Friday, July 31, 2015

On Safari

I've been recently reading about the Minnesota dentist who went to Africa on Safari and the killing of Cecil the Lion.  The hue and cry over this has been just short of amazing in my opinion.  I have yet to weight in on the subject very heavily, mainly because what I say will little matter in the grand scheme of things.  I've found, many times over, that once people set their opinion about something, there are two chances that you will have to sway them to change their opinion - Slim and None.

Now, my opinion is this.  I was dismayed that the man chose to kill a magnificent beast such as Cecil the Lion.  I do not condemn hunters.  In the past, I've eaten elk and goose that were hunted.  Therein lies the difference in the two.  If a person is hunting and will eat the meat, then I'm all for it as long as the hunting is done humanely.  To hunt, just for a trophy, I feel is despicable.  We already know that we are superior to animals due to our superior intellect, but to take a life of another animal, just so you can mount their head on the wall I feel is just wrong.  That being said, I do feel that keeping the head of an elk, or deer as a trophy is fine, if you're also going to eat the animal.  

Now the uproar over this incident is really interesting. Take a look at the photo I've added to this  entry.  The photo is not mine and is in the public domain.  One of our most beloved presidents, one who is on Mt. Rushmore, was an avid hunter.  Theodore Roosevelt went on an extensive African safari following the end of his presidency.  Roosevelt spent about a year in Africa, collecting specimens for the Smithsonian and other museums.  Collecting specimens basically means shot and killed.  Roosevelt, in a year's time, was responsible for the death of over 1100 animals, including over 500 big game animals.  17 lions, 11 elephants and 20 rhinoceros were among the harvest, including 4 white rhinos.  Today, there are only 4 Northern white rhinos in existence anywhere in the world.

I find it rather contradictory that Roosevelt, who preserved many of our national monuments, including the first national monument, Devils Tower, and helped start the conservation movement in our country, could go on this kind of hunting expedition.  Yet, one could argue that his collecting of all these animals might result in better knowledge of the animal because now those specimens are displayed in museums in many different places.  Roosevelt was quoted as saying, "I can be condemned only if the existence of the National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and all similar zoological institutions are to be condemned."

Had Roosevelt gone on his safari in today's Internet climate, he would have been vilified.  I doubt that many people out there know about this chapter of his life. I don't like this aspect of one of my hero's life, but there's not a whole lot I can do about it, because it's in the past.  This is part of his life that balances out some of the good he did during his life.  All people are like that.  

I used to revere Thomas Edison when I was younger.  The more I know about Edison, the more I've come to know that Edison wasn't a very nice person.  But that's beside the point.  Are we going to condemn a man for one incident?  Even if it's a series of incidents, are we going to condemn this man for all eternity?  If that's the case, where's the condemnation of Theodore Roosevelt?

In reality, the uproar over this incident has buried something else.  Social media has excoriated this dentist and in the process has basically forced him to shut his place of business.  Perhaps he can afford to do that, seeing how he could afford $55,000 to bag a lion trophy in Africa.  I would be willing to bet that all of his employees, however, can't afford this time off.  Where's the uproar over that?  And don't try to justify it by saying that they worked for a guy who kills for sport.  Do you know what your employer does in his or her off time?  Probably not.  Think about that for awhile, especially the next time another firestorm runs rampant via social media.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Photo Blogging Challenge (June 2015): Anything goes

So this is a little late this month, but I've been waiting until the photos publish in the Sharpshooters International Photography Club's weekly album.  Surprisingly, June was majorly busy, since usually it's less busy, being my first month of summer vacation.  I had things planned, most of which got done and that just kept me from a lot of things, but the one thing that I really wanted to do, I got done.  P.J. has his monthly photo challenge, so here's the story of how I checked off something off of my Bucket List.

Because my daughter is getting married in July, I figured the best time for me to get out on my annual camping trip would be to go in June before it got really busy.  My wife doesn't camp, my older two aren't around anymore and my youngest had school and Jury duty about the only time I could go camping, so I emailed a geocaching friend of mine and talked with him about a geocaching road trip.  The trip had several purposes.  Get as many different caches as possible while having fun, get a couple of specific caches for challenges that I was working on and climb to the top of Mt. Lassen in Northern California.

Several of the geocaching challenges I've been working on involve finding caches on each page of a particular atlas.  The DeLorme atlases are really detailed maps and people have put together specific state atlas challenges for almost every state in the country.  California actually has three challenges because there's a state atlas, a Northern California atlas and a Southern California atlas.  Living in Southern California, I'm closest to completing that one, but I'm getting very close to the other two as well due to my extensive traveling within the state over the last fifteen years.

So my friend Craig and I worked out a plan to travel up the eastern corridor of California up to Lassen Volcanic National Park and then come down through the great valley of California and home.  Highway 395 runs up through Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  It's pretty hot in the summer, but it was early June, so it wasn't really bad.  We actually ended up partially in Death Valley National Park for a part of the run, but we didn't stay, just sort of traveled through.  

One particular geocache we ended up finding was Have You Found What You're Looking For?  And yes, go ahead and start humming or singing along, because this took us to THE Joshua Tree featured on the cover of the U2 album.  Unfortunately, the Joshua Tree is dead as evidenced in the first shot, but it's become a shrine to U2 out in the middle of the desert just outside the boundaries of Death Valley National Park.  Yeah, the song's going through my head right now as I'm writing this.

Eventually, we got up to Lassen about day four of the trip.  Before Mt. St. Helens blew its top in 1980, Mt. Lassen was the last volcano in the contiguous United States to have erupted.  It began erupting in 1914 and continued off and on for the next three or four years.  During that time span, it also became a national park.  These if a lot to see there and a lot of great hiking opportunities.  

One of the hikes we took was a hike out to Bumpass Hell, a thermal area that looks very much like the thermal areas in Yellowstone.  The only thing that Lassen doesn't have that Yellowstone does are geysers.  Bumpass Hell is named after Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a local miner, who, in 1865 had the misfortune of breaking through the thin crust of one of the boiling mud pots.  He ended up losing one of his legs due to the scalding mud.  Bumpass Hell is not very pleasant to be in if you have a sensitive nose since it has a sulfur smell to it, but it's an interesting feature.  

But the first hike of the day was the one I really wanted to do.   We got up had breakfast our first full day in Lassen and got ready for a hike to the top of Mt. Lassen, the centerpiece of the park.  This hike has been on my Bucket List, probably since before the term Bucket List was coined.  My first adventure in Lassen happened when I was 8 years old on a camping trip with my family.  Because we did mostly things together, the hike didn't happen that year, but I decided then that I wanted to climb the mountain.  When I graduated from high school, two of my buddies and I traveled all around the state during that summer.  We ended up in Lassen, but couldn't climb to the top because of extensive snow cover.  We ended up hiking through five foot drifts of snow just to get to Bumpass Hell.

Five years ago, my youngest and I went up there on a camping trip, but this was after an incredibly wet winter, the last wet winter we've had in the state.  The road through the park still hadn't been plowed and so to even get to the trailhead, we had to exit the park and drive all the way around the outside and come back in through the southern entrance.  The trail to Bumpass Hell was even closed that year.  There were ten foot drifts above the bathroom's room in the Lassen trailhead parking lot.  That's right, you read that right - ten feet above the roof of the building.  And this was in July.  Apparently, the mountain did not want me to climb it.

This year was different.  One thing that actually helped us immensely was the drought we've been suffering through in California.  We caught a tremendous break with that, because the snowfall has been minimal for so many years that the trailhead opened up early.  As you can see from the fourth shot, the snow field my friend Craig is walking through was about the extent of the snow on the trail.  We had about 6 or 7 of those crossings, but none of them were very treacherous.  

The trip to the top was fairly easy, but the elevation gain of over 2000 feet in just about 2.5 miles of hiking can cause problems.  There were two people we encountered on our way up who never made it to the summit because of altitude sickness.  One was smart enough to rest and head back down while the young girl was prodded by her family to continue on.  She made it almost to the summit, but never quite to the top.

As you can see, the views from up there were phenomenal.  If you look closely, on the left hand side of the last photo, along the cloud line, you can see Mt. Shasta about 100 miles away.  We probably lingered up there for about an hour, eating lunch and just taking in the views.  I ended up taking about two other group's photos and one of those groups we employed one of their party to take our shot at the summit.

Elevation gain? - 2000+ feet
Miles of hiking? - 5 miles round trip
Checking off something on your Bucket List? - Priceless

There's my five photos for the Anything Goes theme for the month of June.  Check out P.J.'s page to see his interpretation of the theme and then scroll down to the bottom to see the link for others who have participated in this month's challenge.