Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wild Mountain Lion in Connecticut!

Yesterday I heard that a 140-pound wild mountain lion was killed on a highway by a SUV on June 11th in Milford, Connecticut. The cougar was a male, possibly looking for a mate. DNA shows it is the same animal spotted in Minnesota and Wisconsin and had the same genetics as the wild population of panthers in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In fact, it is believed that this very lion traveled some 1500 miles to Connecticut.

I remember that a wild panther was killed near the Chicago loop in 2008 ( Last month there were reports of cougar sightings near Canton, Ohio. You hear about such sightings from time to time--but they are almost always universally dismissed as impossibilities.

We rarely saw wildlife in Northeast Ohio as a kid. But in recent years, deer have almost become a plague in many Ohio cities and suburbs; I have seen flocks of 20 wild turkeys in my back yard; I have seen coyotes within the city of Mentor; I have seen two bald eagles flying about 50 feet over my head at Mentor Lagoons beach.

This is an amazing triumph of nature. Daniel C. Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, has said,  “The journey of this mountain lion is a testament to the wonders of nature and the tenacity and adaptability of this species. This mountain lion traveled a distance of more than 1,500 miles from its original home in South Dakota – representing one of the longest movements ever recorded for a land mammal and nearly double the distance ever recorded for a dispersing mountain lion.”

This link from has the story and a video of the dead mountain lion:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Climbing Ireland's Holy Mountains

Next summer I intend to climb two of Ireland's holy mountains, Mount Brandon (in Irish-Gaelic, Cnoc Bréanainn), the holy mountain of St. Brendan on the Dingle Peninsula of County Kerry; and Croagh Patrick (in Irish-Gaelic, Cruach Phádraig), the holy mountain of St. Patrick near the County Mayo town of Westport.

Below is a youtube video of the climbing of Croagh Patrick on "Reek Sunday," the last sunday of July--an old Irish tradition:

The two holy mountains are not high by Rocky Mountain standards. Croagh Patrick is 2507 feet in elevation; Mount Brandon is 3123 in elevation. The highest mountain peak in Ireland, Carrauntouhil, is only 3406 feet. But these mountains look impressive from below, and they will offer me a considerable challenge considering my age and conditioning.

When I climb Croagh Patrick I will keep in mind that plenty of very old ladies climb it--and some climb it barefoot, as a form of penance. I am competitive enough that I won't quit the climb if I see a little old barefoot lady next to me persisting up to the church atop Croagh Patrick!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Carolan Working in the Black Canyon, Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Today, after a well-deserved 4 day rest, my daughter Carolan leads her crew back into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this time on the Black Canyon trail. This trail is not too far from the town of Villa Grove, and in sight of  Cottonwood Peak (13, 588 feet)

Amazingly there are videos on of this area. Here's one:

There's another one of someone climbing Crestone Needle. Carolan worked on a trail leading to that peak some weeks back. Here's a link to that video: This is one incredible mountain!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Presque Isle, near Erie, PA--Great Place on a Hot Summer Day!

Yesterday the high temperature in Cleveland was 95 degrees, with high humidity; the day before 97 (my car thermometer hit 104!). These are among the hottest days ever recorded in the Cleveland area. We have had some summers when there were no, or very few, days in the 90's, so this summer is extraordinary.

Luckily, we have a gigantic lake right here, Lake Erie, one of the wonders of the world. And yesterday we traveled 80 miles east along the shore of the Big Lake to an amazing place, the peninsula called "Presque Isle," just north of the city of Erie, Pennsylvania. If my French studies of long ago can still be trusted, "Presque Isle" means "almost an island." The peninsula is about 6-8 miles in length, with miles of biking and hiking trails, 13 tremendous beaches, uncounted ponds, lakes, bays, and swamps. At its tip is a monument to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. From that point you can see the town of Erie, about a mile across Presque Isle Bay. In the summer there are dozens of sailboats and power boats in view. In the winter . . . well, you don't want to know. Let's just say that Commodore Perry's crew gave the name to "Misery Bay" during the hard winter of 1813-14 for a reason.

Yesterday we encamped at Beach 10, known as "Budny Beach" (after Pat Budny, a 17-year-old boy who swam from Long Point, Ontario to this beach back in 1975). The water was wonderful and really cooled us down. This was the perfect place to be on a hot day on the northern coast of the United States.

Here's a link to Wikipedia's article on Presque Isle State Park:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Southwest Conservation Corps Members--Tough Hombres!

There are not many young Americans (outside military members and others serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and similar places) who work harder than the members of groups like the Southwest Conservation Corps, the Montana Conservation Corps, and similar groups working on the wildernesses, national forests, and national parks throughout our country.

