My Interview on NPR’s “Journeys of Discovery”

Author Steven T. Callan with Warden Ryan Hanson in front of the Fish and Wildlife Patrol Boat Bluefin

The author with Warden Ryan Hanson in front of the Fish and Wildlife Patrol Boat Bluefin. Photo by Thomas C. Wilmer

What an honor it was to be interviewed in Morro Bay by Tom Wilmer, the illustrious host of National Public Radio’s hit program, “Journeys of Discovery.” The show will be broadcast this Wednesday, July 9, at 1:00 or 1:15 PM, throughout Central California, on NPR affiliates KCBX, KSBX, and KNBX. It will also air worldwide at the same time on KCBX.org.

If you click on this link, you can access the interview, and find out about my serendipitous meeting with one of California’s up-and-coming stars, Warden Ryan Hanson.

Hope you enjoy it!

 

Those Amazing Elephant Seals

Steven T. Callan at the helm of the Fish and Game Patrol Boat Marlin

Author at the helm of the Fish and Game Patrol Boat Marlin, 1959. Photo by Wallace Callan

My first opportunity to see a northern elephant seal was in October of 1959, as an excited eleven-year-old passenger aboard the Fish and Game Patrol Boat Marlin. My father, California Fish and Game Warden Wally Callan, was the Marlin’s rookie boarding officer, responsible for patrolling California’s offshore waters from the Mexican border to Point Conception. The previous summer, he had returned from a patrol to San Nicolas and Santa Barbara Islands with tales of the massive elephant seals he had seen hauled up on some of the isolated beaches. I hoped to see those amazing creatures for myself on what was to be the ocean adventure of a lifetime.

I write about that 1959 trip to the Channel Islands in my upcoming sequel to Badges, Bears, and Eagles. Below is a brief excerpt:

Late that afternoon, we pulled up anchor and began a slow patrol around the north side of Santa Barbara Island, keeping a close eye out for any sign of a lobster boat.  Just beyond Shag Rock, Paul Barrens spotted a red-colored float.

“That’s attached to one of Dykstra’s traps,” said Barrens. “It’s probably the one our informant saw from the bluff.”

“I see another float,” shouted Captain Plett from the helm, scanning the coastline ahead. “It’s near the cove where the elephant seals hang out.”

“Elephant seals?” I blurted.

“Don’t get excited,” said my father. “They’re all out at sea this time of year. You’ll get your chance to see them next summer.”

As it turned out, my father transferred to Northern California in 1960, and I never did get the chance to see the elephant seals−until last week, that is. Kathy and I were on a road trip down California’s Central Coast, headed for a scheduled radio interview in Morro Bay. Approaching San Simeon, we noticed a hundred or more cars parked along the highway at a rocky stretch of coastline called Piedras Blancas. We pulled in to see what the commotion was all about. [Read more...]

America Needs Parks Now More Than Ever

Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park

Recently, my wife Kathy and I arrived in Sonora for our first Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) conference. We were a little apprehensive, being new kids on the block, but by the end of the first day, we felt a kinship with everyone in the room. And what a room it was−filled with authors, columnists, radio hosts, photographers, newspaper reporters, adventure guides, and media experts from all over the Golden State. The common thread that wove this gracious group of professionals together was a reverence for California’s vast natural resources and a desire to tell the world about them.

The second day of the conference was Adventure Day. Conference organizers and the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau had arranged a variety of guided outdoor activities from which attendees could choose. Kathy and I jumped at the opportunity to visit world-renowned Yosemite Valley for the first time, along with six of our cohorts. Our guides for the day were John DeGrazio and Al Golub of YExplore Yosemite Adventures. John regaled us with fascinating stories of Native American tribes that had lived in Yosemite Valley for generations, only to be displaced and run out by settlers who mined the streams, overgrazed the meadows, and logged much of the surrounding forests. Al described the great fires that had ravaged sections of the park during recent years. I was thankful that men like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt had recognized the fragile nature of this sacred place and had wisely taken action to save it.

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

As the day progressed, we continued to learn about Yosemite’s colorful history while oohing and aahing at one spectacular scene after another: Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and the golden waters of the Merced, flowing through Yosemite’s grass-covered meadows.

