December 29, 2015

Bear with Me — There's More

Bear enjoying late-season tomatoes.
More links that I need to clear . . . 

• "The Hermit: New Mexico's First Mountaineer" — it's a story of religion, violence, penitence, and isolation, in other words, New Mexico.

• Some birds do well in cities and suburbs. How can we help them?

• We are told the decades of forest-fire suppression has led to hotter, bigger files. But a CU study suggests that severe fires are not new on Colorado's Front Range.  

Plans to sequence the genome of the oldest dogs found in North America.

Outdoor magazine's best 25 books for well-read explorers. Old Glory, yes!

• Everyone hears about Coronado's expedition in the American southwest,  no one about Francisco Leyva de Bonilla's. Maybe that is because it was such as disaster.

• Saving a big piece of southeastern Colorado's canyon country. And a chunk of the High Plains east of Pueblo.

Why are we still talking about Chris "Supertramp" McCandless?
Twenty-three years after his death, McCandless still has people talking — debating his cause of death, condemning his choices and discussing how perhaps they, too, can leave everything behind and walk into the wild.
A "river of sheep" in northwestern Colorado. Good photos.

December 28, 2015

Massive 2015 Year-End Link Dump! Something for Everyone!

Chef Jess Noy. See squirrel item.
I too often save a link to blog about it but them am too busy to do so. So here they are! All free!

Aspens in western Oregon could be "refugees" from Ice Age floods.

An article on Outdoor Wire wondered if the movie Wild would give a boost to backpacking or if The Hunger Games would increase the sale of archery gear. Well, did they?

• Not sure how this turned out: a Jewish kind-of-guru and a land-use battle in the Huerfano Valley of southern Colorado.

• What is the best survival knife? I would say that it's the knife you have with you. But, gear heads, read this article.

• When I was in the 6th grade at Kullerstrand Elementary School in Wheat Ridge, Colo., my teacher, Miss Carter, became engaged to the son of a carnation-raising family. She took us on a class trip through the commercial greenhouses — there used to be operations like that all over the area. Then, boom! no more. All the cut flowers came from Colombia, thanks to the War on Drugs ("We will pay them to grow roses instead of coca.") Now, "Colorado farmers, florists seek renaissance for local flower scene."

• Cañon City commercial herb and flower grower Tammy Hartung blogs on "Protecting Wildlife in the Garden & Farm Landscape."

• BoingBoing offers "The Best Adventure Stories for Kids from 1965." Is having adventures retro-cool? Elidar was actually one of Alan Garner's weaker books, I thought.

• Counting roadkill is depressing: "Our Highways' Toll on Wildlife." A game warden in Fremont County, Colo., once told me that he figured a deer or elk was killed every night of the year by a motor vehicle. No doubt some of those drivers think that hunting is cruel.

The English discover that squirrels are tasty. Also, redheads rule.

The Salton Sea was an accident, but birds love it. I finally saw it this past March.

• It's cold this week. Are you at risk for "the frozen five"?

The "locavore movement" boosts deer hunting, in case you did not know.

• What southern Colorado needs is a good "guntry club." But I expect that northern Colorado will get (or has gotten) one sooner, since that is where the money is. Still, I can fantasize.

• Are you feeding the birds this winter? Some thoughts on where to put your feeders. And keep them clean.  And if you want birds, you have to tolerate some insects.

• What happens when a professional wedding photographer goes elk hunting.

Don't make these dumb moves when you go to a gun shop.

• I have heard some of these: "Female Hunters Share Tales of Sexism."

How to shoot down a drone. Hint: they are more like pigeons than geese.

• It kind of amazes me that Bishop's Castle is the must-see tourist attraction in the Wet Mountains. But almost everyone who rents our cabin goes there.

• When I worked at the Cañon City Daily Record, part of my job was visiting the local humane society and photographing the adoptable pet of the week. I learned some these things by trial and error, but I wish that I had had this article to read.

December 25, 2015

Maybe I Should Call This "Marginal Galaxy Nature Blog"



Maybe not. I am better at thinking about the migration paths of elk than the migration paths of galaxies. But it is a stunning video. Laniakea means "immeasureable heavens" in Hawaiian. More here.

December 23, 2015

Best of Bigfoot, 2015


"Local" decor in the new Trader Joe's grocery store in Colorado Springs.
Via the Bigfoot Lunch Club blog, Animal Planet's ten best Bigfoot video clips of 2015.

These have a short commercial at the beginning. At least one that I watched was for cosmetics, which means that someone thinks that there are female Bigfoot fans too (I always think of Bigfoot-hunting as a guy thing, for some reason) or else there is a joke in there about putitng lipstick on a sasquatch.

In related news, Bigfoot-hunting figures into the upcoming trial of Eddie Tipton, the "former Multi-State Lottery Association security director who is accused of rigging jackpots in Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma from 2005 to 2011 to enrich himself and his friends."

It was all for science!

In yet other news, a Canadian Native band gets their 75-year-old sasquatch (?) mask back from a museum.

December 18, 2015

Look What Smokey Bear Left in my Stocking!

The Fiddlin' Foresters
Am I opening presents early, when Smokeymas is still a week away? Not really, I found this CD, "In the Long Run" by the Fiddlin' Foresters, at ARC today.

I had no idea that (a) the US Forest Service had an "official old-time string band" and (b) that their website had been presidentially singled out by Barack Obama as an example of government waste. Was that a taxpayer-funded banjo too?

Thank heaven we have saved $10 annually on domain registration fees. The deficit will melt like snow in May if we keep this up.

The album is still available.

I played it on the long drive home from Colorado Springs. They do a tricky thing in the middle, moving from the campfire-singalong jollity of "Smokey the Bear" through another cut and then into "Cold Missouri Waters," which is a song I rarely listen to because it interferes with my vision, and that's not what you want at 65 mph. Jane Leche gets into Joan Baez territory with the vocal track (YouTube).

"Is that about a wildfire?" M. asks.

"Mann Gulch," I manage to say, although my voice sounds funny.

But let's be real. The song is a weeper, but I was not even born yet when the events took place.

I am thinking more of a sunny dining hall at the Wheaton College science station/summer camp in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. A boy sits off in a corner while his father, the Pactola District ranger, gives some students a quick version of what would be today the S-190 and S-130 "red card" wildfire-training classes, in case they have to fight a fire on or near their 50-acre site.

