Soo Locks to Lime Island Expedition – July 2015

Taking a Kayak from the Soo Locks to Lime Island is an epic trip following a major freighter route, the St. Mary’s River. The St. Mary’s is a very slow river and we seldom found any benefit from the flow – more often than not, the headwinds would push us back upstream against the weak current. Eleven kayakers paddled 40 miles in two days, went through the Canadian Locks, Encountered rain, headwinds and waves.

Day 1: Ashmun Bay to Sand Island

soo locks1

After an early wake-up to spot cars down river at Raber, we were all anxious to get on the water and start knocking off the miles.  But we got only a couple hundred yards before we were introduced to the local water traffic.  We paused to watch the tour boat Nokomis head upstream and then waited while the 740’ freighter Assiniboine passed down-bound into the locks.  The freighter was impressive in size and was deceptively fast on the water – a reminder that we need to keep alert in the days to come.

soo locks2

As the traffic cleared we paddled forward to the Canadian side of the river.  We approached the Canadian Canal Locks and then pulled behind the Nokomis, which had detoured to the Canadian shores.  We continued in its wake, passing by the sprawling infrastructure of the locks – the International Bridge, dams, railroad bridges, gates and canals.

Finally we passed through the open lock gates and pulled up along the East side of the canal, opposite the Nokomis.  On the tour boat they had announced to the passengers that there were a group of kayaks on the port, so we spent the next few minutes taking pictures of each other, exchanging good natured greetings, and talking about our trip plans with the passengers.


These are always memorable moments on FBET trips – when we encounter vacationers who take a tamer route into the wild.  Whether it’s meeting a tour train in the Canadian wilderness or a ferry full of vacationers in the Soo – it’s reminder that we’re doing things a bit different.  That “we go farther.”

The difference between Superior and Huron is about 21 feet.  A loose grip on rubber covered ropes kept us at the wall while the water swirled into a drain pipe at the bottom of the canal.  When the water mark was high above and the door swung open, we left the Canal ahead of the ferry, and then surfed its waves as it passed.  After pausing for some of us to pass through the spray of a fountain, we entered the main channel where we found that the wind and the multiple inlets to the river made for a choppy passage.  Waves crashed on our decks as we cautiously made our way back to the U.S. side.

soo locks3


We headed down the passage between Sugar Island and the Mainland. With a late start and 13 miles to go, we had to keep a steady pace.   This was a pleasant paddle with smooth water – the shores dotted with summer cottages.   At Lake Nicolet, We made a short crossing to the East side of the channel to the top of Neebish Island. After a short search, we found a short piece of beach on Sand Island to land the kayaks.


Everyone quickly dispersed to take care of their own needs – changing into dry clothes, setting tents, cooking.  We made a small fire for cooking, but no-one stayed up very late that night – a combination of weariness and the buzzing mosquitos made for an early retreat into the tents.

Day 2: Sand Island to Lime Island

The second day would be busy – passage through the rock-cut, a 3 mile open water crossing and the final crossing to Lime Island. However, before we even hit the rock-cut, we gave our Expedition Watch a small test.

There’s a lot of training and support that go into an FBET trip. Besides training in First Aide, Navigation and other skills, we also have the Expedition Watch back home. We can contact them at any time with a SPOT device or Satellite phone – whether for emergencies or just an update – or in this case, a drill.  This particular drill involved sending an SOS message to our Watch giving our current location and the vague instruction to have someone meet us downstream as we continue our trip.


We sent our message and continued into the Rock Cut just two miles from our camp at Sand Island.  The Rock-Cut is a passage less than 100 yards wide and carries the down-bound freighter traffic – it’s marked by shear vertical walls on either side.  The sides aren’t tall, but they’re enough of an obstacle that a kayak cannot be landed.  Here we started to hit the choppy water, headwind and rain which would dog us through most of the day’s journey


We traveled the channel uneventfully, if uncomfortably in the rain.  We passed marine beacons and quarrying operations along the shore. Upon exiting the Rock Cut, our radios squawked and we made contact with Pathfinder.  Pathfinder had been camping on the mainland and followed the Expedition Watch instructions to meet up.  We arranged a landing further downstream as a proof that safety systems were functioning.

We continued to meet a headwind down the river between Nebbish Island and the mainland – at times, our travel speed was less than 1.5 miles per hour.  Towards the bottom of Neebish Island, we enjoyed the spectacle of a flock of seagulls who had taken over a small island.  Swarm might be a better word. . they took off in large groups as we approached and swirled around us.   Understandably, most of the wildlife we spotted on this strip was avian – seagulls, herons and once a formation of pelicans.


Next stop was Moon Island at the entry to Munuscong Lake. Adjacent to the shipping the lanes, Moon Island is surrounded by stone break walls against the wave action.  We found a small sandy spot to beach at the south end of the island, enjoyed our lunch and scouted the Munuscong Lake crossing.

soo locks4

The crossing was 3.5 miles from Moon Island to Rocky Point – into the headwind and continuing chop.  It was vigorous paddle and we were thankful for our sprayskirts.  Once we hit the point, we turned slightly to the east and sighted in Pointe Aux Frenes five miles away.  The wind and waves were decreasing but we needed to use our compasses here as the distant point occasionally disappeared into the mist.

soo locks5

We hit the point and turned south to find Raber Bay smooth and Lime Island clear in the distance.  The smooth water and mild breeze were a welcome relief that put everyone in a better mood. We enthusiastically ate up the final stretch – crossing to Round Island (the Island and Light house currently for sale at a cool $2 Million) then on to Lime Island.  Ducking under a short bridge we gratefully pulled into a sheltered bay.

Day3: Exploring Lime Island

We spent the better part of our day on Lime Island exploring its trails in groups – a welcome chance to spread our legs. Lime Island was an important part of the Great Lakes Shipping History and we explored its schoolhouse, kilns, and the other buildings.

soo locks6

We also spent time relaxing under the shade of trees, watching the freighters pass in the shipping lane right off the island.  Some Expeditioners took the opportunity to swim in the cold bay and some explored a visiting tugboat.


We were fortunate on this trip in that we had an opportunity to resupply with an FBET family who was taking a weeklong vacation in one of the cottages.  It was a welcome respite to enjoy their company and indulge ourselves in the Gumbo, the Strawberry shortcake, and the cold beverages that they transported to the island.  The mosquitoes left us alone that night and we had a fine celebration to cap off our trip.

Day 4: To Raber Dock

Sunday we woke up bright and early to prepare for our final crossing.  We packed our tents and bags, enjoyed a last cup of coffee with the volunteer host and then set off from the island.  We were again greeted by choppy waves and wind, but at this point on our journey we were ready for them.  We quickly completed the three mile crossing to the Raber Docks.  We spent a half hour on the docks, moving gear from kayaks to cars, loading the kayaks and saying goodbye to new and old friends.

