Debris flow creates a big rapid on the Salmon River (central Idaho)

The new “Black Creek Blowout” could be the biggest rapid on the river-

This is big news for all who float or boat the main fork of the Salmon River below the Corn Creek put-in. I’d like to know more about what caused this blowout on April 1.

White water created on Salmon River by blowout. By Eric Barker. The Lewiston Tribune as reported in the Idaho Statesman.

Obscure mountain ranges of southern Idaho, NW Utah, and Eastern Nevada

Updated Feb. 12, 2010. This has been a very popular post. I first posted it about 3 years ago, and now I have enlarged and updated it. Ralph Maughan

Ah the Tetons, Wind Rivers, Sawtooths and White Clouds, Wallowas, Bitterroots, Beartooth, and Unitas!
I love all the mountains. I decided to do a major photo essay on the little-known and often little-appreciated ranges of the NW Great Basin. I have left out the Wasatch Range, Ruby Mountains, Schell Creek Range, and Snake Range because I think they are much more prominent in the public’s eye.

Albion Range (Southern Idaho)-


In the photo is Cache Peak, taken from near Almo, Idaho. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

This is an unusual range consisting mostly of just two big mountains, Mt. Harrison and Cache Peak (the highest mountain in Idaho south of the Snake River). The range is just east of Burley and Oakley, Idaho. The amazing Silent City of Rocks is at the range’s southern end.

Read the rest of this entry »

Idaho Fish & Game Director Among Elk Hunters Questioned for Trespassing

There are bumper stickers on every IDFG vehicle that say “Ask First to Hunt and Fish on Private Property”. Honest mistake? Maybe, but who knows what the implications are.

Idaho Fish & Game Director Among Elk Hunters Questioned for Trespassing.

Outdoor Recreation slows the passage of time

The perception of time is subjective, and you can slow it down-

Today I read this article, “Where Did the Time Go? Do Not Ask the Brain.” New York Times. It is about the sensation of passing time. Sometimes days, months, decades seem to whiz by. People commonly say that time passes more rapidly as you age, but I know the passage of time for me at least, slows when I am outdoors.

Late yesterday afternoon I drove out to American Falls Reservoir, which is currently frozen and windswept. I can barely remember the details of what I did when I came home or before I left.  On the trip to the reservoir I can remember almost everything — the number of geese flocks that flew overhead, the nondescript agricultural roads I drove, how far I walked in the freezing wind, every photograph (including those I deleted), my side trip to Bannock Creek (and the lone duck on its half frozen waters). You get the idea.

Just after sunset on Jan. 8, 2010. American Falls Reservoir. Copyright Ralph Maughan

I can remember the details of hundreds of outdoor trips, including not so eventful ones like yesterday.

My conclusion is spend part of each day outdoors, you will live longer.

Now what did I do this morning? It’s already after 2 PM.

The Moral Call of the Wild

A study suggests that spending time in nature changes our values-

The Moral Call of the Wild. By P. Wesley Schultz. Scientific American.

Being outside almost always improves my mood, and a lot of my best ideas have come in the wide open spaces, not sitting at a desk or computer.  The outdoors seems more real and time passes more slowly because events are not so repetitive that one days blurs into the next. I can tell what I did each day during my February and March trip to Arizona, Nevada, and California. I can’t remember what I did last Wednesday here at home.

Too many people don’t have a real life. They watch reality TV hoping that someone does 😦

Photos of Wyoming Range

Protection of the Wyoming Range was one of the big achievements of 2009-

B. Henrie, who posts here under another name, provided the blog with some fine photos of these splendid mountains. He took them on a Sept. deer hunt. No doubt they are now covered with snow.

A million acres was withdrawn from oil and gas development by Congress in the Omnibus public lands bill supported by the Wyoming delegation.  Believe me these steep mountains so full of deer and elk would have been all slashed up. Thanks!


Toward Mt. Coffin from Wyoming Peak. View is to the north. Copyright B. Henrie

West from Wyoming Peak

West across the Greys River and Salt River Range from Wyoming Peak. Copyright B. Henrie


Cow flop? No, an unusual fungus

Out walking in cow country in the mountains above Pocatello, ID the other day, I came across this large fungus. Does anyone know what it is?


