December 29, 2007

A Wolf in RMNP?

The big Colorado wildlife news is a possible wolf sighting in Rocky Mountain National Park.

On Dec. 4, experienced park volunteers saw a black canine emerge from the trees at Moraine Park, lift its leg to urinate and then dart away once the animal noticed it had company, said biologist Jeff Conner, a natural resource specialist for Rocky Mountain National Park.

Funny how this happens in the middle of the elk-control controversy. The god of irony rules the universe.

Via Outdoor Pressroom.

December 23, 2007

Two Flawed 'Nature' Films

M. and I recently watched This is Nowhere, a film with no particular narrative or point to make.

I suspect that the filmmakers went down to the Wal-Mart in Missoula, Montana, looking for the awful sickening rot at the heart of AmeriKKKa and found -- fairly ordinary, pleasant, middle-class people?

For instance, the widower who tired of rattling around in his big house, sold it, bought a motorhome and who now travels with his cat around the US and Mexico. (He was talking of driving to Costa Rica next.)

(Sickening! Wasteful!)

Yes, they know that Wal-Mart permits them to camp for free, knowing that they will stroll across the parking lot and spend money. And they don't care.

Unfortunately for the filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis, his subjects just seem ordinary. Or maybe that fact is supposed to scare you.

One academic reviewer called it "a theater of the absurd acted out in surreal Wal-Mart-scapes and highway strip developments, vehicles and people jiggling in fast motion staccato, going nowhere"? Yeah, whatever.

Another nature-and-culture film that could have been good but took itself too seriously was Darwin's Nightmare.

What does it say when the real ecological issue at the documentary's heart is only shown for a moment in a video that is being watched by some of the people being filmed?

That is taking the idea of a "movie within the movie" too far and too literally. Instead, sensation overcomes information in Darwin's Nightmare

It is still worth seeing, but you will only understand if if you do your research first. That conclusion is no praise for the filmmakers.

Too bad. Both could have been better.

Meanwhile, here is a blog for full-time RV-ers.

Or you can live in a van and be an "independent contractor," like the Hobo Stripper. I wonder how long that lifestyle choice will last. At least she is doing better than Chris McCandless.

When the Dog or Cat Goes Missing

The Missing Pets Partnership has assembled pages on what to do to find a missing dog or cat.

(Or ferret. I suppose that there are indeed people who would want to locate their missing pet weasel.)

It's pretty common-sense stuff. The one thing I learned, though, when it comes to looking for a missing dog (particularly in rural areas) is simply to look first upwind. Is there a lovely scent of carrion on the air?

(Hat tip to my sister, Sarah, who is always sending me dog links.)

December 21, 2007

Riders on the Storm

M. and I went to Colorado Springs today for a supplies and Christmas-shopping trip. We left for home on the lip of the snowstorm that was blowing in.

We drove out of the storm -- temporarily -- on Colo. 115. The peaks around Cañon City -- YMCA Mountain, Cooper Mountain -- were side-lit by an artistic solsticial light that picked out every fold and crest.

The area around Penrose and Florence was in a pool of light with grey storm clouds all around. It looked like something from "Lord of the Rings" -- the Light menaced by the surrounding Dark.

Our mountains were grey-capped too. We hustled all our food into the house. M. walked the dogs while I brought arm loads of firewood up onto the porch and filled the bird-feeders.

In the words of our Immortal Leader, "Bring it on."

December 16, 2007

Ensure Victory against the Moon Men!


How come none of the gun-bloggers out there ever discuss the 1902a Victorious Mongoose pistol?

It could be just the weapon you need if cornered by Moon Men. The 1902a and other necessary items are here.

UPDATE: Welcome, View from the Porch readers.

December 14, 2007

The (Probably Bogus) 'Kit Carson Rock'

The so-called Unmarked for decades, the so-called "Kit Carson Rock" in eastern Custer County, Colorado, has recently sprouted a new sign, part of some locals' attempt to reclaim the past and commemorate things in the uncomplicated way that they used to be commemorated.
Close-up of the so-called
Here is a close-up. If you can read "C. Carson" in there, your eyes are better than mine. But there is no "W" in "Christopher Carson."

Furthermore, Kit Carson could not read or write. He could barely scrawl "C. Carson" on documents when he had to. Illiterate people on hurried cross-country rides from, let's say, Fort Pueblo to Taos do not pull chisels from their saddlebags and start carving during a lunch stop.

I am not a geologist, but that does not look like the rock from that part of Hardscrabble Canyon, where sandstone predominates. Someone could have asked Professor Anderson, but I do not think that anyone bothered to do so.

The legend of the rock has been around for a while, however, even with that problematic "W".

