Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Teddy Project


My friend Jonathan, the refuge manager at Canaan Valley NWR, has been working diligently on an initiative he cooked up called the Teddy Project.

WV Public Broadcasting features the Teddy Project in a recent radio broadcast.


The Teddy Project is a partnership between FWS and the Arts Institutes, where student animators partner with a National Wildlife Refuge to create a short video featuring a cartoon Teddy Roosevelt and his friend Puddles. Dozens of these cartoons have been produced thus far, bringing arts students and viewers closer to the NWR system and Conservation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mountain Man


I met Fred Beckey in 1986. He was 63 and the quintessential dirtbag climber.
He hasn't changed much-- he's still climbing at 85.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Power of Words

Got an email from Rich Louv today--seems that the Oxford Junior Dictionary is eliminating a number of words for its next edition.

It all might seem a losing battle. But Mr. Bateman was nevertheless on his soapbox this week after revelations that the Oxford Junior Dictionary has replaced "beaver" - and friends such as the "heron," "porcupine," and "kingfisher" - in its pages with new, plugged-in alternatives.
More here.

This can't stand. Watch for more news on this at the Children and Nature Network.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Talk to the Kids

Orion has a new essay worth a read.
I also know that I needed something to say to my six year old when we walked home from the library in April—no leaves to offer shade, the bank’s LED sign reading eighty-four degrees—and he turned his ingenuous face to mine to ask, "Mama, is it supposed to be so hot?"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ski East


I grew up in the east, learned to ski in the east, and worked for the ski business in the east. Some of my most memorable ski runs were in the east.

Ski the East.

You want isolation and powdery glades? Have you ever been to Jay Peak, just five miles from the Canadian border? Jay Peak had more than 400 inches of snow last season. And Jay Peak had powder — I saw my skis disappear in it — last weekend.

You want craggy, adrenaline-charged challenges? Have you stepped off the Sugarbush resort’s intimidating Castlerock chair, where the trails are rocky, bumpy and will get you airborne? Have you stepped off just about any lift at the no-frills Mad River Glen, home of the “Ski It If You Can” bumper stickers?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Things

Bruce Sterling's essay "The Last Viridian Note " is well worth a read, and some thought.

In earlier, less technically advanced eras, this approach would have been far-fetched. Material goods were inherently difficult to produce, find, and ship. They were rare and precious. They were closely associated with social prestige. Without important material signifiers such as wedding china, family silver, portraits, a coach-house, a trousseau and so forth, you were advertising your lack of substance to your neighbors. If you failed to surround yourself with a thick material barrier, you were inviting social abuse and possible police suspicion. So it made pragmatic sense to cling to heirlooms, renew all major purchases promptly, and visibly keep up with the Joneses.

That era is dying. It's not only dying, but the assumptions behind that form of material culture are very dangerous. These objects can no longer protect you from want, from humiliation – in fact they are causes of humiliation, as anyone with a McMansion crammed with Chinese-made goods and an unsellable SUV has now learned at great cost.

Furthermore, many of these objects can damage you personally. The hours you waste stumbling over your piled debris, picking, washing, storing, re-storing, those are hours and spaces that you will never get back in a mortal lifetime. Basically, you have to curate these goods: heat them, cool them, protect them from humidity and vermin. Every moment you devote to them is lost to your children, your friends, your society, yourself.

It's not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross.

The Thought Kitchen tipped me on this one.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Definitely Smell the Roses

More nature equals better health. New study in the Lancet (subscription).

Summarized here.
Immersing ourselves in the natural world distances us from the minute-by-minute demands of our busy days, and helps us appreciate the beauty around us. Parks also provide opportunities for physical activities that promote heart health and reduce stress. It turns out that "slowing down to smell the roses" is more than just folksy advice.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mystery of the Acorns


Where are they this year?
"I'm used to seeing so many acorns around and out in the field, it's something I just didn't believe," he said. "But this is not just not a good year for oaks. It's a zero year. There's zero production. I've never seen anything like this before."
We've seen a few, but not like usual.

Games


Saw this last week in the NY Times Magazine. Check out the faces of kids playing video games.

Perhaps a follow up would be their faces doing something cool outdoors. I remember having some intense expressions when faced with a ten foot wave on the Kennebec, or stepping up on that dime-sized nubbin in the Gunks. You get the idea.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Clean Breakthrough

Vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy.

Some research is paying off, it seems.

