Human Population Growth: “Anomalous and Unnatural”

“There is one especially interesting aspect of the current political landscape, and that is the matter of human populations. At one time a widely debated and much analyzed problem of the day, human population pressure has mysteriously slipped from both political and popular ‘environmental’ agendas.”[

[So wrote the late Canadian naturalist, and outspoken author, John A. Livingston in his 1994 book, Rogue Primate, back when there were only 5.67 billion of us as opposed to today’s 7.3 billion.]

“There is plenty of talk about food distribution (there is enough food for everyone in the world if we could only get it to them) and both industrial and low-impact agriculture, but the matter of absolute human numbers appears to have receded, if not from our private reflections, from our public utterances.

“The deadliest and most insidious form of thought repression is self-censorship. It has

8 is enough, but 13 is definitely too many for anyone!

8 is enough, but 13 is definitely too many for anyone!

become popular…to label those who would dare weigh the interests of Nature in the context of human populations as “ecofascists.” Yet another trump card [like the derisive term “food Nazi” often used against vegans by hard line meat eaters]. Charges of fascism and misanthropy, as well as of racism and Malthusianism are familiar to all who tend the vineyards of Nature’s inherent worth in the face of the human blight. The self-censorship that sometimes can follow, though craven and submissive, is usually defended as necessary and unavoidable pragmatism.

“It was not always thus. There was a period in which a great deal of attention was given to exploding humanity. From the later1940s to the early 1970’s there was a formidable outpouring of articles and books on the social and ecological implications of unrestrained human breeding.…

“The inexorable laying waste of Nature has broadened, deepened, and accelerated proportionately. By 1975 the world’s human population was no longer 2000 millions [as it was in 1948] but 4000 millions.…

“The fact that the human population bubble has not yet burst in all its horror does not mean that it will not. The fuse is no longer sputtering. It is burning steadily now. No organism can increase its numbers infinitely.

“No doubt the familiar devices of distancing and denial are at work in the disappearance of the population question. It has seemed to me for quite some time that the continuing reportage of the Ethiopian and Somalian famines tends to focus on the human misery, the ‘failure’ of the rains and the bitterly drawn-out political violence. Little attention is given to the human role in the ecological synergy that causes desertification. Although much is made of the hideous suffering of the children, few commentators note that if there were such a thing as natural justice, these little ones would not have been. Even fewer address the ironical human ability to proliferate even under the most appalling privation. No wild animal can do that.

“There are machismo tenets in some human cultures that much rigidly reject family planning no matter what the consequences. In others, repeated reproduction has become a perceived means of offsetting child mortality. There are those whose ‘leaders’ are sufficiently chicken-hearted and sexist to deny women a choice in the matter of abortion. There are still others with ‘policy-makers’ bent on providing more customers for the chain stores, more victims for the financial institutions, and more non-corporate taxpayers by enhancing natural increase through immigration. There are even governments desirous of rapid population increases for purely political reasons. In all nations, rich or poor, there is unanimity on the point that the effect of human numbers on Nature is a second-order consideration, and externality.

“Anyone who knows anything about living organisms knows that the human reproductive wave is anomalous and unnatural. No other animal, especially a large one, could possibly get away with it. In Nature, explosions do occur at times, but either they are cyclic and normal, as with lemmings, or there is some unusual, local reason for them (more often than not traceable to human activity). In either case they tend to die back as suddenly as they arose. [Humans may not have arisen “suddenly,” but one thing is for certain, they will die back.]

