Showing posts with label death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label death. Show all posts

January 04, 2019

Graves in the Woods (2)


Two little graves in the San Isabel National Forest
Unlike the graves mentioned in "Graves in the Woods (1)," these are not human graves, I think — unless they were infant twins — which would be extremely weird.

More likely they were for two pet animals, small dogs or cats. We found them near a Forest Service road when we first moved here in 1992, and they looked pretty much the same back then. The Mason Gulch Fire of 2005 missed them by a few yards.

I wonder if whoever  buried them there ever comes back for a visit.

December 31, 2018

Graves in the Woods (1)


Moormans River, near Free Union, Virginia

M. and I rolled in Sunday the 30th after a long train trip to Virginia to see (most) of her East Coast relatives.

Cabin chimney above
the Moormans River
We like to travel by train, which leaves you with a lot of episodic memories, like being awakened somewhere in the Ohio River valley by the bright lights of a coal-fired power plant shining in the window, or further up the drainage, watchcing the Kenawha and New rivers running brown and out of their banks with water from this winter's storms.

We walked from her brother's house down to the Moormans River, which was high enough for boating, had anyone so desired. I know that it often drops to a trickle, and he did tell a story of abandoning a kayak trip one summer for lack of water.

This chimney and foundation, laid up with local stone, are on the trail to the river. The brother, who has lived there more than twenty years, said that he only recently had spotted some grave sites near the cabin. Two are parallel sunken graves, the others less sunken but still marked with small headstones and footstones.

Those markers are small slabs of the native stone. They bear no inscriptions. Either there were once wooden markers that decayed, or there were none. Perhaps people just remembered: "That grave was Ma's, and little Bessie is buried next to her."Now no one remembers.

Two sunken graves. Others are nearby.
We all went hiking too in Shenandoah National Park, on a little piece of the Appalachian Trail, and that was an afternoon that I cherished.

I support public lands as much as anyone, but here too there are hidden presences — a overgrown old road, a pasture gate lost in regrown forest. People were evicted to make the park.

Although the lands earmarked for the new park were covered with homes and farms, there was little public outcry when inhabitants of the nearly 5,000 individual land tracts were expelled, their lands presented to the federal government. After all, the Blue Ridge dwellers were not only different from the mainstream of American society, but, according to one contemporary journalist, their existence in the dark hollows represented "about the limit of destitution at which human life could be sustained." Park promoters and government officials publicized the fact that "these people will be moved to more civilized regions of agriculture and industry." The creation of the national park propelled these backward mountaineers into a world they had previously eschewed.

When archaeologists found a toy ray gun in the rubble of Corbin Hollow, they knew these were not people "cut off from the current of American life." 

From the first day of the survey in Nicholson, Corbin, and Weakley hollows on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge, formerly home to three communities with eighteenth-century roots, it was obvious that some observations about the region were flawed. Automobiles, Coke bottles, Bakelite toys, cologne, hair tonic, and hot-sauce bottles, even a half-torn 1931 cellulose card calendar featuring the artwork of Maxfield Parrish, all shattered the accepted image of backward hillbillies eking out an existence that was "completely cut off from the current of American life." (Archaeology magazine, "Shenandoah's Secret History," Jan.–Feb. 2000).
More graves there too, I am sure, if you know where to look.

November 06, 2013

Blog Stew with Shredded Tamarisk

¶ In Palisade, Colo., there is an anti-tamarisk militia.

¶ The northern Colorado secession movement did not do too well at the ballot box.  The question is whether it was any sort of symbolic victory.

¶ An Indiana deer hunter is paralyzed by a fall from a tree stand. He tells his doctors to "pull the plug."  Do you wonder if his hunting experiences made him less likely to cling to life as a quadriplegic? There is a possible hint of that in the article.

September 03, 2013

What Killed the Russian Skiers? (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 23, 2013

Dying for Beauty

The Wave (Wikimedia Commons)
You have heard of the Darwin Awards. I propose the Everett Ruess Award.

Ruess was a young California artist who sought inspiration in the southern Utah canyonlands beginning in 1931, nearly dying of dehydration at least once, before he disappeared for good in 1934. "Beauty" was one of his favorite words.

Lately the fatal lure is a rock formation called the Wave. Three people have died this month hiking to and from it.
The Wave is a richly colored geological upheaval, its fiery swirls emblazoned on postcards, posters, maps and computer screensavers. It is said to be one of the most photographed spots in North America.
Ironically, you have to apply for a permit to hike there, it is so popular.
Half of the 20 daily permits are doled out on a walk-in basis at a visitor's center in Kanab, with up to 100 people showing up for each one. For many, it's a lifetime opportunity that can encourage risk-taking during the hottest time of the year.

January 22, 2012

Into the Moors

British bushcrafter does not survive. (Gratuitous Bear Grylls references added by the reporter, apparently.)
Survival school instructor Ian Moran, who teaches extreme survival and bushcraft skills, said it was extremely unlikely anybody could survive a Highland winter out of doors living off the land.
He said: 'It would be a tall order for even the most professional person who calls himself a survivalist. Maybe centuries ago, when Scotland was covered in woodland and teeming with wildlife, but not now.'
I wondered about that. Was he planning to try to fish? Steal sheep?