A "field" of cylinders built on the sea bed over a 1km by 1.5km area, and the height of a two-storey house, with a flow of just three knots, could generate enough power for around 100,000 homes. Just a few of the cylinders, stacked in a short ladder, could power an anchored ship or a lighthouse.

Systems could be sited on river beds or suspended in the ocean. The scientists behind the technology, which has been developed in research funded by the US government, say that generating power in this way would potentially cost only around 3.5p per kilowatt hour, compared to about 4.5p for wind energy and between 10p and 31p for solar power. They say the technology would require up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power generation.

The system, conceived by scientists at the University of Michigan, is called Vivace, or "vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy".

More here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bike Fitting

Yes, they fit bicycles.
The technology put to work in a bike fitting is often an attention-grabber. Lasers, cameras, data readouts and computer imagery that can be manipulated to be seen from multiple views add a certain sizzle to a process that was previously, more often than not, an eyeball estimation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Club Fails


Ever hear about the Yellowstone Club?

Bad idea. And now it's gone broke.

Read about it from the ski bum perspective here.

I eventually learned that the Yellowstone Club had so few skiers that sensors were installed so lift operators would know when someone was actually riding a chair. Powder lasted for days and they had a run named EBITDA, which I learned stands for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.’’ The employees were apparently treated well, but good luck trying to get an invitation to visit. For the masses, it was a mirage of a ski area, even though you could look down into it from Big Sky.
Buh Bye.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Turn of The Damn Lights


We've written in the past about the night sky. Getting outdoors at night is especially important to really experiencing nature. There's really nothing like gazing at the milky way on a crisp Fall night.

We would do night hikes up to Gray Knob in any weather just to experience the nocturnal feel of the woods. With a full moon, we'd get out in the winter time above treeline, or get out on skis to experience the different world of a moon lit night. I've been lucky, living in places with minimal "light pollution" impacts from human development.

There's a big new hotel being built near where I live, and despite the planned opening of Spring of 2010, they already have the place lit up like it's daytime. We drove by it last night and were amazed at the degree of star killing light pollution. I then turned my head east to see a wall of light from the exurban sprawl and DC beyond that. Where were the stars?

The case is the same driving home from work, where I pass the Charles Town races to the west, whose light likely destroys anyone's ability to see any celestial objects except the moon.

Verlyn Klinkenborg has a piece in this months National Geographic that laments this loss, while reminding us that it's not only the stars we lose, it's an awful lot of energy as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

More green RVs


Blogged about green RVS several months back. Here's an update.

“When people talk about conservation, they get so bogged down with recycling and living lightly they forget what they are trying to save," said Brian Brawdy, a 47-year-old former police investigator turned wilderness expert. “I want people to get out there and camp, hike, rock climb."
Damn right.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fat Burn Drug

BBC is reporting on a new drug that tricks the body into burning fat (in mice right now).

The drug worked by shifting the metabolism to a fat-burning mode that normally takes over only when energy levels are low.

At higher doses, the drug completely prevented weight gain. It also improved the rodents' blood sugar tolerance and insulin sensitivity, which are important for warding off diabetes.

Apparently it's a derivation of red wine. Combine it with some good hikes and that might do the trick.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tomorrow

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Unison


85 year old Mayo on his bike

Yesterday we held our annual Unison Heritage Day in our tiny village of Unison. About 250 people showed up to revel in a beautiful indian summer day, including neighbors, friends, and lots of Civil War reenactors.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More on Observation

Keeping a nature journal is a good way to learn about your place and keep track of the many natural changes over the seasons. When did those white throated sparrows come through Unison last Fall? With your nature journal, you'll know when. The Murie Center published a book several years back called Field Guide to Journal Writing in Nature , by Matt Daly, that is a good primer.

It's also a good way to record those trips to places you're not used to. We recently had the chance to see the original journal the great field biologist George Schaller kept when he went in 1956 to what is now Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was fascinating stuff.

Want to learn more on this? Check out this blog that focuses on nature journaling. The blogger, Pam Johnson Brickell also offers workshops to help you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Value of Observation



Turns out that Thoreau's helping us with climate change.

Their conclusions are clear. On average, common species are flowering seven days earlier than they did in Thoreau’s day, Richard B. Primack, a conservation biologist at Boston University, and Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, then his graduate student, reported this year in the journal Ecology. Working with Charles C. Davis, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard and two of his graduate students, they determined that 27 percent of the species documented by Thoreau have vanished from Concord and 36 percent are present in such small numbers that they probably will not survive for long. Those findings appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Great Outhouse Views

The outhouse stories I could tell...Check out this collection.



