I don’t know what the other writers have going, and invite each to write over me, as I am currently not in a mood to deal with Covid and all its attendant dishonesty and agitprop. I asked Steve Kelly, when we visited him and his partner on their land near Bozeman, what is the ultimate goal of this massive hoax. He said population control is surely part of it, the masks and distancing slowly pushing us over a cliff.
As I view it, the masks will slowly weaken people, along with attendant depression and malaise making them ill, shortening their lives. The virus will be blamed.
I’ll get back to Covid. I do think about it. Who can not? But what follows is, for me, pure relaxation and distraction.
Our 25th anniversary trip was a delight for both of us, not knowing what to expect. I am in a mood to write about the natural outdoors, and the immense treasure of public lands set aside for our use (maybe not permanently, thinking about Agenda 21, says Oregonmatt). Hiking locally we come across people on trails wearing masks, a marker for how deeply the insanity has penetrated. On our anniversary trip, we only rarely encountered this while in the backcountry.
I have an idea – that I want to describe public lands that we have, each chartered with a different mission. The major categories are
- National parks (which, as with Yosemite, can contain wilderness within their boundaries)
- National monuments
- National and state-run forests. Often these have within them roadless lands that could become wilderness, a never-ending battle)
- Lands operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and to a lesser degree other agencies such as Bureau of Reclamation.
The amount of land is staggering, most of it out west. Nevada is 63%-managed by the BLM, for instance. As you might guess, BLM lands are low on the list, in terms of desirability. I will start with my favorite:
Twenty-five years ago I was a volunteer for the Montana Wilderness Association, not knowing that I was a stooge for an industry-front group. That aside, I led some hikes for them, one of which was in the Castle Mountains, an island range (not wilderness) near White Sulfur Springs, Montana. A group of women came over from Bozeman (I lived in Billings) for the hike, one of whom caught my eye. I had planned to hike and explore the area the week before, but was rained out, and so had no idea of where we were going other than a map. Like a fool, I pretended to be familiar with the area. I fooled no one in that group. But I will always be grateful for one opportunity MWA gave me, to meet my life partner that magical day.
Wilderness are lands that can only be accessed by foot or horse. As the opening (poetic) lines of the 1964 Wilderness Act state,
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
No motorized vehicles are allowed. No chainsaws are allowed. No commercial enterprises, like mining and logging, are allowed, although outfitters can make their living using these places. Hunting is allowed but heavily regulated (motor vehicles, game carts and any other mechanical devices, trail cameras, and unmanned aircraft systems or drones used for scouting are all prohibited). Fishing is regulated but universally allowed. Trails building and maintenance is completely done by hand.
There are complaints aplenty from groups including some who are disabled, along with ATV and snowmobile users and bicyclers, but wilderness legislation has withstood the tests to this date. Steve Kelly is a part of the Alliance for a Wild Rockies, seeking now and for decades to connect wilderness and parks to allow animal corridors to connect various areas for the sake of genetic diversity among species.
I have hiked into many wilderness areas, the Beartooths my favorite. These days we do not carry backpacks, and so are day hikers, but I have rumblings within me that I can still carry a tent, food, sleeping bag and stove. Equipment is lighter these days. I want my grandson to experience the joy and terror of being completely away from civilization, hoping that the noise we hear at night outside the tent is just wind.
Many people carry firearms with them when in wilderness, especially in bear country, but I have long maintained that real courage is the ability to lay awake at night in a tent knowing you are subject to the elements, wild animals among them, without the ability to pull out a gun and shoot. In my case, I know that in a panicked state I would be fortunate if I only hit a tree rather than an innocent animal, god forbid a human except maybe Bill Gates.
