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Sunday, March 31, 2013





Easter Sunday, 8:00 PM.  It has been a beautiful, warm day with temperatures in the mid seventies, although it started out cloudy and blustery.  Easter is big in Texas and the churches were obviously overflowing.  We drove to Fort Worth where Dutch and Leslie were playing in the orchestra at the Christian Church on the Texas Christian University campus. The church architecture is what I would call Spanish Revival, as is the whole very beautiful campus.  There were three services, all filled to capacity.  The music was awesome and the service inspiring.
   We have had a good Texas visit and we head back north tomorrow morning.  We will spend two nights on the road I am sure.  I hope we pass through Kansas when they are burning the Flint Hills prairies, it is an epic experience to see the fires.  I have only seen the fires once and want Joan to experience them as well.

Saturday, March 30, 2013






Saturday,  9:00 AM. Weatherford, Texas. 59 degrees F, wind S, moderate.  The sky is clear after a terrific thunder and lightning storm last night about 1:00 AM.  It caused Allison to crawl in bed with her parents, and Buddy to try the same, unsuccessfully, with us. It should be a nice day but the weather is unsettled and may produce some rainy weather in the next few days.
   Yesterday’s picnic at Mineral Wells State Park was nice, and very restful.  The park is designed around a good sized impoundment on the Brazos River.  It is very naturalistic and has camping and fishing and extensive horse trails that reach out far beyond its borders.  The land of Texas, a state the size of France, is 90% privately owned, so the state park system is very important, especially to urban dwellers.     Since there is so much privately held land, including natural areas and hunting land, private enterprise plays a large part in public outdoor recreation.  It is an interesting departure from the rest of the country as regards conservation, natural resources and outdoor recreation, even extending to outdoor and conservation education.  It is a model worth much more study than I think it gets, and many lessons could be learned from it.  The state park yearly tag is $70, which I don’t see s particularly prohibitive; on the other hand daily fees are I think quite expensive, making the private outdoor recreation businesses pretty competitive with the public parks, I would think.  I am going to research the subject and see what kind of comparative studies have been done.  I know from my own personal experience that excessive public ownership and regulation of land and other outdoor resources can lead to,  or at least contribute to, the economic destitution of entire regions and the decimation of state and local tax bases (upstate New York and northern Wisconsin are two cases in point). 
   The states really should, as the Constitution envisioned, be the testing grounds for national policy, and that applies to natural resources and outdoor recreation as well.

Friday, March 29, 2013




Friday, 8:00 AM.  57 degrees degrees F.  Wind W, calm at present but it will pick up later.  The sky is overcast and looks like rain but probably will not do so.  Today we  are going as an extended family  to Mineral Wells State Park, about twenty miles to the west of Weatherford.  It will be a nice time if the rain holds off.
   This region of Texas is called the Cross Timbers,  and it is a fairly wooded country.  It has an average rainfall of around thirty inches. It is dry but not by any means desert, and tends to be arid.  The dominant tree genus is Quercus, the oaks.  Before white settlement  much of the Hill Country was savannah,  grassland with widely spaced trees.  Live oaks, Q. virginiana, are very prominent in the landscape. Live oaks are have green leaves all winter, and drop them in the spring, when they are immediately replaced by new growth.  Bur oaks, Q. macrocarpa, which are very prevalent, are large trees.  Post oak, Q. stellata, form much of the scrubby understory but also can grow into very rounded, formal looking medium sized trees.
   I do not know all the Texas trees and left my I.D. books at home but I am becoming more comfortable with the native Texas flora as we visit.
   I saw another unfamiliar bird as Buddy and I walked this morning, and found out later it was a scissor-tailed fly catcher, a grayish bird smaller than a robin with a tail more than twice as long as its body.  The end of the tail looks as though it was dipped in black ink, and is crossed like a scissors in flight.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Thursday, 8:00 AM.  Weatherford, TX.  52 degrees F (16 in Bayfield).  Wind W, calm.  The sky is clear with some haze and dark clouds in the west.
   Yesterday we went to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth.  The museum building was built in 2001 and was designed by Philip Johnson.  The collection features Remington, Russell and other iconic American artists, including Bierstadt, Church, Moran and other Hudson River school painters, and of course Catlin.  Its collections are very extensive and include many fine American artists we were not familiar with, including some which i would think extremely rare.
   Texas is a rather amazing mix of country and city, high culture and the common, business and the arts.  Overheard while waiting to have a prescription filled at a local Wallgreens:

pharmacist to drive-up window customer, "Nice looking weapon you've got there, sir, what is it?"  Customer, "AR-15 by Colt Arms." Pharmacist, "Got to get me one."  That's Texas in a nutshell.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


