Montana COVID-19 testing
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Boulder River Bridge view
Boulder River Bridge view
Combat Crochet
Combat Crochet
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Goat Fire mapped at 300 acres
Goat Fire fought in rugged terrain
Goat Fire fought in rugged terrain
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate

July 16, 2021

Here the Montana Wool Lab's Sarah Manninger describes just what they do at the lab.



Photo credit: Josh Apel

By Diane Larson 

Josh Apel spent 15 years in the Army with two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Like many other men and women, Josh came home with PTSD. But where Josh’s story differs is that he found solace in a centuries old craft, crochet.  


Josh grew up in Moberly, Missouri. He worked construction for his dad’s company for several years. Like many young people, Josh began to get in a little trouble.  A friend of his persuaded him to go see an army recruiter with her. He went and spoke with the recruiter, then signed up that day. “I was looking for a new life and a new start, and that was it for me,” explained Josh.  


He spent fifteen months in Mosul, Iraq, then twelve months in Baghdad, Iraq. After those 2 tours he then went to Afghanistan for 9 months. He was in the Southern horn, the Panjshir district. “Afghanistan was a nightmare. That was the deployment that broke me. I was an infantryman, so we saw, we saw the worst of it,” said Josh. After those tours Josh became a platoon sergeant and did that until his body couldn’t do it any longer.  


After his 15 years Josh came home with anxiety and PTSD. The journey to find help for him, to find something that would ease the anxiety, led him to crochet. So why crochet? “I had a lot of emotional baggage from the deployments and from the lifestyle and the military. I was looking for an outlet, something healthy to occupy my mind and help calm me down,” said Josh.


“Crochet has changed my life. It is meditative, and therapeutic. When you are working on a project you are completely focused on the project. Everything else is blocked out and it just really teaches you how to give your mind a break from life, the pandemic, from all of the PTSD,” explained Josh.


Josh noted that he had always been creaive. “I remember watching my grandma crochet. I had friends in the military that crocheted, and I thought I would try it out,” said Josh. He began by learning techniques from a friend and then went on YouTube and learned the rest.


Now several years later Josh is crocheting at expert level. But the most significant part of Josh’s story is that he could not keep this benefit to himself. He saw how this could help his fellow veterans. As Josh got deeper into crochet, learning new stitches, patterns, and techniques he realized the profound mental health benefits he was receiving from this new hobby.


The next step for Josh seemed instinctive. “My passion, my heart is with the military community. I have had too many friends commit suicide,” explained Josh. Providing any sort of relief or help to fellow veterans is critical to Josh’s mission. As he noticed the benefits, he was receiving from crochet he wanted to offer that same gift to other veterans or anyone in need.


His first fun step was on social media. With the help of his two children, Josh began to get the word out. Watching his kids use TikTok he felt this platform might be fun. “So, I thought I would be funny and post a video of just me crocheting and it took off,” said Josh. Combat Crochet (CC) was born.


In the beginning he taught via live stream. “I started working with veterans and helping them learn how to crochet and letting them try something new,” said Josh. The veterans that he taught started experiencing the same benefits. “With Combat Crochet I am trying to make the world a little bit better place,” Josh explained.


Josh’s Combat Crochet. His “mission is to teach others a healthy outlet, something they can use to help with PTSD and anxiety. It is something that has helped me many times over the years,” said Josh.


When he was young Josh thought he would be in the art or music field, especially the music. “I thought it would be music, I really did. I even tried making a YouTube channel and posted my music, but crochet. I don’t know, crochet just kind of balanced me out.” explained Josh.


Josh has videos on YouTube and Tik Tok; and he and CC can be found on Facebook as well.



A couple of Josh’s mottos that keep him going are, ‘Combat Crochet, ‘trading helmets for hooks,’ also, ‘a granny square a day, keeps the therapist away.’


Cora Neumann is the latest hopeful to enter the race, after Monica Tranel declared her candidacy last week.
Cora Neumann
Cora Neumann of Bozeman became the latest candidate to enter the race for Montana's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Credit: Courtesy of Neumann campaign.