Merced River in Yosemite National Park

While admiring the breathtaking beauty of Yosemite Valley, I couldn’t help thinking about recent efforts in Congress to gut the 1906 Antiquities Act. This landmark legislation, signed into law by Teddy Roosevelt, allows presidents to create national monuments, thereby saving special places from harmful exploitation until such time as they can become state or national parks. What Americans may not realize is forty-nine of the national monuments created by past presidents have later become national parks. Two that immediately come to mind are Grand Canyon National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park. The Grand Canyon is considered by many as the number one natural wonder of the world, ahead of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Lassen National Park just happens to be forty-five minutes from my doorstep. Both parks owe their very existence to the foresight of President Theodore Roosevelt. [Read more...]

“Best Outdoor Magazine Column” Award

Steven T. Callan receiving OWAC award

What a thrill to receive the “Best Outdoor Magazine Column” award from the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC). Presented at the OWAC Spring Conference, the award was for one of my regular “On Patrol” columns, “A Whale of a Tale,” featured in MyOutdoorBuddy.com.

Here’s what the judges had to say:

“The author pulls you in and takes you with him on great adventures. He’s not just reporting, but offers great entertainment while raising awareness of timely issues. Of all of the entries, his columns end with you wanting more.”

OWAC Award MedallionThank you to the Outdoor Writers Association of California for this honor; to Frank Galusha, editor of MyOutdoorBuddy.com; and to Cyndi Marlowe, who contributed one of her fabulous photos for the piece.

Photo shows OWAC President Bob Semerau presenting OWAC “Best Outdoor Magazine Column” award to Steven T. Callan. Photo by Kathy Callan.

Saving Yelloweyes

Yelloweye Rockfish

Yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus). Photo by Retired Fish and Game Warden Larry Bruckenstein.

Imagine you’re fishing somewhere off the California coast and you hook into a big one. You finally hoist the monster to the deck and discover it’s nearly three feet long, brilliant red-orange in color, with bright yellow eyes the size of fifty cent pieces. Hard to imagine this fish could have been swimming around in the ocean when Roosevelt was president−not Franklin (1933-1945), but Teddy (1901-1909)! Yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus) are known to live up to 118 years. Very slow growing, they don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re between ten and twenty years old.

Yelloweye rockfish are one of over fifty species of the genus Sebastes living off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. Rockfish species generally share these characteristics: They dwell on or near the ocean bottom; they’re long lived; they’re slow growing and take a long time to reach sexual maturity; they’re beautifully colored; and they’re quite delicious.

Baby boomers like me remember when everyone ate meat−nothing like a big, juicy steak or hamburger on the barbeque grill to stimulate the appetite. Sometime in the late seventies or early eighties, our diets evolved to include fish, touted as a healthier alternative to red meat.

With modern harvest and transportation methods, big-time commercial operators weren’t just supplying Americans markets; they were also shipping fresh fish to faraway countries like Japan, where it was sold at premium prices. The race was on to exploit the vast marine resources lying off our Pacific Coast and reap the benefits. Just about everything caught could be marketed and sold to someone. If it wasn’t eaten by humans, it could be made into cat food or ground up and turned into fertilizer. [Read more...]

Tasty Morsels of Mollusk Goodness

Protected green abalone (Haliotis fulgens) from California's Channel IslandsSaving California’s remaining abalone fishery from money-hungry poachers is a daunting task. By telling the stories of dedicated wildlife officers in my upcoming sequel to “Badges, Bears, and Eagles,” I hope to educate the public and, in some way, help conserve this precious resource for law-abiding sportsmen and future generations.  

Below are a brief history of this situation and some suggested ways you can help. 

Not so long ago, five species of abalone were commonly taken in California by sport and commercial divers: pink (Haliotis corrugata), green (Haliotis fulgens), red (Haliotis rufescens), black (Haliotis cracherodii), and white (Haliotis sorenseni). Annual commercial harvests from the Channel Islands and coastal waters south of San Francisco were in the millions until numbers began to significantly decline in the 1970s. With commercial take allowed to continue, the entire fishery collapsed and was finally shut down in 1997. Sadly, the white abalone was added to the federal Endangered Species List in 2005, and the black abalone followed in 2011.

