Showing posts with label Wyoming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wyoming. Show all posts

October 18, 2018

Heading onto the Prairie

Northbound, breaking free of the Colorado Front Range corridor
I don't drive Interstate 25 north of Denver very often, but when I do, it reminds me more and more of Interstate 95 in New Jersey. Like how many shopping malls can there be? Or how about RV dealerships the size of Army posts?

There comes a time, though, when you leave all that behind. It's like Fort Collins just sucks three-fourths of the vehicles off the road.

I stopped briefly at the Sierra Trading Post mother ship in Cheyenne for a cappuccino and to browse the discounted hiking pants. Lots of great deals for short, tubby guys there! Bought some socks.
Somewhere south of Newcastle, Wyoming
I continued north on US 85 along the western edge of the Black Hills, Inyan Kara mountain, and so on. One of my favorite drives.

Tomorrow, some serious prairie melancholy.

September 16, 2018

Bears Are Hungry in the Fall

Grizzly bears (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Tennessee: A black bear killed a man in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some confusion ensues.
Park officials have shot and killed the bear associated with the investigation into a man's death.
Spokeswoman Julena Campbell said it happened around 9:45 Sunday morning [Sept. 9].
A news release Wednesday said the National Park Service had euthanized a male bear after finding it near a man's body in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On Friday, the park said rangers actually had not yet found and killed the bear.
Wyoming: A bowhunter and his guide were attacked by grizzly bears in the Teton Wilderness; the guide was killed.
As initially reported, a grizzly bear attack on an elk hunter and his guide wounded the client hunter Corey Chubon, from Florida, and left the guide, Mark Uptain, dead. His body was recovered yesterday from the scene in Turpin Meadows at approximately 1:15pm.
After interviews and visiting the scene, Undersheriff Matt Carr said Uptain was rushed by a grizzly bear in “a very aggressive manner.”
“They were field dressing this elk. They were in thick timber and this bear was on them very quickly,” Carr said. “There was apparently no time to react.”
UPDATE: More information on the incident. Apparently bear spray was used.
Oregon: A woman hiking was killed by a mountain lion in the Mount Hood area.
The hiker who went missing on Mount Hood in late August and was found dead at the bottom of a ravine Monday was likely killed by a cougar, authorities said — a shocking twist in the missing persons case. 

The body of Diana Bober, 55, was found Monday [Sept. 10] at the bottom of a 200-foot embankment on the famous Oregon mountain's Hunchback Trail, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

November 09, 2017

We'll Build a Sheriff's Office, and We'll Get Texans to Pay for It.

A friend was driving into the county a couple of months ago on a certain road, and I warned him to s-l-o-w  d-o-w-n about about mile marker 55, because that road is the sheriff's favorite speed trap.

The sheriff actually said in a recent meeting that traffics fines pay for one deputy's salary, not that he has a lot of deputies.

And Texans hurrying up from the south to get to the ski areas pay a good share of that.

According to the county weekly, these Texas communities were recently represented in our revenue stream:
Pilot Point
Hays (County?)
Fort Worth
Cypress
Galveston
Trophy Club
Trophy Club? To get there, do you go through Trophy House and Trophy Wife?

Of course, our little county is nothing compared to the effort that Wyoming law enforcement makes during the annual Border War. I heard that even Sheriff Longmire was down there writing tickets.

August 23, 2017

Fighting for the Flock — The Life of Livestock Guardian Dogs

“Where the Dogs Are, the Wolves Cannot Be” (A Turkish shepherd) 

I grew up with hunting dogs, and I knew a few herding dogs. I knew about the world of little dogs riding in big motorhomes, the world of mutts who went everywhere, and the world of generic black-and-white farm collies who never sat paw in the main family house but still had full, purposeful dog lives.

But there is another dog world about which I knew little, and that is the world where dogs fight wolves.

