Species Parade, Episode 21

When is a not-with-your-own-eyes-sighting a sighting?

Mountain lion, as seen on game camera

For several days and nights this summer, I’ve been ponying the horses down to a small parcel of Bureau of Land Management land for some grazing while I camp overnight. Years ago, the parcel had a grazing allotment which meant that sheep grazed there for months at a time. The shepherd was not a terribly good steward and that the allotment went away, according to a BLM official.

In any case, it has been a fun place to camp with the horses, who are bound to a few hundred acres by virtue of the steep canyon walls and barbed wire fencing of private land to the south.

But it all came to an abrupt end this month. At about midnight one night, I heard a bit of a crash, then nothing more. I decided against investigating, erring on the side of sleepiness (Later, I would thank myself for this digression.)

In the morning, I inspected the horses. My big mare, Shea, had a bad scratch on one hind leg and lesser scratches on her chest. Nothing of terrible concern.

Cat scratches on our burro, Wallace

But Wallace, the burro, had scratches that clearly, obviously, frighteningly, indicated he’d been attacked by a mountain lion. They were three parallel scratches on each side of his tail.

I talked to several locals about what happened, including a game warden. They speculate that the lion was either quite young or quite old and trying to see what it could manage with this attack. Thankfully, not much. Wallace needed only minor medical care. I swabbed his superficial scratches with diluted iodine.

I’m not one to tempt fate, though, especially when it comes to the welfare of our animals. We’re done with BLM overnights.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I caught this big fella on the game camera. (photo at right)

Read about a dog’s death in the rural West.

Mammals:

Coyote

Elk

Mule Deer

Cottontail Rabbit

Bears are hungry and more visible due to lack of acorns (because of a late frost)

Brush Mouse

Rock Squirrel

Golden Mantled Squirrel

Chipmunk

Pocket Gopher

Skunk

Raccoon

Abert’s Squirrel

Muskrat

Marmot

Bobcat

Mountain Lion

Black Bear

Spotted Sandpiper

Birds:

Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Nuthatch

House Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Red-Winged Black Bird

Canada Goose

Mallard

Gadwall

Great Blue Heron

Townsend’s Solitaire

Mountain Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Kingfisher

Red Shafted Flicker

Red-winged Blackbird

Steller’s Jay

Black Capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

American Crow

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco (and its many varieties)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Red-Tailed Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Spotted Sandpiper

Lesser Goldfinch

Starling

American Robin

Great Horned Owl

Western Screech Owl

Rufous Hummingbird

American Coot

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Common Poor Will

Nighthawk

 

Outdoor Retailer Bestuvs

Imagine you’re at a mall on the weekend before Christmas and all the crowds around you are fit, driven, and over-caffeinated. That’s pretty much the scene at the Outdoor Retailer at the Salt Palace convention center. Thousands of vendors and tens of thousands of buyers, managers, and working media types (like me) are meeting. It’s easy to be overwhelmed.

Among the offerings, there are a lot of technical pieces (specialized climbing rope, specialized paddle boards, specialized watches, specialized phone chargers, etc., etc.) bright, snappy clothing, and the latest on how to bring domesticity into the back country. We managed to whittle through the morass and find some excellent (and perhaps overlooked) products:

Good to Go – this Maine-based company, led by an accomplished and adventurous chef, takes the same ol’, same ol’ out of camp meals.

Pull Start Fire – taking the wishing and finger-crossing out of campfires, even in the rain.

Rite in the Rain – notebooks and writing implements that work, even in the rain.

Duckworth Wool – wool from Montana, crafted into fabulous clothing in North and South Carolina. We’re verrryy keen on this new company. Review of their Vapor t-shirt coming soon.

Benchmade – we found some female-friendly knives from this Oregon company. Review coming soon.

Green Goo – natural salves from this women-owned Colorado company. We love their Travel Packs, which come with lip balm, first aid and pain relief salves, and bug spray.

Adventure Medical – We love their Me and My Dog first aid kits. An essential for your barn, truck, or camper.

Bullfrog – horse riders sweat, too! We dig their sweat-resistant, sunscreen/bug repellant combination lotion.

And it was fun to visit with Bullfrog’s celebrity kayaker Nick Troutman, too. Read more at UtahOutsider. 

