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I’m doing a little house keeping around the site. Everything should be all bright and shiny soon. Thank you for your patience!

Winter sports conditioning class started this week. Tuesday was core, box jumps and balance work. Last night 40 minutes of “Low intensity, high volume cardio!” followed by another 50 minutes of partnered band work and medicine ball exercises.

This morning snow blanketed the hills and every sore muscle was suddenly a promise of winter, a reminder of what is to come. In this new place it’s both strange and familiar all at once.

Here’s to  remembering the past, and dancing toward the future.

“You need to learn to fall before we leave.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Dive like a penguin.”

“Okay.”

Top: Pups from the Wenaha pack peer out from the den.
Above: A yearling female wolf from the Wenaha pack in northeastern Oregon. As of August 2012, there were a minimum of 9 wolves confirmed in the pack. All images are mine; please do not use without direct permission.

I’ve spent the last several months writing about the politics of wolves in Oregon, and to some degree the West. If everything proceeds as planned my book, Collared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country, will be published by OSU Press in Fall 2013. On the new “Collared: Wolves in Oregon” page on this site, I’ll share bits of that story, wolf-related news and my ongoing research.

… For the last eight-months since observing possible wolf sign during elk hunting season, the Oregon Department of Fish Wildlife state wolf coordination, Russ Morgan, has regularly driven deep into this forested area in northern Union County, cupped his hands to his mouth and let out long, loud, AAWWOOOOoooos.

The howls are part of bona fide scientific survey technique used by wildlife managers to identify the presence of wolves in areas too large to visually survey. Territorial wolf packs and individual wolves will often respond, and move toward, the human howlers, across distances of several miles. However, it’s not a perfect tool. Wolves have been known to ignore, or not respond, to the howls of humans and other wolves. In addition, when a response is elicited it provides only general information about whether or not a wolf, or wolves, are present. Deducing more specific information about exact numbers in the population, sex, and age can be a stretch.

Still a response is a response, and howling surveys are a practical, low cost option for trying to determine if wolves are in an area. That viability, and the potential for success no matter how slim is why Morgan’s voice is now hoarse enough to sand paint, and why he has spent the last two-days eating peanut butter sandwiches and sleeping in the dirt next to the truck. Staring blankly out the windshield, sweating, and swatting at bugs he plans for one more night.

Even at 15 mph Morgan can feel the vibration from the washboarded forest road in his kidneys. Dust from the dry fire road comes in through the vents in the truck’s dash coating the interior with the same fine brown film of particulates that covers the brush mallow and Douglas fir trees that border the road. Every ten minutes, Morgan stops, rolls down his window, and howls. He keeps it up for one hour, two hours, four. At about one a.m. he pulls the truck to the shoulder, switches off the engine, and being too tired to even pull out his sleeping bad, lets his head loll back. He sleeps for almost two hours propped in the driver seat. Waking at about three a.m. he decides it couldn’t hurt to howl into the darkness. When a responding howl comes immediately and from less than 25 yards away, he almost falls out of the open window.

Before the call tapers off it’s joined by another deeper howl, punctuated by higher pitched yips – the sound of pups.

– Excerpt from Collared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country, Chapter 3: Early Arrivals

I just wrote this email. It’s a follow-up question from an interview I conducted a few weeks ago.

Hi __________,

When you open the main body cavity, you said you make an incision from the jaw to the pubis. This is probably a ridiculous question, but, do you use a scalpel to make the cut?

Thanks! Aimee

I think sometimes it’s these little details that can really round out a story, and they have to be right. I only wish I had thought to clarify at the time, rather than realizing now as I’m trying to write the whole piece that I want the detail. The learning process continues.

Addendum: I’m envisioning a laser being used because then wouldn’t it also act to cauterize as it opened?  I’m 90% sure it’s my imagination going nuts, but I’d rather know for certain.

Crested Butte, CO, does not have home mail delivery service. Rather, everyone in town has a PO box that they can check as often, or as rarely, as it suits them. Perhaps related, the postal employees seem to be a pretty laid back, happy bunch. Their relaxed vibe became even more apparent when I found the sticker below plastered onto the old steel refrigerator at the RMBL cabin.

A calm place to write. A view that doesn’t stop. Hot water and hope. This is home for the next four days. I am deeply indebted to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory for offering space without any expectation. This is going to be good.

 

I woke up at six this morning, made coffee, read and wrote notes for three hours, took care of office work, ate a peach, a banana, some strawberries, a handful of dry cereal, went to the library, stared at the screen, went to the office in the attic of what I’m pretty sure used to be a brothel, got a splinter from the sheet of plywood I set up as a desk, wrote for another three hours, had a cookie, a cup of coffee, wrote some more, called a friend, called a parent, came back to the house, stood over the sink and ate a salad of mostly spinach and broccoli, weighed the pros and cons of making a press pot of coffee at 9:30 at night, had some juice instead, and then sat back down in front of the keys. I figure I have another two hours in me before rinse, wash, repeat for the next seven days. Bad habits die hard and big projects bring them out like nothing else.

Summer is far from over, and already I’m dreaming of winter. I’m thinking about moving to a new ski town, a place where I can cut my teeth on pitches greater than 45 degrees. I’m riding bikes and running, not because it’s fun — it is — but to get my legs and lungs ready for big ups and big downs. I’m smelling the night breeze, looking for frost in the morning, and reading Powder magazine.

Writer Ryan Dunfee recently wrote a piece about leaving the snow and mountains of the west and moving back east for a woman. Right in the middle of the essay Dunfee mentions the “only piece of life advice that I’ve ever felt was important to follow…” After reading it, I thought he’s on to something. Maybe you’ll think so, too.

Here it is.

Write down where you want to be in five, 10, and 20 years. Start with what kind of place you want to be in, what you want your weekends to be like, what kind of flexibility you think you’d need in your life, and what kind of activities, both in work and outside, you can’t see yourself not doing.

In the first few days of August, you’ll wake up and it will feel different. You’ll search under the bed and find your slippers among the dust bunnies. You’ll still take your coffee out to the porch, but first you’ll pull on a puffy tugging the zipper up to your chin. Looking thru the steam rising off your cup you’ll think you see gold way up high on the hill, just a few early Aspens showing their color at 9,500 feet. It’s too early you’ll think, but later dripping sweat as you climb dusty single track, you get a close-up. Leaves that were green yesterday, today flutter yellow in the breeze coming off the ridge. Staring at them you know. It’s coming.