Monday, December 6, 2010

Lake Nighthorse recreation planning process continues this week

Click pic to enlarge
A reminder: This week are two workshops on the Lake Nighthorse recreation plan:

Shared Solutions to Water & Shoreline Recreation
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
4:00-8:00 pm
Durango Community Recreation Center

Developing Shared Solutions to Land-Based Recreation
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
4:00-8:00 pm
Durango Community Recreation Center

Everyone is welcome -- and needed. Come!

And so ... in preparation, I've offer ...

my reasons why I'm in favor of an engine-free and undeveloped Campbell Reservoir and Ridges Basin

Non-motorized and undeveloped wildlife habitat and quiet open space are the basin's best use ... 

Ecologically because of its location -- low elevation habitat linking the high country and the chaparral to the south, and historically heavily used migration and wintering area. Its still relatively undeveloped condition, despite its flooding and the new county road, make it both a rare (and growing rarer) and vital piece of our region's wildlife habitat.

Economically also because of its location and undeveloped condition. As well as protecting wildlife, and thereby supporting our tourism and hunting economies, an engine-free and development-free area expands the marketable recreation options in the area. Engine-free, Ridges Basin and Campbell Reservoir are excellent and unique nearby commodities -- offering quiet water and water-side open-space experiences, feeling very remote yet very close to downtown Durango.

Aside from mere convenience, as an industrialized and motorized recreation area, though, Ridges Basin would be only mediocre among the several other, much bigger and better nearby motorized reservoir areas. And then it would always be just mediocre open space and wildlife habitat, as well. So while gas stations in town might pump some more fuel, Ridges Basin would be just a lower-level option for powerboating tourists, while it could be a top-notch unique lure for those seeking a close-to-town quiet and wildlife-rich human-powered lake experience.

Realistically because the reality is, the area is too small to serve as both: The size and amphitheatre-like natural configuration of Ridges Basin means the noise of engines precludes and diminishes the area's other values as wildlife habitat and quiet open space.

Ethically Ridges Basin should remain motorless and undeveloped because those above qualities and values of Ridges Basin were why the area was public land and a DCDOW Wildlife Area before the reservoir site was condemned and appropriated by the Bureau of Reclamation, bypassing legal challenges and dodging public input. Given that history and circumstances, there is an obligation to honor this land's historic use and the original intentions of the land: Wildlife and open space.

Morally, this is a unique opportunity to step back from visions of immediate fun and gain and think, what is the best thing to leave our kids, and our kids' kids? The ecologically healthy, economically valuable, and historically significant place readily accessible from town that a quiet and engine-free Ridges Basin would be? Or yet another motorized, industrialized, and commercialized landscape?

Looking ahead, what will our kids need more?

Bonus reason!

Quagga mussels and water quality, which threaten the intention of the Animas-La Plata Project and primary purpose of the reservoir, would be a certainty with powerboating on Campbell Reservoir.

Learn more about the Lake Nighthorse planning process here.

Find helpful information about Lake Nighthorse here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Report from Lake Nighthorse public meeting

Some of my notes from the Campbell Reservoir public meeting on Tuesday, 11/16. Feel free to pass around any additions, clarifications, corrections, etc. 

Highlight of the night: 

Ron and Randy Bodo, the grandsons of Mike Bodo, who homesteaded the basin at the turn of the last century, we present. Roy spoke, and spoke in favor of keeping the lake engine-less (or, at a minimum, a no-wake lake). "We feel the lake is too small for motorboats," Ron Bodo said. He also said they were in favor of keeping the area for day-use only, and that they'd like to see hiking and biking trails.

"We did not want to see this area developed," he said. "We were (when they transferred the land to the CDOW via the Nature Conservancy in 1974) insuring the legacy of good stewardship would carry on."

Key issues:

Park Service representative Joy Lujan explained that a "successful" plan coming from this recreation planning process will have to meet four criteria:

- Publicly acceptable 
- Economically viable 
- Environmentally acceptable 
- Technically feasible

She also noted that depending upon what the management plan ends up allowing, there may need to be a supplemental EIS.

It was re-affirmed by Lujan and BuRec people that whatever plan comes out of this process will be binding to whatever agency or group ends up managing the Lake Nighthorse and surrounding BuRec land.

It was again asserted that the boat ramp funding requires and assures engines on the lake. [But: This is increasingly looking like it's just not so (despite the long-time claims of Jim Isgar, sponsor of the move the got the boat ramp built. (Soon to be named the Isgar National Boat Ramp?)) More will be forthcoming on this issue ... ]

Other interesting tidbits:

A BuRec official said that, even before any withdrawals are made from the reservoir, water levels will fluctuate about five feet per year just from evaporation loss alone. Well, with a surface area of 1,500 feet, that's 7,500 acre-feet of water per year lost to evaporation alone (never mind groudwater seepage). That is enough water for 30,000 people (and heavy water-using people at that).

Access for ATVs, motorcyles, and snowmobiles
are issues that are still on the table.

A representative of the Animas La Plata Association, which manages the water-pumping and control facilities for ALP, stated flatly that "a safe and reliable water supply" is the reservoir's first priority. He said that quaggua mussels are a major threat to those missions, and that the reservoir is prime mussel habitat. He also said gas, oil, and parking lot drainage are a major threat to the reservoir's water quality.