The Expedition was a success.  The journey turned out to be a challenging paddle for both new and experienced paddlers.  Best of all, friends were made, comfort zones were expanded, and new sights were seen.

~Rich “Dinty” Kipke
Apprentice Expedition Leader

About Rich “Dinty” Kipke:

Rich KipkeI grew up in a family of eight kids and every vacation we took involved camping. I never became tired of it and the urge to explore only grew. I spend my free time hiking skiing, biking, kayaking and canoeing. I am a husband, a father of two great boys, a Special Olympics Coach, a Boy Scout Leader, and a Structural Engineer.


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“Do What You Love” – and Be Safe About It

Many of us spend countless hours, days, and even weeks venturing out into the wilderness looking for adventure, exploring, or simply to get away from the hustle and bustle of our chaotic everyday lives. The Earth is a beautiful and magnificent place; so get out there, do what you love, and enjoy every second you can…but be safe about it and never underestimate the power of Mother Nature.

When it comes to Mother Nature it doesn’t matter if you live in Michigan, Arizona, or half-way around the world – lightning, for example, is still lightning, and it is extremely dangerous. So when I heard this tragic story, I knew it was one I had to tell – if nothing else but to spread awareness to others regarding the dangers of lightning (wherever you may live) and to provide advice for helping to keep yourself and others safe when venturing out into the wilderness. My heart goes out to the victims and survivors.

(This story is a recap of the events as they occurred; told to me by Corey “Poochie” Melker during a recent interview. Photos are courtesy of Corey “Poochie” Melker)

On June 26, 2015, a group of nine individuals, lead by Corey “Poochie” Melker (35), headed out for a weekend backpack along the Arizona Historic Cabin Loop Trail near Payson, AZ. The original plan was to hike the Fish Creek Trail to the Black River, but extreme burn-damage in the area resulted in the group instead planning to hike the 16.8 miles along the east Cabin Loop Trail. Located in the Mogollon Rim, the Cabin Loop Trail was part of the early Forest Service era and linked a number of historic cabins to the fire guard station. This was a trail that Corey knew well, having hiked it a number of times previously. Although the hike could be easily completed within a day, the plan was to spread the hike over a two-day period to allow more time to enjoy the spectacular landscape as well as allow slower hikers the opportunity to enjoy the trail and take breaks as necessary.

The group rendezvoused on Friday night and car-camped just off 87 and FR395; just past the Blue Ridge Ranger Station. It was an opportunity for participants to meet each other for the first time and position themselves closer to the Cabin Loop trailhead for an early start in the morning.

The group arose early in the morning excited to begin their trek into the wilderness. It was a beautiful day with crystal clear skies. They were on the trail shortly before 10am, with Corey leading the way. Corey would stop periodically to let others catch up and wait for the rest of the group if the trail got sketchy. The group was in no hurry and simply enjoyed their surroundings.


Around 1pm, and about 6.5 miles into their trek, the group decided to break for lunch. They stopped at Dane’s cabin to refuel and fill water bottles from the pipe-tapped spring. It was a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. Spirits were high. They rested for about an hour. As they were getting ready to depart, Corey noticed a dark cloud off in the distance that resembled a mountain far away. There was a faint sound of thunder. Corey noted at the time, he didn’t think much of it given the distance away.


As the group was leaving, they noticed a herd of elk, about 30 or so, and decided to follow them. They had travelled no more than a 1/2 mile when Corey noticed the thunder again; this time it was much louder, distinct. The once small cloud in the distance was now much larger and had darkened much of the sky. A sudden and loud clap of thunder frightened one of the dogs that had been accompanying the group, and it took off running into the woods. It was then, also, that it began to rain.

The group decided to cross the road to gather and don their rain-gear under the shelter of the forest and to wait for the dog to return once the storm passed. Corey noted that he could see blue skies from behind the storm and assumed it would be a short storm. Suddenly there was a strike of lightning less than 1/4 – 1/2 mile away. Corey remembered turning to another participant and mentioning “that would really suck if it were any closer.”

The individual who’s dog had run away decided that she would walk back down the road toward her vehicle in the event she had to wait through the night for her dog to return. The rest of the group patiently waited for the storm to pass. At least 40 minutes passed with nothing but rain. Corey mentioned that he had looked around and saw the other’s faces, wet and miserable; with the exception of one. Christine Garcia (24) was sitting on a log under the shelter of a tree smiling, enjoying every minute.

Then, within an instant, everything changed.

A bolt of lightning hit the tree closest to Christine. The result was instantaneously fatal. Christine was only 24 years old, young and just out of college; she had her whole life in front of her still. Corey, who was standing only 6-8ft from her, was victim of a lightning side flash; the primary flash jumped and sent a jolt of electricity surging through his body.

Corey recalled “One second I was standing, the next I wasn’t. It was a total out of body experience. I went to the ground hard, seizing and convulsing. I had a sensation of drowning. My lungs were filling with mucus. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move. I remember trying to point, trying to communicate that I couldn’t breath, but I couldn’t yell for help. I thought I was going to drown.” One of the other hikers saw Corey struggling to breath and rushed to help, pushing him over to his side, allowing him to cough up the fluid from his lungs.

They needed help, but they were in the middle of the wilderness and no one’s cellphone had a signal. Two of the female hikers took off  at a full sprint down the road in search of help. They came across a campsite. No one was at the camp, but there was a vehicle with the keys sitting on the front seat. The need to get help far outweighed the need to ask permission. They quickly drove the vehicle back to the scene of the accident.

Corey continued to seize and convulse. He recalled being coherent and in tremendous pain. “all I remember saying over and over is ‘it hurts so bad'”. He was helped into the back seat of the car. Corey mentioned he didn’t really know what was going on at the time. There was a lot of panic and confusion as they drove around frantically looking for a cell signal. They eventually located the Rim about 4 miles down the road and managed to call 911. But the news from the other end of the call was not good news.

The weather prevented aircraft from flying out due to the risk involved. Ambulances and ground vehicles were being deployed, but it would take time to reach them.

Corey was having difficulties with motor skills and vocal functions. Miraculously, he managed to remember and give someone his mother’s phone number so that they could call her while they were still able to get a signal on their phones.

A few hours passed before help finally arrived for Corey. In the meantime, the others were helpless, unable to do anything to help his pain or control the seizures. They could only try to comfort him, keep him conscious, and ease his pain through awkward humor. He recalled another member holding his hand and trying to keep him conscious. “I remember thinking ‘maybe if I just close my eyes, the pain will just go away’. When I snapped myself back, I was balling, I felt like I was dying. I wanted my mom and kept saying it over and over”.

When the ambulance finally arrived, Corey was quickly loaded onto a gurney and they attempted to drive him to the hospital. The ambulance had barely made it three miles from the site when it became apparent that he would not survive the two hour drive down backroads to reach the closest hospital in Flagstaff.




