Monday, June 30, 2008

Camp Season 2008

Summer camps are up and running.

Here's a shot taken a few days ago at my friend Rob's camp, up in the White Mountains.

A bonfire like this beats the tube every time.

Wish I was there.


We've linked to other Lowell Monke articles in the past. Here's a link to his first article in Orion. Worth considering.

Computers not only divert students from recess and other unstructured experiences, but also replace those authentic experiences with virtual ones. According to surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation and others, school-age children spend, on average, around five hours a day in front of screens for recreational purposes. All that screen time is supplemented by the hundreds of impressive computer projects now taking place in schools. Yet these projects—the steady diet of virtual trips to the Antarctic, virtual climbs to the summit of Mount Everest, and trips into cyber-orbit that represent one technological high after another—generate only vicarious thrills. The student doesn’t actually soar above the Earth, doesn’t trek across icy terrain, doesn’t climb a mountain. Increasingly, she isn’t even allowed to climb to the top of the jungle gym.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Times They Are a Changin'

NO gas, 2015. Mercedes takes the plunge.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

National Pollinators Week

Bees and other pollinators are critical to our survival. They've taken quite a beating recently, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is focusing on their importance this week.

Check it out here, don't forget to listen to a podcast or two.

The Spot

There's a spot on Lowes Path in Randolph New Hampshire that's a special one for myself and a couple of my friends. It is situated above a place called the Quay, which provides the hiker with an incredible view to the north and west of Nowell Ridge on Mount Adams. Our spot is called the caretaker's throne, and it is a rock "chair" that I would sit in at some point every day I worked up on that mountain. It was that place where you could think about the world, yourself, and how incredible it all is--connect. It truly is my place, even though I have not been up there now for a few years. The picture above shows my friend Pete sitting at the spot, watching the intricate winter weather swirl around.

I came across a blog post that talks about these special spots in nature, and ways we can get to know them better and articulate what they mean to us. Check it out and give it a try.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Camp Food

In 1976 I worked at a camp in Bozrah, CT called Camp Tadma. It was an amazing summer as I worked on the waterfront and the nature center. A contributing factor to the great times was our chef, Joe Grillo. His cooking was masterful, and we ate like kings the whole summer. Joe made cooking good food fun. I won't even go into some of the mischief we got into as we lived outside the whole summer, but savored every meal and unfortunately we only got to benefit from Joe's cooking for one season.

Here's a different take on camp food from the NY Times.

“Camp food is terrible,” said Susan B. Roberts, director of the energy metabolism laboratory at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “The problem is that they are doing what is easiest — the lowest common denominator for what kids like, and on top of that usually it has to be not something that goes bad and is no work to prepare.”

A postscript, Joe later went on to become Joe "Gypsy" Grillo, the famous PGA Caddy, and we never knew he golfed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


This weekend is the 4th annual Great American Backyard Campout.

Learn more here.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Sullivan dishes up some cups. An amazing photograph.

Astounding waste of resources.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friedman and Common Sense

We try to keep politics to a minimum here, but this Oped today has to be spread far and wide.

Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was “addicted to oil,” and, by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan: “Get more addicted to oil.”

Actually, it’s more sophisticated than that: Get Saudi Arabia, our chief oil pusher, to up our dosage for a little while and bring down the oil price just enough so the renewable energy alternatives can’t totally take off. Then try to strong arm Congress into lifting the ban on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

and as if that weren't enough,

It is hard for me to find the words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy this is. But it gets better. The president actually had the gall to set a deadline for this drug deal:

“I know the Democratic leaders have opposed some of these policies in the past,” Mr. Bush said. “Now that their opposition has helped drive gas prices to record levels, I ask them to reconsider their positions. If Congressional leaders leave for the Fourth of July recess without taking action, they will need to explain why $4-a-gallon gasoline is not enough incentive for them to act.”

Read it all and marvel that someone in the MSM is speaking common sense. We won't be fooled again.

Private Park in a Very Public City

Don't know what to think of this article. It is private, but in Manhattan, should access be more of a concern?

