In Support of Public Lands

I have submitted comments in support of National Monuments through many platforms. I have written comments specific to a single Monument and comments encompassing many Monuments. I have not used the same comment twice. I hope you’ve taken the last 60-day period to do the same.


Public lands belong to you. They are a gift to you and your children from administrations that have had the foresight to preserve and protect areas of cultural, historical, ecological, or environmental significance. They provide recreational, educational, and economical benefits to the communities that surround them and, more broadly, are a treasure for all who choose to embrace the gift of public lands.


The comment period comes to a close this weekend. If Bears Ears National Monument (which received a much shorter comment window and much attention from parties supporting continued protection as well as those calling Monuments a ‘federal land grab’) is any indication, public support will swing heavily in favor of continued protections. Corporate interests, especially those involved in resource extraction, will argue otherwise. Will the lowly public’s voice be enough? Time will tell. Regardless, be on the right side of this moment in history.


If public lands for the sake of public lands aren’t your specific cup of tea, here’s another perspective: Stand up for the Monuments to advocate for continued protections for our natural resources. Money matters. Wealth and the fluctuating economy are huge motivators in this argument for/against these lands.


Like the National Forests, public lands are a federal reserve of valuable natural resources. At some point in time, we may need the bounty these lands contain. Now is not that time. Federal resources would be better allocated developing long-term management plans for these renewable (and non-) resources than jumping immediately to the conclusion in 2017, the year that America Became Great Again, that we are in need of harvesting these fruits of preservation. That mindset is short-sighted and frankly irresponsible.



For more information about which Monuments are being reviewed, what it means for you as well as for America, and what you can do, Modern Hiker has a helpful write-up:


To submit comments, REI has an interface available: (as does nearly every other organization with outdoor interests, my workplace included)



Here is an example of one of mine, adjusted because I know how works and I assume the government has the foresight to make sure they aren’t receiving copied comments.


 Dear Secretary Zinke,

I stand in firm support of the California National Monuments. Though I have advocated for those across the nation, the locations here in ‘the Golden State’–Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and the San Gabriel Mountains–are of the most immediate geographic significance to me and my community. … These Monuments provide the obvious benefits of open space, fresh air, wild ecosystems, recreational opportunities, and wildlife viewing but they also serve a larger purpose. … Reducing the size of our Monuments at this time is presumptuous and over-zealous. These resources should continue being protected in perpetuity until America is truly in need of the wealth contained therein. In the meantime, federal resources can be better allocated to protecting these places, developing long term management plans that allow for sustainable harvest, and continuing to allow the American people to enjoy their birthright–our public lands. … For these reasons, I stand in support of America’s National Monuments.

Why these? Let me explain the impression the casual first time visitor might leave with. Berryessa Snow Mountain has breath-taking views of sparkling blue lakes, wildflower covered hillsides, and elusive tule elk. Carrizo Plain boasts California Poppy populations that will dazzle your eyes and delight your senses. Giant Sequoia protects a band of rare and ancient namesake trees who grow in very few coastal locations.  Mojave Trails encompases unique Joshua trees and desert tortoise habitat amidst fiery desert sunsets and vast mountain vistas. Sand to Snow contains part of the legendary PCT and allows visitors the chance to travel from arid desert elevations into the snowy heights of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, only minutes from the heat of Palm Springs. San Gabriel Mountains provides authentic forest wilderness to the myriad residents of the concrete Los Angeles basin. These Monuments are each unique spaces that provide entirely different experiences for the fortunate visitor. The visitor spends money in the surrounding communities on fuel, food, lodging, or sundries, and returns home where friends and neighbors are told of what was seen, heard, and felt. They make time to visit as well, also supporting the local economies. In a ripple effect, these Monuments have impacts so much larger than their initial footprint implies. Preserve this opportunity for continued human experience and continued economic growth; at the same time the resources protected within can be perpetuated and sustained until such as time as America deems responsibly necessary. … 

As individuals, we are small and our voices are soft. As a movement, this is large and loud. People care. Don’t assume that you aren’t significant enough as one person to make a difference. Like sticks in a bundle or droplets in a river, we are powerful together. Make a comment. Raise your voice. Stand up for your public lands. Support National Monuments.


