December 26, 2011

Cotter Uranium Mill to Give Up Operating License

I would call it a Christmas present for Cañon City. The Cotter uranium mill is giving up its operating license. (It employs only a small crew these days.)

Read between the lines of this news story, and they seem to be saying that now that the state of Colorado has put some teeth in its regulations, in order to keep operating, General Atomics (Cotter's current owner) would actually have to, y'know, clean it up.

This after thirty-plus years of leaks, of groundwater pollution, of "notice violations," of lawsuits, of corporate foot-dragging, etc. Some people have seen it all go by.

Places like Cotter Mill are, unfortunately, the part of "clean nuclear energy" that its proponents never talk about.

December 25, 2011

Top Colorado Nature Photographers



Colorado Outdoors contributor Vic Schendel offers some photography tips.

Meanwhile, the Denver Post lists its five top Colorado nature photographers, leading readers to suggest plenty of others in the comments.

December 22, 2011

Blog Stew for Carnivorous Squirrels

A geologist explains the formation of the "teepee buttes" of Pueblo and El Paso counties (Colorado).

• I cannot think of any job more frustrating (assuming that one took it seriously) than to be director general of  Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency. On the other hand, the news about Persian leopards is surprising.

• Myths about carrying concealed weapons. There is one that I tend to be guilty of too.

• From National Geographic, the economic and conservation effects of hunting:
 When you buy a camouflage camisole ($24.99) from the Ducks Unlimited catalog, a portion of the proceeds goes to conservation projects. If you visit Bozeman, Montana, and buy a pair of Schnee’s Pac boots, you will find a tag dangling from the laces, along with a promise that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will receive some of your money for elk conservation projects.

“It’s the hunters who keep most of these species going,” said Jim Clay, a middle school English teacher, hunter, and maker of turkey calls in Winchester, Virginia. “They put in the money, and they put in the hours. Hunters really care about what happens.”
• You probably did not know that sometimes squirrels are carnivorous.

Piled Higher and Deeper

Our little greenhouse gets the Thomas Kinkade treatment—or it would if there was a blazing orange light shining from inside it.

More than two feet of snow this week.

December 21, 2011

Waiting for Snow on Tennessee Pass

Map from Channel 4, Denver.
My informal aggregate snowfall total for this year as measured on hood of the Jeep CJ5  is 66 inches (1.68 m).

So it was a shock to read that Ski Cooper, up on Tennessee Pass at the top end of the Arkansas River drainage, still has not opened.

Owned by the city of Leadville, Cooper developed from the 10th Mountain Division's World War 2 training area. It relies on natural snow—and usually has plenty.

Just the opposite of last year, when there was good snow up high but nothing here in the foothills until January—and then not enough.

Spring is always "the decider."

UPDATE: Ski Cooper to open December 24th, 2011.

December 20, 2011

Tracking Feeder Bird Behavior

The director of Cornell University's Project Feeder Watch discusses using RFID tags to gain data about the behavior of common "feeder birds" like chickadees—at least as such behavior involves bird feeders.

December 17, 2011

A Night Out

M. and I are going to the thea-tuh later, but it is Pueblo thea-tuh, so formal evening dress is not required.

In Pueblo, "evening dress" means that you wear your black jeans.

December 16, 2011

Blog Stew with Link Dumplings

• Eclipse-chasing in the badlands of New Mexico.
From the Colorado Springs Gazette

• Eleven-year-old boy gains some understanding of the larger world, dresses himself, and rides a bicycle for a mile. His actions gain wide praise in these nanny-state days.

• Some people make fun of mounted deer heads in the living room. Yet they can be useful!

• How to pronounce "Casa Grande," Arizona.

• How to pronounce street names in Colorado Springs. Having also lived in Portland, Oregon, I have to stop and think about "Willamette Street" before I say it.

• Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife seeks photos taken at state parks for a "Best of 2011" contest.

• Pressured by lawsuits, the U.S. Forest Service draws up new rules about dropping fire retardant into waterways.

Leather gaiters or not?

And the dog is "wrong" too.

A minor dust-up in The Telegraph over alleged anachronisms in the costuming of a shooting party during the British stately-home soap opera Downton Abbey.

I am sitting here with my first cup of coffee only half an inch down, trying to think of American equivalents.

A group of Colorado big-game hunters in the mid-1960s, all wearing blaze orange? Back then, a red cap was considered sufficient for safety. It probably still is in Vermont.

Conversely, duck hunters all in brown coats or tan coveralls in a scene set any time after the 1970s?

Help me out, the caffeine has not yet kicked in.

December 15, 2011

Why Not Occupy "Over The River"?

Although there is still a lawsuit pending, and some regulatory hurdles to be jumped, it appears that zee artiste Christo is well on the way to disrupting life for many people in Fremont, Chaffee, and Custer counties for two and a half years.

Nothing but fawning in the local news media.

This Franco-Bulgarian multi-millionaire has gotten the feds, the state government, and local governments to give him use of public lands with which to make more money.

It's a bail-out for "art."

Is there any better definition of being part of the "1%," as the Occupy protesters say?

Of course, "Over The River" will benefit us poor peasants by raising our artistic consciousness. Or something.

Motel owners stumble around mumbling "400,000 visitors, 400,000 visitors." Yay for them.

December 13, 2011

Father Christmas in the Wild

You don't think that Santa Claus/Father Christmas just happens, do you? Someone has to find him first.

Want more?

(Via The Suburban Bushwacker.)

December 12, 2011

Preparing for the SHOT Show

Call me un-American if you like, but I have never visited Las Vegas, Nevada — as opposed to Las Vegas, New Mexico, many times. This is true even though I worked in the "gaming" industry at one time as a slot-machine repairman—in Oregon. (Yes, legally, mostly.)

The conventions that I usually attend do not meet there, and my short time in the industry cured me of any delusions of glamor about gambling.

But my old friend Galen Geer, a long-time outdoor writer and editor, has persuaded me to go to Las Vegas for the 2012 SHOT Show next month.

The Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trades Show is enormous. People say it takes days to see all the exhibitors' booths. It is so big that there are applications to help you plan your time and routes in the exhibit halls.

Its sponsoring organization, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, recognized bloggers as news media several years ago, leading to much more mention in the blogosphere of new products and developments in those industries.

And while I am not a shooting-sports blogger like Michael Bane or a hunting blogger like Holly Heyser, NSSF extended me the same credentials. Maybe it helped that I agreed to lend my illustrious name to The Pines Review's masthead as associate editor as well.

So free admission to a "trade-only" event + relatively cheap hotel rooms + the chance to gawk at the entertainment machine that is Las Vegas means that this year I'm going to do it.

There ought to be something to blog about.

December 11, 2011

"96 Hours to the Stone Age"

That's the title of an article about the breakdown of "connectivity" during a massive power outage.

