What if, every time you wanted to conduct an interview near the Henry's Fork, you first had to get a permit from the Forest Service?
What if you wanted to do a story on the impact of wolves on elk in the national forest, but needed first to clear it with a public information officer who would charge you a fee?
What if you wanted to do a story on the failure of trail maintenance in the Wilderness, and that same public information officer said, “Sorry, that's not the kind of story we think is appropriate”?
Don't laugh. Until the chief of the Forest Service, Tom Tidwell, stepped in, that looked to be our future. And we were alarmed.
One of the strengths of Outdoor Idaho is its coverage of resource issues… salmon and wildfires, wolves and elk and noxious weeds... the kind of stories that aren't exactly breaking news but are still important to many Idahoans.
Earlier this month one of our reporters called a Forest Service office in eastern Idaho, looking to interview a botanist. She was told she first had to get permission to film on Forest Service land, since it wasn't “breaking news.”
Say What?!! We've been doing Outdoor Idaho for more than 30 years, and in that time have interviewed all manner of Forest Service official on every conceivable topic in every type of terrain in Idaho.
But, according to a Forest Service directive that seemed to grant the federal agency the power to determine the worthiness of ‘news,’ some rangers in some Idaho forests were arguing, if it's not “breaking news” as defined by them, then it becomes “commercial filming” subject to their control. In other words, the only exemption for us on the 20 million acres administered by the Forest Service was breaking news.
We said “Whoa!” (Actually, we said a lot more, but, hey, we're public television.)
Over in Oregon, a similar program, Oregon Field Guide, was experiencing the same problems. As OFG producer Ed Jahn told me, “We keep getting told we're not a newsgathering organization. That's been our fight with them all along.”
Let's face it, very little that happens in the forest is “breaking news.” Most of the big policy issues on public lands are ongoing in nature. For example, the recovery of forest land from a massive fire is hardly breaking news; neither is the impact of wolves on ungulates, or snowmobiles on wolverines, or the effect of spotted knapweed on forest health. Yet our coverage of these stories is critical to public understanding and can best be covered in documentary-style news forms.
For the Forest Service to not recognize what we do as news, we believe, betrayed a fundamental lack of familiarity with the essential nature of news coverage.
And then to characterize what we do as “commercial filming” — well, they obviously have not watched our pledge drives!
IdahoPTV is a government entity of the State of Idaho under the Idaho State Board of Education. As a government entity, we are prohibited from engaging in commercial activity, including commercial filming. We are also deemed to be a non-commercial, non-profit, tax-exempt organization by the Internal Revenue Service. Moreover, IdahoPTV is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a non-commercial, educational television station. Our FCC license prohibits us from airing commercials or productions for commercial purposes. “Commercial filming,” therefore, goes against the very nature of our FCC license, and we do not engage in it. Period.
But back to the issue that riled up every news media in the West: the First Amendment... as in, “Congress shall make no law… abridging freedom of speech or of the press.”
By only exempting “breaking news,” the Forest Service was unconstitutionally restricting the First Amendment right of journalists to cover public policy issues on the public's lands. We saw it as a clear attempt to regulate the news media, something outlawed by the Constitution.
In some ways, this was déjà vu all over again for us. In 2010, we wanted to film some students learning about wilderness techniques in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. We were told on a Monday that we could not film in wilderness. That angered not only Bethine Church, but also the governor and our congressional delegation. On Friday of that same week, the directive from on high changed, allowing us to film young folks learning about the crosscut saw and the Pulaski.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a bright spot in all this. Working with Forest Service officials Andy Brunelle, Dave Olson, and Erin O'Connor, this summer we got an unprecedented special use permit for four Wilderness areas across multiple National Forest locations and two Forest Service regions. This has allowed us to produce our hour-long “50 Years of Wilderness” documentary, airing December 7th. One thing I have learned in this process... there are some good folks out there who understand the importance of collaboration, impact on the land, and the First Amendment, and I salute them.
But back to the broader issue. I don't think the federal government has any business in the news business, and that it is overreaching when it tries to define news so narrowly.
I applaud Chief Tidwell for realizing that the directive needed some serious re-writing before it's adopted. To us, he makes a lot of sense!
It's my 15th wedding anniversary. I lay my fly line on the East Fork of the Salmon River at sunset. I help cook dinner on my truck's tailgate turned table. I mingle with every man in camp, but my husband. He's not even here. I'm on the road with Outdoor Idaho. We're heading into the White Clouds to shoot scenics from every route, angle and way possible. It's not exactly the anniversary I had in mind, but it will do.
When Outdoor Idaho producer John Crancer called with the invite, I couldn't say yes fast enough. I rattled off my strengths to prove myself an asset on the crew. I'm running a wilderness race in that area. I'm floating the Middle Fork and chasing salmon close by. I'm in shape on water and on ground. I can carry my fair share of weight while I work. I know how to shoot with four different cameras. Crancer liked what he heard. My husband didn't, but he gets it. We usually have to celebrate our anniversary in the winter because summer is peak shooting season and my production schedule is always in the way of our actual wedding anniversary.
I said ‘I do’ to the trip, met the crew for dinner at Little Boulder Creek trailhead then started hiking the next morning. The first few miles are treeless and steep. It's hot and dusty. I quickly realize the White Clouds kick the endurance right out of you. The elevation, the distance, the bugs. All three try my patience, but I don't give in easily.
The terrain changes about mile four. It's still hot and buggy, but trees start shading our trek and the ground is meadow green instead of desert brown. I'm studying the changes in the landscape when I spot the Cloud's crown jewel—Castle Peak pushing almost 12,000 feet in elevation.
Castle Peak looks like home. I always point myself homeward when I feel lost so I give myself a moment to stare at home before I go into pro mode and dig a camera out of my pack to start shooting footage.
Castle Peak doesn't sidle up on you with a shy introduction. It shoots out of the ground with a look-at-me presence just like Utah's Wasatch Mountains. That's the playground of my childhood. The trunky tug on my heart pulls instantly. I wouldn't trade the Snake River for the Wasatch, but I relish seeing peaks that look like home. That's a comforting feeling when you're the lone woman on the White Clouds crew.
As an outdoor journalist and filmmaker, I spend a lot of time in the woods with men. Most of them hunt and fish and that's the talk around the fire, but the Outdoor Idaho crew talks of more. We all enjoy the outdoors in various forms and tall tales run rapid through basecamp, but we are also lens lovers. We see the world as frames of visual perfection. We compare tips and tricks, brilliance and bumbles. That's our fireside chat until it rains and we all run for cover.
I'm seven unlit miles from the trailhead. There's no easy out so I give myself a pep talk and crawl in my tent. I'm thinking of home as I prepare for a solo sleep in pitch dark. I don't like the dark. Mother Nature must know that. She distracts me with a 12-hour thunderstorm. Lightning illuminates the fabric walls of my tent, rain pours, hail piles, but I stay dry with eyes wide open and limbs unmoving until the White Cloud's and its Castle come calling at daybreak.
We all emerge from our soggy tents with bed head and bad breath. The bed head stays. The bad breath is brushed away as talk of the day brews like camp coffee.
In true shooter fashion we are all grateful it rained during the dark hours. A downpour during daylight shooting hours is heartbreaking. We have no rain when the sun comes up. The shooting festival in the White Clouds is glistening with potential.
We divide into three teams and go our separate ways for the day. I climb closer to Castle Peak to shoot in a meadow. Along the way I mentally wish my husband a happy anniversary. It's a good thing he doesn't mind me spending our wedding anniversary in the woods with seven other men. I decide we should spend an anniversary in the White Clouds together. My husband needs to see peaks that look like home too.
“Why are you including the White Clouds in your upcoming “50 Years of Wilderness” program? It's not wilderness.”
The White Cloud mountain range is definitely not designated wilderness and probably never will be. It came close several years ago, when Congressman Mike Simpson pushed a wilderness bill through the House of Representatives; but he couldn't get Senator Jim Risch to support him, so it died.
Now a new idea is taking hold — a national monument — and the smart money says a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument will happen, perhaps in 2015.
Why? Because all it takes to create a national monument is a signature from the President, thanks to the Antiquities Act of 1906.
American presidents have used the Antiquities Act more than 100 times, starting with Teddy Roosevelt, to protect places like the Grand Canyon and most recently, the Organ Pipe Desert Peaks National Monument of New Mexico.
Back then the cool solution, agreed to by Senator Frank Church, was a “National Recreation Area.” And for many Idahoans, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (the SNRA), administered by the Forest Service, has been a reasonable success.
But look to the leaders of the Idaho Conservation League on this one. They worked closely with Congressman Simpson on his wilderness proposal but have decided that nothing will get through Congress any time soon. So they have pivoted toward the national monument idea, and they seem to have the ear of this president.
The persistent argument one hears in favor of a national monument is that it will somehow protect the White Clouds better than the current arrangement. Let's hope so, because calling something a ‘national monument’ will likely attract even more visitors.
The ICL understands that official wilderness is a tough sell for today's mountain bikers who can’t ride in designated wilderness. Our recent trip into the White Clouds found quite a few mountain bikers on the 10,400 foot Castle Divide trail. In fact, we saw more mountain bikers than hikers on that trail!
Interestingly, none of the ones we talked with favored either wilderness or a national monument. They liked the status quo. But at least a national monument concept doesn’t exclude mountain bikers outright.
Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, put it this way: “The Boulder-White Clouds have extraordinary wilderness values and world-class recreational access. We are working together to protect both.”
The argument against a national monument? Bob Hayes, a founding member of the prestigious Sawtooth Society, puts it this way: “It's going to create confusion and conflict and invite litigation. It deprives those stakeholders of the opportunity to fully participate in a land-use decision that is of critical importance to them. It's going to upset the balance of the working relationship among people who have learned to adapt to each other and use the resource.”
Recently, I talked with an outfitter from the Challis area. He's convinced the national monument idea is primarily an attempt to buy out the ranchers along the East Fork of the Salmon River. There's a large part of that watershed that is currently not in the SNRA but would be in the new monument; the area is a stronghold for salmon and steelhead and other wildlife.
So, back to the question posed at the beginning of this post... why include the White Clouds in a program on ‘50 Years of Wilderness’?
I guess because the White Clouds have been in the thick of the wilderness debate for at least 30 years.
Because my generation hikes; this younger generation bikes.
Because what happens in the White Clouds may tell us something about the future of wilderness in America.
These are some of the questions I've been asked about my recent 10 day trek across the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. My objective was to film for Outdoor Idaho the sights and sounds, the beauty and utter ruggedness of the second largest wilderness area in the lower 48.
By the way, my answer to the above questions was “no.” Actually, my worst trip problem was with eutamias amoenus. But, more about that later.
This is the 50th anniversary of the landmark Wilderness Act of 1964. It set aside special places across our nation “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
For this golden anniversary, Outdoor Idaho is focusing its lens on our state's seven designated wilderness areas in an unprecedented, one hour documentary, coming this December.
What drew me to this project was that I've always wanted to hike across the Frank. There is something about this place and its human history that captured my imagination. I have piloted several rafts down the fabled Middle Fork of the Salmon River and briefly visited Cabin Creek and the research center at Taylor Ranch. But there is much more to the Frank that I wanted to experience.
Last August, I retired as general manager for Idaho Public Television; so I had the time to both prepare and make this journey. Outdoor Idaho wanted to include a broad video profile of the Frank, a 2.4 million acre wilderness managed by the Forest Service, and I was interested in volunteering my time to the effort. Luckily, Jeff Tucker, director of content for Idaho Public Television, agreed to join me part-way down Big Creek River at Cabin Creek airstrip. A good thing, because I didn't relish the notion of a solo trek. Together, we tackled the challenge of capturing, on video, the sights and sounds of this immense and diverse landscape.
The Frank has intrigued me for decades. It is big and remote, with its deeply forested reaches on the west side, its crystal clear rivers of Big Creek, Monumental and the Middle Fork of the Salmon, and the near-mythical Bighorn Crags of the east side. These elements, combined with the region's rich human history — both native peoples and rough-neck miners, ranchers and loners — provide the backdrop to a place few people will ever experience.
My journey across the Frank began in mid-July at the western trailhead entry point near the landing strip at Big Creek, 50 bone-jarring, dirt-road miles due east of McCall, Idaho.
The route would follow Big Creek River due east, past several large recent landslides, past Monumental Creek, Cabin Creek and Taylor Ranch (the University of Idaho's wilderness research center), to the confluence with the legendary Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
The path then ascended the aptly named Waterfall Creek Trail more than 5,000 feet over 11 miles, into the remarkable Bighorn Crags mountains that border the east side of the Frank. Our destination was beautiful Ship Island Lake. All told, with side trips, the hike would be more than 85 miles, spread over ten days.
This hike, and the entire Outdoor Idaho project, required special permits from the Forest Service for our video cameras, even though we would go lightweight and carry all that we needed for the trip. This meant carrying backpacks weighing in at 45-plus pounds. Traditional (heavy) HD cameras and tripod were too much, so we outfitted ourselves with new generation, light weight, DSLR high definition cameras.
What was the journey like? Well, naturally you'll need to watch Outdoor Idaho this December to get the full story! But, I must tell you that I gained a deeper appreciation for this beautiful and ruggedly unforgiving country. Where the Sawtooth Mountains are easily accessible via paved state highways with great signage, stores, accommodations and visitor centers, the Frank is a very different experience. It takes hours on unimproved, dirt roads just to reach a trailhead. There are no visitor centers at its entrances, and minimal signage is the norm. In the Sawtooth, you can easily hike to a lake in the morning and be back in time for afternoon beers, with time to spare. The Frank requires equal parts time and sweat, and maybe a little craziness to boot.
So back to my trip problem. Eutamias amoenus is the chipmunk, that sweet little critter that scurries around the campsites looking for stuff. Well, on the sixth night of the hike, Jeff and I camped at Birdbill Lake in the Bighorn Crags, elevation 8,330 feet. I went to bed early to escape the swarming mosquitoes. The next morning, I crawled out of my borrowed bivy sack (think minimal tent, more like a body bag) and I saw six holes in the foot of the bag, chewed overnight by the neighborhood chipmunk. Arghhh! What am I going to tell my friend?
But, if that was the worst that the trip threw at me, I feel fortunate. The Frank has always been a place that has challenged people to be better than they are. We humans come to this land seeking what it has to offer, but typically not for very long. For hundreds, maybe thousands of years, native peoples traveled here seasonally to hunt and fish its river sections, as well as visit the high lakes of the Crags. Miners sought their fortunes in the mountains. But most everyone would retreat to the low lands to escape the harsh winters. No year round towns sustained themselves for very long. The Frank was just too harsh, too remote and too darn hard to live in.
This is what drew me to hike across the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. I wanted to experience the incredible wilderness backdrop and retrace the steps of native peoples, pioneers and others. I wanted to embrace the challenge of capturing on video a place that few will ever visit.
I hope you can join us in December as we relive what for us was an epic journey. It will be coming to you only on Idaho Public Television.
In July the Outdoor Idaho crew will travel across two of the nation's largest wilderness areas, for a show examining what wilderness has meant to the state and the West.
It's certainly one of the most complicated programs we've attempted – to report on every wilderness area in the state. The logistics are proving to be thorny and time-consuming; but we figure a 50 year anniversary comes around only once. Besides, we're not getting any younger!
My colleague John Crancer will join an outfitted river trip down the Selway River. The five day journey cuts through 1.3 million acres of unspoiled land that confounded the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1805. This is the third largest roadless area in the lower 48, surpassed only by Death Valley and the Frank Church wilderness. A Selway river trip is the most restrictive in the country, since the Forest Service only allows one group per day on the river during July.
Also in July former IdahoPTV GM Peter Morrill will trek across the length of the Frank Church wilderness, a journey of more than 50 miles. He will be accompanied by my colleague Jeff Tucker. The two of them will document a journey that starts at Big Creek, drops down to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, then ascends more than a mile up to the rugged Big Horn Crags and Ship Island Lake.Right away you're probably thinking, “That's nuts!” And you would be correct. The normal route should be the other way, from Ship Island Lake down to the Middle Fork and out to Big Creek. But the guys wanted the Crags to be the payoff, and so they're willing to make the climb, just for us. I guess what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!
In August we'll join some trout fishermen on a backpacking trip into the Gospel Hump wilderness, to explore a part of the state that most Idahoans know little about.
We have already spent time, in April, with the group that hiked 60 miles across the Craters of the Moon wilderness, to re-trace the journey of explorer Robert Limbert. You may recall that Limbert was the one who convinced President Calvin Coolidge to declare Craters a national monument.
Other wilderness areas already visited for the hour-long show include Hells Canyon wilderness and the wilderness areas in the Owyhee canyonlands. And in September we hope to re-visit the most popular wilderness in Idaho, in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
This program will also explore the challenges of wilderness, as exemplified by the Boulder-White Clouds Monument proposal and the desire of groups like mountain bikers and motorized users to have a say in what happens to Idaho's special places. Included in the show will be interviews with old timers and others who have played a role in Idaho's wilderness story. We'll also look at proposed wilderness areas, like Scotchman Peak, in north Idaho.
Oh, and just for the record, our wilderness filming permits are in order. We worked closely with Andy Brunelle and Dave Olson of the U.S. Forest Service, and we appreciate them running interference for us. Without their efforts and that of a few other folks, this examination of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act probably would not have happened.
I have my eye pressed up to the bars across the window of a trap. I see a large, furry silhouette inside the trap. I put my camera up to the opening just as a paw larger than my head hits the bars. I jump back three feet. I can't help it. I keep telling myself the grizzly is as good as caught, but the strength and determination behind that one punch makes me rethink my desire to be at a bear trapsite. I gather myself, continue the talk of courage in my head and get my camera back in record mode for a serious mission. “I don't take risks around bears,” says Bryan Aber, Idaho Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist. “We try to avoid that at any cost. It's not worth it.”
Aber is trapping grizzly bears for research in Island Park, Idaho. I'm at the trap site with him because he's part of the new Outdoor Idaho show ‘Helping Henry's.’ Covering the Henry's Fork watershed for Outdoor Idaho is an honor I relish with motherly pride. The Henry's Fork is my office and my playground. The Henry's Fork is where I teach my kids about big bug hatches while we fish. The Henry's Fork is where we count stars at night in camp. I don't go to my head when I want to daydream. I go to the Henry's Fork. “People who come to this river are just in awe,” says Brandon Hoffner, Henry's Fork Foundation executive director. “It's just a great place to live. To hunt and fish, you can't beat the Henry's Fork.”
‘Helping Henry's,’ debuting on Idaho Public Television in spring 2014, is a seasonal look at a magnificent place rich in resources and recreation.
Graceful trumpeter swans swim the Fork in the winter as the snow piles high for snowmobilers. “I'm not intimidated. It's fun,” says Deanna Dye, snowmobiler. “You feel like you're out surfing in the snow when you're playing the powder.”
I'm wading through all of that powder playing chase with snowmobilers for the winter season of the show. There is more blow than snow, but both are hitting me sideways and staying warm is impossible. Photographer Jay Krajic and I are covered in white when we climb in the cab of a snowcat to ride with the power line crew keeping all of the Island Park cabins heated in the winter. “Up here when it gets 20 or 30 below, someone could freeze up in a hurry,” says Tim Jenkins, Fall River Electric Journeyman Lineman. “Do everything right and you'll go home at night with all your fingers and toes.”
All of my fingers and toes make it through the shoot, but I'm still shivering a few months later when winter starts to melt in May. The watershed is a brilliant green, the animals are bounding through their migration routes with zeal and I'm wading again. This time it's through water instead of snow. I'm with researchers who are tagging trout in Henry's Fork. It's a blue ribbon fishery known worldwide by fisherman seeking dry fly action. The research done on the water is for the fishery, but the priority on the water goes to farming. “Without water the desert doesn't blossom and that's what we need,” says Dale Swensen, Fremont-Madison Irrigation District executive director. “Without the Henry's Fork, there would be no irrigators.”
It's high season for fishing and farming in the summer when I start swimming through the negotiations that bring so many entities to the table for one fork, the Henry's Fork. I know water wars reached a boiling point two decades ago, but as I talk to those interested in the management of Henry's, I realize compromise is what keeps this place so pristine. “The Henry's Fork Watershed Council while at one point the different diverse stakeholders did not get along and see eye to eye, has led to a great relationship and actually become a model across the country,” Hoffner says.
As the summer season fades to fall, another reason the nation shines a spotlight on this watershed presents itself. It's a 440 pound grizzly bear. The first grizzly bear caught for research in Idaho. That was back in 1994. Grizzly #227 helped get the recovery ball rolling for the endangered species and he's just hit the window of the trap I'm peering into.
There are more than 700 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Many of them spend their summer vacations in the Henry's Fork watershed. Idaho Department of Fish and Game collars as many bears as it can to keep tabs on the recovering population in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Just as the bears finish collecting bugs and berries for hibernation, another show takes the final act on Henry's. I'm in Harriman State Park before sunrise. The sky is the kind of deep, dark blue that my eyes and lens can't use, but my ears can. I hear the thrash and snap of branches in the forest then a bugling elk breaks the treeline. I'm as still as the log providing me cover as the sun comes up. The camera rolls as the elk chorus continues. Once again, it's cold, but, beyond bugling elk, it's quiet.
Nine months and 23 tapes later, it seems there are a lot of cold and quiet moments along the Henry's Fork, but from bears to birds and farming to fishing, the connection is the water. That wet line drawn in the desert sand is what keeps people, including myself, interested in helping Henry's.
It's not every day that we explore the 50th anniversary of a piece of legislation that has had such a profound impact on Idahoans. But that's exactly what we intend to do in an upcoming Outdoor Idaho show, tentatively entitled “50 Years of Wilderness,” airing this fall.
The 1964 Wilderness Act has affected how we play and work in the outdoors. It has even affected how we view our surroundings and our place in the grand scheme of things.
There are those who think wilderness designation has been a real bust, especially when they view all the trees destroyed by the massive wildfires we've been having since the 1980's. And there are many more who say, “Whoa, we've already got 4.5 million acres of designated wilderness in Idaho. We don't need any more.”
Of course, getting any more wilderness in Idaho is virtually impossible, without a major collaborative effort similar to what folks pulled off in the Owyhee Canyonlands. In fact, one can look at the proposed Boulder-White Clouds national monument in central Idaho as a slick end-run around the Wilderness Act and around Congress, which must OK any new wilderness.
That's because getting a national monument only requires the signature of one person: the President. Using the Antiquities Act of 1906, nearly every president since Teddy Roosevelt has created national monuments, from the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty to lesser known icons. And some say it was the threat of a national monument in Owyhee County that brought folks to the bargaining table to hammer out Idaho's newest wilderness in the canyonlands.
We'll begin working on our “50 Years of Wilderness” show in April, when we join up with some folks following in the footsteps of adventurer Robert Limbert, who walked across southern Idaho's Great Rift in 1920, to publicize Craters of the Moon.
This group is planning to spend a week out on the lava flows, walking 60 miles to honor the fact that Craters of the Moon wilderness was the first designated National Park Service wilderness area in the nation.
Most of Idaho's other wilderness areas are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and we hope to examine each of these — the Selway-Bitterroot, the Sawtooth, Hells Canyon, Gospel Hump, the Frank Church River of No Return. We have been meeting with several Idaho F.S. employees to ensure that we get permission to enter these wilderness areas with our camera this summer, so we can tell their story.
Of course, we believe that Outdoor Idaho is the perfect venue to explore the complex and evolving nature of wilderness, and we're willing to go the extra mile to make it happen. Or, as our former general manager Peter Morrill commented in a previous discussion about filming in the wilderness, “we are not-for-profit and are owned by the people of Idaho. Our mission and our very DNA mean we exist to serve Idahoans with great educational content; and we've been recognized by the FCC, the IRS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the state of Idaho to do just that.”
Oh, and now that he's retired, Peter is planning to be one of our volunteers, helping us to tell the story of 50 Years of Wilderness. In fact, he plans to hike across the Frank Church in July, a distance of some 50 miles, with a small camera to document what he sees. Should be a great adventure!
“Adventure Idaho” airs March 6th at 8 p.m.
The online publication “Adventure Journal“ conducted a poll last year, and hands down voted Idaho the best state for adventure. And that's the premise of our hour long show, that the Potato State really could be called the Adventure State.
Dozens of books have been written on all the amazing adventures that have transpired in Idaho. Trouble is, still photos – when available – only go so far in the TV world.
So we knew we had to tag along on some new adventures with our TV cameras. We also asked our Facebook friends to supply us with their GoPro footage; and we searched the archives for our own adventure footage.
We also interviewed folks like Cort Conley and Jo Deurbrouck, two Idaho writers who have tackled the adventure genre in their work. They helped us explore some of the state's ‘big ticket’ adventures – like Lewis & Clark and some of the famous boatmen on the Salmon River.
Two ‘big ticket’ adventures would have to be those of Edith Clegg in 1939 and Mike O’Brien in 2012. Clegg was a widow and socialite who decided, when almost 60 years old, that her adventure would be to travel cross-country, from the Columbia River to the Hudson River, via a water route. Just going upstream in Hells Canyon in 14 foot boats with 9 horsepower motors took them a month; and her chief boatman nearly drowned in one of the rapids.
In 2012 Mike O‘Brien circumnavigated the state of Idaho, a journey of 2,500 miles; and he did it in about 100 days. “About 100 miles of that was me walking in circles trying to find out where I was going,“ said O’Brien; “so if I was to do it again, it would only be 2,400 miles.“ Can you believe he's going to do it again, in 2014, at the age of 70? Simply amazing!
One thing we discovered is that today's weekend adventurers use the internet to connect with like-minded folks. We joined two recent adventures, and both trips were planned online in about a day. One required a rappel down a 60 foot cliff to get to the Bruneau River. The other, on Super Bowl Sunday, took us into Poison Creek canyon to rappel down a waterfall. Many of these adventure types came to know each other via “Idaho Outdoors,” a Yahoo page that now boasts about 1,800 members.
Our hour-long “Adventure Idaho“ program will also profile two Wood River Valley characters. Ernest Hemingway needs no introduction. And Dick Dorworth is a well known skier, now in his 70's, who once held the world ski speed record.
We'll also feature Idaho's Search & Rescue team, the ones who volunteer to help the unlucky souls whose adventures go south on them.
And here's something we've never done before: we asked our Outdoor Idaho Facebook friends to send us their best adventure footage. And with the help of the musical group Hillfolk Noir, we created a montage of GoPro footage using the song “Don't Fence Me In.” It's a real treat.
This show seems – even to those of us feverishly working on it – to be a real potpourri of stories and ideas. But maybe that can't be helped, ‘cuz these days adventure in Idaho is all over the map.
Premieres Thursday, January 30th
Okay, I admit it. This was a pretty cool assignment. The biggest advantage of producing a program about the McCall Winter Carnival was that the events pretty much happen in the same general area and in a limited period of time. The biggest disadvantage is that you only got one chance to capture something. You'd have to wait a whole year until the next carnival if you missed something.
We were lucky. We didn't miss anything, but we did encounter just about every kind of weather Idaho can dish out. Photographer Ed Hoffman took some great pictures of videographers Jay Krajic, Hank Nystrom and me as we worked in a snowstorm covering the Flashpoint Championship Snowbike race. (Don't make fun of my big blue coat. I was warm.)
There are certainly enough things to do in McCall to fill the show, but I decided to also include two events that aren't a part of the actual Winter Carnival schedule: the Hap and Florence Points Memorial Sleigh Ride and dinner at the Blue Moon Yurt. Both are nearby, so Carnival goers can easily experience these adventures. And both are so unusual that they should be on everyone's bucket list.
Most visitors to the McCall Winter Carnival go up on the weekends for the parade and the fireworks. Those are great fun, but after producing this show, I've concluded that those people miss something by not investing a little more time. Take in the big events but plan some time to enjoy the other activities on the schedule. Look at all the other interesting things to do in the area. Buy some Mardi Gras beads from Rotary students and join the fun at the biggest winter party in the state.
I nearly talked myself out of applying for the host position at Idaho Reports.
I was a newspaper gal. I'd done live debates and segments for a few different television programs, but I didn't have experience as a TV host. After eight years in print journalism, I'm more comfortable behind a keyboard than in front of a camera. Also, I was pregnant with my first baby. Who switches careers with a child on the way?
But I couldn't resist the pull of political journalism. I love telling stories, no matter the medium. And I loved the work that Idaho Reports does. With the encouragement of friends and family, I put in my resume for consideration.
My first interview for the job was three days before my baby's due date, with me praying I wouldn't go into labor in the middle of the discussion. The second interview was three short weeks after my son was born. I'd had four hours of sleep the night before.
Somehow, here I am. It's been a heck of an experience so far, and I'm still learning the differences between television and newspaper. Beyond the obvious (I didn't have to spend as much time worrying about makeup and clothes when few people saw my face), I'm finding that good print stories don't always translate to good TV stories. I have to think about issues more visually and get away from the statistics and numbers I leaned on during my newspaper years. During script-writing, I'm also learning to avoid words I have trouble pronouncing. (You'll never hear me say "rural" if I can help it.)
It's a challenge, but I'm enjoying tackling it. I'm excited to work with Aaron Kunz, producer Seth Ogilvie and the rest of the team at Idaho Public Television, and I hope you stick with us during the transition. It'll be fun.
To some of my friends, state parks just aren't that cool.
I suppose I was one of those who thought state parks were best suited for young families with kids... families who could benefit from the protection that a state park provides.
Give me the Sawtooths or the White Clouds or the Frank Church Wilderness any day. For me, that’s where adventure lies.
But I've learned a lot about state parks this past summer, and I appreciate them much more now. In fact, my colleagues who helped with “State of Our Parks” - John Crancer, Pat Metzler, Jay Krajic, Joan Cartan-Hansen – feel the same way.
State parks help tell the story of Idaho. They are the keepers of special places, the memory makers for families. State parks also benefit local communities, with a dedicated staff who understands what it means to serve.
I came away from this project thinking that the folks of northern Idaho really do love their state parks, and use them more than the rest of us. Of course, what's not to love about Priest Lake State Park, Farragut, Old Mission, Heyburn. In fact, Heyburn was the northwest’s first state park.
I re-visited Harriman State Park, in eastern Idaho, this summer and realized what a splendid gift it was from the Harriman family. It is so peaceful and pastoral. It was also the impetus for creating a professionally run state parks department in Idaho… the gift that keeps on giving.
And in southern Idaho, who doesn't enjoy Bruneau Dunes State Park in the spring? Well, maybe some of those runners who competed in the Bruneau Beast run! One of them told us the Bruneau Beast was even harder than the Race to Robie Creek.
“To improve the quality of life in Idaho through outdoor recreation and resource stewardship.” That's the mission of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. But we don't give them much money to meet that mission. In fact, we've cut their budget and asked them to raise most of the money themselves, this at a time when more and more folks are using state parks.
But they're a plucky lot, those park managers. They'll find a way to balance the checkbook and still make everyone feel welcome, just as they’ve done so many times before.
I certainly wish them well. They are the guardians of some of the best landscape Idaho has to offer.
“Climb Every Mountain” is what I wanted to name the show, but apparently that name had already been taken. You know- Julie Andrews, Sound of Music? But the soundtrack played in my head as I continued to plan the show.
At first, it was just going to be about Peak Baggers, mountain climbers who tackle collections of peaks, usually of a certain elevation; but as I met more and more mountain climbers, it seemed that peak bagging shouldn’t be the focus of the show, just part of it. A lot of mountain climbers in Idaho don’t set out to just bag peaks; it kind of happens along the way. It felt like the program needed to include a broader range of climbers and peaks, so it could be of interest to a wider audience.
Someone suggested the title “The Mountaineers,” and although it sounded interesting, it just didn’t seem right either. In the end, I settled on the title, “Summit Idaho.” We would be summiting some of the state’s most remote and spectacular peaks, with some of Idaho’s most prolific mountain climbers. The name seemed to fit.
Setting up outdoor adventure-type shoots can be a true test of a producer’s patience. Even after you’ve found your story and found the people who will make it happen, you still have a myriad of details and obstacles to work through; and perhaps the most challenging is weather. Bad weather can ruin a shoot, or at least cause a lot of discomfort. Only one shoot, the trip to Saddle Mountain, had to be rearranged because of extreme heat, but the back-up plan turned out to be a great climb, up much cooler Gilmore Peak, about an hour north of Saddle Mountain. All of the other shoots came together without a hitch, and for a producer, those are great odds.