Cat and Jim Urbigkit raise sheep on private land and public-land leases in western Wyoming. Living south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, their flocks must contend not just with “mesopredators” such as foxes and coyotes, but “apex predators” as well: wolves, black bears, and grizzlies, all enjoying some degree of legal protection. Nor do Cat and Jim wish to exterminate those wolves and grizzlies, merely to keep them off the sheep.
Rena was there to meet them when the wolves leapt into the pasture. One hundred thirty pounds of determined Akbash sheep guardian dog, she met the wolves head-on, brawling in the distance from the herd, in the darkness, in the rain. When the wolves attacked, Rena could face one, as the other attacked her rear. The wolves sunk their teeth into her haunches, nearly severing her tail at its based and biting her tender underside. Fighting for both her own life as well as the lives on her sheep, Rena battled on, keeping the wolves from reaching the herd.
Rena was the subject of her own book, The Guardian Team: On the Job With Rena and Roo, Roo being a guardian burro (effective against coyotes but not bears or wolves).

A few years ago the Urbigkits received funding from the state of Wyoming to study livestock guardian dogs in other countries, including Spain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Lesotho, and Central Asia — all places with long traditions of using guardian dogs in addition to herding dogs.

These dogs grow up alongside the sheep. They must guard the sheep against predators, yet not be too hostile to humans and other dogs. It is a difficult balance.

In her new book Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs, Cat Urbigkit writes not just for the livestock producers who could use guardian dogs, but for anyone who might encounter them on the range — or for anyone who likes reading about dogs. You hear not from them, but from the herders and dog breeders (usually the same people) of Bulgaria, Turkey, etc.

She told one interviewer,
“The thing I liked most was that I got to meet Spanish mastiff dogs in Spain, and I wasn’t expecting how effective or large they are,” she says. “The dogs are very effective against wolves, and we visited ranches in central Spain that had bands of sheep living with packs of wolves on the same ranch. When you have 11 Spanish mastiff dogs with a thousand head of sheep and very few losses, that’s an amazing record.”
Finally, if you are out on the range and encounter guardian dogs, keep your distance. If you are bicycling, dismount. The dogs (and wildlife) regard a bicycle as a predator — it is quiet, fast-moving, and has big eyes in front (sunglasses, goggles, and they may react appropriately.

December 24, 2016

How to Write a Northern Rockies Mystery Novel

After reading a lot of mystery novels by Peter Bowen and Keith McCafferty (Montana) plus Craig Johnson and C. J. Box (Wyoming), I have assembled enough ideas for a decent undergradate paper with a simple compare-and-contrast methology.

Although her novels are set in Wyoming, Margaret Coel lives in Colorado. Still, much of what I will say applies to her works too.

1. The Protagonist. The idea of the "wounded  detective" is common. Fictional dectectives are often divorced, widowed, deeply depressed (especially in Scandanavia), using or recovering from too much booze & drugs, or fired from a job in law-enforcement, among other possibilities. Coel's Catholic mission priest, John O'Malley, a recovering alcoholic, is isolated by both his clerical vocation and his location on the Wind River Reservation.

Often they are marginalized in some respect.  Bowen's Metis brand inspector-deputy sheriff, Gabriel Du Pré, is Métis, descended from the French/indigenous mixed-blood ethnic group who originated around the Great Lakes, but some of whom moved to eastern Montana in the 1860s–70s, before and after the Red River Rebellion. Father O'Malley is a white priest on the reservation, while Box's Joe Pickett is frequently in conflict with his superiors in the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

2. The Milieu. A low population is essential. Gabriel Du Pré operates in a fictional locale somewhere north of Miles City. Johnson's Sheriff Longmire patrols the thinly populated fictional Absaroka County, somewhere in northern Wyoming, not far from the district where Box's game warden protagonist, Joe Pickett, enforced wildlife laws.

The Wind River Reservation's population exceeds 40,000, thinly spread, but you do not feel their presence in the novels. Sean Shanahan, McCafferty's artist-fishing guide amateur detective, pops into Ennis, West Yellowstone, and other towns, but spends more time on the rivers.

All seem allergic to cities. Gabriel Du Pré hates going to Bozeman, while Joe Pickett regards Cheyenne as just slightly better than Mordor

3. The "Animal Helper." Although several protagonists often have a dog riding with them, what I mean here is the old folkloric theme of the animal who establishes a special relationship with the hero — for example, the hero is a hunter pursuing a fox, but he spares the fox who then protects him or helps him to secure wealth.

