Gate Keepers of the Nature Deficit Culture

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Is Facebook, twitter, a computer, or a cell phone the barrier between you and the outside world?  Are sophisticated technological contraptions your gatekeepers? You know, the obstacles that stand guard at the portals to reality?

Mind numbing fixations by advanced technology leads to nature deficit disorder. But nature is the foundation to our home in the universe.  If we don’t take care of it, we will lose it.

Computer screen oriented technologies is not the same as natural tool oriented technologies. One is a simulation that takes place only in the mind, the other is a real world experience that engages the mind with physical activity. Knowing without doing, only leads to stagnation of human health and degradation of the soul.

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What is your gatekeeper?  Most folks forget or do not  realize they even have one. Often they are ghost-like and merely a step beyond perceptible.  But, bringing them to your awareness is the first step in getting control,  or at least managing them, so that all your time is not absorbed into unreal worlds of data streams.

 

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Doing and being is real world living. This is quite different from fantasy, where illusions and delusions fill our mind and take us to an unreal world. Often this is where our machines take us. We begin to live our world through screens and devises where the dance becomes one between the human mind and data of the machine. It is a trap we get caught in where we live in a world of imagination, and forget about stepping out of the distraction to walk on the real ground. Only on terra firma can we feel the earth beneath our feet and kick up dust.

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Living a personal dream is dancing the dance.  It is a laying-down of our own tracks upon the soil. Action is the catalyst to change one event into another, beyond which they become experiences that give meaning to our lives.  Participating in the here and now to engage raw nature builds personal history. History is where our memories go to make sense of the future, or should, if we wish to employ the gift of wisdom to lead the way. Otherwise the bad things we experience and wish to avoid will inevitably get repeated again.

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(How you jump-start your kid matters)

Real world activities lead to compassion, while living only in the mind on computer world experiences leads to separation from nature.  Our human nature is nurtured by real world nature.  To care for something, one must have compassion.  True feelings come from the act of feeling. Emotion and feeling come from real world touching, not thinking about them.  The image staring back at you in the mirror is not you. When you touch that finger in the mirror, you feel only your own finger, not that of the image of it.  All life experiences are the same.

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Passion and compassion ride either side of the dragon’s back.  One stimulates the self while  the other creates empathy for others. Bottomline: transform the data stream into a river stream and ride the ride.

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Stick your feet into the river.

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Or walk on water.

How River Guiding is Like Farming and Ranching

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If you like certainty in your life, then you won’t like guiding, farming, or ranching.  There are too many variable in all these ways of life to satisfy those who like or need black and white solutions to the trials and errors of any life style.  If you like the stability of knowing what will happen between 8am and 5pm of the common work week, then following a job that is more like a 24/7 proposition won’t be for you.

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All three lifestyles, guiding, farming, and ranching are enmeshed into the framework of nature and all the tribulations of adapting to constantly changing situations and challenges.   But that is also the beauty of not knowing before-hand what each day will bring, as the mystery is always just that. Something unknown waiting to happen, and not knowing for certain can be exciting and never dull.

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Climate, what is expected over the long haul,  and weather, which is what happens daily,  are the two things that are a baseline to lifestyles that are  foundationally tied to mother nature.  Each day counts. Going out in the middle of the night during  a snow storm to tend to a cow having a calf,  watching a hail storm destroy a crop of cherries, or rowing a boat in the middle of a down-pour to get down river are all a part of the bargain in these livelihoods.  Of course, it also includes cute little newborns in the spring sun, the sweet fragrance of a blossoming orchard, or the view of bighorn sheep drinking by the river’s edge as you float down stream.

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Sometimes, droughts control crops, be it animal or plant, and even the amount of water that rolls down the canyon, or not, that determines if a river can be navigated.  Whims of the weather shape behavior on our planet, for  all biological entities. Realities face isn’t always one we wish to kiss or a medicine we wish to taste. But, there isn’t a coin made that has only one side, so flipping it we must and live by the consequences that result.  Chance is always uncertain, while change is always a constant.

