Brown bear, brown bear, what fish do you see?

June 6, 2014

You'll be hard pressed to find a photo with more brown #bears in it than this one @KatmaiNPS. #Alaska pic.twitter.com/j3QpP5u30G

You’ll be hard pressed to find a photo with more brown #bears in it than this one @KatmaiNPS. #Alaska pic.twitter.com/j3QpP5u30G

Fishing brown bears, and one seagull, in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, from the Department of Interior’s Twitter feed.

Thanks to Bill Martin, Jr., and Eric Carle,  author and illustrator respectively of the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education pulled this book from reading standards suggested books, because the board confused Bill Martin, Jr., with another Bill Martin who had written socialist texts. The book was eventually reinstated.


Sunset on the Madison

May 20, 2014

Photo after photo, I come increasingly to understand why my oldest brother, Jerry, wanted to spend his life and eternity in the Yellowstone.

Wholly apart from the thermal “features” and geological wonders, the area is just smashingly beautiful day in and day out, in even the mundane areas away from the celebrated features.

Here’s a part of the Madison River, just flowing through its streambed, at sunset.

Yellowstone National Park's Twitter feed:  Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ

Yellowstone National Park’s Twitter feed: Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ


Free land! May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act remade America

May 20, 2014

A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives

A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives

History and demographics of the United States were forever changed when the Homestead Act became law early in the administration of President Abraham Lincoln, on May 20, 1862.

With Congress paralyzed and unable to act to do even minor good things now, it’s astonishing to think how the Congress of 1862 could do so much to open the American west, in the middle of the American Civil War.  Perhaps Congress was able to act because legislators from the South were absent, and did not oppose progress.

In any case, the Homestead Act encouraged Americans who lacked property to strike out for the western territories and states, to make a new life, to found new towns, cities and farms, and fulfill what some call the nation’s “manifest destiny.”

The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives

The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives

Here’s the history from the National Archives:

The notion that the United States government should give free land titles to settlers to encourage westward expansion became popular in the 1850s. During that time the U.S. House of Representatives passed numerous homestead bills but southern opposition in the Senate prevented enactment. In 1860, during the 36th Congress, the Senate narrowly passed a homestead act but President James Buchanan vetoed it and the Senate failed its override attempt.

When the 37th Congress convened for its brief summer session in 1861, now without members from seceded states, it was preoccupied with Civil War-related legislation. The House took up briefly the homestead issue in December but postponed further consideration of it until the following February. The House finally passed the Homestead Act on February 28, 1862 by the large margin of 107 to 16. The act worked its way through the Senate until May 6, 1862 when it passed easily by a vote of 33 to 7. After a few minor changes in conference committee—which both houses agreed to without controversy—Congress sent the final legislation to President Abraham Lincoln who signed the act into law on May 20, 1862.

The Homestead Act encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a nominal filing fee. Among its provisions was a five-year requirement of continuous residence before receiving the title to the land and the settlers had to be, or in the process of becoming, U.S. citizens. Through 1986, when the last claim was made in Alaska, the Homestead Act distributed 270 million acres of land in the United States making it arguably one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history.

More:

Much of this post has appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub before; the Homestead Act deserves commemoration.


Moon and Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, California

May 18, 2014

U.S. Department of Interior, Twitter feed: Beautiful view of the moon over Mabius Arch in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. #California @BLMca pic.twitter.com/u0KYyJ6p0S

U.S. Department of Interior, Twitter feed: Beautiful view of the Moon over Mabius Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. #California @BLMca pic.twitter.com/u0KYyJ6p0S

Interesting points, reasons to like this image:

