February 25, 2010

Going Camping

Blogging will cease for a few day while I take a trip. It should involve snow, skis, and tipis. Other people are in charge, so I get to ride along, try to be cheerful, and pull my weight (literally, as there is sledging involved).

No, that is not me in the photo. He is a competitor in one of the original primitive biathlons at Smugglers' Notch, Vermont.

We might be able to figure out some kind of biathlon too.

Right now the study floor is littered with gear, and Fisher, the young Chessie, has discovered the fleece sleeping-bag liner.

February 19, 2010

Once There Were Two Saloons

The local weekly's "100 Years Ago" column this week reprinted a news item about how "Under-sheriff Triplett made the trip" to our corner of the county in 1910, where he "ordered the two saloons there, running without a license, closed."

Two saloons, imagine that.

You haven't been able to walk up to the bar and order a drink here since the Great Poaching Scandal closed down the one café-and-bar at the junction back in 2004.

It seems the manager (the owner's son) and five of his buddies decided to poach a few trophy mule deer out of the pastures nearby in the early winter of 2003. They were caught and sentenced to hefty fines and suspended jail time.

And business cratered.

The owner put a notice in every box at the post office, saying in effect, "It wasn't me, and it's not true we were serving any of the venison."

But people stopped eating and drinking there, and the café, which had been in operation under various owners at least since the 1950s, closed and stayed closed.

Now the county has bought the building and plans to tear it down and make a little roadside park "with picnic tables, a pavilion, and other improvements for area residents as well as for travelers."

Some of the fire department guys wanted to burn it down for practice, but there are problems with that, such as overhanging trees.

Maybe we can just chop holes in the roof for ventilation practice before the building is demolished.

And if you have an urge to drink in a bar, it is 15 miles to the nearest such establishment.

February 18, 2010

Still Not Exactly the Joads

New York Times reporter Kirk Johnson tries to get a Grapes of Wrath vibe going in this story on nomadic retired volunteer parkies, but I don't think it works.

These people are not that desperate.

But if you like to travel, like outdoor-related work, and can stand dealing with the public, it's not a bad way to live.

Hunting Makes a Girl Feral

At the NorCal Cazadora blog, Holly considers how her hunting life is changing her both physically and psychologically.

You see, hunting is changing me. The more time I spend in the field reconnecting with what we really are - omnivorous animals who are blessed with the ability to gather lots of great food and with the cleverness to cook it beautifully - the more I seem to disdain civilization.

Don't get me wrong - I loved that appendectomy I had last year. I like the part of civilization that made it possible for me not to be dead at this moment. And obviously, I'm fond of the Internet because it has allowed me to connect with you.

But some aspects of civilization seem downright ridiculous. A special yogurt that's supposed to fix our upset tummies because we gorged on too much unhealthy food. Meds that help us overcome the stress and insomnia that accompany the hectic pace of success (been there). Or my very favorite: a freakin' video game that is being touted as a great new fitness regimen for morons who play too many video games that exercise only their thumbs. Good lord!

February 16, 2010

The Humane Society's Bogus Dog-Food Caper

The Humane Society of the United States, which has nothing to do with actual shelter animals, is now putting its name on a brand of dog food.

It is shipped all the way from Uruguay (carbon footprint, anyone?), perhaps because no American dog-food maker wants to be associated with HSUS.

It is promoted as vegetarian, but actually is not, if you read the fine print. (And what dog was ever voluntarily a vegetarian?)

Oh yes, and it's expensive. HSUS is all about the fund-raising.

Patrick Burns digs deeper here. More at the Smartdogs' blog as well.

The Dog Ate My MG

Mountain Gazette's annual mountain dog photo contest can be seen at their web site--all the submissions, not just the winners.  Lots of happy, church-going canines there. "Dog half-buried in snow" is a favorite theme.

But when you put "Mountain Dogs" on the cover, some mountain dog thinks that that issue is his chew toy.

February 13, 2010

Looking for a Bowstring-Truss Roof (and Other Structural Types)

As part of an ongoing firefighting class, I spent part of the morning riding around Florence, Colo., in their Engine 29 on a scavenger hunt for NFPA building types.

RIGHT: Florence's Engine 29 back in its bay.

Let's see .. the Elks Club, three-story brick construction, maybe late 1890s. That would be Type III, Ordinary Construction, with a fire-resistant exterior. "Interior structural members vulnerable to fire involvement."

In other words, the inside is mostly wood. It burns, and then the brick walls collapse spectacularly. "Susceptible to water damage."

Parapet on front wall—would not want ladders going up on that side.  Hmm. Fire escape could fall off if the walls start to give. Commercial kitchen in concrete-block addition.

And then C____ puts Florence's Engine 29 in gear, and we go off to look for a bowstring-truss roof .

