6/11 Idaho Magazine Features - "The Demons of Boulder Lake" (non-fiction)

Daniel Claar - Idaho's Premier Backcountry Writer

Winner - Idaho Magazine Publisher's Choice Award 2010
"The Proper Filter"

Winner - Idaho Magazine Judge's Choice Award 2011
"Where the River Leads"

"Hot Spring Break "

"Stampede! "

"Seeing Things"
Winner - Idaho Magazine Second Place 2011

Friday, May 25, 2012

You were Cautioned

Out there
In the dirty
Shrinking snow
Waiting out
The bountiful
Spring harvest
Of stick thin legs
And those
Scrapping through
Their last winter

Only now
A chain ripped
From mother’s hand
And once again placed
In the fist of man
Has the healthy bodies
Scattered and desperate

Beneath thundering blades
And spotlights
Scattering crosshairs
Over once protected ground
Turned minefields
Of steel teeth and poison
The military mind
Predictably applied
To a process so pure
No bullet can comprehend

The untold consequence
To collective soul and
Cosmic strand
Cheered on by
The sound of
Right hands applauding
An issue for
Somebody else’s

A Devil in Wolf's Clothing

The succubus
In my eye’s corner
A concubine
Tied up at home
And onlookers
As a wax grin
In this spotlight
Drips from my jawline
Baring a hot breathed
Blood soaked muzzle

A vision somehow
Of a once lover’s
Dying breath
I’d die alone
But that fat lamb
Never predicted
The toothy smile
Her caution might bring
To this visage

Friday, May 11, 2012

Just a Finger Were That the Case

To blink and be here
Atop this windswept
Petrified sundae
Of layered sandstone
Thousands of years
Before my bones
Had a chance
To be thrown
Covering hands in
Flower fashioned paint
Leaving prints
Patterns and silhouettes
No doubt
A message for the now
Or annual migration
With never a thought
That centuries hence
They might be found
Fading into stone scripture
A force fed
Through a paradigm
Of what were they
Trying to tell us

Close Enough for Comfort

Must have missed
The warm white light
Shining down from above
Never experienced
An undeniable truth
Unable to escape the ear hole
Or felt the heart swell
Of everlasting joy
And his visage
Remains unseen
In my oatmeal

A sixth or ninth sense
Could clue me in
To all this ether
Or maybe
As it is
With all magic shows
The spectators
Pay good money
For an easy seat
In the dark
While pretending
To justify
What takes place
Beneath the stage

Returning to the Scene

Recognize this place
From trophy fragments
Of enemies bested
Broken bottomless goblets
Of blood wine burning
Like so many witches
Conquest and glory
From the lips of liars
Once screaming
Apocalyptic love
While digging black nails
Into Egyptian silk
And spectator applause
Fading ambient

The hearth
Now cold stained concrete
Velvet drapes decay
Beneath cobweb strata
A great hall sacked
Of priceless art
And left to flaccid
For a king
Turned jester
In fields of chronic
Forever asleep
To the majesty
Of acting alive

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Couple's Retreat

          I am running late in my attempt to slip out of work early when I stop to gawk at an impressive four-spike inside the six foot chain-link fence separating the V.A. Hospital from the steep foothills paralleling Boise’s north end. Although a young specimen, the mule deer has filled out majestically, defined muscles rippling beneath a glossy coat already thick for the impending winter. Despite the ungulate’s regal appearance, the animal appears agitated. As I watch, the deer turns to the fence rising on its hind legs as if it is going to jump the barrier before changing its mind and swinging its antlered head back and forth. A sudden movement over the buck’s shoulder betrays the reason. All but hidden in the tall yellow grasses abruptly giving way to manicured lawn at the property line, a plump doe is looking back at her companion from the other side of the fence. I can’t help smiling while thinking it figures the lady found a way through while the buck stands there stupefied. Of course, she probably asked for directions.

          For a moment I am tempted to get out of my car and herd the buck further up the hill where I know a break in the fence will allow him to join his companion. Knowing that my wife is already home loading our truck with backpacking supplies, I decide the male is heading in the right direction and should stumble upon the correct route without my interference. Besides, I could inadvertently scare the animal causing it to run back the way it came and confound the animal’s plight. Taking one last look at the muscular creature, I drive around the northwest corner of the VA hospital. No more than fifty feet from where I was watching the deer, I see a co-worker, out for his afternoon walk, slinking up the sidewalk with bulging eyes.

          Phil, an older guy with a noticeable limp from a recent knee surgery is moving even more tentatively than usual, almost as if he’s trying to slowly peer around the corner from where I just drove. I bring my car to a stop and roll down the window.

          “Did you see that big buck?”

          Phil’s response is a speed-jumble of words I barely comprehend. “That deer tried to kill me!”

          Although it would be impossible to not be instantly convinced of his sincerity by his tone and body language, I can’t help laughing in disbelief. “What?”

          “That deer,” he says while smoothing out a disorderly patch of thinning hair and looking past my vehicle as if expecting the beast to reappear, “just chased me into that building.” Without taking his gaze from where the buck was last headed, he jabs his thumb over his shoulder towards a glass door on one of the V.A. outbuildings.

