Peregrinate with Purpose My WordPress Blog

November 29, 2020

A New Fall?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Brehm @ 1:48 pm

Walking out the door, shuttling gear to my car for turkey hunting, some small gray bird moves in the grass in front of the neighbor’s automobile carcass. It has some bold wing bars and color on the throat, but it couldn’t be a yellow-throated warbler this late in the year. I grab my binos and wait for the bird to show itself again after disappearing under the spruce tree that fell on our house months ago. It flies right for me, settling on the grass, then the chain link fence, and finally a body’s length away in the tangle of grapevine and trumpet vine. Its yellow throat is glowing. The dark patch atop its head is crisp and accentuates broken white eyelines. The bird looks at me and goes back to foraging, presumably gleaning lethargic insects off the vegetation. What a jolt to my eyes–just as the fall is moving into winter and bright colors of the land settle out of sight, this tropical traveler brings its vibrant humming hues back to the neighborhood. Juniper is out on a walk with Mabel and I text her to keep an eye out when she gets back. I also send a message to our hardcore birding group text, and continue on my way.

Having seen no recent sign of turkeys at my closer haunts

, I drive northwest a little ways to a semi-secret swamp-like forest with towering pin oaks and swamp white oaks. It is Thanksgiving, and I can’t help but mourn the failure of colonists and their primitive worldview to be respectful neighbors to Native peoples they encountered centuries ago. The first Thanksgiving may have gone well (thanks to the generosity of the Wampanoag)
Koupit Doxycyklin v Praze
Order Levitra Without Prescription Buy
, but the genocide, broken treaties, and atrocious boarding schools that followed remain a great agonizing blemish on the collective human spirit. Amazingly, we still have opportunities for reconciliation, collaboration, and creating a better shared future. The Piegan Institute, for example, has been working for nearly two decades to revive the Piegan language in northwestern Montana, and anyone can donate to their innovative schools.

Walking in slowly, the forest is quiet. The wet path is lined with planted white pines, young slippery elms, box elder, and other deciduous species. Fallen white pine logs are coated in green moss. I hear something ahead and pause. It’s a sound I don’t recognize but could be turkeys. I creep closer and am shocked to hear the songs of a few wood frogs spread across the swamp and adjacent forested hill. Their songs do not carry the fierce optimism and eagerness to breed as in early spring. The sound is disturbing–these frogs prefer to remain frozen throughout the dormant season to save energy. By awakening due to these warm temperatures

, undoubtedly caused by climate change, the frogs could be using up precious energy reserves.

As I ponder the climate problem that we share with wood frogs
, fresh turkey scratches appear along the seam where pin oak swamp forest meets the white pine grove. You can tell which direction the turkeys were scratching because the leaves pile up on one side. They scratch the leaves back, so the bird who makes a given scratch was facing away from the piled up leaves. Though I assess as many scratches as I can find, I cannot determine their direction of travel, and follow a hunch on a loop along the old railroad grade up and over the ridge towards the wetland and back, hoping to circle ahead of this apparently small flock.

Winter fungi are really showing off, making it difficult to focus solely on the hunt. I stuff my free pocket with the reddish brown, jelly-like wood ear fungi (Auricularia is the genus). Turkey tail fungus is glowing in the warm rain

Prednisolon tabletten Rezeptfrei kaufen
, and I encounter one specimen of coral pink merulius, perhaps the mushroom with the most fun name. A few oysters are still in good enough condition to eat. Witch’s butter clings to a small dead oak twig, yellow and gelatinous. A new one for me, stump brittlestem (Psathyrella piluliformis), looks more than content at the base of an immense decaying oak. It shares the log with a proliferation of puffballs (genus Lycoperdon).

I think about Paul Stamets’ perspective that fungi are driving this ecosystem, making decisions about resource allocation, fostering certain tree and plant species. He believes we should be trying to communicate more with fungi, citing an example of an experiment done in Japan where mycelium helped create a more efficient railway system. I would like to ask the fungi what tree species we should be favoring in management of the land as the climate shifts.

