Saturday, May 18, 2013

This land is our land


          The earth is our god, our mother, our sustenance, and our salvation.  We are not disconnected entities from the earth and land, the wind and water, the sun and the sky.   We are one continuum.  We were created from the dust of the earth, we will eventually revert back to this earth. The delicate balance between the land and our existence has been obscured in the modern world by technology, overpopulation and urbanization.   Despite this de-evolution, our instinctual, holistic link to the land remains.  That is why it is so important to have public lands where we can rekindle our natural connection to the earth.  These are places where we can wander in the wilderness and sleep under the stars, unencumbered by the limitations of civilization and humanity. These lands are our refuge, places where we can truly be ourselves.       



            Ancient cultures, including the Native Americans, believe that we cannot possess the land; that it is a part of us and we are a part of it.  Our public lands are the greatest manifestation of this ideal, land that we all own, and no one owns.   These lands are also a pure expression of the American ideal; boundless, natural, wild and free.  They are to be; treasured not trampled, conserved not consumed, preserved not possessed.
           
                                                

Friday, May 17, 2013

Let it Be


We bought a piece of land the other day, 10 acres on the edge of one of those little, up and coming, central Utah towns.  Nestled between high mountain plateaus and the red rock desert with easy access to the National Parks, the San Rafael Swell and Lake Powell this town is making the transition from cowboy – ranchers to cappuccino  - bookstores.  We just liked the place, the people and the future of this town.  We looked at little houses, subdivisions and plots in town but felt overwhelmed and claustrophobic by the prospect of more home maintenance, building contractors or neighbors.  We stepped through the gate, onto our new land and felt liberated by the great wide-open, vistas in every direction, treeless western freedom.  There was even a horse head placed on an anthill, used as a natural depilatory .  A working ranch,  I thought.   Lots of lava rocks, a little sage and mostly little bunches of native grasses holding the red sandy clay together.  With water and power and a new paved road in the front, the lot is developable, the realtor told me.  How many units I inquired.  Well, 40, I guess, she said.  We had to laugh.  We started to imagine a house right in the middle, or a couple of houses in a communal cluster of friends and relatives as we ran around and kicked the dirt. What are you going to do with it she asked?  Nothing I replied, for a while. Just let it be.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Canoe Comfort




Tracey and I hid like Indians, behind the glacial polished rock in the northern Minnesota autumn brush, as the boys came stumbling down the hill of the last portage, hauling packs and paddles with someone wearing the ‘big green hat’.  We listened to their banter as they dropped the canoe in the water and packed it up for the last short paddle across the bay to our prearranged rendezvous spot.

Minnesota wedding veil
We had separated into smaller groups for several days during our 10 day canoe trip to the Boundary Waters, for solitude and sanity, but my wife and I were anticipating a nice reunion with the three bachelor team and we had made camp earlier that day.  Like Lewis and Clark who, after being separated for weeks in western Montana, reconvened at the confluence of the Yellowstone and the Missouri within hours of the appointed time.  I gave the secret whistle, revealing my presence, when they started badmouthing us for picking such a sheltered camp site, away from the last big lake that lay between of us and home. 

We settled down on a cocktail rock to watch the clouding, red sunset and recap our particular adventures.  Some of us took quick, cold, naked baths in the semi secluded bay to our east.  Privacy was not as important as it was at the beginning of the trip.  It took a few days but we all found the rhythm of the trip and fell into it like it was second nature. 

Although the forests had all been cut down at the turn of the century and were comprised of mostly new growth trees, the wildlife had started to come back and dominate human intrusions.  We shared stories of bears and wolves, northern night lights and glorious fall days, smooth water and blow down forests, autumnal flora and fauna.  Our days had been filled with countless strokes as we paddled across an endless string of lakes, trolling an articulating Rapalla and catching fish as we rowed along.  Between lakes we would load our gear on our back and the canoes on our head, like a big green hat, and portage anywhere from 10 yards to 2 miles between lakes.  Nights were filled with measured feasts, ragging fires and bug-less sleep in cozy tents or on open beaches. 

A bull moose swam across the lake in front of us and disappeared into the trees.  Pete and Marty each took a canoe out to fish for dinner while we lounged.  They were soon back comparing booty.  Pete proudly displayed a nice 2 pound Walleye until Marty reached back into his Creel and rolled out a long thin 5 pound Northern.  We made a huge feast with our remaining supplies knowing we were one or two days paddle from the car and the bar.  No one had seen a weather report for a week or could anticipate the coming maelstrom as we stayed up late stirring and staring down the fire.

Evan Williams - Traveler
The rain started slowly, imperceptibly, around the warm fire but when we retired to our cozy tent, it began in earnest.  The boys scrambled to collect the food and dirty dishes and in a drunken stupor, proceeded to hang it all from the highest limb available, right next to our tent.  Nevermind, it was raining too hard for the bears to care.

There is no nicer place to be then in a tight and comfortable tent during inclement weather.  Let it rain, we thought, as we drifted to sleep.  During the night we were aware of the downpour and the waves of the deluge on the tent.  I rose only once for a pee break in the middle of the night and noticed the swamp forming around us and under other tents where there were flashlight scrambling to batten down the hatches.

When morning broke someone shouted for directions and a plan.  I called out that we should sleep in and let it pass.  This was no fast moving western rain storm and it felt like that could be a while.  We had some fruit and nuts and water with us in our tent and we were enjoying the change of the familiar morning routine and tempo.  After a while we peaked out to see Pete stringing up his extra tarp over the cooking area as he attempted to boil water for coffee on his stove.  Richard got up also to complain that his tent was submerged and his pad and bag were floating away.  They hunkered down under the tarp cooking and laughing and playing cards having so much fun in the storm that they brought each tent in the group a pair of hot mugs of steaming Joe. 

As the morning wore on it became clear that the storm was not breaking and there was a movement by those with floating tents to pack up and hit the lake.  We had to be out the following day or we would miss flights and appointments.  With more than 20 miles to paddle we had no time to waste.  We had a discussion under the tarp and then went out to the lake to have look.  The lake was raging with 3 foot white caps, sheets of rain and a 30 mph wind in our faces.  Not only would it be uncomfortable breaking camp and paddling, it was dangerous, life threatening - suicidal.

Back to the tents, for better or worse, we lounged out the rest of the day in wildly varying degrees of comfort.  By dusk we had another wet pow wow under the tarp as we drank our last cocktails and ate the last of our dinners.  These storms can last for days and we would be in trouble if it did not break soon.  Our retreat to our tents was less festive than it was the night before and a gloomy attitude prevailed over the group as we said good night.