In the Bannock Mountains. SE Idaho. Copyright Ralph Maughan. Oct. 2009

Leadbelt Creek Watershed, Central Idaho

The rain has brought a rich suite of greens to obscure western public landscapes.

Tributary to Leadbelt Creek, Central Idaho © Brian Ertz 2009 (click to enlarge)

Tributary to Leadbelt Creek, Central Idaho © Brian Ertz 2009 (click to enlarge)

How sagebrush steppe should look

This area hasn’t been grazed by cattle for many years-

I took this photo in late May on Pocatello’s West Bench at the base of the Bannock Mountain Range. Because it is a mixture of city land and Forest Service and no maintained fences, it hasn’t been grazed by cattle or sheep for many years.

Too many people don’t know what healthy sagebrush steppe looks like. This is an example.*

Late May on Pocatello’s West Bench. Sagebrush steppe.


* The West Bench is hardly pristine, however. It was overgrazed in the late 19th and early 20th century so badly that the hillside was contoured by FDR’s CCC. See photo of the coutours today.

In 1987 much of the Bench burned. The was followed by BLM and Forest Service efforts to “restore” the area. This included planting yellow clover, which now covers large areas and the “more fire resistant” Siberian Wheatgrass (an exotic). For years vehicles have also gradually spread cheat grass and bulbous blue grass into local infestations. You can see some cheatgrass beginning to ripen in the second photograph.

Mudslides from the 2007 Idaho wildfires begin after unusual June wet spell

Article below is about a mudflow near Ketchum, orginating from the Castle Rock Fire area, but there a numerous slides around southern Idaho-

June is often a fairly wet month in Idaho, which is mostly an arid or semi-arid state. The end of May and continuing into June has brought a lot of precipitation into southern, south central and southeast Idaho. Much of it is in slow moving thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are much more typical of July and August than May in Idaho.

In 2007 over a million acres of wildfire burned in Idaho’s mountains (and even more on its sagebrush steppe country — “rangelands”). The soil on the burns on these steep mountains are stable yet as this mudslide west of Ketchum indicates.

When travelling backcountry roads you should inqure about slides and washouts, and at least for the next week (according to the weather report) be prepared for flash floods.

Officials: Burned hillsides still pose risk. Mudslide threat could last several years in Castle Rock Fire area. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

Are any readers aware of slides and blockages in your part of Idaho or nearby states that folks should be aware of. Please post.

Posted in The Great Outdoors, Trees Forests, vehicles. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Mudslides from the 2007 Idaho wildfires begin after unusual June wet spell

As hunters age, do they support allowing ATVs in more places?

White River National Forest, Colorado offers new travel plan that would restrict ATVs-

In interesting question is, is ATV use a generational thing or is it related to aging? If Bob Elderkin (in the article below) is in the majority, it is a generational thing, with older forest users, including hunters, being less, not more favorable to them.

Fight brewing over new national forest travel plan in Colorado. By Dennis Webb. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Yellowstone workers to kill problem wolf

This would be the first incidence of a wolf being “removed” inside of Yellowstone.

From last weeks wolf report:

A young wolf dispersing probably from the Gibbon Meadows pack chased people on bicycles and a motorcycle on several occasions.  It is unclear how many times as it appears the wolf has been illegally fed and this and other incidences of habituation have gone unreported.  This wolf is considered a human safety threat and active measures to remove it have been ongoing since May 7 without success.  There is no plan at the moment to suspend activities to find and kill this animal because it is considered a threat to human safety.  Again, visitors are advised to not approach wolves or any other wildlife in YNP as it is unsafe and leads to habituated wildlife which ultimately will have to be removed.

Yellowstone workers to kill problem wolf
Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Update: Park officials kill nuisance wolf
Billings Gazette

Largest herd of gazelles sighted

A mega-herd of a quarter of a million Mongolian gazelles has been seen gathering on the country’s steppes, one of the world’s last great wildernesses.

Largest herd of gazelles sighted
BBC Earth News

Ask Zimo: Beware of dogs guarding livestock

You don’t want to alarm a livestock guard dog-

While some folks in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming worry about being attacked by wolves, the real danger of attack by a canid is the livestock guard dog.  Your risk goes up a lot if you are accompanied by a pet dog.

Pete Zimowsky of the Idaho Statesman answers a question about guard dogs.

