Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Website!

Please Note: Mary E. Trimble's website has moved to a new host. Please visit me at
If you've linked to my website or have bookmarks to this site, please update with my new website address:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum: Making a positive out of a tragic and violent negative

The Field of Empty Chairs, a reminder of each life lost. In the background: The Reflecting Pool with a Gate of Time to the right.  Photo by Bruce Trimble

It was a normal Wednesday morning under a clear blue Oklahoma City sky on April 19, 1995. Workers made their way to offices, dropped off children at the building’s day-care center, perhaps poured themselves a cup of coffee to get a jump-start on their day. Then, at 9:02, America’s innocence changed forever when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500.

How could such a horrific thing happen on American soil? Timothy McVeigh, a former decorated United States Army soldier, claimed that the bombing was revenge for “what the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge.” McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols, used readily available toxic industrial chemicals, ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel, to accomplish their despicable deed.

The attackers parked a rented Ryder truck in a loading area with a timer set to explode about 5,000 pounds of the highly combustible material. The explosion resulted in the worst terrorist attack on United States soil prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. McVeigh was executed and accomplice Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. A third party, Michael Fortier received a 12-year prison sentence plus a $200,000 fine for failure to warn authorities about the attack.

The blast tore away more than a third of the Murrah Building, but destroyed the entire building. In addition, fourteen buildings in the vicinity had to be torn down due to extensive destruction and another 312 buildings within a sixteen-block radius were damaged.

More than 12,000 people participated in relief and rescue work, including twenty-four canine units. Prompt investigation gave vital clues to the complexity of the crime and early leads on a suspect and accomplices led to extraordinarily quick arrests. Visitors watch news clips and special bulletins televised from around the world.

From April 20 to May 4, 1995 rescue and recovery operations poured into the area. Professional rescue workers, volunteers and canine units from all over the country clawed through the rubble to help dig out survivors and recover the dead. In the children’s day-care center directly above the mobile bomb, devastation was horrific. Upper floors collapsed onto those beneath them, crushing everyone and everything below.

Although the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was born of hatred and violence, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is an uplifting experience. Poignant sights and artifacts of the bombing are in plain view, but also evident is what this sacred ground has become: a monument of hope and faith, of remembrance of loved ones lost, of human spirits rising above this inhumane act.

Three distinct components comprise the memorial: the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, dedicated on April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the attack; the Memorial Museum, dedicated one year later, April 19, 2001; the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a concept founded by families and survivors during the writing of the Mission Statement in 1995.

Wandering the grounds where the building once stood, visitors soon see that every exhibit is a vital symbol of this experience. One of the most poignant, the Field of Empty Chairs is a reminder of each life lost. The chairs, including nineteen smaller chairs representing the children who died, placed in nine rows, represent the nine floors of the building. Made of bronze, stone and glass, the chairs are placed in the row according to what floor the person was working or visiting when killed.

For more information, visit or call 1-888-542-HOPE (4673).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: Gold Under Ice

Carol Buchanan’s Gold Under Ice, set in the 1860's, draws the reader into the lives of Dan Stark, Martha, the woman he loves, and her children. Daniel and Martha have entered into a common-law marriage, not knowing where her missing, abusive husband is, or whether he is still alive.

Dan has come to the wilds of Montana Territory to work the gold mines in order to help his New York family, his widowed mother and his siblings, recover from a devastating and humiliating financial setback. A lawyer, he leaves his New York practice, but finds his knowledge of the law an asset in Alder Gulch, a rough, lawless town with few comforts. Life is hard, not only contending with harsh weather, but dealing with the insanity of gold fever.

Dan’s autocratic grandfather dictates Dan must return to New York with his accumulated gold and resume the family law practice. He hasn’t enough gold to both repay the bank and reinstate his New York family’s financial situation. Dan is torn between his New York family who is relying on him, and his Alder Gulch family and their safety in his absence. He promises to return to Alder Gulch, but they all know any number of things could prevent that from happening.

In order to secure his own future, he returns to New York, a trip that takes several weeks by stage coach and train, carrying the gold he has accumulated.