Sheet music to "Smokey the Bear" sits on the rack of the upright piano in the dining hall, and the ranger is telling the students how you should never run uphill from a fire, how something bad happened in Montana not too many years before.

December 17, 2015

Chile Thoughts on a Cold December Night

Not my stove (via Preservation Archaeology)
Last night I was roasting some poblano chile peppers on the gas stove because I came across a recipe that I wanted to try, from Jacques Pépin of all people — I did not know he was into Mexican food.

That got me musing about a dish that I made years ago when we lived in Cañon City. It was supposed to be a post-Civil War Army recipe from the days of the Indian Wars — real stark, basically beef and red chiles, lots of them. Maybe onions, no beans.

And then I went down the Internet rabbit hole looking for it.

My Army recipe might have been something like this one, from an article in True West:
But the army’s official chili recipe was not published until 1896 in its The Manual for Army Cooks, says John Thorne, chili [sic] [1] scholar and e-zine publisher at outlawcook.com. Labeled “Chile Con Carne,” the recipe calls for round beefsteak, one tablespoonful of hot dripping, two tablespoonfuls of rice, two large, dry red peppers, one cup of boiling water, a half pint of boiling water and salt, onions and flour. The time hadn’t yet come for garlic and tomatoes to be added to the mix.
I don't remember the rice, but years have passed.

Speaking of which, I will always think of jackrabbit chile as "poverty food," remembering those years.

If you want to make chile con carne for 100, here is a more contemporary Army cooks' recipe (PDF), involving canned tomatoes and beans.

Here is a Texas-centric history of chile, including some home-boy bombast from that master politico, Lyndon Johnson. Treat it with the skepticism that you normally bring to writing that includes phrases like, "According to an old Southwestern American Indian legend. . . " [2]

New Mexico has its Official State Question, "Red or green?", but here in the northern fringe of the fictive province (not the state) of New Mexico — south of the Arkansas (Nepeste) River — the question has already been answered for you: "Green."

I know I am somewhere near home when I can ask for a side dish of green chile with my meal, and no one bats an eye — even if it is canned stuff off the Sysco truck, which happens.

Jacques' recipe is simmering in the big iron pot, meanwhile, and there is some venison sausage that might go in later.


1. Father, forgive them, for Texans can play football, but they know not how to spell. Also, the website has changed at bit.

2. Or to anything written on Texas history.

December 12, 2015

Do I Have to Throw Away My Ducks Unlimited Shirts Now?

Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, I had fantasies of being an outdoor/nature writer. I published articles, had a newspaper column for a couple of years, and spent a year on the staff of the late and unlamented Colorado Outdoor Journal. And I got to know a lot of writers. I still do some freelancing, but mostly in other areas now —  except this blog (which would qualify me for membership in the Outdoor Writers Assn. of America, if I wanted to go back).

If there is anything writers like to talk about, it is their shabby treatment by editors, publishers  and producers. Everyone has stories of producing work and then being stiffed on payment.

So when I read Steve Bodio's account of Ducks Unlimited not only firing contributing editor E. Donnall Thomas, Jr., better known as Don Thomas — but also scrubbing all of his previous work from the DU website, making him into a "nonperson" as much as they could, I boiled.

Steve quoted Thomas on what happened, and I will borrow that quote:
"In October, 2015 I wrote a piece for Outside Bozeman magazine, "A Rift Runs Through It", about the long Montana legal battle to secure and maintain public access to the Ruby River in accordance with the state’s stream access law. . . .To summarize a complex issue for those unfamiliar with the case, wealthy Atlanta businessman James Cox Kennedy engaged in extensive litigation to prevent such access, only to be denied repeatedly in court due to the efforts of the Montana Public Land and Water Access Association. While the article was not complimentary to Kennedy, no one has challenged the accuracy of the reporting.

James Cox Kennedy is a major financial contributor to Ducks Unlimited. On November 10, a Ducks Unlimited functionary informed me that my position with the magazine was terminated because of Cox’s displeasure with the article.

... The Ruby River article had nothing whatsoever to do with ducks or Ducks Unlimited (DU hereafter). The article did strongly support the rights of hunters and other outdoor recreationists to enjoy land and water to which they are entitled to access, and DU is a hunters’ organization... DU has essentially taken the position that wealthy donors matter more than the outdoor recreationists they purport to represent.
As I said, I boiled. I fired off a set of letters to Ducks Unlimited president Paul R. Bonderson, Jr., and to CEO Dale Hall. I delayed writing this blog post for a while to see if I got a response, maybe a form letter from the office intern, whatever. Nada.

I have served on the board of a state-level conservation group, and I know nonprofits often get most of their cash from a few big donors, who outweigh the dues and small gifts of us average members putting in $35 a year for dues and also responding to certain appeals.

But, I wrote to them, it is those thousands of average members, if properly used, who give the organization its political leverage.

And although I have been a member for close to thirty years, I suggested that in the future James Cox Kennedy could cover my dues and gifts.

Charity Navigator, which tracks nonprofits and how they spend their money, gives Ducks Unlimited three stars out of four overall, with a score of 74.49 out of 100 on "financial" and a 96 on "transparency."

According to DU's reports, fundraising and administrative costs take 23.6 percent of all income, with the rest going to programs. That's not bad. It is when over half goes to fundraising and administrative salaries that you want to back off.

Membership dues raised $19.4 million in fiscal year 2014, fundraising (all those banquets) raised $24.6 million, and contributions and grants accounted for $28.35 million.

They won't miss mine.

I am conflicted about this decision, and yes, I even wondered if I should keep wearing the stuff that DU sends as gift-appeal premiums. That's a pretty nice fleece vest, for instance, and I like it, even with the logo on the front.

I thought about how I had defended giving to the Salvation Army to a friend who advised against it because the SA was not, in her opinion, friendly enough to the LGBT population. "Who else does a better job and ticks off all the correct political boxes," I asked rhetorically.

Who else does more for duck research and habitat?

Who else screws over writers so blatantly?

Maybe DU, like many nonprofits before it, has gotten too big, too clubby, too established. Their treatment of Don Thomas is an awfully big straw in the wind, an indicator of their corporate mindset. You wonder what else is going on if they are that sensitive about a perceived insult to one of the insiders.

(UPDATE: Among other coverage of DU's shabby treatment of Don Thomas, here is a brief summary from High Country News.)