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The good, bad, and ugly all play out in  the grand uncertainty of it all.  Of course, the balance weights heavily in the positive aspects of the whole, otherwise, why would anyone wish to live this way? And why else would people who do these things wish to share it with others?  Seeing the smiles and content in the heats of others is reward enough, not counting the immense joy it brings to oneself.  Ears, eyes, and voice evolved for a reason. It wasn’t to be deaf, blind, or silent. All these things came about to share and develop community. Just like it takes all organs to make the body function properly, it takes a collective community to make a social system work well.

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Though I am a river guide, I have also worked in both other professions at some capacity during my years, so can appreciate the commonality between them all.  Though river guiding can be a lot of work, compared to the other two, I think I will stick to river guiding. Given the choice between shoveling cow and horse manure or viewing natural beauty of a river flowing through white-washed rocks from birds of prey, white always wins over brown in my world.

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Gary Lane
www.doryfun.com

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Ice Is Nice – Dendritic Fractals Anyone?

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There is no escape. Nature is everywhere. Even on a cold morning, its form can take shape on the window of your car. This time of year, which is also the beginning of a brand new one, (2014) nature expresses itself in the language of cold. Ice more specifically.  Interestingly the architecture of nature’s design, so eloquently translated as the real art for which  it is, is a marvelous sight to behold. How curious it is  that a sense of order can been seen in nature’s randomness. That is, each particular shape is different individually, but design wise, similar collectively. Self-replicating, fundamentally.

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When ice forms on panes of glass, it is sometimes refered to as window frost, fern frost, or ice flowers.  Some actually remind me of the symmetry seen of a large watershed when looked at from far above, like from an astronauts view point.  All the rivers branch like limbs on a tree and similar to patterns seen in the intricacy of a feather. This dendritic pattern is a central theme of nature in many formative processes, and is sometimes referred to as a fractal.  Such reoccurring  patterns, seen from near or far, are a visible form of math, in terms of how shape and scale materialize.  From bird feathers, geologic landscape formations, to ice crystals, nature has an orderly signature. Or at least, a very distinctive one, and easily recognized immediately for the hand that makes it.

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There are many types of snow and ice, all of which have certain characteristics common during the formation process. Snow crystals take the shape of a 6-sided dimension, similar to lava that also solidifies into columnar basalt matrix with the same number of  sides.  Yet, ice crystals take shape into a more dendritic fractal form.  Dendritic simply means a multi-branching tree like form, while fractal refers to a mathematical pattern that is common to much of the structure throughout nature. But why the different number of sides or patterns that give rise to each creation, and what mechanism causes them?  Hard to answer with variables stacked on top of variables that can affect the causation of such magnificent architecture.

Despite whatever explanation might describe why, the essence is Nature’s signature seems to indicate math as the main language for communicating the spirit of anything and everything that moves through nothing and all things.  While all this descriptive  ice nomenclature that provides us humans the words to communicate beauty in nature is fascinating, its formulation is still always a number’s game. But beyond that, a more pragmatic question –  why is ice slippery? I’m going to let that one slide by for now and go ice skating. Oars not needed.

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What is the Nature of Nature?

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What is natural? What is real?  Are things that are man-made natural?  It seems to me that the fact that anything exists at all, is in itself evidence for belonging to the natural world. Human nature comes as a result of humans acting out in relation to all of nature, or simply put, our dance with the environment.  So whatever man makes becomes intertwined with the natural world and becomes either good or bad.  Our choices determine cost or benefit, or that which will either enhance life, or undermine it.

Similar to the question of what is natural or not, are dreams real?  Or are they just another reality that influence our behavior in the physical world.  Our dreams, be them unconscious ones that come about during sleep, or those we conjure up as we create ideas about our future, still help bring about their degree of reality in the physical world. We take steps based on our dreams to help make them come true in some kind of form or another.

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Philosophically, naturalism and supernaturalism has always been a big question to mankind and a huge influence on how humans act and re-act while they are alive on planet earth. Supernaturalism gives rise to ghosts, gods, religions, and purpose for which man has always tried to answer why he is here. Humans need explanations for everything to help satisfy a curiosity about why things are as they are. Wanting to know, is the carrot that keeps our wheels turning and motors running.

