Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Harper's Ferry

My brother and I went to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia yesterday, middled around, and hiked 5 miles of the Appalachian Trail. This is the least remote part of the AT perhaps, with part of the trail running directly through the three block town of Harper's Ferry. It is also headquarters for the AT support organization. We walked along the C & O canal--I think that's the name of the old canal---which parallels the Potamac River. Geographically, it was sort of interesting, in that we started hiking in West Virginia, after driving from Virginia, and crossed a railroad trestle into Maryland. It wouldn't be that hard to knock off Pennsylsvania in the mix as well--Harper's Ferry sits at the confluence on the Shennandoah and Potomac Rivers, which both form state boundaries.
The area was gorgeous, everything I was hoping to see in coming back this time of year. The fall colors of the deciduous trees are amazing, and a few of these pics hint at it. Rich reds, yellows, greens and browns coating the hills. We saw a deer, some geese, old rock structures, and we squashed a nickel under a train. I have other pics which I'm not able to upload right now, but it's good stuff. I'm looking forward to my Mount Masochist run, which will be in this sort of tree cover, I think. I'll be hurting--I ran USMC really slow this past weekend, and still I feel sore, because it was pavement I suppose. It was one big cattleherd through some great sites. Speed tourism.
Harper's Ferry is interesting for a number of reasons. It's a National Park. The town was the site of a battle during the Civil War, and the place where John Brown led a slave revolt against their captors. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as calling it one of the most beautiful places in the world. Getting beyond the history, which I really wasn't into that much anyway, it is a quiet little town which has the comfortable feel of a remote tourism destination, with pubs, craft shops, a rustic railroad station, the convergence of two Appalachian valleys, and a key stop for thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail. I stopped in at a really cool supply store for thru-hikers, the first floor of which was completely made of bedrock stone carved by the rivers. I told my folks that if I lived back here, it would be somewhere like this.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Weasel sighting tonight. Mostly white, black face, loping, same as the critter above otherwise. It looked sort of like a ferret. I now know that long tailed weasels ("mustela frenata") moult to white in the north, as winter approaches. I also saw the big porcupine again, on the same run. I'm sure it's the same one as last week---I bet it's there every night--it was in almost exactly the same place, and it had the exact same waggle. The porcupine's needles almost glowed in the dark--I didn't even need my headlamp to see it. Thinking of starting a wildlife channel. Probably will keep things to the blog for now. Here's a weasel distribution map:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Desert Solitaire

I finished Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire today. Written in the late 1960s, it is a non-fiction book about his summers as a ranger in Arches National Park, before the area became known. I think its fair to say that environmentalists list it way up there on the conservation literature book shelf, with Silent Spring, A Sand County Almanac, and Walden. It definitely has an anarchist feel to it--sort of reminds me of Jack Kerouac, but better, although occasionally tedious too. Abbey spends most of the time talking about Arches, but there are some great stories of Canyonlands, the Colorado River, and the locals. Recommend it.
"We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. I may never in my life get to Alaska, for example, but I am grateful that it's there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis." Ed Abbey, Desert Solitaire.
I've been thinking about wilderness and conservation philosophy a bunch this year--hence, the post. I took a course in college called History of Conservation, which was essentially a survey of some of the big conservation writers, which in turn is really a survey of eco-philosophy. It's been almost 15 years now, but some of our discussions still stick with me, and with all my trail running, are becoming of renewed importance. We spent a fair amount of time debating the value of preservation v. conservation. Abbey is on the more radical end of the spectrum, endorsing putting people in one place and putting wilderness elsewhere. Sort of an anti-people vision, and in fact the book debates the value of civilization at one point. A friend and I recently attended a presentation by Dave Foreman, one of the EarthFirst leaders in the 90s, who is now pushing for something he calls "rewilding," which as I understood it, is about rededicating major corridors across North America for the free passage of big critters. I'm not anti-people, but I do like wilderness. Notably, we do have a new wilderness area up here in Northwest Washington, called the Wild Sky Wilderness, somewhere north of Highway 2, and Rep. Larsen gets big props from me for pushing that through.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Two Porcupines

I headlamped two porcupines the other night, while running after work. They are slow, slower than me even! They were in separate spots on Blanchard, but not too far apart, so maybe they are Friends. One had its quills all up on end, and it looked huge. Picture by NPS, "public domain," via wikimedia, yadi yadi yadi oww.