We always kept the toilet seat inside Gray Knob, to keep it warm.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Different Perspective


Beetle on the head of a pin. Photograph by Klaus Bolte/photo courtesy of Nikon Small World

National Geographic has a great set of images up--the Best Microscopic Images of 2008. While not all nature-based, these images give us a whole new perspective on our world. Check them out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Food For the 21rst Century


Michael Pollen had an excellent article in the New York Times Magazine yesterday.
There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I’m urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler: we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. True, this is easier said than done — fossil fuel is deeply implicated in everything about the way we currently grow food and feed ourselves. To put the food system back on sunlight will require policies to change how things work at every link in the food chain: in the farm field, in the way food is processed and sold and even in the American kitchen and at the American dinner table. Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.
Can we finally move into the 21rst century? Pollen has given us a map to a new paradigm.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weekends

What is this thing weekend, anyways?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Harvest


Bowling corn with pumpkins.

We were driving in rural Maryland yesterday and passed a "Harvest Festival" at a local farm. There must have been five hundred cars there, with tents set up and hayrides cruising the fields. It's that time of year, and these activities are popping up all over, and that's a good thing.

Here's a report from one in Pennsylvania.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bean the Dog


My friend Pete once peddled across the continent pulling a pooch in a bike trailer. That was one hell of a dog.

Pete's got a new dog, Bean, who he's bringing with him on trips again. Check out the photos. Scroll down to see them.

Make sure you check the ad at the bottom. That is a great Old Town Boat, we paddled it 100 miles with no complaints.

I'm looking forward to getting out on the river with Pete and Bean next spring.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bathing Hazards

I once went about 18 days without a shower. I was young and didn't give a crap, hell we were out on the river.

Nowadays, an occasional shave and a bit of soap while out in the bush is a good thing, but you do need to be careful-- Check out this post from Mountain Culture.
Little did I know the combination of Dr Bronner’s Peppermint soap and Gold bond extra medicated powder creates a HIGHLY EXOTHERMIC CHEMICAL REACTION.
Who woulda known?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Merely Piles of Rice

Check out this exhibit, how 112 tons of rice represent humankind.

Each grain of rice = one person and you are invited to compare the one grain that is you to the millions that are not.
Over a period of days a team of performers carefully weigh out quantities of rice to represent a host of human statistics.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wild Tracks


Kurt Repanshek writes about a trip to Yellowstone.

I think everyone takes the same picture the first time they come across a real live grizzly track. I did the same thing on the shores of Becharof Lake in Alaska once when we came across Brown Bear tracks. You stand there and shake your head in awe and then grab your camera.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Glamping

We've commented on this in the past. The Times has a new article on Glamping.



Quite a spectacle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Polar Bears

Photographer Scott Dickerson flies out over the Chukchi Sea and finds some bears.
Slowly I learned the details of the assignment as I packed my bags. Nine polar bears had been sighted swimming in the Chukchi Sea many miles off Alaska’s Arctic coast. Now there was a rare opportunity to fly with the Coast Guard and polar bear biologists on a survey to see firsthand the polar bears plight as the sea ice they depend on melts away beneath them.

Video Games, Yeeaahh

A new Pew Internet and American Life Project study is released. Story here.
In fact, 97 percent of youngsters who took part in the survey said they play video games - and that includes 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls.

OK, we know how pervasive they are. How do we get kids outside despite them? My daughter, who used to play The Sims all the time, has completely stopped playing video games. It can happen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Crazy Cool

Yeah, I know, this is just nuts, but it beats the hell out of some virtual ride down an canyon road, and seeing this short gets kids away from the XBox, and into the outdoors, great. Not that kids should be trying this, mind you:


Adam Kimmel presents: Claremont HD from adam kimmel on Vimeo.

Amazing. They are passing the camera back and forth, going upwards of 40 mph.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sabbatical

After almost 500 posts, the past month had left little time for blogging, too much going on. Time for a blogging sabbatical.

Talk to you soon.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Alaska Follow Up

A newspaper in South Carolina reports on a trip to one of the unknown National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska, Togiak. I had the opportunity to spend nearly a week in Togiak several years back, and it is a jewel that does not deserve its anonymity, an incredible place of rivers, mountains, rugged shoreline, salmon, walrus, sea birds, bears and wolves. Unmatched fishing.

When I was in the Refuge, I was going to fly up to Kagati Lake, where these folks started their trip, but never made it there. Soon, I hope.

Read more here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Arctic in August

My friend Brad takes an annual trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Before I go on, note the name of the refuge--Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. not Alaska Refuge, and certainly not ANWR. Too often the media uses these other names, which are either mistakes or an oil company concoction to reduces the significance of the place. But I digress...

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a huge place, 19 million acres, located in the northwest corner of Alaska, above the arctic circle. Of that total, 8 million acres are designated wilderness, and are some of the wildest and most spectacular landscapes on the planet.

There are several great rivers that come off the heights of the Brooks Range, draining down the north slopes and the south slopes. What Brad has been doing the past few years in the refuge is hiking and floating rivers using a pack raft, an extremely lightweight but durable single person raft that can easily be lugged up to the top of a drainage and then used to float back down. These things have revolutionized travel in the Alaska backcountry.

Brad heads into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with friends and alone. This time he's heading in alone. While a risky things to do, it's also reasonable for someone who is prepared and has the judgment and luck necessary. Trips to the Refuge can be done fairly easily, either through a commercial outfitter, or on your own. We did a trip a few years back on our own and it was pretty easy to plan and much cheaper than a commercial trip.

I expect to hear back from Brad sometime next week.

Friday, August 22, 2008

40+ inches!!

We've been in Florida on vacation with TS Faye.

Still there in fact.

It has been raining all week...and we have disconnected from the web until this AM.

Signing off again.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Bigfoot Stuff

I have a friend who has devoted his life to saving wild critters. He and his wife rescue all sorts of wild things and keep them all at their place in Indiana. They travel around the country with their wildlife friends and get kids excited about wildlife.

Check out their site, and send them some support if you can, they need to buy lots of food.

Larry is also an expert on bigfoot. I talked to him recently about Bigfoot, and he carefully went through his argument for the existence of this big critter, including its range, which he says is across North America.

"I want to believe you Larry, I really do." I said to him. But Bigfoot in Indiana?

I was with George Schaller in his cabin office a few years ago and had commented on George's bigfoot track cast, and George had said that he believed that Bigfoot really could exists. Damn, that's a good endorsement if you ask me. Apparently Jane Goodall has said similar things.

So the other day I look at Google trends and there is bigfoot, number three. I click and see some lads in Georgia claim that they have a bigfoot carcass. Problem is, their bigfoot looks a lot like a $500 costume for sale on the internet, with a little pig intestine thrown on top to spice it up. Scientific American chimed in the day before the press conference, skeptical like any good scientist.

Apparently the press conference yesterday left a lot unanswered, and it appears that this is just one more hoax. Oh well, maybe next time...

I want to believe.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tent Trailers


My parents took us on long, epic camping trips that touched every state but Alaska and Hawaii. The first trips we used a tiny Nimrod Capri tent trailer, the later trips a Coleman Brandywine. These made it a real camping trip, rather than the 28 foot behemoths some of my friends parents had.

Seems like tent trailers are back.

Mr. Endter, 41, a special-education teacher, had done the math: flights for his family of four and renting a car would have cost around $3,000, which seemed prohibitive. He didn’t want a motor home. “I don’t want to sound like an elitist,” he said, “but I’ve never been interested in the hotel-room-on-wheels R.V. thing.” And Mr. Endter didn’t have a vehicle powerful enough to pull a full-sized pop-up camper. Then he read about the Go, released in stores in April, in an outdoors magazine.
My parents did the same calculations, and the trailer and the cheap campground fees allowed these trip to be four weeks in length.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Kidsickness

Oy...here.

“But what do they really want?” Mr. Konigsberg asked. “I think they want to know that their child is being taken care of. That their child isn’t sick. Or homesick. Or lonely.”

“Well, in this situation by definition you are dealing with emotionally needy people,” I said.

“Homesick kids?” he asked.

“No, kid-sick parents,” I said.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Trams


I always loved aerial lifts and trams. I remember as a kid skiing or when camping in the summer we would head up chairlifts and trams, to cheat the hike.

The tram is a rare thing in New England. Jay Peak has one, Cannon Mountain has one, but the balance are the smaller gondolas spread around the North.

I even have an aerial tram scale model made in Europe. Wish I had a place to hang it up.

