Trip Reports

Canoecopia 2006: Trip Report

As I write this, we’re getting pounded by snow blowing sideways in an almost complete whiteout, which is in contrast to the great weather we had over the weekend at this year’s Canoecopia. I have to think, yet another Canoecopia, the show that signals the start of spring for me. This year, I spent two days in Madison, Wisconsin at the show, and these are the following observations that I made.

The Sales Floor

The sales floor completely changed in arrangement this year. They created a large main isle down the center of the show and then had the booths branching off the center isle. All similar products where then grouped in the same area. This was a good idea for ease of navigation. After talking to some of the vendors and reps, it seemed like the show was a good one for Rutabaga. I’m pretty happy for them, because it’s a great show and hopefully their continued success will continue to bring us the show.

Some Nice Products

I spent very little time on the sales floor, but I did notice a few of the products. Perhaps the one that caught my eye the most is Whiskey Jack Paddles (Whiskey Jack Paddles). Danny Brown of Duluth, MN, owns Whiskey Jack and he handcrafts each paddle. These paddles look like a beautiful surfboard or a high-end instrument, and I really want a chance to test paddle one of the beauties.

Bell Canoe Works’ booth was expanded in size. These guys make some of the finest canoes and decked canoes on the market, and if you’re looking for a canoe, you’re only hurting your search if you don’t consider buying a Bell.

Timbuktu bike messenger bags are pretty sweet. Ilena would love to have one of these, so if she doesn’t buy one, I know what she’s getting for Christmas. (Ilena don’t read this.)

Canoeroots magazine! We need more magazines devoted just to canoeing. I think this year I’m passing on renewing Canoe and Kayak and I’m subscribing to Canoeroots and Adventure Kayaking. They just seem to be more interesting than Canoe and Kayak.

Some Fun Booths

The North House Folk School, based in the Grand Marais, my current hometown, had a nice booth again this year. They were carving paddles, had birch skis on display and were promoting traditional handcrafts. If it’s wood, you can probably fix it easier than you can plastic.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail had a booth. Man!!!! I so want to do this trail. I’ve wanted to do it since I first heard about the trail, and I do more so now. If anyone wants to do it this year, email me. 30 to 45 days. 750 miles. I’ll drop everything to go do this trail. We’d be the third and forth people to finish the trail.

New Demos

This year, Canoecopia used the pool in the adjoining hotel for rolling demos and other paddling demos. We watched Rolf & Deb Krakier demonstrate canoe ballet or Canadian Style Paddling in a 15′ Bob’s Special in the tiny pool. It was very amusing.

Also, this year, a cooking demo was running all day on the second floor. We watched the fry bread demo, but skipped eating the food after watching unwashed hands tearing apart the bread for the demo.

The Speakers

This year, there weren’t very many must-go shows that I had to see, but there were a ton of shows that looked like they would be good and I wanted to see, so each hour seemed like a compromise, and I struck out three times. Ouch.

Cell Phones

Before I describe each speaker and show, I’d like to make a comment about cell phones, because in every presentation that I sat in on, at least, one cell phone would ring. And often, at least, two or three different cell phones would go off during the slide show. This is absolutely one of the most inconsiderate actions that someone can do. Only worse, was the guy who stayed in the slide show, walked to the corner of the room, and continued to talk on the phone for three minutes. If you have a cell phone, please, turn off the volume of your phone or turn it off while you’re in a slide show. Because leaving the cell phone on and having it ring does two things: First, it interrupts the speaker and throws off their momentum, and second, it is disrespectful to the 100 to 200 other people in the room. They came to watch the slide show and not to listen to cell phones ring in annoyingly loud ring tones and songs.

Okay the Speakers

Mark Hansen

Mark Hansen is from Grand Marais (my current hometown) and builds boats and teaches at the North House Folk School. His slide show was titled In Search of Caribou via the Winter Canoe, and, really, had nothing to do with caribou. I don’t think that he even had a slide of caribou, but with that said, it was an interesting slide show about living in a yurt during the winter on Lake Nipigon. I gleamed some nice tips about chopping ice holes: use a ultra sharp three sided ice needle to bust open the holes. For bending skis: soak the wood, the wrap in a wool blanket, pour boiling water over it, and wrap it in plastic, wait 5 minutes and it will bend like, well, a bendy noodle. And the best quote of the show was one that his friend told him, “Anything that is worth doing is worth doing poorly.” And a website:

Tim Smith

I went to this same presentation last year, but I enjoyed it so much, that I thought I’d go to it again, and I enjoyed it just as much as last year. Basically, he talked about wilderness survival, discussed making fire, what to have in your survival kit, and a survival plan. I took notes this year in order to pass on some nice tips to you the readers. These skills are essential to anyone heading into the woods. (Also, check out my article: Nessmuking) His main point is this: Survival = maintain body temp, eight hours of sleep a day, and staying hydrated = 40 days of survival. Stay in one location, sit, get fire, and wait to be rescued.

