Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

What Photography Means to Me

Friday, April 11th, 2014
Apr photo column WHAT PHOTO MEANS TO MEAN-VET_Webstory

Photography introduces David to people he might never have known. Here, he interviews a World War II veteran.
Photo by Monica Maschak

Many people ask the same question: Why pursue photography in this age when everybody owns a camera and thinks they are photographers?

I can be sarcastic and say the advent of the pencil didn’t magically make everybody a writer. But a more thoughtful answer might be to explain what photography means to me.

I have known photography longer than I have known my wife, my children and most of my relatives. For a half-century, this magical medium has been both a vocation and an avocation.

Like many of my generation, my first camera was a Brownie Hawkeye. Actually, it was my mother’s camera, but she let me use it. I must have been 11 or 12 when I began trying to get close enough to opossums, skunks, raccoons, bobcats and other animals to shoot good pictures of them. I risked my life climbing out on tree limbs—high above cliffs and creek beds—to photograph crow and hawk nests.

A few years later, I began photographing human animals.

That is when the camera became more than just a way to capture pictures of creatures, record places I had visited or people I met. It became a therapeutic tool, a way to frame, to analyze and make sense of the world. It was my filter, my screen to sort through many confusing emotions and separate the small stuff, the gravel of life, from the gold nuggets. It helped me organize what I saw and felt, and taught me lessons I could never have learned in a classroom. My subjects have always been my greatest teachers.

Photography—photojournalism in particular—built my self-esteem. A camera around my neck was my Superman cape. I felt important. I had purpose. It gave me the courage to enter any environment, and I often ventured into dangerous and intimidating situations where I would never have gone without a camera.

The “magic box,” as some have called it, continues to lead me to people and lands I once only dreamed about. It is a passport that opens doors and carries me on adventures across the globe. They are places I would be unlikely to explore without a camera.

Photography also helped me slow down, pay attention and observe life more closely. It allowed me to see the beauty and the stories in simple things others pass by unaware or discard as worthless. A bird feather caught in a bush; a discarded toy on a roadside; or two fallen leaves gliding to earth and arriving in the same spot on a wet sidewalk: each tells a story.

The camera also has challenged me to question and see my own reflection play out in the faces and actions of others, for better or worse.

But above all, the camera has been a loyal companion and a trusted friend that has made this experience that we call life more profound.

I never feel bored or alone when I have a camera. Unlike a dog or other pet, it doesn’t shed, have to pee or need shots. Nor does it get jealous and chew the dash of my car or steering wheel when I leave it alone.
And the camera tells me the truth when I need to hear it … or see it.

Looking back, I realize what an incredible gift photography was to an insecure kid from Creek Road. I thank God for the camera’s healing power, and I cannot imagine what my life would have been without it.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He grew up on a frog farm in rural California, roaming the creeks and hills with his coon dogs. Many of the lessons he learned during those magical boyhood years have been applied to photography and teaching the essence of this art form. For more information, visit

Intense: Driving Truck on America’s Oil Fields

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Black clouds packing thunderstorms and tornadic winds lurk behind an oil field truck in western North Dakota. Storms in the summer and frigid temperatures in the winter were just two of the many challenges Arco’s Tim Snyder faced as he worked driving truck in the booming oil country. Photo courtesy of Tim Snyder

Black clouds packing thunderstorms and tornadic winds lurk behind an oil field truck in western North Dakota. Storms in the summer and frigid temperatures in the winter were just two of the many challenges Arco’s Tim Snyder faced as he worked driving truck in the booming oil country.
Photo courtesy of Tim Snyder

Facing mounting medical bills to pay for his children’s heart surgeries, Tim Snyder looked to the oil fields of North Dakota for financial relief.

“At times, working up there seemed unreal because the stress was so intense, it was so isolated and the weather was so extreme,” Tim recalls. “I’m only 41, and the job gave me gray hair and aged me 10 years.

The Arco native drove a semi-truck to haul water to and from oil wells from last August until late January, working three weeks then taking two weeks off.

“Truckers are paid based on a percentage of what they haul, so they can earn $100,000 to $200,000 a year,” Tim says. But I couldn’t stand it for that long because I missed my wife, Lindsey, and our kids. But it was worthwhile overall because it helped us become debt-free and not live paycheck to paycheck.”

With experience driving truck for Arco Feed and Fertilizer, Tim decided he was qualified to apply for a job with a trucking company based in Crosby, N.D.

“My dad’s nephew works up there,” says Lindsey, “so he told Tim to come up.”

Lindsey’s dad, Jack Jensen, 69, had driven truck in the oil fields of Wyoming from 2007 to 2011 and told his son-in-law what to expect.