Making my way up the ridge

, the turkey sign is older and I realize the turkeys likely headed the opposite direction. Rain picks up, and a few deer jump up from day beds and bound away, their white tails flagging and then disappearing in the sea of winter browns. I cannot see any ducks in the wetland. Again, several wood frogs sing half-heartedly. I return to the car with no turkey, but with a pocketful of wood ears for tea. When I return home, Junip informs me that she and Mabel saw a coyote in the neighbors’ field this morning. They were locking eyes with a coyote while the sycamore warbler and I studied each other.

cialis uk

Order Ditropan Online no Prescription

November 21, 2020

Missouri Breaks 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Brehm @ 2:47 am

July 2nd. There are no clouds in the taut blue sky for our last day on the river. The sun blazes quietly; the land is so bright I fear I’ll go blind if I don’t wear sunglasses (which I disdain). 

As we near James Kipp and our takeout, an adult bald eagle sits on an eroding ledge not far off the water. It does not fly off as we pass, a sentinel bidding us something unspoken and understandable. I imagine it is something like stoic gratitude for caring about its river. Soon thereafter

Ivermectin (Stromectol) kaufen Ohne Rezept Online In Schweiz
, we hear the strange roar of cars over the bridge, and the bridge itself becomes visible–the same bridge where the house wrens are nesting with cliff swallows. 

The conversation turns to cheeseburgers and our post-river plans for the next few days. We will have to somehow load all of our food and gear into my small SUV and strap the 15 ft canoe to the roof

, and drive back to where we shoved off many days ago. 

As BJ offers several remarkably detailed suggestions of places we can go over the weekend before we must leave Montana, it occurs to me why I still feel bad about the canoe incident. He has grown immensely in his understanding of Montana and in his capabilities as an outdoorsman even in the last couple of years. I didn’t give him enough credit. As Anthony de Mello writes in his spiritual masterpiece, Awareness, changing in instances like this is quite effortless. Now that I truly understand my own outdated perception of BJ, it evaporates instantly. There is no need to apologize, only to move forward with better understanding and accurate responses. When we have dinner at his house two days later, conversing about the serious issues surfacing in our country, including fishing, I notice myself giving him the respect he deserves. I think he notices the change, and appreciates it, without saying a word. 

July 4th. A small herd of mountain goats approaches near the rim of Our Lake on the Rocky Mountain Front. They descend towards us on the same trail we are using to approach the lake

, and we hop off on the downhill side. They walk right past, close enough to touch, hesitating a few times to smell us and move on down the trail. Their hairy legs give them a yeti-like appearance. Shaggy wizards, Juip calls them, like ancient gurus of the mountain. Many of the mammals around the lake seem semi-tame from so much human presence, including chipmunks and a long-tailed marmot. A small group of hikers feeds the marmot as they chain smoke along the shore. 

This lake is a steep few miles, but one of the most quickly-accessible alpine lakes along the Front, and gets a lot of traffic. On our hike up, a girl passes with a big handful of white lady slipper orchids she picked. We stop and eye the bouquet

Antidepressiva Paroxetin kaufen ohne Rezept

, curiously horrified, as it passes on down the mountain, mouths dropped in disbelief. Lady slippers are so rare in our neck of the woods that picking any is unthinkable to us. Then again, this mountain landscape is immense, and I don’t believe in scolding kids for picking flowers. She looked happy, bouncing down the mountain with them. 

The lake spills over sheer rock, descending rapidly in wild grace. Eventually, it contributes to the South Fork of the Teton River, which flows into the fresh plains of Rocky Mountain Front in braids over glacial deposits. There is no soil to speak of here in the glacier’s wake, only rocks and plants that tolerate them. 

August 2nd. The challenge with a trip like this is re-entry. Life on the river is simple: eat, drink, observe, paddle, joke about Connie’s Bottom, cook, make fires, journal, listen to coyotes and owls, sleep soundly. No news, no deciding what to do about the latest political meltdown, phones are merely cameras and otherwise useless. Transitioning back to secular life is usually quite difficult. 