  1. No, that’s not the Sun.  It’s the Moon.
  2. Who knew California had natural arches?  I mean, it makes sense — but there’s one in Virginia, and a bunch of them at Arches National Park, and . . .
  3. An arch that should be in Utah, in the Alabama Hills, but not in Alabama, in California.
  4. Stars!
  5. Great photograph, obviously a long exposure.  Let’s see if we can find the name of the photographer.  Pox on Interior for failing to fit that into the caption. Photographer is Steve Perry, and you should check out his site (and buy some photos!). (Thanks, J. A. Higginbotham, for tracking that down.)
  6. America’s public lands, showing how they are unexcelled at astonishing us.
  7. What? Interior called the “Mabius Arch?” No, it’s the Mobius Arch!
  8. This place was named after the Confederate warship C.S.S. Alabama. Sympathetic miners making claims on minerals, it appears. “The unusual name Alabama Hills came about during the Civil War. In 1864 Southern sympathizers in Lone Pine discovered gold ‘in them thar hills.’ When they heard that a Confederate cruiser named the Alabama had burned, sunk or captured more than 60 Federal ships in less than two years they named their mining claims after the cruiser to celebrate. Before long the name applied to the whole area. Coincidentally, while Southerners were prospecting around Lone Pine, there were Union sympathizers 15 miles north near Independence. And when the Alabama was sunk off the coast of France by the U.S.S. Kearsarge in 1864, the Independence people struck back. They not only named their mining claims ‘Kearsarge’ but a mountain peak, a mountain pass, and a whole town as well.”
  9. More than 400 movies were shot using Alabama Hills for a backdrop, including How the West Was Won, Gunga Din (standing in for the hills of northern India) and the 1960 Audie Murphy classic, Hell Bent for Leather.
  10. Geologists will love that this area is a prime example of chemical erosion — rocks made out of the same stuff as the craggy Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, but eroded differently.
  11. Lichens by moonlight!  (Or is that just desert varnish?)

More:


Daytime Moon and jet

April 17, 2014

Passenger jet and Moon.  Photo by Rodger Schmitt, from Lake Powell, Utah.

Passenger jet and Moon. Photo by Rodger Schmitt, from Lake Powell, Utah.

Handheld Nikon.  Nikon stabilizing lens.  Good hands, I’d say.

Third to last time I was out near Lake Powell, I was with Rodger (and about a dozen others) organizing hearings of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors.  We flew into Page, Arizona, on an Otter II coming up from Phoenix flying low, looking for elk, and legally buzzing Rainbow Bridge (impressive from the air, too).

We had a luncheon meeting at Wahweap Marina, as I recall; no time for boating.

Then we were off to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There we inspected pine trees 30 feet tall, growing between the ties of the then-abandoned rail lines.  (And did a lot of other stuff.)

Today trains carry tourists to the South Rim on those tracks, the trees gone.  Progress, really.

Rodger carries on in the knowledge that use of the outdoors, especially these public lands, heals souls, and sometimes gives you great photos.

Rodger said I could borrow the photo.  Thanks!


Insta-Millard: Nevada’s Constitution doesn’t favor Cliven Bundy

April 15, 2014

It’s a relic of the Civil War and Congress’s intention to strengthen the Union when Nevada became a state in 1864, but there it is, in Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution, making a mockery of Cliven Bundy’s claim to owe allegiance to Nevada and its Constitution, but not to the U.S.:

Sec: 2.  Purpose of government; paramount allegiance to United States.  All political power is inherent in the people[.] Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair[,] subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existance [existence], and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.

Sheesh!

Here’s the essay quiz, students:  The standoff between the Bureau of Land Management cowboys — each of whom swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the U.S., in contrast to Mr. Bundy who claims to owe no allegiance to the U.S. — and the armed mob who threatened to kill those same employees of our U.S. government:  Did Nevadans  (or Idahoans) violate any part of Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution?  Which clauses?

I used to say “the Sagebrush Rebellion is over; sagebrush won.”  Even the sagebrush are losing this one.

From The Atlantic:  Eric Parker, who lives in central Idaho, aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp in Bunkerville, Nevada. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

From The Atlantic: Eric Parker, who lives in central Idaho, aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp in Bunkerville, Nevada. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)  (See also Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, with regard to Mr. Parker’s actions here.)