But then the call came. A “weird little break in the weather” allowed for a DPS helicopter to take flight. Corey was finally airlifted to safety and within 15-20 minutes arrived at the Flagstaff hospital where he was immediately admitted to the trauma unit. Corey spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit and another 2 days as an inpatient before finally being released, but he will never be the same.


Among the temporary side-effects such as infection, scarring and blood clots, the lightning strike has caused serious and permanent damage. Corey has permanent retinal scarring in both eyes where the current travelled through his body and nearly exited through his eyes. His nerves are hypersensitive, resulting in constant and severe pains. He is currently highly medicated in an attempt to minimize the effects of the pain.

Corey and Christine were not the only two affected by the lightning strike. Three other individuals who were nearby also suffer from injuries. One individual received the bulk of the current through her hand and may loose a number of fingers due to the extensive damage caused. Two other individuals suffered from superficial injuries.

“Its not going to stop me from loving the wild. I feel more connected with the Earth, having experienced its power,” Corey had told me.

Corey stated it was a day and a half before he even learned what had happened to Christine. “It could have happened to anyone. Christine was out there doing what she loved. That’s what we all need to do. ‘Do what you love’, cause we’re only here for a short time.

The group is raising money to build a permanent memorial in honor of Christine Garcia and to help pay for unpaid medical expenses. If you would like to help out, go to:

Click Here to Donate

There is also a scholarship in the name of Christine Garcia, which is raising money to help young women like Christine:

Click Here to Donate

So how can you protect yourself if caught in a thunderstorm?


  • Lightning is the 2nd leading cause of storm deaths in the US, killing more than hurricanes and tornadoes combined!
  • 10% of lightning strikes are fatalities, the rest result in injuries and sever neurological damage
  • In the U.S., the most reported incidents of lightning fatalities occurs in Florida and Texas. The highest reported incidents of lightning related injuries are in Florida and Michigan.
  • Myth – Lightning strikes the highest point – FALSE!
  • Lightning has been documented traveling 64 miles from a storm cloud!

Where does Lightning Strike most?


What is the most common way to be effected by lightning?


When am I at risk of a lightning strike?

  • Raindrops/hail is present
  • Audible thunder/visible flashes are present (this usually means that lightning is less than 10 miles away)
  • Large towering clouds (Cumulonimbus)
  • Static on an AM Band Radio

What do I do if caught in a thunderstorm with potential lightning?

  • Seek shelter immediately in an enclosed building/vehicle
  • Descend to a lower position – high spots are dangerous
  • Keep moving away from exposed/wide open areas. Head for areas with clumps of trees or deep ditches.
  • If on open water, get to shore to seek shelter. If you can’t get to shore, keep moving
  • Avoid unsafe locations such as: cave/mine entrances (lightning can travel the walls), isolated trees, unprotected pavilions/picnic shelters, bleachers (metal or wood), metal structures of any kind, water, baseball dugouts, under cars, flag and telephone poles, railroad tracks, fences, shorelines.
  • If in a group, spread out at least 100ft from each other
  • Prepare for the lightning position


Safety Protocol:

Remember the 30/30 Rule! Lightning can strike long distances. If 30 Seconds of Less “Flash to Bang”, seek shelter. Wait 30 Minutes after last lightning flash before leaving the safety of your shelter!

Most casualties occur Before, and Especially After a storm. If you can see or hear thunder/lightning, seek shelter immediately!

Lightning is a very real risk and danger when venturing out into the wilderness and is often underrated. But that doesn’t mean you need to be fearful of being outdoors. Do what you love, and be knowledgeable, be aware of the situation at all times, and should the need arise, do your best to minimize the chances of becoming victim of a potential lightning strike.

~Robin “Killer Bee” Hutsko
Expedition Leader

About Robin “Killer Bee” Hutsko

Killer BeeI spent much of my youth playing in the outdoors, hiking, camping, fishing, boating, snowmobiling, dune-buggy…you name it. I always loved the outdoors, but somewhere along the way I became citified. My passion for the outdoors was revived in 2011 when I joined FBET. One hike led to another, which led to classes, training, an adventure race, backpacking, kayaking, mountain biking and even off-roading. My most recent adventure took me on a move across country to Arizona. I’ll be back though for periodic events/expeditions. What can I say, I love the adventures and can’t get enough

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Finding Dane’s Farm – Expedition Leader’s Journal

Solo Hike to Dane’s Farm:

It was an interesting experience leading people on a solo expedition. Normally, everyone spends most of their time together, and it is all about teamwork and group activities.  This time, we delivered everyone to their individual campsites where they were to stay alone for 2 days.  That gave me a chance to do some exploring on my own.


Our GIS Specialist asked a couple of us to collect some data while we were on the island.  He wanted waypoints for anything that looked interesting that could be added to future maps.  In addition, there were few specific sites that he wanted us to check out.  Dane’s Farm is located on the northeast side of the island, and the trail starts on the edge of the schoolhouse clearing.  He asked me to check on the condition of the trail, and to see if there were any existing ruins left on the farm.


The schoolhouse clearing was completely filled with juniper bushes and I didn’t see any ruins there.  Juniper bushes are a landscaping shrub, and their presence indicates that something used to be there.  The bushes were totally overgrown.  They were so big that it was easier to climb over the top of them than to try to fit in between.  There was a signpost at the beginning of Danes Trail with a map that looked similar to the one pictured below.  Someone wrote “you are here” in pencil, marking the start of the trail on the map, and it said that it was placed by Troop 776.  From the signpost, you couldn’t see the trail at all.  I followed my compass and pushed my way between a couple of pine trees.  Once I made it through, the trail was right there.


There were so many huge trees down on the trail to Dane’s Farm, and it was very overgrown.  It would take a lot of work to clear that trail because it’s in pretty rough shape.  Someone had marked part of the trail with flagging tape.  I was able to follow it okay until after it turned southeast.  There was a massive tree crossing the trail that was very difficult to get around.  I thought I found the trail again after that, but it was hard to tell.  It seemed like it was there and then gone again.  Eventually, I lost it completely.  I wondered if I was a little bit south of it, or maybe it wasn’t there anymore.  When I turned to head northeast toward the farm, I wasn’t on a trail at all.  Eventually, there were rows of pine trees as I got close to the farm, so that was reassuring.

It was a great feeling when I finally reached the open field.  The first thing I saw was a huge blooming apple tree.  It was beautiful!  When I saw the apple tree, I knew that I was in the right place.  Then off to the side I could see the cabin ruins.  The roof had collapsed, but the walls were still standing.  The east side of the building is in the woods, and I’m glad that I decided to push through the trees to see it because there was a cellar that wasn’t visible from the clearing.  The cellar walls were made out of fieldstone, and they were still intact.  There was a beam that had collapsed into it.  It was pretty neat, and  I would definitely repeat that arduous hike to see it again.


