31 January 2008

Blue Man Group: Postmodern Rock

My voice is still hoarse from all that yelling at the Blue Man Group concert in Bozeman the other night. Conservative Bozeman, rocking out to BMG? Yeah, hard to believe. We prefer to drive down to Missoula for concerts since the crowds there are much livelier (no offense, Bozeman friends!), but the Missoula BMG date wouldn't fit our schedules so we went slumming (the Bozangelas crowd was a little on the timid side).

The show was awesome: three very blue guys making a lot of noise, clowning around and practicing site gags that would make Charlie Chaplin proud, and backed up by a great band and vocalists:

Blue Man Group employs multimedia such as video screens, digital cameras, and innovative light shows that involve the audience in, ah, personal ways (just ask the guy who was subject to the esophagus cam). Original acoustics are at the very heart of Blue Man Group performance. The rhythmic sounds of long, limber rods swished through the air; the booming roar of a big bass drum beat on with a mallet; and the Blue Man Group signature instruments, the PVC piping "TubaPhones." They play several versions(Tubulum? DrumBone? -- I can't keep the names straight), including this one:

Good stuff. Throughout, the show is a nice postmodern mix: self reflexive video statements such as Rock Concert Movement #2 from the Ronco Rock Concert Instruction Manual, "Give your audience the opportunity to practice the one armed fist pump;" the empty signifier of vague sexual and racial identity (blue guys in black clothes); multimedia blasting simultaneously various information via several channels; ritual drumming that puts the audience into a trancelike state; and the deconstruction of the masks we wear to get by in our day-to-day lives.*

Go see 'em for yourself.

* There is fodder for serious academic analysis here. Just so you don't think I'm making this shit up, see the excellent MA Theatre thesis by Sean A. Fidler, "Why is America so Blue?" University of Maine (2000) at http://www.library.umaine.edu/theses/pdf/FidlerSA2002.pdf .

30 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: Shifting Baselines, a Couple of Moose, and Skiing as Story

Shifting Baselines
It's a scary thought: all us skiiers are raving about what a great snow year this is. Yet, when you look at the last hundred years or so of data, it's really very average. But as humans (or Americans, anyway), we forget the lessons of history and only the recent past is our basis for comparison. Thus all of those so-called "drought" years from 1998 to 2007 are now normal, and the winter of 2007-08 looks exceptionally white and cold.

This is a good example of the classic phrase "shifting baseline," coined by biologist Daniel Pauly to explain how fisherman (and fisheries biologists) came to accept declining fish populations. In other words, it's all a matter of what you are used to. But no, it isn't: whether declining fish populations or global warming, there are real human impacts on the environment. If we do not appreciate their severity, we will end up like the Greeks or Romans or all those cultures that caused their own demise by ruining their environment [cf. Diamond (2005) Collapse].

But the snow is here, and I will get out there and enjoy it.

Since December, I've been seeing The Moulton moose cow and her calf separately. I thought that, as it seems to happen each year, the cow had driven the calf away or it had left on its own to stake out its own willowy territory. But this morning, there they were together again, feeding in the willow bottom near the Downy place (a mile or so below the parking lot), and bedded down as I returned:

Skiing as Story
Cross country skiing the trails of The Moulton is a performative act. It is something like Walter Ong and others thesis about Homer's Illiad and other oral traditions: they were never told the same way twice. Instead, the poem or song is stitched together from prefabricated parts, each with its own memorable thoughts, rich sensual metaphors, and other distinguishing features. And it's not a book that you read just once.

And so it is with a ski at The Moulton or with similar performances such as a hike through a familiar area. Each performance is a new story. In part, this is trivially true in a Heraclitean sense that "You can't step in the same river twice:" the snow, wind, temperature, light, wax, the pair of skis you're on, mouse tracks, and so forth are all different each time.

But in an equally interesting sense, each ski or hike is unique because of the way we stitch together familiar elements. Climbing across the ridge and skiing down the Buzzy Trail with its Single Jack and Double Jack is one day's introduction to The Moulton story, whereas another day might be introduced by way of a trek across the meadow, up the Orphan Girl hill, and down Wake Up Jim. Like Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America, there is no one right order in which to read the chapters.

Sadly, I think, many residents of Modernity believe in and seek The One True Order. They seek the linearity of alpha-omega from beginning to end in an invariant way. They march into Iraq determined to transform diverse cultures that do not share "our" values into a democractic, "one nation under capitalism" neo-con version of Amerika.