More: 


Insta-Millard: Bundy Ranch issue history

April 14, 2014

It’s an oversimplification, but not an oversimplification that leads to inaccuracy.

I say “oversimplification” because President Reagan did not impose grazing fees for the first time, but instead set rates at the time.  U.S. grazing fees grew out of the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, which included among other noble purposes the saving of unoccupied public lands from erosion, to prevent them from contributing to a national Dust Bowl.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages about 245 million acres of land in the U.S., highly concentrated in 13 western states (about 86% of Nevada is public lands of one sort or another).  Of those lands, about 155 million acres are open to grazing.  BLM is part of the U.S. Department of Interior.  Reagan’s Executive Order came when the law authorizing grazing fees had expired, and Congress was at an impasse in passing a new one, partly over a Reagan Administration proposal to raise grazing fees to market value, a multiple of fees then (and now) in effect.

Sagebrush Rebellion catches Tea Party Stupid disease, it seems to me.  If the virus hasn’t been cured since 1993, what are the odds Mr. Bundy will sit still for a cure now?

More to come?

More:

Mad City Quanta, a Nebraska on-line comic, on grazing fees issues in 2012.

Mad City Quanta, a Nebraska on-line comic, on grazing fees issues in 2012. To update it, substitute “Bundy” for “Fischer” on the tie of the steer on the left.


Sunrise on the Shenandoah Mountains

March 11, 2014

This is a hopeful picture.

US Dept of Interior Tweet:  Beautiful #sunrise over @ShenandoahNPS last weekend. #Virginia #travel #nature pic.twitter.com/T2sEgczGsz

US Dept of Interior Tweet: Beautiful #sunrise over @ShenandoahNPS last weekend. #Virginia #travel #nature pic.twitter.com/T2sEgczGsz

Probably taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  At the bottom of the photo, note the stone wall, probably built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Franklin Roosevelt administration, and still contributing to America’s beauty and economy 80 years later.

I can imagine driving along, catching a beautiful sunrise, but not being at a point to stop to photograph it.  Driving farther along, the photographer found a safe place to stop, but the sunrise itself was gone by 15 minutes.  With the aid of a young tree, however, the photographer can recapture that moment of the Sun’s peeking over the horizon, without special effects.  Nice thought for the shot.


Bering land bridge in autumn

September 23, 2013

World and U.S. history classes should be long past this point, but the photo just recently surfaced:

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Department of Interior

From America’s Outdoors: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve – Gone are the shockingly bright pinks, yellows and purples of summer, replaced by deeper and darker reds, yellows, greens and the beginnings of brown, all of equal vibrancy and beauty. And soon, as the 34 degree weather and diminishing daylight would lead us to believe, a blanket of white will fall upon the landscape. Enjoy the change of seasons wherever you may be!

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve? Did you even know there was such a thing?  Part of our public lands, your tax dollars at work.

Not a place for a Sunday drive.  There are no roads to get to the place.  For students, this site offers a lot of photos and interesting stuff for projects in history (human migrations) and geography (land forms, lava flows, migration routes, wilderness).

More:

Tors of Serpentine, in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska - NPS photo

Tors of Serpentine, in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska – NPS photo


Steens Mountain, sunrise, or sunset?

July 31, 2013

Either someone just spent a very cold night to get a photo, or they’re getting ready to spend a very cold night.

Which is it?

Steens Mountain in #Oregon

US Dept of Interior: If you haven’t seen Steens Mountain in #Oregon, you really should check out this stunning photo from @BLMOregon pic.twitter.com/H2eePMmfsX

Steens Mountain at sunrise is a very popular image for photographers — but very few get a shot from the mountain itself like this one.

