Posts Tagged ‘wilderness’

Dixie Fire Update on Philip Hyde Studio and Archive, Hyde Home and David Leland Hyde’s Safety

November 25th, 2021

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The Dixie Fire, Philip Hyde Historical Wilderness Photography Archive and David Leland Hyde

The Hyde Home and Photography Studio Has Just Survived the Largest Single Incident Wildfire in Known California History

The Fire Threatened Three Times Over Three Months

Hand Line Below the House After Dixie Fire, Rough Rock, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. Many thanks to the Inyo Hotshots from Bishop, California for all the excellent work they did on my property. During “Round 1” they cut one hand line and more than 40 days later when Grizzly Ridge became the biggest threat during “Round 3,” the Alhambra Fire Department from Orange County cut another hand line closer to the house. (Click to View Large.)

The Dixie Fire dangerously threatened the Hyde family home, named Rough Rock in 1957, and the Philip Hyde Studio, here in Old Mormon Canyon near Genesee, on three separate occasions over three months of hell. Once the Dixie Fire approached after combining with the Fly Fire into a raging wind-driven firestorm. It came whipping up Mt. Hough and into the Montgomery Creek watershed where fire crews somehow held it at Mt. Hough Road about two miles from home where I could see the gigantic flames towering high above the trees.

The second time the Dixie Fire came to get me, it first made national news by blowing through the beloved town of Greenville like a tornado and on across Indian Head, Keddie Ridge, Keddie Point, North Arm, through the Moonlight Fire Scar, changed direction with the north and west winds, jumped the five lane fire line on Beardsley Grade, roared down the Hosselkus Creek drainage into Genesee and down Hinchman Ravine into Genesee Woods, spotted onto Mt. Jura north of me and backed down Mt. Jura, finally burning one third of my property, everything north of Genesee Road, stopping 100 feet from my front door.

The third time, during a north wind in August, Dixie Fire spotted miles south onto Grizzly Ridge and began to once more threaten American Valley neighborhoods including Chandler Road, East Quincy, Greenhorn Ranch and on out east toward Portola, Lake Davis and eventually US Highway 395. The fire in my neighborhood ranged back and forth across Grizzly Ridge for over two months with spot fires all over the mountain face. One time it spotted as close as half a mile up Indian Creek from my home. Hotshot crews somehow miraculously put that spot out before it spotted again, or took off like many of the other spot fires on the Dixie fire. The east side of the fire raced off and scorched most of Canyon Dam, skirted around Lake Almanor, Chester, Westwood and into Lassen Volcanic National Park and beyond all the way to Old Station. The fire burned through the Chips, Moonlight, Walker Fire and many other fire footprints and many homes in the Feather River Canyon including most in the towns of Storrie, Richbar, Twain and Belden, but firefighters saved the bar and restaurant.

Finally 100 Percent Contained After 104 Days

I wrote the first draft of this blog post on October 25, 2021, the day firefighters finally got the fire 100 percent contained, a long 104 days after it started July 13 way down at the bottom of the Feather River Canyon off Dixie Road in Butte County near where the Camp Fire started in 2018. Within one month of origin, the Dixie Fire became California’s largest single fire incident in history. Fire repair and cleanup crews are still working now in mid November. One of the last areas to be contained was Grizzly Ridge above my house. Just weeks before the end of October, the Incident Management Team finally colored the fire map containment lines black from Grizzly Ridge up to Grizzly Peak near the Devil’s Punchbowl, for the first time since the Grizzly Spot Fire started in mid August.

When I first heard of the Dixie Fire and that it had triggered evacuations at Bucks Lake, in the Bucks Lake Wilderness, at Storrie, Twain and Rock Creek down the Feather River Canyon and in Meadow Valley, a bedroom community of Quincy, I looked it up on Inciweb, as I had previous fires in our area like the Bear Fire or North Complex and others. Inciweb did not even list the Dixie Fire. Under Dixie Fire, Inciweb showed a wildfire called the Dixie Fire in Idaho, which started before the California Dixie Fire and burned almost untended for nearly as long in remote terrain, much as our fire did for the first week or more.

I have been writing about my experiences during the fire and learning about other people’s harrowing Dixie Fire stories. The fire started small and remained small for days and even weeks, burning in rugged, remote terrain. Some decisions made by fire management are questionable. I will make some future blog posts on these topics here on Landscape Photography Blogger, but my experiences, observations and the stories of others will most probably find their way into print in one form or another. For now, I have pasted below some of my more informative Facebook updates, a few of the most poignant comments and my replies.

Facebook Post July 22, 2021, 10:12 pm (Three duplicate posts)

Mandatory evacuations for Taylorsville, Crescent Mills, Greenville, parts of Quincy, Meadow Valley, Butterfly Valley and in Genesee we are on evacuation warning as a result of being in the path of the Dixie Fire and spot fires off of it.

My Comment Not sure why this keeps saying I am requesting help. I’m working to get packed and get the house and grounds ready to leave. That’s all. Everyone is doing their own around here. We neighbors are all in touch though.

My Replies to Friend’s Comments Being here is not particularly safe, but it is necessary and a longer story than most would expect as to why. Plus, a ton of work to do… Was behind on raking, clearing gutters, etc. Just trying to be less of a target if the fire does sweep through big.

As my neighbor’s son, a fire fighter for BLM in Utah, said recently, “They don’t really seem to have a plan on this fire.”

We just got back long distance and internet. Everyone who has lived here more than 20 years is still here. Things are a bit better, but the fires are still advancing more slowly. I do have a backup plan to leave. Thank you all for caring.

The area he describes in this video as steep and dangerous terrain with rolling stumps and falling dead trees, on the very tip of the farthest NE point of the fire, is 2-3 miles from my house. If they don’t hold it there, the next fire line will be beyond my home and about 30 other neighbors. [Video subsequently taken down showing the USFS Incident Commander doing a chalk talk about how dangerous containing the fire is in the steep terrain above my home.]

A Friend’s Comment The anxiety alone must be profound. Take good care, David.

My Reply Traumatic. Your empathy helps though.

A Friend’s Comment Do you have a place to go buddy? You can come to stay here for a bit if need be.

My Reply Thanks man. Really appreciate that. Probably will go to Reno, but not sure yet. May not leave at all. If I do, I will go at the very last minute, long after most have evacuated.

A Friend’s Comment Stay safe. Things are just things. Your Life is what is of value.

My Reply There’s a lot more at stake here at my home and in the Philip Hyde Studio than mere things. Still, your point stands.

Fire Damaged Trees on Hyde Property Above Genesee Road After Dixie Fire, Mormon Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. This burned during “Round 2,” when Dixie backed down Mt. Jura. It was close to the hottest part of the fire at Rough Rock. The tree trunks are blackened up 30-50 feet. There was one area nearby with no needles or leaves left on the trees, where the fire crowned, torched and scorched down to the bare base soil. However, most of the 5-6 acres that burned on Hyde land was fortunately a ground fire thanks to low wind, diligent fire fighters and decades of forest thinning on most of the gentler slopes north of Genesee Road. The steepest terrain was the least thinned and even though the fire moved downhill, these areas burned with the highest severity, including significant crowning and torching. (Click to View Large)

A Friend’s Comment Don’t wait too long. We went through packing up and leaving our place on Kelly Ridge during the Camp Fire and again last year during the Bear Fire which burned right down to the waters edge across lake Oroville from our house. Many people were stuck in traffic trying to escape the Camp Fire and road options up your way are not plentiful.

My Reply Thank you. We are not on Evacuation Order currently. My neighborhood is on Evacuation WARNING so far. Genesee Road was bumper to bumper traffic headed out toward Antelope Lake and beyond, but today there is very little traffic as Taylorsville, Crescent Mills and Greenville have already evacuated.

Friend’s Reply Good. I understand what you are saying but we were 160 miles from the house when the warning came out last year and it went mandatory before I could drive there. They would not let me back in to take prints off the walls. Just saying.

My Reply Terrible. I have a neighbor and friend in North Arm here who left home to get a few supplies and groceries… The evacuation went mandatory while he was gone. They would not let him back in to get anything out of his house. It burned and he lost ALL of his negatives, hard drives, prints, everything. A 40 year career all gone because of certain rules about mandatory evacuation that apparently cannot be changed even to save the photographs from a long career that included museum shows, permanent collections, major press, widespread acclaim, and so on. Seems very strange. I realize they cannot just let everyone run all over the place constantly and keep going back and forth or it would be chaos during mandatory evacuations, but there has to be some way to make exceptions. There needs to be better access and support for people who work from home and have their entire livelihoods at stake.

Friend’s Reply That is terrible. I think I might have run that roadblock.

My Reply It’s inconsistent. Sometimes they are really cool and lenient and other times they are very strict. It doesn’t always correlate to how threatening the fire is either.

My Later Comment We just got long distance and internet back. Everyone who has lived here more than 20 years is still here. Things are a bit better, but the fires are still advancing more slowly. I do have a backup plan to leave. Thank you all for caring.

Facebook Post July 26, 2021, 6:03 pm (Post of photograph of the fire)

The videos of the aftermath of the beautiful little village of Indian Falls really turn the stomach. I think it hits you harder when you know the place and the people well.

Facebook Post July 27, 2021, 10:34 pm

Email update just sent to family: Rained for 15 minutes today and 3 minutes yesterday. Cleared off slightly after rain. Saw sun for first time in 6 days. Smoke thinner overall. High today was still only 70 F. Low 62. A locally raised friend, who works for Cal Fire, said they have solid dozer line all around the fire on this NE side 2-3 miles from my house with hose laid and it’s looking good. No sight, glow or smell of flames. Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s Deputies patrolling our Road, one every 5-10 minutes, watching for spot fires to allow all engines to be on the fire. I am nearly done with raking and have soaked ground 200+ feet out with trees wet up 20+ feet all around the house. Need to repair a roof leak tomorrow. Then I can put sprinklers on top. Keep fingers crossed, prayers going up, rain dances rolling and whatever else you believe in, please keep it up. St. Francis is here and working.

