Sunrise at Birch Lake, MN

Sunrise at Birch Lake, MN
Sunrise at Birch Lake, MN

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Blonde Bomber Strikes Again: A Cautionary Tale

Several people from Houston came up to paddle the Buffalo National River. In our pre-trip meetings, we established that three of us wanted to do a different portion than the others because we didn't have boats suitable for white water and we  wanted do longer trip.

So our little group only met and camped with the rest Saturday night, which did give me lots more people to enjoy the show I put on when I blew up supper.

I'm telling this tale because I plan to be safer and hope you check that you are operating your camp stove safely also.  I use a back-packing stove, the MSR pocket rocket, because it fits (fitted) into the smallest of my set of pans. The stove screws directly on to the fuel canister.  The canister plainly says " do NOT completely enclose with a wind screen.  However, I'd just bought a new wind screen and it would not stand up unless it went around the stove.  I was cooking on one of those metal mesh tables and thought the heat would dissipate.  (At least I'm sure I would have thought that, had I thought at all.)

I put in the oil, then added chopped vegetables, and finally the summer sausage to begin the process of making summer sausage stir fry.  I even had fresh Swiss chard which I had chopped up in two parts - adding the stems first, so they could saute, and planned to add the leaves near the end of the cooking.  But after I'd finished stirring while sauteeing, and just as the broth began to simmer, there was a loud pop.  I was surprised to see NOTHING where my pot and stove had been.  I think I saw some debris falling to the ground. Then I realized people were ducking and  falling backward and I was burning and wet.  I ran to my bag of water and put some water on my face.  I had to put my glasses on my head because they were so covered with food that I couldn't see through them. My hair was saturated with supper.

Me a few minutes after the explosion. Just after this, I went and washed up and put on another shirt
Then I came to myself enough to check on everyone else and  see there were all  still alive and mostly intact. My head was soaking wet and I  had minor burns on my head and chest as well as bruises and small cuts. Skip had been blown backward from standing with one foot on the table seat and almost fell onto a fire ring.  He twisted and put his arm down and bruised it and hurt his shoulder.  So for the rest of our trip, we had to help each other put on jackets because I had the same kind of fairly useless left arm as he did a right arm.  And Bob got some of supper on him but wasn't hurt.

My cookware didn't fare so well. My stove was twisted and bent.  All my pans were bent and I threw out all but the smallest, which can still be used. The windscreen was in many pieces. Some of the panels were mostly intact but others were torn or bent. I actually put a dent in the table and saw two cracks near the frame.

The cook pan was pretty bad on the bottom and was also no longer round
An innocent bystander pan
My heat disperser was almost burnt out  and the wind shield was in many pieces, some more torn up than others
My poor, twisted and bent stove

Fuel canister- we also found the bottom

Top side view of fuel canister
 But we were extremely lucky.  The blast went up and then over us, before spreading debris in about a 30 to 40 foot radius.  I had left my pot grabber on the pot and just set the lid over it so the fluid mostly blew back on me, with a little going on Bob.

My new stove has the fuel canister connected by a tube to the stove so I can now completely encase the pot and protect the flame put not heat up the canister

And Skip came through with his minestrone soup he had brought for emergency food, and cooked supper for us. Bob provided his stove and then realized it was not working correctly. Bob and Skip had two more stoves and Bob's stove made it to the end of the trip.

So bring extra stoves and be sure not to wrap a wind screen around the fuel canister.

On the positive side, the whole group was energized and felt much more grateful to be alive. 

Thanks to Mike for taking these pictures and then letting me us them, so I could show you the dangers of heating a fuel canister.  As a (former?) pyromaniac himself, he was quite admiring.

 And yes, my child, I'll tell you about the Blonde Bomber. That was a  sobriquet given to me in college chemistry classes. That also had a little to do with fire and mayhem.

On a personal note: I'm in South Louisiana visiting my friend, Hulin..I have to get back to Galveston Sunday evening so, on Monday morning,  I can have a steroid shot into my spine to see if that will help my shoulder. Then I have at least two more doctor appointments next week.  Time to get out of Dodge.

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