May 31, 2010

A Bear Comes to Camera Trap Spring

As promised, I have been trying for some scout-camera photos. Here is a little bear sequence from Wednesday, May 26.

First, a brown-phase black bear shows up at the spring (the depression at the left edge of the photo).

When I came to pick up the camera this morning, I noticed that it looked a little cock-eyed. Sure enough, the bear had noticed the camera and had come to investigate.

The bear brushed up against the camera, leaving some mud on the case. You can see that the camera is tilted away from horizontal.

Eventually the bear went on its way.

My equipment is not the greatest, but camera-trapping is fun, and I will have some more photos soon.

May 29, 2010

Pueblo Reservoir Sunset

Those are the Wet Mountains in the distance. (Click image to embiggen.) If you work for state parks, you are required to call this thirty-something-year-old body of water "Lake Pueblo."  Sounds better.

The little point in the foreground with the juniper growing out of it looks like some of the "Penrose-Rock outcrop complex," made of limestone and interbedded shale, if I read my soil maps correctly. They belong to the Penrose-Minnequa Association, which has its annual meeting the last Saturday of June at La Tronica's Italian restaurant in Pueblo. (Joke.)

Sometimes I think that if there were more colorful sandstone and less of the blah beige shale, this area would attract more Georgia O'Keefe wannabes.

Oh well, you take what you got. At least the walleye and crappie were biting.

May 23, 2010

Blog Stew, the Solar Version

• Our Division of Wildlife has expanded its Colorado Birding Trail.

The web site provides a variety of helpful information, including: species you're likely to see, habitats you'll encounter, location maps, directions, availability of public and private facilities, latitude/longitude coordinates of sites and a general description of each site. The web site also explains techniques and etiquette for watching birds, descriptions of other wildlife you're likely to see, and resources for learning more about birds and the environment of Colorado. 

• An AP wrap-up of the settlement in the Indian trust settlement lawsuit, oddly not mentioning Interior Secretary Salazar. (I think he was one of Obama's better Cabinet picks, so far, although the Gulf oil spill is going to rub off on everyone connected.)

• Venture capitalist David Gelbaum, a major investor in solar-energy projects, is also suspicious of the Big Corporate Projects in the Desert approach.

“There are other areas [than the Mojave Desert] appropriate for solar plants,” says Mr. Gelbaum, kicking off his shoes and walking barefoot along a riverbank. “As distributed solar becomes lower-priced, there are plenty of roofs to put solar on.”

We Colorado voters helped that trend by requiring power companies to produce x-amount of renewable energy. Big Companies think chiefly in terms of Big Projects using up Big Amounts of Land and requiring Big Transmission Lines. That whole approach is contrary to the idea of solar energy, if you ask me.

What's the opposite of NIMBY? PIIMBY (Put it in my backyard)?

In Pursuit of a Trout Grand Slam

"Looks like a good place for weighted nymphs."
Jobs I could never do: Rocky Mountain Fishing Guide:
Ed-and-Gary glanced at each other quickly, then bent over and almost choked. They almost spit their drinks out right onto the table. Finally, Ed got hold of his breath and said, “No, Rex, I think we'll just be moving on tomorrow. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re heading up to fish the San Juan, near Colorado.” (I absolutely hate the San Juan — a reservoir tailwater, full of Texans.)
Read Rex Johnson's piece, another reason for shunning outdoor television

May 22, 2010

Under the Jet Stream

Today's Jet Stream flow, courtesy of
The purple arrow is pointed right at us,* and the wind is howling. Nevertheless, M. and I hiked to Camera Trap Spring today and placed two scout cameras in different locations, one at the spring and one on a well-traveled game trail.

It's on BLM land but legal public access is topographically challenging. We can cross a neighbor's property, gain 500 feet in elevation, and then descend almost that much, all in 2/3 mile.

Since it's not hunting season, I really do not expect anyone to come by on two feet—that's the plan.

Our other fear is a more primal one, of walking through the forest when the trees are swaying in a high wind, hoping one does not drop on our heads.

*Well, actually it appears to be pointed more at Colorado Springs.

May 18, 2010

It's Time to Go Fishing

Some times it is just necessary to go fishing. A slow spring run-off this year is helping keep spring streams in southern Colorado fishable. Thanks  to Sawtooth (who needs to blog more) for getting me out of the house.

