Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
The very modern and accurate mapping capabilities found in Google Earth are a joy to manipulate and to have at the ready, anytime the Footloose Forester wants to check out the status of before-after photos of construction projects, or just to reminisce about those highways and byways in old haunts that sometimes occupy his dreams. Before-after photos are especially important to him because so many of the landscapes he had known during his career are disappeared now. True, the physics law of Conservation of Matter states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed…but he never dreamed of the day when land itself would disappear from view. No, the geographical coordinates have not disappeared but the land itself in a few places has disappeared. Underwater—like the lost city of Atlantis.
Reminiscing with satellite photographs has heretofore allowed the Footloose Forester to zoom in with pinpoint accuracy to the houses where he lived in Pakistan, Indonesia, California, and elsewhere. In a few cases, the houses are no longer there, thus there is value in knowing the geographical coordinates when attempting to locate the sites in retrospective searches. If the viewer cannot see the house or the spot where the house was, at least the geographical coordinates will be an accurate reference for future consideration for anybody wishing to do a map search.
In the case of the former sites that were subsequently drowned to widen a river or to create a reservoir, the Footloose Forester did not have the original latitude and longitude data, to begin with, but was able to provide useful numbers about proximate digital coordinates from Google Earth map data. Writing down and sharing the data can get anyone very close in terms of virtual reality and spatial proximity.
If you code in the coordinates N 13° 11' 48.12" and W 10° 25' 45.33", you will be zooming in to an expansive watery area in Lac Selingue in Western Mali, the reservoir where the village of Kéniekénieko once existed along the banks of the Bafing River. Another worksite being studied for potential reservoir construction and subsequently drowned when the Caparo River in Venezuela was dammed up has the coordinates N 47° 45' 6.14" and W 71° 27' 55.45". What used to be the village of Santa Maria de Caparo in Merida Province is now underwater.
A final site where the Footloose Forester used to work and eventually disappeared underwater was at Warland, Montana. In that case, there are not even hints on modern maps that tiny Warland, Montana even existed. The Warland Ranger Station, the cowboy bar, and a couple of small cabins were swallowed up when the Kootenai River was backed up at the Libby Dam, 25 miles downstream. The fast-flowing, glacier-fed waters of the Kootenai River widened and deepened into what is now called Lake Koocanusa, to emphasize the fact that the river originated in Canada and is now backed up beyond the US border well into Alberta, Canada.
In 1958 a similar truss bridge spanned the Kootenia River
As good as Google Earth is, not all modern satellite maps and their precedents contain information about where Warland, Montana was. One hint may be the existence of a modern bridge that crosses the lake from west to east. The ground view in the Street Level option shows a modern bridge that probably replaced the truss bridge that Footloose Forester remembers in 1958. Once or twice we young Forest Service summer employees walked across the bridge and along the 1/3 mile of dirt road to grab a beer at the cowboy bar. That was the only time he ever saw a mounted jack-a-lope on display. On the wall adjacent to the bar, a taxidermist had inserted the horns of an antelope on the head of a jackrabbit. Some things you never forget.