Snaggletooth Pulling From the Jaws of Winter Thaw

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Things have changed overnight here in Riggins. The deep freeze of a high pressure for the last couple of weeks has taken temps from mid 20’s to mid 60’s today as I write.  So the following photo’s may be the last hold winter has on our banana belt nestled down here in the cradle of the canyonlands. Time will tell.

It just may not be long before snow turns to flow, and depending on how fast it comes off and into the Salmon River drainage will reveal what kind of cubic feet per second we get.  Sometimes the river can go from ice to high exciting flows, when such drastic changes take place.  Just enough to get the adrenalin pump sending shots of “I want to get out on the spunky river again”  through the veins. We shall soon see. Eyes wide open.

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Wind River Ember Sugar Jan 20 2013 166

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Motherearth’s Winter Womb


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For over a week now, we have had snow on the ground and below freezing temperatures. This has  kept  the river shorelines iced up and landscapes blanketed in snow. Night time temps have been from 18F to mid 20F’s, with day time highs from the mid 30F’s to low 40F’s. But duration of day time temps above freezing has not been long enough to allow for much snow melt,  which is unusual for the Riggins area. Normally our cold snaps last for two or three days, before things melt out and then  repeats the same process over again for only a few times each winter. It is an icebox phenomena us banana beltites are not accustomed to in our mostly  mellow canyonland bottoms, snow free normalcy mode.

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All, the same, the cold is our brother and hot our sister.   You can’t have one without the other. Like father sky and motherearth, the male and female dynamic is the symbol and  rule of life on earth. Here is some more depictions of what our cousin co-conspirator, ying and yang of nature,  reveal to us this winter:

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Lake Ck Ember & Sugar Jan 16, 2013 147

Salmon Rivers Winter Voice

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For those of us who live so close to the river, it seems the river talks to us in its own language. It doesn’t use words to speak to us, but events that communicate to us, all the same.  Such is all natures language, and the best story ever told, for those who choose to look and listen. And this time  of year the river reveals a message written in the beauty of what colder weather has to offer.

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When air temps get cold enough to freeze water, ice begins to form in variable patterns and dimensions.  Eskimos and people who live with natures extremes have developed acute appreciation of this natural communication with the elements.  They have advanced knowledge and have come to recognize many forms and meaning of ice and snow, that those who live removed from such events, have lost or never had. Each condition of a snow flake or ice crystal can mean different things. Survival depends on such recognitions, to know when it is safe to travel or not over rivers during winter months.

Sugar Spg Br Ice Jan 5, 2013 011

Wish I had possession of such knowledge, but don’t. But I do have appreciation for at least some simple events the river throws our way this time of year. A couple of things, come to mind, anchor ice and rosettes.  Some of the shallow shoals of the river bed get ice forming on the very bottom of the river, before ever freezing over the top of it. Why? Naturally, it is colder in those areas in order to freeze, but why there, and not somewhere else of similar dimensions?  Amount of shade in those areas? Hard to know, but interesting to see.


The Salmon River drains a huge expanse of geology and therefore is a big river, in itself.  That means lots of pools, in this pool and drop type river, that are 50-60 feet deep in many places.  So only the few areas that are less than 5 feet deep, in the form of shoals and tail-outs, get the anchor ice. Although, the deeper sections between rapids sometimes freeze over entirely, with rapids getting travertine like formations that dam up water into bowl like fountains  to make  wonderful eye candy.

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In the bigger eddies with the right morphology, ice rosettes form. These are round islands of ice that are formed and trapped by the eddy that has created it. Normally, ice fingers extending out from various shorelines serve as barriers to capture downstream chunks of ice as they float downriver. These chunks then get caught in the middle of the eddy, and collectively get larger as more ice joins the slow spinning circle. Eventually the round motion causes a round circle of ice that gets so big that it barely remains separated by surrounding shoreline or mainstream ice blankets.

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Of course, sometimes the rosette joins at the edges and disappears as it becomes one with the entire blanket of ice created by extreme conditions that last for a longer time spell. So it is at the edges, of formation or melting that ice rosettes appear or disappear. It takes a mix of spin and cold to keep them alive as rosettes and the natural event that speaks to us in the winter. Thank you river.

Ember Chukar Bikini Jan 4, 2013 026


What Will Be Your Round Dance With Nature In 2013?

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sunrise nov 28, 2012 003

As another year comes and goes, I am reminded yet again of the round dance in nature and the circular character of most everything we come to face with every day. You are as much at the center of the universe as anyone else is, due to the idea that the center of the cosmos is everywhere. Yet you are unique, too, just like everyone else, as paradoxical may it be.

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Some people will reflect back on the year gone past, and perhaps make new resolutions for the next full revolution our earth makes around the sun.  Our own human behavior seems to mimic that cyclic and circular way of nature. The sun, moon, stars, all seem to dance across the heavens in a circular path going around us every day. Up and down, around, all heavenly bodies move  under the illusion created by our earth, itself spinning around in a circle about an invisible axis.  Even the seasons are brought about by various positions of earth and the direction of tilt in its axis (i.e.- pointing toward the sun for summer, away from for winter).

Bird nests are round, eggs nearly so; birds are born, they die;  successive generations carry on the same tradition over and over again.  Rivers run to the ocean, rain comes back to replenish the mountains and future run off.  Predator-prey relationships merry-go-round in ups and downs in population numbers as each are affected by the other in a race for  dominance.

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There seems to be no evidence in the universe for a final end to anything. Everything marches on, no beginning, no end. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed, say the physicists. All are one, say the philosophers.  We are caught up in and endless walk upon our blue dot of a planet through a cosmic warpville. Human kind is always seeking truth through religion or science, or both, or neither.  Through it all is power of place, where we receive our feelings of significance in an uncaring universe. For in our engagement with the landscape where all dancing takes place,  is our connections to everything else, and ourselves.  It is a round dance that spins meaning into our lives. After all, each place has a pattern and natural rhythm that sings forth its own song. It is a strong song to those who listen, really listen, and it affects even those who don’t listen. Heard or not, seen or not, the stone cast into the water makes a rippling wave  both in  sight and sound.   Such is the dynamic of natures music.

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Everywhere we put our feet, from mountain top to river bottom, is our connection to that  special power of place and Motherearth potency. It is  where we can sing our own songs and deeply communicate with everything outside ourselves.  Every bush, rock, tree, bird, elk, fish, leaf, noise, wind, gurgle,  chirp, has its own language.  Even silence is the voice of the Great Mystery, say many of the primal people from time immemorial. Some times we see with our ears and  hear with our eyes.  All languages are different and can be interpreted in widely various ways, depending on how we perceive them.

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In reality, we are all primal in our human urges and have our own ways of communicating with the earth. Some are more harmful than others, and can become  a self-inflicted  wound as we round dance with our selves and forget about our partnering with nature.   “What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves,” said Chief Seattle (or ghost writer, so some claim, though the message still rings true). So how we dance and carry on, is important for  the human scale in earthly matters.  We determine our own destiny through our human value system. Nature cares not what we do, as she always has the last dance.

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So my personal resolution for 2013 is to practice a lifestyle and dory dance with a softer imprint  and try not to step too harshly on natures toes in the process.  What kind of dance will you do?

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