We have been home (Southeast Ohio) for almost a month now. Lightning flashes again and again to the south

paypal prepaid debit

, trailed by faint rumbles of thunder. The lighting flashes take me back to the battlefield at Little Bighorn; Junip and I drove past the preserved site on our way back across the country. The sun was setting over the rippling plains and pockets of ponderosa pine

, the western sky turned a rich orange and then glowed red. A huge storm cell writhed to the southwest and we drove straight towards it,  the colors of sunset and the storm giving palpable life to the battlefield. Though we could see no gravestones, no carnage, the stories speak loudly, still. It happened HERE, not in some history book, the Lakota and allies fighting for their land and way of life. Perhaps the land is still electrified by these spirits who linger because the conflict has yet to be resolved. The same greed for land and resources still looms, still threatens native people, all people, and the ecosystems on which we depend. 

When considering this transition from wilderness back to modern society, I always think about a solo backpacking trip many years ago into the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area north of Missoula, MT. On a long hike, I encountered packed snow on the trail that was melting slowly in the early spring sun. A ridge formed that held my weight. If I stepped right or left of that ridge, I sank 3 feet into soft snow. In fact, even when I stepped correctly, this would still sometimes happen. For me, anyway, this has been a near-perfect metaphor for walking the line between wilderness and modern society. I have to walk carefully, and even then sometimes I sink into frustration of the modern world’s separation from nature and its effects on so many people. 

On that same trip, I climbed a ridge with a grand view of the valley carved out by Rattlesnake Creek
, and pondered this very conflict a few hours before hiking out. The experiences that have enriched my life and helped define my place in the world–sitting alone by a clear stream and watching a mink bound along the bank, looking out over a moonlit frozen lake, listening to indigenous leaders and elders share their cultures and experiences–carry responsibility. They are akin to the geologic forces that carved out the path for Rattlesnake Creek

Kup Cipro bez recepty

, providing direction as I peregrinate through our complex world.

Missouri Breaks 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Brehm @ 2:31 am

June 29th. The point of this trip is simply to live, to exist in this place, and to observe. I aspire to live like the swallows: they fly to survive and catch insects but I suspect they are also playing, and do not trouble themselves with the idea of losing. If they die, they become the river and crumbly crags, and big cottonwoods. 

As we float, the river navigates the immense landscape for us. Sometimes we paddle, sometimes we just keep the canoe faced in the right direction. We float with BJ for a while, sometimes we find ourselves on opposite sides of the river, but we always take the same river channels as it braids through islands of all sizes. 

We finally camp at Connie’s Bottom, which has been an enduring joke ever since Missouri River Outfitters told us about this campsite. We imagined asking them dozens of questions about Connie’s Bottom, such as “can you ever hear the wind rushing out of Connie’s Bottom?” Though when we arrive, I have forgotten all about the joke because I’m tired and also because it is gorgeous. A huge sentinel cottonwood looks out over the river bend and bluffs, surrounded by sagebrush. Big cliffs rise a few hundred feet across the river, which sounds like the ocean as it runs over boulders sitting on the river’s edge. It rained most of the day, but we have a reprieve here, watching the misty rain evaporate from the valley. Watching weather move across the land gives one a sense that time is different here. This canyon has borne witness to soft rain, wild lightning, ice dams, and hard wind since time immemorial. The activities of mammals like us are not even a blink in the rock’s’ eye. The days feel full yet we do little but watch the land and take care of our basic needs.

I make a fire using leftover charcoal in the stone fire ring, lightning the freshly charred logs and slowly blowing the coal back to life. Split cottonwood branches we gathered along the way give the fire access to the wood’s dry middle. The place we gathered firewood was a big island full of healthy young willows and old cottonwoods. We took only dead and downed wood. J found the white fragment of a huge bird egg

kamagra pills
, surely either eagle or pelican. These two species’ eggs are very similar in size and appearance, as it were: white, chalky on the outside, and probably three times the size of a chicken egg. As we floated down the firewood island, no fewer than seven beavers slapped tails at us in warning as we floated past their willows. 

