“We had our survival packs”

“I had a gas can I could take with me to walk to Kuna”

Now What:

“Each of us check the fuel level before departing”

“Create a checklist like we use for flying and diving”

“We need to do this in other parts of our family life as well…”

We use this debrief on all our adventures and it has not only helped us grow as a family, but it has made all of our outdoor activities more rewarding.

Roots of Overland Adventures

My wife is still confused.

When I come home and babble for hours about overland adventures, spend hours of the evening combing through bits and bytes of internet data on equipment, routes, and travel diaries, spend the weekend modifying our expedition vehicle….she cuts me to the quick with the words, “car camping”.

OK– maybe my elitist soul is creeping in and I wear my adventure persona on my sleeve a bit much. But “Overlanding” is by no means “Car Camping”. To me “Car Camping” is something a guy who wears black socks with tennis shoes and Bermuda shorts does on on the weekend. By gosh– we are Overlanders! We don’t have a station wagon and would never be caught asking a park ranger any embarrassing questions.

When Theodore Roosevelt led his expedition through South America to discover uncharted rivers did people say, “Oh yes, Teddy the fine gent is camping this week in some remote location”. Or when Lewis invited Clark to take on a quest only equaled later in history to lunar exploration say, “Hey Bill, wanna go check out the trails?” No these were all examples of Overlanding.

Here is basically how I have tried to describe it to others

  • It is an expedition- the exploration and pure enjoyment of adventure based travel
  • It typically takes a weekend to several weeks, maybe months, if I get to win the lottery…years.
  • It takes place in remote, seldom traveled areas (Big Bend, Moab, Transatlantic Trail, Canada to Mexico on the CDT, etc.
  • Required extensive planning for all situations including environment, terrain, even politics
  • Camping- mostly dry or self-sustained camping although in extreme situations or where the adventure crew needs rest- an occasional hotel or established camp ground.

Still when I present this as a guideline I am met with the rebuff of “car-camping” by my tormentor, err…wife…

So in an effort to set the record strait for my un-enlightened soul mate, my poor counterpart who is uneducated in the ways of expedition, who just doesn’t grasp the lifestyle, I have decided to devote a series of blogs (not on any regular schedule) to the roots of OVERLANDING.

This will include examples and stories from some of the great overlanding expeditions including Lewis and Clark, the Westward Expansion, African Campaign (WWI and WWII), Continental Divide Trips, etc. My hope is that she will take to heart this legacy of great travelers who were self sufficient in everything and did not have the comforts of maps, roadside diners, or a KOA. Trips done by bicycle, dual-sport motorcycle, jeeps/trucks/uni-mogs, and canoe. My dream is to create fellow fanatics and for my wife…well bring her into the lifestyle with me and for gosh-sakes—-don’t call it CAR CAMPING!