Director Videographer, Jay Krajic and I followed four groups of climbers up four remote peaks to find out what it means to be mountain climber in Idaho. Each climb provided a great challenge and adventure, was unique in geology and landscapes, and showed us incredible views from the top of Idaho.
Our first mountain was a winter climb to Vienna Peak in the Sawtooths, on snowshoes. The next three – Gilmore Peak, He Devil, and Scotchman Peak – wouldn’t happen until summer when the snows had receded from the roads and mountain tops. Since we would be climbing to high elevations, we wanted the opportunity to capture the best views possible, which meant we only had about a six week window between the last of the snow and the beginning of smoke from forest fires. Now, six weeks may seem like a lot of time to shoot three stories; but for complicated shoots like these, involving three different groups of people traveling to remote areas of the state, we needed to allow for some time in between for rescheduling due to bad weather or for an unforeseen conflict.
What I came to find most interesting about these mountain climber types is their ability to put their bodies through hell to reach a summit. Even with all the planning and plotting, the gear, gadgets, and maps needed for their adventure, they still had to find the energy and stamina needed to spend hours, and sometimes days, getting to the top of a peak. And not once did I hear any complaints of pain or weakness, except from me. I decided that they must have similar DNA to that of a marathon runner. And like a runner, they don’t have a great explanation for why they do it; they just know they must.
Airs October 24th, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
Airs November 7th and 10th, 2013
If you were to look at Idaho from 10,000 feet, you’d immediately recognize that humans tend to cluster their homes, farms and cities near waterways like the mighty Snake River. Water is necessary for plants, animals and energy in the Northwest. We need it for drinking water, cooking, and to flush our toilets.
When we set out to tell the story of water, we found ourselves immersed in stories of supply and demand. Roughly 75-percent of the trout consumed in the U.S. comes from Idaho. Those trout are farmed in southern Idaho using fresh water from the giant underground aquifer that pours out of the rocks near Hagerman.
Idaho is also known for its salmon and steelhead. The fishing industry is worth millions of dollars. People from around the world come here to land rainbow trout, salmon and steelhead.
In arid southern Idaho, water is also in high demand by farmers and ranchers whose livelihood depends on irrigation to coax potatoes, alfalfa, and other crops from the fertile soil. When drought hits the state, these farmers are often the first to really suffer.
For the past year we have traveled the state to see what lessons have been learned over the past century.
One story took us to ranching country in central Idaho. The Pahsimeroi Valley was once home to abundant runs of salmon and steelhead. Early ranchers describe the sheer mass of fish as sounding like a herd of horses running up the river. The Pahsimeroi River today no longer teems with salmon. The fish stopped coming back in large numbers after years of channeling water out of the river to irrigate the thousands of acres of alfalfa to feed livestock. People who live here are very aware of the changes agriculture has had on the river. Certain times of the year, the Pahsimeroi River is completely drained.
Today conservation efforts are underway to try to keep water in the river year round. But the effort hasn’t been easy on those who make a living off the land. It’s also likely those conservation efforts are having a negative impact on the underground aquifer.
Another story takes place on the Salmon River. In 2012, there were no federal or state regulations that kept suction-dredge miners from digging up the Salmon River in search of gold. The loud motors and constant digging were opposed by the local recreation industry. They complained the miners had a detrimental impact on water quality and disrupted the multi-million dollar recreational fishing industry. That led us to wonder how water laws determined the most beneficial use of this finite resource.
The Boise River was once described as a flowing sewage dump. Early reports listed the river as too dirty to fish and swim. Today thousands take to the river to cool off, something unthinkable in the 1940s and '50s. The federal Clean Water Act helped reverse years of mismanagement and neglect.
I hope those who watch this program will not only learn something about the history of water in Idaho, but will also get a sense of the problems we face in the coming years as more people move to the American West and demand their share of its limited waters.
When Outdoor Idaho started looking at a program on the state's scenic byways, we were amazed by how much country they covered. Thirty-one byways crisscross the state, reaching nearly every corner of Idaho. One expert told us these scenic routes run for well over 2,400 miles. Just capturing some of those gorgeous miles was both a logistical and endurance challenge for our staff.
Another challenging factor in putting this program together was the necessary cooperation among three state agencies: Idaho Public Television, the Idaho Transportation Department and the Department of Commerce. IDPTV provided the production expertise; Transportation, input and grant money; and Commerce, contacts, input, and a corollary web site. Add the Idaho Scenic Byways Committee, and we had plenty of suggestions for content!
After several meetings, we finally settled on a format and an outline that would highlight selected byways from each of three regions around the state. We'd also look at the history and coverage of the entire byway system. That brought us back to challenge one . . . driving those miles with video cameras and the local experts who could give us the inside information.
We decided the best approach was to gather the scenic shots for the featured byways in one pass, so our guests would not have to spend hours looking at a videographer hunched over a camera. The next step would be actually following our experts as they drove the byway.
Here's just one example of how that worked. We managed to talk local author Matt Leidecker into driving the Sawtooth and Salmon byways in his RV with his family. Of course they only had a slight idea of what a pain it is to travel with a television crew . . . it's not a vacation! We also asked Carol Cole of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Carol wasn't sure about the concept but agreed to ride along with the family. We took all kinds of shots of the RV driving the byways. We were behind, ahead, to the side, inside, close-up and far away. We used radios to let Matt know if we needed another take on any particular stretch.
Of course getting the driving shots and scenics was only part of the equation. We also had Matt and family and Carol get out and "experience" the byway. So we stopped at several compelling locations and tried to capture some conversations that we could sprinkle throughout the segment. We originally thought we could do all this in a day, but as sunset approached we realized it would take a bit longer. Matt, family and Carol agreed to a half-day extension, and we started early the next morning. All were good sports; but after interviews, a stop at Sunbeam hot springs, and more driving shots, we all agreed to call it a wrap.
If you repeat the above general scenario multiple times for all the featured byways, gather video from many more byways, do several "overview" interviews with various experts, and spend hours with a graphic artists on maps . . . you'll then have the raw materials that comprise the hour long program. Now all you have to do is transcribe the interviews, look at the footage, write the script, and then spend a month and a half in a darkened edit room. And throughout the process you'll remember just how much "fun" it is to produce a television program!
Fun may not be the best description of the job, but after spending so much time and effort on a production, when it is finally broadcast, there is genuine satisfaction. It's a satisfaction that will inspire you as you prepare to hit the road for the next Outdoor Idaho adventure.
Memory and imagination. What power they have over us. They connect us to our surroundings. They give us a reason to get up in the morning. They push us forward.
And when they fail us, when memory and imagination abandon us, we are left feeling lost and disconnected.
But if you’re very lucky – and I do consider myself lucky – you can help supply some of that memory, some of that imagination.
I have had the honor to work with professionals and volunteers who have done just that, starting with Peter Morrill and Royce Williams, the creators of Outdoor Idaho, way back in 1983. I want to honor my colleagues here tonight, some of whom have been around since the beginning and some of whom continue our 30 year effort. Pat Metzler. Jeff Tucker. Sauni Symonds. Jay Krajic. Ricardo Ochoa. Al Hagenlock. Marcia Franklin. Joan Cartan-Hansen. John Crancer who couldn’t be here tonight. And those who support our efforts in other, important ways: Ron Pisaneschi and Megan Griffin.
We have indeed been fortunate to revel in the Idaho landscape, a landscape as unruly and complicated as exists anywhere on the planet. We have also been fortunate to profile some of the men and women who match our mountains.
While doing research for an upcoming show on the history and value of Idaho’s state parks, I heard former governor Robert Smylie suggest some 20 years ago that Idaho suffered from an inferiority complex. And it got me thinking, that maybe, when it comes right down to it, maybe that’s what Outdoor Idaho has done best of all... to help dispel the silly notion that Idaho has little to offer this complex world.
It is my fervent hope that Outdoor Idaho will always be there, to provide that sense of place that is so vital to each of us… to help connect the far flung regions of our state.
And who knows, maybe 30 years from now, there will be another Jerry Evans or an Eve Chandler, who will again nominate this public television series, honoring a new cadre of story tellers – producers and directors and videographers – with new stories to tell.
But today, we thank the board of trustees of the Idaho State Historical Society for looking favorably upon Outdoor Idaho.
Memory and imagination are always worth honoring. And that is something that everyone here shares... a commitment to memory and imagination... and a commitment to the state of Idaho.
Casting for Recovery participant Trina Murri with a quilt piece she made.
All our Outdoor Idaho programs have a working title while we’re producing them. Some of those titles end up becoming the formal name of the program; others are changed as the program’s theme evolves. Whatever title we choose, though, it generally isn’t more than three words, so that it can fit easily onto a schedule grid and not be cut off. So it’s a bit of a challenge to come up with a good one.
The working title for my latest contribution to the series was “Healing and the Outdoors.” I was never particularly attached to it, in part because “healing” connotes medicinal herbs to some people, and also because several individuals in the program had passed away, so they weren’t “healed” in the traditional sense.
I asked my coworkers for suggestions for different names, and got some really nice ones, including “Prescription: Nature,” “Nurtured by Nature,” and “Finding Strength.”
Reel Recover with Mark Foss.
Photo: Marc Walters/Reel Recovery
Ultimately, though, I circled back to the “healing” concept, not only because it seemed to resonate with several of my colleagues, but also because several of my interviewees had used that word to describe their experience.
Indeed, “healing” can involve many other aspects of one’s life other than just the physical. We can feel healed emotionally and spiritually by being in the outdoors, and that’s what they were saying. So the program’s title ended up being “Nature’s Healing Power,” and I think it fits.
It wasn’t an easy program to produce because of the subject matter: I was asking people with serious illnesses and injuries to talk with me about their experiences. I also knew that several might not be alive to see the program, which indeed is the case, and that I wouldn’t be able to put everyone in the show, always a tough issue for a producer. But it’s particularly difficult when you know that the severely ill participants and their families might want a record of the experience.
But putting together the program was also rewarding. I met some wonderful individuals along the way in the groups I profiled: Higher Ground, Reel Recovery, Casting for Recovery and River Discovery. I was inspired by the participants, who were all upbeat, despite their challenges. And I was moved by the volunteers for these nonprofits, who do so much for their clients to make sure that their experience is one they will be remember. For some, it will be their last major outdoor adventure.
I hope you find the program uplifting and even healing for you as well.
Higher Ground participants paddleboarding and kayaking on Pettit Lake.
Photo courtesy of Marc Walters/Reel Recovery
Note: “Nature’s Healing Power” airs Thursday, May 30 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 2 at 7 p.m.
Typically a “Behind the Stories” write-up involves an explanation of some of the interesting “goings-on” of a production off-screen, such as its technical feats (and snafus!)
But for this show, “Nature’s Healing Power,” my thoughts could easily be called "Beneath the Stories." You see, many of the participants in the program were seriously ill when we filmed. Indeed, two have passed away. So beneath what you see on the screen are deep emotions, both those of the participants, and of me.
I've tried to show some of that, but 25 minutes can't possibly do justice to the courageous people I met. So it was with a very heavy heart that I had to leave some wonderful individuals out of the program, simply due to time. How I wish they could have been included.
Idaho Reel Recovery Director Dr. Dick Wilson (R) talks with Dr. Mark
Johnson, a volunteer for the group.
Photo courtesy of Marc Walters/Reel Recovery.
The genesis of this program was the calm but determined insistence by Dr. Dick Wilson of Boise that Reel Recovery, a program he brought to Idaho in 2010, was worthy of an Outdoor Idaho piece. The nonprofit, part of a national group, matches men who have cancer with fly fishing buddies for two weekend retreats at a ranch near Mackay, ID.
Reel Recovery participant Marc Foss with his buddy, Mark Stevens.
Dick worked on Executive Producer Bruce Reichert for a while, and then somehow his material made it to me. Perhaps it's because I gravitate towards these kinds of stories. One of my favorite Outdoor Idaho documentaries was a program I produced on Camp Rainbow Gold, a camp for children with cancer.
But I was drawn to Reel Recovery for another reason. It turned out that one of the articles in the packet quoted a friend of mine from 20 years ago who had been a participant in 2010. Ironically, I had just learned that he had passed away. So I read with great interest what he had to say about the program. The therapeutic aspect of it—the bonding with other men who had cancer in “courageous conversations”-- seemed to have given him great solace. That comforted me, because I had learned of his death too late to have been of help.
I met with Dick and asked if we'd be able to film the conversations. He couldn't have been more open about it. We did some advance work to make sure that the men were O.K. with us being there, and upon arrival, they were all welcoming, despite their great challenges.
Reel Recovery participant Paul Franklin with his buddy Dr. Mark Johnson.
To my surprise, I knew someone on the list, Paul Franklin (no relation). His business was the longtime videotape vendor for Idaho Public Television, as well our duplicating house. Paul was gravely ill with a brain tumor when he came to Reel Recovery, and would pass away in February, 2013. But he inspired everyone with his great cheer.
“When I wake up in the morning, I’m asked a question,” he told the men. “Is it going to be a good day or a bad day? And I always answer, “It’s going to be a great day.””
Every man I met in the group affected me in some way. Some of them were in physical pain, and all were struggling emotionally at times. Yet it was one of those rare shoots where everyone was generous of spirit with the camera. I ended up spending even more time with some of the men because I brought along a small camera and did some filming with them in the water as they fished. That was a blast.
Videographer Hank Nystrom gets shots of Reel Recovery participant
Steve Koppen with his fishing buddy, Larry Boyd.
There are three other pieces in the program, each with equally wonderful people. I’ll be talking about them in another essay.
But I wanted to give credit for the inception of the show where credit is due -- to Dr. Dick Wilson -- and extend my deepest thanks to the men of Reel Recovery, who allowed me and videographers Hank Nystrom and John Romlein to spend two days with them as they went beneath the surface to talk about one of the most difficult, and yet revelatory, times of their lives. As the group’s motto goes, “Be Well, Fish On!”
Idaho “Reel Recovery” participants, staff and volunteers, August, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Marc Walters/Reel Recovery.
In a state with an over-abundance of Forest Service and BLM lands, do Idaho's state parks even stand a chance at confronting the challenges coming their way? That's the gist of our story, “The State of Our Parks,” airing in December.
As one of those who has spent many hours on federal public lands, I'm finding out new things about our state parks. For example, Idaho's first state park was named after U.S. Senator Weldon Heyburn, who was pushing for a national park – not a state park – at the southern end of Lake Coeur d' Alene. In fact, he called state parks “always a subject of political embarrassment.”
So Idaho's first state park was named after a man who hated the concept of state parks. But that irony should not diminish the fact that, after more than a century, Heyburn State Park is still one of the best state parks in the northwest.
Once considered the purview of the rich, today you can pretty much find any kind of outdoor recreation at Idaho’s parks – skiing, fishing, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, rock climbing, disc golf. On certain weekends, you can even get a lesson in the firing of Civil War cannons.
We have already begun visiting parks and will continue to do so throughout the spring and summer. Since we only have an hour, we will be zeroing in on a handful of Idaho's parks, like Heyburn, Thousand Springs, Priest Lake, Land of the Yankee Fork, Bruneau Dunes, Eagle Island, Old Mission, and Harriman. It was the Harriman family's special deal with Governor Robert Smylie that led to the creation of the State Parks system.
“To improve the quality of life in Idaho through outdoor recreation and resource stewardship” – that’s the agency mission statement, a mission statement that has evolved over the years, as state parks have become more egalitarian.
Park development in Idaho has always been challenging. The neighboring state of Oregon has more than 150 parks. We have 30. Personally, it's hard to believe that the number of Idaho's parks will increase any time soon, or that a reliance on volunteerism is enough to keep open all of our current parks into the foreseeable future.
But the diversity of Idaho's state parks is really quite remarkable. Each one seems to fill a niche. Each one seems to have a constituency or a community championing it. Each one seems to have a story to tell.
During this past week, through a series of e-mails and meetings, we hammered out our Outdoor Idaho schedule for the next year. We usually do this after our March pledge drive, which for many of us feels kind of like the end of the year.
And, of course, a new year needs a new season of shows.
It’s fun to look back to last April when we laid out what we wanted to do for the year. I just read it (you can, too, by scrolling down), and I’m happy to report that we actually produced almost all of the shows we thought we would… “The Foothills”; “Idaho’s Salmon”; “Climbing Idaho”; “Rec Tech”; “A Sawtooth Celebration”; and our “30th Anniversary” show. The two shows we haven’t yet aired are still on the docket.
That’s a pretty good indication that viewers are going to see the following programs in the coming year:
There are other shows, too, like a program on Idaho’s water, a profile of old folks, and a fun look at McCall’s winter carnival.
Television is one of the most collaborative of activities, but each show has one or two key persons who are the caretakers. And I’m so grateful that my talented colleagues still enjoy coming up with stories to share with us, even though they have other shows they are working on.
These programs will take us all around the state, so chances are pretty good that we will be in your neck of the woods at some point this summer. We always have time to say “Hi”; and don’t hesitate to share an idea or two with us, particularly if you have an angle on your favorite state park. That’s a show I’m particularly interested in, and I realize that without local support, some of Idaho’s parks would have to close.
We have passed a major milestone this March, with the show’s 30th anniversary. The support we received during our annual pledge drive was gratifying, and we have no intention of slowing down now!
After almost thirty years, you’d think I’d know where we were going, but our “30th Anniversary Celebration” has entered some new territory for me.
This hour-long show, airing March 7, has become so much more than a “best of” program, thanks to the fine editing and conceptualizing of my colleagues Pat Metzler and Sauni Symonds. They’ve gone into our library of Outdoor Idaho memories, reinterpreted them, and made them show their significant side.
Those of us who have worked on Outdoor Idaho have always been fascinated by the history of this region, at least in broad strokes. And over the years, we’ve met up with some real history buffs, the ones who secretly wish they had been born a century or two earlier, the ones who can live and survive like the mountain men of old or who have actually trudged along the Oregon Trail in August, tasting the dust from their covered wagons.
Our “30th Anniversary Celebration” honors these restive souls who can teach us more about our past than a dozen history books. If you’d like to see what I mean, check out the clips at our 30th Anniversary Celebration website.
History comes in many flavors, and another part of our Anniversary show features some of the interesting people we’ve met over the years. The ones we chose to honor have all passed away: Morley Nelson, Bud Moore, Nelle Tobias, Manetta Schrite, Al Tice, Bill Studebaker. And so what can we learn from their time on this earth? We tried to find that kernel of truth that they represented.
As of this writing, the program is still being shaped and formed. But I can tell you that the collective wisdom of these folks is impressive, and I trust that you will be impressed as well.
There’s one more section of our “30th Anniversary Celebration” show that I’ll mention here, and it will go a long ways toward explaining what we do and how we’ve done it for 30 years. Call it our “Behind the Scenes” segment. Anyone wishing to emulate our television program could learn something from listening to my colleagues talk about their experiences working on the show.
Don’t miss it. A 30th anniversary show only comes around once in life. Thursday, March 7th at 8 p.m. is our time.
If you love the outdoors, you’re probably a little bit of a gear junkie.
Maybe it’s all about your bike, or your skis, or your hunting or fishing gear – in those off-seasons, when you can’t use it, you’re reorganizing it all, wandering wistfully down the aisles of your favorite outfitters, checking out the ads in all those outdoors magazines.
You know what works, and what would work just a little bit better – if only somebody made that!
You aren’t alone, of course. There are tens of thousands of us in Idaho alone, and a handful of the most industrious, or maybe the most adventurous, or even the most impatient of us have stopped waiting for somebody else to invent what they can already envision – and have made a living in the industry known as “recreation technology.”
I came across Waterworks–Lamson when my wife bought me a new fly reel for my birthday – a far fancier one than I would have ever sprung on myself. And I was delighted and intrigued to find out that the company makes these reels right here in Boise.
I called them up, sat down for an interview with one of the partners, and learned that the designers were fly fishermen who wondered why so much new technology had gone into lighter and more responsive poles, but the reels themselves were virtually identical to those from the turn of the century. They said they came to Idaho because they finally had a good excuse to move to their vacation spot for good – fly fishermen would much rather have a fly reel made in fly fishing country than in southern California, and the folks hired to assemble the reels here would be far more likely to know their way around a river (and a fly pole). It was the perfect fit.
We had heard a similar story about Buck Knives, the four-generation manufacturer that moved from San Diego to Post Falls to much fanfare a few years ago. And the more we asked questions, the more people we found. It sparked a summer of discovery for us – and everywhere we turned, we found more great stories.
Take Glen Eberle, who wondered why, when he competed as an Olympic biathlete, were gun stocks so bulky and heavy when the technology existed to make them lighter and stronger. Now Eberlestock outfits athletes, hunters and military members around the world from Boise.
Or Kate Schade, who wanted to save money on lunch when she skied in the Tetons, so she made calorie-loaded, but great-tasting energy bars for herself and her friends. Now, Kate’s Real Foods is a growing employer in tiny Victor, Idaho.
In Sun Valley alone, Ed “Scotty” Scott invented the modern ski pole and Bob Smith created the first modern goggles – and now both of their names are known the world over.
In a Lewiston famed for housing some of the best jet boat companies around, Darell Bentz’ custom shop makes some of the best – with ideas he has forged in decades of adventurous river-running.
In Idaho, companies make boot dryers, whitewater rafts, drift boats, ammo, guns, high-tech outdoor clothing that incorporates your electronics, climbing gear, tough outdoor bags, knives, backpacks and much, much more.
We couldn’t come close to fitting all the good stories into our show on Idaho’s “rec tech,” but I hope it gives you a taste of the variety of companies out there. And I know it includes some amazing people – adventurers, risk-takers, inventors, entrepreneurs. Folks young and old who share one major characteristic: They love to be outside in Idaho.
Thirty years. That’s pretty impressive in the world of television. It’s even more impressive in dog years.
But from our recently completed “A Sawtooth Celebration,” to our upcoming programs spanning the entire state, it’s pretty obvious to me that this 210 year old dog can still hunt.
At our annual holiday work party two weeks ago, we laid out the plans for the coming year: a show on recreational technology…one on Idaho’s many scenic byways…one on healing and the outdoors…a program on rock hounds…another on the state of Idaho’s parks…one on water…another on old folks… one called Idaho’s Hemingway…a show on Search & Rescue…and one on climbing Idaho’s 12,000’ peaks.
It’s a collection of shows that would challenge even a youthful production crew. What we have going for us is obviously not youth! But we only tackle shows that someone really cares about. That means the shows are driven by the passions of those who work on them, and by the folks who share ideas and time with us to help tell the stories. Luckily, that passion compensates for a lot.
I think one of the reasons that Outdoor Idaho continues to thrive is because the program really belongs to all of us. The best shows tell Idaho’s story by using real people who can shine a light on our state and our experiences. And folks appreciate that Outdoor Idaho is one of the few things that unites us as a state – north, south, east, and west.
It’s hard to imagine that our program will be around for another 30 years. But no one is throwing in the towel just yet. And God knows there are enough Idaho stories to last another 30 years. So, who knows what the future holds.
As we move into our 30th season, it does seem that we’ve hit our stride. During this holiday season, we appreciate your support and sincerely hope our efforts have brought you some joy as well.
It would not surprise me if every Idahoan has, somewhere in a drawer, a favorite snapshot of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It's hard to imagine a more photographed region of the state.
As a teenager, my buddies and I would spend a week at a time hiking the trails. Toxaway, Imogene, Hell Roaring, Spangle – the names are indelibly inscribed in my head. I still get a thrill seeing the massive granite batholith that is the Sawtooth Mountains, as I drive up Highway 21 toward Stanley.
When some friends – Byron Johnson and Patricia Young – suggested we profile the 40th anniversary of the creation of the SNRA, we knew immediately it would make a great addition to our Outdoor Idaho collection.
The program will cover the intense and fascinating battles leading up to the creation of the SNRA, but it seemed fitting to honor this national recreation area by also focusing on the many photographers who spend countless hours combing its peaks and valleys. Their work is truly inspiring.
In fact, it was a handful of photographers – Ernie Day and Jan Boles in particular – whose work convinced Idahoans to put a stop to the proposed open pit mine at the base of Castle Peak in the White Clouds, an action that ultimately led to the creation of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
If you've been to our Outdoor Idaho Facebook page, you already know about our monthly 'Iconic Idaho' photo contests, where photographers from across the State share their work with the rest of us. It seemed only fitting to feature some of them in our hour-long special.
We met up with them at Redfish Lake Lodge earlier this summer. Although I'd been admiring their work for more than a year on Facebook, this was where I met most of them for the first time. What a blast! Their willingness to trust us with their wonderful photographs means Idahoans are in for a real treat on December 2nd.
Our show covers a lot of territory. We profile author and hiker Margaret Fuller; her books opened up the SNRA for many of us. We explore what's killing the trees in the forest; and we were there this summer for the wildfires. We profile some Stanley entrepreneurs who work hard to make the SNRA a fun place to visit. And we examine the value of the Sawtooth Society to the future of the region.
Even as we continue to work on the show, "A Sawtooth Celebration" is quickly becoming one of our favorite programs.
But then, what's not to like about the most photographed region of the state.
”Trying to organize rock climbers is kind of like herding cats,“ says Doug Colwell, a veteran local climber. I’ve known Doug for many years as both a rock climber and ice climber. Doug loves to climb just about anything, although age is starting to make him a little more cautious. I enlisted Doug to help me herd some cats. His contacts and knowledge of rock climbing in Idaho was an invaluable asset as we began putting the show together.
We started shooting last summer, hoping to get everything we needed for a show; but as it turned out, Mother Nature had a different agenda. 2011 in Idaho was one of the wettest on record, especially at higher elevations. Our trip to the world renowned Elephants Perch in the Sawtooth Mountains had to be delayed until September due to snow storms. And even though the snow was mostly gone by August, the mosquitoes were horrendous.
When the blood-thirsty pests finally died down, Doug called in a climbing buddy to help us pack in cameras and gear. We would meet up with veteran climbers Reid Dowdle and Brad Brooks already at the Perch doing a warm up climb. The approach to the Elephant’s Perch is really part of the attraction. If you don’t already know how to get there, you won’t find it. Most hikers using the trail-head are heading to Alpine Lake or Cramer Lakes, but climbers headed to the Perch take a very challenging detour about 2 miles in.
The hike starts with an early morning boat ride across Red Fish Lake. As we started up the trail, the glorious granite peaks of the Sawtooths glinted in the morning sun. The crew had no idea what lay ahead. Since we would be staying overnight, we all had full packs, plus an assorted amount of camera equipment, videotape, tripods, etc. Director Videographer Pat Metzler, volunteer Stephanie Dickey, and I made up the crew.
As we followed Doug and his fellow climber Tim Ball along the mostly flat trail, I thought to myself, “This isn’t so bad. I’m in better shape than I thought.” I hadn’t carried a heavy pack for quite a few years, so was relieved to feel no pain. Then we made the detour. A small path through heavy brush led us to a stream crossing, which consisted of two spindly, bouncy logs. No problem. Once across the stream we took off our packs for a short rest before tackling the last leg of the journey. I had heard that the trail to the Elephants Perch was a bit challenging, so I had trained for a few weeks in the foothills of Boise. I was feeling pretty confident it wouldn’t get to me, if I took it slow.
A thousand vertical feet later, I realized I was wrong. The trail wasn’t really a trail as much as a bushwhack over fallen trees with the path appearing every once in a while.
The climbers were accustomed to the trail, and in much better shape, no doubt, than the crew, because they did not seem nearly as tuckered out at the top as we were. We eventually stumbled into camp, drenched with sweat and happy to get the packs off. Stephanie jumped in the lake, which was gorgeous to look at but freezing cold. I opted to rest and refuel. After Pat had recovered, he headed out with the climbers to scout the next day’s climb, which would consist of an hour hike to the base of the route and then a five hour jam to the top. I was pretty sure Pat was hating me by now.
But one thing I’ve noticed… after a few weeks the pain subsides, and only the pictures and the video remain. I’m thinking that’s a worthwhile trade-off!
Ever wonder why that breathtaking front of the Sawtooth Mountains isn’t populated by hundreds of condos and high rises and shops and subdivisions? What kept the Stanley basin from going the way of, say, the Bitterroot valley or Jackson Hole?
The answer may surprise you: Castle Peak in the White Clouds.
Since the 1950’s, Idaho’s U.S. Senator, Frank Church had been trying to preserve the Sawtooth front. But his solution -- a national park -- was going nowhere. Then, in the 1960’s, a mining company began doing exploratory work in the nearby White Cloud Mountains. The company, American Smelting & Refining Co (ASARCO), believed there was molybdenum at the base of Castle Peak, worth millions of dollars. The mining company planned an open pit mine and wanted permission from the Forest Service to punch a road into the heart of the White Clouds.
The governor at the time, Don Samuelson, didn’t see anything wrong with the idea. The 350 jobs it would provide Custer County would be a boon to the area. Besides, hardly anyone ever visited the White Clouds.
In 1969, a young College of Idaho staff member, Jan Boles, backpacked into the area with a colleague. After seeing helicopters and a caterpillar and men with chainsaws and hearing dynamite explosions, he wrote, “we began to feel less like backpackers approaching what has been called Idaho’s most magnificent mountain, and more like Tolkien’s hobbits sneaking toward the dark citadels of Mordor.” These photos of his are evidence that the mining company had already begun exploratory work near Castle Peak.
A young Democrat, Cecil Andrus, decided to make the mining of Castle Peak a campaign issue in the 1970 governor's race. “What they wanted to do was a crime,” Andrus told us recently, “and I said, No, we're not going to let that happen. And we didn’t.” Andrus won the governorship that year. Most political observers credit his stand on Castle Peak for the victory.
There's nothing like a crisis to goad folks into action. And not long afterwards, Church and Andrus and the rest of the Idaho delegation settled on a novel idea… to protect the Sawtooths and the White Clouds and the Boulder Mountains with something called a national recreation area, managed not by the National Park Service, but by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the SNRA, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year; and we’ve decided to honor the occasion with an hour-long Outdoor Idaho program, to air December 2nd.
We’ll let some of the key players tell the story of the history of the Sawtooth NRA. We’ll look at the area through the eyes of outfitters and photographers and tourists and others. And we’ll explore what was gained, and what may have been lost, and what is yet to be considered. I hope you can join us. Perhaps you’ll come away loving the Sawtooths – and the White Clouds – even more than you do now.
You never know how a show will look when you get started. For us, that starting point was about a year ago. But I can tell you this show on salmon was an adventure from day one. It took us to Redfish Lake in central Idaho for several weeks to capture sockeye salmon in their natural environment. We spent a few days last fall shooting a couple large chinook salmon from three different angles while the fish prepared to spawn in Marsh Creek.
We even got to see the first snow of the season last winter at Redfish Lake. I'm not sure that's what Pat, our veteran videographer/editor wanted to see that day. He was diving in a drysuit to place HD cameras on the bottom of the lake to get what turned out to be some great footage of salmon in their natural environment. Needless to say, it was cold. I had trouble exchanging batteries and memory cards from the underwater cameras that Pat handed up to me from the water. My fingers were frozen. But it was well worth the effort.
I'm also pretty sure I got a mild case of heat exhaustion during a six-hour shoot at Dagger Falls a few weeks ago. It was on one of the hottest days this summer. Greg Hahn, Seth Ogilvie and I climbed down a steep rock face to shoot chinook salmon jumping up the falls. If you haven't seen it first hand, it's definitely worth the trip.
When we started some initial shooting last summer, I was pretty sure I had forever to finish the show. I am amazed how quickly a year came and went. In the darkened edit bay leading up to the show, Pat, our amazing editor, worked long hours in the final week. What a lot of people don't see is how much work he puts into every single piece of video. To keep him company, one of the two stuffed sockeye salmon toys I picked up a few months ago at the Bonneville Dam concession stand sits perched above one of the high definition monitors. I don't know what the sockeye is thinking – he's got an amazing poker face. But I get the feeling he's making sure we cross every T and dot every I.
In the final few days of editing, I got to see something new. In the last few days before the show was ready to air, Pat turned the low-resolution video into a high definition masterpiece. The process requires him to capture the video from the original tapes and disks a second time. We do this because HD video gobbles up huge amounts of computer memory. We only capture the video that we know will make it into the show in HD. It saves hard drive space for other Outdoor Idaho episodes that are still in production.
Watching Pat do this is something akin to a one-person game of musical chairs. He runs from one room, starts capturing video then runs to another room to start another tape machine working on another section of the show. He then repeats this process in a third room. We have more than sixty tapes and disks for this show. This includes aerials, scenic video, and historical archives.
I sure had a great time working on this show. I met some great people along the way. I'm convinced that almost everyone I talked to sincerely believes they know the answer and if only everyone else could see that.