A 1948 Forest Service map of the San Isabel National Forest pictures it too, complete with the protective iron bars. At that time, Colorado Highway 96 ran past it, before the road was re-routed.

Local writer Hal Walter came to the same conclusion: the rock has nothing to do with Carson.

But I suppose some people want to associate a famous name with this area--and Carson certainly might have traveled up Hardscrabble Canyon, one traditional route towards the Sangre de Cristo passes and into the San Luis Valley.

Trying to claim he carved his name, though, is sort of like saying "George Washington slept here."

Meanwhile, take Walter's advice and read Hampton Sides' Blood and Thunder.

It is a tightly paced story of the interaction between Carson, the New Mexicans, the Navajos, and the US Army during the 1840s-1860s.

Sides writes without bias of the Navajos' raids on the New Mexican settlements, the Hispanic slave-catching raids against the Indians, and finally of how Carson, who himself had many Native American friends, accepted the task of forcing the Navajos on the "Long Walk" to Bosque Redondo and captivity. An excellent book.

Meanwhile, I will have more to say of the attempt to control the story of the past in Custer County.

December 13, 2007

Catching Water off Your Roof

House near Lamy, N.M. Nov. 21, 2007. Photo by Chas S. CliftonWhen I saw this house in Apache Canyon near Lamy, New Mexico, from the train last month, my first question was whether the roof was designed to catch water or whether it was just an architect's "concept."

And does New Mexico water law let residents catch rainwater?

A recent news report on the drought in the Southeast showed Georgians buying rainwater barrels at a garden-supply store. That practice would be technically illegal here in Colorado, where every drop of precipitation is appropriated and over-appropriated.

It not only has to flow down its legally adjudicated drainage, but it cannot be delayed!

Still, I never have heard of anyone prosecuted for catching rainwater. But I have seen board members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (the "secret government") become testy over someone's plans to build a stock pond or little earthen erosion-control dam when they thought that the permitting process had not been followed correctly.

UPDATE: Well, maybe not completely illegal.

Bureaucratic Idiocy: The Park Service

The National Park Service has announced a $6 million plan to deal with Rocky Mountain National Park's overpopulation of elk. They would be killed by "sharpshooters" (contracted through Halliburton, no doubt.)

The lethal reductions, along with fencing and "aversive techniques" such as moving herds with dogs and blank ammunition, are part of a $6 million, 20-year plan to bring down the unnaturally high number of elk in the park and restore native plants.

The plan produced a sharp response today in a news release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and its governing body, the Colorado Wildlife Commission, through commission chairman Tom Burke.

“Repeatedly, the Colorado Wildlife Commission has said that we are proponents of using qualified citizen volunteers to assist in managing the elk population in Rocky Mountain National Park,” said Burke.

“Culling 100-200 or less elk a year may not have the impact desired on the current population of 3,000 in Rocky Mountain National Park," he said. "The language in the plan falls short of our expectations.”


Why would the NPS, notorious for its maintenance backlog, its low salaries to park rangers, and its other cutbacks, want to spend $6 million when it could have much of the job done for free or nearly so?

I can think of only one reason: The NPS bureaucrats are afraid of the precedent of allowing hunting in the park. And they are probably afraid of some kind of political shit storm--which they may get anyway. The first law of bureaucracy is Cover Your Ass, and never mind the poor rangers living in leaky trailers.

December 12, 2007

Blog Stew with "Roots of Two or Three Kinds"

¶ Using Cabeza de Vaca's tale of his long walk to study pre-contact Texas foodways.

What can be gleaned from Cabeza de Vaca’s accounts of lifeways in greater South Texas at the dawn of written history in North America contributes significantly toward explaining archeological records in the same regions since the extinction of mammoths and other Pleistocene megafauna.

¶ Photo tour: The Seven Creepiest Places in the World.

¶ A map of UFO hotspots. Southern Colorado is well-represented. But what's with the U.P.?

Mammoths blased with meteorites. Hah, that's what They want us to think. It was cluster bombs from alien space war.

December 09, 2007

Relics of the Old Ones


You are walking in the Wet Mountains, and you look up. There it is--just a hunter's tree stand where someone once watched for bear or elk. But the wood has aged into grey and the lichen has grown on it, and it looks like a relic of a former tribe--a burial platform or a shrine, perhaps. Something out of Dersu Uzla.

And then you chastise yourself for seeing the woods through books and film instead of as they are, and you shift your rifle to the other hand and keep climbing toward the unseen ridge.

