About Skiing

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 16, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized


A couple days ago, almost-four-year-old grandson Jonas and I took a drive out to Joe Watt Canyon to check out the elk and the sledding. Jonas found the elk to be “big and interesting,” but our two hours there was devoted to flashing down the few inches of snow on the hill, (mostly) intentional tumbles and a great deal of fresh air and laughing. As other family groups arrived, I started thinking about my decades of snow play.

It was alpine racing that wiped out my knees for a couple decades. In the 1950s – before effective release bindings – I skied on the Eastmont High School team, in East Wenatchee, Washington. On a fast, but fateful, meet day at Stevens Pass, at the last gate on my best run of the day, I caught a tip and lost it. Both feet were pointing more backward than forward by the time my old WWII Army skis came off my boots.  No surgery in those days; just be patient and give my joints time to heal. Thirty years later, my knees no longer hurt after a day’s walk, but I still skied and raced every chance I had.

Through my TV and radio weatherman days in the Denver, Colorado, market, I took most of the annual Press Cup races. When I returned to Paradise late last century, I had largely lost the downhill bug. I still recommend skiing for kids and families, although sometimes I forget how much I have loved skiing – and even the word itself.

Skiing. The word slides from the mouth the way a skier lifts off a chairlift at the top of the day’s first run.

Skiing. The sound of skis clawing at the snow through a sharp turn.

Skiing carries magic, really, for earthbound souls who discover skiing’s freedom and for those who instruct them.

I once signed up for an instructor’s clinic at Colorado=s Copper Mountain. I wanted to downhill ski with the big kids, and took the clinic for training and a cheap weekend on the slopes. It changed my perspective on teaching, and on how some kids find magic in their lives.

Not long after that clinic, type-A skiing buddy Tom had his eleven-year-old daughter for part of winter break. She would come along on a day trip for alpine skiing at Loveland Basin. She was awkward, a bit overweight, angry, behind in school, and running out of friends. The girl needed a break; we were it.

At the bottom of our first run (“tumble” was more appropriate for her) down a long intermediate trail, she was angry, frustrated and doing her best to not cry. As I saw it, the problem revolved around a general lack of self‑confidence, very little skiing experience and a father who demanded that she keep up. We managed to get her on the chairlift, and as we rode up to the top of a run she had no business skiing, my heart went out to her.

At the top, I fumbled with my boots and told her dad to head on down. We’d meet at the bottom or up here again. As he tore off down the hill, she stared down the high intermediate slope, trembling. “Well, what’ll it be kid?” I asked. “You want me to get you to the bottom, into the lodge, or you wanna learn to ski?” In the most trembly little mouse‑voice I ever remember hearing, she said, “I don’t want to fall down anymore…”

I took her poles and we started with the most basic of basics – on a hill not meant for newbies.  The first 100 yards took ten or fifteen minutes. Each step went faster, as she gained balance and confidence. The last couple hundred yards, she was on her own, giggling so hard she had tears in her eyes. The rest of the day she couldn’t wait to get to the top of a run – any run. She said she felt the way birds must feel when they fly.

We took her up three or four times, as I recal. A few weeks later, Tom=s ex‑wife wrote that his daughter was doing her best ever in school, and seemed to be attracting friends like a magnet.

Anybody who loves to ski has these kinds of stories. And Nordic (cross country) skiing instructors like Glenn Bandy, Carey Gaziss and Jeff Hashimoto can tell them all day long. I think it has something to do with the magic tucked inside the word “skiing.”

I was never the Nordic skier that Jeff, Carey and Glenn are, but I enjoyed it enough to compete a bit (I once beat Governor Dick Lamm in the Colorado Governor’s Cup 10K). Mostly, I loved moving across winter’s snow with an ability to control my speed and direction.

You can play, too, of course. No doubt, you read the recent Ellensburg Daily Record article about Jeff and Carey and their ten-year-old Ellensburg Ski Team program for youngsters from seven to 18. The kids who come to play have a wide variety of choices in cross-country practice or competition. Find our more at eburgski.blogspot.com.

Glenn, of course, is a long-time cross-country instructor at the Nordic Center of Summit East on Snoqualmie Pass – one of those instructors who has no bad days on the snow. If one happens, he just refuses to remember it. (If the snow melted away under his slats, he might just smile, with “Well, we had three great weeks..”) For info or private instruction call Glenn at 509-962-8084.