“You’re basically a number to a trucking company and either you get the job done or get fired,” says Jack.

After selling his ranch near Moore, Jack was looking for a well-paying job to save money for retirement and decided to work in the oil and gas fields near Pinedale.

“At first, I hauled diesel fuel to the frack sites,” says Jack, who worked 60 to 80 hours a week. “Then I was assigned to haul condensate from the wells. It’s a byproduct of the gas wells and is piped to a refinery in Salt Lake City.”

When an opportunity arose to lease the Travel Plaza in Arco, Jack returned to the valley.

“Working over there wasn’t so bad for me because I could come home every night,” says Jack.

He and his wife, Diana, put up a pre-fab home near LaBarge.

Unlike his father-in-law, Tim lived in the sleeping compartment of his semi-truck while he was in North Dakota.

“I had to stay at the oil well and monitor the water used for fracking,” he says. “I’d haul in fresh water and haul away the used water and take it to a processing facility, then to a disposal site. Depending on production, sometimes you work almost nonstop and catch a nap when you can.”

The job was risky because hydrogen sulfide, a lethal gas, is sometimes released from the ground during drilling.

“My H2S monitor went off several times,” he recalls. “If you inhale too much, you’re dead in three minutes. If you smell it, you run into the wind, so it blows away from you. Other times there’s no odor and your detector just goes off, so you run. It’s stressful because if something does happen, you really can’t get help. You’re alone out there and there’s no cell phone coverage in most places.”

The cost of living was high.

“A 10-minute shower cost $10,” Tim explains. “A little fruit salad was $4.50. When I was in town, a small amount of groceries for me cost $150 a week. I’d heat meals in a microwave inside the truck.”

The weather was extreme. Last summer, it was 100 degrees with occasional tornadoes. In winter, blizzards sometimes caused whiteout driving conditions, and temperatures dove to minus 68 degrees.

“In the mornings, the inside of the truck was covered with frost, even though a floor heater had been running,” he says.
In those frigid conditions, photos that Tim put up of Lindsey and the kids helped warm his heart.

“They reminded me of why I was there in those circumstances,” he says. “After two weeks of the work and isolation, it’s natural to get a little giddy, irritable and start talking to yourself.”

Coming home was nearly as stressful as the trucking, but for different reasons.

“After driving the 13 hours and 996 miles home, I’d pack up and go down to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and live there for a few weeks,” Tim says.

Their daughter, Payton, who was born November 13, 2013, needed two open-heart surgeries by the time she was 4 months old as a result of missing chromosome 22. Their 2-year-old son Jackson had surgery to enlarge his aorta.

While Tim and Lindsey were at the hospital, their daughters Samantha, 18, and Karmen, 14, took care of the house, their other siblings and eight horses.

“The girls grew up fast,” says Lindsey. “My dad checked on them, too. We were proud of them. They never missed a day of school and did all their after-school activities like 4-H, dance, cheerleading and rodeo.”

Karmen says she and her sister felt like parents.

“Sometimes, we’d naturally squabble, but we took care of everything,” says Karmen. “We missed our parents. It was hard on all of us.”

Since Tim has returned home, people have asked him about getting a job in North Dakota. He tells them they have to be mentally tough.

“Some people have gone up there, looked around and come back,” he says. “It can be overwhelming. For me, this valley will always be home. But I might have to go back up this summer because the kids need more surgeries. We’ll see.”

Rockhounds: Digging for Inspiration

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
A shelf full of rocks, crystals and gems from Kim’s extensive home collection.

A shelf full of rocks, crystals and gems from Kim’s extensive home collection.

Buried treasure most often is referred to in American discourse theoretically rather than literally. It exists in the folklore of Long John Silver and in the imagination of children wearing eye patches and foil on their teeth, pretending to be pirates on the hunt for something magnificent.

The search for buried treasure usually is abandoned by middle school, but Kim Martin never stopped. He just knew where to look.

“Whether maybe you’re digging (rocks) out of the ground or chiseling them out of a cliff, you feel like a treasure hunter,” Kim says.
Kim, 50, has been a rockhound since he was 7, when he would accompany his father to areas near their home in Pennsylvania to look for rocks that could be refined into jewelry.

“I wanted his attention, too, so I’d go out and try to find interesting rocks and bring them up to him,” Kim says. “That taught me really quickly how to choose rocks that were interesting and not just run-of-the-mill rocks that you’d find anywhere, because he wouldn’t give me any attention if I showed him run-of-the-mill rocks.”

Kim Martin of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, examines one of his pieces and tells the story behind it.

Kim Martin of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, examines one of his pieces and tells the story behind it.

His father, Frank, mined for rocks, crystals and gemstones in search of rare colors and patterns that someone would want to wear around their neck or wrists.