Many years ago, when I was still a newbie in terms of back country, my friend Steve (not Kelly) and I hiked deep into bear country and set up camp. I went looking for firewood, and very near our camp came upon a huge pile of fresh bear crap. I was mortified, and told Steve about it. I assumed a grizzly, he said it could be just a large black bear, probably a boar. Black bears, while dangerous, are more easily intimidated by humans than grizzlies. He was far more experienced in these matters, and said that building a fire alerts the animals to our presence, so that they stay away. I did not buy that, but we had our large fire, and upon entering the tent that night, Steve was asleep within ten minutes. I slept fitfully if at all, thinking any minute that a large set of claws would tear through the side of the tent, on my side of course.
Years later, in the Mission Mountains wilderness of Montana, near Seeley Lake, we hiked and camped in real grizzly bear country, the landscape littered with blueberry bushes. Even having wizened over time, I was very much on edge on the first day. Then I relaxed, realizing that if we made enough noise, bears would avoid us. But I also came to suspect that there were two states of mind that we should avoid while hiking in bear country – paranoia, and overconfidence. I suffered from both on this trip, but lived to tell.
I managed to overcome my initial fear of bears by means of a ritual – while in Butte, Montana for an accounting conference, something I recommend to no one. I decided to use the opportunity to hike into the Anaconda Pintlers, a beautiful mountain range/wilderness nearby. I did so alone, thinking that a night of terror in wilderness would break the back of my fear. Surprisingly, it worked. I was intensely attune to noises all night. There are many noises in the dark, far more so than during the day, says the mind. But I slept, and without the benefit of alcohol or pharmaceuticals, I should add.
I was not completely cured of my fear, but hardened. In the future, especially after meeting my wife, I was the example of how to behave in bear country, always exercising caution (hanging food ten feet up and out, never eating/cooking/sleeping in the same places, never allowing food odors in tents). Making noise, alerting animals to our presence while hiking, is a must. I am told that a hiking party off four or more has never been attacked by a grizzly. Even when just walking, the group noise travels. (My wife belonged to a hiking group in Bozeman (no men or dogs allowed) where fifteen or more would hike together. As far as I know, they never encountered any animal of any kind.)
My late and departed friend Steve often ventured alone into bear country, and told a story about one night awakening to noise outside his tent, definitely an animal. He poked his head out, itself an act of courage, and found that there were deer in his camp. He settled in and slept peacefully through the night. Where there are deer, there are no bears, he said, that is, the deer are there because the bears are not. I’ll buy that.
Years later my wife and I were hiking across Montana’s Crazy Mountains, near Big Timber, said not to harbor grizzlies. As we lay sleeping we heard what was without doubt a bear in camp. We each instantly awoke, and we laid there in the tent, motionless. Oddly, the thin fabric of a tent seems to offer some protection, at least in the mind. The bear went its way, we fell back asleep. The next morning I inspected the camp, and below where I had hung our food were signs of an intense effort to reach it. Hanging food ten feet up and out on a thin branch works.
The Crazy Mountains have not achieved wilderness designation, but they are still wild. Back in the mid-1800s there was a land grant, part of the railroad legislation that granted alternating 640-acre tracts along the tracks to railroad barons. This is why corporations like BNSF (a merged railway monopoly) own so much land, much of it forests. There are in-holdings in the Crazies owned by private ranchers now due to the railroad act. The ranchers do not allow anything more than passing through. Some kind of land swap would be in order to make the Crazies a wilderness area, but the land is so precious that I do not see that happening.
Sights, sounds, smells are memories. On our Crazy Mountain trek, we stopped at Moose Lake, privately owned with signs warning not to stay. I prepared Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup on my white gas stove. We stood in the trees as a huge rainstorm came through. The soup is salty and flavored by artificial chemicals from a factory in New Jersey. Man was it good.
I recommend the Anaconda Pintlers (240 square miles of wilderness contained within) to anyone who wants to go on a long trek, as it is a large expanse of mountains, streams and occasional lakes. My son and I did such a trek years back, and it was a physical test, perhaps sixty miles of walking (distance does tend to increase over time, each retelling adding a mile or two). While hiking one day we came upon an abandoned camp, and left behind was a plastic table cloth used to make a small dam in a brook. In the water were two cans of beer. We put them in our packs, one for each of us, and moved long. That night we chilled them again in the ice cold water of a snowmelt stream. Beer never tasted as good, before or since.
