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CollaredCollared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country will be on shelves Oct. 1, and OSU Press has set up several events, including readings and signings to celebrate publication.

To start I’ll be at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne on Oct. 7 at 7:30 pm discussing the book and signing copies for the store. On Oct. 8, I’ll be reading from Collared at Grass Roots Books in Corvallis, Oregon. Then on Oct. 9, I’ll be taking part in an informal discussion of the book and topic during a brown bag lunch at the Valley Library on the Oregon State University campus. I’ll also be participating in a signing during the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association conference next week.

It would be wonderful to see you out there.

BT 42

For an hour we moved up the river in that fashion. Come to a pocket, make a few casts, catch a few fish, and move up again. It got to the point where like Babe Ruth we were calling our spots and calling our fish. Twelve-incher top of the pocket left side. Just on the tongue of the white water, fourteen-incher.

Check out the field report on the RIO blog, here:

An unnamed rural highway, Union County, Oregon

Last night lying cocooned in down, I fell asleep to the sounds of rain drumming across the fiberglass truck topper and gunshots. The rain quit a few hours later, but the shots rang through the night. Some times they sounded deep like the huge drum carried by the skinny kid in high school marching band, or like the cannon fire from a war long lost. Other times they were more like a POP! A tire blowing out at 60 miles an hour on the highway, a firecracker pulled as the sky darkens on the Fourth of July. They came in intervals; ringing one or two every few hours. At 11pm, midnight, 1:30, 1:46, 3 am. Then just before dawn, before the water had boiled for coffee, I heard the howls. Bouncing and echoing along forested hills and across valley pasture, they were less a chorus than a distortion of individual notes. Once again came gun fire.

These are not redneck kids playing with dangerous toys, not devil dogs running feral. Far from the state capitol, far from the lawmakers, the activists and lobbyists, the long nights have everyone tired, and all sides are suffering losses. They are hardworking men and women trying to maintain their livelihood. They are wild animals acting from instinct and experience.

ImageIt’s spring! Here come new adventures, new friends, and new places. Let’s go play outside!

The Seattle-based company, AltaRock, wants to develop the area around Newberry Crater in the Deschutes National Forest for geothermal energy production. They propose pumping millions of gallons of cold water and chemicals into deep, hot, volcanic bedrock to create pressure and steam capable of turning an energy producing turbine.

According to reports by Oregon Public Broadcasting, “The project will create small earthquakes, most under a magnitude of 1, as the pressurized water opens up natural fractures in the rock and causes them to slip and create underground storage units.” Here’s the full piece from OPB.

What isn’t mentioned in the report is AltaRock’s mysterious 2009 abandonment of a similar project located north of San Francisco, CA in an area called the Geysers. At the time the New York Times, reported:

“AltaRock immediately ran into snags with its drilling, repeatedly snapping off bits in shallow formations called caprock. The project’s safety was also under review at the Energy Department after federal officials said the company had not been entirely forthcoming about the earthquakes produced in Basel in making the case for the Geysers project.

The results of that review have not yet been announced, but the type of geothermal energy explored in Basel and at the Geysers requires fracturing the bedrock then circulating water through the cracks to produce steam. By its nature, fracturing creates earthquakes, though most of them are small. …”

There is deep groundwater around Newberry. There are delicate species and habitat worth protecting. There is wilderness and wildness. Newberry backs up into Paulina, and in the winter there are beautiful shoots just waiting to be explored and skied. The process being proposed by AltaRock, and considered by Federal and State officials, is not the same as the controversial “Fracking” used in oil and gas exploration, but it’s related and it scares me. It feels like gambling big without knowing the stakes. It feels dangerous.

After a long drought, with only a day or two of respite, it’s finally snowing, but not even just snowing — nuking. An inch an hour. Two inches an hour. And windy. Snowflakes fly like needles piercing unprotected earlobes. Frostnip shows itself as small patches of white skin on angled cheekbones. Hoods cover googles cover hats, but still ice sticks to beards, curls, eyelashes.

Peering through the flatlight, eyes squinted, I can see the base building. I can see windlips forming from here to Kansas. It’s brutal.

At home the message light blinks, the emails pile up:

Where are you?
Is your phone working?
Are you alive?
What’s happening?

I’m here; I’ll call you back soon. I’m not sure, but I’ll call you back soon. Yes! I’ll call you back soon. Winter is here and it’s a gift. I’ll call you back soon.

You don't dry your skins in the shower?!

Temperatures fell to single digits, it dropped six inches of blower over night, the wind died, the sun came out, and I once again found myself laid out like a sorry little sea creature on the uphill route. Unlike yesterday, today there were other skiers skinning toward the summit, and from my snow level vantage point I had the perfect opportunity to watch them move across the 30 degree pitch of glare ice with only minor hesitation and baubles. What the heck?!