A Coast Guard reservist who works at area reservoirs noted that, bottom line, Lake Nighthorse is too small to safely, or even enjoyably, use speedboats or jet skis. "This is where you can bring your kids and grandkids and not get run over by a powerboat," he said.

The reservoir has already been stocked with 50,000 trout.

Learn more about Lake Nighthorse at the official Lake Nighthorse site, and the (very!) unofficial Silent Nighthorse Wiki

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reminder: Lake Nighthorse public forum Tuesday!

Click to embiggen.
Remember: Tuesday night is the public forum for the Lake Nighthorse (more properly referred to as Campbell Reservoir) recreation management planning process.

5 - 8 p.m. at Needham Elementary School, in Durango. (Click to see a map.)

Here's what the agenda is planned to look like:
The first 30 minutes will include a fact-based presentation by the design team, an explanation of the meeting process and stage setting by Joy Lujan from the National Park Service, brief comments from Bruce Whitehead from ALPWCD, a statement from the Bureau of Reclamation, and a statement from Randy Bodo.

From about 5:30 to 7:30, will be input from the public. People will tell the gathered officials and the audience what their interests, issues, ideas and concerns are by making a statement from a microphone at the front of the room. Visual aids are welcome. 

The final half hour will be an exercise to explore people's interests further. People will be be asked and answers tabulated to general questions like what kinds of recreational uses people engage in now, what their concerns about recreation at the lake, what kinds of recreational uses they might like to see at the lake, etc.
The entire meeting will be video taped.

Learn more about the Lake Nighthorse planning process here.

Find helpful information about Lake Nighthorse here.

See you there!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lake Nighthorse recreation planning process begins

Public meetings have been announced for input on the recreation management plan for the Ridges Basin/Lake Nighthorse (aka Campbell Reservoir, at least around my house).

I spoke with the National Park Service's Joy Lujan, who is organizing the meetings, and some BuRec people at the first open house, and they assured me that the management plan that comes out of this process in the Spring will be a binding plan for whomever ultimately manages the recreation on and around the reservoir.

Click to enlargen. Or visit the official Lake Nighthorse site.

Learn useful info about the project at the Silent Nighthorse Wiki

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Robert Reich tells "the large narrative" of our economy

I was at a meet-and-greet last night with Brian O'Donnell, who's running for State Representative for District 59, and he and I got to talking about things I was feeling about Obama (what is it with his inability to articulate clear rationales and guiding visions?), the Democratic Party (how can they continue to be so staggeringly fumbling, bumbling, and timid since the Carter Administration?), the Tea Party (who are fighting tirelessly for our RIGHT to get dicked by insurance companies, to have our jobs outsourced overseas, to a crappy education and low-paying unskilled jobs!), and -- of course! -- to the economy (when will someone have the backbone to say that Free Trade has been the biggest shafting of the middle-class worker since Indentured Servitude?).

Well, I enjoyed the meeting, even if it might have been a bit heavy on the "greet" for poor Mr. O'Donnell. But he listened (or feigned listening) as politely as a ... well, a politician. Which he's not. Yet. (Despite J. Paul Brown's supporters are mailing literature accusing O'Donnell of being a "tax and spend politician," even though he's never held office. He has, in fact, been working as a wildlands advocate for Trout Unlimited.)

O'Donnell and I did end up find some shared ground, though: Our respect for economist Robert Reich.

Last night Reich reminded me why that's so, when he was interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air." In the 20-minute interview, Reich is refreshingly clear, logical, and honest as he explained his view of where we are economically, and how we got here. And where we are is where we were at the start of the Great Depression: with a historic concentration of wealth in the hands of the wealthiest few, and a crushed middle class unable to afford to keep fueling the economy.

In 1928, says Reich, 23 percent of the country's wealth was in the hands of the richest 1 percent of the population; in 2007, the had 23.5 percent. Census data released this week show that the top-earning 20 percent of Americans received nearly half the income generated in the United States.

Reich cites some clear steps in how we got here, including the mechanization then out-sourcing of the workforce, an overly indebted middle class, and an absurdly wealthy upper class that turns to speculation as sport.

And he shares the concern over President Obama's lack of skill in articulating the situation and a rationale for moving beyond it, playing into the hands of Tea Partiers and those who would keep the status quo.  "He [Obama] has failed to connect the dots," says Reich, "and failed to provide the public a large and understandable narrative."

Like Reich can.

Listen to or read the "Fresh Air" interview here.

Watch an interview with Reich about his new book Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future here and below.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn, Full Moon, and Snow! Oh my!

Click to enlarge
Oh, yeah! is more like it.

Had to drive out to the airport early this morning, and got to see -- between quick glances at the road -- the clouds lift and the mountain world emerge into the first Autumn dawn light.

Over Hesperus hung the full Harvest Moon, a great glowing cue ball (or maybe that was a flashback to El Rancho last night ...). And beside it stood the dimly lit La Platas, wearing on its peaks a fine but distinct patina of powder ...


I didn't have a camera with me (which is probably best, given my distracted, lustful mountain-staring from behind the wheel anyway). But I was able to get some shots before that mean old sun melted away the season's first snow.

Have a taste.
Click to enlarge

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The ultimate fishing trip ... or, fish tripping ...

Here's a delightful and, well, much thought-provoking piece of journalism from Sports Illustrated circa 1964.

In "A Dreamy New Era For Fish," from the March 30, 1964, issue, Robert H. Boyle writes about an, let's say, intriguing plan to improve fishing through LSD.

Sounds like a good idea, right? I mean, fishing is a bit boring at times anyway. Except he means, by giving LSD to the fish.

See, back in 1964, when LSD was still somewhat new and edgy -- and legal -- a Mr. Howard Loeb, senior aquatic biologist at the New York State Conservation Department Fish Laboratory, (and delightfully described as "an imaginative ex-paratrooper") started pushing LSD on fish of various species to see what would happen. He got the idea from a suggestion by the director of a mental institution who'd read about Loeb's great achievements in developing methods of poisoning fish en-masse. (Really. That's what it says.)

Of course many readers of Sports Illustrated in 1964 may not have known what LSD was yet, so the writer also provided a nice quick summary (which I'll now share for those of you today who may not know):
The drug is perhaps best known to the general public because of the psychological effects it brings about. Colors take on great depth, music is physically felt rather than heard and happiness or frustration is often extreme. It produces in a normal person a state believed to be similar to schizophrenia.
Well, needless to say, when Loeb -- also inventor of the electric fish shocker -- starts dumping loads of LSD into tanks filled with happy, swimming fishes, hilarity and zaniness ensues.

He starts with Siamese fighting fish. Why? Because they're "plentiful, cheap, almost as sensitive to LSD as humans." (Not sure how that sensitivity was measured, but perhaps it's because under the influence they're prone to long, disjointed, rambling discourses, and they all sway in unison when "Uncle John's Band" is played.)

Carp, of course, are the most resistant fish. But no one's surprised, really. "Goodness knows what kinds of hallucinations carp have," notes the reporter, "but they become noticeably lighter in color." And sometimes they swim backwards. Dude.

And another non-surprise: A major pharmaceutical company jumped on board Loeb's project, offering boatloads of LSD.

Just so you know, there is a happy ending. "No one knows what would happen to a person who happened to swim in or drink from a treated pond or lake," the writer notes. "But the tests are most encouraging and the possibilities unlimited, both for sport and commercial fishing."

Undoubtedly. Now where'd I leave that fishing pole?

Read the article here.

(via Boing Boing)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Norwegian morning ...

Click to enlarge

Or so it seemed, as Rio and I made the dawn-patrol stroll up the mesa above Durango. The mountain-chill air and a dense, enveloping fog created an oceanic scene that triggered a body memory of walking a Norwegian fjord.

Or the coast of Maine. Or the Oregon shore. Anywhere but the high-desert country of Durango, Colorado.

But there it was, and there we were, and I could feel it. Especially since I couldn't see more than ten yards downfield as Rio and I wandered uphill through that thick atmospheric filter.

An hour and a half later, as I commuted to work -- walking up that same dirt trail -- the fog was finally lifting under the glare of the rising sun, slowly releasing the familiar landscape from its grasp. And I had a camera ...


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Only two things money can't buy ...

... "that's true love and homegrown tomatoes."

So sings the great Guy Clark. And every year at this time, I think he's right.

Why do homegrown tomatoes taste so much better? According to the University of Illinois Extension Service, it may have to do with commercial tomatoes' being picked green so they ship better, but it also can be linked to micro-amounts of volatile chemicals that are sensed not by the tongue, but by the olfactory nerve in the nose. (Read the entire article in the Illinois Times here.)

Whatever the reason, for a couple of weeks every year, I get both love and tomatoes: homegrown tomatoes on bagels and cream cheese. It don't get much better ...

So pull up a ripe one and enjoy this: Not a great recording, but a fine version of Guy Clark performing "Homegrown Tomatoes."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yard sale days

What could possibly be better? A lovely, clear late-Summer Saturday, on Labor Day weekend.

Doing our part to support the local underground recycling economy.

Hanging and chatting with neighbors, both known and those we didn't know we had.

And we got to disgorge a heap-o-stuff -- mostly to folks who are really excited for both the object of their desire and the bargain price they're getting their gratification for.

And we're make some beer money whilst we're at it.

