On the Road

Drive – Eat – Sleep

I have been on the road for the last how many days? Here are some of my blurry memories, inspired by Karin Hesse, Aleutian Sparrow

Montana

The coal trains are running day and night. Where does the coal go?

Alberta

Oil and gas. Prairie and mountains. The first mosquitoes, oh no.

Extreme wildfire danger, already? It looked very dry…

British Columbia

Supernatural, indeed. Gas prices that made me weep.

Yukon

Bears, black and brown, mostly single bears, one sow with two cubs, one lone grizzly, moose, bison, stone sheep, dall sheep, bald eagles, a fox, coyotes. Not to say the world is intact up here, but there is a lot of wildlife to be seen from the road. Some lupines and butter cups where flowering.

Alaska

Welcome home. I got the stinky finger right away and was cut off, when I did not exceed the speed limit. There is so much space and so little traffic. It must be an Alaskan thing. I also had to take a class in Defensive Driving for my new job. Why me?

Nevertheless. The coastal ranges are stunning, if you care for remote and rugged mountains. It is end of May, there is still snow in the mountains. Nature is just awakening, in a hurry. Shiny new green leaves everywhere.

I am glad when I can park my car and not drive for 3 months. Peace.

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Conservation

Y2Y

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Kaskawulsh Glacier, Yukon


I did not know what Y2Y was until I discovered “Walking the Big Wild” by Karsten Heuer. As a young man, Karsten decided to travel from Yellowstone to the Yukon Territory by foot, ski, and canoe, following the trails of grizzly bears in the most rugged and remote ridges and valleys of the Rocky Mountains. This epic trip was in support of the Y2Y Conservation Initiative raising awareness for the need of wildlife corridors.

The establishment of wildlife corridors is a recent concept in wildlife conservation. Here is my current understanding how we got this point. National parks were created more than 100 years ago for the enjoyment of the people. We decided what that enjoyment was. In places like Yellowstone it was to protect the unique thermal features from human development. In Yosemite it was to protect the valley and the surrounding mountains from settlers, ranchers, and farmers. Some wildlife was also considered part of the enjoyment, such as bears and elk. Bears were fed and bear cubs were kept as pets and shown off by park personnel. Elk herds were considered great assets for a park to have. However, the initial mission of the national parks was not to protect wildlife. Wolves, for example were exterminated by hunters, trappers, army, and park rangers in Yellowstone National Park. By 1929 the last wolf had been killed in the nation’s first park. Apparently wolves were not considered part of the enjoyment at that time.

Over time studies by Aldo Leopold and Adolph Murie convinced park managers that predators are essential parts of intact ecosystems. Wolves were protected, even reintroduced, against much objection from a number of stakeholders, mostly ranchers. It was assumed that setting aside 2-5% of our lands for national parks would be sufficient to create small islands of “undisturbed” lands, which could sustain intact ecosystems. That number was later revised to 25% and up, which was never going to happen. There is no tolerance for national parks of that size. Not in a time, where for the first time the size of national monuments is reduced per presidential decree.

As an alternative to super parks, wildlife biologists suggested to create corridors, where wildlife can safely travel between protected or suitable habitats. The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative is one if those efforts to create a network of parks and connecting corridors that provide suitable wildlife habitats connecting otherwise isolated populations and thereby preventing local extinction.

Karsten Heuer’s book is not just about the adventure of hiking, skiing, and canoeing for more than 2200 miles in what’s left of the Rocky Mountains wilderness. During his trip he gave presentations to the public and the press about the purpose of his walk and the intentions of the Y2Y Conservation Initiative. You can imagine the kind of reactions he got. You may also be surprised how much appreciation and support there was from landowners, locals, and hunters.

The Y2Y Conservation Initiative was founded in 1993. Karsten completed his walk in 1999. 20 years later the program is still going strong. There have been ups and there have been downs. In 2004, Y2Y was recognized by the Canadian Geographic Society with a silver medal. Some parks were expanded, a lot of land has been developed. Reserve networks have been proposed in other states, such as New Mexico, Oregon, and Florida. Unfortunately, it appears we are just (2018) about to loose the last herd of caribou in the lower 48s. For them, it was too little, too late. This is the world we will be living in: land development and other human activities reduce the habitat required for sustaining healthy populations of wildlife. What was present in large abundance in the past, can be seen now only in parks and reserves. Tomorrow, you may have to visit a zoo, or go to your library and read about it in books…

The work is not done. I can only recommend this book. If you like it, there is a follow-up adventure: “Being caribou”. The author and his wife spent their honeymoon following the great caribou migration in Alaska. I would suggest, read the book first, then watch the amazing documentary.

If you want to follow up on the ongoing work of the Y2Y initiative please visit www.y2y.net.

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Note to self

Crossroads and Intersections

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“I see myself at crossroads in my life,
mapless, lacking bits of knowledge

then, the Moon breaks through,
lights up the path before me…”

John Geddes


Well, I definitely see myself at crossroads, not just a simple right or left turn. My map is full of intersections, highways and dirt roads. The problem is, which one to take. I know, the destination is not the important part, it’s the journey.