This is exactly why we need the disorder, diversity, and complexity of nature and wilderness. It is a counterpoint to our daily experience of culture and technology, it challenges us to surrender our rational linearity, and it helps us discover the beauty of our relationship to the earth.


The Moulton: Montana's Finest Cross Country Ski Trails

29 January 2008

Dominant Culture as a Guide to Philosophy?

I spent a day in Montana's capital city of Helena, working with other philosophy faculty to solve the "transferability problem" faced by students as they move from one college to another. The group consisted of me, three other old white guys (I think I was the youngest, though!), two younger women (one a Montana native, that is, Blackfoot), and a younger Filipino-American guy.

It's a noble effort. Bring together philosophy profs from the various units of the Montana University System. They then develop a list of universal course outcomes and come up with standard course names & numbers. The idea is to help students that transfer from one college to another in their quest for an undergraduate degree. General education requirements always contain some sort of philosophy courses such as "Introduction to Philosophy" and "Introduction to Ethics." Allegedly, when students transfer schools, they frequently lose credit for courses they have already completed, and then have to take (and pay for) additional courses that are substantially the same as what they've already taken...

It's a a noble effort, yes. Something like the search for a universal or world language.

Remember Esperanto? You know, the universal language that was to foster international peace & understanding. Esperanto was truly universal--that is, if your universe consisted of western culture. And if your ideal for a "real" language was based on experience with French, German, Polish, and Russian. Never mind those non-western languages. Forget Chinese. Forget Arabic. Siksika'? Forget it.

And that is, in part, how the first session of the Montana Philosopher Kings transpired. "Philosopher King?" As in Plato's Republic? That's the problem: dominant culture provides us a ready answer to what is "universal:" white, male, and western.

Suprisingly, we made remarkable progress in developing common course outcomes for "Introduction to Ethics."

For some reason, however, we tumbled like the Tower of Babel when it came to "Introduction to Philosophy."

Turns out "Introduction to Philosophy" means (to some, anyway) "Introduction to Western Philosophy." If the course is not about the specific philosophical problems and if it does not provide some historical overview of Plato, Descartes, Hume, Kant, etc. then it does not count as an Intro Philosophy course. By this measure, an introductory course called "Blackfeet Philosophy" certainly does not qualify.

This, it seems to me, is very wrong. Philosophy, even in its most narrow western definition as the Greek "love of wisdom" seems to be a universal phenomenon among human cultures.

The epistemological, ontological, and other problems raised by western philosophy are certainly interesting. But does western philosophy have a lock on these things? I cannot answer that question in a definitive, comprehensive way, since my knowledge of non-western philosophy is very limited. Sure, I have your educated person's token knowledge of Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and so forth. But from what I do know, any of these approaches would raise all the important questions and provide a basis for all the fruitful discussion that I believe is central to an "Introduction to Philosophy" course.

I recall my own Introduction to Philosophy course with the amazing Professor Martha Montgomery at Drexel University. Plato's Socratic Dialogues was our text. Socrates lived through that class, and so far as we students were concerned, Martha had sat with the old man on his deathbed when he drank the hemlock. There was little mention of Descartes or Hume or Quine, or of traditional names for philosophical "problems" such as Moore's disbelief, a priori knowledge, or mind-body dualism. Guided by Martha's talent for elenchus, however, the course left its mark on me and was instrumental in shifting my career away from engineering.

More recently, Thomas Nagel has taken a similar approach with his little book, What Does It All Mean?" Like Martha Montgomery, Nagel leads us through the process of philosophical inquiry without making it a lesson in the history of western philosophy or a laundry list of technical terms.

As a course fulfilling the general education requirement for "Introduction to Philosophy," I believe that "Blackfeet Philosophy" would serve perfectly well.

A New Year on the Upper Clark Fork

A version of this commentary aired on KUFM, Montana Public Radio (http://www.mtpr.net/commentaries.html), as part of a regular series I do for the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee (www.cfrtac.org).

It's nice to see a real winter settle across the Butte landscape. Snow-pack is looking good, which portends well for fish and river flows this summer. And the thirty below zero temperatures might even slow down the pine beetles that have been chewing their way through the forests of lodgepole pines. This cold weather slows me down. On the cross country ski trails, I’ve been waxing with Swix Polar and even then it’s a little like skiing on beach sand.

