Heard around the West: In Bozeman, watch for falling rock and falling people
Writers on the Range
Yikes! First, river floaters started having to watch for reckless bridge-jumpers; now, hikers have to keep an eye out for people plummeting from the sky. In Bozeman, a hiker was just below the summit of a ridge, reports kpax.com, when high winds sent a paraglider right smack into him. Though knocked down the slope, the unidentified hiker was able to keep walking. Probably as fast as he could.
At Glacier National Park, 36-year-old Ted Porter was not so lucky after getting a late start on a 6.2-mile hike that would have taken him across a glacier over to a lake. Porter has backcountry experience, reports the Daily Inter Lake, but he nonetheless attempted to “boot ski” across the ice without wearing crampons or using his ice ax. Big mistake, he said later: “I just started careening down the glacier and I can’t stop. … I just dropped right into a crevasse.”
After falling an estimated 40 feet, Porter landed on a shelf of sorts, where he made a 35-second goodbye video on his phone. But then he began crawling up and out of the hole, carefully skirting another crevasse before emerging onto the glacier. Porter still faced three miles of arduous walking with an improvised ice-axe crutch, but finally met up with other hikers who called a helicopter. Though he’s had to undergo three back surgeries, he avoided being paralyzed. Says his mother: “It’s a miracle he’s alive.”
Are we living in a “nanny state?” An 82-year-old retired doctor from Bend, Ore., might say yes. Robert “Franc” Haynes still runs long distances and every year climbs the state’s third-highest mountain, South Sister. But as he descended this year, a Forest Service staffer observed that Haynes was “exhausted and making less than six-tenths of a mile per hour.” So a helicopter was called, reports the Bend Bulletin, and though Haynes was willing to spend another night camping out, he accepted the free ride off the mountain. At the hospital, “doctors checked him out and sent him home.” It’s nice to know somebody’s watching out for you.
Every September, says the wonderful wildlife photographer and writer Tim Christie, “pugnacious bull elk go looking for places to practice mayhem. If saplings had legs, they’d run.” Bull elk can swiftly rip up a forest by raking trees with their antlers to establish dominance and warn off rivals, Christie writes in Wyoming Wildlife magazine. Once, he watched a “monster bull,” accompanied by a small harem, run off a smaller but bold rival. After chasing the challenger for some 200 yards, “the herd bull began thrashing a small pine, using his antlers like a hedge trimmer on the spindly tree, stopping only to bugle before he continued to prune the hapless sapling. … Three trees and an hour later, he returned to the cows and bedded down with them, apparently content he’d served warning that he was the boss.” All this jousting with trees, Christie says, often turns an elk’s antlers mahogany or black from contact with sap and bark. Meanwhile, captive elk’s antlers stay white, as the pen-raised animals have little access to trees or brush. Elk country during the rut, Christie concludes, is always an exciting place to be.
Non-fans of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been known to accuse the nonprofit of being vindictive. When hunter Bradley Greenwood killed a large bull elk near Vernal, Utah, for example, he was injured when its antlers “plunged into his face behind his jaw,” reports The Salt Lake Tribune. Just in time he was rescued, only to learn that PETA planned to erect a billboard about the accident, proclaiming: “Payback is hell.” Greenwood objected, “I’m about as ethical a hunter as there is,” pointing out that he eats the meat all winter, and moreover took the elk in a “clean kill,” meaning the animal did not suffer long. A PETA blogger sounded contemptuous. “Now that a recovering Greenwood knows what it feels like to gasp what you believe to be your last breaths, maybe he’ll stop killing animals and agree with PETA that compassion feels better than (bad) karma.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal was thrilled to report recently that despite spirited online political opposition, an unnamed 4,052-foot peak on Frenchman Mountain in southern Nevada, has a fine chance of becoming Mount Reagan. Conservative activist Chuck Muth is leading the campaign to honor the nation’s 40th president with a peak, and on Sept. 10, he won an initial victory when the Nevada State Board of Geographic Names voted 5-2 in favor of the designation. The next hurdle is a vote by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which could come before the end of this year.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range a service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, email@example.com.
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