October 27, 2007

Teton Crest Trail

Originally uploaded by Daryl L. Hunter
The Teton Crest Trail can be done many different ways; the full route is 39 miles, from Teton Pass on Highway 22 to String Lake in Grand Teton National Park, just north of Jenny Lake. Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail takes about three days but this hike is no place to rush if you can budget the time. Ambitious backpackers or horseback riders can extend the trip to seventy-five mile trek
along the entire crest of the Teton Mountains with some creative trail daisy chaining. Much of the Teton Crest Trail cuts a serpentine path through Grand Teton National Park and the adjacent Jedediah Smith Wilderness, rarely dipping below 8,000 feet. This rugged mountain environmentês jagged spires, alpine meadows, glaciers, lakes and vistas provide a challenging trip with limitless and rewarding sections for off trail exploration.

Most start the Teton Crest Trail from the Phillips Pass Trailhead on Teton Pass however there is a myriad of other choices. A shortcut option is to take the Teton Village Tram and hike to Marion Lake and to pick up the Teton Crest Trail from there. Other southern starting points include Coal Creek, and Moose Creek trailheads.

After about 10 miles from the southern starting points you leave the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness and enter Grand Teton National Park, here Marion Lake makes a good camping spot. Marion Lake has limited campsites, which require a permit as do all Grand Teton designated camping spots.........................More

The South Fork of the Snake River

The South Fork of the Snake River is in southeastern Idaho close to the Wyoming border. The South Fork begins as it flows out of 20 mile long Palisades Reservoir in the community of Swan Valley, forming a 64-mile stretch of legendary tail-water fly-fishing. The South Fork is also a beautiful river for flat water rafting, canoeing and kayaking. If you float this river in a canoe know what you are doing as it is big water and its flat-water appearance can fool you to its dangers.

Bald eagles and Ospreys are prevalent and many nest high above on treetops along the riverbanks, it is always a treat to see one swoop down and catch an unsuspecting fish........................More

October 26, 2007

In Defense of Logging and Loggers

There have been few characters of American folklore with the stature of Paul Bunyon. This legendary hero of an earlier day possessed strength, speed, and skill that matched the vastness of North America. According to legend, Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox, Babe, left many a mark on the landscape, receiving credit for creating Puget Sound, the Grand Canyon, and the Black Hills, among others. A lumberjack hero admired by all who read or heard of him.

On the third, full weekend of June Encampment Wyoming hosts the annual Rocky Mountain Champion Lumberjack Completion where loggers come from all over the country to compete for the coveted title. Chips fly during this competition using chain saws, axes and hand saws, the men and women competitors cut down trees competing in events that include: Tree Felling, two-man handsaw tree felling, two-man handsaw, two-woman handsaw, power saw log bucking, one-man handsaw, man & woman handsaw team, choker setting, axe chopping, pole throw, axe throw, power saw log bucking, power saw log bucking, and the mad loggers chainsaw throw.

It is refreshing to hear that this proud profession is still celebrated despite vilification by America’s tree huggers..........................More

October 06, 2007

Ethanol - now is a good time

Ethanol is a commercially proven renewable bio-fuel which is used as an additive to gasoline, either as an oxygenate additive as mandated by federal or state "clean air" programs, or as an octane enhancer or gasoline substitute. It is refreshing to know that fuel choice is on the horizon and it is in our grasp to write an obituary for foreign oil.

Ethanol is not a new fuel, in 1826; Samuel Morey developed an engine that ran on ethanol and turpentine. Ethanol is typically sold in gasoline blends of E-10 (10% ethanol) and E-20 (20% ethanol) for which no engine modifications are required. Ethanol is also being used more regularly in flexible fuel vehicles (FFV's). The FFV is designed to run on unleaded gasoline and ethanol in any mixture. The engine and fuel system in a flex-fuel vehicle must be adapted slightly to run on alcohol fuels because they are corrosive. They require a special sensor in the fuel line to analyze the fuel mixture and control the fuel injection and timing to adjust for different fuel compositions. , E-85 (85% ethanol) is a blend of 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline and is the preferred fuel for the FFV's.

Detroit is increasing production of FFV's to meet the demand for those aspiring to switch to this bio-fuel and several models already are on the market. FFV's are not a new idea Henry Ford produced the Model T as a flexible-fuel vehicle that could run on ethanol, gasoline or a combination of the two.

Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton introduced the Ethanol Vehicle Awareness amendment to the highway bill earlier this year, which requires all automakers to display labels inside the gas tank covers and on windshields of vehicles that have the ability to run on E-85 fuel, beginning with the model year 2007. ñThe amendment was unanimously approved by the full Senate May 12 and will help remind consumers that they have the option to buy E-85 fuel,î Dayton also co-sponsored an amendment to the Senate's highway bill to provide a tax credit of up to $30,000 for gas stations that install or convert pumps to offer E-85 fuel. ñEthanol gasoline is still not available in many regions of the country,î Dayton said. ñThis tax incentive would help to promote E-85 use nation-wide.î

Farmers and industry officials say efforts to promote E-85 fuel are paying off. Wimbledon North Dakota corn farmer Mike Clemens says, ña year ago nobody was even talking about E-85î.

E-85 is gaining popularity in eastern Wyoming and hopefully its availability will spread westward. The Torrington Terminal in Torrington and Quealy Dome Sinclair west of Laramie, both sell E-85. Ronnie Hill, who is involved in both stations, sees a bright future. He hopes to add several more E-85 outlets in the coming year. Given our dependence on foreign oil, "we need to wake up as a nation and have more flexible types of energy," Hill said. Hill buys his ethanol from Wyoming Ethanol who's distillery is in Torrington Wyoming. E-85 is selling for $1.57 per Gallon; straight unleaded regular costs $2.10. E-85 is cheaper but you can't go as far on a gallon.

