OMG, I still use wall calendars

A Facebook meme lists a bunch of stuff that’s supposedly out of date and asks how many of us use any of these items? I forget the list, but it probably included washboards, spring wagons, Springfield M1861 rifled muskets, and wall calendars.

So, you tell me, what’s old fashioned about wall calendars? You can see the entire month at a glance and you get a pretty picture to go with it. Of course, my PC and my cell phone tell me today’s date. Yes, I can display the entire month, but–and maybe this is just me–it’s a lot easier to glance at the wall. Plus, I don’t know where my cell phone is most of the time, while I can usually find the wall.

If you’ve ever been a member of a conservation organization, it’s not like you have to pay for the calendar. If you’re a member now, the calendar shows up every year. If you’re not a member, multiple calendars show up every fall to shame you into joining up again as a way of saying “thank you” for the nice calendar and the accompanying return-adress stickers.

My office usually has a Montana Historical Society calendar in it. Lots of cool stuff from the archives. Sometimes scenics. Sometimes special themes like historic railroads. The kitchen wall calendar usually has something colorful and/or scenic. When my brother and his wifew visited Hawai’i, we saw lush tropical scenes in the kitchen. When they traveled to Scotland, we had great pictures of the old country. Last year, nobody went anywhere so we have a cat calendar.

If you visit a national park or some other cool location, you’ll probably spend $1000000 in the gift shop buying shot glasses, coffee mugs, coasters, and tee shirts. Might as well pick up a wall calendar to beautify your kitchen or, at least, your garage.

I guess I could tape my cell phone to the wall with a calendar displayed on it (the phone). I would at least know where the phone is, but the calendar would be too small to read from across the room.  And let’s face it, you could be almost anywhere in the room when somebody asks, “Hey, is July 23 on a Friday?” I can answer that because my wall calendar is 1.5 feet away.

Sure, I suppose it’s modern and enlightened never to use wall calendars or spring wagons these days. That view comes mostly from peer pressure. That is to say, people will laugh at you if you ride a spring wagon to work or if they see a wall calendar in your kitchen. The point is not to care.

There might be other points, but I don’t know what they are.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Loving our parks to death

You’ve heard the old story, one version or another, about a family who builds a cabin next to a lake or on a high hill where there’s a spectacular view. Their friends visit, some build next door, then one day a restaurant appears and a gas station and a traffic light and a hotel and, in time, the place is just as crowded as the neighborhoods in town everyone tried to escape.

The national parks are suffering a similar death, one in which most people consider humans to be the most invasive species with the once pristine preserve. Years ago, Glacier National Park was considered the most threatened park in the NPS system, primarily from air and water polution that arose outside its borders. Now the new threat comes from within as the NPS continues to resist putting a cap on the number of visitors allowed each year.

Glacier started a ticketed entry system this year. So far, it seems to be managing the traffic. The sad thing is this: it’s not reducing the traffic. A recent story said visitor counts on Sun Road in Glacier are up 41% over 2019. I had hoped the NPS would manage to reduce the number of visitors based on the premise that too many is too many if the park and its flora and fauna are to be preserved.

When a new building goes up in town, the fire marshal establishes a maximum occupancy in the name of safety. We  need a similar limit for parks because once our invasive species of humans have overrun the place, it will lose everything the NPS was supposed to be preserving. In Glacier, there are traffic jams not only to get into the park, but of hikers waiting to use popular trails like the High Line which, I suppose, will one day have a turnstile at each end to control access.

Unfortunately, the most viable way to reduce visitor counts is also the most unfair: charging so much that people cannot afford the bill. This means the rich get in and the poor do not. The ticketed entry system seems to be helping at Glacier. I look forward, though, to the next viable and democratic system that truly keeps each year’s visitor counts to a safe level.

In the 1960s when I worked in Glacier as a seasonal employee, we said, “Thank goodness nodody knows where this place is.” Unfortunately, they’ve found out. The park was overcrowded several years ago: letting more people in is not the answer we need.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Glacier Park Announces Sun Road Temporary Ticketed Entry System

Glacier National Park News Release

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [March 31, 2021] – Today, Glacier National Park announces the decision to implement a Going-to-the-Sun Road temporary ticketed entry system for the 2021 season. Going-to-the-Sun entry reservation tickets will be available at www.Recreation.gov starting April 29, barring any unforeseen delays.