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Supernaturalism comes about when we have no evidence for something, but still feel the need to explain their reason for being.  So we make things up to give them purpose, otherwise we would just be, rather than being.  Nouns are what we are, but verbs are what we do. So having purpose helps us in the doing, and going, as we wade through time as a living entity.

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We give spirit to everything, as a way to help us define how or why things are as they are. Rather it be the spirit of adventure, or the spirit of an animal, or a person, all things in nature have spirit as we allow them to be. Man is not satisfied to just be, as we question what it is that is behind our brain making it work. A soul? Our inner self? The dimension that we cannot adequately understand or explain, is about spirit.

All things in nature have spirit, because we allow it to be so.  Even when an animal dies,  it’s spirit is like a scent that can be followed. A vapor like essence that is made visible just by thinking about it. Spirit trails, star trails, and story tales, are clues we human kind like to follow.  They lead our way in the search for truth.

That there is some male throne figure lording over the universe, is highly unlikely, though some sort of power may flow through everything, never to be fully understood in human thought, but perhaps always a “Great Mystery” during the lifetime of each person.  In passing to whatever the next dimension is, perhaps the mystery will be solved, perhaps not. But at least, mystery and curiosity help shape our perceptions of why and how everything is, for humans are never satisfied that everything just is.

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The nature of nature is a circular puzzle with spherical pieces that may perpetuate unsolvable solutions into the far beyond where infinity can never be fully comprehended.

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Why is Solitude Important?

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We enter and exit the world alone. It is all the time in-between, while we experience it, that affects how much joy we have from the perception of  our place in the everyday world.   Alone and aloneness are not the same thing. If we become attached too much to others or things to make us feel happy (psychologists call this “object referral,”) then without those stimulants we will feel distressed, depressed, and/or unhappy.

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An important  human goal is to become content when you spend time with only yourself.   Another rule of nature also applies when in pursuit of this basic goal:  use it or lose it.  If you wish to be happy more than sad or lonely, practice being content with the only one you are really with 24/7 as that person will always be your shadow.  So not to worry. It Is ok to talk to yourself.  After all, we do it all the time anyway, so it is more important to evaluate what we say to ourselves, than trying to hide our self-talk from others.

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So what do we need for purity of thought to hear only ourselves and not be bombarded by other voices and sounds that dilute our thinking? Solitude, is the simple answer. It is the fundamental place where we can exercise our ability in coping with ourselves.   Anywhere you can go to be totally alone, without the distractions of other people, is getting harder to find these days. Thus, it is even more important to find  where only your voice can be heard, and your mind free of chatter and clutter of other humans.

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Solitude allows us to practice enjoying life experience in a more purified form. unsanitized, undiluted, unadulterated, untechnologicalized, and back to basics. Cell phones and any computerized technology when used to extremes turn us into conditioned zombies. We lose ourselves to become the machines that dominate our lives. If you find yourself foaming at the mouth when you can’t find your phone, or the internet it down, or being digitally dis-connected to someone or some thing has been shut down, then you are most likely addicted to technology.

Recent studies show that a big problem with always being hooked up to our high-tech gadgets is that our attention is divided between the world of the people we are with and this other reality – the place of digital connections that only simulate being plugged in to others.  As we walk the streets with our head down, absorbed by tiny screens and buttons, the human next to us is not on our radar, despite being only inches away.  Why do we favor such connections, or dis-connections?  Could it be akin to comparing life in the city where people can hide in the crowd, while people in small towns know everyone else’s business and can’t escape the gossipy grapevine?  Privacy is a valuable thing.

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In our digital world, everyone, town or city, can hide from real world interactions. We can be free to say things we wouldn’t say normally face to face. The conversation is changed when we use technology to communicate.  People won’t invest much in a conversation when knowing that at any moment the person you are talking with will be interrupted by someone else trying to connect with you by the intrusion of that cell phone ringer.

Thus, our communications with people become more surface, and less depth where more of the meaning of what our human being-ness resides.  And if we continue to ignore our own inner depths, loneliness will creep into dominating our life and therefore impact negatively our real happiness.