While this show took me a year to finish, the problems salmon face will likely continue. But I remain hopeful that Idaho's salmon will be here down the road for my children to appreciate. Given what we know about their incredible life cycle, if we give them the chance, they will continue the long journey home.
The toughest part of producing an Outdoor Idaho episode is deciding what to leave out. When you take on a topic like the Boise Foothills, you know someone is going to be happy and someone is going to be disappointed. There is just no way to cover all aspects of the relationship folks have with this beautiful area. So many people worked hard to preserve these beautiful open spaces; so many people consider the public space to be their own.
With that in mind, we decided to take a stab, dip our toes, into an area we have long neglected. It is hard to believe that in 29 years, this is the first time Outdoor Idaho has focused on the land right outside our building. The first challenge to producing this episode came in defining what the Foothills are. There are the legal definitions and the public's perceptions. I decided to start with the geological reality. The kind folks at the United States Geological Survey tried to come up with a precise and concise definition of what constitutes the Boise Foothills and what constitutes the Boise Front, but to no avail. So I opted to stay within the general area of the "Ridges to River system." That space was certainly big enough to offer up lots of stories.
Along the way, all sorts of kind people helped us. Author Karen Weinberg and botanist Anne DeBolt took the most time, joining us for several shoots during 2011 to show us wildflowers through the seasons. Karen kindly donated several pictures from her wildflower book for use on this show's website.
Jennifer Stevens gave her historical expertise and even rounded up her running group for us to profile. Chuck McDevitt, Anne Hausrath and Judy Ouderkirk shared their memories. It is safe to say we would not have the Foothills we love today if it were not for these three individuals. Many more played an important part in the Foothills preservation, but these three were key. Julia Grant, Amy Stahl and the folks at the City of Boise and the Boise Parks and Recreation Department were all great. They offered suggestions, access and lots of moral support. I am especially thankful for the kids who also appeared in the show. We followed students in a nature class at the Foothills Learning Center and a class of young bikers learning to ride in the Foothills.
We ended the episode with a group of folks hiking into the Foothills to watch the moon rise. We here at Outdoor Idaho do a lot of moon chasing. There is something magical about the light as the sun sets and the moon rises. I have spent many an evening running after a videographer who wanted the perfect place to get a shot of the moon coming up.
On this hike, Jay Krajic, a very creative director/editor/videographer, joined me. We had kind folks willing to share their experience with a camera and a perfect evening for the shoot. Jay had to keep up with the hikers and still catch the beautiful scenic shots around him. I stayed to the rear, primarily to stay out the way, but also to take a few photographs. I included Jay in some of my shots because he was doing such an amazing job. I am very lucky to have such a talented partner working on this project.
In the end, we all made it to the top of the ridge to see the sun slip behind the horizon. We then turned to see the moon rise over the mountains. My poor photograph doesn't really express the beauty of the evening. There was such a feeling of awe in this simple moment. We were all part of something so ordinary and yet something so magnificent. That is what I believe the Foothills to be, something we see and perhaps use every day and yet, also a very special place to be preserved and appreciated. It is that spirit I hope we captured in this episode of Outdoor Idaho.
It's 18 degrees below zero outside. The river is slow moving slush. I have ice in my nose. I strap on snowshoes and start the internal to-do list. Keep the camera batteries warm in your armpit. Keep yourself moving to stay warm. Keep your gloves on for functioning fingers. The thoughts rattle around in my head like ice cubes in a cup. A cup I wish was full of something hot.
It's the longest winter I've lived through. It's the coldest winter I've ever worked in, but the result is stunning. It's a picture of frozen perfection on the South Fork of the Snake River as I follow two snowshoers into Idaho's prime winter range for the new Outdoor Idaho show 'Palisades by Season'. Extreme conditions showcase the area as a crystallized queen few ever see once the cold comes.
When winter withers away the nation's symbol of freedom flocks to the Palisades pines for spring nesting. Decades of research are behind the banded bald eagles in the district. I watch in awe as an eaglet is carefully handled while the parents persist with their rantings over our head.
The bald eagles are here for fish. So are the fisherman and summer is high season for fin flipping. The main vein of the Palisades Ranger District is the South Fork of the Snake River. The mainstay in the South Fork is trout. Floating and fishing the river lasts well into the huckleberry season and right on through the fading colors of fall.
The highlight of shooting 'Palisades by Season' is hard to wrap my head around. Is it touching the talons of an eagle? Feeling a fish take my fly? A belly full of fresh picked huckleberries? Maybe it's the honor of having the opportunity to enjoy all of those things while I work. I'd venture to say anyone would want to trade places with me. Well, maybe not when I have ice in my nose, but if that's the price for a pretty picture, I'm more than willing to pay.
Last week my colleagues and I laid out our plans for a full year's worth of Outdoor Idaho shows. It's one of my favorite meetings, and it always occurs in early spring, after the annual pledge drive.
All of our shows are collaborative – meaning each production involves a handful of people working together – but each show has one key person who is the caretaker. And I am so lucky that my talented colleagues still enjoy coming up with stories to share with us.
Joan Cartan-Hansen is producing an Outdoor Idaho show called "The Foothills," to air in June. We have been so intent upon showing viewers far-away places that we've never in 29 years examined the area just above Idaho's largest city. The talented Jay Krajic will be at the controls in the edit bay for this production.
Aaron Kunz, who works part-time with us and part-time with Boise State Public Radio, is producing a program on Idaho's salmon, to air in July. Aaron came to us, thanks to a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He's part of a consortium devoted to providing more environmental stories, and the salmon story is a good one! Our director/editor extraordinaire, Pat Metzler, will assist in the edit bay. Actually, Pat has already assisted by getting some amazing underwater sockeye salmon footage near Redfish Lake.
John Crancer, the lead producer of Outdoor Idaho, has several shows he's working on, including one he's calling "Horse Packers & Wagon Masters," which will air in September. John's health has caused him to cut back his hours indefinitely, but John is a fighter and we're convinced he'll be back in the saddle again, in time to kick out an hour-long special for next year on Idaho's amazing Byways.
Sauni Symonds is finally doing the show we've all talked about for years: a climbing show that will take Outdoor Idaho to the tops of some of the state's storied peaks. This show will air in October.
Marcia Franklin is putting together profiles of elderly Idahoans who still amaze and inspire. Her show, "Never Say Quit," is part of a series we've done over the years and will air in November. She's also working on a show called "Healing and the Outdoors," which looks at groups who utilize Nature in the healing process. That is scheduled to air in May of 2013.
Greg Hahn will cut his teeth on a show he's calling "Rec Tech," about the happy convergence of recreational technology in our state. This is scheduled to air in January of 2013.
Each of these productions has a classy web presence, thanks to Rick Penticoff and Stephanie Dickey.
What is gratifying to me is that all these people I mentioned have other assignments, but they take time out to help keep Outdoor Idaho chugging along into our 30th season.
Speaking of which, that's one of the shows I'll be working on: our 30th Anniversary show, set to air in March of 2013. I'm also excited to explore how the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is doing after 40 years. We'll explore this favorite area of the state in December in an hour long special. And we'll have some fun with "Rock Hounds" in June of 2013. Folks who chase rocks just seem to know things the rest of us don't.
All in all, not a bad lineup for a show that, in dog years, would be pushing 210 years.
Welcome to "Idaho Geology, a Convergence of Wonders," an hour-long show devoted entirely to a comprehensive exploration of Idaho's crazy geology.
For my money, it's the most complex show we've ever attempted. I say that not just because I find the topic to be intimidating. But, as I look at the dozens and dozens of tapes that director/editor Pat Metzler is digitizing into our Avid editing machine at low resolution (so as not to choke the computer), I'm convinced that no one else in his right mind would even attempt such a project.
Our tapes go as far back as the explosion of Mt. St. Helen's in 1980 and the Borah earthquake of 1983. And they include the aerial helicopter footage that colleagues Jeff Tucker and John Crancer brought back a few months ago; not to mention the footage we shot just this past week, of Blue Heart Springs near Hagerman and of Black Magic Canyon near Shoshone. These last two excursions alone prove that Idaho holds surprises for even those who think they know their state!
Since the days of Lewis and Clark, Idaho's geology has inspired and frustrated every generation. Luckily, we have geologists Bill Bonnichsen and Marty Godchaux, to walk us through the complexities of the topic. Bill is world-renowned when it comes to understanding the Snake River plain. And his wife Marty is a volcanologist of the first order.
We interviewed them for three days straight in various locations, like Craters of the Moon and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and asked them every conceivable question we could think of relating to Idaho's geology.
It may surprise you to learn that two of the world's greatest floods occurred here in Idaho; that there is a huge difference between the mountains of central Idaho's batholith and those of the Basin and Range province; and that the ancient volcanoes of the Snake River plain share a lineage with what is happening today at Kilauea in Hawaii.
"I can't think of another state that has anything better than we have here," stated geologist Marty Godchaux; and I wholeheartedly agree.
But we didn't just leave it to the geologists to tell the story. We also met up with hardy recreationists on the back side of Bruneau Dunes for some sand skiing. We dropped into Class V water with adventurous kayakers at Succor Creek; and we filmed rafts flipping at high water at Lochsa Falls. We met up with two of Idaho's world-class climbers at City of Rocks. And we took scuba gear into delightful Blue Heart Springs near Hagerman.
More than anything, we wanted to make "Idaho Geology" accessible to every Idahoan, from the highly educated to those just learning about how their world works.
The website for this production is one of our best ever. We have a section called "My Private Idaho," featuring our Outdoor Idaho Facebook photographer friends; and we have sections featuring some original work by geologists Bill Bonnichsen and Marty Godchaux, including a section on their favorite Idaho rocks.
Through this entire project, we have attempted to explore the forces that unite us, and divide us, and bind us together as a state. That's a tall order. And even though this show has been incredibly time-consuming, we realize we've only scratched the surface of this remarkable state.
All of the stories in this show have two things in common: adventure and grit. I came up with the name for the show after shooting a Skijoring competition in the Wood River Valley, where teams made up of a horse, a rider, and a skier race down a snow packed track over jumps and around gates, sometimes reaching speeds up to 40 miles an hour. It takes grit to do that. When I first started planning the program, I knew that I wanted to find winter activities that not only involved adventure, but daring and determination by the people who undertake them. Skijoring, heli-skiing, back country skiing, and ice climbing all fit the bill.
The first story we shot was heli-skiing. Outdoor Idaho did a piece on heli-skiing about 20 years ago, so I figured it was time to update it. With a blessing from Bruce Reichert, Outdoor Idaho Executive Producer, I set about to find a heli-skiing operation that would play with us. By play with us, I mean a company that would let us ride along on one of their outfitted trips for next to nothing, or at least give us a deep discount. We're not Warren Miller Productions here at IdahoPTV, so we look to the kindness of strangers to tell many of Idaho's stories.
Currently, there are only a few heli-skiing operations in Idaho, so the choices were limited. Since the story 20 years ago was done out of the Sun Valley area, I chose to go with an operation out of the Teton Valley on the Idaho side of the Tetons. High Mountain Heli-Ski partners with Teton Valley Lodge and Spa in Victor Idaho, which is a pretty upscale year-around resort. I couldn't get through to the Heli-ski company at first, so I gave the Lodge a call. They were very excited to help us out, and even offered complementary rooms for the crew. It would be good promotion for them, after all. The Lodge was a little more swank than Outdoor Idaho crews are used to, so we wiped off our boots and accepted the offer graciously.
Luckily, High Mountain Heli-Ski was willing to play with us. What we wanted to capture was the excitement of a skier and/or snowboarder being dropped on a remote mountain top for the first time. Jon Shick, the owner decided he could fit two photographers into the helicopter with two guests and a guide. The Lodge found the guests; now I had to find two photographers. They would have to be good powder skiers and be able to handle the shooting conditions on the mountain. It wasn't hard to convince Jay Krajic and Jeff Tucker, who also poses as our production manager, to get on board. A free heli-ski trip! You bet. Little did they know the challenges that awaited them. I was a little disappointed there wasn't enough room in the chopper for me. Oh well.
The winter of 2010-2011 was one for the records. Massive amounts of snow were dumping all over the country, and Idaho was no exception. Trying to find a clear weather window for flying proved tricky. The shoot was postponed twice, and then finally a small window opened. Keep in mind that we don't all just sit around and wait to jump in the car and go. Every postponement meant rearranging everyone's schedules, again. Our crew needed to drive from Boise to Victor, about 6 hours, so our plan was to arrive the day before the shoot so we would have time to meet all the players and plot out the next day. When we finally arrived late afternoon it looked like a new front might be moving in. (Expletive, expletive) Winter shoots can be especially difficult because of weather.
We all gathered early the next morning to assess the weather. Our trip was one of several scheduled that day, so about twenty guests had also crowded into the waiting lounge. Lots of logistics going on with paying customers, and a camera shoot to-boot. A weather postponement would make a lot of people unhappy. When I watched the sun creep over the ridge, I breathed a sigh of relief, but I soon found out that the weather gods were going to mess with us all day. All I could keep thinking about was how I could make a story out of this if nobody could ski. We couldn't camp out here for days waiting for the weather to clear.
As the guides closely tracked the weather on their computers, for what seemed like an eternity, the clouds magically parted. Here we go!
Winter is finally here. In fact, there's five feet of snow in the central Idaho mountains, as I prepare to pack in food, clothing and sleeping bags up a steep hill. Oh, and also a hundred pounds of television equipment.
Idaho Parks and Recreation has several backcountry yurts outside Idaho City. Banner Ridge is located more than 750 vertical feet from the parking lot off highway 21. The original plan was to hitch a ride at the bottom on a powerful snow cat used to groom the miles of Nordic ski and snowshoe trails. It would allow us to get to the top of the hill quickly and prevent us from having to pack gear through untracked snow.
But, when we arrived at the parking lot for Banner Ridge, about twenty miles north of Idaho City, the parking lot has virtually disappeared, buried under five feet of snow. At the same time, I was also informed that the snow cat that was supposed to give me a ride to the top of the ridge was out of commission.
Leo Hennessy, the experienced non-motorized trails coordinator at Idaho Parks and Recreation, apologized for the inconvenience. But he expressed confidence that with some pull sleds, we could haul the large camera, batteries, and tripod to the top in just a few hours. And he volunteered to travel ahead and break trail for us.
After using shovels to dig out a place to park our vehicle, we began what turned into a four hour journey, up a hill carrying our backpacks and camera equipment. I'm here to tell you that snowshoes are both a blessing and a curse. They allowed us to walk on snow. But they also made for an awkward climb. Every muscle in my body was exhausted by the time we reached the yurt. Luckily, we got there just ahead of a big storm. Of course, it snowed all night long while we slept in the warm interior of the yurt.
The next day, I woke up early so I could start shooting some exterior shots before we had to catch the snow-cat back to our cars. My first hour was spent shoveling my way out of the yurt. We estimated about one and a half feet of snow fell overnight, making it hard to even open the door of the wood framed, circular yurt.
But what a beautiful morning! An occasional rush of wind through the trees sounded like a snow machine. When the wind stopped blowing, it was absolutely quiet. The only sound was an occasional plopping sound as snow fell from the heavy tree branches.
We had hoped to catch the snow-cat around 11 a.m. at the trailhead. But when we got there, there was no sign of a snow cat. And our tracks to guide us back to the car were gone. It quickly dawned on us that we would have to hike back on our own, again through a new foot and a half of fresh snow. The only path was a line of posts to guide us back to the parking lot.
Again, we had to break our own trail. But we felt pretty good on the descent, considering our climb the day before. We managed to hit the road in just over three hours, exhausted, but happy to know we were close to a warm meal in Idaho City.
But dinner would have to wait. Our green Chevy Tahoe was totally buried in snow. We assumed that the snow plows also added to the pile of snow that completely covered the SUV. Sadly, it took us more than an hour to shovel our truck out of the snow, a reminder that anyone caught in Idaho's back-country will be subject to some rugged conditions. When the Idaho Parks and Recreation website says pack a snow shovel, make sure you pack a snow shovel!
Fortunately, we returned in good spirits and in good condition. Some of our video footage will be included in an OUTDOOR IDAHO show February 16th, appropriately entitled "Winter Grit."
Last Tuesday, Seth Ogilvie and I packed up the Idaho Public Television Chevy Tahoe with two cameras, a mobile light kit, a heavy-duty tripod for one of the cameras and a bulky, industrial-looking c-clamp that can hold a light 10 or more feet high, and we headed to an unassuming garage in Garden City to interview some students that we thought had received some money from the Center for Advanced Energy Studies - a program Gov. Butch Otter had touted in his State of the State as a successful way to build a better state economy over the longterm and a part of his new IGEM proposal (for Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission).
Turns out though, Greenspeed didn't get any CAES money, but since we had packed all that stuff over there and had just a couple of days to turn a story, we thought we'd sit down with them anyway and see what we could learn.
It turned out they were fascinating folks, and exemplified at least one aspect of what folks hope IGEM can do: build a new workforce of highly educated engineers and scientists with real-life problem-solving experience.
So some two hours later, we had some great interviews that we hoped we could use and the promise for some nice hand-held video they had shot of their attempts to break land-speed records in their hand-built truck. It would work for us, if we could find a way to tie it to IGEM in a way that was accurate and made sense.
The next day, we had two interviews on the Boise State campus, so we packed up the Tahoe again took another few hours, plus the time it took to ingest all that video into the computer editing system (a surprising amount of time, if, like me, you aren't used to it). Then, I took all the audio home, and transcribed the interviews until about 10:30 p.m. that night.
Less than 10 hours later, I was up and writing a script for the IGEM piece (even though we had one more interview later that day - another load and unload, and another two hours, plus getting it on the computer).
Then, finally, I had a little break. Seth didn't. That afternoon and evening he spent who knows how many hours in the editing bay, turning my script into a story. We got together a few times during the process, trimming up sound bites, smoothing transitions, recording my voice-over narration of the package.
Finally, by Friday morning, we had the piece pretty well in hand, and after some tinkering with the sound, the music, and some hard-to-convert video the Greenspeed guys had given us (a couple of more hours, when it was all said and done) – and we had exactly 10 minutes of our hour-long show in the bag.
That's right – about one-sixth of our first Friday night installment of Idaho Reports was built over the course of a ton of man hours through four days. If you are one of those folks who gets frustrated with the quality of television, at least know this: It is incredibly hard and time-consuming to do it right. It isn't all that easy to cover the Legislature as a newspaper reporter (I know – I did that for a decade before coming here), but I used to be able to pick up a phone and a notebook and get what I needed for a sophisticated story in a few minutes. Now that's just the start of a multi-level process. It's a fun new world – and I'm learning a lot – and I hope we can raise the bar here for legislative reporting on television.
For last week's show, along with our in-depth look at the IGEM program, we had an interview with Statesman reporter Bill Roberts about it and other business incentives being talked about at the Statehouse. We sat down with three key lawmakers to talk about tax cuts. We included AP reporter Jessie Bonner in our pundits roundtable with Jim Weatherby and Betsy Russell. And Aaron Kunz, working with us as part of a partnership with other public media outlets around the Northwest, put together a quick turn on the prospects for environmental and resource issues this year.
We hope we're putting together something that satisfies and challenges the already engaged folks who make up our base audience. And we hope we bring in a few new fans along the way. We plan to try new things, so let us know what you think works and what doesn't. I imagine we will accomplish some gems and some duds along the way . . .
I first heard about Writers@Harriman many years ago when I was at a musical performance and sitting next to Yvonne Ferrell, the former director of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. She told me she was working on the idea of a young writers' camp at one of Idaho's most iconic state parks, Harriman. Even then, I was enthusiastic about trying to produce an Outdoor Idaho documentary at the camp if it came to fruition.
The setting alone, at Harriman State Park, amidst Trumpeter swans, bald eagles, rainbow trout, and yes, grizzly bears, makes for fine television. But I also felt the stories of the young people coming together from all over the state would be compelling. Not only would they be learning about writing, a skill and an art I think is often undervalued, but they'd be learning about each other and themselves.
The camp was indeed organized, and after the initial year, I approached director Margaret Marti to see if we could film the next session. She said yes.
I had a great time for the week we were at Harriman. Margaret was both welcoming and organized (very helpful for a producer, especially when you're dealing with getting release forms from 35 parents.) The students were also gracious. It's not easy reading your work in front of others, much less a television camera. They were warm, polite and inquisitive.
They're unique, maybe even considered a little off-center in their schools, and that's cool with them—and me. These are teens who don't mind going without cell phones, call themselves "nerds" and who revel in a still mysterious outdoor game to me called "Ninja."
In their midst you'll find a bagpiper, a rodeo lover, a football player, and a budding activist with two mothers. What they all have in common is they feel life very deeply, and they're in love with writing.
Coming to Harriman gives them a place where they're not only OK, but celebrated. It's also a place where they learn they may not be the publishable writers they thought they were—yet. The seminars, taught by talented writers who use interesting "prompts," put them through their paces and force them to write, write and rewrite.
"I think that's the hardest thing for anybody to learn, is, "How do I revise a paper?" says teacher Chris Dempsey. "I'll be sitting with kids and saying, "What if we do this? What if we do that? What if you rearrange this? Do you really need this part? So that they can start to refine their own work, and realize that getting something on paper is just the first step."
Boy, do I know that! How I would have liked to have had a teacher like Dempsey edit me before I had to write for "real." How I would have enjoyed meeting other young writers when I was a teen.
That's not to say this project was easy. Videotaping the classes turned out to be quite a challenge. Videographer Jay Krajic and I found ourselves running from one part of the park to another, since the classes weren't always close to each other. And since these were groups of at least eight people, we couldn't put a microphone on everyone. Instead, I held the boom mike, with varying degrees of success.
Sometimes we'd get to a class just as one of the students we wanted to hear had finished talking. Sometimes they didn't want to share their work. Sometimes the instruction was too technical for television. Sometimes the class was inside and dark. In one instance, we lost power altogether. And then there were long periods where the students were just writing.
But those challenges just made finding the stories even more rewarding. I look forward to seeing what these delightful young writers do with the lessons learned at Harriman. As director Margaret Marti says, "We can hope for great things. I think we'll get them."
The raft trip in June was cancelled. Outfitter Wayne Johnson said the water on the main Salmon River was just too high. No one was going to argue with Wayne. He's been guiding trips on the River of No Return for thirty years.
The earliest the trip could be rescheduled was in September, meaning that the turn-around for our hour-long show on the Salmon River lodges would be a quick one. Everyone who's been on the Salmon knows the water is slower and the daylight hours are fewer in September.
Luckily for my colleagues John Crancer and Jay Krajic, Wayne Johnson was a great interview. He understood what was needed and he knew the history of the handful of lodges spread out along the river.
"Salmon River Lodges and Legacies" will air on Sunday, December 4th. But to tell the storied history of the Salmon would take many, many hours. There's probably no river in the West with a more fascinating written history, one that begins with Lewis and Clark.
In this pledge special, you'll get to meet some of the current crop of characters who call the river corridor their home, and you'll get a taste of what it's like at Mackay Bar and Shepp Ranch, China Bar and Five Mile Bar, and Whitewater and River of No Return lodges.
I envied John and Jay their assignment, hitting all those lodges via jet boat, raft, by foot and by plane. But, they worked hard and brought back some great footage.
My first encounter with the Salmon River canyon was when my folks took our camper truck out of Dixie and down a steep, rough road back in the 1960's, to meet Buckskin Bill. We got to his place at Five Mile Bar, thanks to his nephew, who hauled us across the river in a row boat. Unfortunately, Buckskin wasn't there that day, but we did get to tour his place. The imagery has stayed with me.
For those who have never ventured into the Salmon River canyon, this is a show you won't want to miss. And if your heart has already been touched by this special place, well, it will be like coming home again. We'll see you on Sunday, December 4th, around 7 p.m.
OUTDOOR IDAHO's first show of the 29th season, "The People's Land," explores our public lands. The show premieres October 20 & 23.
I've been a big fan of our public lands since I was a kid. A 50 mile hike through the Sawtooth Mountains when I was eleven sealed the deal. Since then, I've tried to spend as much time as possible on "the people's land."
But there are some folks who think Idaho has too much of a good thing. Almost two thirds of the state is federally owned and operated, with about 20 million acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and another 12 million acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
For the first show of our 29th season, we decided to go big . . . to tackle the question of what it means to have so much federal land in our state, and to do it in a way that is still enjoyable to watch. You be the judge of whether we succeeded or not.
The history of how we got so much federal land in Idaho is tied to the fascinating Teddy Roosevelt and his friend Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the newly created Forest Service. Together, they increased federal land reserves from about 40 million to more than 200 million acres. And a good chunk of that was in Idaho.
Many politicians in Idaho were outraged at the time, but today few are prepared to say that we should sell off our public lands. They understand that most of us have done the calculations in our heads, and know that our favorite hunting and hiking spots would likely disappear if the public lands were privatized or sold to the highest bidder.
But our governor certainly has a point when he says that we could all benefit if the state of Idaho were allowed to manage some of those public lands. The small rural counties, like the one I live in, are having a hard time because they have historically relied upon a share of the timber sales from federal lands, and there's not a lot of timber being cut these days.
"The People's Land" looks at an encouraging trend in land management, exemplified by the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, a group of politically diverse folks who are trying to arrive at ways to improve forest health. Sometimes that means more timber cutting. Sometimes it means more restoration.
We also profile a couple of district rangers and give retired forest supervisor Tom Kovalicky the last word: "Nobody is making clean water any more. Nobody is making clean air any more. Nobody is making land anymore, and what we have left is what we have left. And now everybody wants a chunk of it."
By mid-August, the evening and morning temperatures at Stanley, Idaho hover around 31 degrees. At least that's what the built-in temperature gauge on the green Idaho Public Television Tahoe told us. The air temperature was colder than the water in the nearby Salmon River and Redfish Lake, causing an early morning mist on the water surface.
Two photographers with Idaho Public Television and I are here to photograph the beautiful and often elusive Idaho sockeye salmon for a future Outdoor Idaho set to air in 2012. We brought two HD underwater video cameras and two standard HD video cameras to cover all angles during the two days we were scheduled to shoot.
Sockeye salmon were on the brink of extinction twenty years ago when just one returned to its natural spawning grounds. On this day there are 8 bright red sockeye swimming just a quarter mile from Redfish Lake inside the Sawtooth National Recreation area. Overnight they would swim into a trap set by Idaho Fish and Game. Fish and Game uses the traps to track, monitor, and continue their efforts to preserve the genetics of this federally protected species.
Mike Peterson with Idaho Fish and Game said most people believe his agency is working to recover the sockeye, but he says so far they have only been working to preserve the genetics. He hopes in a few years they can transition to a recovery mission and ultimately build a hatchery here at 6,547 feet elevation.
In order to capture video of the sockeye, we planted one of the two underwater cameras on the bottom of the stream to catch the salmon as they passed over the camera on their way upstream. The second underwater camera was attached to a long painter's pole so photographer Pat Metzler could follow their movements from the side and above. The water here is amazingly clear; we could easily see the streambed that's only about 2 feet deep.
Photographer Jay Krajic and I shot from above the water using polarized lenses to make the pictures just as clear as one can get. This is an all High Definition shoot using both tapes and newer memory cards to store the footage. At night we would back up the memory cards on a laptop computer to store and view the footage.
One difficulty with shooting with these underwater cameras is not being able to see what we are shooting. You hope it's getting the job done, but we wouldn't know until the end of the shoot. We did miss a few shots because salmon kept running into the camera or the camera would run out of battery.
Let's face it. We humans are not easy on wildlife. We eat them. We push them out of their winter range. We tend to take over, and we've got the smarts and the numbers to prevail.
So it's nice to know that there are folks out there who go out of their way to assist wildlife, in interesting and challenging ways.
Our eastern Idaho producer Kris Millgate came up with the story idea for our July 14th show, "Working for Wildlife." And she provided a couple of wonderful segments.
Deer tackling near Island Park, for example.
Turns out, it's a great way to radio-collar the fawns in a humane and inexpensive way, to monitor their winter survival. "It's a complicated process that takes hours of prep work in knee deep snow," explains Kris. "It's shocking to watch, but it's relatively harmless for the deer."
Another story that explores our willingness to work for wildlife is unfolding near McCall. Wolverines are one of the most elusive creatures on earth. Literally. They seek out terrain as rugged and fierce as they are. They weigh only 30 pounds, but they can walk back a grizzly or a wolf on a winter kill.
Researchers in Idaho have had amazing luck radio-collaring wolverines, to see where they go… and to see if they can co-exist with snowmobilers. Even the Idaho Snowmobile Association is helping out, asking their members to carry tracking devices, too. So far the evidence is that wolverines and snowmobiles do seem to get along. It's a multi-year study and will continue in the Payette, the Boise, and the Sawtooth forests.
Da Bears. Gotta love em, especially when they're cubs. Especially when they've been orphaned. And Sally Maughan of Idaho Black Bear Rehab loves her bears. She's had them since the fall, in a large caged area in Garden City. Now that Spring is here, it's time to let em go. Officials from the state of Washington are preparing them for their journey back home.
It's a bittersweet day for Sally, but she knows it's time. "I think it was time a few months ago!" she laughs. "I'll definitely miss them, but they are in my heart. Besides, I have the video."
If you know folks who have built a wooden boat from scratch, you already know how passionate they are, and how committed they are to the small details.
Pat Metzler, the director of "Outdoor Idaho," is just such a person, and he was the perfect one to work on "Boat Builders." Pat himself is an accomplished carpenter who understands how much effort can go into working with wood. "There's just something about the feel and the look of wood that nothing else can match," he says.
When producer John Crancer and Pat built our 2010 award-winning, hour-long show, "Wooden Boats, Wondrous Lakes," we were impressed. Little did we know that there was another show to be had in the unused parts on the proverbial cutting room floor. It took a few more interviews and a few more angles, but the resulting half hour show airing May 19th is a tribute to Pat's eagerness and persistence to tell that story.
"You'll see some of the earliest recorded boat builders in Idaho," says Pat, "covering trips dating back to the 1920's and '30's on the Middle Fork and Main Salmon. And you'll meet the modern boat builders, too, who maintain and restore these treasures."
In other words, there's a long tradition of wooden boats on Idaho waters. In the past we've concentrated on the finished product. With this show we shine the light on the ones who build, repair, and refurbish these remarkable works of art.
Aaron is one of the hardest working reporters we know. It was nothing for him to work the early morning shift as the radio host of AM Idaho in Idaho Falls; then drive to Pocatello to begin his other job as the political reporter for KPVI TV in Pocatello.
That strong work ethic will come in handy for a brand new venture we're starting this month called Northwest Nature Desk. It's a collaborative project with Oregon Public Broadcasting and Boise State Public Radio… an attempt to create in-depth reporting on environmental and science issues.
"I'm very excited to help lead the charge in working with this new consortium of public broadcast agencies in the Northwest," says Aaron. "The ability to focus on one area of reporting is a big reason I felt I had to be part of this effort."
And we are excited to have found someone who hails from eastern Idaho, and who, in his spare time, is a natural light photographer, a competitive target shooter, and a husband and father.
Certainly, none of this talk of a Northwest Nature Desk would have been possible without a multi-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Other partners in this collaboration are Southern Oregon PBS, KCTS-TV Seattle, KUOW-FM Seattle, and Northwest Public Radio & TV.
Expect to see Aaron on shows like Idaho Reports, Dialogue, Outdoor Idaho, NPR Morning Edition, and a host of other local, regional, and national news programs. He will also be writing print stories for the web and participating in a social media push on Facebook, Twitter, and other online applications.
Welcome aboard, Aaron. And thanks for all you'll do for us!
During our travels for Outdoor Idaho our crews have taken advantage of the views at a number of fire lookouts on high ridges and mountaintops. Of course jarring backcountry roads and twisting trails make reaching many of these lookouts a challenge. Add fifty plus pounds of television equipment and you have a demanding adventure.
So we knew when we decided to produce an hour long program on Idaho's fire lookouts that it would not be an easy production. Needing a sampling of lookouts from around the state we planned on putting in some serious miles on rough roads.
I was pleasantly surprised that the journey to a few of the lookouts we selected was not as difficult as anticipated. Heading up a dirt road west of Donnelly on a reasonable dirt road we were able to drive right to a lookout called No Business in about an hour. Built as a showcase by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it's one of the most impressive lookouts in the state.