In Dog We Trust

I am undeserving of Dog.


She wakes with the desert sun. Our windows face the dawn and she stretches into the orange rays of early light- bowing low with her front legs, lithe body elongated, tail straight, yawning mouth agape, tongue curled daintily. She finishes her dinner, maybe gets a sip of water. She peeks into the bedroom at sleeping Human. Human should wake up and see this sunrise, Dog may think.

Dog carefully and critically uses paws and nose to rifle through her toy basket for just the right one. Which one will Human most like? Which will make Human happiest?

She selects one. Puts it back. Chooses another. Grabs two. Settles for a squishy ball.

Human is laying on her side on the edge of the bed. Hair obscures face but soft breathing is encouragement enough for Dog to intervene. Dog places Toy on the face of Human. Here, I brought you a thing. It is my favorite thing and I brought it for you. Wake, let’s play! I love you. Here is this thing for us.

Human awakens. An eager brown muzzle topped with butterscotch eyes greets her with gentle bumps, Toy squishing between the two faces. Human  is amused–her sleepy eyes reflect love and humor–but is not as willing to capitulate as Dog wishes. I do this every morning. Why doesn’t she understand yet? I must need to continue training Human, Dog thinks.

Dog wanders away with Toy, pleased with herself if not her latent Human. She entertains herself as the sun creeps higher and the rabbits emerge outside. A lifetime passes. The sun is now a whisker above the horizon. This is not okay. Human needs another reminder, Dog decides.

The empty bowl is always a sure bet. Dog lightly picks up her empty dish and carries it in to Human. Human is facing away from her now though so Dog deftly leaps onto the bed and deposits the bowl on Human. Human’s eyes stay closed but her mouth shifts into a smile with teeth. “Hi little baby,” she mumbles in sing-song. Dog recognizes this greeting. It means Human is up. Human is happy. Human is ready to play! Dog vaults from the bed and out of the room. Human tosses back the ensconcing sheet and shuffles out to the garage for a scoop of breakfast. Dog prances about her legs, eager for pets and mumbles of affirmation. The bowl, now filled, is placed in the kitchen. Human stumbles back into her room and collapses on the bed. Dog stares with perked ears and tilted head for a moment, then focuses her energy on her breakfast. I will resume training Human after Food.

I am undeserving of Dog. Her enthusiasm for life is unrivalled and her love for me, her untrained Human, is implicit. She periodically goes missing on our morning runs or rides through the desert chaparral. I panic the same every time. She returns at her leisure, panting and foaming, eyes sparkling; the same every time. She is training me good, if not quite at her pace.

I picked her up at the airport on the evening of June 25th. She had flown from Colorado on two flights, yet her crate was still tidy and her outlook undimmed. In the year since then, Scout has grown from a 15-lb wiggleworm into a graceful (yet gawky) 50-lb fox. She is cunning, fast (AF), and loving.

She and I spent a lot of our first months in frustrated tears due to the other’s incomprehensible behaviors. Since then we have reached an unspoken understanding of one another. Patterns are predictable. Routines are established.

Scout has learned about bikes, stairs, roadtrips, lakes, rivers, pools, salt water, harnesses, life vests, campgrounds, high altitudes, higher temperatures, dog parks, dog sitters, dog kennels, and ‘dogcations.’

She has cost an arm and a leg in surprises, both good and bad. She recognizes her BarkBox when it arrives each month, full of new things to shred apart. She has a bumpy scar on her ribcage from stitches received after a dog attack.

She has seen me at my best and she has been by me during the worst.

Scout is not what I expected and nothing like I imagined, but she’s mine and I’m so happy to wake up with her muzzle in my face every morning. I am undeserving of such a dog.

Video: A Year with Scout


A Dream Realized

“As it happened I did not grow up to be the kind of woman who is the heroine in a Western, and although the men I have known have had many virtues and have taken me to live in many places I have come to love, they have never been John Wayne, and they have never taken me to that bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.

– Joan Didion


Since I read these lines of Joan Didion’s in college, I have been looking for my ‘bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.’ For a host of reasons, Yuba City has been the closest I can imagine coming to this ideal. A mile from my tidy gray stucco home, the Feather river curves gently around Shanghai Bend on its winding journey towards the Sacramento. As in all river bottoms, the cottonwoods are thick. During spring and early summer, they send forth their seeds in tiny cottony rafts which are then borne by the evening breeze to every shrub and lawn in spitting distance. I have loved living amidst this soft summer snow and see why Joan would have idealized it so.

But what about John Wayne? I have found him here too, though not in the way Joan probably imagined. My tidy gray stucco home with its lawn coated in cottonwood seeds, you see, rests on John Wayne Drive. Was the address a determining factor in choosing this house? For me, having sought so literally an interpretation of Didion’s work, it was essential. Living on John Wayne Drive within sight of the bend in the river where the cottonwood grow has been the culmination of a dream I have carried for years. It was a dream realized. 


Dwellings Past

Over the last year I’ve had to say goodbye to my two favorite homes. Each was heartbreaking, but for different reasons. When my parents sold our childhood home, it was hard because we had to part ways with a place full of our history. So many Harmon stories were written inside its walls. It was our library of memories. Leaving the home in Yuba City was also challenging. This time, rather than parting with what was, we had to say goodbye to everything that could have been. It was a story unfinished; it was a promise unfulfilled; it was friendships unrealized; it was a life unlived. In the end, they are both simply structures. They will hold many more stories for many other families. For me though, these endings were the hardest of goodbyes.


YC House

She Returneth

We have some catching up to do; bear with me as we wade together through the scattered constellations of thoughts and experiences I’ve collected on receipts, notepads, scratch paper, and memos since last we spoke.

Final Reflections: 2016

2016 was a year of incredible—and at times uncomfortable—growth.

Much of what occurred I couldn’t have guessed at last January. Some highlights: I started and completed my single-subject credential program. I finished the English CSETs. I started road biking. I joined a yoga class. I became a dog-mom. I turned 28. I realized, finally, who I was and what I wanted. I thought I came to terms with what I didn’t want.

These things needed to happen. I’m a firm believer that without active (even uncomfortable) growth, stagnation and complacency await. Even though changes may be disquieting or even painful initially, without these adjustments there can be no development.

My hope is that, as I pursue these new goals and build this new life, I will always feel that I am growing. I want always to be learning new things, facing new challenges, meeting new people, becoming a new me. I want these same curious qualities—this same frustration with complacency—to blossom as well within those I surround myself with.

This year was incredible. I soaked in hot springs on cold winter afternoons. I meandered through wildflowers on a warm spring day. I biked around a mountain range. I hiked part of the Tahoe Rim Trail. I got Scout. I visited Tahoe more times this year than in all others. I made new friends. I learned so much about education, formally and informally. I learned so much about myself. So much about what I will and will not tolerate. The learning never stopped.

This year was also uncomfortable. My parents sold our childhood home and bought anew in rural Idaho. I learned things I can’t disregard about the ideals of my family, this nation, and their mutual implication for our future. During this process, I lost a piece of my identity I had never questioned. Completing school while also working and raising Scout at times felt impossible; many shower cries were had. Heck, raising Scout was the single greatest challenge I’ve faced this year (and possibly in my entire life). The discomfort seemed endless.

2016 was a wild ride. I’m not the same individual who began the year. I’m not even the same individual from 6 months ago. I hope that you aren’t either. I hope that as I pursue this mission of ongoing growth—incredible even uncomfortable growth—you will consider it for yourself as well. Do not stagnate in 2017.

