Thursday, November 10, 2022

                                                           In Memorium:  Carrie Kolder

For over 25 years, Carrie and I were colleagues in the English Department of William Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois.  I could tell from conversations that she was special, and my last nine years before retiring, I served as Department Chair.  Teachers generally do not observe colleagues as they teach in their classroom, but as chairman it was my job to visit and evaluate, and those observations verified my beliefs about her. Also, I was blown away at the number of graduates who returned to visit her and praised her teaching and mentoring skills.

Five years after retiring, a seed grew in my mind and the following poem about her flowed effortlessly from my fingers to the keyboard to the screen.  It required little revising when I looked back at it a week or so later, which I guess shows how deep an impression she had made in me.  At her wake/funeral today, her husband, Jim (a former Fremd math teacher) told me that Carrie had framed the poem and that it still hung in their home. That blew me away!

 Carrie Kolder



solid, self-assured,

blessed with unyielding principles,

zealously protecting her privacy,

loyal to friends,

committed to family,

devoted to students,

dedicated to God.


sensitive and tender,

vigilantly absorbing,

accumulating, analyzing, understanding,

yet always squeezing

to give more of herself.


tenacious, determined fighter, 

valiant Viking,

never yielding self to disease,

courageous silent sufferer.

Day after day

loving life and loving others

throughout every bonus day granted.


teacher, mentor, counselor,

dedicated, devoted, compassionate, 

stalwart supporter, 

unswerving cheerleader,

ever challenging 

and demanding,

her rigid high expectations 

bequeathing lofty results --

students being educated

many becoming lifelong friends.


heart and mind.

Steadfast spirit,

ever aware of who she is

and Whose she is.

Faithful, prayerful, humble,

giving and forgiving,

gifted by God

and gifting others

with her myriad gifts.


Friday, May 27, 2022

How I vacation:


bikehikepaddle: This is how I vacation: camping, hiking, biking, paddling -- hence my screen name!  At 76, I'm slowing down, but I ain't dead yet!  Any suggestions for this year's destinations? 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

2021 AHS Volunteer Vacation in Colorado's Pike National Forest

 This American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation was for Colorado's Pike National Forest northwest of Colorado Springs. The Pike and San Isabel National Forests along with Comanche National Grasslands cover nearly three million acres from the prairies of western Kansas to some of Colorado's highest mountain peaks along the Continental Divide, including Pikes Peak and nearly half of Colorado's 14,000+ foot tall peaks. 

We camped in a large, lovely meadow at 8500+ feet altitude...

...where Ranger Glenn and his forest service crew had set up their spacious 20' by 20' work tent as our group space...

...and our AHS project leader, Phil, brought tables, chairs, and other equipment from his church to make our week more comfortable and efficient. Thanks, Phil!

Our first assignment was maintenance on a section of the Brookside AG Trail, followed by construction of a new, switchbacking section of the trail. Here Frank and Ranger Glenn dig out large rocks from the trail tread. A good deal of our work involved removing such rocks and gave new awareness as to why these are called the Rocky Mountains! Most days, Ranger Glenn was there working alongside us.

Ranger Glenn explains the day's work to (l to r) Wes, Brenda, "G", and Barb. Wes is Communications and Creative Director for American Hiking Society and he is as good with trail tools as he is with his cameras!  On past trips, I've also worked with the volunteer vacations director and one of the financial directors of AHS, and it was wonderful to know that the people who run AHS enjoy getting out of the office and joining a work crew on occasion.

Here Barb and "G" lop off tree limbs that impinge the travel of pack animals. We had to create a trail corridor that was 6 feet wide and 10 feet high so horseback riders and pack animals had clearance...

The beauty of the trail and the forest are exemplified in this photo of a section of the finished trail...

Rain and melting snow need places to run off the trail, so we install either a "water bar" or a "drainage dip," both of which direct water off the trail  (if you look closely at the area in the shade you'll see the water exits the trail on the right via the dug out earth.)

These water bars eventually need to be cleaned out since dirt, twigs,  leaves, and other detritus carried by the water can clog the drainage structure. Here I'm cleaning out one of these water bars.

Frank removing a tree using the small hand saw...

An interesting side story: Our two oldest volunteers are also avid cyclists. Our leader, Phil (below, on the right), who is 80, bikes thousands of miles a year on Colorado Springs' hilly terrain. This is his 13th time acting as crew leader.  Chuck, who is 76, bikes his fat tire mountain bike 2000+ miles a year on the smaller, glaciated hills on the Illinois/Wisconsin border. This was his 36th volunteer program.