Last year the tram at Jackson Hole was demolished, and they're building new one. Here's a short film that talks about the construction of the new Jackson tram, for you tram junkies out there.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Phone Nation


Watching the passers-by holding their smart phones in front of them as they walked was like watching a parade of monks with heads bowed over their breviaries. As night settled in, I could see the glow of the screens shining upward on the faces of their owners, who were being guided down the street by peripheral vision and the feel of the sidewalk under their feet. It was like being in one of R. Crumb’s street scenes — everyone lost in a private thought bubble, everyone walking with a private posture.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The CT River Valley


One of the great American pastoral areas is the Connecticut River Valley that divides New Hampshire and Vermont. We spent a lot of road time driving through this area on the way to the Whites, and it is spectacular natural area, if a bit depressed economically.

The NY Times reports on this unique area.
Still, the ambition of Mr. McAllister’s eco-resort, Liberty Mill, has surprised locals in this struggling town, whose lodging choices now include the Hetty Green motel — not exactly the green Mr. McAllister has in mind. “Avoid at all costs,” said one traveler in a review of the motel on Trip Advisor. Liberty Mills plans to offer an Olympic-quality kayak race course, a skate park and a pool where a coal furnace once fumed; photovoltaic, wood pellet and geothermal power; and compost toilets for guests that will fertilize a farm growing food for the resort.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Update


I've been out of commission with Knee surgery this week.

Been watching the goings on in the Karakoram--another series of deaths on the world's most dangerous mountain, K2.

The times has an editorial today. Every person who steps up to K2 knows the danger.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Childsickness

Here's an interesting report that follows up on what we mentioned last week about camp and catered parents.

It's not that parents never moped for their mosquito-bound moppets before. But parents today — some of them, anyway — have become so accustomed to constant contact with their children (thank you, Verizon) that a summer hiatus feels less like a break and more like a breakdown.

"I cry for the next three weeks," a father named Syd said as he prepared to put his daughter Jackie on the bus.

"He doesn't," the daughter, 11, reassured me.

"You don't know!" the dad said. "I walk into your empty room. I'm lonely all summer."

More comments in the Times.



Friday, August 1, 2008

Breakthrough



Ecogeek discusses a new way to do electrolysis, courtesy of MIT.
The scientists seem to be confident that this is a game changer, and a breakthrough, though they're saying it'll be a decade before it can be fully implemented. Nonetheless, this is a big freakin' deal, especially if combined with the next wave of cheap renewables. Power storage remains a huge issue, and if this could solve that problem, it would be the second step we need toward a truly renewable future.
This could lead to every home having its own power source and fueling source for electric vehicles--with renewable energy for our kid's future.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Change in Play

We've heard it before, but the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes on the changes in play for today's kids.

It wasn't always this way. It was once a neighborhood thick with children playing baseball and capture the flag, says his grandmother Cindi Whalen, 54. Forty-five years ago she and her brothers and a brood of neighborhood kids swung sky high from a neighbor's tree swing, coasted their bikes down neighboring streets, roamed the woods and scoured the creek for crawdaddys with hardly a parent in sight.

"Every parent had a different whistle," she recalls. "We just knew our whistle, and then it was time to come in."

It was cow bells in my neighborhood. Sunset in the summer brought out a bell chorus worthy of a World Cup Ski Race.

Worth a read.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Killing Camping

The Economist weighs in on why they think we don't go outside...
We have always blamed the decline in camping and interest in National parks on electronics, quoting the fifth-grader: “I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” The Economists disagrees, and suggests that we should "blame conservationists, not video games."
Food for thought.

Read more at Treehugger.

Update: I don't want to give the impression that I agree with the Economist, but the notion that some Ntional Parks are less friendly for folks from today's society is worth considering.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A New Backyard Model


Bradford Plummer at the New Republic comments on the idea of creating communal lawns as a way of building community, and the roadblocks that would get in the way of doing such a thing.

Not everyone wants to share a yard, of course, for a whole slew of reasons, but I do wonder if, with the rise in gas prices, we'll start to see more experimenting along these lines. Anyway, this reminds me to link to Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker essay on the cultural history of lawns. In Britain, lawns were originally seen as a status symbol, a preserve of the rich; nowadays, in many suburban neighborhoods, they're seen as a necessity, a patch of green to be trimmed and watered and doused in chemicals no matter how often you use it, because it demonstrates your commitment to the local community. (In Orem, Utah, one 70-year-old woman was even arrested recently when she fell afoul of local "weed laws" by letting her grass go brown.)

This started with a post by Jonathan Zasloff after he watched the Backyardigans with his son.

When you think about it, the front lawn is somewhat of a relic of 1950's family structure: Dad goes to work and the kids play on the lawn, supervised by Mom. But now, Mom is at work, too, and the kids are in child care. It is completely wasted space from a planning perspective--not to mention the extraordinary waste of water that comes from everyone having to manage lawns that they never use, gasoline from mowing, etc. Ditto with backyards.

So why don't more neighborhoods have this? Because in most suburbs, it's illegal: you can't share a lawn--there are setback requirements, fencing requirements, lot size requirements, etc. Developers won't build what they can't entitle. And so we assume that single-family neighborhoods mean far lower density, and transit accessibility, than we should.

Interesting notion which should be food for thought for designers of new communities. Communal lawns could inspire a feeling of safety that parents have lost much of today.

I have enough trouble dealing with my yard, as the warm weather and heavy spring rains, coupled with vicious invasive exotics, turns things jungle-like in a matter of days. Lucky there's no community associations in my village.

thanks to The Daily Dish for the tip.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Green Campus

I'm heading into a LEED charette for our campus this week. We designed and built our place before LEED was in existence, although much of what we came up with has become pat of the LEED ranking system.

Getting LEED (Leadership in Energy Environmental Design) certification is a big thing on college campuses today, and there are a number of publications that provide rankings.

More on this here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Parents


Parent Day at Camp

A contributor to nature deficit is the fact that parents are far more protective of their kids. We simply see too many hazards nowadays to just let the kids roam outdoors. We're all guilty of this, although at different levels.

I still hold my breath when my 15 year old heads out for a run--she's training for cross country next fall--but we let her go, with an agreed upon time for return.

Summer camps, generally very safe environments are dealing with this parental concern more nowadays, and some are hiring counselors, not to deal with kids, but to deal with the kid's parents.
One camp psychologist said she used to spend half her time on parental issues; now it’s 80 percent. Dan Kagan, co-director of Bryn Mawr, has started visiting every new family’s home in the spring and calling those parents on the first or second day of camp to reassure them.
When I went to camp, my parents dropped us and fled the scene. We did not see them or hear from them until pickup day. Not that we had time to think about home, there was too much to do. In this new information age, there are far more ways to communicate, and camps like some of the techniques and reject others.

Cell phones, for example, tend to be forbidden. But parents are sending kids with two cell phones to camp, so if one of the outlawed devices is confiscated, the other can still be used.

Camps have reacted to parent's worries by using the internet to post photos of the kids, so parents can log in and check out the latest activities. My friend Rob's camp does this, along with an ongoing narrative from his Dad, the Camp Director.


"Yes, mom and dad are gone and now real camp may commence. Hurray!"

More here from the NY Times, and a slide show that tells the whole story.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Aurora



I remember a night at Gray Knob when the whole sky lit on fire with the aurora. It was 27 years ago tonight.

My friend Steve Weber, aka Swebco, was there that night, and we sat on the edge of Knight's Castle, a rock outcrop a few hundred feet above Crag Camp, and grooved on the incredible celestial fireworks. I even got some great photos.


from Knight's Castle looking at Crag Camp

I finally hit the sack at 3:00 am, only to be awoken by Swebco, who a half hour later was pounding on the wall of the building yelling:

"Get back out here, it's better than before."

Here's my log entry the next day, July 26, 1981 (scroll down on the link):

July 26 - Incredible Northern Lights last night.The whole sky was lit up with curtains and streaks of pulsating light. We sat up on Knight's Castle and watched the incredible celestial fireworks.-- SMC, Caretaker.
I've seen the aurora a number of times since, including the amazing red aurora that most of north America apparently saw in November of 2002 (saw it out in my backyard in VA!)

Wired has a new article on the mechanics of the Aurora, worth a read.
The ghostly flickering of the Northern Lights is caused by explosions of magnetic energy, say astronomers.

Until now, nobody knew why the aurora sometimes shifted and danced across the sky. And all it took was a fleet of five satellites positioned in the magnetosphere and a team of ground-based observers who caught the beginning of a magnetic storm about 80,000 miles from Earth, or a third of the way to the moon.


Want to see where the aurora might be seen? Click here and then click where you live on the globe for a daily forecast.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Urban Gym Design


Wow.

Check out this new human powered gym design. problem is you're still indoors...
Have you ever pedaled on a stationary bike at the gym and thought to yourself: ‘What if this energy I am exerting could be used for something better than just making me sweat?” Well now a new proposal from architect Mitchell Joachim promises to take all that energy expended at the gym to the next level, by capturing all that exertion and using it to transport people around the rivers of New York City. The River Gym concept is a human-powered floating gym that will provide the user with the one experience that no other gym can provide: floating your workout around Manhattan.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Virtual Jackson Hole


Check out this site. These high definition 360 degree photos are amazing.

Better to be there in person, but vistas like this would get anyone excited to head out.

Thanks to The Mountain Culture for the tip.

More Farm Based Education

This time near my hometown in Connecticut, Granby's Holcomb Farm gets folks outside.

Find out more here.

More Vacation Variations

More from the Globe--unlimited vacation policy?!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sports Therapy

Using sports to rehab folks with disabilities. It's working
"I thought, I could get summer back," says Pope. "I was never much of an athlete, but I've always loved summertime and being outdoors." Now she windsurfs once a week, using a one-person board with a support rail attached. "Where else can I go and have fun?" she wonders. "That's what I was really looking for, having fun. And I have."
More here from the Boston Globe.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vacation

The NY Times reports on the the pressures hitting our vacations.

Skimping on vacations comes with physical and mental costs, psychologists say. In a nation where 35 percent of employed workers already leave some vacation days on the table, according to one study, this can lead to what the author and work-life coach Joe Robinson calls “vacation deficit disorder.”

Men who shrugged off vacations for five straight years were 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who took an extended break from work every year, according to a multiyear study by Brooks B. Gump, an associate professor of psychology at State University of New York, Oswego, and a colleague, Karen A. Matthews. Vacations may boost what psychologists call the brain’s “reserve capacity,” which helps it “cope with stressors that come up,” Dr. Gump said. Vacation, he added, “is a buffer.”

Get out there and relax.



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Out on the Farm



I meant to mention this event up in Connecticut last month, but missed it.

Flamig Farm, operating for more than 100 years in my hometown of Simsbury, is an island of enlightenment in the sea of the suburbs. They make getting out on the farm fun, and they are practicing what they preach, Their event Eggstock is a big late spring festival. We'll need to check it out next year.

Read about Eggstock here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Urban Wildlife


It really is there.

Humans are hard-wired to avoid dark places, especially the forest. “We are daytime mammals, after all,” Ms. Winn writes, “and evolution has programmed us to respond to failing light by crawling into a safe, snug place and going to sleep.”

Except for New Yorkers.


From the NY Times.

Walkability


See the new index here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

National Park Blog


Grand Teton National Park Jumps into the blogosphere with its online ranger station.

the site has a ton of info, including route info:
Grand Teton - Wall Street to the Upper Exum
Some snow in Wall Street gulley. Golden Staircase and Friction Pitch dry, with patches of mostly avoidable snow in sheltered zones. Axe/crampons not required. 3rd rescue on 7/8/08 was more of an assist as a 31 year old woman dislocated her jaw while yawning. No joke. Assisted down to the Lower Saddle and flown down to Lupine Meadows.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Critter Cam in CT


We used to love to catch snapping turles when I worked at Camp Tadma. Today the Hartford Courant reports on a new cam project, working with a common snapping turtle.
Tuesday, snapping turtles joined the list as "Jawless" — after being weighed and measured by a team of researchers who are studying the animal's eating, mating and nesting habits — was outfitted with the cylindrical camera glued to his shell and sent back into the cove. Once the glue wears off, the camera is supposed to float to the surface, where researchers track it down with ultrasonic signalers and radio transmitters.

"As soon as you let the animal go is when I start getting nervous," said Kyler Abernathy, director of resources for National Geographic's mission programs. "When they're out of your hands they're out of your control."

Camp Years


I spent several summers at Camp Woodstock in northeast Connecticut when I was 10-12 years old. I still remember swimming across the lake, sleeping out in the woods under the stars, and endless tetherball games.



My sister was a counselor there, and my niece is there right now, so the tradition continues.

Woodstock has a website and some scant alumni pages that include the two camp songs. Damned if I don't still remember every word 35 years later.

OK, it is a little corny, but the place really had impact:

Camping in the pines of Woodstock
Down by the lake
Happy hours we've spent together
Down by the lake
Everybody's happy always, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, all the weekdays and on Sundays
Down by the lake
Camping in the Pines of Woodstock
Down by the lake
Lifelong friendships in the making
Down by the lake
Over woodland paths we wonder, these happy memories we'll always ponder, of Camp Woodstock we're growing fonder
Down by the lake

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Farming in the Sky



The NY Times reports on the design and development of urban vertical farms, where crops are grown on specially designed skyscrapers.

When Mr. Stringer heard about the concept in June, he said he immediately pictured a “food farm” addition to the New York City skyline. “Obviously we don’t have vast amounts of vacant land,” he said in a phone interview. “But the sky is the limit in Manhattan.” Mr. Stringer’s office is “sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm,” and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months, he said.
More here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Good Advice

from Florida.

At a parent meeting to prepare us for our son’s week at Cub Scout camp, we were told that the biggest change for our boys would be the amount of time they spent outside.

At camp, the boys would be playing out of doors most of the day.

There would be plenty of shade and water to keep them healthy, but so many hours out of doors might be an unpleasant surprise to youngsters who weren’t accustomed to it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Turtle Patrol


Since my daughter was little we have always been on turtle patrol as we drive our hilly and twisted country roads. At first sight of an eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) in the road we quickly stop and escort the slow moving fellow to the woods or nearby creek. We then make sure that everyone we meet that day hears about the turle rescue, so they too will be ready to act when they see a turtle on the pavement.

Here's another turtle story from another part of Virginia.

MS Follow Up

Here's a follow up on the Obesity Report release last week, from the epicenter of the problem, Mississippi.

Kids Fishing



The Oregonian reports on efforts to get kids out fishing.
Youth fishing in Oregon, as in the rest of the country, has been dropping steadily for years: The number of Oregon anglers ages 14-17 has fallen by 45 percent in the past three decades.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Flying Between Towers

A new outdoor sport has folks flying between rock towers in the Czech Republic.
ADRSPACH, Czech Republic — Exactly a decade has passed since a man called Oxygen first hurled himself across Amerika. Known for his jumping ability, Oxygen, a lanky Czech, catapulted to legend status by leaping a nearly 10-foot-wide abyss separating two 100-foot sandstone spires.
More here, from the NY Times.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sierra Club Leadership


The Sierra Club has been a leader for some time now in connecting kids and the outdoors.

Check out their website here.

Kayak Info

We're always looking for kayak resources on the web. Here's one.

And here's a video of my friend Hunt going over Bull Falls on the Shenandoah River in Harper's Ferry, WV

video

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Outdoor Industry Seminar

From an Outdoor Industry Association press release:
"The outdoor industry needs to build appreciation for all outdoor places – from iconic wild lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the 1/8-acre restored lot in Brooklyn," commented Larry Selzer, "Both are powerful and important in engaging people in the outdoors and developing future stewards of the environment. To motivate urban children to visit and relate to Yellowstone National Park is a gigantic leap. We need to start small and take many steps to bring them along."
More here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ummm, Hot Dogs


The contest went into "overtime," which was decided by a 5 hot dog eat-off.

36 Nathans Hot dogs=6120 calories and 540 grams of fat. This description of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is quite graphic.

Yuck.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Essay Contest

I've carried an Osprey pack (long discontnued) for a long time now, so it's good to see that Osprey Packs has developed a contest to engage kids. They've set up a writing contest that asks kids 6-16 to write about their experiences backpacking and talk about how they have contributed to the Leave No Trace ethic. Winners have their essay printed in an Osprey catalog, featured on the website, and get to pick a pack as an award.

Pretty cool. More here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bogged Down


Crazy green sports department, click here.

02:43:33


When I a kid and climbing every day, I would sit at night and gaze at George Meyer's book Yosemite Climber, with its incredible photographs and stories of climbing in Yosemite National Park. Long out of print, my copy sits in our living room bookcase with other valued mountaineering and adventure books I have collected and taken special care of over the years.

One highlight in the book is the great granite wall, El Capitan, which has always captivated the imaginations and the skills of climbers around the world.

This photo, of Westbay, Bridwell, and Long after their one day speed ascent of El Capitan in 1975, really shows the culture of climbing at that time.




Speed climbing El Cap has been an ongoing thing since then, and the other day, two guys made it up the 3.000+ foot wall in 2 hours, 43 minutes and 33 seconds. Damn.

Here's the route:



and more on the ascent from the SF Gate.

2:43:33

Two hours, 43 minutes and 33 seconds is the new record for speed climbing El Capitan's 2,900-foot Nose route (at about 17.7 feet per minute) by a duo.

-- That's a minute faster than the average length of a major-league baseball game in 1986 (but those have generally gotten longer since then).

-- It's the same length as the epic 2004 Brad Pitt-Orlando Bloom film "Troy."

-- And it's two minutes shorter than the time it took for the Titanic to sink below the surface after its iceberg collision on April 14, 1912.

Here they are after the climb.

For more on El Cap speed climbing, go here.