Ask Zimo: Beware of dogs guarding livestock

Summer at the ski resorts: Congress must proceed very carefully with Udall’s bill

It appears that there is not really specific details as to what kind of development these resorts can proceed with and seems to allow for water parks and numerous other “suburban” style theme park facilities which conservationists object to on public lands, they have a valid point.

Summer at the ski resorts: Congress must proceed very carefully with Udall’s bill. By Erika Stutzman. The Daily Camera.

Congressmen to hear resident’s testimony

Congressmen to hear resident’s testimony
By Thomas Dewell, Jackson Hole, Wyo

McCarthy’s testimony will focus on the Outdoor Alliance’s perspective that public lands are vital in combating climate change because of their role in ecosystem adaptation, their natural ability to sequester carbon, their potential for renewable energy projects such as wind farms and solar arrays, and that they provide the opportunity for Americans to stay connected to the natural world.

The eons-old Grand Canyon celebrates its 90th birthday as a national park.

Happy Birthday, Grand Canyon National Park! By Ray Stern. Phoenix New Times.

It’s the Wilderness, Stupid

Why can’t we understand that wilderness should be a big part of our economic future?

It’s the Wilderness, Stupid
By Bill Schneider

The View from the Divide

Wyoming wilderness outfitters Tory and Meredith Taylor share a rare treat ~

The View from the Divide: Four Decades in Wyoming Wilderness – Tory & Meredith Taylor

Northern Rockies Wilderness Bill Back in Congress

Bill Would Designate 24 Million Acres of Inventoried Roadless Land as Wilderness.

Northern Rockies Wilderness Bill Back in Congress

After many years of failure, will this be the year?

By Bill Schneider, 2-11-09

This Bill is sponsored and presented by Raul Grijalva among others but is widely opposed by the usual suspects from Wyoming and Idaho…

Lummis should vote for public lands bill

Star-Tribune Editorial Board


Don Simon Art: Unnaturalism

Don Simon Art: Unnaturalism. “Images of an evolving world” by artist Don Simon

This is an interesting perspective on the human affect on wildlife and wilderness. (Audio/Visual).

Scientist see holes in glacier on Redoubt volcano

Parts of glacier high on the mountain begin to melt-

Scientist see holes in glacier. By Dan Joling. Associated Press Writer

– – – –

Keep up with all the Alaska volcanoes at the Alaska Volcano Observatory

Salazar to take preservation nationwide – Interior secretary to use Colorado land-conservation program as model.

This is an interesting development in the DOI agenda under Secretary Salazar with this being his first public comment on his plans for a national preservation program. The questions begin with concerns about whom the actual beneficiaries would be? And just how would this program be implemented by anti-federal regulation interior western extractive interest promoting state legislative bodies? Another concern would be just what the definition of a “working farm” is with regard to such a program and would it really be considered “change”?

Salazar to take preservation nationwide – Interior secretary to use Colorado land-conservation program as model
by Joe Hanel – Herald Denver Bureau

Off-road vehicle use fuels tension, violence across U.S.

Most violence over private property and those who try to enforce the law-

This is according to USA Today. By Emily Bazar.

Avalanche danger high

Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and other Western Idaho have ideal conditions for getting killed in the mountains-

Avalanche danger rated ‘high’ in central Idaho. Backcountry travelers advised to stay home until danger subsides. By Jason Kaufman. Idaho Mountain Express.

Northern Utah: Beacon saves avalanche victim at Big Cottonwood ridgeline. By Lindsay Whitehurst. The Salt Lake Tribune.

Storm drops 30 inches in Jackson, WY. Jackson Hole Daily. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Avalanche claims life at Jackson Hole ski resort. Montana’s News Station. com

Two snowmobilers killed in Utah avalanche [on Mt. Logan above Logan, UT]. CNN

2 Snowmobilers Killed in Grand Lake Backcountry Avalanche [Colorado]. Denver Post

Avalanche closes Loveland Pass. Vail Daily

Posted in The Great Outdoors. Tags: . Comments Off on Avalanche danger high

Bald Eagle count is up at Lake Coeur d’Alene

Good news on North Idaho bald eagles-

Bald eagle count rises sharply in northern Idaho. AP

For those not familiar with North Idaho, Lake Coeur d’Alene is a large and deep lake in Idaho’s Panhandle area.