There is, to be frank, not much to do in the park. Music is forbidden. So are alcoholic beverages, bicycles and furniture. A gravel path around the perimeter provides the only opportunity for low-impact play, or, for that matter, running or walking. Ms. Harrison said parents constantly offer to donate playground components for the park, but she won’t have it.

“Too much wear and tear,” she said. “But do you know what? The children who grow up here learn to use their imagination.”

Up In Massachusetts

If you live in southern New England, check out this website. There are some great places to see, outside.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Noble Work in Texas

Some good programs at a Texas State Park.
Operations have been on an upswing since fall at Guadalupe River State Park, where new staff and a series of family-friendly nature programs are attracting tourists from around the state.

“The turnout really has been wonderful,” said GRSP official Joan Nitschke, “and I think the biggest success that we’ve had the most fun with are the afternoon programs with the children.”

With titles like “Fun in the Summer: Bountiful Bugs” — that ran last week, in fact — the hands-on series has proven to be a draw for children as well as parents, and there’s plenty on the schedule to satisfy all ages and interests.

There’s also “‘Kids in Nature Water Wonder,’ where they actually get in the river with dip nets and buckets and search for aquatic bugs and tadpoles,” Nitschke said. “The kids absolutely love it, and before long the parents absolutely do too.”
Texas has been a leader in getting kids connected to nature and programs like this show it.

Read more here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Google Earth shot of the development that destroyed our
treehouse site, Simsbury, CT

We built a cool triple level treehouse when I was ten years old. We snuck down to the backlot boneyard of a neighbor and snitched a bunch of old lumber. We dragged the wood up a hill a few hundred yards away, and started construction. Safety was not a concern, but we built a pretty stout series of platforms. We spent the whole summer up there and no adults ever appeared. It was a blast. They bulldozed that site a few years later, and the folks who live in that development sitting above Stratton Brook have no idea what we once had in their backyards.

Here's what they're doing with treehouses today...

He has visions of a treehouse tucked up to 20 feet above the earth in the boughs of an oak. He sees a wooden clubhouse and a meandering ramp -- maybe 200 feet long -- that would delicately slope up to the leafy playland and make it accessible for all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Benefits of $4 Gas

Foreign Policy has an interesting article out.

Why it’s happening: One word: exercise. Bike shops across the United States are reporting record sales, and Britain is even promoting a national “Bike Week” to encourage commuters to ride, not drive, to the office. Not only is two-wheeling a cheaper way to travel, it’s also healthier. Courtemanche’s results show that “the average person walks or bicycles an average of 0.5 times more per week if the price of gas rises by $1.” Another factor he identifies is that cost-conscious Americans are choosing to eat at restaurants less frequently. Indeed, a virtuous cycle could be at work: A study published in The Engineering Economist found that Americans today use nearly a billion additional gallons of gasoline each year, compared with 1960, solely because they weigh more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Antietam Creek Kayak

We paddled Antietam Creek today. It's a short float, but lots of fun, with some fast water, a couple of drops, and the potential to see a lot of wildlife. Cell phones were left behind, a refreshing change.

For those in the DC area, a highly recommended trip.

Here's more info. Also, here's the link to the best outfitter in the Harper's Ferry area.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Digital Nature

does not stand up to the real thing. From Popular Science.

The real window, as you might imagine, was the most restorative. The researchers expected the plasma screen’s ability to score somewhere between that of the window and the wall, but it ended up being no different than the latter. Furthermore, the longer the window-gazers looked outside, the more they recovered. The plasma screen had no such effect.
No Kidding.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Green Noise?

Are we being overwhelmed by conflicting data? Can we figure out which green action is really green? Read.
An environmentally conscientious consumer is left to wonder: are low-energy compact fluorescent bulbs better than standard incandescents, even if they contain traces of mercury? Which salad is more earth-friendly, the one made with organic mixed greens trucked from thousands of miles away, or the one with lettuce raised on nearby industrial farms? Should they support nuclear power as a clean alternative to coal?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Crosscutting in the Wilderness

An interesting piece from Mountain Gazette--on working in the woods with hand tools.
To sharpen a saw you need an acute understanding of how and why it works. A crosscut saw works by cutting at a right angle to the wood grain (as in cutting across a tree trunk), using angled teeth that slice away at the wood fibers like carving knives. The most important attribute of a crosscut saw is that these sharp cutting teeth actually flare out wider than the saw blade itself. These cutters, as they are called, generally come in sets of two, sticking out about 1/100 of an inch to either side. This flaring, which is called the set, has two purposes. First, it causes the saw to actually bite in against the grain of the wood to create the cut, which is called the kerf. And it ensures that the kerf is wider than the saw, which keeps it from binding, or getting stuck in the wood.

National Parks

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Sure gas is $4.25 a gallon, so driving to that National Park could be costly, but Forbes has a new article out that reports on what the Park Service is doing to get people out.

WebRangers allows users to rack up nifty-looking badges while completing 47 different educational games like a lesson in how to run a dog sled team, a tutorial on civil war history and a primer in Arctic artifacts.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the agency is using the site to stoke interest in the outdoors. Mayo says the online games encourage children to prod their parents into taking them to a nearby park. It helps that each WebRangers session begins at a personalized "ranger station," where children can easily view Webcams located at national parks like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Denali.

Between Aug. 29, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2007, according to Mayo, WebRangers had 440,000 unique users, with an average of 35,000 to 40,000 page views a month and participants from 87 different countries.

Hot Weather 2008

We wrote last year about heading out to waterfalls to beat the heat. Still a good idea today.

Here's another New Engalnd waterfall guide website for those in the Northeast. Unplug the Xbox and head on out.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Unplug the Damn Thing

So, that Xbox, ever think about how much power it uses?
According to Choice's energy tests, the device that consumed the most power when in use was the PlayStation 3, closely followed by the Xbox 360 and Plasma TV. Even when idle (on, but no in use), these systems consumed the most power of the devices tested. Incredibly, the Playstation 3 consumed over 10 times as much power as the Nintendo Wii
More than a plasma TV...which uses 10x more than a regular old fashioned tube tv.

Go Outside.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New FWS TV Advertisement

Was in the gym today and the TV was on the show "The View" Never seen it before, but I know how popular it is. During the program, and advertisement came on with some great children and nature message, and in the end messages about opportunities on the National Wildlife Refuge System. Don't have a link right now, but kudos to the Fish and Wildlife Service for producing such a timely and well done ad. Showing it on the view certainly gets it a lot of impressions.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pedal Powered

I don't really like the damage that ATVs inflict on the land. While working for a short time as refuge manager at Cape May NWR, it was a constant issue that the staff dealt with, with little ability to really deal with it. These things can rapily trash a forest and turn it into nothing but a eroded dirt race track.

However, a pedal powered version, used in the right places is intriguing, and maybe a way to engage kids to get out... see it here.

The debate is ongoing about mountain bikes in wilderness, and certainly the addition of a pedal powered ATV would sharpen the debate. But can the damage be balanced by a larger number of kids engaged in outdoor activities?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Out There in the Great Plains

Connecting with nature on the Great Plains? Yup, and worth doing.

The idea of rewilding the West takes its inspiration from two professors, Frank and Deborah Popper. In an essay written two decades ago in the journal Planning, they suggested restoring the Upper Midwest to its native state, which they called the Buffalo Commons, and largely replacing agriculture in the region with eco-tourism.

While many Western conservationists do not agree with elements of the Buffalo Commons, preservation efforts have taken off. The American Prairie Foundation, a group dedicated to creating prairie wildlife reserves, has been buying up land in Montana and reintroducing wild American bison, which had largely vanished in the region. Another nonprofit group, the Great Plains Restoration Council is helping to preserve open land in South Dakota. Private landowners, too, have been buying land to return it to open space — Ted Turner, who owns some two million acres of Western land concentrated in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota and Oklahoma, has helped restore bison herds on his property.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hummer-BUH BYE

Wasn't this really inevitable?

More from the LA Times.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Play in the City

New York City has a lot of playgrounds. The NY Times takes a look.
Heading uptown we hit Adventure Playground on 67th Street and Central Park West, a relic from the adventure-playground movement that emerged here in the 1960s. The concept, which swept the country, grew out of World War II Europe, where children joyfully played atop mountains of junk and rubble. Led by the American landscape designer M. Paul Friedberg, the new philosophy in playground architecture called for more challenging, sometimes dangerous environments: concrete climbing walls and hiding spots that made it hard for parents to find their children.

Check them out here.

Mars Sunset

Andrew Sullivan posted this NASA shot from Mars this morning.

It's kinda off topic, but spectacular.

More on Jackson Hole

We posted a film showing a year in Jackson Hole a while back. I mentioned I used to head there three times a year. Considering fuel prices, I'm glad that I'm not surfing the United Airlines website looking for my plane tickets this Fall.

I have a bunch of friends that are fortunate enough to live there, and most own their own places. Looks like owning a home in Jackson will continue to get more and more difficult as "the billionaires push out the millionaires".

For more on this, here's a post on what Jackson's become, courtesy of the Mountain Culture Blog. Let's hope that in the future, that more than the rich can afford to live long term in great natural areas. I think we can check Jackson off as lost.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never own a home here, and I may never even own a doorknob here.


The NCTC Eaglecam has a video up of the second eaglet fledging yesterday just after 8 AM.

It has been a great season for these birds, and many folks have watched their development.

See it here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Get them Outside

More evidence that kids being inside "where the outlets are" is hazardous to their health.

ScienceDaily (Jun. 5, 2008) — Sun exposure and vitamin D levels may play a strong role in risk of type 1 diabetes in children, according to new findings by researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

More here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Action Plan from NWF

The National Wildlife Federation has a new publication out entitled Connecting Today's Kids with Nature: A Policy Action Plan.

Read it here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Louv is Blogging

Rich Louv has a new blog called Field Notes From the Future. Read it here.

National Park Entrance Art

Check out this great collection of National Park Service entry signs.

Monday, June 2, 2008

National Trails Day 40th Anniversary

Here's an article from a friend at Blue Ridge Press on the 40th anniversary of National Trails Day this Saturday, June 7, 2008:

Stewart Udall Says Go Take a Hike
By Former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall

Eighty years ago, when I was growing up on a ranch near St. Johns, Arizona, trails formed the contours of my world. I'd take a trail to get to a neighbor's house or follow one along the river if I were looking for stray cattle. Trails were the most practical way of getting around. They were also irresistible to me. I'd walk a trail just to see where it led.

Since 1968, unbeknownst to many Americans, a unique partnership of volunteers and government has quietly blazed a vast, still unfinished, system of national trails-laying down a foundation for the next generation of curious adventurers. Just as in the 20th century when we preserved remote wildernesses as national parks, the 21st  century may well be devoted to connecting our communities and precious natural landscapes via this 40,000-mile national historic and scenic trail network. It is a worthy effort, one you might want to explore this June 7th, National Trails Day.

From my home I look out on a footpath leading into the mountains and think about the age-old pull of America's trails-the ones through Cumberland Gap and over the Continental Divide, across the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. One of the greatest overland migrations in history followed a trail: During the mid-1800s nearly 400,000 emigrants walked or rode over the Platte River Road, the dusty thoroughfare formed by the convergence of the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. Early drafts of American history are recorded in the diaries of people who followed frontier trails.

Much of that history would have passed into oblivion, ploughed under or paved over, were it not for National Trails legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, just forty years ago. Those of us who endorsed the legislation wanted to make it possible for Americans to share some of the adventure, the toil and even a bit of the danger experienced by our forebears-native people, explorers and settlers.

Today's National Trails System draws uncounted millions of Americans annually-many times more than took to the trails in pioneer days. Our national trails extend from Maine's Mount Katahdin, where the Appalachian National Scenic Trail begins, to Nome, Alaska where the Iditarod Trail ends. Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail traces the southern reaches of the last glacier to push down over North America. The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail follows the route taken by 16,000 Cherokee when they were driven from their home in southern Appalachia in 1838 and forcibly relocated to Oklahoma's Indian Territory.

Some of our most magnificent trails celebrate the American outdoors. The 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail was the first, blazed by 1938. Next came the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, running from Canada to Mexico; and more recently, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, winding 3,100 miles from Montana's Glacier National Park to New Mexico's Hatchet Mountains. These trails offer a grand but intimate link to the American wild.

Unfortunately, the National Trails System Act didn't provide money to complete the trails or fully preserve their historic environs. The system has relied heavily on the contributions and hard work of volunteers who donate more than a half-million hours every year building, maintaining and protecting the trails. Congress has appropriated some funds, but there is so much more to do.

Supporting our national trails is more than an exercise in nostalgia. Think of how much richer a child's knowledge of history might be after days spent along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Imagine how a student's grasp of our constitutional liberties might benefit from a trek along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, where civil rights marchers braved billy clubs and tear gas in 1965 campaigning for African American voting rights.

A national trail is a gateway into nature's secret beauties, a portal to the past, a way into solitude and community. It is also an inroad to our national character. Our trails are both irresistible and indispensable. And while at age 88, I may not be hiking the Continental Divide Trail any time soon, I am doing everything I can to help with the monumental task of preserving it for future journeyers.
Saturday, June 7th is National Trails Day, celebrated by walkers, cyclists, and equestrians in every state. I suggest you trek to, the American Hiking Society website. You may find an unexpected treasure there, a trail event worth exploring, close to home. You may even find a previously unknown place so special to you that you'll want to help conserve it.

It's up to all of us who care deeply for the future of this great country to join in this uniquely American undertaking of building, maintaining and protecting these unique natural and historic riches. I hope you'll join me, for the sake of the generations to come.

(c) 2008 Blue Ridge Press

Stewart Udall was U.S. Secretary of the Interior, 1961-1969, and represented Arizona's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1955-1961.

More Bear Stories

This time from the NY Times, from last Fall, that reports (may need to log in for this link) on the relationship between black bears and the resort town of Whistler, BC.
Beyond providing a setting of uncommon natural beauty, however, all this mingling of humankind and the wilderness seems to have produced something almost taxonomically unique: Wild bears so habituated to the presence of people that the biologists who have come here to study them say they’ve never seen anything like it — bears that lift the door handles of trucks to take possession of the cabs; bears that manage to snag the bait from a trap with one foot while holding the steel gate open with the other; bears that stroll munificently through the crowds at the Canada Day parade; bears in the pubs, the hotels, the day-care centers, the landfills, meat lockers, grease vents, underground parking garages. In Whistler, if a bear doesn’t get into something humans are guarding, it’s usually because too many other bears got there first.
People and nature collide hard. What to do?

Simple Question

Why aren't you?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Summer Places

OK, so not all of the NY Times 31 Places to Go This summer will get you hooked into to nature, but a number of them will. There are also some great places to take kids so they connect.

I choose numbers 2, 5, 15, and 20 to start with.

But plan any trip carefully--the hiking around Cherry Mountain can be pretty tough--some of the steepest in the Whites, and its twin summits are actually called Owlshead and Mt. Martha.

Postscript: Speaking of NH, checkout this trip journal of a hiker traveling the Cohos Trail, which traverses across the least visited and wildest parts of the White Mountains

Camp Vision is 20/20

The American Camp Association has a vision.
The time is now to create a 20/20 vision–a vision of commitment to serve 20 million by the year 2020. Today, 10 million children and youth go to camp annually. Yet, we only directly impact 3 million of those experiences. By 2020, we want no fewer than 20 million children going to camp annually with the ACA camp community directly impacting the lives of those 20 million children.

Check out more at their website and their blog.

The more kids that head to camp, the better our future will be.