Carter Niemeyer: Meeting the Man Himself

“The Man, the myth, the legend.” I took Carter Nimeyer’s outstretched hand. He gave a chuckle.

I had been trying to track down Carter since I first learned of his existence back in June. Over the summer a handful of people—then it began to seem like everyone—I talked to in the wolf business, and in the wildlife business in general, told me you know who you really should talk to? Carter Niemeyer.

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The Life and Death of a Bison Calf

I have spent the last two months in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem working on a book about public lands, wildlife and people’s connection to ‘wild’ spaces. I’ve had countless conversations with strangers about the famous bison calf who was put into the back of a tourist’s car and then euthanized by the park service when the herd failed to take it in. The sensational headlines have grabbed the public, demonized the sympathetic father and son, blaming them for a tragedy that likely was never going to have a happy ending for the lone calf. Not one person I met had thought about how the tourists got the calf into the car or read the few articles in circulation that include perhaps the most important fact: the calf was not happily standing by mom before it took that famous ride in the back seat of an SUV. It was likely already abandoned.

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In the Light of a Blood Moon

The sun set behind the distant ridgeline and left a yellow glow on the horizon. I had returned to the ridge where we watched the moonrise the previous night. Soon the moon would rise again, but tonight was the last lunar eclipse in the tetrad. The last light of day suffused purple on the yellow and red soils of the Painted Hills. I kept an eye on the horizon imagining a bitten orb[1] rising bright above the hills, but it took its time.

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Crystal Lake Reflections

This morning I arose with the sun, or shortly there after, which is an anomaly for me, a night owl who is more likely to see 2:00 AM than six—even seven—in the morning. I wanted to get a good hike in before a long day on the road. The alarm went off at 6:01am and by 6:50 I had rolled out of bed, dressed, refilled water bottles, stowed everything for the drive, cranked Anita’s top down, driven to the trailhead and began climbing the switchbacks from George Lake, just out side of Mammoth Lakes. By 7:30 I had hiked 1.75 miles, climbed close to 1,000 feet and arrived at Crystal Lake’s glassy water nestled beneath granite cliffs and spires.

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Jackson: Like a fish to water in Hidden Lake, Trinity Alps

Raindrops began falling and gray came in all around the pushed out the morning’s blue sky. So the three of us put on rain gear—my dad and I in matching rain pants and thin-shelled jackets, Jackson in his red coat. We set out for Hidden Lake with no notion of the distance or difficulty but free from the car and content to venture out until half way ‘til dark.

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Walking at the Bottom of Trinity Lake

Curious about the capped spigots in the campground I wandered into the Coffee Creek ranger station. A young looking ranger with piercing blue eyes and a military hair cut greeted us shyly.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I was wondering which of your campgrounds have water.”

“I’m not sure miss, I’ll have to ask my supervisor.” He disappeared into the offices in the back and was promptly replaced by another ranger in baggy forest service pants and a cobalt T-shirt that hugged his muscular arms. He looked like a younger George Clooney but with bright hazel eyes and a casual manner.

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The Sound of Silence: Ackerman Campground, Lewiston Lake, Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area

The sweetness of scotch broom hangs in the warm, soft air. It is still, and the stillness is filling, as if the quiet peacefulness of this place might hold you up in it. A light breeze picks up and rustles the thick leaves in the tree above me. The echoing wind high in the pines stirs the soul; then the quietness returns. Chirps and whistles of birds in the nearby pines accent the silence, for it is not really silent at all, but void of all the noises we grow accustomed to in cities. When those noises no longer sound we sense their absence as perfect stillness; it is only after a moment of drinking in that silence that our ears make room and we begin to take in the sounds of nature—the buzzing insects and the whispers in the grass, the depth to the birdsong, each song overlapping, from near and far their melodies intermixing.

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Home Sweet Home on Wheels

IMG_6085Jack and I are taking to the road. Our mode of transportation is a beast, or more lovingly the beast: a combination of Wiley, a three quarter ton Chevy pickup with four wheel drive AND four wheel steering—a grandiose hand-me-down from my soon to be father-in-law—and a slide in, pop-up camper nicknamed Anita after my maternal grandmother who had a travel bug to rival mine.

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Backpacking to Duck Lake, John Muir Wilderness

My parents took me backpacking outside of Ketchum, Idaho practically every summer of my childhood starting when I was 3 or 4. I loved being totally immersed in the mountain forests. I am lucky to have been exposed to the incredible isolation and remote wilderness that backpacking brings from a young age. I am also fortunate to have been taught the skills needed to be so isolated from civilization. We brought my best friend, Josie, to Idaho with us when I was in high school and she predictably fell immediately in love with it. This summer I decide to plan a trip to take four of my best girlfriends backpacking. For two of them it would be their first trip.

IMG_9908I selected the Duck Pass trail in the John Muir Wilderness for a few reasons. 1. It looked incredibly beautiful 2. The trail passed 3 smaller lakes on the way to Duck Lake. I wasn’t sure how well everyone would do hiking with packs so the lower lakes gave us alternative camping options 3. The trail to Duck didn’t seem to long or challenging but was far enough to get us out of most day hiking range. 4. There were trails that we could day hike on once we set up camp.

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