Kim calls it the “oh wow” effect.

“He could take a piece of glass and turn it into something that would look like a diamond,” Kim says.

Kim helped his father mine rocks until he died of a stroke in 1978, when Kim was 15.

“That’s probably why I pursued it so much afterwards because it was kinda like he got yanked away from me,” Kim explains.

After studying electrical engineering at Northern Arizona University and getting a job in the Northwest, Kim settled with his wife, Suzy, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

He joined the Spokane Rock Rollers—a local club that rockhounds everything from garnets at Emerald Creek in Idaho to quartz at Lolo Pass between Idaho and Montana. Using the club’s lapidary shop, he made earrings for his wife and decorated their home with crystals, stones and petrified wood.

But the jewelry box was getting tight, and so was shelf space.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to die and have a bunch of these sitting around that no one has had a chance to enjoy,’” Kim says.

Cherry Creek Jasper (also called Red Creek Jasper) from Kim's Etsy shop, Stone Pendents.

Cherry Creek Jasper (also called Red Creek Jasper) from Kim’s Etsy shop, Stone Pendents.

He explored various avenues to share his stones—from gem shows to eBay—but ultimately decided to open a shop on

Kim refines everything from gemstones to natural glass and wire wraps them to make necklaces and rings. They are sold through his shop, Stone Pendants, and shipped out of his home.

“I’ve learned which rocks actually are worth money and which aren’t,” Kim says. “I’ve learned how to use the tools to shape the rocks and polish them and turn them into jewelry or flagstones. And I’ve gotten a lot better at where to look for the rocks that I want.”

Between owning a shop and being an active participant in the Rock Rollers, Kim’s learning curve has come a long way since he was a boy swinging a hammer for rocks and gems. Workflow efficiency has allowed him to spend more time on jewelry shaping when he returns from a rockhounding trip.

“It’s patience and it’s the willingness to sit there and try to make something perfect—that’s part of the challenge,” Kim says. “You can tell sloppy work.”

Accelerated does not necessarily mean fast. But slow is a relative term, too.

“Time flies by,” Kim says, “sitting there working with magnifying lenses, working on a wheel, sanding, polishing and shaping the stone, inspecting it very carefully for the tiniest little cracks. It’s nice.”

The precision and attention paid to each rock, crystal and gem brings a sense of peace for Kim, despite the possibility of a sharp cut or over-sanding.

“It turns into what I’ve never experienced in my life, which is what its like to be an artist,” he says.

As much as Kim enjoys the delicate motions of an artist, he likes to hammer and dig away like a treasure hunter even more, swinging for the hope of what is beneath the surface.

“Being out there and finding it—the finding feeling—it’s great,” Kim says.

Seven Tips for Photographing Pets

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Photo by Hailey Hawkins.

Photo by Hailey Hawkins.

Photographing pets is a lot like working with toddlers: They don’t hold still, they don’t smile on cue and they have a short attention span.

Try the following tips to increase your odds of capturing memorable photos of your family’s pets.

Photo by Mike Teegarden.

Photo by Mike Teegarden.

  • Get ready. You never know when a pet is going to do something cute or funny, so have your camera ready at all times.
  • Get close. Don’t lose sight of your pet among the clutter. Get close with your camera or use a longer lens, so every whisker is a sharp detail.
  • Get low. Photograph pets at their eye level or lower. The lower angle makes the eyes easier to see and gives picture viewers a stronger emotional connection to your pets. It also creates more interesting compositions.
  • Get the right light. In general, do not use a flash when photographing pets. The flash on your camera will give your pet’s eyes that crazed-animal look. Window light is much more flattering and enhances the texture of their fur. For outdoor pets, take pictures early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Shoot lots. To increase your odds, shoot more than one or two photos. Fast-moving animals often make for blurry photos. Some smartphones feature a burst mode that acts like a motor drive to shoot several frames at once and will increase the odds of capturing the perfect moment.
  • Candid or posed? Posed photos will try the patience of both pet and photographer. Opt for candid photos that show off the animal’s personality. Pets at play and at rest are fair game.
  • Add humans. Make sure some of the photos include your pet’s favorite humans. Long after your pet is gone, those photos will spark loving memories.

Pet Intelligence: How Smart is Your Pet?

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Apr main feature smart dog photo iStock_000003706920Large WEB

Photo by Iztok Noc

How smart is your pet? Many people think their pet is a genius. A dog’s or cat’s ability to adapt to training, learn new tricks and solve problems reveals a lot about them, but determining just how smart your furry friend is can be trickier than you might think.