          “It chased you?”

          “Yeah it chased me and if that door hadn’t been unlocked who knows what would have happened. It got inside just in time. The thing was right in my face through the glass, huffing steam and everything.

          If possible, Phil’s eyes get even wider as he recounts his animal attack. I still can’t help laughing on the inside, but I do my best to look serious. I mean, it is serious; a buck that size would have mopped the floor with ol’ Phil. They might be in the same weight-class, but rare is the animal that, pound-for-pound, couldn’t easily whip 99% of all humans. He could have been badly injured by the aggressive four-spike, or even killed. Still, something about being scared witless by a deer is just funny. It’s simply not the way manly men ever envision being taken out. After all, Phil, like most of the people on these grounds, is a military veteran. It would be some kind of tragi-comedy to survive an actual war only to come home and be killed by the local wildlife… and an herbivore no less.

          “He must have blamed you for the reason he couldn’t get to his lady friend. Or, maybe he thought you were laughing at him. This time of year, bucks are a lot like testosterone-ridden teenagers.”

          “Yeah, well, I’m not necessarily opposed to shooting them either. They need to update the ‘no weapons’ policy on this campus. I mean, how are we supposed to protect ourselves?”

          I pull away from my co-worker with a quick wave, chuckling at his last remark. Typical gun lover, jumping at any chance to fabricate an enemy that needs riddled with bullets. I can’t imagine him in the backcountry unarmed accompanying my wife and I on some adventure. Then again, most of our friends think we’re crazy to not have firearms readily available for protection against all the marauding bears, wolves, and lions. Of course, what they, and most politicians, ranchers, and hunters believe has nothing to do with logic or scientific data. Seems the guys with the all guns are the ones who act the toughest, but ask them to leave the weapons behind, and you’ll find out how brave they really are.

          By the time I get home, Jamie has finished packing our truck. After tossing a couple of pieces of random gear in the cab, we lock up the rear hatch on our fiberglass shell and hit the road. Heading North out of Boise, we take Highway 55 and follow it past the small town of Horseshoe Bend, paralleling the Payette River until we hit the Banks intersection. We head east, following the South Fork all the way to Lowman and from there we head further north and into the heart of Central Idaho. Nearly three hours after departure, and a few miles beyond the small outdoor recreation hub known as Stanley, my wife and I arrive at our destination, the trailhead at one of Idaho’s most glorious gems – Redfish Lake.

          Surrounded by dense pine forests and sitting right at the entrance to the jagged Sawtooth Mountains, Redfish is the quintessential picture of an alpine lake. Named for the brilliantly colored sockeye salmon that once spawned in such numbers the lake shimmered red, Redfish now hosts but a fraction of the endangered species. Just six weeks removed from being swamped with tourists, the beach resort on the northern shore is already boarded up and deserted. Stepping out of our rig at the trailhead parking, the empty summer destination feels a bit eerie, like a movie setting where college kids run afoul of maniacal hillbillies.

           The days are growing noticeably shorter and the air at 6,500 feet is already quite cool, but it still surprises me how quickly our tough Idahoans give up on outdoor or backcountry activities as fall rolls in. Not us. This is prime time, baby! The bugs are long gone, the sweaty heat of July and August a fading memory, and the best gift of all, is the absence of humans, the silence, the ability to quietly contemplate nature without the backdrop of screaming voices and grumbling engines.

          The hike around Redfish to a campground on the southern shore is a relatively flat and easy six mile jaunt. During the summer months, there is a constantly running boat shuttle taking visitors from the north shore lodge to our campsite destination. Were we hiking between the peaks of Mount Heyburn and Grand Mogul deep into the Sawtooths, we’d be missing that shuttle ride, but where we plan on staying at the lake this weekend, the short and picturesque jaunt above the shoreline, overlooking the glassy water makes for an ideal autumn setting.

          Just as we reach the south shore boat dock and camp site, we are greeted by a series of familiar shrill cries and high-pitched chirping. Jamie and I look up just in time to see two bald eagles on a collision course some fifty feet above the shallow waters hugging the shoreline. The giant raptors miss each other by scant inches but instead of passing, the two birds extend their legs and grab hold each other with interlocking talons. Their momentum immediately sends them into a graceful and slow-motion spinning spiral. The mated pair remains locked together until a split second before they are about to crash into the lake before they finally release their grip and separate in large banking circles to bypass one another again.

          Too enthralled to dump our heavy packs, we spend at least ten minutes transfixed by the impossibly graceful aerial maneuvers of the glorious couple before they finally land in a sun-bleached snag overlooking the dark water of a deep offshore fishing hole. We wish the couple a lifetime of good hunting before descending from the trail into a vast, uninhabited campsite dotted with fire pits, picnic tables, and sweet-smelling pines. Jamie and I turn our attention to the task of finding the ideal campsite. With a hundred empty places to choose from, it takes a while but we eventually decide on a flat, open area near the water with great views of the lake and mountains. Technically, it isn’t a campsite at all, but considering we have the outdoor destination all to ourselves, who is going to complain?