Outstanding in her field.
We slept the sleep of the damned until I woke up to a strange sound shortly before first light - silence.  I poked my head out of the tent to see the full moon setting in the clear western sky, with only a wisp of floating clouds on the horizon.  I jumped out of bed and roused the soggy group.  We sprang from our beds with the energy of a 30 hour nap.  Fires were lit, stoves were activated, coffee was prepared and meager food supplies were shared.  Tents were dismantled and hung to dry and fresh clothes were found to wear as the first light broke the eastern horizon and a cool fog settled over the humid lake. 

By sunup we were in the canoes paddling for our lives.  The glassy surface and windless day provided no resistance and we made great time.  The day felt more like winter then it did summer as the season seemed to have changed overnight but we kept warm with our efforts.  We relaxed by afternoon enough to appreciate the changing surroundings.  The autumn leaves had been beat down into what were mostly bare trees under blue skies.  We stopped briefly for a quick lunch on a rock outcrop and ate the last of our hoarded nuts and figs. Ten days out and we were wearing our last warm dry socks and eating our last nibbles.  Providence or planning, we could not tell but we were unabashedly proud and joyful.

We covered 20 miles in record pace and by the time we reached the cars we had slowed to a crawl, trying to prolong the feeling and the trip.  We threw the canoes up top and the gear inside and headed down the sunset lane, warming to the heater and the old tunes on the radio.   Five miles out a long, lean wolf crossed our path, barely looking up as he forced us to slow for his crossing.  He gave us a look of spite and contempt, for our intrusion or for our lucky escape from his world where he was so at home and we were the uncomfortable visitor.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ain't it Grand


My stomach rose into my throat as the Bell helicopter dropped over the lower rim of the inner gorge, into the most intimate depths of the Grand Canyon.  As the river, our tiny boat and our crew came into view, I heard the words of its first explorer, John Wesley Powell.  He described the Grand Canyon as “the great unknown” when he entered it on August 12, 1869 from the relative gentle beauty, soft rock and smooth water of Glen and Marble Canyons.  The cool ribbon of green flowed quietly, agelessly through the inferno of the ancient lava rock, the lifeblood plumbing of the American west, looking like a beard on a beauty queen. 

The Indians say that you never see the same river twice but the river we were seeing was a far different river than the one John Wesley Powell saw for the first time more than 100 years ago.  With the installation of Glen Canyon dam and the ignominiously named Lake Powell, the river has been tamed, harnessed and controlled.  Without the dam, the river would be flowing at almost 120,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) because of the healthy winter snow pack still melting in the Colorado Rockies, the Wind River range of Wyoming and the Uinta mountains of Utah.  Even with some extra flood control releases at the dam, the current river was flowing at a nominal 27,000 cfs.  The river would, historically, be blood red with sediment and close to 60 degrees, but now, 200 miles below the dam, it was still flowing emerald green, hungry for sediment and barely 49 degrees. 

Why drown a canyon to tame a river, we asked, for fountains and light shows in the mid day Mojave heat of Las Vegas, to grow rice in the Imperial valley or irrigate cow pastures at 7500 feet in northern Utah?  The token Bureau of Reclamation flushing flows of 45,000 cfs released for one week a few years ago may have helped scour the channel and rebuild some beaches but it is apparent that to mimic the natural system they will have to release more sediment filled, warm water for a longer period of time to match the natural range of variability.  It’s at least a philosophical step, in the right direction, towards considering the rivers ecology as well as its economics. 

In the morning I awoke early and hiked to a ledge overlooking the river and the camp.  From my perch the hydraulics of the river and the canyon became evident.  The side canyon had spewed a tremendous amount of rock and debris during countless flash flood events, creating a large alluvial fan that extended halfway into the river channel and made our perfect beach campsite.  The alluvial fan also created a small rapid by filling the channel with debris, creating a calming ‘sub-critical’ backwater effect upstream and a constricted, steepened channel downstream.  The river poured over the elevated rock control section like calm, deep water pours over a water fall.  At the constriction of the river the water depth got thinner and the velocity faster as the profile approached a transitional ‘critical depth’, as hydrologists call it.  The water flowed through the rapid waves very thin and fast in a ‘super-critical’ state and at the end of the rough steepened constricted section, the river flattened and returned to a slower and deeper, more energy efficient flow regime called sub-critical flow.  This trans-critical sequence is called an energy dissipating ‘hydraulic jump’, where the water surface exits the rapid actually higher than the middle of the rapid, allowing it to flow back upstream along the side of the rapid creating a shear flow zone and the back-water eddy.  The water then returned to the rapid again as the lateral flow that is so tricky for kayakers and canoeists.

The fast moving, hungry water of the rapid can carry more sediment as it back cuts into the deposition from the side canyon, but drops it quickly after it slows down in the eddy creating beaches and point bars.   This particular eddy swirled behind the shelter of the alluvial fan that served as our camp and created a beautiful bay of deep, relatively calm water.  Other famous big rapids on the river were formed this way: Lava Rapid by a lava flow into the river, Crystal Rapid and Separation Rapid by two large side washes entering the river at the same spot.  I returned to camp, after this personal revelation, but could find no one who shared my hydraulic fascination.  We all appreciate the river for something different.  Therein lies the problem.

They tell me that the rock formations of the Grand Canyon, some as old as 3 billion years, were pushed up 50 million years ago and the canyon was cut in a paltry 6 million years.  In geological times there could have been hundreds of Grand Canyons.  They say there are distinctive rock layers mysteriously missing in places and parts of the river used to flow the other way.  You can not travel this canyon without thinking of the greatness of God, and the insignificance of man, but you also can not forget about the huge power dam above you and the bigger, controlling one below.  There have been several plans for dams in the canyons, the last as recently as Ronald Regan.  Congress has passed a law that forbids dams in the Grand Canyon, until they pass another law.  Only God can make such a place for the ages but only man can muck it up in a matter of years.

