In the Shadow of Last Chance


1 June

It feels I have returned to Mother Rainforest, Grandpa Koma Kulshan towering over my right shoulder, cousin Nooksack at my feet. Rain. A gob of rain has been falling. Rain like the rain from clouds stacked against the west edge of the northern most peaks, peaks due east of clammy Puget Sound. I sit at the eastern toes of this same northern range. And while any clouds that make it up and over these mighty mountains drop their wet and wonderful bounty here on my head, it is not rainforest by any stretch of the imagination. On the East Slopes, the occasional grove of cedar clutches the earth near a river or spring, but predominantly our forests are of fir and pine, with punctuations of tamarack. The trees stand farther apart from one another and grow from ground all powdered sugar dry not long after snowmelt. Little moss and infrequent mud.

But I hail from rainforest, my roots wending and waning from there to here, while remaining planted in the mud and moss and dank of it all.

It is because of this season’s rain that I have been spending more time watching the window channel. (So simply and yet not so proudly, I have become a fair-weather trekker.) LGBs and resident squirrels are busily scattering seeds from the feeder, and I have spotted two red-headed woodpeckers on a few occasions. A gang of hummers sip the sweet nectar I brew for them, their tongues darting eagerly into the sugary mix.

On a recent dryer day, Susan joined me up here for trail run. I was all lope, lope lope, nose to the trail-stone, when I heard her sharp intake of breath and an excited, “Bear! “ Said bear quickly crossed the trail right in front of us, and I looked up just in time to catch sight of his ample two-year-old rump skedaddle into the brush. We must have scared up the sable-hued teddy from his pond-time down amongst the aspen. Quick, quick like a bunny, off tore my long-legged, long-tailed puppy, after the bear and out of site. “Shit!” was of course my first utterance before I called his name. Being the good dog that he is, Arrow quickly returned, much like a boomerang and straight as an arrow. And thankfully sans bruin. Susan and I were all giddy and grins for a while, like everyone is after a friendly bear encounter. Yes?

Soon I will be ROADTRIPPING (all one word, capitalized) to northwest Wyoming. There, the big dogs and I will explore the Gros Ventre Wilderness and the Hoback River, and visit Sonja. Some years ago, Sonja traded in her city life for a pair of faded jeans, a beat-up cowboy hat and a big truck. She has two horses in a sprawling, sage-filled field next to her rented shack. Sonja and I will head up to Jackson for a day and find a good cowboy bar (after all, cowboys are her weakness). I have never been to Wyoming. I will probably write about that next.

Crying Wolf

In response to my 1 May blog posting “On Being Pro Life (bio diversity),” Dave from Idaho writes:

“Many of us support biodiversity — but the wolf thing has gotten over the top. They are fully recovered and well beyond the goals for a sustainable population. On the other hand — we’ve gotten to where we see them in regularly in remote small town, We are loosing [sic] a large number of big game animals — esp. elk, and a few people pets (a friend’s dog). All I ask is some balance — we seem to have more than enough. If you’d like, Idaho would be happy to share a few extras with your area.”

It is apparent that Dave and I are on opposite sides of the wolf fence, and never the twain shall meet. As Dave writes from Idaho, I thought I would do a little look-see into their “over the top” wolf population. I stumbled across the Idaho Fish and Game’s Wolf Population Management Plan, 2008-2012, in which it is stated (I have added the bold): “Based on cause-specific mortality of radio collared elk in the Lolo Zone… wolf predation on cow elk is a significant factor in that population’s inability to stabilize or increase, particularly in Game Management Unit 12 (IDFG 2006). Similarly, wolf predation may be causing reductions in harvestable surplus in other areas, even if elk populations are not declining. Wolves are likely impacting behavior and habitat use of elk during hunting seasons, thus possibly reducing success rates for some hunters.”

It would appear, then, that while the Lolo Zone elk herds are presently neither stabilizing nor increasing and have indeed been on the decline, other zones in Idaho are merely exhibiting reductions in “harvestable surplus” and that elk behavior and habitat use may be making it more difficult for some hunters. This seems to be more of an issue for the hunter than it does for the elk. And as wolf populations often self regulate, at least partially in response to prey limitation, it is conceivable that left well enough alone even the Lolo Zone elk herd populations may subsequently stabilize.

Idaho Dave tells us that a friend lost a pet dog to wolf predation. I do not disagree that domestic dogs may be lost to wolves from time to time. No life is lived without risk. My cat  I.B. was taken by a coyote one dark and stormy night. And while I really loved that cat, I knew the coyote was hungry and just wanted dinner; it wasn’t anything personal. We, two cats, the big dog and I, lived in the woods by a mountain called Baker, and it was a bit wild around my cabin back then.

Remember too, that a mind-numbing number of dogs (and cats and other critters) are lost to human-caused neglect and abuse: Think Michael Vick, think Outdoor Adventures Whistler.

Interested in learning more about the delisting of wolves and predator control? Read these two recent articles in High Country News:

Wolf Whiplash, HCN May 30, 2011

Alaska’s ‘abundance management’, HCN February 21, 2011

Taking a Breath

Coffee is my morning lover, my morning ritual. An addiction. I boil water in an old grumpy teapot, pouring it into the press over cheerful, freshly ground beans. One cup with real cream in the morning, and maybe, just maybe, one more a little later on. Don’t deny me my steaming, aromatic potion. Coffee, baby, you always treat me right.

I also love lightning.

Lightning Takes a Stab

Lightning takes a stab at Last Chance Butte

and so I stand beneath heavy rain clouds

my face turned up into the heavy rain

my heart turning electric in my throat

my soul joining my electric heart

mouth open wide

arms open wide

I WAHOO! into the

CRACK! and the

ROLL! and the



Some Good Sites

Manitou Stone Beads

Renacuajo Productions

Conservation NW

The Center for Biological Diversity

15 thoughts on “In the Shadow of Last Chance”

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