Other Evils of the Livestock Industry

The following is by Rosemary Lowe:

Thinking Beyond the Animal Factories to Save This Planet

 Those out there who are concerned about this planet, the wildlife, the wild places, really need to understand how very destructive the Livestock Industry is, and not just for the factory farming aspects (as horrendous as they are).
Even many Vegans, who rightly abhor  what goes on in animal factories,  ignore, (or are unaware of), the plight of billions of native wild species in the U.S. and around the world. Wild species’ populations are in severe decline , some near extinction, due to livestock grazing on the last open, wild places.
Since the 1880’s the western livestock industry in the U.S., has been responsible for the slaughter of Billions (not millions) of coyotes, bears, wolves, prairie dogs, birds of prey, mountain lions, bobcats, beavers, ferrets, and other wild fauna and flora. This industry is also killing our rivers, streams,  forests, not to mention increasing the volatile gas, methane, that is a by-product of grazing, &  increasing global climate change.
So, while most people are now at least aware of the evil animal factories,  the horror of what goes on “out there” on the range– the vast expanses of our public lands– is hardly mentioned or thought about. It is crucial to also understand that western public lands–wilderness areas, BLM, National Forests, National Grasslands,  National Wildlife Refuges, and state lands–are becoming Domesticated Feed Lots because of the ranching industry. These public lands are the last refuge for wildness, in this Climate Change world!
 No matter how livestock grazing is packaged, it is an industry which is  removing what is wild and replacing it with  Domestication. Every so-called “wildlife problem” west of the Mississippi is really about The Livestock Industry, whether it be actual  grazing, or the raising of crops used for grazing domestic sheep and cattle. The western livestock interests are powerful, vocal, and determined to keep wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, wild horses, & thousands of other species “controlled/managed” with emphasis on aerial shooting, roundups, poisoning, trapping, hunts,  subsidized by taxpayers.
Now, some misguided animal groups, like IDA, and HSUS are falling for the PZP “birth control” method for horses, deer and other wild ungulates–which means more “taming” of the wild west.
What does this trend mean for the future of The Wild, when even so-called “animal people” start Sleeping with The Enemy?
 The great naturalist, professor, author, John A. Livingston, wrote, in Rogue Primate that: “to domesticate…is to amputate its wildness, to tame it; to train or otherwise coerce it into living with, and being of use, to us; to make it a part of our (human) infrastructure.”

We who care, still have a chance to save what is left of wildness, but we don’t have much time. Worse yet, the other living beings–wild non-humans-are fast running out of time.
And John A. Livingston also wrote (and ahimsaforever commented), One of my favorite quotes of Livingston catalogs why he and other people (including me) who care about animals can be misanthropic:

“In the alchemist’s dungeon that is almost any well-appointed shopping center in the “developed” world, you can buy cosmetics, transmission fluid, and pet food made from whales; you can buy the hide of lynx in the form of a hat, or gloves made from the skin of an unborn lamb; you can buy a coat made from seal whelps; you can buy a tropical finch in a metal cage and a Siamese fighting fish in a plastic bag; you can buy firearms and whammo ammunition and multiple hooks with barbs on them; you can buy sharkskin shoes and the unspawned eggs of a sturgeon; you can buy the pulverized enlarged liver of a force-fed goose and the testicles of a bull and the brain of a calf . . . . You can buy the sterile eggs of an untrod chicken and the tongue of a feed-lot steer that spent its last weeks hock-deep in its own manure; you can buy medicines made from the blood and viscera of living laboratory animals . . . . You can also buy the Holy Bible and the Declaration of Human Rights.” The John Livingston Reader (2007), p. 149.

Rewilding of America is a natural thing to do


Rewilding of America is a natural thing to do

The News West / By Todd Wilkinson | Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014 4:30 am

We human beings are set apart by our capacity to express extraordinary compassion, empathy and charity — especially, it seems, at this time of year.

We also are unrivaled on the planet for carrying out acts of cruelty, not only against others of our own kind but toward vulnerable creatures around us that have no voice to plead their case for mercy and therefore no defense.

In ignorance, thoughtlessness and the warped logic of Manifest Destiny — the absurd notion that God would encourage us to be plunderers — we’ve erased other species from existence.

Witless sometimes, we inflict pain on animals, rationalizing it on the conceit that other creatures are incapable of knowing suffering or that our superiority gives us license to not acknowledge it exists.

This sort of thinking, Marc Bekoff says, is precisely the logic that degrades humanity.