Reasons given for the collapse of California’s once-abundant abalone fishery include withering disease, diminished food supply, competition from sea urchins, loss of habitat, predation, pollution, changing ocean temperatures, and reproductive issues. Successful reproduction depends on males and females of the same species being close enough so that the males can effectively fertilize the spawn released into the water by females. That can’t happen when populations have been decimated and densities are reduced to the point where males and females are few and far between.

I have to believe that the two primary reasons for California’s abalone catastrophe are these:

  • Legal commercial harvesting was allowed to continue far too long.
  • Illegal harvesting (poaching) has been occurring for decades and it’s still going on today.

[Read more...]

Badges, Bears, and Eagles Selected as Finalist for “Book of the Year” Award

Badges, Bears, and Eagles--The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game WardenI’m honored that my book, “Badges, Bears, and Eagles,” has been selected as a finalist for the 2013 Book of the Year award from ForeWord Reviews magazine. Here’s the press release put out by my publisher, Coffeetown Press.

Four Coffeetown Press Titles Are Finalists in ForeWord’s 2013 Book of the Year Contest:  ForeWord Magazine selects Badges, Bears, and Eagles, Gabriela and The Widow, The Spy’s Little Zonbi, and We in its search for the best indie books of 2013.

BriefingWire.com, 3/13/2014 – Traverse City, MI, March 13, 2014 — Today, ForeWord Reviews, the only review magazine solely dedicated to discovering new indie books, announced the finalists for its 16th Annual Book of the Year Awards. Each year, ForeWord shines a light on a small group of indie authors and publishers whose groundbreaking work stands out from the crowd. ForeWord’s awards are more than just a shiny sticker on the front of a book; they help connect the best indie books to readers eager to discover new stories written by previously unknown authors.

The following Coffeetown titles have been nominated for the 2013 Book of the Year Awards: Badges, Bears, and Eagles, by Steven T. Callan in the Nature category; Gabriela and The Widow, by Jack Remick, in the Literary Fiction category; The Spy’s Little Zonbi, by Cole Alpaugh, and We, a novel by Michael Landweber in the General Fiction category. In the next two months, a panel of over 100 librarians and booksellers will determine the winners of these prestigious awards. A celebration of the winners will take place during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas on Friday, June 27 at 6 p.m. with awards in over 60 categories, cash prizes for the best in fiction and nonfiction, and widespread recognition.

Here is the complete list of ForeWord Reviews’ 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalists.

About ForeWord Reviews: At ForeWord Reviews, we love indie books and the art of great storytelling. We discover, curate, critique, and share reviews and feature articles exclusively on indie-publishing trends in our quarterly magazine and on our website. ForeWord Reviews is distributed to librarians, booksellers, publishers, and avid readers and is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription. Our website features a daily stream of reviews of indie books written by a team of professional, objective writers.

ABOUT Coffeetown Press—Based in Seattle, Washington, Coffeetown Press has been publishing the finest fiction and nonfiction since 2005.

This press release originally appeared on BriefingWire.com on March 13, 2014

Photo by Kathy Callan.  Shown are Jill Dinsmore, Author Steven T. Callan, and Judy Salter at the Redding Costco.

A Tribute to Streams

Rock Creek, Feather River Canyon, California

The other day I came across a thirty-year-old photograph I had taken of my younger brother, Matt. Matt was diving into Rock Creek, a tributary to the north fork of the Feather River, located about an hour southeast of Chico. Kathy and I had picked Matt up for a day of hiking in Northern California’s Feather River Canyon.

I remember thinking how beautiful that little stream was, with one deep, crystal clear pool after another—all of them filled with six-to-eight-inch native rainbow trout. There were no empty beer cans or plastic bags lying around. No one had spray painted the massive granite rocks surrounding the stream.