June 30th 

Wind blew in last night and cleared the skies. Missouri River Outfitters advised tying up the boats in a storm: “it’s not the rain you need to worry about
, it’s the wind.” I was paranoid about the boats blowing away or being carried downstream if the river swelled up from the rain. I got up out of the tent and walked down in the gusting wind and river dark and tugged the boats further inland. Though the water did rise slightly in the night, the boats would have been fine. 

In the morning we are all happy and relieved to see the brilliant sunlight and clear blue sky after being thoroughly soaked yesterday. The landscape shimmers with soft synchrony; the entire valley is bright, seamless, and wild. Every color is in its place, the scene appears correct. As I often do in such moments, I think of the brilliant Anishinaabe word megwayaak, which has two meanings: to be correct, and to be in the woods. Bright green sagebrush, creamy yucca blossoms, mustard-yellow grass, brown rock, dark slender shadows standing crisply in the cottonwood’s furrows, thin white cumulus, and the soft azure sky. Two coyotes sing loudly, and we jump to attention. Junip and I climb the small hill behind camp and we can see them through binoculars, more than a mile away, heads tilted high as they yip, howl and bark in blue cliff shadows. A raven calls from a huge bluff. BJ digs potato salad out of the cooler with one hand, a book about the Supreme Court in the other (his leisure reading). I fart loudly and he doesn’t flinch. J chases the raven. I search inward for the consistent ferocity of the joyful, singing meadowlark. 

Two fellows from a Hutterite colony 30 miles away fish our stretch of the riverbank. They show us a cooler full of big catfish, still wriggling. They are hoping to catch enough fish to feed the whole colony. Their accent is equal parts Dutch and rural northern Montana, flowing in big waves like a river over large boulders. They head upstream to check their lines and we prepare to shove off into the swift current. A swollen riffle just downstream of our boats further complicates the matter.  BJ wants to talk about how we will get in the water safely and I dismiss him, saying I already have a plan. When Junip and I push him into the current, the canoe’s back end catches on the bank and the boat wobbles. The canoe goes under, filling his boat with water. J dives in immediately, grabs the boat and some of his things. He gasps as he hops out of the boat and into the cold water. For some reason, I hesitate, following the boat and humans and gear downstream a few feet. I see the map floating ahead of all else downstream, so dive into the muddy water and grab it. We assess the damage and almost all of BJ’s clothes are swamped, including the ones he is wearing, though we lost nothing. He keeps saying, “fuuuuck” as he pulls his sopping wet clothes out of the bag. I feel horrible yet helpless to correct this mistake. BJ won’t let me help him shove off for the rest of the trip, responding “nah, I’m good,” when I ask if he wants help. I try to move on from this but have plenty of time to replay the incident, and it becomes obvious I acted hastily and foolishly resisted collaboration.

July 1st . I wake before dawn with a mind to watch the riverbank for wildlife. All week the river bank has been loaded with tracks: bighorn sheep, mule deer, whitetail, elk, two wolves, and a variety of bird tracks. As I stand in the tall grass overlooking the river,, I suddenly have the notion that a mountain lion might have similar intentions. The tall grass would make for great stalking, and a lion would make no sound walking these paths woven by boaters. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I trust my instinct and seek some shelter. Like my primate ancestors, I climb a nearby tree (cottonwood) and sit on its big horizontal branch, listening to the dawn chorus: common poor-will, least flycatcher,  western wood peewee, cedar waxwing, warbling vireo, yellow warbler, and the meadowlark guru sound off to alert the world: “I am still alive.” If there was a lion lurking, it went undetected. I climb down, slip back into the tent next to a serenely sleeping Juniper, and rest my eyes again. 