Here’s news to warm our hearts: Montana’s Natural Resource Damage Program recently announced that 20 million dollars would be available in this year’s grant cycle for restoration and replacement projects in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin. This is a huge increase—more than doubling the amount available in prior years.

The increase seems to stem from the expectation that Montana and Arco-British Petroleum will arrive at a settlement for the state’s outstanding natural resource damage claims on the Clark Fork River, Anaconda Uplands, and Butte Area One. Montana received a total of 230 million dollars in 1999 as a partial settlement for its claims. Of that amount, about 130 million dollars was solely for injuries to our natural resources.

The total value assigned to the outstanding claims is about 175 million dollars. Up until now, no restoration funds were available for these areas. For example, projects on the Clark Fork River were off limits.

With 20 million dollars available and the prospect of the entire basin open to projects, there are some attractive possibilities. Property acquisitions for big horn sheep winter range, river access sites, conservation easements along the river, and combining remedy & restoration in heavily polluted areas: these are just a few of the ways that this funding could be used.

In order to consider increased funding and opportunities, CFRTAC recently hosted a meeting of folks representing landowners, conservation groups, sportsmen’s groups, and local communities. One overarching concern emerged from the discussion: there is no comprehensive restoration plan for the Upper Clark Fork River Basin.

A watershed is a closely integrated system where the parts interact in intimate and sometimes unexpected ways. Without a holistic or “big picture” understanding, it is easy to fall into bad management practices. As a simple example, consider the property owners that rip-rap the river bank. This further destabilizes the river channel, creates problems for downstream owners, and harms habitat health.

We saw some problems early on when money became available for restoration projects in the Silver Bow Creek watershed around Butte. The lack of a comprehensive plan encouraged piecemeal projects that, in some cases, did not contribute to overall watershed health. Because of concerns raised by the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee and other conservation groups, the Natural Resource Damage Program developed a comprehensive watershed restoration plan. This plan identified and prioritized restoration needs, and now guides decisions about which projects get funded.

The Silver Bow Creek Watershed Restoration Plan was developed with broad public involvement. Participants included local citizen-activists, community leaders, conservation groups, and agency scientists. Diverse grassroots and scientist participation helped educate Natural Resource Damage Program staff about the many environmental subtleties, restoration needs, and holistic connections within the watershed. Information needed for a comprehensive plan was already out there—but it was not available in ways that could shape good decisions about how and where to spend the public’s money.

For example, we learned that several tributaries of Silver Bow Creek hold populations of native Westslope cutthroat trout. Restoring these streams, protecting native fish from hybridization by introduced species, and enhancing connectivity between the tributaries and Silver Bow Creek emerged as major priorities. Throughout the comprehensive plan, the emphasis is on restoration as a self-sustaining process that will not require constant maintenance or additional funding, and in ways that contribute to future environmental health and community well-being.

It is critical that the Natural Resource Damage Program invest in a similar comprehensive plan for the Upper Clark Fork River Basin. While 200 million dollars sounds like a lot of money, natural resource restoration and replacement projects can be very expensive. It would be easy to blow the whole wad and have little to show for it. Residents of the Clark Fork River watershed – including future generations – deserve better.

For more news about the Clark Fork River and related Superfund issues, please check out CFRTAC’s website at hyperlink www.cfrtac.org.

23 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: Swix Polar Weather Continues

It was about -10 deg F starting out this morning in the pre-dawn hours. The almost full moon was still high enough to shed some light on the frigid landscape:

A perfect morning for Swix Polar, this wax made for good climbing and gliding around Buzzy, The Yankee Boy, the Nippers, and back down the road to the truck. Not as fast as Purple Swix at 30 deg F, but fast enough that it felt like skiing instead of sliding along on sandpaper (as it seemed the other night at -20 or so). Along the top of Buzzy, the rising sun filtered through the trees and brought a little welcomed warmth:

Skiing hard makes me thirsty, and I don't like toting the weight & bulk of an insulated bottle. It only works for a few hours, but I keep my Gatorade from freezing by making it with hot water and then wrapping it in a paper sack before tucking it into the pocket of my fanny pack:

There was an unusual abundance of mouse tracks running this way and that through the woods and over the fields. And tracks of a fox or two, hunting the mice. Are mice more active on nights with a bright moon? Nope--not according to the literature. Turns out they are far more active with the new moon (c. 3,000 feet moved per day vs. just a few hundred). Makes sense, I guess: the full moon provides owls, fox, and other predators some advantage. They must of just been hungry last night, what with the prior stormy weather and exceptional cold.