Another reasonable lookout to reach was Heaven's Gate west of Riggins. While the road winding up to the Seven Devil Mountains is steep you can almost drive the entire way to the lookout. Of course that's if you don't go too early in the season. We were lucky to find another route around a deep snowdrift that covered the entire width of the grade. After finally reaching the end of the road it was only a short steep hike to an amazing 360 degree view that included stunning vistas of the high peaks of the Seven Devils.
There were a few other "drive-to" lookouts with impressive vistas but most of the lookouts we visited had higher degrees of difficulty. One of those was Coolwater, on a ridge between the Selway and Lochsa Rivers. As with most lookout roads it began well enough but as the miles and hours of driving passed the boulders in the grade just kept getting bigger and more menacing. By the time we were approaching the lookout our pace had slowed to a crawl. Whoever wasn't driving at the moment spent their time outside the car checking for clearance to proceed further. We finally decided we'd driven as far as we could and hike the rest of the way to the top. Here we found stunning views in all directions.
Northern Idaho provided another challenging lookout location. There our goal was Lookout Mountain above Priest Lake. We knew this was going to be another all day adventure so we got an early start from Cavanaugh Bay, winding our way along the east side of the lake. We hit dirt a short time later and then started the continuous climb upward. The road seemed to go on and on and with each bend it just got rougher. Finally we reached a remote trailhead. Now it was time to put on the packs and get all our television gear up the mountain. We were lucky some of the fire crew that helped with maintenance was headed up to the lookout. Distributing the gear among the group made for much easier hauling. And an added bonus for those of us who need a little rest now and then was that we had to pause several times for shots. With each stop the views overlooking the lake were more impressive. And when we finally reached the top of Lookout Mountain we were right in the middle of the Selkirks, surrounded by towering granite peaks. It's one of the most incredible vantage points we visited for this program and well worth the extra effort to reach this point.
There are a number of other stories about challenges getting to lookouts for this program but they're too many to mention here. But if you'd like to see more of the lookouts we visited for this program be sure to watch "Eyes of the Forest: Idaho's Fire Lookouts" on Idaho Public Television the evening of March 10th.
It's always tough to bid adieu to a colleague, especially one as smart and talented and energetic as Thanh Tan. For more than two years, she has brilliantly steered our longest-running local show, IDAHO REPORTS, making it 'must-see' TV for anyone even remotely interested in Idaho politics. And along the way she has produced some wonderful OUTDOOR IDAHO episodes, too, my favorite being "Eating Local," about Idaho's growing local-foods movement.
But she's leaving for Austin, Texas, where she will be the multi-platform reporter for the Texas Tribune. Politics is a contact sport in Texas, but, hey, the music is great, and I have no doubt that Thanh will soon liven things up in the Lone Star State.
Not wanting to weaken our other shows like DIALOGUE, we decided to move forward by trying something a bit unorthodox. We asked long-time political reporter and Statesman editor Greg Hahn to take over the reins for the next couple of months. Some of you may recall that Greg and Betsy Russell were our go-to statehouse correspondents for IDAHO REPORTS a few years back.
He may know next to nothing about a teleprompter, but Greg understands Idaho politics like few others do. And he's well respected among his colleagues and among those he's reported on.
When Statesman publisher Mi-Ai Parrish gave her blessing, she offered only one piece of advice: work with him on his wardrobe and his hair!
Easier said than done. Greg is not your buttoned-down kind of host… which we're hoping means only good things for IDAHO REPORTS and our viewers.
When you repeat shows as often as we do, failure is not advisable because every six months, it's Groundhog Day all over again.
That's why we spend 3-4 weeks in the edit bay on each Outdoor Idaho program; and that's after the shooting and the writing, which easily takes an extra week or two. We want folks to appreciate our shows, even if it's the second or third airing!
Some shows from the past year I don't mind seeing again:
"Eating Local" allowed producer Thanh Tan to capitalize on her love of good food and her social media connections. It paid off. A lot of folks watched Outdoor Idaho for the first time because of that program . . . and because of her 'tweets.' I imagine there are more gardens being grown in Idaho, too!
Another show that expanded our viewership was Marcia Franklin's "Let Me Be Brave," about Idaho's hosting of the Special Olympics. A generous gift from a viewer allowed us to send a handful of videographers out to capture the action. Without that extra money devoted entirely to that program, there's no way we would have been able to bring folks so much of the excitement of this world-encompassing event.
John Crancer's obvious love of the Owyhee desert paid off for us, with his exploration of the complexities of the Owyhee Initiative. It took eight long years for ranchers and environmentalists to settle on a solution. "Canyonlands Calling" captured their success in a way that makes us all proud.
Director/Editor Pat Metzler took "Flying Idaho," and made it soar, weaving pictures and words and music better than I could possibly have imagined. He also did it with "Wilderness in the 21st Century," "Wooden Boats, Wondrous Lakes" and "Wolves in Idaho." These shows are as strong as any we've produced in 27 years.
Jay Krajic's athleticism and skillful editing allowed us to succeed with "Hometown Ski Hills" and "Home on the Range." And my old friend Sauni Symonds reminded us that golf is more than a good walk ruined. "Idaho Fairways" captured some of the passion and romance associated with a game that is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.
As we proceed through our 28th season of Outdoor Idaho, it does seem like we're finally hitting our stride!
During this holiday season, we appreciate your support and sincerely hope our efforts have brought you some joy as well.
Here's something we've never tried before: airing two new OUTDOOR IDAHO programs back to back.
We've never done it because, logistically, it's hard to do. We always seem to be runnin' and gunnin', just to finish one show on time! Why compound this perennial problem with two shows?
In the past, we've always created just one program – often 45 minutes in length – for our various pledge drives. The trouble, of course, comes later, when we have to shoehorn the longer shows into our half-hour time slot. It's always time consuming and a bit painful; plus, it keeps us from producing new product.
So this time around, John Crancer will be hard at work on "Canyonlands Calling," about the remarkable collaboration that created six new wilderness areas last year in Owyhee County. And Pat Metzler and I will be in another edit bay creating "Flying Idaho," a tribute to this state's love affair with aviation.
Both shows will air Sunday evening, December 5th.
We're hoping the real winner in all this is the viewer, who will get two very different takes on one very special state.
If you want to start a fight, just walk into a rural bar anywhere in Idaho and yell, "We need more wilderness!"
It's always been that way. Idahoans have always been right smack in the middle of our national wilderness debate, ready and willin' to fight.
It was that way in 1964, when Idaho's own Frank Church carried the original wilderness bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate. It was that way with the creation of the 1980 River of No Return wilderness. And it appears to be that way with Congressman Mike Simpson's Boulder-White Clouds wilderness proposal.
Of course, a lot has changed in the wilderness saga in the last 50 years, including some of the players. Mountain bikers weren't around back then. Today they are a force to be reckoned with, and many of them would love to support more wilderness. But mountain bikes aren't allowed in officially designated wilderness areas, and that has many young folks upset. It has certainly complicated the Boulder-White Clouds proposal.
The recent Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness is a part of a larger resource package, suggesting that the creation of more wilderness requires a lot more collaboration than in the past and a willingness to satisfy all the user groups.
Earlier this year OUTDOOR IDAHO made national news when our cameraman was kept out of the Frank Church wilderness. The firestorm of protest from the governor and our congressional delegation resulted in a quick change of heart by the Forest Service.
But all this got us thinking… how have our views on wilderness changed over the years? What do we now expect from wilderness, and when do we have enough?
So get ready for "Wilderness in the 21st Century," airing October 21 & 24. It's the first show of our 28th season. And immediately following the show on the 21st, DIALOGUE will host a call-in discussion on the topic of Wilderness.
It should be an interesting hour of local television on a topic definitely worth fighting over!
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening - and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. ”
When I pitched the idea of doing an “Outdoor Idaho” about golf, I was practically booed out of the room. Ok, maybe not booed, but there were definitely some raised eyebrows. Golf? On “Outdoor Idaho”? My response: Yes! Why not? The game is an outdoor experience usually played in a very scenic location. And I knew that a large majority of Idahoans golf; so I felt that a huge portion of our audience would enjoy the show. I wanted to focus on the small town golf course, off the beaten path, rather than the larger well known links in the state. A golfer myself, I had played some very sweet little courses in rural towns.
Since Idaho is home to so many beautiful links, it was hard to narrow the field; but I ultimately decided to showcase courses in different regions of the state. I picked them not only based on the location, but because each one had its own unique characteristics. I stayed away from private clubs and looked for family- owned or community-operated courses. My quest led me to some not-so-typical links in the hinterlands of Idaho. And, of course, photographer Chuck Cathcart and I took our clubs along.
What we discovered, for the most part, were some of the friendliest people in some of the most scenic corners of Idaho. We visited Canyon Springs, set deep in the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls; Aspen Acres, nestled within a grove of aspen at the base of the Tetons in eastern Idaho; River Bend in Wilder, carved out of farmland near the Snake River; the Emmett City Golf Course, which shares space with an airstrip; the Orofino golf course, near the Clearwater River, home to some of the most gorgeous fairways I’ve even seen; and beautiful Mirror Lake in Bonners Ferry, where the community has pulled together to keep the golf course in the black.
These are Idaho Fairways. You won’t find them anywhere but here. They’re definitely worthy of being in “Outdoor Idaho”!
“On Wilderness” airs October 21st & 24th
“Flying Idaho” airs December 5th
It’s not often that two OUTDOOR IDAHO stories we’re working on converge so nicely. But it’s happening this summer with “Flying Idaho” and “On Wilderness,” two programs currently in production. That’s because there are two things Idaho has in abundance: airstrips and wilderness.
Idaho is one of the most pro-aviation states in the union. In fact, we have more airports and airstrips per capita than any state in the lower 48. And many of those airstrips are in the backcountry.
Bart Welch, the former director of aeronautics, told me that he used to spend a high percentage of his time keeping the 50 or so backcountry airstrips open. “Years ago, Montana had almost the same number of airstrips that Idaho has,” he noted. “Today, they have four open to the public.”
His point is that it’s a constant struggle, a constant fight to remind folks that pilots and airplanes have a place in the wilderness, too. It’s one of the reasons that Idaho pilots volunteer to work on backcountry airstrips, clearing brush and filling gopher holes. And it’s why the Idaho Aviation Foundation hosts “Wilderness Within Reach,” a program that flies the handicapped into places like Sulphur Creek Ranch, free of charge, for a weekend in July.
Craig Gehrke of the Wilderness Society told us that airplane noise is the #1 complaint he hears from his constituents. But in 1980 the only way to win enough votes in Congress to create the River of No Return wilderness was to ‘grandfather’ in the many airstrips. That happened also in 1964, with the creation of the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness. The beautiful airstrip at Moose Creek ranger station was part of the deal.
Our Wilderness show will feature a segment on the iconic Moose Creek ranger station. But earlier this summer, we weren’t sure we’d be able to show you this special place. We were told that wilderness precluded cameras. It wasn’t until the Chief of the Forest Service reversed that decision that our cameraman, Jay Krajic, got the go-ahead to land on the Moose Creek airstrip in an airplane, with his camera.
Pack trains and small planes seem to co-exist well at Moose Creek. And that’s part of the story we’ll be telling.
I always tell people one of the pleasures of working at IdahoPTV is the fact that producers get to pursue projects they are passionate about. In my case, I love food. I cook for myself. I cook for my friends. For me, making a delicious dish from scratch is incredibly therapeutic. I believe the act of sharing food brings people together and sparks great conversations.
So when I got the green light to produce an Outdoor Idaho about the local food scene in Idaho - I was ecstatic! Production began in the summer of 2009. Since then, we've traveled all over the state to gather video and sound. We will continue to put the finishing touches on the show right up until the July 15 premiere.
What does it mean to eat local? For some, it's a 100-mile diet. For others, it's sourcing food that's grown or produced within the region they live in. The overall message? It's about supporting local farmers, building local economies, and eating healthy, nutritious food that does not rely on lots of fossil fuels to get to our tables.
I was pretty shocked to learn that most of our food travels about 1,500 miles before reaching the supermarket shelves. According to food experts, Idahoans bring in about 98% of our food from out of state. If disaster were to strike, it's not clear we would be able to feed ourselves because we have lost so many processing and canning facilities.
In the course of reporting for this documentary, we learned there is a growing number of Idahoans who are passionate about reversing the problems that have become inherent with the food system, including rampant food poisoning and diet issues related to the prolific use of high fructose corn syrup and soybeans in processed foods.
Our crew had a lot of fun meeting the farmers we feature in the program. Their transparency and commitment toward sustainable farming practices made it easy for us to shoot some really great video of life on the modern farm. Janie Burns of Meadowlark Farm is one of the leading voices in the local food scene and raises sheep using organic methods. Mary Rohlfing of Morning Owl Farm introduced us to her flock of ducks. They are the cutest creatures! They eat the weeds on her farm and lay eggs. Josie and Clay Erskine of Peaceful Belly Farm grow dozens of various crops on their organic farm and showed us how community supported agriculture (CSA) shares are nourishing families every week.
To see what can be done with local ingredients, we headed to Hailey to meet Chris and Rebecca Kastner of CK's Real Food. They offer a seasonal menu, grow their own garden, and pride themselves in developing unique dishes that highlight the best that area producers have to offer. Idaho's Bounty, the online co-op, is using online technology to find new markets for local food and to distribute that food in the Treasure and Wood River valleys.
All around the state, farmers markets are becoming places where people can connect again. We met too many producers and local "foodies" to list here, so I look forward to sharing their stories with viewers in July!
What struck me about all the people we interviewed is how they are driven by business motives that are balanced with a sense of duty to feed people healthy, wholesome food using sustainable methods.
After watching "Eating Local," you may never look at your food the same way again! At the very least, I think you'll be inspired by what Idaho farmers have to offer - and wonder whether we're capable of producing even more of our own food.
Recently, “Outdoor Idaho” found itself in the middle of a controversy, one with truly national implications.
Two of our crew, Marcia Franklin and Jay Krajic, wanted to film a group of students -- some of whom had never been in the west -- as they learned what it takes to work in our national forests and wilderness areas.
The Frank Church River of No Return wilderness can be a wonderful teacher. It can give each of us a deeper appreciation of life. Sending in a camera man to shoot Student Conservation Association/Idaho AmeriCorps members working on trail maintenance and learning about crosscut saws was definitely part of the story.
But the Forest Service said no, and the reason the forest supervisor gave was a curious one. “This sort of filming is commercial and thus not allowed in the wilderness area. There really seems to be no grey area on this topic.”
Governor Butch Otter definitely wasn’t buying that one. Neither were Idaho’s two congressmen. And, according to both Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick, neither was the Chief of the Forest Service, Tom Tidwell.
Chief Tidwell got his start on the Boise National Forest. He no doubt had watched a few of our ‘beg-a-thons’; he also knew how this position would play in Idaho, and what it might mean to the success or failure of Mike Simpson’s proposed White Clouds wilderness bill.
On Wednesday John Miller of the AP broke the story http://www.idahostatesman.com/2010/05/19/1198930/ids-otter-takes-on-feds-over-wilderness.html.
By Friday, the Forest Service had changed course, issuing this statement. "After careful review, the U.S. Forest Service has moved to allow filming by an Idaho Public Television crew in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Nationally, we want to improve access, and increase public understanding of the importance of national forests, grasslands and wilderness areas. One of the ways we can do this is through the media. An assessment of current policy will be completed soon that will address the need for media related activities on National Forest System land."
If you know anything about the federal government, you have to be astonished at how quickly the Forest Service moved on this one. Personally, I wish my friends in the agency well as they craft their new policy.
But please remember this: "Outdoor Idaho" is definitely not “commercial.” And we look forward to documenting many more stories on the public’s land.
For another perspective see http://idahoptv.org/about/buzz.cfm
As I look through the waterlogged windshield, I conjure up a call from Mother Nature. On a gray day like the one I’m facing, she would say; “If you drink coffee, this is the day to carry gallons of it. If you don’t drink coffee, this will be the day you start.”
That’s what I’m thinking as we start the most memorable shooting day during the production of the Outdoor Idaho show Home on the Range.
I head up the dirt road and I can only hear one wail over the wind: “I want my mommy. I want my mommy,” with baby sobs in between the repetitive want. As a mom, I key in on the distress call and I know 4-year-old Ira’s day is matching the weather. Terrible.
Ira is the youngest of four generations on the Reid family round up. It’s a round up we want in our upcoming show.
We started taping the show in early summer 2009. We captured cowboys in every way from quick draw competitions and gun slinging shootouts to cowboy poetry and wild horses. We worked in sweltering July heat in the desert west of Rexburg and we drove for hours in central Idaho wandering for wild horses.
By early October, we had one video shoot left, but our beautiful open range roundup footage in the fall turned into a struggle to stay warm in an unexpected early season snowstorm — the kind of storm that makes cowboy coffee full of grit taste divine.
Outdoor Idaho photographer Jay Krajic tapes the pilgrimage by jumping in and out of the truck as I drive through the herd. Sometimes he jumps in for a ride to a new shooting location. Other times he just jumps in to warm up his hands. “These are frustrating conditions,” he says.
I’m sure little Ira agrees. His face is bleeding and distorted with swelling — the result of getting bucked off his horse for the fourth time in four years.
Eventually the cattle, their cowboys with coffee, and me with my crew make it to the final rendezvous point just as more snow starts falling. Even Ira makes it to the end of the round up, but he crawls in the pick-up, kicks off his boots and falls asleep with a fat lip long before the first cup of cowboy coffee is poured.
When we first decided to do a program on vintage wooden boats, I thought we would be lucky to have enough material for a thirty-minute show. I had no idea there were so many compelling stories about boats in Idaho, enough to easily fill an hour. As B.K. Powell of the Antique and Classic Boat Society puts it, “If they could talk, they could say, listen son, look what I did way back when. That’s the beauty of it. They have a story to tell.”
Wandering through boats shows at Payette, Pend Oreille, and Coeur d’Alene Lakes, we soon found that statement to be very true. Sure, the restored boats are beautiful to look at, and their lake side settings were impressive. But after talking to the owners of the vessels or those that remembered them in years past, we realized what an amazing journey many of the boats had taken to arrive at these shows in pristine condition.
Two particularly remarkable stories involve a couple of boats that spent long, illustrious days on Idaho lakes before falling into disrepair and eventually leaving the state…only to return in fully refurbished glory years later. The Hapike is a one-of-a- kind boat that was originally shipped to the mayor of Sandpoint, Idaho, back in 1941. Pike Moon and his wife Hazel spent years cruising Lake Pend Oreille in the boat and even took Bing Crosby on a fishing trip in it. We were thrilled when we met members of the Moon family and learned they actually had color film of the glory days of the Hapike.
After three decades of use, the then-deteriorating Hapike was sold to a collector from Hawaii. Another thirty years passed before the massive project of restoring the boat began. Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the refurbished Hapike nearly made it full circle, returning to the International ACBS boat show in Coeur d’Alene. There it won best of show.
Another incredible Idaho boat at that show was the Greyhound. The Greyhound was actually built right where the Coeur d’Alene resort now stands. We learned that before the resort, the Yandt Boat works operated for over fifty years at the site. Bob Yandt built the Greyhound there in 1921, and it soon became one of the fastest and most famous boats on the lake.
Like the Hapike though, it also fell into disrepair and was eventually purchased by a boat builder in Washington, who waited years before tackling the restoration. Yet again, another Idaho boat came full circle at the international show. The flawlessly restored Greyhound returned to grace the waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
These are just a couple of the boat stories we discovered during production of this program; there are many more. We met scores of people with a story to tell about their vintage vessels. They all were inspired by some aspect of the history, beauty or feel of these craft; and they all shared a common trait…they were passionate about wooden boats.
Hear their stories on March 11th when Outdoor Idaho presents “Wooden Boats, Wondrous Lakes”.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a more diverse group of shows. “Winter Play”... “Wolves in Idaho”... “Hometown Ski Hills”... “Let Me Be Brave”... “Wooden Boats, Wondrous Lakes.”
That’s our line-up through February and into our annual pledge drive in March. Where else can one learn about the ancient sport of curling; the management plan for wolves; the volunteerism that went into creating Bogus Basin and McCall’s little ski hill; the inspiration of the world’s Special Olympics; and the glories of handmade wooden boats on Idaho’s big lakes?
The Nielsen folks tell us that 31,000 viewers each week tune in to watch “Outdoor Idaho.” That number is trending up from a year ago. That tells me Idahoans have good taste!
By now you’ve no doubt heard that severe budget cuts await just about everyone associated with state government. And even though more than 60% of Idaho Public Television’s funding comes from folks cheerfully volunteering their financial support, the state does provide more than 20% of our funds to keep the statewide system humming along. State money pays for administration and upkeep of those five big transmitters and 42 repeater translators scattered across the many mountaintops of Idaho.
Idaho is a state parceled from many, wrote the author Vardis Fisher. And it’s certainly true that Idaho’s story is complicated by its geography and geology.
But it’s a story that needs to be told.
This month I hope you’ll agree, my colleagues have done a wonderful job telling Idaho’s story.
It’s probably a good thing folks don’t know how close we came to disaster the other day for the Governor’s State of the State speech. It was pretty scary!
No, I’m not talking about the funding difficulties we’re all facing. I’m talking about actually getting Mr. Otter’s speech on the air!
It took some herculean efforts on the part of some of my colleagues, like Jeff Tucker, Mike Studor, Ric Ochoa, and Craig Koster, to save the day.
We provide coverage for the entire state, but we are also the “pool” feed for about a dozen other television and radio broadcasters, some of whom show up less than an hour before with their own set of needs, usually involving a missing piece of equipment. Mike Studor spent a lot of time patching and re-patching, just to make sure everyone was getting what they needed.
Even when that goes smoothly, there are always communication problems between the cameras in the Capitol and our studio facility several miles away. As engineer Craig Koster explained it, “we’re trying to marry the Capitol’s stationary system for House and Senate with other services, requiring additional external cameras and external audio, and we don’t always know which feed we’re getting. There are just a lot of growing pains in this process.”
Growing pains indeed! At the Saturday Rededication Celebration, the National Guard supplied the radio communications. But whenever a walkie talkie was keyed to transmit, it caused a glitch in our digital video feed. Jeff figured out the problem about ten minutes before air time. About this same time, one of our video cameras started freezing up, requiring it to be re-set manually. To top it off, less than an hour before broadcast, the engineers learned they had to filter out several cable channels that were blocking ours, just so we could broadcast a statewide signal.
I’m happy to report that all’s well that ends well. The Governor’s speech made it on the air - and it’s now on our website, as is the Rededication Celebration for the newly refurbished Capitol.
And we live to fight another day.
We enter the new year with hope and some trepidation. As a production team, we’ve had some notable successes during the past year. Our signature programs – Outdoor Idaho, Dialogue, Idaho Reports, D4K – have produced award-winning efforts.
The 25th Anniversary show garnered Outdoor Idaho a regional Emmy. Dialogue celebrated 15 years with a wonderful hour-long retrospective. D4K produced a program showcasing its tenth season. And our longest running program, Idaho Reports, transitioned smoothly into the new legislative season, under the direction of our newest producer/host, Thanh Tan.
I occasionally tell my colleagues that these are the golden years of television for Idahoptv. We have been able to tell the story of Idaho in ways no one else has, thanks to the support of our viewers and of funders like the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation. The addition of social media has opened up new avenues, too. I personally draw the line at the Outdoor Idaho Facebook page, but some of my colleagues are using Twitter and YouTube for Dialogue and Idaho Reports.
Our occasional Specials – on Barbara Morgan, the Trial of the Century, Lewis & Clark, to name a few – have been well received and timely. We honor that opportunity to explore and shine a light on our diverse, fascinating Idaho.
In January we air another Special, this one called “Capitol of Light,” about the renovation and expansion of the Capitol. One character in the story, the original architect John Tourtellotte, seemed to still drive the story line. So we brought him back, in the guise of actor M.A. Taylor. Hope you enjoy the effort.
We also begin our 38th season of Idaho Reports in January, with a full hour each week devoted to the politics of governing.
Whatever the future holds – and I suspect it will be an uncertain one during these tough economic times – we want you to know that we appreciate your support. And we wish everyone the very best in 2010!
It’s been almost twenty years since Bruce Reichert and Sauni Symonds produced “Yellowstone in Winter.” We thought it was time for Outdoor Idaho to revisit this incredible part of the country.
Almost immediately, we discovered a new layer of complications. The National Park Service is now charging fees to “commercial” video producers. We argued that we are a non-profit, to no avail.
While the permit wasn’t prohibitively expensive because of our small crew, we also learned we’d have to pay to interview park employees or videotape geothermal areas. I yearned for the days when our crews had full no-fee access to the park and were actually encouraged to document its splendor.
Despite these frustrations, we gathered a lot of material on an area of the park we have never featured before: Yellowstone’s Cascade Corner. I was extremely impressed with this corner of the park that actually extends into Idaho. Of course, capturing its beauty involved many of the usual challenges of videotaping in the backcountry.
In addition to our food and personal gear, we also had to carry a heavy load of television production equipment. Horses helped on a couple of the segments, but if you’re using a pack horse to carry your gear, you have to unpack and repack every time you want a shot. That’s difficult for photographers who like lots of pictures. One other thing: there are no ‘current’ bushes to recharge your batteries in the backcountry, and your production can quickly end without power for the equipment.
For the winter segments we needed a special trailer attached to a snowmobile to haul equipment. It worked great most of the time, but we did lose the trailer once on a particular bumpy stretch and had to backtrack to finish the segment.
We have begun to use some smaller production equipment for some shoots but our larger HD gear still produces the highest quality images, and for Yellowstone our videographers chose to deal with the added weight of the bigger cameras.
I think it was worth it, they were able to record some stunning images of a lesser known part of the park. We also spent several days in the main park area so we could incorporate the overall picture into our program. Again, our crews did a great job getting shots of wildlife and geothermal features.
Despite the challenges, I believe it was worth the effort. We hope you agree when you see our most recent hour-long Outdoor Idaho, “Yellowstone’s Cascade Corner.”
As I prepare to roll out my first production for Outdoor Idaho, I can tell you it truly takes a team to get a fresh program on the air! Here we are—one week away from the adventure racing show’s premiere—and yours truly is nursing a cold and a case of pharyngitis at home. Bad timing, right? Well, thank goodness I have a wonderful team to help me out. Plus, the process of putting this show together started about five months ago.
We shot this program back in June. I started writing in July. Since September, I’ve left everything in the hands of our amazing director/editor Sauni Symonds. Watching her perform her magic on the script I handed her has been a wonderful learning experience. Under her guidance, I’ve re-written the script at least a dozen times so that the pictures you’ll be seeing match better with the sound you’ll be hearing from the adventure racers and our narrator, Bruce Reichert. I’m so excited about the final product. This is a fast-paced show; quite different from most other Outdoor Idaho programs we’ve produced. Sauni and I wanted to take advantage of the wonderful video shot by our photographers, showing the athletes in their best and worst moments throughout the race. Sauni spent countless hours looking for the perfect music. Because shooting a moving race is so difficult, very few of our shots are on tripods. That certainly posed some editing challenges for Sauni, but I believe it will make the show more exciting and put you, the viewer, in the mindset of the racers as they endure a plethora of challenges by land and water.
We’ve spent the last couple weeks fine-tuning the audio and preparing other important matters, such as map graphics for the final show and promos. I wrote a script for a mini movie. Sauni edited that three-minute project, along with a short promo that (I think) has already begun airing throughout the state. Right now, I’m starting to put together content for a web site we’ll create just for this particular show. I’m learning quickly that producing an Outdoor Idaho means you are involved in every aspect of the show, from start to finish. It’s been a wonderful journey.
Carter Niemeyer is an imposing man. Probably 6’5” tall, and you just know he could handle himself in a brawl.
I contacted him the other day, to watch our unfinished “Wolves in Idaho” program. If he didn’t like it, I knew we were in big trouble.
Carter Niemeyer knows wolves. As Idaho’s wolf recovery expert, Carter’s been in the thick of the wolf fight for most of this decade. He helped bring wolves into the state. And he’s killed more of the marauding predators than anyone in the West.
Lucky for us, Carter liked our efforts. Said he wouldn’t change a thing. Said all the players had brought their A-game.
I guess we could have ducked the wolf debate entirely. It’s one hot potato. Instead, we made it the first show of our new season.
I’m proud of the effort we put into this one, and of the folks who trusted us with their strongly-held beliefs. You’ll meet the first successful wolf hunter in the state; you’ll also meet the most ardent wolf advocate in the Sawtooths. You’ll hear from a sheepman whose family has been in the business for 100 years; and you’ll meet a hunter and former legislator who believes wolves have a rightful place on the public’s lands.
In other words, there’s something for everyone to love or hate in this show! But I’m hoping folks will come away from the program with a sense that all of these perspectives have some merit.
As Carter was leaving our building, he commented that folks really want to know how to view this new predator in the woods. He thought our show will help supply that needed framework.
That was certainly my goal in producing the program.
Welcome to our 27th season! And don’t miss the extended interviews on our “Wolves in Idaho” website.
Aw, yes. I’m pretty sure that’s what EP Bruce Reichert warned us last June, before we headed up to North Idaho to shoot our upcoming Outdoor Idaho program on adventure racing. To a certain extent, he was totally right! Shooting any kind of competitive event is rarely easy, let alone an adventure race that spans two days and 50+ miles in the wilderness surrounding Lake Pend Oreille! To pull this off, I ended up producing a crew of four photojournalists: IdahoPTV staffer Jay Krajic and freelancers Seth Ogilvie and Hank Nystrom. I was the fourth photographer, which should tell you something about our desire to be resourceful and save money! I am nowhere near as good as my colleagues, but I tried my best to cover the spots they couldn’t.
If you’ve never heard of adventure racing before, let me give you a quick description. It’s basically a bunch of insanely diverse athletes who navigate and orienteer their way through the wilderness using a compass and a race manifesto. There are sections of the race dedicated to either hiking, running, descending, biking, swimming, kayaking, etc. The racers have to find a certain number of mandatory “checkpoints” and can go for more points by looking for “optional” checkpoints. The team with the most points wins. The races are designed to last anywhere from a couple hours for beginners to seven days for the really good teams. As I learned through researching this story, Idaho has a lot of potential for hosting these races because of our abundance of natural resources and access to public lands.
In order to capture our athletes at their best and worst moments along the race, we had to make sure our crew would be situated at different parts of the course. More importantly, we had to find a way to get from point to point. There’s no way we could keep up with these athletes on foot carrying 30 pound cameras and tripods! Thank goodness race organizer Todd Jackson hooked us up with the generous men and women of Kootenai County Search & Rescue. For two days, they helped us stay on the trail of the team we were profiling, the Funtastics Adventure Racing Team. I’m serious when I say they went above and beyond the call of duty! They took us up windy, gravel paths in their trucks, through the woods on ATVs, by boat down Lake Pend Oreille, and delivered our equipment via dirt bike to the top of Chilcote Peak. For most of the race, our crew was spread out and unable to communicate (we were too far from each other for the signals to work and our cell phones had VERY limited reception).
If we include a blooper reel with this production, I’d love to show you an unnamed photographer slipping and falling—TWICE—while chasing after the racers through wild brush. Hank and I had our own adventure, too. As we shot video of the kayakers in the water, the weather did a complete 180 and turned from sunny and hot to thunder, rain and lightning! Being in a motorboat in the middle of the lake was the last place we wanted to be at that time.
Another little tidbit: we started our days at 5am and ended well after midnight on both Saturday and Sunday night. Though we were sleep deprived, hungry and finished with our production by Sunday evening, Seth insisted upon making one last attempt to run up a steep mountain for the sake of capturing some images of the racers reaching the highest and most scenic peak in the race. He pulled it off. Unbelievable!
I know I sound like I’m emphasizing the more painful aspects of this shoot. Overall, though, we were absolutely floored by the breathtaking views we saw along the journey and the determination of the men and women who partake in adventure racing. Watching them solve some very difficult challenges and witnessing the team work involved was worth EVERY sore muscle and challenge we faced. I love my job because it enables me to see a side of Idaho I may have never been exposed to. I can’t wait to share the final story with you all in November. You will be inspired by the athletes we follow and motivated to get up and explore Idaho’s amazing resources!
We’ve all watched wilderness video that, frankly, seemed pretty darn tame.
Well, you won’t be saying that about this footage!
Earlier this month, John Crancer and Chuck Cathcart joined up with outfitter John Barker, for a trip down the Jarbidge and Bruneau rivers. It was for a program we hope to air in 2010, on the newly-created Owyhee wilderness area.
