September 28, 2013

Burned Area Revegetation, Six Months Later

May 2013
Last May I used this photo of Fisher playing in a little seasonal spring to illustrate a post about the Bureau of Land Management's aerial seeding of a burned area near home.

The black ground is burned by the fire. The wood chips are mulch dropped by helicopter along with a mixture of grass seed.
September 2013
Here is Fisher again at the same spring (Camera Trap Spring). The mullein (upper left) would have arrived on its own, as did some of the other plants, but it looks like the grass mixture took hold, thanks to the late-summer rains.

We were spared the massive rains that hit northern Colorado, so there has not been an erosion problem, and now with any luck, there won't be.

Not shown: the Gambel oak is ankle to knee-high up there already. It needs no encouragement.

September 26, 2013

Mountain Dog Photo Contest

I hope you did not delete that great photo of Max on the glacier, because it's time for Mountain Gazette's sixth annual Mountain Dog Photo Contest.

Safely Sampling Strange Wild Plants

I have done this only informally with mushrooms, but there is a protocol for the Universal Edibility Test. It goes step by step.

Related: "13 Survival Myths that Could Kill You."
I’ve worked on these reality shows,” says Tony Nester, an expert on desert survival and head of Ancient Pathways, an outdoor survival and bushcraft school based in Flagstaff, Arizona. “They’re heavily scripted and there’s always a support crew within twenty feet, twenty-four seven.”

September 25, 2013

Blog Stew in a Shale Bowl

 ¶ The big Colorado environmental news of the day: Shell abandons its Western Slope shale oil project. Back in 2010 I linked to an article about why oil shale was not the magic road to energy independence.

 ¶ After the recent flooding in the Big Thompson canyon, some residents refused to leave and created their own local govenment, complete with mayor, security chief, and road-and-bridge department.

Elsewhere, the flood may speed up the process of gentrification and trophy housing.

Wind farms kill eagles. And those are just the bird deaths that someone bothers to record. I really wonder if some day we won't look back on giant wind farms as the equivalent of the dirigibles (airships) of the early 20th century—cool-looking technology, but never really worked out.

The wind farms are not working out too well in Germany.
The government has vowed to break dependence on fossil fuels and source 50 per cent of all electricity from wind, solar, and other renewables by 2030, and 80 per cent by mid-century. But cost estimates have reached 1 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion) over the next 25 years. "It is a worthwhile goal, and the whole world is looking to see whether Germany can do it, so we can't fail. But there have been so many mistakes," [Christoph] Schmidt [chairman of Germany's Council of Economic Experts] said.

September 23, 2013

Olympic National Park: Hoh Rain Forest

The west side of the Olympic Peninsula is the wet side, where the trees grow big — but sometimes just when I am thinking to myself about that, I look deeper in the woods and see the really big stumps. A few even still display the holes for springboards.
The glacier-fed Hoh River flows west into the Pacific
M. and I drove up the Hoh Rain Forest road into Olympic National Park and hiked a couple of short trails. The Hall of Mosses trail features a grove of bigleaf maples completely swathed in mosses, lichens, and every local variety of epiphyte.

Says the Park Service website, "one criteria [sic] for the determination of a temperate rain forest is that the amount of moss and other epiphytes exceeds the weight of all the foliage (leaves and needles) per acre by at least two times."
Bigleaf maple trees covered in moss, Hoh rain forest
You don't often get a sunny day in the rain forest. Nearby Forks ("We brake for vampires") averages 212 days annually of measurable precipitation — about 107 inches (2.7 meters or 15.3 hands). The Hoh forest itself averages 140 to 170 inches (12 to 14 feet).

September 22, 2013

Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge

The present

Walking around the Hurricane Ridge parking lot and then up the trail, I felt that my energy level was high. In fact, I was congratulating myself at how bouncy I felt up there at timberline. Then Rational Mind kicked in: "Dude, you're at a lower altitude than your house."
Hurricane Ridge visitor center, with Mount Olympus in the background
Timberline is so much lower there, thanks to latitude and whatever other climactic factors. The visitor center is at 5,242 feet (1,911 varas, 1,598 meters), in other words, the same as the high plains city of Denver. Mt. Olympus is 6,900 feet but gets massive snowfall as storms sweep off the North Pacific.
Trail in the Hurricane Ridge area
Looking north: the white streak is a cloud bank on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, while the dark strip on the horizon is Vancouver Island.
The past

Driving up to the ridge, I was trying to remember and reconstruct the last time I had entered Olympic National Park. It was between my freshman and sophomore year of college, and my girlfriend and I had driven up from Portland for a quick backpacking trip in her Volkswagen squareback.

Did we car-camp the first night in the park? I know we hiked to some lake —  Lake Angeles? Why did we go there? What did we eat? What did we talk about? All I can remember is camping beside some lake in the forest. And the "green tunnel" effect of driving on the Olympic Peninsula, which still struck me even after my first year in western Oregon.

I was keeping a journal then, but I can't consult it, for it was one of the volumes that my mother trashed (and then lied about it) after I left them in my old desk at her house. So it goes.