HELENA — Two more candidates have jumped into the race for Montana’s new second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the last week, bringing the total number of declared Republican and Democratic hopefuls to five.

Public health expert and nonprofit executive Cora Neumann declared her candidacy on Tuesday, the most recent in a thickening field of politicians vying for one of the state’s two seats in Congress. Monica Tranel, a former Olympic rower and attorney for the Public Service Commission, entered the contest Wednesday. 

Montana’s growing population garnered an additional House seat following the results of the 2020 census. While the contours of the two districts have not yet been finalized, candidates have said that the new seat will make campaigning easier, allowing contestants to focus on voters in smaller swaths of the state.

“This is going to be half of the state, so it’s a different seat,” Neumann said, adding that the election of a Democrat could allow more balanced representation of Montana in Washington D.C. after nearly 25 years of Republicans holding Montana’s sole seat. 

“We do have a really strong history of ticket splitting and being a purple state. … I feel hopeful about the seat and about our ability to win and send another voice, an additional voice, to Washington.”


“We do have a really strong history of ticket-splitting and being a purple state,” she said. “I feel hopeful about the seat and about our ability to win and send another voice, an additional voice, to Washington.”


Narrow Gauge spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Vent area is between the two trees on top of the travertine deposits. Terraced pools form due to deposition of travertine from the fluids as they cool and degas carbon dioxide. (Photo courtesy of Pat Shanks, USGS.)

Early explorers during the separate Washburn, Hayden, and Hague expeditions of the 1870s were astonished by the massive terraces and pools of hot-spring limestone, better known as travertine, at Mammoth Hot Springs—a chemical oddity that is quite different from other Yellowstone thermal areas.

Three main varieties of hot spring fluids are recognized in Yellowstone: alkaline-chloride, acid-sulfate, and calcium-carbonate waters.  Previous editions of Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles covered the stories behind alkaline-chloride features, like Old Faithful, and acid-sulfate systems, like that at Mud Volcano.  Today, we focus on calcium-carbonate hot springs and examine possible sources for the travertine-depositing fluids, like those that are responsible for the amazing terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Studies have shown that calcium-carbonate-rich fluids at and near Mammoth Hot Springs:

  • Are meteoric waters (rain or snow) that are heated by contact with hot rocks at depth to temperatures of about 100℃ (212℉),
  • Circulate through and react with older limestones and sedimentary rocks beneath the surface,
  • Occur well outside the Yellowstone caldera and therefore are removed from the main Yellowstone magma chamber beneath the caldera,
  • Contain some carbon dioxide and helium gases incorporated from magmatism that occurs between Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs, and
  • Ascend along active faults.

Samples of hot spring fluids at Mammoth Hot Springs, including from USGS drill hole Y-10, show that measured near-surface temperatures never exceed 73℃ (163.4℉), and the chemistry of the water suggests that subsurface fluid temperatures have not exceeded 100℃ (212℉).

Leah Davis Lokan was fatally attacked by a grizzly on Tuesday

Leah Davis Lokan at the Tuchuck campground in the northern Rockies of Montana in June 2021. Photo courtesy of Katie Boerner.

Whenever Billie Jean Gerke received a call from her friend Leah Davis Lokan, she would greet Lokan with an enthusiastic: “Hello, my adventure girlfriend.”

“She was the most adventurous woman I’ve ever known,” said Gerke, who became friends with Lokan in the late 2000s while they both lived in Sandpoint, Idaho. “She was incredibly strong, incredibly athletic, brave, fearless when it came to doing anything sports-wise or outdoors. Just fearless.”

Lokan, 64, of Chico, California, was fatally mauled Tuesday in Ovando by a grizzly bear eight days into a bike camping trip. Ovando, a small rural community in western Montana, is a popular stopping point for bike campers riding along the Great Divide and Lewis and Clark bicycle trails.

Two days before the attack, Mike Castaldo, president of the Chico Cycling Club, said Lokan texted a mutual friend saying she was the “happiest she had ever been” on the trip.

“She was always outside and an outdoorsy person,” he said. “That’s where I feel like she found most of her happiness.”