Exploring the divide: Inside Outside

I always figured folks viewed the wilderness like I did:

IMG_9718A place to cherish and protect.

A place for quiet observation and reflection.

A place where humans could be brought to their knees by the elements or by simple wonder.

As I get older and as our population swells, I find myself craving wilderness more than any other “thing.” More than dinners out, more than bookstore browsing, more than coffee, chocolate, or beer.

I have to get out there, else my sense of being and sense of normalcy start to fray.

Credit goes to my parents and kids for instilling and perpetuating this outsider habit. Growing up, I thought it was normal. But lately, it’s becoming clear that our family is an exception to the rule in the greater American society. Fewer and fewer people want to get out. And when they do, it’s not necessarily for peace and quiet.

I talked with Ester Rivera Murdock of the National Park Service. She’s studied the connection (or lack thereof) between Arizona communities and their magnificent parks.

I visited with John Gookin, an award-winning wilderness educator for the National Outdoor Leadership School. He said fewer baland fewer students come to NOLS with previous backcountry experience.

I see trends: paved “hiking trails,” ranchers swapping horses for ATVs, a Jeep-filled, dusty, and air-conditioned Moab.

At the Outdoor Retailer, later this summer, the Outdoor Foundation is hosting a huge Outsiders Ball. It’s a party with a purpose, “the one night our industry comes together around one common cause: to tackle the growing divide between young people and nature.”

Are us Outsiders increasingly outside the norm?

Beginning today, UtahOutsider will consider and wrangle with the issues surrounding the growing disconnect between society and wilderness. Look for Inside Outside columns and the accompanying image (below). Stay tuned!

ins outside

Species Parade, Week Two

IMG_8133I’m reading Wallace Stenger’s Beyond the 100th Meridian, John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West.

In 1883, Powell was telling Westerners and prospective Westerners: “Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

Bit prophetic, eh?

In the very hot (and very cold), there is a stillness with animals as they conserve their bodily resources of energy and hydration. There seems to be less going on in the hills and fields around me. They appear at watering holes, like the one I’ve set in the yard (see right), and come out more at dawn and dusk.

We count 36 species in our second weekly tally of birds and mammals in and around UtahOutsider. We saw them, heard them,

A squirrel sounds the alarm from on high.

A squirrel sounds the alarm from on high.

or did both in our approximate area of the Oquirrh mountains, at 5,800 feet as well as on the road to southern Utah. On a trek to Delta, we saw at least a dozen hawks lining the road, perching on telephone poles or irrigation lines. Raptors continue to confound me. Some day, my ID skills will improve! And we saw the stunning Steller’s Jay on a nearby backcountry trek to about 8,000 feet.

I did finally identify the owl whoo’s been floating above me whenever I pass through a specific gully. It’s a Great Horned (see right).

Follow our weekly updates to appreciate the outstanding opportunities for wildlife spotting ‘round these parts!

Mammals:

Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer

Coyote

Rock Squirrel

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Birds:

House finch

Titmouse

Chickadee

Goldfinch

Bushtit

Red-Tailed Hawk

Osprey

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco

Hawks (Red-tailed, Ferruginous, or Prairie Falcon. I'm hopeless.)

Hawks (Red-tailed, Ferruginous, or Prairie Falcon. I’m hopeless.)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Mountain Bluebird

Lazuli Bunting

Meadowlark

Rufous-sided Towhee

Rufous Hummingbird

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

California Quail

Black headed grosbeak

House wren

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk

Great Horned Owl

Northern Oriole

California Gull (because I went to the dump)

Killdeer

Steller’s Jay

 

A rare pair: Women and Fire

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My first journalism job was as a sports reporter for the Providence Journal-Bulletin in Rhode Island. I was the only woman in the department. At games covered by multiple papers, I was always the only female reporter.
Decades have passed. Women now make up nearly half of the workforce. Yet, they are still underrepresented in media and even more so in wildfire fighting and fuel reduction forces. They make up less than 10 percent of the wildfire force. Read In the Line of FIRE, part I and part II

Dani Sadorf

Dani Sadorf

That’s why it was notable to have met two women during the course of fuel reduction work on our property.
To serve on crews, women face the same physical tests and requirements as men. That makes it more challenging if we’re talking about 120-pound women hefting 70-pound packs. Read features here and here.
Dani Sadorf is the lone woman on the Lone Peak hotshot crew. The 24 year-old University of Washington graduate has backpacked and volunteered in Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador. She worked in New York for AmeriCorps, helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
She had this to say about her first season fighting fires and working on fuel reduction in Utah (Last season, she worked on a fire crew in central Washington)

“I really enjoy the work. I love being outside every day and seeing how far I can push myself to work harder and longer days and to never give up. Sometimes I start singing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (from Disney’s Mulan movie) to keep myself going through the day.