“Our ability to measure a dog’s intelligence, even in the most ideal of circumstances, is still limited,” says trainer and dog behaviorist Jonathan Klein. “I’ve been training professionally for more than 22 years and still don’t feel comfortable in confidently saying that a dog is smart or dumb.”

He says it is similar to going to a country where you don’t speak the language.

“I could interview five locals, and if I were asked to rank their order of intelligence, it would be a total guess on my part,” he says.

All animals, including humans, have inherent aptitudes and hard-wired traits to aid in their survival. We excel at reasoning and problem-solving, but gauging a dog’s or a cat’s intelligence based on the same criteria may not be the smartest way to go.

“Measuring animal intelligence is controversial because any way we look at it we are coming at it from the human perspective,” says veterinarian Jean Hofve, co-author of “The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care: An Illustrated Handbook.”

Photo by Mike Teegarden.

Photo by Mike Teegarden.

When gauged by criteria unique to each species, animals are pretty sharp.

“It turns out that crows use tools, chimpanzees plan activities ahead of time, prairie dogs have their own language, and dogs can learn hundreds of nouns and verbs,” Hofve says. “Every animal has intelligence and ability. It’s up to us to find those qualities and help our pet express them.”

Your dog may not be able to correct the error if he wraps his leash around a pole and your cat may not come when called by name, but that doesn’t mean they are not intelligent in their own right. It is just that different species and breeds have different aptitudes.

“A border collie is considered extremely intelligent because he is able to learn very complex signals and routines that take advantage of the traits bred into him, such as the tendency to herd,” Hofve says. “But a pug knows how to get a laugh and when to snuggle to make his guardian feel better at the end of a long day. He has special talents that are just as valuable.”

The secret behind a “smart” pet is playing to its unique traits and tapping into natural motivators.

“All dogs—just like all people—have different aptitudes,” Klein says. “There are brilliant mathematicians who can barely write a letter and novelists who can’t do basic division.

“With dogs, it’s more about their drive to pursue a certain task than it is about their intelligence. Let’s say you have two dogs, and you throw each a ball into a field with tall grass. One may look for that ball for an hour, while the other may give up after a couple of minutes. This doesn’t mean that one dog is smarter than the other, but that one is more motivated to find the ball.”

Pet owners can make the most of those motivations and unique traits with engaging activities. As with humans, exposure to a wide range of stimuli helps pets’ brains form new connections, especially when they are young.

New people, new social situations and new training routines help dogs and cats flex their brain muscles.

“Think of it this way: If you snooze on the sofa all day, you’re not doing anything to develop your mind,” Hofve explains. “Stimulation from the environment creates new pathways for the neurons in your pet’s brain, allowing new ways of thinking.”

Interactive, puzzle-type toys—especially when paired with food—are great for boosting brainpower in both dogs and cats. The treats offer substantial rewards that tap into a natural motivator and allow pets to use their inherent abilities to solve the problem.

Cats will employ their manual dexterity and a keen hunting instinct, while dogs can tap into their extraordinary sense of smell to extract the treat. Some pets will catch on more quickly than others, but all pets will benefit from the mental challenge.

Diet also plays an important role in mental acuity. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is crucial for brain development. It is the primary fat in the brain, and a critical element for lifelong brain and vision function, Hofve says.

Because of their carnivorous nature, cats and dogs are not good at converting plant-source omega-3s into usable nutrients, so look for marine-based supplements such as cod liver oil and fish body oil formulated for pets.

“There really is such a thing as brain food,” Hofve says. “Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that protect the brain from the degenerative effect of aging and prevent cognitive decline and senility.”

Recognizing and understanding these important factors will help you bring out the best in your pet, no matter its type, its breed or its intelligence quotient.


The Art of Chocolate

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Chef Washington Caceres of Jackpot, Nevada, puts the finishing touches on two 2-foot-tall Easter egg sculptures. They are made of 38 pounds of chocolate. Photo by Kris Ann Brown

Chef Washington Caceres of Jackpot, Nevada, puts the finishing touches on two 2-foot-tall Easter egg sculptures. They are made of 38 pounds of chocolate.
Photo by Kris Ann Brown

Hours pass like minutes for Chef Washington Caceres in his chocolate room whenever he heeds the call of his culinary muse. The quiet room beneath the main kitchen at Cactus Petes Resort Casino in Jackpot, Nevada, belies the hubbub upstairs. With a softly hissing culinary blow torch and a steady hand, he deftly shapes delicate flowers on two 2-foot-tall chocolate Easter eggs.

“I’m fortunate to be doing what I love,” says the 63-year-old chef, who creates visually stunning chocolate sculptures for the holidays. “Doesn’t this room smell wonderful? Everyone loves chocolate.”

