Casey Nocket, creepytings and the inevitable collision of ‘look at me!’ and the outdoors

It was bound to happen, sooner rather than later.

A collision of forces, innocuous by themselves, but in combination pretty unfortunate. An affinity for the outdoors, social media and a desire to be noticed by a lot of people have brought us… creepytings.

Casey Nocket and her Creepytings vandalism.

Casey Nocket and her creepytings vandalism.

Creepytings is an Instagram gallery of photos that a woman named Casey Nocket created in which she photographs acryllic paintings she plasters on rock faces in the country’s national parks.

I’m sure some people found these stunts interesting or cool, but most public reaction has been harshly negative. And for good reason, as it’s not only defacing places that are set aside to remain pristine, but it’s also illegal.

The “art” in itself looks like graffiti intended to look like primitive cave paintings. At least that’s the impression I got. Photographs showcase the paintings, and sometimes heavily stylized images of her with her paintings. It’s very hipster-in-the-wild chic, I guess.

I’m not going to debate whether or not what Nocket did was wrong. It’s obvious it was. Whatever punishment she has coming can’t come soon enough.

And it would be easy to take shots at the younger generation that has embraced all things social media and photography. No hike goes undocumented, no selfie is one too many. Go Pros and “Go Poles” have changed the way we see the outdoors, and how we portray ourselves in it, or more accurately, the image we try to portray of ourselves. Whether it’s a thing of personal branding or just hunting for likes, the result is the same — there is a lot of media out there of people doing things outside.

I’ll admit to being at least partially guilty of that. The biggest reason I write in this space is to showcase the outdoors and the need for all of us to be out in it. When you’re in it, you learn to respect it. That’s my theory.

But on that note, we’ve got work to do.

I’m a huge proponent of my local urban wild space, Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness. It’s an awesome place where I can run trails and hike, and it’s within Tulsa’s city limits, 15 minutes from my front door.

But I get discouraged when I see stuff like this.

Someone's bad idea of "art" at Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness.

Someone’s bad idea of “art” at Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness.

That was all chalk, but there are other rock faces defaced with spray paint. Similar acts of vandalism have tagged a number of wilderness areas I’ve visited. This is not a new problem, though one that’s worth fighting.

What’s different is people (in this case, Nocket) making it so public, justifying it as “art,” and then publicizing it widely (before she succumbed to public backlash and made her Instagram account private).

So I see this in two ways. We’ve succeeded in getting people outdoors, at least to a certain extent.

But we’ve failed in terms of instilling the sense of responsibility people need to have in caring for wild places. The chalk art, the creepytings paintings, the video of two idiots hitting golf balls off a mountain summit — all cases of people doing decidedly non-awesome things outside.

Or maybe we haven’t totally failed. Perhaps that’s too harsh. But if Casey Nocket teaches us anything, it’s that we have a lot of work to do in terms of teaching people to respect and protect wilderness.

So let’s get this message out. If you don’t respect it, you won’t protect it. And if you don’t protect it, you won’t have it for much longer.

Bob Doucette

Alone time: A case for going solo

There are days where you wish you never would have gotten out of bed.

Most of the time, those days pass. The sun rises the next day, you breathe easier and chalk up one bad day as something you have to go through every now and then.

But there are times when those days run back-to-back. Or maybe they run on for a week. Or several weeks.

I’ve had a few of those stretches. Personally, I’d like to forget most of 2010-2011. But more recently, it goes something like this…

There is, legitimately, a lot of angst over this little guy.

There is, legitimately, a lot of angst over this little guy.

I wake up in the morning and check the headlines. Ebola has made it to the United States. Elsewhere, some crazy, well-armed maniacs are making a case for beheading people they don’t like. And according to one group, the rainbow flag is now the new “sign of the beast.”

Add to that a few long, stressful shifts on the job, and let me tell you, I’m ready to escape. I’m ready to be away from people. I’m ready to see no one, hear nothing, and just be still for awhile.