On the way home we fly over the big dam that sits like a plug in a puddle.  Hoover Dam tamed the lower river in the 1930s and created the relatively sterile looking Lake Mead without much opposition or loss of unique beauty.  It was, and still is, an Art Deco engineering marvel that set the stage for development of the West.  Power generation revenue from this cash register dam was enough to fund most of the Bureaus subsidized water development projects in the forties, fifties and sixties and is still going strong. The lower canyon is stark and dark with lava flows and ancient silt and sand stones in a Mojave vegetation complex full of Barrel cactus and Fire Sticks.  Glen Canyon Dam was built in the 60s as a trade off with environmentalists for not building a dam in Dinosaur Monument.  The sole purpose of Glen Canyon Dam is to give the upper states water use flexibility and guarantee a ten year 75 million acre feet water supply to the lower basin states.  It is a very expensive insurance policy assuring us we will not have to change our wasteful ways. The 500 million dollars per year power generation revenue is just icing on the cake. 

David Brower, then president of the Sierra Club, made the deal with the Bureau of Reclamation before he and the environmental movement knew that Glen Canyon was an irreplaceable national treasure. The upper canyon was shady, lush and airy with vertical faces of polished red sandstones and side canyons as thin as a man or as cavernous as a cathedral.  As a regretful older man, Brower, along with the Sierra Club and ex Bureau Chief Dan Beard, proposed the removal of the dam because of the waste of water from infiltration and evaporation, enough annually for the city of Chicago, and the lack of a real need for the storage.  They were fighting the power companies, the water users and more than 3 million recreationists that enjoy Lake Powell annually.  To Brower, flooding Glen Canyon for recreation was like flooding the Sistine Chapel to get a closer look at the ceiling.  Perhaps the proposal was the last desperate act of a remorseful eco-warrior, or perhaps it was an extreme bargaining position for better environmental operation of the dams and the river.  With both Lake Powell and Lake Mead half empty and perhaps a slim chance of ever filling again, maybe it is an idea so outrageous that it might be worth re-considering. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Flower


We took our seats, right on the glass, as the first puck was dropped for the match between the Blackhawks of Chicago and the Montreal Canadians.  Mark Ungashick and I had driven up to the big city, from South Bend, on a frigid midwestern night in my Volkswagen with no heater and two sleeping bags. Our pockets were full of beer and yogurt, borrowed from the dormitory food sales that Unge ran when he wasn't chasing girls or bombing out of engineering with me.  But that was school and this was the NHL, so we settled in to our seats for some ballet on ice and some ultra-violence. 

     The Blackhacks were mediocre, as usual, but Tony Esposito was the hot goalie of the NHL that year.  Les Habs had dominated three straight Stanley Cups with the line of Lafleur, Shut and Mahovlich and were having trouble getting motivated for easy games as of late.  Chicago Stadium was a bright hazy buzz of anticipation, painted thick bright red from an infinite number of hockey games. The tickets were a gift from a roommates father who ran some sort of meat packing business that required him to have front row seats for the Bulls and the Black Hawks.

     The pace was unbelievably fast and furious, especially from our vantage point where pucks caromed off the glass and players faces were being smushed, right before our eyes.  Then it happened, in slow motion -  the magic, the move, the moment.  Guy Lafleur took a clearing pass in full stride deep in the Blackhawk zone as he cut from his wing towards center ice. The crowd rose with the "Flower" - as the MVP scoring champ of the early seventies was called by the press.  He wheeled effortlessly across the fire line dealing the puck from side to side with his long, wooden stick.  It was the days before everyone needed helmets and Guy's long, straight hair billowed freely behind him as he accelerated. Two Chicago defensemen chased after him, thwacking his arms and hands with their sticks, annoying but not deterring.  As he passed the blue line he was flying at more than 30 miles per hour, bearing down on Esposito who had come out of the net for the classic confrontation. Just as Lafleur passed in front of us he shifted sideways, dug his blades into the ice, and stopped dead.  He did not stop with a slide, nor on a dime, he stopped instantaneously, defying physics and fate.  His hair flowed in orderly slow motion, like seaweed in the ocean currents, from behind his head, past his ears and eyes, until it swept in front of his face and hung there expectantly.  The defensemen suffered the same inertia, stumbling past Guy and colliding in front of him, screening Esposito's view of the puck and of the Flower.  With a flick of his wrist, La Fleur shot the puck over the goalies glove side shoulder, top shelf, launching Esposito's water bottle in the air and lighting the red goal lamp.  We howled.

     The home crowded exploded and both benches erupted in appreciation at the display of pure athleticisim.  The hapless Chicago defensemen were stacked and tangled in their own net along with the Tony Esposito and the puck.  I looked at Unge incredulously.  His mouth was wide open and his eyes, I swear, were popping out of his head, even more than usual.  We fell all over each other with high fives and bear hugs, banging the glass and kicking the boards.   La Fleur skated slowly off in front of us, with his lips pursed in a classic French Canadian look of ennui.  I could still see La Fleur at the post game T.V. interview, smoking a cigerette (Camel, no filter - two packs per day), saying that it was just another goal and a good win for the team.  We had never seen such style, such speed, such grace and will never forget, The Flower.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Breakdown Opportunity


The sinking feeling comes over you as you drive a deserted desert byway, 100 miles from the nearest town.  The steering gets hard, the air conditioner gets hot and the engine heats up instantly.  Fan belt, you say before you even come to a stop.  'Shit'.  Your dog Cooper licks your face.  No yelling.  This will not define your weekend wilderness getaway.  But it does.
 
You make camp with some supportive friends and try to forget but the next day you are hell bent on solving the problem.  You can’t help it, it’s how you were born.  You hitch 100 miles to get the last fan belt in the county before the noon closing of the Parts store and you hitch 100 miles back, with Cooper.  Good rides, good people.  Everyone is helpful and empathetic.  You start installing the serpentine belt and every passing motorist stops and helps or offers moral support so before long, you are done.  Good as new.  Almost. 

The next day you take off with your new fan belt and it lasts 20 miles and burns up like the last one on the seized up a/c flywheel.  You hitch 30 miles with Cooper to a cafĂ© and phone and call the tow truck.  You have lunch with the hippie chick waitresses and discuss cars, water, tattoos and the secret canyons.  The huge tow truck comes and you go out and find your car and winch it on to the flatbed, like a dead whale.   Hours of loud bumpy conversation with the driver and you find common ground, a shared sense of humor and mutual respect.  Plus 300 dollars for the towing.

You call the shop the next day and they inevitably try to work you.  They have to.  It’s their job. The 5 day, 2500 dollar original estimate is quickly whittled down to 500 when they discover that even though you are from up north, you are not rich or dumb and don’t need air-conditioning.  It could be done in 2 days.  Maybe.

