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Know the West

Los Angelenos earn money off lawns, an 'extreme walker' and more

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


“There’s no place at Brigham Young University for the grimy, sandaled, tight-fitted, ragged-Levi beatnik,” college president Ernest Wilkinson said back in the 1960s. But that was then, says BYU student Shane Pittson, 23, and now, “You can do your own thing and still be a Mormon.” Pittson’s “thing” is winning the right to grow a beard, and his campaign hit a nerve after he organized a bicycle ride through campus with fellow protesters sporting “chin bristles fashioned from cardboard,” reports The New York Times. History is in his favor: Portraits of BYU founder Brigham Young show the 19th century church patriarch’s chin festooned with a -voluminous beard.

Hats off to “extreme walking commuter” Luke Bayler of Seattle, who’s among the 10 percent of city residents who hoof it to work. He averages 50 miles a week, and occasionally up to 20 miles a day, reports the Seattle Times, when he forages for berries and mushrooms or visits friends. Though his shoes may fray after a few months, the 37-year-old says, walking gives him valuable time to clear his mind.

You can cash in your grass in Los Angeles, earning up to $3 a square foot for transforming your yard into a drought-tolerant landscape, reports the Mono Lake Newsletter. The Department of Water and Power is offering the deal because 60 percent of all potable water use in Southern California “is dedicated to outdoor use” — more specifically to lawns — the largest irrigated “crop” in the country. For homeowners too busy to destroy their own lawns, companies have sprung up to do the job in exchange for the rebate; one firm calls itself “Turf Terminators.”

Meanwhile, in central California, some 600 households are taking their first hot showers in months. In a church parking lot in East Porterville, population 7,000, Tulare County has installed trailers housing 26 portable showers for residents. Wells in the area began running dry several months ago, forcing families to take sponge baths from buckets. “There’s a lot of people out there who have a really strong need,” said Andrew Lockman, manager of the county’s Office of Emergency Service. With water scarce, many are jobless, while those working in the fields “come home wet and dirty.” Lockman told The Associated Press that the county’s aim was to provide a safety net, “a basic quality of life as people struggle through this disaster.”

For Owens Valley residents, a decades-long dispute with Los Angeles — which took water from Owens Lake, leaving sickening dust storms behind — may be ending. The low-tech fix of trapping lakebed dirt in furrows (see story) is a bittersweet victory for Ted Schade, enforcement officer for the valley’s air quality district, who’s been at odds with Los Angeles over the issue for 24 years. Though Schade was recently called “a truly great environmentalist” by a Los Angeles official, he was often criticized and even sued by the city. Now, Schade told the Los Angeles Times, “The war is over … so I’m resigning in December. My job here is done.”

Ski for free and save hundreds of dollars on lift tickets at Aspen and Snowmass, but only if you’re buff beyond belief. First, you have to strap skins onto your downhill skis; then you must climb to a mountain’s summit by 9 a.m., a sweaty way to start the day. Yet this do-it-yourself approach — “uphilling,” as it’s known — is gaining fans, reports Scott Condon in the Aspen Times. Though other resorts have begun charging for the upslope slog, the Aspen Skiing Co.’s Rich Burkley says no fee or pass is contemplated: “Policing this is not a goal of ours.”

What is it with hunters who blast away whenever they see a huge herd of elk? In the White Gulch area of Canyon Ferry Reservoir, not far from Missoula, 500 elk drew crowds who repeatedly shot into the herd, some driving their vehicles toward the animals to keep them from scattering, reports the Independent Record. At day’s end, around 30 elk lay dead, many were wounded, and three hunters were cited for their unethical behavior. Landowner Kelly Flynn said he’s seen this “gang mentality” in hunters before: “People seem to lose some of their common sense when there’s that many elk that close. It’s difficult to watch, and I’ve talked to several people who did see it and said it was as ugly as it could possibly be.”

Perhaps it was even uglier north of Kelly, Wyoming. There, hunters drove a herd of elk from a no-hunt zone and toward a “firing line,” says the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen said about 30 people killed eight to 10 elk in a “display of totally barbaric hunting.” Teton National Park officials said some hunters were ticketed.