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There are people who seem to be born with a thirst for a thrill. They take every chance to leap off bridges, tethered only by elastic Bungee cords. They jump out of planes, trusting one yank of the cord will release the parachute that will lower them gently to the ground. They paddle kayaks over waterfalls and drop out of helicopters wearing skis.
I am not one of these people.
I don’t have that kind of confident trust. Cords snap, parachutes fail, waterfalls tumble and break the things that ride them. Why would I tempt fate?
But edging out of middle age, I seem to be shedding some of the extreme caution that has kept my feet on the ground most of my life. I’m still not a thrill-seeker, but I just don’t seem to be bound by so many “What Ifs.”
A recent trip to Elko, Nevada coincided with the annual Balloon Fest and I was offered a chance to take a hot air balloon ride. I didn’t stop to think once, much less twice. I hopped up into the basket and listened to the instructions about where I could and should not put my hands. (“Never touch the rope. If you touch the rope we will fall and die.” Check.)
It was only as the blasts of flaming gas right over my head lifted the balloon away from the ground that I began to ask myself what on earth I’d been thinking. The list of hazards—power lines, rogue winds, murderous sharp-shooters (Hey, what if?) and even fabric fatigue (I imagined seams fraying and opening and, well…)—played through my head like a bad movie.
But I was in. And we rose swiftly and silently, immediately catching the current of air and moving toward the horizon.
We moved steadily across the city. Dogs, startled by the sights and sounds of the balloons, there were 30 more behind us, barked and danced as we flew over. School children waved from the yellow bus that looked like a child’s toy. Birds flew beneath us, darting in and out of the trees lining neighborhood streets.
I’d wrapped my fingers tightly around one of the bars at the side of the wicker balloon the moment we’d lifted off and I didn’t seem to be able to let go. But, a few minutes in, still holding on, I felt myself relax enough to really think about what I was seeing and experiencing.
I looked out toward the Ruby Mountains, somewhat obscured by smoke from wildfires further north, across the high Nevada desert and the rough, dry landscape so many crossed on foot and by wagon train 150 years ago as they made their way over the California Trail to conquer the wide-open West and start new lives in California.
It really is a beautiful way to travel. In a balloon you do not fight the wind, you ride it. You surrender to the currents and ribbons of air that stream over the planet and let them take you where they are going. There are tools: hot air, vents, ballast, and so on, but ultimately, you are a guest of the wind.
At the end of the ride we began our descent. The landing was not smooth. A breeze came from out of nowhere and fought us, but we stuck it. Then, when the pilot realized we'd come down on railroad property—not cool—we lifted up just high enough to find a more accessible spot. The chase crew found us and we were done.
When I finally climbed out of the basket, back on the ground at last, a surge of adrenaline made me tremble.
“Anxious Annie” as a friend once dubbed me, had taken a chance. And I had one more thing I could check off my list.
We helped roll and fold the balloon, storing it and the basket in the trailer behind the chase van, and I was baptized with cheap champagne to mark my first flight. Later, I messaged a photo taken mid-flight to my children and their confused responses made me laugh. This was not what they expected to see.
That’s the beauty of aging. Not only do we surprise others when we take a chance, occasionally we even surprise ourselves.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I had a third grader girl and her mother fishing with me and for the girl it was one missed bite and one of the bigger, if not the biggest, fish of the day — a brown trout. When it came time to take a picture, I asked her if she wanted to hold both of the brown trout in my live well. Her answer: "But I only caught one."Let me tell you about praising her for an example of ethics exhibited by a person of her age! What a thrill for me to observe something like that!
PUBLIC LANDS — No campfires will be allowed at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area except at designated grated campfire sites at least through Sunday. See the park's announcement issued Monday:
In accordance with the 2012 Superintendent’s Compendium, Acting Superintendent Natalie Gates has extended the ban for campfires on the exposed lakebed through midnight on October 7, 2012.
Campfires in park-provided fire grates at developed campgrounds are allowed. The use of gas and propane barbeques and self-contained stoves is allowed in the recreation area.
Campfires are never allowed on the beach area above the exposed lakebed.
WILDLIFE — The mating season for white-tailed deer is a month or more away, but bucks already are tuning up.