Steens Mountain is a large fault-block mountain in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Oregon. Located in Harney County, it stretches some 50 miles (80 km) long north to south, and rises from alongside the Alvord Desert at elevation of about 4,200 feet (1,300 m) to a summit elevation of 9,733 feet (2,967 m). It is sometimes confused with a mountain range, but is properly a single mountain.

More:

English: The Alvord Desert playa, looking sout...

The Alvord Desert playa, looking southeast from Steens Mountain, southeast Oregon; Wikipedia image


Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

July 19, 2013

Superior Fury - Lake Superior near Miner’s Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore during a gale at sunrise.  Photo: Steve Perry

Superior Fury – Lake Superior near Miner’s Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore during a gale at sunrise. Photo: Steve Perry, via America’s Great Outdoors

Admit it:  That’s not how you usually think of Lake Superior, is it?

Tip of the old scrub brush to America’s Great Outdoor on Tumblr.

More:


Holes in the wall, Glen Canyon NRA

June 11, 2013

Ever get one of those days you just want to find a nice, warm hole and crawl inside?

Then head out to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area:

There are many unique areas within America’s public lands. Case in point this spot in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  Photo: Cassandra Crowley

Caption from America’s Great Outdoors: There are many unique areas within America’s public lands. Case in point this spot in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Photo: Cassandra Crowley

More:


Light pollution-free area, near Little Snake River, Colorado

December 12, 2012

Take a look at this sunset shot:

Sunset near Little Snake River, Colorado - Photo by Shannon Diszmang

Sunset on BLM land near the Little Snake River, in northwest Colorado. Photo by Shannon Diszmang, via Royal Gorge National Recreation Area.

Note from America’s Great Outdoors blog:

Earlier this year, the Royal Gorge Recreation Area staff had a photo contest on their Facebook page and here is one of the great photos that was submitted. Here’s what photographer, Shannon Diszmang, had to say about it.

“This is BLM land in Northwest Colorado (Little Snake River district). I fell in love with this place. The red haze in this photo is the smoke coming from the wildfires on the west coast at the time. This is one of the lowest light pollution spots in our state which makes star gazing the absolute best.”

So, if you’re nearby, and you want a good place to look at the Geminid meteor shower tonight, odds are high there will be little light pollution here.  If there aren’t many clouds, you’re in luck.

More:

P.S.: The stunningly beautiful photo above is NOT the winner of the photo contest(!).  BLM wrote in a November press release:

CAÑON CITY, Colo. – Today the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office announced the winners of its BLM-sponsored photo contest.  The two winners were decided by the public via the RGFO’s Facebook page: one winner is based on the most “likes” and the other is based on the most “shares.” Only those “likes” and “shares” that originated from the Royal Gorge Facebook page were tallied towards a winner.

Chris Nelson’s photo was the most “liked” and is a scenic shot taken from Chaffee County Road 175 between Cañon City and Salida. Nelson’s photo received 64 “likes.”

The most “shared” photo was submitted by David Madone and portrayed several deer in an alfalfa field near Cañon City. Madone’s photo received 20 shares.

Both photos will be featured on the RGFO’s Facebook page throughout November and may be featured in future BLM Colorado publications and social media sites.

The photo contest began Oct. 2 and ended Nov. 4 with more than 60 photos submitted. All the photos that were entered into the contest may be viewed via the “Photo Contest” album on the RGFO’s Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/BLMRoyalGorge

Yeah, were I you, I’d go see what the winners looked like.


Watching the drought roll in at Colorado Bend State Park

July 6, 2011

It took me a couple of tries to figure it out — last week when I told people Kathryn and I were off to Colorado Bend State Park to spend time on the river, several people commented about how much cooler it would be there.

What?  West of Killeen about an hour, ten miles of dusty road outside of Bend, Texas (population 1,637), Colorado Bend is not cooler than Dallas.  It was over 100° F every day we were there, stayed well above 90° most  of the nights.