It’s winter out there. Go play.

You, Your Family and Amateur (HAM) Radio

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 9, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

It was another off-Reecer Creek meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association – this one in partnership with the regular meeting of the Rodeo City Radio Club and members of the Upper Kittitas County Radio Club. The agenda item around which most discussion and planning revolved was the demand for more trained amateur radio operators (HAMs) in light of increasingly urgent preparation for emergencies across Washington and much of the rest of the country.

Emergencies for which law enforcement, communities, agencies and citizens are preparing include fires, floods, severe storms and weather extremes, earthquakes and “The Big One” (that massive earthquake which lies ahead of us at some unknown moment in the Pacific Northwest).

Amateur radio operators have long been key to successful communication during such events. In recent years in our part of the world, HAMs provided critical communication around the power and communication overloads and losses following the Oso disaster, during wind storms and massive wild fires, search and rescue operations and local issues.

A number of law enforcement agencies across the country count on amateur radio operators to fill in communication gaps during emergencies and hold regular drills or exercises to train and maintain readiness. Indeed, in many rural areas of America, HAM radio folks ARE the emergency communication network. Here in Paradise, several mock disaster exercises have included amateur radio operators at key locations around the valley. You may recall that mock “mustard gas disaster” at the Fairgrounds a few years back, when more than 400 people from across the state polished skills and successfully responded. That was arguably the biggest mock disaster exercise in Eastern Washington history, and 18 HAMs were in the middle of it all. Over the past year, several regional emergency communication trainings/exercises have been held in eastern Washington. More are coming – next is 19 Jan. – to expand the response network and sharpen communication with Emergency Operation Centers on both sides of the Cascades.

As emergency trainings and preparations increase, HAM clubs across the state and elsewhere have various activities for members and families to remember the sheer pleasure of “playing radio.” Field days and providing communication for community events and runs (such as the Cascade Crest 100-Mile Run, the Yakima Canyon Marathon and the Teanaway Country 100) keep radio skills and knowledge of FCC rules sharp as participants enjoy tracking racers and keeping them safe.

I have often suggested that the single most important thing a family might do to take care of itself – once enough emergency supplies were laid in to last at least two or three weeks – was to get trained, licensed and geared up for amateur radio, to become an active HAM family.

I often get the response: “HAM radio? That’s your idea for keeping a family safe? How does that work?”

There is no shortage of quiet examples related to flooding and fires right here in Paradise over the past decade. You might hear about them one-on-one from a family member or rancher who was cut off from communication but got what they needed because they or a neighbor had radio communication. How many search and rescue operations – or days temporarily misplaced in the backcountry – could have been prevented if every group or person planning an outback adventure carried a pocket-sized radio and the training/license to use it? A licensed HAM always has a backup plan when stuck most anywhere.

HAM radio is decentralized. Take your radio and equipment into your yard, to a shelter or onto dry ground, set up your antenna, plug it into your radio and find whoever you need. You may have a mobile setup in your car. In most any emergency, there will be other HAMs helping. After some pretty basic training, a licensing exam, and a little practice, you will be able to reach out to other licensed HAMs in your neighborhood and across the planet.

Anyone can get a license and a call sign and be able to work radio contacts. There are three levels of licensing: technician, general and extra. We have two radio clubs in the county with regular monthly meetings. Similar clubs will be found almost anywhere you might go, with coaches, classes and plenty of opportunities to play HAM radio.

Cost varies, but you can be into a decent handheld radio and antenna for around a hundred bucks. For bigger bucks, you can set up a home station and antenna tower. Check out gear at Amateur Electronic Supply (www.aesham.com) or the Ham Radio Outlet (www.hamradio.com). You will also find books and CDs for any level of license study. ARRL (www.arrl.org) has a wealth of info about classes, online sample tests, clubs and much more. Our local clubs will be offering a licensing class soon (info from Bob Davis at 509-674-3972). Practice/coaching sessions and several opportunies exist for you to polish “playing radio” skills.

Club breakfasts are first Saturdays, 8 a.m. at the Copper Kettle in Ellensburg. Whatever other town you may occupy has a nearby HAM club, just ask around. Then come a meeting and learn more.

Your family can be far better prepared for what lies ahead. It’s fun, too.