For the past week, we’ve noticed the whitetail rattling antlers. Nothing serious, more for fun.Tonight we observed these bucks jousting. One would watch while the other two rattled antlers.Then they would switch and the observer would join in while another watched.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Former Spokane County Commissioner (and current candiate) John Roskelley of Spokane claims the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was not being genuine with the public in its handling of the summer wolf attacks in northern Stevens County and ultimately the elimination of the Wedge Pack. Here's Roskelley's take, as posted on my Facebook page:
The WDFW rushed this decision to exterminate the Wedge Pack to avoid having to deal with the public or legislators like Sen. Rankin. I stopped at the meeting in Colville Thursday night; the WDFW got their nose bloodied by McIrvin and other Stevens County ranchers; the agency decided on a quick and dirty fix; provided the news media with their excuses for their action; used Conservation Northwest and the Cattlemen's Association as justified supporters; pretended to hunt the wolves by foot; and then proceeded to do what they intended all along - wipe the wolves out quickly via helicopter and sharpshooters before the public woke up and some organization filed an injunction to get it stopped. The WDFW agency people had their mind made up weeks ago, but they knew better than to let the public in on something this controversial before it was a done deal."
FISHING — Scientists are rewriting some of their findings regarding the competition in native streams between wild and htchery salmon. See the report from the Oregonian:
A long-term study of summer chinook in Idaho's Johnson Creek found that the interbreeding of hatchery salmon with wild salmon had no ill effects, thus supporting "hatchery supplementation" of salmon populations done by tribes in the Northwest for years.
WILDLIFE LANDS — Wild fires continue to char and in some cases nuke forests and other wildlife habitat in scattered areas around the Inland Northwest. But the future isn't all black.
Before-after-photos at Naneum Lake (above) hint at the impact of the Table Mountain Fire, which has spread over thousands of acres along with other forest fires in the Ellensburg-Leavenworth-Wenatchee area. The fires were ignited by lightning storms around Sept. 9, 2012.
Some areas have been reopened to public access, but hunters need to check ahead with the Forest Service, DNR and Washington Fish and Wildlife Department for closures to distinct areas in the Wenatchee region.
This photo comparison doesn't look good, but Washington Fish and Wildlife experts say the damage/benefits to the Colockum elk herd won't be known until next spring when they can assess the ratio of hot-burned areas with the areas that were lightly burned or skipped-over by the flames.
The fires ultimately will be good for wildlife.
The question is whether the recovery will be measured in years or decades.
HUNTING — Alyssa Donelan, a sophomore at Central Valley High School, had a busy Saturday — with more than one date.
She donned camouflage clothing and left home at 5 a.m. to go turkey hunting with her father, Jim. When the turkeys stood them up in the morning, Alyssa move on to a remarkable transition.
She was out of her camouflage and into the hair dresser by 1 p.m.
By 5 p.m. she'd transformed from Rambo to ravishing just in time for the arrival of Sawyer Starnes, a senior, who picked her up for the CV homecoming dance.
The day was dubbed a success, but Alyssa still has an unfilled turkey tag, and an ego that needs a little buffing.
While Alyssa and five girlfriends slept in after a post-dance sleepover at her house, her dad and brother left home at 5 a.m. on Sunday. The boys returned with a turkey about 10:30 a.m., just as Alyssa and the other girls were waking up.
FISHING — Jeff Holmes of the Tri-Cities photographed this nice catch — a couple of nice catches, actually — while moonlight fishing for steelhead Saturday on a Snake River middle impoundment with his wife, Erika.
One of many fish the Holmes's caught and released this weekend, this bright B-run hen wen 29.5 inches — and into the cooler.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — While state and federal officials have killed at least 74 wolves related to livestock attacks in Montana this year, killing wolves is new in Washington.
After six wolves in the cattle-attacking Wedge Pack were eliminated in northern Stevens County last week, Washington legislators are suddenly waking up to the issue that 's been simmering for years.
And, of course, the first comments are shrill.
See the NBC News report.
See the KING 5 TV News report.
CONSERVATION — An image of a common goldeneye painted with uncommon talent by Robert Steiner, an artist from San Francisco, Calif., is the winner of the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest.
The artwork will be featured on the 80th federal migratory bird stamp, which will be purchased by collectors, waterfowlers and other wetlands conservationists next year.
The announcement was made today by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Rowan Gould at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, during the annual art contest – the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government.
This is Steiner’s second Federal Duck Stamp Contest win. His art previously appeared on the 1998-1999 Federal Duck Stamp.
Steiner’s acrylic painting of a common goldeneye will be made into the 2013-2014 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale in late June 2013. The Service produces the Federal Duck Stamp, which sells for $15 and raises about $25 million each year to provide critical funds to conserve and protect wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge system for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.