In other words, how long until your cell phone becomes a paperweight?
When the power goes down, cell service “gets shoddy.” That’s going to happen when everyone grabs their phones at the same time. It’s the wireless equivalent of everybody getting on the same roads at the same time. But when 3G systems get congested, the coverage area of cell sites can actually shrink, resulting in potentially bigger coverage holes in addition to capacity issues.
 The title comes from writer's discovery that the diesel generators providing back-up power to a central switching facility for one of the wireless companies have four days' worth of fuel.

'On Killing Wild Game for Food'

It's an article by Hank Shaw Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
Not too long ago, I was at a book signing event for Hunt Gather Cook when a young woman approached me. She was very excited about foraging, and she had loved that section of my book. Then her face darkened. She told me she’d also read my section on hunting. “How can you enjoy killing so much? I just don’t understand it. You seem like such a nice person, too.” It took a few minutes for me to explain myself to her, and I am grateful that she listened. She left, I think, with a different opinion.
Read the rest

December 10, 2011

A New Pueblo Deli—and It Has Potica

A few years ago, in a post on Pueblo, Colo., Christmas foods, I mentioned potica.

Someone wrote to me asking where to buy it, and I had say that I did not know. It just turned up in the break room at work the weeks before Christmas. (Yeah, typical guy answer, I know.)

Now I know. You can go to the newly opened Musso's Italian Market and Deli on Union Avenue just south of the Riverwalk. They have three sizes. M. and I picked up one of the medium-sized loaves to take to some friends' home tonight. (Musso's Facebook page.)

December 09, 2011

Colorado Approves New Natural Areas

Colorado will have three new designated "natural areas" following action by the Colorado Wildlife and Parks Commission yesterday.
The 2,529-acre Miramonte Natural Area is located within the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area at Miramonte Reservoir in San Miguel County. Renowned for its excellent recreational opportunities and remarkably diverse rare plant habitats, this area also serves as an indicator of healthy sagebrush communities and provides some of the best habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse in the county.

• North of Durango in La Plata County, 125 acres of the Haviland Lake State Wildlife Area have become the new Haviland Lake Natural Area. Plant communities common to the southern Rockies meet with Four Corners communities in interesting and unique assemblage of species. Riparian shrub lands and robust wetland vegetation at the site provide habitat for sensitive wildlife species such as the osprey and the Northern leopard frog.

• In eastern Colorado north of Idalia, the 2,240-acre Arikaree River Natural Area is part of the largest remaining naturally functioning Great Plains river system in the state. Several native and uncommon species of amphibians, fish and reptiles reside in a mature riparian corridor that includes high-quality native prairie and streamside plant communities. The area, owned by the Colorado Land Board, is a meeting ground for many bird species from the eastern and western United States and is one of the best birding areas in Colorado.
I'd like to get out to the Arikaree area before the weather gets too hot. To the south, I assume that there is still accessible state land along the Republican River, even with Bonny Reservoir lost. (I am glad that Dad is not around to see Bonny drained; it was one of his favorite getaway spots when he needed a little prairie time.)

Backcountry Hunters Group Sues Forest Service

In southwestern Colorado, the group Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is suing the U.S. Forest Service over unauthorized motorized use in areas valuable as watershed and big-game habitat.

This is the news release:

MANCOS – The Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) took legal action today [Dec. 2, 2011] to protect big game habitat and hunting opportunity from encroaching dirt-bike traffic in the Rico-West Dolores area of the San Juan National Forest.

The Rico-West Dolores (RWD) landscape comprises 244,550 acres of prime wildlife habitat.  It contains the headwaters of the Dolores River and stretches from elevations of 7,500 feet to three peaks exceeding 14,000 feet.  The landscape’s value as wildlife habitat and a source of clean water is unmistakable, but it’s being degraded by encroaching motorized overuse and abuse.  This unmanaged traffic violates the Management Plan for the San Juan National Forest.

“Over the last three years, sportsmen have worked to resolve this issue with public lands agency personnel, exhausting all options available,” said Bob Marion, a BHA volunteer from Mancos.  “We have been left with no choice but to file this lawsuit.  We welcome any opportunity to settle this case in a positive manner.”

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, “Motorized vehicle use … inhibits wildlife use of this important habitat by increasing fragmentation … [It] bisects important elk habitat, e.g., calving, nursery and summering area.”  Put simply, without the proper balance of secure wildlife habitat and motorized traffic, habitat suffers and becomes less desirable for elk and deer, and the hunters who pursue them.

“It is the Forest Service’s job to strike the correct balance between motorized access and secure big game habitat,” said David Lien, BHA board member from Colorado Springs.  “We are simply asking the judge to hold the agency accountable for its promises to the American people.”

In particular, BHA is seeking to correct that balance on fourteen trails in the RWD landscape where unlawful motorized use is adversely impacting big game habitat.  Given that there are some 2,800 miles of roads across the 1.8 million-acre San Juan National Forest (including 120 miles of single-track motorized trails in the adjacent Mancos-Cortez Travel Management Area), there is plenty of access for motorized users in the region.

“These motorized routes do not serve as important access points and are fragmenting prime hunting grounds,” said John Gale, Colorado BHA co-chair.  “We support recreational motorized use in a controlled manner and in places it’s allowed, but in this case the forest plan is being violated and sensitive big game habitat is negatively impacted.”

Colorado BHA is represented in this case by the Natural Resources Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School.

Key Facts:

• The Forest Service has a responsibility to manage America’s national forests for the greatest good, including traditional hunting and fishing opportunities.  The agency is failing in the Rico-West Dolores (RWD) country of the San Juan National Forest.
• The agency is violating its own forest plan by allowing fourteen dirt-bike trails to encroach into fragile alpine country and big game habitat, damaging traditional hunting and fishing opportunities we have enjoyed here for generations.
• There are thousands of miles of roads and trails for motorized recreation elsewhere in this region.  For example, across the San Juan Public Lands in southwest Colorado there are about 5,500 miles of roads and motorized trails.  If lined up end-to-end, these roads and trails would extend from Cortez to the State of Maine—and back.
• In the San Juan National Forest there are some 2,800 miles of roads, and 120 miles of single-track motorized trails in the nearby Mancos-Cortez Travel Management Area.
• The public land being impacted by motorized overuse and abuse on the trails in question is important big game habitat and inappropriate for dirt-bikes.
• The trails include: Bear Creek, Burnett Creek, Calico, Eagle Peak/Upper Stoner, East Fall Creek, Gold Run, Grindstone, Horse Creek, Johnny Bull, Little Bear, Priest Gulch, Ryman Creek, Stoner Creek, and Wildcat.

December 08, 2011

Ja, a "Western" Catholic Mass in Central Europe

"Western wear" as we know it is mainly a post-World War Two creation of the Country & Western music industry and the rodeos. Some stockmen still largely ignore the look. The Old West did not have it.