What is the answer to this dilemma? How about a place to find some solitude for a remedy to being disconnected. Connecting back to self, will help you appreciate the world and be content being alone, for in reality you are never really all alone. In nature, many things will talk to you if you take the time to tune in and listen. The burbling, gurgling streams, the chirp and chatter of  otter, eagle and chipmunk, just to name a few. Solitude in nature is where nature speaks loudest. Being solo in the wilds allows a person to hear what was intended for humans to contemplate without distraction. Birth and death are natural, but in-between we get bombarded with many distractions to keep us from appreciating the value of nature and why we are here. What is more important, the illusion of being connected to everything by our contraptions, or the reality of being truly connected by how nature connects us without such high technology?

No telephones, just a call from the wilderness. Will you answer it?

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Or make your own call, and contact the Wapiti Clan at 208:628-3523 and we will deliver you unto solitude.

The Beauty of a Circle

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Jack’s send off ceremony was held on Oct 13, 2013 on the Salmon River, ten miles upriver, at the giant eddy at Spring Bar Launch and Campsite.  This was and continues to be an ancient Nez Perce place of importance, but now more of a bi-cultural mixing grounds where all those who truly love this place often gather.

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After ending our sacred boat circles at the Spring Bar Eddy on the Salmon River, in tribute to our passing river friend Jack Kappas, the power of circular motion continued on.  I learned later that while a few people shared more stories around a shore side campfire after our more official ceremony, other friends were fishing below the sacred eddy as their chosen way of extending memories. They hooped and hollered when they caught 5 fish, as they were listening softly to ipod music, Jack would have liked, and felt his help urging steelhead to bite their lines, was with them.

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In addition, when Charlie and Lesile headed homeward, they spotted a bald eagle sitting on the rocks at Hippie Beach, which then flew upriver towards Spring Bar. They too felt like it was Jack heading back upriver again, keeping an eagle eye on the river he loved and friends who loved him. Perhaps that eagle’s flight was part of the help for those fishermen upriver and their prized steelhead.

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The day after our memorial three of us (Kristin, Barb, and me)  that were also close friends with Jack, gave his  “Uncle Ernie”, a  tour of the canyon and showed him a few of Jack’s favorite places.  He felt bad that he had never visited our area to take advantage of Jack’s many invites to get him on the river. But, we assured him he was now here and fulfilling that need, all the same, though in different form, Jack would be happy.

Before we left the canyon we had one more final tribute to pay, as the two girls forgot to get Vic’s (Jack’s favorite chocolate lab ) hair and a few fragmented bones that Jack had saved after his dog  drowned in the Salmon River, and I forgot my drum for our original ceremony, so we gathered at the side of the sacred eddy to complete or intended circle of both in a special riverside ceremony.

After entering Vic to the river, then some drumming with three last solitary beats, one each for the 3 ceremonial  boat circles, as Nez Perce consider that number sacred, ending with one moment of silence. Astonishingly, but not surprisingly,  a fish jumped near where Vic had been entered to re-join Jack.  It reminded me of a favorite  quote: “Silence is the voice of the Great Mystery” and how mystery permeates everything in nature.

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A couple of days later I took Charlie fishing upriver, and we had a wonderful day on the water. We shared many stories, about Jack, other river friends, and a gamut of subjects. Kirk was also fishing below us, and I had to tell Charlie about some “Wapiti Moments” that Kirk and I had on the Grande Ronde years ago, along with the original 5 (including Jack) of us who attended the ground-zero salmon and dam breaching hearings in Lewiston years ago.

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The day was long and we did not see Kirk again until end of the day when we both arrived at the ramp about the same time. the three of us shared more stories about Jack, those crazy “wapiti moments” (when things go south, and ingenuity kicks in for survival) and other pertinent things that tie river people together, especially this special  place in the canyon.  We all have  our own life circles and stories, and as we ended our fishing day united at the ramp from our separate loops, did we yet come full circle again as the sun slowly set into the far beyond.  We all had smiles on our faces, just as the ancients smiled down on us. Knowing all the while, with each new day, all  those smiles will soon be returning.

Great beauty is truly found in the circle.

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Erosion is the way of nature.

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Roll on river, roll on.

Tribute to Jack Kappas (1946-2013) – Jack’s Last Run

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Unlike a straight line, defined as the shortest distance between two points, a circle continues on forever. Like some folks description of God, no beginning, no end, just always was, always is.