Funny thing. I was involved in a Twitter chat recently where the topic was solo travel. It got me to thinking about those times when I hit the road for some serious alone time.

Back when I was in college, my family was spread out all over the world. At one point, I had a sister in west Texas, a brother in Colorado, another brother in Germany and my parents in France. I was attending courses at a small Baptist liberal arts college smack in the middle of Oklahoma.

I was cool being on my own. I liked school. I had good friends, things to do and a certain feeling of, dare I say, “accomplishment” for making it on my own. Never mind that I had my parents’ gas card and plenty of help along the way. But I digress.

When the holidays rolled around and campus cleared out, I’d often make my way to my sister’s place in Midland, a small west Texas city built on the petro-riches found deep underground in the Permian Basin. The routine: Load up my duffle, slip on a thick hoodie and a jacket, and buy a pack of cheap cigars as my truck rolled southwest to the flattest land in all of Texas. That’s an eight-hour drive, boring as hell and I loved every minute of it.

Probably not your idea of a good time, but hear me out. After a semester of communal living, tight class schedules, high stress and all that other business, those eight hours on the road — blowing cigar smoke out the window as the sound of the engine, the tires on the road and the music on the radio droned on — was just the release I needed. The yellow, orange, red and purple glow of sunset over the horizon was a pretty sweet bonus.

I’m sure the trip would have gone by faster with some company, but then I wouldn’t have been able to burn all those cigars, wouldn’t have been able to sing all those songs a full volume, and wouldn’t have had all that time to decompress.

Going solo is often about just that – decompression. The time alone without distractions to just drink in what’s going on around you without having to satisfy anyone else’s agenda but your own is exactly the tonic I need when life gets a little too crazy for a little too long.

A rainy day in the Wichita Mountains. This was taken on a different outing, but the visual effect is the same.

A rainy day in the Wichita Mountains. This was taken on a different outing, but the visual effect is the same.

Those couple of years that went awry (I mentioned 2010-2011 earlier) was also a time when I had one of the most amazing and memorable outdoor experiences of my life. A solo hike in the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma included a near-miss with a charging buffalo, a record-setting torrential rain storm and some absolutely incredible scenery – ancient granite peaks shrouded in rain and fog, transforming the appearance from sandy, beige granite into icy hues of pewter, silver and white.

When I tell people about that hike, they wonder aloud what would have happened to me if that buffalo would have gored me (self-rescue would have been a serious issues), or how I could possibly enjoy being soaked to the bone for hours on end.

But being alone allowed me to really pay attention to my surroundings. When you’re solo, your senses are heightened to a point where every sight, smell and scent is much more intense than it would have been if you had shared it with others.

It also gave me time to think. And believe me, I had a lot on my mind.

But in also focusing on the task at hand – navigating wilderness with no one else there to help – it also allowed me to escape. Maybe not forget. But even if for a day or two, just to not be where all the world’s troubles were, where all my problems were –  yes, that is an escape. As hostile as the conditions, and maybe the wildlife, were, that place at that time was a refuge not unlike the smoke-filled cab of my little pickup motoring down a west Texas highway.

More recently, a group climb in northern Colorado got washed out by bad weather, forcing me to make a choice: Go solo in a drier part of the state or go home. I chose the former.

I camped at the trailhead parking lot, which was dark and empty, nodding off to sleep to the mellower tunes I had on my phone before waking up in the pre-dawn hours and setting off on the trail up Missouri Mountain.

When you're walking into this misty void alone, the experience is visceral. This is on Missouri Mountain's summit ridge, just shy of 14,000 feet.

When you’re walking into this misty void alone, the experience is visceral. This is on Missouri Mountain’s summit ridge, just shy of 14,000 feet.

I suffered a bit on that trip, and the weather was dodgy the entire ascent. The only voice I heard was in my head, telling me to turn around and pack it in. But that same sense of heightened awareness I experienced in the Wichitas returned as I plodded my way up past 13,000 feet, and ultimately an amazing time where, for the first time in my life, I had a high summit to myself.

