Note to self, One Man's Paradise

Stillness…

“These woods are where silence
has come to lick its wounds.”

Samantha Hunt


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An uncharacteristic week of calm has just been upon us. The calm before the storm? At night the temperatures dropped below freezing leaving frost on the grass in the morning. The water was smooth as a mirror.

Some residents are busy arranging their departure. Who stays? Who will spend the winter? That’s one of the topics around here. It will become even more quiet when the last snowbird has left.

There are two ways to look at this. Winter comes with a sense of peace and calm. You could also say it brings solitude and isolation. I guess it is up to me to decide, which side to pick.

I plan on preparing delicious food, reading good books, and getting out as much as possible. I am contemplating turning of the TV. What’s the point? I am not following any show, yippee. Sometimes I watch a football game, but I can live without 2 hours of commercials. News? Forget about that. Nothing good. I don’t need to know about Mr. Trumps latest faux pas or another meaningless international agreement about climate control that is going in effect 10 years from now, maybe…

In short, I think I am checking out, as in disconnect, unplug.

Seeking peace and quiet in my little paradise.

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One Man's Paradise

Simplicity

“If you will stay close to nature,
to its simplicity,
to the small things hardly noticeable,
those things can unexpectedly
become great and immeasurable.”

Rainer Maria Rilke


It took me all summer to find simplicity. Nature was just full of flowers, leaves, seeds and berries. Colors abound.

The mountains changed their white coats for mineral hues. The clouds playing with the mountain tops, sometimes just putting a veil over them.

Then, one calm afternoon a few leaves reflected perfectly in a quiet lake. It was impossible to miss.

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One Man's Paradise

Happy birthday!

“Only by going alone in silence,
without baggage,
can one truly

get into the heart of the wilderness.
All other travel is mere dust

and hotels and baggage and chatter.”

John Muir


Those are the words of John Muir, who was a loud and clear voice in the creation of the national park system in the United States. His travels in and writings about the wilderness of North America had an influence on many, including Theodore Roosevelt. Interestingly, John Muir was opposed to the government running the national park system, as he considered many politicians as being incompetent, to put it politely. He wanted the US Army to run the park system. John Muir died 2 years before the National Park Service was instituted by Congress in 1916.

Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.

The Organic Act of 1916 states the mission and goal of the National Park Service, which is “…to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Many voices and powers have formed the NPS into its current shape. Already at it’s 75th birthday it was recognized that “…the Service faces challenges greater than at any time in its history. The parks, many buffered by rural or wilderness surroundings in years past, are increasingly besieged by development. What goes on outside their boundaries can affect their air, their water, their wildlife, their natural and historic ambience, as profoundly as what goes on within. Natural and cultural landmarks outside the parks face similar threats, prompting pressures to include them in the park system.”

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Denali National Park, Alaska

 My feelings about the national parks are ambivalent. The idea to preserve wilderness and history for future generations is commendable. However, what we consider wilderness and how we access and manage wilderness is contentious. I am with Edward Abbey, who suggested parks with limited access by automobile. I know this is not a very popular proposition, but it is the only way to experience real wilderness, as described by John Muir. Thanks to their remoteness, size, and administration some parks in Alaska come very close to John Muir’s idea. Access to Denali, Wrangell-St.Elias, Glacier Bay, and other parks in the state is limited due to their remote location and their sheer size. Those are the places that appeal to me.

In the 80’s I spent many days and nights in Yosemite Valley. Above the valley floor it is strikingly beautiful, but I never understood, why we had 1-hour film processing and other unnecessary amenities in the valley. There was a time when private traffic was banned in the valley, which I thought was a great idea. Today, up to 21,000 visitors find their way into the valley on a peak day! Campsites are hard to get without advance reservation. The Park Service has the difficult task to balance conservation and visitation. In 1917 there were 11,000 visitors in the park all year!