The Moulton: Montana's Finest Cross Country Ski Trails

22 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: Full Moon Skiing at -20 deg F

Woke up to a Martin Luther King day with the thermometer on the porch showing about -20 deg F. Radio said the airport (down on the flats, where the cold air settles) was -34 deg F. That's chilly, and the Toy started only grudgingly for it's trip to Dick's Auto for a little maintenance. As always, I had planned to ski the full moon. But my plans were easily frozen by a weather report calling for even colder temperatures that night.

I decided on an afternoon ski and waited until the air warmed to -15 deg F in the early afternoon to head up to The Moulton. As always when it's cold, the old LandRover cranked slow and gave every indication of not starting, but then the spark caught and it fired to life. I waxed with Swix Polar, and even that made for slow skiing. Surprise, though, near sunset when RTD and I finished The Yankee Boy loop and made ready to ski down to the parking lot, the air had warmed to -5 deg F.

That happens in our valley sometimes, as warm air slowly makes its way up to the higher elevations from down valley places such as Deer Lodge (i.e. the "lodge of the white tailed deer," as the indigineous people called it).

Still, I was surprised when Andrea Stierle called just as Jan & I were sitting down to supper to ask me if I was up to ski that night. "Well, sure." And so RTD and I joined Don and Andrea, as did fellow Frigidaironaut Mike Stickney.

The air was so clear that neither the lights of Butte nor the stars seemed to twinkle. The moon lit the landscape of Big Flat (aka Moonlight Flat) with that brilliant yet eerie light that collapses great distances. Butte is ringed with mountain chains of the Great Divide: the Tobacco Roots, Highlands, Pioneers, Pintler, and Flint Creek ranges stood brightly on the horizon, appearing to be a short hike away.

After our ski we stopped into the Stierles' cabin, enjoyed the warmth of the wood stove and a hot cup of tea, and talked in that easy way of tired, old friends. Back in the parking lot, as Andrea observed, "One of the loveliest sounds of winter – your truck starting when you are several miles from town and it’s -18!"


The Moulton: Montana's Finest Cross Country Ski Trails

21 January 2008

Butte Microbrew: Quarry Brewing Company

'Bout time. For years, Montana's most notorius drinking town, Butte, has been thirsting for a brew pub. Rumours and threats went 'round, but all came to nought. Many of us had abandoned hope.

Then, it happened: Chuck and Lyza Schnabel (from our sister city of Anaconda, no less!) moved to Butte and founded the Quarry Brewing Company. It's in a nondescript old garage at 45 W Galena St, smack in the middle of the uptown. Not much of a sign outside, so the easiest way to find it: right across from the Gold Rush Casino.

There's a nice selection of beers and in the near future when the hops become more available, Chuck says they'll add an IPA:

The bar and tables (with church pews for seating) are comfortable, and if you don't already know whomever you're standing or sitting next to, you will in five minutes. Here's Lyza tending the bar:

Regular patrons can join the Mug Club (there's a waiting list):

While quaffing your brew, mull on the magic of yeast, hops, and grain in the adjacent room:

Help yourself to some popcorn, chat with your friends, and order another pint. And, if you can't get to the Quarry before the 6 p.m. closing time, lots of Butte bars are carrying Quarry brews. If not, be sure to ask! Currently, the Open Pit Porter is the popular choice at other bars. Quarry regulars seem to prefer Shale Pale Ale. They are both very good. Any questions? Just ask Chuck:

My favorite time for a beer? Well, if you bring home a growler, anytime is good. But after a couple hours of skiing there's nothing like a pint:

17 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: A Winter's Tale

This morning, our world of sin is blanketed with the most amazing snowfall--light, feathery little bundles of interlocked flakes; four inches deep on the front sidewalk, but easily swept away with a broom. There is not a breath of wind, and walking along the flanks of Big Butte I was mesmerized watching this fluff fall from the sky, drifting down at less than a meter per second.