But in Austria . . . Austria! . . . it can be ecclesiastical. Sort of. Some Roman Catholic observers are very upset. They seem equally bothered by the Confederate battle flag as by the cigarettes. (Would "Yeehaw!" be considered a "pious ejaculation"?)

I don't exactly have a dog in that fight. I just did not know that the concept of "cowboy church,"  not uncommon around here, had been exported — and had swum the Tiber to boot.

Cotter Mill: A Superfund Site that Wants to Stay in Business

Thirty years after it was named a Superfund clean-up site, the owners of the Cotter uranium mill in Cañon City are keeping it legally alive — just in case.

Barry Noreen at the Gazette recaps the saga.
Still, Cotter’s announcement that it is seeking a five-year extension was a disappointment to Sharyn Cunningham, co-founder of [Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste].

“Right now they’re cleaning up,” Cunningham said, “but they’re not deciding that they’re closing. It does leave us in limbo because you don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Cotter’s property was declared a Superfund site long ago, and announcing a formal intention to close would trigger state and federal cleanup requirements beyond what the company is already doing. Cotter officials have been tight-lipped about their intentions, which is unsettling to Cunningham and many others in Cañon City.
Cotter's presence was a concern when I accepted a job in Cañon City in 1986. We chose a house that upwind with irrigation water unaffected — we hoped — by the radioactive leakage from Cotter's settling ponds that affected much of the south side of town.

Later, we joined in a lawsuit (one of several) over the Superfund site's effect on property values, and I always counted the settlement received as compensation for the fact that we made nothing on our house when we sold it six years later during a time of slowly rising prices. (This after doing significant remodeling!)

People talk about storing radioactive waste, but the problems start at the other end of the nuclear-power process. It looks so clean—when it works—until you check out all the steps.

December 04, 2011

Snow on Back Order

Snowblower idling while I take a picture.
Creaking of porch steps. Staccato knock on the door.

Me: Hello.

Delivery driver: Good morning, I have a delivery here from the Department of Snow for Chas Clifton.

Me: That's me. Did I order this?

Driver, holding out electronic box: It's your snow that was supposed to have been delivered in 2010. Sorry 'bout that. We do our best. Just sign here. Bye now, have a nice day.

Me, thoughtfully: I hope I have enough gas for the snowblower.

They have been late before.

December 01, 2011

My Kind of Hunter

The gear worked in the 1940s, and it still works.
“I don’t know why started doing it, but I kept track every year,” Baxter said, adding he would like to remember each outing. In addition to the 68-year-old journal, Baxter continues to use the same red wool hunting suit he bought in 1943, which is in outstanding condition. “It’s good and warm,” he said, adding he also uses a knife of the same age to clean the deer. “As long as it’s workable, I keep it.” 
Yup. Experience is more valuable than "stuff."

Obama Administration Lifts Horse-Slaughter Ban

President Obama recently signed a law ending the ban on horse-slaughter plants.
A June report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress‘ chief investigative branch, said the ban depressed prices for horses in the U.S. and led to a surge in reports of neglect or abuse as owners of older horses had no way of disposing of them, short of selling them to “foreign slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply.”
The usual suspects are upset.
A bill to ban horse slaughter and export of horses for slaughter has been introduced in the House and Senate, and the Humane Society of the United States said it would redouble its efforts to try to enact that legislation.
Simply, there are more horses in the United States than people want. I have heard of livestock auctions imposing additional fees on people wanting to sell horses, because your average saddle horse does not sell for very much — if it sells at all.

Horse-rescue operations can take only a few of the unwanted animals.

Meanwhile, despite its much-touted adoption programs, the BLM is feeding and storing hundreds of wild horses in corrals away from the public gaze, as I blogged in 2008. Your tax dollars at work.

Still the HSUS plays the cultural-taboo card, together with a little fashionable France-bashing:
Michael Markarian, who oversees the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which lobbies for animal protections, said any state that allows a horse-slaughter plant to open will face pressure.

“People will not be happy about their community potentially bringing in one of these plants,” he said. “Americans don’t eat horses, and don’t want them butchered and shrink-wrapped and sent to France or Japan as a delicacy.”
Because all the feasible alternatives, like letting them starve, are so much better.

Related — if you want to move to the theoretical — an article on meat taboos with an interesting response from Boria Sax.

November 26, 2011

Amtrak, Raccoons, and the California Zephyr

The California Zephyr climbs the Big 10 curve west of Denver
M. and I are home from a week-long trip to San Francisco -- mostly business for me, but she got to spend time with family.

We took the California Zephyr west from Denver, "mountains and rivers without end."

And we got where we needed to go, although there was one rough patch at the beginning.

As usual, click the photos to enlarge them.

You usually end up dining with strangers but can always talk about the trains.



We woke up at dawn in our Denver hotel, checked the Amtrak train-status page, and oh no, the westbound train was six hours behind schedule. Later we would learn that it had been held up waiting for work crews to repair some damaged track somewhere in Iowa or Nebraska.

So we went out to breakfast, read exotic magazines at the Tattered Cover's LoDo store, and eventually got a lift in the hotel's town car to the temporary station that Amtrak is using while Denver Union Station is being renovated.

In the photo, two guys who just met through the dining steward's command to "Sit there" are getting acquainted.

Passengers ("Pax" in train-speak) on the platform at Fraser, Colo.
The first "fresh air stop" after Denver is Fraser/Winter Park, immediately after you come out of the long darkness of the Moffat Tunnel through the Continental Divide.
The station in Glenwood Springs, Colo., right in the center of town.
After Fraser, the railroad follows a roadless area of the Fraser River Canyon, breaks out into Middle Park, and then enters roadless Gore Canyon, where the river is already freezing over in spots. It then passes a few isolated spots like Radium, State Bridge, and Bond, before rejoining I-70 at Dotsero and continuing on down Glenwood Canyon.

Western terminus of the Zephyr: Emeryville, Calif.
And a bus ride over the Bay Bridge, a taxi to the hotel, and we're there, only three hours late at the end.

We left Wednesday the 23rd for home. Everything started well: up through the across the Delta, up through the eucalyptus, cypresses, and palms of Roseville, then into the Sierras, with cedar, manazanita, firs, and other conifers.

Into Reno on time. Through basin and range -- Winnemucca in the late afternoon, Ely after dark, then salt flats and Salt Lake City. The "gray desert" around Green River, Utah. Into Grand Junction on time, and we saw a bald eagle sitting in a snag along the Colorado River somewhere between Dotsero and State Bridge.

Through Middle Park and the Moffat Tunnel, everything tickety-tock, running even a bit ahead of schedule.