When it was time to hike back, I looked all along the edge of the field to see if I could find a trail leaving from the south side of the clearing, and there was nothing that I could find.  Unfortunately, it took me a while to locate the trail going back, and it was not easy going through the woods.  Most of the ground was covered in water that was between ankle and mid-shin deep, but it wasn’t mushy like you would expect in a swamp.  It rained pretty much that whole day, and it was coming down hard when I was out there.   I wonder if it dries up in the summer.  The whole area was thick with down trees without a good way around, and that made it very slow going until I eventually found the trail.  I was over halfway back to the schoolhouse clearing before I finally found it.


Once I was back on the trail, it was much easier, and the return trip suddenly seemed like nothing.  I climbed back over the field of juniper bushes, and then took the Center Trail south until I reached Lake Michigan at Indian Harbor.  Just as I was emerging from the woods, I received a call on my radio saying that our RIT team had built a fire inside the DNR cabin, so there would be a place for me to warm up and dry off.  That was the best possible ending to a great hike!

– AR


AR-150x150Amy “AR” Colby
Curriculum Director
Expedition Leader


Special Certifications/Achievements: NASAR SARTECH I/II/III, NASAR SARTECH II Evaluator, Wilderness First Responder (WFR), FCC Technician License

About Me: I’ve been hiking in the woods since I learned to walk. Actually, I remember riding on my grandpa’s shoulders! I grew up camping and playing in the woods. I have been running and mountain biking for almost 20 years and backpacking and competed in triathlons for nearly 18. I have competed in 22 adventure races. I also enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, and kayaking!

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The Summer Solstice – Its Meaning to a Navigator

June 21st (or sometimes June 20th) is the “summer solstice”.   What does that mean?

Well, it means a lot to us earthlings.  For those who navigate by the sun and stars, it means even more.

The times when the Sun reaches the limits of its path of declination are known as the solstices.  The word solstice is taken from ‘solstitium’, the latin for ‘sun stands still’.  This is because the apparent movement of the Sun seems to stop before it changes direction

The Summer Solstice (mid-summer in the northern hemisphere) occurs on about 21 June when the Sun’s declination reaches 23.5 degrees North (the tropic of Cancer).  The sun is closest to the northern hemisphere at this point and that explains summer in the north.

During the spring equinox, the sun is directly overhead (of the equator) at noon.   So, basically, a shadow is cast at its shortest distance at noon on that day.

Knowing all that, at noon, you can determine the angle of a shadow and know your Latitude.   But, you will have to use math to determine your latitude on any day that isn’t an equinox.


During the solstices, the sun is directly overhead of the tropic of Cancer (summer – northern hemisphere) or Capricorn (winter – northern hemisphere).  This means that when you measure the shadow’s angles, you have to adjust it by 23.5 degrees when calculating your latitude. . . If you are using the sun to navigate.

The dates of the equinoxes and the solstices will vary slightly during the four-year cycle between leap years for the following reason:  Each year is approximately 365.25 days in length.  However; for the sake of convenience, the Gregorian calendar divides three years of the cycle into 365 days and the fourth (the leap year) into 366.  So, the Vernal Equinox sometimes falls on 20 March and sometimes on 21 March.  The Autumnal Equinox sometimes falls on 22 September and sometimes on 23 September.  Similarly, the Summer Solstice usually falls on 21 June but sometimes falls on 20 June.  The Winter Solstice usually falls on 21 December but sometimes falls on 22 December.


Here are some interesting facts on the summer solstice.

  1. THIS YEAR IT’S JUNE 21 – Father’s Day.

The summer solstice always occurs between June 20 and June 22, but because the calendar doesn’t exactly reflect the earth’s rotation, the precise time shifts slightly each year. This year, the sun will reach its greatest height in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 at 12:38 P.M.


While the entire Northern Hemisphere will see its longest day of the year on the summer solstice, the sun is only directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees 27 minutes north latitude).


The term “solstice” is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun’s relative position in the sky at noon does not appear to change much during the solstice and its surrounding days. The rest of the year, the Earth’s tilt on its axis—roughly 23.5 degrees—causes the sun’s path in the sky to rise and fall from one day to the next.


Celebrations have been held in conjunction with the solstice in cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Among these is Sankthans, or “Midsummer,” which is celebrated on June 24 in Scandinavian countries. In 2010, the people of Alesund, Norway, set a world record for the tallest bonfire with their 40.45-meter (132.71-foot) celebratory bonfire.


You may wonder why, if the solstice is the longest day of the year—and thus gets the most sunlight—the temperature usually doesn’t reach its annual peak until a month or two later. It’s because water, which makes up most of the Earth’s surface, has a high specific heat, meaning it takes a while to both heat up and cool down. Because of this, the Earth’s temperature takes about six weeks to catch up to the sun.


People have long believed that Stonehenge was the site of ancient druid solstice celebrations because of the way the sun lines up with the stones on the winter and summer solstices. While there’s no proven connection between Celtic solstice celebrations and Stonehenge, these days, thousands of modern pagans gather at the landmark to watch the sunrise on the solstice. Last year, 37,000 people attended.


In Paganism and Wicca, Midsummer is celebrated with a festival known as Litha. In ancient Europe, the festival involved rolling giant wheels lit on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water.


In Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice preceded the appearance of the Sirius star, which the Egyptians believed was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile that they relied upon for agriculture. Because of this, the Egyptian calendar was set so that the start of the year coincided with the appearance of Sirius, just after the solstice.


In ancient China, the summer solstice was the yin to the winter solstice’s yang—literally. Throughout the year, the Chinese believed, the powers of yin and yang waxed and waned in reverse proportion to each other. At the summer solstice, the influence of yang was at its height, but the celebration centered on the impending switch to yin. At the winter solstice, the opposite switch was honored.


Each year on the summer solstice, the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks celebrate their status as the most northerly baseball team on the planet with a game that starts at 10:30 and stretches well into the following morning—without the need of artificial light—known as the Midnight Sun Game. The tradition originated in 1906 and was taken over by the Goldpanners in their first year of existence, 1960.


You might think that because the solstice occurs in summer that it means the Earth is closest to the sun in its elliptical revolution. However, the Earth is actually closest to the sun when the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter and is farthest away during the summer solstice. The warmth of summer comes exclusively from the tilt of the Earth’s axis, and not from how close it is to the sun at any given time.


Legend has it that it was on the summer solstice in 1633 that Galileo recanted his declaration that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around.


In 1902, a British railway system employee named Moses B. Cotsworth attempted to institute a new calendar system that would standardize the months into even four-week segments. To do so, he needed to add an extra month to the year. The additional month was inserted between June and July and named Sol because the summer solstice would always fall during this time. Despite Cotsworth’s traveling campaign to promote his new calendar, it failed to catch on.