I extend the term "animal helper" to include people who are bonded to the hero somehow yet also appear to be closer to nature — even feral. (The Hollywood equivalent is the Magical Negro, another version of the Noble Savage.)
  • Gabriel Du Pré has Beneetse, an elderly Crow (?) shaman who appears and disappears mysteriously and who brings past and present together. (His name probably comes from someone mentioned in Dan Cushman's The Great North Trail, one of Bowen's source books.)
  • Joe Pickett's feral helper is the falconer Nate Romanowski, a mysterious ex-special operations soldier who lives in isolated places and has no visible means of support, but who pops up in the nick of time of save Joe, dropping bad guys at 800 yards offhand with a .454 Casull revolver or something similar. For a time Romanowski lives with an Arapaho woman until she is murdered.
  • Father O'Malley has Vicky Holden, the Arapaho lawyer who connects him with the reservation and its people.
  • Sheriff Walt Longmire's closest friend is Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne. Although Lou Diamond Phillips ably portrays Standing Bear in the TV series, in the books Standing Bear is more like Beneetse — in touch with ghosts and ancestors and also seemingly able to materialize, like Nate Romanowski, when Longmire is in desperate straits.
  • McCafferty's detective, Sean Stranahan, has no Indian helper, but possibly the fishing outfitter  Rainbow Sam, Sean's sometime employer, could fit the bill, for by comparison to the past-haunted hero, Sam is hard-drinking, pleasure-seeking, and present-oriented.
4. The Plots. Many of these are recognizable from the last thirty years' news. At least two of these authors have used each one of these.
  • The Cult. Clearly inspired by the Church Universal and Triumphant's operation north of Yellowstone Park in the 1980s, this plot has some mysterious but well-financed group building a headquarters in an isolated area. Murder usually ensues. See also "The Anti-Government Group." C. J. Box in particular  shows some degree of sympathy with small-L libertarian types, however, which leads to some plot twists.
  • The Evil Energy Company. Enough said. See also "Evil Rich People."
  • The Scheming Archaeologist. No, Tony Hillerman did not own this one. Suppose that an archaeologist had a major, career-capping find that somehow places him in conflict with the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act. . .
  • Ecoterrorists and Animal Rights Extremists. They mean well, but people get hurt and they are trying to shut down the struggling local ranchers.  
  • The Dinosaur. Inspired by the story of the T-Rex skeleton called Black Hills Sue, this one involves a spectacular fossil find with disputed ownership — various people want to profit from it. It puts the "skull" in skullduggery.
  • The Outsiders.  All these people want to ruin Wyoming or Montana, and the hero fights a rear-guard action. Peter Bowen is the strongest here, sending a message to his readers that might as well read, "You readers are a bunch of Subaru-driving, Patagonia-wearing recreationists who just ought to keep the hell out of eastern Montana. Don't come here. Don't look for a real Gabriel Du Pré. Just stay on Interstate 90 and keep going to Bozeman. Oh yeah, buy my books."
Well, there you have it. Just add more examples and analysis. A guaranteed A-.

September 09, 2014

Transhumance Today


From northwestern Wyoming, Cat Urbigkit posts a brief video of her family's sheep coming down from summer range. The dogs, of course, are at the end.

She writes,
This video demonstrates transhumance — the season movement of livestock and people, something that occurs throughout the American West. Most range flocks include about 1,000 ewes, accompanied by their lambs.
This Wyoming flock is owned by a family ranch, one of 600 range outfits in the West. Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and this was my family's way of celebrating what wilderness means to us — cheers to man and beast!
All the dogs with black coloration are herding dogs (5 or 6 with this herd). There were 7-9 livestock guardian dogs with this bunch as well - both white and some red-coloration (representing Akbash and Central Asian Ovcharka lineages).

November 20, 2013

Wyoming Mountain Living—More than 2,000 Years Ago

Archaeologists find a series of Archaic mountain villages in Wyoming, and the dates lead them to wonder if Numic-speaking people (ancestors of the Comanche, Ute, Shoshone and Northern Paiute) migrated from the Rockies to California, instead of the other way around, as had been assumed.

It reminded me of a trip that I made to the Windy Gap site in Colorado's Middle Park back in my newspaper-reporter days. It dated back at least 5,000 years, and the unusual feature was that it showed evidence of a hut with wattle-and-daub walls. The elevation, as I recall, is at least 9,000 feet.

Wattle-and-daub construction has been found around the world, but its presence suggests at least semi-permanent seasonal occupation, as opposed to building a quickie shelter or small tipi for a hunting camp.