Progress II

“Today was a shit show” – Taylor Swift (slightly adjusted for relevance)


…But I passed another section of the CSET!  The only part of today that was remotely similar to my last test experience (which was wonderful, as recorded here), was the presence of a curious albeit ill-fated spider in my car. What are the odds?

2 tests down, 2 more to go!


She was California

Her hair was the colors of the foothills in late summer, rolling in red- and golden-hued waves across her back and shoulders. Her eyes mirrored the sparkling green of high, crisp Yuba waters. A lifetime of sunlight had dappled her skin like the high Sierra granite. Lithe and willowy, her form enjoyed feasts of farmers’ market fare equally as much as partaking of the spontaneous activity nearby trails, hills, and creeks called her for. She marked the passage of the seasons by their greatest crops: spring wildflowers, summer stone fruit, autumn’s bounty of rice, nuts, and apples, and finally the winter rains.

Her favorite food was popcorn: corn from the fields, butter from the dairy, and coarse salt from the sea. Her favorite drink was likewise grown under the same glowing sun, grapes ripening on vines in counties named for early settlers and native landmarks. Her favorite sunsets were tinged with wildfire smoke and harvest dust. Her favorite retreats were high mountain springs, sheltered from crowds by miles of rocky trail. Her favorite flowers were California Poppies and Indian Paintbrush, most prolific in early summer. Her favorite skies were filled with the promise of sudden and enthusiastic cloudbursts, or the streaking lights of unobstructed meteor showers.

Her toes had felt the waters of the Pacific and the Salton; the currents of the Kings, the American, and the Klamath; the tranquil pools of the Trinity, Dinkey, and Desolation wildernesses. Her hair had been tangled by the warm Santa Ana’s, the gusting bay breeze, and the howling winter winds. Her eyes had beheld such vivid sunsets, panoramic vistas, and immense rock faces that she knew her hand would never be able to put them all to paper.

Raised in the tidal flats of the San Francisco Bay, she felt just at home on the flank of Shasta, in the rice fields of the Sacramento valley, and on the sandy shores of Lake Tahoe. Home was a ranch-style house on a cul-de-sac, an apartment near a college, and a townhouse in a farm town. Home was a gray stucco on John Wayne Drive. Home was a tent in the forest.

Home was California, as she was California.

White Fang Web Scavenger Hunt – EDUU 551

Web Scavenger Hunt Lesson Plan

Carolyn Harmon

Brandman University



Blog Address: 

Subject Matter: Jack London’s novel White Fang

Grade Level: 8

Lesson Objective: Students will demonstrate an ability to find accurate and reliable information on the Internet regarding the historical context and environmental accuracy of White Fang by Jack London.

Common Core State Standard and/or Academic Content Standard:


Technology Standard: NETS for Students:

ISTE Standard for Students 3.b, 3.c

Website Addresses Used as Resources:


*Advice for students: You may use other sites if you find applicable information elsewhere instead. Remember what you’ve learned about skimming text for key words and/or using Ctrl-F to locate information.

Essential Question: How accurate is Jack London’s depiction of the brutality of the Klondike Gold Rush from White Fang’s canine perspective?

Subsidiary Questions:

  1. Are the initial animal elements of White Fang plausible? (Wolves, dogs, lynxes, and man living in close, violent proximity)
  2. What might have happened to White Fang had his mother perished after the lynx fight?
  3. Would a mother wolf run off her own grown pup like Kiche did to White Fang?
  4. What are some things that the native population of the Yukon and Klondike miners might have traded? Does this make the scene with Grey Beaver plausible?
  5. How does White Fang’s perspective of gold rush era San Francisco differ from reality?
  6. How does White Fang relate to The Call of the Wild?


In complete sentences, answer each of the above questions. You will use these responses to construct an interview with Jack London, where he answers these questions with your researched answers. Record this interview using your podcast software. Be creative!


Enter: Scout

When this year began, I believe my expectations were for predictability and tranquility. Shortly thereafter, I started grad school to fill my evenings. Going back to school in addition to working was a delicate dance, but it was manageable. Arrogantly, I imagined I could juggle a third ball with the same finesse.

In June, that third ball arrived. ‘Arrived’ is perhaps the wrong word; Scout hurtled into our lives. A stork delivered her in late June, via United Airlines and a connecting flight out of Denver. “We rescued her …from her good life in the mountains with her family,” Steve once admitted when questioned about her origins.

She was a mere 14-weeks old; 15 pounds at the time, almost all of which was apparently stored in her vocal chords. She sang us the saddest song as we drove home from the airport with her crate nestled in the backseat. It was the warm up for her first night with us. First from a corner of our room, then the hallway, and finally from the living room (her crate found several homes that evening), she elaborated on the song from earlier. It went on for many verses, tried different rhythms and tones, at one point flirted with becoming an epic poem similar to the Iliad, before settling into hyena howls of utter loneliness. No one slept. Everyone cried.

At 4 am, I took her for her first walk around our neighborhood. At 5 am, we watched her first sunrise in California. By 6 am, my sister had volunteered to drive up for the day to show us the ropes. It was Scout’s first miracle.


Scout, 3 mo., getting personal with Ducky on her first day with us.

People’d warned me about getting a puppy. I didn’t listen. I’d been participant to raising wee Jaydon with my family only 8 years ago. It had been a beautiful experience and had resulted in us having ‘the best dog ever’ in the following years. How different could it be with an older puppy, from a similar breed, in a house of my own? Funny you should ask that question… because I did not.

German Shorthaired Pointers are a sleek result of the same German engineering that has produced Weimaraners, Dachshunds, and Volkswagens. Bred for hunting as well as lounging by the hearth. Endowed with the finest nose, the sleekest coat, the largest feet, the sharpest teeth …I depart from the AKC description somewhat. There were some differences between the breeds, of course. Jaydon had been silver, with eyes of blue. He stood quite tall and carried significant weight (as muscle). As a pointer, Scout would theoretically share his intelligence and athleticism but in a smaller package. Also, she is solid liver with eyes of chestnut (or brown with more brown, if you prefer). Alike, but so different.


Scout and her favorite snack – my face.

The first weeks were the hardest. Being home alone with a teething, tireless puppy while triple-digit temperatures broil outside is an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. She was everywhere at once, putting everything in her mouth, peeing with abandon, and otherwise having the time of her little life. It was hell. Adorable, enthusiastic, occasionally cuddly hell.

By late July (did it take that long?), Scout and I’d begun to understand one another. We had routines: we went to puppy school on Thursday evenings, we took hikes on Fridays, and we delighted our fan club at the dog park when evening temperatures allowed. I began crate training her to prepare her for my return to work in August.


Scout takes a break during her first hike.

The change was so gradual I didn’t notice. She grew in inches as well as pounds; she stopped having accidents; she began eating only two meals a day; she started sleeping a full 7 hours. She became a real dog.

We just passed our three-month-iversary with Scout. She is 6-months old and weighs 40 pounds. She’s knee high, but today managed to nip my shoulder with her teeth while jumping after a toy. Our families love her, and she in turn loves everyone. She heels, she comes, she sits, she stays. She’s a good dog, except when she’s bad. She sleeps on her back in bed between us, stretching long legs in her sleep and stealing our sheets.

She steals more than sheets. Time, food, undies, rugs, kisses, our hearts – all is fair game for Scout.

So my life this year is neither as predictable nor tranquil as I’d imagined. Most of the time I feel like I’m on the cusp of dropping many—if not all—of the balls I am juggling, but life’s so much fuller now as a result. And if I do happen to drop a ball or two, I certainly know who’ll be there to pick it back up.


Scout, 6 mo., surveying what’s left of Faucherie Lake after drinking as much as she could.