The Greek festival of Kronia, which honored Cronus, the god of agriculture, coincided with the solstice. The festival was distinguished from other annual feasts and celebrations in that both slaves and freemen participated in the festivities as equals.


In Rome, midsummer coincided with the festival of Vestalia, which honored Vesta, the Roman goddess who guarded virginity and was considered the patron of the domestic sphere. On the first day of this festival, married women were allowed to enter the temple of the Vestal virgins, from which they were barred the rest of the year.

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From Here to There: A Women’s Adventure


What started years ago as a vague idea, a dream, a belief that other women would want to experience the growth and restorative power of the outdoors became a reality in January with the launch of the women’s expedition. Whoa!

We were nervous. What if no one signed up? What if no one was interested? What if we were kidding ourselves that there were others who would relish the idea of spending time by themselves in the woods? What if we had put our hearts into something that absolutely failed? What if…..what if the class sold out in 2 weeks!?! It did! It filled so quickly that we barely had time to warn that it was getting full and if they didn’t sign up, they would be on a waiting list.

Who are these women? What made them decide to join? Why did they not even hesitate before saying, “I’m in!” Some were raw, having never camped before. Some were car campers, some were hikers. They were young and not so young. To a person, they had never solo camped. They were excited and eager, and somewhat afraid of what they had just signed up for.  They knew so little and it was Fortune Bay’s job to teach them and prepare them for their adventure.

Two classes were required, Land Navigation 1-3 and Survival & Improv 1-2, both of which would give the women the knowledge to handle being on their own in the woods. Their minds felt messy with their new knowledge – it happens like that. They felt anxious with a bit of fear thrown in. It happens like that too.

There were practice weekends in which to turn their knowledge into skills in a safe environment. They asked questions. They learned. They did. They built fires, some set up tents for the first time; they hiked, and practiced packing a backpack. They got wet and they got dirty. They learned wilderness first-aid; they embraced the map and compass. We set up what we thought were challenging orienteering courses in the woods and these women simply went and conquered the course.  Fears were laid to rest as they realized how capable they were of each of these tasks.



They willingly offered of themselves and bonded with each other. They shared their stories and successes, talked about their fears, and slowly, they became a tribe.


Tuesday: It is time. We met at a campground the night before our departure to the islands. An impromptu gathering on the beach, yet each woman knew to go there. We talked, built cairns and waited for the sunset. There may have been conversations about pack weights. A small fire later to celebrate the beginning of the real adventure, but not one tent was pitched. Funny, everyone slept in their car that night.


Wednesday: We woke early, eager to start the adventure. A quick breakfast of crepes and we were ready to board the ferry. We leave the docks, the drawbridge is raised to allow for our passage. The journey continues beyond these gates – they know this.


2.5 hours later we arrive on Beaver Island, but what would an expedition be without a ‘situation’? Seems the captain of our shuttle to Garden Island has our arrival date wrong. He thinks we’re arriving tomorrow. No worries, the ladies hang out at the community center while we track down the captain. Just over an hour later we’re back on track. The captain has been found and we’re loading up.


A short ride to the island. Gear is unloaded, base camp is established and we begin the task of finding campsites for the women.


Not too close to each other – each woman is here for her own journey and adventure. Some go to the West, seeking shelter in the cove. Several head East, planting themselves along a rocky coast, tucking back into the woods for privacy and shelter from the elements. And then they are alone.  Alone, except for the relentless mosquitoes who will plague the participants throughout the adventure.

I’m back to camp by 5:30 where I have a glass of wine and put up my tent.  In the evening I’m curled up in an conveniently left-behind Adirondack chair on the beach. It’s a lovely night for sitting and watching the waves. I’m thinking about the ladies and I wonder what the night will be like for those in remote locations. Part of me hopes it will be easy for them. Part of me, not so much – I want them to feel the challenge and the joy of overcoming, but this is their journey and it will be what they make of it.


Thursday: Morning draws me down the beach to check on the women camped nearby. All is well.  A leisurely breakfast and it is agreed that the leaders will head to the North end of the island to see what we can find. We check on the women as we go and some join us for exploring. It will rain– sometimes hard, but at least consistently all day. We find the cemetery and enter quietly, with respect for those who are buried here. A cobweb is cleared, a board straightened, offerings of Cedar are left behind and then we continue on. We are already soaked from the rain, but our goal is to find abandoned structures and Kee’s cabin. Success on both counts.  What a fascinating place Kee’s cabin is with amazing, primitive ‘outbuildings’.  It’s a working cabin and there is important work all around. We stay for a bit, eat lunch and relax in a covered structure with an amazing wood stove in the middle surrounded by primitive seats and a swing. This is a wonderful gathering place…

The hike back to camp is fairly direct, but we are soaked through boots and clothing, and we’re muddied by the time everyone is dropped back at their camps. We leave them in good spirits – it’s all part of the adventure.

Friday: The ladies start trickling back to basecamp. Some go exploring, some stay in camp to relax or read. A few paddle in the cove. It’s a day to relax.



We talk at the fire that evening, sharing stories of their time on the island. Some came for healing, some came for adventure and some came for medicine. They are soul searchers, these women, and though each journey was different, I believe they have found what they were looking for. Their experiences were as they wished. Their take-away is that they leave this adventure better equipped to find their way through life. They have more skills and a new mindset that will help them along the way.



Funny how the outdoors can clear away the mess and help you find your way.


Know this, if you want the road to happiness, if you want to grow, you have to be willing to get messy – your body, your mind, your space. Your fears and anxieties will take up space in your mind and mess it up – for a time. You may get cuts and bruises, your ego may take a beating. Let it. Get with the messy and grow…from here…to there.

~Larri “Love Boat” Luthy
Expedition Leader

About Larri “Love Boat” Luthy

Love BoatI am a nemophilist who plays at being a city girl. I find great joy in solo trips, but will explore with others as long as they carry their own pack and paddle their own boat. I toy with photography and feel that my camera is an indispensable item in my pack. I also strive to be a more knowledgeable forager and have been known to collect wild edibles along the trail for adding to my evening meal or for making tea at camp.

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Together, We Go Farther


Rope work practical

An organized and colorful tangle of climbing ropes and webbing are connected to the student and me, the mentor.   “Here is your eight plate and belay line. . . show me you know this stuff”, I say in a low tone.   I can hear the student’s rapid breathing as they hook up their belay line and move under the rope to the “Warm Zone”, the last stop before going over the edge – the Hot Zone. They are nervous and they refuse to let it show. They don’t realize they are breathing like they just finished climbing a few flights of stairs, but that’s OK – I’ve been in their shoes, I remember it well.   I still do it sometimes when leading rope rescue classes or rock climbing trips.   One of the hardest things to lead is high angle activities in unknown places. It causes anxiety.