December 03, 2015

Louie the Bear has a Fundraiser! Help Louie Eat!

I posted in October about Louie the pizza shop bear and his little buddies. M. and I have been helping out a little — some big bags of puppy chow and some big bags of peanuts — but those go fast. Louie's caretakers at Wet Mountain Wildlife could use some help, so they have started a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign. But first . . . Louie in the pizza shop!

OK, you saw him, now help him bulk up for hibernation by contributing here!

November 27, 2015

Of Avalances, Machismo, and Derring-Do

Local search-and-rescue groups on Facebook are all cross-posting this Denver Post article: "Ignorance and Early-Season Avalanche Danger."

The author, columnist Steve Lipsher, writes,
Each year, it seems, the reckless streak grows bolder among Colorado skiers and snowboarders, eager to show off their GoPro videos on YouTube and earn bragging rights among their friends.
And each year, on average, six or seven of them will die in avalanches.
He is not sold on the latest gadgets:
[Other backcountry snow enthusiasts] carry specialized equipment designed to help them breathe in a burial or inflate giant airbags instantly to help them stay on top of an avalanche, falsely thinking that replaces good decisions or adequately protects them.
The SAR groups will still have work to do. Humans are hard-wired for risk. I am all for education on avalanche-awareness, but education will never reach them all.

November 18, 2015

Mushrooms: Manipulating Your Mind . . . and the Weather?


Helen Macdonald's latest New York Times column is on mushroom hunting, in which she observes,
Hunting for mushrooms can feel surprisingly like hunting animals, particularly if you’re searching for edible species. Looking for chanterelles, I’ve found myself walking on tiptoe across mossy stumps as if they might hear me coming. It’s a bad idea to walk around and try to spot them directly. They have an uncanny ability to hide from the searching eye. 
And they can change your perception too — and I am not talking about the designated "hallucinogenic" mushrooms either, but the ones we eat for food. 

Beyond that, some researchers suggest that mushrooms can make it rain. Their spores are like cloud-seeding.
“We can watch big water droplets grow as vapor condenses on (the mushroom spore’s) surface,” said senior author Nicholas Money of Miami University’s Biology Department. “Nothing else works like this in nature.”
Read the rest.

November 17, 2015

Waiting for El Niño or Someone Like Him

Other than some rain in October, it has been a dry few weeks here in the southern Colorado foothills. Dry — and sometimes windy enough — to bring back bad fire memories, like the one in NE Custer County near Wetmore on October 23, 2012.

And it is supposed to be an El Niño year, so where is the snow?

Finally something blew in last night. Although areas north of Colorado Springs (the Palmer Divide/Monument Hill), some High Plains counties, and Raton Pass into New Mexico had blizzard conditions, we awoke to about an inch of snow with a lot of a wind.

(There is more snow in the high mountains, and ski areas are opening.)

Because the 1997–98 El Niño announced itself with a three feet of snow on Thanksgiving weekend, I was expecting more.

But contrary to the "worst yet" headlines, this blog post by Bob Tisdale answers the question "Is the Current El Niño Stronger Than the One in 1997/98?" with "No." Lots of charts and graphs that you can read for yourself.

Still, a little more than an inch would be nice. But a dry early winter is not uncommon here — so long as it is followed by the usual March and April snows. The 1997–98 El Niño actually faded in the spring, which was not extraordinarily snowy.


Yes, there is a Psychedelic Era pop-culture reference in the blog title.

November 09, 2015

The Farmer Wave and the Jeep Wave

Call it the Farmer Wave, the Rancher Wave, or the [Blank] wave, you had better learn it hereabouts too. In Iowa, it has an official week, which is just now ending.

And then there is the Jeep Wave. Instead of saying "I trust you," it is saying, "You're more hardcore than I am. And I trust you."

Protocol dictates that (usually) the owner of the newer Jeep wave first, so when driving my 1973 CJ-5 I can just cruise regally along, awaiting my due acknowlegement.
 
It gets at least 50 points on this scale. 

But I keep an eye out for that guy down in town who has the CJ-3B.

October 26, 2015

A Mountain Cabin Mystery, Part 2


M. and I were gone on vacation from September 1–30. Then we came down with terrific colds (thanks, Swiss Air), and the weather was a little showery. She took the dog up back for a walk and came back saying something about a "board" on the Quonset cabin.

I had a look on my next walk up there and yes, a 4 x 8-foot piece of particle board was nailed across the empty hole where the living room window had been removed. Well, that was odd. Did Tim, the new owner of the adjacent property to the south, come up from his house and think he was doing me a favor?

I could have investigated more, but as I said, the head cold was killing my brain power, and I had a lot else to do. That may seem too laid-back, sorry.

But then came something I could not ignore. After my contractor friend said he thought that the dirt road to the cabin was too rough and rocky for his trailer, I decided to improve it. I contacted a neighbor who does "dirt work" locally.

He showed up with his tractor, blade, and rock-ripping teeth, and I went to open the gate for him.  What's this? The gate normally was secured by a chain with two padlocks on it. One was for the rural electric co-op, and the other was mine. Now someone had cut the chain and inserted a third lock!

Hike across the land and poke around a little, that's no big deal. Start cutting your way in, and that is something else.

After he finished his road work, I started making phone calls. How about the former owner of Tim's property? He owns hundreds of acres here and there, has a crew employed fulltime on various projects, and has been known, shall we say, to extend his fences beyond where he should. We had already had one go-round with him about that habit.

I called him, and we had an amiable chat. He was in his "the squire" persona. Oh no, he said, it was not his crew. (When they follow his orders and get him in trouble, he blames their poor language skills. Algunos no hablan inglés.)

I called the real estate agent who has listed property to the north of ours. Did he sell it, and did the new owner think that my road gave them access? Oh no, he said, the property had not been sold, and he knew that any buyer had no right to that road.

I called my contractor friend. Had he changed his mind about the salvage project and come back up there? Oh no, he had not.  (Too bad.) Maybe someone is "homesteading," he suggested.

To make things worse, the local paper ran a "25 Years Ago" item about law-enforcement officials launching an "intense vigil" right hereabouts for a fugitive described as "homicidal." Tracking dogs had followed him into these hills.