My Reply to a Friend’s Comment So far so good. Terrible shame about the beautiful little village of Indian Falls though. I believe everyone survived, but 8 out of 31 homes, or something like that, were completely destroyed. It aint over yet. It is a very big fire and only 2.5 miles from Rough Rock and several hundred other residences, not to mention just a little further away from Crescent Mills, Greenville, Meadow Valley and even Quincy, our county seat. Quincy is fortunate to be upwind from the closest part of the blaze and have much better fire line in between.

My Reply to Another Comment Improving every day. Fire crews are here protecting homes. They emphasize they are doing contingency work. There is no immediate danger, but we are on the leading edge of one of the largest wildfires in California history. My house is 2 miles from the fire line and the fire behind it is still slopping over and not fully “contained.”

Facebook Post July 28, 2021, 11:10 am

Much cooler and crisp this morning. Even though a veil of smoke still hangs in the air, faint traces of blue sky can be seen for the first time in many days behind the emerging mountaintop lit by a faint sun. Sky blue never looked so beautiful before, but with the sun out, the fire heat can increase too. I am staying alert and continuing to work my preparation plan.

My Reply to a Friend’s Comment Whew. I’m sore, exhausted, bruised and filthy. I’m gonna shower and hit the hay.

A Friend’s Comment You are a better man/person than I, I would probably be hitting the bottle! Yes do rest up and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

My Reply I might do that later if I have any energy left. There is a long way to go on this. Not time to celebrate yet, or even drown ourselves in our woes. No rest for the wicked. I’m still working, still raking, up on the roof working on a major leak so I can, or the fire fighters can put a lot of water on my roof without me taking a big shower inside.

A Friend’s Comment How do they alert you when it is so close?

My Reply No cell service here at the house. We do alerts around here the old fashioned way – community networking by phone right now mainly, email or internet when available. Or, like this afternoon, an engine crew pulled up and put a fire hose around my house and said it was mainly precautionary just in case. The fire has been at more or less the same acreage for 2-3 days and has good line around it. They are just afraid parts of it could kick up again because there are still tons of hot fuels inside the perimeter. They continue to take extra care because this is the largest wildfire in Calif. history and we are on the leading edge.

A Friend’s Comment How’s it going David?

My Reply Exhausted from raking and moving sprinklers. Sigh.

Facebook Post July 30, 2021, 3:49 pm

Yesterday evening’s dry lightning caused 1,800 acres of new spot fires around Indian Valley overnight and this morning. Hottest part of entire Dixie Fire is bordering Indian Valley on Mt. Hough and parts of Arlington Road. Flames along road, but they have saved the tree canopy. Fire is moving mainly on the ground from the ridge top down.

A Friend’s Comment I heard just now of a new fire by Greenville.

My Reply Yes, I heard that too. Besides dry lightning yesterday evening, we have high NE winds now, blowing the opposite way of the fire, forcing it back into it’s own footprint. Crazy weather, most of it probably caused by the fire itself. (I will need to verify to be sure, but I believe that new fire was near Round Valley Lake. This was also the day the Evans Fire started on the flank of Mt. Evans above North Arm. When the Evans Fire combined with the Dixie Fire about a week later, it became a fire tornado that destroyed more than a handful of homes on Diamond Mountain Road and North Arm Road. This same day a number of other devastating fires started around Northern California. Meanwhile, there were areas of slight rain over the Dixie Fire and winds calmed. It rained for 15 minutes here at Rough Rock.)

Facebook Post August 2, 2021 8:56 am

It’s still a bit smokey in the afternoon, but this morning we have blue skies over the fire.

A Friend’s Comment Do you have to evacuate?

My Reply We’ve been in and out of Mandatory Evacuation status twice so far. Skies are getting bluer all the time, but the main fire still has smoke plumes and hot spots. Greenville has been on Mandatory evacuation all along, but we went to a Warning day before yesterday. (We found out later that Greenville was also downgraded to an Evacuation Warning that day, only to go back to Mandatory late the next day when the wind took off again. Most of the town burned two days later in the afternoon of August 4. Many people ironically had brought belongings back when they returned after the first Mandatory Evac was lifted, only to have to leave quickly without them on the second Mandatory notice.)

Facebook Post August 5, 2021, 12:39 pm

The fire kicked up a great deal yesterday with 40 MPH SW winds. Reports are Greenville is nearly all burned. Crescent Mills is under immediate threat and Taylorsville is back on Mandatory Evacuation. I am in Quincy for prescriptions, groceries and internet. Headed back home with my neighbor now.

A Friend’s Comment We came back and left again. Smoke was horrific.

My Reply It is. Really, really bad. Worst I’ve ever seen. Tuesday and Wednesday were the worst yet on this fire. A Friend’s Comment I heard about Greenville on the news at noon and crossed fingers and toes then started praying for you and your neighbors. My Reply Thanks and blessings. Friend’s Reply It just brought tears to my eyes to see your response in real time. How are you and where are you, did your home fare well?

My Reply All is well so far. Tensions are rising again locally as the fire backs toward Taylorsville.

A Friend’s Comment David…be safe! I’m monitoring on the aerial the Olsen Barn! The firefighters put a line around it too. Sigh. We don’t need anymore loss this fire season!

My Reply Great news. Our group leader may have more info too. I hear he is doing a lot on North Valley Road near Greenville to help neighbors.

Looking South Across Greenville from Main Street After Dixie Fire, Indian Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. (Click to View Large)

A Friend’s Comment Be safe David there is no way this monster can be fought with a garden hose…Greenville is leveled.

My Reply Totally agree. The fight is in the preparation. That said, I’m not going to stand up against a firestorm. Whether I run or fight will all depend on the shape the fire is in if it approaches. I have already heard enough stories from friends and firefighters who tried to save homes. Our local TFD guys said they’ve already seen sights way worse than anything else in 40 and 50 year careers on fires.

Friend’s Reply And the wind can come up big at any moment. Best just to leave. My Reply Depends on your background and how much is at stake. A Friend’s Comment This gets harder to believe all the time. Or am I dreaming? Well David, you´re more important than a building, so keep your distance.

My Reply As you probably know, it aint just the building. There’s a little matter of world-renowned historically significant original film, which of course is just a “thing” too, in the big scheme.

A Friend’s Comment Heard about Greenville – how close are you to it? My Reply Greenville was on the other side of Indian Valley, 12 miles away. I went to Kindergarten and 7-9th grades there and have many deep ties and close friends. The fire is closer than that now. Friend’s Reply Is situation close to you any better? keep hearing Dixie still only around 30% contained but not sure which direction it is spreading.

My Reply It seems to keep spreading in all directions, more or less, backing against the wind, as well as going with the changing wind, which has been from the SW most of the time, but also from SE, NE, NW and North for a few days recently. The weather reports are all over the map, plus the fire is making its own weather as well. Yesterday evening there was a very strange hot NW wind passing through my property, clearly straight off the fire.

Facebook Post August 13, 2021, 12:36 pm

Finally made it back to civilization in Quincy. Been without power, phones, internet and even without a vehicle for two days, but I am fast on a bicycle, haha, not so haha. Just got my Minivan back. The tragedy just gets worse. More homes and land of friends, and friends of friends, burning. More heartbreak. Surreal. There are a few bright spots of people whose homes miraculously were spared too. Heard the town of Westwood in Northern California was severely threatened last night, but due to great fire defense, still stands. The wind has been more or less calm with a few heavy gusts in Indian Valley the last two days. The fire is backing down toward Taylorsville, burning slower in the Moonlight Fire footprint. Heard some of the past burns often have brush 10-15 feet tall, which makes them faster, but not as intense as forest. Taylorsville, Genesee, Crescent Mills all now on Warning, downgraded from Mandatory Evacuation.

A Friend’s Comment Thank you for the update!

My Reply Thank you for feeding me text updates when I had only a few other sources. Luckily we have a strong community in Genesee too. You rock. Always helping people.

Friend’s Reply I only wish I could do more.

My Reply No doubt. Everything is so spread out and disconnected. Amazing how the fire crews avoid chaos and still are as effective as expected in the face of 100-200 foot flames.

A Friend’s Comment That has to be so terribly stressful seeing that which you know and loved burn. Sorry for all of your friends too. Glad you are safe. We have been wondering how you are and we have been watching the fire. Stay safe David.

My Reply Thank you so much. Appreciate your support. It is very strange when things that have been the same for 100 or more years suddenly disappear.

A Friend’s Comment Thanks for the update!

My Reply Your aunt and uncle have been key to my staying informed and getting back and forth to Quincy and back a few important times lately. They have been keeping their neighbor’s gardens and pets in Genesee Woods watered too. They are more and more like your grandma every day looking after everyone.

A Friend’s Comment Glad to see your update. Been wondering how you were doing. Continued good luck to you!

My Reply Thanks. The situation is getting tense again as the fire backs toward T’ville. Aaaarrrrggg.

Friend’s Reply I have checked maps several times – and thinking of your area always brings back fond memories of a long ago visit there to see your dad – 1986 I think! Hoping the best for you.

My Reply Mom and Dad were great hosts and gave quite a tour of the studio and gardens and Mom made great meals. Great you’ve seen the place. Hope you can come visit again when this all settles down if and when I am still here.

Friend’s Reply Would love to do that and trust you will still be there!

Burned Slope Below devastated Town of Indian Falls After Dixie Fire, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. (Click to View Large)

Another Friend’s Comment I’m glAd you are ok!

My Reply Thank you. For the time-being. Dark days for many others. Staying strong though. Taylorsville is a town full of survivalist preppers, lol, to say the least.

Another Friend’s Comment Yeah. It’s awful.

My Reply You know better than I do. You lost a lot more in that other infamous homewrecking fire.

Another Friend’s Comment That was then, this is now. All of Genesee valley on mandatory evacuation alert with imminent threat. My sister in-law’s house in Greenville was burnt to a crisp last week, along with several other family and friend’s houses. Hope you, David Leland Hyde , and everyone around there is ok.

A Friend’s Reply So sorry for your sister & neighbors.

My Reply Very sorry to hear this sad news. My heart goes out to your sister-in-law. I too have had many good friends lose everything, or almost everything. Terrible.