Bekoff has a new book out that any animal-loving human (including hunters, anglers and ranchers) needs to read. “Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence” is an important work because it will change how you think about your relationship with nature.

That challenge can be exhilarating if you’re ready, frightening if your worldview is so fragile it cannot withstand scrutiny.

While reading Bekoff’s book and reflecting on the twisted individuals who publicly boast of inflicting abuse on wolves and coyotes, I thought of the observation made by the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung: “The healthy man does not torture others. Generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”

Bekoff is a world-renowned ethologist who wrote the critically acclaimed book “The Emotional Lives of Animals.” As professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, he is also a former Guggenheim Fellow — confirmation that he is among a club of people held in highest regard for being exceptional big-picture thinkers.

Author Richard Louv, in his bestselling book “Last Child in the Woods,” identified a chronic problem plaguing modern people, Nature Deficit Disorder, running rampant in our kids.

Bekoff’s book confirms Louv’s diagnosis and casts it in fresh light. He believes that in our zeal to conquer nature, tame and control it, we’ve become “unwilded,” cut off from the very things that keep us grounded.

Bekoff isn’t just an advocate for rewilding physical landscapes — restoring them to their life-nurturing ecological function and recognizing the intrinsic value of their interconnected parts. As individuals, he says, we benefit from rewilding ourselves by maintaining contact with nature or making changes in our lives that give us daily exposure to wild things, the same as if taking a health-enhancing vitamin.

It is with empathy that we reach out to others suffering pain, loss and trauma caused by violence. And it is through extraordinary groups like Wounded Warriors that exposure to nature is used as a salve to heal.

Bekoff shares observations about hunting that, he notes, have sparked philosophical conversations with Wyoming outfitters. He also blasts commercial media. His thoughts are sure to provoke. Rather than divulge them here, suffice it to say they’re well worth absorbing.

Not long ago “60 Minutes” interviewed scientific researchers who had discovered that dogs can understand hundreds of human words and have a huge emotional range. It’s something Bekoff has known for decades.

Of interest to Westerners, Bekoff calls attention to those who kill wolves and, denying they are sensitive, thinking, feeling creatures, try to put them in a separate category from domestic canids.

“Then I ask the person if they would hunt and kill their own dog. ‘Of course not!’ they usually respond with incredulity. But in the end, a dog and the wild animals people hunt are not all that different, except that we already love our dogs.”

The terrain Bekoff explores may unsettle some, for it challenges the belief that animals, especially wild ones, are somehow lesser life forms, not worth consideration as sentient beings.

The whole point of Bekoff’s book is: It’s difficult to consciously inflict harm upon, or knowingly exploit for fun and profit, or wantonly eradicate beings that possess their own inner soul and spirit. They’re all around us.

“Alienating ourselves from other animals and dominating them and their homes is not what it means to be human,” Bekoff writes. “We must stop this insanity now. Ecocide is suicide.”

Idaho Suspends Wilderness Wolf-Killing Plan In Face of Court Challenge

By On July 29, 2014

POCATELLO, Idaho – Faced with a legal challenge by conservationists and an imminent hearing before a federal appeals court, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (“IDFG”) has abandoned its plan to resume a professional wolf-killing program in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness during the coming winter.

In a sworn statement submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 24, 2014, IDFG Wildlife Bureau Chief Jeff Gould stated that IDFG “will not conduct any agency control actions for wolves within the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness before November 1, 2015.” IDFG had previously advised the court that the program could resume as early as December 1, 2014.

A professional hunter-trapper hired by IDFG killed nine wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness last winter and state officials in February announced plans to kill 60 percent of the wolves in the Middle Fork section of the wilderness over a period of several years in an effort to inflate wilderness elk populations for the benefit of commercial outfitters and recreational hunters.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act this September, we are relieved that the Frank Church Wilderness will be managed as a wild place, rather than an elk farm, for at least the coming year,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who is representing conservationists challenging the wilderness wolf-killing program. “Now we must make sure that wilderness values prevail for the long term.”

