Azure Standard faces challenges in Oregon to its organic farming practices

By Bruce A. Smith

Azure Standard, the world’s largest supplier of organic wheat and grains, has been accused of improper management of noxious weeds growing on some of its wheat fields located in Sherman County, Oregon. As a result, it is facing a threat to its organic farming practices and food products. The local county government, based in Moro, Oregon issued a show-order to Azure and its owners, David and Nathan Stelzer, to appear for a public hearing May 17, 2017, and demanded a revised weed-management plan. If found out-of-compliance, Azure’s organic farm fields may be chemically treated by court-order, possibly with potent herbicides like Roundup or Milestone, and then forced to pay for it.

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Posted in Business, Culture, Environment, Health, Nature, Politics, Science and Technology, Self Reliance, Spirituality | 11 Comments

TJ, Bill, and 50th Reunions – more tales from the “Stories from my Life”

By Bruce A. Smith

I received an invitation to my high school’s 50th Reunion this month—the same time our most famous alumnus got fired in disgrace from his job at Fox News. Yup, Bill O’Reilly and I are former classmates, Chaminade High School, Class of 1967.

Bill was just as big a jerk then as he is now, except it seems that he has expanded his behaviors to include terrorizing women. But he scared me fifty years ago in school, too. Continue reading

Posted in Back East, Stories from my Life | 10 Comments

Mount Rainier National Park receives record number of wilderness camping requests for 2017 – halts all further advanced reservations for full-circuit Wonderland Trail trips

Editor’s Note: Mount Rainier National Park has been flooded with requests for back-country camping requests via their advanced reservation program. As a result, the park has issued the following press release to the Mountain News-WA and other media:


Mount Rainier NP receives record number of Wilderness Reservation Requests: halts advance reservations for full-circuit Wonderland trips

On March 31, 2017, Mount Rainier National Park closed its initial two weeks of open reservation requests for wilderness camping and climbing permits, including overnight trips on the Wonderland Trail. In just two weeks, nearly 5,900 requests were received online, with more than forty-four percent representing requests to hike the entire length of the 93-mile long Wonderland Trail. This response more than doubles the number of requests received in 2015, the last year for which advance reservations were available. A significant storm damaged the reservation processing system last year, requiring all walk-up permits in 2016.

Prior to 2013, the number of wilderness reservation requests received at Mount Rainier during the first two weeks of open reservation requests averaged around 800. In 2013, that number jumped to 1,400; in 2014, it jumped again to 2,000. Finally in 2015, the park received over 2,700 reservation requests by March 31. The number of requests received in 2017 is unprecedented for the park and represents more than double the number received during this period for any prior year. Superintendent Randy King shared that “interest in backcountry camping within National Parks continues to grow nationwide. As we move into our second century of service, we are honored to provide continued opportunities for people to connect with nature and share meaningful park experiences at Mount Rainier National Park.”

As in prior years, the number of requests received in 2017 within the first two weeks exceeds space that can be reserved at backcountry camps along the trail this summer. Established carrying capacity for wilderness camping in the park dictates the number of reservations that will be accommodated, and this number does not change annually. Therefore, far less than half of the 5,900 advance reservation requests will be granted. In addition, the park can typically accommodate around 450 full-circuit Wonderland Trail permits each year, but over 2,500 have now been requested. Therefore, in order to minimize processing of reservation requests that will then be denied- the park will no longer accept advance reservation requests for complete Wonderland Trail circuits in 2017. Applicants will be notified of their reservation request status by email over the next few weeks. Visitors may also still seek walk-up reservations throughout the summer.

The park holds approximately thirty percent of available backcountry space for first come, first served (walk-up) permits. Hikers may attempt to get a first-come, first-served permit (based on availability) on the start day of the hike (or up to one day in advance of the start date). No walk-up reservations are accepted prior to one day in advance of the start of the proposed hike. The best locations to obtain a walk-up permit are the ranger stations at Longmire, White River and Carbon River.

Another option for experiencing the Wonderland Trail is to hike it in smaller segments, which will improve chances of obtaining a permit both via reservation and in person. Hikers can also improve their chances by being flexible with trip dates and destinations.

All camping reservation requests received from March 15 through March 31 are currently being processed in random order. Requests received on or after April 1 will be processed in the order received, after the initial batch of requests. All applicants will receive confirmation of their submission within one business day and will be updated via email regarding status and payment once approved.

Teams of park staff and volunteers are dedicated each year to assist backcountry campers with trip planning, repair trail bridges and trail tread, improve campsite safety and resource protection, and provide emergency response. Each of these individuals makes it possible for the park to protect trail infrastructure and provide for safe visitor experiences.

This year’s process is the first step in a phased solution to upgrading the park’s older reservation system. “The park thanks the University of Washington, as well as donors to Washington’s National Park Fund for their continued support of the new reservation system development. The doubling of requests in 2017 is a testament to an immediately improved process for our visitors this year,” stated Deputy Superintendent Tracy Swartout. The park continues to work on an advanced online reservation system wherein users can see real-time site availability while requesting their reservation.

Further details and updates will be posted on:

Posted in Mount Rainier, Nature | 3 Comments

The Man Who Divorced His Wife Over a Hat – more tales from “Stories from the Journey” collection

By Bruce A. Smith

I like hats. I have panamas, Stetsons, baseball caps, Indiana-Jones-type hats, and balaclavas. My wife has bought me many of those hats, but not any more since she doesn’t like me wearing them. That woman is no longer my wife. Continue reading

Posted in Campfire Tales, Moth Stories, Stories from the Jounrey | 6 Comments

Miracle at the Crossroads – another tale of the “Stories From the Journey” collection

By Bruce A. Smith

On a Thursday before Christmas in 1998 I experienced a miracle at a shopping mall in Bellevue, Washington called The Crossroads. It involved a bizarre encounter with a janitor, and it seems that my teacher, Ramtha, the Enlightened One, was making an intervention in my life. But regardless of who or what the entity was, the experience brought me out of a very dark place. Continue reading

Posted in Moth Stories, Stories from the Jounrey | 7 Comments

Mail Call – from the “Stories from the Journey” collection

by Bruce A. Smith

Taking the unfamiliar and unsolicited tabloid-sized newspaper out of my mail box, I skimmed through the first few pages until I hit an article about back-to-the-earth folks in Yelm, Washington. After reading their strident fanaticism regarding One World Orders and UFO conspiracies, I shoveled the paper into the waste-paper basket as if it was on fire.

“Christ,” I said out loud, “this newspaper’s a cult.” Continue reading

Posted in Environment, Ramtha, Stories from the Jounrey | 5 Comments

Of Mice and Men’s Groups – another installment from “Campfire Tales – True Stories not Everyone Believes

By Bruce A. Smith

 A few years ago, my friend Jeff telephoned in a rush to say, “You have to come over right now and watch the Bill Moyers show on TV.” I did. It was a telecast titled: “A Gathering of Men,” and was an introspective on the work of poet Robert Bly and his efforts to help men discover their manhood.

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Posted in Back East, Campfire Tales | 8 Comments