The Wilderness Experience

Black Rapids, Alaska. September 2011

A person with a clear heart and open mind can experience the wilderness anywhere on earth. It is a quality of one’s own consciousness. The planet is a wild place and always will be. And we’re surrounded by the greatest of all wildernesses — the universe.
— Gary Snyder, NY times 1994

Wednesday Thoughts

When White Men set aside areas for Conservation so that Tourists could come and see the Beauty of Their/Our? Land or the “Ethnic Cleansing and America’s National Parks”

In 1872 the very first National Park was formed, not only the first in US but in all of the world, Yellowstone National Park. This was not the first time an area was set aside from expansion though, other areas such as Yosemite Valley in 1864 (Yosemite Grant Act) and Hot Springs in Arkansa in 1832 (Supposedly the first National Park but since congress failed to pass legislation, there were no controls over the area). My own impression of the wordings of some of these wilderness acts were that no one, not even the natives were to live in these areas. Environmentalists, conservationists and writers such as John Muir shared those views. To conserve and view the wilderness as something pure and wild, and we should only connect to the wilderness spiritually by observation, and so all the Native American populations across the US that previously had populated these wild and pure areas were moved and relocated to reservations. It was not as easy as the previous sentence make it sound, and ended with wars and massacres between the native Americans and the US Army, for instance the Nez Perce War in 1877. Obviously, to preserve and keep these wild areas free of anyone living there was not the only, and certainly not the main reason for the creation of reservations across the US. Just like in other places, like in Sweden, the country’s relationship with the natives is a complicated one. In some way ironic that white men would set aside these areas for conservation so that tourists could come and see the beauty of the land, but without the natives who once depended on these landscapes for survival, and had roamed these areas for thousands of years. In 1994 we got the Native American Policy, that most recently was revised in 2016, a step in the right direction when it comes to acknowledging the native population and their culture. I think it’s a complicated but important topic, we want to enjoy seeing these protected areas, but sometimes fail to understand the somewhat dark history about the creation of them. And what I am writing here is not by any way short of how many countries have treated their native population, or the whole story about how the US have treated (and currently is treating) their native population. I encourage you, if you are interested, to read more about the culture and history of Native Americans, or any other Native population across the globe.

Denali National Park, Alaska. June 2011

We took away their country and their means of support, broke up their mode of living, their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them and it was for this and against this they made war. Could anyone expect less?
— Gen. Philip H. Sheridan

Through Active Ancient Land

Adventure Tuesday

Yellowstone National Park - Winter Edition

Mammoth Hot springs

Since we always enter from the northern entrance, by the small town of Gardiner, we get access to the most northern part of the park in the wintertime. Though you can’t get to Old Faithful with the car, you can get to Mammoth Hot Springs. If you can’t go to Yellowstone at all, you can always tune in to one of the many webcams that the national park service provide. There are several covering the northern part, and one of them can be found by the Mammoth Hot Springs. Precipitation (both rain and snow) that falls on the surrounding mountains slowly makes its way down through the soil and continues deep belowground. Eventually the water is heated up before it finally sees daylight again when it leaves the deeper soil and is forced upward and creates the Mammoth Hot Springs.

Colors, Art and Science

It’s pretty cool to see the art that constantly forms with the combination of hot steam and cold air. Snow and ice surrounding the hot springs makes for the perfect art formation. The hot springs at Mammoth are one of the most accessible hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. They are just a few miles from the entrance in Gardiner which makes for an easy excursion. The bedrock underlying Mammoth Hot Springs mainly consist of limestone. When the deep water slowly makes its way upwards it has formed carbonic acid (due to the carbon dioxide that the water has collected belowground) which dissolves the limestone and forms calcium carbonate. When the calcium carbonate finally reach the surface it is deposited and forms travertine which is the rock that forms all the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Freezing Temperatures and Changing Colors

The hot springs constantly change and that is one of the greatest things about them. Either the flow of the water changes dues to freezing temperatures, or tectonic changes belowground triggers the water to change its route and sometimes even its temperature and other characteristics. Some of the hot springs even dry out for several decades, before they start to flow again. There have also been times when the hot springs flow has increased so much that the boardwalk gets under water. If you can time your excursion through the hot springs with some sunset or sunrise you should. The colors of the sky will reflect in the hot springs, and that is always amazing to see. It will be a completely different experience compared to the daytime excursion. The color of the hot springs themselves, blue, orange and green are caused by differences in temperatures and pH which allow for different bacteria to thrive and live there. Another good thing about freezing temperatures, other than all the art that is created, is that a lot fewer people will venture out at all. If its 10 or 20 below no one will be here.

The Terraces

Mammoth hot springs consist of two levels, the lower and upper terrace. Small parts of the area is wheelchair accessible, but to get to the upper terrace you either have to walk up some stairs, or access it from a different road, which I think is closed in the wintertime. Either way, if you are able to walk around you definitely should check out all the different springs at both the lower and upper terrace. You might see less of the different hot springs after a big dump of snow, so that might not be super fun. The photos below are all from the upper terrace level. All the photos above is sort of a mixture of all the different springs on both the upper and lower level.

Have you ever seen Mammoth Hot Springs in the wintertime?

America's Last Truly Great Wilderness

IMG_0719-June 30, 2010.jpg
To be a wilderness then was to be “deserted,” “savage,” “desolate,” “barren”—in short, a “waste,” the word’s nearest synonym. Its connotations were anything but positive, and the emotion one was most likely to feel in its presence was “bewilderment” or terror.
— William Cronon - The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature

Wednesday Thoughts

Arctic Wildlife Refuge

1002 Area

A whole different story from the chanting of “Build that Wall” that I wrote about last week, but still almost the same is going on in the most northern parts of Alaska. The development of the 1002 area, better known as "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins". I have written about it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s been up for debate several times during the past 40 years, but now we are facing the reality of this government and the development of this area. Several articles have been written about Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and that we need to protect it. One of the, for me, most famous instances is the first minute or so in Patagonia’s video the Refuge below. It’s an old recording from hearings in the house, clipped together with environmentalists and other callers to a tv-show. One of the people talking over the phone, who clearly has never been up in Alaska or ANWR describes the "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins" as “Tundra known as wasteland, there is nothing out there, virtual plains as far as the eye can see”. Its a very strong moment in the video and it also highlights the problem of people’s perceptions about wilderness and nature, just look at the old perception about wilderness quoted above from Bill Cronon’s The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.

The Porcupine Herd

The Arctic Refuge now contains the largest area of designated Wilderness within the National Wildlife Refuge System, covering about 19.64 million acres of land and water. The history behind the name “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins" that the Gwich'in people call it has to do with how the Caribou utilizes the large area. The porcupine herd utilizes a far greater area than the 1002 area, but come spring and early summer this is THE area all the Caribou from the Porcupine herd utilize as calving area, which makes it a very important area. Click on this LINK if you want to see the migration of the Porcupine herd with beautiful images. If you want to read the absolute latest (as of early January 2019) about the development in ANWR follow this LINK, or read this blogpost for more detailed information. To comment on the draft of Environmental Impact Statement that BLM put together follow this LINK, and you can read more about how to comment and why HERE, also in the actual Environmental Impact Statement. You have until February 11 to submit a comment. You can also submit your comment by mail:

Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS
222 West 7th Avenue, Stop #13
Anchorage, Alaska 99513 -7504

 

I find it important to think about and share the issues we are facing in this day and age. I tend to focus on the environment and wilderness since those areas lay very close to my heart. What current issues are you burning for?