The system will require visitors to set up an account on www.Recreation.gov and obtain a vehicle entry reservation ticket at ($2 nonrefundable fee) to enter the 50 mile long Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) corridor at the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances between 6 AM and 5 PM from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Entry reservation tickets will not be required for those with lodging, camping, transportation, or commercial activity within the GTSR corridor. Landowners with property within the GTSR corridor and affiliated tribal members are also not required to have a GTSR entry reservation ticket.

Glacier National Park saw record numbers of visitors in the last few years. This season is predicted to be one of the busiest on record.

“We have the making of a perfect storm this season,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Not only do we have ongoing COVID-19 mitigations and reduced staffing, but we are also facing construction delays inside and around the park.”

In 2020, park officials implemented temporary closures 29 times in 25 days at the park’s West Entrance which at times resulted in backups along Highway 2. The ticketed entry system offers visitors increased certainty that they will be able to enter the park while reducing or eliminating the need for closures at the park’s west entrance.

“The goal is to maximize access while avoiding congestion that results in temporary closures of park entrance gates,” says Mow.

Numbers will be tracked each day and additional entry reservation tickets will be available if there is additional capacity. There will be fewer entry reservation tickets available prior to the full opening of GTSR. When the road opens, the number of entry reservation tickets available will increase. The date for GTSR opening is unknown at this time and subject to weather and plowing progress. The park plans to start plowing GTSR on April 5.

About two-thirds of the entry reservation tickets will be released for 60 days advance purchase on a rolling window, and the remaining entry reservation tickets will be released for 48 hours advance purchase, also on a rolling window. For example, on June 2 a visitor could purchase entry reservation tickets 48 hours in advance for entry on June 4. They could also purchase an entry reservation ticket 60 days in advance for entry on August 2.

The traffic congestion at Glacier National Park has been off the scale during the last several years. I am happy to see that the park administration is taking a proactive approach to this growing problem.

–Malcolm

A Glacier Park Novel – Audiobook Edition

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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The songbird that walks and flies underwater

“He is the mountain streams’ own darling, the humming-bird of blooming waters, loving rocky ripple-slopes and sheets of foam as a bee loves flowers, as a lark loves sunshine and meadows. Among all the mountain birds, none has cheered me so much in my lonely wanderings, –none so unfailingly. For both in winter and summer he sings, sweetly, cheerily, independent alike of sunshine and of love, requiring no other inspiration than the stream on which he dwells. While water sings, so must he, in heat or cold, calm or storm, ever attuning his voice in sure accord; low in the drought of summer and the drought of winter, but never silent.” – John Muir

When I worked as a seasonal hotel employee in Glacier National Park, my attention focused first on mountain sheep and mountain goats, deer and moose, marmots and ground squirrels, and–of course bears. The most striking birds were the ospreys and golden eagles, followed by large flocks of songbirds such as pine siskins. A month went by before I saw a water ouzel, beloved by John Muir, because this bird seems to spend more time underwater than in the air. Imagine resting beside a stream on a long hike, glancing down into the water where–amongst the minnows–you see a dark grey bird walking on the bottom looking for insects and even small fish.

Wikipedia Photo

We consulted George Ruhle’s Guide to Glacier National Park and learned the bird was a water ouzel, now (for reasons I don’t know) more commonly called the American Dipper ( Cinclus mexicanus). Cornell Labs calls the dipper “America’s only truly aquatic songbird,” noting also its thick plumage, low metabolic rate, and molting of feathers (like ducks) every year.

According to Audubon, “This distinctive bird is locally common along rushing streams in the West, especially in high mountains. It is usually seen bobbing up and down on a rock in mid-stream, or flying low over the water, following the winding course of a creek rather than taking overland shortcuts. The song and callnotes of the Dipper are loud, audible above the roar of the water.”

I found the bird fascinating even before I learned later that one of my wilderness heroes, John Muir considered it a favorite. 