Read on for more details.
Here's a report (and photo above) from Jeff Holmes, a writer/angler who lives in the Tri-Cities:
The Snake River is supposed to be extraordinarily slow right now but looky lookie at what my friend Teddy and I caught out there on 1 trip. That's 7 hatchery steelhead, an adult chinook, and a jack.
We also released a big wild steelhead and a much larger salmon and had many other savage rips. I am headed out again to rip and slay.
Holmes said his was night-fishing in one of the middle impoundments. He was using lighted plugs, and pointed out that he crimped the barbs on his Brad's Wigglers.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some people are cheering and others are mourning Washington's mission involving a helicopter and gunman to kill six wolves this week and eliminate the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County.
Eliminating a pack is a milestone in Washington wolf recovery and management. But it's a milestone long past in Idaho and Montana.
Government workers and ranchers in Montana have killed at least 74 wolves this year following livestock attacks.
PARKS — To recognize National Public Lands Day on Saturday, Washington State Parks are offering free entry: The Discover Pass is not required.
Saturday is one of 12 "free days" offered at State Parks each year. The final 2012 State Parks free days are scheduled for Nov. 10-12 during the Veteran’s Day holiday weekend.
Other activies recognizing the day include the annual:
RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1283.70 at 9 a.m. today (Sept. 28).
The lake level is expected to remain in the 1283-1284 range through next week.
These are only predictions are subject to change.
Get daily lake level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.
Better yet, check out this new NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
Just today, the rattle of someone pulling a boat and trailer, bouncing over the patched pavement of the street in front of my house, was a familiar and significant sound. I know it well. And I know what it means. When neighbors start bringing home the boats and campers, when outdoor toys are put away so that winter tools and gear can take their place, I know we’ve really reached the end of Summer at the Lake season.
Every place I’ve ever lived has claimed bragging rights for being the lake-loving mecca. But the truth is, wherever there is a lake to get away to, and most states have plenty of them, people will get there. Cabins become family heirlooms, passed down and cherished, and a unique culture—peculiar to that particular place—grows and evolves.
I’ve been thinking about this since I spent Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin exploring historic Elkhart Lake. First settled in the 1860s, Elkhart Lake boomed in the 1870s when the Milwaukee and Northern Railroad added a stop at the downtown depot. At its peak, more than 2,000 visitors arrived each week, pouring into the sprawling resorts that built up at the edge of the lake. By 1894, Elkhart Lake was a true village.
Today Siebken’s Resort, the Osthoff Resort and the towering Victorian Village are all built on the bones of those earlier hotels and summer resorts.
Late one afternoon we climbed onto a pontoon boat and circled the scenic glacial lake as our guide filled us in on the unique history of the community.
The beautiful spring-fed, rock-lined, glacial lake covers almost 300 acres. Just over 120 feet deep at its deepest point, Elkhart Lake is ringed by Wisconsin forest. Most of the homes and summer cottages have remained in families for generations. While its history is uniquely American—Speakeasys, road races and summer stock theater—there is a quaint European vibe that reflects the German heritage of early developers.
I’m sure Elkhart Lake is a great place at the height of summer, but I was glad to be there at that particular moment. Labor Day marks the unofficial end of lake season in most places. But that only means the summer crowds go away. The lake never closes. And, of course, neither do the resorts that surround it. By visiting in September, I was able to appreciate the beauty without the bustle of the busiest time of year.
As we circled the lake, passing vintage cottages, picturesque boathouses and an occasional rambling mansion tucked behind the trees, I could see that the seasonal cabins were being swept and cleaned and closed. Boats were back in the small boathouses that perched over the water’s edge. Thoughts were turning to autumn bonfires and, soon enough, ice skates and snow shoes.
That is my favorite time at any lake. Sure, summer is fun, but there is something special about the silence of other months. When it’s possible to have the sunrise and sunset to yourself, with enough quiet time to think and reflect. Soon enough, the snow will fall, then melt. The birds will fly away and then return. And before we know it the summer at the lake will start all over again.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
HUNTING — Tough times for deer in a corner of Wyoming, similar to the outbreak that swept through portions of Montana two years ago:
Whitetail deer die-off in NE Wyoming worst in decades
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, a disease spread by a biting gnat, has caused the worst die-off of whitetail deer in northeast Wyoming in decades.