The candidate yells, “On belay?”   The calm tone from the belayer in the woods (another candidate) replies, “Belay On”.   The candidate hooks up their descending device then looks at the belayer and yells, “Climbing!”

“You’re actually rappelling . . . “, I say in a low conversational tone. “Rappelling. . . “, they yell without looking up. They charge backward to the edge of a 70’ cliff. I glance at the belayer. . . they yawn.   Then they catch me looking and say, “Climb on”.   I continue my stare. . . “Rappel On”.


A little exploring during the practical open water paddle.

And so it goes at our Intermediate Expeditionary Skills Course – called “LEAD 2”.   Non-stop leadership, teamwork and skills. We begin with 20 hours of lecture and 12 hours of practical training in the first weekend. On the second weekend, we apply those skills. Together, the candidate experiences approximately 60 hours of training and an additional 40 hours of outdoor time in only 5 days. This was session two, where we apply the skills presented in session one.

The course is designed to begin the journey of a basic trip leader to the next level.   They learn to work together and perform expeditions in all terrains, from open water to mountains.   There are two main lesson plans in this course – the skills and the teamwork.   When you put both together, you get a powerful group of humans and an even more powerful experience.

We have been sharing the skills of climbing, rope rescue and a variety of other techniques from various organizations in one class. There is always more than one way to do it.   You don’t learn one organization’s way of doing it here.   You learn them ALL.   Which is tough to learn all at once, but necessary.   We are learning to deal with expedition climbing, high lines, rope rescue, caving, hazardous terrain travel, water rescue and leading all these activities at once.


Campsite – Search Bay

We don’t subscribe to “one way of doing it”.   We have a standard of utmost safety.   We build a system using a building code for a bombproof rope system. You have to build to that code and there are many ways to do it safely. We take ideas, standards and techniques from everyone. Sport Climbers, Rope Rescue, the Military, Cavers and everyone else that has learned lessons and developed a better, safer way.

Although we are only scratching the surface, we are also developing leaders who will take groups far into the wilderness to travel to places that few have gone. This requires an ability to deal with anything.   Climbing, descending, traversing and improvising.   We have to self-rescue, provide our own medical care and overcome our obstacles. This is the ultimate test of a leader and also the best way to develop a leader.

All day up and down the rock face. Later as night falls, they combine land navigation and ropes to navigate hazardous terrain.   They are slow and inefficient, but they are learning and developing quickly.

A couple of days later, during the “hotwash debriefing”, we stand on the shore of the St. Mary’s River. We have finished an easy open water paddle and explored some neat stuff.   Here they will mention how it was easier than they thought. Every class does this. They thought they would have to “dig deep”.   Which is what they should say, they have been practicing, learning and training. They should be ready for it.   They have the confidence now to say it was easy or we haven’t done our job.

But, the biggest reason for being “easier than they thought it would be” is teamwork. They worked as a team. They encouraged each other, supported each other, and taught each other. They didn’t criticize, compete or have egos. This is the main lesson of LEAD 2.   “Don’t be a dick, leave your ego behind, cooperate and this will be a cake walk”.   Don’t work as a team and it will be hell. Which is exactly what the candidates in this LEAD II course did. The course IS a leadership course.   Leadership and team – if you can’t be a part of a team, you can’t lead a team.   We can only hope that they remember the lessons they taught themselves.

For now, we have 9 newly trained leaders.   They have come a long way and they still have more to go. But, the most important point is well taken. They understand what a “team” can do.

The future is a little brighter, humanity is a little stronger, and we continue to work through issues. We continue to overcome obstacles, but we do it as brothers and sisters.

When we work together, We Go Farther!

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Getting an Aircraft’s Attention in the Wilderness.

If you go truly “remote wilderness” for an extended period of time, chances are you will need to resupply.  Many times, that resupply will come in the form of an “airdrop”.  Here, we talk a little about that and explore a change of airdrop plans and communicating with the pilot in various forms.


It’s been four days since you left Rupert House on James Bay.  You have seen one freighter canoe pass by as your group paddles their sea kayaks north on the arctic ocean.  You are expected to be at Cape Jones today for an airdrop, but. . . you won’t be there.  You still have 90 km to go.  Wind and tide were against you and frankly, the “still” melting ice hasn’t help.

You know that you are under the flight path of your resupply aircraft, a de Havilland Canada Beaver.   So, how do you let them know where you are? Well, you could call them on the radio?  You’d probably be violating a few rules there.   Even as a licensed Ham operator, aviation bands are out of your frequency range – though most radios can still receive in that range.  Emergency, yeah you could transmit – if you radio is capable, but to get your supply of skittles and whiskey – probably not.

You land on a rocky island right under the flight path of your resupply aircraft.   You expect the plane, and the lovably grumpy pilot, to be cruising at 3,000 to 5,000 feet above you in about an hour.  So let’s get started.

First, shine up those signaling mirrors, compass mirrors, your old “U2” music CD’s, anything that can reflect sunlight.  The plane will be approaching from the south, where the sun is shining and a signal mirror will work great.  Especially with 10 people reflecting 10 mirrors at the aircraft.

Have you ever used a signal mirror?   Do they really work?   Yeah, they do.   They work great.  First, if everyone is flashing at Old Dudley, he’ll notice it.  As someone who has had his attention caught by a signal mirror – they work well.   The flashes will make you wonder, “what is that”.  After pinpointing them you will realize, those flashes are on purpose and you will almost assuredly check it out.   The video shows multiple signal mirrors in action from about a mile distant, then a few more examples of their effectiveness.

One thing we would like to note.  Many signaling kits recommend the addition of a laser pointer for signaling aircraft.  Please don’t do that.   Laser pointers are not safe for pilots and their vision.  In fact, if you use it to signal a Coast Guard aircraft, the pilots are immediately grounded until they can get a physical exam due to the damage that can be caused by a laser pointing device.  The particular device you have may not harm their eyesight, but you probably don’t wanted to be the cause of an aircraft grounding, an flight crew being out of service and the logistics involved in getting a physical exam of the crew.  Just don’t do it.

OK.  So you got his attention.  What now.  Well, let’s have him drop the stuff in a certain spot.  How do we do that?   We could use an orange signal panel or spread out a tarp.  If we do, keep in mind . . believe it or not, an orange signal panel isn’t the “ideal color” for marking a DZ (drop zone).   In fact, for high altitude jumps, many military units actually use an 8′ x 10′ blue tarp instead (or a 6×8 for lower altitudes).  It is the same popular blue tarp that everyone uses to cover things from the weather.

