Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Students Work to Improve Habitat

Check out the good work these students are doing.

Elyssa Clauson, 10, envisions a desertscape, there in the back, she said, pointing to an off-limits unkempt sweep of tall grass. "Sand and cactus could go there – and some lizards."

She held her ground when the boys pooh-poohed her idea as impractical because the lizards would slither off.

"The fence can have small holes," she said.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Maine Bears

Here's a link to a great series of photos showing biologists at work in Maine.

We're going to need new biologists in the future, something that is less likely if we don't keep all of us connected to the wild.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wi-Fi in State Parks

USA Today recently published an article on the growing number of state parks with wi-fi access.

"There is a growing need for many of our visitors to be able to stay in touch with friends, family members and co-workers while they are away," says Roy Stearns, a spokesman for California State Parks, which has more parks equipped with Wi-Fi than any other state.

Three years ago, none of California's 278 parks had Wi-Fi. Now 50 are so equipped, including state beaches at Malibu, San Clemente and Half Moon Bay.

When I was growing up and camping all over the country with my parents, there were always folks with big travel trailers that had television. We never did, although we would take advantage of electric hook ups occasionally. My gut preference now would be to not have wi-fi in parks, but on the other hand, if having the service gets more people out camping in the parks, maybe it's not such a bad thing in this wired world. Heck, we always had music playing at Gray Knob.

The Outdoor Retailer Blog has a short post and a poll you can take on the topic here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Earth Day and Beyond in Nebraska

The Fontenelle Nature Association in Nebraska has a lot going on to get kids outdoors. Here's a summary.
For years, Fontenelle Forest has operated numerous summer day camps spanning from two days to an entire week for toddlers to sixth-graders and are limited to 16 campers in an attempt to keep the student-to-teacher ratio low and provide a better experience. Although the camps can accommodate up to 600 children each summer, on average, only 400 attend.

Role Models

Check out the Times story today on Ansel Adams in Yosemite.
Today, it is not unusual to encounter professional photographers and novices alike trying to retrace his path. They wait for the perfect minute of moonrise over Half Dome or a shadow on a fallen tree in Siesta Lake. They remember his photo of a juniper tree they saw in a museum, on a coffee cup or a monthly calendar. Ansel Adams’s work, in some ways, is the best unpaid advertising a national park could get.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Moonlight Strolls

Check out this innovative idea for saving energy.

With its concept for a new approach to outdoor lighting, the group asks: What if streetlights could respond to ambient moonlight, dimming and brightening each month as the moon cycles through its phases? On clear nights when the moon is full, streetlights might even turn off completely. The scheme, which they call “lunar-resonant streetlights,” could save as much as 80–90 percent of the energy used in streetlighting while bringing back the experience of moonlight and stargazing to urban areas.
More at Civil Twilight.

News Roundup

Our house fire has left half the house without electricity, including my office, so internet access is possible only with a long extension cord.

Here's some recent news:

Endangered hunters in Florida.

“You think kids today want to get up at 4 a.m. to sit around and swat away mosquitoes and wait for something they’re not even guaranteed to catch?” he asked. “Nope, not when there’s a TV right at home.”

The Movement is covered in Iran!

Rich Louv blogs on Huffington Post.

1. Go for a family walk when the moon is full. There's a whole new set of animals, sights and sounds out there. Listen to animals calling. Owls and bats are looking for prey. Watch for things glowing, like worms and fungus on trees. And look up at the stars.

Junior Rangers
in Hawaii.

The Haleakala park announcement said eligible children can apply to be Jr. Rangers if they enter the park on Saturday before 1 p.m. The program for children takes about two hours to complete. Children who are already members and their families can enter free by displaying their Jr. Ranger badges.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nix that Nalgene

Nalgene cuts what I've always called their "Lexan" bottles.

More here on what they are made of and the threats they pose...


Natural thinking from Sunday's Washington Post.

So, you have to make time. Turn off the computer. Put down the Wii remote. Set aside the homework for a bit (it will still be there later) and head outside.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Night

Being connected to nature does not mean you can't sit back and watch a movie on Friday night. Rick at The Thought Kitchen has a fun post on ski movies you might want to watch before it gets too hot out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Here's a great photo and blog post on the celebrity Grizz, Bear #399 and her triplets, residents of Grand Teton National Park. Courtesy of National Parks Traveler.
No. 399 and her triplets became a highly visible attraction along park roadsides and developed areas during the 2006 and 2007 seasons with hundreds of visitors stopping to photograph and observe them at close range. Over her lifetime, No. 399 has become comfortable using habitat in close proximity to roads and other developments, and is now habituated to humans. Nonetheless, she and her cubs remain wild, naturally foraging bears that are potentially dangerous.