That was two years before we arrived. I had heard too about some fugitive hiding in the camping trailer that was there before the Quonset, but I cannot say if it was the same individual or a different one

M. and I paid an armed visit to the cabin. The rear door was locked — and as I wrote in Part 1, I never locked it.

I finally walked over to Tim, the new neighor's, house. No, neither he nor his kids had been inside the cabin. But "three weeks ago" he had heard a truck going up the road, followed by "banging." Maybe that was the nailing of the board.

I went home and called the sheriff's dispatcher. After about three hours, a deputy called me back. I gave him the facts. He clearly did not want to drive to this corner of the county — it was after dark, and he was the only patrol deputy on duty. That was OK, I told him, I just wanted to get something on the record in case I found a meth lab or a dead body or something else nefarious inside.

The next morning, I located the keys, and we went back. I sidled up to the door and unlocked it. Nothing was changed, except for the number of mouse turds. A ladder that I had there seemed to be in a different place.

So these are the facts:

1. Someone had cut the gate and installed their own lock, as if they planned to come back. (I, of course, took bolt cutters and removed that lock.)

2. Someone, maybe the same someone, had boarded up the empty window. You would do that only if you wanted to protect the property or make it more usable later.

3. Someone had locked the door, which makes no sense if you do not have a key to let yourself back in.

4. There were no signs of occupancy. No lights, no food, etc. The dog did not react when he was near the cabin.

Right now, it seems to us that Dick Y., the former owner, fits the frame for these reasons.

1. Because he helped to build the cabin and his family owned the land for 30-plus years, he probably feels a sense of ownership, and it may bother him to see it neglected. (Too bad, Dick, I would have the fire department burn it were it not for the wildfire hazard.)

2. He doesn't like us, why, I never fully understood. Neither does his sister.

3. He knows his way around up there, and he lives only an hour away. He could have retained a key to the house.

So Dick is the prime suspect, but I have absolutely no evidence. The sheriff is not going to get excited over a cut gate unless something else goes with it: burglary, cattle-rustling, poaching, etc. All we can do is be more vigilant.

As we were finishing supper, the telephone rang with a Reverse 911 call to all residents. "There is an armed and dangerous subject in your area. Last seen on foot near highway XXX and County Road XXX. Subject is wearing a blue polo shirt, khaki shorts and a khaki hat. Caucasian male, brown hair, tattoo of  'Ezekiel' on his neck. Please do not approach. Do not pick up any hitchhikers. If seen call 719-XXX-XXXX."

That at least ten miles away. Rural life goes on.

A Mountain Cabin Mystery, Part 1

Not what you think of when you hear "mountain cabin"?
In 2011, M. and I dug deep and bought the twenty acres up behind our house when they came on the market. We gained lots of rocks, the little dirt road where we walked the dogs anyway, many pine and juniper trees — including enough beetle-killed pine to keep us in firewood for a while — and "the Quonset."

It's not a true Quonset hut, but that name comes near enough. It is a pre-fab metal structure like you would see sheltering farm implements (tractors, etc.) out on the High Plains, but finished inside with a drop ceiling, walls, and carpeting.

When we came here, the owners, a family from southeastern Colorado, had a old travel trailer parked up there, with a wood-frame extension and a porch built on to it. But in about 1994, the younger generation apparently decided to build Mom and Dad a proper mountain get-away, so they visited their favorite ag-machinery-prefab-building dealer and ordered a 20 x 40-foot model. They brought up a small electric cement mixer and poured their own foundation, erected the galvanized metal roof — all of it.

And then their frequency of visits dropped way off. The cabin just sat there, looking like a big blister on the mountainside. The Y____ family, the owners, were not terribly friendly. Once, when I approached them about chipping in on the maintenance of our shared driveway, part of which led to their road, I got a small contribution, wrapped in a diatribe of a letter about how people were cutting trees on their property (not me), how people were saying nasty things about the metal cabin, etc. etc.

Fast-forward to 2011. We made an offer, two-thirds of what they asked. The agent conveyed it, but then he said they had turned it down. "Oh well," we thought. And two weeks later, he came back and said that Mom had told the kids (now in late middle age) that they should take it, and they did. (Dad was no longer alive.) After a very chilly closing — the kids, Dick and Judy, would not even speak to us — we owned it, down to the expired and bulging canned goods in the kitchen cabinets.

My friend Ray helped with the initial clean-out. Furniture was hauled away, scrap aluminum — the skin of the old trailer —sold to the recycler. The refrigerator went to the volunteer fire department, where it cools our bottled water and Gatorade. Lots of things went to the department's annual yard sale.

The cabin was not up to code: no well or cistern, and no indoor plumbing either, although it did have electric service. Located at the top of a steep dry-weather-only road, it had zero potential as a rental, and we already have a guest house.

One neighbor was interested in taking the metal shell to build a garage, but his eight-day-a-week job as a ranch manager got in the way. Some friends scavenged bits: a door here, a window there, a kitchen counter unit.

Then progress stalled. I pulled some of the carpet, but I kept having too much else to do. A contractor from Pueblo thought he might tear the building down for scrap — the metal roof and studs — but he was not sure he could get his big cargo trailer up the road.

I never locked the place. There was nothing to steal, and if an occasional person hiking around looked inside, I did not care. The terrain and the locked gate kept motorized visitors out — I thought.


October 23, 2015

A Mysterious Antique Box: Book Trailer from Florence, Colorado

No one is making movies in Florence, Colo., that I know of, but a book trailer was shot there for the novel Come Six to Seven by Mac Evenstar.

I am still wrapping my head around the idea of books having "trailers," but this one gives you a good luck at the self-proclaimed "antiques capital of Colorado" — and why not, Denver's South Broadway district ain't what it used to be.

This goes on the "to read" list, thanks to the Florence blog True Story Club.

October 22, 2015

Could We Have a Natural Control for Horrible Cheatgrass?

A cheatgrass monoculture (Bureau of Land Management).
If it were possible, I would nominate these scientists for a prize.
Now, some 65 years after famed naturalist Aldo Leopold summed up the general consensus in the battle against cheatgrass as hopeless, there might be hope.

"We're in a better position to fight back than we have ever been," said Susan Meyer, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist working with fungus at the Shrub Sciences Laboratory in Provo, Utah.
 Why is cheatgrass a Bad Thing?

• It comes up early in the spring. At that point it is soft and green. It looks good to eat, hence the "cheat" part.

• But very soon it sets its seeds in horrible, prickly awns that hurt grazing animals' mouths, puncture people's shoes and socks, catch in other animals' coats, and spread wherever they are  carried. 
In addition to being a wildfire threat and an ecological problem, cheatgrass can harm animals. Its stiff, spiny seedheads, called awns, can work their way into the ears, eyes or mouths of everything from cats to cattle.
• Because it dries out early in the summer, it carries fire easily.
The keys to cheatgrass spread are its short life cycle and prolific seed production. Because cheatgrass stands dry out by mid-June, fires are more likely to occur earlier in the season. These mid-summer fires are tough on native forbs and grasses.
Cheatgrass seeds drop prior to fires and will germinate with fall precipitation. This gives rise to dense, continuous stands that make additional fire ignition and spread more likely. Fire return intervals have gone from between 60–110 years in sagebrush-dominated systems to less than 5 years under cheatgrass dominance. With every reoccurring fire, cheatgrass becomes more dominant and expands its range further. 
• It has damged the West by reducing feed for both wildlife (elk, deer, pronghorn antelope) and domestic animals:  
“Cheatgrass has probably created the greatest ecological change in the western United States of anything we’ve ever done,” said Steve Monsen, a retired Forest Service botanist in Utah who conducts research for the agency.
It can be grazed when young and green, but unlike native perennial grasses, it does not "cure" on the stem for winter consumption.

On my own little patch of Colorado, I watched cheatgrass move from roadsides, seemingly leap over healthier pastures, and appear in groves of pines trees.

So what Is the new development?

There are pesticides that work against cheatgrass, but the invasion is too big to spray it all. Susan Mayer and others are looking at bacteria instead:
Meyer and Ann Kennedy, a scientist in Washington state working with bacteria, are drawing attention from top land managers and policy makers — and research money — after showing that the seemingly invincible cheatgrass might have an Achilles' heel. 
"We've found several organisms that are really good at colonizing the root of the seed, and reducing the elongation of that root," said Kennedy, who works at Washington State University. "Then that cheatgrass is less competitive the next spring."
This will all cost a whole lot of money. But isn't the West worth it?

October 11, 2015

War and Groundwater

Someone once explained the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel fought off Syria, Jordan, and Egypt and ended up controlling the Golan Heights, in terms of water.

By capturing the Golan Heights, the article asserted, the Israelis controlled the recharge area where precipitation filtered down to the wells watering their farms.

Western kid that I was, I thought, "Oh, I get it, it's all about water. No wonder the tanks are rolling."

Some students and I once kicked around alternative bioregional histories for southern Colorado. I suggested that if Kansas and Colorado were separate countries fighting over the Arkansas River's flow, we probably would have had a hard time stopping their troops. The citizens of Pueblo would have been digging trenches, like those of Warsaw in 1920. The border would probably be at Fowler now.

Fortunately, we have a judicial system which settled things, meaning that Coloradans do not have to say "Ar-KAN-sas" like those barbarians to the east. But I digress.

We all have heard about the California drought and the over-pumping of groundwater there. We should know that the same thing is happening on the High Plains (another argument for industrial hemp over thirsty corn).  Cities such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque, not to mention some Denver suburbs, depend on ground water—how long will that last?

What I did not know is that the Saudi Arabs have been playing the same game, and in about thirty or forty years they have drained an aquifer in the name of growing wheat. Saudi Arabia a wheat-exporting country? Who knew? Not me. But they are hitting the wall called No More Groundwater.

Just one more thing to stir up the Middle East. Over there, the tanks do roll.

October 10, 2015

October 03, 2015

Bears in Greece and Colorado

Louie and two smaller pals.
When I was in Greece last month, I saw no Eurasian brown bears, since I was on the bear-free island of Corfu. But in the English-language edition of the newspaper Kathimerini (sort of the Wall Street Journal of Greece), I did read about a sanctuary for bears that for one reason or another cannot be released into the wild.

In that sense this sanctuary, Arcturos, is more like Mission: Wolf here: it offers fairly large, fairly wild enclosures to animals that still must be fed by their human caretakers.
Having eaten his watermelon, 15-year-old Manolis stands up on both feet and appears to wave. His brother, Kyrgiakos, continues to munch away at his own watermelon a few meters away, indifferent to our presence. When they were cubs, the two brothers were found by a person who took them in as pets. But when they tipped the scales at 250 kilograms [550 lbs.] and grew to 2 meters in height, they simply became unmanageable. When Arcturos was called in to help, the two bears were completely used to living with people. It would be impossible for them to live in their natural habitat now, which means they will have to live their whole lives in captivity. However, they could do far worse than the Arcturos Sanctuary, an area of some 50 acres offering food, guaranteed care and optimal living conditions.
 Greece does still have a small, but growing, population of wild bears:
“With more than 450 registered bears, Greece’s bear population is considered one of the most significant in the Balkan region. The bears are part of a common clade ranging from the Swiss Alps to Greece. This new evidence challenges data found in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of endangered species, which suggests that there are no more than 200 bears living in Greece,” Arcturos’s scientific coordinator, Alexandros Karamanlidis, told Kathimerini in a recent interview.
Home from our trip, M. and I yesterday visited the local wildlife rehabilitators and saw a Colorado celebrity, Louie the pizza shop bear.
Blanca Caro, the Colorado Springs police school resource officer at Palmer High School, said the bear's presence in downtown Monday nearly caused the school to go on lockdown. But further investigation revealed that the animal was not a threat to students and had made its way to Louie's Pizza on North Tejon Street.

Lockdown. For a bear cub. I can only hope that they were protecting the bear cub from high school students, not the other way around.

Louie and his two companions (from another rescue) were very shy, which is good. The rehabbers predict that with about ten weeks to go, they can have the cubs fat enough to enter hibernation in the wild. I need to drop off a contribution of puppy chow. A 40-pound sack should last them . . . two days?  We brought watermelons and acorns yesterday. Both Greek and American bears love watermelon.

September 15, 2015

Sigh, I Won't Get These on my Scout Cameras

Lynx . . . somewhere (Colorado Parks and Willdlife).
Colorado Parks and Wildlife releases some photos of lynxes taken with scout cameras.

After reintroduction in the early 2000s, biologists believed that there was a vialble population by 2010.

The current estimate is 200–300 lynx.

If you see one, there is an online lynx-sighting form.

They are not in the montane forest where I do most of my "camera-trapping," however, but mostly three or four thousand feet higher up.

