ABOVE TIMBERLINE: A Wildlife Biologist's Rocky Mountain Journal by Dwight Smith

ABOVE TIMBERLINE: A Wildlife Biologist's Rocky Mountain Journal

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As part of an ongoing project (sponsored by a Los Angeles film company), biologist Smith--a specialist, appropriately, in large mammals--spent four-and-a-half months alone in a cabin nearly 12,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies, close to the Continental Divide. Day by day he recorded his reactions, activities, observations--bringing home to the reader too the experience of living from snow-melt to snowfall in the environs of Homer Brown's old gold-mining cabin. Smith lets his beard and hair grow, and resents the time required to keep the cabin tolerably clean, his clothes washed, his cameras and other equipment in order. Even more he objects to the visitors who intrude upon his solitude, whether expected (on a schedule to keep him supplied) or unexpected; those on horseback are hardly more welcome than those on noisy trailbikes. Backpackers offend less--because they show more sensitivity to the flora and fauna, and greater awareness of the fragility of the mountain ecology, its proneness to damage from crushing and erosion. Smith has time to review his own preparation for this experience and his attitudes toward the policies of the Forest Service and other agencies concerned with visitors to wilderness. For him there is a difference between wildness and Wilderness, even if spelled in lower case. He tries to balance the benefits and harm from timber-cutting and hunting as land uses; but clearly he is more delighted when estimating the space requirements of an elk, or the returns to a weasel from various items of normal diet, or the resilience of alpine plants to snow and hail. An unpretentious, quietly rewarding book for anyone with an interest in life at high alttitudes or in camping alone far from piped water, electricity, and other standbys of the easy life.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1980
Publisher: Knopf