Glacier Inspects 1,300 Boats for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

Boat propeller with quagga mussels - NPS photo

“Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are aquatic and terrestrial organisms and plants that have been introduced into new ecosystems (i.e. Great Lakes, San Francisco Bay, Florida, Hawaii) throughout the United States and the world and are both harming the natural resources in these ecosystems and threatening the human use of these resources. AIS are also considered to be ‘nuisance’ species or ‘exotic’ species and the terms are often used interchangeably.” NOAA Research

from NPS Glacier National Park:

Glacier National Park personnel performed almost 1,300 boat inspections during this past summer intended to reduce the risk of unintentional movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS) into park waters.

New Zealand mud snails - Nature Conservancy photo

“We put a lot of energy and resources into this program, but realize this is just the beginning of a long-term effort to protect the pristine waters of Glacier National Park and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem against the devastating effects of aquatic invasive species,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright.

Glacier National Park contains the headwaters of three continental-scale watersheds. An infestation would pose a serious threat to all downstream waterways.

In 2010 the park initiated a boat inspection and permit program that required all motorized boats users to obtain a boat-launch permit prior to launching in any water body within the park. Inspections were only focused on boats believed to pose a high risk of transport of aquatic invasive species to park waters. The program also included an educational awareness component.

In May of this year, the park began an expanded boat inspection and permit program in response to an increasing threat of aquatic invasive species, which required an inspection and permit for all boaters. A free permit is required to launch any motorized or trailered watercraft in Glacier National Park. Hand-propelled water craft and personal flotation devices such as float tubes do not require a permit at this time. After an inspection of the watercraft indicates no signs of aquatic invasive species present, a launch permit will be issued. Boats must be clean, drained and thoroughly dry, including the bilge areas and livewells, upon inspection. A new permit is required upon each entry into the park.

From January to the beginning of October, 1,257 boats were inspected in the park. Six boats were denied launch permits for a variety of reasons, including that some that were not clean enough to properly inspect. No aquatic invasive species were found. The majority of the inspections were boats launching in Lake McDonald. Approximately 88% of the boats were registered from Montana with the remainder coming from 18 states and two Canadian Provinces.

Park visitors planning to launch a boat into any park waters throughout the winter are encouraged to call the park at 406-888-7801 to arrange for an inspection. Launching a boat without an inspection in Glacier National Park threatens park resources and is illegal, with a fine up to $500. Waterton Lakes National Park also has a boat inspection program.

Cartwright said, “Trailered boats with mussels attached to the boat and/or the trailer have been detected in Montana, as well as some aquatic invasive plants in local waters recently. This is a serious threat and we must be proactive to reduce any risk.”

Park managers and specialists recently met with Glen Canyon Recreation Area representatives to learn and share ideas on additional prevention measures, and to develop a response plan if something is detected in the area. Glacier National Park is also cooperating with other federal, state and local agencies and organizations, and Parks Canada to protect the lakes, rivers and streams of Montana.

Cartwright conveys his appreciation to park visitors for helping maintain the pristine waters in Glacier National Park by complying with the boat inspection and permit program.

See also:
Purple loosestrife - Nature Conservancy photo

Help Stop Aquatic Invasive Species for additional information about the NPS program and the AIS threat to the park.

Aquatic Invasive Species Threats to Glacier – NPS AIS “Resource Bulletin in PDF format that includes information about non-native species already in the park as well as “what’s on the way.” Primary threats include: Zebra mussels/quagga mussels, New Zealand mud snails, Eurasian watermilfoil and Purple loosestrife.

Glacier Park Volunteer Opportunities includes information about specific opportunities for volunteers, including work in the Aquatic Invasive Species program.

AIRD: Aquatic Invasions, Research Directory for AIS policy, programs and related information.

National Invasive Species Information Center for AIS resources in Montana. Click here for photographs of Nonindigenous Aquatic Species.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of three novels set in Glacier National Park, including the recently released contemporary fantasy “Sarabande” available on Kindle.

