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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:26 pm 
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In his essay On Fairy-Stories JRRT states:

"I desired dragons with a profound desire...the world that contained even the imagination of (dragons) was richer and more beautiful, at whatever cost of peril."

Well, there are no dragons currently in Ered Gelin that I know of, but there are bears! And there is something exhilarating about sharing your living space (carefully!) with such magnificent and powerful creatures.

This 300+ pound beauty hung around our house last week for two hours. We couldn't imagine why until my wife spotted two teddy-bear sized cubs way up in a birch tree beside the house! Evidently the trio had been passing through our meadow when they heard our lab barking inside (luckily he WAS inside!), and so Mama Bear sent the little ones up the nearest tree. They didn't want to come down, so she just stayed put, despite the obnoxious barking dog. We put our dog in a room where he couldn't see the bear, and finally at dusk, Mama Bear climbed up the tree herself and explained to the cubs that labs are really nothing to be afraid of. Down they came. and away they went!

(Bears may not be the only big predators here now. In recent years there have been stories that catamounts, known elsewhere as mountain lions, may have returned to our region after an absence of 100 years, :shock: Oh my!)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:19 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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That looks like a pretty big bear! I wouldn't want to mess with her at any rate, and I'm glad your dog was inside. :shock:

I think cougars are absolutely gorgeous, but I would be afraid to have them near my house. (They are among my favorite animals, as a matter of fact.)

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 3:37 pm 
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We have both around where I live. In town, bears and cougars are rarely a problem. Up in the hills and canyons though...some friends of ours had their home broken into and kitchen trashed by a bear. Multiple times. Fish and Wildlife trapped it, tagged it, and took it away but it came back, so they basically gave the neighborhood permission to shoot it if they didn't get it first. And someone did. :/ Sad and frustrating thing all around.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:01 pm 
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Wow, Lindréd! Wow!

And did I mention, "Wow!"?

We have Mountain Lions in our area, too, but they rarely intersect with humans. All too often, when they do it results in what I at least consider to be overly hasty decisions to kill them.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 11:53 am 
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Wow is right V!! Kinda makes you think before stepping outside at night!

Unfortunately, the intersection of human settlements and big predators does often end badly for the animals. Relocation is sometimes the only option, but as River mentions, it doesn't always work. Very sad indeed. For some reason up here things are usually ok in that regard. The bears tend to stay clear. I have a feeling this one won't be back ("I'm never taking the kids THAT way again!!").

I agree with you Lalaith that cougers (or catamounts!) are one of the most beautiful animals on earth! They haven't been officially "confirmed" as here yet, but the stories have been building for about 15 years. But I also agree that I'd rather not see one right by my house!

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 6:04 pm 
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Cougars are around where I live too. Sometimes they come down into town - there was one spotted right in the middle of Boulder a few months back - but usually they stay on the edges and in the open space. They'll take dogs and cats on occasion, so it's best to let your pet in at night. And there was an incident a couple years ago where a group went out hiking and a seven year-old kid got pounced. The adults in the party beat off the cougar but yeesh...IIRC, the kid came out okay. I'm not sure if the animal was allowed to live or not. The NPS has, on occasion, talked about putting parents up on child endangerment charges if they let their kids out of sight on the trails in RMNP, especially around dusk and dawn. The mountain lions hunt at those times. Still, the big cats are magnificent animals. I'd like to see a mountain lion some day, but preferrably one that's sleeping or otherwise distracted.

Lindred, I think the bears only become a nuisance when there's a shortage of what they usually eat. In general, they'd rather leave us alone, but when it's a choice between starving and encountering humans, well, the shyness goes away. The year our friends were having problems was a bad year in general for the bears. We had a long winter and swift spring and the berries didn't come in like they were supposed to so the bears had to get creative. One found our friends' kitchen to be the solution to all its problems.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:17 pm 
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You're right on the money about bear behavior! We had a bad berry years here about 5 years ago and the bears started getting into bird feeders everywhere. Once they found that to be easy they didn't stop! So the Vermont state naturalist put out a directive/plea for everyone to take in their bird feeders (at least during the night) to get the bears out of the habit. We don't keep feeders at our place for that reason.