Security and the New Year

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 2, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

Thus begins year 21 of our regular weekly meetings in this “Inside the Outdoors” space. It probably calls for a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” Or something.

And, here we go again. Another new year. Another fresh start. One more chance to think about what awaits us in the new, pure year.

“What shall we do with this shiny new 2019?” The question was on the floor of the year=s final meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association. “…And with all the chatter about national and personal security in these crazy times, how do we not spend too much time fretting over family, friends and country?”

There seem to be plenty of folks dealing with national security these days – with varying levels of agreement – but the part about personal security swept me back to a decades-ago afternoon I spent reminiscing with my late, favorite, uncle and aunt. When the subject turned to keeping home and hearth safe, and my longing for the days when we left our keys in our cars and front doors unlocked, they had a few thoughts. Uncle Ed, who may have spent too many years up Little Chumstick Creek out of Leavenworth, Washington, suggested that the only way a guy could be safe with unlocked doors these days is to have pet wildlife in the house. He figured a wolf, mountain lion, or badger would do the trick.

My Aunt Evy lost a purse to a snatcher a time before our sit-down, and had her own thoughts about that personal security business. She liked the wildlife idea, but needed something that would fit in her purse or a shopping bag, and was leaning toward a gila monster or rattlesnake.  The trick, as she saw it, would be to find such a critter, and be cool enough to walk around with it in the bag hanging off her arm or shoulder. (Through the remainder of her life, she entertained the family by conjuring up one impractical and funny idea after another.)

Not long after that sit-down, I was invited to speak with the Central Association for Lifelong Learning (CALL). At that luncheon, we talked about looking at things from a little different perspective than “normal” (which I often enjoy doing). There, I raised that “chicken and egg” question: “What if the chicken is just the egg=s way of making another egg?”

The whole question of thinking outside the norm inspired Scotty Cahill (one of the key movers in CALL) to tell me the story of the home security system “Shorty” Hoerling had put in place in the middle of the last Century. Apparently Shorty was a Finn or Dane – Scotty wasn’t sure which as he’d been pretty young when their paths crossed. Anyhow, Shorty had a log cabin up Johnson Creek out at one of the fringes of our valley, and had some call for concern about others honoring his privacy. I never met Shorty, but I know I’d have liked him, and Uncle Ed would have given him a medal.

Seems Shorty had drilled holes in his base logs, and sprinkled wheat on the floor inside the door. Wheat, of course, brings mice on the run. Mice bring rattlesnakes. Rattlers react negatively when trod upon by almost anything. Word got around I suppose, and Shorty apparently managed to keep most of his belongings at home. I don’t see why this wouldn’t be effective today, but the RCRGWD&OTTBA Home and Holiday Security Task Force has asked the Lawsuit Prevention Group to rule on lawsuit probability before recommending it to the general membership.

Certainly, there are any number of simpler approaches to family and home security than those posed above – not many as creative, however. Be that as it may, many of my homey friends are seriously looking at options as we jump into 2019.

The question of what lies ahead for 2019 likely awaits a year-long response. For some reason, I have a pretty good idea what’s coming this next year. No doubt there will be surprises, but I cannot recall a year in which so many of the things about which I care are already on the 2019 docket.

Two books are in pretty good drafts at this point (one by a Texas rancher with a gift for telling a story – he has handwritten around a hundred novels).

Son James and son-in-law Chris and I have our Texas hog hunt and Wyoming deer and antelope safari on the schedule. Edward and others are on track for fishing and other outdoor adventure.

I have planned for my abundant preference points for moose, sheep, goat, elk and deer permits to be finally drawn. (I just know this is my year!)

I have an intention to get back to South Africa this summer.

Perhaps the most momentous – and absolute – outdoor event here in Paradise is that the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club will turn 100 years old during the early portion of 2019. Watch for – and join – the celebrations.

Ultimately, it’s up to us, isn’t it? Like fresh snow awaiting our tracks, this year lies undisturbed before us.

Here’s to 2019!

This Is Family Outdoor Time

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 26, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

The Christmas to New Year break seems very open this year. Several homeys have more days off than most years – or so it seems to them. The big question centers around how to use that time getting kids and family outside.

There are plenty of long evenings and nights for games and huddling, so throw together some leftovers and sandwiches and make the most of whatever the Paradise daytime outdoors offers. The principles hold for anywhere you find yourself – get outdoors.