Lots of local knowledge in that department. Name a building, and someone has worked in it or helped to build or remodel it. Consequently, they know that, for instance, the former car dealership downtown has a second "rain roof" in the back and various weird enclosed spaces underneath. Or which Main Street stores have old cast-iron fascias.

I start to unwind driving home, looking at the forest. But we have a different set of fears.

Most houses here are smaller, one or two-story structures. A few bigger "trophy homes." Churches, stores, former school-turned-library. Many are adjacent to forested land, part of the "urban interface."

My other big fear, however, are the big barns and stables. Large open spaces, hay and dust, large panicky animals—all scary. I am chilled to my bones just thinking about them.  I drive by one huge horse barn a couple of times a week, thinking, "Don't burn. Please don't ever burn."

February 12, 2010

Backyard Bird Count Lasts through Monday

Three days are left in the Cornell ornithology lab's Backyard Bird Count.

I have class on Saturday, so I'll pick up on Sunday, which promises nastier weather that might drive more birds our day.

The rules are simple: count the highest number of each species that you see at one time (not a cumulative total). Report them online, and send pictures if you like.

I did see about 20 evening grosbeaks today hanging around, a real treat.

I love their raspy little call, and the yellow-black-white spring plumage of the males, combined with their almost green beak, makes them look nearly tropical.

They show up unpredictably (an "irruption"), hang around, then split for parts unknown.

The Evening Grosbeak is a stocky, heavy-billed finch of northern coniferous forests. An irruptive migrant across much of its range, it makes roughly biannual appearances at winter feeding stations throughout much of the coterminous United States. Often moving in large flocks, this boldly colored bird with the massive bill is difficult for observers to miss. During the breeding season, however, the species is quite secretive, and courtship occurs without elaborate song or display. This secretiveness, together with a spare, flimsy nest placed high in a tree, makes it a difficult subject of study. As a result, comparatively little is known of the species’ life history.
And why is it called the "evening" grosbeak? Is there a mid-morning grosbeak out there someplace? (They are active all day.)

In the 1980s, the Evening Grosbeak was a "fern bar" in Cañon City, Colo. The daily newspaper, where I worked three years, was that rara avis, an afternoon daily, and after it went to press, the editorial staff sometimes adjourned to the Grosbeak to dip our beaks.

February 08, 2010

Park County Wildlife Area to Commemorate Charlie Meyers?

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will consider naming a state wildlife area on the South Platte River after the late Charlie Meyers, the Denver Post's outdoor writer.

But will the Post replace him??

Wolf Pack in Western Colorado?

The Denver Post reports a possible wolf pack establishing itself in western Colorado.

At least two wolves from the Yellowstone National Park area have wandered hundreds of miles into Colorado since 2004. One of the wolves was found dead along Interstate 70 west of Denver. The other, which was radio-collared, died in northwest Colorado last year; federal officials are investigating.

Actually, I heard my first wolf-gossip from the San Juans back around 1986. Never sure whether to believe that or not. 

February 06, 2010

More Weirdness in Lost Creek Wilderness

In a comment to my post on the strange sounds in the San Juans, Peculiar mentions something recent and sort of similar from the Lost Creek Wilderness Area, in the Pike National Forest southwest of Denver.

Yep. From my own Bigfoot-hunting (done only on the Web), I was aware of stories told and photos taken that center on a stream called, curiously, Monkey Creek, on the west side of the wilderness area.

I don't know that country--all of my modest hiking and backpacking into Lost Creek has been from the east side. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to me.

(Note that the 14ers.com poster was coming into the Lost Creek area from the northeast.)

My father's Forest Service career took him in and out of the Pike NF, from his late-1930s forestry school days when he planted trees there in the summer to his final position on the forest supervisor's staff in the 1960s.

So I asked him once if he knew how Monkey Creek got its name. He had no idea.

I'm still wondering.

First the Aurochs, then the Cave Bear

Italian scientists plan to re-create the extinct giant bovine aurochs.

"We were able to analyse auroch DNA from preserved bone material and create a rough map of its genome that should allow us to breed animals nearly identical to aurochs," said team leader Donato Matassino, head of the Consortium for Experimental Biotechnology in Benevento, in the southern Campania region.

"We've already made our first round of crosses between three breeds native to Britain, Spain and Italy. Now we just have to wait and see how the calves turn out."

I suppose Ted Turner would want a few on his ranches. Maybe he could buy a new spread in Poland for his aurochs herd.

Research Note: Bibliophagy in the Chesapeake

Sailor, J., and L. Canton. 2010. Bibliophagy in the young adult Chesapeake Bay retriever. Journal of Bird-dog Behavior. 48: 59-60.