I awake again in brilliant sun, birds still singing. Coyotes sing at the old Gist Homestead just north of our camp. We save them one of Junip’s river biscuits. There are no signs of the God-awful (in the awed sense of the term) storm that passed by last evening. It gave us only a sprinkling and some wind loomed large and dark to the east. I could hear distant thunder roaring and what sounded like the sky itself ripping apart miles away. Huge dark mammatus clouds peer down at the land above the electric blue heart of the storm

ogrish forum
, like a mother checking on her sleeping babe. Two ravens perched high on the cliff, looking not at the storm, but at the bright, clean evening light across the land. 

We hike around the old homestead and country beyond while BJ’s clothes finally dry out, much to the relief of my conscience. A small canyon has water and silty gray mud. J and I walk the creek eagerly to look for tracks. Fresh coyote and swift fox tracks travel steadily over the sloppy ground while I slip and slide around trying to stay vertical. Juniper and I hungrily read the tracks of these secretive animals in the silty soil, which registers the footfalls perfectly. BJ takes in the view and wanders ahead, back towards camp. Patches of milkweed hang over the bank with long, sharp pink flowers that grab your attention. A red-belted bumblebee takes pollen along with smaller sweat bees. A juniper hairstreak (butterfly) lands near my nose; its green and orange sparkles blend together in the middle of its wings around lateral lightning marks. 

A breeze picks up and releases millions of cottonwood seeds

, lofty diamonds drifting northeast. Back in camp, I wash J’s hair and mine with wild yucca root soap, something I had been looking forward to doing here. I harvested one small root two days ago and sliced it into thin rounds. Shaken up in one of our gallon water jugs, it lathers up nicely, turning my ratty river hair reasonably smooth. 

* * *

I stand on a fallen cottonwood six feet in girth
Order Silagra
, the biggest one I’ve ever seen. Cows have ruined the nearby bank (I wonder if bison would do the same?). 

Thunder claps and the wind picks up. We are almost, we think, to where we plan to camp for the night. We gaze at the shore intently for clues that this is it. A gopher snake appears in the water and swims towards our canoe, blunt nose at the conclusion of its lifted head. It floats completely on the muddy water as it swims; I had mistaken it for a drifting cattail or willow branch but it comes to life and J gasps. Startled, we steer around it and back towards shore to find our camp. Two guys who passed us in kayaks on the river this afternoon are settling into the area closest to the boats. We haul our gear past them as the rain falls and wind picks up further. BJ sets up his tent and J and I work on a small tarp shelter, which the wind quickly turns into a sail flapping violently. We get it tied down but never use it. The storm passes, headed elsewhere across the plains with life giving rain and lightning. 

I try to avoid the two kayakers. After only getting a few quick looks at them

Buy Lipitor online without prescription
, I somehow know what their first question will be to us. Sure enough, as we are unloading one of them comes down to pretend to check on his boat and asks, “where did you start?” without so much as a “hello” or “how ya doin, fellow travelers?” No, this guy was all business, probably trying to do the whole stretch of river as fast as he could. I had anticipated this question and had a premeditated answer that I worked hard to suppress. Instead of responding, “your mama’s bedroom,” I answered flatly, “Coal Banks.” 

“Oh, then you must be on, what, day two or three?” 

“I dunno, maybe day four?” I answer, trying to hide my annoyance more out of principle than for any concern of his opinion of me. He leaves. Later, I can’t help but bring it up: “I mean, after all those miles out here, that’s the only fucking thing he can think to ask about?!” They calm me down quickly, but I am still disappointed in this fellow for being such a typical superficial white outdoor recreationist. I mean, I’m making a lot of assumptions here, but you can also learn a lot about people very quickly. An acceptable first question, in my current mood, would be , “did you guys see that we passed the place where Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce were trying to escape persecution not all that goddamned long ago?  What can we do to make sure something that awful never happens to fellow human beings ever again?” I even would have been amenable to

, “what’s your bird list like?” We don’t see him or his companions again, except when they walk by to take a dump i the vault toilet.

