Friday, July 30, 2010

Grizzly Attack in Yellowstone

My wife and I were concerned to hear about the recent fatal grizzly attack in Yellowstone--very much because our daughter works and lives in prime grizzly bear country (she works for the Montana Conservation Corps in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, just south of Glacier National Park).

I have read estimates that there are about 1000 to 1500 grizzly bears in the contiguous lower 48 United States and they can be found in the wild in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington (some claim they exist in Colorado, too). Maybe 750 of these bear are in the Northern Continental Divide area (which would include Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex). I believe Glacier is about a million acres in size and the Bob Complex about 1.5 million acres. So maybe there are 750 grizzlies in those 2.5 million acres; that would be about 4000 square miles. If my rough calculations are anywhere in the ballpark, that sounds like about 5 square miles per grizzly bear. In other words, your chances of encountering a grizzly in Glacier or the Bob Marshall are slim indeed--but not impossible. My daughter saw a grizzly near Strawberry Creek in the Bob Marshall, where she and her crew were doing trail maintenance for the Montana Conservation Corps. She viewed the sighting of this bear as a privilege indeed.

Do you need to be afraid of grizzlies? Hell yea! Grizzlies are huge bears (those in Alaska who feed on salmon become gigantic). But even in Montana, they are big enough, with females around 300 pounds and males much larger. They have very long claws and powerful legs; they can outrun any human; they can outswim humans; and they can climb trees (though probably not with the facility of black bears). If you want to read about how unstoppable grizzlies are, read the journals of Lewis and Clark (see Stephen Ambrose's book Undaunted Courage). As Meriwether Lewis found out, a gun is no guarantee for your safety in the face of an angry grizzly.

The scientific name for a grizzly bear is ursus arctos horribilis. The term "grizzly" actually means "grey-colored." The grizzly is actually a subspecies of brown bear that often has a grey tinge to the thick fur. I, with my grey beard, could actually be called "Grizzly Bob."

I have translated the term "Grizzly Bear" into Irish-Gaelic as Béar Mór Uafásach (you could also call it something like Béar Bricliath—the second word here implies half-grizzled, gray-colored). The other Irish expression means bear + big + terrible, that is, "big terrible bear." The big terrible bear is a big wonderful bear, and a characteristic sign of a healthy wilderness. It is good luck to spot a grizzly--at least most of the time!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mt.Rainier and the Cascades

Our journey back from Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness was a rather odd one--it took us to Spokane, Washington, where we boarded a plane for Seattle, where we boarded a plane for Minneapolis, and then on to Cleveland. Seattle was covered with clouds and we didn't see much at first. But as we rose above the clouds, the most incredible sight appeared to us--the great Cascade Mountains, and the miraculous Mt. Rainier. At 14, 411 feet it towers above the world, and on a clear day, is easily seen from Seattle, some 50 miles away.
These photos were taken from the airplane window at around 10,000 feet. We could see other volcanic peaks in the distance--maybe Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Montana Conservation Corps--Life in the Wilderness

Carolan sent me a disposable camera filled with photos taken during her work for the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) and AmeriCorps. I don't know exactly what I'm looking at in all these photos, but I will make my guesses:
Top: Gooseberry Cabin, on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River (not far from the Continental Divide, Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex);
Second: One of her crew hard at work;
Third: Several crew members working on a "turnpike" (they use that word differently than we do!);
Fourth: The crew at Schafer Meadows--my best guess (Great Bear Wilderness/Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex);
Fifth: Carolan relaxing after work, high in the mountain wilderness.

Parts of the Mass in Irish Gaelic

This past Sunday I attended mass at the annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival. Fr. Tom Malone offered the mass and said a couple of prayers in Irish. I searched the internet and found the texts of these prayers (can't totally vouch for their accuracy!). Althought I can speak some Irish, I couldn't understand the spoken prayers over the lousy PA system. The 3 "Irish Sopranos" sang at this mass (some in Gaelic). And a great surpise, my cousin Tim Fitzpatrick and his wife Queenie were sitting right in front of me during the mass.

Kyrie ("Lord Have Mercy"):

A Thiarna, déan trócaire
A Críost, déan trócaire
A Thiarna, déan trócaire

Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God"):

A Uan Dé, a thógas peacaí an domhain, déan trócaire 'rainn*
A Uan Dé, a thógas peacaí an domhain, déan trócaire 'rainn*
A Uan Dé, a thógas peacaí an domhain, tabhair duinn siocháin

Sanctus et Benedictus ("Holy, Holy, Holy"):

Is naofa, naofa, naofa thú, a Thiarna, Dia na Slua. Tá neamh agus talamh lán de do ghlóir. Hósanna sna harda. Is beannaithe 'n té 'tá ag teacht in ainm an Tiarna. Hósanna sna harda.

* this is "orainn," but it gets elided into the final vowel sound of "trócaire."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in northwest Montana is one of the world's great treasures. Above is a photo of me enjoying my morning coffee on the shores of McDonald Lake, with some of the peaks of Glacier NP in the background. The lake itself is about 10 miles long and a mile wide, with water crystal clear and clean. It reminds me of the lakes of the Salzkammergut in Austria or Aachensee in the Tirol region of Austria.

The peaks in the background are probably on the Continental Divide and are about 9000 feet in altitude. There are still some small glaciers on these peaks (though the weather in recent years has caused them to shrink). We took the park's shuttle bus up Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass, which is at 6600 feet, and there was still considerable snow at that elevation. I'm glad I left the driving to professionals on this famous road. I found the drive scary indeed, with no guardrails and drops of hundreds or thousands of feet if you went over the edge. Heck, in Ohio there would be flashing caution lights and guardrails if there was even the slightest chance you could slip off the road into an Ohio-sized creek or ravine. Here they say "Good Luck" as you drive unguarded by 2000 foot cliffs!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sacred Dancing Cascade in Glacier National Park

The clip above stars Carolan Coughlin, on a short break from her job with the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC), and Linda Coughlin, on hiatus from St. Mary's School, Chardon. Videographer and narrator, Bob Coughlin. This is the "Sacred Dancing Cascade," on McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park. The namer of the cascade was a poet indeed!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Respect the Bob"--Carolan's 2-day 34-mile Commute to Work

At this very minute, my daughter Carolan is hiking 20 miles from Schafer Meadows, in the Great Bear Wilderness, to Strawberry Creek, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Yesterday she completed part 1 of her long commute to work (her job is maintaining trails for the Montana Conservation Corps, the MCC, and AmeriCorps)--that was a 14-mile trek from the Morrison Creek trailhead to Schafer Meadows.

I hope Carolan is not hiking alone--but she might be. Whatever, she's probably chanting a song to warn bears of her approach: "Hey, Bear! O Bear!"--over and over along the trail. Last week Carolan saw here first Grizzly Bear--in the Strawberry Creek area, not far from the Continental Divide. Luckily the bear heard her coming and went the other way! In this great wilderness, the grizzly bears are not alone; there are black bears, lynx, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, deer, elk, and many other smaller species of mammals and birds. This is their kingdom, one of the few places in the lower 48 states where all the original predators are present. The Bob Marshall Wilderness, and adjacent Glacier National Park, are the great treasures of the United States, North America, and indeed the world.

This evening Carolan will be back with her co-leader, Adam, and her 5-person crew, Carolan is coming laden with "civilized" goodies bought in Kalispell, items the crew members begged for.

Today I read a wonderful blog entry by one of Carolan's crew, Lemmy, that can be viewed at this site: The entry is dated Friday, July 16, 2010 and is entitled "It's called an 'Immersion Crew'"--by Lemmy Breault. Lemmy captures the feel of the work in the wilderness and the personalities of the crew. The blog entry also has photos of Sabido Cabin near Strawberry Creek and Buffalo Rock, as well as pictures of the crew members.

Carolan has mentioned a common phrase used by workers and visitors to the Bob Marshall Wilderness: "Respect the Bob." Of course I love this phrase because of my own first name. Still, it's worth saying again: Respect the Bob, Love the Bob, Thank God for the Bob!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some Cousins: Sally Kearns, Pat Kearns, Marge Moore, and Mike Moore

This past week I attended the funeral mass of George Callahan Sr., who was married to a Kearns (Mickey, I believe). George is the father of Ellen (Callahan) McHugh and Mary (Callahan) Roulette, two of the best writers in Northeast Ohio (I believe George had 7 children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren). While at the mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Mentor, Ohio, I heard the woman in front of me introduced as Sally Kearns. I immediately knew that Sally was my mother's cousin and good friend.

After the mass I introduced myself to Sally. I asked about her sister Pat, and found out that she had died around 2003, when my own Mother died. She also told me her sister Marge Moore had died. Sally and her sibling are related to my Mom in this way: their mother was a Sullivan (from Brownhelm Township in Lorain County); and my Mom's mother, Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick, was her sister. The Sullivan girls all died fairly young. My grandmother died in 1940 at the age of 55, probably of blood pressure-related illnesses (easily treated in our day). I was born 8 years after her death.

When Sally looked at me and talked to me, she said that I had my grandfather John Fitzpatrick's "gene" (as she put it). I'm guessing that she was talking about some aspect of physical appearance. I had never ever heard anyone mention this connection to my grandfather. Alas, I don't remember John Fitzpatrick--he died in 1949 when I was a baby. My Mom did tell me that John had held me. So I have this tenuous connection to my maternal grandfather--and, in the eyes of Sally Kearns, I have his "gene." I hope I also have a little bit of the Sullivan sweetness, so clearly seen in my Mom and her siblings. Sally said that I do have that--but of course she can't know that for sure.

With Sally at the funeral mass was her niece, Mike Moore ( I think her given name is Mary Michelle, but she goes by Mike). Mike is the daughter of Marge Kearns Moore. Amazingly, she lives about a block from where I lived the first three years of my life--near Lake Shore Boulevard and Lost Nation Boulevard in Willoughby, Ohio.

There was one other Sullivan who lived in that neighborhood--Uncle Ed Sullivan (and his wife Helen Sullivan, and children Mary Ellen, Sally, John, and Mike). Ed was actually my maternal grandmother's baby brother, and was my great uncle. Sally Sullivan Silvaroli lives in Willoughby, Ohio; I had her son Joe in class some years ago. My sister Mary Ellen was named after Mary Ellen Sullivan. I've heard that John and Mike own the Mrs. Weiss' noodle soup company, located in Lorain County.