Thursday December 31, 2009
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 6:44PM PST on December 31, 2009
Happy New Year, Trailheads!
I don't like to make the usual kinds of resolutions for the coming year. Instead, I like to pledge to explore a new place -- cruise a national park I haven't been to, or summit a peak I've not yet set foot on.
So here goes: The Moby Dick of a mountain in my life is Mt. Conness, a 12,649-foot peak
on the border between Yosemite National Park and the Inyo National Forest. It's not a technical climb (unless you want it to be), but I've just never gotten it together to make the attempt, even though I'm in the Yosemite high country almost every summer. Might need someone along who knows what he/she is doing in order to make it happen. I pledge to make it work in 2010.
So how about you? Is there a new place you want to see, a trail you want to hike, a dirt road you yearn to hit with your mountain bike, a ski descent that's got you drooling? Share it here! I'd love to know what y'all are thinking about for 2010.
Happy New Year, everyone! Let's keep having fun here on Trails in 2010!
Posted by: Philip Eager at 10:30PM PST on December 30, 2009
Long-Tailed Ducks, male on the left and female on the right. Photo by Phil Eager.
Well, the Ivory Gull that I wrote about a few weeks ago disappeared from Cape May before we arrived back east for the holidays, and the weather hasn’t been too hospitable for too much birding (with wind chills in the teens yesterday and the threat of another winter storm for New Year’s Eve). That’s not to say that there isn’t still interesting and fun birding to be done at the beach in the middle of winter.
This morning, I took a walk along the beach at dawn; it was still cold (below 20) but the winds had died down from yesterday, and it was a peaceful winter morning on a deserted beach. Early mornings at the beach are always my favorite time to be there, regardless of the time of year. It’s always calmer and quieter then, with plenty of time to be alone with your thoughts and just enjoying the beginning of a new day.
Tuesday December 29, 2009
Posted by: WawonaJamie at 11:28AM PST on December 29, 2009
Wawona post boxes. Photo by Jon Jay.
On nice days we often walk to the post office. We leave our house, go past the bear-proof dumpster, through the forest, over a bridge and down Spelt Road (obviously named by natural food fanatics). There we pass the Indian matate sites, get on the trail that runs behind the library and up to the school, cross the road and finish up on the hilly horse trail that takes us directly to Pioneer Village.
At Pioneer Village we walk past the horse stables and a collection of log cabins built in the 1800s, through a covered bridge erected in 1857 and make our way to the parking lot of the Wawona General Store.
To the right of the general store is a stamp-size post office so old there are still bars on the window – the old-fashioned kind like you see in banks in Westerns – where you ask for your mail. That is if you don’t have a post box.
Posted by: Kelly Rae at 1:13PM PST on December 25, 2009
Photo credit: NASA/ESA
A common query raised at Christmastime is whether there was an actual astronomical event that occurred at the time of Jesus’s birth that explains the Star of Bethlehem, which is chronicled in the Book of Matthew:
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”It is possible to evaluate the objects that could have been responsible for this reporting by looking at historical astronomical reports and using planetarium software that allows us to look at what was in the sky around this time.
Wednesday December 23, 2009
Posted by: WawonaJamie at 6:03PM PST on December 23, 2009
The writer's daughter and her friend know exactly what to do
when it dumps snow in Yosemite.
Remember the old warning, “If you don’t behave, Santa’s going to leave a snowball in your stocking?” Turns out at our house that threat rings hollow. There’s nothing our daughter would rather get than snow.
Raised in Los Angeles and too young to remember her first and only encounter with the white stuff, she was positively aching to experience it. In October, when the first few flurries showed up, she ran outside, crazy with excitement. But by the time she’d stuck her tongue out to catch the flakes, they had melted in the warming air.