He estimates he worked 80 hours to create his “Easter Bunny Paradise” from 38 pounds of chocolate. The two eggs adorned with rabbits and carrots are displayed at the casino’s buffet.

“To make something beautiful like this, you have to pour your heart into it,” says the perfectionist chocolatier.

Chef Washington’s professional calling began to nudge him as a youngster growing up in Ecuador.

“I helped my mother in her pastry and candy shop, and loved it,” he says. “She always told me being good is good, but being the best is better.”

He learned intricate pastry and chocolate artistry at the Ewald Notter School of Pastry Arts in Orlando, Florida, and later took specialized classes to advance his skills.

The award-winning chef worked worldwide for three decades in five-star hotels and on cruise lines before settling in Jackpot four years ago. Numerous award plaques for his work hang in a hallway near the chocolate room.

After Easter, the egg creations rest on a shelf under a protective covering.

“I’ll decorate them a little differently next year,” says Chef Washington. “To do the same thing would be boring. I put a lot of love into whatever I do.”

Reptile Rescue: A Safe Haven for Abandoned Reptiles

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Makaiwi holds a leopard gecko, which is larger than other species of geckos. Its native habitat is the rocky, desert regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India.

Makaiwi holds a leopard gecko, which is larger than other species of geckos. Its native habitat is the rocky, desert regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India.

Slippery, sticky, rough and abrasive are a few of the textures Makaiwi Wachter feels throughout the day.

In the morning, he dons a white, coarse cotton jacket and spends the day as head chef at a restaurant in Dayton, Washington, where he grasps the rough wooden handles of cutlery to cut, slice and chop fresh, sometimes slippery, ingredients.

At night, he hangs up his white jacket and handles the slick, sticky, scurrying lizards and snakes that inhabit his garage, otherwise known as DaVine Herps reptile rescue.

“I’ve loved reptiles ever since I was a little kid,” Makaiwi says.

What may seem like a side hobby has deep roots for Makaiwi that trace back to when he was in high school.

He had several geckos and an iguana until he enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduation. He found good homes for his pets and didn’t get another reptile until 2010. When he had enough room to house the animals, he insulated the garage, set up equipment and opened up shop in 2012.

Makaiwi Wachter of Walla Walla, Washington, cradles an iguana named Mama. At any given time, he has more than four dozen reptiles at his DaVine Herps reptile rescue facility.

Makaiwi Wachter of Walla Walla, Washington, cradles an iguana named Mama. At any given time, he has more than four dozen reptiles at his DaVine Herps reptile rescue facility.

Fortunately, his wife, Marisa, didn’t mind when the garage was filled with reptiles instead of the usual possessions.

“I knew he was into reptiles when I married him,” she says.

DaVine Herps houses about 50 reptiles, varying its inventory by demand. Most of the snakes, geckos and bearded dragons are from the ranks of the forgotten or forsaken.

Common scenarios involve teenagers heading off to college and parents who do not want the burden of caring for a gecko, an iguana growing much larger than its owner anticipated or a family simply not wanting to transport Slither the snake on its move across the country.

Makaiwi has accepted inventory from a poorly run pet store that went out of business. Every few months, he receives a call from the Humane Society.

“I try not to say ‘no’ to anything if I can,” Makaiwi says.

He and Marisa have driven 50 miles to pick up a pregnant iguana that was found roaming the streets of Pasco, Washington. She was aptly named Mama, and has remained in the Wachters’ care since laying 42 infertile eggs.

Most reptiles come to Makaiwi with health issues such as bone disease or being underweight. Makaiwi puts powdered vitamin supplements on top of their food to make sure they get the same nutrients provided by plants and game found in their diets in the wild.

He recommends probiotics for respiratory issues, but not every issue is easily solved.

“You think you know enough, but you learn something new every day,” Makaiwi says. “New things come up because of living situations, habitat, elevation, temperatures, where you are in the country.”

Ultraviolet light is crucial to creating a proper environment, no matter where the reptile lives. UVA light helps reptiles see their environment and evokes a sense of comfort and better social behavior, digestion and activity levels. UVB light helps them regulate temperature and maintain proper vitamin and calcium levels.

While most ultraviolet bulbs can last more than a year, Makaiwi says they should be replaced every 6 to 8 months.

He notes various misconceptions when it comes to the care and ownership of snakes.

“You’ll find a 5-foot python and they won’t eat anything bigger than a rat,” Makaiwi says, noting reptiles get a reputation as man-eating and aggressive.

While all snakes are carnivores, they cannot eat anything bigger than 1½ times their width, and would rather flee than pursue. Pet or not, snakes will only strike if they feel threatened.

“Snakes are going to do what they want to do, but iguanas can be trained,” Makaiwi says.