Oh, and lest we forget: Those yummy -- and healthy! -- bloody marys ....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Field & Stream magazine features Alpine Loop in high San Juans

click to englarge
This from Trout Unlimited, which has been doing some fine work generating support for protection of the high country in the heart of the San Juan's known as the Alpine Triangle (which is also known as the Alpine Loop, for the popular 4x4 route through the area). And now they've gotten coverage in one of the most-read "hook and bullet" magazines, Field & Stream

Here's what Ty Churchwell, local coordinator for TU's Alpine Triangle campaign, says:
Trout Unlimited has teamed up with Field and Stream magazine to highlight some of the "Best Wild Places" in the West.  F&S is the nation's largest sportsmen's magazine with over 2.5 million monthly readers.  The Alpine Triangle is one of six locations where the Best Wild Places tour stopped to showcase the amazing sportsmen's opportunities while touching on the work TU is doing to protect these special places.
Check out "Best Wild Places" in Field & Stream here.  
On this main page you'll find the photo galleries with commentary, which are a lot of fun.  Also, you'll see TU's six locations listed here.  Click on the Alpine Triangle in the "choose a location" section to read the blogs of each day's adventures.  The actual paper edition of F&S, with the full story, will appear in the December/January issue, which comes out around December 1st.
We had an absolute blast doing this tour!!  The fishing was fabulous, the scenery unbeatable and the Alpine Loop OHV roads were something none of the F&S participants expected to enjoy as much as they did.  For those of us who know this resource well, we knew the Alpine Triangle was going to blow these guys away...and it did!   
Furthermore, we now have a Facebook page for the Alpine Loop campaign.  If you're on Facebook, please visit the page and join us as a "fan."
Watch a TU video about the Alpine Triangle campaign:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inside Outside Southwest magazine ceases publication after 11 years

Time of death: 5 p.m., August 23, 2010.

After more than 11 years of exploring, reporting, celebrating, and defending the Four Corners country from its home in Durango, Colo., Inside Outside Southwest magazine joined the ranks of publications that have drowned in its attempt to find a piece of ground to stay afloat on in the new media economy.

And the Four Corners lost its voice -- for no other publication covers this economically, ecologically, geographically, and politically linked region as a whole.

Read editor Jan Nesset's farewell here. 

The final issue will the September issue, to be released next week.

While Inside Outside  really found its voice and carved what seemed a solid niche in the past several years, under the editorship of Jan Nesset, I'm honored to have been the publication's first managing editor, for its first year and a half of life, from 1998 - 2000. It was a damned fine time.

Here you can read a collection of my favorite excerpts from Inside Outside's early years (from the magazine's 10th anniversary issue).

Below is a brief history of Inside Outside's start-up days that I wrote for that 10th anniversary issue.

The Way It Was: A brief personal history from the (former) Editor
Publications, like wars, are sacred causes.  -- Charles Bowden
In the summer of 1998, I was approached by two men who had a business idea: a free, alternative magazine for the Four Corners. They sought my thoughts because – or maybe despite -- I already had been failing at something similar for several years.
Since 1993, some friends and I had been publishing the San Juan Almanac, which we smugly tagged, “Your cattleguard on the information superhighway.” In that guerilla spirit, we did our journalistic dirty work in my house on a budget drawn mostly from handouts, a few kind benefactors, and change found under sofa cushions. After five years, we decided we had done our karmic duty to the literary culture of the Four Corners, and accepted the fact we were as much businessmen as the Bureau of Reclamation are conservationists. We, though, knew when to quit.
Regardless, Phil Lauro and Daniel Esper thought I could offer some useful insights when they sought to launch Inside Outside Southwest, which they envisioned as a journal of entertainment, culture and recreation bonding the entire Four Corners area. Business-wise, all I could do was giggle. But they had start-up money, by gods! So, I offered to write stories, do some editing, and contact writers I knew from the Almanac days.
Six months later, my dream of a regional publication, like Jason, like the Colorado Rockies, like Al Gore, was somehow alive again after logic, experience, and common sense insisted otherwise. I did some editing and wrote the lead feature for the premier issue – a brilliant (ahem) intimate literary portrait of the reclusive Stone-Age hunter and author David Petersen – which then led to my taking a fifty percent cut in salary from my “real job” to become Inside Outside Southwest’s first Managing Editor.
Dreams are cheap, but following them isn’t.
Underway, we settled into the restored principal’s office in the former Smiley Middle School building, in downtown Durango. His partner already had fled, so Phil sat behind a big desk playing Publisher (think: “Rosebud …”); I wrote, edited, planned issues, and lined-up writers; and graphic-arts genius Todd Thompson was brought on board as art director. (One late night, Todd brought to life the vague notion I'd had about a crossed monkey wrench and pen as an iconic logo for our mission ...) We had computers, space, views, some money to work with, and a refrigerator stocked with an endless supply of Ska Brewery beer (keep it local!).
So began the glory days.
Mostly it’s a blur. Putting out a magazine, especially a start-up publication, is like rowing into a steady headwind in low financial flows. But we made it, for a while, and, I like to think, with style – subtly subversive and vocally local. Each of our issues was chock-full of well-written stories (partly to take up the space where the ads should have been) by both local and nationally renown writers. And, thanks to Todd’s dedication and skill, our pages looked as good or better than many “glossy” publications.
We had our moments. We scored exclusives with some big-name writers, including John Nichols – who premiered a chapter of a new novel in our pages -- Ed Quillen, Will Hobbs, and the aforementioned David Petersen. We enlisted a few outstanding columnists – Art Goodtimes, Rob Schultheis, and David Feela (a holdover from the Almanac who still writes in Inside Outside Southwest). We had some fun provoking our new readership: Shultheis’s “Moron of the Mountains” column drew raging hate (and love) mail; and if that didn’t, Phil’s many pseudonyms under which he wrote stories and letters (Victor Lazlo, Artimus Vark, et al.) did.
We even had a special “Edward Abbey” issue that garnered national attention, sporting a cover drawn by artist Bryan Peterson and featuring a “lost” Abbey short story that no one, not even Abbey’s wife, had seen since the mid-1950s.
Mostly, though, I remember just doing the magazine. Late nights (and early mornings) poring over paste-ups and tinkering with layouts with Todd while chipping away at those six packs of Ska … breaks out on the roof of the Smiley Building, overlooking downtown Durango … day-time breaks tossing a Frisbee on Third Avenue … and quick breaks sitting in the hallway watching the participants arrive for the dance class in the room next door.
And we always looked forward with great anticipation to the crazy “issue release” parties Phil would throw at local bars to stir up interest in the magazine. And the wacky visitors alternative magazines attract … whew.
But, as happens to most start-ups, after a year and a half of glory days, the headwinds finally outstripped our ability to row toward financial security. Fortunately, though, for Inside Outside Southwest – and for readers in the Four Corners – there’s a happy ending to this story. In 2000, Phil sold out to The Durango Herald, and Inside Outside Southwest was, like Jason, the Rockies, and Nobel-prizing-winning Gore (!), given a new life. And that life, under the steady hands of its later editors – Pete Pendegrast, and now Jan Nesset – is still beating, and growing stronger.
Long live crazy dreams.  