September 21, 2011

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

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

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

August 25, 2011

Between Life and Death, No Balance

Out of its cardboard carrier, the red-tailed hawk heads for the trees
M. and I were on the road again this past morning to the Raptor Center in Pueblo, not bringing in an injured bird this time but with the happier chore of releasing a rehabilitated red-tailed hawk back to its home range in the Wet Mountain Valley.

At the edge of the prairie, some little birds (horned larks?) flew up from the road, and one thudded into the windshield right in front of M.'s face, stopping her mid-sentence.

A life for a life? I felt like an ambulance driver running down a pedestrian.

We ate brunch at the Coyote Grille, then went next door and picked up our hawk, already caught and boxed by one of the Raptor Center volunteers.

Driving into the mountains, I ran over a little ground squirrel that darted in front of the Jeep. They do that. The crows and ravens will clean it up, I tell myself. Balance,

A few more curves, and there is a porcupine lying in the road. OK, it needs to be moved off the asphalt if any scavengers are going to deal with it.

I parked and pulled on the welder's gloves that I had brought in case I needed to handle the bird (which I did not). I walked up to the porky—and it was still alive.

It looked to have been scraped or dragged by a car—quills missing from its back—and its hind legs were limp, not working.

Quick decision: I carried it off the road into the grass, drew my pistol, and shot it.

Porcupine quills in my glove.
Dad, an old-school forester, killed every porcupine he saw. They damaged the pine trees, the Forest Service's cash crop.  When I was old enough to shoot it, he would hand me his revolver. Then I got to be a little older and decided that maybe not every porky deserved immediate execution. But I did not think any wildlife rehabber could have saved this one.It was weak and immobile.

We had a somber drive to the Lake DeWeese State Wildlife Area, where I carried the boxed hawk off out of sight of the road, slit the tape, and whoa! it was ready to go!

The hawk flew up into a ponderosa pine tree and flapped its wings as it adjusted its position. After months in the big flight cage, where all the perches are fixed, maybe it needed to readjust to flexible tree branches.

We drove into Westcliffe and bought some homemade goat cheese at the farmers' market. Back into the world of human commerce.

Half a day, 120 miles driven. Three small deaths, one second chance for a hawk. It is probably a mistake to impose any desire for a meaning when you are dealing with wild lives.

UPDATE: Read more on death and the other-than-human world in the October 2013 Animist Blog Carnival.

February 10, 2011

Blog Stew, according to George Leonard Herter's Celebrated Recipe

• A Web guide to the cult of George Leonard Herter, expert on hunting, fishing, cooking, surviving nuclear war, and living with a bitch. (Thanks for the link!)

• And George Herter would have had some pungent things to say about death by GPS! (Hat tip: Odious & Peculiar).

Two Colorado state parks win environmental education awards, one for an art class in the spirit of Andy Goldsworthy (whose work, believe me, is not as simple as it looks).
Since 2009, the Art in Nature Program has been a terrific vehicle to engage youth from the juvenile justice system's probation department. The young people start out yawning, uninterested and fidgety, but once they get outdoors, that attitude changes. As they gather the natural materials, including leaves, rocks and branches from the ground, to create a piece of art, they become engaged both physically and emotionally. They become children again, laughing and playing in nature. A sense of pride and community develops within the young people as they build their sculptures and work together.

August 02, 2009

An Ascetic's Lonely Death

In some cultures, a man like Winston Branko Churchill might fill a slot called "mendicant monk" or "wandering ascetic."

In ours, he died a lonely, self-inflicted death.

M. notes a similarity between his life and David Guterson's novel The Other, although it could well be that Churchill never read that book. (The suicide is the rejection of materialist society in favor of living alone, not the suicide itself.)

All in all, another case of suicide in beautiful settings.

March 18, 2009

Recollections of Freezing to Death

A 1997 Outside article on facing death by hypothermia by Peter Stark.

But for all scientists and statisticians now know of freezing and its physiology, no one can yet predict exactly how quickly and in whom hypothermia will strike--and whether it will kill when it does. The cold remains a mystery, more prone to fell men than women, more lethal to the thin and well muscled than to those with avoirdupois, and least forgiving to the arrogant and the unaware.

Cherry stuff. I had heard about the English moor-walkers when I was a kid, and I never forgot that story.

(Via Maggie's Farm.)

January 02, 2009

Suicide in Beautiful Settings

Suicides in national parks are increasing, says the Association Press, although the National Park Service only recently started tracking the numbers.

"It's some place where, toward the end of someone's life, when they're feeling a total sense of despondency, they want to return to a place of natural beauty ... for their final moments," [Glacier NP chief ranger Patrick] Suddath said.

That comment immediately make me think of the death of Edward G. Robinson's character, Sol Roth, in the dystopian SF movie Soylent Green. Ready to die, Sol goes to some kind of official euthanasia parlor where his last views will be panoramic movies of animals and scenery that has disappeared from this overcrowded future Earth.

No one collects these numbers, but I recall a Colorado newspaper story from the 1990s about people coming to the mountains to end it all. My little county sees one or two of these (at a minimum) every year.