Category Archives: General Outdoors

Outdoor and nature news from all over.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

California would be a pretty neat place if it weren’t so full of Californians – you know, that odd grouping of people who keep putting the lunatics back in charge of the asylum that is their state government.

But the country has a lot of appeal.  Yesterday I drove over to the coast and took a long walk down a really interesting rock-covered beach.  For company I had sandpipers, gulls, ravens and pelicans.  Photos follow.

Click for more.

Rule Five Windy Day Friday

One of my favorite quotes comes from a personal hero, nature writer Hal Borland:

There are no limits to either time or distance, except as Man himself may make them. I have but to touch the wind to know these things.”

The wind is, of course, a purely physical phenomenon, the movement of atmosphere from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. The sun’s heat drives the wind. So does heat moving in ocean currents and the Coriolis Effect. A myriad of local and global influences move the wind and shape it. In our history, we have harnessed the wind to grind grain, to pump water, to move ships, to generate electricity. Plants use it to spread pollen and seeds, birds use it to soar in the sky, mammals seek or avoid it to improve their own comfort in their environment.

That is not what Hal Borland had in mind. In fact, I think I have a good handle on what Mr. Borland meant when he encouraged us to touch the wind.

I once spent part of a morning out on the end of a long fishing pier at Ventura, California, looking over the Pacific Ocean towards Santa Cruz Island and using my big twenty-power binoculars to look for whales. I did not see any whales, although I enjoyed seeing sea ducks, grebes, and watching pelicans diving for fish. The constant that morning was the wind, blowing in from the west. It was not a harsh wind that sunny California morning, but a warm wind, just enough to ruffle hair.

Where else had that wind been? Where did it come from? From what unknown shore did that wind journey to visit me there on that California pier? What mountain valleys did it travel, what plains, what forests did it traverse to get to where I was standing? If the wind could talk, what stories would it have to tell?

I wonder these things because I have always been afflicted with wanderlust. Bright, breezy spring days in particular fill me with the urge to go walkabout. The wind suffers from no restrictions on its movement; no job, no travel expenses, no duties or obligations. It crosses mountain ranges, continents, oceans and borders as easily as it crosses the street. The wind is my constant companion when I am out of doors.

As Mr. Borland pointed out, the wind knows few limits. In the Middle East, I have experienced hot, dry winds that felt like they came from a furnace. Growing up in northeast Iowa where winters are serious business, I have felt cold, dry bitter winds that were so frigid they burned. While traveling in the American South, I have suffered through sluggish breezes so humid that you could almost hear them splash.

When I was a boy in Iowa, the wind brought winter blizzards and summer thunderstorms, the smell of corn pollen in the summer and burning leaves in autumn. In Colorado, the winds bring the small of pine and spruce in the mountains, the smell of sage on the flats, winter storms and summer rains. When I am fishing on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a place I love without reservation, the wind blends the smell of the endless forests of spruce and fir with the smell of the sea.

The Swiss have the Foehn, the Californians the Santa Ana, the French the Mistral, the Hawaiians the Pali, Alaskans the Williwaws. In my own Colorado in the spring comes the Chinook, that warm, brisk spring wind that melts snow and dries the ground for the first spring wildflowers. The wind has as many names as it does variations.

Some warm summer afternoon, take a moment and look closely at a dandelion that has gone to seed. Dandelions are a favorite of children in summer – to pick them, and blow the silky seeds away, to watch the breeze carry them off to start another patch of dandelions on some homeowner’s manicured lawn. Dandelions depend on the wind to live, to spread. Some homeowners swear at dandelions, but I like them – they are great survivors. Counting on the wind is a good evolutionary bet.