September 13, 2015

What They Drank at Chaco Canyon

Pitchers from Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Via Western Digs, more study of Anasazi pottery residue shows that people — at least some people — were not only drinking cocoa, but also the "black drink" associated with the Midwestern and Southern tribes.

The latter has caffeine, the essential ingredient for civilization — like at Cahokia.
Moreover, making both cocoa and ‘black drink’ required plants that grew in far-off climates, researchers say, indicating that the Southwest was part of an ancient ‘caffeine trade network’ that extended from the foothills of the Rockies to the heart of Mexico.

“There are no known plants in the Southwest or Northwestern Mexico that have caffeine,” said Dr. Patricia Crown, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who led the study.
  Kakawa in Santa Fe serves various cacao-and-chile drinks. How long until they add Yaupon holly-based "black drink?" 

Just don't use the botanical name, Ilex vomitoria.

I still think that the ancient Pueblo cuisine was pretty grim. How do you want your corn today, fresh mush or refried mush? 

September 11, 2015

A Fistful of Euros


Blogging will be light, erratic, or off-topic for the next couple of weeks. M. and I are going on a trip. Maybe we need a theme song:

It was the movie that made Clint Eastwood famous, incidentally.

September 10, 2015

"Leaf Spot" Threatens Fall Aspen-Viewing, Oh No!

This appears to be a "leaf spot" fungus on Gambel oak.
Many Colorado aspens will not be as intensely gold this fall as normal, thanks to "leaf spot" fungus.

Even though this article is from the Colorado Springs Gazette, it is probably a re-written Colorado State Forest Service news release, hence the northern Colorado focus (just another microaggression).
Some stands of aspen and cottonwood trees across northern Colorado and along the Front Range won’t be their most picturesque this fall, due to leaf spot diseases that benefited from an unusually wet spring and early summer, state foresters say.

Foresters say they’ve seen an unusually high degree of leaf blight in the mountains and along the Front Range – as far south as Aspen, the Collegiate Peaks and Colorado Springs – for about a month.

At least two fungal diseases are to blame for the leaves now showing significant spotting or dark splotches. Marssonina leaf spot is caused by the Marssonina fungus and is the most common leaf disease of aspen and cottonwoods in Colorado. The disease can be identified by the presence of dark brown spots or flecks on leaves, which can then fuse into large, black splotches on severely infected leaves.
I have been seeing a browning of Gambel oak leaves in some clone-stands all summer, and since it could not have been from pesticide (not on our land), what was causing it?

Apparently the fungus affecting oaks is different, Discula quercina (and maybe others), but the look is the same: "Leaves have scattered brown, irregular spots that can coalesce into nearly completely brown leaves." And the extremely wet spring is to blame.

September 07, 2015

"Seeing Any Bears?"


This bear was slow to shed last winter's coat, which is all bleached out but still clinging.
I think that that is a cub walking beside her in the lower photo, but the grass is so tall!

I bumped into a former neighbor at the bank a couple of weeks ago, and that was her first question. It's right up there as a late-summer conversation starter with "Getting any rain?"

My answer was "Not around the house," and I like to think that is because of the (finally!) good acorn crop and the other natural food that has been available thanks to the very wet spring.

Just yesterday, I had pretty much the same conversation with a state game warden who works mainly in Chaffee County. Not too many "bear problems" up her way.

The Denver Post reports Front Range bears getting up to "their usual mischief," which is to say, trying to eat and live in a bear-unfriendly world.
"Since the second week of July, things went crazy," said Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

And there's a simple explanation for the migration. The bears, who typically eat about 20,000 calories a day during the summer, are hungry.

A "localized food failure" in northeastern Colorado has bears "out looking hard for food," Churchill said. "We are definitely seeing bears in places we don't typically see them." 
Is the difference between southern and northern Colorado just the lack of Gambel oak (scrub oak), which peters out pretty quickly north of Castle Rock, roughly speaking?
Oak brush provides cover and nesting habitat for many forms of wildlife (birds, mammals, amphibians, etc.). The foliage and acorns offer valuable food for many of these wildlife species, such as wild turkey, mule deer, and black bear. Acorns produced by the larger stands of oak brush are critical for turkey.
This Post story, which skips around various Western states, has a Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist estimating our state's bear population at higher than previously thought, as many as 16,000–18,000.
It's also difficult to chart the number of dead bears. While Parks and Wildlife relocates or euthanizes scores of problem bears, the state hasn't been able to keep up a database with that information since about 2011, said Jerry Apker, the statewide carnivore manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Countless bears are killed and not recorded by local animal-control officers, law enforcement, poachers or motorists.
In 2014, some 17,000 hunters harvested about 1,400 bears, an 8 percent success rate.  What those numbers tell you is that many of those 17,000 bought a bear license "just in case" while they were out for deer or elk primarily.

September 04, 2015

Dogs versus Neanderthals?

It has been suggested by Steve Bodio and others that modern humans' migration into the Americas across the Bering land bridge was dependent on an ally — the dog.

Until they had dogs, a continent with giant bears, giant wolves, and other toothy things was just too intimidating.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, did dogs help modern humans out-compete Neanderthal? (And did Neanderthals themselves have wolf-dogs? The evidence is ambiguous.)

National Geographic interviews anthropologist Pat Shipman, author of a new book on how dogs may have helped modern humans to out-compete Neanderthals:

"[Early wolf-dogs are] large, have big teeth and all those predatory, dog/wolf characteristics. You have to assume from the anatomy that they could track very well from the scent of an animal. They were built to be fast running, as wolves and most dogs are. Humans don't run terribly fast. We have a crappy sense of smell. We do cooperate with each other, which is helpful, and we had long-distance weapons, like spears and bows and arrows.

"Neanderthals seem to have specialized in stabbing an animal at close quarters with handheld weapons and wrestling it down. We had weapons we could launch from a distance, which is a very big advantage. There's a lot less risk of personal injury."

(The people today with comparable skeletal injuries to Neanderthals are rodeo riders.)

Maybe dogs helped modern humans to become better rabbit-hunters than their chunkier relatives.

But I have another scenario in mind:

Hunter 1: Hey, Little Hawk, look at White Dog! She thinks there is something in that cave.

Hunter 2: I bet one of those squat ugly bastards is lurking in there. Or his big ugly woman.

Hunter 1: White Dog, come here! Little Hawk, get the others! We'll smoke 'em out."