My daughter Carolan is one of those people, a crew leader for a Southwest Conservation Corps working in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness in Colorado. Carolan, her co-leader, and her crew work 9 straight  days in the wilderness, a tenth day back in Salida town, and then get 4 days off to rest and recuperate from their tough hitch. They live in tents in the wilderness, carry all their food and tools on their backs, secure their water from mountain streams, and do hard, physical work for 10 hours per day maintaining and repairing the mountain wilderness trails. Often this means swinging a double-jack (double heavy sledge hammer) all day long, pounding large rocks into smaller rocks. Because of wilderness regulations, they do not use power tools--this is pure human power and ingenuity at work. I don't think that one of 100 American youth could (or would be willing to) do this work.

On Carolan's last hitch, one member had a personal crisis, a bear got into their "bear hang" and stole some of their food, and they were belted by a vicious mountain hail storm. Despite all these difficulties, this SCC crew managed to get their trail work done. It's no wonder they were exhausted walking out of the wilderness this past Tuesday. I bet they are looking forward to a steak, a cold beer, and a comfortable bed!

These are amazing amazing young people--among the best our country has to offer. And I salute all of them!

Below are a couple of the hand tools used in the wilderness, the "double jack" and the "pulaski." The double jack breaks up large rocks, which can really hurt horses on the wilderness trails. Pulaskis serve many purposes, but are really good at cutting roots and digging through dirt.
There's a Wikipedia entry on the pulaski tool:
There are images on the Southwest Conservation Corps' website that show crews maintaining trails with these and similar tools:

I located a cartoon illustrating a "bear hang" here: Apparently a smart bear can outsmart even these bear hangs!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Verweile doch! Du bist so schoen!" Faust, Crested Butte, and Me

While at Crested Butte, Colorado a couple weeks ago (one of the prettiest places on earth), a thought like a streak of lightning jolted through my mind: "Verweile doch! Du bist so schoen!" That is the old utterance from the mouth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust. It means something like, "Please stay . . .you are so beautiful!" And in Goethe's play it was the signal for the Devil to come and try to collect Faust's soul. Faust thought that if he ever felt totally happpy and satisfied that his life would no longer be worth living, that his soul would be dead. So he agreed with the Devil that expressing that kind of satisfaction would be the signal to collect his soul and hurl it into hell.

For a moment in Crested Butte, I felt that way. There with Linda and my daughter Carolan and friends Jan and Dick. High up in the Rocky Mountains. Wildflowers in full spectacular bloom. High peaks still covered by snow fields. Emerald Lake, Cottonwood Lake, Lake Irwin--spectacular alpine lakes. Faust's seductive thought entered my mind.

Top photo, Linda and Carolan in Salida, Colorado. Bottom, Bob at Emerald Lake, near Schofield Pass, north of Crested Butte.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Beauty of Colorado

Recently we visited my daughter  and some friends in Colorado. Now I love Northeastern Ohio. I love our green fields and big Lake Erie. but I must say that I can hardly grasp (or explain) the incredible beauty and complexity of the geography, the towns, the spirit, and the people of Colorado.

I'll try to discuss this beauty in the next few days. But for now, let me share a few photos. Top: Slate River Valley, north of Crested Butte, looking toward snow-covered Cinnamon Mountain. Middle, Linda on a snow/avalanche field near Emerald Lake and Schofield Pass (north of Crested Butte). Bottom: Coughlin family at Schofield Pass, not far from Marble, Colorado and the Maroon Bells. Photos from July 2011.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Carolan!

Today is my daughter Carolan's birthday. I remember so clearly that day in the mid 1980's when we drove from Berea, Kentucky, to Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington--and in the middle of the night (at least that's how I remember it!)-- there she was born, naturally, no anaesthetic. And to me, it seemed, the birth was so easy (I guess you might say, "That's easy for you to say!"). Linda was so happy, so energetic that she wanted to call all her family and friends and announce the good news. I said, "Sweetie, the rest of the world is still asleep! Let's wait a few hours." But it wasn't long before the good news was spread. I received a letter or phone call congratulating us on the birth of "Carmen." That was the working name until she made her appearance. She didn't look like a Carmen! She looked like a Carolan, named after the great Irish harpist, whose music is still celebrated and played throughout the world. A unique name for a unique girl.

These days (and today!) Carolan is working on Cotton Creek in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, building, maintaining, and repairing trails, along with her co-leader and her crew from the Southwest Conservation Corps. These folks are the hardest working people in America, living in tents in the wilderness, carrying in their handtools, getting their water in the creeks (they filter it, of course), and doing hard, physical labor 10 hours per day for 9 straight days. These are among America's best young people, and I'm so proud that Carolan is their leader.

My message to Carolan is this: Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! I love you, we love you. We are very proud of you.

Lá Breithe Shona Dhuit, a Carolan! Maith Thú!