Even the snow portends Spring

(Originally published in Gettysburg Times, March 8, 2013)

When I awoke Wednesday, entirely too early for my morning breakfast with a friend, I found about four inches of the white stuff on the backyard picnic table, and still coming down. Already it was falling off the Jeep, leaving behind rivulets of melt. By noon, it was almost gone, mostly turned to water.

A nice “now you see it, now you don’t” springtime snowfall.

It put me in mind of the storm we had in mid-to-late March 1998. I’d only been in Gettysburg a couple weeks. Continue reading Even the snow portends Spring

Spring and the Rebs are coming

I’m pretty sure Spring is not far. I base that prognostication not upon annotations on a calendar or the profundity of a rodent in conversation with a group of men in stovepipe hats – but upon a flock of at least 100 Robins in my back yard as I write these thoughts. First ones I’ve seen this year.

Grady and I have cabin fever. Grady is a Golden Retriever who’s been living here a few days more than 6 years, and who loves being in the woods at least as much as he loves stealing from a bag of Hershey Kisses left on the couch by an inattentive human.

My favorite canoeing pond was covered with ice the last time I was up there. Most of that ice should be gone now; Continue reading Spring and the Rebs are coming

Do we wait for the river to die to call it ill?

Two men fishing below the Harrisburg bridges.The Susquehanna River Basin Commission reports its data collection funding has been cut, while more than 2,000 miles of waterways still suffering from mine drainage from coal mines abandoned nearly a century ago. And increasing numbers of smallmouth bass are being found cancerous and dying in the 100 miles of river below Sunbury, PA (near the Shamokin Dam).

Meanwhile, PA DEP Secretary Mike Krancer and PA Fish and Boat Commission head John Arway continue to spar over whether the river should be declared “impaired,” a declaration that would make the river eligible for federal funding to research the dying fish.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Warm winter could be a job killer for snow sports industry

Mid December on a rained-on fogbound ski slopeA report published jointly this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Protect Our Winters notes global warming is making winters warmer, and snowfall lighter – especially at lower elevations. That, the report’s authors say, will cost jobs and cash in the nation’s snow sports industry.

“Snow is currency in the 28 states that benefit from (winter sports),” said Elizabeth Burakowski, researcher at University of New Hampshire and co-author of the report titled “Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States.”

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Arizona threatens secession; it may be a growing trend

The Colorado River took a very long time to carve this ditch in the planet's surface.Come election day, the good citizens of Arizona will decide whether to amend their state constitution, granting themselves sovereignty over the Grand Canyon, allowing themselves to “take it back” from the rest of us. The goal, apparently is to increase mining and other commercial uses in the canyon, and funnel the proceeds into Arizona coffers.

The plan reminds me of the story about a dog walking across a river on a log, carrying a huge fresh bone. About halfway across the river, he looked down and spied another dog carrying a similar bone.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Ode to the little house

The outdoor facilities were part of my childhoodI was raised an outdoors kind of guy. Even for that? you ask. Yes, even for that. When I was a lad, the running water was a hand pump about 50 yards in one direction from the kitchen door. It ran faster in winter than summer because if you didn’t hustle in winter it was likely to freeze before you got the pail inside.

The “facilities” were about 100 yards in the other direction, and therein lies the tale.

Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Letter to Obama

A natural gas pipeline slashes a mountaintop in Trout Run, PAMy son used to tell untruths. Sometimes he’d even say he hadn’t done a thing I’d just stood there watching him do. But he’s all grown up and haired over – except that place on his head where you could draw a map of Alaska and not mess up any follicles.

OK, maybe a map of Delaware. What’s a little exaggeration between friends? I’m guessing if you and Mitt would get in a private room together, both of you could come up with some things you wished your parents hadn’t found out didn’t happen just the way you said they did.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

DCNR on its way to being DR

Truck-bearing roads, pipelines and drilling pad clearings slice and dice their way across Loyalsock State ForestA bill in the Pennsylvania legislature has conservationists on high alert. House Bill 2224, some fear, will open the way to sale of public lands without the normal path through the courts. All they would have to do is declare the “parks, squares or similar uses and public buildings … no longer necessary or practicable.”

Which appears to many to be what Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Marcellus, declared his award winning state park system director, John Norbeck. It seems Norbeck’s “no drilling in the state parks” crashed into the “drill everywhere” juggernaut, and the people of the Commonwealth lost.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

State and national parks and forests: a great value for taxpayers’ dollars

A footpath through Michaus State ForestMichaux State Forest encompasses more than 87,000 acres of woodland, including a reservoir, several streams and a section of the Appalachian Trail.

The Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website still claims about 85,000 acres, but I think that does not include 2,500 acres purchased from Glatfelter’s paper company circa 2008 and donated to the state.

Continue reading …

“Seen any deer?”

I let him eat, and he let me shoot.A few years ago, a friend and I took a week in Colorado, driving through the back roads of the Rockies, generally following one of our favorite country music artists – and premiere writer of environmental songs – on what we termed “The Ultimate San Juan Oddysey.” The trip took us above the tree line, to long defunct silver mines, historic avalanche sites, Silverton (via the Durango and Rio Grande narrow gauge railroad), and Black Bear Road, (“You don’t have to be crazy to drive this here road, but it helps.”).

Continue reading “Seen any deer?”

Storm troopers on gossamer wings

They are reportedly as aggressive as they appear.Something caught my eye, something that didn’t quite belong among the long green needles. I don’t know why I looked up for it, except that I habitually wander around with my eyes pretty wide open, the better to see stumps and other things I might run into while walking through the woods or paddling close along the shore.

Then I found it, a volleyball-size wasp nest hanging from a Pitch Pine, about 10-12 feet up from the ground. And about six feet from the trail, where joggers, bicyclists and other woods wanderers regularly pass by, probably without noticing the armory above their heads.

Continue reading Storm troopers on gossamer wings

What bird is this?

Walks along the lake shore, doesn't get his feet wet.Sometimes when you’re wandering or paddling around, you find something even the pros can’t identify. So here’s asking my loyal readers:

“What bird is this. It can be found at the central Pennsylvania canoeing lake about 15 miles from my home, walking along the shore, grabbing food from between rocks and logs, twigs and other such flotsam. I’ve never seen one actually get its feet wet.
Continue reading What bird is this?

A walk in the woods

Grady the golden retriever looks down a forest trail.Rain had fallen in the overnight, and the piece of low-lying forest through which I wandered was mostly wetland, at the edge of a cattail-filled meadow. Beneath my hiking shoes the path was cushioned – not soggy, but like a carpet with a nice sponge under it. Ahead of me – he’s always ahead of me – Grady the Golden Retriever kept looking back to be sure I was following. If I stop, he’ll come back to me. If I reverse direction, he’ll come jogging past to take the lead on the new course.

Continue reading …

Computers are good at step-by-step, but only a human can be, well, human

r-pod camper and Jeep Grand Cherokee tow vehicle in campgroundWe had picked up the Messeder Space Pod in Myrtle Beach on a Thursday afternoon and headed home. Somewhere a little south of Petersburg, Va., we decided to start looking for a place to pull in for the night.

So we asked Sally G, our faithful GPS, to find one. She found several. We picked the closest one and dialed the phone number. A fellow whose gravelly voice came from National Geographic’s “Swamp Men,” only friendlier, listened patiently while I described where I was – some exit off I-95, northbound toward home.

“It’s not that I don’t want your business,” the proprietor said, “but I’m over on (Interstate) 85, and that’s pretty much out of your way.”

 Continue reading …

Replacing humans with machines not necessarily a cost savings

NASA photo of Alan Shepard's launch of first US astronaut into spaceThe Messeder Space Pod (for want, at present, of a better name) finally is ready to go. My co-pilot in life and other travels went visiting her sister a couple months ago, and came home in love with an r-Pod, a small (18-foot) camper trailer not much bigger than the original space capsule that carried Astronaut Alan Shepard from Cape Canaveral to a wet spot in the Atlantic Ocean.

Continue reading …

Leaves a-Fall-ing

A lone oak leaf at the very end of the branch

There was ice in the bird bath this morning. a blanket of frost coated the lawn, and the thermometer in back of the house showed about 28 degrees. A lone oak leaf clung to the farthest end of the skinniest branch on the tree in our front yard.

I guess it’s time to stock up on ice melt and windshield de-icer, and maybe buy that snow thrower we’ve been thinking about. Or we could wait. Continue reading Leaves a-Fall-ing

Off the interstate, into history …

Ivy covers the gray stone walls of Gray Towers, Gifford Pinchot's childhood summer home.
At about the mid-point of a 450-plus mile journey home, we crossed the Delaware River westbound from Port Jervis, N.Y., to Matamoros, Pa. ate at the Perkins, and decided to see whether there might be less expensive gasoline if we followed U.S. 6 for a bit. We found the less expensive gas, but the real treasure was on the way uphill from the center of Milford back to the interstate. Continue reading Off the interstate, into history …