I have spent a lot of time Teton Park, and it's great to see the predators really showing their presence again. First wolves, then mountain lions, now the grizzlies. The wolverines are also there.


Had a house fire last Friday, thus my blogging is limited as we deal with it...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Get Outside--A List

Here's 15 things to do to get you and your kids outside, from Iowa.

A sample:

Plant specific trees and bushes in your backyard that can provide food and shelter for birds, as well as food for insects. The key is variety, said wildlife specialist Jim Pease. “The greater the variety, the more different kinds of insects it will attract, as well as birds,” he said.

When possible, stick with native plants, the Iowa State University Extension expert said. Avoid invasive plants such as bush honeysuckle, buckthorn and purple loosestrife. Pease suggests:


Nanking cherry


•Arrowwood viburnum




•Wild plum

•Bee balm

•Legume plants

•Purple or gray-headed coneflower

•Brown-eyed Susan

In addition, USA Today had a good article last week on Taking a Cloud Walk.

Take a Cloud Walk encourages children to experience nature firsthand -- to "take a minute to be in it." As the title suggests, the main focus of the book is cloud identification. Readers learn to distinguish and name low, middle and high-level clouds, and there are example photos to test their identification skills. Once cloud identification is covered, readers learn about the different types of precipitation -- rain, snow, sleet and hail -- that come from the clouds. The book also tackles the complex role that clouds play in climate change. Of course, since the book encourages kids to enjoy the outdoors, it also instructs them about when not to take a cloud walk with a section on severe weather safety. While experiencing nature is the focus of this book and the whole Take a Walk series, documenting these experiences in a nature journal or even one's own cloud book is encouraged and writing tips are provided.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Text for Ignorance

Take the current state of disconnect between children and nature, add apparently carefully crafted bamboozles about climate change in a high school textbook, and you have the potential for whole generation of kids who would potentially ignore what's happening with our climate.

From at the New York Times:

Talk about a civics lesson: A high school senior has raised questions about political bias in a popular textbook on U.S. government, and legal scholars and top scientists say the teen’s criticism is well founded. They say “American Government,” by conservatives James Wilson and John DiIulio, presents a skewed view of topics from global warming to separation of church and state. The publisher now says it will review the book, as will the College Board, which oversees college-level advanced-placement courses used in high schools.

Matthew started the process rolling by contacting the Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit group in Amherst, N.Y., that says its goal is to defend reason and science. (A PDF version of its critique is online.)

Here's the link. Grist also posts on the issue. You read and decide.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trip Planning

The Allagash River below Allagash Falls
Last May we took a great trip on the Upper St. John River in Maine. This year, we'll return to the same neck of the woods and do the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The Allagash is a very different trip from the St. John, as there are lakes, portages, and dams to contend with, along with a wild character and beautiful sunsets.

I paddled the Allagash years ago, and I'm excited to get back and see this place again. Over the next few weeks I'll do some posts on the trip preparation and on the place.

I'm fortunate to be heading there with some pals who I've headed to wild places with many times in the past. To really spice things up for the trip, it helps that Pete Wallace and Rollin Thurlow build wood canvas canoes in Maine, and we'll again be paddling their boats. Here's one of the boats we'll be using--the Atkinson Traveler, a 17.5 foot work of art.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Heard my first white-throated sparrow of the season today, that means spring is here.

Gardening is a great way to get kids and adults outside working with the land. I started getting serious about gardening after I read Shep Ogden's Straight-Ahead Organic: A Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Great Vegetables in a Less-Than-Perfect World, a fantastic book for the beginning organic gardener. The results were great, and are even more desirable today, in this world of vegetables imported from places thousands of miles from home, and the subsequent problems that arise because of the that. I even got to know Shep Ogden, who is a local neighbor and colleague now--one hell of a gardener.

That garden was at our last home, and our lot now allows for a smaller plot. But we'll be working on being as locovorious as possible this year, by either growing our own or buying from local providers.

To help get you started or psyched for this year's garden, check out this site to start with, as it's National Garden Month.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where Do Children Play ?

If you're around Detroit, check out this documentary on April 15 on Detroit Public TV.

The hourlong Michigan Television production, airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 15 (repeated at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 16), on WTVS/Channel 56 is a must-see for parents or anyone who cares about kids, a compelling, serious look at a normally carefree subject. Interspersing lovingly photographed footage of youngsters exploring their natural surroundings of woods and waters with opinions of experts from as far away as Great Britain (all seemingly shot outside; nice touch), Where Do the Children Play? makes a convincing case that free play in the outdoors, a function essential for normal childhood development and taken for granted by the postwar generation, has given way to video games, Facebook pages and fear of the world beyond the front gate.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Green Developments

Vanity Fair does two articles on the future of architecture, with examples from today.