Sad. It hurts. But, it was a damned fine run.

And now the question is: What's next, Four Corners writers, reporters, and readers?? 

Monday, August 23, 2010

#1 Skyhawk Soccer season is here!

The World Cup is over, but if you're still hankering for some soccer, then it's time for Saturday afternoons on the pitch.

The #1 ranked and 2009 NCAA Division II national champion Skyhawk Soccer team began its quest for a third national title on Saturday when the 2010 team faced off against former Skyhawk players in the annual alumni exhibition game.

A couple of hundred fans passed a lovely August afternoon at Dirks Field -- perhaps the most scenic soccer pitch in the world (but I'm biased) -- as the varsity squad squeaked by, 4-3, an alumni team that fielded several players from last year's and 2005's national championship teams, including former MLS player John Cunliffe.

The Skyhawks open their campaign at Colorado School of Mines on Sept. 3, and play their home-opener against rivals CSU-Pueblo at Dirks Field at 1 p.m. Sept. 19.

To get you stoked for this season, below are two videos Fort Lewis produced last Spring  (and which I had the pleasure working on) to celebrate the program's second national title and the "hooligan" fans who make an afternoon at Dirks Field even more entertaining than the outstanding play already does.

Enjoy! And see you at the pitch ...

Watch a review of the 2009 National Championship season here.

Watch a humorous profile of the Skyhawk Soccer "hooligans" here.

Read Durango Herald coverage of Saturday's alumni game here.

Learn more about Skyhawks men's Soccer here.

You can purchase a DVD that includes these shorts as well as a documentary on the history of the program and more here. Sales support the Skyhawks men's Soccer program. Learn more here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Abbey lives! in new documentary

Well, it's looking like a movie version of The Monkey Wrench Gang isn't going appear anytime soon -- even though Ed Abbey's eminently popular modern-Western classic has been on retainer somewhere in Hollywood ever since shortly after it first appeared some 35 years ago.

But that doesn't mean The Gang hasn't been completely overlooked by filmmakers.

A documentary about the people who inspired the infamous characters who star in The Monkey Wrench Gang is set to be released later this year. Lines Across the Sand promises to profile the real-life Doc Sarvis, Seldom Seen Smith, Bonnie Abzug, and George Washington Hayduke, while also exploring the effect the book -- as well as  Jack Loeffler, John DePuis, Ingrid Eisenstatder, Ken Sleight, and Doug Peacock -- have had on the Western enviironmental movement.

Also, acknowledging the tribal nature of Abbey's followers -- and the grassroots-generating potential of the internet -- the makers of the film, through the International Documentary Association, is soliciting online for financial support for the film's production.

Watch the trailer for the film here:

Watch a documentary about the film below and here.

Donate to the project here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This is your brain on silt ...

We all who crave the river understand: Things are different out there on the water. Especially after several days on the river.

"Things," of course, don't actually change -- but our perceptions of things change after a few days of floating. Our views of the world, both the real physical world, and the "world" we construct in our minds with our daily living. That's one of the reasons we go on the river -- especially for long river trips: to not only get out there in the real "real" world, but also to change the way we see the cultural/social/economic worlds we live in most of the time.

Because those changes in our psyches wrought by the rio are, we know from experience, real and valuable and better than the way we perceive things after having been submerged in our daily at-home worlds. That's why "re-entry" after a long river trip is sometimes such a hard and jarring affair.

So, what is that change that being "out there" induces in our ways of perceiving the world around us? Is it just an environmental thing, a shifting of ideas? Or is it an actual, physical, mental re-wiring of our brain brought on by silt, sun, and time on the water?

That was the question addressed by a group of neuro-scientists recently when the took a five-day trip down the San Juan River earlier this summer (Mexican Hat to Clay Hills). While no answers were uncovered on the trip, the five researchers used the river trip as an environment more condusive to brainstorming -- because of that calmness and clarity of mind found on the river -- future research looking at how the brain reacts to wilderness experiences.