Subject, a 2-year-old  Chesapeake Bay retriever, spent much time in a room with floor-to-ceiling bookcases.  He was observed to withdraw one of the older volumes present (Barrington, Sir John. Sketches of his own time. 1880. Chicago: Belford, Clarke & Co.) and gnaw the spine.

We hypothesize that nineteenth-century bindings contain animal-based glues, thus attracting the bibliophage. Further research is required. Correlative counter-surfing behavior also appears to be related.

Who is Calling in the San Juans?

Snow has been falling heavily in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Bigfoot (Bigfeet? Bigfoots?) must be hibernating.

In the summer and fall, however, their haunting calls are heard.

OK, smart guy, what is it?

More Outdoor Writing Going Online?

The Suburban Bushwhacker, who unlike most people who complain about outdoor writing is not an outdoor writer himself, writes a long post on up-and-coming online magazine as well as veterans like Field & Stream.

The last two issues have been a partial return to form, Bill Heavy's piece about spending time with the Alaskan trapper was fantastic--the kind of long-form journalism that belongs on a page not a screen, the kind that prompted me to take the copy round to The Northern Monkey's boat and tell him to read it. Great moments, sadly looking all the greater as they are set against some of the most pointless shit yet published. Sorry, chaps but it's true, that '50 states of the great outdoors' or what ever it was called was rubbish and obviously rubbish culled from the internet by an intern. Cheap to produce, would have worked on a blog, but not good enough for F&S.

I'll be following some of his links.

February 05, 2010

Things I Learn Online: Floral Apocalypse

There is a sub-genre of dystopian writing called "floral apocalypse," as in, everything stops growing. Or some things, enough to end Civilization As We Know It.

Shift Some Colorado ORV Funds to Enforcement, Restoration

Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other conservation groups are urging the Colorado State Parks Board, which controls off-road vehicle registration fees, to start spending some on enforcement and restoration.

Durango writer Dave Petersen explains why at The Huffington Post:

Currently, Colorado charges $25.25 in annual registrations fees for each ORV, which raises some $3.2 million annually for the state ORV Program. Logic demands that a portion of that fat purse goes to ORV law enforcement to assure public safety and prevent further resource damage, with another share dedicated to repairing the damage already done. But when it comes to ORVs, logic fails. As a recent Durango Herald editorial pointed out, virtually every penny of ORV "sticker fund" monies goes to maintaining, improving and in some cases expanding motorized trails on public lands, and to various forms of ORV self-promotion.

A lot of Coloradans think that's wrong. A broad coalition of more than 40 state and national organizations representing more than 100,000 sportsmen, other outdoor recreationists, conservationists, law enforcement personnel and elected officials joined together to ask the State Parks Board to make much-needed changes to the Colorado ORV Program to provide significant funding for dedicated law enforcement -- now critically lacking -- and restoration of motorized damage to fish and wildlife habitat.

If you are sick of seeing ORVs/ATVs traveling on prohibited trails, driven carelessly through streams and wetlands, or run straight up and down hills to cause erosion, let the board know.

February 03, 2010

Blog Stew with Faster Trees

• Birders skeptical about claims of new photos of ivory-billed woodpecker.

• Audio tries the viral-video route with "Green Police" spoof. Fiendishly clever or not nice at all? If Jeep did this, I would be more conflicted. With Audi, I could not care less.

• A study suggests that higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are causing East Coast trees to grow faster. True in other places too?

Arguments for and against "debarking" dogs. Some vets won't do it anymore. Some trainers insist that if behavioral modification fails, then debarking is the alternative to euthanasia.

February 02, 2010

Cheap Gear: Swedish Army Parka M90

I was looking for a new cold-weather chore coat. It had to be inexpensive, fairly warm, washable, and not so precious that I would be sad if it were, for instance, torn by a branch, barbed wire, or the buck saw.

Obviously the place to look is the wide, wonderful world of military surplus.

My choice was a new  ex-Swedish army parka with a long list of features, which cost $40. (Used ones cost less.) To Swedes it's the Värmejacka M90.

It's not as warm as my down-filled parka, but at 20° F. I don't even zip it up all the way. And I like that it is long enough to come down past mid-thigh, blocking butt-freezing winds.

Of course it had that military warehouse smell, even after washing, but that will gradually dissipate with wearing and airing.

I don't like hoods except in the coldest weather, and this parka's insulated hood can be rolled and strapped to make a sort of puffy collar.

The Swedish army thinks soldiers don't need inside breast pockets. Oh well.

February 01, 2010

From where the sun now stands, I will hike no more forever

A mysterious single hiking boot jammed into a trailhead sign on the San Isabel National Forest, spotted while M. and I were skiing one of our favorite trails today.

How do you lose one boot?

Sadly, it put me in mind of this bit of news about there being  fewer hardcore backpackers and hikers out there.