High altitude living probably was not a winter proposition — Fraser, Colo., near Windy Gap, used to claim it was the "Icebox of the Nation." (So have some other towns elsewhere.) The Wyoming sites were probably too chilly too, if one had the option of going lower down.

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.

August 20, 2013

Blog Stew in the Petroglyph Bowl

¶ An article on the possibly oldest petroglyphs in North America associates them chronologically with a set of human remains known as Spirit Cave Man. The interesting thing is that Spirit Cave Man (like Kennewick Man) does not appear to be an American Indian but looked more Caucasoid, perhaps like the Ainu of Japan and Far Eastern Russia.

¶ An update on the "North(ern) Colorado" secession movement. It's going to the voters in some counties.

¶ A recent spate of bear attacks. Bear spray was used in Yellowstone, but maybe not quickly enough?

Couple in Divide successfully start a goat cheese business. The site is the former Alpine Lakes Resort north of town.
"We did not intend to make it on this level," Bob McMillan said. "It started as a harmless retirement thing that got out of control."

July 06, 2013

Mange, Distemper Hit Yellowstone Wolves

An online Scientific American article says that both canine distemper and sarcoptic mange are affecting wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas.

I could not help but think of the unlucky coyote pup we transported last Wednesday. It seems likely that the distemper caused him to fall behind, be abandoned, and be discovered by a person who wanted to help him.

October 17, 2012

On the Road: Newcastle, Wyoming

Donna's Main Street Diner — the classic knotty pine-and-deer heads Western cafe.

What did I eat? Some kind of scrambled up eggs-potatoes-meat combination.

Coal trains rumbled past the motel all night, but whereas highway traffic bothers me, trains do not so much. When I was a college student, a friend and I rented a house in Portland, Oregon, of which we said, "The Southern Pacific runs through the kitchen."

The trains kept me awake for one night, but never again thereafter.

Nourished at Donna's, I set out for a day poking around in the Black Hills.

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.

September 19, 2011

The Best Shower in Yellowstone

Gables at the Old Faithful Inn, completed in 1904, Yellowstone National Park
OK, you have been camping for a few nights. Maybe someone wants to wash her hair. But most of the campgrounds do not have showers. And the rivers (except the Firehole) are pretty cold.

Go to the Old Faithful Inn. You could go to the hotel in Mammoth too, but let's face it, the Old Faithful Inn is the most tradition-soaked, parkitecture-perfect building in Yellowstone.

Bring a bag with a towel, soap, shampoo, etc., unless you want to pay extra.

Walk up to the registration desk and tell the clerk that you wish to take a shower. The clerk will collect $3.45 and direct you up the creaking stairs to a restroom with shower stalls in the back.

The stalls are clean, tiled, and have windows that open to views like the one above. The shower is an old-style pierced disk high overhead. It feels wonderful.

Once clean and dry, stop at the Mezzanine Bar for a Snake River Lager, then carry it outside to one of the benches facing the Old Faithful Geyser and watch for it to erupt.

September 18, 2011

At Yellowstone: Why Close So Many Campgrounds in Early September?

At Madison CG, Yellowstone National Park
On Friday we arrived at the big Madison Campground at Yellowstone. Like all park lodging and most of the bigger campgrounds, it is operated by a concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

At this time of year, campgrounds are closing—too fast, I think. Madison (85 sites) was full every night of the four that we stayed there. Norris Campground (100 sites) was full too.

My old favorite, Slough Creek, has become impossible since the advent of the wolf cult.

Canyon CG was already closed, although the weather was warm, and the Canyon lodge-restaurant-visitor center area was swarming with people. It seems to me like they could make money keeping it open—I would have preferred to stay on the east side of the park.

One thing M. and I had anticipated was being spared all the news media navel-gazing over the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But right across from our campsite someone had draped their motorhome with the banners pictured. Like we needed their help to "never forget." Sheesh.

September 17, 2011

Second Night Out: Gros Ventre Campground

Young bull moose sparring at the Gros Ventre CG, Grand Teton National Park
On Thursday, Sept. 8, after breakfast and a little exploration of one corner of Colorado State Forest State Park, we continued north into Wyoming: Saratoga to Walcott  to Rawlins to Rock Springs to Pinedale (burger stop at the Wind River Brewing Co.)  to Jackson to Grand Teton National Park.