On the outskirts of Torrington Wyoming, Wyoming Ethanol last year produced 5.3 million gallons of the fuel. A $14-million expansion that's now underway will double production capacity, said Dan Schwartzkopf, senior vice president of Wyoming Ethanol's parent company Renova Energy. Renova is also acquiring a plant in Hayburn, Idaho.

Schwartzkopf said Renova Energy has a five-year plan to increase its ethanol production to 50 million gallons annually. Renova expects to build at least two more plants in the 15-million- to 20-million-gallon production range.

Given the outlook for oil production, or lack thereof in the years ahead, Schwartzkopf thinks ethanol has turned a corner in terms of public acceptance. Recently President Bush turned up in a biodiesel plant, praising the merits of alternative fuels. "Whoever thought you'd hear that oil guy talking like that," Schwartzkopf said.

The U.S ethanol industry produced 3.4 billion gallons in 2004. By contrast, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Americans burn about 136 billion gallons of gasoline every year. We have a long way to go; however whichever fuel we produce here we don't have to buy from some country we shouldn't be doing business with.

The wholesale price of ethanol generally varies with the wholesale price of gasoline and, therefore, the price of crude oil. When we unleash power of America's agrarian juggernaut to meet our energy needs, hopefully the efficiency of America's farmers will create it's own dynamic of supply and demand where a competitive market place can bring the price of energy to heel.

Between Jackson Hole's flag waving patriotic rednecks that no longer want to support Arab oil producers to our neurotic, over the top tree huggers, there ought to be enough of us to support the success for a fuel outlet to start stocking some E-20 and E-85 so they can cash in on one of those $30,000 tax credits for converting pumps to offer E-85 fuel. I bet an eco-minded community like ours will make it worth it for a forward thinking entrepreneur.

The Cowboy - an endangered species

The Cowboy - an endangered species

cattle drive Grand Teton National ParkThe cowboy is one of America's most cherished and mythical figures. He symbolizes the mystique of the American west, a caricature of frontier courage, independence, and rugged masculinity. The iconical cowboy brings to mind, horses, cattle, the howl of a coyote, and wide-open spaces, the cowboy riding off into the sunset. In the west all these things are still alive and well but sadly the cowboy may be riding off into the sunset for good.
Once cowboy poet and humorist Baxter Black was asked: What made you decide to become a cowboy? He replied: You either are one, or you aren't, you never have to decide.

One day about 20 years ago I was having coffee at the Wort Cafe when a lady from back East asked me if I was a real cowboy, embarrassed I replied; if owning a few horses, a hat and living on a ranch made me a cowboy I guess I am. The truth was different, I rented a house on a ranch and my possession of a few horses and a hat didn’t make me a cowboy. Living on that ranch taught me that.

As a wrangler I blended in all right and probing tourists were surprised to find out otherwise but real cowboys could tell right off that I was new to the culture. It wasn’t because I didn’t know the secret handshake, it is because elementally you don’t just become a cowboy like you can become a lawyer or a doctor; it helps to be born into it.

Ranch life is hard and it builds tough resolute characters, ‘can do’ people whose day starts early and ends late, it can be dusty, mucky, stinky, wet, cold, hot, and often is dangerous. Some think that cowboying is sitting on a horse and following a bunch of cows around but it is much more than that.

Years ago during one of the family farm crises when farmers and ranchers were losing their land my thought was what can they do for jobs, all they know is how to farm or ranch. Oh, stupid me, my ignorance of farm and ranch life was monumental. When that cow, horse or pig is sick that cowboy is often the vet, the tractor he operates teaches him to be heavy equipment operator, when the swather breaks it teaches him to be a mechanic, When the family gets to big he becomes the carpenter, plumber and electrician. When water needs a new route from point A to point B he is the excavator and surveyor, and when it is time to sell some livestock he often is the truck driver, country folk can do anything! A guy doesn’t just show up in a western town wearing a hat and automatically become a cowboy.

Recently the media has glamorized the West for a lot of other things besides the western culture. Our mountains and valleys have left indelible impressions on our minds from movies since the days of John Ford, but the last couple of decades magazines like Outside, Skiing, Backpacker, Fly fisherman, and Men’s Journal have romanticized western living for many of its other offerings and has fueled an influx of newcomers who often find fault with the cowboy culture they find there.

Some rejoiced at Hollywood’s attempt to emasculate the cowboy image with Brokeback Mountain, as many of the testosteronally challenged are inhibited by the cowboy’s cool, iconic image of strength and confidence. But the real threat to the cowboy isn’t from Hollywood; it is from the invasion of city folk of the cowboy’s home. When a backpacker is 12 miles out into the wilderness he doesn’t want to see a tenth generation bovine grazing in a beautiful mountain meadow. When a fly fisherman is putting the sneak on a spooky spring creek cutthroat he doesn’t want to be joined by a thirsty Bessie and her new calf. The mountain biker rarely has a pleasant encounter with a horseman on a narrow trail. The triathlete on the make doesn’t like loosing the girl to the quiet hick at the bar with the large brimmed hat. 150 years ago the cowboy squeezed the Indian off the land and now it is the cowboy getting the squeeze.

Jon Marvel’s Western Watersheds Project and the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign are trying to end public grazing on our rangelands. When public grazing ends and ranchers no longer have a place to graze their cows during the hay farming season the cowboy, as we know him will fade away also. Restricted to the confines of a bankrupt fenced in ranch and barred from the wide-open spaces, it will sadly spell the demise for this living icon of Americana.