Papiroflexia (Spanish for “Origami”) is the animated tale of Fred, a skilful paper folder who could shape the world with his hands.

Read the rest of this entry »

Injured climber on Mt. Adams survives on insects and berries

Centipedes tasted like Doritos and ants were spicy-

Mountain survivor recalls bug diet on Wash. slope. By Mary Hudetz. Associated Press Writer

I’ve been in the central Idaho backcountry

Since Friday, I’ve been mostly in the central Idaho backcountry. So there have been just a few posts.

It’s incredible how much of central Idaho has burned since 2000 when I finished my last edition of Hiking Idaho.

On the other hand, at the present autumn colors are just tremendous.

Warm Springs Creek. Frank Church Wilderness. Burned out in 2007. October 6, 2008. Copyright Ralph Maughan
Warm Springs Creek. Frank Church Wilderness. Burned out in 2007. October 6, 2008. Copyright Ralph Maughan Read the rest of this entry »

Leave no child inside

With all of the technology and busy parents trying to keep up with this rat-race economy, it can be really easy to forget how much our kids need to be outside enjoying the natural world :

Leave no child insideMissoula Independent Online

It shouldn’t take a rocket-scientist to tell us that outside is better for the kids, even so, studies show it’s true. It’s true for you and I too. For my part, I fall into that busy place all-too often, hell, I’m probably there right now. How about you?

Time to take the kids out…

Wild Forests and Landscape Amnesia

The Aug. 2008 The International Journal of Wilderness has a fine article by George Wuerthner.

Most of the rural East has become reforested as agricultural has shifted and these relatively marginal lands for cultivation have grown back into forests.

It may appear the old forest has now been considerably restored, but Wuerthner argues we hardly even know what the orginal forest was like. The new forest is something quite different, and “mere sticks and ghosts compared to past glory.”

Uppermost West Fork of the Pahsimeroi

It’s hot where I’m at.  It’s good to think about where it’s not so much the case:

Snow melts in August in the uppermost West Fork of the Pahsimeroi.


August Snow © Katie Fite 2008

Wildflowers follow…

Read the rest of this entry »

Bad news for outdoors lovers: West Nile mutates in a bad way

The West Nile virus menace has now spread across most of North America, but it abates with frost and hot and dry weather that kills the virus-spreading mosquitoes.

Now it has mutated to be able to better withstand hot weather.

All diseases have their politics, as we have seen with brucellosis, AIDS, avian flu, MRSA, e. coli food contamination, etc.

The failure to develop a vaccine is another failure of the Bush Administration. In fact, the absence of any effort by the President to deal with this menace as it spread was the first clue to me that the weapons of mass destruction argument about Iraq was phoney because the sudden invasion of New York City by the virus by a viral agent given to Saddam Hussein back when he was the Reagan and Bush I Administration’s buddy in the fight against Iran, was the best candidate for a biological warfare attack, aside from the obvious anthrax attack in 2001.

Northern America May Suffer New West Nile Outbreaks. RedOrbit.

Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)

Learning goes into the wild

Earlier we had a thread on being exposed to the outdoors and a life long interest in wildlife/conservation/fitness, etc.

I had no idea that “Congress is considering A No Child Left Inside Act that would make federal funds available for environmental education.”

What a good idea!

Story in the Denver Post. Learning goes into the wild. By Nancy Lofholm. The Denver Post

“Keep It Colorado” aims to raise and spend $800-million to conserve open space, wildlife

This is a very ambitious program, far exceeding the size of all federal efforts. It is a plan for Colorado only. Perhaps 1/4 of the money would come from and oil and gas severance tax. The bulk would be raised privately in cash or land donations.

Open space dreams to protect wild. Coalition’s goal would help protect land in 24 regions. By Jerd Smith, Rocky Mountain News

Update 4-25. Ritter gets behind severance tax initiative. By Ann Imse, Rocky Mountain News

Children increasingly disconnected from nature

Some of my very first and best memories (I must have been about 3 years old) are of the outdoors. By that I don’t mean the lawn or a favorite tree.

My grandfather located and developed mining properties . . . unsuccessfully when I was boy because he was in his mid-70s, but he recruited my father and uncles to help during the summer.