“Sexual harassment does still happen, and I was unfortunate enough to experience it last year on a much different crew. But from what I know about these guys so far, I don’t believe it will be a problem. They treat me like one of the guys, and I appreciate that. I just have to get used to hearing, ‘Good job today, guys….and Dani.‘”

Brianna Binnebose

Brianna Binnebose

Brianna Binnebose serves as Wildland Urban Interface coordinator for Utah’s Department of Natural Resources, but she cut her teeth on forestry crews.

She weighed in:

“Overall, I would say that my experience in working in fire and other typically male-dominated work environments has been positive…I have had excellent managers, both male and female, who encourage and support their staff, regardless of gender.
“From a physical standpoint, where I have worked, the expectation has been that all members of the crew must pass the same physical evaluation and they held us to that.

“Immediately what comes to mind is my experience working on a crew in Idaho years back, where members not only had to pass the basic test but had additional crew standards, such as a run, hike, push-up/pull-up evaluation. It included hiking a 70+ pound pack to a site where we did a line dig and spike out as part of our critical training, as a way to make sure we could all hang.
“There were four females on the crew that year and we all completed the critical training, which was pretty awesome.”

Proving their mettle seems to be not just a job requirement, but a personal prerogative with many women I’ve met in male-dominated fields. Binnebose and Sadorf are cut from the same cloth as the women under scrutiny for combat readiness in the Marines as well as the special operations’ “Cultural Support Teams” which were the subject of the book, “Ashley’s War,” by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

My hat’s off to them.

IMG_5565

Dani Sadorf (far left) and the rest of the fuel reduction crew

Species Parade, Week One

“Wilderness. The word itself is music,” wrote Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire.

There are songs of wind and of light and shadow. There’s a fabulous rhythm to animal movement. And, of course, there are the more literal songs of birds: buzzes, chips, whistles, screeches, caws, growls, and melodies. Birds often announce themselves more vociferously with voice than color.

We count 31 species in our first weekly tally of birds and mammals in and around UtahOutsider. We saw them, heard them, or both in our approximate area of the Oquirrh mountains, at 5,800 feet. Follow our weekly updates to appreciate the outstanding opportunities for wildlife spotting ‘round these parts!hare

Mammals:

Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer

Coyote

Rock Squirrel

Birds:

House finch

Titmouse

grosChickadee

Goldfinch

Bushtit

Red-Tailed Hawk

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco

Ringed Turtle Dove

turkMountain Bluebird

Lazuli Bunting

Meadowlark

Rufous-sided Towhee

Rufous Hummingbird

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

California Quail

Black headed grosbeak

House wren

Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk

 

Brilliant Backyard Booze

IMG_9856

Peeko photobombs a picture of our weedy mint.

Rain and gardening neglect have given me scads of mint, which might have been planted intentionally at some point, but now grows weed-like in our yard. With semi-arid conditions and ledge for soil, it does well where next-to-nothing else will.IMG_7720

(I miss my Maine garden, which annually produced tomatoes, arugula, cukes, peppers, etc. and seemed to tolerate my black thumb.)

With all that mint and a ‘When Given Lemons’ attitude, I made Crème de Menthe. I used this recipe, but deviated (as I usually do with recipes) by using more mint. I splurged and bought good vodka. This faux crystal Absolut bottle has a fun light-up feature and was on sale to boot.

IMG_7723It turned out marvelously! The finished product shines with a beautiful green-yellow translucence and tastes divine. I plan on using it with iced tea, mojitos, on chocolate ice cream, in milkshakes, and come winter, hot chocolate

For those of you who’d like to make your own batch, click here.

Having fun making my very own Private Stock label.

Private stock label

 

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