Today I volunteered to go out with the US Forest Service to help do some things in the forest. It was great to get back in the woods with the Forest Service again. I saw some more new territory and some amazing scenery. What started out as a grey overcast day ended up being a beautiful, partly-cloudy day in the mountains. The area most of these pictures were taken just has the classic Montana feel to it. Look at them and you can see where the term “Big Sky Country” comes from.
My first trip to the state was in 1987-88 when I was on the road doing concert work. I remember looking out the window as we passed Little Big Horn Battlefield and I understood the Big Sky analogy that very moment. If you have ever been in that area you understand.
I thought I would share a few pictures and a video from the day. Turn down your sound as the audio is just wind noise; it was extremely windy up on top about 9500 feet above sea level. I believe the video was the area known as Ruby Valley, the view is west from where we were.
I first saw him on the travel shows hosted by my favorite travel host Anthony Bourdain. Chef Andrés is so passionate about food – good, simple food – that he makes you want to try it all. WCK helps out so not just people in disaster areas can eat, but he outsources much of the cooking to local restaurants to help keep their doors open and keep their staff employed. It is a pretty impressive organization.
In the last paragraph of the article the interviewer asks “Talk to me about the power of travel to open hearts and minds.”
Chef Andrés: “It is important for us to travel, to meet people who seem different from us. You realize that they aren’t that different. We are all together on this planet, and we need to be working together more. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we have an amazing opportunity to get to know who we are and where we live. To look at things through another lens and appreciate the beauty of the planet we have.”
This takes what I have previously said about travel and elevates it to a whole other level…an important level. A level we need to think about more.
Be sure to read the whole article I linked to and check out the link to WCK as well; it is a short article and will only take a few minutes. There are opportunities all over; one opportunity is they are looking for volunteers to help feed firefighters battling the wildfires in California. Of course you can donate money as well as time.
I really didn’t go to a lot of concerts in the days before the T-virus (last one was Riverside in Seattle in June 2019) but I know how important it is for bands to tour to make money and that is not happening right now. The music I listen to is not very commercially popular as opposed to mainstream radio-play music so these bands live hand-to-mouth constantly, and some even have regular jobs to supplement their incomes to just be able to play and create their music. This means that all but the biggest acts are struggling along with the venues they play in – from Irish pubs to your local bar and theater.
I have been trying to support some of my favorite bands by buying CDs and DVDs directly from them (and not through Apple Music, Amazon, etc.). I want the bands I enjoy listening to to get as much of the money as possible from my purchases. I have received CDs and DVDs from bands in England (IQ, Marillion) and Norway (Green Carnation) so far and plan to do more to support them and other acts I enjoy listening to. And, since I cannot see them live (which I do buy tickets to these tours when possible) having a concert DVD gives me a chance to see them “live”. Many of the bands I listen to never even make it here to the US so it’s either a DVD or I schedule my next Europe trip to see them…we almost did on our first trip over!
Another way to support your favorite acts is on the Bandcamp website. The website was giving up their revenue share portion on Fridays so it would go straight to the artists (not sure if they are still doing that or not). That’s a fantastic gesture to help support indie artists and I have taken advantage of that to help even more. Stop by and check it out and you might discover some new music by some new artists. I have seen free music, music for set prices, and even name your own price on some artist pages as well as some great deals buying collections (Porcupine Tree, Silent Island, Black Hill, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster). Just support them directly however you can! And yes…I know you may not have heard of any of these bands or probably think they have weird names.
I have seen articles where many of the museums around the world are in trouble and many may close or never reopen. That is so sad to hear as our history is so important for future generations to see where we have been. I purchased an annual museum pass to help out museums in Ireland. I will be going back soon (hopefully) so I can use it to get in to places, plus it supports my ancestral castle as well.
My Interagency Pass – some mistakenly call it the National Parks Pass – is a great deal and it supports all Federal Lands. If you want to support a particular National Wildlife Refuge, National Park or National Forest then purchase one at that particular place they get to keep 80% of the money on that Refuge, Park or Forest! Pick your favorite place and buy it there and not at an outdoor retailer (not to mention any names); that money all goes into a general fund.
Free admission to all Federal lands for a year…not a bad deal at all. And a Senior Pass is $80 for a lifetime card with 50% discounts for campgrounds on top of free entry with the card if you are over 62. A little hint – buy it early in the month and it expires at the end of the same month the following year; it’s basically a free month! Just remember the pass has to stay with the owner – you loan it you can lose it.
There are so many small things we can do that help. You don’t have to be a philanthropist to donate (I’m certainly not wealthy) but even just a few dollars here and there to support something near and dear to you makes a difference!
Earlier I mentioned wildfires but some relief is here!
Rain!!! We are finally getting some rain as I type this post. It has been months since we had any real rain here and this will do wonders to clear the air up some and help put out some of the fires in the area. Before the rains we had some hellacious winds – probably 50+ mph – and I am sure those did not help firefighter efforts, but there is rain falling and that will. I had to park my truck next to my trailer to keep the trailer from getting blown over and the wind ripped the top of the chicken coop off. Then Auntie Em flew by…
I’m thinking that, along with helping get some of the fires under control, this rain might help open up some other possibilities for my upcoming adventure. I guess I need to look at some fire info to see what is open and closed before I decide to go someplace and even see if I can get anywhere. I have been checking the pandemic outbreak maps and some places I wanted to go I will certainly be avoiding.