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Many things in nature are round and cyclic. The shape of our planet, all celestial satellites, billions of suns and zillions of galaxies, all spin forever re-looping back upon their trajectories, over and over like a natural perpetual motion machine.

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Such is the way of life and death on our home in a restless universe, as we whirl about the immensity of space. When those of the living lose a loved one, through all the terrible grief of the untimely moment, comfort can also be had in the realization that nothing really is ever lost.  Chief Seattle once said, “There is no death, just a change of worlds.”

So, though none of us know for sure what the Great Mystery will tell us, if anything, when we pass on to be recycled cosmically, the spirit trail we leave behind will still fill the hearts of the living as memories and stories as evidence of our presence in the giant scheme of things.

All will be touched differently as they think back of their experiences with a loved one that has passed, perhaps remembering their face in the maw of a huge whitewater rapid, or a simple smile in the reflection of a calm pool. All add beauty to the circle of life and death, and will always be in motion just as nature intended it so.

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Our good friend Jack, a cherished member of a beloved dory boat family, used to row the Glenn Canyon when he worked for Martin Litton’s Grand Canyon Dories back in the days of old.  It was a fitting dory boat name, as Jack was a staunch supporter of breaching four dams on the Snake River to help bring back salmon and the true life spirit of the river. He appreciated science and the natural free flowing way as the proper law of nature.

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When he first came to the dory world he came on one of his first apprentice trips with me on the Owyhee River. I remember him in the front of my boat when I entered the wrong side of a bad rock garden and all hell broke loose. Not sure how we made it without a bump, and right-side up, but we did.

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So, now that Jack has moved on to navigate the celestial Milky Way, and even bigger cosmic challenges, perhaps I will come to do some apprenticing behind him, in some future time. Such, is the way of the circle.

As an old boatman’s saying claims: “We never grow too old to boat, we just get a little dingy.” That is, before we all eventually step into our eternal spirit boat. As Jack follows those boatmen and boatwomen before him, and we who will eventually all follow, shall the circle be unbroken.

The one thing about legacies, especially left behind by river people, is a fitting line from Philip  Pullman,  taken from the famous dory tale of the speed run through the Grand by fellow boatmen bonded by common dory world friendships,  in a book by Kevin Fedarkos (now also a part time dory guide) entitled the Emerald Mile:

“Thou shalt not” is soon forgotten,

but: “Once upon a time” lasts forever.”

On one of Jack’s boat pads he wrote the line: “I’ll be right back.”  To that I might add, see you in the stars, Jack, once upon a time.

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Butterfly

Cadillac Tar Sands – Megaloads & Scenic Rivers

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Like water, oil runs uphill towards money and not far behind it is rude and crude corporatocracy on the chase at all costs. No obstacle seems too large for big oil’s search for the black gold. No rules too big to break, as megaloads push north for the Canadian Tar Sands along Idaho’s  beautiful Clearwater & Lochsa River waterway. How quick the loss of memory about how the Nez Perce befriended and helped Lewis & Clark down this magnificent drainage in 1805 on the old Nez Perce trail. Yet today, that same trail, now Highway 12 through reservation lands  is taken for granted by conglomerated giants of industry for access to the new pot of gold, regardless of the needs and interests of the Nez Perce people.

This same avarice was the motivation behind early gold miners quick to trespass into Nez Perce lands after being supposedly protected by the 1855 Treaty. It is no mystery why land and boundary disputes soon arose and morphed into new treaty negotiations with aboriginals in an attempt  to reduce the size of Nez Perce reservation lands.  This led eight years later to the 1863 treaty that was not a fair transaction from the get go and eventually escalated to the epic saga of Chief Joseph and the War of 1877.

Not much seems to have changed over the years. Now, in 2013 The take-over of Highway 12 by Corporatocracy is akin to the 1863 Steal Treaty, as certain historians and Nimiipuu people refer to it, when the US Gov’t grabbed Nez Perce lands by the standard instrument (treaty) used to fulcrum title to native lands.  Our republic’s legacy of breached treaties and repeated betrayals is the nefarious way the west was won.  Early European sprawl used the  doctrine of Manifest Destiny and god sanctioned dominion over native people and the natural world, as the Christian justification for spreading roots and usurping control. 