His nonfiction about Glacier Park includes “High Water in 1964” in A View Inside Glacier National Park: 100 Years 100 Stories (NPS-produced paperback) and Bears, Where They Fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley (99 cents on Kindle).

Piping Sewage into the Holy Land

from Women’s Earth Alliance:

Support the protection of a Northern Arizona holy mountain
Northern Arizona ski resort Arizona Snowbowl has begun the construction of a 14.8 mile pipeline that will trasnport up to 180 million gallons of treated sewage water from the City of Flagstaff to the ski area, for artificial snowmaking.Not only will the  proposed 10 million gallon wastewater pool harm the environment and public health (the treated sewage water has been proven to contain contaminants), but  it will destroy land that is holy to more than 13 Indigenous Nations.
The peaks are their place of worship, where deities reside, and where they go to collect medicine and herbs. Klee Benally, who was arrested on Saturday August 13 for disorderly conduct and trespassing, explains: “How can I be ‘trespassing’ on this site that is so sacred to me?  This is my church.  It is the Forest Service and Snowbowl who are violating human rights and religious freedom by desecrating this holy Mountain.” (Click on the link for the story “Direction Action To Save Holy Peaks Continues” in Indigenous Action Media.)

With just a few minutes, you can take meaningful action to protect the Peaks.  Call the USDA, which oversees the Forest Service, and let them know you support the preservation of this sacred mountain.

Take Action:

  1. TODAY: take 5 minutes to call Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to urge the USDA to place an administrative hold on all development  of the SF Peaks. Phone: (202) 720-3632
  2. Contact Flagstaff City Officials and urge them to respect the environment, Indigenous culture, and protect public health by finding a way out of their
    contract to sell Snowbowl wastewater.  Phone: (928) 779-7699 Email: council@flagstaffaz.gov

This is the kind of post that I expect to see in “The Onion” or some other satirical newspaper or website. Unfortunately, this is one of those times we can get a bushel of industrial strength absurdity straight out of real life.

Malcolm

105,000 Americans tell Congress to stop cutting critical funding for national parks

from NPCA

Washington, DC – Today, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) announced that more than 105,000 Americans have signed their petition calling on Congress to stop cutting critical funding for national parks. The signatures were gathered through NPCA’s National Parks Protection Project.

“As we approach the Centennial of the National Park Service, we must ensure our national parks receive adequate funding for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. “This is by far the most successful petition drive we’ve ever had – in nearly 100 years of operations – and it’s time for Congress to take notice of how many people have joined this effort.”

NPCA founded the National Parks Protection Project as an effort to show both Congress and the American people why it is important to adequately fund the national parks for our children and grandchildren.

Our national parks not only protect America’s heritage, they are important to local economies nationwide. Research shows that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value for the American people. National parks support more than $13 billion of local private-sector economic activity and nearly 270,000 private-sector jobs.

“The federal government has a responsibility to keep our national parks adequately funded,” said Kiernan. “The National Parks Protection Project is our effort to explain why and I am grateful to the more than 105,000 people across the country who joined our effort.”

Click here for more information.

Glacier National Parki, where my three fantasy novels are set, has been plagued with these cutbacks. Even normal maintenance on trails, signs, structures and other parts of the infrastructure has been postponed again and again. When I first went to Glacier in 1963, the park advertised 1000 miles of trails. Now it advertises 700 miles of trails. If we are going to protect the wilderness, we need to spend what it takes to do it.

Malcolm

Kindle edition

What the hell is Florida Power Thinking?

While the heading of this post is mine, the story comes from the National Parks and Conservation Association:

Everglades National Park…home to the largest wilderness area east of the Rockies; home to the largest protected mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere; and home to 68 federally threatened and endangered species. 

Does this sound like a place for giant towers puncturing the landscape with multiple power lines stretching as far as the eye can see? We don’t think so either.