And the trip's effects on the otherwise un-wilderness-y scientists themselves also became fodder for future study. "If I looked around like this at work," one relaxed researcher observed," people would think I was goofing off."

This trip and its questions are chronicled in an Aug. 15 New York Times article "Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain," by Matt Richtel. It's a worthwhile read for those of us who get what the river does, but, well, haven't thought too much about how the river does it.

As a side note, scientists or not, seems ike men, at least, are the same on the river: Talking about the middle of the trip, Richtel observes, "The men drink Tecate beer and talk about the brain."

Now that' a man's brain on the river, eh?

Below is a brief video included with the article. In the video, one of the group wraps his canoe in Government Rapid. When we went down the same stretch in mid-June, a few weeks after the trip described in the article, that green canoe still sat submerged and fully wrapped at the top of the rapid.

Read the article here.

Check out some of our own "brain research" from a June San Juan trip below. There was, shall we say, a lot of drinking Tecate and talking about the brain ...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Only in the Rockies ...

... do you get driving hail, torrential rain, thunder, lightning, flooding -- and sunshine -- all at the same time.

Read more about yesterday's wicked monsoon storms in the Durango Herald here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back from ... Summer!

Okay, I've been a sucky-ass blogger for the past two months. But, hey, I've been away.

Not far away, for the most part. I've done a few forays -- a couple of long river trips, a quick visit to the Midwest, a backpack, some nearby road trips. But mostly I've been around. But I can't really say I've been "here" -- at least in terms of "here" meaning engaging with my normal routines, like blogging. 

But that's Summer, y'know? And Summer, well, it's really important to me. Always has been. In fact, in the spirit of "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe, who proudly proclaims "I took my retirement early and in installments," I've taken my retirement early and mostly in Summers. 

Aside from one foolhardy, fruitless Summer I spent "career building" by commuting in and out of Boston, my Summers since I graduated from college sometime in the mid-to-late last century have been devoted to river guiding and fishing and backpacking, living out of tents and cars, and traveling -- the West, Canada, the East Coast, Europe, Africa. 

Since having kids, my Summers have been spent, well, river running and fishing and camping, spending time around home with the kids, and traveling -- Alaska, England and Norway, British Columbia and Yukon, the Upper Midwest ...

Then, back to nine months of hard labor to finance those Summers. Nine months made passable knowing they make that next Summer possible ... (And, of course, that "career building" has, well, let's say, suffered. Ah, well.)

In my adult life, like my childhood, Summers are sacred. As they should be -- as kids know them to be. Yes, they're fun -- as in getting out a lot. But having kept alive that childish annual ritual of "getting out of school" for the Summer has lent something else to my life. A certain structure that includes a big chuck of unstructuredness that allows me to do an annual restructuring of my life. And even of my Self. 

Summers have always been the time of year, every year, when I explore and re-invent myself. When I disrupt the daily routine that runs most of my mostly-normal lifestyle, and reassess, reconnect, re-evaluate, and ultimately re-vision my living and revise my lifestyle. When I walk away from my routines in May every year, every August I return to them changed, and with a fresh ambition and aim for that upcoming work-year. 

"To die often is to live much," says an ancient Buddhist aphorism. I die and am reborn every year, in the Summer. Because of Summer. 

This Summer has been a little different than most (hey, I don't want routines even in my routine-breaking ...) in that I stuck around more than usual. (Yet still applying that traveling craving 
 to the Four Corners -- still "going," but going at home.) But, as is evidenced in the two-month space since the last MWD post, my not going away hasn't deterred my determined walking away. 

Fortunately only one person noticed that the Almanac had been idle. And he's on my payroll, so I at least know he's been doing his job. 

But, as the pagan poet-philosopher Jono urges in the face of love's and life's many futilities, "Onward! Heartbreak breathlessly awaits!" So the MWD plunges on, shipping dispatches from our little corner of this funky world into the great wilderness of cyberspace. 

Rejuvenated. Renewed. And ready to rock. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ken Salazar and ALP

Counterpunch for June 4 has a scathing indictment of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that cites his roots with the Animas-La Plata Project -- which the author also has a fun time disembowling -- as evidence of his legacy of servitude to big resource industries. 

Here's just a tasty morsel of Phillip Doe's case against Salazar from "Scapegoating Birnbaum, Saving Salazar": 

In Colorado, Ken Salazar has been an outspoken, lifelong supporter of ALP, the project American Rivers saw as threatening a river.  He supported it while Colorado Governor Roy Romer’s chief legal advisor and head of the Department of Natural Resources, then as Colorado Attorney General, then as U.S. Senator, and now as head of Interior.  He even used ALP to help propel himself into the senate seat through the spectacle of publicly kissing the ring of the lawyer who was the project godfather, of course with an adoring and uncritical press in tow.  On that occasion he declared with great humility that everything he knew about western water law he learned at the knee of the godfather.  I’m not kidding.