HUNTING — Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning hound hunting for bears in California, 16 years after Washington state did the same thing by voter initative.
Both campaigns were primed and pumped by the Humane Society of the United States and other anti-hunting groups.
FISHING — Get your hooks sharpened in the Lewiston-Clarkston area for th big spike of steelhead that's moved over Lower Granite Dam in the past two days — nearly 3,000 on Wednesday alone.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Don't bite the hand that feeds wildlife.
Chop it off.
Montana wildlife agents euthanize five food-conditioned bears
After neighbors complained about someone in Heron feeding bears, Montana wildlife agents investigated and found five, well-fed food-conditioned black bears that they had to kill.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — "We don't know that we got them all, but we couldn't find any more," said Dave Ware, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department Game Division manager, explaining the agency's decision today to wrap up its mission to eliminate the Wedge Pack of wolves that have been preying on cattle in northern Stevens County.
The sixth wolf in three days was killed this morning by an agency sharpshooter in a helicopter just south of the U.S.-Canada border in the "wedge" area between the Columbia and Kettle rivers. The wolf killed today was the alpha male, who'd was wearing a GPS collar and was easy to locate. Also killed this week was the breeding female and four other adult wolves
A young female wolf from the pack had been killed by a state marksman on Aug. 7.
The one pup from the pack's 2012 litter that had been trapped and tagged was found dead of undetermined causes last month
The KING 5 TV video above shows the alpha male and the pup during their capture and release earlier this summer.
That totals 8 wolves, but doesn't explain the whereabouts of several other pups thought to have been born this year.
"The pups do a lot of howling when they're weaned, but we didn't near the howling earlier this summer, so we don't know what happened," Ware said.
"Could there be other wolves out there? Yes. We'll be monitoring. If we found one in the near future, we'd have to think about what to do. The ones we've found in the past few days have all been adults. So we've accomplish the objective and disrupted the pack. If we see something soon, we'll deal with it.
"But if we get tracks or howling a couple of months from now, it may not be a member of this pack. It could be more wolves dispersing from Canada. We'd approach that case differently. Wolves are going to come back to the wedge sooner or later. It's good habitat."
The Diamond M Ranch, which had at least 17 cattle attacked or killed this summer on public and private land, is pulling the cattle out of the area, but the ranchers told Ware that some of the livestock can't be rounded up in the rugged forest. All of the cattle don't come in until the snow flies.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say a helicopter gunner killed the alpha male of a cattle-preying wolf pack today, concluding the mission to eliminate the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County.
The wolf was shot just south of the U.S.-Canada border in the third day of aerial shooting that claimed six wolves, agency director Phil Anderson said in a media release. The alpha male has been wearing a GPS since early summer, when it was caught and released by a state wolf researcher.
The state has been following the GPS signals of the alpha male to locate the pack, which officials have been targeting for elimination since Saturday.
The pack's alpha female was killed earlier this week, Anderson said. A younger female wolf was shot by an agency staffer on Aug. 7 during the first lethal efforts to curb attacks on cattle that started in early July.
How do you know you have the entire pack, considering WDFW originally estimated the pack included at least eight animals? WDFW state wildlife manager responds.
A Spokesman-Review photographer has been attempting to get photos of the effort, but was told by agency staff on the scene that they could not include him in the activities or make any official comments. One staffer did say that none of them enjoyed what they were doing, but that they were doing their job.
“Directing the pack’s removal was a very difficult decision, both personally and professionally, but it was necessary to reset the stage for sustainable wolf recovery in this region,” Anderson said. “Now we will refocus our attention on working with livestock operators and conservation groups to aggressively promote the use of non-lethal tactics to avoid wolf-livestock conflict.”
With the latest operation concluded, Anderson said the department would continue to monitor wolf activity in the Wedge region as it is doing in other parts of the state. While some WDFW staff were working full time with the Wedge Pack for most of the summer, other staffers have been working to document wolf activity in Okanogan, Chelan and Kittitas Counties, the Blue Mountains and elsewhere in Northeast Washington.
Read on for more background and details.
FISHING — Time is running out for anglers at many of the Spokane-area trout lakes, some of which close for the season on Sunday .
The rainless heat wave of August-September is keeping water temperatures unusually high, and the fish haven't picked up their fall feeding activity.
I talked to a group of locals having coffee this morning at Fishtrap Lake Resort. They'd put in some long hours for just a few fish. But the ones they caught were beautiful, big-shouldered carryovers with delicious red meat.