You settle down at your trailer camp with no car, bike or distractions so you get to know all the neighbors, intimately.  A series of simple questions turns into hours of conversation, dinner, drinks and dates for the future. You stop by the camp host and go inside and watch Ellen reruns and a Mormon cooking show with them in a room hung with elk heads and antelope skulls.  The lady next door grew up in your hometown 2500 miles away.  The guy up the street has the same profession as you do, in another state, in another world, a smaller world.  Time slows to a crawl and becomes insignificant, but you like it.  You hike every road and trail in the neighborhood and discover the micro details of the area.  You talk to your dog.

Days later it is done and your new neighborly friends fight to take you to pick up your car.  You chat them up at the car shop as you pay your bill and they give you a dashboard calendar from last year along with your old a/c and fan belt.  You hit the road like Jack Kerouac’s youngest son and the highway has never felt so smooth, fast and cool.  Even with no a/c.  'That wasn’t so bad', you think as you leave behind the local rural time warp and your new found friends, in your rearview mirror.  It was not an anticipated or sought after experience but it was another opportunity to peek into the good essence of human nature.  You got to see some new country, meet some new folks and know yourself just a little better.

It reminds you of that time you limped into Winnemucca Nevada late on a winter Saturday night with no water pump.  After camping out at the part store on a Sunday morning, chatting up the bouffant babe behind the counter, you met a rancher who helps you install it, in the windy cold.  Actually he told you to go do something else after 10 minutes of chatty assistance and does it himself.  He asked you for 85 bucks so you threw him a hundred and hit the road yelling, 'I love this town', before you realized you had no heat.  Karma paused, but the heat came on after 45 frigid miles and you baked yourself home in a giddy blizzard.  It left you promising to be more proactive and prepared but, more importantly, it left you with renewed faith in the human spirit.

Like most promises and perspectives, it faded fast, so when it happened again you are surprised, almost miffed.  Your faith in yourself was tested, exercised, renewed and strengthened.  Your confidence renewed with respect to what you can endure and solve with a little time, the right tools and a little help from your friends.  The road of self-discovery does not come without some breakdowns and bumps but it is filled with kind and interesting people who are genuinely willing to help.  No matter how deserted this road seems, you are never alone.  Maybe you will drive it again next year. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Forensics of a Dam Failure Fatality





          As the dam breach flood waters swept down on four year old Bradley Gale Brown, early on Sunday morning June 16, 1963, he had no idea that there was a brand new, but defective dam only 5 miles upstream from his family.  This dam had just failed catastrophically, on its first filling, sending 7 million gallons per minute downstream.  While his father frantically moved the station wagon full of some of his sleeping family, he could not imagine the magnitude of the flood that was sweeping the adjacent tent full of young boys down the river. Bradley’s older brother survived but had to go to the hospital after the incident while his two friends were uninjured.  Bradley was not so fortunate; he became the first and only direct dam failure casualty in Utah history.  There have been two other fatalities attributed indirectly to dam failures in Utah.  Bradley would now be 54, if he had survived.

            When the Browns selected the campground on the Duchesne River in the Uinta Mountains 50 miles east of Salt Lake City, they had no concept that they were camping at the headwaters of a tributary to the mighty Colorado River.  The Colorado had politically been appropriated among its contiguous states years before the Depression with the Colorado River Compact, and the participating states were finally getting busy taking their fair share of the water.  The young family was unaware of the plan, devised years before the Second World War, to divert some of Utah’s share of the Colorado from the river’s natural basin towards the Provo River and Salt Lake City.  There was no Economic or Environmental Impact Assessment, no Hazard Assessment or Risk Analysis, and no Standard Operating Procedures or initial filling plan devised for the water project.   There was no Emergency Action Plan, Inundation Study or Evacuation Plan prepared in case of an accident at the dam. This was the early 1960's, when John Kennedy was President and the country still enjoyed a post war confidence and prosperity.  These were heady times when seemingly infallible scientists and engineers ruled the country, putting a TV in every home, a man in outer space, and a dam on every river.

            The Little Deer Creek dam was part of the Kamas Water Project, conceived in 1944 and finally approved by the Utah State Water and Power Board in 1958.  The dam was planned in conjunction with the Duchesne Tunnel project that piped Colorado River water to the Provo River.  Little Deer Creek was a small tributary to the Duchesne River, whose waters could be collected, stored and diverted to flow thru the tunnel after spring runoff, with the construction of a small 75 ft high dam at 9000 feet m.s.l..  The Duchesne Tunnel was already functioning at its design capacity in 1958, diverting as much of the peak snowmelt runoff as it could handle.  The Provo River was already showing the effects of adding this additional water and energy to the natural peak spring runoff flows, and the adjacent landowners rightly feared flooding, bank erosion and destabilization of the river. Flows from the adjacent Weber River were also added to the Provo and a protective dike system was constructed to contain the additional flows, further exacerbating the destabilization of the river.  Upstream storage on the Duchesne would allow diversion of snowmelt water during the summer months when flows in both rivers declined substantially. 

            The three pages of the dam’s design drawings were based on only three test pits and three drill holes.  The simple homogeneous design included a three-foot deep cutoff, an 18-inch reinforced concrete culvert in a concrete cradle and a spillway over the left abutment.  Elvon Bay was the site engineer for the State Water and Power Board and recorded the construction log.  The Weyher Construction Company won the bid an began work late, in August of 1961, after finally receiving design approval from the State Engineer Wayne Criddle.  Les Staples was the job superintendent for Weyher.  The earthwork subcontractor was the Berquist Construction Company represented by John Mills.

            The autumn of that year was especially inclement and the contractors worked in difficult, wet and cold, early winter conditions.  The construction log made many references to the freezing weather, the wet fill, the jointed and fractured condition of the rock on the right abutment, the probability that it could seep and pipe, the inadequate three foot cutoff (bedrock was 17 feet deep) and the lack of structural integrity of the outlet pipe.  The US Soil Conservation Service, in their review of the dam, made several comments about the design and recommended a drainage system on the seep area on the south (right) abutment.  During the first construction season, water was noted flowing from the right abutment downstream of the dam but it was determined that it was “not to be coming from the dam”.  This water, however, was noted to be flowing with a muddy color, the color of the fill material of the dam.  Instances were noted of the placement of wet sloppy fill during rain and snow events with moisture as high as 16.8%.  Instructions were given to leave rocks in the wet fill, not to over compact, to place fill in one-foot layers and compacted to 95% density.  This was later reduced to 92% density and 9% moisture, not the design tested optimum of 6%.  Work was stopped on October 26, 1961 because of bad weather and wet fill conditions.  The outlet gate was not installed and the reservoir did not fill.  Heavy snows closed all the roads a few days later with some of the work crews barely getting off the site.