Klean Kanteen – this company sets the bar for doing the right thing in a complicated market. It’s a B Corporation and is especially innovative and transparent. “We adhere to the triple bottom line: People, Planet, then Profit,” said one representative at the OR. Aside from that, we love their new colors and kits. Check out there starter Coffee Kit here. 

Stanley – the company’s Switchback mug gets the prize for no-spill, no-drip To Go mug. It’s also pretty easy to clean between uses.

OsanaBar – a new, awesome-smelling, mosquito repellent soap that works! The company also has an excellent charitable arm. It supplies soap to communities threatened by malaria, the sometimes deadly disease carried by mosquitos.

LL Bean – the Maine company continues to introduce fun, tough, not-your-gramma’s clothing. The colors and fabrics are perfect for us horse riders. We love their Back Cove Heathered tee, their Luna jacket, and their Whisper Lodge flannel. 

Whisper Lodge flannel shirt from LL Bean

Rattlesnake Avoidance Pays Off

Here in Colorado, one niggling impediment to carefree hiking and riding is the prospect of rattlesnake encounters. The possibility of harm and crisis – for horses, humans, and dogs – is enough to motivate several preventative strategies.

There’s not a lot we can do for horses aside from education, preparation, and embracing our ability to keep calm and to keep the horse calm. Check out these helpful articles:

UC Davis report on rattlesnake issues

Wyoming newspaper column on rattlesnakes and horses

Horse blogger’s tips for rattlesnake encounters

Dogs are different and we can help them out a lot more tangibly. Like Frontline and other topical tick deterrents, the rattlesnake vaccine may help. Research is somewhat equivocal but my dogs have all been vaccinated. With it, my 30-pound sprite, Peeko, might survive long enough to get to the vet. The vaccine may also help significantly reduce the vet bill and the bite’s overall impact on the dog.

JJ Belcher works with Kip

JJ Belcher works with Kip

Another preventative measure is a Rattlesnake Avoidance class, something my dogs unwittingly enrolled in last weekend. It involves a shock collar, a big-ass rattlesnake (who goes by the name Brian, is 12 years old, at least five feet long, thick as a Campbell’s soup can, and has had his venom glands surgically removed), and an experienced canine trainer from Arizona. Watch video. Read more about JJ Belcher and Sublime Canine here.

Individually, the trainer led Kip, Peeko, and Monty to the snake. When they got curious, they were hit with a jolt from the collar. Later, Belcher returned with each dog to visit Brian. My dogs had caught on quickly; as soon as they spied the snake, they went in the other direction. When I led each dog to a bag full of snake sheds, they also steered clear.

Lesson of the Day: Stay away from something that looks or smells or moves like Brian. I was pretty confident that the education would stick. Little did I know, we’d put the training to the test almost immediately.

Jessica Kahn trains with her dog, Remington, and JJ Belcher

I was ponying a group of horses and my dogs were tagging along, off leash. We had a mile of gravel road to cover. Halfway, we encountered a rattler in the middle of the road, coiled up and ready to take on all comers. I think I saw a brief flash of curiosity, but then the dogs steered clear. Hooray!

A few days later, we saw another rattlesnake on the same stretch of road. The dogs came close (a few yards), almost by accident, but otherwise did not approach or return to it. Hooray II!

Avoidance training, said JJ Belcher, is not like ordinary obedience. It’s important not to encourage dogs to check out dead rattlers. Contact should be discouraged. For more on that, check out Sublime Canine.

Monty learns that steering clear of rattlers is optimal.

 

Hasta la Vista, Utah

The Outdoor Retailer, the multi-million dollar exposition force which lived in Salt Lake City for 21 years, has pulled up stakes and is headed to neighboring Colorado. Beginning in January, 2018, the OR will be hosted by Denver.

Read this open letter to Utah from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

Read Washington Post article on the OR departure from Salt Lake City.

Thanks to Utah’s unfriendly policies and rhetoric towards public land and wilderness stewardship, the twice-a-year event, which draws tens of thousands of outdoor recreationalists and retailers, will take its $45 million annual local contribution to the Mile High State.