The National Park Service is currently accepting public comment on a proposal that would allow Florida Power and Light (FPL) to build massive transmission lines through Everglades National Park. The use is completely incompatible with the designated purpose of the Everglades, and it is therefore necessary that FPL find an alternative route. Taxpayers are the rightful owners of America’s national parks, like the Everglades. Conveying a track of Everglades National Park–also a U.S. World Heritage Site–to a for-profit utility for a transmission lines corridor poses a threat to the Everglades ecosystem and conflicts with long-term restoration efforts. This is definitely not the way to treat a World Heritage Site.

Take Action: Submit your comments to Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball and tell him that Everglades and all national parks are owned by the American people and are not for power lines.

Growing up in Florida, I learned that “swamps” were often simply tolerated as junk land that needed to be fixed in some way. In the panhandle, Tate’s Hell swamp was logged to death while the natural flow of the water was dammed up with the logging roads. In south Florida, the Everglades is constantly under threat due to water and air quality issues, invasive species and the sprawl of nearby cities. Power lines through the swamp are another one of the many insults.

Let’s try to stop them from being built.

See also, a new threat to the Grand Canyon in House Funding Bill Reverses Policy to Protect Grand Canyon

Malcolm

Learn more about the historic milestones of Glacier National Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley, site of Many Glacier Hotel and Swiftcurrent Campground, for only 99 cents on Kindle. The e-book is also available for 99 cents in multiple formats on Smashwords.

This short introduction to Glacier National Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley will delight, entertain, and offer a glimpse into the dramatic history of the most beautiful place on Earth… or so many visitors claim!

Crown of the Continent Resources

The ‘Crown of the Continent’ ecosystem is one of North America’s most ecologically diverse and jurisdictionally fragmented ecosystems. Encompassing the shared Rocky Mountain region of Montana, British Columbia and Alberta, this 28,000 square mile / 72,000 square kilometre ecological complex spreads across two nations; across one state and two provinces; and across numerous aboriginal lands, municipal authorities, public land blocks, private properties, working and protected landscapes. — Crown Managers Partnership

As national headlines focus on whether a potential lack of funding at the federal level will jeopardize national parks and water quality standards, I thought I would focus on the positive work being one throughout the Alberta/Montana/British Columbia Crown of the Continent Ecosystem by listing a few of the organizations you can turn to for information, programs and advocacy.

Alberta Wilderness AssociationAlberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is the oldest wilderness conservation group in Alberta dedicated to the completion of a protected areas network and the conservation of wilderness throughout the province.

Bob Marshall Wilderness ComplexTogether, the Great Bear Wilderness, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Scapegoat Wilderness form the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, an area of more than 1.5 million acres.

Crown of the Continent EcosystemEncourage and support coordination and cooperation among individuals, organizations, and agencies whose purpose is to educate and inform people of all ages and backgrounds about the human and natural resources of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

Citizens for a Better FlatheadTo inform and empower citizens in cooperative community development that respects and encourages stewardship of the Flathead Valley’s natural beauty and resources.

Flathead National ForestStretching along the west side of the continental divide from the US Canadian border south approximately 120 miles lies the 2.3 million acre Flathead National Forest. The landscape is built from block fault mountain ranges sculpted by glaciers, and covered with a rich thick forest.

Headwaters MontanaWe are working to secure the highest level of protection possible for pristine public lands, such as watersheds in the Swan, Mission, Whitefish and Yaak ranges and untouched Crown lands across our border with Canada.

National Park Service, Glacier National ParkCome and experience Glacier’s pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a hiker’s paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude.

Nature Conservancy – MontanaOur mountains, rivers, grasslands and forests make Montana a natural paradise.

Waterton Lakes National ParkRugged, windswept mountains rise abruptly out of gentle prairie grassland in spectacular Waterton Lakes National Park.

While there’s much to be done on behalf of our environment, we can, I think, make better progress by making commitments to positive change as individuals and groups rather than standing on the sidelines and preaching to the choir about what we don’t like. We know what we need to do–or, we can learn.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two novels set partially within the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, “The Sun Singer” and “Garden of Heaven.” The e-book edition of his comedy/satire, “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” is currently on sale for only 99 cents at Smashwords and on Kindle.