I started working on a new song for my ongoing opus called The Neverending Suite (which is currently just shy of 19 minutes long). I got the lyrics completed a few days ago (well, for now as far as I know). I have had a lot on my mind and it came flying out through my fingertips; most of it in about 30 minutes, and I decided to add another verse two days later when it wandered into my thoughts. Next step is to take a few music ideas I have and put the two together. It’s never an easy task as I tend to want to add a lot of layers for texturing, but I am getting a little more disciplined about doing that. It’s been a while since I have put a song together but when it’s time to write it just happens, not to mention there has been a lot of time to think about a lot of things.
Earlier this year I started reworking the last section I recorded last year but got sidetracked with life, Europe, a pandemic, and moving. It’s not like I have not had the time; I just have not been in the songwriting frame of mind lately. The reworking ended up being a bit more complicated than I thought it would be but I will probably be getting back on it soon so I can get this new part of the song to tie in after it. It’s good therapy too.
It’s been some time since I have heard the song so I think I will have a listen to it and close out this post.
A few days ago, I was talking with a couple of visitors here at the refuge. I told them that we are having a volunteer orientation coming up and I could get him in touch with the coordinator. The guy then said he was a DJ and asked me if I would go on the radio on KSQM, the local radio station, to talk about the Refuge. We will be discussing the upcoming Volunteer Orientation for those interested in joining us and helping out. I am sure other things will come up as well so we will hear what happens. It should be fun.
I got it cleared with the office so it looks like I am returning to the airwaves, albeit for a short time this time. The show this DJ does plays 60s music so there will be both music and talking when we are on the air.
It will be fun doing some radio once again. It has been a long time since I had a radio show – if you can call 12 years a long time. Well… I guess you can.
I went for a 120 mile ride this morning. I headed west toward Neah Bay in the NW corner of the continental U.S., just like I tried before in my car. I got out a bit later than I wanted to, but the weather was rainy to start with so I held off a bit waiting for a break.
My break came and I hit the road with the sun leading me on. I went west on 101 to highway 112. Highway 112 is a great drive, and an even better ride on a bike. The road goes past a lot of beautiful scenery – some farms, livestock, the Strait, forest… it is a really good road to enjoy in a car, but on a bike it is on another level. The road twists and winds through all this amazing area and just really makes you happy to be there. There are plenty of good straightaways, twists, turns, and hills through all of this wonderful scenery to keep you interested and wanting to go on for more. With all of the twists and turns it is not a fast road on the bike for me (well, not yet!) but so much fun. A word of caution to anyone else on two wheels – there are a few spots that are quite rough, but the highway department has put up signs warning motorcyclists of these rough spots. Heed these warnings… trust me.
I knew with the time getting later I would not be able to make it to Neah Bay, but I just wanted to ride. No destination… just ride and enjoy the day. I got out to the intersection of highway 112 and highway 113, which goes south to Forks for all you Twihards. It was there that the winds started to pick up and the drizzle got a little heavier so I put on my rain pants and turned around to head back toward home.
Riding back I am just soaking it all in… the road, the scenery, the freedom. One thing I failed to notice before was the snow-capped mountains to the south. It is so incredible that I can ride along the Strait, and there are these gorgeous snowy mountains right there at the same time. One of these days I will get up there into them, but The Spit and the water have really captured my attention since I have been here. I guess living in them in Colorado all those years may have given me my fix, but I will always love the mountains. I have just been enjoying so many other things around me, but I will eventually get back into them. One ride I want to take in into Canada to Whistler/Blackcomb in the warmer weather… AFTER I finally get to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery.
I needed to get back to get ready to go to the Volunteer Banquet that the refuge hosts for the Volunteers to say thanks and hand out awards after eating a nice dinner. The food was really good and it was a good time chatting with volunteers I have worked with and some I have not met yet but will get to work with this summer. After we ate they did a video presentation of events from the last year and of birds and animals taken on the various parts of the refuge lands. I was watching it and it really made me realize the impact of the efforts that the volunteers and staff are doing at not just this refuge, but all refuges and wild lands and it makes me proud to be a part of making a difference. This is one really special place. One of the big bosses from our region office in Portland was here for other business and stayed for and spoke at the banquet. He said that nationwide U.S. Fish and Wildlife volunteers do the equivalent work of over 700 full-time employees, with a savings of well over a million dollars to the budget.
Volunteers are a vital part of the work getting done in refuges (as well as other public lands – even other types of volunteering are important), and freeing up this kind of money helps those resources go farther and do more projects that need to be done. I have a great job in a great place, but it feels good to do this kind of work. It is quite gratifying to be a part of making a difference and if you have the urge to go volunteer to help for a cause, then go out and do it.
After the speeches awards were handed out for hours volunteered and for the Volunteer of the Year award. Caretakers, such as myself, are exempt from the big award (because we work so many hours), but I was not expecting to be recognized for 500 hours last year in the short time I was here by the end of the year. We get these cool pins for milestones of hours, and a certificate of appreciation. That certificate and those pins, and what they stand for, means so much more to me than any phony 15-year certificate I got from other places just because some anniversary date rolled around and it was time to act like an employer actually gave a damn about you when you know they didn’t appreciate anything you did or even cared about you as a person.
Here I am appreciated as a person and for what I do. And that is a great feeling to have for the first time in a long time.