–Malcolm

Glacier Park Novel

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Glacier Park’s East Side Reopens

NPS Glacier News Release

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [March 17, 2021] – Glacier National Park announces access to the east side of the park will reopen on March 18 at Two Medicine, Cut Bank and St. Mary for foot traffic, skis and snowshoes. Regular winter closures remain in place. Chief Mountain Road will remain closed at the park boundary until road conditions permit.

Wikipedia photo

The entrance at St. Mary allows vehicle traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road for 1.5 miles until the winter gate closure at St. Mary Campground. Access past the gate is allowed by foot, skiing and snowshoeing as is typical of normal winter seasons. The St. Mary Campground remains closed to winter camping until further notice.

The roads into Cut Bank, and Two Medicine remain closed to vehicle traffic for the winter, but access by foot, skiing and snowshoeing is available past the gates as is typical of normal winter seasons. Construction began on Many Glacier Road on March 15 and is closed to vehicular traffic and closed to hiker/biker traffic Monday through Friday through May 28.

Visitors are reminded that winter conditions are unpredictable and can quickly become dangerous. Visitors should prepare for icy conditions, high winds, and snow. Cellular communications in the park are extremely limited.

Access to the park east of the Continental Divide has been closed since March 2020 to protect the Blackfeet Indian Reservation population from COVID-19 due to high-risk members of the community. The decision to allow access to the east side was made after close consultation between health officials from the National Park Service, Indian Health Service, the Blackfeet Tribe, Glacier County and the state of Montana.

It will be nice to see Two Medicine, Many Glacier Hotel, and Glacier Park Lodge open again. The news should be especially exciting to organizers and participants at the planned MGH Employees Reunion scheduled for this summer.

Malcolm

Writing about a high-speed chase on a mountain road

Since it’s cold and rainy here in north Georgia, I spent the day writing about a speeding Harley Davidson being chased by a ranger along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun road. In “real life,” that highway is covered by many feel of snow in February that will take many weeks to plough before the summer season begins in June.

Fortunately, the Google Earth views and the Google Maps street views–as discussed here were taken in the summer. So, what I see looks like this photo:

My keyboard almost has no room on my desk due to the stack of paper maps, guidebooks, and place name guides cluttering up my space. If this were a fictional road or some random road in the middle of nowhere, I might get away with a little artistic license. But Glacier National Park has over three million visitors a year and most of them want to see this road from their cars, from a red bus, or from a park shuttle.

So, there’s no room for mistakes. That’s a bit daunting. On the other hand, I hope the fame and beauty of the setting will help draw people to the novel to be called “Weeping Wall.” Here’s what the real weeping wall looks like, compliments of Wikipedia:

 

If you’re westbound in one of the convertible red tour busses, you’re going to get wet. All of that water comes from snowmelt higher up on the Garden Wall. There’s less of a torrent here late in the summer. Weeping Wall will be the third in my “Mountain Journey’s Series,” following The Sun Singer and Sarabande.

The most difficult task hasn’t really been getting the landmarks right. It’s been getting the background from the earlier novels in the series correct–and then some of the characters also appear in my Kindle novels Mountain Song and At Sea. Co-ordinating all these stories was something I never wanted to face–until now. I think I’ve gone nuts.

But, it’s a fun kind of crazy.

Malcolm

I invite you to enjoy my two earlier novels in the series, “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande.” Both of them are contemporary fantasies set in Glacier National Park, Montana.

 

Giveaway: ‘Mountain Song’

My Montana novel Mountain Song will be free on Kindle for three days, February 8 through February 10. Previously called The Seeker, the novel is the first of my two David Ward novels. At Sea is the sequel.

Description

David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

Background

This novel is set in Glacier National Park Montana where I worked for two summers as a resort hotel employee. It’s also set at a fictional Montana sheep ranch and at a real Florida Panhandle swamp. The characters move around a bit, one might say. The mountain on the cover is named Heavy Shield, previously Mt. Wilbur, and can be seen across Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel on the east side of the park.

You can find information about all of my books on my website.

–Malcolm

for the love of rock

Serious mountain climbers attend very closely to the nature of rock. Is it crumbly? Does it take a piton? In addition to the historic routes to the summits of mountains, guidebooks often mention the condition of the rock.

One thing I care about is the kind of rock I’m climbing on. Climbers’ guidebooks seldom mention this because, I suppose, the authors don’t care and/or they don’t know. When it comes to mountains, I see guidebooks as a teaching opportunity. Without becoming a geology textbook, guidebooks could easily note the name of a mountain’s rock formation or the principal rock along a climbing route.

NPS Glacier Park

I’m surprised that mountainous national parks, some of which have climbers’ guides, don’t mention the kinds of rocks or the specific rock formations (in passing) along with the recipes for getting to the summits.  Or, if that’s too much trouble, the park service could even create a guidebook that addresses geology for a park’s major peaks–as a self-guided tour, perhaps, that would be suitable for those who view the mountains from a road or trail as opposed to climbing them.

The rock within a mountain or a mountain chain has an interesting history, often beginning as sediment deposited in an ancient sea during the Proterozoic eon and–as one might say for Glacier National Park–carved by water and ice for 60 million years to create the spectacular sights we see today.

Or, perhaps only a mountain climber who loves geology would care.

Malcolm

My novels set in Glacier National Park include: “Mountain Song” and “The Sun Singer.”

The Weeping Wall

If you’ve driven along Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park–or taken a red bus tour–you probably saw The Weeping Wall. If you’re in a red bus and the top is down, you’ll get a bit wet early in the season when the water looks like it does in this Wikipedia photo.

The rock behind the water is the Siyeh Formation. It tends to have a khaki color. Like most of the rock in the park, Siyeh (often called Helena) is sedimentary, beginning its life at the bottom of an ancient sea during the Proterozoic age over 800 million years ago. In Blackfeet, Siyeh (Sáiyi) means Mad Wolf and is the name of a creek, pass, and mountain. It’s made of limestone and dolomite.

I have changed the name of my novel-in-progress from Aeon (too obscure) to The Weeping Wall. Even those who have never visited Glacier National Park will get a sense of the novel from that title–I hope.

As with previous novels set in the park, this one will be as accurate as I can make it in terms of the location and its features. This is one of those cases where it helps the writer to have been there–and got wet.

Malcolm

 

Starting the next novel

When I read about Hollywood film productions, I’m amazed at the number of years it takes for a production company to go from the purchase of the initial story to the completion of production. Some novelists are like that, moving at a snail’s pace–like Susanna Clarke and Donna Tartt. Others juggle multiple ideas at a time and are hard at work on the next novel before the last completed novel is even in print.

Fate’s Arrows hasn’t met its stride yet in terms of readers, editions (we’re working on the audiobook), or critical and reader reviews. So, I almost feel like I’m cheating on it to be starting a new novel already. Seriously, though, I need to start working on Aeon before I lose my nerved.

Aeon will be the third in my “Mountain Journeys Series” that includes The Sun Singer and Sarabande.  The Sun Singer had an avatar who is presumed dead. For years, I didn’t think I knew enough magic to write the third novel from his point of view. I still don’t, so I’ll have to fake it and proceed at a Donna Tartt rather than a James Paterson pace.

The name of the novel comes from the 20th major arcana card in the Thoth Tarot deck. According to Raven’s tarot site, a nice reference for those who use the Thoth deck,  “The Aeon is the symbol for the Rise of Phoenix, it stands for a time of insight, the true understanding of the circle of life, of growing and fading. The card tells us that we should leave our ‘frog perspective’ and watch the things from a higher level, that the time has come to face the new, that we need a good overview to build our ‘Utopia’.”

Fortunately, readers won’t need to know anything about the Tarot to understand the novel. Like the earlier novels in the series, Aeon will be contemporary fantasy, focussing primarily on a civil war in an alternate universe. Even though the avatar has grown too old for this sort of thing, he has to return to that universe because that’s where his daughter and his grandson live.

I’ve been reading through The Sun Singer and Sarabande to make sure I don’t get the continuity or the characters messed up. And, I’ve been updating my research notes about Glacier National Park where the novels are set. Okay, I guess I can’t delay writing the first chapter any longer.

I wonder if other writers who group their books into series go through all this hassle making sure they have everything right before they start the next book. I’m sure James Patterson has a team who keeps up with the continuity. Well, he can afford them. Here in my den, it’s just me, two cats, and a mess on my desk.

–Malcolm