Yesterday dawned cold and clear. Here's the view west, with the sun just beginning to light the higher peaks of the Pintler:

The -14 deg F temperature at The Moulton made for slow skiing, but on such a day it is a joy to be outside. I warmed quickly skiing up the main access road from the parking lot, and it felt good to linger here and there where the sun lit up an opening in the trees. Breath, perspiration, and snot freeze on contact with the frigid air; cold fingers pry into the lingering soul:

The cow moose that has been hanging out in the willow bottom near the parking lot moved down the valley. Did even she feel the cold last night, or has she some intuition of deeper snow to come? Poor man that would presume to know the mind of a moose. Here she is, just a mile or so above Walkerville:

On a cold morning such as this, warm vapors rise from the Berkeley Pit (the world's largest toxic lake) and form the notorious "Pit Fog." Here it is, like brute matter brought to life, towering over the town:

15 January 2008

Endangered Species Act listing for American Pika?

Pika are the spirit of the high country. Especially in the "ice cream cone" (high, rocky, icy) wilderness areas of Montana, they are the very essence of wilderness. Here's a pic of one from the Pintler:

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) calls the American pika (Ochotona princeps) a "canary in the coal mine" when it comes to global warming. Typically found on scree and talus slopes in alpine areas above treeline, this little (Guinea pig size) tail-less Lagomorph (member of the rabbit family) is often called the rock rabbit, cony, and mouse hare.

Anyone who has spent a little time hiking or backpacking in the Rockies knows the pika. They dart in and out of the boulders, cut grasses and forbs in the meadows and carry it back to their haypiles, and chirp out their alarm call when you come too close. If you sit down and remain quiet for 15 minutes or so, they will resume their business and come within a few feet of you.

The CBD has sued the US Fish & Wildlife Service to list the pika under the Endangered Species Act. This is a new legal approach, and would force the government to deal with the challenge of global warming. Global warming harms pika in several ways: (1) they are very temperature sensitive, and cannot survive at temperatures above 75 to 80 deg F; (2) on a warm day in the high country, they must retreat into their dens, and have less time to gather food; (3) the heavy snows of winter insulate them from harsh, cold temperatures; (4) the forbs and grasses they eat are very sensitive to hot, dry weather.

Over the past decade or so, many populations of pika have already winked out, and the survivors have moved higher and higher up the mountain slopes. Because pika live as island populations in high peaks areas, they also seem to have evolved into a large number of genetically distinct subspecies (map from CBD):

Center for Biological Diversity press releases, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/press/american-pika-08-21-2007.html and http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/search.html.
Denver Post article, http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_7963405 .
Entry for American Pika on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Pika .

11 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: Cognitive Development & Cross Country Skiing

Skiing up and around the unpacked Buzzy Trail the other morning, and then on the closely enfolded, packed but ungroomed Yankee Boy Trail (which is, as I write this, beautifully groomed), it was all very comfortable. Not so many years ago, I found skiing these trails a contact sport.

Winter can last from November to April here in the northern Rockies. Anyone who likes the outdoors should NOT let winter keep them inside. For many years, I did a lot of snowshoeing. It's still the best way to get around steep, icy slopes and thick timber. But I gradually transitioned to cross country skiing more and snowshoeing less. There's something about the grace, speed, and sheer physicality of cross country skiing that is very compelling.

Like any activity that requires focal engagement & patient vigor* -- i.e. putting in the time to gain experience and competency -- it takes most of us awhile to become comfortable on cross country skis. Many people just cannot (or do not) put in the time. It's that way for the Christmas-New Years skiers, and similar to the opening day trout anglers, or the July 4th backpackers. For many activities such as these, the IDEA is much more appealing (and easier) than the REALITY.

We live in a society that thrives on fantasy. People read the catalogs and maybe even buy the gear. They imagine wonderful adventures and learn all the lingo. In some sad vicarious way, that seems to be enough. And many others simply become so sucked into "work" and related activities that they do not clear the space & time in their lives for meaningful exercise and knowing nature. Again, for such folks, watching a wildlife movie on TV seems to be enough.

Cross country skiing and touring can be a little scary (especially for folks who come to it in middle age and who are not natural athletes) until they develop their fine-motor balance muscles. After that, it's not so bad. I had a lot of inner ear problems as a kid and have terrible balance (I can't balance on one foot without visual clues), but figured out the skinny ski thing OK. I'll never be a racer or a master of graceful tele turns with light skis on steep slopes, and that's OK too. As Clint Eastwood's character, Harry Callahan, says, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Most skiers, as they develop skill and confidence, will learn to wax for various conditions and will probably end up owning several pairs of skis. For the beginner, it need not be so complicated. A good quality pair of "fish scale" or no-wax skis and boots will suffice. Increasingly, new skiers begin with relatively short, wide skis. Although slow and a bit heavy, these wider skis help with balance and stability, especially on areas that are not groomed to perfection.

