Brief Encounters on the Wild Side

I’m hoping this will be the spring we’ll see river otters in the creek behind our house. I’ve had reports of people seeing them at the mill dam a half mile downstream, and just last week someone wrote to say they’d seen three otters fishing in Four-Mile Branch, a large tributary of Lawson’s Fork not far away. There’s something about a possible river otter...

Where the Wild Things Are

One percent of the land in the lower forty-eight states is what might be considered “wilderness.” Ninety-nine percent is utilized in some way for human profit-urban areas, suburbs, logging, mining, grazing. In 10,000 short years we humans have found ways to extend our shadow over the whole reach of a peopleless continent. The first 9,500 years Native American economies created the...

Into the Wild

One of the most complex films of the year opened in the area last week. No, it’s not another Spiderman remake or Adam Sandler comedy with adolescent slapstick humor. This one’s about adolescent longing. There’s no sex, very few drugs, and the only rock and roll is Eddie Vedder’s soulful sound track. Director Sean Penn’s INTO THE WILD is a beautiful exploration of...

North to Alaska

It’s five a.m. and I’m in Valdez, a small fishing town and the southern terminus of the Alaska Pipeline. When I walked outside before disappearing into the stuffy one-room business center to complete my weekly column I could see three hanging glaciers around the head of the Valdez Arm. It took us a full day to get here– two hours by car from Seward, and six hours on a slow...

Fall Grapes and the Poor Man’s Banana

This week we’ve been practicing our wild food gathering skills on our evening walk. It’s an August ritual. All along the road we’ve started seeing muscadines, or “fall grapes” as the locals call them, ripe and ready for eating. The Vikings named North America “Vineland,” and it’s easy to see why if you stop for a moment and look up into the edge of...

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