Facebook Post September 14, 2021, 8:46 am

Events of the last month sure prove the adage not to believe everything you see on the news or in social media. Amazing how a few added phrases taken out of context can spin the meaning, severity and intent of a situation… and there are generally a large number of people lurking around to make snap judgements about an event they know nothing about too.

This last post refers to a legal situation that arose at my home during the fire. I cannot comment here or discuss the event due to possible future action. However, I can say that the matter has been fully resolved for now, unless I pursue the privacy and civil rights issues. I will follow-up in future blog posts about various Bill of Rights, evacuation and disaster laws, forest management, fire management, climate and California wildfires, personal Dixie Fire stories and other controversies that came to a head during the Dixie Fire.

Friend’s Recent Twitter Comment An absolutely emotional roller coaster. Hoping it gets better going forward.

My Reply It was a wild time. I think I have trauma. However, I am very fortunate and grateful it turned out as well as it did. Very fortunate indeed. So many others lost so much more.

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 22

February 9th, 2021

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 21.”)

Part 22: Denali National Park, Alaska. Mt. Denali, Wonder Lake Campground. Cottage called “Permafrost.” (Formerly Mt. McKinley, Wonder Lake Campground.)

Mt. Denali From Wonder Lake, Alaska Range, Denali National Park, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde. Digital image from high resolution Tango drum scan of the original Kodak large format 4X5 color transparency. Remastered by Carr Clifton. (Click to see large.)

Wednesday, July 21, 1971: Clear and sunny. Mt. Denali on full display. We woke up suddenly at 6:45 am when we realized the mountain was out. We rolled up the shades and there it was all snowy and white before us. We got going immediately out the road we came in on. Philip took some pictures and we all had breakfast. By 9:30 am we were at Camp Denali. We left the camper at the road and walked up to inquire about lodging and camping and to look around. Noted wildlife artist Bill Berry was there and we visited with him. We made arrangements with manager Wally Cole to stay two nights in their cottage, “Permafrost.”

Philip made some photographs at the “Nugget Pond.” We ate lunch in our camper, which Philip brought up the hill opposite our cabin next to the woodshed. After resting a while we walked out to a low ridge beyond the camp. Philip made 35 mm and 2 ¼ Hasselblad images of lichen and flowers. Much fewer flowers in the area at that time as the season had passed. The terrain on the hilltops was drier than what we have seen up until now. We came back to the cottage before dinner. Philip worked on arranging film in the camper. David played with his cars outside. I walked up to the lodge to look at books before dinner. There was a call for dinner and we all walked over to cottage, “Potlatch.”

The Franklin Stove glowed and the warmth felt good. The rain started before dinner. Philip and David had come up the hill in it. It tapered off during dinner. Over our meal, we got acquainted with Romany Wood, daughter of Ginny Wood, co-founder of the Alaska Conservation Society in 1960. We left right after dinner to put David to bed. We returned to the lodge to read and visit with guests for a while before going off to bed in “Permafrost.” David slept on the top bunk, Philip under him and I took the trundle cot. All very cozy.

(Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 23.”)

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4

February 12th, 2020

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Four

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3.”

 

Chinle Shales, Chinle Formation, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah, 1982 by Philip Hyde from Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde came out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other well-known landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands can be visited. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including here at the Amazon used booksellers.

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself, while “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3,” continued the text up to the beginning of this post.

 

For the purposes of this book, the larger desert area of the North American continent is divided into five major regions, the general locations and boundaries of which are described below in the order in which they appear in the book.

The Painted Desert Occupies the drier, southerly portions of what geologists refer to as the Plateau Province, the region from the western edge of the Rocky Mountains to the eastern edge of the Great Basin, extending from southern Wyoming to northern Arizona, and including portions of southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico. It is characterized by plateaus and deep canyons made up primarily of sedimentary rocks lying horizontally. The flora and fauna of the Painted Desert are most like those of the Great Basin Desert, and, in fact, some biologists believe the Painted Desert should be considered only a southeastern extension of the Great Basin. However, the Painted Desert cannot be considered hydrologically a part of the Great Basin. One of the major river systems of the West, the Colorado, drains nearly all of the Painted Desert area to the sea. Nor is there much similarity between the landforms of the Painted Desert and those of the Great Basin. With this book’s emphasis on the individual characteristics of each area of desert and the focus on the landscape in each, it is important to make those distinctions.

For the same reasons, I am including as parts of the Painted Desert two areas often left out of it or sometimes included in the Great Basin: Dinosaur National Monument and Grand Canyon National Park, both of which have, for our purposes, closer affinities to the Painted Desert.

The Great Basin Desert is the northernmost and largest of the areas in the North American desert. A large part of it is contiguous with the Great Basin, which, as its name implies, is a region closed hydrologically, that is, with no exterior drainage to the sea. The Great Basin Desert occupies most of Nevada; the western part of Utah to the Wasatch Front; small parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon; and several small border areas of eastern California. Because of its northern location, it has great extremes of climate. The large family of cactuses found in most deserts is nearly absent. It is sometimes called the Sagebrush Desert. The characteristic terrain of the Great Basin Desert consists largely of mountain “islands” surrounded by large valleys without exterior drainage. Many of these basins contain extensive dry-lake bottoms, or playas, and a few hold remnant lakes that are descendants of once vast lakes of the Pleistocene period.

The Mojave Desert adjoins the western side of the Great Basin Desert to the south. It occupies east-central and much of southern California and extends through southern Nevada as far as Utah. The high desert in the northern part of this region gives way in the south to drier, lower, more open country. The Mojave is enclosed on the west and south by mountains, and on the east shades into the Painted Desert along part of the latter’s western boundary. Geologists draw its northern boundary along the Garlock Fault, which runs across most of the Mojave in a general west-to-east direction. For our purposes, however, Edmund Jaeger’s boundary, well north of Death Valley, is more suitable. Like the Great Basin Desert, the Mojave is part of what geologists refer to as the Basin and Range Province. Its terrain is made up of closed basins without exterior drainage.

The Sonoran Desert is perhaps most notable for its variety of xerophilic (adopted to sparse moisture) plants. Flatter, drier, and lower in elevation than its northern desert neighbors, it is named for, and covers much of, the Mexican state of Sonora. It also includes southwestern Arizona, extreme southern California, and nearly all of the Baja California peninsula.

The Chihuahuan Desert is named for the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and nearly three-quarters of it lies in Mexico. It includes a third of Chihuahua, parts of the states of Coahuila, Durango, a bit of Nuevo León, and a small area in Zacatecas. It also extends across the international boundary into westernmost Texas and southern New Mexico. The Chihuahuan Desert is the driest and most open of ther North American deserts, though like the others it includes many mountain ranges. It lies on a great intermountain plateau between Mexico’s two major mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental. Except for the area drained by the Rio Grande and its major tributary, the Río Conchos, the large basins of the Chihuahuan are without drainage.

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 5.”

Do you prefer the desert, mountains, plains, forest or seashore? What is your favorite desert?

Top 20 Photographs of 2019 – Year-End-Retrospective

December 27th, 2019

Top 20 Photographs of 2019

Year-End-Retrospective

This year I focused more on marketing and PR than making new photographs, which is starting to pay off some. Solid publishing credits through my licensing agreement with Genesee Valley Ranch and the Genesee Store included several images of mine appearing in an article for Forbes Magazine and others in a feature for Food and Wine Magazine.

In the decade from 2010 to 2019, I made the most photographs in 2015, the fewest photographs in 2010 and the second fewest in 2019. In my opinion and according to others as well, in 2019 I still made as many portfolio quality images. My goal is to continue this trend of decreasing the quantity and amount of time invested, while maintaining quality. Besides publicity, press relations, print sales and other marketing, I am focusing more energy on longer writing projects. I also need to develop and place more major museum exhibitions of the work of my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde.

I ventured out to photograph only twice in early 2019 during the winter. One of the rare photo sessions was during a storm clearing when the power went out at home in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Spring found me out a few more times, looking for green pastures, snow-capped peaks and traditionally grass-fed, hay-supplemented cows raised on year-around zestful mountain valley living and small ranches. The cattle in our neck of the woods in the Lost Sierra tend to fatten up after the leaner, colder days end. I made a set of images in June for possible real estate marketing of the Hanley-Openshaw Ranch off of Deadfall Lane in Indian Valley near my home in the upper Indian Creek watershed, part of the Feather River Region, also known as the Lost Sierra at the farthest eastern edge of the California Gold Country. For some time I had wanted to regain access to this beautiful piece of ranch or farmland with spectacular views of Grizzly Ridge and Grizzly Peak from its spring green pastures along Indian Creek.

I have been going to the annual Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo off and on my whole life and have attended a few other rodeos. However, I never photographed a rodeo until 2017. The Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo only allowed one photographer for many years, but an opportunity opened up that allowed a number of us to bring in our cameras for the action in 2019. Rodeo Queen Emma Kingdon asked me to capture her two ceremonial rides in the rodeo. Quick note to animal activists: in my experience, ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls and other cattlemen care for their animals very well, much better than anyone without the same close ties to the land and to making a living from it.

After the rodeo, I walked down to “the river,” the local nickname for Indian Creek. People of all ages, especially teenagers, after the rodeo customarily ride horses bareback into the shallow water on a quiet stretch of the creek that extends about half a mile upstream from the Taylorsville Bridge. There I met a lady who was building a website for her neuroscience-based therapy business. We agreed on a trade for photographs for her online platform. It was a fun fashion-style photo shoot, but the images were perhaps a bit too contrasty for web branding purposes, though I feel they may be good samples for a potential future fashion portfolio.

Other photo excursions took me back to Sierra Valley several times to track down a number of the historic ranches I could not get to in other visits. Sierra Valley is the largest mountain valley over 5,000 feet in elevation in the world. I also revisited Greenhorn Creek near Quincy, California for the first time since 2012. One of the highlights of my lighter year in photography was capturing the Middle Fork of the Feather River for the first time.