It’s too bad Utah representatives, Emerald Expositions (which owns the OR) along with its show partner, the Outdoor Industry Association could not come to terms with the disharmony.

Can’t say as I blame the OR. I drive through Moab often enough. I’ve lived near the public lands of the Oquirrh mountains. I’ve come to the conclusion that many Utahns are either ignorant about environmental stewardship or hell-bent on manhandling and molesting beautiful public lands. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, among Utahns and Utah spaces. But overall, it’s ugly stuff.

It’s a shame the predominantly Mormon population doesn’t embrace a more sustainable approach.

I found this on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints newsroom pages:

“Approaches to the environment must be prudent, realistic, balanced and consistent with the needs of the earth and of current and future generations, rather than pursuing the immediate vindication of personal desires or avowed rights. The earth and all life upon it are much more than items to be consumed or conserved. God intends His creations to be aesthetically pleasing to enliven the mind and spirit, and some portions are to be preserved. Making the earth ugly offends Him.”

If only.

Species Parade, Episode 20

Lazuli Bunting

There’s a case to be made against dog companions. They warn and ward off animals you might otherwise be privileged to see. Then again, if you pay attention to what dogs notice and if you keep them obedient, you can reduce disturbing wildlife and benefit from dogs’ observations.

Thanks to dogs, I’d like to think I’m more in touch with my place in the country and more aware of our impact. Particularly, I’m keenly aware of how much we humans impact wildlife survival. Even good intentions have negative consequences: a tub of fresh water drowns a baby bird.

I practice Leave No Trace but when you think about it, Leave No Trace is an practical and existential onion with multiple layers. There’s so much impact we aren’t aware of or don’t acknowledge.

56 species for this episode. (And likely another 50 that I did not see.)

Mammals:

Coyote

Elk

Turkey displays, in hopes of saving chick (which coyote is eating)

Mule Deer

Cottontail Rabbit

Brush Mouse

Rock Squirrel

Golden Mantled Squirrel

Chipmunk

Pocket Gopher

Skunk

Raccoon

Abert’s Squirrel

Muskrat

Marmot

Bobcat

Birds:

Adolescent bear and chipping sparrow

Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Nuthatch

House Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Red-Winged Black Bird

Canada Goose

Mallard

Gadwall

Great Blue Heron

Townsend’s Solitaire

Mountain Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Kingfisher

Red Shafted Flicker

Red-winged Blackbird

Steller’s Jay

Black Capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

American Crow

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco (and its many varieties)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Red-Tailed Hawk

Starling

American Robin

Great Horned Owl

Western Screech Owl

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Common Poor Will

Nighthawk

Indigo Bunting

Lazuli Bunting

The Perfect Shoe for Back Country Wanderlust

Editor’s Note: We hear this week from guest columnist Aidan Gaughran. The ColoradoOutsider played four seasons of NCAA soccer at Dickinson College before joining the Peace Corps and heading to Panama. Now back in the States, he’s busy catching up on hikes and treks in southwestern Colorado.

Gaughran writes:

Most of the time I go outside, I do not travel on predetermined routes. One moment I can be on a well-traveled trail; the next I can be bushwhacking through the woods; the next I

Salomon Odyssey Pro

could be climbing over rock debris.

I never know precisely where the adventure calls, nor the precise terrain my feet will pass over. I value spontaneity and the ability to change course on a whim. In this regard, the Salomon Odyssey Pro makes an ideal partner-in-crime.

The first thing you will notice is that these shoes are ready to go right out of the box. They seemed already broken-in to my feet, an impressive feat considering a) my wide feet and b) that the shoes are advertised as Hiking Shoes.

Most hiking shoes require a get-to-know-you period. Not these ones. They weigh a slim 11.6 ounces, and with the Ortholite impressions (soles) and mesh/nylon upper layer, it feels as if you are wearing a light, athletic sneaker.

Out on the trail (wherever that may be), you start to notice the shoes’ hiking attributes. The Odyssey has a thick midsole – but not thick so as to be chunky or unsavory on the eyes – that keeps the feet cushioned and supported for those longer, higher-mileage days.

It has an outsole that whisks away small debris and that seems to grip whatever terrain the trail throws at it. The marriage between the support and the light, athletic upper is the shoes’ defining quality, and is the main reason why I love it.