So you're in Boulder? I lived in CO for about 10 years (til 93). I recall one cougar-related incident in Boulder where an elderly lady was feeding a cougar raw meat on a regular basis in her backyard (bad idea). She eventually stopped, so then it took her little dog! She actually went after it and chased it off with a broom. Can you imagine!!?? Yikes! They interviewed her on the news. Could have easily turned into a "Darwin Award" (can't remember if the dog survived)

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:41 am 
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:shock: I have to say that woman was stupid all-around.

Lindred, I love the term catamount, but many people don't know it. (Of course, here that's not a problem! :D)

They have spotted a bear in the county neighboring ours, here in southwest Ohio!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:36 am 
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That's nuts. I can see it happening in Boulder, but it's still nuts.

I know someone who encountered a cougar while camping. He backed up against a tree and started waving his arms around and singing. He says the cougar sat down, gave him the confused-cat look and sauntered off in search of saner prey.
:rofl:

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 6:09 am 
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Our boys were taught to grab the hems of their coats, raise them over their heads with outstretched arms, and Look Large. Fortunately it never came to the test.

The only thing that almost killed one of my Boy Scouts was lightning, and fortunately he got away unharmed after spending almost forty minutes crouched on tiptoe, with lightning striking everywhere except the exact point of the ridgetop his patrol was camped on. (You have to "assume the position" for twenty minutes after the most recent nearby strike, and it kept striking.)

The college-entrance essay he wrote about the experience may be what got him into film school against tremendous odds, so it's all good. Given that he's alive. :shock:

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:41 pm 
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River, :shock: :rofl: that's just too funny! I tend to sing all the time as I hike, or work outside....well, I just tend to sing all the time (hence my signature). I never realized it was a safety measure!!!

Lalaith, you make a very good point about "catamount" being a little known term. It may only be used in my state. Interesting how many regional names this particular animal has (cougar, puma, mountain lion, catamount, panther, "painter".... any others?). Almost Tolkienesque in the variations.....if so, I think the folksy sounding "catamount" might be what the hobbits would call it, don't you think?...sounds sort of hobbity to me! :)

PB, The lightning survival technique you mention has something to do with minimizing the surface area of the point where lightning exits the body and enters the ground, right? (that's why cows so often die from strikes: four separate legs, widely spaced = large surface area) Is that correct???

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:12 pm 
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If I'm alone in the woods at twilight, I sing. I try not to be alone in the woods at twilight though. Hiking alone has its charms, but not in mountain lion country...

Prim, I had a near-miss type of experience with lightening five years ago. I've never liked storms and I've hated them even more since then. S kids me about it sometimes, but when push comes to shove and the clouds are coming in and we're above the trees and I start running, he doesn't argue. Apparently I get this animal look in my eye and all he's willing to do when that happens is keep up. :rofl: :help:

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:25 pm 
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I'd run right after you, River!

Lindréd, that's exactly right: minimize contact with the ground. But you have to stay low, too, so you have to curl up tightly as you can while balancing on tiptoes. Forty minutes of that sounds awfully painful!

They were stuck on a ridgetop, and if they'd run they'd have had to go along the ridgetop for a long way—they'd be in more danger upright and running than they were crouched down.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 5:19 pm 
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Prim, I assume that getting off the top of that ridge and onto a slope below just wasn't an option? That would have been the first thing I'd've considered, but as often as not, that's just flat out suicidal.

I've been told that there's no excuse for being caught out in a storm, and to a certain extent that's true. If you keep an eye on the sky, you'll know what's coming in and you can plan accordingly, especially if you're already familiar with the local weather patterns. But, you know, sometimes things develop faster than anticipated. Freaky nonsense does happen. And sometimes, even though you turned around at the right time, something happens that slows the pace and the storm catches up. That bites especially hard if you have to cross an exposed area to reach safety. On some CO peaks, there's no good place to hide between your car and the summit. The wilderness is wild. You just have to accept that.

I actually met a bear once, hiking on Mt. Rainier. It was sitting in the sun, eating huckleberries. Didn't have a care in the world. I'm sure it knew I, and about a dozen other hikers, were around, but we weren't pestering it and it was really liking those huckleberries. Once I got over my shock I was able to appreciate how beautiful it was. It was close too. I probably could have touched it, but that would have been unwise. To say the least.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 5:34 pm 
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This was August in New Mexico, River, and so the weather was pretty unpredictable. And the ridge was too steep to climb down for kids with minimal training and no equipment; the trail they were following went along the spine in both directions. They were pretty much stuck.