My photographs below are all single-exposure, single-image capture with no bracketing, no HDR and no blends. I use Photoshop CC as my digital darkroom to develop and print my photographs with similar aesthetics to traditional film photographers. I do dramatically change some images, most of which are readily recognizable as altered from “reality.” I do the usual dodging and burning, also known as lightening and darkening. I control contrast, as well as shadow and highlight intensity, vibrance and saturation, making subtle shifts that bring out the natural attributes inherent in the scene. I only remove or move objects within the frame if they are small distractions with only a small effect on the overall integrity of the photograph. For many decades photographs have been considered one of the truest ways of re-creating a “real-life” scene. I chose not to risk breaking the public’s trust and expectation that photographs represent “reality.” However, I do enjoy approaching that line and playing with it. I also am starting to make art that goes on traditional photography. Stay tuned. 🙂

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

Best Photographs of 2018

Best Photographs of 2017

Favorite Photographs of 2016

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

Grizzly Peak From Stampfli Lane, Indian Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click Image Twice to See Large)

Sunlight Through Clouds, Mt. Hough, Wagyu Cattle, Genesee Valley, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Indian Creek and Grizzly Peak at Hanley-Openshaw Ranch, Indian Valley, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Four Cows and Indian Head, Indian Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Barbed Wire Fence, Three Posts and Reflections Detail, Snowmelt Fields, Sierra Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Chet, Angela and Cattle Herd in Pouring Rain, Hanley-Openshaw Ranch, Indian Valley, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

“Wrangler,” July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

Daniella With Flag Shawl, July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

Two Generations Feeding Cows, South Side T. Dotta Ranch, Sierra Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Bronco Bucking off Cowboy Blur, July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

Sunset, Hay Harvest, Deadfall Lane, Indian Head in Distance, Indian Valley, Summer, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Two Main Barns From the South, Van Vleck VV Bar Ranch, Fall, Sierra Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Sierra Wave Cloud Over Hosselkus Creek, Genesee Valley and Kettle Rock, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Fly Fisherman at Riffle on Middle Fork, Feather River, Fall, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Grasses, Shadows, Cliff Reflections, Middle Fork, Feather River, Fall, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Yellow Indian Rhubarb and Mossy Boulders, Greenhorn Creek, Fall, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Frozen Stream, C.C. Guidici East Barn, Hyde Van, Sierra Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Old Wagons, Main Barn, Granary, Dellera M. Guidici Ranch, Beckwourth Peak Across Sierra Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Grace and Beef Steer, Plumas-Sierra Junior Livestock Auction, Plumas County Fair, Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde.

Rodeo Queen Emma Kingdon Prepping Tack, July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgetting Winter

April 10th, 2019

Elusive Memories, Snowfall, Weather and Climate at home in the Sierra of Northern California

Mt. Hough From North Arm of Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. In this image, the snowline from the most recent storm can be seen clearly at about 5,000 feet in elevation. The top of Mt. Hough, the giant rock outcropping jutting out of the right middle, is just over 7,000 feet and the top of Arlington Ridge in the left middle of the whole mountain, is 7,232. (Click image to see large.)

Plumas County, where I am writing from, is the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges. Here the Sierra is much lower in elevation overall. Here we also have much more volcanic activity, defunct volcanoes, hot springs, geothermal vents and old lava flows weaving in among the Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir Forests growing out of the Sierra granite terrain.

In our milder Northern Sierra Nevada, most mountain peaks are 6,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, unlike the High Sierra farther south, where the peaks range from 11,000 to 14,000 feet. Most people in the Feather River Region live in the mountain valleys, usually ranging between 3,000 and 5,000 in elevation. By the time you drive two hours south to Lake Tahoe, you find the high elevation terrain traditionally associated with the Sierra, accompanied by much heavier snowfall.

Bear in mind that the surface level of Lake Tahoe stays around 6,225 feet. This means that most of the tops of our mountains are at about the same elevation as the base level of the peaks in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Many of the winter snowstorms that dump the heaviest in the Tahoe area bring us nothing but rain. Some years most of the Sierra receives heavy snowfall, while we do not. A smaller number of years it is vice versa. Consequently, we do not follow the various long-range forecasts all that closely, as they do not always apply.

This year was different though. We heard from many sources about the coming long, heavy and cold winter. Most of my neighbors braced themselves by getting in extra wood and supplies, putting on snow tires and updating vehicle maintenance, though we all remained skeptical. The weather itself did not seem to care whether we were skeptical, or whether the predictions were dire, either one. Winter came on very gradually and much the same as it has arrived most of the last 15 years. Our contemporary pattern for at least 15 years has been a little rain in October with Halloween being unseasonably warm and essentially an extension of what we used to call Indian Summer.

Following the current pattern, this season we received a little more rain in November, several flurries of snow that were just enough to stick in the first week of December and finally about one foot in one storm shortly after. This brought on hopes of a White Christmas, as well as fears we might be buried by then. However, it warmed up and dried out again for most of the month until it clouded up and threatened either rain or snow just before the big holiday. It snowed just after the Winter Solstice, just a skiff, which we thought might last long enough to give us a White Christmas, but the only weather that lasted beyond the holidays was the cold, which after all finally showed up with enough mojo to provide ice skating on the local pond during the weeks on either side of New Year’s Day.

Toward the end of the first week of 2019, weather reports had people talking again. The big snows were coming, weather experts said. Most of us went ahead with what we were already doing in disbelief. Then about January 5th or so, it snowed a foot in one night. We had seen this before, but then it snowed about a foot the next night. Here we go, or not? The weather skipped a few days just for dramatic effect and then snowed a foot again, then again and again, not necessarily every day, but frequently enough for everyone to know this was already a series of storms more like we used to get. It was possibly the beginning of an old-fashioned winter, much as expected by long-range forecasters.

Since the winter of 2011, we have not had more than a foot of snow on the ground at one time. Before that 2002 was the last heavy winter where we had more than one foot at a time. Also, besides 2002 and 2011, I do not remember the last time snow stayed on the ground more than a week at a time. From the beginning of the New Millennium and probably earlier, onward to today, the snow melted quickly, even in mid-winter. Long, cold, snowy winters require different skills and different thinking than snows that always melt in a few days. They require different patterns of grocery shopping, woodbin filling and snow shoveling.

When I was a boy, I remember us getting six feet of snow in one storm more than once. It happened in 1968 when I was three years old, as well as one or two other times. Dad made photographs of me at age three in a red snowsuit sliding down piles of snow he had shoveled in the driveway that were taller than the 12 foot flat roof of the house. Once in the late 1970s, it snowed four feet on April 1st. This event we forever after called the April Fool’s snow. I also remember the snow sticking for months in the dead of winter. Most years, the snows started in October and even sometimes in September. Many winters we had snow on the ground continuously all season. Once the snow had been on the ground a while, lasting right through temporary warm spells, it usually melted a little each day that was warm enough to get above freezing temperatures, then refroze at night. The deeper the snow and the greater the range between nighttime lows and daytime highs, the bigger the icicles grew that hung from the eves, the deck railings, water drains and spouts and any other horizontal surface close enough to the house to thaw out temporarily by day. I remember Dad photographing the largest icicles that grew up to six or more feet long. Usually, the icicles never got a chance to grow that long though because he either followed along after his photographing with a shovel and knocked them down, or just knocked them down without photographing.

Dad had a rule that I followed when I took over the snow shoveling duties: always shovel all the snow off the decks every day, if at all possible. If you do not do this and the snow piles up in subsequent storms, the bottom layer of snow, or whatever portions of it you did not shovel, turns to ice. Considering we have thousands of square feet of decks, clearing them after every snowfall is not necessarily an easy or even convenient task.

I left home to go away to boarding school at age 15 in 1980 and never came back for longer than a few weeks on vacations and holidays until 2002 when Mom passed on. After moving back home to be Dad’s primary caregiver in 2002, I became lazy about shoveling snow. The average winter temperatures were warmer and cold spells lasted for less time. After any storm of less than a few inches, I hardly shoveled, if at all. This was rarely a problem since the snow tended to melt long before more snow fell. If a storm did drop more snow before the previous accumulation melted, it never mattered much, either because it would all either melt or it stayed just warm enough to keep the bottom layer from turning to ice. In the last few decades, much less ice has formed in general. Shoveling off the front walkway between the house and driveway has recently tended to keep ice from building up there. In the “old days,” that same walkway usually turned to ice even if shoveled off. Typically more snow would fall and turn to ice before it could be shoveled.

With so many mild winters in a row, I forgot about these nuances of snow conditions and the differences between heavy snow years and light ones. This year in early January, I still doubted we would have much snow when the first series of storms hit. I shoveled a path around the inside edge of the decks next to the house, the usual first shoveling pass, but left over a foot of snow on most of the decks. I was busy and needed to get back to work rather than spending an entire day shoveling. I also neglected to use the shovel to cut the snow back off the edge of the roof in the front of the house, where melting snow usually dripped to form ice on the front walkway.

As more and more storms came through, I began to realize this was a more serious error than it had been even back in my youth. As snow usually does, it compacted down over time and soon I had about 18 inches of close to solid ice on my decks. The sheer weight of this could cause damage to the deck, but the longer it stayed, the harder it would be to remove and more snow kept arriving all the time. It took me about five days of shoveling over four hours a day to get all of the decks cleared. I also spent many hours chipping, scraping and chopping away at the ice on the front walkway.

I began to realize that what happened with my snow management in the microcosm was the same thing that had happened to mankind in relation to climate change in the macrocosm. Winter had changed from what it was 20 years ago and I had forgotten what it was like to have to remove the ice from the front walk, or how critical it was to get it off the decks right away. I had been lulled into shoveling complacence, had forgotten how we used to go about it and what the consequences were of neglect. I marveled how soon I had forgotten and felt happy to be chipping and pounding away at the ice again. All was well. Then I remembered that all is not well.

When someone in a room with a dimmer switch gradually turned down does not notice how much darker the room is than before, one of the main reasons they do not notice is inaccurate or wishfully driven memory. Here in the Northern Sierra, we are generally ok with winter being less harsh. It means less work and less hardship. It makes life in the winter easier. In a dimming room, we may be happy with the room darker. Memory is an elusive critter and what it consists of is often distorted by what we want or what we like. This means that one of the main reasons we do not notice the room is darker is that we do not remember how bright it was. We do not notice or remember that the first spring flowers, snowdrops, daffodils and lupine, have been blooming steadily earlier every decade. We tend to delight in signs of spring coming earlier, even though when we pause and reflect, we know something is systemically wrong with Mother Nature. We also do not notice or remember when we have no specific markers for comparison. The particular muscle memory I have of pounding away at ice with a shovel, when I performed the act again many years later, made me realize I did not even miss doing this task. I did not ever think, “Wow, I haven’t had to chip ice off the front walkway for 20 years.” The memory was gone and with it, the awareness of any of it ever having happened.

Without the marker or any other specific records or information, I could easily have forgotten how much winter has changed. My mother’s home logs and father’s weather records kept for over 40 years tell us that in the mid-1960s the snowdrops bloomed in the second week of April. Going through the logs, over the years the bloom dates gradually shifted until, by the time I moved back home here in 2002, the snowdrops came out at the beginning of March. The last couple of years it has moved to the end of February. Thanks to logbooks and records we can circumvent our own mistaken memories. Thanks to science, we do not have to rely on our own often mistaken faculties, but we can rely on measurements and solid data.

Book Review: Sacred Headwaters By Wade Davis And Carr Clifton

March 12th, 2019

Book Review of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass by Wade Davis with Principal photography by Carr Clifton, Foreword by David Suzuki and Afterword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Including Other Leading Conservation Photographers such as Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz.

Landscape Photography Reader Note on Process, Life and Persistence:

Graystone Books released the first US Edition of The Sacred Headwaters in March 2012. In June, I wrote a rough draft of this review and by December I had written over five completely different drafts. Carr Clifton asked me to publish what I had on Landscape Photography Reader, but I told him I did not want to put up a blog post of the review as I still wanted to submit it to newspapers and magazines. Most publications of any significance will not publish work that has been previously published in any form elsewhere. I began work on a sixth draft in early 2013, but by then I decided it was too late to submit to newspapers or magazines. Most of them only accept reviews of books that have been out for less than six months. With life and other concerns and obligations intervening in the meantime, I also began reading a much larger body of books on the world water crisis and books about saving rivers. I have collected over 70 volumes about water and rivers to date, over 20 are large format coffee table style, and nearly a dozen are books with photographs by my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde.

My idea was to someday publish a large review for a major publication. While that dream still exists in one form or another, it has simultaneously turned into a book-length project about books that have saved rivers to potentially include the work of such greats as John Muir, Wallace Stegner, David Brower, Edward Abbey, Ansel Adams, Dad, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, Ken Brower, Wade Davis, Carr Clifton and many others. Please pray, do a dance, send good vibes and think supportive thoughts for me that life, death, or hard times will not intervene first. Despite external factors getting in the way and myself getting in the way, from time to time I am happy to find that my skills are improving. While I struggled with this review for more than a year the first time I tried to write it and abandoned that sixth draft only a bit over half finished, when I came back to it this week, all the disjointed, jumbled pieces either discarded easily or flowed together surprisingly well in just a few days. Sometimes once the old karma is worn out, the obstacles just melt away. My sincere apologies to Wade Davis and Carr Clifton for the delay in getting this in front of the world. Blessings and a thank you to my readers. Please enjoy the review and email or comment with any questions or thoughts you may have…

Threats to the Native Homeland and the Salmon Headwaters ‘Yosemite of the North’

Cover of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass by Wade Davis and Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Harvard trained anthropologist-ethnobotanist and bestselling author Wade Davis represents National Geographic in up to 50 countries a year studying vanishing indigenous cultures. Indicators such as a decrease in the usage of the native language or loss of home through displacement signal the decline of a culture. Davis has seen the loss of a few houses in a native village, the loss of a whole village, or even a people’s entire homeland, but he never thought that his own home would be threatened.

Besides his house in Washington DC and his residences during research abroad, for 25 years Davis has considered his true home a fishing lodge on Ealue Lake at the edge of one of the World’s largest remaining intact wildernesses called the Sacred Headwaters in Northern British Columbia. Born in British Columbia, Davis also worked as a park ranger and hunting guide in the Sacred Headwaters during the 10 years before he built his fishing lodge. The native tribes of the Sacred Headwaters, the Tahltan First Nations, refer to their hunting and fishing lands as hallowed ground because by a wonder of geography three of the greatest salmon rivers of the Pacific Northwest, the Skeena, the Stikine and the Nass all are born in remarkably close proximity to each other in a land of jagged peaks, verdant valleys and forests abundant with wildlife and rushing water. In 2006, IBM Business Consulting sponsored an independent study that found the value of the salmon industry in the Skeena River alone to be $110 million annually.

The Tahltan could still lose this homeland to any of 41 different industrial proposals including large-scale fracking, open-pit mining and coal mining. Wade Davis’ fishing lodge on Ealue Lake lies just under Todagin Mountain, which would lose it’s top to Imperial Metals’ proposed Red Chris Mine. This open-pit copper, gold and silver mine would process 30,000 tons of rock ore per day for 28 years and pour toxic mine tailings directly into Black Lake, one of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, the principal tributary of the Stikine. Besides the Red Chris Mine threat, Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration of coal bed methane gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, with gas wells, access roads and pipelines, would criss-cross approximately 10 million acres. Also, Fortune Minerals’ open pit anthracite coal mine on Mount Klappan is currently in the environmental assessment process for a three million ton per year operation. Anthracite is an extra dense, extra hard, rare and energy rich type of coal. Because of these threats, the Sacred Headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine is number one on British Columbia’s Most Endangered Rivers list.

A National Geographic Explorer Unites With the Voices of the Tahltan Elders and Conservation Photographers

Woodland or Osborne Caribou on the Upper Slopes of Klappan Mountain, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Fortune Minerals seeks to locate an open-pit coal mine here to produce between 1.5 and 3 million tons of anthracite a year. (Click image to see larger.)

To protect their common home, Wade Davis gathered the voices of the Tahltan elders, his own moving narrative and photographs by some of the world’s leading conservation photographers today to publish The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass. While Davis has authored dozens of books, a handful of which have been bestsellers, he had never before produced a photography book, let alone a large format conservation book. To plan his book Davis researched the most significant coffee table landscape photography books.

Large format nature photography books became popular after 1960 when photographer Ansel Adams, conservationist David Brower and curator Nancy Newhall launched the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which they intended to serve as “battle books” to defend US wilderness and help found national parks. The idea for the book series began in 1955 with This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, the first book published for an environmental cause with two chapters by Pulitzer-winning novelist and conservationists Wallace Stegner with photographs by journalist Martin Litton and my father Philip Hyde. In the 1960s, my father, Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter became the primary illustrators of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that brought the beauty of America onto coffee tables around the world, helped advance the momentum of modern environmentalism, saved the Grand Canyon from dams and helped establish Redwood National Park, Everglades National Park, North Cascades National Park and many others.

Many proponents including photographer Eliot Porter and David Brower, the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director, said that the large format books were largely responsible for the massive increases in the club’s membership. Other Sierra Club leaders, including Ansel Adams, worried that the Sierra Club might go bankrupt if it continued to publish such extravagant volumes. David Brower was asked to resign for overspending on publishing and other endeavors deemed reckless by a slight majority of the Sierra Club Board. The books were downsized and all but discontinued. Few volumes of similar quality were mass published until the digital era.

Today, 20 years into the digital revolution, photographic reproduction and book production quality have both advanced dramatically since the 1960s. With the right combination of participants, The Sacred Headwaters now shows it is possible to produce a book of similar quality to the classics in the genre from the 1960s.

The Need for A Large Number of Sweeping Landscape Photographs to Match the Terrain

Black Lake, Kluea and Todagin Lakes in Distance, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Three of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, principal tributary of the Stikine. If the Red Chris mine went forward, the entire valley would be buried beneath a mountain of toxic tailings and waste rock, which would leach into one of the world’s most pristine and productive salmon watersheds below. (Click image to see larger.)

Wade Davis knew he could write a good text. He had done it before. He had also made good photographs for National Geographic before too, but he knew that to make the strongest statement possible, he would be wise to obtain help. He turned to the International League of Conservation Photographers, also known as the iLCP. The iLCP is a collection of leading photographers with a mission to “further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography.” Trevor Frost, iLCP photographer and home office staffer, helped Wade Davis raise funds for and organize a multi-photographer team to go to the Sacred Headwaters on what the iLCP calls a R.A.V.E. or Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition. R.A.V.E.s aim to achieve a full visual assessment of a threatened ecosystem in a short period of time.

The photographers represented in The Sacred Headwaters who initially joined the RAVE included Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz. Most of these photographers are well known. They made a good number of high-quality images, but the project was still short on enough strong, cohesive photographs for a book, not to mention that it was heavy on wildlife and short on the giant, open and sweeping landscapes that characterize the Sacred Headwaters more than almost anywhere else on Earth.

Wade Davis decided to call on landscape photographer Carr Clifton, who had learned the art of the large format photography book as a protégé of my father and had produced a dozen photography books of his own, not to mention more magazine covers than any other living nature photographer. Most importantly large landscapes have always been Carr Clifton’s specialty. He has been photographing nature for over 40 years. He was one of the primary photographers during the heyday of the Sierra Club Desk Calendars that helped to popularize nature photography. He is also the primary illustrator of nearly a dozen books including Wild By Law, The Hudson, New York: Images of the Landscape, Wild and Scenic California, Justice on Earth, Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature and others. Clifton is now one of the all-time most published landscape photographers.

In The Sacred Headwaters, Carr Clifton’s work from the helicopter, in particular, produced giant scenes that explode with color and show off Clifton’s awareness and mastery of how to capture light. The viewer of these pages is awakened to new possibilities in beauty, beginning with the cover photograph. These images depict the proverbial land of plenty, perhaps the last of its scope on Earth. The way Clifton uses unusual camera angles shows more of the land and more of the sky when it is interesting. Even in his Caribou image, he is not at their eye level, he is down at the height of their flanks…

Wildlife is not my forte. I was looking for landscapes when I saw those Caribou. I thought to myself that I had to photograph them as part of the story, but they are not something I would have gone after because I do not believe in bothering wildlife just for my own sake to get pictures. They are already pushed enough. Probably I crouched to hold the lens steady. It was a long lens. With landscapes, it’s not like I do it as a trick or a method. It’s just the way I see. Sometimes I get down really low and close to the subject. Otherwise, with a wide angle lens it looks like the object is down below the picture. When I get down low I can include more. I can get more of the sky and maybe something interesting in the foreground. With the Cotton Grass to show it properly you need to get close. If I shot it standing up, the grass heads would all be the same size. By getting down low and close to the nearest ones, you’re filling the frame with the Cotton Grass. If you are far back you are not going to have as much converging perspective. Still, I don’t think about all of that when I’m doing it. I’m just feeling. Just paying attention and tuning in to what surrounds me. At the same time, I don’t want the subject to take over the image, which is what happens a lot in wildlife photography. I like the design of the rectangle and that’s my art form. Just what is going on in the rectangle. I’m not trying to tell a story, though in this project the combination of the photographs as a grouping and the writing do together tell a story. But with individual pictures, I’m more concerned  with the composition and the makeup of the rectangle, the deisgn of the whole, the feeling it portrays.