So in a country gained by lawlessness and coercion, yet  brags about being a democracy, while also having a double system of justice, one for the elites and one for the commoner, what else would one expect in  a land consumed by  such historic hypocrisy, unbalanced disparity, and ruthless genocide?

The latest push by the megaloads up Highway 12, in ignorance of consultation with federal and domestic sovereigns, is yet another example of running rough-shod over communities of people with the industrial nose stuck high in the sky and snorting into the air the snot of arrogance and superiority.

To claim that a river corridor has enough beauty to give it wild and scenic status, then treat it as if an ugly step sister, is like giving someone a gun for protection, but not giving them any bullets.  What use are designations, if rules used to established and protect these values  are ignored and not enforced?  Part of the reason the white man gained an early  reputation of having a forked tongue, is that they often failed to walk their talk.

In an anti-federal state like Idaho, our leaders like to stir the states rights and privatization pot with a forked stick to match their tongues when it comes to scientific truths about natural resources and land use practices, along with  their inept social integrity and dishonor in dealing with treaty obligations.    Responsible negotiations with Domestic Sovereigns?  What be that? Scorched Earth and Acculturation is still alive and well in Idaho.  Only now, authoritative policies circumscribe an even larger circle of people, trying to herd them into the center for better control, often by questionable and illegal means.

With a world view of dominion over nature, our culture sets about trying to control nature, but ends up mostly breaking down and fragmenting various ecological niches, which then requires looking for alternative ways to fix them. From endangered salmon to greenhouse gases and extreme carbon footprints,  if lessons could  ever be learned from history and native cultures world view to co-exist within  a more harmonic framework of community-connections to all nature, instead of totalitarian attitudes about keeping it controlled and reined in for selfish gain,  the world would be a better place for it.

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But, elites have a good way of convincing the commoners that they have their best interest at heart, yet are mostly out of touch with reality of ground truths pertaining to the natural economy and ultimate carrying capacities. They revel in their personal privilege while simultaneously escaping responsibility for exhausting and polluting most natural resources in the process of accumulating exponential wealth. This drives the compound interest of environmental degradation debt ever skyward and closer yet to the edge of no-return. (the humpty dumpty effect – as proven over and over  again by many great societies of the past). Once broken, it is difficult to put back together again, and on a finite planet you can’t just always expect to find good solutions over the next hill, because it may be the last one.  

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 Small changes happening incrementally may give the false impression little things don’t matter. But collectively, through time, all grass eventually turns to brown, though it happens too slow to see until it all finally makes the transformation.

  Stand together

 “It only takes one rock to start an avalanche.”

Where Is The Far Beyond?

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Where is the far beyond? This  is a question with an answer just as far away, quite out of reach by human understanding. But there is a river where one can go and might find a far easier answer to that question.   At least that is what the Nez Perce called the Grande Ronde River in Northeastern Oregon: “River that flows into the Far Beyond.” All their answers to many great mysteries were found there.

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We do five-day float trips on the lower 100 miles of this beautiful river, and at the bottom end it has enough goose-neck bends to seem like  never-ending turns with a new view around each one.  Never ending beauty also adds to this same feeling of having entered an arena of inexhaustible wonder.  Various landscapes are encountered along the way, from a thick forest of pine and fir in parkland like stands at the top, to subtle changes along the route, finally entering the more arid environs of open rimrock canyonland territory.

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Rapids are never too demanding, except for a place or two at very high water. Most is just good solid fun without worry of changing your underwear after the run. In between the whitewater sections are placid pools and quieter water where more time can be used to study the hillsides for wild animals that frequent the canyon. Many elk and deer can be found on mid elevation benches taking advantage of spring green-up for those who float the river early enough.

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This river is a product of the Wallowa and Elkhorn watersheds, both draining from the massive shoulders of sawtooth mountains that kiss the sky. Snow melt gives rise to peak run-off sometime in late May and early June, depending on weather and annual precip conditions. But even when the river runs at the average peak flows, it is fast and furious, but not terribly difficult, and definitely not terrifying.  There are not many eddies, and the current is fast, so one need pay attention, all the same. Specially when camp is ready to be made, it sometimes means an adventurous landing.