Hours later, I was back in my car headed toward civilization. As it turned out, I missed the news of the day – a mass shooting at a Navy station that ultimate kicked off another predictable social media shoutfest over guns.

At that point, I wished I was back in the bosom of wilderness, and away from the angst and outrage of “the real world.”

After the week I just had, I feel that pull pretty bad. The world can be a noisy, angry place. When I’ve had my fill of that, the quiet indifference of the wild, taken in on my own, sounds like paradise.

Bob Doucette

Places I like: Wetterhorn Peak

For many years, I had this thing for a Colorado mountain called Wetterhorn Peak. I saw pictures of it. Heard about people climbing it.

And then I saw it. Five years ago, while hiking Uncompahgre Peak, I finally laid eyes on this beauty. That’s when a low-grade obsession began — not all-consuming (that would be weird), but frequently on my mind.

A few months ago, I finally got to climb it. What usually happens after a climb a peak is something like still feeling a great appreciation for it, but the allure it had previously fades a bit.

That didn’t happen this time. Every time I see a picture of Wetterhorn, or relive that late spring ascent, I still find myself in a bit of awe. Not because of the difficulty of the climb (it’s not an extremely tough ascent), but more from its beauty.

Four ridges rise to its 14,015 summit. From the north, it’s rise is nearly shear. The south features a dramatic and signature sweep. Its east and west ridges are steep and rugged.

Pictures tell the tale better. Here is Wetterhorn as seen from the summit of nearby Matterhorn Peak.

Wetterhorn Peak as seen from Matterhorn Peak.

Wetterhorn Peak as seen from Matterhorn Peak.

My friend Kay hiked in from the north and snapped this amazing photo.

Wetterhorn as seen from the north. (Kay Bessler photo)

Wetterhorn as seen from the north. (Kay Bessler photo)

Wetterhorn wears the snow pretty well.

Late spring snow conditions on Wetterhorn's east face.

Late spring snow conditions on Wetterhorn’s east face.

And like a true beauty, she holds up well in a close-up.

The Wetterhorn summit, with the Prow to the left.

The Wetterhorn summit, with the Prow to the left.

And if you’re fortunate enough to reach Wetterhorn’s summit, the views from the top are incredible.

Amazing views to the north from Wetterhorn Peak's summit.

Amazing views to the north from Wetterhorn Peak’s summit.

Climber and BASE jumper/wingsuit flier Steph Davis writes a blog she titles “High Infatuation.” Though I think that term has a different meaning for her than for me, I can definitely  relate to the sentiment. Especially when it comes to this mountain. She hasn’t lost her luster.

Bob Doucette

Running tips: Getting stronger and faster with weights, speed workouts and hills

runningman

By now, many of you are headlong into fall race training. Some of you may have races coming up in the next couple of weeks. So far be it from me to interrupt your training schedule with more stuff to heap on top of what is probably an already rigorous plan.

But I need to speak a little truth here. And then I want to offer you a solution. I’ll speak in generalities, meaning that the general profile of a runner may not fit you, but that it does often describe the typical long-distance or endurance athlete. So here goes.

A lot of you run big races. Or you want to run big races. Whether it’s 13.1 miles, 26.2, a 50K or something even longer, those are the things that get you amped up to train. Many more of you like to go for shorter distances. Either way, you’re piling up the miles. You’re getting more capable every week. You’re pretty pleased at how long, how far and how fast those legs of yours will take you.

But here’s the truth: If you’re like most runners, you’re not as strong as you think you are. And as much as I hate to break this to ya, you might actually be muscularly weak.

Endurance athletes — recreational or competitive — put up with a lot of pain, soreness and gut-checks along the way to finish line glory. Many are fine with not looking like a body builder, because body builders can’t do what we do.

But while you shouldn’t be expected to do what they do, there is a good chance you need to look at how strong you actually are.

“Strength,” in this case, is measured by how much power your muscles can bring to bear when called upon. Strength builds speed, and we all know that speed is good. It’s more fun to be fast in a race than not.

Strength also make a difference in how well you handle hills. Unless you plan to glide on flat courses for the rest of your life, you’re going to see hills in your future, especially if you want to run on trails.

Lastly, strength gives your muscles the ability to handle the stresses of running and take a little pressure off your joints.

What I want to concentrate on are some exercises you can do to build strength, power and speed, and include different kinds of running workouts that will help you maximize what you build in the weight room and what you do on the course. Many of these exercises are of the single-leg variety (hugely important for runners), and none of them incorporate the use of weight machines. So here goes:

WEIGHTS

Split squats: With one foot forward and one back (like a lunge position), lower yourself down until your back leg knee is barely above the ground. Then rise back up, concentrating on squeezing your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Do 8 reps each leg for 3 sets. If you’re strong enough to do more than bodyweight split squats, hold some dumbbells in your hands as you do the exercise.

Side bench step-ups: Another single-leg exercise, but with a different twist. Find a short bench (maybe an aerobic step bench, or something slightly higher), about 12-18 inches high depending on your strength level. Stand to the side of the bench, and put your foot next to the bench on top. With the other foot, raise your toe off the floor. Then with your foot that’s on the bench, raise up, then slowly back down. The leg that’s on the bench should do all the work, with NO push-off from the other leg (that’s why you’re raising your toes up; to prevent any sort of push-off). This isolates the leg that’s on the bench and makes it do all the work. Do 3 sets of 10 reps each leg. If you’re getting stronger, hold a dumbbell or a plate to your chest. This will really work your quads and glutes. As a bonus, this will help with balance, too.

Side bench step-ups. (T-nation.com photo)

Side bench step-ups. (T-nation.com photo)

Single-leg Romanian deadlifts: Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell, lean forward with the weight in one hand, and have one leg trailing back, lowering yourself slowly, keeping tension on your hamstrings and glutes with your leg that’s planted on the ground, Then raise yourself back up slowly, really pulling with those glutes/hams. Do 3 sets of 10 reps per leg.

If you’re curious what my lower body workout looks like, here it is:

- Single-leg calf raises w/dumbbells, 3×10 (escalating weight)

- Barbell squats. 8, 6, 4 reps (escalating weight)

- Split leg squats, 3×8 (escalating weight)

- Barbell deadlifts, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 reps (escalating weight)

- Offset bench step-ups, 3×10 (bodyweight, slow)

- Single-leg Romanian deadlifts with kettlebells, 3×8

- Barbell hip bridges, 3×10

- 5 minutes simulated hill climb on the exercise bike

SPEED WORK

It is crucial that not all of your running workouts be at the same pace. Moving faster builds your muscles in new ways that will make you faster come race time. So incorporate speed training in your weekly plan.

You can get a lot of speed work done at the track.

You can get a lot of speed work done at the track.

Intervals: Head to the track, or find a place where you can run anywhere from 400 to 800 meters without having to stop. Do a one-mile warmup jog, then do your intervals by running 400 meters at your best speed, then walk or jog the next 400 meters. That’s one rep. Shoot for eight reps in your workout. If you’re feeling particularly strong, or want a bigger push, do these in 800-meter intervals. The 800-meter variety is often called Yassos, named after famed running coach Bart Yasso.

Fartleks: The term “fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play.” The idea behind fartleks is to break up a run with bursts of higher speeds, then slowing back down. It’s pretty easy: You’re out on a run, a aquarter mile ahead, you see a bridge. Increase your speed to, say, 5Kpace,then when you get there, slow back down and continue your run.  Find more targets, vary your speeds and distances. Keep it random, fun and challenging.

Tempo runs: These are great. Let’s say you’re doing a 5-mile run. Start out that first mile at an even, mellow pace. Then, for the next 3 miles, speed up to your race pace. Challenge yourself here. Then slow it back down that last mile. It’s that simple.

Alternate these speed workout methods from week to week. It will help!

HILL WORK

I’m amazed at how many runners avoid hills during their training for big races. Sure, some races are flat. Most aren’t. So there’s two ways to tackle hills.

Hill courses: Plan routes for your short- and medium-length runs that have hills. Even include hilly portions on your long runs. If you’re really a planner, check out the elevation profile of your next planned race and mimic that in your training. You owe it to yourself to be prepared.

Find hilly places to run. It's going to make you suffer, but it's going to make you better.

Find hilly places to run. It’s going to make you suffer, but it’s going to make you better.

Hill repeats: Warm up for a mile, then find yourself a good-sized, moderately steep hill. Then run up and down that thing. Start out at 20 minutes and work your way up. I prefer trails, as trail hills are often bigger, longer and steeper than what you get on the road. Either way, find a hill and push yourself. This will make you physically and mentally stronger as well as faster. Do a hill repeat workout once a week.

Incorporate these running workouts into your week, and program in some strength training using the exercises I listed above. There is more that you can do (you shouldn’t ignore your core or your upper body, particularly the back), but I can promise you that if you vary up your training with these things, you’re going to run faster, stronger, and with fewer injuries. Give it a shot!

Bob Doucette

Checking out the new course for the Route 66 Marathon

About a month ago, I posted something about the new route for the 2014 Tulsa Run. A huge park and road reconstruction project forced race organizers to make a dramatic change to that race’s course.

So what would that mean for the Route 66 Marathon? Both races have a couple things in common: They both start and end in downtown Tulsa, and they both have traditionally utilized Riverside Drive (the road that is going to see a big closure pretty soon) for a significant portion of their respective courses.

The re-routing of the Tulsa Run was significant. But for Route 66? Not nearly as much. Below is a map of the marathon and half marathon courses for Route 66:

rt66

The major change is how the race bypasses the construction area on Riverside. The route goes east a bit to a residential street (Cincinnati Avenue) before going back to Riverside Drive and into downtown. This is the home stretch for the half marathoners, and about 40 percent of the way for the full marathon crew.

The rest of the course is basically the same.

OVERVIEW

So for those of you running the half and the full, here’s an preview:

Expect a fast start. The race begins downtown, which is at the top of a hill overlooking the Arkansas River. So your run from downtown to midtown will be mostly downhill to flat.

The course gets hilly in midtown. Once you hit 21st Street and into those glorious old midtown neighborhoods, you’re going to be going up and down a series of small hills that will zap you if you’re not properly pacing yourself. It flattens out once you hit Peoria and the Brookside area, and remains that way as you make your next turn.

Bank some time on Riverside and Cincinnati. This part of the course is a good place to set a decent pace before heading back into downtown.

There is a hilly climb back into downtown. This is important to remember if you’re running the half. Make sure you’ve got enough gas in the tank to tackle that uphill climb into downtown. Half marathoners will then take a fast downhill on Denver Avenue before one more uphill stretch that takes your into the Brady Arts District and the finish line.

Marathoners will veer back east and start heading out of downtown again, back toward midtown. The hills return on Peoria and keep going on 21st Street and into the neighborhoods on the eastern portion of the course.

The fun begins as you head north toward the University of Tulsa. There’s nothing steep, but it’s a mostly steady uphill grade until you get there. A circle through campus will then take you to what I consider the crux of the full marathon.

So you know, 15th Street is not kind. Just before Mile 22 (right around the time when the wheels have started to fall off for a lot of runners), you hit the biggest hills of the race on 15th Street. Past Mile 23, you turn back north on Peoria and into downtown.

Once you dogleg into downtown, the course mercifully takes a flat to downhill pitch on First Street. On this stretch, you’ll have the option to take the Center of the Universe detour where you can pick up a prize and add a few tenths of a mile to your race. You can also pick up some suds and listen to a band while you’re there. And then you can call your race a baby ultra, right?