Then Conductor Renée comes on the p.a. system: the westbound Zephyr hit a "herd of raccoons" in Iowa the previous evening, had to wait for a replacement locomotive, and has now limped into Denver many hours late. We must wait for it to clear the wye at the station before we in turn can back in. So we wait, somewhere in Arvada, and eventually arrive an hour behind schedule. No problem. 

But a "herd of raccoons"? Since when do coons come in herds, as opposed to small family groups? And how big a herd does it take to damage (air hoses, etc., she said) a full-size locomotive?

You know Amtrak does not put out news releases about such incidents, so it must remain a mystery of rail travel.

UPDATE: Here is a posting on a train-fan web site, which gives a location and speaks of a "pack of raccoons."

November 14, 2011

Do Bears Roll in the Woods?


Since I am leaving this week for a place that has not seen a bear since the early 19th century, I leave you with this sequence of photos taken at one of my favorite scout-camera spots. Note that the photos span several hours—the bear left, came back, rolled on the ground, left, and came back. I am still not sure what the attraction was. 

Wildlife and Culverts

Badgers in a British Columbia culvert, from wildlifeandroads.org
Patrick Burns links to a study on how animals use -- or don't use -- culverts to pass under roads. Some have definite preferences as to size and materials.

November 12, 2011

A Pre-Winter Chore at the Fire Department

Someone needs to tuck that nozzle away on the hose reel.


Colder weather is coming, so today some of the volunteer firefighters met to empty our two above-ground 3,000-gallon storage tanks, located about a mile and a half from my house. We had filled them in the spring from the creek—before it went dry.

They give us a reliable summer water source in this area, just in case we cannot draft from the creek, and they have been used in the past by engines from other departments that do not carry floating pumps.

The creek is running again, but rather than just drain the tanks into it, we pumped them into our old water tender (rear bumper pictured) and a larger water truck borrowed from the county road-and-bridge department. We dumped all the water into a new semi-underground tank at the fire house, then added more from the creek.

I made several trips up and down the highway in between the two sites, getting in some practice driving that tender with its 1970s GMC split rear axle. A west wind blew ferociously the whole time—that means snow is falling in the higher mountains.

November 11, 2011

Strange Stuff in the Woods and Deserts

A thread on an outdoors forum where hunters and anglers discuss strange "encounters" in the outdoors, everything from animal weirdness to UFOs to pot farms to airplane crashes to dead people.

Mostly but not all from Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

Via The View from the Porch, where Tam rightly notes, "CAUTION: SEVERE TIME SINK WARNING!"

November 10, 2011

Dog + Stick + Camera

Mount a video camera on the stick that your dog is retrieving, and this is what happens.

Coca-Cola Plays 600-pound Gorilla

Nothing actually needed to be said: Coca-Cola kills Grand Canyon disposable water bottle ban. Park Service crumbles like a chocolate-chip cookie.

November 09, 2011

Most Honey Ain't Honey, Honey

Most honey sold in the supermarket barely deserves to be called "honey."
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey. However, the FDA isn't checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.
 

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey — some containing illegal antibiotics — on the U.S. market for years. 

Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin. 
The old advice that you should eat local honey to reduce the severity of hay fever is bad science anyway, because the problem pollen is blown by winds, not carried by bees, so it will not be in the honey. But if there is any good to eating honey beyond the taste, local honey (definitely not Chinese or Indian honey) would be the best.

November 05, 2011

Breweries and Brew Pubs of the Mountain West

An interactive map, part of a larger one covering the whole country. Note the concentration in Colorado. Beer-buying has certainly become more interesting over the past decade or two.

(Via Borepatch.)

The Yoga Instructor and the Cattle Drive

They figure in "Sad River Roundup, a short short story by Tim Cooper from Mountain Gazette.

"Texas Vertigo" is a useful phrase for southern Colorado and New Mexico—I am going to remember it.

November 03, 2011

How the Humane Society of the US Does Not Help Animals

It's too busy managing its investments.

From the New York Post:
HSUS's advertisements employ the images of downtrodden dogs and cats to tug at the heart strings and wallets of America's pet lovers. But CCF's new analysis finds HSUS is a "Humane Society" in name only, sharing a meager $527,566, or 0.4 percent of its $120 million budget with sheltering organizations nationwide in 2010. In the same year, HSUS spent $47 million in fundraising-related costs (37 percent of its total budget) and put $32 million in hedge funds.
Yep. $32,000,000 in hedge funds. That's where your donation goes, if you are uninformed enough to give HSUS your hard-earned dollars.

November 02, 2011

Light-Colored Cars Get Better Mileage

That is, if you are running the air conditioner.

I never understood why anyone in the sunny Southwest would buy a black car or truck, but some do. They're looking cool while being hot—and not in a good way.

October 31, 2011

Some Colorado Springs Ghosts—and the Unquiet Ghosts of Teller County

Western Federation of Miners hall, Victor,1903.
A Colorado Springs blogger offers some ghost stories, mostly from the West Side.

In my young newspaper reporter days, I did my part for Cripple Creek and Victor.

At the time, I was covering both the gold-mining boomlet of the early 1980s and also some Colorado labor history, such as the activities of the Western Federation of Miners in the early 1900s.

They did not make it into the book, but I had a couple of woo-woo experiences in Cripple Creek and in the nearby ghost town of Goldfield of my own.

In one of them, I was walking into faded glory of the 1904 Teller County Courthouse to cover a hearing about leakage from a cyanide heap-leaching operation killing some horses. Just ordinary reportorial stuff.

I had never entered that building before. At the foot of the staircase leading up to the courtrooms, I almost had a panic attack. I was sure that I was walking up to my doom — but I wasn't "me."


In the second, I was leaving Victor and decided to drive through the site of the mining town of Goldfield, "a strong union town," instead of back via Cripple Creek on the way to Colorado Springs and the newspaper office.

The scene out the windshield was 1980 or 1981 Goldfield, which is to say, not much.  But to my ears and inner senses, it was all shouting and turbulence and emotion of the 1894 miners' strike, when the Cripple Creek police shot down the Goldfield constables, mines were dynamited, the militia was called out, and gunfights flared between miners and sheriff's deputies back by the mine owners.

It was like being in two places at once, one foot in the past and one foot in the now. The experience lasted less than minute but left me feeling emotionally exhausted.

That strike was just the beginning of the Colorado Labor Wars, when things got even worse.

Bad times—more or less swept under the rug of history now. Now we hear only of a street vendor selling  "hot waffles to miners, railroad passengers and barflies."

October 30, 2011

Michael Pollan's New Food Rules

Michael Pollan's new food rules, from the upcoming of the book of the same name.

I like #7, "Enjoy Drinks That Have Been Caffeinated by Nature, Not Food Science"

This also reminds me of the advice that I gave to students in magazine-writing class: you can always sell a story built around a list.