As for ALP, it is a shocker of a water project, even by western pork barrel standards.  It has no uses, just some laughable nonbinding scenarios for uses published in the project’s final EIS, of which 5 were written as due diligence smoke screens for this monument to mindless federal pork.  The construction costs of the project are over $600 million already, with hundreds of million more needed to move even a small portion of the water to any conceivable point of use since, at present, only a reservoir perched on a hillside exists with a complement of energy guzzling pumps needed to lift the water 500 feet from the river to the reservoir.  Billions more in interest payments will ultimately be added to the fiscal insanity since the public pays for all but a sliver of the costs.

The reservoir is fittingly named for Salazar’s predecessor in the senate, Ben Nighthorse Campbell.  He resigned from the senate while under felony investigation for influence peddling, thus opening the way for Salazar’s relentless climb.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Report from Silent Nighthorse

I met with several people from the Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday at a meeting put together by several landowners whose property abuts BuRec land around the reservoir in Ridges Basin. The BuRec staff were helpful, and the meeting clarified and sortrf out some issues, and generated some thought on others.

In particular, the meeting addressed the fence being constructed in Ridges Basin, public access and recreation management, and motorized boating on "Campbell Reservoir."

The fence

Several of the property owners were concerned about a $442,000 fence the Bureau has recently surveyed and staked out, construction of which is set to begin later this month (June). Folks are concerned about access and wildlife effects.

The fence is three strands of high-tensile smooth wire (not barbed wire). It stands three-feet at the top, and so is considered "wildlife friendly." (Although someone at the meeting questioned that, having seen what such fences can do so horses.)

The fence will be primarily along the western side of the reservoir, from Basin Ridge to the new County Road 210 (which replaced CR211). Along CR210, areas will be fenced as needed to deter off-road travel.

The fence is rather standard operating procedure at BuRec sites. The purpose of the fence, it explained, is to deter trespass, particulary by ATVs and 4x4s, and to mark the Bureau's boundary so property owners don't "encroach" onto BuRec land.

Some at the meeting argued that the private property along the fence line would already keep people out, and that the topography there is difficult to access anyway.


The reservoir at this point is expected to allow motorboating, especially after a four-lane concrete boat ramp was constructed. BUT: Invasive mussels are an issue than can yet effect that mandate.

While at places like Vallecito, inspection stations are being employed to keep invasive species from catching rides on boats into new waters, places that are presently clean and without boating have been kept boat-free or motorless to deter invasive species.

And since "Campbell Reservoir" will be a clean body of water -- and likely good invasive mussel habitat (which is being studied now) -- that argument may be a strong one here.

Public access and recreation

This was the most interesting part to me -- the topic area that seemed to suggest the biggest opportunity to influence the future of Ridges Basin.

There is presently no public access to the BuRec land surrounding "Campbell Reservoir." And despite newspaper reports of that lasting only until the reservoir is full, there will not be public access until a land manager -- either a government agency or through private contractors -- is found and puts a recreation plan in place.

(For examples, other BuRec projects are ... Navajo Reservoir is managed by Colorado and New Mexico State Parks, Lemon Reservoir is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and Vallecito is managed by the Pine River Conservation District.)

Right now, the ALPWCD and SWWCD are taking on the task of starting to create a recreation plan. But they have little money, and seem likely to seek out private partners if no agency steps forward to fill the void. So far, all agencies have bowed out of the offer.

It seems to me that the private contractor/partner option -- enlisting companies willing to invest in recreation with an eye toward turning a profit -- is the worst-case scenario. Right behind that is Colorado State Parks, which basically run state parks as industrial-recreation cash registers.

It seems like the City of Durango and/or La Plata County could step here -- either as managers themselves, creating city or county park, or as forces pushing another agency to act. They could then perhaps be persuaded to see the marketing value of offering an alternative amenity to Durango-type vaction folks and locals: a beautiful quiet (motorless) lake and park just outside of town.

The best bet, though -- perhaps the agence most aligned to the motorless/low-development argument -- might be the Colorado Division of Wildlife. It makes sense:

- CDOW already managed the area for more than 15 years.

- The Bodo family intended the land be kept undeveloped for wildlife.

- If left motorless and undeveloped, the land would return the land (to some degree anyway) to its priceless role of being an essential wildlife sanctuary in our increasingly developed area -- which is what the Division of Wildlife is for.

- The Durango area can still reap the marketing rewards of having a lake and de-facto park for its human-powered outdoors tourist and local demographic. (And so the City and County could push for CDOW to come on board for the sake of "saving" the area.)

Conclusions (mine, I mean)

After this meeting, I've come to think that some key strategies here area

- to encourage some agency to take over the management of recreation in Ridges Basin.

- the best agency will be one predilicted toward keeping the area motorless and undeveloped.

- the CDOW might be the best choice for that, especially with the support of Durango and La Plata County.

- therefore, also push for a view of a Silent Nighthorse as a blessing, as a environmental gift, AND as a great economic marketing tool for the area!

Yucca season

A walk up the mesa-side above our house shows that even the yucca are grooving on the long-awaited Spring sunshine ...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Silent Nighthorse

Since the Durango Herald took this off its website after a week, I'm posting below the text to an opinion piece I wrote that appeared in the Sunday, May 23 edition, so people can find it and pass it on. (Note that a longer version of this essay is also on the Inside Outside website, here.)