According to the National Association for Search and Rescue – “Royal Blue” is a color that is not present in nature and is actually the best option for getting attention.  Don’t believe that?  Take a look at the picture below.

 blue vs orangeTo be fair these aren’t a perfect comparison, but the blue tarp does make a good contrasting color in almost every environment.   You can see the effectiveness of blue tarps while flying over a disaster area, this picture is from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Notice how the blue tarps look very bright and contrast very well.

blue tarps in disaster

The blue tarps used to cover damaged roofs contrast very well, you would almost think they were added with Photoshop.

All right, so we spread the tarp out and secure it for our expected aircraft.  Now what? We have a strategy for getting the pilot’s attention – multiple signal mirrors.  And we have a place for him to focus on – the blue tarp.  But, how do we tell him to make the drop?  Further, how do we communicate other intentions?

Since the blue tarp gives him a place to focus, let’s try to tell him where to drop the supplies.   There is a standard format for ground to air signals and most pilots should have documents in the aircraft that explain GTA signals.  So, first – let’s tell him where to drop supplies.  Well, lets try to do that, because this part gets a little difficult.

Unfortunately, the signal for “Drop Supplies” isn’t well know.  The letters “T Z” mean “Drop Here”, but as luck would have it, Canada is one of the countries that didn’t agree to that signal.  You can try “T Z”, but a better option may be to spell out “D Z”.  Keep in mind, it is NOT a recognize international symbol.  Actually, there isn’t a universal “Drop Here” signal that is well known.   You can also use the arm signal for “Use Drop Message” in the direction of the tarp in addition to your letter signal.  “D Z” is well know to military pilots as slang for Drop Zone.

Don’t use an “X” to mark the drop zone, because that means you “Require Medical Assistance”.  Essentially, you should have memorized these Ground to Air Signals in your basic outdoor training.


The 5 basic ground to air signals everyone who ventures into remote areas should know.

Will this work?  Maybe.  To increase your chances, you can let the pilot know that you have a radio receiver (Your HAM Radio) and you can receive his transmission – then answer him with the signals for “Yes” or “No”.  The frequencies you would most likely use are 126.7 MHz in Canada and 123.5 MHz (121.5 MHz standby) in the United States.

Can a HAM Radio receive radio calls from Airplanes?  Yes – most of them can receive – they just can transmit, unless you modify the radio.  The following video is an aviation distress call received on a HAM radio during a search for the aircraft transmitting that call.  Distress calls for some aircraft are transmitted on 121.5 MHz – the “stand by frequency” in the US.  (Remember, in an “bona-fide” emergency, you can transmit on that channel for help.)   The ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) that made this call was inadvertent and not actual distress.  (No aircraft were harmed in the making of this video, it was accidently activated).

Once the pilot knows you are able to receive his transmission, he can ask you a question and you can answer “Yes” or “No” using the above ground to air signals.

After a number of exchanges, you should be able to work out the details.


Hand and Arm Signals for ground to air communication.

While these techniques do not guarantee success, you could also violate communications laws and go ahead and transmit on his frequency.  “If” you know his frequency. But, do so at your own risk.

Keep in mind, air dropping is difficult.   Pilots have a difficult job to keep a plane airborne, so they usually have someone on board to make the drop.  Also, accuracy is difficult from a aircraft unless you have some training and experience, so keep alert and well away from the target.   Drops can also be very difficult to see, so make sure the crew knows (in your pre-trip, airdrop instructions) that supplies should have a streamer attached so you can see their flight path into the bushes or ocean.

U.S. Forest Service - Air Drop Message Streamer

U.S. Forest Service – Air Drop Message Streamer

We’ll talk more about setting up a drop zone (target zone) and about receiving an air drop in later posts.  Stay tuned.

If you would like to learn more, consider joining as a Guild Member of the Team for access to online and hands on courses and classes.

Till next time. . .

-Chuck Hayden
Director of Expedition Resources/Expedition Leader
Fortune Bay Expedition Team


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From Here to There, A Women’s Expedition

In June, 11 women will experience the personal growth that the wilderness can provide.   Our own Larri Luthy (Loveboat) and Amy Colby (AR) talk about the expedition and the challenge and growth that Fortune Bay advocates.  The expedition is full, however, our practice weekends still have a few slots.

The radio spot took place on March 31st, 2015 on Radio for Divas with Kathey Batey. Listen in and see what it means to “Go Farther”.

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The Only Easy Session, Was Last Session. . .

This gallery contains 8 photos.

A look inside the LEAD2 training course. Fortune Bay’s underlying mission is always to develop strong leaders.   We do this by challenging people to live beyond their limits – always.   By living beyond their limits, they expand those limits and … Continue reading

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The Traveling Man

If you’ve been reading the newsletters and keeping tabs on Facebook, you may have noticed that the Fortune Bay Expedition Team is expanding its ranks. In the last few years, the team has grown tremendously. While we do our best to ensure that we acknowledge all members, leaders, and staff for their achievements, we admit that we have unintentionally neglected to acknowledge one of our own; a loyal member who continues to motivate and encourage fellow team members, has played an important role in the design of the School of Expeditionary Sciences Website and courses, and who has kept watch over expeditions from a far. This is the story of Bob – Frontier Bob.


Since the beginning, there has always been one. Drawn from the fabric of time and constructed solely from the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water, there is no equal. No one really knows where he came from, or how he got here, just that he has always been there; a shadow stalking the greats throughout history.

For as long as Bob can remember, he has existed. He never questioned the longevity of his life, simply enjoyed every moment to the fullest. He was curious and almost childlike with an obsession to see and touch everything.

Bob always had a strong desire to explore the world. Unfortunately, he was never very good at it. He often found himself miles, if not continents, from his desired location.

Bob recalled an unfortunate incident where he led a woolly mammoth astray. They were destined for an area in what is now referred to as Alaska, but Bob somehow managed to lead the poor beast to an island in the Caribbean instead. “It was a long swim, but I was convinced we were going the right way.” He has yet to encounter another similar creature of its kind.

wooly BobBob’s adventures often began as a result of him seeking out something or someone that he considered to be awesome. This is precisely how he found himself in Australia. Bob had heard rumors of a legendary bushman living in the outback of Australia. Locals told stories of the man wrestling and defeating a crocodile with his bare hands. Although Bob never did encounter the man known as Dundee, he did happen upon an Aboriginal tribe.

Bob instantly gravitated to the Aboriginals. They were painted like he was and so he thought they must be cousins of his. They referred to him by the name “Bil-lin Koor-ee,” which made Bob feel a special connection to the tribe, having been given an Aboriginal name of his own. Since Bob never learned to speak the Kutthung language, he never did learn the true mean of the name Bil-Lin Koor-ee; which loosely translated to “yellow man”.

bob with aboriginals

Bob spent many years living in the Bush. But he lacked the necessary survival skills, so he relied heavily on the Aboriginal people for the basics such as food and water. In exchange for their hospitality, Bob would help with small jobs.