This is Grape Creek, which flows from the Wet Mountain Valley into the Arkansas River at Cañon City. It was Zebulon Pike's route up into the valley in 1807, which must have been a miserable trip. I wonder what its canyon looked like then.

We caught brown and rainbow trout—and saw one battered two-foot-long tiger muskie, which must have washed down from Lake DeWeese. Out of its habitat, away from its prey base, its prospects were not good at all.

Zeb would have eaten it, had tiger muskies existed two hundred years ago. So would I, but I had no net to try to grab it with, and I could not interest it in a streamer fly.

May 15, 2010

Astounding Jackrabbit Facts--and More

• Your jackrabbit is a dainty beast, very fleet of foot, and possessed of a latticework skull, so the Codger tells us.

• Jake Allsop gives us one more nickname for a kestrel, which can substitute for a hearty oath, viz.: "Oh, ********!"

• Every time we watched one of Ken Burns' national park series, M. and I wondered, "Why couldn't we have a Civilian Conservation Corps today?"  They built so much of what we take for granted at national parks and elsewhere.

Now there would be 500 more bureaucratic hoops to be jumped through, for one thing. Someone would probably object to clothing the young people in surplus Army uniforms—too militaristic! In the 1930s, they were happy to have durable clothing.

But you can visit a blog about the history of the CCC.

May 14, 2010

Geocaching Gets the Kids Outside

"I wish they had geocaching class in my 5th grade. We had square dancing." (Latitude 47 blog)
Geocaching is now being promoted as a way to get the kids outside, as you can see in this little YouTube video, a trailer for a longer production.

Well, yeah, maybe. As soon as the *(@$% rain lets up, I plan to hide some geocaches that will require some serious walking. But in my limited experience, you can drive right up to within a few yards of most caches. It's the exceptions that are most memorable. And kudos to the parents who do take their kids to find those kinds of caches.

May 12, 2010

Colorado's Online Elk Hunting University

Elk working 
through deep snow in the winter of 2008/9. Photo © CDOW/J. Lewandowski.

Under "Resources" on the blog roll, I am adding the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Elk Hunting University.
We call this effort Elk Hunting University (EHU) as a framework to pass along skills and knowledge to aspiring elk hunters. As we move through this course together, realize we are walking new ground that we have not walked before. We hope we can find innovative ways to teach you basic elk hunting skills, coach you to develop those skills to a higher level, and mentor you through articles and videos, responding to your questions and sharing with you the experiences of others.
Thus far, seven lessons have been posted:

  • Lesson One: Introduction to Elk Hunting 101
  • Lesson Two: Planning a Successful Elk Hunt
  • Lesson Three: Applying for a License
  • Lesson Four: Using Technology—Getting with the Times
  • Lesson Five: Pre-scouting—Using Maps and GPS
  • Lesson Six: Scouting Tips—The "Secrets to Success"
  • Lesson Seven: High Altitude Hunting
  • 'I want to be like her . . . '

    . . . M. said after reading the obituary of Ethel Gordon-Poage 1908-2010.

    Gordon-Poage loved to fish for trout and catfish and often went off on her own in her pickup truck, even in her 70s, said her granddaughter, Dorothy Wilkerson of Grand Junction. "She never told anyone, and there were no cellphones then. . . .

    "It was like the Old West," said grandson Floyd Kendall of Grand Junction. "She'd camp out in snow, under stars or in the rain," and those who went with her learned to adjust. . . .

    She helped on her father's ranch and in the summers worked as a cook in mining camps and on horseback, guiding mules loaded with ore, and sometimes dynamite and blasting caps, from the mountains to a nearby town. . . .
    This woman should have been featured in Outside or Mountain Gazette, but she probably did not own enough high-tech outdoor clothing or summit enough high peaks to be considered a profile subject.

    May 11, 2010

    A Writer Remembers His Boy Scout Days

    News about the Boy Scouts has not been good lately. That is why the writer Paul Theroux knocked out an op-ed piece, "Troop Therapy," for the New York Times.

    Reflecting on his 1950s boyhood, Theroux remembers,
    But we were keenly aware that being a Boy Scout allowed us to shoot guns, build fires and take overnight camping trips on our own. In every sense it was revenge of the nerds. You have a curve ball; I can hit a bull’s-eye with my .22.