I think it is worthwhile, especially on a day like this, to reflect on our views of wilderness and conservation. Do we really need to drive our vehicles into parks and expect to see wildlife and pristine landscapes from the comfort of our cars?

I think wilderness is something that cannot be experienced from a vehicle. It requires effort, sweat, patience, and time…

It is not available on demand.

It is an experience that you cannot buy.

It is priceless.

Without it our planet is a cold, dead place.

To the next 100 years!

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Life

Grounded

“Every giant leap for mankind resulting from a technological advance requires a commensurate step in the opposite direction – a counterweight to ground us in humanity.”

Alex Morritt


Dense fog lingered yesterday in the Upper Lynn Canal grounding the local helicopter fleet. Usually they shuttle visitors onto a nearby glacier, so they can experience the magic of walking on ice or riding in a dogsled.

Obviously I am on a different schedule and I would rather spend a winter with the dogs or go on a long hike to experience the beauty of remote ice fields, but not everybody has the opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, I can’t help the thought that the best way to connect with Nature is to be in Nature. Taking the helicopter feels like a thrilling shortcut to me.

Seems to me taking shortcuts is a virtue of our times.

Grounded in humanity…

What does that mean?

Who is teaching us about humanity, one of the seven virtues?

 

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Inside Out, Quote

Roots

“True morality consists not
in following the beaten track,
but in finding the true path for ourselves,
and fearlessly following it.”

Mahatma Gandhi


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Dyea, Alaska

One benefit of age is that you can look back, not to regret, just to reminisce. There were obstacles, detours, and dead ends. Did it matter? Not really. Life went on.

I hope that our future leaders choose paths of morality and ethics, not short term gains and fame.

 

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Life, Quote

Two hands

I can change the world,
with my own two hands
Make a better place,
with my own two hands
But you got to use,
use your own two hands
Use your own,
use your own two hands

Ben Harper


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Tlingit totem pole, Haines, AK

So much unrest in the world…

I wish we all could live together in peace.

Wondering what I can do…

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Into the Wild

Before I forget

November 1, I arrived in Jackson, Wyoming with the prospect to become a musher.

What did I know about mushing? Not much…

Last year I saw 30 or so mushers with their dogs on the Iditarod, probably the toughest sled dog race on Earth. I saw them arrive early in the morning, before sunrise, during the day, and in the middle of the night. Calm, hurt, tired, elated, you name it.

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Aliy Zirkle arriving at Puntilla Lake.

 

I saw them cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a frozen lake for the dogs. The team always comes first. Then they dipped their frozen food into the same pot of boiling water to eat last.

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Mike Williams Jr. preparing breakfast for champions

I saw some beaten teams arrive hours and days later. Mushers with concussions, hurt dogs…

The long way home

Jim Lanier heading home

Never did it occur to me that I wanted to become a musher, although gliding through a winter wonderland propelled by a group of sled dogs looked appealing.

Sometime in October this year I contemplated what to do this winter. I thought about spending the winter on a warm island.

That did not happen, for whatever reason. Karma? Life is a strange sequence of events, leading us to places that we not even dream of.

I replied to an ad on Coolworks to spend the winter in Wyoming as a dog musher. I had visited Wyoming only a few times before, never enough time to climb in the Tetons, or to make it to Yellowstone. Then, I remember a beautiful climbing trip in the Wind River range. All the more reason to go. Although I had the worst cell connecction during my phone interview I landed a job offer to be a musher leading visitors on day trips into the backcountry of Teton County.

What an experience it has been so far. I was very intimidated in the beginning by the howling, barking, jumping and jerking of these sled dogs. They seem so fragile and small on one hand, but they are powerful and energetic on the other hand. And they have personalities you would not believe it. Pulling a sled is their life purpose. That’s what they are bred for, it’s in their blood. Once they see a sled and some dogs getting hooked up to the gang line they are going „ballistic“. „Take me! Take me!“ they seem to bark all at the same time.

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Leaving Puntilla Lake heading for Rainy Pass, the highest point on the Iditarod.

 

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