So desperate was she that a November hailstorm sent her flying out onto the deck, where she built teeny little hailmen complete with stone eyes and noses. But then the weather turned unseasonably warm. Most of November was in the 70s.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 9:35AM PST on December 21, 2009
Sebastian Copeland was just 80 nautical miles from the North Pole when he stopped to snap a self-portrait
. He was in the middle of a 35-day, 700-kilometer walk across the Arctic “to commemorate the centennial of Admiral Peary
's reach in 1909.” And what was it like up in the far reaches of the earth? “Cold up there!” he says.
is the grand-prize winner of December’s monthly photo contest. Our judges praised his photo for “great lighting, texture, and mystery” and for the “unusual amount of detail in a portrait.” And of course, because it made them feel cold!
Posted by: Kelly Rae at 2:34PM PST on December 18, 2009
Image of Mercury by Mariner 10 and Image of Neptune by Voyager 2. Neptune is ten
times larger than Mercury but it is approximately 35 times farther away from Earth
than Mercury is.
The closest and farthest planets from the Sun will be relatively easy finds for a few brief days in December. Mercury is the easier of the two because it can be seen without any optical aid, while finding Neptune will require binoculars or a telescope. (Since Pluto’s demotion in 2006, Neptune is currently considered the most distant planet in the solar system.)
The difficulty in spotting Mercury is that it is usually located close to the Sun from our perspective. It is only when the “fleet-footed planet” is at its greatest separation from the Sun before sunrise or after sunset that it becomes easy to see.
Thursday December 17, 2009
Posted by: Debbie Chong at 11:43AM PST on December 17, 2009
Check out the video "Black Hiker" by Blair Underwood.
I watched this video three times and caught something new each time. I
found it funny because of the exaggerations, but a lot of it is based
on a sad reality.
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 9:33PM PST on December 16, 2009
If you've got any fellow birdwatchers on your holiday gift list, the obvious choices are things like tools of the trade, like binoculars and bird feeders.
But how about a book? There are some great suggestions in this discussion in our Forums about birdwatching books. Birdwatching Phil weighed in, along with some other folks with helpful ideas.
My personal favorite is...well, you can read about it in the Forums!
Tuesday December 15, 2009
Posted by: WawonaJamie at 11:00AM PST on December 15, 2009
Photo by Jon Jay.
When I crawl into bed at night I hear absolutely nothing, or leastways, nothing human. Around my house the air hangs as quiet and still as freshly fallen snow. There’s no freeway roar. No garbled noise from a neighbor’s TV. No radios. No car engines. Not even conversations. At night, Yosemite is absolutely quiet. For someone like me, who craves silence the way some people crave chocolate, this feels like the ultimate indulgence.
Having a husband who loves the sounds of a city – for him it’s a kind of human lullaby – I understand that there are people who don’t love silence the way I do. They love the hustle and bustle. The comings and goings. The sense that life is going on around them at a furious pace. I thought I was one of those people. And, truth be told, for years I was. But during my final two years in Los Angeles, I would wake up every night to the roar of the freeway (which was more than two miles from our home) and know I had to leave the city. The noise was driving me away.... (more)
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 1:54PM PST on December 11, 2009
I like to give gifts that reflect my personality as well as the personality of the recipient. Now, I know that's not always possible. (It fact, it can be disastrous, even with some of my own family members!) But as someone who loves wilderness and the creatures that inhabit it, I've found something that works well with most people I know.
I give them a wildlife refuge. Or a national park. Or a monument.
I do it through the Sierra Club's Wild Places campaign. You can, too, and Trails fans who do it before midnight on Sunday, December 13 will get a 15% discount (see secret code below), AND free shipping, AND a guarantee that your gift will arrive in time for Christmas.
Here's how it works: You choose the place you want to sponsor, whether it's the Great Smoky Mountains, Adirondack Park, the Arctic National Wildlife refuge -- there are ten places from which to choose. Then select your sponsorship level (they start at $20). All gifts come with a special personalized letter, certificate of sponsorship, photo and fact sheet of the wild place, and a plush wildlife animal or rucksack. To get a 15% discount, enter the code TRAILS (must be all capital letters) at checkout.
Your symbolic sponsorship supports all of the Sierra Club's efforts to protect America's wild lands and wildlife, keep our air and water clean, and solve global warming.
Just thought I'd pass that along. Give it a look-see. And if it saves you some shopping time, then you go play outside!
Posted by: Kelly Rae at 9:52AM PST on December 11, 2009
The Geminid meteor shower emanates from the constellation Gemini.
Credit: Kelly Whitt/Celestron’s The Sky
The Geminid meteor shower is one of the strongest showers of the year. It wasn’t always this way. When the meteor shower was first discovered, around the Civil War, it was a quiet display. Over the years the shower has become more active as Earth heads deeper into the path of the debris field, which has slowly been drifting farther into our orbit.
The bits of dust that trigger the Geminids come from an object known as 3200 Phaethon. While some sources suggest that 3200 Phaethon is an extinct comet, others have claimed that it is an asteroid. This would make the Geminid meteor shower the first to have an asteroid as its source.... (more)
Thursday December 10, 2009
Posted by: Matt Kirby at 11:35AM PST on December 10, 2009
Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar delivered a powerful keynote address at the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Copenhagen. That speech, entitled "New Energy Future: The Role of Public Lands in Clean Energy Production and Carbon Capture," gave a clear message to the world just how much the Obama Administration has already accomplished moving us toward a cleaner energy economy and how we're going to finish getting there. The Secretary made clear that our abundant lands are going to play a crucial role in that transition, both in terms of responsible renewable energy development as well as acting to naturally sequester carbon.
The speech was eloquent and meditative and deserves to be read in its entirety which can be viewed here. Some representative highlights are excerpted below:
Posted by: John Gould at 9:49AM PST on December 10, 2009
Photo courtesy John Gould.
Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
…I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,
And for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again,….
-- Denise Levertov, “The Secret.” Reprinted in A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, MD; Fari Amini, MD; and Richard Lannon, MD
So begins an ambitious book, already almost a decade old, by clinical psychiatrists pushing the borders of new brain science into areas once fiercely reserved for poets and philosophers.
Finding books like this lying around the house is one of the perks of living with a poet/psychology grad student. And, while I was skeptical of science attempting to find logic in a mystery (love) that seems necessarily beyond logic’s reach, the book yielded some interesting insights into the creative process, into poetry as a form of translation from one brain to another.
Bear with my over simplification. Accept the theory that the human brain is (has evolved into) a “triune” brain—and that’s an interesting and highly substantiated theory. The “reptilian brain” (the one brain reptiles have) is responsible for vital controls (mostly subconscious) like breathing, swallowing, heartbeat, and the startle reflex.... (more)
Wednesday December 9, 2009
Posted by: Philip Eager at 3:12PM PST on December 9, 2009
During our Thanksgiving birding weekend with friends to Humboldt and Del Norte counties in northwest California, we saw a bunch of cool birds and some rare ones, the most unlikely one being a Crested Caracara, a large raptor of the Southwest which has an odd pattern of vagrancy along the California coast. However, in addition to searching out rarities, we were also paying more attention than usual to the common local birds we encountered during our trip.
Why, you might wonder, did we care whether we saw yet another Western Gull or Surf Scoter or American Robin when they’re all easily seen in San Francisco? The simple answer is that we’d never birded in that area before, so these were automatically new birds for our “county lists” for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 4:20PM PST on December 8, 2009
View from the top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite. Photo courtesy Jamie Simons
Last May, while hiking in Yosemite National Park, Jamie Simons and her family stumbled across the public school on the Valley floor. As her daughter made a beeline for the slide, Jamie turned to her husband and said, "I want to live here." Easier said than done if you don't work for the park. But Jamie is persistent and so today she and her family have made the move to live for one year in Wawona, where her daughter attends the one-room schoolhouse. While Jamie writes, her husband longs for noise, fast food, people, and the sights and sounds of the city.
This is Jamie's first weekly post. Please welcome her to Trails!