And Wes, our youngest volunteer, who is a heck of a hard-working trail builder as well as an AHS staff member and the official photographer for our trip, is also a talented runner. In fact, the weekend after our project, Wes ran the grueling Pike's Peak Ascent Race, a 13.5 mile distance with an elevation gain of 7400 feet! Wes finished 67th in a field of 1270 runners, a pace of 14.5 minutes per mile! Amazing! Congratulations, Wes! 

Also, Outside Online magazine called Wes "the most inspiring man on the Pacific Crest Trail" after completing the trail despite his mild form of cerebral palsy. He has also thru-hiked the 567 mile Colorado Trail, climbed all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, and finished several ultramarathon trail races covering over 10,000 miles!

On our day off, four of us volunteers drove a 200 mile loop, crossing four mountain passes as we visited the quaint village of Georgetown...

... and rode its famous Georgetown Loop Railroad.

Our scenic view as we worked on the trail...

Evenings around the campfire are a great way to unwind from the day and socialize with people who love the outdoors as much as you do!

Here's our amazing group of hard-working volunteers: 
 (L to R) 
Wes (AHS staff member who lives in Colorado), Barb, Frank, Chuck, Glenn the USFS ranger, Brenda, Phil (our leader), and Georgia.

Our final night we treated ourselves to a restaurant meal in town... 

Finally, taking down the group tent was our last chore on Saturday before we all left...

By the way, over the years, AHS has built/maintained 41,146 miles of hiking trails utilizing 558,708 volunteers, which represents 108 million dollars in labor!  To see what my prior 34 projects have been like, here's a link to my previous service projects.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Wildlife Seen in the Wild

One of the joys of hiking, backpacking, biking, and just being out in Nature, is observing wildlife in their natural habitat. Here are some of my favorite photos...

Yellowstone National Park offers daily wildlife encounters. The ubiquitous Bison are a regular sighting, and this fellow sauntered by me as I sat in a traffic jam upon entering the park from the south (notice my driver's side mirror.)  He and his buddies were slowly ambling along in the other lane, so naturally I grabbed my camera (this was before cell phones with cameras) and took this shot. Since it was a bit dark in my vehicle, the flash fired which startled him and got his attention and he stopped, turned his huge head toward me, and glared at me. I feared that if he came at me and pushed on my door, my van would go off the edge of the cliff we were on! Thankfully he just resumed his saunter down the other side of the pass.

This handsome fellow alongside the road didn't even glance at the traffic.

Here's one of the frequently encountered "Bison Jams" on the loop highway. This time they stopped and assembled on the road and had a confabulation for 10 minutes and then just as suddenly continued across the road and into the woods.

Grizzly bears are also abundant in Yellowstone. As I approached the parking area for my hike to the top of Avalanche Peak near the east entrance, I spotted this mamma griz and her cub at the edge of the roadway...

A ranger was nearby to guarantee no idiot driver would approach the bear or cub.

After I reached Avalanche peak (elevation gain of 2703 feet) and was eating my lunch, this fellow came begging for his lunch and ate a bit that fell off my sandwich...

Elk are the most abundant large mammal in Yellowstone and are readily visible as you drive the loop roads...

...and they make an interesting sight when the herd rests in a field of tall grass...

... and I even noticed one in the shadows on the campsite next to mine at Yellowstone Lake. As word passed through the campground, other campers walked over to my site to observe this guy.

A couple of moose also visited my neighbor's campsite...

I also spotted this coyote ambling across a field in Yellowstone...

Pronghorn are a unique North American mammal. Its name comes from the Latin and means American goat-antelope, though it is neither a goat nor an antelope. It has horns, not antlers. It is the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere able to attain 55 miles per hour!

While biking Montana's Hiawatha Trail, I encountered this deer. I stopped and waited as it seemingly didn't know I was there, but I noticed the two bikers in the tunnel approaching us and knew the deer would soon bolt -- and it did.

While driving through Colorado National Monument, I passed this big horn sheep heading the opposite way...

Diagonally across the expanse of our country, I encountered the following critters in Florida's Everglades National Park. The colorful roseate spoonbill is one of my favorite birds...

...and when flying they are just as impressive...

Here are a few of the mass of gators that were sunning below the tall observation tower that is halfway around the 15 mile Shark Valley Loop in the park. All told, there were over two dozen gators below me just lazing and enjoying the sun....