Kathryn Knowles checking wildflowers, Colorado River, Texas

Kathryn studied wildflowers at a spring at the side of the Colorado River during a break from kayaking; this spring's flow was reduced, but still moist enough to create a near-oasis.

Our well-wishers were geographically confused.  They thought we were headed to the Colorado River in Colorado, not the Colorado River in Texas, which is not the same river at all.  I didn’t bother to check the temperatures in Colorado, but one might be assured that it was cooler along the Colorado River in Colorado than it was along the Colorado River in Texas.

It was a return trip.  We stumbled into the park 16 years ago with the kids, for just an afternoon visit.  The dipping pools  in the canyon fed by Spicewood Springs captivated us.  It took a while to get back, and then the kids were off doing their own thing.

So, just a quick weekend of hiking/camping/kayaking/soaking/stargazing/bird watching/botanical and geological study.   Park officials closed the bat caves to human traffic in hope of keeping White Nose Syndrome from the bats; we didn’t bother to sign up for the crawling cave tour through another.

Ed Darrell at Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

The author, still working to master that Go-Pro camera on the hat -- some spectacular shots, but I don't have the movie software to use it all; you know it's hot when SPF 75 sunscreen is not enough.

What did we see?  Drought has a firm grip on Texas, especially in the Hill Country, especially outside of Dallas.  The Colorado River  is mostly spring fed; many of the springs are dry.  No water significant water flowed through the park while we  were there — kayak put-ins have been reduced to the downriver-most ramp, and the bottom of the boat launch ramp is three feet above water.  Gorman Falls attracts visitors and scientists, but the springs feeding it are about spent this year — just a few trickles came over the cliff usually completely inundated with mineral-laden waters.

Drought produces odd things.  The forest canopy around the park — and through most of the Hill Country we saw — is splattered with the gray wood of dead trees, many of which at least leafed out earlier this spring.  The loss to forests is astonishing.  Deer don’t breed well in droughts; deer around the campsites boldly challenge campers for access to grasses they’d ignore in other seasons.  One ranger said he hadn’t seen more than about three fawns from this past spring, a 75% to 90% reduction in deer young (Eastern White Tail, the little guys).  Raccoons are aggressively seeking food from humans, tearing into tents and challenging campers for food they can smell (lock your food in the car!).  Colorado Bend is famous for songbirds, including the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler, and the elusive, spectacular painted bunting.  But the most commonly-sighted birds this year are turkey vultures, dining on the young that didn’t make it healthy into the summer and won’t survive until fall.

Warming denialists’ claims of “not so bad a drought” ring out as dangerous, wild delusion.  (By actual measurement, Texas average rainfall the past nine months was 8.5 inches, the driest ever recorded in Texas, shattering the old record drought of 1917).

Great trip.  Kathryn’s menu planning was spectacular.  The old Coleman stove  — a quarter century old, now, with fuel almost that old — performed like a champ even without the maintenance it needs (later this week).  Other than the hot nights, it was stellar.

Stellar.  Yeah.  Stars were grand.  It was New Moon, a happy accident.  A topic for another post, later.  Think, “Iridium.”

So posting was slow over the weekend.  How far out in the Hill Country were we?  Neither one of us could get a bar on our phones.  We were so far out the Verizon Wireless guy was using smoke signals.

Thoreau was right, you know.


Missed National Trails Day, June 4? Catch up later, on the trail

June 6, 2011

This is a little embarrassing.

National Trails Day logo from the American Hiking Society

National Trails Day logo from the American Hiking Society; click to go to AHS site

I missed National Trails Day this year.

Heck, I’ve missed it every year since its inception in 1993.

As usual, I’ll have to hit the trails later in the summer — hello, Colorado Bend State Park.  You can make it up, too.  National Trails Day is a celebration that can be done any time you find to do it, really, any place you find to celebrate it.

So, hey, buddy:  Take a hike!

And have fun doing it.

Information and resources for National Trails Day:


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