"It's just a matter of how much time you want to put in to get them," one angler said.
Water temps have cooled to 60 degrees in the morning and range to 65 or more in the afternoon, they said.
"But that's a lot better than earlier in the week when they were up to 72 in the afternoon, " one man said. "That's just too warm for the trout."
The general consensus from the group was that the water temperatures would drop and the fish would go on the bite within a few days after the Fishtrap fishing season closes.
HUNTING — It's not news that the fields are dry and fire danger is extreme.
But don't let your guard down when you go out hunting or recreating. One thoughtless moment in these conditions can be costly.
Hunters, who have an especially big responsibility to be fire conscious, should:
- Drive only on established roads.
- Avoid roads with tall vegetation in the middle track.
- Never park over dry grass and other vegetation.
- Carry a fire extinguisher—or water-filled weed sprayer—shovel, axe, and, a cell phone for communications in addition to other outdoor safety gear.
- Restrict camping activities to designated camping areas.
- Not build campfires.
- Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.
Being able to respond is essential in the first few seconds of a fire start when it is small and easily extinguished.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Three wolves from the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County were killed by a shooter in a helicopter today as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife continued its effort to stop persistent attacks on livestock by eliminating the pack.
Since early July, Wedge Pack wolves are believed to have killed or injured at least 17 cows and calves from the Diamond M Ranch herd ranging on both private and public land between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers southwest of Laurier, Wash.
Department Director Phil Anderson said a WDFW marksman shot the wolves from a helicopter at about 8 a.m. The wolves were shot about seven miles south of the U.S.-Canada border in the same area where two other wolves from the Wedge Pack were killed by aerial gunning yesterday.
Biologists estimate the pack includes 8-11 wolves. Before this week's kills, the state shot a wolf on Aug. 7 when it was still believed the pack could be thinned and dispersed without eliminating the pack.
One wolf, thought to be the pack's alpha male, was trapped and fitted with a GPS collar earlier this summer. WDFW officers have been monitoring that wolf to follow the pack in the rugged, remote forested country.
Anderson said a department wildlife veterinarian would perform necropsies on all five of the wolves killed this week.
For more information on the situation, see the WDFW's Wedge Pack Lethal Removal Actions FAQ
CONSERVATION — One of the country’s biggest wildlife art contests will be judged in Ogden this week as the annual Federal Duck Stamp Contest comes to Utah for the first time in its nearly 80-year history. The event has been to the West only one other time.
The work of nearly 200 artists from across the United States will be open for free viewing by the public at Weber State University, reports Brett Prettyman in the Salt Lake Tribune. Judges will pick one piece during the two-day event to serve as the 2013-14 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.
Organizers picked Ogden to host the 2012 event due in a large part to the Great Salt Lake and its surrounding marshlands. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and other wildlife use the habitat throughout the year.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Pro-wolf groups aren't all standing by as Washington Fish and Wildlife staffers try to eliminate the cattle-preying Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County. Here's a form letter being promoted by the Center for Biological Diversity:
PUBLIC LANDS — Be sure to check ahead for possible fire restriction before setting out for a hunting or camping trip this weekend. Closures are in effect in some areas as fires continue to burn in the absense of fall rains that normally would have wet the landscape by now.
A vast tract of state land including the Colockum area and Stemilt basin are closed to hunting and other recreation due to danger from the Table Mountain Complex fires.
Sgt. Kent Sisson of Chelan County Emergency Management said fire personnel are in the process of posting information boards in the area and signs alerting hunters and other recreators. Fires, including campfires, are also prohibited until further notice.
NO GREENUP COULD IMPACT BIG GAME
The lack of September rain has left big-game without a "fall green-up," the sprouting of green vegetation in the warm "Indian Summer" after a September rain shower. This greenup is very important to game putting on fat for fall.
The green-up or lack of it factors into their winter survival.
Keep your fingers crossed.
BOATING — Lake Roosevelt's on-water fueling and minimal services will end for the season on Sunday (Sept. 30) at 5 p.m. at Keller Ferry and Seven Bays.
Info: (509) 725-7229 or (509) 647-5755.
LAND FORMS – A free program on “Missoula Floods in the Northern Rockies,” will be presented Thursday, 7 p.m., at Spokane Community College Student Union Building.
The program will be presented by Gene Kiver, a book author, retired geology professor and stalwart in the Ice Age Floods Institute.