After a few minutes, I gave up, slid into some wind protected trees, stripped the skins, and amid bouts of wallowing like a pig in mud through two plus feet of wind blown and death gripping ice nubbins with my free hand, I kickstepped to the top. Then, because the turns were worth it, I did it again.

I think I have decent skinning technique. I stand up straight, try not to break at the waist, breathe, and attempt to keep my skis flat and my skin surface plastered to the ground. Starfish mode is not part of my regular skinning game plan. On the way off the hill, I stopped in at the local backcountry supply shop. I was thinking maybe taller climbing wires might help me focus my weight over the center of my skis, when the owner came over to chat. I explained my experience over the last two days, and in general. I said that I didn’t really think it was a gear issue, as I’d watched other folks maneuver across the death sections on similar set-ups. It must be something I’m doing wrong, I said. He looked me up and down.

You really want to know? he asked. Your “petiteness” is your problem*. Those other people were probably all quite a bit bigger than you.

So what, I need to start eating butter? He grinned, and suggested Deschutes Brewery Porter. Not funny. Not funny at all.

Frustration is a great motivator, as is pride. I’ll be spending the next bit trying to move from decent skinning technique to pretty near perfect. I’m going to stick just like the big kids.**

*While I admit I’m on the shrimpy side, there are a ton of other folks my size and smaller out there killing it.

**If that doesn’t work, I’ll be buying rounds, and asking for extra fat with my dairy products.

A few inches over night. An early wake up. Strong winds. Coming down hard. Breaking trail. Putting in track. Meandering routes. Underfoot, cracking. Little whomps. Blue ice + steep slope + strong gust + poor planning  = Woops. A starfish imitation. Internal monologue: “Huh, still sliding.” “Too bad I’m a mammal.” “How the heck am I going to get out of this?” “Maybe if you’d stop laughing…” “Friction is your friend!” Dripping snot. Numb fingers. Shake ’em out. Front side option. Peeled skins. Big grins. Powder turns. Rhythm sections. Low hanging branches. Duck. Small ollies through snow shoe chunder. “Howdy” in the trees. New friends. More laps.

It snowed today. It was awesome!

The Central Oregon Avalanche Association is holding a free avalanche education program at Good Life Brewing in Bend this Tuesday. The program was developed by the Utah Avalanche Center and is designed to help backcountry skiers and travelers cultivate a basic understanding of avalanches and avalanche terrain.

According to the COAA folks, the evening should provide a rocking good time filled with solid information, insider chatter, craft beer, trip planning and commiseration about the weather. Anyone in?

My dad lives in southern mainland Mexico. He’s way down low where the continent starts to curve like a backward “J.” He cleared some land, not to far from a small pueblo, out on the edge of a coconut field. He built a little house out of cement. Painted it sunshine yellow, periwinkle blue, lime green. Put solar panels on the roof, pumps water twice a week from the river with a Honda generator. Showers outside.  He has a 1985 Toyota grey 4WD pickup. The bed’s completely rusted out and has been replaced with planks of palm wood. I have that truck’s brother here. It’s not in much better shape.

Dad’s not that old. He’ll turn 60 next week. He’s been living down there for ten plus years now. He can stand on the deck that is the roof of his kitchen and check the swell. Right in front of the house the waves break consistently in a hollow right point break. A couple hundred yards north, a river mouth causes the waves to break both left and right. There can be a nasty rip. We’ve all had some long walks back to the house. It can definitely hand out a thumping, but that river mouth can be something like paradise. It’s remote enough, and deep enough into what many people consider the stronghold of the cartels, that the crowds don’t come.

When I first started surfing there it felt like I was regularly being put through the washing machine. Dad would stand on the deck that is also the kitchen roof and watch with binoculars. One day after a particularly nasty moment of first going over the falls, then being held down for more than a few minutes in the spin cycle, he walked down to the beach and waved me in.

“That’s about as bad as it’s ever going to get,” he said. Then he paddled past me into the line-up. In my family you’ve got to be tough.

People ask me what he does down there. For a long time he was too young to be considered retired. I tell them that he’s the pueblo’s local mechanic, that he works on the land, that he wires in electrical systems and retools water lines. He cleans the beach and takes thousands upon thousands of pounds of plastic to the recycling center 50 miles away. Those things are all true. But mostly down there, he surfs. Almost everyday, often twice a day. He’s not the best guy in the water. He misses waves on occasion, but he loves it. In the afternoons, he sits on the deck that is also the kitchen roof and just watches the ocean. I don’t know why I feel like I have to validate that to people. I love that he surfs. I love that he’s followed his passions and built a life in which he can indulge them. I love that when I emailed to tell  him I was quitting my regular job to “pursue happy,” he replied simply, “Good.”

Now, I find that I’m back in the mountains. In the evenings I watch the horizon line looking for clouds, promises of weather. I find that I’m giving up on validating Dad’s habits at the same time that I’m giving up on validating mine. I hope that when I’m 60, I’m still following happy.


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