But it turned into the trip from hell. It rained the entire time. Rocks broke free from the cliff, creating a new difficult rapid that ate one of the rafts. As Chuck describes some of the action, “I ran down the trail to see if the others were safe, and I saw John standing on a rock in the middle of the river. The raft he had been riding in was now wrapped around a rock.”
“The river was running fast and everything was crazy,” recalls Chuck. “I saw the second raft go into the rapids, and the oarsman was thrown into the churning water. My heart was pounding.”
Like many Americans, I had heard about the Special Olympics since their establishment in 1968. But I had never been to any competitions. When it was announced a few years ago that the Special Olympics World Games would come to Boise in 2009, it seemed like a natural fit for an “Outdoor Idaho” documentary.
On a visit back to Washington, DC, though, I met with representatives of the Special Olympics to learn more about the scope of the event, and I started getting a little nervous about covering it! With thousands of athletes from nearly 100 counties, how would I narrow down who and what would I feature?
Initially, I had hoped to follow a foreign athlete to Boise, but that eventually seemed impractical. I decided to concentrate on some of the Idaho athletes. We’ll include several of their stories in the program, as well as video of athletes from other countries. Editor Jay Krajic will work his magic on the footage, shot in four different locations and by nine videographers. I hope you are as inspired as we were by the tenacity and spirit of not only the competitors, but also of the families, trainers and volunteers who devote countless hours to helping the athletes achieve their dreams.
Snowboarder Alicia Paulin of Caldwell smiles after completing a run down Dollar Mountain in Sun Valley. Alicia, who is both cognitively challenged and sight-impaired, is a student at the Gooding School for the Deaf and Blind.
You can turn a lousy dinner of cottage cheese and crackers into a delectable dining experience if you crack open their portable packaging in the right place. In this case, Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge at sunset. I’ll never forget the symphony of wild sounds serenading our crew on that summer evening.
Grays Lake is one of the six National Wildlife Refuges in Idaho that we visited while shooting Outdoor Idaho’s new show ‘Seeking Refuge’ airing May 14th and 17th.
We used every hour of daylight to capture natural beauty, only stopping for a few minutes to eat at the edge of a pond. Naturally, those few minutes of eating turned into gathering footage between bites when we realized all of the bugs and birds singing around us.
Beyond birds, a few curious cows crowded our lens for face time and the carp at Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge displayed their fertile aggression. After decades of trying to keep out the fish, the ‘hog with fins’ as biologists refer to it, is still gaining ground.
At Camas National Wildlife Refuge, a fine southern couple from Alabama let us tag along for ditch riding. They volunteer as goodwill guardians, keeping Camas and its migrating animals in nature’s worthy state.
Farther north, Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge offers a change of scenery. This is the only refuge in the state with true forest-like characteristics rather than desert sage and marshland so common in Idaho’s refuge system, which also includes Minidoka and Deer Flat.
More than one year after shooting began, ‘Seeking Refuge’ is ready to delight viewers. And trust me on this—keep the volume punched high. The sounds are just as wonderful as the sights in this show. In fact, I’ll be sitting down with a cup of cottage cheese and a few crackers when I watch it in May.
A program about the Oregon Trail in Idaho has been on our "idea" list for several years.
We decided the overarching theme of our production would be a "now and then" look at the Oregon Trail. We would contrast the landmarks the pioneers viewed with what travelers see today when they retrace the same routes.
With the help of the staff and volunteers at Montpelier's Oregon-California Trail Center we were able to find five wagons and drivers and a couple dozen "walkers" to recreate the descent down Big Hill. We were even lucky enough to find a team of oxen to pull one of the wagons.
Organizing this large collection of people and animals wasn't easy. The team of oxen bolted when they smelled nearby irrigation water, fortunately stopping at a fence they easily could have plowed through. We also had two teams of horses take off with wagons, luckily to be recovered down the road with no major damages.
Big Hill is so large that even with three cameras it was tough to cover all the angles. The other logistical problem was that once the wagons started down the hill there was no stopping. It was tough for our photographers to stay ahead of the group to set up for the next shot. Though it turned into a real "run and gun" shoot we think we captured some of the spirit of that notable landmark.
We also photographed two other reenactments for the program, one on the relatively pristine eastern side of the Fort Hall Reservation and another at the annual Three Island Crossing Event. We hope these scenes and those from Big Hill will give viewers a better appreciation of what the emigrants experienced.
I know from my own personal experience and our photographers that riding in one of those old wagons is a lot rougher than you can imagine. It's easy to understand why most of the emigrants walked.
It's amazing how many different routes of the Oregon-California Trail there are in Idaho and how many significant sites are in our state. Between documenting the major landmarks, following the modern wagon trains, coordinating the reenactments and researching paintings and photographs, our summer calendar quickly filled with Oregon Trail assignments.
To see how it all turns out, tune in during our March Festival, on the 5th, for "Pathways of Pioneers: Idaho's Oregon Trail Legacy."
Recently a reporter from the Idaho Statesman asked me when I started working on the Winter Play program. She was surprised when I told her almost two years ago. Back in the summer of 2007, I took on the assignment to do a winter show that was "different." Winter Play is the result. I tried to showcase activities folks do in the winter that are not only fun, but also slightly offbeat. I hoped to show viewers something they hadn’t seen before or to help them learn more about a sport they thought they already knew. Along the way, I had fun and met some delightful people. Of course, a few things happen to us while we were shooting each piece, things that you won’t see on the program, so take a look at a few pictures . . .
Of all the sports featured in Winter Play, curling was the one I would be most likely to do. It looked like everyone was having fun inside the rink. While we were shooting it was 30 degrees below zero outside the rink. We managed to crack a plastic piece of the car door just by opening it and to break the tripod on the ice. Man, it was cold going in and out with the equipment!
We couldn’t have asked for a prettier day to shoot than the day we videotaped the McPaws Iditarod. Skijoring is an old-time sport, but not well known in Idaho. We were lucky to have help from the nice folks at Tamarack to get some great shots of Gracie running. Dave Butler, my videographer on this piece, faced one hazard I missed. One of the four-leg competitors mistook his leg for a local tree.
The North Idaho Trailblazers went out of their way to help us film their backcountry 4x4 run. Chuck Cathcart, my videographer on this piece, and I were in separate cars. I had a great time with my hosts, Bruce and Tara Gunnison, and we returned to the base before 5:00 p.m. but Chuck’s group didn’t appear. I didn’t worry for the first hour or two, but then I started to get concerned. Not only was I worried about him, but I also realized that he had the keys to our car. I was stranded until he returned. I attended the Trailblazers dinner that night and waited until well after 9:00 p.m. when Chuck’s group finally showed up. One of the cars in their group had broken down, and the first rule of winter 4x4ing is that you always make sure the other guy gets out. I was certainly glad when Chuck rolled in and he appreciated the dinner we’d saved for him.
Betsy Russell, Boise Bureau Chief for the Spokesman Review, gave me the idea for this piece, but videographer Chuck Cathcart deserves a lot of credit for actually having it in the can. The day he shot the snowkiters on the Camas Prairie, I was sick in bed. Fortunately, our featured snowkiter, Eddie Petranek, is a good sport and he and I went out for the interview on another day.
The Great Polar Bear
The first piece we shot is the last piece in the program- The Great Polar Bear Challenge. These brave, but admittedly slightly crazy people jump into the icy cold water of at Spring Shores Marina at Lucky Peak on New Year’s Day. They do it to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. While I have no desire to jump in, our Idahoptv colleague Kelly Hagans made the plunge. Check out his before and after pictures.
Bruce Reichert did a great job hosting the show and was a good sport about having the people at the Steelhead’s hockey team shoot pucks at his body. And I’d like to especially recognize the show’s editor, Sauni Symonds. Sauni worked for weeks and did an incredible job. It was an honor to work with Sauni, Bruce, all the videographers, and it was wonderful to meet so many nice people.
The Idaho Legislature is coming back to town. The big topic on everyone's mind this session? The budget, of course. Who will be funded? Who will be cut? From what I hear, no one is really keen on proposing new spending on "non-essential" programs. I'll wait for the session to officially start before I start naming off any specifics.
It'll also be interesting to see how the incoming Obama Administration and subsequent federal decisions will affect local events here in Idaho. Will we see any public works projects come our way? How will those projects fit in with the governor's plan?
Needless to say, we'll have more than enough to talk about on this season's Idaho Reports. I'm busy getting ready for the show's "double" premiere next week. On Monday, Jan. 12, we'll be covering Gov. Otter's "State of the State and Budget" address live. I'll have some really great analysts on the show who can shed some light on the meaning of the governor's proposals — especially in this tough economy. On Friday, Jan. 16, we'll air our first official show of the legislative session. I promise you it won't be boring!
On the aesthetic end of things, we've changed the Idaho Reports logo this year, and I think it looks fabulous. I am also opting for a slightly different format compared to previous years. Each week, we're planning to have a special guest on the show, someone whom I'll call our "headliner." I'm a reporter at heart, so I'll do my best to produce a story for each show that is focused on an important issue being considered by lawmakers. We'll finish off each program with a lively roundtable discussion. I can tell you BSU Professor Emeritus Dr. Jim Weatherby and Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review will be regular contributors. I'm also aiming to diversify the panel by bringing our viewers different perspectives from current and past lawmakers, state agencies, watchdog groups, lobbyists, economists and everyday citizens. I say we shake things up a bit and switch up that roster as much as possible!
The bottom line is I want to make Idaho Reports a gathering ground for thoughtful conversation about state politics. I'll always be wondering how we can make the show more interesting in a way that doesn't sacrifice substance. I figure politics is so fun to cover — why shouldn't it be something that is also easy for viewers to consume? That's why we're making a special effort to reach out and engage with our audience through social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'll be updating those sites several times a week . . . and I'd love to hear from you!
The return of the wolf to Idaho and neighboring states has been a bitter pill for some and a source of satisfaction for others.
Ranchers, avid elk hunters, and a lot of my neighbors from rural Idaho — these are some of the folks angered by efforts to return a calf-eating carnivore to the countryside.
But most of my city friends seem to have no problem with the wolf's return.
Frankly, I don't think these two groups will ever agree.
Maybe that's the best reason in the world for us to produce an OUTDOOR IDAHO show on the wolf.
We've hesitated to tackle an entire show on wolves, primarily because wolf footage is hard to come by. What isn't hard to find are angry Idahoans and passionate defenders. And of course, we can find the wolf biologists. It's those dang wolves that are so hard to find.
But in October of 2009, we will explore what it takes to live with the wolf. We're mentioning it now, in case you have a story or, better yet, some usable wolf video.
The wolf has been on the Endangered Species list, off the Endangered Species list, and back on the list. Who knows, in ten months the state of Idaho might again be in the driver's seat, as the ones managing the wolf.
It's a rapidly changing story, but one thing seems to be holding steady. Everyone I've talked with says — like it or not — the wolf is here to stay. So deal with it.
"Behind the Scenes at Idaho Public Television" with The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
When they started arriving 15 minutes early, we knew they weren't your ordinary "students." Indeed, most of them were older than us and had already received their college degrees. They also shared a common belief, that there were still things to learn in life, even if that meant going back to school.
Last week our Production team spent more than two hours with fifty members of Boise State University's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The group's director, Ellie McKinnon, had asked if we would offer a two-hour "Behind the Scenes" class on how television is made. We were happy to oblige. In fact, we've put together a photo montage of that evening.
Afterwards, Ellie wrote to thank us. "What a remarkable, rich learning experience you provided . . . What talent and experience, expertise and good humor you exhibited, and what respect you garnered."
We knew they weren't your ordinary students!
A program about the Oregon Trail in Idaho has been on our "idea" list for several years. It was a project we wanted to do at some point because other Oregon Trail documentaries have devoted minimal time to the Idaho section of the trail.
The impetus to get moving on the program was a phone call from the Oregon-California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho. They were hoping to work with us on a co-production on the Oregon Trail that would feature Big Hill, near the center and other notable landmarks along the trail in Idaho.
When we also learned that in the summer of 2008 the national meeting of the Oregon-California Trails Association would take place in Nampa, the decision to move ahead was finalized. A couple of other events during that same summer also perked our interest. There would be two "modern day" wagon trains travelling from the Montpelier area west. Most of these modern wagons have rubber wheels and contain all the conveniences of a small RV.
One modern wagon train would take the Hudspeth Cutoff and complete its trip near Burley in time for Snake River Heritage Days. The other would travel all the way across the state, first on the main Oregon Trail and then on the Jeffrey-Goodale Cutoff. That wagon train would finish their trip at the site of the national convention in Nampa. It appeared there would more than enough material for our program.
We decided the overarching theme of our production would be a "now and then" look at the Oregon Trail. We would contrast the landmarks the pioneers viewed with what travelers see today see when they retrace the same routes.
We thought weaving the two modern wagon trains into the program would help transport viewers across the state to many of the historical spots. The challenge was to document their journeys intermittently along the way without spending the weeks the actual trips would take. As in the 1800s though, our modern wagon trains weren't always on an exact schedule and finding them in the hinterlands of Idaho was often an adventure.
In addition to dealing with the modern wagon trains and other "present" scenes along the trail, we also wanted to give viewers a real taste of history. As in other historically focused productions, such as Lewis and Clark we opted for "reenactments." Of course, finding authentic-looking Oregon Trail style wagons along with teamsters willing to drive them was not an easy task.
With the help of the staff and volunteers at Montpelier's Oregon-California Trail Center we were able to find five wagons and drivers and a couple dozen "walkers" to recreate the descent down Big Hill. We were even lucky enough to find a team of oxen to pull one of the wagons. Organizing this large collection of people and animals wasn't easy. The team of oxen bolted when they smelled nearby irrigation water, fortunately stopping at a fence they easily could have plowed through. We also had two teams of horses take off with wagons, luckily to be recovered down the road with no major damages.
Big Hill itself was another challenge. It's so large that even with three cameras it was tough to cover all the angles. The other logistical problem was that once the wagons started down the hill there was no stopping. It was tough for our photographers to stay ahead of the group to set up for the next shot. Though it turned into a real "run and gun" shoot we think we captured some of the spirit of that notable landmark.
We also photographed two other reenactments for the program, one on the relatively pristine eastern side of the Fort Hall Reservation and another at the annual Three Island Crossing Event. We hope these scenes and those from Big Hill will give viewers a better appreciation of what the emigrants experienced. I know from my own personal experience and our photographers that riding in one of those old wagons is a lot rougher than you can imagine. It's easy to understand why most of the emigrants walked.
In addition to photographing the reenactments, we've interviewed a number of trail experts and historians to help bring the past alive. We needed their expertise to help us sort out the history. It's amazing how many different routes of the Oregon-California Trail there are in Idaho and how many significant sites are in our state. Between documenting the major landmarks, following the modern wagon trains, coordinating the reenactments and researching paintings and photographs, our summer calendar quickly filled with Oregon Trail assignments.
We now have much of the material "in the can" and are in the process of trying to figure out how to sum up decades of history, show viewers what they can still see, and explain why it all matters today. It may not be the extreme challenge faced by the pioneers, but from start to finish our Oregon Trail documentary will be one long journey.
To see how it all turns out tune in during our March Festival for "Pathways of Pioneers: Idaho's Oregon Trail Legacy."
Remember the movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth”? I thought about it the other day, when cameraman Al Moreno and I were 3,000 feet underground.
We were touring the Galena Mine in the fabled Silver Valley, outside Coeur d’ Alene, for an OUTDOOR IDAHO show called “Mining Idaho.”
It sure was a lot hotter and more humid than that 1959 movie said it would be! But the 250 workers didn’t seem to mind. They were just happy to be making good money again, underground.
Both Al and I were impressed with the sights and sounds, and the size of the tunnels underground. Large vehicles operated with ease, and there was enough air pumped into the mine to make breathing easy, even with the diesel-operated machines.
And the people we met underground were hard-working and eager to tell their story. They were definitely proud to be miners.
Back in the 1980’s, when the price of silver dropped, and most of the mines closed, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the Silver Valley a giant SuperFund site.
It was a designation that stung. But, as retired state geologist Earl Bennett opined, “Superfund was yesterday’s story.”
Earl was our tour guide. You may remember him from our 2005 program, “Silver Valley Rising,” where he walked us through “the sins of the fathers.” Today, he’s confident that those sins will not recur. For one thing, the Bunker Hill smelter, which poured lead and other toxins into the air, is gone. And now there are stricter regulations in place. “This is not your father’s mining industry. They want to be good neighbors.”
Many of the residents of Boise, Idaho, are hoping that’s the case, because mining activity near Atlanta could impact the Boise River, says Idaho Conservation League spokesman John Robison. “There may be gold up in the mountains in Atlanta, but the real treasure is clean drinking water, and it’s certainly more precious than gold.”
With the price of metals now at historic levels, “Mining Idaho” will explore the changing face of mining in the West.
It’s a topic that may sound pretty boring. But tune in October 30th, because we’re also going to feature a gold prospector, who will tell you exactly where the gold is!
The East fork of the South fork of the Salmon River, near Yellow Pine, claimed a good man, and a good friend of Idaho Public Television and Outdoor Idaho.
Bill Studebaker died over the 4th of July holiday, doing something he truly loved to do, something most of us would never do: kayaking arguably the most dangerous river in Idaho.
Bill was made for television. Warm, intelligent, photogenic, he was the guy we went to when we needed excitement or analysis and reflection. In fact, Bill was probably in more Outdoor Idaho shows than anyone else!
He was around the campfire for our 25th Anniversary show. He was around the campfire for our 20th Anniversary show. (He drove my ATV up to Hard Butte Lake for that shoot, and had to go over some rough terrain. Said it scared him more than the river.)
He read a poem for our "City Made of Stone" program, in 1994, at the City of Rocks.
He jumped into the rapids where William Clark turned back, on the Salmon River, for our "Lewis & Clark in Idaho" program, just because we needed someone to look like he'd been thrown from a dugout canoe.
He was the heart and soul of "Extremely Idaho," our February '08 program, as he and his friend Mike Copeland performed a wild kayak ride down an icy waterfall at Thousand Springs. Not once, but twice, for the camera.
And for a show yet to air, Bill kayaked down a snowy mountain in the Sawtooths. A group of volunteers got to see that segment last month, for our Volunteer Appreciation Day. They found it delightful and crazy.
That was Spill. Delightful and crazy. Warm and generous. And really smart.
It combined so much of what, to me, was special about Bill. A man who could make poetry work for him, as he talked about the lifecycle of the salmon, dying in the very water that gave it life, so that the logger and the truck driver could understand what was being taken from them in the name of progress.
Come to think of it, Bill could have just as easily been talking about himself.
We'll miss you, Bill.
This summer our small but mighty Production Team will be crisscrossing the state to bring you stories about wild fire and pioneers on the Oregon Trail; about underground mining and a 5th generation ranch family; about wildlife refuges and wooden boats. And even stories about dinosaurs.
Here's a thumbnail about some of them.
On August 20th of last year, the state was primed for another calamitous fire season. Folks were worried that 2007 could be as bad as the historic Great Blowup of 1910. Luckily, we did not experience the two days of hurricane-force winds that made the 1910 fire the nation's largest and deadliest.
Still, almost 2 million acres burned in 2007. So, what's happening out there? Why have things gotten so bad?
Outdoor Idaho will explore the new face of "Wild Fire" on Thursday, July 24th.
How many ranches can trace their lineage back 130 years, through five generations? Butch Small, a former rodeo champ, runs the Small Cattle Company near Dubois, along the Continental Divide.
You'll meet this wonderful family, along with a couple of "dudes" who pay to work at the cow camp. This program will air in September.
Gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper – these have been the staples of Idaho's mining industry for 150 years. Add to that list molybdenum, cobalt, and phosphate, and you have a mining industry that is truly statewide.
We will explore the complexity of mining today, using real-life examples from Silver Valley, Atlanta, the Thompson Creek molybdenum mine, the Smoky Canyon phosphate mine, the Rock Creek silver and copper mine on the Idaho-Montana border, and others. This program will air in October.
We'll relive that amazing period of America's push westward, as families risked everything to find the new promised land. Some of this has already been shot this summer, but many of the re-enactments have not, like bringing wagons down the steep hills outside of Montpelier.
We're hoping no one, including the animals, gets hurt. This program will air in March of 2009.
Continuing a tradition that spans a decade, this science-oriented program for school kids will revisit the popular topic of dinosaurs, this time by traveling to Dinosaur National Monument. Look for this program during the upcoming school year.
And be sure to check out the great website at http://idahoptv.org/dialogue4kids/.
"Can you pick up some mice? I have to feed the hawks." This was a strange request to get over the phone, but I needed a close-up of a Ferruginous Hawk and a Wildlife Refuge outside McCall had one. If sharing a ride with some sacrificial mice was what it took to get the shot, I was willing. After a quick stop at a local pet shop I was on my way up Highway 55 with a box full of white mice.
It was a pleasant drive, and I was admiring the Payette River when just before Banks, I felt something crawl up my leg. The mice had made their escape by chewing a hole in their box and were now scampering wildly around the truck. I pulled to the side and furiously began grabbing at the little white fur balls. Soon both hands were full of mice, but what to do now? I had to let them go while I found something to hold them. I finally got all 12 excited rodents in a plastic box, made it to McCall, and got the shot.
Who knew producing a bird show was so dangerous?
Surviving marauding mice was just one of the adventures I had while producing "Birders, Banders and Binoculars" for OUTDOOR IDAHO. It is a program about people who study, watch and - most of all - love birds. While making this program, I had the pleasure of meeting many people who have a passion for wildlife and the natural world. This program is my attempt to share that passion with a larger audience.
The Northern Saw Whet is not rare or particularly hard to catch except when OUTDOOR IDAHO cameras are around. Videographer Jay Krajic and I spent three nights in the Boise Foothills trying to get video of the capture and banding of an owl. The first two nights we stayed at the Idaho Bird Observatory until almost five in the morning, with no luck, just to be told that they caught one just after we left.
On the third night I was ready to give up, but Jay is a real trooper and wanted to give it one more chance. Sure enough, they caught one! If you listen closely to the audio during this segment you might hear me jumping up and down with excitement!
Idaho has lots of hummingbirds. I spent a day at the beautiful Rudeen ranch just south of American Falls and shot video of people banding the tiny birds. It was a special shoot with very friendly people, great lighting, and the largest number of hummingbirds I have ever seen in one place at one time.
Bird watching is said to be the most popular outdoor activity in the US. I was very fortunate to spend some of my summer bird-watching through the lens of a video camera, near the Foothills Center on 8th Street in Boise. It took a while for the birds to get used to me, but eventually they came around. A lot of those shots made it into the bird watching segment, and some of them have real meaning for me. You just had to be there!
Birds are in trouble across the globe, and I admit to an ulterior motive for making this program. Birds have meaning for us both spiritually and environmentally, and we should listen to what they have to say.
Wading into the energy debate is a scary proposition. It’s soooo confusing.
But there are some things we know. It’s
better for a nation to be energy independent than to be beholden to others. And,
There’s another thing I have learned in the
past few weeks.
Take wind power, for example.
Drive twenty minutes south of
I really thought I’d find them noisy and a distasteful blight on the environment. Instead, my cameraman Norm Nelson and I found them compelling and fascinating. We felt like we were looking at the future of energy in the West. Supposedly, there are plans to plant many more turbines in that area. I say Hurray!
Geothermal energy is also a big alternative
energy source. But to see the plant, you have to drive about 50 miles off the
interstate, into the
In the 1980’s the U.S. Department of Energy located 300 degree water under ground--more than a mile under ground. At that temperature, geothermal energy becomes a viable operation.
The 300 degree water flows through pipes, from the source to the site, where it heats isopentane, turning it from liquid to gas. Scientists discovered that isopentane, which is similar to butane in cigarette lighters, flashes to a gas at much lower temperatures than does water.
"We're able to superheat that gas and run it through a turbine at much lower temperatures than you would with steam, and so then we run the turbine, it drives the generator, that produces electricity," says Chris Harriman, plant manager for U.S. Geothermal.
If handled properly, this source of green energy could eventually generate forty, maybe even 100 megawatts of steady power, the kind engineers call base load power. That's power available 24 hours a day, regardless of whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
In our program “Powered by Nature,” we
look at geothermal, as well as wind and solar. Unfortunately, solar energy is
only now becoming commercially viable in
But as Paul Kjellander,
Kjellander says, “regardless of what generation resource you want to bring to market, you have to have the transmission capacity to move it.”
Right now that does seem to be the
main drawback with alternative energy sources in
The show aired. The phones rang, and the balloons popped. Another Pledge Drive has ended. OUTDOOR IDAHO's contribution this year was a 90 minute program, celebrating 25 years of service to the citizens of Idaho. It was a show that really seemed to connect with viewers.
"A great show. I love you guys. You make Idaho come alive," emailed John Freemuth.
Chris Harris wrote us: "I love Outdoor Idaho. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
"What a great show! AND y'all obviously had fun putting it together," emailed Diane Ronayne. "Thanks for going through everything you had to go through to make that show happen. It's truly valuable in so many ways, and the documentary footage of both people and places will become even more valuable over time. P.S. The hat piece was priceless!"
"I don't know the composers or the artists that sing these songs on Outdoor Idaho," wrote Jim Weaver, "but they are the most beautiful songs I've heard. And, I dearly love Outdoor Idaho! It gets better every year."
Jim Weatherby wrote, "Dana and I really enjoyed your Outdoor Idaho special. What a rich and rewarding career doing those extraordinary shows. Congratulations and best wishes for the next 25!"
"When I was watching your show," wrote Curt Henson, "I started thinking, when do I feel the most joy and happiness in my life? It's when I'm in the great Idaho Outdoors! I would like to find out how to become a part of Outdoor Idaho in any capacity."
John Bertram wrote, "Idaho thanks you for 25 years of discovery and adventure. Thanks for giving Idahoans a lifetime of places to seek out and hopefully provide stewardship."
"Enjoyed it very much!! especially the scene with the nibbling horse!!!" emailed Beth Pederson, of the musical duo Beth & Cinde.
Ann Couch emailed, "This is SUCH a BEAUTIFULLY done program - you are the best! Have watched the 25th anniversary show twice."
Marty Peterson sent this note: "So Barb and I had settled in to watch the 25 years special on our new 42" HDTV and when you came on the screen, I said "You know, Swisher hates Bruce's hats" before anything was mentioned about your hats. And sometime later the Swisher video appears. Funniest moment of the week at our place."
And one more.
Musician Curtis Stigers, who wrote a song for our 25th show, sent us this note. "We were glued to every frame, every moment of the show. It was funny, charming, interesting, entertaining, and, most of all, emotionally moving. I must cop to having been moved to tears at least 5 times and choked up quite a few more. The editing, the new interviews and commentaries, the blasts from the past: all wonderful. My favorites: your hats and Jeff Tucker as a bright-eyed teenager.
"What a terrific show. I couldn't be more proud to be part of it. Thank you so much for asking me to contribute my music. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of the anniversary of a show that is such an important part of Idaho. Vive le Outdoor Idaho! Here's to 25 more years! I hope you'll include me in the 50th anniversary."
It was a moment unlike any videographer Jay Krajic and I had experienced during the past year of filming Barbara Morgan. Here she was, in a classroom, without any other cameras besides ours, and no NASA handlers to move her along. And most importantly, Barbara Morgan was at ease. She was at home.
Finally back in McCall, four months after finishing her 13-day journey into space, the former Idaho teacher had a full schedule of community events to attend in her honor. But before heading to a packed school assembly at McCall Elementary, she stopped off at a preschool classroom.
There, she found half a dozen children ready to entertain her as they danced to a song about astronauts called “Floatin’ in the Bathtub.” As they “floated” around the classroom, their arms held out by their sides like wings, Morgan laughed and clapped along.
Then a child told Morgan she wanted to show her a photo on the computer. It was a picture of Morgan in her spacesuit, during a launch practice. “You want to know something really funny?” she told the rapt children, who had crowded around the computer. “You know what I have inside my suit? You know what I’m wearing?” She whispered the answer.
“She said a diaper!” exclaimed the teacher.
“Pretty silly, huh?” said Morgan. You guys got rid of your diapers and I have to wear a diaper!”
The children giggled and looked up with a mixture of confusion and awe at this real life astronaut who all of the sudden was acting like she could have been one of their babysitters.
Then, just as quickly as she had entered the classroom, Morgan was on to her next appearance, which, like almost all of her prior ones, was in a cavernous, dark gymnasium ill-suited for filming. But Jay and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had video that was a “keeper,” a moment that not only showed Mission Specialist Barbara Morgan, but teacher and mom Barbara Morgan.
It was a moment a long time in coming. You see, I knew Barbara Morgan had a wry sense of humor. I’d seen it over the years in off-camera moments, and heard about it from her friends and colleagues. But the opportunities to film her had been so staged over the past few years it was hard to see the real Barbara.
From the beginning, she and her husband Clay kept their home life, including their children, off-limits to the press, for understandable reasons. So we were reliant on NASA to schedule time with her. That time, when granted, was heavily controlled. At least one of my interviews was conducted with a NASA employee holding a stopwatch behind me, allowing me six minutes and 30 seconds. The strain of preparing for a mission, and doing multiple interviews back-to-back, was often evident in Morgan’s face and voice. At times, her answers seemed rehearsed, without much emotion.
Morgan’s formal press events were a sea of reporters and flashing cameras. Occasionally she’d have a personal moment with a student, but it still seemed artificial with all the press crowded around her.
But in McCall, Morgan was free to allow more aspects of her personality to come alive. For instance, she’s known among her friends for running late, and she lived up to that reputation, staying long after events to chat with friends who had come from far and wide to see her. When she was given a key to the city of McCall, she joked that maybe it opened up a local bar. She invited us into the lunchroom at the elementary school as she and a few teachers munched on sandwiches. And she hammed it up with the preschoolers, who of course had no idea that astronaut diapers had been in the news lately.
In an hour-long documentary that has to span 22 years, Jay and I obviously can’t include all of those moments in our documentary, “Barbara Morgan: No Limits.” But we get a smile every time we see that footage of Barbara in the preschool--relaxed, happy, and best of all, safely back on earth, sharing a secret (giggle?) with some of her biggest four-year old fans.
You know you’re not a spring chicken anymore when you’re working on a show celebrating its 25th anniversary.
That’s right. A quarter of a century for OUTDOOR IDAHO. Not bad for a program that the show’s creators, Peter Morrill and Royce Williams, predicted would last maybe five years, if it was lucky.
Well, the show has been lucky. It started out in 1983 as a co-production of the Dept of Fish & Game, and IdahoPTV. Within five years, Peter and Royce had gone on to other things, but the show had found its niche.
My personal involvement in the show was completely accidental. The original host, Doug Copsey, had a commitment he couldn’t get out of, and they needed a fill-in host for one month. That was in 1985, and the stand-ups were shot at Bruneau Sand Dunes. I remember, because I wore my cowboy boots. Not my smartest move.
But by April of 1986, Peter and Royce had apparently forgotten that incident and gave me the job. The show was shot at Jump Creek, where I proceeded to get such a bad case of poison ivy in my eyes, that even my neighbors didn’t recognize me. (Contac lenses and poison ivy don’t go well together, I discovered.)
In 1990, Fish & Game decided to start its own program, “Incredible Idaho,” and Idaho Public Television became the sole producer of OUTDOOR IDAHO.
Fast forward to 2008. We’ve seen a lot of territory, my colleagues and I. And now the task is to let the viewing public in on some of the behind-the-scenes antics of the past 25 years. Luckily, they’re giving us 90 minutes to tell our stories.
We're dividing the show into four distinct sections: History, Issues, Favorite Stories, and People.
I hope you can catch the show, Thursday, March 6th, at 7 p.m. Mtn. It’s not every day that a television program reaches the quarter century mark.
Over the years we’ve produced dozens of programs that have involved hiking, rafting, horseback riding, cross country skiing and other types of non-motorized recreation. And while many people really enjoy those kinds of activities, a big slice of the population prefers the advantages a powerful machine can provide. This type of travel has been growing so rapidly we thought it was time to find out what’s fueling the popularity of motorized recreation in Idaho.
One thing motorized and non-motorized users seem to have in common is that they both love the Idaho landscape. Sure, there’s some controversy about where motorized use is appropriate and there’s an ongoing discussion about how to lessen the impacts of machines. But those discussions are happening both inside and outside of the motorized community. We found that in addition to regulations and educational campaigns by land managers, the various motorized clubs are also an important tool in helping to promote respect and responsible use of public lands.
For the program we decided to feature several different kinds of clubs and activities from around the state; jetboaters on the Main Salmon, snowmobilers in the Bear Lake area, dirt bikers in the forests north of Stanley, and sand rail drivers on the Saint Anthony Dunes. Each shoot had its own individual challenges and logistics.