It's a national Scout wilderness camp, Philmont, and every few years somebody dies there from a fall, or lightning, or a bear.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:13 am 
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My nephew was at Philmont last summer, and he loved it! He went on a long multi-day hike: miles and miles across the high country. He came back with some amazing photos. He was fortunate to have really pleasant weather while there (no storms to speak of). Do you still go there Prim? Sounds like a great place.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:06 am 
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I've heard of Philmont. Friends and the brothers of friends went there. I also know how hard the weather can swing in the SW and how hairy a ridgeline can get. I don't fault the scoutmasters at all. Like I said, they say there's no excuse for being caught in a storm, but the truth is, it happens to even the best of outdoorsman. Squalls happen. J and I got caught once in a sudden thunderstorm on the eastern face of Mt. Rainier. The lightening wasn't striking where we were (I'm not sure I'd be here posting if it was; we were on a glacier with no cover). Arguably we could have avoided it if we hadn't taken a nap before descending from high camp but we'd been up since midnight o na summit bid and we were tired and honestly, whoever heard of a sudden thunderstorm in the state of Washington? Even as the clouds came in we thought "Oh, great, we're going to get rained on." Even the ranger we met the next day WTFed when we told him what happened.

But man, except for that, that was a beautiful climb. A full moon turned the mountainside silver, there were neives penetientes all over the (relatively) lower section of the Emmons because itw as late season so it looked like we were marching among tiny, silver monks in prayer, and the sun rose red and we were, as I said, on the eastern face...

This is the part where you quote that old rhyme at me. :P

The big scary storm we did have to hide from was in the Andes. We saw it coming but didn't realize it was going to go electrical until it did. We thought we were just in for wind and precip. :help:

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:03 pm 
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Wow! Your Rainier climb sounds spectacular, River. Worth the weather risk if you ask me! I think my nephew was just incredibly lucky weather-wise when he was at Philmont. From everything he told me the scoutmasters do indeed train those kids really well for just about anything, but you just never know what's around the bend when it comes to mother-nature! There's always an element of risk, and I suppose that's part of what makes it so exciting.

Prim, did you get to go on some of those extended high country hikes at Philmont? If so, I'm jealous!

This talk of lightning has brought back another memory of Boulder and a strange phenomenon that I wonder if anyone else has ever witnessed. My wife and I were having brunch there on the outside porch of a restaurant which sat on the edge of a big park. It was a beautiful clear, blue sky day; not a cloud in sight. All of a sudden we heard a buzzing sound and some pipes right over our head starting rattling. Within a second or two lightning struck a tree in the middle of the park (50 yards from us) :shock: . Scared the (enter expl. of choice) out of everyone there. It was then that I first really understood the phrase "out of the blue".

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:38 pm 
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Yikes, Lindréd! :shock: "Out of the blue" indeed.

I never went to Philmont. With driving down to NM and back the whole expedition took a couple of weeks. Mr. Prim would have gone if it hadn't meant taking so much time off work. As it was it was just our son and other members of his troop. I did go along on another troop expedition to Yellowstone, and that's one of my favorite memories. :love: But my daughter and I didn't do the wilderness hike bit; we stayed in our comfortable camp (showers! laundry!) with some other non-hikers and did sightseeing. The only nasty weather was a sudden wind- and rainstorm in the last two hours before the boys got back from the hike, and we actually got the worst of it. They were on the trail and just moved faster. Our camp . . . well, let's just say that not all of us had been taught how to stake a tent down, or that a couple of cots inside are not enough to hold it in place. Chasing a large tent that is ponderously rolling away across the campground with everything inside clattering and clunking, while it's raining sideways. . . . :nono:

(Not our tent. It was a serious backpacking tent and my daughter and I had staked it correctly; it didn't budge.)

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:57 pm 
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Chasing a large tent that is ponderously rolling away across the campground with everything inside clattering and clunking, while it's raining sideways. . . .


What an image! :rofl: I'm sorry! I really shouldn't laugh (L. pauses trying to regain composure) ...... :rofl:
You know, if I hadn't had to do similar things in my life I probably wouldn't laugh! Sounds like a scene from Laurel and Hardy!

Family camping memories are precious to me too! Great stuff!

btw, I found this link to explain my "out of the blue" experience. So there must have been a thunder cloud somewhere that day, but not near enough for us to see. Now that's scary!!

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/pub/ltg/crh_boltblue.php

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