A Wildlife Garden of Eden or ‘Serengeti of the North’

Paul Colangelo, besides his also unusually arranged frames of moose, bear and other wildlife, also photographed the landscape and water features from the chopper. “The land has one of the largest intact predator-prey systems in North America,” said Colangelo. He said this earned the area the nickname, ‘Serengeti of the North.’ Canadian also call the large remote and roadless part of British Columbia simply, “’The North.’”

Canoeing, rafting and of course backpacking for miles were needed to access other locations, but the newest method for me was traveling by horseback. I stopped into a cabin to ask directions to a fishing camp and the next thing I knew I was joining the cabin’s owner on an eight-day horseback trip.

Todagin Creek, Todagin South Slope Provincial Park (right side of creek), Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Todagin Creek flowing beneath the south slope of Todagin Mountain down valley toward Tatogga Lake and the Iskut River. (Click image to see larger.)

Carr Clifton logged thousands of four-wheel-drive miles on an old railroad grade that is the only ground access to the Sacred Headwaters. By air, on foot and in his truck, he covered a vast roadless wilderness of approximately 150,000 square miles. He not only participated in the summer 2011 RAVE, but also drove from California back to Northern BC in the Fall of 2011 with no compensation besides reimbursement for his expenses.

For perspective, Wade Davis compared the Sacred Headwaters to wilderness in the US:

In the lower 48, the farthest you can get from a maintained road is 20 miles. In the Northwest quadrant of BC, an area the size of Oregon, there is only one road, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, a ribbon of asphalt that goes along the side of the coastal mountains to Alaska. It is a region where distances are measured by numbers of boots worn out, and on the roads in terms of the number of axles broken during the journey.

Wade Davis wrote that in the US only one river flows more than 600 miles uncompromised by dams, whereas the rivers of the Sacred Headwaters all run free. Davis opens The Sacred Headwaters with beautiful descriptions of the country supplemented by select observations from John Muir’s 1879 voyage up the Stikine River on his first journey to Alaska. By the end of his side trip, Muir was so moved by the country that he named his dog after the Stikine. He also gave the name to his most well known semi-autobiographical short story. In his smooth effortless prose, Davis vividly summarized Muir’s observations of hundreds of glaciers a day, eagles gathering by thousands to feast on salmon runs so rich they colored the sea, immense hemlock and Sitka spruce forests, mountains dazzling with waterfalls and ice, and how Muir climbed one rocky crag, Glenora, that rises 7,000 feet directly above the river. Muir’s journals described the Stikine River valley as a Yosemite 150 miles long.

Wade Davis sprinkles his text with concrete and entertaining statistics, his writing easily rising into the tradition of such greats as Marc Reisner, Aldo Leopold or John Muir himself.

The biggest canyon in Canada, the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, which most Canadians cannot even name, less than 100 people have gone through in all written history. No raft has ever made it. The first Kayakers survived it in 1985. Nobody has ever walked the rim of it. It is far less known than Utah’s Glen Canyon, ‘the place no one knew.’

Shell Used the Standard Ploy of Promising Jobs, but Coal Bed Methane Extraction is Nearly All Automated

Cascade Falls on The Iskut River, Natadesleen Lake, Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Beyond and out of sight are Kinaskan, Tatogga, Eddontenajon, Kluachon, Ealue, Kluea, Todagin, and Black Lakes. (Click image to see larger.)

The corporations proposing the development of the Sacred Headwaters, as well as other mines and natural gas fracking elsewhere, often claim keeping oil development in North America is good for jobs. Davis disagrees:

Shell’s coal bed methane extraction proposal of over 10 million acres, would result in hundreds, probably thousands of wellheads connected by multiple pipelines. That system, once in place, would be virtually automated. This is not about job creation. That’s just a red herring. Even if you look at the Golden Bear Gold Mine owned by Goldcorp, Inc, that is now exhausted, but operated in Tahltan territory for a decade, they extracted $25 billion worth of gold and silver. In the Iskut community, none of the infrastructure improved. A few people have hockey rinks or swimming pools, but there is still no fund for the kids to go to school, no health center and so on.

Shell used the jobs ploy to help obtain approval in the U.S. for the lower half of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The company represents itself in the media as becoming more socially conscious, but spends millions annually to defeat clean energy legislation, said a Natural Resource Defense Council press release. In 2002, Shell moved toward being greener by buying Siemens Solar, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world. Rather than staying involved in the solar industry, Shell sold its solar manufacturing division in 2006. Shell is also presently suing 12 environmental groups including NRDC and Earthjustice over proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Shell has never commercially produced coal bed methane in British Columbia, not to mention in salmon-bearing ecosystems or vulnerable alpine environments,” said Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. “I don’t think the Sacred Headwaters and our wild salmon should be their guinea pigs.”

Tahltan Nation Briefly Divided, but Ultimately Standing United in Evicting Shell, Fortune Minerals, Imperial Metals and All Other Industrial Development

Davis tells the story of how a split in the Tahltan Nation led to the threats of mining and fracking on tribal lands. A construction company called the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation, founded in 1985 by Jerry Asp, stood to gain from industrial development by building the necessary roads and other improvements. Jerry Asp through deception got himself elected chief of the Tahltan and welcomed in Shell and other corporations. The Tahltan had to withstand lawsuits by Shell, remove Asp from office and set up a blockade to keep Shell out of their lands. The Tahltan have been largely alone in the fight, but because of the continued efforts of iLCP photographers, Davis and groups such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, Big Wild, Forest Ethics, the Suzuki Foundation and many others, momentum shifted before time ran out.

Sunrise and Rainbow Over The Headwaters of the Skeena River, Skeena Mountains, in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Spearheading the campaign’s momentum, The Sacred Headwaters remained on the Canadian bestseller lists for over a dozen weeks, a remarkable result for a $50 large format photography book. Davis is known in Canada as a “real-life Indiana Jones,” though he is less of a swashbuckler and more a poetic writer, humanitarian, researcher and naturalist. He speaks to sold-out venues wherever he tours to support his most recent bestsellers. His meticulously researched Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest also came out in 2011 as Sacred Headwaters did. The Everest account also quickly became a national bestseller both in Canada and the US.

A reader of Davis’ Sacred Headwaters narrative does not so much begin to read, as dive into the fast-moving current of a river of ideas already established in his other bestselling books including The Serpent and the Rainbow, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest, The Lost Amazon, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Light at the Edge of the World, Passage of Darkness, Rainforest, The Clouded Leopard: Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire, Nomads of the Dawn, River Notes and many others. In his research and reporting on native cultures around the globe, he had already excavated a rich channel of knowledge and stories about the loss of native languages, herbal medicines, healing and customs under the advance of cultural domination. In Into the Silence, about the British first attempt to conquer of Mount Everest, Davis obtains a certain redemption by both chiding imperialism and making the compassionate realization that it is still within him, that it came from a less evolved self, his forefathers, our ancestors. In The Sacred Headwaters, he gave the Tahltan natives an opportunity to raise their own voices against economic imperialism as well, in addition to the many photographers and other collaborators he brought on board.

The combination not only worked as a book project, it also became the linchpin of a successful conservation campaign. By the end of December 2012, the Canadian Government, Shell Oil, and the Tahltan Central Council announced protection of the Sacred Headwaters from all oil and gas prospecting and drilling. In 2013 the British Columbia Liberal Party included a “Protection Plan for the Sacred Headwaters” in its election platform. Once the BC Liberal Government won the election, they succumbed to pressure and allowed Fortune Minerals a permit to continue coal exploration in the Sacred Headwaters. However, in July 2013, the Tahltan Central Council passed a unanimous resolution to protect their homeland from all industrial development. In August of that year, Tahltan community members gave Fortune Minerals an eviction notice from their exploration camp and blockaded their road access. In 2015, the Tahltan also blockaded Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine access on Todagin Mountain above Ealue Lake. Wade Davis’ lodge home and the sacred earth of the Tahltan are safe for now, but the threats will continue. My father, Philip Hyde, once said, “Environmental battles are never victorious. They have to be fought and won over and over and can be lost only once.”

For the announcement of Carr Clifton’s largest Sacred Headwaters Exhibition see the blog post, “Carr Clifton at Mountain Light Gallery.”

To read a guest feature by Paul Colangelo about his work in The Sacred Headwaters, the original iLCP RAVE and how NANPA, or North American Nature Photography Association honored him with the prestigious Philip Hyde Grant in 2010 see the guest blog post, “Big Wild, iLCP RAVE Sacred Headwaters by Paul Colangelo.”

My Mother’s Christmas

December 22nd, 2018

Feliz Navidad! Mele Kalikimaka!

My Mother’s Christmas

A Poem by David Leland Hyde
Written March 12, 2005

"Happy Holidays," Electric Snow Couple, Milford, Utah by David Leland Hyde 2009.

“Happy Holidays,” Electric Snow Couple,” Milford, Utah by David Leland Hyde 2009. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

On the ground in East Quincy, I found a palm-sized Christmas stocking labeled Mom.
I picked it up and began to spin back through my days.
I fell like piles of sand through an hourglass.
I heard the music of “Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city,”
My mother sang and played the piano.
It was Christmas time in the country.
Her voice a melody of tinkling glass.
The turkey in the oven,
Pumpkin pie spice floated from the kitchen.
Sparkling eyes,
Eyes so wise, knowing why.