On the dirt bike shoot we tried to follow our group along one of Idaho’s many back roads as much as we possibly could. This particular road was definitely better suited for dirt bikes and atvs because about half way through our shoot day we blew out a tire on a sharp downed tree along the edge of the road. Another tire change was nothing new for an Outdoor Idaho production, but instead of pressing our luck with no remaining spare tire we piled our equipment onto the back of a couple of atvs and were fortunately able to complete the segment. Later that evening we drove our vehicle back to the pavement without further incident.
There was no way to drive through the snow covered mountains near Bear Lake in winter, so getting our cameras into the forest for the snowmobile shoot required some special equipment. With the help of the Idaho State Parks department we were able to attach a sled to the back of one of the snowmobiles. The large sled made it possible to get our camera equipment into the backcountry to record some great winter scenes. The only glitch along the way was actually keeping the sled attached to the snowmobile. On a few of the rougher patches of trail our sled full of equipment worked it’s way loose and was left behind for a moment. A little baling wire and a few other adjustments over the course of the day put us back in business and it wasn’t long before we were able to complete our assignment.
The Saint Anthony Dunes were another location with tricky logistics for our crew and equipment. With most of the various sand machines assembled for the drive into the dunes, we were having a hard time figuring out where to put our large camera box and other assorted television equipment. There just isn’t a lot of room in most of those machines beyond the seats and the motors. Luckily the four seated sand car we had hoped for finally arrived. It had just enough space to squeeze in our two crew members and most of the equipment. Fastening and unfastening the elaborate seat belt system and keeping the swirling sand out of our eyes and cameras were among the other challenges of a day on the dunes.
The jet boats were probably the best machines for carrying our load of television equipment. These boats are used to hauling enormous amounts of supplies, so a couple more big boxes and a tripod weren’t much of a problem. There were, however, other challenges, like keeping a close eye on upcoming rapids. We wanted our photographer who was standing in the boat videotaping to stay in the boat during the jarring bounces. Getting steady shots of bighorn sheep on shore while rocking in the river wasn’t easy either. Yet aside from the jolts in the rougher water, it was a pretty smooth way to journey along the Main Salmon River.
While motorized might not be everyone’s ideal way to travel into the backcountry, we could see some of the advantages these machines can provide. If all motorized users emphasized safety and responsible stewardship as much as the groups we encountered, some of the controversy surrounding these kinds of activities might be reduced.
Clarence Darrow joined us. So did James Hawley and William Borah, along with labor leader "Big Bill" Haywood and dynamiter Harry Orchard.
Trying to resurrect the past can be a fool's game. But it's what we tried to do with our new production, "Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century."
Perhaps you've heard of the story. Briefly put, class warfare had raised its ugly head more than 100 years ago. Mine owners vs. mine workers. A former governor was murdered, blown apart, when he opened the gate to his home one cold December evening.
A trial ensued. The star witness was the man who set the dynamite, Harry Orchard. He had repented of his evil ways and pinned the blame on the leaders of a violent labor organization.
The state kidnapped "Big Bill" Haywood from Denver and brought him to Idaho to stand trial for the murder of former governor Frank Steunenberg. That's where Clarence Darrow comes in. He defended Haywood. The prosecutors were the two best attorneys in Idaho, James Hawley and William Borah.
For five days in May of 2007, our actors brought the past to life, in a way you'll have to see to believe. Our show airs statewide Thursday, November 15th and Sunday, December 2nd.
There's a lot that has improved in 100 years, no question about that. But one thing that has not improved is the oratory. They knew how to talk back then! And you'll get to hear Clarence Darrow and William Borah deliver their powerful lines, because we went back to the original transcripts of the trial.
Darrow pleading, "These men and these women and these little children, the poor, the weak and the suffering of the world, will stretch out their hands to this jury and implore you to save Bill Haywood's life."
And Borah, in his closing argument: "I saw Idaho dishonored and disgraced. I saw murder. No, not murder. A thousand times worse than murder. I saw anarchy wave its first bloody triumph in Idaho."
Even today, the closing arguments of the four main attorneys - Hawley, Richardson, Darrow, Borah - leave you with a profound respect for the passion and the power they evoked, here in Idaho, 100 years ago this year.
I had crawled and slithered through tight passages, through rat droppings, through bat droppings and I was sitting in a small, dark, cold spot, about a mile and a half into a cave under Idaho thinking, "This is why I got into television?"
We're working on an Outdoor Idaho program called "Extremely Idaho." The idea is to check out some of the so-called "extreme" sports in Idaho. First up; spelunking.
In Twin Falls, videographer Jay Krajic and I met the guys from the Silver Sage Grotto, part of the College of Southern Idaho's Outdoor program. We followed them about an hour out of town to a hole in the middle of the sage brush. And then we followed them into the hole. And then we got down on our hands and knees and crawled after them deeper into the hole. And then we were following them on our bellies slithering through dust and the excrement of various cave-dwellers even deeper into the hole. The things I do for our viewers.
Once we got in a ways things opened up. They really opened up. You could have driven a train through some of the passages. But then we'd wind our way along for awhile and be back on our knees . . . then back on our stomachs sucking dust and . . . well . . . you know.
Chris Anderson, a die-hard caver who was leading our group talked about how this cave is the second longest lava tube in the lower 48. "And see the bats? That means it's a healthy cave." The fact that bats are thriving means that people aren't wrecking the place. When too many people visit a cave the bats are disturbed, sometimes can't hibernate, and die off. So it's good to know that we were in a healthy, bat-rich environment. You should actually be able to see them in the show when it airs this winter.
It was an interesting experience, although I can't say I was bitten by the caving bug. It's a very different experience from the other crazy things I've done while working on Outdoor Idaho. For one thing, it is a true wilderness experience. I mean this in the sense that there is no evidence of human presence. Even in the deepest jungles and forests, even on the highest mountain peaks you find trash, you see the contrails of jetliners. But here, underground, there's just dust and rock and . . . droppings. All things that have been here since the lava roared through and carved the tubes ages ago.
One note to potential spelunkers: do not over-hydrate yourself while caving. Chris politely explained to us to do whatever we needed to do before entering the cave because all kinds of waste, especially human waste, are forbidden in the caves. Now, we were in there for over six hours. Toward the end some of our group was gettin' pretty anxious to get back out into the daylight and find a quiet place for a comfort stop. That's all I'll say.
The next shoot for this program was the Snake River, just outside of Glenns Ferry. Videographer Alberto Moreno and I hooked up with the guys from Banshee Riverboards). You can see in the pictures that it's kinda like surfing, but on a river. The small surfboard-like boards are connected to a bungee cord. The rider moves out into the current and floats downstream. The bungee stretches as the rider is pushed downstream by the current. Then, when the bungee is stretched to its limit, he lets his board come up on top of the water. This is when the action starts. The cord means a zippy ride upstream and a chance to do some cool tricks and enjoy a fast cruise. The rider shoots along, skimming the top of the river.
This system was invented by the folks at Banshee Riverboards and they're hoping it'll catch on as a major sport. I didn't get wet for this one, but it looked pretty cool.
We've got some other great shoots coming up from around the state. I'll be keeping you up to date as we get "extreme" all over Idaho.
Last year I put together a show called The Idaho Homefront: "World War II." While I was doing research, people kept telling me about the old relocation center out near Twin Falls called Minidoka. It was known as the Hunt Camp and housed more than 9,000 Japanese men, women and children who were moved from their homes along the Pacific Coast. The US Government thought those people might pose a threat to our country, thought they might be sympathetic to the Japanese. I also heard about and met men who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This unit was put together later in the war. The Army needed more troops and the idea of an all Japanese-American fighting team appealed to the government.
I included a bit on the camp and the 442nd in the first program, but it was clear that this was something that deserved its own show. The station came up with the resources and production began. Read more
Videographer Norm Nelson was depressed. He had just watched our 1995 OUTDOOR IDAHO program on wildfire, the one we were planning to retire in the fall. "That was a great show! How can we replace it? We don't even have shots of flames!"
But the show had aired for twelve consecutive years, and, as good as it was, our show needed to reflect the changing nature of wildfires. It was up to us to find those flames.
So we journeyed into the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests, where cell phones were useless. We got great interviews with the Supervisors of both forests -- Tom Reilly and Jane Cottrell -- and with fire manager Jim Gray. But the rain a few days earlier had meant no flames. Not even smoke.
We visited the villages of Orogrande and Dixie, where old structures were wrapped in sheets of foil. Each roll cost more than $500, and a roll was only 30 feet long by 5 feet wide. We saw how some people had worked hard to make their structures "fire defensible," by removing the brush and thinning the nearby trees. And other people hadn't done much at all.
Off the record, one of the Forest Service officers expressed doubt that Orogrande could even be saved. The hamlet is in a small valley completely surrounded by thick conifers. There seemed no escape if the fire came over the nearby ridge, which it was threatening to do.
As a last resort, the Forest Service put sprinklers on the rooftops. The thinking was, as the last fire fighter hurried out of harm's way, he'd turn on the water, and hope for the best.
Officials were comparing this year to 1910, when more than three million acres of forest burned in the largest wildfire in US history. The only thing missing this year were the winds. They didn't materialize, so "only" a million acres will likely burn.
We also visited Clarence Chapman, on the Pittsburgh Landing road outside Whitebird. When a July wildfire threatened to engulf him and his home, he had saved himself with a garden hose over his head. Actually, he had done a lot of work before the fire arrived, thinning trees and planting a 50 foot expanse of grass around his house that he kept watered. He's convinced that's the only thing that saved him and his house. His neighbors weren't so lucky.
We had admittedly gotten a late start on our fire story. So, to make up for lost time, we put two crews on the wildfire beat. While Norm and I were in northern Idaho, Jody Lee and Dave Butler headed for Ketchum, which was quickly becoming the nation's priority wildfire.
As fire threatened homes near the ski hill, fire officials started an evening back burn. Dave and Jody got the action on tape.
The next week, Norm and I headed to Ketchum, and were allowed to venture up to the top of Baldy, where fire fighters were trying to corral the fire. A few hours earlier the fire had raced up the mountain, scaring the townspeople with its fierceness and resolve. But then the winds changed, and the danger passed.
Near the top of the mountain, the air was thick with smoke, and there was nothing glamorous to us about the work the young firefighters were engaged in. They were trying to walk the fire down the hill. Nothing glamorous, but it was working. To date, no lives lost; no homes destroyed.
Our half hour OUTDOOR IDAHO program will air in 2008. The thrust of the show is simple. Since the mid 1980's, the fire season has expanded, by more than two months, allowing fires to burn bigger and burn hotter.
It seems that we will have to change our tactics, to deal with this new reality.
Going to a space shuttle launch is always a risky travel proposition, whether you're a reporter or a spectator. Launches are often delayed, either by weather or by last-minute technical concerns. So it's a gamble deciding which days to fly there and back without incurring too many change fees and hotel nights. You can even end up returning empty-handed. So, hardly any media from Idaho are going . . . . Read more.
Summer break isn't just for kids. D4K: Dialogue for Kids, our science program for elementary age school children takes the summer off too, sort of. We don't have any live broadcasts over the summer, but we are still producing new content for our Emmy award winning Website. Check out my blog each week for the latest science news for kids.
We are also working on all of the broadcast shows for the next school year. Here are some of the topics you can expect starting next fall: Flight, Endangered Species, Owls, Force and Motion, Teeth, Amphibians, Green Energy, Rocks and Minerals and a very special program with Idaho Astronaut Barbara Morgan.
We put together three to four minute videos on each of our season's scientific topics that are used to start our broadcast show. They are also available for streaming on the Web. I've started writing those scripts and right now I am trying to explain how cavities are formed, why airplanes can fly, and how physics is a big part of a rollercoaster. I'll work on defining green energy and rocks later this summer.
But don't you wait for September. There's lots of web-exclusive content on the D4K web site to check out right now. If you want to learn more about animals, the environment, technology, archaeology, and lots of other scientific topics, click here http://idahoptv.org/D4K/ and explore. You won't be alone. The D4K Web site had more than two million hits in the first part of last season and more than 30 percent of the traffic came from outside North America. Eleven percent of the site's traffic comes from China. Cool huh? So, if you've never surfed over to the D4K site, now is a great time to look it over, and be sure to check out my blog!
"Call Harry Orchard!" bellowed James Hawley, from the prosecutor’s desk in the court room. Seated next to him, William Borah winced, then managed a one-liner that brought down the house. "Where the hell is he, in Kuna?!"
It was just one of the special moments our Production team was laughing about Friday evening, after five hectic days of prep work and shooting for "Assassination: Idaho’s Trial of the Century."
We had taken over the court room in Boise’s ancient Borah Building, intent upon re-enacting the pivotal moments in a trial that put Idaho on the map 100 years ago this month.
The actors played their parts to perfection. James Hawley and William Borah for the prosecution. Clarence Darrow and Edmund Richardson for the defense. Harry Orchard as the dynamiter who found religion. And Big Bill Haywood, on trial for his life, for supposedly paying Orchard to assassinate former Governor Frank Steunenberg.
While the actors were all professionals, our audience consisted of folks from the community willing to dress up in costumes, put on make-up, and have someone mess with their hair. Every day different people sat in the benches, happy to play a small role in this big story.
"I can’t tell you what this has meant to me," said one woman who had answered our call for audience members. "It was wonderful! I thank you so much for giving me this experience."
Our jury was a collection of some of the best beards in the state. They were the first ones you saw upon entering the court room, and right away you knew this was going to be a wild week!
Television is a collaborative effort and reenacting a 100 year old trial could not have happened without the efforts of folks like Joan Yost, who handled all our costuming; Judy Austin and Byron Johnson, who provided invaluable assistance on the script; Frances Alves, our make-up person; Rex Morris, our "resident skeptic" and gaffer; Pat Metzler and Jeff Tucker, our experts behind the camera; Ric Ochoa, our audio guy; Morgan Dethman, our artistic counsel; Johnnie Whitby, our hair stylist; Pat Cosgrove, our handyman extraordinaire. And there are literally dozens of others who deserve to be upset because I haven’t mentioned them here.
We still have a few more scenes to shoot outside the court room, before we can begin editing the hour-long program that will air statewide in November.
But I know, in my heart, that this past week will be the highlight of our efforts. There are just some events that have "magic" written all over them.
We may have begun as strangers, but for one shining week in May, we were all family.
On May 15th, this empty court room in Boise’s Old Post Office building will be transported back in time.
Clarence Darrow, William Borah and James Hawley will all be there, along with a judge and jury, ready to convict Big Bill Haywood of the murder of former Governor Frank Steunenberg.
Thanks to the testimony of "born again" Harry Orchard, it was a foregone conclusion what the verdict would be: Guilty!
But a jury of Idaho farmers surprised the world back in 1907, when they found Haywood innocent of the murder.
In the 20th century, there have been more than 30 Trials of the Century, including OJ and the Scopes monkey trial. But the Haywood trial was definitely Idaho’s version, and a memorable version it was! We intend to celebrate the event by re-enacting key moments, with some of Idaho’s finest actors.
In May of 1907, the eyes of the world were on the frontier town of Boise. Darrow referred to it as the Athens of the Sagebrush. Others were not so kind. To many observers, it was a battle between Capital and Labor, between the mine owners and the mine workers.
We will be re-enacting scenes from the trial for four days, from May 15 through May 18. If you would like to be in that audience please contact the station. But you have to be in the correct attire. Fortunately, we have some detailed advice for how you can do that.
The trial re-enactments will comprise about half of our hour-long program, "Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century," which is scheduled to air in the fall of 2007.
Idaho was a young state, Boise a small town. But the events that transpired in the courtroom 100 years ago this summer put us on the map, like nothing before or since.
It’s a Latin phrase -- without day -- that, loosely translated, means “the Idaho Legislature has gone home for the year and will be back in January of 2008.”
When they return, things will be very different! For one thing, lawmakers will not be at the Capitol. The Capitol will be a mess. It will be a mess for two years, as workers add “wings” to the east and west sides and other workers renovate the inside of our beautiful building.
So, where will lawmakers do the people’s business? Across the street, in a dump called the Ada County Court House. As you can see from these photos, the old court house could use some TLC.
And that’s where we come in. Because of space limitations, our cameras will be the “link” to the outside world. And luckily, we’ve had this past year to experiment with that link.
If you are one of those who has a digital television set, you probably already watched the three cameras in the House and the three cameras in the Senate give you a ringside seat to legislative proceedings this past session. If you don’t have digital TV, perhaps you watched the same show on your computer. Pretty impressive, really, and it took about three Idahoptv techies, working each of the 82 days, to keep the show on the road.
Near the end of the session, when debate tends to get fast and furious, enough viewers had tuned in to completely use up our entire bandwidth. Again, pretty impressive.
We’ve been promised a more robust “pipe” for the coming year, so more folks can tune in to the action.
It’s a good thing because, given the tiny size of the old court house, our cameras will be – literally -- the only way you’ll be able to watch lawmakers in action.
"Idaho Getaways" airs Thursday, March 8 at 8:30 p.m. Repeats Sunday March 11 at 7:30 p.m.
We've never produced a show like this before, where our reporters were all asked to bring back -- in a 10 minute package -- their favorite Idaho Getaway.
We've put them all together, in an OUTDOOR IDAHO special, set to air March 8th & 11th during our annual pledge drive.
John Crancer decided to heed his inner cowboy, and headed for a dude ranch in eastern Idaho.
Joan Cartan-Hansen figured there was a great children's adventure around Lake Coeur d'Alene.
Jim Peck tackled the difficult Lewis & Clark Trail along the Idaho-Montana border.
Marcia Franklin zeroed in on the "heart" of Idaho, in the Stanley basin.
And I got out my old blue raft for a trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Obviously, when you and a cameraman are trying to produce a video story, it's hard work and no rest for the wicked. But the goal is to make the story look like you're having fun, while trying to say something brilliant and insightful.
Can't say John looked too insightful trying to shoe an unwilling horse, or that I looked brilliant stuck on a rock in the Middle Fork. Jim hit the Lewis & Clark trail on the hottest day of the year and was praying for one of those snow storms that frequently bedeviled the Corps of Discovery.
The women had a better time of it, although Joan was literally dragged along the ground when her hot air balloon tried to land in a wind storm. And Marcia stayed upright in a kayak through a Class III rapid, only to get punctured by a nail in a home-made hot tub.
Still, the hour-long program is an enjoyable view of what Idaho has to offer. Five different Getaways, in a state that has a million of em!
We made history today.
For the first time ever, you could watch the Speaker of the House conduct the people’s business… on television. Or, if you preferred, you could change the channel and catch the Senate.
Perhaps you’re wondering how this is possible. Or maybe you’re asking yourself, why did it take so long?
It's the nature of digital television. Digital bandwidth can be split into several channels, in our case, four. During the day, when the Legislature is in session, we're devoting one of those channels to the Idaho House of Representatives, and one to the Idaho Senate. At night, all our channels that share bandwidth during the day come together to give us that High Definition quality everyone crows about. HD TV allows folks to watch Nature, Nova, Masterpiece Theater, Outdoor Idaho in all their true glory.
But back to the historic stuff.
Last year Idaho lawmakers appropriated approximately $350,000 to purchase three new cameras for both House and Senate. The quality of the cameras is outstanding! IdahoPTV staff run the cameras during the day, so you're not forced to watch a static wide shot of the Legislature. Better than C-Span!
Of course, all this means nothing to you…unless you have one of those new-fangled digital TV sets. But by February 2009, we're all supposed to have digital television, because the federal government is shutting off analog television transmitters. I can already hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth!
Luckily, the video from those very same cameras is available for viewing on your computer at www.idahoptv.org. Just go to our award-winning Idaho Reports Web site where you’ll see all the work our crew is doing to make this legislative session as accessible as possible for you, including archived video of key events, editorials from around the state, and much more.
This is all possible because of a great partnership with legislative services and the department of Administration.
And don’t forget to watch our award-winning weekly program, Idaho Reports, with host Jim Peck and his eclectic pundits. They cover all the bases each Friday evening at 8 p.m. in a way that makes politics fun again!
It’s incredibly rare that our producers get to work on a single show together. And believe me, that’s probably a very good thing! Too many chefs in the kitchen.
But there is one show coming up in March that combines the talents of John Crancer, Joan Cartan-Hansen, Jim Peck, Marcia Franklin, and me – and does it in a way that we think will be pretty enjoyable.
The show is called "Idaho Getaways." The premise is simple. Each of us picks a favorite Idaho getaway and reports on it, for ten minutes. Then we put 'em together into an hour-long OUTDOOR IDAHO special that airs during our annual pledge drive in March, 2007.
John chose a dude ranch in eastern Idaho. Joan picked the Coeur d’Alene area. Jim headed for the Lewis & Clark trail. Marcia settled on the Sawtooths. And I flew into Indian Creek for a late season rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
This past September forest fires burned all around us, and occasionally the skies were overcast with smoke. It was a reminder of how the wilderness is constantly changing.
Our days were constantly changing, too. We usually spent about five hours in the rafts each day. But the rest of the time was spent hiking, searching for pictographs, soaking in hot springs, playing badminton on the sandy beaches and Texas Hold-em by candle light, fishing, eating well, and telling stories.
A low water trip makes for some tricky boating. It's virtually impossible to avoid hitting rocks. At Tappen Falls, some of my buddies stayed longer than they had planned. Tappen is one of a handful of Class IV rapids.
Cameraman Pat Metzler captured the trip on video. And now our goal is to convince viewers that the Middle Fork is a great Idaho Getaway. Should be easy!
I still remember the last day on the river, as our rafts left the famous tributary and joined with the main Salmon, for the homeward stretch. It was a bittersweet feeling.
You know you’re leaving one of the special places on earth. And being able to share that experience with a group of friends made the trip even more memorable.
You'll get to see that trip, along with four other great Idaho Getaways, during our March Pledge drive.
Why have some candidates chosen not to participate in the "Idaho Debates"? Are we still doing the Debates? And what does this mean for the future of the 30 year collaboration we have with the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters?
These are some of the questions people are asking me, as we enter the final weeks of Idaho's campaign season. These are good questions. They deserve answers.
Politicians tend to make pragmatic decisions about debates. If they are leading in the polls, why should they give their opponent a chance to score points? It can only hurt their cause. And why shouldn't they try to get the best advantage they can in a fight?
As a fellow human being, I completely understand where they're coming from. That's why I make it a point to congratulate candidates of either party who agree to debate. It's not fun to debate. But, as a citizen of this state, I need to know what the next Governor or Congressman has in his or her head. They owe that to me if they want my vote.
In this new media marketplace, our 30 year collaboration is not the only game in town. Candidates can now shop around for the best deal. And they're doing it. That's what Jim Risch did. That's what Butch Otter did. (Controller candidate Donna Jones just decided no one wanted to watch her debate, so she's not debating, period.)
It's hard to justify Mrs. Jones' decision, at least in my head. As for Mr. Otter and Mr. Risch, I guess time will tell if the public has been served by their shopping around for the best venue. I do know that Idaho Public Television will be airing their debates, regardless of which commercial TV station they appear on.
I happen to believe that our "Idaho Debates" have served the state well. I've heard that from many candidates over the years, from all parties. We don't cut deals with individual candidates. Our process is totally transparent. Everyone gets a fair shake. If we can be faulted, it's in providing only one debate for the important state and congressional offices. Next door, Oregonians have four statewide Governor debates to watch. Now, that's more like it!
So, yes, the "Idaho Debates" will continue. We have debates scheduled on statewide television for Attorney General (Oct. 18); Second Congressional District (Oct. 22); First Congressional District (Oct. 24); and Superintendent of Public Instruction (Oct. 25).
We even have a debate for Governor scheduled on Oct. 29, because we have, at this point in time, two candidates willing to debate. That's our criterion. There have to be at least two candidates.
What does the future hold for our collaboration? Hard to say. Perhaps the Idaho media needs to get together before the next election cycle, put our collective heads together, and come up with a plan so that candidates can't pit us against each other, like they've done this year.
Perhaps we just need a lot more debates. I'm encouraged by the behavior of the two major party candidates for First Congressional District, Mr. Bill Sali and Mr. Larry Grant, as well as the two candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction. They're out there debating, mixing it up. In this day and age, there certainly are enough topics to discuss!
Perhaps you’ve read about the logjam that shut down the world-famous Salmon river at Pistol Creek rapid. Several of the OUTDOOR IDAHO crew just happened to be on vacation on the Middle Fork and were among the first to witness Mother Nature’s fury that morning.
It started with a torrential downpour about 4 a.m. Monday, July 24. I know, because I was sleeping outside my tent that night, about three miles upstream from Pistol Creek. Luckily, the daytime temperatures were hovering near 100 that week and the soaking was soon forgotten.
Back on the river, I was positioning my raft into some choice fishing holes, when my fishing buddy Dennis noticed that the river had turned into a lake, and green bushes were underwater. Something wasn’t right. Besides, the fishing had suddenly gotten lousy.
An outfitter on the shore yelled at us to pull over. He said that the tricky Pistol Creek rapid -- a narrow S-curve in the river -- had gotten jammed with dead trees from the blowout of a small creek, and that if we continued around the bend, we might not survive.
Maybe you know the feeling, when you come upon something that you know is definitely going to ruin your day. That’s how the 16 people in our private rafting group felt after hurrying down to Pistol Creek rapid, half a mile away.
Eventually, we set up camp with more than 100 other rafters who were now as stuck as we were, and considered our options: 1) wait for the Forest Service to blow up the logjam; 2) portage our heavy equipment around the obstruction, or 3) cache our boats and walk to Indian Creek and hop a plane back to civilization.
Many of the rafters we talked with on Monday were convinced the Forest Service would do nothing. After all, this was a wilderness, "untrammeled by man, where man is a visitor who does not remain." Trouble is, we remained.
Sensing a "Katrina" in the making, I procured a satellite phone and called our production manager, Jeff Tucker. The connection was terrible and Jeff heard every sixth word: "saw… immense… flood… rafts… people… 30 foot logs… hot dogs… keno…Zimo… fly… pistol creek."
So Jeff called Idaho Statesman reporter Pete Zimowsky who flew in with Jeff to Pistol Creek ranch Tuesday morning, assuring Jeff that a 30 foot long, keno player hot dog did not attack an immense group of rafters!
After conducting interviews Tuesday afternoon with Forest Service personnel, including demolitions expert John Haugh -- who just happened to be one of the rafters on the river that day – I became convinced that a consensus was emerging among those on the ground. Blow up the logjam!
But could they convince their superiors back in the air-conditioned offices? And how long would that take? One private party whose members worked for the federal government sensed a long, protracted federal logjam and opted to carry hundreds of pounds of gear down the trail past the rapid. They had only two boats and some young bucks in the group, but they still said it was one of the hardest things they ever did. An outfitter rented some nearby pack horses and hauled out his gear and paying customers.
Our group, with seven rafts, chose to wait, believing the Forest Service would move quickly. And they did. By Wednesday around noon, 125 pounds of dynamite did the trick. In a post-interview, dynamiter John Haugh said it was the biggest logjam and biggest explosion he’d ever been part of. He may have been as impressed as we were, when the dynamite shook loose 95% of the offending logs. By Wednesday evening, the river rangers had manhandled the last of the logs out of harm’s way, and the Middle Fork was back in business.
Of course, the debate continues. Did the Forest Service do the right thing by using dynamite in a wilderness? And what exactly does "wilderness" mean? Colleague John Crancer and I hope to explore that debate in a future OUTDOOR IDAHO program this winter.
Since the devastating fires of 2000, mud slides have become a regular occurrence on certain stretches of the Middle Fork, so this issue won’t be going away any time soon.
All I can tell you is that, on Thursday morning, as we floated through Pistol Creek rapid to continue our 10 day trip, I had renewed respect for the men and women of the Forest Service. They made a quick, studied decision, one that made sense to a lot of folks stuck behind the log jam.
Watch our 8 minute video on the dynamiting of the Pistol Creek logjam:
Watch a KIVI-TV interview with Bruce and John:
One of the nice things about being a volunteer – aside from the free food during our annual pledge drive – is something called "Volunteer Appreciation Day."
It's a special event where the Production crew tries to Wow a room full of Volunteers with clips of our upcoming shows. Luckily, there’s also free food, in case our presentation falls flat.
This year we offered up three Previews, which I think speak to the diversity of our Local Productions.
The first one, "Cycling Idaho," was put together by Marcia Franklin, Chuck Cathcart, and Dave Butler and features the wonderful Coeur d'Alene bike trail in northern Idaho. When it was first proposed, not everyone thought it was a great idea to turn a contaminated rail road bed into a bike path. But so far, it's working, beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Check out our OUTDOOR IDAHO program, "Cycling Idaho," on Thursday, July 20, at 8 Mtn/7 Pac and again on Sunday, July 23, at 7 p.m.
Is there a region of Idaho as captivating as the Palouse in springtime? Hard to imagine. Our five minute clip, "Palouse Paradise," featured some of the fascinating people Pat Metzler and I met on a recent trip to the area around Moscow, Idaho.
The full length version of "Palouse Paradise" will be the first show of OUTDOOR IDAHO’s 24th season. Plan to meet the giant Palouse earthworm, organic wonder woman Mary Jane Butters, and a host of other compelling characters.
"The Idaho Homefront: World War II" spoke to a lot of the older volunteers in the audience. Jim Peck and Alan Austin poignantly captured this golden era, with their choice of music and archival footage. It was a time of heroism and sacrifice, on the battlefield and on the homefront. Watch for this hour-long Special to air Sunday, December 3.
It could have been the food, but the forty or so Volunteers did seem genuinely impressed with our offerings.
Of course, there are many other shows we’re working on. But sometimes it is rewarding to see short clips, bunched together in the space of an hour, to realize the wonderful diversity of our local programs. Read more about the shows and watch the clips on our Productions page.
It's just our luck that "The Idaho Debates" were up against the most hyped television shows of the entire year! Blame it on the May primary falling inside the biggest Sweeps month of the year.
I worked behind the scenes on all five primary debates, and I think they just kept getting more interesting, culminating with the debate for Congressman Butch Otter's current job.
Six strong candidates met in our Studio on May 18 and went toe to toe for 90 minutes on statewide television, for the chance to represent Idaho's First Congressional District.
Nobody threw punches, but there was no love lost between some of the candidates, as they called each other liars, defrauders and liberals. The format allowed them to ask each other questions, and it made for great entertainment, as candidates chose to disregard Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican."
The League of Women Voters and the Idaho Press Club have been a partner in these debates for more than 25 years. Elinor Chehey of the League was at every debate, with her trusty stopwatch. And print and TV reporters of the Press Club asked the questions.
Our role was to moderate the debates and provide the studio and staff to get the show to every Idahoan who cares.
So if you happened to be watching "Alias," "Boston Legal," or, heaven forbid, "American Idol," during May Sweeps, you can still catch Idaho democracy in action by going to http://idahoptv.org/theidahodebates/. Each Primary debate is archived and ready for you to watch, on your computer, in your own sweet time.
Over the weekend, they announced the television Emmy nominations. We got six. Not bad for a small production team, when you consider we only submit eight or nine entries a year, because of the cost.
There are more than sixty different categories in the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. To many people, it’s all kind of silly and indicative of what ails television these days. Unless you're one of the winners, of course!
Many of those 63 categories don’t apply to us, like “Live Sports Coverage” and “Anchor-Weather.” We traditionally have zeroed in on the boring ones, like “Public Affairs” and “Documentary” and “Informational,” although this year we managed to break into a couple of new categories, as well.
So, without further ado, here are our Emmy nominations for the past season’s work:
There is nothing more “collaborative” than television. It takes good producers, shooters, editors, graphics and web people, and engineers.
It also takes solid accountants, transcribers, press folks, and someone to raise the money.
And it takes a strong commitment from Management, to actually care about local programs and give it more than lip service.
I’m happy to say, we have all of the above.
When Outdoor Idaho decided to tackle a program on the Centennial Trail, the logistics were challenging. How do you document a twelve-hundred mile long trail? Obviously we had to carefully choose the few sections of the trail that we would photograph, that would hopefully represent what the trail is all about. Then we would have to find people to actually travel the trail.
To begin, we started with the originators of the trail, Roger Williams and Syd Tate. They had fortunately taken scores of slides of their original hike that covered the entire length of Idaho, the trip that would later inspire the official Idaho Centennial Trail. But we needed much more than a few dozen slides to give people a real sense of the trail and the country it passes through.