Maybe the Moon will shine tonight and tell me which way to go.

That’s the beauty (and dilemma) of seasonal work. Once the season comes to an end you have to make changes to your life. Move, idle, work? Search and choose…

I seem to be content with changing things up. After a couple of structured months with responsibilities for others and work schedules, leisure seems attractive. Then, after enjoying the great freedom for a while, a daily routine does not appear that bad.

Not working is not as easy as it sounds. The question of a purpose in life comes up. Once you have a work schedule that issue seems to be clouded over. With a lot of free time, it pops up.

Obviously, I have to much time to think…

I am probably going with Robert Frost. Have a great weekend, y’all.


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

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Nature

A Ride in the Park

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“The purpose of life is to live it,
to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Eleanor Roosevelt


Alright, it was a cold, clear night. For the first time in days I could see the surroundings of West Yellowstone. The town is still in hibernation, only locals frequent the supermarket, the bars, and the occasional  coffee shop. Everything else is till boarded up.

There are still 2 feet of snow on the ground, huge snow piles cover the parking lots.  Around ten o’clock I had my hot chocolate and a pastry, ready to roll. I was dressed like an explorer near the North pole, plastic double boots, fleece pants, insulated snow pants, fleece and soft shell, mittens, the whole yard. It felt right, given temps were still in the teens. Soon after the park entrance I encountered my first group of bison. Probably the first biker of the season. We checked each other out. Females and their young. We came to an agreement. Giving each other space…

A few miles later three big bulls…

Different story. They did not feel like budging, standing in the middle of the road, staring at me, not giving an inch. Luckily a maintenance worker came by in his pickup truck and offered me to stay on his safe side while passing the big boys. Hope they are gone on the way back 🙂

I rode 14 miles following the Madison river to the junction. Just north of the junction I found a thermal feature with bubbling water, a lot of steam and some hoar frost. That was beautiful.

On the way back I ran into 4 groups of other bikers, including a tandem. Bike season has started, even it is still nippy around here.

Luckily, the male bison were gone!

Can’t wait to shed some layers, although that may not happen soon, according to the forecast. It looks like snow and rain and wind for another week…

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Conservation

Car-free National Parks

“No more cars in national parks. Let the people walk. Or ride horses, bicycles, mules, wild pigs–anything–but keep the automobiles and the motorcycles and all their motorized relatives out. We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, legislative assemblies, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our national parks with the same deference, for they, too, are holy places. An increasingly pagan and hedonistic people (thank God!), we are learning finally that the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches. Therefore let us behave accordingly.”

Edward Abbey


I know, this is not a popular proposal. But it’s worth a thought.  I am sitting out a snow storm in April, waiting for the storm to move out, so I can ride my bicycle into Yellowstone National Park. It is still winter up here. Nevertheless, the Park Service has opened the roads for bicyclists, two weeks before they open the roads to cars. That’s the one chance to experience the interior of the park on bike before the summer onslaught.

Unfortunately the road to Old Faithful is still closed, due to heavy bear activity. Apparently the grizzlies have come out of hibernation and are munging on bison that have succumbed in the thermal areas to winter starvation.

Later this year, millions of tourists will line the roads and observe wildlife from the safety of their cars. Some will get out and try to ride a bison or get a selfie with a bear cub…

Not the park Ed envisioned.

 

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Inside Out

Hollowness

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“Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States.”

Walt Whitman, 1871


The above quote is from Walt Whitman’s essay “Democratic Vistas”. I recommend reading the whole piece, seriously.

“I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believ’d in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believ’d in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout.”

For five months I have been largely sheltered from the news. What a peaceful and harmonious experience in an otherwise chaotic and frantic world.

Unfortunately our internet was upgraded a week ago and I have gobbled up the news like a thirsty desert hiker. Only to be left feeling nauseous.

 

 

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Inside Out, Quote

Heaven Or Hell?

“Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.”

Benjamin Franklin Wade


First I though Mr. Wade was a visionary, who predicted climate change in 1856: Pleasant temperatures and a soothing climate in heaven, or the opposite in hell, aka “hotter than hell”. The latter pretty much describes the direction we are currently heading.

Then I found out the above quote was Mr. Wade’s answer, when he was asked to provide an opinion on heaven and hell.

So?

What’s to say about climate change? I believe climate change is real, meaning there is a trend of rising surface and water temperatures that coincides with industrialization and human population growth. There is no doubt in my mind. How about you?

The real questions are:

Is this rise in temperature relevant?

Is it caused or affected by humans?

Should we do something about it?

Can we do something about it?

It is easy to brush this topic aside and leave it up to the politicians to make decisions for us. We will not burn up within our generation, but it surly won’t be pleasant down here in the long run if the average temperatures keep going up.

Then what? Looking forward to good company in hell?

I am not sure Mr. Wade was all too serious with his statement.

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