On the surface, the difference between Montana Territory and New York in the 1860's is stark. Dan is determined to retain custody of his gold, denying the bank control of it. Instead, he meets with an old friend who tutors him in the ways of Wall Street and gold trading. He finds life in New York as threatening as in the wilds of Montana Territory and fights for his life on many levels.

Gold Under Ice, available both in print and ebook format, is a compelling novel. Buchanan’s impeccable research not only entertains, but educates. Her characters breathe life into the story as it carries the reader along with Dan’s compelling need to make things right for both families. It kept me pressing the “page turn” on my Kindle long into the night.

Gold Under Ice is a sequel to God’s Thunderbolt:The Vigilantes of Montana, winner of Western Writers of America’s SPUR award. Each book is a satisfying read and stands alone. Recently released, The Devil in the Bottle, is the next in the series. For more information about the author, visit

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review: Settler's Chase

Settler’s Chase by D. H. Eraldi brings the Old West to life. Eraldi’s  rich descriptions of people, Montana’s landscape and bitter winter weather, transport the reader to this 1880's gritty time and place.

Sett Foster’s plan of setting a trap in a box canyon for wild horses  was falling nicely into place. He’d break these horses and sell them for a good price to the Army. But suddenly a strange sight comes into view. A spotted Indian pony happens along, causing a disturbance among the small wild herd. But wait, the pony is wearing a crude saddle of some sort with a blanket flopping off to the side.  As Sett watches the horses he almost has trapped run away in fright, he spots a cradle board swinging from the saddle with a tiny face peeking out of the tight laces.

In the meantime, Sett’s half Blackfeet/half white wife, Ria, is at their cabin alone, struggling with yet another miscarriage. Heartbroken, she knows she will never bear Sett’s child.

When Sett returns to their cabin with the infant, Ria is thrilled. Finally, a child! Sett knows it isn’t as easy as that. This is a white child and people will be looking for it. Stricken with more dashed hopes, Ria obeys her husband and they set out for the closest town to find the child’s family. She fiercely protects the baby and forms a strong bond; so strong, Sett dreads the time when she’ll have to relinquish the child. It’s an arduous trip with the weather turning colder and threatening snow.

Finally arriving in town, they find doing the right thing doesn’t always bring the desired results. Although they are met with kindness by some, others are suspicious and hostile toward Ria. Sett Foster’s tainted background arouses suspicion. The baby’s family has offered a reward for his safe return and there are townspeople who will stop at nothing to get that reward money.

Settler’s Chase is a fine western and a WILLA Literary Award Finalist. The author excels in portraying realistic, believable characters and bringing landscapes to life. I could feel the bitter cold during the desperate chase into the Montana wilderness.

Settler’s Chase is a sequel to Settler’s Law, another well-written and suspenseful western. Both novels, published some years apart, stand alone. For more information about the author, visit visit

Monday, March 26, 2012

Walking Toward a Longer, Healthier Life

Walking is riding a wave of popularity with many health-conscious people. Its pleasures, utility, and health-giving qualities are many. And, unlike the jarring effects of long distance jogging, its risks are minimal. Walking, combined with exercises designed to increase flexibility and strength, gives your body the exercise it needs to improve and maintain good health.

Some of the facts researchers have found include:

Longer, healthier life. The Institute on Aerobics Research in Dallas show that people who walk vigorously for 30 to 60 minutes each day live significantly longer, healthier lives. When done briskly and regularly, walking lowers the resting heart rate, reduces blood pressure, boosts levels of the heart-healthy HDL cholesterol, increases the efficiency of the heart and lungs, and burns calories.

Better mental health. Exercise stimulates the short-term release of endorphins, chemicals that promote the perception of "feeling good," resulting in noticeable improvement with a sense of well being, better family relations, less loneliness, better moods, and greater self-confidence.

Increased stamina. If you don't exercise after the age of 25, your ability to do aerobic activities will drop by 10 percent every 10 years. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, your body is slowly deteriorating as it ages. But this trend can be reversed by beginning an exercise program.

Begin now to gradually and systematically regain your stamina. Experts say that it takes a month of reconditioning to make up for each year of physical inactivity. Begin by walking at a comfortable pace for 20 minutes four or five times a week. If that proves too tiring, or too easy, adjust your time accordingly.

Restored energy. When you feel tired, resting isn't always the answer to restoring energy. The body has a nearly infinite amount of energy, but you need to exercise regularly and eat properly to make that happen. There's no magic pill for it, you have to work your heart, lungs, and muscles to increase energy levels. It’s true: Energy begets energy.

Keeping off unwanted pounds. A study at Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention found that among people who had dieted, the group who went back to eating more but exercised gained back less weight than the group who ate less but didn't exercise. Exercise is crucial to a weight control program.

Brisk walking helps burn excess calories. According to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, increasing walking speed does not burn significantly more calories per mile, but a more vigorous walking pace will produce more dramatic conditioning effects. Muscles in better shape burn more calories, even at rest, than muscles in poor shape. In addition, after a dynamic workout, metabolism levels remain elevated above normal which results in additional calories burned.

Disease prevention. In addition to the benefits of reducing blood pressure, attaining healthy cholesterol levels, and increasing the efficiency of heart and lungs, walking significantly shields against other diseases:

– Osteoporosis. Strength-building exercise, such as walking, is critical in maintaining or increasing calcium levels in the bones of postmenopausal women. Bone, like muscle, is living tissue. When bones are exposed to the stress of physical activity, they become stronger, just as muscles get stronger when demands are placed on them.

– Intestine and colon disorders. Evidence indicates that the intestine and colon muscles are improved and remain in better shape when other body muscles are exercised.

– Blood clots. As we age, the protective protein, TPA, which dissolves stroke and heart attack causing blood clots, drops. Regular exercise can increase TPA levels. In addition, the levels of fibrinogen, another protein that creates the clots, are reduced.

--Respiratory infections. Extra lung power, enhanced by regular exercise, keeps minor respiratory infections from turning into pneumonia.

--Diabetes. A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that being overweight and obese was the single most important risk factor that predicted who would develop Type 2 diabetes. During a 16-year follow-up period, study results showed that regular exercise--at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week--and an improved diet low in fat and high in fiber significantly helped to avoid Type 2 diabetes.

--Colds and flu. A study at Loma Linda University in California reports that people who walked briskly for 45 minutes a day, five times a week, experienced half as many days with cold and flu symptoms as sedentary people in the study.

Although walking shares many benefits of other sports, it offers many advantages. Almost anyone can do it, though it is best to consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. Because walking is virtually injury-free, it has the lowest drop-out rate of any form of exercise.

You need very little equipment other than sturdy shoes. Walking is inexpensive compared to health club fees. You can set your own schedule and not depend on others' timetable. Weather is no obstacle; simply dress accordingly. Walking is not a seasonal activity. You can exercise in temperatures that might rule out other activities. You can walk almost anywhere--sidewalk, street, road, trail, park, field, or even shopping mall. If you walk in the dark, it’s a good idea to wear reflective clothing.

Join the many who are walking toward a healthier, longer, and more satisfying life. Each step you take will improve the quality of your life.

Now, where are my walking shoes?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: What Lies West

Carolina (Lina) Clark has to get out of town, and fast. Recently widowed, her husband had drunk or gambled away the meager assets in their little general store. If she leaves immediately, she can stay ahead of the creditors and salvage a few personal items. She manages to team up with two unlikely characters, strangers, who intend to travel west from Westport, Missouri. One, a young woman, Josephine, is a high-class madam. The other, a young man, Henry, dreams of joining the cavalry out West. They agree to pool their resources, join a wagon train, and team up as “family.”

The way west is rugged, full of hardships and danger. The three work together, meeting challenges with strength that surpasses their own expectations. They reach an Army post and Henry stays. When Josephine and Lina reach the diggings of the California Gold Rush, they see a future for themselves. The two woman manage to eke out a living among the rough miners and grimy surroundings.

When an opportunity to work in San Francisco is offered, the two women find themselves in comparative luxury; Josephine doing what she does best, and Lina working in a warehouse under the supervision of a cold, calculating boss, Edward Haarten. It doesn’t take long for Lina to prove herself worthy of important responsibilities. Haarten has more than a good accountant in mind and makes advances in that direction. Lina flees on a ramshackle cargo vessel that’s bound for a tiny Puget Sound settlement in Washington Territory.

Starting over yet again is harder with fewer opportunities in this small community, but Lina again finds her niche with a growing family-owned lumber company. In addition to finding a way to make a living, she also finds her heart’s dream in Robert Marr, the head of the family-owned company. Lina’s past catches up to her when Haarten’s long reach from San Francisco threatens to destroy not only her life, but that of the struggling lumber company.

What Lies West by LaDene Morton is a well-written historical novel with believable characters and realistic settings. It’s a large volume, but its 618 pages kept me captivated throughout. The novel was a well-deserved WILLA Finalist and is available as a trade paperback or ebook. To learn more about the author, visit

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Snow Geese Are Back!

They’re back! Thousands of them! Each winter our Northwest Washington community celebrates the arrival of snow geese. The migratory birds have flown about 3,000 miles from Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean, north of Siberia.

Here on Camano Island, and across the Skagit delta, several thousand snow geese migrate annually. At least 35,000 of the waterfowl winter in Washington and in the Frazier Valley near Vancouver, B.C. before returning to Wrangel to lay their eggs.

The large birds, up to 33 inches tall, are usually grayish white with pink bills and feet, and have wingspans of four and a half feet. When traveling distances, they often fly in formation, forming huge V’s in the skies. While feeding, they’ll sometimes fly up in noisy flocks, as shown in the above picture my husband Bruce took.

Huge groups can be seen feeding in farm fields on winter wheat, cover crops, or in pastures. The birds are very vocal and often can be heard more than a mile away.

In spring, as the days grow longer, snow geese migrate back to their Arctic tundra breeding areas. Courtship and pairing take place in their second year, although breeding does not usually start until the third year. Snow geese mate for life. The females are strongly philopatric, meaning they will return to the place they hatched to breed. The birds nest in colonies. The female selects a nest site and builds a shallow depression lined with plant material. The nests may be reused from year to year.

Females incubate three to four eggs for 22 to 25 days while the male guards the nest.. The goslings, born covered with down with eyes open, can scramble out of the nest within hours of hatching and have the ability to swim and forage for food. Both parents protect the young birds from predators such as Arctic fox, snowy owls, hawks and eagles. Parents stay with their young through the first winter. Families travel together on both the southbound and northbound migrations, separating only after they return to the Arctic breeding grounds.

We enjoy watching these beautiful birds during the winter, then say farewell to them in the spring as they fly north in V formations, calling to one another. Or who knows? They may be bidding us farewell. Honk!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review: The Photograph

The Photograph by Penelope Lively is a sensitive and complex novel written with an elegant flair. The novel is a skillful study of accomplished people who are suddenly aware that something is missing in their lives.

Much of the story involves Kath, a beautiful woman who has touched many lives, but who died a few years previously. Her husband Glyn finds an upsetting photograph showing his wife with a group of people, her hands obscurely entwined with her brother-in-law’s. Glyn, an archaeologist, obsessively begins systemically researching the possibilities of the story behind the photograph.

As the book progresses and introduces us to Kath’s circle of friends and relatives, we begin to appreciate her quest for acceptance and love. Admiration and desire aren’t enough, she needs to be accepted on a deeper, committed level.

The author portrays the believable characters as complex and knowledgeable in their various professional fields, specifically Glyn’s scientific background and Kath’s sister, Elaine, a highly accomplished and sought-after gardening specialist. Beyond relatives are others who have been touched by this charming woman who appears so casual and carefree, yet who needs what others seem incapable of giving.

The Photograph is a profound novel of depth. I enjoyed the English setting and language and Penelope Lively’s elegant writing style.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: A Gift of Puppies

Carolyn Wing Greenlee’s latest release, A Gift of Puppies, Getting Them Ready for a Life of Service and Love, is worth the price of the book for its puppy pictures alone. Compiled from actual words from Guide-Dogs for the Blind puppy handlers and edited by Carolyn Wing Greenlee, A Gift of Puppies is a treasure of stories about families giving their time, energy and love to puppies, only to turn them over to someone else for their permanent homes. How can people give these puppies up after devoting so much time and love? This book answers that question and more.

A puppy raiser serves a vital role in the eventual success of the partnership between a visually impaired person and a guide dog, allowing them to navigate with confidence and independence.

A Gift of Puppies has many touching stories of puppy raisers. Some of the volunteers are teens or younger, who, with their families, have given their time and love to prepare a puppy for a life with someone else. One of the stories is in the voice of the puppy and the adventures (and misadventures) of being raised in this environment.

A guide dog is bred and whelped at the Guide Dogs for the Blind training center in San Rafael, CA. Most guide dogs are either Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever (or a mix of these two), or German Shepard. Between six and eight weeks, the puppy is placed in a home that has been thoroughly scrutinized for safety and compatibility. No prior experience is necessary to become a puppy raiser.

A puppy raiser is responsible for teaching the pup good house manners and basic obedience, and most importantly, socializing them to the world. In addition to exercise and the exposure to a variety of scenarios,  puppy raisers must agree to participate in puppy raising clubs where they learn training techniques and where the pups can socialize with other dogs.

I was impressed with how much time puppy raisers spend with their furry charges. These dedicated people take socialization seriously as they include their pups on trips using various means of transportation (cars, trains, buses, planes), attend school, church, meetings, movies, restaurants, even dentists. All this helps the pups adapt to the different environments to which they may be later exposed. While working, the pups wear green jackets labeled “Guide Dog for the Blind, Puppy in Training” which should be a signal to onlookers to not touch or distract the animal.

Between 13 and 18 months old, a puppy is returned to the Guide Dogs for the Blind training center for six months of advanced, specific training.

Not all puppies become guide dogs for various reasons such as health issues, fears that cannot be conquered, or head-strong tenancies. Sometimes these dogs are “career changed,” which might involve becoming breeder dogs, companions for people with special needs, search and rescue, hearing dogs, or dogs that can detect certain diseases.

In one story, a woman raised a puppy who couldn’t make the grade to become a guide dog, but was welcomed back into the home as a breeder. This dog had three litters, totaling 22 puppies. Of these, 12 later graduated as guide dogs, and 1 became a breeder.

A Gift of Puppies is an enlightening book with first-hand stories told by people who have given of themselves so that others might benefit.  This is the third of Greenlee’s guide dog books. The first, Steady Hedy, deals with the author’s terror of going blind and her eventual sojourn to Guide Dogs for the Blind and the acquisition of her guide dog, Hedy. The second book, The Gift of Dogs is a compilation of stories about blind peoples’ journeys and the blessings of receiving their guide dogs.

Carolyn Wing Greenlee is the author of fourteen books and has edited more than twenty other books from “poetry to pioneers.” As a  Third Generation Chinese American from a California Gold Rush/Railroad family, she has brought to print many stories of her clan who would not speak for themselves. Now she is helping others, the blind and visually impaired, tell their stories,. For more information about the author, please visit

Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: Mountains Beyond Mountains

Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, is a powerful testimony demonstrating how one person can make a difference in treating global health problems.

Paul Farmer’s greatest love is practicing medicine in Haiti where his emphasis has been the treatment of tuberculosis.  He walks miles, often on mountainous trails, to remote villages to see patients who live in small huts with dirt floors and roofs made of banana fronds. Dr. Farmer learned Creole so that he can converse without an interpreter.  His clinic, Zannu Lasante, is miles away from where official business is conducted in Port-au-Prince, involving hours on National Highway 3 which sounds traversable, but is actually dangerous and as rough as a riverbed.

Dr. Farmer, an American medical anthropologist and physician, didn’t have a typical childhood. His large family lived in non-traditional environments, but Paul thrived and used those experiences as stepping stones to his later life. In medical school he found his calling to cure infectious diseases and to bring lifesaving tools of modern medicine to places that needed them most, primarily among the poor and disadvantaged. In 1983, while in medical school he cofounded  Partners in Health, an international non-profit organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living n poverty. He holds a professorship at Harvard and is Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at  Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In order to advance international health, he frequently travels to Peru where high incidence of TB prevails. He learned Spanish to heighten his effectiveness there. He regularly goes to Russia and visits prisons where TB is rampant. Dr. Farmer’s main focus is eradicating pandemic diseases primarily TB and MDR (multi-drug resistant)TB, HIV, AIDS, and the prevention and treatment of malaria. In addition, he accepts invitations to speak world-wide, always with the idea of furthering education and soliciting donations to fund these efforts. He has written books and dozens of medical journal articles.

Author Tracy Kidder, a Pultzer Prize winner for his nonfiction narrative, The Soul of a New Machine, accompanied Dr. Farmer over a period of years, even trekking with him to remote villages. In one case they walked for a total of eleven hours in order to visit one TB-affected family. Kidder calls the act the “Farmer method.” First you cure a patient and then you change the condition that made them especially vulnerable to TB in the first place. In this case, the plan would be to get the large family into a home with a cement floor and a metal roof, improve the family’s nutrition, and provide school tuition for the kids.

It’s hard to imagine one man doing all that Paul Farmer has accomplished. Kidder has done an outstanding job of letting us peek into the soul of this inspiring complex man with a passion so great he has truly affected world health and enriched mankind. I highly recommend Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wilderness Fun, NOT Wilderness Tragedy

Every winter we read about it in the paper or see it on TV news. A hiker has been separated from his group, or a group has been cut off by an avalanche or delayed by a storm. Any number of things can happen to dampen the spirit of winter hikers or cross-country skiers. Worse, unpreparedness can kill. Your life may depend on what you have with you.

What is known as the “Ten Essentials” is applicable for year-around use, but the risks of winter skiing and hiking are greater with colder and wetter weather, plus shorter hours of daylight.

Here are the bare essentials every wilderness hiker should carry. The couple of extra pounds they represent are critical to outdoor safety.

Maps and Navigation Equipment It’s not hard to get lost in the wilderness, even when following a well-used trail. Sometimes there’s an unmarked fork, or you step aside to take a picture and get turned around. A GPS is a valuable tool as long as the battery is charged. It’s always a good idea to carry a map. Topographical maps are the most useful. If you get lost and see a peak, you can more easily determine where you are on a topographical map. Study the map before you go so you have a mental picture of the terrain. Carry a compass. It’s easy to get turned around and on a cloudy day you can’t always see the sun to determine your direction. A simple compass–that you know how to use–can save your life.

Don’t expect the map on your cell phone to work when hiking, even if your phone has GPS. No cell phone service means your map is a blank screen since the maps aren’t preloaded as in a dedicated GPS unit. Some smart phones allow you to “pre cache” small map areas so they are available without cell service.

First Aid Kit  Prepare a kit with a few bandaids, a small tube of antibiotic ointment, some gauze and adhesive tape, an elastic bandage for knee or ankle sprains, and a small bottle of aspirin or other pain killer. Your first aid kit doesn’t need to be elaborate, but a simple kit can go a long way toward alleviating discomfort.

Extra Clothes  Waterproof rain gear is a good idea all year long, not only to keep you dry, but to block out cold, harsh winds. Include a weather-proof hat. You can lose 35 percent of your total body-heat through your head. In the winter that amount of heat loss can be a matter of life or death. Pack an extra pair of wool socks. You’ll be glad you have them if your feet get wet. Consider carrying disposable hand and toe warmers in your pocket. You could save digits from frost bite.

Sun Protection  Take along dark sunglasses. Even on cloudy days, sunshine reflected off snow can be blinding. Sunscreen and SPF lip balm will protect your skin from sunburn, summer or winter.

Shelter  Even if you don’t plan to spend the night, take along a tent, tarp, emergency blanket, or even a large plastic trash bag. Just to have a dry place to sit and rest is important in conserving or restoring energy. If you do have to spend the night, a shelter can save you many miserable, long hours.

Illumination Even if you’re planning only a day trip, take along a flashlight or headlamp, plus extra batteries and a spare bulb. It gets dark early in the woods and walking along even a well-used trail can be dangerous in the dark.

Extra Food  “Extra” implies that you have some food with you. Even if you hadn’t planned to eat on your outing, always carry some form of nutrition. A body can last for days without food, but it provides energy and warmth.

Hydration  Each hiker should have two quarts of water per day. It’s a good idea to have a means to purify water, either with a compact filter or with chemical tablets.

Tools For winter hiking, take along a light, compact snowshovel. Using a shovel to dig yourself out of a tight spot is better than digging out with your hands. A simple two-blade knife will come in handy to shave wood or cut fabric. A one-burner backpacking stove is a good thing to have along. Hot liquid will bring comfort and warmth. In rainy weather, it’s easier to start a small butane stove than a fire. Invest in waterproof matches and carry them in a waterproof container.

Good Judgement There’s no substitute for common sense. Before you leave home, check the weather forecast and avalanche centers. Take along items for your own comfort–cell phone, toilet paper, insect repellent.  Before you leave on a day trip, stop to think whether or not you’re equipped in the event your trip turns out to be an over-nighter. Be prepared to turn back if the weather gets nasty.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: In Search of America's Heartbeat

In Search of America’s Heartbeat:Twelve Months on the Road by Robert H. Mottram is not only a fun read, it’s an eye opener. Mottram and his wife Karen did what many people only talk about. They spent a year on the road driving more than 30,000 miles, discovering and chronicling their trip along the way.

Mottram had just retired after more than 30 years as a journalist. Karen, as a registered nurse working in public health, was ready to retire, too. One week after they walked out of their respective offices, they climbed into their diesel Dodge Ram pickup truck pulling a 32-foot fifth-wheel trailer, and set out on a memorable adventure.

Mottrams tour America in a rough horseshoe pattern. Leaving Tacoma, WA, they drive south along the West Coast, then enjoy the winter warmth of the southern states, find spring as they make their way north through the Appalachians to New England, then zig-zag west across the continent during the summer season, returning to the Pacific Northwest in the fall.

The extreme spectrum of life happens while on their trip: Mottram’s father dies and a grandson is born. For both events, they take leave of their trip and fly to the source of the events, then resume their journey. The trip is a series of travelers’ delights, mixed with a few inconveniences, such as biting flies and inclement weather. The Mottrams take the bad with the good and as a result, experienced a memorable journey. They poke into obscure corners of our country and come up with amazing tales of yesteryear balanced with how it is today.

Along the way the Mottrams discover the heartbeat of America. Though each region has its peculiarities, America’s strength is found in its differences, strengths that weave the resilient fabric of our nation.

In Search of America’s Heartbeat has many poignant stories, both historical and current, that make for a fascinating read. Told with humor and keen observation, Mottram’s journalism background serves him well. It’s obvious he not only knows how to write, but how to observe.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys travel or reading about our nation’s wonderous diversities. In Search of America’s Heartbeat is told by a master story-teller. You’ll find it hard to put this book down. I didn’t want it to end.

In Search of America’s Heartbeat may be purchased through your favorite bookstore,, or through the author’s website,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Unbroken

Jamie Lisa Forbes’ debut novel, Unbroken, is a WILLA Award recipient and worthy of this prestigious honor.

Gwen Swan’s life is an unbroken chain of cooking, helping her husband on their family cattle ranch, managing their children, Rory and McKenna, juggling finances, and working through Wyoming’s harsh winters and sweltering summers with seemingly few days of reprieve between seasons. Gwen’s hard-working husband Will centers his life around the ranch. His father John, a widower for most of Gwen and Will’s married life, lives in his own house, but takes his meals with his son’s family. John still calls most of the shots on the daily ranch activities. Will occasionally takes his own initiative, but when he does his father can be counted on to share his opinion.

It’s up to Gwen to deal with her son’s teachers and their disapproval of Rory’s behavior at school. When Will becomes aware of Rory’s trouble at home, his impatience is obvious, but Rory’s grandfather helps smooth over hurt feelings. Rory especially basks in his grandfather’s love.

Will’s brother, long estranged from the family, appears and old bitterness and resentments resurface, further straining their lives.

Meg Braeburn and her young son Tim have broken away from her family’s ranch. She’s made mistakes but is determined to make a good life for them. She’s hired as a hand on a ranch neighboring Swan’s. The absent owner leaves all the work to her, with a stringy, unkept horse, rusty equipment and unrealistic expectations. Meg surprises them all with her ability and drive, and her resoluteness.

Before long Gwen and Meg become friends, their children play, though Rory often bullies Jim. The ranchers support and help one another with time, equipment and friendship.

The isolation and closeness of the two families begins to take their toll and boundaries are crossed. The dynamics of splintering families is painful and everyone’s way of life is affected.

Unbroken is a powerful, absorbing book from the first page to the last. Forbes’ Wyoming ranch background adds rich flavors to the story. The author draws realistic, complex characters. Unbroken is an unvarnished testimonial to a way of life that few of us know.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Soar On Wings like Eagles

It’s time again to view majestic American bald eagles along Pacific Northwest rivers, particularly the Skagit. The Skagit River hosts the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Most of these eagles spend their summers in northern British Columbia and Alaska. In the late fall, they migrate to the Pacific Northwest to feed on spawned-out chum salmon carcasses and waterfowl.

Eagles feed along river gravel bars in the morning usually between 7 and 11. In the afternoon, it is common to see eagles perched on tree branches, resting for long periods of time. They seem to prefer well-spaced branches, heavy enough to accommodate their weight and large wing span.

For its size, the eagle is surprisingly light, yet it is very strong. The average adult bald eagle weighs nine pounds, with a height of three feet and a wing span of five- to seven-and-a-half feet. The bald eagle is strong enough to swoop down with incredible speed and carry away prey that weighs more than the bird does.

Bald eagle nests, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, are typically six feet wide and two to four feet tall. Nests are often located very high in tall trees with broken or deformed tops, with a view of the water. The nesting period in Washington begins around the last week of March to the first or second week of April. Although some eagles stay in the Upper Skagit River area, most find nesting sites around the shores of Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, or other coastal areas in Canada or Alaska.

Eagles are generally ready to mate at the age of five. It is believed that eagles mate for life. Females lay two to four eggs and the thirty-five day incubation duties are shared by both female and male.

Eaglets are fed by their parents for the first six to seven weeks and then sporadically while they learn to feed themselves. By the time young eagles emerge from the nest, they are almost as large as their parents.

The familiar coloring of white head and tail does not occur until the birds are four or five years of age. Juvenile birds are mostly brown and gray with varying amounts of white on the underside of their wings and back.

The word “bald” is simply an evolution of the Middle English “balled,” which meant “shining white.” Adult bald eagle plumage is characterized by a dark brown body with a bright white head and tail, yellowish beak and eyes.

Few animals, if any, can match eagles ability to see great distances. Generally, eagles can see distant objects three to four times better than humans.

The life span of an eagle in the wild is up to twenty years. The bald eagle was almost driven to extinction as the result of eggshell thinning caused by the pesticide DDT. After DDT was banned in the 1970s, the eagles, as well as other birds of prey, have made an amazing comeback. In 1995, the bald eagle status was upgraded in the lower 48 states from “endangered” to “threatened,” and in 1997 Department of the Interior took the American bald eagle off the endangered species list.

The bald eagle was chosen in 1782 as the emblem of the United States of America because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks. It’s an honor to view these birds and it is our duty to ensure their preservation by giving them the space, privacy and environment they need.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review: Room

Room (Back Bay Books) by Emma Donoghue could have been taken from today’s headlines. Its gripping drama is as real as an interview with actual victims of captivity.

Jack, five years old, doesn’t know he’s been held captive all his life. He believes his life is normal. Jack and his mother live in an 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper’s yard. Jack’s mother whom he calls Ma, has been there seven years–she was a nineteen year-old college student when kidnaped.

The marvel of this story is the balance Ma has maintained in giving her child a rich, loving life, filling his days with exercise games, reading and math lessons, with limited television and unlimited love.

The entire book is Jack’s voice of heartrending innocence, wisdom and love. But there’s harrowing terror, too, and you realize the precarious tight-rope Ma must balance to keep them alive and together.

Even their captor, Old Nick, is seen through Jack’s eyes, or really through his ears, as Ma never wants Old Nick to actually see Jack when their captor visits in the night.

Through a child’s eyes, the reader absorbs the mother’s monumental task of raising a child under these circumstances. Old Nick, evil and unrelenting, is terrifying in his obsession.

Room is an amazing examination of two lives lived in captivity. It’s a testament to a mother’s love, a novel of astounding depth.