                                         WEATHERFORD, TEXAS, COURTHOUSE

                                                      BACKYARD OIL WELL
Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  Weatherford, Texas. a 37 degrees F, wind W, calm.  The sky is cloudless and it should reach 70 degrees today.  Yesterday we went to the Cowgirl Museum in the cultural center in Fort Worth.  It is a striking little Art Deco building, and its permanent collections are an entertaining account of the Western horsewoman, from ranchers to movie actresses.  It certainly is a one-of-a-kind museum, and it had one of the best quilt exhibitions we have ever seen.  Today we intend to go to the Amon Carter Museum of Amercian Art, which is in the same complex.
   Things have been a bit disjointed so I have not made as many comments as I would like.  The photos speak pretty much for themselves.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Monday, 8;00 AM.  Weatherford, Texas. Temperature 28 degrees F.  Wind W, brisk.  'The sky is clear, the sun is up and it will be a nice day.  Unfortunately our daughter-in-law left the tomato plant she planted in a  pot out on the porch and it is gone with the chill Texas wind.  But lots of gardening is starting here.
   We are having a great time doing family oriented things, the next of which will be a big Easter Sunday church concert (Dutch and Leslie are both professional musicians).
   We have escaped blizzards in Wisconsin, Colorado and points in between, and when we leave for home in a week it will hopefully be between storms.  Tomorrow we will visit some of the great Fort Worth museums.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Friday, 9:00 AM.  The Texas  weather has turned blustery, after some nice weather.  Things are dry so rain would be welcome.  Lots of plants are  blooming here now; red buds, spring bulbs, pansies, and the iconic Texas bluebonnets, which are a much shorter relative of the Bayfield Lupines. Yuccas are blooming on the drier range land, huge, fragrant blossoms. Some are almost treelike.
   We had a good time at Blue Mountain Peak Ranch, the accommodations were a large step above being a bunkhouse, all very comfortable and modern.  We were the only guests, the facilities miles back off the road.  The ultimate in peace and quiet.  There was lots of bird life, we saw deer and turkeys and jackrabbits, but the hogs were not around.  We saw not even a bristle, heard not a grunt.  I sat in the blind from dusk to 10:30 PM Tuesday evening, and again on Wednesday morning from 5:00 AM until daylight, and on Wednesday night until a Texas thunder and lightning storm chased us back to the bunkhouse.  There is nothing so quiet as night, deep in the heart of Texas.  I suppose I could say something about the stars at night being big and bright as well but even I can't be that trite.
  Joan was an amazingly good sport about all my obsession with hogs, and she managed to enjoy the experience as well, since we drove the all-wheel drive Ridgeline wherever we needed to go on the ranch, and she sat in the truck while I sat in the blind, reading when she felt like it and enjoying the quiet of the night when not.
   The ranch is quite beautiful in a stark, almost desert-like way.  Live oak, bur and post oak dot the hills, but there is almost a complete lack of topsoil, much of the land being limestone outcroppings and rock rubble.  The sparse grasses are mostly little bluestem, with big bluestem and Indian grass in the washes.  The omnipresent, water-loving Ashe cedar is being controlled by burning, which has encouraged the springs to rejuvenate, which are very beneficial to wildlife.  The ranch is recognized as an environmental model by the State of Texas.  We will come again sometime, perhaps to deer hunt.  Then I suppose we will see hogs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Sunday, noon.  The weather is warm and somewhat cloudy, with no wind.  Quite pleasant. We are having a nice visit with family and enjoying ourselves.  We had some unexpected car trouble that took us off track for a coupe of days but are back on again and will head to Blue Mountain Ranch in Mason, TX tomorrow to do some hog hunting.  We will report on our success or lack thereof.
    I saw an unfamiliar bird high in an oak tree yesterday morning, It was a bluish green, a bit smaller than a robin, and sang very melodiously.  I think it was a painted bunting.  I had no opportunity to take a photo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Tuesday morning. 38 degrees F, wind light, sky clear. We arrived in Weatherford TX in time for dinner yesterday, road weary an glad to be out of the truck for a while.  Buddy is overjoyed to be playing with Allison and Tango.  The weather should be nice, in the sixties.  The trip from Albuquerque to Weatherford traversed everything from near desert and dry river washes to grazing land, winter wheat field and enormous cotton fields being readied for planting.  Much of the most degraded landscape was once known as the Llanos Estacado, the Staked Plains, so called because the early Spanish explorers and settlers erected tall posts at intervals along the trails so the way could be seen through the tall grass prairie vegetation, that was "Taller than a man on horseback."I will upload photos later.
 The landscape changed irretrievably with the Indian wars and the purposeful extinction of the buffalo by the US government as a means of depriving the Indians of their most important resource.  This was ecological warfare on a hitherto unprecedented scale.  With the elimination of the buffalo and the Indians, domestic cattle were introduced by the white settlers and eventually the range was partitioned by barbed wire fences.  The buffalo were herd animals that constantly moved as they grazed and thus did not damage the grasses.  Fenced cattle can overgraze and damage the range vegetation, and the result is the invasion of unwanted and unpalatable cacti, trees and shrubs.
  Wars usually have unanticipated results, and the Indian wars left the land far poorer for the victors and has never recovered.  No one won, and the earth lost.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Monday, early.  We're off to Texas as everyone here goes back to school and work.  We will head south on I25 out of Denver through a small portion of foothills an the Rockies, then east through the northwest corner of New Mexico and into the Texas panhandle.  We will probably stop overnight in Abilene.