Luckily, we found other folks who were beginning their own Centennial Trail. A young couple, John Palan and Mandy Stephan, were planning a sequel to Roger and Syd's feat of trekking the length of the state in one ambitious, all-summer-long hike. At about the same time, Kim Heintzman was beginning his combination biking/hiking trip along various segments of the trail. His plan was to cover the whole trail in a series of shorter trips spread over several years. We also knew Roger and Syd would gladly hike parts of the trail, especially if the official route wasn't part of their original hike.
The challenge was getting together with everyone at the right time and hoping the weather cooperated enough to show some of the stunning scenery along the trail.
One of the more demanding segments was Heintzman's trip through the Sawtooth wilderness. Kim had already been hiking several days when he arrived at the Grand Jean Lodge just as he had anticipated. Chuck Cathcart and I drove in from Boise on the appointed evening, and Kim was sitting on the porch of the lodge. Although he looked a little tired from his previous trail exploits, he was ready to continue through the Sawtooths with camera crew in tow.
We decided to meet Kim here because Roger Williams had told us about a great side trip just off this part of the trail where you could see some of the best views in the state. The only problem for us was that the trail itself climbed 4,000 feet from Grand Jean to the top of the divide in less than five miles. From the pass it was another 1,000 feet up to our destination at Observation Point. On top of those obstacles, when we got up the next morning to prepare for the hike, it was overcast and raining.
But we decided to take a chance. Our photographer Chuck Cathcart pulled on his camera pack that, with batteries and accessories, probably weighed seventy pounds, while I put on the pack that had our tent, sleeping bags, food and other accessories. I also grabbed the large camera tripod. We knew that Kim alone could probably make this hike in a half day or so, but because we would be taking shots at various intervals, we warned him it would take a lot longer.
Anyone who's been around a television production knows that one "take" doesn't always yield the desired results. More often than not, we would ask Kim to re-hike little sections of the trail so we could get just the right shot. He probably hiked fifty percent further than we did because of the retakes, but it slowed him down enough that we could almost keep up with him!
The steepness of the grade and the age and condition of my back made it a fairly grueling trek for me. And with all the overcast skies, we weren't even sure all the effort was going to be worth it. But turning back didn't seem like a reasonable option, so we trudged onward. I was constantly looking forward to our "shooting" locations so I could set my pack down and rest. Kim, on the other hand, didn't seem to need the rest!
As the day wore on, the sky brightened a bit, but then I began to wonder if we would reach the top before sunset. We picked up our pace, and I was elated when we reached the turnoff to Observation Peak. We estimated we still had well over an hour of daylight left and we thought we could make it to the top in half that time. I think the last leg may have been the steepest of all, but spurred on by a reachable goal, we hurried toward the mountain top.
Although I was trailing the other two, I knew the hike had been worth all the effort when I heard Chuck yell "Wahoo!" I knew why a few minutes later. The clouds had cleared, the sun was in its perfect "golden hour" position, and the view of the Sawtooth Mountains was fabulous! We spent the next hour videotaping the incredible views that stretched out in every direction. It was one of those shoots where you aren't sure what you're going to get when you start out, but then Mother Nature cooperates and reveals her full splendor for the camera lens.
I guess I'd have to agree with Chuck, it was definitely a "Wahoo" moment for the Outdoor Idaho crew.
While not every shoot on the Centennial Trail production came together so beautifully -- I could write another several pages on the time our vehicle developed serious engine problems at one of the most remote locations you can possibly drive to -- we were fortunate on many occasions. We think we were in the right place, at the right time, with the right people enough times that we were able to capture at least a small sampling of what this magical trail is all about. Like Roger Williams says, "It's the adventure of a lifetime!"
Check out our web site at http://idahoptv.org/outdoors/shows/centennialtrail/. And look for future airings of our hour long program "Idaho's Centennial Trail."
Our Rosalie Sorrels Special Airs March 19 at 7 p.m.
In the good ole days, producing a program was relatively straightforward. You did some preliminary research, interviewed folks, shot some footage, wrote a script, edited it, and then aired it on television.
But then came digital television, DVD’s, Video on Demand, video downloads, video streaming and the web. Talk about confusing! That’s why we’ve stayed far away from doing certain programs, like performance documentaries involving musicians.
Last year, Idaho native Rosalie Sorrels was nominated for a Grammy Award for her “My Last Go Round” album. If Rosalie could survive a brain aneurism, a bout with cancer, and the Grammy nomination process after a forty year career, we figured the least we could do is profile this Idaho gem, regardless of the complications.
So we met with Rosalie and quickly agreed that a concert at the Liberty Theater in Hailey would comprise the bulk of our program. Rosalie would get the world class musicians. We would handle the logistics.
We rented three high quality digital cameras from outside the state, to go with the four we owned, and we shot up a 3 ½ hour storm last September at the Liberty Theater.
Since great sound is essential in a music concert, we also spent money getting a house mix with 24 live microphones; and we decided on Rosalie’s favorite song mix person, Roma Baran, from back east, to mix the 18 songs for us. Roma and our editor, Pat Metzler, used something called yousendit.com to fly the video and the sound mix back and forth through the ethernet for each of the 18 songs.
We also wanted the show to be more than just music. We wanted some perspective, some insight in the program. So we applied for and received a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council that allowed Marcia Franklin to interview, on location, luminaries like Pete Seeger and Jean Ritchie, Nanci Griffith, Utah Phillips and others.
As editor Pat Metzler enters the final stages of post production, we find ourselves still dealing with music rights issues. Video-on-demand, DVDs, and gawd knows what else – these have definitely complicated the negotiations! Our production manager Jeff Tucker, who has been talking with publishing company attorneys, says he’s starting to feel like a guppy in a world of sharks! At least he’s had a reason to chat with Paul McCartney’s publishing company. So far, no sign of Paul…
But when the dust settles, we’ll have a remarkable 90 minute program that will air on our normal channel. We’ll also have an up-converted High Definition program that will air on our digital channel; and, if we’re lucky, we may even find a national audience. On top of that, we’ll also have a DVD with bonus tracks, an impressive website with lots of interviews, and who knows what else!
It’s not at all like the good ole days.
I think it’s going to be better.
Each session of the
What will it be this year? Too
early to tell, but already there are intriguing clues. But one thing we already know for sure.
My take on it is that the show will look a lot more like the best Sunday morning public affairs shows, with a handful of knowledgeable guests mixing it up throughout the entire program, responding to the stories of the week.
This will be our 34th
year of covering the
This year the show airs Fridays at 8 p.m. and is repeated Sunday mornings 11:30/10:30 Mtn/Pac. And don’t forget our valuable website at http://idahoptv.org/idreports/ , where you can listen to live debate as well as read the best legislative writing from the state’s journalists.
Admittedly, a program devoted to the inner
workings of the Legislature is not everyone’s cup of tea. But we think you’ll
find this year’s “
People in jeans and in suits snaked their way through two centuries of history, careful not to spill the wine they were clutching.
Meriwether and Sacajawea peered out from the massive Lewis & Clark display that split the hallway lengthwise. Like rocks in an Idaho river, the display created eddies for the 175 people in attendance, making it impossible not to rub elbows with fellow patrons of the arts.
Afterwards, some headed west, toward the all-Idaho feast prepared by chef Jon Mortimer. Others wandered east, toward the jazz band and the silent auction.
Last Saturday’s fundraiser at the Historical Museum in Boise was the second time we’d teamed up with the Idaho Grape Growers & Wine Producers Commission to premiere a television show. This time the program was “Picturing Idaho,” featuring some of Idaho’s gifted outdoor photographers.
The program was shown in two parts, to allow folks to mingle and enjoy the evening. And many of the photographers featured in the show were in attendance: Steve Bly, Mark Lisk, Glenn Oakley, Leland Howard, David Marr, Tim Buckley, Jan Boles.
“Picturing Idaho” was produced and directed by Jim Peck and Alan Austin. It will air statewide on Sunday, December 4, at 7 p.m. It’s a heart-felt look at photographers and the Idaho landscape that sustains them.
If you missed the premiere in November, you don’t want to miss the show in December!
Oh, yes, and there's a calendar you don't want to miss, either, with pictures from all those photographers. This collaborative venture is a First, and it's quite lovely. Needless to say, it would make a beautiful gift this time of year.
Geologist Earl Bennett warned me. Regardless of what we did, there would be critics. I’m sure he’s right. It’s been a long time since I worked on an OUTDOOR IDAHO show with so many complexities. And I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a show where so many people we interviewed just didn’t make it into the show! We didn’t have time. I apologize publicly to those fine folks.
Then silver prices hit
the skids, the mines closed in 1981, and
A few years ago, the EPA
expanded Superfund to include the entire
Trying to walk somewhere in the middle of all this
has been challenging, and trying to do it in a regular half hour OUTDOOR IDAHO
program has really been challenging. Our Silver Valley
Rising Web site starts to hint at the complexity of some of the issues. It’s
one of our most robust sites ever, with lots of full-length interviews. We
figure that way people interested in the topic of the
This was one of those times when we explored a topic in two ways, with an OUTDOOR IDAHO program, followed immediately with a live call-in DIALOGUE show. If you missed our DIALOGUE program, you can now listen to it streamed on your computer.
I’m hopeful we’ll
The Liberty Theatre marquee blazed brilliantly above the main street of Hailey, Idaho. And inside, a sold-out crowd sensed that something remarkable was about to happen. An Idaho singer in the prime of her singing career, on stage with some of Idaho's best musicians and the 'Divas of Boise.' It was going to be a night to remember!
Earlier this year Idaho Public Television had decided to produce a program on Idaho's own Grammy-nominated folk singer. And the September 17th concert - which we filmed with seven cameras - will be a major part of the program.
Rosalie is a story teller as much as she is a singer. And when she puts those two talents together, the one-two punch can be devastatingly effective.
Her music reflects a lifetime of traveling and a lifetime of experiences. Her distinctive singing voice guarantees that she'll always be one-of-a-kind. As Nancy Griffith remarked, Rosalie is her own genre.
The Divas of Boise - Sirah Storm, Kathy Miller, Rebecca Scott, Rocci Johnson, Debbie Sager, Carrie Padilla,, and Margaret Montrose Stigers - provided a powerful presence on stage for many of the musical numbers. And behind them was a peace quilt, a gift to Rosalie in 2001 by the Boise Peace Quilt Project.
Rosalie doesn't like to be called an "icon," but she's certainly a heroine to many women who have followed her career. Her last recording, "My Last Go-Round," brought her a Grammy nomination in the Traditional Folk category.
Be sure to watch for our March 2006 program, "Rosalie Sorrels: Way Out in Idaho." It should be a fitting tribute to one of Idaho's remarkable women.
As a child, if something was bothering me, I’d often jump on my bike and pedal away. But like many people, as I started a career, the bike became a home for cobwebs.
Then three years ago I decided—enough! If I’m going to live in
5,000 miles later, I’m a convert. Biking is easier on the joints than running, allows you to see great territory, increases your aerobic strength, introduces you to wonderful people, and of course, gives you ‘killer’ quads.
With my new passion, it wasn’t long before I approached Bruce Reichert, the host and executive producer of “Outdoor Idaho,” to see if we could feature some bicycling opportunities in our state. With his green light, I started filming this summer.
With my new passion, it wasn’t long before I approached Bruce Reichert, the host and executive producer of “Outdoor Idaho,” to see if we could feature some bicycling opportunities in our state. With his green light, I started filming this summer.
"Picturing Idaho" is a new special from Idaho Public Television coming this fall. I've been working on this project with director Alan Austin. The basic idea is to explore the world of photography and photographers in Idaho. So far it's pretty much involved the typical travails of shooting this kind of show -- weird hours, remote locations, and interesting people.
One of the highlights so far has been working with photographers Steve Bly and Chad Case. We headed out with them to the Payette River. These guys aren't just looking for any old shots of rafter or kayakers; they're after excellent photos they can sell to advertisers or anyone else who needs compelling pictures of our state. Steve, for instance, has a long-running relationship with the Cascade Rafting Company.
We got some great video of these vibrant orange inflatables crashing through rapids and smiling rafters enjoying every turbulent moment. I'll keep adding more shots from our shoots, so check back as we crisscross the state "Picturing Idaho."
Oh, the air date for the show is Sunday, December 4.
Can you taste a state?
Then they went one step further and found an
I was one of the lucky ones who got to taste the meal last month. Seated next to me was mushroom expert Darcy Williamson Stewgall and Steve Robertson, owner of
We didn’t eat until 11 p.m., after the regular guests at Jon Mortimer’s restaurant had left. But don’t worry, the meal was definitely worth waiting for!
Chef Mortimer started with a morel mushroom appetizer, followed by organic salad greens. Next was melt-in-your-mouth
Complementing the meal were the comments from the experts around the table. From Darcy I learned why I haven’t found morel mushrooms near
My only regret is that neither Jim nor Alan were able to enjoy the meal. They were too busy working, creating an OUTDOOR IDAHO program that airs July 7 & 10.
But I have heard that Mortimers, at 5th & Main in
If you want A Taste of
Some said it didn't exist, that it was just a myth. But this week videographer Pat Metzler and I saw the mythical Palouse prairie in all its glory.
The impression one gets while driving Idaho's north/south highway is that the rolling hills of the Palouse are completely dominated by cash crops, like winter wheat. But a 30-minute drive from Moscow, Idaho . . . and a 20-minute hike up a ridge . . . reveals a lush landscape dominated by wildflowers and native grasses.
It's called Paradise Ridge, and the name fits. Lupine, geranium, Indian paintbrush, and wild rose grow among the Idaho fescue and bluebunch wheatgrass. We even saw an elk.
Our guides were two photographers, Jan Boles and Alison Meyer. Jan is the Albertsons College archivist, who is documenting farm life in the Palouse. Photographer Alison Meyer has lived in the Palouse most of her adult life.
There are some who might wish the Palouse prairie were a myth. It would make their lives easier. But it does exist. And now the highway department needs to address the needs of this fragile area, says Jacie Jensen, a Palouse farm woman.
Jacie recently took highway officials to the top of Paradise Ridge; and she is talking with them about changing the seed mix the Transportation Dept. will use along the new highway they're building nearby. A wrong mix of seed could eventually prove a disaster to the native prairie.
Our program on the Palouse won't air until next year, but you may see our photographers as part of a December show. In the meantime, let's hope the intelligent folks in the Transportation Dept. listen to the intelligent folks on the Palouse.
This Palouse prairie is definitely worth saving.
It's the busy season, when it's easy to put in a 14 hour day. Such was the case when several of us headed to the Silver Valley this past week.
It's hard to imagine a more colorful district in Idaho than northern Idaho's silver producing region, around Kellogg and Wallace. Robber barons. Labor Wars. Scalawags and Heroes. And that doesn't begin to describe the history of the last 25 years, since the closing of the mines. Lawsuits. Potential Responsible Parties. EPA and Superfund.
And now we're hearing other phrases, like Property values, Californians, and Walmart. Is this Progress or what?! Jeff Tucker and I poked around for four days, talking with folks who would talk with us.
Trees are now growing on the hills around Kellogg. That might not seem like much, but in the 1980's sulphur dioxide had pretty much killed the plant life around this mining town. Later this summer, we're heading back to cover parts of the story that we missed this time.
The ultimate goal here is to create an OUTDOOR IDAHO program to air in October, on what's been happening in this fascinating corner of Idaho.
Producer Joan Cartan-Hansen and shooter Chuck Cathcart were also up north, in pursuit of a story on childhood development. Those important first years in a child's life determine so much. The ultimate goal here is a documentary to air in September, when kids head back to school. And Joan wants to tell her story with folks from all corners of the state.
Jim Peck and Alan Austin are also gearing up for some long travel days, for two Specials that will air during Festival '06. One is on Idaho Photographers; the other is on World War Two vets. Both shows will take Jim and Alan crisscrossing Idaho north and south, east and west.
But it will be hard to beat the miles that Marcia Franklin has logged these past few weeks! Marcia returned to Tehran, the capital of Iran, for a conference on Sustainable Development.
So, lots of miles this month. And lots of video tape shot. And every videographer and producer is hoping, trusting, that it will all be worthwhile.
May is the big Sweeps month of the year (the others are February, July, and November), and this year May Sweeps starts April 28 and runs til May 25.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us in Production don’t think too much about Sweeps. But I have to tell you that -- for the first time ever -- we’ve got three new OUTDOOR IDAHO programs airing in one Sweeps month!
No, we’re not succumbing to Sweeps mania. It’s more of a happy accident.
“Backroad Adventures” airs April 28 and May 1. If you’re the type who finds pleasure in getting off the pavement, you’ll like this show. Producer John Crancer and Director Chuck Cathcart did a great job finding adventures that allow you to stay in your vehicle while still having fun.
The half hour version of “Vintage Idaho” airs May 5 and May 8. I personally prefer the half hour version to the hour long OUTDOOR IDAHO by the same name that aired in December. This stream-lined version really emphasizes the seasons of the grapes. It was a tough assignment, sampling all that fine wine, but Producer Jim Peck and Director Alan Austin made the most of it, and created a lasting tribute to this important
“Buckskin Brigade” airs May 19 and May 22 and is a tribute to the many men and women who love to relive the adventurous days of the 19th century. If you saw our hour long “Back to the Past,” show last March, you’ll notice some similarities and some differences in the approach to this topic.
It really is a happy coincidence that three new OUTDOOR IDAHO shows are airing in the space of one month. And I guess I’m glad it’s happening during May!
Most normal people believe the New Year starts on January 1st. But for a lot of us in Production, it sure feels like the New Year begins in March, after our pledge drive!
By now it's common knowledge that we made our pledge drive goal. We hit -- and surpassed -- the $900,000 mark late Sunday evening, on the last day of Festival 2005. That in itself is quite an achievement!
On Monday morning, less than twelve hours after reaching that goal, our Production Team met to plan our upcoming television schedule. What were our big shows going to be for the coming year? Which "Outdoor Idaho" programs would we tackle?
Here's some of our Resolutions:
A program on Idaho's World War II veterans. Expect a lot of nostalgia in this one.
A program on Idaho's Photographers. Expect a lot of beautiful pictures.
A program on Rosalie Sorrels in concert. Definitely expect a lot of music.
We'll also be doing a program on childhood development; a program on the bounty of Idaho grown products; a program on Silver Valley's brush with Superfund notoriety; a program on Idaho's Centennial Trail, from Nevada to the Canadian border.
And these shows just begin to scratch the surface of what we'll be producing in 2005. You may not know this, but in public television circles, Idaho Public Television has a rich, honored tradition of producing quality, home-grown shows. (In fact, at a recent PBS meeting, we walked away with more awards than any other public TV station in the nation.)
There's a connection between reaching our Festival goal each year and making television worth watching. And we're ready, once again, to do our part.
"West of the Basque" and "Back to the Past"
The influence of the Basque culture on Idaho may not be apparent to everyone. But if Jim Peck and Alan Austin have anything to say about it, that will change with the airing of "West of the Basque."
Their masterpiece airs for the first time at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 7. I’ve had a chance to see snippets of it in the edit bay, and it is quite compelling! You’ll certainly see all the things you’d expect to find – Basque dancers, an accordion, Pete Cenarrusa – but you’ll also see Bilbao, Gernika, the Guggenheim. That’s because Jim and Alan spent a week in Europe’s Basque country, with the best tour guides imaginable: Freda and Pete Cenarrusa.
But the show is much more than a tourist trip. It’s also an emotional and spiritual journey, for a people who have helped shape our state.
"Back to the Past" is the second new documentary to air during March Festival. It seems there’s a bright future in the past, whether one’s interest is the cave-man days, or the chivalrous Middle Ages, or the era of the mountain man. A lot of people are making friends and finding their "family" a long ways from home.
This certainly is one of the strangest assortments of folks ever assembled for an OUTDOOR IDAHO show! So, hop in your way-back machine, ‘cuz we’re headin’ back to the past Thursday evening, March 10, at 8:30 mtn.!
If Idaho were a rain forest, we wouldn’t be producing two shows called "Tapped Out: Idaho’s Water Crisis." But we aren’t a rain forest; in fact, we’re facing another hard year of drought.
Ergo, two important water shows.
first one will air Thursday evening at 8 p.m. Mtn, as a DIALOGUE special. The
topic for the entire hour will be the Nez Perce water agreement. This big,
expensive, created-in-secret agreement has finally seen the light of day. The
U.S. Congress approved the pact in December. Now, the Idaho Legislature and the
Nez Perce have to OK it, by the end of March.
People are taking shots at it, but the smart money says the Legislature will sign on. There’s rumblings that some of the Nez Perce are unhappy about giving up their claim to water for a bunch of money, but it is a compromise, hammered out over many, many years.
Marcia Franklin has some top notch guests around the table and will take your calls. Believe me, this is a big, complicated issue that will affect all of us, at least indirectly!
On Friday, February 4, our IDAHO REPORTS staff will examine the other big water issue: the Snake River aquifer. Joan Cartan-Hansen will walk us through the pitfalls of this sticky wicket at 8:30 p.m. Mtn. As you have probably heard, Idaho’s water law can be boiled down to "first in time, first in right." But is Idaho really going to shut farmers’ water off, if it means causing part of an industry to buckle? This issue does seem a long ways from being settled…
Water means everything to this state. And I’m proud that DIALOGUE and IDAHO
REPORTS have stepped up to the plate to help us all understand what’s at
As the fog settles into the valley, Idaho lawmakers will begin hunkering down for what invariably will be three long months at the marble Puzzle Palace.
Having covered the Idaho Legislature when we produced a daily “Idaho Reports” show, I know how hard the best lawmakers work. They’d beat you there in the morning, and they’d be there long after we closed up shop, around 7:30 p.m. each day. I also remember how tricky it was to cover something that, frankly, happens too frequently behind closed doors.
Each session always brought a few surprises, even when we knew what the big issues were for that session. That’s something that hasn’t changed, as our “Idaho Reports” staff enters its 33rd year of reporting and analysis.
Admittedly, a program devoted to the inner workings of the Legislature is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’ve never watched an “Idaho Reports” show, I think you’d be impressed with how hard Jim Peck and Joan Cartan-Hansen and Ric Ochoa work to make the show accessible to regular Idahoans.
And the “Reporters” roundtable discussion, at the end of the show, almost always breaks some news story wide open. Besides, those reporters are always good for a laugh!
To those who care about good government, “Idaho Reports” matters. A lot. This year the show airs Fridays at 8 p.m. and is repeated Saturday and Sunday mornings, at 7 and 11 respectively.
Now there’s no excuse to miss the longest running legislative program in the West!
Folks back east may know us for our potatoes, our rivers and our Republicans, but this past month our Production team’s interests turned to Basques, our wine industry, and the state’s growing Islamic population.
Jim Peck and Alan Austin returned from
As you know,
Jim and Alan head into the edit bay in December, and the hour-long production is scheduled to air during our March Festival.
The new Islamic Center of Boise is already too small for
The hour long show, which aired November 18, examined how diverse the Muslim community is, from refugees to professionals, from Bosnians to Africans.
"While some members remain committed to educating the public and law enforcement about Islam, others have been scared to talk openly about their religion because of the backlash against Islamic terrorist attacks and their own fear of Islamic radicals."
The funding for “Islam in
It was a chilly Saturday evening, but the crowd inside the
This celebration of Nature’s bounty and
If you missed the event, you can catch “Vintage Idaho” on Sunday, December 5, during our annual Mini-Pledge drive. This special chronicles a year in the vineyards, visiting wineries from Sandpoint to Glenns Ferry, and meeting the people who are putting the “
There was not a cloud in the sky, and Jim Weatherby and I were getting worried. We had spent the last several weeks preparing for something called "Deliberation Day," in conjunction with MacNeil Lehrer Productions, and we were beginning to think no one would show.
Boise had been chosen as one of 19 Deliberation Day sites around the country. The idea was to generate a random sample of the population, and somehow convince them to spend a drop-dead gorgeous Saturday talking about jobs and national security. There would be moderators and a panel of experts to answer the questions of the 100 folks we were told would show.
Idaho Public Television had joined forces with Dr. James Weatherby's Public Policy Dept. at Boise State University. The event was on the BSU campus.
But people began arriving before 8 a.m., and when the dust had settled, 117 Idahoans from the ten southwest counties, had decided to spend seven hours in small group discussions and a large plenary session. In fact, even though the skies were blue, Idaho had the second best attendance in the nation!
Afterwards, the comments we heard from folks were truly inspirational. One lady said it was the best thing she'd ever done. Another participant, Erik Kingston of Boise, sent me this note, about a conversation he had with another adoptive parent:
Our discussions were both passionate and remarkably civil . . . We had much more in common than anyone suspected . . . We sought out areas of common interest, gently explored what it means to be "pro-life" and "pro-choice," and discussed the potential for those values to coexist.
I think the conversation had an impact on both of us . . . It left us both with a sense that we could respectfully disagree, while cultivating a broader awareness of the impact of this election.
The event was definitely a lot of work for our Production staff, but Idahoans got to see the results in a show called "Time to Choose." You can also view some of the conversation at our Deliberation Day website.
Was it worth doing? I believe it was. And every participant we talked with felt the same way. Besides, citizen engagement with the issues of the day is the cornerstone of our democracy. And in this deeply divided political season, it's nice to know civility is still alive and well in Idaho.
They call themselves the largest gathering of “primitive technologists” in the country. But what the heck is a primitive technologist?
That was just one of the questions Jeff Tucker and I asked ourselves last week as we drove our rig into a wooded area alongside eastern Idaho's Teton River.
"Rabbitstick" -- the name of their gathering -- apparently has been a happenin’ thing for close to twenty years, but hardly anyone we talked to in nearby Rexburg had ever heard of it.
What is a "primitive technologist"? Well, it means you can build a fire in less than a minute by rubbing two sticks together; it means you can create a knife out of rock, one that never needs sharpening. It means you know how to use the brains of an animal to tan the hide. It means you can construct a useable basket out of tree bark and sticks.
In other words, a primitive technologist would be a real asset on "Survivor!"
The organizer of the week-long event, Dave Westcot, is an outfitter who understands that getting this kind of group together isn’t easy. He says it requires a complete lack of ego on his part. Luckily, all these people have emails and understand websites, 'cuz many of them don’t live in traditional houses.
Dave comes across as rather laid back, but his motto isn’t: "Stupid people should die." Seems a bit harsh, until you realize that he’s really just re-stating Nature’s own rule, survival of the fittest.
One of the first people we met in this gathering of 200 individuals was an attractive blond woman dressed only in buckskin. When we first met her, Lynx was pasting brain matter onto a buffalo hide to soften it up. It was obvious she’d done this before.
But her claim to fame is taking people out for three months at a time in northwestern Montana and teaching them to live completely off the land. In fact, she even had a video she was selling, documenting that experience.
It was her husband, Digger, who demonstrated the fine art of fire-building with sticks. Digger had the looks -- and the outfit -- to pass for Tarzan.
Lynx and Digger were only two of the many fascinating folks we met that day, and who will be featured in our OUTDOOR IDAHO program, "Back to the Past," which will air in March of 2005.
One of the highlights of the event was the Thursday evening bonfire. Wood was piled about ten feet high, and as darkness settled over the area, the fire was lit, to the beat of big handmade drums. Close to a hundred people started dancing around the fire -- some of them wearing masks created for the occasion. It was mesmerizing.
And while most Idahoans that Thursday evening were probably sitting around a television set in their living rooms, these primitive technologists were having a grand time, celebrating with the "Family," oblivious to the comforts of the 21st century.
Sometimes it takes working on a show to make me realize what we’ve got here in Idaho… or, in this case, what we’re about to lose.
"The War of the Weeds” is scheduled to air September 16th. This program started as an idea several years ago, then got going in earnest this past year, as Ric Ochoa, Jennifer Isenhart, and I worked to finish it.
Trying to make weeds exciting is probably asking too much, although when folks watch the initial 45 seconds of the show, they might think we’ve gone off the deep end! Aficionados of old sci-fi movies will recognize scenes from “The Day of the Triffids.” The DVD cover says it all: “They grow…know…walk…talk…stalk…and KILL!”
Ok, so maybe it’s a bit over the top for an OUTDOOR IDAHO show. But consider this. According to the BLM, the West is losing three thousand acres a day to noxious weeds!
That still seems like a misprint to me… but last weekend I did discover rush skeletonweed on my property outside of Idaho City. And I know that my neighbor has recently sprayed for spotted knapweed, another of the 36 officially recognized “noxious” weeds in our state. And while gathering firewood this past weekend in the Boise National Forest, I discovered patches of Canada thistle near the dead tree I cut down.
As the song goes, ‘Ya got trouble, my friend, right here. I say trouble, right here in River City.’
Hopefully, our show will provide some awareness of the problem, because it’s not going away. We traveled with the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service to Garden Valley for the show; and all that green on some of those beautiful hillsides… it’s not grass, folks. Rush Skeletonweed has quietly taken over, while hardly anyone was looking.
Most mountain bikers already know about puncturevine, or goathead. The rest of us will soon come to learn about tansy ragwort, leafy spurge, dalmatian toadflax, yellow starthistle, and Eurasian water milfoil.
Unfortunately, these invaders are hard to kill and can spread like wildfire. They have the power to change the way we work and play in the outdoors. Makes me think that maybe those old science fiction movies weren't so far off the mark...
Yuri, the Yak Slapper was in fine form. This Idaho construction worker looked like he had just stepped out of the Middle Ages. In fact, they all did, all 700 of them.
But Yuri was crying like a baby, something I wouldn’t have expected from one of Kublai Khan’s warriors. But those were tears of joy. Yuri the Yak Slapper was getting knighted by the King and his court.
Not sure what you were doing last Saturday, but videographer Jeff Tucker, volunteer Dennis Fetzer and I were in a beautiful cottonwood forest outside of Idaho Falls, with members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
We had expected to see people dressed up like knights and squires and artisans and fair maidens, and we had expected to see men in armor beating on each other with swords and other medieval implements of warfare. That’s what the SCA is all about: re-creating the Middle Ages, minus the Plague and the Inquisition. The Middle Ages the way it should have been.
What we did not expect to see was a ceremony full of real joy and feeling, that brought tears to my eyes, and I didn’t even know the Yak Slapper!
Apparently, a knighting ceremony is a rare event; and Yuri was very kind to allow us to videotape his special day. In the post interview we conducted, Yuri called it the best day of his life, and I certainly couldn’t disagree. These were his friends; he called them “his family”; and they were recognizing his bravery, his chivalry, his years of service to the SCA, with their highest honor: knighthood.
Part of that day’s events – which for us began at 5:30 a.m. and ended after midnight – will be featured in an hour-long show called “Back to the Past,” which will air during our March Pledge drive. It’s a show dedicated to all those hearty souls who search for fun in another time zone.
The lucky ones, like Yuri the Yak Slapper, find more than a good time. They also find their true family.
Making television is a bit like being a chef. If you’ve got the right ingredients, things will usually work out. That’s where Idaho and her people make our job easy. Lots of good ingredients everywhere you look.
June is one of those work-horse months for producers and videographers, where we gather the ingredients. The days are long, and we can drive across the state and still have time to shoot the story. And by now, we’ve had enough discussions to know what documentaries actually made it on to the menu.
Here are a few of them: “Pushing the Boundaries”… “War of the Weeds”… “Priest Lake”… Back to the Past”… “Backroads Adventures” …”The Basques.”
Each of these shows has at least two chefs…a lead producer, who is responsible for shepherding the idea along; and a director/editor, who will eventually have to put the show together in the edit bay. Hopefully, the two chefs are on the same page!
Joan Cartan-Hansen is the lead producer behind “Pushing the Boundaries,” about young kids in the outdoors. John Crancer will be shepherding the “Backroads Adventures” show and will be spending several days at Priest Lake this summer.
Jim Peck will be learning a lot about Idaho’s Basque culture this summer. And my assignment includes weeds and a show about folks’ fascination with the past. Our director/editors are Pat Metzler, Alan Austin, Ric Ochoa, and Chuck Cathcart.
Unlike a meal, which can be eaten relatively soon after collecting the ingredients, one of our shows can easily take two months to finish. That includes several weeks of shooting, a week of writing, and five or six weeks in the edit bay.
But one nice thing with television: you can have your cake and eat it, too. Over and over again.
This is the season for Awards. Let’s face it, no other profession – with the exception of acting – has so many chances to pat oneself on the back!
The other day, the folks I work with brought home a handful of 1st Place plaques from the Idaho Press Club, scores of paper awards for 2nd and 3rd place, and Judges Comments. Fourteen awards in all, five of them First Place.