Every stream is a precious, life-giving jewel of nature. Those of us who are lucky enough to live near streams should cherish them and do everything in our power to see that they remain clean, free flowing and damage free. I’d like to think that any one of us could visit Rock Creek today and find it just as it was many years ago.

Have any of you been to the Feather River Canyon or this particular spot in the past few years? I’d enjoy hearing how this watershed is faring.

 

The Head Hunter

Photo of Rocky Mountain mule deer, taken by Steve Guill at Tule Lake National Wildlife RefugeI’m currently writing a sequel to my first book, “Badges, Bears, and Eagles.” One of the chapters in my next book is entitled “The Head Hunter.” It’s about a beautiful Rocky Mountain mule deer buck that was poached back in December of 1992. What made this wildlife crime so heinous wasn’t so much that the deer was killed during closed season. It wasn’t even that it was taken inside Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. What bothered me most was what the no-good scoundrel (for lack of a better word) did after he killed the deer.

Below, you’ll find a preview of this chapter. Watch for my new book to find out how this intriguing story plays out.

The alarm went off at 3:45 on Tuesday morning, December 15, 1992. Thirty-nine-year-old amateur photographer Steve Guill rolled out of bed as he’d been doing on his days off in December for the past thirteen years. Guill had been photographing wildlife since high school, when he gently released the shutter on his first Nikon. Since 1979, he had made the 200-mile drive from Redding to Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge 175 times, snapping between 3,000 and 4,000 wildlife photographs each year.

It was exceptionally cold that December morning in 1992. The weather forecast called for snow in the mountains by the end of the day. Steve didn’t care: Extreme weather often created ideal conditions for photographing wildlife, particularly those majestic Rocky Mountain mule deer that congregated inside the Refuge.

By daylight, Guill had made his way up Highway 299, past the tiny community of Lookout, past Timber Mountain, and into Lava Beds National Monument. With his trusty camera on the seat beside him, he remained ever vigilant for that perfect shot of a mountain lion, a fox, an eagle, or a herd of deer. As Steve describes it, “In those days it wasn’t unusual to see several hundred deer in a single outing.”

It was about noon when Guill entered Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and slowly proceeded north along Hill Road. “There was already a foot of snow on the ground and by one o’clock that storm they predicted was quickly moving in,” said Guill. “I was trying to get outta there but I kept seeing deer. I noticed this one particular buck standing about thirty yards off the road.”

“What was it about this buck that attracted your attention?” I asked. [Read more...]

A Whale of a Tale

Photo of Humpback Whale Feeding in Santa Barbara ChannelOut of Ventura Harbor we sailed this past November, in pursuit of a long-held dream. My wife Kathy and I had been waiting for years to visit Santa Cruz Island, the largest of California’s Channel Islands and part of the five-island Channel Islands National Park. We spent the day hiking the island and learning about the indigenous plants and animals that inhabit this fascinating archipelago, just twenty miles from the mainland. Being scuba divers, we were especially impressed by the crystal clear waters that surrounded the island, beckoning us to return someday with our scuba gear and underwater camera.

As the sun dropped lower on the western horizon, we headed back across the Santa Barbara Channel toward the mainland. About halfway across, we couldn’t help but notice a huge congregation of seabirds off in the distance. The boat captain must have noticed the commotion, because he slowed the boat to a few knots and steered us in that direction. As we approached, Kathy and I couldn’t believe our eyes: Hundreds of pelicans, shearwaters, gulls, cormorants, and petrels were diving into the water and circling overhead. The noise was deafening. Beneath the birds, hundreds, possibly thousands, of sea lions and common dolphins were porpoising in and out of the water, all in pursuit of the massive school of anchovies that swam beneath the surface.

It was a feeding frenzy, the likes of which most of us had never seen. People pushed and shoved their way to the bow of the boat. Cameras were cocked and ready, in anticipation of the ultimate outdoor experience—the granddaddy of them all—the wildlife sighting of a lifetime. As we anxiously waited, the birds suddenly quieted and the churning waters began to settle.

“What’s happening?” asked the passenger standing next to me, in broken English.  “Why is it so quiet?”

“Just wait,” I whispered.  “You’ll see.” [Read more...]