          “Almost feels like one would have to pay some inordinate price to bask in this type of surrounding, doesn’t it? I mean, this is as good as it gets and it’s free! Where is everyone? Don’t get me wrong, not complaining, I just don’t understand…”

          Jamie’s responding smile to my boyish enthusiasm is all she need offer. I’m not the only one to share this love of all things naturally beautiful and private. My wife and adventure companion has always shared this compulsion as well. Something like destiny must have brought us together because I can’t imagine either of us being happy living any other kind of existence. This behavior of ours is hard-wired, it is pure instinct; we don’t have a choice but to spend our lives out here together.

          Shortly after setting up our tent and wolfing down some hard salami sandwiches, Jamie and I decide to follow the trail around Redfish’s southeast shoreline. The path runs 18 miles in all, circumventing the entire body of water, but we’ll be lucky to cover a fraction of that before darkness falls. The sun has already dropped below the pinkish granite peaks causing shadows to spread across the lake turning the crystal clear water into something dark and foreboding, something seemingly capable of harboring a legendary lake monster like Nessie.

          We are a couple hundred yards from camp and about forty feet about the shoreline when I notice movement at the water’s edge. Next I see two human-like faces peering up at me from behind a saturated log half toppled into the lake. Having spotted the creatures in the wild before, I immediately recognize them but still can’t help being taken back by their human visages. Were it not for their thick brown fur, I’d probably think some kids were spying on us. The two otters climb up the log until they are standing out of the water and stare at us with bobbing heads. Unable to determine if we are a threat or just a curiosity, the otters go back and forth from jumping into the lake and vanishing underwater as if escaping, only to re-emerge a few seconds later and climb back up their perch.

          “Think they are mates?” Jamie whispers.

          “I’m almost positive,” I answer. “The one is obviously bigger than the other and I believe it is almost their season for love, so these two may have just met.

          “Ahhh, young love,” my wife says. “How cute.”

          Cute is an understatement when it comes to otters. They are one of the few animals that behave in such a manner it is impossible to believe that they don’t live just to have fun. How anyone could ever bring themselves to trap, wound, and kill the furry pranksters just doesn’t compute in my mind. Obviously, other don’t feel the same way, because as it is with the sockeye salmon, river otters are a relatively rare species. The presence of wolves in Idaho has actually helped their recovery because they predator packs keep the elk from living along the drainages eating all the willow buds.

          With the elk once again acting like natural prey, the foliage along riverbanks and stream shores has recovered to some degree allowing critters like mink, beavers, and otters to build dens and hide from their natural enemies, humans perhaps being number one on that list.

          My wife and I however wish nothing but the best for the otters. We watch the couple play in and out of the water until we can barely make them out in the ever darkening sunset. After bidding the young furry lovers a fond farewell, Jamie and I head back to camp to build a campfire and snuggle together to help ward off the mounting chill. The deer, eagles, and otters aren’t the only creatures running around the wild parts of Idaho with love and lust in their hearts. The only thing possibly more pure than our love of all things outdoors and primitive is the emotional connection we share. Like the other couples, we are protective, playful, and enamored with each other, and neither of us can imagine a greater gift then being isolated in all this glory.

Nothing to See

I am deep-throated growl
Seeping from imagination
And spilling my shadow
Into streets

I am the attic trunk
Above hidden stairs
Locking truth from memory
And backspacing
The remainder

I am equations
Once learned
Blossoming wilt
Across yesterday
And tomorrow

I am the postscript
Of a letter
Never written
And a reminder
At no time heard

I am curled lips
Wishing the words
Could be inhaled
Like any other breath
And forgotten

The Mole

I have been a spy
In the enemy camp
Since escaping
The common schools
And slipping
Into the tunnels
Beneath their
Quivering battle lines

A barbaric poetic
Analytical romantic
Hell driven on salvation
Sprouting from heaps
Of untold dead
And monument
Turned ruin

A dispenser
Of agriculture culture
Beneath the eyes
Of witch hunt
Casting countless seeds
For every injustice

A disquieting grin
In comfort’s cold absence
It is never enough
And all there is
But I for one
Cannot count
The neon scoreboard
On which
Nobody wins


Staring out windows
He has become
The observer once again
Waiting for inspiration
To appear on his street
An uninvited guest
Knocking to the heart pound
A phone call left
And while this sensation
Was once an unimaginable
Sentence for a curtain pulled back
Revealing another
Game show choice gone awry

This time
The hardwood floor
Pacing miles
And clock stares
Simply feel
Like the naked comfort
Of accepting a role
In a story
He knew by heart
The part
He was born to play

Boarding Olympus

It is said all
DNA is unique
To the individual
But looking back
On the thousand foot
Double helix
My lover and I
Carved through silky powder
While floating
Past a sunset
Volcano god
Lost in a wind-swept vapor
Turned neon blood cast
From the spear tips
Of countless pines

I can’t help thinking
We have created life
In a memory so surreal
It cannot be shared
Explained or understood
And it couldn’t be conceived
Without knowing the other
Also served
As witness to the birth
Of this moment’s
Intertwining strand
Unique to two