Her mother, my grandma, grew up on a ranch,
One of four sisters with all that work.
The stuffing, a recipe handed down.
My mother never slowed down,
“Work, we must work, work, work.”
Only on Christmas breaking the spell with Carols.
Always with me through the night:
Her singing, “It’s Christmas time in the city.”
At midnight, I sneak out to see if Santa has come yet.
In the morning I play with a stuffed tiger around the tree.
My dad sets up for a picture of the three of us.

The stocking has a snowflake on the toe that looks like a star.
It brings me my mother, guiding me.
When she was alive I took her for granted.
She smoothed my way and held life together.
Now she is a benevolent force floating in the stars.
Holding a larger home.
“Silver Bells, Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city.”

Do you have any special childhood memories of Christmas or another holiday you celebrate?

(Originally posted December 24th, 2015.)

Happy Thanksgiving From Hyde Fine Art and Philip Hyde Photography…

November 22nd, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Fall Indian Rhubarb in Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Double click on image to see larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful for warm wood stoves on cool Fall days.

I am grateful for a good, reliable roof,

For a strong, well-made house that my father designed and built.

I am grateful for and to all of my friends,

Those far away and those who have sat at my table, shared a meal and raised a glass with me.

I am grateful for rain, snow, lakes, rivers and the whole water cycle on Earth that sustains life.

I am grateful for the wilderness around me, home to my animal and plant friends.

Thank God we live in a country with a Constitution and where the spirit of the law keeps us free.

I am grateful for the internet, as much as I like and dislike it, it gives power to the people,

It helps us communicate, show photographs, organize and keep our rights and freedoms.

I am grateful that people here and everywhere are willing to fight for our way of life.

Thank Heavens we are willing to fight to have economic equality, clean water and air.

I am grateful that in this country so far, I do not have to fight all the time,

I am fortunate to have peace of mind, quiet and a place away from the worst troubles of the world.

(Originally posted November 23rd, 2017)

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way I

July 16th, 2018

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way, Part One

Ways Environmentalists Sabotage Their Own Protection of the Planet

Spring Snow, Grizzly Ridge, Heart K Ranch Pond, Upper Genesee Valley, Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Environmentalists and environmental organizations often sabotage their own causes in many ways. Even while serving a vital role in protecting natural places, decreasing the use of carbon-rich products and increasing the awareness of alternatives, environmentalists also at times adversely affect nature as much as anyone else. The following is just a short list. I am not saying by any means that all environmentalists take these actions all the time. A few do and all of us do sometimes. I know about many of these by making mistakes myself, to the detriment of the planet. I have also made a life-long study of influence and persuasion, as well as what has been effective and ineffective in the modern environmental movement. Perhaps people reading this, whether they are conservationists or environmentalists, care about nature but do not consider themselves environmentalists, or the type who typically oppose environmentalists, can think of points to add to the following list:

  1. Environmentalists often assume the worst about the people involved in a given situation, who may not be maliciously destructive of nature, but may inadvertently be having an adverse effect.
  2. Environmentalists come into scenarios operating only out of their own mindset, rather than seeing others’ views, or going to where the people are who are involved.
  3. They believe all wealthy people are evil and judge people by net worth.
  4. They judge people by good intentions and words, rather than actions.
  5. Rather than trying to understand other’s backgrounds in a situation and being tolerant of others’ knowledge or lack of knowledge of ecology and natural systems, they put people down who do things differently.
  6. They forget that we are all learning how to be more Earth-friendly.
  7. The minute they purchase a hybrid vehicle or other green technology, they immediately start confronting and putting down those who are still using older, less efficient or less effective products or methods.
  8. They believe high tech is automatically bad for the environment.
  9. They start interactions attacking and confronting, with an “us versus them” mindset, rather than listening and gathering information about people’s motivations and goals before addressing them.
  10. They assume that an enemy of a friend is always an enemy.
  11. They assume that a friend of an enemy is always an enemy.
  12. They assume that a friend who disagrees with their viewpoint then becomes an enemy.
  13. They assume all Capitalists, all Republicans, all religious people, or all of the people from any given group are the enemy of preserving nature.
  14. They use fear as their primary tool to move people. They paint doom and gloom scenarios, cite perilous natural events, natural disasters and distressing statistics to scare people into decreasing their environmental impact. Educating the public about pending catastrophe or warning of dire circumstances is important and necessary to keep people informed, but over and over tests and studies have shown that used as the primary persuasion method, fear can be paralyzing and discouraging, or easily ignored while people and corporations continue destructive business as usual.
  15. They attack environmentally destructive organizations and corporations from the outside, rather than infiltrating, educating and changing them from the inside.
  16. A few of them chose to remain ignorant of the law, believe it does not apply to them, but generally believe that through mere force of thinking they are right, they can bend the law or obtain exceptions.
  17. They believe that justice and what they think is right prevails in court, rather than existing laws.
  18. They believe that hiring good lawyers means they will win, even if they are wrong or in violation of the law.
  19. Some of them believe that all good lawyers are infallible, always tell the truth, never oversell, do not mislead, and will not lead them astray.
  20. They believe that environmental issues are policy problems, rather than problems in thinking and consciousness.
  21. They think that if they disagree with a legal definition, all they have to do is dredge up a definition by a source that is more in line with their own idea of the definition and the legal definition will no longer apply.

Other Ways Environmentalists Fail

As an example of just one major issue, environmentalists and the major environmental groups, have largely failed to convince individuals, companies and governments both large and small to take enough significant, consistent action to thwart the increasing pace of climate change. We have also failed to instigate sweeping changes that could protect water supplies into the future and have also been ineffective in slowing down the mass extinction of species that has been escalating for the last 100 years. Most environmentalists have refused to make any major changes personally that would lead to a smaller carbon footprint. People say they are afraid to go back to caveman days.” However, Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything said we would only need to go back to the living standards of the 1970s to avert the worst effects of climate change. Yet we perpetuate the illusion that we can continue to live much as we always have and not change any of our wasteful or bad habits, but rather avoid our own destruction merely by changing energy sources. Meanwhile, most of us keep blaming the problem on other people, the government and any other scapegoats we can find.

For example, I know people who condemn their wealthy neighbors for using a helicopter for transportation, while they themselves do a tremendous and far above average amount of driving per year just so that they can live far out on the edge of a wilderness surrounded by vast forests and an almost pristine valley, while also working in the nearest major city to earn a higher income.

One major mistake these seven neighbors, who call themselves the Genesee Friends, made in Genesee Valley in relation to the helicopter, besides espousing many fallacies and made up arguments with little to no factual basis, they failed to obtain the support of the majority of people in the area before launching an activist campaign. By far the majority of neighbors stand with the helicopter owners and their sustainable ranching, historical restoration and philanthropy benefitting local organizations.  The Genesee Friends also mistakenly claimed to represent all of us in the entire Genesee area, while also attacking anyone who disagrees with them.

Even more troubling, like the worst of environmentalists, this small minority of people give activism itself a bad name. When my father, pioneer photographer Philip Hyde and his associates: Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Brower, Howard Zahniser, Olas and Margaret Murie, Martin Litton and many others set out to make the many national parks they did in the 1960s and 1970s, when they embarked on a major campaign, they made sure they had the support from the majority of the public, or a definite plan to obtain it. Not only were the national park projects more popular than the projects to exploit the resources in the places in question, but the popularity of the parks has only increased over time. Meanwhile, the few so-called activists in Genesee only render themselves less and less popular all the time. More on this in future blog posts and in my article linked to below.

Agricultural Adventures in the USA Heartland and an Unusual Experience

Over the last two years I went through an unusual experience that has changed my perspective on who protects the environment and who impacts it adversely. Leading up to this experience and affecting how I perceived it tremendously, in 2015, I traveled to the Midwest to photograph what is left of traditional small farming. I went to the heart of the country to take its pulse and capture it as it is because I discovered that industrial agriculture has taken over. Old historic barns, equipment and methods are going fast. With the rise of industrial agriculture, our factory farms have drained our aquifers, lakes and rivers down to dangerous levels, turned many small farming settlements that thrived for 100-150 years into ghost towns and transformed our farms from one family operations into colossal corporate giants sustained by heavy doses of deadly chemical spraying and cancer-causing genetically modified crops.

When I came home from the Midwest, the unusual experience of having one of the one percent most wealthy families move into my neighborhood changed my life forever yet again. In the print newspaper and online version of my article, “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch,” I explain in more detail how I came to support this well to do family and stand behind their sustainable agricultural practices, organic farming and restoration of the old barns and other buildings of our local Genesee Valley Ranch, rather than siding with a small minority faction of my neighbors who have tried and failed to obstruct, ostracize and turn public opinion against the Palmaz Family. Fortunately for our county and for the welfare of Genesee Valley, the family’s kindness, good character and generous philanthropy in our community won over most of my neighbors and the majority of people in surrounding towns. I wrote the article originally for the weekly “Where I Stand” column on the opinion page of the local newspapers printed by Feather Publishing including the Feather River Bulletin, Lassen County Times, Chester Progressive, Portola Reporter, Indian Valley Record, Westwood Pinepress and the internet Plumas News version of all six papers.

Laying Everything on the Line, Being Attacked by Environmentalists and Trolls and What Exactly Is Entailed in Defending Natural Places Like Genesee Valley?

Also important to this subject, attached to my online Plumas News article about Genesee Valley Ranch, are  100+ pertinent, wise, and also contentious and trolling comments, along with my responses and further discussion to help people understand some of the finer points of the related issues. Check it out. When you get to the article internet page, sometimes randomly from there may be a short marketing survey by which Plumas News helps pay their bills. Take a look: “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch.”

Stay tuned for the unusual personal story and sequence of events that led to me writing the above opinion piece, as well as outspokenly supporting and contracting to photograph for the Genesee Store and Genesee Valley Ranch. For more general background and the Genesee Friends side of the story see the Los Angeles Times article, “In a Rural Northern California Valley, a Development Battle Asks: Is a Helicopter a Tractor?” The main worry expressed by Elisa Adler in her statements for this article is that masses of wealthy people will move to Genesee Valley and “gridlock the skies” with helicopters. Out of the private land still possibly for sale in the entire watershed though, excluding of course the Heart K Ranch and Genesee Valley Ranch, I am curious how much of that land is zoned for agriculture? The land that is not zoned for ag, will be harder to make into sites for helipads, now with Plumas County’s new ruling. Read my article above to understand more about this. With less chance of gridlocked skies over Genesee, the only real gridlock may be in Ms. Adler’s argument. Besides, since thousands of wealthy people have not moved here yet, it is doubtful they will, perhaps possible, but probably improbable. I do not know the exact acreage of the watershed or private land in it, but from having grown up here, my guess is that most of the private land besides the two big ranches is not zoned for agriculture. The ruin of Adler’s entire life by the helicopter, as she has claimed, is perhaps more due to how she is looking at it and purposely straining her ears to hear it, than the actual noise level or potential as a gateway to further development. I suggest reading both articles above and judging for yourself…

Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life

February 27th, 2018

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Six: Ideas From and Review of Chapter One—We Search for the Good Life

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.“)

“Such is the superiority of rural occupations and pleasures, that commerce, large societies, or crowded cities, may be justly reckoned unnatural. Indeed the very purpose for which we engage in commerce is, that we may one day be enabled to retire to the country, where alone we picture to ourselves days of solid satisfaction and undisturbed happiness. It is evident that such sentiments are natural to the human mind.

~ John Loudon, A Treatise on Forming, Improving and Managing Country Residences, 1806

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Lower Lawn, Raspberries, Apple Orchard, Raised Beds, Midsummer, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. After return from Midwest travels.

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I interviewed her for possible magazine articles about her locally popular organic gardening, preserving and food preparation. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living. They lived a low impact sustainable lifestyle long before “sustainable” became a word or a trend.

Because Mom passed on suddenly, I only ever made one tape recording of me interviewing her. I regret not having started sooner and filled a cabinet full of tapes of her. After that first recording session on a bleak January day, she gave me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book to her heart, put it in my hands with weight and gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

This series of blog posts looks at how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”

Part Six: Searching for the Good Life—Based on Chapter One

After the Hydes experienced a series of setbacks and mishaps while attempting to make a life and a living in Carmel, they first moved to Casablanca, Morocco, where they worked for an American company that planned and built military bases. Stay tuned for more on Morocco in future blog posts. Working in Morocco with little overhead helped them get ahead financially and rebuilt their confidence as Dad had great success at work mentoring another photographer. Don’t miss the earlier blog post in this series, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.” Also for more about the Hydes’ early career, rising to meet life challenges with mentoring from Ansel Adams and touching briefly on their adventures in Morocco, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 5,” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

The blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel,” ends with Mom and Dad returning to the mountains and finally acquiring land where they could build a home. However, before this became possible, they did a great deal of soul searching, home location research, and made a study of various gardening approaches, building methods and house designs.

In Living the Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearing described how they lost their livelihood in the Great Depression and grew weary of the worsening conditions and limitations of city life. By the time the Back to the Land Movement gained momentum on the West Coast after World War II, the Hydes and their like-minded contemporaries wished to escape the city and “Live in the country, in a decent, simple, kindly way,” as the Nearings put it.

In an interview by the now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, more recently republished in the blog post, “Philip Hyde at Home in the Wilds,” Dad disavowed the idea that he and Mom lived “too far” from any cities or even large towns.

“I don’t think it’s isolation, I think it’s insulation,” Dad told the Darkroom Photography interviewer. “We’re insulated from a lot of urban influences that I’m not all that interested in. Don’t get me wrong… I like people… But I guess I like them in small quantities… What’s most important to me is to be able to look out the window and see the changes of the seasons, or the rain pouring down, or the stars at night…”

While livelihood stood out among other considerations in looking for the Good Life for the Nearings, Dad had a sense, even a kind of faith, that if he lived in the wilderness that he wished to defend with photography, prosperity would follow. Mom and Dad made their exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area during the boom just after The War, while the Nearings left New York City during the Great Depression twenty years earlier. The Nearings’ observations at the time apply just as much today, now eight decades later and certainly applied during the cold war when Mom and Dad were settling in the mountains.

If profit accumulation in the hands of the rich and powerful continued to push the economy toward ever more catastrophic depressions; if the alternative to depression, under the existing social system, was the elimination of the unmarketable surplus through the construction and uses of ever more deadly war equipment, it was only a question of time before those who depended upon the system for livelihood and security would find themselves out in the cold or among the missing. We disapproved of a social order activated by greed and functioning through exploitation, acquisition and accumulation.

The Nearings explored Europe, Asia and much of North America before deciding to remain in the Northeastern U.S. for the seasonal aesthetic beauty of big snow in the winter, budding greenery in the spring, heat and swimming in summer and the “burst of colors in the fall.” Physically they discovered that “the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life.” As can be read about more in the blog post, “Living the Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons,” Mom, Dad and myself in my time, all have loved the change of seasons.

The Nearings had a threefold purpose they sought in the ideal life:

  1. “A life based on the values of simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension, an opportunity to be useful and to live harmoniously.”
  2. To make a living in conditions that “enlarge joy in workmanship, give a sense of achievement… promote integrity and self-respect… assure a large measure of self-sufficiency… and make it easier to guarantee solvency…”
  3. “Leisure during a considerable portion of each day, month or year, which might be devoted to avocational pursuits free from the exacting demands of bread labor, to satisfying and fruitful association with one’s fellows, and to individual and group efforts directed toward social improvement.”

“I’m not really trying to play the money game,” Dad said. “Photography has provided a living, not a bad living at all, but when I left the city… I knew that I was leaving behind the opportunity to make lots of money. I think that when I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth. I define success for myself in terms of lifestyle. Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do.”

For the Nearings the “road from New York City to the wilderness was short in miles but far-reaching in social consequences.”

We were leaping from the economic and social sophistication of a metropolis to a neighborhood in which few of the adults and none of the youngsters had ever visited a large city, in which every house was heated with wood and lighted with kerosene. In the first year of our stay we piled the children of several neighbor families in the back of our truck and took them to get their first glimpse of the ocean, to see their first train, to attend their first movie and treated them to their first ice cream soda.

The Nearings started as “summer folk,” who are disliked by the local population because they “do not intend to stay long or work much.” “Summer residents do no great harm if they occupy abandoned land, or marginal land unfit for agriculture. However, many of them let their pastures go back to woodlots, which is detrimental to the agriculture of the state when the land goes out of production. The more summer people the more demand for factory goods and specialties in stores shipped in from out of state. “Summer folk,” for the most part, obtain their dollars out of state and exchange them for canned goods in the local market rather than growing their own produce.

The social consequences of turning the countryside into a vacationland are far more sinister than the economic results. What is needed in any community are individuals, householders, villagers and townsmen living together and cooperating day in, day out, year after year, with a sufficient output of useful and beautiful products to pay for what they consume and a bit over. This is solvency in the best social sense. Solvency of this nature is difficult or impossible except in an all-year-round community.

Therefore, the Nearings soon became all-year-round residents of Vermont. The Hydes also started as summer residents in the mountains. Their first residence in Plumas County at Lake Almanor was at the Fox Farm, a small community where they knew the Kurtzes and the Kurtzes knew most of the others. The summer of 1948, when Dad worked in the Cheney Mill in Greenville, was Ardis and Philip’s first summer after their marriage in June 1947 and their first summer in the mountains. The next summer they also spent in the wilderness. Ansel Adams helped the Hydes obtain a job at the Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. They were to live in the renowned McCauley Cabin for two months and act as caretakers of the Sierra Club owned Parson’s Lodge for the summer, talking to visitors about the Sierra Club’s work and making photographs. Dad sung the praises of mountain life:

Went out this afternoon in the late low angle light and made more negatives of rocks, trees and Cathedral Peak, a photogenic, but difficult scene. We’re really beginning to realize what we have here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have no clock or watch. We eat when our stomachs announce the time for it and go to bed when it seems like the thing to do. We get up when we’ve had enough sleep. We feel no strain toward getting something completed by a certain span of time—it just takes until it’s done. This is altogether a wonderful way to live. We’re busy now laying plans for making it a permanent way of life. Why strain for security in the city when you can live in the mountains each day to the utmost—never seeking for tomorrow because you’re busy living today? Living is a full-time job—why relegate it to the leisure hours left after a hard day at the office? Why slave for retirement at 65 when all you mean by retirement is freedom to live. You can live now, live today. These Tuolumne days seem to bring out ever more clearly the things hinted at in our Greenville days and these sojourns in the mountains bring us into increasing contact with those who have found ways to live in the wilderness.

The Nearings 20 years earlier in Vermont were also looking for ways to live in the mountains full-time. They laid out their garden to produce a year around crop that more than fed their family. Another piece of the income puzzle turned out to be saving and buying properties in the neighborhood to operate as wood lots for firewood. Land was still very cheap at a handful or two of dollars an acre. The forests were good sources of income for many rural towns.

One piece of property the Nearings bought from Frank Hoard. He had licensed his land to Floyd Hurd and his wife and 11 children to harvest the maple syrup under a share agreement when the sap ran in the spring. The Nearings continued the same share agreement, ended up with half of the maple syrup harvest, and discovered that “maple syrup in Vermont is better than cash. It sells readily and does not depreciate.”

Here was something on which we had not counted. In a syrup season lasting from four to eight weeks, owning only the maple trees, the sugar house and some poor tools, and doing none of the work, we got enough syrup to pay our taxes and insurance, to provide us with all the syrup we could use through the year, plenty to give away to our friends and to sell. We realized that if we worked at sugaring ourselves, syrup would meet our basic cash requirements. We were surprised and delighted to learn that here might be the answer to our problem of making a living amid the boulders scattered over the green hills of Vermont… The possibility of sugaring for a living answered the second question: how to finance the good life. Our next job was to determine the way in which the good life was to be lived.

The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 9.” The next two blog posts, Parts 7 and 8 in the series, will cover the ins and outs of various plans and designs for Living the Good Life. Part 7 will further examine the similarities and differences in methods and lifestyles between the Hydes and Nearings.

(Read more, “Living the Good Life 7: Nearings’ vs. Hydes’ Design for Living.”)