Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Kentucky Trails

Me (left) with fellow buffaloes Jeff Riddle (middle) and Chris Migotsky at Mammoth Cave National Park last week as part of a 20-person "working vacation" crew detailed to construct a new hiking and horseback-riding trail in the park. The volunteer project was one of many around the country coordinated by the American Hiking Society (see link in right-hand column), of which I am a member.

Me with my tool of choice, a pulaski, which is a combination axe and hoe. The pulaski came in handy when large rocks and roots had to be removed to provide a smooth trail for park visitors and horses.

Big Jeff, aka the Riddler, ready for a day's work on the trail.

Jeff (left) and me (my backside) at work installing steps on the trail. Each workday we had to hike down to the trail, about a 40-minute trek, then start working. On the last day of work members of the crew carried these big hunks of wood the whole way to the trail. Tough on the shoulders.

Park ranger Larry Johnson (foreground) was our guide and work supervisor for the week. Larry worked right alongside us, even helping carry down the railroad-tie-like steps to the trail. On the last day of the trip Larry gave us a tour of Mammoth Cave, where, as he says in his southern drawl, the cave meanders through the hills for "mawls" and "mawls" and "mawls." That's miles, about 360 of them. If you stretched the cave in a straight aline, it would extend from southern Kentucky to Chicago. And there are parts of the cave system that are still being discovered.
Buffalo sweat: my buddies Chris and Jeff at work on the trail.

Besides the satisfaction of knowing that I contributed to making a nice trail for park visitors, the highlight of the trip for me was a cross-country hike in the park that had the entire work crew climbing rock ledges, wading through rocky creeks, and navigating sometimes difficult terrain. That's me and Jeff at the front of the hike.

Lunch break on the trail for our work crew. Members of the all-volunteer crew came from as far away as Texas, California and Florida. The work was hard, the food was good, the weather was just about perfect, and I made some new friends, who by the way, thought Jeff, Chris and I were a bit strange when we decided a few times to hike for an hour or two after work. We took a few of our new friends with us on a night hike, using headlamps to light the trail and at one point turning off the lights and listening to the dark stillness. Indescribable. One really fantastic feature of Mammoth Cave National Park was the quiet, sublime stillness of the place.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm back . . .

. . . from a week of trail tromping at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. I'll get back to y'all very soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Buffalo in Alaska: Has Hockey Mom Bagged a Bison?

I've wondered if Sarah Palin has hunted buffaloes in Alaska. Found some interesting info. More on this later.

Been busy designing a couple of race t-shirts and getting ready for a trip to Kentucky to help maintain trails at Mammoth Cave National Park.

I haven't been posting photos because my cheap digital camera called it quits. Invested in a much better camera, so more photos will be posted.

Friday, October 03, 2008

"The Living Muscle of Our History"

From the Buffalo Field Campaign website:
"[The buffalo are] the dark force of the plains - the living muscle of our history. Perhaps no other animal represents so well that richness which we once had, and which we so savagely squandered and mutilated."
- Rick Bass, nature writer and environmental activist

From a Montana blogger:
"One day while hiking across the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, I realized that my route was intersecting the wanderings of a buffalo herd. I quickly found a large rock on a steeply sloped knoll the the buffalo would walk around and hunkered down to wait for the herd to pass. I was surrounded by a couple of hundred buffalo that were grunting & snorting as they were moving down the Lamar Valley. I could hear and feel their feet hitting the ground and see puffs of dust every time a hoof struck the earth. They were only 20 or 30 feet away and, because I sat very still, they appeared unaware of my presence and ignored me. That was a primevally awesome experience. And sitting quietly on the ground while 200-300 1000+ pound animals meander past is a very humbling sensation. Adding to my experience was their smell; grass, earth, sun, rain, wind, snow; all combine to give them a uniquely natural odor that is oddly pleasant."