Sunday,  7:50 AM MDT.  21 degrees F, wind calm. The sky is clear. Barometer 30.21 in., humidity 75%.
   We were caught in a quintessential storm coming out of the southwestern mountains.  It is not as bad as some we have experienced in Denver, but it will suffice.  There was less than a foot of snow.  It seems that things were pretty well shut down and most everyone stayed off the streets yesterday but all will be back to normal today.
   On the political front, Colorado is in the midst of a contentious battle over  gun legislation, Democrats proposing, Republicans opposing.  The main issues are creating gun free college campuses, restricting magazine capacities and enhanced state registration laws.  Republicans counter by asking for tougher mental health laws.  It looks like a draw between urban areas seeking more control and rural areas with a long Western tradition of gun ownership, and most likely nothing much will change except perhaps the adoption of symbolic measures.
   When I say that gun bans don't stop people determined to create havoc with a gun, and our daughter Eva the school teacher counters with, "You can't have college dorms  populated by a lot of gun-toting eighteen year olds,"I have to agree she wins that part of the argument.
   I have noticed an elemental change in family  life, a progression actually, that started long ago.  The first families gathered around the camp fire.  Then the fireplace and eventually the kitchen stove.  Then came the radio and finally the TV as communication nodes.  Now everyone sits together each with their own laptop computers, which creates a rather silent atmosphere.  We have come full circle in the latter regard.  Perhaps someday we will learn to actually talk to each other again as in the days before all the technological intrusions.

Friday, March 8, 2013



Saturday, 10;00 AM.Denver, Colorado. There is a blizzard blowing which threatens to shut the city down, but the temperature is relatively mild. We had a good trip through the Nebraska Sandhills and on down to Denver .  Yesterday morning started out pretty cold and foggy but warmed and cleared up quickly.  It is roundup time, and halfway through the hills we were stopped by a sheriff's deputy in the road, who advised us that a cattle roundup was underway, and sure enough, a full fledged cattle drive was coming down the middle of US 83, cows, cowboys, cow dogs and all.
   Note: geologically, the Sandhills are ancient dessert dunes, eventually clothed and stabilized over the eons by short and mid-grass prairie grasses and forbs.  They are structurally very fragile and unstable, and overgrazing and long periods of drought can damage the vegetational cover and the dunes can start to move.  "Blowouts" in the hills reveal the sand beneath the grass, and have to be stabilized immediately to prevent serious erosion.  Cattle grazing is about the only environmentally safe use of the dunes, although level ares along river valleys can be irrigated and hay harvested.
   The Nebraska Sandhills occupy most of the west-central part of the state.  There are a few streams that run through the area, notably the Niobrara on the northern edge, the Platte on the south and the Loup (North,South and Middle branches) and Dismal Rivers in the interior.  There are numerous "prairie pothole" ponds and small lakes, which are essential to waterfall migration and production.  Many of these are federal and state wildlife refuges.
  There are many interesting small and not-so-small cities and towns associated with the Sandhills, and the region is historically very interesting.  For those who want to get off the beaten path the Sandhills are a good getaway.
   It is good to know the Old West still exists.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Thursday, 8:00 PM.  Valentine, NE.  It is warm in the Nebraska Sandhills, over 50 degrees F and it looks like good weather tomorrow to get to Denver.  it was a frigid 2 degrees F this morning in Albert Lea, MN.  It was a foggy morning, with fantastic hoar frost on trees and buildings, quite beautiful.
   The trip across South Dakota was uneventful, but we saw a flock of migrating Sandhill Cranes as we entered the state, so spring is on its way.  Valentine is on the Niobrara River and the Sandhills are to the south.  I love the river and the Sandhills, and the first western pine trees, the three-needled Ponderosas (Pinus ponderosa) of the Black Hills, greet one here on the banks of the Niobrara.  Also on the cool north facing south bank of the river near Valentine can be found disjunct populations of paper birch (Betula papyrifera), not otherwise seen until hundreds of miles further north.  Twenty years ago I canoed this stretch of the river, which is pretty tame but has a few treacherous spots to trip up the unwary.  The Sandhills are the sponge which charge the Ogalalla aquifer, which provides irrigation water for much of Nebraska, Kansas, and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas.  The route of the proposed pipeline from Canada to the gulf has been rerouted around it to satisfy environmental concerns.
   We drove through the eastern edge of the huge Rosebud Sioux Reservation on US 83 and I have to say it seems to look more prosperous these days.  The Rosebud Casino is probably the source of new wealth, but alcoholism and social problems are still a plague on this reservation as on most others.
   We ate at the Peppercorn restaurant in Valentine, a true Nebraska steakhouse, of which I am afraid there are not many left.  I had top sirloin, Joan had prime rib, both excellent; with a bottle of decent wine the bill was $49.00.
   Tomorrow we travel south through the Sandhills and then on to Denver.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