Of course, you know I have to start with finding, watching and photographing some wild critters. (Santa DID bring someone in your family a new camera or cellphone, right?) We are being told to look for prepare for an El Niño winter, somewhat drier and warmer than most. Still, the jury is out on the weather for any given set of days, so be prepared anytime you take yourself and family on a wildlife watching safari. If the forecasts hold, this may be one of the best opportunities to observe and watch wild things in semi-wild places that we’ve had in a couple years. To maximize the pleasure for all, remember hot chocolate, coffee, cookies, sandwiches and whatever else your gang might need to make an outdoor adventure memorable.

A couple at-large members (Aren’t we all, really?) of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association (RCRGWD&OTTBA) recently raised those “wildlife watching etiquette” questions, and asked that I again pass along the simple guidelines. As chair of our little think tank’s Winter Wildlife Watch Subcommittee, I am duty bound to share the following.

Winter survival is everything, of course, to deer, elk and bighorns. Under the best of conditions, the stress of winter is the major controlling factor for their numbers. Our responsibility is to avoid adding to the normal stresses of winter.

Warm protective coats and limited movement make it possible for deer, elk and sheep to slightly lower metabolic rates and caloric requirements. But even with a decent food supply and limited activity an average winter will cost a large ungulate 20 percent of its fall weight. Disturbed, a large mammal may double its rate of energy burn, and burning away 30 percent of fall body weight will often cause death, even if food becomes available.

The bottom line of all this is that we have an obligation to observe critters from a distance comfortable to them, not us.  I often think about Dale Swedburg (retired manager of the Sinlaheken Wildlife Area) and his “Facts are facts, but perceptions are reality!” statement. Even if we think we pose no danger, what matters is what the animals perceive. Causing wildlife to stop feeding, or leave a feeding/resting area, will affect their health and well-being. Be as unobtrusive as possible.

Here in the valley, elk and deer are all over. Lower Cooke Canyon, Reecer Creek or Colockum Pass Roads will all take you into winter range and a likelihood of seeing deer. They are common up Taneum and Manastash Roads, too. A few bald eagles are beginning to show themselves around the valley – particularly along its northern edge and in the Canyon.

You may find elk up the Colockum, but the largest herds in our valley will be fed up Joe Watt Canyon once the snow flies. My spies tell me there are already a handful of elk near the fence, and you can hang out about as long as you like. As snow arrives, Joe Watt Canyon is a favorite sledding area. You may also find elk scattered from there over to the Heart K Ranch at the mouth of the Taneum.

Down the Yakima Canyon are deer, a few elk and several bunches of California bighorn sheep, along with a seasonally increasing population of bald eagles and other raptors. The sheep are being seen on both sides of the canyon road, and, often as not, pretty close to the highway. The trick here, of course, is the traffic. There are only a handful of good pull-off areas, and they may or may not be anywhere close to critters you=d like to examine up close. Still, it=s worth the drive, and kids get very excited about being the first to spot one critter or other.

A longer drive will get you to what many consider the ultimate regional elk and bighorn watches; the elk feeding at Oak Creek Wildlife Area, and bighorn feeding at the Cleman Mountain Site. Numbers of animals at both sites are still increasing, but you will likely see wildlife. Both sites are near the point west of Naches where Highway 410 and Highway 12 intersect. At the intersection, turn north onto the frontage road and follow it to the bighorn sheep feeding site. You cannot miss the fencing and the signs. For the elk feeding, turn south onto Highway 12, and look for the wildlife area signs (and perhaps visible elk) on the right.

Wherever you wander, take your Discover Pass and watch the wintry roadsides. Hitting a deer or elk can mess up the whole day for both of you.

Enjoy the gift of this long holiday weekend as it pushes us toward whatever is in store for 2019.

See you next year.


Hot Local Christmas Gifts for Outdoor Nuts

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 19, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

Note that this column is focused on gifts available in the Kittitas Valley of Washington, as is my custom. Note, also, however, that these are great gift ideas no matter where you might find yourself for this Christmas Season. Whatever you do, celebrate your outdoor heritage!

I know you’ve been tightly clutching your cash and cards, resisting all that Black Friday and Cyber Monday hype, awaiting my list of hot locally available gifts for the outdoor nuts in your life. As chair of the Gifting in Support of Homey Businesses Subcommittee (under Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association bylaws), I’m pleased to pass along hot gifting ideas for the 2018 outdoor nut on your list.