We passed our usual North Park campsite: Cowdrey Lake State Wildlife Area north of Walden, Colo. If you want the basics—a flat place to park, an outhouse, and a small lake in which to fish—it meets the bill.

North of Cowdrey, some volunteer firefighters and the Jackson County sheriff's office were dealing with a fresh one-minivan rollover wreck. M. is still talking about the luxuriant black handlebar mustache worn by one of the deputies. Very 1890s.

Once through Jackson, we took the road that leads to Kelly, Wyo., the hamlet closely described in Ted Kerasote's Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.

Before Kelly, you pass by the Gros Ventre Campground, which the park's website describes as rarely filling—a good thing, since you cannot make a reservation.

Its 350 sites extend through a big grove of narrowleaf cottonwoods. A river runs through it.

The only downside we could see is that the campground is somewhat in the approach/departure corridor for aircraft using Jackson Hole Airport, the only commercial airport located in a national park.

As the sun peeked over the mountains, I got up to use the restroom and encountered moose—two young bulls alternately feeding and play-sparring.
 
Moose stalkers and bear-proof (or bear-resistant) dumpster.
As the two moose moved through the campground, they were stalked by early-rising photographers—from a safe distance.

On Friday morning, we ate breakfast, took a stroll through the campground, then packed up our pop-up camping trailer and continued north into the weird and the wonderful that is Yellowstone National Park.

September 09, 2011

What the Flaming Gorge Pipeline Would Wreck

Durango writer Dave Petersen lays it out. The proposed pipeline to bring water from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado's Front Range would be devastating to northeast Utah's fish and wildlife:

We are lucky to have a world-class fishery in our own extended backyard, on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Unfortunately, this great run of river is now threatened by a monumental boondoggle that could destroy one of the finest fishing destinations on the planet. Aaron Million's proposed water pipeline would stretch from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming and Utah, some 560 miles to the massive population centers of Colorado's Front Range. After all, why should we worry about preserving what little is left in America of wild nature when water board members believe the river's flows would be better used to maintain wasteful blue-grass lawns, golf courses, swimming pools and car washes around the Denver area?

In addition to the obvious self-centeredness and amorality of Million's outrageous proposal, consider the construction cost, currently estimated by state agencies to run as high as $9 billion, with another $123 million per year, in perpetuity, required to operate and maintain the pipeline. Just what we need in a strapped economy! Nor would it be a bargain for Front Range residents, requiring farmers and homeowners to pay the highest fees ever for water.
Read the rest.

December 11, 2010

Wyoming Papers Please Copy

From a listserv on literature and nature to which I subscribe comes this observation:

If such a thing [as "Footnote of the Year"] existed, it should surely go to this, from Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson's introduction to Queer Ecologies: discussing Brokeback Mountain as gay pastoral, they comment: "Although there are clear differences between Wyoming and Arcadia, both physically and economically."

December 10, 2010

A Book for Pronghorn Antelope

I was driving to Pueblo yesterday and passed a small group of pronghorn antelope at the edge of the prairie.

Again I thought, antelope get no respect. There is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, and other groups that organize conservation efforts, help to fund scientific research, and sometimes buy vital land for habitat for other North American ungulates. For antelope there is, for instance, the Arizona Antelope Foundation, but no national groups that I am aware of.

They often seem to be expected to just make it on their own, like jackrabbits. Some Westerners refer to them half-pejoratively as "goats."

The catalog copy for Cat Urbigkit's new book, The Path of the Pronghorn, states,
They are the fastest land mammals in North America, clocked at speeds of up to sixty miles per hour. Of all the world’s land animals, only cheetahs are faster.
A ghost hides in that paragraph. At one time cheetahs did live in North America, and pronghorn evolved to outrun them in a sustained chase, since cheetahs are mainly sprinters. Until humans built automobiles, there was nothing faster than the antelope for many centuries on the Western grasslands. 

(For more on this and other "ghosts of evolution," see Connie Barlow's book of the same name.)

Wyoming has more antelope than any other state. Urbigkit's text and Mark Gocke's photos  trace the migration of one herd in the Green River country, as they move from the sagebrush desert up into their high-country summer range and back down again in fall.

This particular herd, she writes, "participates in the longest land-mammal migration in the continental United States .... up to two hundred miles to spend the summer in Grand Teton National Park."

And it's not an easy trip.

Path of the Pronghorn speaks for antelope, then, and does it lucidly.