This gator was crossing the bike trail as I biked that loop road. Yes, I stopped and waited for him to cross!

I also paused my bike ride to photograph these three baby gators atop one another alongside the Shark Valley Loop Trail. Mama was on the other side of the trail watching me intently, so I didn't get too close, and I also kept my bike between her and me!

Osprey are abundant in the Everglades...

Everglades is the only place in the world that has both alligators and crocodiles. The gators are abundant and readily seen but crocs are harder to spot, and in my dozen plus visits here, I have only seen a crocodile twice.

These unusual critters are Muscovy ducks which can weigh as much as 15 pounds. In a culinary context they are called Barbary duck.

The colorful purple gallinule is a rail and the adult has purple-blue plumage that shines green and turquoise when in good lighting. Rails  have the highest ratio of leg muscles to flight muscles of any bird which may explain their propensity to walk rather than fly.

Alaska's Denali National Park stretches over 6 million acres and is home to over 300 grizzly bears and 2700 black bears. Only the first 15 miles of the park's 91 mile road into the depths of the park are open to private vehicles, but a fleet of green park buses is provided to transport visitors deep into the park. I rode the bus twice and discovered that since the animals are inured to seeing these buses, they ignore them, allowing riders to safely get close shots of the animals from the windows. I didn't even have to use my huge telephoto lens for these pictures.

Denali also is home to Dall sheep. In fact, the park was created in 1917 in part to preserve Dall sheep from overhunting.

Caribou are also abundant in Denali... well as willow ptarmigan which I spotted on a river bank...

This stellers jay came with one of my campsites and was a real beggar and thief, always after my food. I couldn't even leave my gallon plastic water bottle out or he'd peck away at it!

South Dakota's Badlands National Park has a huge colony of black-tailed prairie dogs which are interesting to watch as they scurry about, but always with "lookouts" watching for predators...

While hiking in Texas' Big Bend National Park, I enjoyed seeing a critter I've only seen on movie screens (except for one brief sighting in Arkansas) --  roadrunners, also known as chaparral birds or chaparral cocks, a species of fast-running ground cuckoos with long tails and crests.

In Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, this herd of elk browsed around our cabin every day...

...and big daddy even made an appearance a few times...

Marmots are also abundant in the park...

While backpacking in Washington State's Goat Rock Wilderness in the Pinchot National Forest (and also doing a week of volunteer trail work there) I observed
 a number of its namesake animals...

As I drove the famed Al-Can Highway on my way home from Alaska, I encountered these critters...

North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park honors the eventual president when he came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883. This skinny, young, spectacled dude from New York was transformed by his adventures in this remote and unfamiliar place and later helped shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today! The buffalo he loved to hunt are now protected and freely roam the park.

The abundant black-tailed prairie dogs also captivate visitors with their antics...

Flatwoods Wilderness Park north of Tampa, Florida, has paved and dirt bike trails, and several curious raccoons watched as I biked through their domain on the mountain bike trail. I stopped to watch them as they watched me.

Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior offers the best backpacking in the midwest, and the predominant wildlife seen there is the moose population.

This sickly fox was also on Isle Royale. The ranger said he was sickly due to over-reliance on the "people food" he successfully begged from visitors. 

Montana's Glacier National Park also has big horn sheep...

Alaska has lots of sea lions. These were seen at Tracy Arm Fjord near Juneau...

...and these were seen at Sawyer Glacier, also near Juneau...

This cottonmouth snake was in South Carolina's Wateree Swamp where we were working on a volunteer trail project...

Custer State Park in South Dakota is famous for its wild burro population...

Nevada's Great Basin National Park has 61 species of mammals but the only ones I got photos of were the wild turkeys that were always around my tent!  A family of deer were also living a dozen yards from my campsite, but I never had the camera handy when they marched past my picnic table. I was at this national park to tour the famous Lehman Caves which are at an elevation of 6800 feet and extend 1.5 miles in length. They were formed when higher water tables during the Ice Age made pockets in the limestone.

All precipitation in this park either evaporates, sinks underground, or flows into lakes, most of which are saline. No creeks or rivers find outlet to the Pacific Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, and hence the name Great Basin, which comprises most of Nevada, half of Utah, and even sections of Idaho.

Finally, Puerto Rico's Blue Morpho butterfly is among the largest in the world, with wings spanning from five to eight inches.