November 29, 2007

Blog Stew on the Purg

¶ In September I mentioned Michael Ome Untiedt's impressionist paintings of the SE Colorado canyon country. Some are on his site too. He also has a show opening on Wed., Dec. 5, at Ernest Fuller Fine Art in Denver and running through Jan. 25, 2008.

Timothy Smith's blog about birds and other wildlife attracted to British landfills may be found under "Elsewhere."

Pondering Pikaia is another natural history blog, this one from Alabama, and hence under "Elsewhere" too.

Tucson Weekly interviews J.P.S. Brown.

If you ask Brown who he is, he'll say "cowboy." He won't say reporter, Marine, boxer, movie wrangler, stuntman or whiskey smuggler, and he's been all those things.

If he says writer at all, it won't be first on the list. But he's a great writer, probably the best you've never heard of.

November 28, 2007

Save Wilderness: Make Cities Liveable

¶ It takes more than cappuccino-sipping "creatives" to make a city: families still matter. In Philadelphia, for instance:

Only 14% of Center City residents have children ... and roughly half its young people depart once they enter their mid-30s. "If you want to sustain the revival you have to deal with the fact that people with six year olds keep moving to the suburbs," Mr. Levy suggests. "Empty nesters and singles are not enough."

Why post about that on this blog? I have often thought that we Americans hate our cities (Thomas Jefferson did not help), but if we loved them enough to make them more pleasant, than maybe people would not be fleeing them for 35-acre ranchettes in Colorado or elsewhere.

Like Vienna, for example.

November 25, 2007

The Bear in Your Garbage Can/Garage/Playing Field

Focusing on the Canadian resort community of Whistler, BC, a New York Times piece discusses bear-human conflicts.

With less bear-hunting and more people wanting to living the woods, "user conflicts" are rising.

At the turn of the last century, if people felt the call of the wild, they’d take the train perhaps to Banff, where they’d soak in a hot spring and never venture much beyond the front canopy of the Banff Springs Hotel. Now remote canyons and mountain meadows are thick with residential and recreational use. In Whistler, even the paint-ball games for kids take place on a field that happens to be in the middle of a flood plain. As soon as the air-horn starts the competition, bears come out of the nearby woods with their great, lumbering, hip-swaying strides to graze the paint balls with a bovine indifference to the gleeful splattered children running this way and that.

It's a thoughtful piece and worth reading for going beyond the cliches.

November 23, 2007

How Newspapers Fail Their Readers

I was once a newspaper reporter--six years on two different dailies before I moved to academia. So I don't like to read that newspapers are losing readers, even though it is true.

But, I swear, sometimes the papers are their own worst enemies.

Consider today's above-the-fold headline in the Pueblo Chieftain: "Parade-goers Enjoy Balmy Weather in New York" ("Above the fold" means top of the front page--what you see in the display rack.)

Not Pueblo weather, New York City weather. Not a Pueblo parade, a New York City parade.

Not to be outdone in stupidity, the Cañon City Daily Record led with an Associated Press story on post-Thanksgiving shopping, "Stores Usher in Holiday Shopping Season" (not even localized!) packaged with an AP sidebar on a new parking garage in Grand Junction.

Dear editors, your readers have either gotten that information from TV or the Web--or they simply do not care. Grand Junction is hundreds of miles from Cañon City, and no one from Cañon shops there.

Honestly, if they headlined, "Johnson Cat Has Kittens," with the story explaining that two of the kittens born at 555 E. 5th St. were calicoes, it would get more eyeball time.

No wonder the political bloggers denigrate the "mainstream media" (MSM). Such cluelessness shows that some editors really do not care at all.

November 22, 2007

Blog Stew with Silver Iodide

Lamy Jct. railway station, 14 Nov. 07.  Photo by Chas S. CliftonABOVE: Train-watching in Lamy, New Mexico.

I am back from the land of palm trees, surf, and aircraft carriers--in other words, San Diego--so blogging can resume.

On our train trip to California M. and I did see one corner of one of the burned areas, where a fire had come right down to the coast south of San Clemente. The newspapers were full of accusations and counter-accusations over the tardy deployment of fire-fighting aircraft, as well as Thanksgiving-season human-interest pieces about residents who lost their homes.

M. and I drove in last night from the La Junta railway station through a mist of ice crystals, the air about 10 degrees F., to find a message on the answering machine from a neighbor, "A mountain lion was at my back door!" And killed a stray cat had been hanging around the house, right on the back porch.

This web tool lets you figure the exact elevation of your house (or another favorite spot) and other precise geographical information.

• It is cloud-seeding season, but does the process really work?

“You can’t make any large, robust claims about it . . . and if you do, how do you back them up?”

That’s the question weather and climate experts have been grappling with for decades.


(Hat tip: Coyote Gulch.)