On The Plains

Haxtun in Phillips County of eastern Colorado has a population about 900, mostly a “company town” for CHS Grainland as is other area towns nearby. Wheat, corn and soybeans the local industry with one grocery store, a café, liquor store, hardware, schools, a few churches and a hospital. I chose this quiet place to buy a retirement home because it was affordable, friendly and midway between I-76 Sterling and the Nebraska Panhandle. In the country one makes their own entertainment without bullies or gangs-rather go fishing/ boating in several state park resevoirs; go birdwatching on county road fence lines or hunting/ trap shooting.  Last July I attended a street party of classic cars meeting my new neighbors. I hope to resume my art interests, maybe introduce painting to the locals; volunteer some time to community activities. I can get to Denver in few hours’ drive and the mountains as well; Wyoming isn’t all that far either. Who needs to pay high rent or crazy taxes in a resort town paralyzed by I-70 sprawl/ gridlock?

New England Hills

If one can visualize a landscape in Massachusetts & New Hampshire before endless cities/ towns linked by roads were built, all Thoreau might see are tree-covered rolling hills that change color during time. Winter brown leafless hardwoods eventually bud into spring green. The summer scene brings poison ivy, mosquitoes, black flies and assorted blooms. Fall of course fills the tableau into a mix of brilliant hues of red maples, yellow birch and orange oaks, usually not accompanied with August humidity. The Ice Age glaciers spread and retreated well before Thoreau, Hawthorne and Frost-leaving erratic boulders of gray granite and “monadnocks” or rounded mountains in their wake. In what’s today known as the Berkshires sits Mt. Greylock at 3,491’small by Rockies comparison, but rising above Western Massachusetts from just above sea level. Closer to Worcester/ Boston suburbs are Mt. Tom (Connecticut Valley), Mt. Wachusett 2,006′(Ware-Nashua watersheds), Watatic at 1,832′(almost to NH),  Mt. Monadnock, its summit of rocks tops off at 3,165 near Jaffrey NH and Pack Monadnock 2,290′ the northern cousin near Peterborough in Miller State Park. This group of low scale mountains are aptly called the Monadnock Range.  Into northern New England rise the Green Mountains in Vermont-Mt. Mansfield 4,393′; New Hampshire’s Whites/ Presidential Range-Mt. Washington NE highest 6,288′ and Maine’s distant lonely peak Mt. Katahdin 5,268’in popular Baxter State Park.  Enclosed here is my watercolor looking north: Wachusett on left, Watatic in middle,  Monadnock a small triangle about 60-70 miles distant (right side of painting)-

and an autumn photo of Mt. Monadnock taken in late 1990s by my late mother Edith Griscom before digital cameras.

Denali Dream

Daley Art 4 064Part of the fun of traveling can be the anticipation that comes with the plan! This older watercolor of mine represents an elusive lifetime hankering to go see Alaska, which up until recently was still just a hankering! But goals take action. With the centennial birthday of the National Park Service approaching in 2016 came a good reason to try! Last spring I took the first step with a reservation for my own cabin in Camp Denali; it requires a year ahead to get your place in there, reached by their 90 mile bus ride from the train/ park entrance. The bus leaves on a Monday so I have to be there ahead; lodging had to be arranged for that weekend prior. The other big goal of this trip of course has to be Anchorage-I decided I wanted nine days in the city area to rest, then take in much of the hiking paths with views of the Cook Inlet, the volcanoes distant west as well as the Chugach mountains to the east, southeast! There’s plenty of culture to take in too. I want to do the day trip to Whittier for the boat cruise into Prince William Sound for the glaciers, fjords & wildlife. By train I’m on my own with all the connections thus I decided to flight see over Seward, the Kenai Fjords NP instead of a much further train ride. I’m paring down the expenses to realistic expectations so the Katmai bear watching trips at $800/ day will have to pass. The Alaska Zoo will have animals to see. Denali surely will offer glimpses of caribou, bear, dall sheep, mtn. goat  and birdlife, especially if I get up, out of my cabin solo before breakfast with a bell attached to my knapsack to scare grizz away from me! Standing still will get me the local birds. I’ve my train reservations completed, paid for. Earlier this month I paid for my plane ticket. I’ve been purchasing books & maps on line, buying the necessary items like raingear, a new pair of boots and a survival bivy/emergency shelter to have with me if I miss a connection somewhere. I figure the total for this first time Alaska trip will be about $6000. Denali rises 20,320′ at 4 miles up from sea level or about 18,000′ vertical from the 2000′ level in the park-it’s massive acreage spans 6 million acres-twice the area of 3 million acre Death Valley! Nine months yet to go!

American Puffin

Maine moments 206This past week July 22 I ventured out onto Muscongus Bay off New Harbor Maine, a gem of a small town near Pemaquid Light, south of Rockland. A 60 foot tour boat took a crowd of about 100 people out 5 miles on a gorgeous calm 5:30pm cruise past moored lobster craft and pine treed shoreline coves to Eastern Egg Rock where some 148 pairs of American puffins reside. I could see Monhegan Island to my south and the Camden Hills to the northwest beyond a gentle blue horizon of seawater, very little swells.  The captain steered the boat around this jagged rocky flat out there, allowing both sides of his boat, the Hardy III for everybody to glimpse these little guys! Arctic terns, black-headed gulls and guillemots also joined the show. There were some solo puffin displays as well as two on a rock and three swimming together off my starboard, my binoculars and camera busy!  After August these little birds go north again to Canada and Greenland. The Audubon Society has relocated this colony from other Maine locations of Seal Island, the Petit Manan NWR. beyond Acadia National Park spreading the species futher south about for protection from predators like seals-and for us to enjoy!