             In July 1962 work began anew after melt-off and the downstream dam face was described as “spongy” with a small slump formed in wet material, emanating either from a seep or a snowdrift.   A serious shear zone was defined, removed and recompacted.   Although the dam appeared in “rough” condition the dam builders confidently said they could repair the slump, re-compact, and make the dam structurally safe.  A spillway was dug from the natural ground on the left abutment and coated with rough concrete on the right (dam) side of the channel, before it passes the downstream toe of the dam and drops steeply down the slope to the main channel.  A large section of the reservoir basin and right abutment were cleared of trees and there was a stream/spring entering the reservoir just upstream of the dam.  A diversion was made from lower Little Deer Creek to the entrance of the Duchesne tunnel. The outlet gate was installed and closed.  The dam was completed that autumn and cost approximately $100,000 to build.     
         
           
The dam failed during its first filling in the Spring of 1963 with the water at elevation 9215 feet, or 62 feet on the concrete stage gage with 1200 acre feet in the reservoir inundating over 28 acres.  The spillway elevation was 9223 feet with the top of the dam at 9228 feet.  Breach times are currently estimated at between 1.0 - 1.5 hours with maximum flows between 14000 and 17000 c.f.s.. The final breach was 80 feet deep and 75 feet wide and extended 17 feet below the dam to bedrock.  Downstream damage was extensive and is still visible today   There was a scouring of the immediate downstream toe area, followed by several acres of deposition above a grade control rock out crop where pieces of the outlet are visible.  Below the grade break is another steep, scoured channel that dumps into the much flatter Duchesne River downstream of the diversion dam for the Duchesne Tunnel.  There is a huge debris deposit at the confluence that backs up a small lake/wetland area to the base of the diversion dam.  After the dam failed the flood waters took five hours to reach the towns of Hanna and Tabiona, 15 miles away, and roughly 12 hours to reach the town of Duchesne, 45 miles away.  Ten out of eleven bridge crossings on the Duchesne River were washed away with the flood and there was also minor damage to farms next to the river.  It also inundated the small Ashley National Forest campground on the Duchesne river.  The bridge repairs were estimated at $190,000, the Browns filed a claim for $31,000, and additional claims totaled $96,000.

            Today, the remnant of the Little Deer Creek Lake has a small, natural grade control at the outlet and supports a healthy lake, wetland and littoral length.  Moose were feeding in the lake as we performed the forensic reconnaissance in August 2002.  The clearing originally done for the lake was evidenced only by the age of the younger trees growing below the old high water line.  The stream flowing from the right abutment near the outlet intake was flowing 1 c.f.s. and an adjacent spring was flowing 5-10 g.p.m. during the latest  visit. .  A complete section of the dam embankment, with a vertical face, remains on the right abutment but the left side of the dam has been completely removed. The most striking features of the small piece of the old embankment are the sandy gravel matrix with very little 200 minus, excessive amounts of 3 - 6 inch cobbles and boulders as big as 3-10 feet in diameter.  There is a slump on the right side of the remaining crest over the right abutment.  The maroon quartzite visible on the right abutment is highly fractured and jointed with intermediate green siltstone layers every 8 -12 inches.  The main open joint patterns trend steeply downstream at approximately the slope of the stream and appear to be at a favorable piping orientation.  A piece of the old spillway structure remains high and dry on the left abutment, with a “Utah State Engineer” survey monument embedded in the concrete.  Seventy-two feet of the storage gage remains on the upstream left abutment and the borrow pit of the right abutment still contains an old culvert and plow blades.


           
                                               
            The Fuhriman and Rollins Engineering Company prepared a report on the failure in November of 1963.  This report cited seepage, thru the unsealed and unfiltered right abutment, as the probable cause of failure.  Attorneys working on the case also noted the wet weather, wet fill, insufficient cutoff, large boulders in the fill, insufficient bedrock preparation and a change in the specification from a zoned embankment to a homogeneous embankment. Optimum densities of the embankment soils tested after the failure were 137.8 lbs per cu ft and 6 percent moisture, more dense, dry and closer to optimum than those tested during construction.  From the lateness of the dam design submittal and approval that delayed construction until August, to the bad weather encountered during construction, a series of mistakes, oversights and natural conditions contributed to the failure.  The design and exploratory testing were marginal, the site preparation was minimal, the construction quality was questionable and the condition of the bedrock was underestimated.  The dam was built 17 feet above bedrock with only a 3-foot cutoff and the right abutment was not blanketed, drained or filtered.  Large boulders and wet soil further compounded the probability that something catastrophic could happen.  Seeps and slumps after the first winter gave clues that something was not right, yet only Band-Aid solutions to these problems were implemented. 

            One mistake is usually not enough to cause a catastrophic failure of a modern earthen dam, given the redundancies of the design as well as the large factor of safety attributed to the materials and dam geometry.   Earthen dams are usually very flexible and forgiving, provided that they are built properly out of the correct material and that seepage is properly collected, controlled, filtered and conveyed away from the dam.   Most likely it was a combination of several small deficiencies that caused the ultimate failure.  Perhaps it was overzealous water resource development, bureaucratic delay, unfortunate weather, inexperienced personnel, budget constraints, unfavorable site conditions, ego, arrogance or our consistent underestimation of the patience, power and persistence of water. 