I’m not sure how the shoe would handle extended, multi-day trips, but if I was leaving tomorrow, I would probably take the Odyssey Pro over other options.

I recently ran a half-marathon, in which half the terrain was pavement and the other a mix of dirt and gravel on uneven, up-and-down terrain. I wore the Odysseys. The next morning, most everything in my body ached – except for my feet.

Remember when ‘unplugged’ wasn’t a thing?

Now I see the secret of making the best persons: It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. Walt Whitman

Summertime is my favorite time ‘to grow in the open air.’ Mostly I’ve been camping with my horses on nearby parcel of Bureau of Land Management Land where the area’s steep ridges serve as fences. I can camp without putting up fencing and let the topography and the abutting private fencing do the trick.

It’s quiet. Actually, it’s pretty noisy with bird calls, but little else.

Before cell phones and the Internet, we could get away like this without any thought of being ‘out of pocket’ or ‘unplugging’ or ‘unavailable and out of cell range.’

Now, getting away is either extra cool or extra inconvenient, depending on the person. The electronic leash has wormed its way into our psyches and intellect.

First and foremost, ‘getting away’ (camping, backpacking, horse riding, etc.) is now seen as a deliberate breaking away from connectivity. Actually enjoying the backcountry seems secondary in many people’s minds. It’s like we don’t have the mental tenacity to disconnect when otherwise we could be connected. We need the connectivity to fail us because we’re too feeble-minded to disconnect on our own.

Once that happens, though, we give ourselves permission to relish the surroundings. We give ourselves a hall pass to being present.

Will we enjoy the wilderness less when connectivity reaches us there, too?

 

Sturdy Salomons Make for Happier Hiking

Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX

I live at about 7,500 feet elevation. If I’m not walking north and south on a flat gravel road, I’m heading up steep climbs to the east and west. The ridges rise quickly to 8,500 feet and the terrain is variant, with plenty of sandstone boulders to navigate.

I try to scramble up to these ridges several times a week for the rich reward: views of the LaPlata mountains in the San Juan National Forest, Mesa Verde National Park, and even Shiprock, the impressive monolith on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

The Salomon Speed Cross trail shoes have suited me well, but when I found myself sometimes switching to heavier hiking boots, I knew a swap was in order.

Enter the Salomon X Ultra GTX (which, if ColoradoOutsider had any say, would be renamed Happy Hiker).

Up and away with the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX

At about one pound for the pair, the X Ultra GTX is five ounces heavier than the SpeedCross. Here’s what you gain with those added ounces:

– greater stability in the heel

– more toe protection

– tougher, more durable and waterproof coverage.

The X Ultra GTX is still a quarter the weight of most leather hiking boots and as I rarely carry more than 10-15 pounds in a daypack, this shoe was the perfect middle ground between the more serious, clunky hikers and the less solid trail running shoe.

Those of us with iffy ankles will love the protective heel cap which keeps the back of the foot stable, especially when moving along the sides of ridges.

The Quicklace system is easy and capable except when you want to snug up the toe area for steep descents; the thin cords tend to work less well than traditional, thicker laces. But thick laces also attract burrs, seeds, and thorns which can work their way aggravatingly to your feet over the course of a hike and make plucking them out of the shoe an unwelcome daily ritual. Not so here. The X Ultra GTX virtually sheds sticky vegetation.

These shoes are built with GoreTex and therefore shed water. This feature might not be so vital here in southwestern Colorado, but is an excellent feature for wetter climes.

Excellent grip on boulders

Species Parade, Episode 19

The snow is mostly gone. Migrating birds are mostly back. It is a noisy place around here and I find myself scrambling to identify birds by call. Why do the need for a refresher course every year? And did you know that Steller’s Jays sometimes mimic Red-tailed Hawks?

I’m especially fond of raptors, even though I struggle with identification. Seeing two Golden Eagles hang out on BLM land (where I have camped) and these two Red-tailed Hawks together is a special treat.

Next month, the game camera goes up and I’ll hope to add bear and who-knows-what-else to the list. 45 species this time around.