ON THE ROAD AGAIN (without any funny cigarettes)

Wednesday, 9:00 PM.  About 16 degrees in Austin, MN.  We had a pretty good trip to Madison yesterday to Wausau, and it went downhill from there, being wintry and very slippery by the time we got in.  Of course my winter boots were up at the front of the truck bed, and the snow scraper in the trunk under the truck bed.  But today's Urban Forest Council meeting today went well and I gained excellent support for my efforts to obtain a federal tree planting grant for the Chequamegon Bay communities.
   We drove for several hours this afternoon to get some miles toward Denver.  The weather looks good from here west as we cross the plains on I90 and then south on US83 to North Platte, NE.  I90 in west central Wisconsin through the Driftless Area (absence of Pleistocene glaciation) and the river bluff country of the Black and Mississippi Rivers is beautiful.  I was driving so didn't take any photos.
  Tomorrow we will go through the huge Rose Bud Sioux reservation and will remember to take pictures.  I feel like Willie Nelson, "On The Road Again," but without the funny cigarettes

Monday, March 4, 2013


Monday, 8:45 AM.  21 degrees F, wind NW, calm.  Barometer 30.21 in., humidity 85%.  The sky is cloudless but hazy.  It was a very quiet, subdued sunrise and early morning.  We may get some snow.
The woods at the top of Old Military Road were not quiet, as several little downy woodpeckers were pounding out their Morse Code messages.  It's amazing what  a lot of racket  such diminutive creatures can make.
   The Xcel Energy power plant in Ashland, that runs one of its three boilers on biomass, purged vapor straight up into the calm atmosphere yesterday.  The lower Sioux River was almost free of ice on Friday but yesterday it was frozen over again.
   We are pretty well packed and only have a few odds and ends to do before we leave tomorrow morning, first stop Madison, WI for an Urban Forestry Council meeting at the capitol and visits with our area state representative and senator (I always get lost in the rabbit warren of offices).  Then it is on to Denver to visit Doug, Eva and grandkids Nick and Katie for a few days and then to Texas and Dutch, Leslie and little Allison.  We hope the weather holds going across the plains, but it looks like we will get to Colorado before the next storm blows in from the Four Corners.  I plan to blog during our perambulations so check in to see whether we are doing anything of interest.  As usual, we will write mostly about weather, wildlife, scenery and things of cultural interest and try not to brag about the grandkids too much.

Sunday, March 3, 2013



Sunday, 8:30 AM.  Wind WSW, calm.  The sky is cloudless.  There is some fog and haze over Madeline Island but it looks clear further to the east over the lake.  The temperature outside the door is twelve degrees, downtown next to the lake it is only one degree Fahrenheit.  The barometer is at 30.25 in. and the humidity is 85%.  Yesterday was beautiful, today will be so as well.
   We have started the countdown to our vacation, packing clothes, cleaning out the truck, anticipating our actions in the coming days and weeks. Buddy knows something is going on and is sticking close to us and being extra good.
   The Northland is also anticipating spring, the sun strong enough to cause melting now, even though it is still cold.  I got a call from Blue Mountain Peak Ranch yesterday, asking if I was coming hog hunting.  I had to make a decision, so I said yes, most likely we will be there two nights.  It should be an interesting experience.  Joan and I will stay in the bunkhouse...maybe she will come out to the blind with me, maybe not, she hasn't made up her mind about that.  We visited the ranch two winters ago and were quite taken with its beauty and the owner's environmental ethic.  I am also very interested in harvesting some totally wild and hormone-free pig meat for the freezer. Plenty of time to talk about that as I hope to post my blog while on the road.  For more information on the ranch, use the blog's search engine to read a prior post.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Saturday, 7:45 AM.  12 degrees F at the house, 6 degrees F downtown.  Wind NW, calm.  The sky is blue except for a few clouds on the eastern horizon.  The barometer stands at 30.42 in., the humidity is    84%.  It is a nice winter day.
   Well,  the sequestration is actually having an effect!  Several thousands of illegal aliens have been summarily released from jails around the country to save detention costs.  I suppose it would have been too easy a solution to simply send them home.
   All the while, President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano claim the deed was done by lower authority and like Sargent Schultz of the old sitcom Stalag 17, say "I know nothing! Nothing!" The president should be impeached, and the Secretary fired.  Or perhaps like the illegals, sent back to where they each came from as the easier solution.  I know the Secretary came from Arizona.  I'm not so sure where to send  Mr. Obama.
   In the meantime they could release some illegal aliens up here in Bayfield to give the obviously bored ICE Agents hereabouts something to do rounding them up again.  Sort of a "catch and release" program.  Just like fishing.  Release them to have the fun of catching them all over again. A good federal work project.  Released often enough and long enough the illegal aliens may get to be bigger and bigger trophies, just like our steelhead salmon. "Sorry, not big enough,  throw 'em back so they can grow!"
  For additional commentary and photos, just search above for past "border patrol" and "illegal aliens" blogs.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Friday,  8:45 AM.  19 degrees F, wind NW, light with stronger, biting gusts.  A few lake effect snow flakes are drifting down.  It is overcast and looks and feels like snow.  The city plow just passed by, winging back the snow to make room for more.
   With all the hype and doom and gloom about the "sequester" happening today, perhaps you have over-looked what to me is a far more ominous development.  The "black box"of airplanes is likely coming to your automobile soon, courtesy of the National Transportation Safety Authority.  No congressional legislation necessary, not even an executive order we can protest.  Simply an administrative ruling. So what, you say?    This is Big Brother gone mad, a continual auditing of every move of your vehicle. Were you five miles over the speed limit?  Ticket's in the mail.  Where were you last  night?  Might as well 'fess up, we already know.  No, no, this black box will only be used to investigate accidents and such.  Are you kidding me?  Look for it to be subpoenaed in every tawdry divorce case, every suspected felony, and every reason an invasive, out of control government can think of.
   Oh, but wouldn't it be great to keep an eye on your teenage driver, to be sure he or she didn't speed, or go somewhere other  than where he or she said they would go. Just the thing to build lasting trust between child and parent, don't you think? And don't think there won't be an ap for your smart phone to allow that to be done.
   Boy, I sure am glad there wasn't one in my 1939 Ford pickup truck.  "O.K., young man, " the leering officer says, "We know your vehicle was parked down on the beach for two hours last Saturday night.  Tell us what you were up to".  Or, in Joan's red 1957 V8 Chevy; "We have you clocked at 110 MPH on US 30 on the morning of Sunday, July 4, 1964. That will be $100 and nine points."
   But, to be serious for a moment.  Is this sort of invasion of privacy really worth whatever safety data that could be gleaned from these black boxes?
   I have friends who are avid ice fishermen, and the latest gimmick is a little TV camera that goes down with the hook, line and sinker to spy on the fish.  I haven't heard any of them say it really helps to catch the fish, it is just interesting to watch them take the bait.  We are increasingly like the fish in the lake, constantly watched, probably as much for amusement as for anything else.  It takes all kinds, and there sure are all kinds out there.  There are  TV cameras everywhere. I used to "flip the bird" at one every so often, but I don't do that anymore as I am likely to end up on U Tube. It is only a small step from the black box recorder in your car to a surveillance TV camera recording your every move in your car.  Don't laugh, technologically it's a snap.  Wouldn't the Gestapo and the KGB have loved to have had little black boxes in every one's Volkswagen and Lada. But of course not the FBI or the Attorney General.
   Oh, but all this technology will only be used to keep us safer from accidents, criminals and terrorists.  If you believe that one, I have a fishing trip I would like to take you on.