October 20, 2023

Give Your Jeep a Prairie Road Advantage!


Jeep's "Borrow Ditch Advantage" option is available only from Great Plains dealerships, so it is not well-known to the automotive press.

October 19, 2023

What the Hunter Said to the Dog, and What the Dog Replied

Long ago in the Ice Age, a rough fluffy Dog lay down on the Hunter's reindeer-skin pack.

When the Hunter returned, he spoke: "Hey, you stinking animal! My quiver is under there! If you broke one of my good arrows, I'm going to shove it into your ribs, you unclean beast!" 

And the Dog spoke with his tail, as Dogs do: "We're going out? I'm ready! Let's go!!"
And they lived happily ever after, until Dog did something else that was Wrong.

October 17, 2023

The "Heart of Wilderness" Lies in the Prairie

If you take your finger and place it on a map marking the geographical center of the nation, somewhere above Kansas and below South Dakota, it won’t simply be resting on a blank spot, it will be touching the beating heart of true American wildness; a place of windswept, impossibly vast tableaus, ancient, grass-covered hills, and fast-flying prairie grouse. 

I am on a Northern Plains journey night now, with a traverse of the Sandhills planned for the return leg of it. Here is one of several links to earlier crossings: "Self-Advertisement in the Nebraska Sandhills."

I never have spent as much time there as I would have liked, but this video helps to make up for that lack. It's scripted by Oklahoma writer Chad Love for the Pheasants Forever conservation group. You can find more still photos here.

There is public land there too.

October 11, 2023

What Fall Aspen Gold Tells Us about Water

Hiker looks a rain gauge in an aspen grove.
This year's Colorado aspen leaf-peeping season was a fine one, and the reason is last winter's snowpack, reports the Colorado Sun.

With enough water and nutrients, deciduous trees can produce more leaves, creating denser foliage that offers even more of a spectacle to enthusiastic leaf peepers in the fall. 

This year, winter precipitation blanketed Colorado in a deep snowpack, which acts as a vital natural reservoir for the state’s water supply. By May, most of Colorado mountains had an average to above-average snowpack compared with historical records from 1991 to 2020, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The summer was cooler overall, and some parts of the state even received record rainfall. The state hasn’t seen many of the windy days, cold temperatures and snowfall in aspen stands that all contribute to falling leaves.

“It’s just shaped up to be a fantastic year to get out and see some of the colors in Colorado, and it’s a good year for trees in general in Colorado,” [said  Dan West of the Colorado State Forest Service].

With the wind coming in, the northern Colorado aspen leaf season is ending, but you can still see them in parts of southern Colorado into New Mexico.

The orange, yellow, and red scrub leaves are peaking down  here, but the Denver-centric media like the Colorado Sun don't mention those!

October 07, 2023

Of Bear Spray, Bears, and a Missouri Hog

Gusse and Inglis canoeing in Canada (NY Post).
I have been reading the sad story of Jenny Gusse and Doug Inglis, experienced Canadian canoeists and backcountry travelers, killed September 29th, together with their dog, by a grizzly bear in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

A friend who sometimes traveled with them said, “Their skill level was extremely high, they were conservative. They took every precaution they possibly could."

Another of the couple's friends said, "“I remember him telling me about camping and how you got to go so far even to pee from your tent. He would tell me all the safety precautions.” 

An expended can of bear spray was found at the scene.

Naturally the commenters weigh in on how bear spray is useless and ya gotta have a big 'ol gun in a caliber starting with 4 or 5. Except this is a Canadian national park: "The use of firearms (including pellet guns, bear bangers, bows, sling shots etc.) and hunting are not permitted in Banff National Park." So there is that.

I am not a big bear expert, and I have used pepper spray only on angry dogs (where it worked just fine). But I am reminded of my late brother-in-law Stone Curtois and one of his hogs.

He used to raise a small number of hogs at at time, ten or fifteen, on a little farm in southeastern Missouri, supplementing his main source of income, which was a portable sawmill. 

The hog pen was fenced with electric wire, which the animals respected, except for this one. It wanted to break out, he told me, but it knew that the electric fence would "bite." 

So it would charge the fence, screaming in pain before it hit the wire. In other words, its commitment to breaking free overruled the pain that it knew was coming.

I've read of various bear attacks, talked with people who used pepper spray on grizzlies successfully, and interviewed one woman who was shaken like a rag doll by an Alaska brown bear but saved by the person in her BLM survey party who had a rifle.

I have noticed that people living in places like Cooke City, Wyoming (adjacent to Yellowstone NP), mow their yards and walk to the store with bear-spray  cannisters on their hips.

It seems that bears can be like that Missouri hog: once they stop assessing the situation and commit to an attack, pain won't stop them. But if they are still only assessing, bear spray can be effective.

The 2018 attack on Wyoming hunting guide Mark Uptain and his client seems similar to this recent case: bear spray was used, but the bear (or two) involved were not fazed. Like the hog, the bears had already made up their minds.

It's also indicative that both of those attacks occured in September, when bears are "hyperphagic," as the biologists like to say. In other words, eating eating eating.

As for my brother-in-law, he died in a tree-felling accident. Him, a guy who read logging-supply catalogs for recreation. You can know what you are doing and still have something go wrong, or make that one tiny error.