Archive for July, 2013

I am an addict of all descriptions of the Lewis and Clark expedition. One of the many extraordinary obstacles overcome during that journey was the portage of the Great Falls of the Missouri. The Mandan Native Americans described this landmark of the upper Missouri River to Lewis and Clark during the winter of 1804. The explorers anticipated finding these falls thus verifying that they had made the correct choice when faced with the merging of the Milk and Missouri Rivers earlier in their journey.

Lewis, as he frequently did, left the party with Clark in charge to continue the struggle of moving all of their supplies and equipment westward against the current of the river. After he had traveled about two miles Lewis heard the sound and saw the spray from the falls and seven miles later he arrived. Here is his written description taken from his journal as edited by Elliott Coues in “The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition”:

“The river immediately at this cascade is 300 yards wide, and is pressed in by a perpendicular cliff on the left, which rises to about 100 feet and extends up the stream for a mile; on the right the bluff is also perpendicular for 300 yards above the falls. For 90 or 100 yards from the left cliff, the water falls in one smooth, even sheet, over a precipice at least 80 feet. The remaining part of the river precipitates itself with a more rapid current, but being received as it falls by the irregular and somewhat projecting rocks below, forms a splendid prospect of perfectly white foam, 200 yards in length and 80 in perpendicular elevation. This spray is dissipated into a thousand shapes, sometimes flying up in columns of 15 or 20 feet, which are then oppressed by larger masses of the white foam, on all which the sun impresses the brightest colors of the rainbow. As it rises from the fall it beats with fury against a ledge of rocks which extend across the river at 150 yards from the precipice. From the perpendicular cliff on the north, to the distance of 120 yards, the rocks rise only a few feet above the water; when the river is high the stream finds a channel across them 40 yards wide and near the higher parts of the ledge, which then rise about 20 feet and terminate abruptly within 80 or 90 yards of the southern side. Between them and the perpendicular cliff on the south the whole body of water runs with great swiftness. …”

Lewis himself found this description not adequate to describe what he saw and intended to revise the description to better reflect the magnificence of this natural phenomenon. He never got around to making those revisions. The next day, June 14 of 1805, Lewis continued upstream and discovered a second falls, 19 feet high and 300 yards across. He named it “Crooked Falls” next he climbed a nearby hill and found a third waterfall he described as “…one of the most beautiful objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular….” Lewis named these falls “Beautiful Cascade”, but they are now known at “Rainbow Falls”. Further upstream Lewis spotted yet another falls that were only about 6 feet high but stretched more than a quarter of a mile across the river, these became known as “Colter Falls”. Captain Lewis continued his explorations and about two and a half miles upstream of Colter Falls he located a fifth cataract. This one was about 26 feet high and close to 600 yards wide and became known of the “Black Eagle Falls”.

I had never seen these wonders and wanted to experience them so on our trip home from Denver Charlize and I made a detour to Great Falls, Montana. Here is what we found:



Just upstream of the Great Falls sits Ryan Dam reducing the Missouri’s flow to slightly more than a trickle. No roar, no mist, no rainbows. Between Rainbow Falls and the Great Falls resides the Cochrane Dam and just downstream of the Rainbow Falls is the Rainbow Dam. The flow over Crooked Falls is significantly reduced because of Rainbow Dam. Colter Falls, upstream of the Rainbow dam, is now submerged. The Black Eagle Falls are upstream of Black Eagle Dam and the water held back by this structure has made the Black Eagle Falls a vestige of what the Corps of Discovery experienced.

I’m certain the people now inhabiting the city and environs have benefitted from the hydroelectric power generated and the water impounded by these dams, that’s progress. But just as it is now impossible for me to experience the agonies of the Corps of Discovery’s portage around the falls as described in the Journals, it is also impossible to experience the magnificence of those five cascades. Charlize and I both considered the experience a “bummer”!


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Seems I can’t stay away. I’m back in Denver visiting old friends who have made a special effort to welcome and include me in their lives even after a fifty plus year hiatus of minimal contact. Some of their friends are people I knew back when CSU was still Colorado A & M and we were all young and unbelievably ignorant of life.

Denver is now a cosmopolitan city and my friends participate in many of the activities that make it so. Their lives seem very different from mine in quiet, artsy Edmonds. I’m certain I cannot live here full time. I have come to rely on the moist air, overcast days and lush green, not to mention my son and his family who I am already missing after only twelve days, but the Mile High City is a great place to visit. Maybe I am destined to just wander then return to Edmonds only to wander again. Not so terrible a thing to contemplate.

During the last few months Charlize has developed some troubling behavior. When she is on leash she is extremely aggressive to other dogs when we encounter them while out walking. I have been using the techniques promulgated by the Dog Whisperer on his TV show and we are making good progress. If I spot another dog before we are too close I put Charlize in a “sit” and make her pay attention to me. This prevents her from getting her “ruff” up, snarling and lunging at the other dog. What is remarkable about this aggressive behavior is that when I take her to a dog park she is not aggressive to the other dogs at all.