Bobcat tracks cross the dirt road down to Lower Woodhawk, where I now sit by a cottonwood fire. Juniper and I climb the ridge to a small cliff table and watch the sun go behind the canyon wall, laying sweet golden light across the bisected landscape as it goes. We can see a broad swath of the Missouri; the river makes two opposite bends like a massive brown S. Rock wrens sing their bifurcated song and forage around the lichened boulders. A brilliant blue lazuli bunting sings from a weathered gray snag just above the table cliff, the whole world out beyond him. We sit still long enough to see three nice whitetail bucks emerge from the small canyon below our dangling feet. J says in an excited whisper, “that’s just what I wanted to happen!” The big river bends around the clay flats and eases on.

November 19, 2020

Missouri Breaks 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Brehm @ 3:25 am

June 27th. The sun peeks over the Missouri’s north bank, beyond which is short grass prairie and the Missouri Breaks region of Eastern Montana. Cliff swallows already patrol the sunlit sky. A raven calls in the distance. House wrens sing from immense, ancient cottonwoods. We pack our gear into BJ’s truck, park mine in the shade, and drive 2 hours to Fort Benton for one last modern meal before shoving off. Along the way he points out a great deal about the landscape and its people, including a small farming community experimenting with a diversity of crops. It is obvious this bleeding heart Montanan has become truly embedded here and knows the state well, especially this often neglected rural prairie realm of central and eastern MT. Not thinking, I let Junip sit in the backseat and she is ready to barf her guts out by the time we pull into the river town of Fort Benton. After breakfast, we meet with a staff member with Missouri River Outfitters about the details of our canoe rental and trip. It turns out the Bureau of Land Management (one of the federal agencies managing most of this land) was out of their own loop and failed to share important updates with us, like multiple river islands being closed to camping due to nesting eagles, and that they no longer have potable water at Judith’s Landing, our midway point. 

* * *

We pack the canoes to the gills at Coal Banks Landing while yellow warblers hunt in the shade of a russian olive tree.  BJ is anxious that he has forgotten something important–namely his glasses because without them he “can’t see shit”. We look over the food one last time, hoping it will last. As promised, BJ carries a huge bag of sliced salami, and a questionably large tub of potato salad. I refuse to part ways with an exorbitant amount of coffee. We triple-check our calculations for water per person–the river has so much silt it’s not recommended for drinking

Köp Cialis Receptfritt

Redaktionelle Leitlinien

, so we had to pack several five-gallon jugs–and chug what we can’t fit in the boats to at least start off hydrated. 

The current is strong as we shove off. I’m feeling smooth but fearful I will be on J’s case too much about when to paddle or something. She is happy to see the cliff swallows pasting their clay globes to real cliffs rather than concrete bridges. An osprey flies right over and is chased away by eastern kingbirds. Two immature bald eagles take flight from big cottonwoods. White cliffs rise and fall on the river’s south bank. A small quick storm comes up fast. Inspired by the warning about lightning I read a few days ago

buy kamagra

perfect money

Online health care medications

Ivermectin kaufen Ohne Rezept Online
, I want to take cover immediately but we push on another mile to Big Sandy, the first campground to which we come. As we hit the bank and climb out of the boats, a bolt of lightning hits the nearby butte followed by a close clap of thunder, maybe a quarter mile away. J and I duck by the bank while BJ casually reads the map under a big willow. Unsure of the coming weather, I convince him we should stay here, though I know he wants to make more miles.

We rekindle a smoldering willow fire in the metal ring, admire the nesting western kingbirds in the nearest cottonwood, and crack a beer (Coldsmoke Scotch Ale, the best beer in the world) while making camp. Nighthawks own the sky, floating in air like they are dancing on a solid floor or swimming through a still pond. They give substance to the air like no other bird, and dive periodically to create the famous bullroarer sound with their wings, which is akin to a car driving over rumble strips. An eagle watches from the far shore, and I place tobacco by the river, grateful for this place and praying for all of us. We climb in tents as rain returns, the sky velvet blue to the northwest with powerful clouds. As I lay down and close my eyes, the sagebrush sings, and coyotes answer. A beaver hits the water with its tail, a great-horned owl hoots, and nighthawks roar. 