Refunds for Colorado Hunters in Flood Units

(news release)

DENVER – Colorado Parks and Wildlife will offer exchanges or refunds and reinstatement of preference points for hunters in units and seasons adversely affected by the flood.

Game Management Units include: 7,8,9,19,191,20,29,S1,S19,S37,S57

Seasons included in this offer include Archery and Muzzle-loading deer, elk, and bear; Archery and Rifle bighorn sheep; and Archery, Muzzle-loading, and Rifle moose.

Hunters can download the application for license refund.

Requirements for this offer are as follows:

--Hunter must return a non-voided (i.e. carcass tag is still attached) license to CPW in person or postmarked by midnight, September 27, 2013 with the application for license refund request form or letter explaining request.

--It is OK if hunters have already hunted as long as they have not killed an animal; hence the requirement for a non-voided license submission.

Options for hunters include:

If a hunter used preference point(s), either:
--preference point(s) will reinstated to pre-draw levels and a refund
--preference point(s) will be reinstated to pre-draw level and license exchanged to an OTC license or an available leftover in a different unit from the flood units.

If hunter did not use preference point(s):
--a refund or exchange for an available license will be issued.

Notification of these options will be made to hunters by mail, website, news release, and our Facebook page.  CPW will notify all hunters as soon as possible.

Information on over the counter and leftover licenses.

September 21, 2013

Dungeness Days

At the Juan de Fuca Cottages, Sequim, Washington
Back to the travelogue . . .

We left Port Townsend last week  and drove on west to Sequim ("skwim"). While at my sister's home, I had started researching motels in Sequim and nearby Port Angeles, but M. said she wanted to find a classic vacation cottage by the sea.

Luck was with us: the Juan de Fuca Cottages in Sequim had a vacancy, and they were exactly as she envisioned — old enough to be "vintage" but clean and well-maintained — and just steps from the water.

The dark line on the horizon is Dungeness Spit. Closer, it looks like this:
Dungeness Spit
The spit is part of a national wildlife refuge, and there is a county park adjacent for camping. If you were to walk 5.5 miles along the beach, you would come to a lighthouse.

Sandy bluffs inland from the spit
This eroded bluff is what creates the spit. As sand erodes from its face, wind and tidal action move the sand along the spit's outer edge in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, depositing grains as they go.

Beach shelter on Dungeness Spit
After a day in the Hurricane Ridge area (more to come), we moved on west and got serious cottage envy at Lake Crescent, also in Olympic National Park.
The Singer Tavern Cottages at Crescent Lake. There are others.
If you want to visit Olympic Park in the laid-back manner, you can rent various cottages at the old resort of Lake Crescent.
Lake Crescent Lodge
The lodge is the original Singer's (or Singer) Lake Crescent Tavern from 1916, a hotel really, back when guests arrived by ferry.

We can dream.

September 20, 2013

Drought Conditions Improve in Colorado, New Mexico

The strong monsoon season has helped ease the drought. I see that our area has dropped from "severe drought" to "abnormally dry." 

The creek near our house faltered in mid-summer but recovered before going completely dry. A rancher neighbor says that he has been able to irrigate for a few days, although I am sure that he would rather have had that water in June.

Denver Post photo
In northern Colorado, there is no drought at all! That happens when you get a year's worth of precipitation in a few days.

In fact, in some areas, soil moisture has been recharged the old-fashioned way.

Then there is the oil-spill problem.

Dressing like a President

TR's leather coat. It says so at the website.
I had to laugh on receipt of an email from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (a good organization) touting Orvis's Theodore Roosevelt clothing collection. (I presume some kind of kickback is in operation.)

When I looked at the items on sale, I realized that except for the leather vest and the national parks atlas, I already have everything on the page or an equivalent garment. Right down to the pocket watch and the biography.

Maybe I could substitute my leather-covered copy of David Sibley's bird book for the atlas.

A woman in a coffee shop once told me that I looked like Teddy Roosevelt (really, I don't) when wearing an old four-pocket twill jacket that was made by, guess who, Orvis, but purchased on eBay.

There is also a "trout bum" collection, but I somehow doubt if John Gierach gets a cut on sales. He did not invent the phrase, but he sure did popularize it.

September 19, 2013

What Kind of Water Year Was It?

Click to enlarge

Hydrologists measure "water years" from October through August, so this diagram shows the year that just ended.

No Sasquatch on the Prairies?

In a post titled "Big Data meets Bigfoot," Boing Boing summarizes "Bigfoot in Penn State PhD candidate Joshua Stevens's visualization of nearly a century of Sasquatch sighting reports in the US and Canada."

Stevens writes,
Right away you can see that sightings are not evenly distributed. At first glance, it looks a lot like a map of population distribution. After all, you would expect sightings to be the most frequent in areas where there are a lot of people. But a bivariate view of the data (right) shows a very different story. There are distinct regions where sightings are incredibly common, despite a very sparse population. On the other hand, in some of the most densely populated areas sasquatch sightings are exceedingly rare.
Go there for the interesting graphics. And as one commenter notes, maybe "the answer is likely game cameras, lots and lots of game cameras."