Lately the urge to wander has been hitting me with great vigor. I want to go walkabout. I would like to find a way to ride on the wind as I would ride a river in my old canoe, to see where the wind’s river would take me. What a wonder, to be as free as the wind, to wander the hills, forests and valleys! One of my favorite spots in Colorado is in the White RiverNational Forest south of Eagle, where a Forest Service road wanders close to the south rim of McKenzie Gulch. One sunny afternoon I sat on a rock at the top of the gulch, eating a blueberry bagel and considering how long it would take me to descend into the bottom and climb the other side. As I thought about this, a Clark’s Nutcracker floating by overhead opened his wings wide and rode the south breeze across the vast gulf of air to the other side. I envied that bird; I wanted to spread wings and float on the breeze. Instead, my own evolutionary legacy forced me to walk.

Walking still suits me, though; the wind is always there with me.

Stand outside in a stiff breeze sometime. Raise your arms high and spread your fingers. Touch the wind.

For all its variations, the wind is one of the Earth’s few constants.

Rule Five Self-Defense Myths Friday

Recently The Daily Caller presented a pretty good article on three self-defense myths that you still see bandied about.  Here they are, with some of my comments.

Myth No. 1: Hit him anywhere with a .45 and it will knock him down.

This myth probably started with the advent of the .45 Colt back in the 1870s, but it has been repeated most often when people refer to the .45 ACP. Nowadays, you will hear it touted regarding the .44 Mag., the .41 Mag., the .40 S&W or whatever new pistol cartridge that has just been introduced.

The truth was discovered way back in 1687, when Sir Isaac Newton published his third law of motion. Newton simply stated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, if a bullet shot from a handgun was so powerful that it could actually knock a person down, it would also knock the shooter down.

Part of the reason you still see this line of horseshit served up is because you see it in the movies and on television so often.  One of the best portrayals of an old Western gunfight is in the excellent Costner/Duvall flick Open Range; it shows a real gun battle, with old guns made with varying tolerances and inconsistent black-powder ammo, with opponents literally just blasting away at each other at short range until hits are scored.  But there is a scene that ruins the whole thing; Robert Duvall fires his double-barrel 12 gauge through a plank wall at a bad guy, and the blast picks the baddie up and slams him against a wall.  Not even a 12-bore at a range of about six feet will do that; not even close.  More on that in the next bit:

Myth No. 2: There’s no need to aim a shotgun, just point it in the general direction of the bad guy and fire.

The shotgun is an awesome firearm that is altogether too often overlooked by today’s defensive shooters. However, it is not a magic wand. People who claim you don’t have to aim a shotgun have simply never done patterning tests with their favorite defensive smoothbore.

When shot exits a shotgun barrel, it does so in almost one solid mass. That mass is smaller than a man’s fist. It is only as the shot travels downrange that it begins to spread apart, and it spreads much more gradually than a lot of people expect.

A shotgun can be absolutely devastating at close range; I can attest to this from personal experience, having personally taken a hit to the leg from a 12-gauge at a range of about three feet.  (It was just a minor difference of opinion; call it a misunderstanding and leave it at that.)  But it’s not a damned paintbrush.  A good tight aim is still required.

Myth No. 3: If you have to shoot a bad guy in your front yard, drag him into the house before calling the cops.

As ridiculous as this may sound, it is one of the self-defense myths that just won’t go away. A student brought it up once in a defensive pistol class. There are couple of good reasons why this is a terrible idea.

We live in a time when any halfway-awake forensics weenie can reconstruct your life history from the remains of your gerbil’s three-week-old fart, and people are still spouting this nonsense.

Here are a couple of additions of my own:

Don’t ever fire a warning shot.

Daffy old Uncle Joe Biden’s advice on the topic notwithstanding, this is a bad idea.  For one thing, you may well be guilty of negligent discharge of a firearm.  But more to the point, if things are bad enough that you have produced a firearm to deter a threat, if you are called upon to fire your first shot should be center mass.  Shoot to stop the threat; a shot in the air does nothing to that end.

Understand the laws of your jurisdiction.

In Colorado, we are fortunate enough to have what liberals call the “Make My Day” law; state law gives home and business owners the right to use force to defend themselves on their property, without requiring one to retreat.  Your state may differ; some places require you to flee before using force, which to my thinking is a horrendous abuse of government authority and a denial of a basic human liberty.  But if you don’t want to end up in the crowbar Hilton yourself, know your local laws.