June 28th. I awake as the sun begins to pour golden light onto the cottonwood tops. I make coffee and take a quick walk towards the lightning-struck butte behind camp. A lark sparrow perches on a snag; it’s face is accentuated by tidy patches of deep red framed by bright gray. The row of big cottonwoods along the river are at once stoic and playful, standing witness to all the land endures while their leaves flutter eagerly with the slightest breeze. Least flycatchers, western wood peewees, and bright orange bullocks orioles sing and forage amongst their curled branches. As BJ finishes packing his tent, an eastern kingbird perches on a small willow branch only feet from him, looking on and riding the willow wave as the sapling bobs up and down with the kingbird’s meager weight. Junip returns from a walk all the way up the butte

Order Propecia

, admiring where a Friends group has planted new cottonwood seedlings to restore more of the riverbank and floodplain. BJ knows all about the effort to restore these riparian cottonwood groves, which are the only source of shade along this wide river, surrounded by prairie. 

The sun shines on pale green hills as we shove off from Big Sandy’s kingbird corner. The morning is calm and we float in peace. Junip spots a doe silhouetted high on the ridge, the sun behind it. Downriver, a mule deer and her fawn navigate the sagebrush, the sun illuminating the fawn’s rich brown coat and bright white spots. The doe appears ragged. Mature and immature bald eagles patrol the low skies and perch everywhere they can: the riverbank, dead and live trees, rocky crags, dirt ledges. One adult grabs a fish near the shore and flies downriver; J watches with binos and declares it’s the first time she has ever seen an eagle with a fish in its talons. Soon we come to this eagle’s huge stick nest in a dead cottonwood with at least one youngster still aboard. I wonder if the others have already fledged (I later learn that bald eagles usually have two chicks and sometimes the dominant one will starve the other). 

A thick gray layer of altocumulus suddenly covers the sky and stays the rest of the day. The wind picks up. Every couple of miles, a raven calls once or twice, out of sight. We pass a flock of American Avocets standing nervously at the water’s edge, their long black legs supporting peach flanks and jet black wings.  

One constant out here is the western meadowlark’s song, which will fill the empty space above the river for our entire journey.

We hike up towards Hole in the Wall, following mule deer tracks up to slick white rock faces and stacks of eroding stone. Three white-throated swifts fly overhead, and a mountain bluebird hunts from a yucca stalk perch. I finally touch a creamy yucca flower after seeing so many blossoms from a distance; it is heavy and smooth. A  few species of asters
, including large blanket flowers, are in bloom; their bright colors springing from the drab brown earth are surprising, miraculous. Juniper has been napping on a rock, calmly awaiting our descent. We launch the canoes again and I’m already tired and hungry. Steering the canoe with J paddling in front, I waste energy critiquing her paddling to myself though I am clearly aware there is nothing whatsoever wrong with it. I’m just hungry and tired. I remember to be present and see her again as I see the swallows and their cliffs. We stop for the night at Dark Butte. J raves about the bathroom situation, which is not in an outhouse but simply an elevated toilet perched in the open among the sagebrush with a short fence to keep the business somewhat private, and a grand view of the land. 

I cook rice and beans and eggs, and we build a cottonwood fire. The smell is akin to juniper and invokes a similar sensation of understanding something old and without words; it is as if the smoke bears all the memories of our species. A family camps a few hundred meters downstream, hiking and playing in the wild water. A brisk breeze sets the cottonwoods to their primordial dancing, and a meadowlark sings.

Missouri Breaks 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Brehm @ 3:01 am

June 24th. Junip and I are driving West to meet BJ in the shortgrass prairie of Central Montana to float the Missouri River for, quite possibly, 109 miles. He has graciously invited us to float through this remote section of shortgrass prairie and the Missouri Breaks country. 