-- Tioga Jenny
Into the Park
I’m standing on top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park. Below me thunder the waters of Yosemite and Nevada Falls. Directly to my right is Half Dome, to my left, El Capitan and the Three Brothers. My head feels light, whether from the altitude or the view, I can’t say. I only know that I feel like the luckiest person alive. For this year, at least, Yosemite is my home.
Posted by: Matt Kirby at 11:19AM PST on December 4, 2009
On Wednesday, December 2, the Sierra Club partnered with a coalition of other environmental organizations to honor members of Congress who have championed efforts to protect our national forests' roadless areas. In 2001, President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which added protections to our country's remaining 58.5 million acres of roadless forests. These ecologically rich areas serve as vital wildlife habitat, provide clean water, store large amounts of carbon, and offer exemplary recreational opportunities.
Photography copyrighted: John Hyde, Wild Things Photography
Despite President Bush's efforts to undermine the Roadless Rule, the majority of our country's remaining roadless forests remain protected, and thankfully President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have made commitments to upholding and defending this landmark conservation policy. Congressional leaders have been instrumental in the success of protecting our roadless forests and Wednesday gave us the opportunity to honor them for their efforts to build support for legislation that would more permanently protect these precious areas. Receiving awards in person were Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).
Although the majority of our country's roadless areas are currently protected, areas remain that are still at risk. Idaho and Colorado submitted state-specific plans that greatly reduce the level of protections that their roadless areas receive, and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska is not protected under the national rule thanks to a temporary exemption that the Bush administration made in 2003. As a result, there is still the need to weigh in with the Obama administration.
Take action and encourage them to uphold and defend the 2001 Roadless Rule to ensure protections of all our roadless forests, including the Tongass.
This article originally published the Lay of the Land blog.
Posted by: Kelly Rae at 10:17AM PST on December 4, 2009
Natural Bridges National Monument and Night Sky image, used with permission, by Wally Pacholka/Astropics.
In a quiet patch of southeastern Utah is an area set aside for its naturally beautiful landscape and exquisitely dark skies. Natural Bridges National Monument was originally established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect its water-carved sandstone bridges that are up to 5,000 years old. In 2007, Natural Bridges became the world’s first International Dark Sky Park.
Light-polluted urban areas wash out all but the brightest stars, whereas a visitor to Natural Bridges National Monument can see up to 15,000 stars over the course of a night. Viewing the night sky at Natural Bridges is like seeing it the way humans would have seen it when the sandstone bridges were first carved. The sky and stars take on the dominance that they had every night which caused people to weave tales about what they were and what their patterns meant.... (more)
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 9:05PM PST on December 3, 2009
Photo courtesy John Gould.
In the fringe month I
hear the new wasps hitting the glass
they have come from
the white hem of a dead island sea
a break-through under
the sun, an advancing tendril
killing its host in
its reach into that
—“Species” from Tracer,
“Greenfield traces the cracks and fissures of ordinary
life,” says Susan Howe in the back copy for this new collection from Omnidawn
It takes confidence and skill to navigate that rupture
without falling in. Someone with fresh chops, and an ear for the music behind
the performance. You can tell, right away, when someone has what it takes.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 7:04AM PST on December 1, 2009
Photo: One of November's Finalists, "The Guardian" Alexa Walker
As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, our relationship with the land changes. We bundle up, our hikes get shorter, and the landscape takes on new meaning. Things are more challenging at times. A hike that used to take an hour now takes twice as long as we make our way through fresh snow. But the challenge is welcome and the experience often magical.
This month -- as the seasons change and we start thinking about winter -- we’re looking for images that fit the theme "Cold" in our Trails photo contest. Once again, we’ve kept the theme open so that you can use your creativity when selecting your submission. Remember, though, that this is a nature photo contest. We want to see photos taken on the trail, on the river or lake, and all the other places you experience the natural world.
This month's prize is a cool package of eco-friendly backpacking and camping gear.