The problem with dam breach forensics is that most of the evidence is flushed downstream.   Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.   The remains of Little Deer Creek Dam still stand as a monument to the delicate humanity of Bradley Gale Brown, to the humility of the men who built it, and as a warning to future generations to respect the strength and complexity of nature.   Hopefully we learn from our mistakes, ideally before we repeat them.
                                                            

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spin Cycle


Out of desperation, in the peak of my pre - winter doldrums, I put on my nicest Grateful Dead shirt, a pair of polka-dot Bermuda shorts and my purple Converse high top, Chuck Taylor sneakers and headed out to the local health club.  I typically can’t stand the tedium of exercise, calisthenics, weight work or even stretching, especially in those high profile, chrome-plated, mirror-lined, meat-market health clubs but I had early season cabin fever and I was going crazy.    As a rule, I generally never actually “work” out but find myself “playing” out five or six times a week.   This way I can stay in reasonable shape without even realizing it.    At my age it’s just a battle to stay  healthy, getting in shape is just a bonus.  An Irish woman once wondered why I was wasting my limited life heartbeats cycling around her little green country when God gives you only so many beats.  I have recently taken heed to her concept of the finite body. There is only so much your knees, back, and shoulders can give to you.   Therefore, in an effort to conserve and preserve my limited body, I play.  Alpine skiing is my winter anaerobic interval training, back-country skiing is my aerobics class, swimming is my fat burner, basketball and frisbee carry me through the spring shoulder season, while biking and backpacking sustain me through the summer and fall. After the leaves fade and the deserts freeze there is a month or two before skiing starts, a time for resting, reflection and healing.  Enough was enough by mid-November with my resting couch potato routine, so after reviewing the bleak possibilities of my wind trainer, jogging in the dark or  “Must-See-TV”, I headed out into the cold night, in search of socio-aerobic stimulation.  At least it could be a great learning experience.

When I got to the gym I realized it wasn’t a gym at all.  It felt more like a shopping mall.  Stepping inside, it looked like a cross between the Mission Control Monitor Room and the Rocky Horror Hall of Mirrors.  There wasn’t a single punching bag, basketball hoop or spittoon.  There was a little frilly welcome desk and a juice bar at the front, but the rest of the place was dumbbells and torture machines of every shape and size.  There were several rows of people running and riding and stroking and skiing, all in front of several giant televisions with no sound on.  Everyone had headphones on and were dialed into their own little world.  Nobody would even look at me, let alone talk to the goofy new guy in the tie-dye.  I sat down to warm up on an erotic reclining bike machine and changed the channel on one of the TVs to my favorite cable show,“Molson’s Hockey Night in Canada”.  No sooner had I started riding when a commotion in the back caused me to pause.  A smallish woman was yelling at me, the way people with headphones yell, to turn the station back to the “Cosby”  rerun.  I begged her pardon and tried switching it back and inadvertently turned the television off and could not figure how to turn it back on.  She huffed off to the front desk to tell the muscle-headed guy what I had done.  As I slunk off towards the bar- bells I could see what had made the woman so ornery.  Her leotard was all curled up and stuffed in the crack of her butt.  That kind of outfit might make me irascible too.

At the barbells there were these huge guys in muscle shirts and little shorts, wearing gloves and  what looked like the World Wrestling Title Belt around their waists.  There were women there too with huge muscles and bad dispositions, lifting weights and making faces at themselves in the mirrors.  I slid past and lounged around on the sit-up machine for awhile, trying to catch some sleep while hanging upside down.  I recognized some local aggro-biker type dudes milling around a separate room, looking like expectant fathers in lycra.  After some gentle prodding I found out they were waiting for the “Spin Class” to start and asked them if I could join.  Sure why not,  I thought, it would be great spinning with some hardcore bikers, pumping big flywheels, listening to pounding rock music and yucking it up with the coach and class.  Maybe even stoke up a fatty during one of the breaks.  It’s only exercise, I thought.

The aerobics class ahead of us had finished and while the class full of glistening and glowing women filed out I noticed that the large empty room smelled like a cross between a wrestling room and the perfume bar at Bloomingdales.  Our class strutted in, sucking some kind of power gel while they positioned their bikes in a semi-circle around a stage.  I figured that I might be out of my league when  all the bikers started to take the standard pedals and toe clips off the existing bikes and install their own clip-less pedals that fit their own shoes. “Dudes, you forgot your helmets” I told them with a smile, but they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.  I realized then that I was the only one in the room with body hair.  We got on the bikes and started spinning while the instructor put on some motivating, heavy-metal music and a headset microphone that made him look like Janet Jackson on a moped.  During the warm-up I started goofing around with some of my neighbors who, apparently, were deaf, manic depressant or just in no mood to talk to me.  “That’s cool, I’ll get into my own space” I thought as I increased my resistance and picked up the pace.  I can be an aggro-biker dude too, when I want.


The instructor caught my attention and indicated that I may want to raise my seat for more power and range of motion.  I like a slightly lower seat for balance on a mountain bike but since we weren’t on the Slick Rock Trail I probably looked like Pee Wee Herman with my knees in my face.  So I stopped pedaling to get off  to make the adjustment.  That’s when I learned that there were no gears connecting me to the 35 pound flywheel and there was no mechanical option to coast or stop pedaling.  “That’s why it’s called spinning” is what I thought as I was launched over the handle bars, luckily slipping out of my toe-clips in time to land on my feet like a dismounting Olga Korbut, telling the others “I meant to do that”.  If I had turfed it, I would have been the only person in biking history to get road rash from a rug.

From that point on I was on my own, no one would even acknowledge my spastic presence.  We warmed up, sprinted intervals, climbed hills, rode off the seat, on the seat, on and off the seat, recovered, repeated and rested.  It was a great workout, with everyone adjusting their resistance secretly, according to their own ability and needs, but somehow letting everyone know how hard they were working with grunts and moans.  I thought that they should broadcast each persons resistance on a big screen so these guys could really compete, chest thump and bang pee pees.  I hung in there for 45 minutes and asked the fellow next to me if they spin for the entire hour. “Hour and a half” is all he said.  “I’m a dead man”, I thought as I lightened up my resistance in an effort to catch my breath and to finish alive.  My body was a faucet of sweat, dripping down my face, chest  and butt, filling my eyes, shoes and belly button with pools of protoplasm.  The rug around me was a smelly mess and I was afraid that the bike might rust up and seize before I did.  My water bottle was empty and I envied the smug guys that brought camelbacks, sipping greedily from their little hoses. My back ached, knees throbbed and my hands and winkie had fallen asleep so long ago that I was confident that the loud music, or anything else for that matter, could ever wake them.  The clock on the wall went into a low, slow gear and the music pounded a crescendo rhythm completely out of phase to my body’s decrescendo rhythm.  While the others were coasting smoothly down an imaginary hill on fine-tuned racing bikes, I was pushing my make believe tricycle into a headwind on a cobblestone path.