My host recently adopted a Maltese/Pomeranian that might weigh five pounds before she shakes off her bath water. When we introduced Charlize and Chloe I put Charlize in a “down stay”.  She wagged her entire hind end and although Chloe was a little apprehensive and slightly aggressive at first they are now getting along with no problems and have started to play together when the spirit moves. Chloe hides under a chair or couch, where Charlize can’t reach her, then launches preemptive strikes with a quick retreat to safety. Charlize seems mostly bemused at this behavior but seems to be getting the idea that it is a game. Occasionally she responds and lands one of her big paws knocking Chloe off balance, but only for an instant. The little dog is almost cat-like in her ability to ability to instantaneously regain balance, change directions in the air and leap onto surfaces twice her height. A couple of mornings ago the two of them shared a plate with a taste of leftover quiche, fun to watch.

A few days ago I went on line and found an off leash dog park not far from my host’s home. Charlize and I have been there several times now. This morning it was already in the high eighties, supposed to reach mid-nineties today, bright sunshine, clear air and high altitude. There were a dozen or more dogs when we arrived shortly after eight AM, some of them already old friends. As usual Charlize was completely focused on her ball. She races after the ball when I chuck it more than a hundred yards using the plastic throwing stick. She ignores the other dogs and if not the fastest she is the most focused on the ball. So far she has outraced all other dogs to retrieve her ball. She also ignores the other dogs as she retrieves but holds the ball in her mouth until she catches her breath then drops it for me to throw it again. If someone throws a ball for one of the other dogs or even if they intercept her ball and throw it, she ignores all but her ball and only if I throw it for her. When she brings it back she continues to ignore the other dogs even when they try to interfere with her progress back to me. No aggressive behavior at all in response to the challenges by any of the other dogs. Good girl!

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I was educated about food-borne diseases and public health in veterinary school. We learned how to identify potential problems and how to prevent them because veterinarians play an important role in protecting our food supply. Food poisoning was something that happened to other people, not me and not my family.

Wrong! I have no recollection of hearing anything about Campylobacter sp. back when I was in veterinary school, it must have had a different name back in those long ago days. Now, however, I know a lot about Campylobacter jujuni and coli, the two most common causes of diarrheal illness in the U.S., estimated to affect more than a million people each year, mostly during the summer months.

Two to five days after exposure vulnerable people experience severe diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, with or without fever, nausea, vomiting, nice eh? The symptoms usually last about a week and most commonly resolve themselves without treatment, except when they don’t. Exposure is most commonly from infected poultry or produce but can occur from unpasteurized dairy products, contaminated water or foodstuffs and even from contact with feces from an infected pet.  Back in 2011 an agency of the U.S. government purchased raw chicken from a wide variety of grocery stores across the country. They tested those samples and found 47% were positive for the bacteria. That is a scary statistic.

Because I thought I just had a case of intestinal flu I treated myself with several commonly used antidiarrheal agents. After five days I had lost twenty-five pounds and there was no improvement in the severe diarrhea. On the sixth day I was feeling too weak to drive myself.  My son responded to my call for help and drove me to the ER.

I was severely dehydrated.  After the blood work was completed the ER physician estimated I was down to ten percent or less kidney function and in acute renal failure. Three days of hospitalization, intravenous fluids and treatment for the bacterial culprit brought me around, but it was a close call. Another day or two and I would have been a candidate for kidney dialysis, maybe permanently.

The lesson learned is that at my reasonably advanced age any illness can turn serious. I am old enough to be vulnerable, to a lot of things.  The problem is I don’t feel any different than I did when I was fifty or even forty and still think I can respond to illnesses as I did then by ignoring them.

During my hospital ordeal Charlize spent three days with my son’s family. Since she rejoined me she has been unusually aware and sensitive to me. She frequently comes over to check on me, sticks close by and is insistent about being petted. Dogs can smell things like uremia and my blood urea nitrogen, one of the kidney function parameters, is still slightly above the normal range. Charlize senses that all is not normal with me.

I have no idea what I ate or got into that resulted in this problem. I hadn’t handled or cooked any poultry product for several weeks prior and Charlize wasn’t showing any signs of a digestive disturbance so it wasn’t exposure to her feces. The only thing I can think of was that I ate a lot of cherries shortly before feeling the first effects of the food poisoning. I washed them, as I always do with fruit, but maybe not well enough. There is some evidence that ordinary rinsing with cold water may not be enough to wash off Campylobacter.

Anyhow for people of an age you are vulnerable, be aware! Pets are also susceptible to this type of food poisoning, usually from infected raw poultry, enough said about that. More than two days of non-responsive diarrhea and you, or your pet, need to be seen and your stool tested for this, or some other equally dangerous culprit. Dehydration and kidney failure are serious issues.

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