Caution: Meadow Repairs in Progress

I did not see the repairs in progress, but I can think of two reasons why not:
1. The repairs happen too slowly for my buzzy mammal brain to process.

2. The work is done at night by long-tailed voles with tiny wheelbarrows.
(Photo taken in Mount Rainier National Park)

September 18, 2013

Port Townsend Then, Then, and Now

Late 19th-century buildings on Water Street
I first saw Port Townsend, Washington, in the mid-1970s after my dad and stepmom built a house on nearby Whidbey Island. From my Colorado frame of reference, its air of "boom days past" made me think of (pre-casino) Cripple Creek with a waterfront.

Just as bustling Cripple Creek in its 1890s heyday was served by several railroads and a streetcar system, Port Townsend's boosters saw it destined to be Puget Sound's major port.

On Port Townsend's waterfront
A thriving lumber port, its Downtown area — the waterfront — was devoted to commercial shipping and to the business of separating sailors from their money as efficiently as possible. Respectable people lived on a higher level, literally, in the Uptown area.

But the railroad never arrived, and Port Townsend stagnated, although the arrival of the Coast Artillery Corps at Ford Worden made a difference. From 1902 through World War Two, batteries at Fort Worden, Marrowstone Island, and Whidbey Island ensured that any foreign battle fleet entering Puget Sound would be triangulated by multiple guns.

On successive family visits, we would always take the ferry to Port Townsend, gawk at the Victorian buildings awaiting the restorationist's paint brush, check out the maritime restoration projects ongoing among the wooden-boat cultists, and eat some seafood.

The folks moved back to Colorado in 1990 and, in essence, gave us a vacation by flying us out to bring back Dad's Jeep, which we drove home via the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and San Francisco. But first we loaded it on the Keystone ferry to Port Townsend, ate a bowl of cioppino (me), and paid Downtown one last visit.

Where poetry is cute.
Now it is twenty-three years later. All those Victorian buildings are restored and full of restaurants and "shoppes." There is even a writers' "workshoppe."

I saw fewer wooden hulls and more expensive motor yachts. The town is now billed as an "arts community," whatever that means, and it attracts prosperous retirees—I can't blame them.

Fort Warden is —has been for a long time — a state park with beaches and trails, a conference center, and you can even rent a house on Officers Row for your vacation stay.

In a  town where "shangai" was once a verb, now it is the name of a restaurant at the marina.

September 16, 2013

Parkitecture at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park

The "Stockade Group" Visitor Center
The "Yakima Park Stockade Group" buildings at Sunrise were built in the 1930s–1940s, modeled consciously on frontier blockhouses. I think that they would look familiar to a Roman legionary in first-century Germania as well — who thought that the roots of the National Park Service ran that deep?
Sunrise Lodge, side view
Sunrise Lodge was built in 1931, originally as part of a never-competed resort hotel. Behind me — but un-photographed — was a parkitectural "comfort station" that is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

September 15, 2013

"You mean there's a senator for all this?"

View looking NE into the Cascade Mtns. from Mount Rainier National Park.
Said by the very urban poet Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), whom the not-so-urban poet Gary Snyder in the 1950s coaxed  into working one season as a fire lookout in the Cascades.

The incident is found on p. 31 of Snyder's book The Practice of the Wild, which is on my hypothetical desert-island book list.

And that whole brief era is described in detail in John Suiter's Poets on the Peaks.

It was probably the same summer that the two of them encountered a party of anglers on a forest trail and Ginsberg intoned, "WE are forest beatniks." A line that I will never have the opportunity to use.

September 14, 2013

Business Opportunity for Hermit Hotelier

Have you ever wanted to open a hotel or retreat center or something like that in the Back of Beyond? Here is your opportunity, which I saw as the California Zephyr whizzed through the thriving metropolis of Thompson Springs last week.

Unfortunately, the train doesn't stop there anymore.

September 03, 2013

What Killed the Russian Skiers? (2)

The torn tent at the skiers' campsite
Five years ago I first read of what is sometimes called "the Dyatlov Pass Incident" and was thoroughly creeped out.

This article offers another telling and more photographs, but the mystery remains. (Note: the page is "safe for work," but some networks may block the overall website.)

If the tent was struck by an avalanche, how did they get out? People have died under relatively small amounts of snow — a foot or two — when it was heavily compacted.How come the skis used as tent poles are still standing if an avalanche swept over it?  And was that even an avalanche-prone slope?

Wouldn't experienced backcountry skiers who survived an avalanche have not reconstructed their camp as best they could?

I keep thinking that the radiation readings might be misleading, not the real issue — but that is just conjecture.

M. wonders if they did not eat bad mushrooms. That seems as possible as anything. Since it was February, someone would have had to make an error while picking mushrooms in the forest the previous season, then bring them along in dried form to be reconstituted and cooked in a stew or something. That could possibly explain the apparent delirium. Maybe.