I started with Covid, and will end with Covid. We have met now five people who independently figured out that Covid-19 is a hoax. What do they have in common? All are self-employed. Not having a boss allows one freedom of thought. With a boss, we tend to go through a Vulcan mind-meld, where our thoughts and those who own the signature on the front of the paycheck come into alignment. Without that force in our lives, we can come into existence as independent and sentient beings. It’s a marvelous background process that goes on as we make our living.
I became self-employed in 1986. I didn’t know at that time about independence of mind, and did not realize as well that I would have freedom to explore the back country – a self-employed accountant can take time to pursue other things in off-season. Over the years I have had time to explore wilderness, parks, BLM land, and even some Clinton-inspired national monuments (those being an end-around move to preserve land – these will be covered in a later post). I’ve canoed Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and hiked Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness, forced by lack of a map into taking a wrong turn that forced my wife and I to spend an unwanted night under a space blanket in rattlesnake country. In Wyoming’s Wind River mountains, Steve and I were in an endless deluge of rain, having only an hour or two without it each morning. Neither of us were getting any better looking or smelling, so we decided one night in the tent to head out, making the entire trip in one day. The next day we walked 22 miles with full packs, my record. I lay awake for hours in the motel that night, restless leg syndrome they call it now.
Four years after becoming self-employed, in 1990, I decided that I wanted to get involved in a cause, something I would believe in and work for. I chose wilderness, and became deeply involved in MWA. By these activities I came to know Steve Kelly, but only viewed his work from a distance. Steve knew that MWA was an industry front, I did not. I would only slowly figure it out.
Steve can tell this story better, as he owns it. The Yellowstone bison herd is a controversial subject, ranchers around the park using brucellosis infection as a justification to slaughter or haze any that leave the park. There’s never been a documented incident of transmission of the brucellosis bacteria from bison to cow, but we all know that in public relations, perceptions are reality. A slaughter was going on, and in Montana’s capital city, Helena, a billboard appeared. I’ll let Steve read this and correct me, but I think it was a picture of a bison along with words like “Born in Yellowstone, killed in Montana.”
That was such a clever use of resources. It generated publicity, threats and phone calls from distant power centers. Maybe Steve can tell the whole story in a post or comment. I’ve rambled enough for one Sunday morning. I’ll just end by saying that Steve never approaches a subject from a standard point of view. He’s always looking to do the unexpected.
PS: Here is the billboard mentioned in the paragraph above:
I had is somewhat right. Says SK:
Two different billboards have been put up in Helena. Most recent version said: “Stop the Yellowstone Massacre.” This press release went out with the erection.
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
Bozeman, MT – This week billboards went up West of Bozeman on Hwy. 191 and in Helena asking Governor Bullock to “Stop the Yellowstone Massacre.” This is the headline message overlaying a stark winter landscape covered with bloody, dead Yellowstone buffalo.
“It’s a collaborative effort to recognize and manage Yellowstone buffalo as wildlife, not livestock,” said Bozeman artist and environmental activist Steve Kelly. “Working with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies is rewarding for me because they’ve always stepped up to resist extreme government violence against nature and wildlife, generally, and wild Yellowstone buffalo in particular.”
The billboards’ sub-headline reads: “Call Gov. Bullock – 406-444-3111.” “Gov. Bullock has the executive power to stop the Yellowstone buffalo slaughter,” Kelly added. “If enough people call we’re hoping he’ll listen and act responsibly.
The Alliance and Kelly have been perennial critics of APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service)-USDA for its dominant role in the killing of Yellowstone buffalo, for funding junk-science, propagandizing the issue, and pandering to the livestock lobby. “APHIS is a “captured” federal agency using brucellosis as a weapon against the good people and wildlife of Montana,” Kelly concluded. “It’s time to end their “Reign of Terror.”