    We were bookish, but in nonacademic ways. My interests were fingerprinting, Native-American skills and customs, rock climbing, map reading, canoeing and marksmanship. All of those represented merit badges that I studied for and earned. My Indian Lore badge taught me more about that aspect of American history than I was learning at school. And this wasn’t warmed-over “cowboys and Indians” fare: from the beginning the Boy Scouts taught respect for Native Americans, their values, as well as reminders of their victimization — indeed, their genocide.

    Stifled by the hearty and the homoerotic in jock culture, I found refuge in the Boy Scouts, and an outlet for my love of hiking and swimming and solitude. It was important for me to separate myself from my parents. While other mothers and fathers cheered on their children at ballgames, we were on our own — two or three of us on an all-day hike, or target shooting up at the Stoneham sandpits.
    Scouting taught him useful skills, independence, and a philosophical self-reliance:
    Then, and later, when an adult mentioned the Scouts with a snobbish snigger, I would think: you have no idea. I also thought: you’re afraid to let go of your children. Liberated by the Scouts, I had the confidence to be independent and was allowed to discover my identity in a way that I never could have through team sports.
    (I posted on my own Scouting experience earlier.)

    Kind of related: former members of the Highlander Boys, a Denver-area youth group, remember good experiences in a group that died in the 1970s.
    [Kurt] Davis recalls a rifle range, a camera and debate club, mess hall, basketball tournaments, tumbling classes and twice-a-year drill competitions. . . . 
    Summer brought trips to the Highlander camp near Cold Creek Canyon. The kids slept in Quonset huts or field tents, depending on rank, rode horses, practiced riflery and archery, and fished for rainbow trout in Carter Lake. "Boy heaven," as Davis puts it.
    The group was non-sectarian, inexpensive, and perhaps more racially integrated than Denver Boy Scout troops in that era, but its drill-team aspect became suddenly unfashionable during the Vietnam War era, when "progressives" shunned all things military:
    In the late 1960s, at the height of the Vietnam War, the organization faced criticism for its military uniforms, the use of wooden rifles and its emphasis on military discipline and drill. Some referred to the boys as "young fascists."
    Funny how the now grown-up boys don't remember it that way.

    May 04, 2010

    Like Water Drops on a Hot Griddle

    Credit: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
    M. and I were eating breakfast on our tiny back deck on Monday—it was the first sunny day in a week—when I saw some little bird flitting around.

    A phrase something like "X move around like drops of water on a hot griddle" came to mind, but what bird was it? (Ah, the over-stressed brain.)

    So I got a field guide and started paging through it until the answer came: ruby-crowned kinglets.

    Oh yeah, them. Migrating through? Nesting here?

    "Often hover at branch tips to glean tiny insects," says The Sibley Field Guide of Birds of Western North AmericaThe Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas has them nesting in conifers at medium to high elevations.

    But they are loud for their size. I thought that song had to be coming from some bigger bird.

    Lurid Trunk Slime

    Looks like this (scroll down). Something you don't see in the Southern Rockies, in my experience, at least.

    May 01, 2010

    Hand-Drawn Maps Can Be The Best

    If you read this blog, you probably like maps. I have a file drawer full, with certain sets kept together in large plastic bags (SE Colorado, San Luis Valley, etc.).

    Forest Service maps are good for driving around, but you have to infer the topography. Topo maps don't show public land boundaries. Our county is blessed with a semi-retired cartographer who produces excellent maps of all those mountain subdivision roads, but that is just for this county.

    You can order topographic maps that put the area you want in the center, rather than on the edge.

    There is still room for hand-drawn maps, writes Julia Turner in Slate. "No matter what it looks like, a handmade map offers several advantages over a road atlas or the directions you get from Google."

    Another advantage of personal cartography: Homemade maps often include error indicators, signs that you've taken a wrong turn or gone too far. Steve Kortenkamp produced the map below—of Safford Peak in Arizona—for the young hikers in his son's Boy Scout troop. You can discern his concern for their well-being in the many warnings he includes: the "barbed wire" you'll hit if you take a wrong turn for the horse ranch, the "cave where you end up if you miss the turn" for the summit, and the "Bridge of Death," where hikers encounter a "sheer drop on both sides!" The map uses charming drawings to orient hikers, highlighting a saguaro grove and memorable rock outcroppings. Kortenkamp explains that he took such care because the trails are poorly marked, and stranded hikers sometimes "end up calling 911, clinging overnight to the sheer rock face, and finally being plucked by helicopter in the morning." Using this map, his son's Boy Scout troop fared much better.
    See that and other maps here. (Via Arts & Letters Daily.)