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Not only is the corridor of  escarpents and lava layers overlying steep benchgrass slopes, but so too is the area steeped in a colorful history of the two cultures who discovered the hidden trearues at staggered timelines of progression. It is easy to see why the Nez Perce made a part of this terrain their esteemed homeland, as well as why early exlporers and homesteaders found similar reasons to seek security in the same places. Later modern day explorers, like Buzz Holmstrom, who then began floating these waters early on, established yet another course in riverine history and is an additional  subject we like to explore during our  float trips of current times.

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Side hikes to ridgeline and hillsides with a kaleidoscopic fill of colorful wildflowers can seem like jumping through the Looking Glass wth Alice in wonderland. It is like a different world, only it doesn’t take a Looking Glass to appreciate, just a boat to reach those places and hiking boots.

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When waters calm down and flows are on the backside of the peak, fishing becomes good again, for rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. The additional advantage of this river for fishermen is the pool to riffle ratio that creates ideal situations for the fish to occupy.  So for fishermen who can read water, there is a story behind every appropriate rock.

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This family oriented river also has great campsites where one can sit back and absorb scent of the pines waft with the coffee and bacon smells off a morning campfire, too. It is a great way to start a fun-filled day, and 5 days is too short, but better than none. And the only way to get close to the far beyond is to take the first step forward. All these rest will soon fall into place.

Let your fingers begin the walking to start the floating:     208:628-3523

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The Power of Place

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Owyhee May 1-5, 2010 Canon 148

In nature, certain places have a special power to pull in one’s soul.  The mystery of why these types of places have such a magical feel to the traveler that discovers them, may never be adequately expressed by words. Just as photos can never adequately paint a picture of those same areas. Only the human in real world experience can feel such things.  To me, the Owyhee River in SE Oregon, is one of those places that continues to suck me in each spring when the snow begins to melt.

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It is a time I relish, because this desert river only provides enough water to float in the spring time.   It is also a fickle time of year weather-wise, which in turn affects flows and boating. Crossing fingers, doing a sundance or raindance, maybe an incantation or two, and a lot of hoping help describe the waiting times for floating this river.

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For me, aside from winter steelhead fishing by driftboat, the Owyhee is the first extended, multi-day river trip we begin to run each year. It is our kick-off to another whitewater season, so it also means a lot of elbow grease working on boats and rafts to get the dust and cobwebs off.  The water levels of the Owyhee dictate which type of craft we will take, as hard boats do not do well in very low water conditions. Wood and rock are not a good mix when it comes to floating.   Rafts are better, but in extreme low flows, size of those critters are critical too.  Trying to squeeze a 7′ wide raft through a 6′ wide slot, is in the realm of a magic trick gone bad.

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Having floated this river for around 40 years worth of trips now, my back log of stories includes lots of personal relationships with a lot of rocks, hard places, and some experiences I am glad are behind me.  A lot of images come to my mind as I work on boats and visualize up coming adventures.  These same extreme experiences have given me a good backlog to evaluate water conditions and develop cut-off levels for determining what kind of boat or raft I will take for the next trip.  Reducing risk for potential problems from day one is the name of the game for minimizing problems and having more time to enjoy the canyon, rather than pulling rafts off rocks or putting bad dings in hardboats.

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So far, based on rare evidence of other party wreckage and carnage, I have been pretty lucky not to have the worst nightmare stories to tell, and I plan to keep it that way, as much as possible. Those kind of stories are better for someone else to have and tell. But, I do whisper all this, nare the river might hear my words and reciprocate by playing  tricks on me.

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But as I work on boats getting them shined up for the Owyhee, I can feel the river’s pull from this high desert sage plateau. I can even smell the pungent sage and feel the desert breeze wafting its aromatics across the wide expanses.  It is hard to put a finger precisely on just what that magic is that contains such a power.  It’s only a feel, and one must go there to really know what that really means.  All I know is that it exists, is real for me, and that it is calling now. Only a few more suns for trip number one on the Owyhee and soon magic will be all around as each oar grabs another foot of downstream progress.

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Always room for more

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