August 30, 2015

Here is Your September (Maybe)



The latest from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Coolish and possibly wetter in the southern Rockies? I can live with that. 

August 26, 2015

"Peaceful, Corn-Growing Ceremonialists"

Cahokia is in the northern part of the "Middle Missippi" area (Wikipedia).
Further study of mass graves from Cahokia, once the largest city in what is now the United States, suggests that  many of the people in them were not "foreigners" (war captives? slave tribute?) but locals. From Western Digs:
But one of the many mysteries lingering among the city’s ruins, just outside modern-day St. Louis, is a burial mound excavated in the 1960s and found to contain more than 270 bodies — almost all of them young women killed as victims of human sacrifice.

Dated to between 1000 and 1100 CE, their remains were mostly buried in large pits, laid out in neat rows, and bearing few signs of physical trauma, perhaps killed by strangulation or blood-letting.

But the mound also contained a striking group of outliers: a separate deposit of some 39 men and women, ranging in age from 15 to 45, who — unlike the rest — had been subjected to all manner of physical violence: brutal fractures, shot with stone points still embedded in their bones, even decapitation.
Ancient America was not a tidy place. This article reminded me that fifteen years have now passed since the publication of Christy and Jacqueline Turner's Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest, the book that pretty well killed off the idea of the Anasazi/Ancestral Puebloans as being, in someone's sarcastic phrase, "peaceful, corn-growing ceremonialists."

Let's just say that it does not make for good bedtime reading. I thought of it at the time as CSI: Chaco Canyon.

What impressed me too, in a negative way, was that I remembered a National Park Service archaeologist telling me about some of the same material that Man Corn describes and catalogs earlier, in the 1980s. Only genocide and cannibalism were so "politically sensitive" that he would not discuss them in his office, but invited M. and me over to his house.

And I left them out of the visitor-oriented news feature that I was writing, but I did not forget either the images of skeletons dumped in towers and kivas or my encounter with bureaucratic political correctedness.


August 14, 2015

She Could Be Timothy Treadwell's Mother (In Spirit)

Surveillance photo at Jo Ann Medina's home. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
It's one thing to be the "crazy cat lady," but quite another to be the "crazy bear lady."
Now, the woman is under arrest and at least three of the bears she has reportedly been feeding will have to be put down because they've been caught before near humans. The remaining bears will be evaluated to see if they can survive being relocated. It's a possibility they also will have to be killed.
She is out on $800 bond: 
Neighbors often complained that Medina fed black bears - some of which got too close for comfort. One woman complained that a bear "charged" her and another neighbor counted at least 10 bears visiting Medina's house seeking food in 2012. . . .

Medina admitted spending nearly $1,200 a month in 2008 on bird seed to feed deer, a citation shows. That year, she told an officer it wasn't a "bad thing to do," especially because she only did it during the winter when deer looked "so hungry," the citation said.
When suspected the following year of feeding bears, Medina told an officer that "it was the will of God for her to continue feeding the bears" to help them survive, another citation said.
(If you can't get enough Timothy, YouTube is your friend.)

UPDATE August 19th: A second bear hanging around her house has been trapped and killed by wildlife officials. But it sure rambled in its day.

August 10, 2015

The Machine That Must Run Forever

Leadville Mining District (Bureau of Reclamation).
This is the website for the "10,000 Year Clock" proposal, also known as the Long Now.
There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years.
Very nice, but we already have a "10,000-year clock." Several of them, in fact.

They do not tell time, but they must run forever. As in forever, as long as people live downstream from Colorado mine pollution.

Or until there is some major geological change, a technological breakthrough, or society devolves into some kind of Max Max, The Dog Stars, or World Made by Hand kind of future.

In that case, cadmium and other heavy metals in your drinking water and a lack of trout in the river might be lower down your list of problems. Who can say?

Maybe you heard about how work by the Environmental Protection Agency to remedy mine-drainage pollution in a tributary of the Animas River in SW Colorado went horrible wrong.

A toxic slug is flowing downstream into New Mexico and eventually to the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.

Some people just want to use this incident to beat up on the EPA. Others worry about the effects on people dependent on the river and on its aquatic life.

My point is, this is not unique. Colorado, "mother of rivers," (South Platte, North Platte, Rio Grande, Arkasas, Colorado) is also a state built on mining.

Take the headwaters of the Arkansas River — the mining area around Leadville. It boomed on silver, but in the 1940s, the call was for zinc — zinc to make brass — brass for all the cartridge cases and artillery shells of World War Two.

But the mines filled with water as they went deeper, water percolating from rain and snow melt. So miners drilled a long, long tunnel to drain them, routing it into the river.
Leadville Mine Drain — the "floor" is water.

The metals that the tunnel picked up killed the river. So in 1991, the Bureau of Reclamation opened a treatment plant to neutralize the drainage. It's simple chemistry really.

When I co-taught an environmenal writing class at Colorado State University-Pueblo, my colleague and I used to take students up there on a field trip. We would rent some vans — it is about 160 miles one way, and many students had never been that far up the river that feeds their city.

We would tour the treatment plant and also drive past  the similar Yak Drainage Tunnel.

As some who read the old Whole Earth Review and CoEvolution Quarterly, I know about the "Long Now" project. I was interested, but I wanted to bring those Bay Area techno-hippies up to Leadville.

"Look here," I would say. "It's already running. Just add the chimes."

Because this "machine" has to run forever.

Forever.

Forever.

In the words of that old treaty with the Iroquois Confederacy in New York, "as long as the waters flow."

We all know how that worked out.

August 06, 2015

But You Already Knew This: Chiles Are Good for You

At the Horseman's Haven Cafe, Santa Fe (New York Times)
You might bookmark this New York Times blog piece to send to the chile-phobic, however.
After controlling for family medical history, age, education, diabetes, smoking and many other variables, the researchers found that compared with eating hot food, mainly chili [sic] peppers, less than once a week, having it once or twice a week resulted in a 10 percent reduced overall risk for death. Consuming spicy food six to seven times a week reduced the risk by 14 percent.
 Now pass the hot sauce.

August 05, 2015

Trinidad, Not Yet a Center for the Arts

Trinidad, Colorado, streetview (Pueblo Chieftain).
Colorado's governor is backing a plan to make the town of Trinidad some kind of artists' colony, reports the Pueblo Chieftain. (Story behind paywall.)
The red brick streets, historical buildings and gorgeous mountains to the west are just a few characteristics that make this small town a place that catches the eye.

Because of that, Gov. John Hickenlooper has chosen Trinidad to be the first town to participate in the first state-driven initiative in the nation for affordable housing and workspace for artists and arts organizations.

The Space to Create Colorado program also will position Colorado as the nation’s leader in artist-led community transformation in rural creative place-making.

“The feeling is amazing. The change and excitement is palpable. It’s all over,” said Marilyn Leuszier, chair of the newly formed Corazon de Trinidad Creative District.
This is the "X is magic" school of economic development, where X is semiconductors, Christian ministries, rockets, artists, outdoor recreation, information technology, marijuana . . .

Yes, Trinidad has lots of Victorian commercial architectures (cheap rents) and brick streets, but to some southern Coloradans  that it also has a certain reputation, as in, it helps to have a few cousins to cover your back.

A former co-worker, once a varsity basketball player at Cañon City High School, claimed that when they played in Trinidad, the players left without showering — just got onto the bus in their sweaty uniforms and hit the road, rather than stay longer and invite some kind of trouble.

Sadly, this reminds me a little of Las Vegas, New Mexico, which for the last few decades has been heralded as "the next Santa Fe," but which still is not.

Given that Pueblo, ninety miles north, now has a genuine "creative district" — if putting up street signs makes it so — maybe Trinidad will be the next Pueblo?

August 04, 2015

"Where Were You When the Dam Broke?"

Sketch by one of the Pueblo operators in 1921
Click over to Coyote Gulch, the water blog, for a short video and story about the failure of the Castlewood Canyon Dam and the subsequent flood in Denver, eighty years ago yesterday.

As so often happened in such disasters, it was the telephone operators who authorized themselves to make "reverse 911" calls, decades before such systems were invented.

(They still are not perfect. I remember once getting a 4 a.m. telephone call that was just "Ring . . . click." Fortunately, I could see the mountainside on fire from the bedroom window.)

On the evening of August 3, 1933, Elsie Henderson’s urgent voice raced down the Sullivan Telephone Exchange’s wires, outpacing Cherry Creek’s northbound floodwaters. . . . Elsie, one of only two people available to operate the Sullivan switchboard that night, alerted people with one long ring, the universally recognized sound for an emergency. She and fellow Sullivan Exchange employee Ingrid Mosher worked through the night and into the following afternoon, saving lives, livestock, and property
That was back when you rang for the operator and got someone relatively local who could, at times, make decisions and show initiative.

Now we have 911 call centers — although your mobile telephone call does not necessarily go to the right one. For other telephone needs, you get somebody in India who is reading from a script.

The sketch was drawn by Wilma Cary, one of the Pueblo telephone operators who stayed on the job during the big flood of 1921.

July 29, 2015

Morning Rainbow


A morning rainbow near Hillside in the Wet Mountain Valley, taken in early June.

July 27, 2015

Four-legged Forager

Suillus americanus (Wikimedia Commons).
July rains brought a brief flush of Slippery Jack mushrooms (Suillus americanus) near the house. We don't see them every year; it takes wet weather to bring out the mushrooms in this ponderosa pine-Douglas fir-Gambel oak environment.

 I collected a few on morning dog walks for drying— they turn wormy very quickly, and many that look good are not. The flavor is OK, nothing special, but they are mushrooms and picking them fulfills the Hunting and Gathering Imperative.

But someone was watching.

Twice this morning Fisher the dog darted into the oak brush and started munching. He was after the mushrooms — and he does not care if they are dessicated and/or wormy. (We have to keep him away from screens of drying mushrooms at home.)

So this is another one of those dog-behavior conundrums. Does he like mushrooms naturally, or does he like them because they are People Food and hence higher-status than Dog Food?

M. says that he is a dog out of place (but then she says that a lot). If we had truffles, he could have easily been trained to find them.

Given his love for finding dead stuff in the woods, he could have been an outstanding corpse-searching dog too.

July 11, 2015

The Pinnacle of Outdoor Fashion Style

Osa Johnson checks her rifle on safari.
At the Frontier Partisans blog, Jim Cornelius suggests that the 1900–1930 period represented the pinnacle of outdoor wear, at least from the standpoint of style.
From safari boots to slouch hat — that’s the way a man oughta dress. Functional and classically stylish. You could walk down the street in 1915 or 2015 and the look is never out of style.
He praises the costumes of the 1985 movie Out of Africa (Robert Redford, Meryl Streep), but his heart is with Martin and Osa Johnson.
Now, Finch-Hatton and Karen Blixen are an interesting couple, “Out of Africa” is a fine book and a beautiful movie. But if you’re looking for an adventurous, stylish couple from the first half of the 20th Century, the go-to pair is without a doubt Martin and Osa Johnson. Way more compelling than Finch-Hatton/Blixen (and I always liked Bror Blixen best anyway).
"But where do I find those clothes today?" you ask.

Comes with waistcoat and britches.
Go to the Covent Garden area of London — and bring money. There you will find The Vintage Showroom, a vintage-clothing shop-cum-museum "covering the early mid 20th century and specialising in international work, military and sports clothing, classic English tailoring and country wear."  And also some contemporary clothing that invokes those days.

You can see, for example, this bespoke traveling suit, owned by a noted Egyptologist, perfect for crawling through tombs and temples.

July 10, 2015

Looking for the Gifts of Rain

Old cabins in the rain with broad-tailed hummingbird
On the 4th of July, walking in the Sangres, I found two boletes near the trail — and they were already a little past their prime. Then came more rain— five inches (0.25 Egyptian cubits) since Saturday — and further mushrooming was postponed, until last night, when M. and I thought we had a chance.

We wanted to check an area in the Wet Mountains that seemed promising for early, lower-altitude foraging, but about half a mile along, it started to pour.

We ended up at the old lodge, watching hummingbirds dart under the eaves while we had coffee and cherry pie.

RIGHT: The large mushroom is Agaricus silvicola,  I think, and if so, not edible.

Twenty years from now, whenever someone says "It's been a rainy spring," the retort will be, "This is nothing compared to 2015."

In one nearby town, the precipitation is at 209 percent of the average year-to-date figure. And the summer monsoon season is just beginning.

A double rainbow formed briefly over the lake, while anglers with inadequate rain gear walked past, heading for their cars or cabins.