Your Life Nature

Connecting You With Nature, No Matter Where Your Feet Are

Category: Blog (Page 1 of 15)

Welcome to “The Enchanted Earth”

Longtime friend and colleague Maureen Calamia recently launched “The Enchanted Earth” podcast, a platform well suited for conversations about deepening our connection with nature, ourselves, others, and the larger world.

I’ve watched several of these 25-minute episodes, and enjoyed the diversity of backgrounds, expertise and insights guests have shared and brought to Maureen’s growing audience and community.

In my particular episode (see link below), I enjoyed speaking with Maureen about working as a park service ranger and naturalist guide in Yellowstone, especially in winter, its longest and most unforgiving season.

It’s a time and place  few get to experience and get a glimpse of, and a rather otherworldly landscape surprisingly full of life both on, beneath and below the surface. Not surprisingly, Yellowstone only has about 400,000 annual winter visitors, in contrast to the million-plus visitors arriving in July, August and September alone.

In our conversation I also shared how dreams and other messages can profoundly impact our lives, and how nature is continually in communication with us, no matter where our feet are, provided we stay open and present.

Some of Maureen’s guests, including yours truly, will also share life-changing stories inspired by nature connection in an upcoming book she will be publishing, The Enchanted Earth.

Below you’ll find a link to our wide-ranging 25-minute interview on “The Enchanted Earth” podcast and feel free to share this with others.

All of Maureen’s  episodes are archived on her YouTube channel, so feel free to check out some of them as well!

And I’d also love to hear how our conversation resonated with you, too.

Watch and enjoy my interview on The Enchanted Earth podcast here:

Winter In Yellowstone with Hobie Hare-The Enchanted Earth Podcast

Face Your Fears, Follow Your Bliss

Although Erik and I don’t own a television, I’ve managed to become a convert of the “9-1-1: Lone Star” series, which chronicles the lives of firefighters, police officers and paramedics in a precinct of Austin, Texas.

What’s kept me glued to the show is the ongoing relationship between paramedic and recovering opioid addict T.K. Strand (Ronen Rubinstein) and police officer Carlos Reyes (Rafael Silva), and the joys, excitement, passion and challenges of a couple navigating life together.

I look forward to each episode and the characters’ evolving stories, especially those of “Tarlos,” a nickname viewers have given the couple, especially since their engagement and impending nuptials.

The following quote by Entertainment Weekly’s Patrick Gomez is about T.K. and Carlos, but I believe it’s sage advice for approaching life’s uncertainties and unknowns, regardless of your relationship status, how much money you have, or wherever your feet may be.

“… nobody has figured it out. And that’s what figuring it out is about: realizing that you don’t know what you don’t know, and to maybe not close off possible avenues out of fear.”

That can be mighty damn liberating, turning fear on its head, instead being curious, open and unattached to how (or whether) something turns out, taking novel approaches toward challenges and opportunities, and allowing creativity and excitement to supersede anything fear throws our way.

Meeting fear head on and moving through it requires giving up entrenched habits, routines, and ways of thinking that keep us stuck.

Perfection, procrastination, pessimism and people pleasing are common manifestations of fear in the “real world” where humanity dwells; fortunately, the natural world encourages us to trust our instincts, follow our bliss, keep taking action, pivot when necessary, and surrender to the shape and form of outcomes.

Consider the transformational journey from egg, to larva, to pupae, to full-fledged butterfly, and the inestimable odds it takes for one egg to progress to become that butterfly.

Or ponder the annual migrations of countless bird species for better mating and young raising opportunities, then migrating again when it’s time to find better resources elsewhere.

For many people in western Montana, it’s thrilling to witness ospreys return in early spring, re-establish a nest and incubate their eggs following a long Big Sky style winter. By late May/early June we’re all hoping those eggs have successfully hatched, by mid-summer the fledglings have learned to fly and to fish, and by fall they’ve successfully migrated to their winter home again.

Imagine tiny seeds (about the size of a tomato seed) improbably becoming California redwoods, growing two to six feet annually under optimum conditions, eventually towering over 300 feet high with a diameter of over 20 feet, living for over 3,000 years.

Even wildfires occurring with more frequently and intensity in northern California rarely claim the lives of Sequoia sempervirens. Oddly enough, redwoods also depend on fire to release 150 to 200 seeds from one-inch cones to increase their chances of reproductive success.

Of course, there are no guarantees for anyone or any being’s success.

Uncertainty is omnipresent, opportunities abound as well.

Random events and other factors routinely make or break things in or out of our favor.

Yet the natural world continually seems to reward those who are persistent, who keep showing up, and who are ready, flexible and able to pivot when circumstances change, as they inevitably will.

And this is an enduring, evergreen, and immeasurable gift.




The Call of the Wild

On a frosty late January morning, I caught the tail end of a predator-prey interaction, right from my office window!

A sudden thud revealed the predator’s success, as a sharp-shinned hawk nailed a starling mid-flight, forcing it to the ground, then stepping on its neck with strong, sharp talons until it died.

The predator extended his wings to conceal his kill, wary of crows, magpies and other scavengers seeking to usurp his efforts. The sharp-shinned hawk quickly ascended to our front yard arbor vitae trees with its prize as a few people walked by, then afterwards returned to the ground to resume eating. Some minutes later a larger group of pedestrians startled the hawk, and it flew off for good!

Sharp-shinned hawks tend to be opportunistic predators in urban, suburban and rural settings, especially when there are bird feeders and bird houses involved. We see them more often in winter in Missoula, often perched atop Douglas fir or Engelmann spruce trees on windy and inclement days, waiting for the moment to strike and hopefully eat again.

None of our immediate neighbors have active bird feeders or bird houses at this time of year, yet there are robust, resident flocks of pigeons and starlings, and ample aerial cover for the birds that hunt them in turn. Years ago Erik and I watched a kestrel kill an unsuspecting songbird and consume it on our backyard fence, but witnessing this encounter from a closer distance made me feel that I was in Yellowstone or another wilder place.

And that last thought keeps coming back to me, that we don’t have to physically be in a remote place to experience and reconnect with the wild.

The wild surrounds us no matter wherever we are, from the unpredictability and unforgiving nature of winter weather, to whether animals go hungry, eat or get eaten.

The wild also resides within us-our connection to the planet, to fellow humans and to other species has been hard-wired into our nature long before electricity, combustion engines, non-renewable energy sources and countless devices ushered us ever more deeply into the “real world.”

Yet the wild isn’t villainous in how it reacts to or treats its inhabitants and ecosystems. There are no favorites, no pre-determined winners and losers. In fact it doesn’t seem wild at all compared to how human beings and systems have savagely treated the planet and each other at times.

Like sharp-shinned hawks and starlings, we all have needs alongside opportunities every moment we’re alive. Let’s seize those moments. Let’s do all we can to create a sustainable, just world reflecting our collective humanity and potential, and provide for and protect the wild nature with whom we share this planet.

There’s always room for both.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Water Main Burst photo copyright Hobie Hare 2023.

Water Main Burst photo copyright Hobie Hare 2023.

Wintery weather landed (and has stayed) in Montana way back in early November, and we haven’t had continuous bare ground in town for nearly three months now.

Since the holidays we’ve experienced gray, overcast conditions, persistent freeze-thaw cycles, and occasional light snow covering the crunchy consolidating layer underneath. Whenever the sun peeks out, Erik and I literally run outside to soak up whatever Vitamin D is available, startling our sleepy cat Ren in the process.

Overall, life has been flowing at a slower, more relaxed pace following the busy holiday season, but things became very exciting at home a while back.

One evening last week, I heard booming percussion style fireworks being launched somewhere nearby. Then the wind increased rapidly to a strong and steady speed. I shrugged that off, too, thinking a cold front accompanied by light snow had arrived earlier than forecasted.

The first sound was not completely unusual, as fireworks lovers in town tend to launch them around July Fourth, New Year’s, and at random times. The second sound was also not concerning, as Montana can certainly be a windy place.

Several minutes later, I responded to loud knocking at our door. Someone from the fire department let me know a nearby water main had burst, ushering a torrent of foot deep water flowing down the street, swiftly rising up over sidewalks and creating lagoons in people’s front yards.

From our front door, it looked like Walt Disney had gotten a hold of Old Faithful, with troubling consequences.

There was no time to overthink-I put on more outdoor clothes, then waded through four inches of water to my car on a 34 degree night, and quickly drove it to another block where the elevation was slightly higher.

I alerted Erik  to what was happening, and let him know that our kitty, Ren, had been outside prowling when the incident happened.

At first, she was nowhere to be seen. I put on a headlamp and looked up through the canopy of the front yard arbor vitae trees, places she traditionally seeks out when scared or startled. Instead, Ren was meowing loudly in the backyard, the gushing of a 30-foot geyser nearby drowning out her cries.

The water main burst was a strangely beautiful sight, illuminated by flickering flares and emergency vehicle lights as teams of responders worked to shut things off, and neighbors and passersby gathered to watch.

It was entrancing to see a solid blanket of snow in the foreground, alongside rainbow tinted walls of water racing down the street. Within half an hour, the emergency response crew had turned off the water, with the flood rapidly subsiding afterwards.

It was surprisingly easy to fall asleep that night-it felt like considerable pent-up energy from the holidays and the first month of the new year had been released when the water main burst.

During this season,  I’m drawn to the origins and celebrations of the Winter Solstice and the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Water Rabbit, which began on Sunday January 22. They bookend the New Year of the rather precise Julian calendar, yet these events are determined by solar and lunar calendars respectively.

For me, this trio of “new years” allows more space and freedom to ponder and realize what I’d like to change or envision in my life, rather than making one off New Year’s resolutions which tend to fizzle out like short-lived fireworks.

The water main break just before the Lunar New Year got me thinking further about the role natural forces and processes play in our lives and on the planet, and how I could live in greater harmony with them.

Sometimes forces and processes proceed gradually and incrementally, like the angle and length of sunlight in higher latitudes the first weeks after the winter solstice. On the other side of the spectrum, changes and developments moving at breakneck  speed can really test our patience and resolve.

Yet the water main burst reminded me most things that happen aren’t personal, but universal. We all take turns. Over our lifetimes, we experience similar events along with the gamut of human emotions and feelings. It’s part of the process of life itself, always dynamic, with change the only constant.

When events happen rapidly, all we can really do is respond in real time, without agonizing or overthinking.

Observe how ducks can have a tussle in the water over something  unseen or unobservable to us. Soon afterwards, they’re hanging out in the same spot, as if nothing ever happened. Whatever “it” was is over. They’ve moved on, they’re not dwelling over things, they’re fully present again.

In the still young year of 2023, opportunities and possibilities are presenting themselves, elbowing out the stagnation and constriction many have experienced these past several years.

Greater possibilities and solutions are timeless gifts we receive from consistently connecting with the natural world. Nature is a sage teacher, helping us discern what’s really important in our lives, providing pathways to experience greater peace, health, and whatever else we envision for ourselves and others.

When you more clearly understand who you are, why you are here and what you stand for, the more illuminated and joyful will be the path you will travel.

In 2023 I invite you to join me in declaring out with the old ways of doing things and being in the world that no longer work or serve their purpose, and in with the ways that do!


How Should You Handle A Rattlesnake?

How should you handle a rattlesnake?

Erik and I witnessed a completely avoidable human-rattlesnake encounter when visiting Southern California in April, and fortunately neither species suffered an injury or fatality.

The Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) is a highly venomous member of the pit viper family, and among the largest of California’s eight species of rattlers.

These snakes are omnivorous, and range from two and one half to nearly four feet long. They have relatively stubby tails, but most people, ourselves included, would  want to approach them more closely to look for that identifying characteristic.

About 250 people are bitten by rattlesnakes in the Golden State annually, with about 50 snakebites occurring in Southern California. People generally get bitten only when these reptiles are threatened or cornered, which is usually the case wherever snakes reside.

While walking along a majestic oak-shaded creekside trail in a California state park this past spring, Erik and I came to a more open grassland environment, where we saw a man crouching low, camera in hand, about five feet away from a Southern Pacific rattler.

My first thought was “Oh shit! I hope this person doesn’t get bit, or worse.”

My second thought echoed one of Forrest Gump’s observations: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Erik and I approached about ten feet closer, still a good ten yards away from the snake.

We casually asked the man how he came across the creature he was photographing. Pointing to a long pole with a metal hook he had set on the ground, he shared how he had moved the snake from its shaded resting place to a sunnier spot so he could get better pictures.

Forrest Gump was dead right.

Erik and I maintained a healthy distance out of striking range as the man continued corralling the snake with the crook to get a better angle for his pictures. Thinking we might end up responding to a life-threatening emergency, we hung out a few minutes longer, just in case.

After a while, the man seemed to lose interest, and put away his camera gear and crook. He mentioned that next on his bucket list to catch and photograph was the Mojave rattler, the most venomous of California’s rattlers. Meanwhile, the involuntary subject of his photo shoot high tailed it away, likely toward the shaded refuge it had been occupying in the first place.

As we left the park, we told some rangers about what we had observed, and they asked whether we had taken any photos of the man or of his car license plate. We were so focused on the human-wildlife encounter that the only pictures we took were of the snake itself, from a very wary distance.

Whether I’m in California, Yellowstone or anywhere else, I’ve observed that everyone acts differently when encountering wild and potentially dangerous situations, especially where man may not necessarily be the dominant species.

Some people appear to be temporarily hypnotized and spell-bound, unable to resist inching closer towards rattlesnakes, bison, bears, or thermal features, all of them capable of injuring or killing you in a heartbeat with the slightest misstep.

Our behavior and actions have a profound impact on ecosystems, their biotic inhabitants, and the planet at large. Worldwide, wildlife management is largely people management, informing how to tread lightly, respect wildlife and their needs, and weigh the impacts of our actions on landscapes and the experiences of other visitors.

I suspect the riled up rattler could have bitten a child, another vulnerable person or perhaps another snake whisperer later that week. Like any species subjected to people approaching too closely, it probably spent considerable time wavering in flight or fight mode, expending energy crucial to survive and thrive through the spring and beyond.

Erik and I skimmed the Los Angeles Times for the next few days, checking to see if anyone had been bitten or worse by a rattlesnake in the region. Thankfully there were no news stories to that effect.

I thought further about motivations people might have when appoaching and photographing wildlife in protected and other places. I wondered whether they consider their individual photographs to be more important than the animal’s life, livelihood and well being, or their long-term survival as a species.

As Homo sapiens, wise humans, we are innately equipped to live and come from a deeper place beyond where our egos, immediate needs and desires reside.

We’re hardwired to envision, create, and care for something greater than ourselves and for future generations, especially when we remember to slow down, step back, and consider the bigger picture. And that picture includes not only humankind, but all beings with whom we share this planet, including Southern Pacific rattlesnakes.




Happy 150th Birthday, Yellowstone!


March 1 marks Yellowstone National Park’s 150th birthday.

Yellowstone was established in 1872, when President Grant signed legislation to “…set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River as a public park…”

For the park’s first several decades, the human footprint here remained fairly light, given the region’s remoteness and severe climate, and the need for people to be self- sufficient in their travels.

By 1915, automobiles had replaced traveling by horse and buggy, allowing increasingly larger numbers of motorists eager to explore the wonders of this and other western U.S. parks. In 2021, Yellowstone drew 4.86 million visitors, an increase of over 1 million from 2020!

“For the benefit and the enjoyment of the people” are the welcoming words inscribed on the Roosevelt Arch greeting visitors to Yellowstone’s North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt happened to be visiting the region, mainly to hunt outside the national park with a few friends, it seems. He was invited to speak and lay the cornerstone in Gardiner, and his name has been associated with the arch ever since.

A future president spent time in the park as well, 23-year-old Gerald R. Ford, who worked as a seasonal ranger in the Canyon Area in 1936. One of Ford’s many wide-ranging duties that summer was serving as an armed guard on a “bear-feeding” truck!

Yellowstone and other national parks prohibited feeding bears around 1970, illustrating a different course we’ve been charting to become better stewards of wild places as our knowledge and attitudes change about their value and purpose.

Even today, Yellowstone is amazingly intact and untrammeled, nearly 3500 square miles in size, and the wild beating heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Home to nearly all the predator and prey species inhabiting the area two centuries ago, it’s a place vast enough where people witness large scale ecological processes such as predator-prey dynamics, fire cycles, and the dynamic presence of 10,000 plus thermal features fueled by a continental volcanic hot spot, subsurface magma chambers, and other contributors.

Over the years, we’ve also made discoveries and unlocked mysteries likely unimaginable to the park’s earliest founders, protectors, and visitors.

In 1969, Dr. Thomas Brock discovered an extremophile, Thermus aquaticus, in one of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. Turns out that this particular bacterial organism possesses some surprisingly heat stable proteins, one of which is Taq DNA polymerase. This protein has been responsible for numerous breakthroughs in the study of human genetics, as it has allowed for rapid gene sequencing under high temperatures through a process known as PCR, or polymerase chain reaction.

Much of what we do today regarding genetic testing for diseases and cancers, rapid HIV, Covid and other testing, and forensics stems from the discovery of this thermophile. Scientists are also using chemical and temperature signatures of different Yellowstone thermal features to look for early signs of life in this and other solar systems; other organisms have applications for de-icing highways, removing barnacles and other impediments to shipping worldwide, and yet others are being studied for their potential cancer fighting properties.

It’s estimated that we have only looked at less than one percent of Yellowstone’s thermal communities in any detail!

What else remains to be discovered and learned in Yellowstone and other protected areas?

We can only imagine, but there are vast frontiers waiting to be explored by today’s youth and future generations if we do our best to preserve and care for everything we have in Yellowstone, and beyond.

So Happy 150th Birthday on March 1, Yellowstone, and may you always live long and prosper!

Wanted: All Hands On Deck


“We just need more hands.”

Katharine Hayhoe


“It’s a magnificent thing to be alive in a moment that matters so much,” Texas Tech University climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe shared in a recent interview and article featured in National Geographic magazine.

It certainly is a roller coaster time to be alive, as nearly everyone and everything on our home planet struggles with myriad challenges and changes magnified by what humanity has thrown at it over the years.

We sense, feel and know on a palpable level that things can be better, but paths and trails leading from where we are to the place we’re envisioning remain about as clear as mud. For many people, heightened uncertainty and feeling unmoored from familiar landmarks leads to even greater struggle, apathy, and despair, and more short-sighted, self-centered behavior.

Yet that’s not really who we are as human beings at our best, but how can we move from feeling stuck to taking action?

A few suggestions…

Delve into the wellspring of gumption and wisdom of previous generations who worked together to overcome serious challenges they faced in their lifetimes.

Let’s also get out of the way and make room at the table for younger generations worldwide to co-create their collective vision of a more just, inclusive and sustainable planet. As Albert Einstein observed, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

During the first half of the 20th century, my late parents’ and grandparents’ generation navigated a decade-plus long economic depression. As teenagers and young adults, my mom and dad lived through a brutal, all-consuming second world war persisting for four years in terms of direct U.S. involvement, and for nearly six years in much of the world. My dad was just 17 when we learned that one of his older brothers had been killed in Belgium in late 1944.

The present moment calls us to join together, to change, adapt, and live in greater harmony with our environment and each other.

This has never been an easy feat to accomplish in any era, yet the arrival of 2022 presents us with a fresh opportunity to review our past so we may create a better today and future.

It’s a welcome time to acknowledge what’s working and not working well, to make necessary changes, and take action to move to where you intend to be.

It’s also worth reflecting upon times you successfully made significant changes in your life in response to challenges, and how you transformed into opportunities what first might have been perceived as obstacles, dead ends, roadblocks or setbacks.

Life always finds a way. And so must we.

Inspirational stories abound of ordinary human beings who’ve found a way to move forward and make the world a better place for all, so find a few good reads to help you stay laser focused on what’s possible instead of what’s wrong.

I may be going out on a limb here, but perhaps what these people have all had in common is a resilient, inexhaustible reservoir of hope, no matter what.

As Jane Goodall shared: “I do have reasons for hope: our clever brains, the resilience of nature, the indomitable human spirit, and above all, the commitment of young people when they’re empowered to take action.”

Young, old, or in between, let’s all keep taking inspired, hopeful action to make our surroundings and world a better place, no matter where our feet are.




Be Thankful For What You’ve Got

“Be Thankful for What You Got” is a song I remember well from the mid-1970s, when I was growing up in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia.


The song still evokes a deep upwelling of awe and gratitude, as the pandemic and other roller coasters continually reconfigure what we once called “normal” in our everyday lives.


Celebrating my youngest niece’s wedding on the Outer Banks last month was a indelible gift, highlight and special occasion for everyone there in person and in spirit. Friends and family members who hadn’t seen each other for some time gathered to celebrate Peyton and Preston’s union, and bless the beginning of their new life chapter and journey together.


I’ve also been thankful for this autumn’s peace, calm and quiet. Since October, we’ve alternated between warm spells (in the 40s F, sunny and calm winds as we might define it in Montana) and freeze/thaw cycles accompanied by rain, snow, ice and graupel. It’s been a blessing not to be breathing the persistent, pervasive wildfire smoke countless people endured from July into September, and welcoming snow and colder temperatures in early December as well.


I am grateful for community on so many levels.


The kindness of strangers at busy traffic intersections and supermarket checkout lines, and the pure joy I witnessed a few weeks ago outside the Missoula County Courthouse, where good Samaritans distributed winter clothing and other necessities to people in need ahead of Montana’s longest season. The hushed excited whispering of a boy to his mother as they walked past a man with a snowy white beard in downtown Missoula: “Was that Santa Claus?”


I am also thankful for the beauty, magic, inspiration and bounty of the natural world, and the gifts that it freely bestows when we take time to stop, slow down, listen and receive what it freely has to share.


I am especially thankful for Erik, our friends, our blended and extended families, and our semi-sweet cat Ren. For people worldwide engaged in the cooperative, brave and bold work required to build healthy, sustainable, just and equitable communities.


For everyone we haven’t been able to see and hang out with the past two years, please know that Erik and I have been thinking about you and wishing you well during this time. We’re looking forward to catching up on the other side of the pandemic, and there will certainly be much to catch up about.


In the meantime, here’s wishing you a wonderful, peaceful and enjoyable holiday and soon to be winter season, and thanks for being part of a community that cares deeply about everyone and everything with whom we share this planet!



Keeping (Your) Cool This Summer

The Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest have endured record-breaking heat since late June, and starting this coming weekend, many places will see temperatures soaring into the upper 90s and beyond again.

Many in the region live without air conditioning; normally we navigate hot days by opening doors and windows in the evening to to let cooler air flow in. This heat wave has been especially brutal for the elderly and the very young, along with homeless people, those living in poverty, and people living with respiratory conditions. In parts of British Columbia, Canada most impacted by the heat, the death rate was nearly triple the daily provincial average during the last week of June.

One of my favorite all time sayings is “This too, shall pass.” and I look forward to the return of cooler days that don’t throttle the kale, tomatoes, bee balm, milk weed, other things growing in our garden and ourselves this season. I look forward to not sheltering in the basement late afternoon into early evening, when downstairs it’s below 70, upstairs we’re in the mid 80s, and outside it’s nearly 100 degrees F.

Yet silver linings, life lessons and gifts of wisdom accompany challenging times, no matter where our feet are. Here at home in Missoula, the unrelenting early heat has jolted us into slowing way down, focusing on what’s truly most important, and postponing some projects and activities until cooler weather returns.

Erik and I are checking in on our kitty Ren more often, and have her inside most of the day. We keep her indoor and outdoor water bowls filled, and touch base with family and next door neighbors to see if they need help navigating the hot weather.

We’re watering our outdoor plants, flowers, vegetables and trees more frequently, especially early mornings and at dusk to allow for better saturation. We’re monitoring and watering our indoor plants more often, as they can get mighty parched, too!

For the most part, we’re using our stovetop only to boil water for morning coffee. We’re enjoying cold salads, sandwiches, and chilled seasonal fruit including cherries, raspberries and cantaloupes. We’re  content preparing chicken, fish and veggies on our backyard grill, then dining in lawn chairs parked strategically in the shade, with Ren prowling or snoozing nearby.

What has this lengthy stretch of scorching hot weather showed us?

Especially when it’s extremely hot, cold, smoky or otherwise unhealthy to be moving at your usual speed of life, remember that it’s alright to do less, shake things up, and postpone doing things. As and after things change (and change again) it’s worth considering whether certain habits, patterns, routines and activities remain important or are no longer worth doing, and that is alright as well.

Let summer be your muse and inspiration, whether it’s 100 degrees or a balmy day with billowy cumulus clouds drifting dreamily above. Adjust your work and other routines accordingly. Get up early and enjoy the quiet, cooler time of day where birdsong prevails over human sounds. Watch for bats and nighthawks flitting about at dusk, while noticing the stars, planets and the moon emerge in the night sky.

Nature continually shows us how to live in balance and harmony with our surroundings, and summer is an especially ripe season to spend time with friends, family, colleagues, and also alone. Don’t let the heat get you down-find ways to improvise, adapt and adjust, and eventually this season too shall pass.

Here’s wishing you all a safe, fun and relaxing summer, no matter what’s happening weather wise. Here’s also wishing you the ability to keep cool, slow down and do what it takes to enjoy rather than endure this fleeting, abundant season!


Craters of the Moon, and Moose!

About a five-hour drive from Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser is Craters of the Moon National Monument in central Idaho.

If you’re out West enjoying Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, I highly recommend visiting Craters of the Moon. It’s uncrowded and peaceful, night skies are brilliant, and the monument is even home to moose (and excellent cross-country skiing) in winter!

The geologic landscape here is fairly young compared to other areas nearby. Some basaltic lava flows are a mere 2,000 years old. The extent of this and older volcanic activity abruptly ends to the north of the 750,000 acre monument, where foothills climb rapidly toward the Pioneer Mountains and other ranges.

Volcanic activity here is dormant, not extinct, at the moment. In geologic terms, it could be a short period of time (or maybe not) before things “wake up” again, creating the next generation of new lava flows, lava tubes, caves and charred “lava trees.”

Craters of the Moon sits at an average elevation of 5900 feet. When Erik and I were there for four days in early May, it was windy most afternoons, but things calmed down by nightfall. We enjoyed clear starry night skies rivaling those of Bryce and Grand Canyon, followed by frosty mornings that warmed up very quickly.

We also brought plenty of water (and refilled our containers at the visitor center water filling station), as the National Park Service cuts off the campground water from mid-September to late May to avoid pipes freezing and bursting.

Craters of the Moon’s official website posts updates, alerts and more information pertaining to visiting, but it’s always a good idea to bring ample water along wherever you’re traveling in the Intermountain West.

A seven-mile loop drive leads to some of the area’s most accessible geologic attractions, including short walks to the Devil’s Garden, Inferno Cone, Spatter Cone, and the aptly named Snow Cone. The loop drive also doubles as a popular cross-country skiing and snowshoeing route, usually from late November to early April. Craters of the Moon receives close to 90 inches of snow annually, more than twice what our home city of Missoula, Montana gets.

Outside of winter time, there’s little standing surface water here. During spring and summer, many plants compress their growth stages into a few weeks’ time to take advantage of available moisture. During our visit, Erik and I were surprised to see prominent signs warning people to keep a healthy distance from moose. We asked an interpretive ranger about this, who explained that deep mountain snows force moose to lower elevations to browse limber pine tree needles and other vegetation during winter. Perhaps the national monument should be called “Craters of the Moose” instead!

Seriously, though, be careful and never approach moose, which also live throughout Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Weighing up to 1000 pounds and standing 6 1/2 feet tall at the shoulder, moose are formidable, unpredictable and wild. Keep at least 25 yards away from them, and even more so if there are calves present.

Other mammals such as mule deer, rabbits and pikas also live here, as do many bird species including kestrels, ravens, great horned owls, towhees, Clark’s nutcrackers, and Townsend’s solitaires.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is about six hours by car from Missoula. It’s about three and a half hours from Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming, and Yellowstone’s west entrance at West Yellowstone, Montana.

If you’re looking for solitude and no crowds, only about 200,000 people explore the monument and preserve every year, a fraction of the millions that visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton!


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