I recall that for day after day, they would climb up the mountain above Hyrum, Utah. I’d ride on my father’s back. Later they build a road and we’d go up in the truck to the Moon Mine prospect.

While they worked, I was left to sit on edge of the prospect surrounded by sagebrush with a view of Cache Valley, Utah spread below. There was the occasional rattlesnake, the mountain slope was a slightly steep, I might have been stung by a bee, perhaps there were scorpions. The situation would be regarded as incorrect by those who give advice on child rearing.

It was wonderful . . . glorious!!. The world was so new, green, and the valley with the Wellsvelle Mountains rising on the other side seemed endless. To me the world was welcome and so right. I have never stopped loving the outdoors.

While only a few children have an experience like that, my path was already partially set. I never stopped loving the outdoors.

Today few children are given a connection to the outdoors. Undue fear of hazards, dangerous people, and the enticements of video games, television, and the computer stand in the way.

As far as formal education, 8 years of George Bush’s misconceived “no child left behind” that ignores physical activity and outdoor education, has already ruined half of generation. This will have profound  negative effects for our future.

The article below worries about Montana’s outdoor recreation economy, but the problem is much deeper than that.

Numbers bode poorly for recreation tourism. By Daniel Person. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

Beaverhead Forest Plan revision

This southwest Montana national forest is the largest in Montana, with many mountain ranges, splendid backcountry and scenic frontcountry as well. There are many species of wildlife. I could go on, but the important point is that the comment period on the new forest plan has been extended to the end of April.

Not only has there been controversy from off-road vehicle users, various conservation organizations have had differing perspectives.

Hoping folks will comment, here is some information from 3 conservation sources and the Forest Service. Please add more links as you wish in the comments.

Defending the West is virtue

‘Barb’ commented on a post that Ralph wrote a year ago today. It deserves to be reposted on its first birthday.

Defending the West is virtue

At Potamogeton Park, Madison Range, Montana. Gallatin National Forest. Photo by Ralph Maughan

Park Service: Ely, Nevada coal-fired power plant plan ‘unacceptable’

The National Park Service has come out against the giant coal-fired electrical generating plant planned for north of Ely, Nevada. Now it and majority leader Harry Reid are in opposition as well as it appear local residents.

Park Service: Ely, Nevada coal-fired power plant plan ‘unacceptable‘. Elko Daily Free Press.

Utah legislators’ letter offends American freedom

The Salt Lake Tribune features an article about a letter that a couple of Utah legislators wrote associating wilderness designation in the state with aiding terrorists. Letter links wilderness, threats of terror. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance takes the brunt of these bumbling assaults on preserving wild places, wilderness that when properly protected actualizes the most potent and important manifestations of genuine public freedom remaining – the wild.

“Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

– Aldo Leopold 1949 A Sand County Almanac

Page for discussing Wildlife Watchers

There needs to be a special page of this important topic.

Go to it.

Fires and the Idaho hunting season

Idaho Fish and Game has some info on closures and possible effects on the hunt.

Fires close backcountry trails, roads. Idaho Fish and Game.

Posted in The Great Outdoors, Wildfires. Comments Off on Fires and the Idaho hunting season

Majority leader Senator Harry Reid, now opposes Nevada coal plants!

“U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he’ll do everything I can to stop construction of three major coal-fired power plants in his home state of Nevada and will push for more alternative energy development.”

Reid had seemed to be neutral to leaning toward the coal plants. They are being proposed not because Nevada has a lot or coal or water, it has neither,  but it has a lot of clean air. Power companies apparently think this clean air is being wasted.

This is welcome news in the fight against global warming, curbing the mercury pollution that Nevada sends to neighboring states (from open pit gold mines), and keeping Nevada’s wide open spaces places where you can see for miles and miles.

Story By Brendan Riley. Reid Opposes Coal-Fired Plants in Nevada. AP

As great as campfires can be, sometimes they just aren’t worth it

“Zimo” questions the need for a campfire, especially during the hot dry summer. Campfires are now banned in southern and central Idaho for the rest of the summer except in developed campgrounds. Nevertheless, people are still building them and accidentally starting larger fires.

As great as campfires can be, sometimes they just aren’t worth it. Idaho Statesman.

On fires, smoke, and the changing prime time for outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West.