Mammals:

Coyote

Elk

Mule Deer

Cottontail Rabbit

Brush Mouse

Rock Squirrel

Golden Mantled Squirrel

Pocket Gopher

Skunk

Raccoon

Birds:

Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Nuthatch

House Sparrow

Red-Winged Black Bird

Canada Goose

Mallard

Gadwall

Great Blue Heron

Townsend’s Solitaire

Mountain Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Kingfisher

Red Shafted Flicker

Red-winged Blackbird

Steller’s Jay

Black Capped Chickadee

American Crow

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco (and its many varieties)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Red-Tailed Hawk

Starling

American Robin

Great Horned Owl

Western Screech Owl

Hummingbird (un-id’ed)

Bring back Wild West Journalism

You might think we journalists struggle more than other folks when accusations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” splash across our virtual desktops.

That’s because the attack is not just on liberal news outlets but on media and the propagation of information in general. It’s an attack on journalism’s basic mission to fairly inform readers.

I may be a reporter but I’m also a reader. And when university research shows that most people think that we journalists are actually enemies of the state, well, let’s just say I can take a hint. (For those of you who are so darn persnickety about sources, I’m referring to the recent Suffolk University poll which shows that two-thirds of Fox News watchers believe that mainstream media is the enemy of the people.),

I’ve seen a lawyer! I’ve seen the light!

Party line! Party on!

Wild West journalism is so much more fun anyway. Remember when frontier reports promised water and farmland aplenty to any Easterner with an ear to bend? Remember when reports of “Gold in Them Thar Hills” was the real, honest-to-god headline on news stands?

Author Timothy Snyder reminded me of Wild West journalism in a recent interview. He said:

“In the descent from a world of factual discourse into a world of emotions and alternative realities, the first step you take… [is to] manufacture lots of stuff that isn’t true. The second step is that you claim that everyone is like this. You spread this kind of cynicism that you shouldn’t really trust anybody…Once that belief spreads we’re then in the world …which is ripe for fascism.”

His book is called “On Tyranny” and he teaches at Yale. But the guy lacks a sense of humor, don’t you think? We need writers and reporters who are more easy-going and have better senses of humor. More and more, I look at my old journalism life and laugh.

I remember, for example, reporting on a large, intense animal cruelty case. Thanks to the coverage, the animal welfare officials investigated. Thanks to the coverage, the county District Attorney prosecuted. Scores of horses, goats, pigs, and other animals were removed from the abusers’ possession and the couple in question was convicted.

Not surprisingly, these folks did not appreciate the coverage and called it untrue and “fake news.”

I see their point of view now. More and more, the truth is just so much trouble. More and more, I prefer the news to reflect my social media newsfeed: sound bites and images that affirm my beliefs. No questioning or contrariness please. Embracing an ideology of doubt? No thanks!

When I was a young mom, I used to love meal times with my three sons. It was a time to bounce around ideas. I tried to extoll the French essayist Joseph Joubert: “The aim of an argument or discussion should be not victory but progress.”

Back then, I said.

— If we only listen to the news that makes us feel good, how do we grow?

— If journalists only write about approved topics with supportive bias, how is the reader (and therefore the greater society) helped?

— If we are not encouraged to ask questions, think critically, and occasionally argue, what’s the point of having a thinking brain and living in a community?

Back then, I thought that as reporters and readers we should be encouraged to dig deep, look for the sources’ angles, and weigh alternative points of view. We should be aware of conflicts of interests and ulterior motives. Abusers, people with something to hide, vested parties all routinely blame the messengers, I thought.

Around the dinner table and around the newsroom, I thought transparency and objectivity were good things. Discourse and shining the mirror back on ourselves? All good!

Now, thankfully, I’ve been liberated from the fray. If I was back at the table with my boys and they said something like “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me” I would scold them for not thinking about the math. You know – If A = B and B = C, then A = C. C’mon folks, learn it with me!

  • Discussion is Argument.
  • Argument is Verbal Combat.
  • Verbal Combat is Combat.
  • Combat is War.
  • War is bad.

We need more love in this world!

Some folks might say I’m slipping from Synder’s “fact-based discourse into an alternative reality promulgated mostly by emotions.”

But love is emotions, right? And even journalists want to be loved.

© Copyright ColoradoOutsider - Theme by Pexeto