The homestretch puts you back on Denver Avenue, with a downhill pitch under some railroad tracks, then a short, steep incline into the Brady District and then the finish line.

Some things I learned…

Every race for the past three years that I’ve lived here have been cool to cold. Last year, it did not get above 28 degrees. Just watch the forecasts and be ready for a cool- to cold-weather run.

Expect excellent course support. Water/sports drink stops are frequent. Personally, I’d skip bringing your own water.

The course will challenge you. It’s not like you’re climbing giant hills. There are just a lot of them. Be sure you’re training on hills, even a little on your weekend long runs. If you don’t, well, you’ll find out.

While challenging, it’s also pretty awesome. You get two trips into downtown, long stretches through scenic neighborhoods, and a finish in the hippest, coolest place in Tulsa. The finish line party is worth the pain.

We’re less than two months away. Personally, I can’t wait for this one. Route 66 is a special race.

Bob Doucette

Feds to public: This land is OUR land, and we’re gonna make you pay

One of the goals I have for this site is to get people outside. For starters, it’s good for you. And just as important, when you see the outdoors for yourself you gain an appreciation for it. With that hopefully comes a desire to protect and preserve those great wild spaces for everyone.

But now comes a couple of moves from the geniuses in Washington — one inside the bureaucracy, another from Congress — that would discourage and  even punish people who go into public lands for recreational purposes.

So let’s break it down…

Careful there, shutterbug. That pic might cost you $1,000.

Careful there, shutterbug. That pic might cost you $1,000.

FOREST SERVICE AND PHOTO FEES

First, the U.S. Forest Service wants to charge you a $1,500 fee for a permit to shoot photos or videos on USFS lands. And if you’re caught shooting without a permit, you get a $1,000 fine.

Liz Close, a USFS wilderness director, told media outlets that the rule is designed to follow the 1964 Wilderness Act, which forbids commercial exploitation of wilderness areas.

I’m all for protecting wilderness. But there are several problems with this proposal.

For starters, it runs afoul of the First Amendment. Still images and video are all considered protected free speech.

Second, the rule seems pretty arbitrary and open to a variety of interpretations. Does a news organization doing a feature story (not breaking news, which the USFS says it will allow without a permit) constitute “commercial exploitation?” What about coverage of ongoing news stories in wilderness areas? Who decides that?

And what if the “exploitation” in question is from some nature blogger who has a couple of sponsors on his or her site? Does that poor devil need to pony up $1,500 to take a pic of a waterfall?

The Wilderness Act was designed to protect wilderness areas from commercial activity that would alter or destroy their timeless, wild characteristics. That’s why there is an absence of oil wells, strip mines, amusement parks, luxury hotels and other big-footprint operations in federally designated wilderness areas. It’s also why any forms of mechanical transportation are likewise forbidden.

A photographer or a video crew carrying their gear on foot will not have any more impact on wilderness than an ordinary backpacker on a multi-day trip. Likewise, the ambiguity of what constitutes “commercial activity” should not threaten the average person with a camera or a smartphone who wants to get some images of nature.

Outside Online reports that public outcry has caused the agency to delay final implementation until December, and has extended a public comment period. You can make your voice on this subject heard here.

You might see tents. But certain members of Congress see dollar signs.

You might see tents. But certain members of Congress see dollar signs.

CONGRESS PULLING A FAST ONE

At least we can give the USFS credit for being open about their new, albeit wrongheaded, rule. But Congress is trying to do something that may end up costing you, and lawmakers are doing it in such a way as to sneak it in under our noses.

As reported by The Adventure Journal, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is trying to slip House Resolution 5204 into a general appropriations bill, and he might be able to do it without so much as a single hearing.