So ... spread it around. And if you're interested in joining an email list for sharing news and information on Ridges Basin, email me at ken[at]

Silent Nighthorse:
Motorless lake could keep the wild in Ridges Basin

One night I was walking the lonely county road that used to run through Ridges Basin. It was a near-full-moon night, cold and quiet, when I saw what appeared at first to be an apparition: a square light from a dimly-lit trailer, and behind it some kind of big, bright mass swirling slowly in the meadow.

As I got closer, the scene came together: An old sheepherder’s wagon stood along the dirt road, and behind it a flock of sheep (600 head, I would soon learn) grazed in the moonlight. While I stood there in awe, in appreciation, relishing the unexpected spectacle, out of the trailer came the sheepherder himself.

The young Navajo shepherd shined his big flashlight over his charges while he told me of his task: driving the flock from La Plata, New Mexico, to Ignacio for lambing. He would cross Ridges Basin tomorrow, and push on into Ignacio a few days later.

Then came the hammer: He informed me that after 100 years, I was witnessing this outfit’s the last sheep drive through Ridges Basin. Why? Because next year the site of a new dam that would create Ridges Basin reservoir would be impassable.

"Why do they have to ruin good country?" he asked me, not really seeking answer. Because we both knew why: The Animas-La Plata water project.

Ridges Basin was good country: A wide forest-rimmed valley harboring wetlands and a perennial stream -- a rarity in this high-desert country. Just a few short miles south of downtown Durango, it was a sanctuary for both wildlife and people: a big, quiet, healthy and historic landscape close to town.

It was also until recently home to an estimated 300 mule deer and 100 elk, while as many as 1,400 of the hard-pressed animals migrated through or wintered there. In May and June, the basin served as vital elk calving grounds -- a diminishing commodity in a region where many meadows and valleys have metastasized into subdivisions and trophy homes.

Before A-LP, Ridges Basin was an amazing place. And it was supposed to stay that way.

The Bodo family, whose homes and ranch buildings still stood in the basin before AL-P's flooding, worked this land since 1914. The family gave up ranching in the 1970s, but not their love of the land. In 1974, they sold their ranch to the Nature Conservancy, with a clause in the deed: that Ridges Basin stay wild for wildlife forever. When the Nature Conservancy turned over the basin to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, creating the Bodo State Wildlife Area (read: public property owned by all Coloradoans) that clause remained intact: Forever.

Forever, that is, until 1991, when the CDOW had to deny access to the Bureau of Reclamation for testing for ALP. The Bureau then condemned 4,000 acres of the Bodo Wildlife Area -- to hell with the "public:" in public land, or the "wildlife" in Wildlife Area, or the "forever" clause the CDOW was entrusted with.

And Ridges Basin’s death sentence was issued. Today, that place where I encountered that bygone way of living will itself soon be gone, submerged under the  stagnant pool behind Ridges Basin Dam.

But ... There is still a chance to reclaim and retain some of those "forever wild" qualities to Ridges Basin. There is still a way we can resurrect the spirit and preserve some of the values and intentions of that Bodo gift.

The master planning process for the future of recreation in and around the Ridges Basin reservoir -- which now bears the marketing name "Lake Nighthorse" -- is still in its infancy, and much has yet to be determined.

In the fantasies of the industrial recreationists, Lake Nighthorse and its environs will be home to a regular Four Corners Disneyland that includes a four-lane concrete boat ramp, camping areas and facilities, and trail systems for hikers, bikers and equestrians. Just drawing up the plan for this playground is estimated to cost from $150,000 to $200,000. In 2000, the Colorado Department of State Parks estimated recreational amenities could cost upwards of $25 million -- not counting operations and maintenance.

In recent years, the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado State Parks, La Plata County, and the City of Durango all have bowed out of the recreation-building business around Lake Nighthorse. Not to be deterred, though, in March the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District took over the development of recreation at Lake Nighthorse. The District is reported to have $50,000 available.

The view from here, then, is that either full build-out doesn't seem likely, or, if the district can find investors to help them, then it's unlikely development will be done in ways that will maintain the quiet, remote, peaceful nature that Ridges Basin has known for millennia. (Or done in ways that are free and open to the public that paid for A-LP to begin with -- see the user fees recently imposed to support recreational amenities at the Bureau of Reclamation's Vallecito Reservoir.)

So here's an idea:

Let's have a silent Nighthorse. Every other reservoir in the Four Corners has been given over to motorized boating and industrial recreation. So let's keep Ridges Basin what it has been since the last ice age, and what the Bodo family intended it to be nearly forty years ago: A nearby sanctuary for both wildlife and people.

We can save both money and an irreplaceable landscape through two stipulations on any Lake Nighthorse recreation plan: Minimal building and non-motorized uses. And we can still make it happen. The ALPWCD has won a grant from the National Park Service River and Trails program, and, with the help of a private consulting firm, is working on setting up a process for public meetings and input on the design of recreation on and around Lake Nighthorse. Look for announcements in coming months on ways to get involved and speak your mind.

There can still be a Ridges Basin that is wild. Forever. If we make it so.