Some of the Comments were gratifying. Regarding a First Place for OUTDOOR IDAHO’S 20th Anniversary show: “Obvious from the first ten minutes that this is a station that cares to provide the best! Idaho should say thank you. What a commitment.”
Another OUTDOOR IDAHO show, Teton Inspiration, won the Documentary Category. The judges wrote: “A story that makes a difference. Shows us the strength of the human spirit. Thanks for the hard work.”
Our DIALOGUE FOR KIDS Space Careers show also won a First Place Award: “Well told. I’m sure it inspired lots of kids.”
There’s no question that our Production crew stacks up very well against others in our profession. Even when the Awards are “national” in scope, like the New York Film Festival or the recent Worldfest International Film Festival, we have held our own. In fact, at the recent Worldfest in Houston, we garnered six awards, including a Gold Special Jury Award for that 20th Anniversary show.
Paying too much attention to Awards can warp your mind. But I’ve also seen it motivate folks to try harder and to try different approaches. And that’s not a bad thing.
Certainly more than most television stations, we seem to have an abiding connection with the Corps of Discovery.
It began back in 1997, with efforts to produce our first Lewis & Clark documentary, "Echoes of a Bitter Crossing: Lewis & Clark in Idaho." A group of us -- Alan Austin, John Crancer, Pat Metzler and me -- spent several weeks in and around the Bitterroot Mountains. I can’t say we suffered cold and hunger, like the explorers did in the fall of 1805. In fact, we ate pretty well! The Lochsa Lodge was our rendezvous point. But we did manage to get stuck a few times. Even in July, the snow was deep in places!
We came away from that encounter with the distinct feeling that Serendipity plays a big role in the Bitterroots. Things happened to us -- for us they were good things -- that definitely helped our production. We ran into the right people precisely when we needed to. We were lucky, and we knew it.
Our second production, "The Journey of Sacagawea," was a co-production with Idanha Films. In 2000, John Crancer, Alan Austin, and Pat Metzler joined up with Lori Joyce to produce a multi-state production that, like "Echoes...," is being shown nationally on other PBS stations.
This year marks our third production, "Lewis & Clark: Crossing the Centuries." John Crancer and Pat Metzler have been hard at work telling the story of how things have changed -- or not changed -- in two hundred years on the Lewis & Clark trail. Again, it’s a multi-state exploration, with lots of re-enactments and gorgeous scenery. The show will air March 11 during our Pledge Drive.
These three shows are our Lewis & Clark Trilogy.
But wait. There’s more. Out of the footage from "Crossing the Centuries" will come a half hour OUTDOOR IDAHO show on the Expedition, told from the point of view of the Native Americans. And their point of view is a bit different! This show will air in the fall of 2004.
And wait! There’s even more. We are putting together a series of one-minute Journal entries... readings that will start in St. Louis in 1804, proceed up the Missouri, through Idaho, to the Pacific Ocean, and then back to St. Louis in 1806. We’re not sure how many there will be yet -- if funding comes through, we’ll do 39 of them -- but the first ones will start airing in May of this year.
You’ll be able to see them off and on for the next several years, in that space between our regularly scheduled programs... where other stations put commercials. For many folks, it will be their first encounter with the actual writings of Lewis & Clark. They have a style all their own!
And then we think we’re done with the Odyssey of Lewis & Clark. Of course, we've said that before...
Architecture has been called "frozen music." But it can be a vicious business. I was reminded of that when we conducted interviews for our show "Designing Idaho."
We heard architects complain about losing ground to contractors who try to cut them completely out of the equation. And there’s the usual complaints about other fellow professionals.
I have always admired the architects who create our large buildings. I can only imagine how complicated it must be these days to design a public building or even a $2 million dolllar house in Sun Valley. But designing the building is only part of the challenge. Then architects have to work with the client and the builders to make sure their plans are followed. They almost never are. There are always compromises or screw-ups along the way.
I built my own home (without an architect). It’s a log cabin in the woods. As houses go, it’s simple, although some things make it different. It’s a vertical log cabin, and the floor consists of large, three-foot wide planks cut from a big ponderosa pine with an Alaskan chain saw. But its charm, I guess, is that it seems to fit the landscape.
When architects Jack Smith and Mark Pynn showed us some of their creations in Sun Valley, I was astonished at the electronic wizardry that can go into a modern home. There are rooms larger than many bedrooms devoted just to furnaces and pumps and conduits and such. It looked as complicated as Apollo 13!
It reminded me that architects must not only have a good sense of design, but they must also be part engineer as well. The good ones are able to use both sides of their brain surprisingly well.
I guess that’s why they get my admiration.
But both videographer/director Alan Austin and I faced a problem after hanging around architects this past summer. We both came to hate our own homes. They just didn't seem good enough any more. Alan went home and re-painted his. I went home and cleaned up my back room and did some landscaping.
Who knows, if more architects stepped up to the plate to tell our city fathers what works and what doesn't in our cities, maybe we could improve the urban fabric... or at least get it re-painted.
Climbing to 10,800 foot Patterson Peak summit with a tripod slung over my shoulder. Cooking beans and soy dogs over a one-burner backpacking stove. Car camping at elevation 9,500. Three sunsets and a sunrise over the Chinese Wall. Dinner with Idaho historian Cort Conley. And that was all in one week!
When I return to college in the fall and my friends ask me what I did this summer, I don’t know if they will believe me. As an intern with Idaho Public Television’s production staff, I was given the privilege to join John Crancer and Pat Metzler on a one-week shoot in the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains during the month of July.
We began the shoot on Sunday, July 6th, with a short three-hour drive by Idaho standards from Boise to Stanley. The next morning we woke early to the sounds of eager river rats leaving town for the River of No Return. After having a hearty breakfast with a large group of ATVers and trail-bikers, we followed them up Pole Creek Road, which divides the Boulder Mountains from the White Cloud Mountains, for a day of filming. As our first full day came to an end, we explored the remains of a mining community at the end of the dirt road and set camp. Even though this was the best car camping location I have ever found in my twenty-one years growing up in Idaho, the strong winds swirling around the nearby peaks were a poor substitute for a nighttime lullaby.
We spent the remainder of our week driving, backpacking and hiking through a vast stretch of the White Clouds from Pole Creek Road to the East Fork of the Salmon River. On Wednesday, four members of the Idaho Conservation League led us to a ridge overlooking Ants Basin where we met mountain man and long-time employee of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ed Cannady. We learned that he was preparing to leave for a two-week, one hundred and thirty mile backpacking trip in Glacier National Park with his wife who recently broke her arm. Hesitantly, we followed his recommendation to scramble along the steep, loose rocks of Patterson Peak. Although we probably spent more time trying to talk one another into turning around than actually hiking, we ultimately reached the summit with a rewarding view of Castle Peak.
On our final day in the field, Friday, July 11th, we drove to the home of 81 year-old rancher Dick Baker expecting to find him resting indoors like most men his age. Instead, we were surprised to find that he had left early that morning to spend the next couple of days out in the mountains herding his cattle. Disappointed to miss meeting this legendary man, we hit the road for our return trip home.
As we pulled into IdahoPTV’s station a little before midnight, I recalled the many voices and sights of the last week. I realized that no other experience would have introduced me to such a wide range of views and hidden parts of the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains in such a short amount of time.
One of the things that we can do better than any other statewide entity in Idaho… is zero in on an issue or a topic and cover it with both video and Q&A. And June 12 that’s exactly what we did… for an hour… on statewide television.
Our new OUTDOOR IDAHO show on the Clearwater National Forest was followed immediately by a DIALOGUE with key policy makers and citizens.
“Conflict on the Clearwater” explores some of the challenges confronting this gem of a national forest. It’s a forest that has seen big trees, big elk herds, big fish, big wildfires… and big controversy. And it’s a forest that has changed dramatically in the last hundred years.
Immediately following OUTDOOR IDAHO, host Marcia Franklin of DIALOGUE opened the phones to allow folks to question Clearwater Supervisor Larry Dawson about what he plans to do about fewer elk and less timber cutting. Dawson was joined by citizen sportsman Ted Zmak, Wilderness Society spokesman Craig Gehrke, and public lands attorney Bob Maynard.
Not every OUTDOOR IDAHO show lends itself to a follow-up DIALOGUE discussion, but when they do, we’ll take advantage of the opportunity. We believe it’s the kind of statewide television that helps Idahoans appreciate the complexity of their remarkable state.
Our annual Pledge drive has ended, and once more IPTV has made - actually exceeded! - our goal of $900,000. This is money that will be used to provide programming, including local programming, for the upcoming year.
Even more than in past years, local productions were front and center during the sixteen day "beg-a-thon." "Idaho Rhapsody," "Idaho Edens," "Angler's Paradise," "Aerial Tapestry," "The Journey of Sacagawea," "Idaho, A Portrait," DIALOGUE and IDAHO REPORTS… these are some of the local shows that aired this year.
The big winner for the entire "Festival" was the ninety minute OUTDOOR IDAHO "Twentieth Anniversary Special." Of course, the show aired twice during the sixteen days, and it aired on the final night's festivities, but it did seem to resonate with a lot of folks who watch us. It was an interesting mix of public affairs, fuzzy animals, interesting people, drop-dead scenery, and, oh yeah, humor, almost all of it at my expense!
I particularly liked that the program showcased the work of everyone in our Production unit. That's as it should be, since it is the one show that we all work on throughout the year. It is the talent and passion of my colleagues that has allowed OUTDOOR IDAHO to shine brightly for twenty years.
In March of 2003 "Outdoor Idaho" will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. We will be celebrating the way most television shows celebrate these events… on the air.
By my calculations, we've produced about 190 Outdoor Idaho shows since October of 1983. Okay, to be honest, some of those were half hours reduced from original hour programs. So, let's say we've produced about 175 original shows.
I have no idea how many miles that represents traveling around Idaho, although I do know it has involved several vehicles. I remember an interview we did with then Governor Phil Batt. We picked him up at the Capitol in our ugly blue station wagon with over 150,000 miles on it. We shot the interview, and were driving Mr. Batt back to the Capitol. He asked to be dropped off several blocks from the office. Come to think of it, I can't say I blamed him. I do know that in the next budget cycle, we received a new vehicle.
Trying to figure out what should go into a 20th anniversary show has been fun… and frustrating. One thing we don't want to do is just show clips from the past, because, frankly, we do enough of that already. We want new material for our 20th anniversary, but we also want to look backwards and forwards.
So, we've decided to do this… four segments of twenty minutes each… on Environmental Issues…Outdoor Idaho Beginnings… Wildlife…People & Places. There will be new profiles, a campfire discussion with a group of interesting people, a behind-the-scenes look at how an Outdoor Idaho show is put together, stories on salmon and wolves and other wildlife, Testimonials, and "I Remember" segments sprinkled throughout the show. They'll even be an ode to hats!
We'll be in the edit bay through part of January and all of February, and God willin' and the creek don't rise, we'll finish just in time for you to watch our efforts, on the evening of March 6.
If you've ever wanted to clone someone, then you'll understand my fascination with 85 year old Bud Moore. Bud used to be the Forest Ranger at Powell Ranger station in the Clearwater National Forest. If I could clone him, I'd stick Bud in all the ranger stations in the West, because I'm convinced so many of our problems on Forest Service lands would quickly vanish with him at the helm!
I met Bud in late September, when videographer Tom Hadzor and I went up north to begin working on a story on the Clearwater forest. The Clearwater is a complex forest, one of the real jewels of our nation, and loggers and enviros definitely believe it is a prize worth fighting for. The Forest Service finds itself stuck in the middle somewhere, trying to do what's right for a public that can't seem to agree on much.
That's where someone like Bud Moore could be of help. He's a big friendly bear of a man, who immediately puts people at ease with his smile and his wisdom and his candor. Oh, yeah, and his energy! This guy is in better shape than most 50 year olds!
Bud took us to Rocky Point lookout, one of the highest points in the Clearwater. From there we could see why Lewis & Clark had so much trouble in this country. We could see why loggers value the timbered hillsides and drainages. We could see why some folks are upset with so many clearcuts.
Bud makes no bones about it: the Forest Service made some mistakes in the past. They lost the respect and trust of the American people; so now they have to work overtime to get it back.
Bud is a big believer in “ecosystem management,” managing for the entire forest. Get the timber out, sure, but don't wreck the land to do it. On his own eighty acres in Montana, Bud is actively practicing ecosystem management, and he's convinced his neighbors to do the same. He takes trees off the acreage, but it's also a haven for animals, including the grizzly bear.
We'll be seeing more of Bud Moore in our 20th Anniversary Outdoor Idaho show in March. Someone this wise about the forest just needs to be profiled!
Even before the llamas and hikers and ATV had made it back to the trailhead, folks were calling it memorable.
Our 20th Anniversary “Outdoor Idaho” work party featured an eclectic group of folks… a beautiful mountain lake… wonderful weather… and, best of all, incredible food!
We needed to shoot interviews and scenics for our 20th anniversary show in March, as well as our fishing show in December. So… we figured the most economical way to accomplish all this was to do it all at once!
Twelve llamas loaded with food and supplies, a horse, one ATV stacked high with cameras and tripods, converged on a lake about 40 miles from McCall, Idaho.
But I digress. Let's get back to the food. Dutch-oven baked salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, huckleberry-chocolate-peach dessert. And that was only the first meal! In the space of 3 ½ days, our chefs -- Jo and Jay Rais, Kay Johnson, Ann Joslin, Greg Doner, and Norm Nelson -- never failed to delight the dozen or so people who hiked the three miles. Pork tenderloin, rice, black bean soup, tortillas, quesadillas, and chocolate cream cheese chocolate chip cake… We were all happy campers!
Oh, yeah, we also managed to shoot several segments on mountain fishing and camping. Three videographers -- Alan Austin, Pat Metzler, Jeff Tucker -- spread out over the landscape, capturing on tape the majesty of this charming mountain setting. Our December program, “Idaho, An Angler's Paradise,” will feature some of their unique artistic sensibility. Joining the shooters were “Outdoor Idaho” producers John Crancer and Marcia Franklin.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was a campfire discussion late into the evening. The topic we threw at our guests: How has Idaho changed in the last twenty years? Eventually some of this will make it into our March “Outdoor Idaho” program. Probably all of it will make it onto our web site.
I also took from the trip a few other memories: Teaching a young child how to fish (and thankfully, having the fish cooperate!)… serving espressos in little silver cups to some of my late-sleeping comrades… and thinking how very lucky I am to have such great friends and to live in such a rugged state!
After driving nonstop and shooting non stop for 5 days, we finally stayed in one place for 2 days. Which is actually back where we started from in Great Falls. Yes, we did one of John Crancer´s infamous “circles of shooting doom”… where you drive and drive and drive, and shoot and shoot and shoot, and he say´s…”I just want to check this road to see if there´s a shot”… and you´re thinking to yourself… “do we really need this, we´ve already got GREAT stuff?´´… and it´s 9:00PM… we still haven´t had dinner, much less a place to stay the night.
So on day 2 the bantering pretty much became non-stop from yours truly. John became “MAP GUY”… because, of course, he bought every Gazetteer he could find cause they were on sale… He even has one of Nevada, and we´re not even going there! There are maps all over the dashboard…
Lori Joyce became “SPIRIT GUIDE”, cause when we couldn´t find a shot without power lines or urban sprawl, she would do her MOJO (secret books, chants, etc… don´t really know for sure, she won´t say) and then all of a sudden MAP GUY would say…”hey, turn on this road past the bridge, I think there´s a shot”… and guess what?… there before us would be THE shot, the one and only that would work!
I of course, working on my tan and being from LA LA LAND, was dubbed “SHOOTER DUDE”. So that´s how it went for days 1 & 2.
I neglected to mention the gleam in Pat Metzler´s eyes when he realized that he got to go home on my day 1. He did look tired in more ways than one, and you gotta love him… he left us all of his 252 music tapes, which I thought we would never need. But, now I´m convinced we´ll listen to them ALL at least twice by the time we get back to Boise.
As we were climbing Lemhi pass from the Montana side -- where Lewis & Clark first saw Idaho -- to get the last shot of the day, I kept hearing an unusual banging noise coming from the back wheels. The road looked good and I was looking for that magic shot, so I wasn´t too concerned with the noise, and anyway… I wasn´t driving. There had been some thundering and rain but at this point the light was just beautiful and SHOOTER DUDE was looking for the sweet shots.
Then without warning and right out of an action movie, I´m looking at the side of the mountain… the Tahoe is going SIDEWAYS down this dirt road without any sign of stopping anytime soon… At this point I gotta hand it to MAP GUY… he kept his cool cause it could have been bad… he does a total Mario Andretti and cranks it the other way… now we´re going sideways the other way and I´m looking down a step ravine… then back again the other way… OH NO…will this ever stop!… then a few fishtails, and he gets it under control! Whew!!
After we took our hearts out of our mouths and put them back were they belong… we realized it had rained really heavily just on this section of the road. Then MAP GUY says…”yeah, there was a sign back there that said ROAD UNPASSABLE WHEN WET” Now he frantically is trying to put the Tahoe into 4 wheel drive, cause it looks like we´re gonna get stuck in the middle of nowhere in mud that looks like chocolate pudding!
During all this SPIRIT GUIDE was totally calm (or at least appeared that way)… I think she was praying. Whatever it was, it worked, cause we made it to the top and got great shots.
That night we ate a fine meal at Bertrams in Salmon,ID. SHOOTER DUDE could be found at the bar de-stressing, ‘cause Bertrams brews their own. You should definitely try the “Lost Trail Amber”, but don´t take that road if it´s wet!!!….
More to come from North Dakota. if the Indians don´t get us and the hotel room has internet access… see ya all soon… I HOPE!
When I pulled on the big padded suit and faced the snarling police dog I had no idea I would be providing such merriment for my friends and co-workers. It seems there's nothing that makes people you think are your friends happier than seeing you get gnawed on by a big dog. But more on that later.
Putting together "Our Dogs" for Outdoor Idaho was a great assignment for me. I'm a dog person. It's not that I have anything against cats, mind you, it's just that, well, if you can have a dog why bother with a cat? I like the old line about the difference between cats and dogs, "If your house catches fire in the middle of the night while you're asleep a dog will bark and pull at your clothes so you wake up and save yourself and your family. A cat will slink silently out the back door."
"Our Dogs" takes a look at a handful of people and the dogs they work and play with. It's always amazing to see how in tune these teams are. From the sheep dogs to the search and rescue dogs, there's a strong bond between K9 and human. Getting a chance to show some of that in the program was very cool.
Heading out on the grouse hunt with author Craig Kulchak was something I was really looking forward to. It was my first chance to hunt in Idaho. After years on the flatlands of the Midwest, it was great to be up in the mountains, making my way through the pines. If you saw the show you know that the weather changed dramatically while we were out hunting. What you don't see in the show is Craig and me heading home in his vintage Land Rover. It's a terrific vehicle. Goes anywhere. Climbs hills like a mountain goat. And the experience is enhanced by the open air ride with the top off. Craig likes to drive around and feel the wind in what's left of his hair. I liked it too. Until the temperature dropped into the 30's and rain, sleet and then snow pelted us the entire drive home. But I did feel like I was a real "guy" riding along with Craig. I mean, what could be better than freezing your behind off while listening to hard luck tales of the hunt? Listening to this while creeping along at just over 20 miles per hour (the top speed of the old Land Rover)? Listening to these stories of near misses and REALLY bad weather while getting the opportunity to claw the ice off of the inside of the windscreen with bare hands so he can see where we're going? I ask you, what could be better than that?! I would like to point out that our hardy crew was snuggly warm inside the production vehicle. And I now dislike them intensely due to their smugness upon our return.
Oh, and did I mention we didn't even get to take a shot? That the only bird we saw was the one you viewers saw sitting in a tree? And did I tell you how my heart was warmed by the knowledge that Craig got some "great" shooting in the day BEFORE we arrived for our hunt? I mean, the freezing cold and soaking wet conditions hardly mattered once I knew he had cleaned up on grouse less than 24 hours earlier. But I'm not bitter. No way.
Fortunately the other shoots went smoothly. Pam Green and her search and rescue dog Inca were wonderful to work with. Jeff and Judy Snyder and all the folks at the Ashton Dog Derby were a pleasure. Joan Cartan-Hansen has nothing but good things to say about her shoots with sheep dog trainer Patrick Shannahan. But for me, the best part was indeed getting chomped on by Rader, the Nampa PD's ace K9.
What I liked was Lt. Rick Wiley's easy nature as he helped me cram myself into the bite suit. That thing weighs about 60 pounds and you'd think it could protect you from just about anything. Really, you'd think that. Wouldn't you? I did.
The whole feel of the shoot changed when Rader discovered the rare delicacy of fresh producer. He seemed so nice, peaceful, playful and almost a bit reserved. Until I donned the suit. Then I was like a big ol' hunk of bacon to him.
Now, I want to point out that this is the portion of the show that has friends of mine here in Idaho and across the country with their fingers on the rewind button of the VCR remote. I have been regaled by tales of their "watching it over and over" so they could see me take the punishment this dog was dishing out. My dad called from Wisconsin and said, "Wow, it was fascinating to see that dog attempting to eviscerate you." My dad tends to talk like that and actually does use words like eviscerate. I could hear the joy in his voice. Was this a kind of payback for my teen years? My mom was a bit more sensitive about the experience, "Was the dog okay?" Yes, Mom, the dog was okay. My best friend and best man called to say he hasn't had so much fun since I got blind sided by a cheap, illegal block during my gridiron days of long ago. And, of course, the entire Idaho Public TV staff gathered 'round the edit bay to watch me in super slow-mo as I, dressed in a fashion that only the Michelin Man could envy, lumber clumsily away from Rader, just far enough to give him a proper chance to hit his stride before taking me down and out swiftly and viciously. With friends like these...
If you wonder, as you watch me getting treated like dog jerky, what is going through my mind it was this; "Okay, I'm on the ground, the dog is attacking me and there is nothing covering my head. Wait, I'm all right, he's well trained."
So now you'll understand my delight when, only moments later, I asked Lt. Wiley how they train the dogs not to go for the head and neck. "Oh, they do sometimes," he calmly explained. "Every once in awhile they catch an ear or something. It happens."
Ah, the joys of television.
Please always remember, dear viewers, the things we do for your enjoyment.
Until next time...
It´s maybe the toughest, most contentious issue facing the Intermountain West, and the folks in our studio tackled it head-on: what to do about a limited resource that more and more people are demanding.
John Keys was there. He´s the head honcho at the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency which made the desert bloom. So was law professor David Getches, author of several important books on western water issues. These two panelists were joined by Jeff Fassett of Wyoming and Kay Brothers of Nevada... and an audience of dedicated professionals from every conceivable political persuasion.
For almost three hours folks spoke and argued passionately about high fallutin´ topics like in-stream flow, prior appropriation, beneficial use, and tribal water rights.
Can the 150 year old doctrine of “first in time, first in right” survive the onslaught of masses of people moving to the west? These folks expect water on demand. They expect water in the streams for fish and wildlife. Many of them don´t give a damn about the needs and rights of farmers and ranchers, whose claims to the water predate many of the cities. And what about those pesky Native Americans who say their rights supersede those of irrigators? Some of our most persuasive audience members came from the Nez Perce, the Sho-Bans, and the Coeur d´Alene tribes.
Is there enough flexibility in the system to avoid the train wreck that many foresee? Not surprisingly, there are no easy answers; but water experts like author David Getches, Commissioner Keys, Wyoming consultant Jeff Fassett and Nevada official Kay Brothers did hold out hope that disaster could be averted, that there is indeed flexibility in the system.
“Draining the West?” aired as an hour long program on May 16 in three states: Idaho, Wyoming, and Reno, Nevada. It is the second of three projects funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. Our partners in the experiment were Wyoming Public Television and Reno Public Television.
If you missed the show, be sure to check out our interesting, if dense, web site at www.focuswest.org. But don´t be in a hurry, because we´ve got the entire two and a half hours of debate indexed and analyzed in fascinating ways, with lots of streaming video.
Two of my colleagues, Joan Cartan-Hansen and Al Hagenlock, have created a half hour show focusing primarily on issues surrounding Native American tribal rights. Central to this program is a video piece that Marcia Franklin put together after talking to folks on all sides of this tough issue. This half hour version will air eventually; and, like the hour long “Draining the West?” can be purchased on-line or by calling 1-877-224-7200.
As someone who helped pick the panelists and the twenty eight audience members, I was pleased with the assistance I received from the Idaho Water Users Association and from Idaho Rivers United, two groups with decidedly different agendas.
And I was reminded, once again, of the power of ideas and the importance of public affairs to Idaho Public Television´s mission.
One of the best parts of my job is getting a chance to go to interesting places and to meet great people. This assignment was no exception. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area is spectacularly diverse and has a rich historical past. The only sad part of this assignment was all the great material we had to leave out!
The first thing we shot was actually the third segment of the program, tracking wolves. I can't say I am much of a morning person and trackers all seemed to start before the sun comes up. But our hosts, Dan Gardoquia and Jon Young from the Wilderness Awareness School were very patient. They opened my eyes to a new way of looking at the world. Listen for the birds. Smell the ground. Read the landscape. You don't have to go into the backcountry to experience tracking. Start by looking around your back yard or a near-by park. Dan said tracking was part of humankind's blueprint, something so old it is something all of us have inside. After working on this piece, I think he is right.
Next was a backcountry plane trip into the Frank Church Wilderness. Having had one plane crash in my life, I am not a big fan of small planes. But this ride is a piece of cake. And Taylor Ranch is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. It was absolutely amazing to be standing that close to a bear. The huffing sound they make when you are too close and they are annoyed really does make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. On our first night there, everyone at Taylor Ranch welcomed us with a barbecue. We had a delightful conversation about evolution and about what it like to live in the most remote year-round residence in the lower 48. They all went out their way to help us do our piece and I appreciate their kindness.
Jim Peck put together the story on the llama trek. He hadn't been in Idaho very long when he did the piece and I hope it was a good introduction to the state. When I tell people we get to go on llama trips as part of our job, they always claim that's the kind of work they'd like to do. I won't argue that it is fun, but it is work. Jim does a great job of making the viewer feel like he or she is coming along for the ride.
The final piece I worked on is the first piece in the show. I have long hoped to do a full biography of Frank Church. It is even a joke among my colleagues, Joan and her Frank Church "doc." But I think his is a story worth telling. And you can't tell his story without his wife, Bethine.
Bethine Church is an amazing lady. She is equally at home in the lofty circles of power in Washington D.C. as she is on porch of an Idaho ranch house. Together, she and Frank made a huge difference in Idaho and in America. Whether they agreed or disagreed with Frank Church's politics, no one questioned that he did what he felt was right, even at great political expense.
Frank Church said that saving the River of No Return Wilderness, as it was called then, would be his last great accomplishment for Idaho. It was, but what a wonderful gift!
At the end of my first legislative session in 1991, I clipped out a Gary Larson cartoon (don't you miss those?) and gave it to my boss at the time, Barbara Pulling.
The comic showed an ant sitting in a classroom, raising his hand. "Teacher, may I be excused?" he was saying. "My brain is full."
That's certainly how I felt, after learning what I considered to be a whole new language. "First readings," "print hearings," "10th order"--- the terms of the legislative process, while often arcane, have great meaning. After one session, I still felt like I had a tremendous amount to learn. Even though I had grown up in Washington, DC, I was virtually clueless about the legislative branch.
This year will mark the 12th session that I have covered the Idaho statehouse, and I'm still learning. But there's at least one large comfort--the fellowship and group knowledge of the other reporters here.
Many people may not realize that more than 15 press people from around the state have their offices in the basement of the Capitol during the session.
The Idaho Statesman, KBSU radio and the Associated Press have permanent space, but the rest of us troop in for three months a year to spend our days in the "bullpen," a large area also inhabited by broken down chairs, a 1960s era refrigerator and shag-carpeted office dividers. IPTV also has a small studio and control room from which we can do interviews with lawmakers.
Gone are the green eyeshades, the smoking (even Bob Fick quit) and the drinking (the carouser moved out of state). But the intensity of coverage has not waned. Although budget cutbacks have meant that the Idaho Falls paper does not have a fulltime reporter here, all the other major papers in the state still do.
And what has impressed me has been the new crop of reporters that has arrived, interested and intrigued by the process of government, and committed to conveying that to their readers.
"This is an honor," says Brad Hem of the Idaho Press Tribune about the beat. "I beg to do this."
Hem, 24, a graduate of the University of Missouri, says while some might consider government reporting boring, he never has a dull moment. "For three months this is where some of the most important decisions are made," he says.
"I like living my beat," says Graham Garner of the Pocatello-based Idaho State Journal. "Everyone I need to talk to is here. Within four floors, I've got all the fodder I need."
Garner, 23, a fulltime ISU student, is a native of Idaho Falls. But he never knew about how state government worked until he started reporting at the legislature.
"If anybody could come and watch this for a week," says Garner, "they'd have such an appreciation for it. No matter how much you watch that "How a Bill Becomes a Law" film, it doesn't stick until you see it."
(Note to Graham: have you seen "Saved by the Bill?" Check out idahoptv.org/saved. We think it's a pretty cool site.)
It certainly isn't money that brings these new reporters to the beat. Many are making $20,000 or less a year. "The guys who repair hot tubs make more than I do," says Garner.
"You'd probably pull your hair out if you calculated how much you're making per hour," says Brian Peters of the Lewiston Tribune. Peters, 34, who just received his Masters degree from Northwestern University (way to go, Brian--my alma mater, too) says he loves the diversity of issues he covers at the legislature.
"Every day seems to bring another issue to become knowledgable about," he says, which he enjoys despite the fact that he often works from 8 AM to 8 PM.
For Julie Pence, the issues are familiar. Before becoming a reporter, she was a teacher in the Twin Falls area for 20 years. Pence, who is in her 50s and was once also a welder, has been reporting for the Twin Falls Times-News for the past eight months. Even though she has to leave her husband and her dog behind in the Magic Valley to live here for three months, "I've never had so much fun."
Because there is little or no competition between the papers, reporters often share information with each other about meeting times and contacts. Veteran statehouse reporters like Bob Fick, Mark Warbis and Betsy Russell are gracious about sharing what they know.
But there's still the internal competition to break a story, something no one else in the bullpen has. When that happens, other reporters are often the first to congratulate that person.
"There's a sense of friendly rivalry and camaraderie that may be unique to this beat," says Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review.
I've heard it said that reporters have lost their edge,that reporting is nothing but fluff and entertainment. In many venues, that may be the case. Here at the Idaho legislature, I'm convinced that there is still good old fashioned reporting occuring. Betsy Russell even had to replace a pair of shoes after last session.
Plus, it can be fun. "The governor knows my first name," says Hem. "That's cool."
It’s been almost twenty years since Bruce Reichert and Sauni Symonds produced “Yellowstone in Winter.” We thought it was time for Outdoor Idaho to revisit this incredible part of the country.
Almost immediately, we discovered a new layer of complications. The National Park Service is now charging fees to “commercial” video producers. We argued that we are a non-profit, to no avail.
While the permit wasn’t prohibitively expensive because of our small crew, we also learned we’d have to pay to interview park employees or videotape geothermal areas. I yearned for the days when our crews had full no-fee access to the park and were actually encouraged to document its splendor.
Despite these frustrations, we gathered a lot of material on an area of the park we have never featured before: Yellowstone’s Cascade Corner. I was extremely impressed with this corner of the park that actually extends into Idaho. Of course, capturing its beauty involved many of the usual challenges of videotaping in the backcountry.
In addition to our food and personal gear, we also had to carry a heavy load of television production equipment. Horses helped on a couple of the segments, but if you’re using a pack horse to carry your gear, you have to unpack and repack every time you want a shot. That’s difficult for photographers who like lots of pictures. One other thing: there are no ‘current’ bushes to recharge your batteries in the backcountry, and your production can quickly end without power for the equipment.
For the winter segments we needed a special trailer attached to a snowmobile to haul equipment. It worked great most of the time, but we did lose the trailer once on a particular bumpy stretch and had to backtrack to finish the segment.
We have begun to use some smaller production equipment for some shoots but our larger HD gear still produces the highest quality images, and for Yellowstone our videographers chose to deal with the added weight of the bigger cameras.
I think it was worth it, they were able to record some stunning images of a lesser known part of the park. We also spent several days in the main park area so we could incorporate the overall picture into our program. Again, our crews did a great job getting shots of wildlife and geothermal features.
Despite the challenges, I believe it was worth the effort. We hope you agree when you see our most recent hour-long Outdoor Idaho, “Yellowstone’s Cascade Corner.”