About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wilderness Warrior

Here lately, I’ve been taking it easy and recovering from the 100 miler that I ran a month ago. I’ve had time to take a step back and catch up on some home projects and reading. I am thoroughly enjoying the book, The Wilderness Warrior, about Theodore Roosevelt and the crusade for America.

Douglas Brinkley has done a marvelous job writing about Roosevelt’s life as a naturalist, wildlife conservationist, and creator of national forests, parks and wildlife refuges. The author also explains our 26th president’s philosophy on living the strenuous life. Roosevelt, a sickly child, overcame health problems like asthma and a weak heart. When a doctor told him that he should refrain from physical exertion, he did just the opposite, and strengthened his body through exercise, boxing and hiking in the mountains. As an ultramarathoner, you can see why I admire this great man.

Theodore –he hated being called Teddy—gave a speech in Chicago (Apr 10, 1899) about the necessity for Americans to live the strenuous life to overcome the weakness that was caused by city living. He preached,

"In speaking to you, men of the greatest city of the West, men of the state which gave to the country Lincoln and Grant, men who preeminently and distinctly embody all that is most American in the American character, I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease but the doctrine of the strenuous life; the life of toil and effort; of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes not to the man who desires mere easy peace but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph."

Read the entire speech

Roosevelt lived up to these words, as he was a workaholic in the best way. An insomniac, sometimes only sleeping 4-5 hours a night, he wrote and published many books as well as hundreds of thousands of letters. He was an avid hunter, but realized that wildlife would become extinct if law makers didn’t act to create and enforce wildlife protection laws. He was instrumental in the creation of protected habitat areas including one in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, our first such preserve, really hits home to me as I will explain in a minute.

America’s first bird sanctuary was created in 1903 because feather collectors or plume hunters, as they were called, were decimating the bird populations in Florida. The feathers were sold to fashion designers for use in ladies hats. During this time, some exotic bird feathers were worth more their weight than gold –literally!

A man named Paul Kroegel who lived near the island tried his best to protect brown pelicans and other birds that roosted on this island near Sebastian, Fl. Sebastian has been the home of my parents since they retired here years ago. My father’s favorite past time was having his breakfast while watching the wildlife in the Indian River. My parents took birding classes so they could identify the diverse bird populations in southern Florida and taught me how to identify some of the water birds.

Read Indian River Run

Well, back to the story of Paul Kroegel. Brown pelicans are excellent fish hunters, so local fishermen began killing the birds to reduce their “competition”. However, Kroegel loved the birds and realized they needed protection before they were wiped out. That is where our man Theodore came in. When asked to protect the birds, T.R asked, “Is there any law that will prevent me from declaring Pelican Island a Federal Bird Reservation?” When he learned that there was none, he simply replied, “Very well, then I so declare it.”

With that one action, Roosevelt started the National Wildlife Refuge System. The only problem was that there were no game wardens to enforce hunting and pluming laws. Roosevelt knew that Paul Kroegel was already patrolling the waters around Pelican Island so made him our nation’s first wildlife warden. Kroegel, who at first was only paid $6 per month, took his job seriously and confronted (with a shotgun) anyone who threatened his beloved pelicans.

I recently took several trips to Sebastian to visit family and enjoyed some nice morning runs along the Indian River. I saw the sun rise and watched pelicans, ibises, herons, egrets, wood storks, ospreys, and scrub jays. I also enjoyed watching some dolphins and manatees. When I arrived at the city park in Sebastian, I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful statue of Paul Kroegel who is facing towards the protected island; still watching over it.

I’m greatful to Theodore Roosevelt and Paul Kroegel for protecting these birds 100 years ago so that we are able to enjoy them today. Let’s hope that our current and future politicians are equally as concerned about our environment and wildlife so that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy all the splendor nature has to offer. See you on the trail.

Wood Storks (Mycteria americana), Sebastian Inlet

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), Sebastian Inlet

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