Editor - Staff Writer

Smoke Signals

Sep./Oct. '09

Bi-Monthly Magazine


Care with what your eating or drinking.

As for foods, I too carry the items mentioned in previous issues and more. And you can't have fresh meat all the time, even though we usually take some smoked or salted meats (pork) when on a week or longer trek or canoe trip. 

As for cold weather, the Brothers here in Colorado/Utah always camp on the coldest damn weekend of the year - President's Day, in the mountains at 9 to 10,000 feet and it is very cold. We usually get by OK because we do this type of camping quite a bit. But, others may not get the chance to do it like we have. Our group tries to do it as correctly as we can. We don't use modern equipment or take short cuts if we can help it. 

There are several good articles in the BOB (Book of Buckskinners) series on period trail foods. One can haul a lot of jerked meat, rice, corn meal, etc. with a very few spices to get you by for quit a long time. there are wild edibles that you can learned to recognize that will give you a bit of a variety. Generally your diet is going to a be monotonous for a while and we usually hit the first greasy spoon we come to on the way home. Many of us try to trek where and when we can hunt or fish. But it surely isn't necessary to kill something every day to survive.

As for water how much do you carry, I carry as much as I can. I have had the bug to get rid of some of the weight and it wasn't fun doing this process. For water and medicines I have to compromise and that is OK when it could be major health problem. I really can't see someone leaving his insulin at home for a week just to be more authentic. A friend has carried his insulin in a little leather box for years so he can "shoot up" each morning. I have a small tin of pills that keep me going. As screwed up as this planet's condition are, there simply is no other way with some issues and being period correct.

Having sold dairy feed for a number of years and been around dairy farmer's I can tell you with certainty that there are water born diseases which can very easily be transmitted from cattle to humans through the water. The one that comes to mind is LEPTO (Leptospirosis). There are many different strains of this disease and they are nasty. 

  • Leptospirosis [lep-to-spy-RO-sis] is a potentially serious bacterial illness that is most common in the warmer regions. Leptospirosis can affect many parts of the body. Infected wild and domestic animals pass leptospirosis-causing bacteria in their urine. People get leptospirosis by contact with fresh water, wet soil, or vegetation that has been contaminated by the urine of infected animals. Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics.

Also if you are in a area where there is runoff from other types of operations, be aware that there could be chemicals in the water that could have an accumulative effect. One example is the chemicals that the farmers have had available for 30 or 40 years, that were being sold and used and were supposed to be perfectly safe. Most of what was being used back then was and has since been found to be unsafe and banned for sale. Some of these chemicals are still in the ground and can leach out from time to time.

I just wanted to share a few thoughts on drinking wild water without purifiers, boiling or the like, but straight from the stream. I've been drinking creek water almost exclusively for the past 25 years, whether at home or traveling in the woods. I'm definitely aware of what and where I'm drinking, but if it seems like a reasonably clean mountain stream, I drink and I've never had any problems except an occasional runny crap. My understanding is that some people are far more or less susceptible to giardia and such.

  • Giardia is a germ that causes diarrhea. Giardia is found in infected people’s stool and cannot be seen by the naked eye. This germ is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body and in the environment for long periods of time.

I know a lot of folks like me who continue to drink wild water despite all the warnings and don't have any problems. Most of us seem to agree that being careful not to drink chlorinated water is crucial. Chlorinated water kills your beneficial bacteria that help you defend against giardia and other contaminants. I always try to drink upstream from beaver (though I am sometimes surprised to find them above my drinking spot), don't worry much about free range cattle (even though they do spread giardia), given the choice I choose a spring when I'm in cattle country. I always go for the smallest creek or spring around, and don't drink from rivers. If you are worried about it, I'd encourage you to continue using filters or hauling in water, giardia is really bad news as far as what I have been told. If you do go for it, ease your way in. Drink creek water from a known to be good creek for a while to help build up your beneficial bacteria and work your way in from there.

As far as water goes you can do as many of us have and still do, carry it in. We have carried in gourds and water containers, canteens on foot and horseback, or 5 gal. oak kegs in canoes and other types of water craft. On an extended canoe trip of 1260 river miles, with no support for the 5 members we carried three 5 gal. oak kegs and several canteens a piece, every day we looked for a source when nearing a town the smaller canoe would look for a park or home near the river. Once found we would bargain and sometimes beg with the natives for refills. In most cases 98% the people are just excited to see us and ask questions on what's going on, the refills were never a problem. Granted one needs to use common sense with the condition of our waterways today, but for an example we washed ourselves, our clothes and our cooking items in the river water whether it was the Platte, Missouri or the Mississippi, (we would heat the cooking items over the fire in hopes of killing anything harmful). I guess we were lucky in what is read now. None of the members got sick, no poops - if anything we had more of a problem in having one with period correct foods for 28 days. Damn the wild rice, buffalo and foraged edibles, we were use to greasy Big Mac's and the like, good food just stuck with us and all the paddling at hand (on the water at day break and getting off at dust, making an average of 35-40 river miles a day, left little time for anything but paddling). Just remember to do your research, but use common sense so you don't get in trouble, health wise, law wise, or any other wise.

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