Recreation, River and Rand

Steve Den
January 1, 2021

Coronavirus or Coronna virus…the real question is: is it racoon or raccoon? Elsie, thank you.

“Let us now consider another component of recreation, which is more subtle and complex: the feeling of isolation in nature.” –Rand

A little about Bear and I. Bear’s my roommate, best friend, a black toy poodle, and enters the boxing ring at a whopping eight pounds. I bought him in the Black Hills of South Dakota NW of Sturgis after a regional boxing championship knockout of a cockroach in the first round in 2014. The cockroach died in the ring, and Bear and I have been battling a lawsuit against us from the ‘Insect Lives Matter’ sect…it’s ongoing. Judge says whoever wins one game of ‘pick ’em up sticks’ wins…that’ll be us because the ‘roach won’t show up. We live in the northern Colorado Rockies ten miles up Poudre Canyon in an unincorporated village called Poudre Park. Our cabin sits on the south bank of the only federally designated Wild and Scenic River in the beautiful state of Colorado called the Cache La Poudre River (French for “hide the powder”). I’ve recreated and fully enjoyed the river out back for thirty-five years.

Rand, opening quote, was way ahead of his time. Have read his writings but never met him since he died the year I was born in 1948. More on this feller below. A good portion of my life has fortunately been enjoying frolicking in the great outdoors. I’ve identified, aged, sexed, and banded over ten thousand birds from hummingbirds to great-horned owls. I also started and maintained the Cherokee Park Bluebird Trail over twenty years where my students and I kicked out over three thousand lil’ mountain bluebirds and other secondary cavity nesters within the Platte River basin. Though I taught elementary school for thirty-three years, the great outdoors has always been my lifetime cornerstone. Oh, by the way, Rand was born in Burlington, Iowa in 1887.

As I continue to walk along the path of life for many decades, many friends and fam have asked me what attracts me to nature, since I hang out there more than any other environ. I’ve always answered, “My curiosity.” There’s lots of food chains out there but even more mysterious food pyramids. It started with that first cottontail rabbit in the rural pasture nest lined with rabbit fur. Took one home for a pet. Then, there was the bull snake in our garden strawberry patch. Took him home for a pet. Came upon a bunch of baby striped skunks one spring. Took one home for a pet. Live-trapped an opossum who played dead while foaming at the mouth. I didn’t fall for it and took him home for a pet. Through the years, bats and raccoons and rattlesnakes and Missouri River fish and frogs and toads also became pets.

The farther I walked the path of life, along came a screech owl/wood duck nestbox trail and taking all our 5th/6th grade students out to plant Colorado’s Larimer County’s first Living Snow Fence…the Living Snow Fence program started in the great state of Nebraska and has spread nationwide. Back to, “What attracts me to nature?” Answer is still curiosity, but hey, we’re all what we’ve experienced growing up, eh? I enjoy being a steward of wildlife. Me, it started with a baby Bugs Bunny in a furry nest I simply could not resist…still can’t today.

Up here in the canyon, Bear and I have been through three forest fires, two floods, various rock slides, pine beetle infestations, below zero temps, phone/electricity lines down, and four-foot snowdrifts. No big deal since we prepare and supply for Mother Nature’s bad hair days. By the way, Rand died in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

A short while back, Elsie, a wonderful student and storyteller, emailed Bear and me from Lincoln, Nebraska…Husker football country, wondering how Covid-19 was affecting our restricted opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Little did she know we’re surrounded by the great outdoors. Bear and I no longer have a need to seek the great outdoors…it’s out our back door along the river bank all four seasons. We don’t do national or state parks or popular hiking trails or public campgrounds anymore…too many people. We, too, seek “another component of recreation” we call solitude in our backyard. Rand calls it isolation.

To this day, Rand is considered both the ‘father of the science of wildlife management’ and the ‘American wilderness system’. Bear and I are simply a grain of sand on the beach, whereas, Rand is the beach. By the way, Rand grew up to be an American author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, environmentalist, and a professor at the University of Wisconsin. I have read his most famous book published in 1949 shortly after his death…A Sand County Almanac. If you love the great outdoors, Bear and I suggest you buy it and read it. But, don’t buy the original 1949 edition…it costs $6,800. Rand’s book has sold over two million copies. Rand wrote the book from his summer shack along the banks of the Wisconsin River…one of the benchmark titles of the ecological movement.

While that lil’ critter with a black mask can have two acceptable spellings according to the Oxford English Dictionary, racoon or raccoon, Corona (as in Corona virus) has only one ‘n’. And, if you rearrange the letters in ‘Corona’ you’ll come up with ‘racoon’…a critter that wears a mask all the time and continually washes his hands and keeps a safe social distance…fun stuff, eh? Oh, by the way, Rand’s full name is Rand Aldo Leopold.

“There are some who can live
without wild things and
some who cannot.”
-Aldo Leopold


PBT team photo. Summer 2023

About PBT

We are a group of storytellers using timelapse photography and multimedia storytelling to explore watersheds. PBT has been in motion since 2011.

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