Earthjustice is representing long-time Idaho conservationist and wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan along with four conservation groups—Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity—in the lawsuit challenging the wolf-killing program. The conservationists argue that the U.S. Forest Service, which is charged by Congress with managing and protecting the Frank Church Wilderness, violated the Wilderness Act and other laws by allowing and assisting the state wolf-killing program in the largest forest wilderness in the lower-48 states.

In a separate sworn statement filed with the Ninth Circuit on July 24, the Forest Service committed to providing the conservationists with notice by August 5, 2015 of any plans by IDFG to resume professional wolf-killing in the Frank Church Wilderness during the 2015-16 winter, as well as “a final determination by the Forest Service as to whether it concurs with or objects to such plans.”

“IDFG’s announcement now gives the Forest Service the chance to play out its mission—its obligation to protect our irreplaceable Frank Church Wilderness for the American people and for all its wildlife against an effort to turn it into a mere elk farming operation on infertile soil,” said Maughan, a retired Idaho State University professor who was a member of the citizens’ group that drew up the boundaries of the Frank Church Wilderness 35 years ago.

“We are pleased to see this truce in Idaho’s wolf reduction efforts in the Frank Church for a full year,” said Suzanne Stone, Defenders’ regional representative who has worked nearly three decades to restore wolves in Idaho. “The Frank Church is both the largest forested wilderness area and a core habitat for gray wolves in the western United States. Wolves belong here as they have made the ‘Frank’ truly wild again. Ensuring healthy wolf populations here is critical for the recovery of wolves throughout the entire northwestern region.”

“It is hard to imagine a decision more inconsistent with wilderness protection than to allow the hired killing of wolves,” added Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “Today, some relief for wild places flows from the news that IDFG will not continue that odious operation this year. Next we will see whether the Forest Service will take action to protect the Frank Church Wilderness from such atrocities in the future.”

“It’s time for the Forest Service to stand with the vast majority of the American people by taking the necessary steps to protect wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness for the long-term, not just the next 15 months,” stated George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch. “Wolves are the epitome of wildness. Their protection is key to preserving the area’s wilderness character.”

“We’re glad Idaho’s wolves are rightly getting a reprieve from the state’s ill-conceived predator-killing plan, at least for a year,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.  “We’re also happy to see the Forest Service agree to be more transparent about any future decision to allow Idaho to kill wolves in the Frank Church.”

BACKGROUND: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had scheduled an August 25, 2014 court hearing to address the conservationists’ request for an injunction to prevent IDFG from resuming its program of professional wolf killing in the Frank Church Wilderness during the coming winter. IDFG commenced the program in December 2013 without public notice but abruptly suspended the program on January 28, 2014 amidst emergency injunction proceedings before the Ninth Circuit. Since then, the conservationists have continued to press their case for an injunction before the Ninth Circuit, which led to the scheduled August 25 court hearing.

Because IDFG has abandoned the 2014-15 professional wolf-killing program in the wilderness, the conservationists have agreed to forego the scheduled court hearing, but they renewed their call for the Forest Service to fulfill its legal duty to protect the Frank Church Wilderness.

copyrighted wolf in river

Idaho Intent on Killing Wolves in the Wilderness

copyrighted wolf in water

By Ken Cole On February 12, 2014
The Wildlife News

New plan aims to reduce population by 60% to please elk hunters

POCATELLO, Idaho – In an effort to inflate elk populations for commercial outfitters and hunters, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) hopes to kill 60 percent of the wolves in the Middle Fork area of central Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, according to a predator management plan for the area released this week.

IDFG’s plan calls for an intensive program of wolf killing in the largest forested wilderness area in the lower-48 states through several successive years of professional hunting and trapping efforts designed to boost the local elk population beyond the level that can be sustained through natural predator-prey interactions. It comes just weeks after a hunter-trapper hired by the state wildlife agency killed nine wolves in an effort to exterminate two wolf packs in the Middle Fork area. State officials terminated the program in the midst of an emergency court proceeding to halt the program.