A level of trust can be built with iguanas, and some eventually can be walked. Makaiwi says it depends on the reptile’s personality.

“They do want attention, some of them,” he says. “They get used to your tone of voice.”

Sometimes iguanas will tilt their head toward whoever is talking and listen.

“My kids will play with them,” Makaiwi says. “It helps them getting used to being held.”

His children, Coelton, 10, and Kaela, 9, help condition the reptiles in preparation for potential owners. Makaiwi has a thorough screening process to ensure reptiles do not return to the same state they were in before DaVine Herps.

Prospective adopters go through an application process that involves meeting with Makaiwi to answer questions and assess eligibility.

Reading about how to care for reptiles and knowing the consequences of it are two different things, Makaiwi says, noting the ideal adopter has experience handling reptiles and treating them as rescues, as he has done.

“You can help support and give an animal its comfort of life,” he says.

Makaiwi ensures that in his work and his hobby.

He will develop a recipe for a featured pasta, combining the right ingredients and measurements to get it just right. In the same way, he will plan a mix of supplements for a rescue.

No matter if skin is smooth or sticky, whomever he serves always has a sense of comfort.

Outdoor Pursuits: Orienteering

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
You never know what you might see or find off the beaten path. These deer antlers were found while participating in a rogaine at the Big Muddy Ranch in north-central Oregon. A rogaine is a long-distance orienteering event that can last from six to 24 hours. There also are foot-O bike-O, ski-O, trail-O, horse-O and canoe-O events. Photo by Curtis Condon

You never know what you might see or find off the beaten path. These deer antlers were found while participating in a rogaine at the Big Muddy Ranch in north-central Oregon. A rogaine is a long-distance orienteering event that can last from six to 24 hours. There also are foot-O bike-O, ski-O, trail-O, horse-O and canoe-O events.
Photo by Curtis Condon

Now that temperatures are warming, surrender to the urge to get outdoors. Lace up your boots, jump on a bike, break out the fishing rod or, better yet, make this the year you try something different.

Orienteering is the most engaging outdoor activity you probably have never heard of. Some people compare it to a treasure hunt because the object is to find locations marked on a map.

Orienteering is called “the thinking man’s sport,” but it is an outdoor activity suitable for everyone. It combines fun, fitness and mental challenges for young and old, athlete or nature lover. For competitive types, the object is to find all of the terrain features—called control points—as quickly as possible. For the rest of us, the goal is to just find them and have fun along the way.

Color-coded courses are set up on the basis of experience. For example, white and yellow courses for beginners and advanced beginners are located on trails and other easy-to-navigate linear features, while green and red courses for advanced orienteers are mainly off-trail.

Orienteering is more about map reading than using a compass. The main purpose of the compass is to orient the map to the terrain or to determine direction of travel.

Most organized events feature brief training sessions, including how to use a map and compass in tandem.

The Columbia River Orienteering Club hosts events in Oregon and southwest Washington. Its events are held throughout the year, but predominately March to October.

Take to the woods at a CROC event, or visit one of its four Portland-area permanent courses, such as the one at Stub Stewart State Park near Manning, Oregon.

It’s the most fun you can have with a map and compass.

For more information, visit the Columbia River Orienteering Club.

Other orienteering clubs in the West include: Eastern Washington Orienteering Club; Cascade Orienteering Club; and Arctic Orienteering Club.

Fish are Celestial Worshippers

Fish are affected by lunar and solar activity. Days and times when those two influences overlap are especially good angling opportunities. To get lunar and solar information for your area—and for the species of fish you are after—visit

Hiking Partners

Trekking poles or walking staff: Don’t leave home without one or the other.

They are more than a fashion statement. A walking stick or trekking poles can take the load off, particularly when carrying a pack or hiking steep trails.
They are not just for seniors, either. They help provide balance and allow hikers to test their footing on soft or uneven ground, which can minimize the risk of injury.

Another safety feature is their ability to ward off unexpected dangers. On more than one occasion, I have had to put my poles between me and an uninvited critter.

Outdoors 101: Distress Signals Come in Threes

Think “three” if you ever get lost or in trouble. Three horn blasts, three flashes with a light, three piles of rocks—they all signal distress. Repeat the signal as necessary, with at least one minute between intervals.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?

Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication in Ruralite magazine, we will send you $25 for one-time use.
When sending a photo, identify people, places and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to moc.etilarurnull@ofni.

Reflections from Spring Training

Friday, February 28th, 2014
Puig and Kemp sign baseballs for fans.

Puig and Kemp sign baseballs for fans.

Last season, Jason Giambi, former American League MVP, was invited to camp after signing a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians. Forty-two at the time, Giambi hoped to impress enough to make the major league roster. He did, and so much more. As a designated hitter, the five-time All-Star slugged three pinch-hit home runs and broke Hank Aaron’s record as the oldest player to hit a walk off home run. He then broke his own new record by launching another in September. The ageless superstar helped the Indians win 92 games and a Wild Card playoff against Tampa Bay. The Tribe resigned him to another minor league contract for 2014, hoping he will again make the major league roster.

Yasiel Puig, the untested Cuban the Dodgers paid $42 million to sign, hit a scorching .526 in spring training and was called up the first week of June. The 23-year-old ignited the Dodgers with his bat and his arm, recording 27 hits in his first 15 games, which tied him with the great Joe DiMaggio and Terry Pendleton. He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind fellow Cuban Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, who also had a monster rookie year. Not expected to be on the opening day 25-man roster, 21-year-old Fernandez was called up at the last minute and impressed beyond any expectations, putting together a historic season.

Other “unknown minor leaguers” like Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers also had impressive springs and got the call two months into the season. Myers burst onto the public stage and became a star by hitting .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs, despite not being called up from the Durham Bulls until June 17. He won the American League Rookie of The Year award.

San Diego rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko led all MLB rookies with 23 home runs and 63 RBIs. Had he not suffered a groin strain, which took him out of the lineup for 15 days, he would have contended for Rookie of the Year honors.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season was 27-year-old Atlanta Braves rookie Evan Gattis. The catcher and outfielder clubbed 21 home runs and knocked in 65 RBIs, highest among rookies. His 486-foot moon shot was the longest home run in the majors in 2013.

Longtime Phillies manager Charlie Manuel won his 1000th game on August 12. He was released four days later amid a losing streak, giving Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg his shot at managing in the big leagues.

Dodger Manager Don Mattingly endured a historic rollercoaster ride from terrible to terrific. The team with the second-highest payroll in baseball was in last place and stumbling on the field like circus clowns in June. Rumors were the Dodger skipper was only a loss or two away from being fired. Then, shockingly, the club climbed from last to first in a historic run that saw the Dodgers win 40 out of the next 48 games. Their skipper was runner-up for National League Manager of the Year.

Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully announced he will come back for another year, to the delight of Dodger fans. He turned 86 in December.

Once again the cream rises to the top as the Cardinals, with a moderate payroll and the uncanny ability to find overlooked gems from junior college programs,­­ scratch their way to the World Series … again.

After an embarrassing 2012 season that saw them buried in the cellar with only 69 wins, and finishing 26 games behind the Yankees, the Red Sox returned to the big stage with a swagger-winning 96 games and the World Series crown.

Journeyman Todd Helton—an aberration in this modern era, playing his entire 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies—hung up his spikes.

Perhaps the best closer the game has seen, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, also walks away from the game he loves with plenty of gas still in the tank.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen puts together another All-Star season, winning the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award—the first Pirate to do so since Barry Bonds in 1992.

The Buc’s calm skipper, Clint Hurdle, is named NL Manager of the Year.

Detroit stumbled in the playoffs for the second year after a great season, but their slugger Miguel Cabrera easily wins the Most Valuable Player award and a third straight batting title. It is Cabrera’s second straight MVP, and the second time he finishes ahead of the Angel’s Mike Trout.

Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw wins his second Cy Young Award in three seasons after leading the NL with a 1.83 ERA and 232 strikeouts.

Detroit’s Max Scherzer wins his first Cy Young Award after striking out 240 batters and finishing with a 21-3 record.

Former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, who improved the Cleveland Indians dramatically, is named American League Manager of the Year.

Finally, the Orioles’ number 19, “Crush,” as he is called, Chris Davis, led the majors in long balls by smashing 53 home runs. He also led the majors with 138 RBIs and is only the third major leaguer to hit 50 home runs and 40 doubles in the same season.  The other two were Babe Ruth and Albert Belle.

Whose dreams will come true in 2014?

And which prospects or spring training invitees will get their shot at playing in the majors this year?

What unknown players will emerge from the shadows of obscurity to become household names like Yasiel Puig or Wil Meyers did in 2013?

And which aging veterans, considered past their prime, will cheat time and, at least once more, live their childhood dream?


Promoting Renewable Energy: Shared Goals, Varied Paths

Friday, February 28th, 2014
Wind turbines spin in the morning dawn on a ridge overlooking the Columbia River in Wasco County, Oregon. Electricity generated at the wind farm feeds into the Bonneville Power Administration transmission system. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Wind turbines spin in the morning dawn on a ridge overlooking the Columbia River in Wasco County, Oregon. Electricity generated at the wind farm feeds into the Bonneville Power Administration transmission system.
Photo by Mike Teegarden

When 30 states and the District of Columbia passed renewable portfolio standards in the early to mid-2000s, they had a common goal: promoting renewable energy.

The legislation was motivated by a desire to decrease the nation’s dependence on unstable foreign oil markets and reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.

An RPS requires utilities subject to its rules—sometimes publicly owned utilities, other times not—to supply a minimum share of its electricity from designated renewable resources.

Despite repeated efforts, Congress has been unable to pass a national standard. That has led to a state-by-state approach.

The RPS in each state is unique, varying in structure, enforcement, size and application. Differences include the percentage requirement, target date, which utilities are required to meet the standard and even what constitutes renewable energy. In Washington and Oregon, large hydro projects are excluded as renewables.

Some states give priority to one form of electricity generation over another—such as solar in Arizona and Nevada—in an effort to grow that particular industry.

Renewable power generation is verified through a crediting system. Each unit of power produced nets its generator one renewable energy credit. Every utility subject to RPS requirements must secure enough RECs to satisfy state regulations—either producing its own generation or buying credits from someone else.

Utah is among seven states to adopt voluntary, non-binding goals. Others—notably Idaho and Alaska—have not established specific renewable energy goals, although that does not prevent development of renewable resources.

Idaho has a bond program to finance renewable energy projects built by utilities and independent power producers.

In Alaska, a coalition of energy stakeholders—including big and small electric utilities—formed the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. Its goal is for 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.

Notable Growth in Renewables

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2012 Renewable Energy Data Book, between 2008 and 2012, the United States doubled renewable electricity generation from a combination of wind, solar and geothermal technologies.

In 2012, renewable electricity accounted for more than 56 percent of all new electrical capacity installations in the U.S. In 2004, renewables accounted for 2 percent.

Through 2012, installed renewable electricity capacity exceeded 163 gigawatts.

Wind capacity increased nearly 28 percent and photovoltaic capacity grew more than 83 percent from 2011 to 2012. Wind accounted for about 75 percent of newly installed renewable capacity in 2012.

Among renewables, electricity generation came from hydropower, 55 percent; wind, 28 percent; biomass, 11 percent; and solar and geothermal, 3 percent each.

In a 2013 presentation, Galen Barbose of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported that 67 percent of all non-hydro renewable capacity additions between 1998 and 2012 were in states with active or pending RPS compliance obligations.

To fully satisfy all RPS standards, another 94 GW of renewables is needed by 2035, Barbose said, noting renewable energy additions have ranged from 6 GW to 13 GW a year consistently since 2008.

Like Barbose, the DOE report credits RPSs—along with state and federal incentives—for the growth in renewables.

However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that even states without RPSs have recorded an increase in renewable generation, driven by tax incentives and market conditions.

Look Beyond State Boundaries

Assessing the success of RPSs is complicated by the interconnected nature of electricity markets, Samuel Stolper, a doctoral candidate in public policy at Harvard’s School of Government, writes in the Kennedy School Review.

“RPSs are developed by individual states, one at a time, but markets for power generation are generally regional,” Stolper writes. “Studies that ignore what is happening in neighboring states … provide an incomplete picture of RPS performance. Asking whether in-state renewables grow in response to rising RPSs misses this point. It misleadingly frames a lack of in-state renewables deployment as a policy failure. In fact, it may be just the opposite.

“Some states are simply better suited than others to generate renewable power. Allowing utilities to contract with generators in such states likely reduces costs, while sacrificing little in the way of climate impacts and energy security.”

A ruling by an appeals court in the Midwest may force states to abandon state-specific requirements and rewrite their renewable energy standards.

The issue surrounds transmission. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved charging customers throughout the Midwest for new transmission lines designed primarily to carry wind power to Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas. Officials in Illinois and Michigan argued that amounted to forcing their states to use out-of-state power.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld FERC’s plan and ruled against Illinois and Michigan, ruling that in-state renewable energy limits violate the Commerce Clause, creating an unfair advantage for in-state produced power.

Beyond the 2025 Standards

So far, most western utilities have relied primarily on renewable resources located close to the customers being served.
Once current RPS goals are met, states may need to look regionally for additional resources, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In a 2013 report, NREL says Wyoming and New Mexico could provide Arizona and California with wind, while Montana and Wyoming could serve the Northwest with wind. Arizona, Nevada and California are likely to have surpluses of solar.

The study suggests future renewable resource planning may need to focus less on fixed generation numbers and more on how to get the generation where it needs to go. It will require a move beyond state-level planning to a regional and federal approach that facilitates large-scale growth in interstate transmission lines.

To read more about your state’s renewables policies, see the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at