Let’s start with the immediate. The 2018-2019 Light Rifle Class League starts is underway at the Valley Rifle and Pistol Club, but you may still easily join the 16 week program of safe family recreational shooting. Pay one small fee for your entire household, then bring your little rifle and ammo. The Club will supply regulation 10-bull NRA targets, a modern heated range facility, the direction of a qualified range master, and great coaching. What better gift could you give your children and family? Learn the responsibility and discipline of safe shooting and firearm handling while enjoying week after week of the simple pleasure of putting holes in paper exactly where you want them. Mel Goudge at 925-4285 or Hal Mason at 962-3002 will help you get your household in the game.

At the east end of the valley, Kittitas’ Sure Shot Guns & Pawn has a wide variety of firearms and accessories from handguns and suppressors to youth .22 rifles. A good supply of bulk .223 and 9mm ammo is available at special prices. A variety of gun safes are available, and they go out the door with no sales tax. Todd and Melody and crew have an easy quick set up to handle background checks for purchasers of firearms, and other restricted items. Stripped lowers (for DIY folks) are readily available this season, as are gift certificates in any denomination (they always fit). There is never a charge for special orders, which usually arrive in 2-5 days. Sure Shot offers a full line of Badland clothing and packs. 509-968-4867 with your questions, or go to www.sureshotguns.com.

Nika Mihailov and his Kittitas County Trading Company crew on Main Street in Ellensburg have an excellent supply of new and used handguns and long guns, including a just-acquired estate collection of unusual and rare pre-war handguns. The Trading Company is about the only place in the region with a selection of M-1 Garands and other military surplus items. The AR 15 type rifles and accessories are in-demand gifts, as are concealed-carry accessories. The store carries a wide variety of ammo for handguns, rifles and shotguns (including .22 ammo). Nika is still paying top dollar for gold and silver (check your old or broken jewelry) – a good way to start shopping with a pocket full of unexpected cash. If you are looking for something in particular, or have a question, call the crew at 509-925-1109.

It would be a superstore most anywhere, but Three Forks Ammo & Reloading happens to be on the main drag in Cle Elum. John and Chris have most every reloading item your shooter’s needs or wants for the holidays, and a variety of gift ideas among the 10,000 items in the store. No one carries more or better reloading equipment than Three Forks, including the top of the line Forster and Dillon brand equipment and tools. The popular Hornady Lock-n-Load Classic Reloading Kit is only $219 (including a 500 free bullet rebate). The guys always offer free individual reloading classes, on demand. The store holds more bullets and live ammo in more calibers (plenty of .22) than ever; more than 1400 choices and case lots in several calibers – many at special prices. There are several game cameras in stock (commonly used for home security these days). From 200-round WWII commemorative .45 ammo boxes to stocking stuffers, if you need it, they probably have it or will find it. Go to www.threeforksreloading.com or call 509-674-2295.

In the middle of it all are Bi-Mart pros Mike and Ron, and their determination to carry what you want most. From stocking stuffers to under-the-tree gifts, start with .22 ammo in good supply and work your way up to great prices on rifles and shotguns. This season, trigger locks are in demand as are the Ruger 10/22 rifles and the take-down Ruger carbines. Anything that says 6.5 Creedmoor – from bullets to rifles – is hot. As always, there are several styles of ammo boxes, smokers and gun safes in store. The outdoor desk has new knives and sharpening systems, along with shotshells and stocking stuffers like flashlights, headlamps and keychain lights. Interestingly, as salmon have become less available, fishing gear for bass, walleye and kokanee has become very popular. 509-925-6971 will get you to one of the Bi-Mart sporting goods pros.

If one or another of the women in your family is receiving a handgun, make that holiday gift complete with a one-day safe shooting and handling class just for her. Contact Marilyn Mason at 509-962-3002.

Maybe an adult fishing and/or hunting licenses fits for your sportsman or woman. There are options to fit your outdoor nut in a variety of prices. (You will need Wild ID number, date of birth and account password at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/ to purchase the licenses.) The proof of purchase for most any of these will fit nicely in a discreet envelope under the tree.

Buy in Paradise. You’ll find virtually everything your outdoor nut needs close at hand.

Happy gifting and Merry Christmas…