Rattlesnake in the Vault Toilet!

Back in mid-April I spent two nights at Hite Crossing, UT95 campsite where the Dirty Devil River meets the Colorado flowing into northern Lake Powell. The spring weather was unsettled with threatening dark clouds and a violent windstorm the second night, nearly collapsing my tent. About 6am the next morning I walked over to use the toilet house when I heard a hissing sound like plumbing or air escaping-except there's no plumbing...over in the corner by the door sat a coil in the dingy early light. There was a rattlesnake in the toilet! I should've brought my flashlight but I was hurrying to break camp. I held up my jacket in front of me as I quickly exited to fetch my camera.  I've later determined this sleepy, non-aggressive specimen not to be a diamondback, but rather a desert massasauga with the stripe through the eye, the red color and oval markings. Pretty cool huh? I'm glad it got out of the wind-and didn't hit me!

Back in mid-April I spent two nights at Hite Crossing, UT95 campsite where the Dirty Devil River meets the Colorado flowing into northern Lake Powell. The spring weather was unsettled with threatening dark clouds and a violent windstorm the second night, nearly collapsing my tent. About 6am the next morning I walked over to use the toilet house when I heard a hissing sound like plumbing or air escaping-except there’s no plumbing…over in the corner by the door sat a coil in the dingy early light. There was a rattlesnake in the toilet! I should’ve brought my flashlight but I was hurrying to break camp. I held up my jacket in front of me as I quickly exited to fetch my camera. I’ve later determined this sleepy, non-aggressive specimen not to be a diamondback, but rather a desert massasauga with the stripe through the eye, the red color and oval markings. Pretty cool huh? I’m glad it got out of the wind-and didn’t hit me!

West 2015 821

Camping Etiquette

Hey all you yahoos this article is just for you! You know who you are-the littering, noise, dogs, tree vandals, careless with fire and parking too close to others. Everybody wants the same thing presumably, a wonderful reunion with the outdoors, nature, be it tenting, a RV or just sleeping in your car/pickup. Trouble is it just seems so many think they’re entitled to be free to disturb others. A few years back near Buena Vista CO I came upon a fire ring filled with beer bottles & cans. Duh. Glass and aluminum don’t burn. Does a bear shit in the woods? Sure so do coyotes, dogs and people. Please bring a plastic bag from the grocery store and USE IT! At the next gas station you can put your trash into the pump island trashcan. Not so difficult. Leave no trace. Noise. At Cottonwood Cove at Lake Mohave NV after swimming I decided to use a near-empty campground to set up my tent; it was about 2pm and I needed a nap. Here come the LA set with their Spanish language, loud ethnic stereo and car spinners. I don’t care but could you hold it down? No, provocation for the gringo instead. Okay I packed it up, folded the tent and departed very LOUDLY blowing my horn up to ranger house, walked in and proclaimed “your culture needs an attitude adjustment”. Again in Western Colorado I found a campfire still smoking after I watched a station wagon arrive after dark the night before. I put it out of course and reported the incident just as I reported the kids shooting firecrackers in a dry national forest years ago. Campers love their campfires, but I seldom have one because it harms the environment and it is a serious responsibility. We’ve had way too many wildfires in Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite and other national treasures. Southern California and Colorado’s Front Range too!  Would somebody please stop cutting off live limbs from tree saplings, scarring the tree and littering the site? Green doesn’t burn in your campfire. I think dogs are wonderful companions, but make poor company as their owners do when on hiking trails. Alone in wilderness ok but in popular crowded places like New Hampshire’s White Mountains, or Mt. Chocorua the barking and loud talking/commands destroys the peace of birdwatching, also harasses other wildlife. I yelled out in Arizona’s Lost Dutchman SP “can the canine” after enduring nonstop unsupervised barking in the Superstition Mountains. Where is the courtesy folks? And don’t walk on others, there’s plenty of room for all of us. In campgrounds it’s pretty hard to separate from the motorcycles, ATVs, dogs, kids crying, drunks, and RV generator chatter but in open country like Muley Point overlooking Monument Valley why does this riff raff turn around in front of me, letting his two dogs walk through my site, then parks 500 yards out of sight, but within earshot beyond the rocks on the cliff? I left this gent a note next to a pile of slash someone left, telling this individual he compensates for his macho inferiority through his hostility toward me. I placed the pile of limbs in the small road so he could get my message. I’ve seen it all: toilet vandals, dog poop, visits by game wardens, the all night Seattle drunks destroying trees, the Class A motorhome I chased away from me in Montana, the yappy mutt in San Angelo SP Texas, the impudent dog owner unleashing his pet to scatter the shorebirds I was looking at in a Chatham MA mud flat; this is what I get out there. Happy camping!