What does HR 5204 do? Here’s the breakdown, as cited by The Adventure Journal:

• It would remove the ban on the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management charging for parking, picnicking along roads or trailsides, general access, dispersed areas with low or no investment, driving through, walking through, boating through, horseback riding through, or hiking through federal recreational lands and waters without using facilities and services, camping at undeveloped sites that do not provide minimum facilities, and use of overlooks or scenic pullouts. The bill replaces them with a single prohibition on fees “For any site, area, or activity, except as specifically authorized under this section.” The Western Slope No Fee Coalition says, “Since ‘this section’ authorizes fees for anything, that prohibition is meaningless.”

• The Forest Service and BLM would be allowed to charge day fees for entry to national conservation areas, national volcanic monuments, visitor centers, and anywhere that has a toilet within a half mile.

• Interagency passes, currently $80, would automatically go up in price every three years.

I’m wary of legislation that is passed without any debate or a hearing, but that’s what  is afoot here. It’s also exceedingly vague, basically allowing fees to wriggle into public land use based on what someone might want to do at the time. There are already fees in some wilderness areas, but most are free. HR 5204 could greatly expand the number of places where fees would be assessed.

If this bothers you, consider writing your congressman and senators quickly — as in within a week — as it’s likely to be part of a continuing resolution to be passed soon to keep the government from being shut down.

In both of these cases, it’s not really clear what policy goal is trying to be accomplished. But they both seem to have a monetary goal — finding new revenue streams. I could rail on policymakers for not having the courage to reform the nation’s tax code in a way that would address federal budget woes, but that is another topic for another day.

What it clear is that both of these initiatives hurt the cause of wilderness in that they cut off public access by way of creating new financial hurdles for the people who love wilderness the most. If policymakers want to find ways to properly fund and manage wilderness areas, there are far better methods to do it than by  feeing and fining the public for enjoying public lands.

Woody Guthrie famously penned the words, “This land is your land, this land is my land.” The feds seem to be saying it belongs to them, and not us. That’s a sentiment that needs to be corrected.

UPDATE: The USFS has clarified (changed?) its position on permits for news gathering organizations. Earlier it had said it would apply to news organizations unless footage was obtained in a breaking news situation. The Forest Service on Thursday told The Associated Press a different story: “The U.S. Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment,” USFS chief Tom Tidwell said. “It does not infringe in any way on First Amendment rights. It does not apply to news-gathering activities, and that includes any part of the news.”

The Forest Service also said that the rule would not apply to professional or amateur photographers unless they were using “models, actors, or props or work in areas where the public is generally not allowed,” Outside Online reported.

This is all good news — and a sign of what a little pressure can do in terms of making sure the government listens to people. It’s still worth your time to make your feelings known by clicking on the link above concerning public comments on USFS policy on this matter.

Bob Doucette

Places I like: Chicago Basin, Colorado

chi1

You know how wild a place is going to be based on how difficult it is to get to. While not a foolproof axiom, it generally holds up.

And that describes Chicago Basin, Colorado, very well. You can either hike in from some 20 miles out or hop a train and get dropped off in the middle of nowhere to start your journey to this slice of alpine heaven.

It’s a lot different than most of Colorado. The state is pretty dry by nature, but the San Juans tend to accumulate more rain and snow than neighboring ranges. And compared to the rest of the San Juans, Chicago Basin gets even more. The end result is a place so lush, so green, that is practically drips with foliage.

At times, the clouds and mists obscure the real rock stars of the basin – its peaks. But invariably, these beauties refuse to remain veiled for very long. Four summits towering more than 14,000 feet crown the upper reaches of the basin and even more 13,000-foot peaks join the show. Like the wilderness itself, all these mountains are wild. No gentle, grassy slopes for these crags. Instead, you’re greeted by sheer cliffs, tall spires and rocky ramparts that create an imposing – and inspiring – skyline.

In some ways, it’s too bad you can see these scenes from the road. But like a lot of things in life, with great effort comes great rewards. You’re going to have to do more than take a long drive to see Chicago Basin. But if you’re willing and don’t mind the toil, you’re going to see real wilderness on its terms, and in its full glory.

chi2

Bob Doucette