When the class finally and mercifully ended, we got off  to stretch and I couldn’t get my leg on the handlebar or my nose to my knee like the instructor easily demonstrated.  I just faked it with my old Yoga Sun Salutation that kept me from puking or running from the room in shame.  Among the others there was this post-trauma, shared-experience euphoria and some actual conversation, albeit whispered and stilted.  The instructor came by and unconvincingly said “nice job” to me.  Another rider asked how I liked it and all I could mumble was “Not bad”.  As I humbly headed out to the TVs, the mirrors and the butt floss, I was surprised to hear several halfhearted “later” from my comrades and even more surprised at my own response, “I’ll see ‘ya next week”.

Friday, May 3, 2013

LET IT MELT


Spring has sprung with the days getting longer, the sun is feeling warmer and the snow pack is ripening for runoff.  April 1 marks the official hydrological start of runoff season when our snow pack typically reaches its peak depth and volume and starts to melt.  Runoff can often start as early as March 1 down south and at lower elevations and as late as May 1 up north and at the highest elevations.  With a cold and wet April this year we are running a little late.  If this weather persists thru the month of May we may have a runoff issue, even from our anemic snowpack.  With normal or hot weather the snow could be gone in a matter of weeks.

Surprisingly enough, nature and thermodynamics typically evacuate our mountain snow pack in an orderly and controllable fashion no matter how big or small the snowpack.  As long as the weather cooperates and allows the snow to melt over an extended period, from April to July, there usually isn’t any catastrophic flooding.  If the lower snowpack and the south facing snow are allowed to melt early, followed by the east and west faces and finally the higher, north facing snow, we hardly notice the majority of our surface water supply passing by in streams, filling our reservoirs and percolating to recharge our dwindling groundwater resources.  It is only when the weather stays inclement and the snowpack continues to build on all aspects and elevations, that we run the risk of springtime flooding.  This flooding can result from a large or a small snowpack as we have now or as we had in 2010.  Conversely the large snowpack of 2011 can came off quietly due to ideal weather conditions.

 In 1983 our healthy snowpack continued to build thru April and May and on Memorial Day weekend the skies opened up and temperatures soared unseasonably to 90 degrees.  The combined runoff from all aspects and elevations flooded many canyon streams, kicked off the Thistle landslide and forced Salt Lake officials to divert City Creek Canyon down State Street because the pipes under North Temple, where they
usually hide that stream, were full to capacity.  That was an anomaly, or the mythical 100 year runoff event.  In 2010 we had a normal snowpack but it held on later than normal with the May/June Monsoons we have been experiencing lately.  When the weather turned sunny, the runoff from all aspects and elevations surprised even our best forecast professionals and caused moderate flooding in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. Water managers can sometimes evacuate some water behind their dams proactively to make room for the surface runoff and mitigate some of the flooding potential by storing it and taking the peak runoff the floods.

A ripening snowPack means that the snow density approaches 50% water and achieves the same temperature throughout the entire gradient of snow.  This means that it becomes isothermal and homogeneous so that energy added to the snow by the sun creates melt water that actually exits the snowpack.  The second ingredient necessary to trigger runoff is 3 to 5 days of non freezing temperatures that allow heat to permeate the snow pack and let real melting progress uninterrupted.  The third ingredient is the soil moisture condition that, if it is saturated by a wet autumn or excessive snow melt, can prevent further infiltration and promote more surface runoff.  Finally, late additions of faster melting spring snow can exacerbate the runoff rate.  Luckily the amount of surface water produced by a square mile of snow in Utah is almost always thermodynamically limited to 32 cubic feet per second or 14,000 gallons per minute.  If that runoff is spread around the different aspects and elevations of a watershed the effects will be minimal.

Much of the water held in the snowpack can be lost by evaporation or sublimation - passing form a solid state directly to gas.  The amount of water lost off the surface of the snowpack on a sunny and windy day can approach 3-4 inches of water per day.  The Native Americans call the warm southern Chinook winds the ‘snow eater’ because winds can decimate a healthy snowpack with no visible runoff, as they did in 2007.  This is natural but unfortunate because this is water that is lost from our collection systems.  Slow snowmelt recharges groundwater better and rapid snowmelt produces more surface runoff.  Water suppliers pray for a slow melt to recharge the groundwater aquifers but also hope for an early summer so they can sell water and recharge their financial coffers.  Thankfully there is usually a balance of losses to the sky, the ground and to runoff that allows a huge amount of water to drain without flooding. 

It seems that with a below normal snow pack, as we have this year, we are complacent, less vigilant and proactive.  I don't think that we have anything to worry about this year but you never know, random spring weather is the most important variable in the runoff equation and April and May are our wettest months.  It is with the normal or below normal snow pack that last well into the spring that we get surprised, as we did in 2010.  Unfortunately, it is only when we experience those brush back floods that we learn to respect and appreciate our watersheds, dams, rivers and natural floodplains as well as the power, patience and persistence of snow and water.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Be who you are.


The current crisis of confidence, in my mind, is related to the overabundance of unfounded self-esteem we instill in our children.  Everyone is great, everybody gets a trophy, every kid gets an A, if they get grades at all.  I grew up before self-esteem was a big deal.  It was before the age of the personality complex, finding yourself, loving yourself and the pop psychology diagnosis of us all as insecure, obsessive-compulsive, controlling and self-absorbed narcissist.   My dad once told me, when we were throwing the football in the street, that I was a gum-shoe and had small hands, and he was right but I could catch anything he threw near me.  He told me years later that I was going to fail out of every fancy school that I went to and he was almost right each time but I managed to graduate, with honors.  It was his way of motivating me but it was also his way of leveling with me.  He was telling me that the world is competitive and you are really not that good, so I would try a little harder. 

 Nowadays every kid is told that they are the fastest, smartest and prettiest – the best.  Beauty and strength are an accident of youth but kids grow up feeling delusional-invincible.  Sooner or later they meet reality and realize they are not ‘the best’ but just slightly better than average.  This can be devastating to kids of any age but it is a lesson that we all must learn eventually.  Usually in college, with the help of our new education and our hard working, overachieving and talented peers, we determine our realistic self-worth and potential, our own values and what we want to be.  After that we can focus and dedicate ourselves to the things we like and are good at to find our niche and our place in society. 

Self-esteem is your own appraisal of your abilities and self-worth.  Once we get out there in the world it is up to us to define the realistic limits of what we can do and what we think we can do.  We push our limits, test our boundaries and scare ourselves.  We push from the moment we are born, find our toes, recognize our moms, figure out our hands, become self-aware, tie our shoes, go to school, ride our bikes to the edge of town, go to work, drive to the edge of the country, find a partner, go around the world and have our own kids to teach how to push their own limits.