If you are lucky, you will have friends that ski, and who are willing to encourage you. In my own case, there was Mark Goebel back in Bradford, Pennsylvania. As my Assistant Scoutmaster, he was kindly insistent that the troop include some cross country ski outings in our "camp every month of the year" program. And, upon moving to Butte, my new friend Dave Carter introduced me to the local trails and helped get me past the psychological impasse of waxing. Thanks guys!

Cross country skiing takes a little practice. For many people, the best advice is (as the Nike slogan says), "Just do it." Most areas have lots of flat areas (such as parks or golf courses) to practice on, and soon the hills will seem easy. Come winter, what's a hiker and backpacker to do? You can't just sit inside and molder in front of the TV. So take up cross country skiing, or at least its slow cousin, snowshoeing (there are even hybrid snow shoe-skis, made by Karhu I think). These winter activities are the closest winter thing to hiking, with all the attendant exercise (it's good for everybody), communing with nature, and being part of an active, outdoor community.

* Focal engagement and patient vigor are terms developed by the philosopher of technology & modern life, Al Borgmann, in his book, Crossing the Postmodern Divide (University of Chicago Press, 1992). I highly recommend this book.

07 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: Where's the Snow?

Paul Sawyer has been doing an outstanding job of grooming the Moulton ski trails this winter, and they are in great shape. All things considered. Since Christmas, there just hasn't been much snow. We get the occaisonal inch or so, but for the most part, it's as if SnowMoses has been standing in the center of Butte, parting the clouds as they approach the headwaters and the Continental Divide.

No tracks on this trail since it was groomed on Saturday? That calls for another loop around:

It was a strange morning this: about 15 deg F at Walkerville, but near zero when I skied up the road from the Moulton parking lot. And nearly two hours later when I skied back down to the truck, it was about -5. Slow going, since I had waxed Extra Blue at the house and was too lazy to cork in some Green over the top of it. Oh well, a ski is like an orgasm--it's hard to have a bad one.

Speaking of which, Paul made a couple of runs around The Yankee Boy to pack it. Come a little fresh snow, and the best trail on the best ski area will be in business:

Somebody skied Buzzy recently, but -- given the tail's difficulty and chance of a big wipe out -- I hold off on that one until there's a little more snow. I don't know how many years are in these knees, and I'd like to last awhile.

04 January 2008

The Moulton Journal: Being Close to Nature on Montana's Finest Cross Country Ski Trails

My daughter, Emily Munday, looks forward to a ski outing or two when she is home from college in the winter. I can see why. In part, it is the physical experience of aerobic exercise in fresh, cold air. There is also a chance to commune with nature through quiet, muscle-powered locomotion--observing various tracks, laughing with the chattering pine squirrels, flushing the occasional grouse, watching the big cow moose that lives in the meadow below the parking lot, and knowing the niches where lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and Douglas-fir make their home. The Moulton ski trails greatly enhance this experience. They are narrow, winding, and vary constantly in grade. "Attention must be payed."

Here's Emily on Little Nipper:

Like all trails at Moulton, it takes its name from a mine or mining term. Nippers were the guys (often boys or young men) who sharpened tools and brought them to miners in locations throughout the mine. Because of their travels, they were also the "newspaper" of the mine. At The Moulton, Little Nipper is a delightful, intermediate loop for classical or skate skiing.

Here's Emily preparing to descend Widow Maker on the Big Nipper trail:

"Widow maker" had at least two meanings. It was a loose plate of rock on the roof of a drift or stope that might fall and crush a miner; and the term was also used for the pneumatic (compressed air-powered) drills that created clouds of dust that caused "miner's lung" or silicosis (also known as a Buzzy--the name for another Moulton trail). At The Moulton, it's part of the challenging Big Nipper loop--as indicated by the trail signs.

Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) seem to prefer the spruce and willow habitat of Big Nipper. All but the ear tips and eyes turn white in winter, they are largely nocturnal, and so they are seldom seen. But their tracks are very distinctive, and the big feet help them travel over snow and elude predators such as coyotes whose feet punch through the snow:

One of the joys of hiking or skiing with Emily is that she notices things that most of us speed past or take for granted. Here, she pointed out the mouse that had been coming & going from its den beneath a rock:

Good luck back at college, Em. And bring back a few new bumper stickers for the Land Rover. The ones you decorated it with in high school are wearing a little thin: