Other People’s Pain

The money comes from other’s pain

And goes to healing other’s pain


I do not cause the pain

I simply take it’s photograph


I search the pain out in small towns

And hidden city parks


Some towns so proud

Some towns ashamed


But few take steps

To put the pain away


And so I search it out

And photograph this ancient pain


Bottle it and sell it off

To those who relish it


And each time it sells I wonder

Should I keep doing this?


But take their money either way

And teach children art, science and nature


And spit in those old racists eyes

And have perhaps the last images


Of racists dreams

And my friends fears.

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Social Trails Beyond the Forest

Most land management professionals and many recreation professionals know what a social trail is, but in case you’re reading this and don’t have that sort of background social trails (less politely known as herd trails) are trails that develop between points that aren’t part of the official plan of a park, refuge, forest or other space that develop from people going off trail.  They are often essentially shortcuts that people use over time, but because they are informal trails they do not have any work done on them.  Because they simply come into existence they tend to have negative impacts on the surrounding environment, causing more erosion, cutting across areas at risk, and damaging plant and animal habitats.

While land managers and recreation professionals primarily think of social trails in park or forest settings, especially in back country, they also exist and impact places like college campuses.  A few weeks ago, I was visiting UMASS Amherst and had gone up to the 23rd floor of the W.E.B. Du Bois library which is promoted as having the best view of the campus, and it certainly does with views all up and down the valley and campus.  It also gives an impressive view of the social trails that have developed in the central part of campus.   Now, UMASS has a lot of paved trails.  I mean A LOT of paved trails around central campus.  In fact, I suspect that if I had access to the UMASS plans and records I’d find that many of these paved trails were once social trails, because many of them are short little cut offs where social trails naturally develop.


Looking south from DuBois we can see three distinct sets of social trails.  From left to right there are trails that cross between the main trail and the bridge over the south end of the pond.  Note that beside the large bare tree there’s been so much foot traffic there’s a no snow left.  Secondly there are two trails that come around the corners of the Herter Hall annex at very exact angles.  There is a third set of social trails that pass through the tree filled area to the upper right of the chapel.


Looking northwards we see the social trail that caught my attention in the first place.  Look at the trail that goes from the bottom left up and to the right.  As you can see the paved portion of it ends at the edge of the grass, where most users turn right and head downhill to the entrance of the Campus Center.  A significant number however continue towards Goessmann Hall.  There is a clear tradition of this throughout the year, as the trail is clearly visible on Google Earth.  This social trail acts like most social trails, in that it expands and contracts with how muddy the center is.  I took the time to watch people cross it both from the library window and on the ground, and people worked their way towards the less muddy edges of the social trail, as is well established in the literature, so this evidence suggests that social trails in a campus setting act in the same way as in the forest.

Interestingly, this social trail does not appear in aerial images of the campus before 2014.  In other words, this social trail and its damage to the campus has occurred in the past two years or so.  It does not appear until the new paved path and adjacent bike stands were added.  So, attempts to improve cycling and reduce auto use on campus has had the unfortunate side effect of encouraging a social trail that causes erosion.  The campus does seem to be aware of the issue, because it has put up a chain that is intended to place a social barrier around the area (at barely knee height it does nothing to block people).

In conclusion, it seems that social trails operate in much the same way in a campus setting as they do in the forest setting.  Universities that are concerned with the ecological impact of this need to take other, formal changes in the campus design effects on traffic flow into consideration.

Posted in American History, backpacking, environmental education, hiking, land management, massachusetts, new england, park and recreation, social commentary, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bird in the Hand Activity Sheet

This activity sheet looks at our relationship with wild animals and how they may become dependent on humans.  I hope you find it useful.



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Coloring and Activity Sheets

Years ago I spent three summers writing “Junior Ranger Programs” for three different National Park Service locations covering topics from the life of Abraham Lincoln in Illinois, the entire state of Nebraska, and dinosaurs.  It was an interesting job, and a chance to learn  a lot about a lot of different topics that you might not be interested in otherwise, and it lets you learn to think through the eyes of an elementary school child again.


At any rate, it’s something that I don’t really get the opportunity to do as much anymore, but decided that this year I would try and make a simple two sided activity sheet every week.  These are simple, black and white pages, while the NPS programs were four color books.

Topics are going to include Monarch Butterflies (see below) habituation, and a deer and elk activity.  After that we’ll see where it goes.  If you’re looking for a simple coloring sheet, use the one below.  The link below that leads to the two page pdf.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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The Next Adventure Part Five

Even as he rolled past the secretary’s desk he knew he’d been unprofessional, but just then, as he banged on the down button of the elevator he didn’t particularly care.

He’d never been much of one for working out before he’d lost the use of his legs, but now he had arms that the more obsessive kinesiology students he’d known in undergrad would envy.  He could use a powered chair of course, but what was the point of that?  He was young, able bodied (aside from the obvious)  and rarely needed to rush anywhere.  Plus, at one point he’d been a tinkerer with bikes, and he’d developed a geared wheel system of his own that at least had kept his mind and hands active outside of physical therapy.

As he got into the elevator  he thought back to New Orleans.  He’d spent the night before on the edge of Lake Ponchittrain and the next morning he’d packed up his gear and started to walk into the city.  The plan had been to walk across the city in a day and camp south of the city, and then inflate the pack raft and work his way to the mouth of the river.

It didn’t quite work out like that.  Instead, he found himself in the hospital, a bullet lodged in his spine, a whole bunch of doctors and a face full of lawyers, along with only a fuzzy idea how he’d gotten there.

Now, if Scott had wanted to be a lawyer, he’d have gone to law school, but he did have enough sense to not sign anything while being pumped full of morphine.

By the next day, the more opportunistic lawyers were gone, Dodd had flown in with the University’s counsel, and there was a city detective there as well.

“So, Dodd, the doctor told me I got shot, and that I’ve likely lost the use of my legs.  Fill me in a bit more.”

“That’s a question for the detective here.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I’m your advisor, and apparently, your emergency contact with your insurer.  You never told me that before.  Janell is here too, but waiting out in the lobby.  She’s not happy about not being your contact, but that’s for another time.  I’m not sure you’ve ever met Charles Spurgeon before, but he’s the university’s counsel.  He’s agreed to protect your interest’s pro-bono.”

“Your name is Charles Spurgeon?  This isn’t another morphine dream?”

Sighing, Mr. Spurgeon shrugged.

“No, it’s my name I’m afraid.  How much morphine are you on?”

“No idea it’s not my area of expertise.  I’m sure the doctors are doing their best.  So, detective, what is your name, and if it’s also the name of a 19th century preacher I’ll ask you to all come back later just to be on the safe side.”

“I guess it depends on your point of view then Mr. Scott.   My name is John Brown”

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The Next Adventure Part 4

The following morning Dodd decided it was time to bite the bullet and get Scott in to discuss the issue.  Knowing that Scott was one of the rare people who preferred to still speak via the phone rather than by text (one of the things that made them work together so well in fact) he dialed the number and waited for Scott to answer.


“Hey professor, what’s going on?”

“I need you to come by Hammersley Hall today, when’s good for you?”

“just got out of the pool over here at the rec center, let me shower, and find some breakfast I should be there about ten.  How’s that sound?”

“fine, we’ll be discussing the next semester, and summer, and one other thing.”

“What’s the other thing?  Or don’t I want to know?”

“It’s an administration thing, and apparently, I’ve been tapped to deal with it.”

“Damn, that doesn’t sound good.  You can’t fire PhD students, right?”

“Not directly, no.”

“Alright ten it is then.”

Scott glanced at the stairs as he entered Hammersley Hall and sighed, pushing the button for the elevator.

Getting off on the third floor he worked his way down the hall speaking briefly to the department secretary and checking his mailbox, he headed into Dodd’s office, and closed the door behind him.

“So, Scott, what do you have planned for the summer?”

“I don’t really know.  I’ve not really made plans that far out.  I suppose I should spend it reading and writing.”

“Have you visited him?”

“No.  I don’t know if I want too.”

“You promised him you would, you said it publicly.”

“I know I did.  That was 18 months ago, He’s not going anywhere.”

“There could be a book in it.”

“I don’t care about another fucking book.  I’ve written two, I’ll write more.  It’s all I can do any more. I want to fucking walk again!”

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The Next Adventure Part 3

Dodd returned to his office and had another look at that memo from the chair.  The fact was that without clearing Scott’s funding the university would be hard pressed to attract the sort of PhD students that its mission called for.

There were not a lot of liberal Christian universities in the United States, and this one was the only one that had been founded in the 21st century.  Rather than coming out of a denomination it had been funded by an eccentric who’d made his fortune in owning small strip mall properties across Middle America where instead of seeking out check cashing businesses and liquor stores he’d ensured each complex had two things.

1 a store where the neighborhood could get fresh fruit and vegetables even if it was at a loss

2 at reduced rents he ensured that there was space for a church or other religious community

While not a huge fortune, the founder had provided a significant endowment when he passed away, and there was ongoing income from the strip malls that the university had also inherited.

The University’s brief was to train Christians to “Tend God’s Earthly Garden” and “His Flocks”

Which created the unique junction of land management and a divinity school.  Graduate students were required to take nine credit hours’ worth of coursework in the other school.  And many occupied a strange middle ground, as did Scott.

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The Next Adventure Part 2

Scott slipped into the back of the classroom and put his flatbread chicken sandwich down on the desk.  Having been in master’s program courses with Dodd he knew that the actual students would be expected to sit at the front, but it wouldn’t be unusual for other professors, PhD candidates or keynote speakers visiting campus to slip into the back of the class.  When he’d been a Master’s student he’d ended up meeting a pastor with a national following, the Secretary of the Interior, and a well-known film director.

Dodd taught two masters courses.  This one was about the concept of a “Christian Land Ethic” since it was, at least officially a Christian university.  That was the course that had attracted a Secretary of the Interior and Rev. Williams.  The other was the far more entertaining “Disaster in Popular Entertainment” course that looked at the mistakes film characters made in stressful situations.  It was more popularly known as the “When Shit Goes Wrong” course, due to Dodd having used that phrase when discussing ‘Grizzly Man’ the first time the course was offered

Dodd had done a lot of stuff over the years before he’d come into the university world.  He’d been a forest ranger, he’d saved a president’s life, canoed from the upper reaches of the Yampa to where the Colorado became a trickle south of Yuma.  In fact, that kind of life was what had gotten Steve Tower to campus the year he’d won an Oscar, hoping that Dodd would sell the rights to his memoirs.

Tower had become one of the sponsors of Scotts trip from Easton to New Orleans, and Reverend Williams had visited him in New Orleans and asked his physical and TV flocks to pray for Scott.  Secretary Hayes still corresponded with Scott, and he supposed that there was an office in Washington after graduation if he was interested.

There apparently weren’t any special visitors back here for this session, in fact there weren’t any professors back here at all, although it early in the month so various committees would be meeting for departments.

As the class wrapped up and some of the students came back to speak with him it occurred to Scott that perhaps he’d morphed into the role of “interesting people” somehow.  He knew some of them from around campus, one had been in a section he’d TA’d for when clearing out a transfer’s need for gen ed requirements.  Another had written an interesting senior thesis paper that Scott had somehow ended up looking over last spring (he couldn’t quite remember the circumstances but thought the fact that the students surname was Shiner might have something to do with it.  And to do with that keg that had lasted all summer).

And then there was Ms. Philips.  She’d had adventures too.  Much like Dodd and Scott, she’d worked for federal land management agencies before returning for a Master’s degree, doing the seasonal back country ranger ‘thing’, and living out of a truck in the winter from Florida to Texas to 29 Palms to North Dakota one particularly interesting winter.

Her research looked at “The impact of Tourism Ministries on Native Communities”, in other words what did Anglos visiting the Rez on a religious based trip actually do for Natives.

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The Next Adventure Pt 1

He looked out the window of his PhD advisors office and sighed.

“It’s autumn, and look at those leaves.  Two years ago, I was out there in it. Walking across the North East, following creeks finding my way over the top of the Appalachian divide and into the Ohio watershed.  Following the so called forbidden trail across the ancient Seneca lands and then south west to Pittsburgh and down to New Orleans.  I slept indoors 20 nights on the whole trip, when I came into the more settled lands where I wasn’t able to just camp besides the river, or when it became too cold, or it was what I received in return for speaking to a Rotary club in Evansville and the University talk in Memphis.”

“You miss it, don’t you? Well I guess that’s to be expected.”

“Of course I do.  You do too.  Anyone who’s lived outdoors misses it on the cool crisp days when the sun shines and there’s no wind.  It’s the people who miss it when it’s 34 and raining that are special.”

“Do you miss that too?”

“When I’m dealing with snide, foolish undergrads I do.  When I have to attend committee meetings with people who think they understand fly over country and haven’t been west of the Hudson in twenty years I do.  When I’m called for a soundbite on homelessness, or racial strife, or southern cooking or any number of other topics the media thinks I know about.  I was never homeless.  I had a lease here.  I chose to live outdoors.  I had sponsors for crying out loud.  But I get pain in my legs now when it gets cold.  Living indoors is much more my style these days.”

“Southern cooking?  I didn’t get the impression you’d done much bbq cooking living down by the river.”

“One of the last blog posts was about cooking okra over a camp fire.  You know how it was, the blog was getting 3000 individual hits a day after I left Memphis.  By the time I reached Lake Pontchatrain it was 5000 some days.  As a joke, I’d included “Southern Cooking” as one of the topics, and it took off from there.  Honestly, it wasn’t any good.  I mean it wasn’t that slick nasty slimy way okra can get, but it didn’t work over a fire either.   Plenty of people can cook okra.  I’m not one of them.  But because I was a cause celeb for all of three months it still comes up in a basic search for southern cooking.  And new media interns being about as lazy as any other intern they fail to read the piece.  And they rarely ask what I’m doing now.”

Dr. Dodd looked down at his desk searching for a memo he’d received from the department chair and then looked across at Scott.  He knew that Scott was fully funded for another three years, but also knew that Scott had become effectively independently wealthy. Well, if not independently wealthy he could certainly afford to pay for his doctorate.  But asking Scott to effectively fund another PhD student was something that would be difficult to do.  There was no question that Scotts work deserved to be funded, hell he’d received a “genius grant” before he’d even reached New Orleans, before he’d settled on here as his PhD and that was before he’d gotten famous.

“Come along with me and look in on this masters symposium.  It’s in Jones Hall.  You don’t have any office hours this afternoon, do you?

“No, let me stop off at the dining hall and I’ll meet you there.”

“Still on the high protein diet I take it”

“I suspect I will be the rest of my life.  It’s what keeps me moving after all.”


Look for Part 2 December 5th

check out my last adventure’s photography at


Posted in American Historic Sites, American History, backpacking, camping, hiking, nomad life, novel, short story, Social Justice, The Wandering Yankee, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Image Sales Thru December 31st

I will be running a sale on my website until December 31st.  This sale will consist of two different parts.  First of all, every few days I will be creating a “limited time promotion” 20×24 inch canvas print that will sell for $99 plus shipping.

Secondly, for those who want a different image, or the same image at a different size, I’m also running a general 20% off sale which comes off of my profit.  To receive that, enter “ABBBVX” at checkout.  Joshua House Photography

The first three Limited Time Promotions are listed here.

LTP for Jacksonville War Memorial


LTP for Reflections of Sedona


LTP for Watkins Glen Rainbow Falls

Posted in art project, Finger Lakes, Monuments and Memorials, park and recreation, Photography - Finger Lakes, Photography - Rivers and Reflections, Photography - The American West, the american west, The Wandering Yankee, Uncategorized, world war one | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment