This Is the American Bison

By Jack Dykinga – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID K5680-1 (next). Public Domain,

When we were out in Colorado, I came across a couple books about the American Bison (Bison bison), commonly referred to as a buffalo. Yes, bison are the American mammal, though they usually aren’t at the top of the list of common house pets.

As I looked into this wild creature, I found a couple interesting articles. Here is my treasure trove of bison resources:


Central Colorado Fun

Between Denver and Silverthorne/Dillon/Frisco, there’s a lot to do even when the slopes aren’t covered with powder. Here are just a few of the options:

In Golden you can visit the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Colorado Railroad Museum, and the Clear Creek History Park (link). And don’t miss the Buffalo Overlook where you can try to spot, you know, American Bison.

There are a lot of mine tours. I’m especially interested in the Argo Mill tour (TA).

For more adrenaline, try ziplining at either the Colorado Adventure Center or AVA Rafting and Zipline.

There are a number of rafting outfits on Clear Creek as well.

Or if you want something warmer or more relaxing, try the Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs.

And more:

  • Paddling in Dillon Reservoir
  • Touring Black Hawk and Central City
  • Hiking

Fisherman’s Island State Park

We were recently in the Petoskey area, so on our way out of town, we stopped by Fisherman’s Island St Park (MI DNR website) to see if we’d like to camp there. Verdict: we would. I see why this area is included in Best Tent Camping: Michigan. It’s a bit rustic–vault toilets, no showers, no electricity; as it should be.

There are two camping areas–north and south. Each has a row of sites along Lake Michigan and a loop or two in the forest on the other side of the road. The lake-side sites are prime real estate.

The road into the area is beautiful too.


This short drone footage (YouTube) was my introduction to the campground.

More Knots, Fewer Devices

I was never in Boy Scouts, Pathfinders, or any other variant of a bushcraft/youth paramilitary organization. Ergo, I never learned knots. 

I’m lucky to have lived through a decade of rock climbing. We engaged in such poor rope use while climbing that I didn’t learn the figure-8 until after 10 years of sending; I finally had to learn it in order to climb at the local gym so I watched this video. So wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Kids, don’t be like me. Learn your knots!

My tent guy lines look ridiculous. My tarp hanging concoctions are pathetic. My shoelace knots barely keep shoes on my feet. 20 years ago I bought these cheap plastic things that I’ve never gotten to work right. No more!

Tonight I learned three knots. The more you know, the less you need, says Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Know these knots and leave those crappy plastic things at home.

Thanks, Andrew Skurka.

Backpacker: Top 10 Outdoor Apps

I appreciated the recent Backpacker run-down of “The 10 Best Apps For the Outdoors” (Ryan Wichelns, 11 May 2017).

Some of them–like the SkyView–I’d heard of before, but others were new and engaging. I’ve wanted an app like Leafsnap or PeakFinder. I’m probably the last person to hear of these.

We don’t let our kiddo use a phone yet, but when the time comes, these look a lot better than playing Candy Annihilation.

You can buy all 10 in the list for a total of $31.96 (if I did the math correctly). Looks like it could be money well spent.

Paddling Pantheon

In the Pantheon of paddling greats, Michiganders have to know people like Verlen Kruger (more than 88,000 paddle miles; memorial) and Serge Corbin (18-time winner of the Au Sable River Marathon). As a side note, our family took 6 days to cover the same miles those racers paddle in less than 24 hours.

This weekend my dad introduced me to another paddler, Canadian Bill Mason. He made a number of films, and my dad shared one of them — Song of the Paddle:


Vans and Homes and Kids

I’ve been watching videos about families living in vans. At this point, it seems that the films can be grouped into three categories: short-term, long-term, and this-was-not-my-plan. Because embedding videos slows down loading time for the blog, I’m going to link to videos of the first two categories and only embed videos for the third.

Short-Term | These families could be considered to be on vacation, more or less:

Long-Term | These are families who live in their rigs for extended periods of time:

  • Van Life EP2 – How Do We Live? (9:50, Where’s My Office Now?). “Do you wonder how families live van life? Or what it is like to educate kids on the road? Van life is a personal journey, and there are many ways to get from point A to B. Yet, we can all learn from each other. Join us as we interview two families, guided by the question HOW DO WE LIVE?”
  • Inspiration: Tortuga Plata – Family of 4 in a Westfalia Syncro Van (3:00, Where’s My Office Now?). “Marc, Sarah, 5-year old Charlee and their dog Micah have been traveling in their Syncro since October 2013. We met them in Sedona, AZ and were inspired to see a family living and loving life on the road.”

This Was Not My Plan

This category is traditionally termed “homeless.” A few years ago I watched It Was a Wonderful Life, a documentary about women who become homeless for various reasons. Along those lines, here is just one mother’s experience:

Living Out of a Van (3:30, KPBS News). “For San Diego County’s homeless, finding a safe place to sleep just got a little harder. A week ago the City of Vista pulled the plug on a program there. Cornerstone Christian Church opened its parking lot for people to sleep overnight in their cars. But the city said the program would need to apply for costly permits and undergo public hearings to continue. Dreams for Change, the organization running the program, still offers an overnight lot close to downtown San Diego. Reporter Acacia Squires brings us this story of one family taking advantage of it.”

Humble Design Turns Angela’s House Into a Happy, Humble Home! (4:00, Humble Design). “Check out all of the amazing family’s homes we transform: With every family that Humble Design helps we restore their hope for better days in the future. This family opened OUR eyes to a new level of inspiration and what it means to be humble. Angela’s story is one of the most heartbreaking, yet inspirational story ever shared with Humble Design. Angela held strong to the hope that there were better days ahead. After moving to California to be with her ex-husband and father of her five children, her dream was shattered. With no help from her ex-husband, the family of six lived out of their mini van. It has been a long road for this family, and they finally have a happy, humble home!”