In Wildness is the Preservation of the World

North Georgia Christmas
“Machinery and convenience are too often mistaken for civilization nowadays, but in fact civilization can be measured only by whether we live in harmony with nature, with one another, and with the divine.” — Arthur Versluis in “Island Farm”

In her excellent post called “Winter Walks and the Wild,” author and editor Zinta Aistars ponders the reasons she is drawn away from suburbia into the bitterly cold, snowy countryside of Michigan. She’s looking for a connection with the wild and, when she finds it, she also finds harmony.

She’s been reading Arthur Versluis’ “Island Farm,” a book that author James Cowan calls “a Walden for our time.” The book matches Aistars’ experience and for those who cannot—or who have not yet—gone in search of nature in its most basic form, the book tells us what we are missing and what we have lost.

What we are missing is our connection with the rest of the planet. By this I don’t mean our ability to watch breaking news from the far side of the world as it happens or to communicate with others through blogs and Facebook. The wonders of our technology obscure its deficits.

When Thoreau wrote the words “in wildness is the preservation of the world” in “Walking” in 1862, he went on to say that “the founders of every state which has risen to eminence, have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source.” The comforts of our civilization have, I believe, not only blocked the flow of understanding and energy from that source, they have blocked our respect for the source as a viable source.

Nonetheless, we are hearing more about about nature and spirituality and connections these days. When we first heard such thoughts, we—as a modern society—tended to label them as tree-hugger platitudes and new age mumbojumbo. Now we’re starting to see that there might possibly be something happening behind the fog of platitudes and mumbojumbo. Hard science documents some of it and personal experience, like that of Zinta Aistars, documents some of it.

At present, we’re not yet sure just how big “it” is. We’re drawn more and more to the wild, but we’re not yet ready to plunge into it with a point-of-no-return attitude: “I want to become one with the deer from the comfort of my toasty warm car.”

The nearest shaman in our neighborhood still has a lot of teach us about connecting with the wild. And we still have a lot of listening to do before we’ll understand once and for all that our lives depend on that wildness more than on our technology.

“Civilization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry.” — Aldo Leopold in “A Sand County Almanac”

Only $5.99 at OmniLit

‘The Wolverine Way’

“These animals’ off-the-charts strength and survival skills had become a source of inspiration for me by now. Even so, I was never going to get used to dealing with the intensity of a wolverine when it’s up close and cornered.” — Douglas Chadwick, National Parks Magazine, Winter 2011

Seven years ago, author and biologist Douglas Chadwick volunteered for The Wolverine project, a five-year study conducted in Glacier National Park by The Wolverine Foundation. Chadwick has compiled his experiences into The Wolverine Way, a 250-page book released in May by Pantagonia. (There’s a detailed story in the June18th issue of The Missoulian.)

Chadwick’s book and the related article in the current issue of National Parks may help dispel some of the myths and misunderstandings about this seldom-seen animal that is, as Chadwick says, “more complex than the legends that surround it.

As the non-profit Wolverine Foundation notes on its website, it is focusing on the wolverine not “because we feel the wolverine is in danger of extinction, but because it is in need of attention.” The site includes links to the growing database of wolverine information that will suit the needs of wildlife biologists and the general public.

The Wolverine Way is a nice addition to the library of those with a passion for Glacier National Park.

One can only stand in awe of an animal with a strategy that Chadwick suggests might sound like this:  “Go hard, and high, and steep, and never back down, not even from the biggest grizzly, and least of all from a mountain.”

Set partly in Glacier Park, the e-book edition of this novel is only $5.99

Songs and Whispers of the Living Earth

“On a quiet day, however, those walking alongside the relatively recent Lake Sherburne reservoir may hear the voice of grandfather rock whispering a secret: within the scope of geologic time, all rivers are new, and the men and women who follow them are as ephemeral as monarch butterflies on a summer afternoon.” — Malcolm R. Campbell in “Bears, Where They Fought,” Nature’s Gifts Anthology

Perhaps you’ve heard the Earth’s Goddess call your name. If not, wade in the rolling surf along the edge of the sea or hike through the heart of a desert or wait quietly at the summit of a mountain where old stone touches the sky. Some hear the Goddess voice more clearly at night beneath a full moon.