Important items for survival: warm clothing, fire, knife (aid in fire making, sturdy fixed blade, carbon steel, 25 degree angled blade, deep deep sheath, good steel), a pocket-sized!!! 1st Aid/ Signal kit (have a way to deal with knife and axe cuts if you have it, steri-strips, band aides, and duct tape, signal mirror, small magnifying lens), Signaling devices (whistle, mirror, practice signal fires), navigation (map/compass, and skills, bare-hand navigation), 30′ string or cordage (know slippery knots!!!). Other tools to think about bringing because they make things easier: Shelter components, big pad, axe, saw, metal pot.

Survival Plan or what’s going to kill you first: 1. First Aide (If you survive 30 minutes after the injury, you have a 65% chance to make it 3 days), 2. Fire lighting (no fire then insulate), 3. Shelter, 4. Water, 5. Signal (three short whistle blasts).

Also, something not preached about hard enough: Practice! Practice! Practice! Reading a book or website isn’t enough. Get out and practice fire starting, shelter building, etc”¦ in a safe location before you need to use the skill in the woods and in an emergency. This does a couple of things: Memorizing makes rapid progress during an event, rapid progress helps regain a sense of control, a sense of control helps boost confidence, and acting quickly takes advantage of adrenaline.

Survival kit: Your kit needs stuff to address sleep, hydration, and maintaining body temp. If it doesn’t do these then leave it at home. Your kit should reflect your level of training and have items specific to the activity or application. It has to be small enough so that you carry it on person with you, because if it’s downstream in a runaway pack you can’t use it. Include a knife and fire makers.

Good quote: It takes four nights to own a shelter. Important to think about for those who po-po a tarp after only using it one night.

Jim & Carol Otremba

I was super excited about this slide show titled: “It’s a Long Way for a Beignet: A Journal of a Mississippi River Canoe Adventure.” I’ve paddled a 560-mile portion of the Mississippi, so I wanted to see another’s version of the trip. This show turned out to be slightly slow.

Kevin Callan

River rat’s Midadventures in Quetico. I can’t say enough about how funny Kevin Callan is. I love his shows and laughed non-stop for the hour. This is a must go show!!!

Tom O’Keefe

This was another lecture that I was super excited to go see and it turned out to be slow and didn’t address the issues of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, nor did it address the issues of what was unique about this special area.

Rof & Deb Krakier

An interesting slide show about The Art of Canadian Style Canoe Paddling, which is a style of paddling that I use sometimes. This is one of the slide shows that should be a class, and they teach this style of paddling. If I didn’t know how to do this, I don’t think I would have gotten much out of this slide show, but since I do, I enjoyed it.

Fry Bread Making

I don’t remember the presenters name, sorry. He basically mixed up store bought bread mixes and made them in front of us while he was drinking a lot of wine. This was basically worthless for us. He didn’t even give out a good recipe for fry bread. So, I will. This is the best fry bread recipe ever:


  • 1 cup flour or (1/2 cup wheat, cornmeal, oat, sometimes falafel, and 1/2 cup white flour.)
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 2 T powdered milk
  • 1 t sugar
  • In camp:

  • 3 T oil or margarine
  • water to make soft dough
  • fry in greased skillet on moderate flames.
  • Cinnamon and sugar for breakfast.

Rob Center & Kay Henry

These two spoke and showed a slide show about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which is a trail that I’ve been interested in paddling since first hearing about its development years ago. Now, I really want to go. This slide show was inspirational and Rob Center who spoke the majority of the time seemed to be a well-centered negotiator. What a feat that they accomplished building this trail!!!! If someone wants to do this, this year, I’m game. Email me.

Don Easley

Don Easley gave a show called Fishin’ the Boundary Waters for Dummies. I went to this because Ilena likes to fish and she wanted to go. It was a pretty fun show and I enjoyed it. If you like to fish, then you should see this guy next year.


Canoecopia always signals the start of spring for me and pumps me up to get back out on the water. This show was no different; I’m ready to go paddling. Maybe next year, I’ll buy something when I’m there.

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