Another culprit complicit in the compromise of confidence is excessive alliteration.  Not really.  It is the over-involvement of parents in the lives of their children.  Helicopter parents hover and protect, guide and control the lives of their offspring, even into adulthood. This well intention codependence does not allow the offspring to control their destiny, make their own mistakes and suffer the consequence that will teach them valuable lessons.  They are sheltered from the experiences that will educate and enable them to become stronger.  They are prevented from failing and more importantly succeeding on their own.  They are insulated from the interpersonal relations and decisions that build discipline and build character. 

Kids become, through no fault of their own, reliant on others and not on themselves. They often become the victim of other people’s bad judgment and decisions and blame everyone and everything for their misfortune.  Children need to get out on their and experience the world incrementally and objectively as it is in order to cope with the demands and responsibilities of adulthood and reality.  They should be equipped with a sense of control of their own destiny with the accompanying consequences, courage and confidence building experiences. 

Lastly there is a technological overemphasis today on instant connectivity and communication.  We must be instantly in touch with everyone all the time and have a hard time letting any situation incubate or wait.  We rely on instant information and knowledge and are not content to figure something out, deduce or just ‘let the mystery be’. We long for the validation and approval of every thought word or action from our network of ‘friends’ and are less able to make our own self-evaluations and validations.  We write blogs to immediately publish our every thought and opinion. 

Without the technology and communication we are lost in our own thoughts, feelings, doubts and wisdom.  We become uncomfortable with ourselves, our thoughts, our free time and our futures.  We don’t feel the positive reinforcement of solving problems with our own intellect, strength, talent or moxie.  We carry our phones iPads and computers like technological pacifiers that we must constantly consult to feel connected, communal and whole.  It stunts our self-reliance and growth.  It makes us reliant on technology and not ourselves.  No need to worry, Seri is always there.

So put down the phone, your rose colored glasses so you can honestly evaluate your strengths and abilities as well as those of your kids.  We all need to experience, suffer and fail to learn and improve
.  We learn a little every time we fall down but we learn more every time we get up on our own.  Learn the value of hard work and experience in quelling the nagging self-doubt we all experience.   See yourself, not as others perceive you, but as you honestly know you really are and celebrate your abilities, uniqueness and tendencies.  Exercise your self-confidence by pushing your limits and realistically evaluating what they are.  Strive to improve what you can every day but be happy with the results every night.  Be who you are.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Scare Yourself. Everyday


I was speaking with young woman the other night at a loud 20-something bar in Kansas City, a friend of a friends daughter.  Women are infinitely more interesting to talk to because they will tell you their fears and fantasies and listen to what you have to say, unlike men who are guarded, boring and bad listeners.  Women also usually look and smell better than men.  This young woman was proudly telling me how she was the first person in her family to go to college, to move to the city and to get a white collar job.  She had faced her fears and limitations and had risen above her background to achieve the American dream of upward mobility.  She felt she had arrived and felt self satisfied.  Now, she said, she wanted to travel to see the world, other cultures and lifestyles but she was afraid of the unknowns such as language and currency and customs and feared she didn’t have enough time or money.  Of course I encouraged her ‘go for it’ since I had just returned from a long trip that was empowering and enlightening with the perspective that it lent me (lent because that perspective fades quickly).  I told her that she should ‘do something everyday that scares her’ if she wanted to continue to grow, progress and experience all that life holds secret.  It builds character, it builds confidence. 

A light bulb seemed to go on in her head as she bought me an obscurely pornographically named shot for my advice, because that’s what the kids do these days.  Advice is free but good advice costs.   She enthusiastically agreed that she should continue to face her fears everyday and push the envelope of her comfort zone.  She was going to take her trip and many more trips after that so she could grow and mature.  She said that this was the best advice she had heard in a long while, gave me a big hug and as she walked away she challenged me to write an article about it.  So I did.

I have noticed lately how so many decisions and choices we make are driven or limited by blind subscription to the status quo, self doubt, fear or lack of confidence.  I see an epidemic of anxiousness and anxiety in young people, perhaps spurred by great expectations, an overabundance of self esteem or their constant need for instant communication and information.   This seems bizarre to me since youth is almost defined by the allusion of indestructibility that provides a varying amount of fearlessness.   As we grow older we gain experience and wisdom but our physical infallibility fades.  When we have suffered the bumps and bruises of outrageous fortune, we learn, and generally become more cautious. All school costs something.  It’s a defense mechanism, survival of the fittest, evolution.   It starts with the loss of physical alacrity and it extends to doubts about our mental, social and emotional ability.

I have noticed this change in myself and older friends.  We wake up in the early early morning trying to figure out how we are going to face the challenges of the coming day, weather they be great or small.  We usually figure it out and go back to sleep.  By dawn our problems don’t loom so large and seem routine or inconsequential.  Where does our confidence, intelligence and creativity go in these pre dawn hours.  Perhaps we have been beat down too much.  Perhaps we have been too safe and sheltered in our cushioned modern life and they have not developed, maintained or strengthened our confidence. 

The mountain lifestyle we live is conducive to challenging our abilities and pushing the comfort zone envelope.  There are the physical challenges of dynamic sports that depend on skill and courage as well as extended execution in clutch situations.  There are natural challenges from the weather, the terrain, the biota and gravity.  We learn to put it out there, rise to the occasion and perform when we have to out of choice, necessity and self preservation.  Many situations are an education, a challenge and an opportunity to scare yourself
.  Most of the times we are successful and our small victories endow us with good feelings, a sense of accomplishment and renewed self confidence.  You hardly ever meet an outdoors adventurer with low self esteem.

I noticed after a while that confidence is not completely an inherent trait, although some people have more natural confidence than others.  Confidence does not just come from blind belief in ourself and spouting positive mantras.  Confidence is learned and earned and also limited by the times we get burned.  Every time that we face our fears successfully is a confidence learning opportunity.  The next time we are not so fearful and we raise the bar a little higher.  If we succeed, we earn even more confidence, until there is a balance with our ability and our expectations of our self.  This lends itself to realistic self esteem.  Confidence is like a skill, it must be learned.  Confidence is like a muscle, it must be exercised.  It is akin to intelligence, social grace, mental health and emotional stability.  It is inherent but it must me learned and maintained.  The way to build and improve it is to exercise it everyday.  Therefore we need to challenge ourselves everyday, to push the envelope and expand our limits – physically, intellectually, socially, mentally and emotionally.  Scare yourself.  Everyday.