On fires, smoke, and the changing prime time for outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West.
By Ralph Maughan
I’ve been posting a lot of stories about wildfires, but that seems like the dominant factor in the outdoors to me right now in Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Western Wyoming. Everyday about 9 am to as late as noon, the sky at Pocatello, Idaho becomes covered by high smoke, visibility decreases. Everything is hot and washed out in appearance.

I started seriously exploring the backcountry in these states when I was 25 years old, and some of you might have noticed the newstories about my recent retirement (age 62). One of the biggest changes over 35 years is the months for the best “summer” recreation. Back in the late 70s and early 1980s, it was mid-June until about mid-August. Prior to mid-June there was too much snow in the mountains. Now the prime time is early May to July. Early May snowpack is similar to mid-June snowpack of 30 years ago.

Before 1980, a large forest fire was an unusual event and in most Augusts, the air was quite clean in skies of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Now is it dirty almost every year from mid-July on due to the smoke from fires, near and and hundreds of miles away.

By late September the foul air is replaced by the clean and cool air of autumn.

Some people might take serious exception to what I have just written.

post 1310


Wildfire Location viewer. USGS. This looks like a very good way of keeping up with the location of the major fires.

Posted in Wildfires, The Great Outdoors. No Comments »

Though relatively small, Utah’s “Mathis fire” is number one firefighting priority in country.

This 1300-acre wildfire is burning in Utah’s coal country. There are numerous “de-gassing” bore holes present used to vent methane gas from mined-out sections of the numerous underground coal mines. So I presume the fire could set off mine explosions.

Story in the Salt Lake Tribune. By By Jason Bergreen and Mike Gorrell

Posted in The Great Outdoors, Wildfires. Comments Off on Though relatively small, Utah’s “Mathis fire” is number one firefighting priority in country.

Oregon State U. “Large carnivores promote healthy ecosystems by keeping browsers on edge”

Here is a good article about the benefits of cougar populations in Zion National Park. The deer have nearly eliminated cottonwood reproduction in Zion Canyon, the main tourist attraction. It is full of people and deer. The large number of people in this congested canyon have scared away the cougar. There are a huge number of tame deer, which anyone who has been there has seen. There are no cottonwood seedlings, few flowers, and not many other species either except wild turkeys.

In nearby, unvisited canyons the biodiversity is much greater due to the indirect effects of the presence of cougar.

The hypothesis, called the “Ripple effect” is still controversial. It is named after OSU Professor William Ripple’s hypothesis that the presence of large predators creates a “landscape of fear” among ungulates, serving to keep them from eating so much in riparian zones. The improved conditions in riparian zones ripples throughout the ecoystem leading to many important secordary and third level changes.

Wolves have been reported to be having a similar effect in Yellowstone on aspen, willows, and cottonwood.

Large carnivores promote healthy ecosystems by keeping browsers on edge From Terra, the world of research at Oregon State University.

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Posted in Deer, The Great Outdoors, wildcats, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Oregon State U. “Large carnivores promote healthy ecosystems by keeping browsers on edge”

Hiking adjacent to Pocatello today

One of the great things about living in a public state, especially a serious public land state like Idaho, is the backcountry quickly available. This is uplands today at 4:30 PM above Lead Draw, a 5-minute drive from my house and a one hour hike.

Since the Sierra Club, the Pocatello Trail Machine Assn., the Forest Service, and Bannock County worked to block Lead Draw off to full-sized vehicles and ATVs, the mule deer herd has come back to the drainage. I counted 48 deer today in a 2-hour hike. Five years ago I hardly ever saw any in Lead Draw. Photo Ralph Maughan 4:13PM on 3-31-07

Defending the West is virtue


At Potamogeton Park, Madison Range, Montana. Gallatin National Forest. Photo by Ralph Maughan

I believe that spending as much of your life as possible defending the Western lands, water, air and wildlife is an act of pure virtue.Your actions needs no other justification, but make sure you get plenty of time out on the land so that it doesn’t get to be an abstraction. Turning into a symbol rather than a presence is dangerous.whitepine9.jpg

White Pine Range, north central Nevada. Humboldt National Forest. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

My take on Tim Treadwell-

My take on Tim Treadwell-
By Ralph Maughan

Few stories on this web page gain more readers than those about Tim Treadwell’s death, and that of his girlfriend Amie Huguenard.

In the great scheme of things, the death of two people isn’t much. It’s the way they died. People are fascinated and horrified, but not satisfied. They want to know more because they are hungry—not for flesh, but hungry for the unusual. Their appetite will be satisfied when the story is digested in the juices of their own life experiences and their prejudices. Not many people get eaten by wild animals anymore, so talking about it, writing about it, and watching a documentary is a feast.

Maker of “Grizzly Man,” Werner Hertzog is little different than the rest of us except he has the knack of telling about the unusual in a visually compelling way.

I draw on my experiences as a life long explorer of Western wilderness areas. The best wilderness is where the scenery is magnificent, where human presence is distant, and where death in a violent but unusual fashion is a real, if still unlikely possibility. Death not by cancer, death not in dementia, death not by vehicle accident, death not by mugging, but death instead by a slip, a mistake, a failure to read natural dangers. Most unusual in our overpopulated world is death by what we see as our lessers—big animals.

An unfound body would be best. The saddest thing about the grizzly that ate Treadwell and Huguenard was that it was found, killed, and worse, their partially digested remains were mostly recovered. Would it have been their abandoned camp found and nothing else.

Country with grizzlies has a special tingle. Unlike Treadwell you don’t have see them. I try not to. “Hey bear” I shout when I approach a patch of willows. I don’t camp on bear trails. I carry pepper spray.

I remember every detail of my four close encounters with grizzlies. Only one was truly dangerous. Alone on Hellroaring Slopes in Yellowstone, I crested a rise. About 75-100 feet away was a sow with her two cubs digging for rodents. Their backs were toward me and I was standing next to the only tree in the meadow. Fortunately, it was a Douglas fir with branches like stair steps, which I immediately climbed. So quickly she was just below me. I must have climbed 40 feet and waited, not able to see her, let alone her eyes, for all the foliage. A couple hours later I came down and looked in all directions before I continued along the Yellowstone River.

It’s hard to get people to hike or backpack with you in grizzly country. I want to thank my friends who have, especially my wife Jackie and my friend Lee Mercer, whose ashes now flow down the Greybull and reside in the elk taken by the Greybull Pack and in the bears in this high country.

Mostly I am by myself. This kind of wilderness journey stirs the body and mind. Dark thoughts about the pillagers of the Earth are common when you are out of range of the politicians, preachers, and advertisers. It’s good not to have a video with sound when I think of these purveyors of fakery in the world of hyperreality. Unfortunately, Treadwell had a video his last several years, and Herzog edited it.

I don’t know if there were poachers near Treadwell’s summer home, or if he was just basking in the sun and rain. How real was the story of his past? I don’t know. Did he “get what he deserved” as his antagonists proclaim? After thirteen glorious summers doing pretty much “everything wrong” I’d say “yes he did!” Twelve out of thirteen ain’t bad!

Of Annie Huguenard, I can’t say. But my experience is that outdoors women are as brave, probably more than men, and they are wise enough not to push things.

Before feasting on all the wonderful video Treadwell shot over the years, ethically speaking, Herzog should have been required to camp alone among the bears for a week. Then he would have some status to tell us what he saw in a grizzly’s eyes.

Copyright © Ralph Maughan

“Wild Bill” says “the America the Beautiful Pass sends a strong message”

. . . and the message is a negative one.

Read his column in New West.

He points out that the entire newly imposed structure of fees to fund recreation on our public lands has been established by “midnight” riders to appropriations bills, “temporary programs” that somehow became permanent, or provisions buried deep within complex legislation. There was never a straight up or down vote in Congress to see how members of Congress really stood on making this fundamental change, so contrary to past traditions.

I’ll say it’s an affront to democracy, and yet another reason why Congress needed the big housecleaning it got, and maybe need still more. Meanwhile, pony up to buy your “America the Beautiful Pass.”


Here is government information (web site) on the pass that goes on sale Jan. 1, 2007

Nature programs’ goal: No child left inside

There was a story in the LA Times today by Julie Cart (no link, it’s a link unfriendly newspaper) that visits to national parks are dropping and there seems to be a general ignorance of actual outdoors by today’s children due to lack of experience.

Here is a story on at least a beginning at changing that.

Nature programs’ goal: No child left inside. USA Today. By Wendy Koch,