Monday, December 19, 2011

Coyote Tracks in Dishman Hills

canis latrans

It's becoming something of a ritual for me this winter. Every Saturday I wake up to a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee (Seattle's Best at the moment), and head out for some hiking in the Dishman Hills. It makes sense for me because I live so near to the hills, literally a 5 minute drive to the dirt parking lot down the hill from Camp Caro. I feel like I want to get to know the Dishman Hills. I want to know the trails; the main ones and the more confusing side ones too. I want to know the ravines and the rocks and the trees. I want to know the animals. It's hard to see animals in the wild especially when you're on the move, but there are other ways to get to know them.

 I became interested in tracking after I read a book called The Tracker by one of the most famous modern day trackers Tom Brown Jr. It made me want to pay closer attention to where I was walking and what I was looking at while I was in the woods. Sometimes when you're hiking you can feel yourself slip into autopilot. You put your head down and stare at your feet and power forward, and before you know it a couple miles have slipped passed and you didn't see anything. That is not the way I want to hike.

Scat on top of a small pile of pine needles near the trail

 I wan't to see and feel and be apart of the woods. I want to be able to identify a ponderosa pine when I see one, and look at tracks in mud or snow and know what animal they came from. Seeing tracks while hiking is something that constantly happens. Whether I'm in the Montana backcountry or a park in the middle of Spokane, I am always seeing prints on the trail, and I am always wondering; where do they come from? So I picked up a book on animal tracks a few months ago to try and get some basic education in tracking.

When I'm up in the Dishman Hills (or anywhere in the woods) I'm always looking, and always trying to be mindful of where I'm stepping and what I'm looking at. So it was exciting to me when I realized that I was on to a coyote last Saturday. First I came onto some scat that was sort of laying right beside the trail on top of some pine needles and other debris. It was almost as if it was placed there to be seen like a signpost to other animals. The area I saw the scat however didn't really have much snow so I didn't see any tracks. About maybe a hundred feet further the trail wound deeper into the forest and the snow from a couple days before still lay on the ground, and sure enough between all the boot prints and tire tracks I saw what looked like small coyote prints almost skirting the edge of the trail. Ha! I was totally elated. Okay actually I was still really unsure if what I was looking at was a coyote or a domestic dog, but I consulted my book and now I can say with confidence that it was a coyote.

I never knew I could get so excited over a few prints and pile of shit, but I did! Even though I lost the tracks after a few feet it still felt really cool to know that I found them in the first place. Can't wait to go back next Saturday.
Coyote in a slow side trot.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Final Four

 These are four shots taken of the same mountain in different contexts. In central Idaho near Hell's Canyon there is a Wild and Scenic River called "The Rapid River", The river runs swift and violent and cuts through Ponderosa Pine forests and steep rock canyons in the Nez Perce National Forest and the Hell's Canyon Wilderness.

 One day of a weekend trip we hiked around and explored the beautiful country that the Rapid River flows through. After a long ascent I looked over my shoulder and saw this mountain dominating the skyline.

Naturally, I took tons of photos. It was so beautiful and so commanding and so picturesque. I had a ton to sort through and these were the final four. So I want to know. Which one do you think is the best?

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Will Return

Leona Falls. Can you see my brother?

Outside of the destruction zone caused by the eruption, Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument is a very green and beautiful place.The forest is thick with ferns and lichens and mushrooms and moss covered stone and mighty hemlocks, and at every turn a stream is running down the mountainside and crossing the trail.

If the conditions are right, life can grow on rock.

Did I mention the forest is wet? You can see the dew on the leaves and moisture in the ground. The sound of running water is a constant companion, and It seems at every turn you're rock hopping over a stream or fording an ice cold creek.

My brother fording Goat Creek

In the summer of 2010 we were turned back by snow at the top of Tumwater mounatin. This summer, I will return.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Must be the beard

I am going to talk about work again.

So I work with this Mexican fellow named Ehprain who is a really nice guy, and a big Chicago Bears fan (still owes me a case of beer from the Raider game). Anyway, somehow we got on the subject of age and he voluntarily starts guessing mine... "42 or 43" he says. I'm looking at him dead in the eyes and I see no hint of sarcasm what-so-ever. I tell him I'm actually 33 and he says, "Wow, you look a lot older than that." Now people always tell me I look younger when my beard is nice and clean cut, but to be mistaken for ten years older than I actually am made me realize just how old my beard makes me look when it's long.

42 anyone?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leadership 101

I don't talk shop much. Usually I'm the kind of guy who when someone brings up their work I start day dreaming about trees. Unless of course they actually do something interesting. My mom works in an Emergency Room downtown. Her work stories are good. I work in manufacturing. My work stories are lame. With that being said, I'm going to talk about work now.

Today at work I was told to take over the Hardware department due to the absence of it's lead, who sadly flew to California for a funeral. Now, I had only actually worked in Hardware a handful of times in three years. I knew (and still know) nearly nothing about it. That being said, within an hour I had the department running like a welled oiled machine. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my buddy Ryan, who claims that in order to lead, one must first be an expert in the field of that which one is trying to lead. 

"Mike" he said, "Do you think you could be the President of the United States?"
"Yes, of course. I would make a good president." I replied.
"How's that? Do you know anything about economics? How would you fix the economy?"
"Hmm, I don't know much, I'm not sure how exactly."
"Well then how can you say you would be a good president if you don't know anything about the economy?" He asked, getting excited now as if this were a competition that he'd just won.
"I would appoint the best economists I could find to my economic team and have them write a detailed report, and I would make a decision based off that report." I confidently replied.

Isn't that what real leadership is? Leadership is not about micromanaging or being an expert or the most intelligent. Leadership is about surrounding yourself with the right people, and making the right decisions based off what you learn from those people. If you can do that, you can lead, even if you don't know anything about the field that you are in. It's true.

I proved it when I was made Managing Editor of the newspaper in college after only one quarter as a staff writer and having virtually no experience at editing ever. I proved it again at work today.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Does it get any better?

Mu Uncle Steve fishing on Heart Lake in Montana

Nothing beats fishing a mountain lake, even if you're only catching pan fries. At Heart Lake one morning in Montana's proposed Great Burn Wilderness my Uncle Steve fished for a couple hours only to catch one little 8 inch trout, but the smile on his face told me that he loved every minute of it. When you're in a place as remote and as beautiful as Heart Lake, it's just being there that counts.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Little Guy

Purple Shore Crab
Purple Shore Crab

While hiking on the coast in Olympic National Park I saw this Purple Shore Crab. He was a little guy but he sure was pissed about me shoving my camera in his face.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In the Clouds

 I shot this in Glacier Park last year. We were standing in a cloud on a mountainside around 7,000' and there was just enough break in the clouds that I saw some mountaintops peeking out from the other side of this huge valley. It was pretty epic. Actually, it was magical.