Category Archives: Op-Ed: Opinion & Commentary

Keeping Wild Things Wild is Up to Us

Backcountry wanderers and campers walk a thin line in our dealings with the furred and feathered natives on whose doorsteps we camp. We want to be accepted by them, but we also want them to know their place and keep their distance, and it’s much harder to strike the right balance than it used to be. But it’s up to us to help the wild creatures stay wild.

by Tamia Nelson | June 1, 2015

Ah, wilderness! The annual flight from the cities and suburbs is about to get under way in earnest. Soon many popular waterways will boast their own traffic jams, as canoes and kayaks jostle tentatively with darting jet-skis and lumbering party barges. Lighting out for the territory just ain’t what it was in Huck Finn’s day. But some things don’t change. Beyond the boundaries of the tent-cities now springing up in established campsites—the line of demarcation is easily identified by the sudden and unexpected appearance of lower limbs on trees—the natives go about their business as best they can. That’s natives … Continue reading »

Beyond the Beauty Strip: Talking Trash

Have you ever revisited a favorite spot in the backcountry or along a quiet back road, only to find it transformed into a passable imitation of a poorly managed landfill? That’s been happening more and more often to Tamia these days. Now she’s wondering if it’s just a local phenomenon, or if the problem’s bigger.

by Tamia Nelson | May 22, 2012

Let’s talk trash. It’s a big subject, and if what I see on trails and canoe launches is any indication—to say nothing of what I find scattered along the roads I travel—it’s getting bigger by the day.

What’s the explanation? Well, one of the leading citizens in Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon memorably described the early settlers in the neighboring hamlet of Millet as having come to the New World “to get drunk and throw away their garbage,” implying that their descendants were keen to continue this proud tradition. Maybe this is all the explanation that’s needed. Or maybe not.

In any case, I guess I live in Millet.

That isn’t the impression you’d get … Continue reading »

The Maternal Line: Eulogy for a Beautiful Woman

A father. His daughter. His daughter’s daughter. A river. No, that’s not right. The River. Theirs is a story that began long ago. But it hasn’t ended yet. And The River flows through it.

by Tamia Nelson | May 10, 2018
Originally published in different form in different places in other years.

The girl found The River irresistible. Whenever she could, she scrambled over the cliff that rose precipitously from the swift waters. The snowmelt‑swollen spring torrents carved deep potholes in the cliff’s sheer walls, and when the floods receded, the girl sometimes found stranded trout in those dark recesses, swimming frantically in futile circles. That’s when she taught herself how to tickle trout, catching the imprisoned fish in her hands before returning them to The River. It was a difficult job, even a dangerous one at times, but seeing the trout swim free was all the reward that she asked — or wanted.

When she wasn’t climbing the cliff, the girl often dabbled in The River’s shallows, turning over cobbles to see who might be living under them. And … Continue reading »

Eulogy for an Old-Timer

Jack was a bit of a bastard, really, but he had a soft spot for birds, chipmunks, and his beloved mountains. He also had a soft spot for me. And though he died many moons ago this month, but he’s still with me every day.

Absent Friends Article on

by Tamia Nelson | April 14, 2018
Originally published in different form in different places in other years.

He died nearly half a century ago this April, at the age of sixty-five. It wasn’t an easy death. He “died hard,” as folks used to say. I won’t kid you. He was no saint. He was a bit of a bastard, in fact. Still, he had his reasons. He packed a lot into his sixty-five years. He raised three kids on little or nothing. A fourth, his youngest son, drowned one winter when he broke through the ice on a local lake. What with one thing and another, he never had an easy life. He lived through two major wars, several diphtheria epidemics, and a depression — and that wasn’t all. But … Continue reading »