Frontier Bob CanoeOne day Bob was sent to fetch the koo-yuk (fishing canoe) from the shores. He spotted a small crab near the boat and became very excited. He thought, “how happy everyone will be if I returned with food for the tribe!” For an hour he chased the crab through the rocks and sand along the beach, unable to catch it. He decided a surprise attack would be the best method for catching his prey. He hid inside of the boat, with plans to jump out and scare the crab. Unfortunately, a large coconut fell from a tree, knocking Bob unconscious. When he awoke, all he saw was water; no land anywhere in sight!

Bob was lost and alone, but he was never afraid. A part of him was born of water, and therefore he somehow felt safe floating aimlessly with no direction or purpose. He slept most days and spent the nights attempting to count all of the stars in the sky. He could never quite get past 20 though because he always ran out of fingers and toes.

One morning Bob was awoken suddenly by a crash. The boat had struck something fairly large and was taking on water quickly. It was another boat, though this one was much larger and different than his own. It had oars along both sides and an ornate carving of what appeared to be a dragon’s head at the bow. Bob was helped aboard the ship by a handful of men. It was here that he met Lief Erikson and learned to drink like a true Viking.

viking bob

Ok, maybe not a true Viking…but then again, Bob wasn’t exactly known for being able to hold his liquor. It was one such night, belligerent and mumbling something about a purple monkey, that Bob accidentally knocked over and broke the navigational instrument. No one was paying him any attention at the time so he quickly tried to put it back together to hide the evidence. Two weeks later the Viking ship came to rest on a strange and unfamiliar land.

Frontier Bob Rock 2Bob took this opportunity to explore the new lands. He traveled through dense forests, deserts, and swamps. He even ventured high into the mountains and low into the canyons. He had heard about this thing called rappelling (not repelling, which is what you do when you don’t take a shower for two weeks and smell) and thought he would give it a shot.  He quickly realized that one end of the rope should probably be anchored to something. “It was a long fall”.

Bob was a kind-hearted man, always lending a hand to others. But this was not always the case. For a short period of time, dark days fell upon Bob. Having succumbed to greed, he managed to stow away on the ship of the infamous Blackbeard himself (aka Edward Teach), hoping to partake in some of the riches. Fortunately, Blackbeard was more amused than not by the man in the yellow hat and agreed to put him to work as a member of the crew to work off his debt for attempted thievery. Since it was either that or walk the plank over shark-infested waters, Bob had no choice but to accept the proposal.

Bob & Blackbeard

Surprisingly, Bob and Blackbeard became very good friends. Legend tells a much more terrifying story of Blackbeard than the truth. The man Bob knew was a genius, one who loved kittens (he had 5), fishing, and strolling through the harbor markets in disguise. Blackbeard did partake in the act of piracy, he had an image to uphold after all, but he did so only from his enemies, and never actually harmed any of his captives. Bob was the only one ever permitted to refer to him as Eddie.

When Eddie, er Blackbeard, finally decided to retire from the seas, he and Bob parted ways. Bob wrote to his friend often and as soon as he has an address plans to mail the letters.

Bob was and is always looking for adventure and will follow it where ever it may be; even if to Antarctica. When word came that Ernest Shackleton had announced his plans to cross the Antarctic from sea to sea, Bob was first to sign up as a crew member for the expedition. He was ecstatic to be one of the few to have traveled to the Antarctic.

bob w-Shackleton

When asked about the expedition to the Antarctic, Bob responded with “it was cold.” It was so cold in fact, one frigid and windy night, the waters froze around the ship. The ship became trapped in the ice and most of the crew, Bob included, were forced to make their way to shore.

Many of the crew were distressed by the misfortune, but Bob remained positive. He took the opportunity to practice his photography skills. Ed Wardel, the cameraman accompanying the expedition, was not quite as enthusiastic when it came to sharing his camera. Though between the two of them, they did managed to capture some great shots. The crew, and Bob, eventually made their way back safely to the mainland.

firefighter bobBob has always been known for his non-traditional wilderness skills. Bob’s ability to make fire is unprecedented; controlling it is unfortunately another story. Yellowstone Park, for example, was once home to one such fire. Bob was strolling through the park one cold winter day and decided to build a large fire to keep warm. The fire was so large that it spread quickly out of control burning hundreds of thousands of acres in its path. Bob joined up with the firefighters attempting to control the flames, but in was hard work having only a bucket at his disposal. In the end, only a snow storm was able to finally help the raging fire to burn out.

One day, Bob was awoken suddenly from a deep sleep. A large item had fallen on him during the night. He quickly realized that the American flag hanging on the wall behind him was the culprit. It was at that point that Bob decided he was going to join the Army. Bob thought it would be a fun way to travel the world and meet new people. Army life was tough for Bob, it wasn’t exactly the vacation he was expecting. It was here he met a young man named Charles, though many referred to him as Pathfinder (due to his rank and ability to always find the way).

Bob admits he didn’t care for Pathfinder the first time they met. He was young, mischievous, and it really annoyed him that Pathfinder kept stealing his stuffed purple monkey.  The two spent only a few short weeks together sometime in 1993 before Bob was transferred to Germany. He was stationed here for the remainder of his service.


A few years later,  Bob found himself wandering the streets of Lowell, Michigan. He had just finished hiking a section of the North Country Trail and was in search of a good hot meal. He wandered into a small pub and immediately heard a familiar voice. He could not help but listen in on the conversation.

“Man I can’t believe some of the adventures you have!”, one of the men stated. “I wish I could do stuff like that, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

imageedit_27_7932414587“Come with me” the man with the familiar voice stated. “I’ll teach you how.” Although the man was not speaking directly to him, Bob thought to himself, “this is it! Finally I can explore and learn with the best of them!”

Excited about his new found potential for adventure, Bob started to approach the man but instead stopped dead in his tracks. Sitting at the table sat Pathfinder! After hours of reminiscing, Pathfinder convinced Bob to join the merry band of misfits that he was referring to as Fortune Bay Expeditionary Team. Bob was skeptical at first but figured “what the hell, this in itself might turn out to be an adventure.”

Throughout the years, Bob became an integral part of Fortune Bay Expedition Team. He was responsible for the removal of the “ary” from the “Expeditionary” in the Fortune Bay name and even helped Pathfinder to push his expeditions farther. Many of the extreme expeditions lead by Pathfinder were the direct result of Bob’s influence. Bob even earned the nickname “Frontier Bob” because of his earlier travels and exploits.

Bob on expedition

Bob ventured out on almost every expedition, though he mostly kept to himself. In 2014, Pathfinder convinced him to participate in a promotional video for the team (there was whiskey involved). Bob had so much fun making the video that he volunteered to be the spokesman for the team. And the rest is history.

Though we don’t recommend following a drunken man at the pub who encourages you to “come with him,” we are grateful that Frontier Bob chose to join us on our adventures and hope you will too!

~Robin “Killer Bee” Hutsko

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