October 28, 2011

What Do You Think about Falconry?

Two British researchers, Helen Macdonald (University of Cambridge) and Mike Nicholls (University of Greenwich) have created an online survey on people's understanding of falconry and their opinions about it.

Although some questions are particular to the UK, respondents from other countries are welcome.

October 27, 2011

Not Always Happy Endings

Two day-old mule deer fawns after their rescue.
Last June 24th I wrote about how two mule deer fawns, the surviving pair from what had been triplets, were transported in a relay from the western San Luis Valley to some wildlife rehabilitators who live near us.

I learned yesterday that the smaller fawn, the little male seen here being fed from a syringe on the day he arrived, had gone into a sudden decline and died.

His caretakers were a married couple, both retired schoolteachers, and yesterday she wrote,
[Tuesday] morning he didn't want his bottle, and that was very strange. I noticed he had a very runny stool and then it turned to blood. He made it through the day quite comfortably and I had some hope  Last night when everyone left for the night I kept him in the shelter, knowing that if I didn't he would have a very miserable death out in the snow. The little guy never got to see the snow. I slept in the shelter with him til about eleven and then went inside. This morning I found him in his favorite corner in the fresh straw.
You have to be emotionally strong to do that job year after year. Yes, maybe this fawn was too undeveloped, being the smaller of the two survivors. Yet I had seen him just a week ago, running around the pasture and looking OK.

It is even worse at the Raptor Center, I know, where only something like 25-30 percent of the birds brought (if that) survive. Like the great horned owl that I picked up in September—it was alive and feisty, but a wing was shattered beyond repair—probably from a power line collision—and the director decided to put it down.

They have a couple of one-winged birds in captivity, but those birds never can get around well, and the protocol nowadays is to euthanize them.


Supporting San Juan Wilderness Act

Click to embiggen
Newspaper ad sponsored by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other pro-hunting, pro-wilderness advocates after introduction of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act last month. Now to see if my congressman, Scott Tipton, can get behind it too.

October 26, 2011

Improbable Mountains

Last month the Denver Post's daily website quiz was a list of Colorado mountain ranges with the question, which name is bogus?

Anyone with a little historical sense could get it right. All the names were assigned in the 19th century, and there were no moose in the state then, so "Moose Range" has to be the right answer.

But a lot of people thought that the Wet Mountains were mythical. Perhaps that is a Good Thing.

Colorado Seeks Big-Game Hunting Photos, Stories

News release:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is giving big-game hunters the opportunity to share their hunting accomplishments with others.  Hunters who were successful during Colorados 2011 big-game seasons can submit stories and photos to be posted on a Hunter Testimonials page featured on the Parks and Wildlife website.

Hunters of all experience levels, ages and backgrounds are encouraged to participate.  The best photos may be used as covers for upcoming regulations brochures or in future editions of Colorado Outdoors magazine.    

Hunting stories should be limited to 250 words and be accompanied with high-resolution, digital photos detailing the experience. All submissions will be edited and reviewed to ensure rules and hunting regulations are followed. Publication is not guaranteed, and all submissions become the property of CPW.

For submission instructions and to view the "Big-Game Hunter Testimonial" page, click here.

October 25, 2011

Hunting, Fishing Video Games Threaten the Real Thing

Indoor pseudo-birding on a computer screen is bad enough. Maybe it is not a threat to real birding.

On the other hand, hunting and fishing video games like "The Strike" and "The Hunt" from Bass Pro Shops could threaten real hunting and fishing while pretending to promote them. In the fishing game,
The player starts out as a rookie looking to climb the ranks against competitive pros, collecting sponsors, boats and prize money that players can use to upgrade their equipment as they progress. Each tournament features a Sports Ticker to keep you updated on how the competition is doing. [from a news release]
See anything in there about species knowledge, about conservation, about habitat, about ethics? No, me neither. It's all about things.

And as a Nintendo Wii "hunter," 
The player also has to stay alert for one-of-kind Legendary animals as well as Dangerous predators hunting you.  Each level also allows the player to hunt a real life record-setting King of Bucks™.

The new Career Mode offers more realistic hunting challenges set in a Last Man Standing tournament structure.  
Real hunting is not a "tournament."  And the "King of Bucks" is not something you find in real life.

When you go hunting and you kill a rabbit, for example, you have ended the life of a living creature with whom you share the earth.

Its heart stops pumping, its brain stops buzzing, its essence goes to wherever a rabbit's  essence goes.  It was not a creation of pixels and electrons—it was alive the same as you are.

So eat it with respect and understanding.

Why would a game like The Hunt, to pick that one, threaten hunting?

• If it were realistic, it would show you that there are more places with no deer than with trophy bucks. But to keep game play moving, you have to find a pixel-deer quickly. Real hunters might walk or watch or sit in a stand all day and see nothing. Can't have that!

Of course, when you "see nothing," there is a lot to see. Real birds, for example. All the processes of nature—a coyote hunting mice while you watch him through binoculars. 

Consequently, someone who plays the game and then goes hunting—unless it is on a well-stocked commercial game farm—will probably feel cheated. How come they have to wait for hours for the action to start???

They will end up more interested in the video version of hunting than in real hunting—until another game comes out that they like better.

• There is no emotional investment in place. If I hunt an area for deer, I want to see it protected. I don't want to come back next year and find an oil well or an illegal off-road motorcycle track or anything else incompatible with the deer's existence as a species. Pixel-hunters probably could not tell you plants deer eat in their area.

•  They may end up confusing living, sentient animals with "targets." Bang! And your score goes up. They will never have to confront their direct, personal, bloody-handed involvement in processes of life and death. Instead, they just see what is on the screen.

They will never have to think things through: Should I take that shot? If I miss, will the bullet sail off toward the ranch house? If I kill an elk in this canyon, how will get I get it out?

• They will not understand that the work only starts when the animal is down. Field-dressing, transporting, butchering, cooking, and eating—those are all part of the hunting experience too.

• They will not be participating in the inevitable politics around hunting and fishing: habitat protection, gun rights, public input on wildlife management—all vital.

• Their hearts may race when the play the game, but they will never experience love—love of a place, love of wild animals (yes, even though we kill some of them), love just being "out there."

Put down the Wii controller, pick up a real fishing rod or gun. And if it's off-season, the membership fees at a lot of shooting ranges (around here, at least) are less than the cost of the game.

October 23, 2011

On Building Ski Fences

Photo: Jon Kovash
Mountain Gazette blogger Jon Kovash muses about that design classic of mountain towns, the ski fence:
If you live in a ski town, you can amass old skis with a perusal of ski swaps, free boxes and dumpsters. Most prized are skis without bindings because the bindings are a pain in the ass to remove. If you want a tall fence, with the advent of short skis, the old 200s will be harder to find. For colors, I prefer just going with the random cacophony of industrial day-glo, which gives you a kind of happy camo look, but you can also look for matches or color groupings.
The trouble is, you can't build one if you live in some planned development — "The Turds at Elk Meadow" — because of all the covenants.