It’s a damned shame that so many folks who write about guns don’t seem to know much about them – including some that should know better.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain Rule Five links!

Here’s a topic I’ve always found interesting, especially given Mrs. Animal’s and my Alaska relocation plans:  How to prevent a bear attack.  Excerpt:

If a bear sees and charges at a hiker, it’s best to stay still and “stand your ground,” the NPS (National Park Service) said. 

“Most of the time, if you do this, the bear is likely to break off the charge or veer away,” the NPS said. “This is called a bluff charge.”

If the bear gets within 40 feet (12 meters), start spraying pepper or bear spray. (Bear spray is recommended because it goes farther than pepper spray.) Both contain capsaicin, a chemical that irritates the bear’s eyes, nose, mouth, throat and lungs. But, if the bear continues to charge, it’s time to play dead, the NPS said.

Timing is incredibly important. A bear can still veer off at the last moment, so a person should play dead only within a nanosecond of making contact with the bear.

“Drop to the ground; keep your pack on to protect your back,” the NPS said. “Lie on your stomach, face down, and clasp your hands over the back of your neck with your elbows protecting the sides of your face. Remain still and stay silent to convince the bear that you are not a threat to it or its cubs.”

Once the bear leaves, wait several minutes to make sure the bear and its cubs are no longer nearby. Then, cautiously get up and walk (don’t run) away, the NPS said. The bear could still attack again.

And when a bear wants to eat you?

“During a predatory attack, you should be aggressive and fight back using any available weapon (bear spray, rocks, sticks) to stop the aggression by the bear,” the NPS said. “Fight back as if your life depends on it, because it does. Predatory attacks usually persist until the bear is scared away, overpowered, injured or killed.”

Now, I’d like you to spot which item of preparation is missing from the linked article.  Go ahead and look.  I’ll wait right here.

Back already?  OK, you probably noticed the one preventive measure that a great many Alaskans avail themselves of when in bear country, one that is more effective than any other; a firearm.  A good powerful handgun or (preferably) a rifle or 12-gauge shotgun stuffed with slugs will stop a bear.  With a bit of distance and luck, a shot into the ground may deter a bear before it gets too close.  But an experienced hand with a good weapon will be safer than an experienced hand with a can of bear spray.

Alaskans know bears.  They live with them.  It’s not uncommon, on popular fishing lakes and streams, to be able to spot the locals by the .44 magnums on their belts.

 

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Saturday was an interesting Bay Area day.  Since my own dear Mrs. Animal is here with me for a six-week stint, we decided to go adventuring.  Up north of the bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge, lies Muir Woods National Monument.  We went there Saturday, had a nice long walk followed by lunch up in San Rafael at a wonderful place called Terrapin Crossroads, owned by Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh.  Photos follow.

Rule Five EPA Racket Friday

As if we didn’t already know this, John Stossel is pointing it out for us:  The EPA is a Racket.  Excerpt:

Regulation zealots and much of the media are furious because President Donald Trump canceled Barack Obama’s attempt to limit carbon dioxide emissions. But Trump did the right thing.

CO2 is what we exhale. It’s not a pollutant. It is, however, a greenhouse gas, and such gases increase global warming. It’s possible that this will lead to a spiral of climate change that will destroy much of Earth!

But probably not. The science is definitely not settled.

Either way, Obama’s expensive regulation wouldn’t make a discernible difference. By 2030—if it met its goal—it might cut global carbon emissions by 1 percent.

The Earth will not notice.

However, people who pay for heat and electricity would notice. The Obama rule demanded power plants emit less CO2. Everyone would pay more—for no useful reason.

I say “would” because the Supreme Court put a “stay” on the regulation, saying there may be no authority for it.

So Trump proposes a sensible cut: He’ll dump an Obama proposal that was already dumped by courts. He’d also reduce Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spending by 31 percent.

But here’s the real kick in the nuts:

Some of what regulators do now resembles the work of sadists who like crushing people. In Idaho, Jack and Jill Barron tried to build a house on their own property. Jack got permission from his county. So they started building.