Earthjustice is in court to stop the professional extermination of wolves in central Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Last month, Earthjustice filed an emergency motion asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the wolves and their vital contribution to the wilderness character of the . Rather than presenting its legal defense to Earthjustice’s argument, IDFG temporarily halted the program until the end of June 2014. Earthjustice will be filing its opening brief later this week in the Ninth Circuit proceeding. Earthjustice is representing long-time Idaho wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan, along with Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and Center for Biological Diversity in the case.

Statement from attorney Tim Preso of the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice.
“The state of Idaho has made clear that it intends to double down on its plan to transform the Middle Fork area of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness from a naturally regulated wilderness to an elk farm benefiting commercial outfitters and recreational hunters. The only thing that is not clear is whether the U.S. Forest Service will step up to defend the wilderness character of this landscape on behalf of all the American people or instead will, as it has done to date, let Idaho effectively run the area to advance its own narrow interest in elk production. For our part, we intend to do everything we can to obtain a federal court ruling that will require the Forest Service to protect this special place and its wildlife.”

Statement from Idaho resident and long-time conservationist Ralph Maughan:
“By implication our lawsuit aims to protect the entire nationwide Wilderness Preservation System from similar efforts to transform the wild into a bland farm for a few kinds of common animals.”
Statement from Idaho resident and Defenders of Wildlife representative Suzanne Stone:
“It’s clear that IDFG isn’t interested in sustainable wolf recovery. Instead, they’re focused on doing anything they can to kill as many wolves as possible in the state. That’s not responsible state wildlife management any way you look at it. Idaho committed to responsibly managing wolves when federal protections were removed just a few short years ago. Actions like this just further demonstrate that they’re failing to uphold their end of the agreement.”

Statement from Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project:
“For the idea of wilderness to have any meaning at all, wildlife must be allowed to self-regulate, to seek its own balance, to be wild. Instead, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game insists on heavy handed management of wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to benefit a tiny minority of the people who use and enjoy the area. The nation’s premier wilderness is not just a recreation area of rocks and ice, it is a thriving ecosystem that should be treated as the treasure it is.”

Statement from George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch:
“The State of Idaho has shown once again it is incapable of being a responsible partner in wilderness administration. It’s high time the Forest Service exert its authority and obligation to protect the public’s interest in Wilderness and wildlife protection.”

“This outrageous plan to slaughter wolves in the lower 48’s largest wilderness in an ill-conceived attempt to increase elk numbers is only the latest example of just how backwards wildlife management has become in Idaho. Already more than 900 wolves have been killed in Idaho during state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons. And this unnecessary slaughter will continue unless the courts step in and stop the senseless killing.”

Idaho hunter hired to kill wolves “gets the job done”!

[This answers the question, “How many are left?”]

by Associated Press, January 29th 2014

KETCHUM, Idaho — A professional hunter has been called out of a federal wilderness in central Idaho because he succeeded in killing all the wolves in two packs, a state agency spokesman said.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler tells the Idaho Mountain Express in a story on Wednesday that the hunter killed eight wolves with traps and a ninth by hunting.

Gus Thoreson of Salmon started hunting and trapping in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in mid-December as part of a state plan to eliminate wolves to boost elk numbers. The state agency had planned to keep Thoreson hunting through the winter.

“He had been pretty effective early on, but it had been two weeks since he had taken any wolves, so we decided there was no reason to keep him in the area any longer,” Keckler said.copyrighted wolf in river

Keckler said the average size of a wolf pack in Idaho is five wolves, so the agency determined it had reached its goal of eliminating the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek packs. Officials announced Monday that Thoreson was coming out.

Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore’s acknowledgement that Thoreson’s hunt relied on the use of the U.S. Forest Service’s backcountry airstrips and cabin had prompted strong emotions, including from wolf advocates who sued in federal court to force him to quit.

Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and Wilderness Watch filed the lawsuit Jan. 6 asking the judge to stop the plan immediately to give the case time to work through the courts. The environmental groups were joined by Ralph Maughan, a former Idaho State University professor, conservationist and long-time wolf recovery advocate from Pocatello.

They lost their initial bid on Jan. 17 when a federal judge rejected their request for a temporary restraining order. The conservation groups argued that Thoreson’s activities violated the 1964 Wilderness Act and other federal acts.

The groups had appealed that decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when the state agency announced the hunter was being pulled out.

“I am happy that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has relented, but it is unfortunate that so many wolves have been taken in this senseless plan to manhandle wildlife in an area that Congress recognized as a wilderness,” said Ken Cole, National Environmental Policy Act coordinator at the Boise office of Western Watersheds Project.

Wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in the mid-1990s and have since flourished in backcountry regions, including the Frank Church wilderness.

Last year, state game managers estimated Idaho’s wolf population at 683, an 11 percent drop from 2012. The highest total was in 2009, when it estimated 859 wolves were in the state.

Information from: Idaho Mountain Express,

Victory For Idaho Wolves!

Earthjustice went to court to stop Idaho from exterminating the Golden and Monumental wolf packs in central Idaho’s Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness.
And we won! The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced that it is halting its wolf extermination program as of today.
This will stop the wolf killings and restore the natural balance between predator and prey in the Idaho wilderness area.
A howling wolf in the snow. (Judilen / istockphoto)

Tell the U.S. Senate that You Oppose Ranching Industry Bill: Western Wildlands are Not a Feedlot

From Wildearth Guardians

It’s another giveaway by the Congressional cowboy caucus to welfare ranchers.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is considering a bill that would exempt the ranching industry from numerous environmental laws and further elevate the cattle industry on western public lands above wildlife and water.

Tell Committee Chair Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon that ranching industry shouldn’t be given special treatment. And if your Senator is on the committee, tell her/him as well that you oppose giveaways to the livestock industry.

The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” eliminates environmental review for grazing permits under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Act would also double the period of grazing permits from ten to twenty years! Both would further entrench grazing on public lands—imperiling hundreds of species including sage grouse, native trout and wolves.

At a time when our public wild lands in the west are critical for providing water and wildlife habitat and ensuring resilience to climate change we cannot afford more give-aways to the cattle industry.

Energy and Natural Resources Committee members need to hear from you.

Call Senator Wyden at (202) 224-5244 in Washington, DC, or (503) 326-7525 in Portland Oregon, and then sign on to our email letter today!

The Way

Having spent the better part of the last four days getting our winter’s firewood in and under cover, my wife and I are now looking forward to the season of longer nights and cozy fires. In honor of all that, here’s something I wrote while on a solo hike in the North Cascades National Park, camped outside an old miner’s cabin…


by Jim Robertson, circa June, 1979

There’ll be a big fire a-blazing soon
and if you’ve got the time I’d like you to
come on in and share the warmth with me.

I might not be the most social guy,
but when friends come ‘round
I like to try to show them a good time
the way it used to be.

I’d trade skiing stories with the boys out back,
while in the kitchen the women’ll yackity-yack
and we’ll get together when supper’s good and baked.

And afterwards we’ll all sit ‘round
and watch the fire as we’re burning out,
and the snoring dog will keep us entertained.

I got no TV,
no video games,
but my big stone fireplace
should take the place,
if you appreciate the way it used to be.

So if you’re all alone on this windy night,
come on in and share the light
and the warmth from the fire
the way it used to be.

