February 29, 2012

"Re-Taking the Landscape"

In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, tourists are escorted by armed rangers in to protect them against Mexican smugglers.
"The real problem we have with safety is drug dealing, not the people looking for work," [Interpretive ranger Ken] Hires said from a loudspeaker system at the front of the van. Three different border patrol agents riding ATVs raced by, waving. "What we are trying to do is retake this landscape so we can all be free to be out here," he added.

Twenty minutes later, the vans arrived at Quitobaquito, where two young men toting heavy M14 rifles were already waiting. The rangers arrived at the springs two hours earlier to scour the area and make sure no one was hiding.
The Park Service does not want the area re-made to favor security issues. On other other hand, it has to be kept secure to protect both legitimate visitors and the ecosystem.

February 25, 2012

Motoring in New Mexico

LabRat preaches the gospel about driving in New Mexico, and I can only say Amen.

It is easy to pass from one Indian reservation to another in her area, and while you are just mentally registering the Santa Clara Pueblo cop car going one way, it might the Pojoaque officer who is checking your speed from the other side of the highway.

New License Plate Would Help Fishing, Shooting Sports


I have read that Colorado has the largest number of specialty license plates of any state in the union. So let's have one more.

A bill in the legislature introduced by Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo) and Sen. Jean White (R-Steamboat Springs) would create a "Wildlife Sporting License Plate."

The initial cost of the plate will be $60: $25 to cover DMV fees, $25 to the Highway Users Tax Fund and $10 to Colorado Parks and Wildllife. After that, a $25 renewal fee would be paid to CPW,  in addition to the standard DMV license fees. The money goes directly to the wildlife cash fund. CPW is directed to use the money to fund grants for two purposes; expanding opportunities for public shooting, and improving fishing in Colorado.

You can sign an online petition in favor of the new license plate.

February 22, 2012

The Wind Is Blowing Hard Today . . .

. . . because of storms moving through the central Colorado mountains.

About the only good effects are that all the wood and bark chips are blown off the veranda, saving me the trouble of sweeping, and the creation of weird-looking lenticular clouds.

SeEtta Moss turned her lens away from birds and photographed some of these clouds earlier this month — have a look.

February 21, 2012

Two Nights in Snow

You come out of the mountains after just a three-day trip, go into a cafe, and everyone is so clean. But it is a mountain cafe, and they do not care that you are not so pristine and that you have been sleeping in your clothes.

RIGHT: An attempt at an artistic shot of my shadow while skiing to camp, pulling a pulk.

More than a dozen employees, freelance designers, and "friends of the family" of a small, Colorado-based outdoor-products company gathered for an annual winter rendezvous in Summit County.

Items under discussion included short-staple synthetic insulation, tent and pack design, the intricacies of bar-tacking, other companies that had gone before (reaching back to Holubar and Gerry), the effects of Jameson's whiskey on conversation, hunting, the reality or not of Bigfoot, cross-country skiing, the relationship of the sexes, sources of digital-camouflage fabric, weather, differing designs of axes and hatchets, and why it was better to be in a tipi with 0° F. (-18 C) temperatures outside instead of the most luxurious ski condo in Breckenridge.

This bottle of beer (left) attempted to escape the camp but died of the cold on its path to freedom. Foolish bottle.
Short-term nomadic camp in the White River National Forest

Also, we ate. The menu included venison, green chile, potica, tamales, homemade Spam-and-egg sushi, hot dogs, breakfast tacos, elk sausage, cheese, homemade burritos, biscuits and gravy, and machaca. A good Southern Colorado-northern New Mexico blend with Hawaiian accents.

I became enamored of a Swedish splitting axe that I do not really need, but it was so elegant.

Afterwards, I always wonder how even though it takes much planning and the assembly of food, gear, etc., produced in many different places, even a short trip into the woods like this feels more real and vital than daily life.

February 17, 2012

Colorado Avalanche Danger Rising

I am going ski-camping this weekend, so this item caught my eye. Fortunately, our skiing will be mostly in forested areas, not too steep. I am curious to see what the snow profile will be — last year it was "sugar snow" all the way down. Not pleasant.

Going Feral in Utah

Another lone (?) "mountain man" on the loose.
But the man authorities say is armed and dangerous and responsible for more than two dozen burglaries has continued to outrun the law across a swath of mountains not far from Zion National Park. He's roamed across 1,000 square miles of rugged wilderness where snow can pile 10 feet deep in winter.

And while there have been no violent confrontations, detectives say he's a time bomb. Lately he has been leaving the cabins in disarray and riddled with bullets after defacing religious icons, and a recent note left behind in one cabin warned, "Get off my mountain."
There is a possible Mormon polygamist angle too. Of course.

UPDATE, Feb. 22, 2012: The authorities think that his name is Troy James Knapp, 44, who did time in prison and then disappeared.

February 15, 2012

February 14, 2012

Mexican Researchers Excell at Venomous Quest

When hospitalized in Tucson after the rattlesnake incident, I heard some discussion of Mexican antivenom (or antivenin) research—in fact, I was solicited to participate in a study, but I would have had to have lived nearby for the follow-ups, so I said no, give me the current antivenin. But as the belt buckle of the Venom Belt, Mexico has ample opportunity for researchers.

My one scorpion sting did not require treatment. In fact, I think it was a mild CNS stimulant.

February 13, 2012

Early on a Frosty Morning

Hoarfrost on ponderosa pine

Yesterday morning a cold fog hung over our area, leaving trees coated with hoarfrost, not a common thing in these parts.


I took the dogs for their morning walk, and they investigated a house nearby, one that has stood vacant and for sale for more than a year now. The real-estate market is almost at a standstill. 

Shelby is closer to the camera, while Fisher is near the house's back door.

February 12, 2012

Revisiting the "Buffalo Commons"

Back in the 1980s, two New Jersey professors raised a ruckus on the High Plains by arguing that, given falling populations and the gradual depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, the plains should be given over to some combination of parks and a different, non-irrigated agriculture including buffalo ranching, activities that would support a smaller but sustainable population—a concept known as the Buffalo Commons.

Few people wanted to hear that. Not only was it coming from New Jersey professors who by definition could not know anything about anything, but it was a slap in the face to the whole survivor mythos of the High Plains—that the people there had survived grasshopper plagues, droughts, blizzards, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, ups and downs in commodity prices, isolation, and indeed, a gradual decline from the "good years," the first two decades of the 20th century. In general, they reacted angrily to the proposal that they "surrender."

But population was falling:
Their continuing research showed that hundreds of counties in the American West still have less than a sparse 6 persons per square mile — the density standard Frederick Jackson Turner used to declare the American Frontier closed in 1893. Many have less than 2 persons per square mile.

The frontier never came close to disappearing, and in fact has expanded in the Plains in recent years. The 1980 Census showed 388 frontier counties west of the Mississippi. The 1990 Census shows 397 counties in frontier status, and the 2000 Census showed 402. Most of this frontier expansion is in the Great Plains. Kansas actually has more land in frontier status than it did in 1890.

My personal connection: in the early 1920s, the era of prosperity, my maternal grandparents as a young couple ran a store in the High Plains town of Arriba, Colorado (pr. "AIR-a-buh"). When I saw Arriba in the 1970s, it had no business district at all except a Flying J truck stop and an antiques store. Now there is a wind farm too. My grandparents got out before the collapse, but it caught up to them elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the professors, Frank and Deborah Popper, geographer and urban planner (yes, ironic) have not given up on the Buffalo Commons idea.

At a recent conference in Salina, Kansas, Frank Popper said, "We never really expected it to have the impact it did and does. We would have recoiled then that we would still be talking about it 23 years later. It's clear that in the intervening years a quiet muscle of reality, a lot of the trends we saw in the depopulation of the Plains has continued."
"I've been accused of having a slightly un-American approach to the land and the environment, where growth is not always the be-all and end-all, where growth can go too far, and the Buffalo Commons implies a quietism or defeatism," Frank Popper said. "Instead, the Buffalo Commons implies too much growth can be a mistake, overburdening the land, overmastering the environment and in the end always getting kicked in the rear or the pocketbook--or someplace else.

"I realize there is a social comedy in two people from back east who are telling people in the Plains what to do with their land. I've enjoyed it, but there are important things to look at in how we treat this vast, characteristically American chunk of land. There are lessons here on how to live on the land that can be applied to the Corn Belt, the lower Mississippi delta, and parts of our largest cities--like Detroit--that are depopulating like the Plains. It's about sustainability. It's about being American."
 Some politicians are quietly coming around, he notes, and a Great Plains National Park "may actually happen."

February 11, 2012

Who Was Really Riding in the Woodpecker Taxi?

Last July I wrote a post called "Woodpecker Taxi" about one of M's and my experience as wildlife transporters.

The hatchlings survived, and here are some pictures. Only it turned out that we and the rehabilitator were all of us wrong about the species.

I was under the impression that the people came down from Littleton while the aspen tree with the nest was cut in Custer County, but I got the story third-hand, so I cannot be sure. It does not matter—the little guys made it to their release date, and that is all that you can ask.

February 08, 2012

Mountain Lion Attack at Big Bend NP

I have always assumed that while mountain lions attack lone runners, etc., that they would not bother a group of people.

Evidently this cat did not read the manual — or the attraction of fresh little boy was just too much.

Lucky for Rivers Hobbs, 6, his mom and dad fought back vigorously.

February 07, 2012

A "Brazen and Prevaricating Rapscallion"

M. shops at Vitamin Cottage natural foods store frequently, so she knows the Bragg label well. It presents itself as old-fashioned and almost religious, she said.

But the founder was something else entirely. (That's "daughter" Patricia on the company's website.)

Kind of like Doctor Bronner of the mystic soaps.

Tomorrow I Will Do Something Marking Me as a Potential Terrorist

I will go to a cafe with wi-fi and pay cash for a cup of coffee.

Your tax dollars at work in Eric Holder's Department of Justice.