They got as far as the foundation when the EPA suddenly declared that the Barrons’ property was a “wetland.”

Some of their land was wet. But that was only because state government had not maintained its own land, adjacent to the Barrons’ property, and water backed up from the state’s land to the Barrons’.

The EPA suddenly said, “You are building on a wetland!” and filed criminal charges against them. Felonies. When government does that, most of us cringe and give up. It costs too much to fight the state. Government regulators seem to have unlimited time and nearly unlimited money.

But Jack was mad enough to fight. He spent $200,000 on his own lawyers.

Three years later, a jury cleared Jack of all charges.

So, President Trump is pulling some of the EPA’s fangs.  That’s a Good Thing.

Here’s the deal; I’m something of an environmental nut myself, in that I like being out and about in the environment.  I like clean air, clean water, birds, chipmunks and trees.  I also remember the late Sixties, when some of our cities were unlivable due to the filth and you couldn’t eat fish (if you could find one) out of many of our major rivers because of the pollution.

But that battle’s won.

Here’s the problem with popular “movements” like the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, and countless others:  They can’t admit victory.  Thousands if not tens of thousands of people are making a damn good living whipping up outrage and planning the next round of ever-more intrusive legislation and regulation, and they have no interest in admitting they won (or, in some cases, that their grandparents won), folding their tents and going home.

But it looks like President Trump is willing to send at least 31 percent of them packing.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

On the Saturday just past I found myself once again with one of my favorite situations; no place to go, and all day to get there.  Now mind you, I can’t abide Bay Area politics, but I am frequently in the position where I’m paid to go where the work is, not where the fun is.  So I make the most of it, and there are always some decent outdoor adventures not too far from anyplace I find myself.  Saturday it was the Almaden Quicksilver County Park, where I spent a nice sunny Saturday hiking in the hills.  Photos follow.

Click for more!

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

First up – our thanks once again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

On this weekend past, my first in the Bay Area (this trip) I got up Saturday morning to do some exploring.

Fortunately the lodgings here are on the south end of the metro area, right near the on-ramp to CA Highway 17, which goes south to the oceanside town of Santa Cruz.  I drove down there, then caught Highway 1 north up the coast.

It was a beautiful, bright sunny day, temps in the high 50s, perfect for bumming around outdoors.  My favorite kind of day; I had no place to go and all day to get there.  Photos and a video (unfortunately not hi-def) follow. Click for more!

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. spent the last three days wandering around The Great Land.  Our purpose was mostly just enjoying ourselves but also doing some shopping around of neighborhoods for an eventual semi-retirement.

Alaska is a wonderful place if you like to hunt, fish, camp, or engage in almost any other outdoor activity.  It’s also a great place to go if you want to live a quiet life and be left the hell alone, which has long been one of my fondest wishes.  It’s also the only place I’ve ever been where I never felt hemmed in.

We love Alaska.  It’s one of the best places left anywhere.  Photos from this trip follow.

Animal’s Daily Hunting News

img_0910
Yr. obdt. looking over some Grand County elk country.

Our annual elk hunt, abbreviated as it was by some sudden travel plans, ended with an empty sack.  Note that I do not say “ended sadly,” as any time spent in the great Western outdoors is never cause for anything but happiness.

We had one good shot at filling one of our cow elk tags.  Near the spot shown above, loyal sidekick Rat heard an elk mew softly in the timber.  We split up and stalked into the pines in a pincer movement towards the patch of pines where the sound came from.

Rat overlooking the same country.
Rat overlooking the same country.

As we moved in, through the heavy dark timber I saw a pair of elk legs moving slowly upslope.  I moved up to a large pine, found an opening in the trees, and braced against the tree to place Thunder Speaker’s scope on the opening.  I saw an orange elk butt moving towards the opening from the left at a range of about fifty yards; then I saw in the scope a bit of elk neck, then an ear, then the head…

…then an antler.  It was a young raghorn bull, and we had cow tags.  Oh well.

Anyway, it was a highly enjoyable week.  Photos follow.