If your own heart holds a strong passion for a place, then that is where you will best hear Earth whispering her secrets. Calm your breath and your mind’s ever-chattering thoughts. Then, take off your shoes and gloves and touch that which is ancient with the young soles of your feet and your neophyte fingertips.

Listen.

The songs and whispers of the living earth may come to you as a breath of wind, the roar of surf or a mountain stream, the faint rasp of sage brush against cooling sand, the hollow echoes of rain, or the sharp clatter of stone falling on stone. You may find a message within seemingly mundane signs.

Yet, what you hear, you may not hear with your ears. The Earth may speak to you with a voice inside your heart, clear and distinct from your own thoughts. When the Goddess speaks, you may hear her voice as you would recall a memory or the almost audible music within seemingly inert water, sand or stone beneath the watchful eye of the moon.

Your right-now sense of Earth’s message may be strong in the moment of contact or it may catch your attention later in dreams and daydreams. One way or another, you will know when the Goddess has called your name, for her song brings with it a great comfort whether she imparts a secret or asks of you a favor.

Like fluttering butterflies, we are momentary visitors upon the surface of a world that is incomprehensibly ancient, yet when we hear Earth’s voice, we know to a certainty that we are not separate from sand and water and stone.

Malcolm

“Thank you for stopping by my Blog! Please explore all this Blog has to offer, then jog on over to “Mysteries and My Musings.” If you would like to visit a different Blog in the jog, go to Blog Jog Day.

Climate Change Research Lecture at Glacier

News from NPS Glacier National Park

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – The public is invited to a unique Brown Bag Lecture on Friday, July 9, 2010, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Community Building in West Glacier as high school citizen scientists share their stories of their research trip to Glacier.

Twenty-two students from 10 different San Diego high schools are spending a week collecting climate change data at Glacier National Park. For the past year, students enrolled in the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS) in San Diego, Calif. have devoted their time after school and on weekends to studying climate change research, climate legislation, clean energy, alternative energy sources and green jobs.

The 22 students participating in this research-based, service learning project come from 10 inner city high schools in San Diego. All of the students are participants of the Commission of Science that Matters, a year-long, after school program held at EIS. While in Glacier, the students will conduct mountain goat and pika Citizen Science surveys, learn about climate change effects within Glacier National Park and assist with repeat photography of the park’s melting glaciers. The EIS students camp the entire week and minimize their carbon foot print by either hiking or using public transportation throughout their stay.

The students’ journey to Glacier began through conversations with the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA), the community assistance arm of the NPS that supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects and became a reality as a result of numerous partnerships and dedicated individuals. This innovative and unique citizen science project is made possible through a collaborative partnership with the Elementary Institute of Science, National Park Service, Groundwork San Diego, Southern California Research Learning Center, Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center, California Wolf Center and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund.

The Elementary Institute of Science is a premiere science enrichment center in San Diego that has offered science and technology learning opportunities to students for over 40 years.

These lunchtime Brown Bag lectures are made available by Glacier National Park’s Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center.

E-BOOK SALE TODAY: Each purchase benefits Glacier's 2010 Centennial Committee

Interview with the Earth Mage

Smoky Trudeau is the author of two novels, “Redeeming Grace” and “The Cabin” as well as two non-fiction books for writers. This month, Vanilla Heart Publishing released her collection of essays, poetry, and color illustrations, “Observations of an Earth Mage,” in print and e-book formats.

In her blog, Trudeau recently wrote that she is passionate about “nature and our intimate, intricate connection with what is wild.” This passion is clearly evident in stories that take the reader from the Great Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Trail to Joshua Tree to Yosemite to tidal pools along the California Coast.

Malcolm: You set the tone for “Observations of an Earth Mage” in the book’s prologue with a memory of climbing an apple tree behind your house when you were three years old: “I closed my eyes,” you said, “and felt for the pulse of the tree in the trunk beneath my fingertips, for surely this tree had a heart that beat like mine. The trunk warmed beneath my gentle touch as my branch swayed in the easy spring breeze. It felt like the tree was breathing. I matched the rhythm of my own breath to that of the tree. I was the tree. The tree was me.”

Was this a unique and singular moment, or have you been able to maintain this level of empathy with the natural world throughout your life?

Smoky: Both. It was a unique and singular moment in that it was the moment when I made the connection that, as a person, I was not above nature, not separate from nature. I was nature, and nature was me. One can make that realization but once in a lifetime. What made it unique, I think, is that I was just a baby when it happened. Yes, I have been able to maintain this level of connection with the natural world for the fifty years that have passed since that day. Although I have to admit, when I was struck by lightning, there were a few months when I thought perhaps that was being a little too connected to Mother Nature!

Malcolm: Lightning is definitely too much nature at once. (See first of Trudeau’s five-post lightning story here.) What are the genesis and scope of “Observations of an Earth Mage,” and what do you hope your readers will take away from their experience with the book?

Smoky: The book is a memoir told in both essay and poetic form. I open with a series of stories that I wrote when my children were little about encounters my family had with the famous Great Smoky Mountain National Park black bears. Back then—we’re talking the early to mid 1960’s—black bears were all over the Smokies due to bad garbage management. It was impossible to go to the park and not have a close encounter of the bear kind. My family seemed to attract the bears wherever we went in the park. The book continues with stories of my life on the prairies of Illinois, and then follows me when I moved to California and began exploring the California wilderness with my husband Scott. I hope that, upon reading the book, readers will want to get outdoors themselves, take a hike, go camping, splash in a tidepool. But more than that, I hope they learn how to see the natural world with the eyes of someone who is a part of it, a participant, rather than as a spectator.

Malcolm: When I was young, my parents took my two brothers and I on family vacations to such places as Key West, Mammoth Cave, the Smoky Mountains and Niagara Falls. As I read your book, was struck by the fact that your late father dreamt up similar vacations as well. Was this your introduction to wanderlust and to seeing the natural world in its many shapes and sizes?

Smoky: Absolutely. My father took us to those places, too, and to Shenandoah National Park, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Canada, and on a couple of great tours of the West. We camped; we hiked. One of the most sacred experiences of my life happened on one of these trips, when we saw a gray wolf trot across a forest road in the Upper Peninsula when I was maybe ten years old. I have as clear an image of that wolf in my mind today as I had when it was happening. My dad instilled in me not only my wanderlust, but something I call wonderlust—the propensity for always asking, “I wonder what’s over there/down that road/under that rock/up that mountain?” It was his greatest gift to me. Dad’s gone now—he died Thanksgiving weekend—but when I’m out hiking, I still feel him with me. He still tags along on my explores. The book is dedicated to his memory.

Malcolm: You tell several stories about bears in the book. How did you happen on so many of them? I wondered if they were a totem animal or if you were, in fact, a bear whisperer.

Smoky: I mentioned a few minutes ago that we always saw bears when we went to the Smokies when I was a child. And boy, did we ever see bears! I know people who have camped in the same campgrounds, hiked the same trails, and never saw a single bear. As a child, I thought we were lucky. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized perhaps it was I who somehow called the bears.

Yes, I have a spiritual connection to the bear. It wasn’t until I had what a Native American acquaintance of mine termed a shamanic experience with a bear after I was struck by lightning that I understood my connection to her. He pointed out that, on the medicine wheel, Bear is the symbol of the West, and also that lightning comes from the West. It wasn’t a coincidence, he said, that Bear was reaching out to me.

I wrote about that shamanic journey; it’s one of the stories in the book, the story called The Bear Whisperer. My daughter, who was maybe ten at the time, dubbed me that. Is it true? You’d have to ask Sister Bear, but I’ll tell you this: the last time I was in the Smokies, a black bear actually nuzzled my forehead through the wall of my tent one night. It was an amazing experience. It was like three kisses on the forehead, as gentle as a mother kissing her child. And no, I wasn’t afraid.

Bear is always with me. I have her tattooed on my arm, beneath a pair of lightning bolts, a sort of personal symbol of my strength. It is an honor and a privilege to have been touched by such a powerful creature.

Malcolm: Tell me about the red cap you’re wearing in 98.6 percent of the pictures I see of you. Is it your lucky hat?

Smoky: Only 98.6 percent? I thought it was higher than that! Yes, that’s my Earth Mage hat. It has secret powers. I can’t tell you about them, though—they wouldn’t be secret anymore.

Seriously, though, my husband gave me that hat the first time he and I went hiking together. I’ve been attached to it ever since. My father used to always give me three pieces of advice: (1) Don’t bite anyone’s dog; (2) Check the air in your tires, and (3) Wear your hat. I like to think Dad’s looking down from the great hiking trails in the afterlife and saying , “Good, she’s wearing her hat.”

Malcolm: Of all the places you describe in prose, poetry and photographs in “Observations of an Earth Mage,” do you have a favorite?

Smoky: Well, the Smoky Mountains are my heart’s home. I’m named for them; they are where my soul always longs to be. But now that I live in California, I’ve made strong connections to the mountains here, too. Mount Baldy, the third-highest peak in Southern California, shoots up from the San Gabriel Valley floor just twenty miles from my house; my back deck affords me a spectacular view not only of Baldy but also, on clear days, of Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio, the second-highest and highest mountains, respectively, in Southern California. We’ve been camping in the Sierras several times—I’ve lived in California less than two years—and have trips back planned for this spring and summer. And I love the ocean, especially exploring the tidepools. But I guess, deep down, if I have to pick a favorite, I’m a mountain girl at heart.

Malcolm: From reading your blog on Xanga, I see that from hikes around your neighborhood to longer trips to national parks, being out of doors is a part of your weekly agenda. Will there be Further “Observations of an Earth Mage” in your future?

Smoky: That’s the plan! In fact, we’re planning a trip to Anzo Borrego in just a few weeks to begin research for “Further Observations of an Earth Mage: The Desert.” The deserts out here are beginning to flower; there is nothing more beautiful than an ocotillo or a beavertail cactus in bloom!

Malcolm: What other projects are you working on that keep you in the house and at the computer rather than out on the trail?

Smoky: Well, I’m a freelance editor and writing coach; that’s what pays the bills. I like to make sculptures of—what else?—bears. Nothing fancy; just little clay bear totems, maybe an inch or so long, out of oven-fired clay. They’re my stress relief; I must have made fifty of them during the holiday season, after my dad died. I’ve started a tradition with them: I take one with me when we go hiking, and leave it somewhere along the trail, first as an offering to Mother Nature, and then as a gift to whatever hiker may find it, nestled in a tree branch or among rocks.

I live in this charming little shack perched on the side of the foothills in the San Gabriel Valley. Red-tailed hawks are screaming overhead, courting, building nests in the oak trees above my deck. We have deer, coyote, and bobcat roaming our neighborhood. The mountains are covered in snow. All this I see from my writing studio’s window. With inspiration like this right outside my house, how can I not write? I’m working on my third novel, “The Storyteller’s Bracelet.” I actually think I’m going to finish it within the next few months! I was going to work on it today, after this interview.

But right now, the hawks are screaming, and the sun is peeking through the clouds. Chia, my big mutt puppy, is getting restless. And I think I hear, off in the distance, Mother Nature calling to me, “Come … come ….”

I better obey.

Malcolm: As ever, my well-worn boots await by the front door. Thank you for sharing your journey.


Part of the proceeds from the sale of both print and electronic copies and from the sale of related merchandise will be donated to the Yosemite Association.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Malcolm R. Campbell