And as Kovash experienced, some towns like Telluride reject "new vernacular architecture that supports our lifestyles and doesn't hog energy" because it doesn't fit the Mining Era historic-district look.

Leadville or Salida or Walden would probably let you build one though.

October 22, 2011

Federal Appellate Court Upholds the 2001 Roadless Rule

Doesn't enough of Wyoming look like this already? (Source: The Wilderness Society)
A federal appellate court has upheld the 2001 Roadless Rule on national forests in a case brought by the state of Wyoming.

The state tried to argue that by protecting roadless areas — which is a Good Thing for animals like elk — the Forest Service was creating "wilderness."

And "wilderness," in the legal sense, must be created by Congress, not the executive branch.

But the judges disagreed:
In a 120-page decision, the court said that full wilderness protection was far deeper than the mere banning of roads in certain places and that the Forest Service had broad jurisdiction in setting the balance of uses on the lands that it manages.

“The Forest Service did not usurp Congressional authority because the roadless rule did not establish de facto wilderness,” the court said in a decision written by Judge Jerome A. Holmes, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush.
This was the Tenth Circuit Court in Denver—the Ninth Circuit had reached a similar conclusion two years ago.

I am no legal scholar, but I think that as long as the different federal appellate courts agree, the Supreme Court is less likely to be interested in such a case. Qualified legal experts are welcome to enlighten me. But Wyoming could always try another appeal.

October 21, 2011

Why Hunting is not a "Sport"

Two interesting pieces of writing popped up this morning.

In a blog post, Galen Geer questions the very term "sport hunting." I tend to agree. (It comes after the part about checking his blood pressure in the duck blind to prove something to his physical therapist.)
[At a recent Orion institute seminar there] was a lot of free discussion about the present state of recruitment to the outdoors but I heard something that was, to me, very important for the future of hunting, and it was the simple statement that hunting would be referred to as “hunting” and not “sport hunting” or have any other adjectives affixed to it.  This is something that I totally agree with.  I believe that we must stop the practice of trying to hide hunting under a pile of adjectives.   I make this argument even after a great deal of research has shown me that the basis for “sport hunting” goes back to ancient Greece when the phrase “hunting for sport” actually appears in the writing of Xenophon.
Meanwhile, in an interview on the Huffington Post, Holly Heyser discusses the difference between male and female hunters, advice for beginners, and her philosophy on eating wild foods.
Yeah, I may be a bit of a radical with some of my thinking on this subject, but what the hell, here goes: When I decided to take up hunting, my secret fear was that I would become callous toward animals. Surprise, surprise - the opposite happened. My respect for animals has grown exponentially, as has my love for them.

I can hear the shrieks of horror already. "Respect? Love? But you kill them." I know it doesn't appear to make sense at all. Work with me: Most human relationships with animals are with domestic animals, and whether they're pets or food animals, they've all been reduced to a perpetual state of childhood, not just in their dependency, but often in terms of their mannerisms and behavior. The more I saw wild animals, though, the more respect I had for their amazing capabilities (and the more respect I had for wild humans, too).
(If you hear echoes of Paul Shepard there, you are right.)

Plus there is a list of outstanding contemporary books on hunting, and I was happy to see that I have an essay in one of them, A Hunter's Heart: Honest Essays on Blood Sport, David Petersen, ed.

But there is that "sport" word again. Galen has been researching its employment and concludes that it no longer fits. (It's like the term "sports coat," a 19th-century British coinage fossilized in the menswear industry.) Today the term "sports" means organized athletics, people wearing numbers on their backs.
We don’t box with, play tennis or football with, or any other organized activity, the animals we hunt.  We don’t need to lie to ourselves or to the non-hunter by falling back on euphemisms to soften our language.  We can start by removing one word and simply saying that we hunt, we go hunting, we are hunters.

October 20, 2011

Audubon Society Promotes Indoor Birding without Real Birds

I think that I just lost some respect for the Audubon Society.

I thought that they were about conservation, birds, and stuff like that. But now they have some West Coast  public-relations firm promoting "online birding." And it is competitive, because outdoor recreational experiences should always be competitive, not, y'know, experiential.
While “Birding the Net,” players are challenged to collect dozens of virtual birds on over 100 highly trafficked websites. The game is both educational and fun, helping the next generation learn about the natural world around us. Whether you live in a city or on a farm, you can spot these birds from the comfort of your own home, no binoculars necessary!
No, Liza Nedelman of MPRM Communications, that is not how you "learn about the natural world." As another large corporation's slogan put, "just do it."

Why not tell people that playing Angry Birds on their smart phone is a genuine interaction with nonhuman nature?

I suppose that someone that "kids these days" have to be introduced to an online experience before they can have the real thing. Really? Stay indoors? Look at a screen?

No links. If you think that "birding the net" is a wizard idea, look it up yourself.

October 18, 2011

New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division for the Win

Spotted ten days ago at the Black Hills Powwow in Rapid City. Would Colorado's fussier Department of Motor Vehicles approve it? Don't think so.

(More about mescal/mezcal. Or was the owner thinking of the bean?)

October 14, 2011

Various Thoughts on Bigfoot

I am not a Bigfoot hunter. Invisible partridge are challenge enough. So I am about two years late to the party when it comes to the Lumpkin County, Georgia (northeast of Atlanta) alleged Bigfoot sighting, captured by a deputy sheriff's dashboard video camera (YouTube) and witnessed by the deputy and his civilian passenger.

This video has been supplemented by analysis of the creature's apparent speed, reference to the terrain — the embedded GPS reading helps — and so, making for eight interesting minutes. (The Discovery Channel could get a hour-length program out of that, repeating everything six or eight times.)

I read about it in a recent issue of the venerable Fate magazine, "Bigfoot in Georgia," by Daniel Perez. (Georgia has some active hunters of "the Big Guy.")

Hmm, what about Colorado?

Back in the late 1980s, as a newspaper reporter, I interviewed a man who said two "creatures" had walked past his house and left footprints in the snow, which he photographed and showed me. The large tracks just ended abruptly in the fresh powder. Odd.

Having blogged once on the mystery of "Monkey Creek," with some trepidation I now typed "Colorado Bigfoot" into YouTube's search box. Here are the results.

The "Yellow Top Bigfoot" seems to move like a hunched-over human, if you ask me. So does this one. Several others all look like the same gorilla suit. One video's makers frankly call it a "mockumentary."

Meanwhile, in Central Asia

Central Asia and Siberia have a long history of big, shaggy bipeds. In fact, the same May-June 2011 issue of Fate that carried Daniel Perez's article mentioned above also reprinted one from its May 1961 issue, "Russia Seeks the Snowman," about a Dr. Alexander G. Pronin of the "Geographic Scientific Institute of Leningrad University" (no Google hits on that name, but there could be translation issues) seeing a "snowman" while on an International Geophysical Year expedition in the Pamir Mountains.


The hypothesis of a surviving population of Neanderthals, which has been explored in fiction, is brought out again:
Igor Burtsev, head of the International Center of Hominology in Moscow -- which investigates so-called snowmen -- told The Voice of Russia radio that "when Homo sapiens started populating the world, it viciously exterminated its closest relative in the hominid family, Homo neanderthalensis."

"Some of the Neanderthals, however, may have survived to this day in some mountainous wooded habitats that are more or less off limits to their arch foes. No clothing on them, no tools in hands and no fire in the household. Only round-the-clock watchfulness for a Homo sapiens around."
Hitting the Wall
One thing I notice with Bigfoot investigations (as with UFO investigations—and some say they are related) is that people get evidence and think that they are on the verge of the big discovery — and then it all stops. Nothing seems to be repeatable in a scientific way.

I have to say that sometimes I think that Bigfoot exists—but not in our world. Rather he/she/they are in a world that sometimes intersects with ours. Yep, like fairies, etc.

The late Grover Krantz, a physical anthropologist at Washington State University, published a book arguing for a physical Bigfoot that inhabited an ecological niche sort of like a nocturnal black bear—at least in the Pacific Northwest. Rather than Neanderthal, he suggested a surviving Gigantopithecus as a possibility.

But unless it had learned to hibernate, I do not see how such a creature could live in the Pamirs—or the Rockies. Black bears do not forage for food in the winter, and neither could an ape-man.


October 13, 2011

Cars Eat More Corn than do Animals

Corn production for ethanol has surpassed production for livestock feed and other food and non-food uses.

All along Interstate 90 in eastern North Dakota, the billboards tell you that burning ethanol is the patriotic thing to do. Maybe Tharaldson Ethanol, just down the road, paid for them.

Wildlife Viewing Workshop, Southern Colorado

From the news release...

8 a.m.–noon, Saturday, October 22nd., in the Brush Hollow Reservoir and Arkansas River areas, near Florence and Penrose, Colorado.

Learn about binoculars and spotting scopes to enhance wildlife-viewing skills. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.  Families welcome.

Meet for breakfast (on your own) at 8 a.m. at Coyote's Coffee Den, Colorado 115 at 6th Street, Penrose.

Please RSVP to Jena Sanchez, Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, jena.sanchez@state.co.us or (719) 227-5204.

"We have all these dead trees, but nobody's buying"

Forest Service tackles beetle-killed spruce in the San Juans, trying to at least clear dead trees that might fall on campers.

But as I mentioned earlier, the little sawmills that once might have cut them are mostly all gone.

October 12, 2011

Heat, Ducks, and Dogs

Cookie, a hard-working German wirehaired pointer.
Before I left for North Dakota on October 1st, Galen told me to expect cooler weather than on our previous years' September grouse hunts. Luckily I checked the forecast too, which predicted warmer weather.

Oh yeah. Like stiff breezes from the south and temperatures into the 80s F. Most un-North Dakota, but good for drying out the corn, beans, and sunflowers for harvest, I suppose. Somehow I ended up with both sets of waterfowling gear—the heavy neoprene waders and the light unlined hip boots, the insulated parka and the lightweight jacket, etc. Plus long underwear, wool pants . . . I am notorious for over-packing, but this was ridiculous.

Ducks were not yet migrating, so we ended up jump-shooting some of the abundant sloughs. Finally the last evening we did a "proper" decoy set and killed our last three ducks (one mallard, two teal) in the final seconds of legal shooting light.

Grouse should be eating the white buffalo berries.
Cry Damnit and Release the Dogs of Corn

As for the sharp-tailed grouse, this past severe winter and wet spring and summer might have hurt reproduction. I had one shot at one and missed it. The funny thing was that the grouse we were seeing were flying above and into standing corn, not in the prairie grass where we had found them before.

You are not supposed to hunt standing crops without the owner's permission, so we did not. Certain dogs might have been encouraged to run down the rows, however.

But the dogs did not want to go more than about three rows in. Perhaps they find the cornfields to be disorienting and spooky.
Invisible Species of North Dakota

This was my fourth North Dakota bird hunt, and I coming to believe that the presence of Hungarian partridge is advertised in order to sell licenses to gullible out-of-staters, but that they do not actually exist.

Likewise, I have seen ungulate-type droppings and large rounded hoof prints and am informed with seeming sincerity that they are made by moose.

No doubt the shelter belts and abandoned farmsteads are swarming with them, but I always happen to be looking in another direction. Perhaps they are snoozing moosily in the sunflower fields.

But I will be happy with my duck dinners.

October 11, 2011

It's All About the Dogs

Cookie, rear, and Fisher, front, in Galen's well-dogged GMC Suburban.
One dog hogs the camera, the food, and the digital ink. One dog can find a wounded duck in the thickest of cattails. One dog would rather run madly on the prairie. I will let you guess which dog is which.

October 06, 2011

Where Was I?


I have been on the road the past week, so I thought that I would throw in my first-ever puzzler. Be the first commenter to tell me in what region this photo was taken, and I will send you some little outdoor trinket or other. Precision counts. Don't just say, "Montana," for example. (Family members and people whom I visited on this trip are not eligible.)

The Answer (Oct. 14):  The photo was taken along the Niobrara River's "national scenic river" corridor east of Valentine, Nebraska. I know that I have one reader in Nebraska who should have gotten it. Oh well.

October 05, 2011

Convicts of the Corn

Sex offender being transported leaps from a prison van, allegedly upset with the poor quality of his vegetarian meals. (You can't make this up.)

He runs into a cornfield — bad move.

It's harvest time here in North Dakota. Mostly they are cutting soy and pinto beans. But when it's convict-hunting time, you change to your corn "head" and go.
The massive manhunt took a turn around noon today as the combines started to roll in to the Smith farmstead. Law enforcement officers hopped on board, fully armed and took off on a tear to find Megna.

"We decided that at the last minute, that if the corn was ready to take off, that this was the thing to do. We went after it and we did it."
 Watch the video at the 1:10 point.

Better than bloodhounds.

September 30, 2011

Big Ag Strikes Back

It's not enough that we eat their products, but we are supposed to love them too.

Worried, apparently, by bloggers, book authors, and documentary-film makers, "Big Ag" organizations like the National Milk Producers Federation ("Got Milk?") and the American Egg Board, have formed the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance in "a bid to 'reshape the dialogue' about the American food supply." 

Conspicuously absent: organic farmers.
The battle is over more than labels. Also at stake is the $25 billion annual budget for discretionary spending by the Agriculture Department, and crop subsidies worth even more. Bob Stallman, chairman of the Alliance, is also president of the American Farm Bureau, the farmers’ main lobbying group in Washington. 
In his column in the current issue of Colorado Central magazine—not yet available online—Colorado food writer Hal Walter suggests, "Eating may be more effective than voting."

"Start by voting with your fork," he continues. "Every dollar you don't spend with big food is one dollar that doesn't feed the beast, and instead nutures both your community and yourself."

I have been picking up copies of his free publication about independent, mostly organic farmers and ranchers in Colorado's Arkansas Valley this summer.

Call The Farm Beet, it is also available from his web site.

September 24, 2011

Pueblo, A City of Readers (?)

Some survey claims that Pueblo, Colorado, is the seventh-best city in the country for book lovers, not so much for bookstores and literary events but for its library system.
(Portland, Oregon, was number one.)

Yes, the library is popular with all types. I was at the main (Rawlings) library yesterday and was approached inside by two panhandlers and one girl selling fund-raising candies for some school thing.

No, You Can't Eat That, Says the Judge

Wisconsin judge says that there is no "right to eat" food that you yourself produce.

According to Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler, you do not have a fundamental right to consume the food you grow or own or raise. The Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the pioneers in defending food sovereignty and freedom, recently argued before Judge Fiedler that you and I have a constitutional right to consume the foods of our choice. Judge Fiedler saw no merit to the argument and ruled against the FTCLDF. When they asked him to clarify his statement, these were his words:

“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;”
“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;”
“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice…”
(source)
 Read the rest.

September 22, 2011

Boulder News: Yoga, Accupuncture . . . and Dog-Walking

But if Joan Zalk's accupuncture technique is similar to her "dog-walking" technique, I would look for a different practitioner.
When officers arrived and spoke to Zalk, she admitted to telling the women she had a gun, but said she only did it because she felt threatened and trapped, the report said. She said she doesn't own a gun, and there wasn't a gun in the car.
Just as well. She may not be too clear on the difference between legitimate self-defense and felony menacing either.

John Fayhee's Tribute to the Gila Wilderness

Where external-frame backpacks, thrift-shop hiking clothes, and cigars are still acceptable.

His personal website is here.

Traces of Yellowstone Grizzly Bears

Wapiti Lake access blocked (MSNBC, July 2011).
On Monday, Sept. 12, which was a rainy day, M. and I car-toured the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park. (I had never seen some of its famous sights, such as the view of the falls from Artist's Point.)

When we passed the turn-off to the Wapiti Lake Trail, it was blocked every kind of barricade and tape in the Park Service warehouse.

Electric signs on the main road warned drivers not to stop and to stay in their vehicles. (And what about the many bicyclists? Are they just bear bait?)

Why? Because of the grizzly bear attack that killed a California hiker, Brian Matayoshi.

At the time, the bear that killed Matayoshi was not hunted down, but treated as a sow with cub exercising a legitimate right of (perceived) self-defense.

Now the Powers That Be are blaming Matayoshi and his wife for running and triggering the bear's predatory instincts.  
Authorities concluded that the couple's reaction - running, yelling and screaming upon the bear's approach - might have escalated the severity of the attack, according to reports.
Bear safety experts recommend people talk in a low, calm tone and stand their ground when encountering grizzlies. They say bears will sometimes "bluff charge" toward a perceived threat.
 Well, that settles it. 

In August, a visitor from Michigan, John Wallace, was killed on the Mary Mountain Trail, which we noticed was also barricaded at both ends.
"We recommend people carry bear pepper sprays," wildlife biologist Kerry Gunther told ABC. "It gives people a lot of the confidence to stand their ground." 
Yes, we carried  bear spray. On our one backcountry hike, we encountered an excited Canadian couple coming the other way who said that they had seen a sow grizz and a cub.

(I think they were Canadians because the guy used "half a mile" and "200 meters" in the same sentence.)

They were wearing bear bells. Personally, I don't think that bear bells do any good unless you chant Om Mani Padme Hum as well. Then if a bear eats you, you have a beneficial rebirth.

A German (?) man was walking out the trail behind them calling "Bär bär!" at intervals.

I decided just to fish a little more where we were, because the brookies were hitting a bead-head nymph pretty regularly.

Eventually we hiked in to the lake and back out again. I carried the bear spray canister in one hand. Saw nothing. I noticed that the older hikers tended to have bear spray, while the younger ones did not. Make what you will of that.

It's always interesting being in the (possible) presence of a superior predator. Sharpens your senses. But the truth is that although I have had many black bear encounters, I have never seen a grizzly bear in the wild (unless I did on my childhood trip to Yellowstone—can't recall).  That comes of living in the Southern rather than the Northern Rockies. Ours were eliminated a century ago, except for the puzzling grizz killed in 1979 in the Southern San Juans.

UNRELATED POSTSCRIPT: Amazon warrior on a big Percheron-cross horse saves boy from grizzly attack in Montana.

September 21, 2011

Revew: The Last Season--When a Park Ranger Goes Missing


In the summer of 1996, an experienced backcountry ranger went missing.

Ranger Randy Morgenson was in his early fifties. He had grown up hiking and climbing at Yosemite National Park, where his father worked for The Yosemite Park & Curry Co., the park concessionaire. He was also an expert cross-country skier.

He had studied public-lands recreation management in college, served in the Peace Corps, married, and worked many seasons at Yosemite and Sequoia & King's Canyon National Parks.

He loved the wilderness and respected its power in an almost animistic way. He was the kind of man who would seriously consider whether a tree wanted its picture to be taken. He hated to hear anything in the natural world described as a "resource." He even preferred to say "treeline" rather than "timberline" because "timber" sounded too much like a "resource."

At the same time, he was known as courteous and helpful to visitors, even when confronting their destructive behavior. He had participated unflinchingly in search-and-rescue and body-recovery missions. Everyone looked up to him.

But backcountry rangers are like the adjunct professors who teach more than half all all university classes.. They do the work, but they have no job security from one year to the next. They have no pension plans and far fewer benefits than permanent employees. And Randy Morgenson was past the middle of his career.  His marriage was going downhill.

One day, he missed his radio check, part of the routine for backcountry rangers who camped out and worked alone. And the next day.  His colleagues grew worried. Eventually a full-scale search was mounted: ground teams, airborne searchers, search dogs, even a Navy helicopter with forward-looking infrared radar. All backcountry campers and hikers in his patrol area were questioned if they had seen him.

Nothing.

Given that the conclusion is beyond his control, Eric Blehm has written a masterful nonfiction thriller in The Last Season.

I raced through the last two chapters two evenings ago and had weird park ranger dreams for half the night afterward. That is the price you pay for reading such an absorbing book.