First, discussing Bill McDonough's vision of a world without waste,
Cradle to Cradle, in McDonough’s words, “does not just reduce waste, it eliminates the concept of waste,” stipulating that products be manufactured in new ways that will allow them to be reduced to their essential technical or biological elements in order to be re-used. Nature’s cycles provide the model.
and second, an introduction to the new California Academy of Sciences Building in San Francisco, the greenest museum ever.
Beneath the roof, a rectangle of transparent walls would contain the museum’s traditional exhibitions: a rain forest (enclosed in a glass dome), a theater for viewing the cosmos (in a sphere that looks like it’s made of eggshell), a coral reef, a swamp, a habitat for penguins, and an exhibition on climate change and the earth’s future. Piano envisioned a profound connection between the building and the park: a facility in a pavilion that would be visually and functionally linked to its environment. He also proposed sustainable construction, which would use innovative technology to create the greenest museum ever built.

Monday, April 7, 2008

More Good Opinions

From Tennessee, check this out.
It’s a hard sell at a time when television news features endless reasons for alarm – abductions, sexual predators and freak accidents (like children falling in wells or being attacked by bears) among them. We all need to unplug, for the sake of our children.
In his book, Louv sings the praises of allowing one’s offspring to roam the neighborhood alone. Nice concept, but often impractical. We live on a busy city street, not a suburban cul-de-sac. Scheduling dates with nature seems to be the next best solution.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wanna buy a house in the desert?

Throughout our history, we've seen boomtowns rise and fall. Read from the NY Times about the contrived town of Maricopa, Ariz, which stands as an icon to our disconnect with our environment. Here's a description of the place, and remember, it's in the desert 40 miles south of Phoenix.

But if you leave Penascos and head north on 347, you soon hit a very different Maricopa, one that didn’t exist at all a few years ago: a sprawling matrix of neatly planned subdivisions lining both sides of the highway. Newly paved roads with names like West Magic Moment Drive and North Enchantment Pass wind past outsize houses with tiled roofs and stucco exteriors, painted in a limited palette of adobe shades. Artificial lakes feed underground irrigation systems that keep lawns green despite summer temperatures that regularly hit 100 degrees. There are about 14,000 brand-new homes in this new Maricopa, as well as a golf course, two strip malls with big supermarkets, a few sports bars and a couple of pool-supply shops. There are also plenty of open lots where developers have prepared land for future Maricopans.
You can guess what happens next. Sure this is a story about the sub prime crisis, but it's also about the lunacy of building huge new exurb communities in the face of an unyielding natural environment, in this case the Sonoran desert. Check out this link to see where things are at now.

Our kids deserve better, but considering the disconnect our kids show with nature today, I wonder if many will learn from this revised boom town fable.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

New Edition

The Olympian has a brief on the new edition of Last Child in the Woods.

1. Yoo-hoo, butterflies: Bring a swarm of butterflies to your yard by planting lantana, black-eyed Susans or purple cornflowers. Migrating species need flowering plants even through November.

Be sure to check out the review on digital photography in the outdoors at that link too.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

84 Inches at Chimney Pond

My friend Pete and I once took a group of folks into Chimney Pond at Mt. Katahdin in Maine for a week of winter fun at 30 below zero. It was that trip that I skied slowly across the frozen South Basin pond during a light snowfall and understood how important wild places were to our being. We also headed up to the summit in full winter conditions and did some skiing high in the south basin. Some of the folks also tackled some climbs on the Pamola Ice Cliffs near the camp. It stayed very cold that whole week, and the snow was so deep we dug down into a shelter to set up our kitchen.

That was in 1986, when we were still getting normal winters with big snowpacks.

This year may be close to those old days as they have had a great deal of snow up in northern Maine this winter. Pete just got back from a trip there and sent this great shot looking down the saddle towards the Pamola Ice cliffs and South Basin Pond beyond them. Pete reported 84 inches on the ground.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

From the West Coast

The Oregonian talks vision.

Evidence is mounting in support of getting kids back outside. Pioneering teachers are now experimenting with outdoor classrooms, where children spend part of their school week interacting directly with the environment. They may tend a garden, investigate soil, or tally wildlife. Louv reported that these children perform better across the board, from math and science to standardized testing, than do the students stuck inside. Nowhere else do we use all five senses together for learning, the way we do in outdoor exploration. Nature also serves as a balm for kids to release the confusion and stress of life, soothing them instead with the healing powers of awe and wonder.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Its a Bigger World

Why is Disney revamping the "It's a Small World Ride?

Disneyland is revamping the "It's a Small World" ride to accommodate today's fatter passengers on its boats ...