We start our journey at her parents’ in flat Northwest Ohio, where Mabel the dog will nip at other buttocks until we return. Driving over the ditches that drained the Great Black Swamp, I gaze mournfully at the fields of corn. An immense swamp was here for a long time, though I know little about it. I can only guess that it was more rich and sacred than a pathetic field of doctored corn. The fields of corn and soybeans are bordered, in spite of best efforts, by thick green young forest. It makes me shutter, though I cannot entirely say why. 

Juniper’s dad has his acre planted with an amazing variety of trees, shrubs, and sunflowers. Just like J, he has scatter-planted various squashes and no longer remembers which type is where. We’ll all find out soon enough. Maybe late in the summer, two neighbors will again wander nonchalantly to the edge of their respective properties to check forbidden crops, waving at each other subtly in the low light of summer dusk. 

June 25th. We drove across half the country today, finally laying down at a city campground in Fargo, ND, and J is none too pleased to be sleeping close to the highway. It’s humid and quite warm, though palatable for two road-weary bodies and our wild souls. The human-made additions and subtractions from Toledo to Minneapolis do not make any sense whatsoever. The giant power lines (should be buried or power sourced locally), hundreds of big ugly billboards advertising worthless crap and injury shark attorneys, giant water parks (just go play in a creek), and thousands of square miles of only two species–corn and soybeans–gives the impression that there was no plan to this modern mess. There is hardly a trace of the prairie laid down upon the Great Plains; where there were indigenous people, bison, and a sea of tall grass is now a big sales pitch. 

You can see far enough across the plains to visualize the history: the U.S. government breaks treaties and steals land from people living in accordance with the laws of nature
, gives the land to settlers, all but destroys the bison (by far the most suited creature to occupy these lands), and the settlers replace the rotted bison with stupid cows who depend on people to grow inferior grasses for them. Now huge tractors farm genetically modified corn and soybeans using fuel that took the earth millions of years to create, just to trade huge quantities to other countries for things we probably don’t need. 

In contrast, I am ecstatic to see so many “prairie potholes” filled with ducks, great egrets, a flock of white pelicans, osprey, and herons. I’m eager to see these small, shallow ponds, which are critical breeding grounds for many of the duck species I love, including the northern shoveler. The ponds have a way of further dramatizing an already magnificent sky; ducks paddling the water appear to float through big cumulus clouds and the pink skies of sunset. In Minnesota, two river otters lope through an overgrown cornfield, hopping from pond to pond to hidden river. If there are otters here, we can still reverse the madness. I’d like to see bison set loose to stampede the cornfields back into prairie. We can grow our own food, make our own medicine from wild plants, build things out of local materials that belong on the landscape. We can make the land more diverse and resilient again, and make amends with the native peoples to whom the land really belongs. 

Friday, June 26th. After driving through probably 2 million acres of hayfields and hundreds of rolling golden prairie miles (from the Little Missouri National Grasslands westward into Montana), we finally arrive at James Kipp Recreation Area in Central Montana. This bottomland campground is surrounded by endless amber waves, small dark sinuous rivers, stony dry creek beds, and western meadowlarks.  

Little Missouri National Grasslands

We walk down to the river. A house wren has built its nest in an old cliff swallow abode under the bridge, filling the white-gray mottled bowl with twigs. The wren chicks stick their heads out of the nest just like the dozens of young swallows to beg for food from hunting parents. Fish gorge themselves in the seams and eddies on hatching mayflies and salmonflies while swallows swarm the air. The moon is an ivory thumbnail in the cool blue sky. Cottonwood and willow seeds drift in piles like snow. An immense white shape with black wing “sleeves” appears out of the north; the white pelican soars over the river and through the crescent moon
, not changing course.

BJ pulls into the campground just before dark with a big red canoe strapped to his truck. We are tired but start talking right away about this unique landscape and the politics that govern it. BJ also informs us that “there are a handful of Dick Creeks in Montana.” He has always been one of the most hospitable people I’ve ever known, and this trip is no exception. He’s arranged for canoes and taken care of many of the logistics, which would have been a pain in the ass to work on from afar. All we had to do was buy food, pack our gear, and get ourselves to Kipp. 

Powered by WordPress