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Last Blast From the Past

Here is the last in the blast from the past series for now…

First, here’s a photo from my trail clearing days. This was actually one of around 100 trees that blew down over a trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area, after the US Forest Service had the hill below it clear cut. A heavy wind whipped up the freshly-cleared slope (outside the wilderness area) and, since the trees on the ridge had nothing to help them absorb the force, the old growth trees blew over. Ironically, although the clear cut (1/2 mile away) was logged with chain saws, we had to use a cross cut hand saw to clear the blow-downs (since chain saws aren’t allowed in wilderness areas).

more housepix 164

Anyway, the following is something I found that I’d written down on some notepaper while on a solo hike nearly 28 years ago…

July 8, 1985

The mid-day heat was upon me as I hiked along the shore of Ross Lake for six miles to Big Beaver Creek. On the way the vegetation went from cool fir, cedar, birch and alder forest to hot, dry lodge pole pine thickets. It was in one of these that I came across a mother grouse and her chicks.

By the time I reached the Ross Lake/Big Beaver Creek junction, I was ready for a bath. I waded into the semi-warm water by an empty horse camp and was greeted by a horde of persistent horse flies. After the bath numerous boaters and hikers passed by in route to their camps on the lake. One group who had just come down from Big Beaver valley said the mosquitos up there were terrible. As they said this, I was almost nuts slapping horse flies, but the mosquitos up there were supposed to be worse? That made me think: do I want to keep going today at 4:00, alone, just me and the mosquitos to the dark forest, or do I stay here in the sunshine and put up with the power boats and the crowds?

Well, I came here knowing I’d be alone in the dark forest with mosquitos; and besides, I wanted more adventure than watching speed boats could supply me with. So I said goodbye to the sun and views of Pumpkin Seed and Jack Mountain and followed Big Beaver Creek, past old cedars and Douglas firs.

About three miles further, I came across a fresh bear scat full of huckleberries (I noticed all the huckleberries gone from the plants I’d passed on the trail). About 75 feet further was a flat spot and an access to the creek (sort of). Here was the adventure; this would be my camp tonight. I set up my mosquito-proof hammock and spread out my food to decide what to have for supper. The thought crossed my mind that if an animal were nearby, there were more than enough smells to attract it. A few minutes later I looked up with a start to see a black bear 15 away, coming into my camp. I said, “Hey there!” which surprised him, since I don’t think he knew anyone was in camp. I told him, “It’s okay to be here, just don’t try to steal my food.” I guess he didn’t feel like staying and stepped quietly back onto the trail. As he slowly moseyed on, I felt bad about scaring him off, so I said to him, “No hard feelings…” So he sat down on the trail and scratched for a while before meandering out of sight. It was a great way to end the first day.

Day 2:

I woke to a short sprinkling of rain which lasted less than five minutes. That cloud passed and the sky was clear from then on. As I sat by the river under tall mossy cedars, a striped snake passed by. Odd place for a snake (the second one I’ve seen here) but the vegetation is so diverse it was probably just headed for another dry spot. There were also a number of bumble bees attending my breakfast party (in addition to the usual uninvited biting guests). The bumble bees seemed to be more interested in their own business than sucking my blood. Turns out they had a ground nest right in my camp (of course).

Back on the trail I passed more huge cedars and some beaver ponds, one of which I stopped at for the night. I felt that if there was wildlife anywhere, it would be here. Indeed, I’ve been hearing the snapping of twigs and footfalls all evening.

As I was having dinner a yard from the pond, there was an enormous “SPLASH!” close by. Then I saw one of the big beavers eyeing me as she swam 20 feet from my camp…followed by another SPLASH of her tail; she didn’t like my intrusion at all. No one had ever spent the night here before and she did not want it to start happening now. I told her, “It’s okay, Ms. Beaver, but “SPLASH” was her only reply. I got a good look at her fleshy tail close-up as she struck the pond in threat.

As I lay in my hammock that night, I heard her several more times. Whenever I made so much as a peep, she would come back with a “SPLASH.” I hoped she wouldn’t come and chew down the trees my hammock was tied to. (Fortunately I hadn’t read about the guy in “Beware the Beaver,” or I might be more nervous;)

Day 3:

Just as I awoke and remembered the events from the night before, ”SPLASH!” She was still on guard. The sun is half up, but the clouds are starting to move in. It’s time to follow an unexplored valley in search of friendlier wildlife…

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved