Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Gold coast

7 June 2011

Epic photo, via Patagonia. Kinda reminds me of one of those mystical black velvet paintings that often feature unicorns and mushrooms.  Maybe this is a classed-up, cool version.  I never had a thing for unicorns or mushrooms, but I definitely want to make this trip.

Original, really nicely done caption, and credit: Pioneers headed west in search of gold. Kyle Thiermann strikes it rich with a sunset session. California. COREY WILSON


Everyone lives on a waterfront

2 June 2011

Stephanie Pearson’s interview with Alexandra Cousteau, on The Outside Blog, here

Alexandra’s grandfather is Jacques of course, the legendary explorer whose 1956 film “The Silent World” is arguably the most influential underwater documentary ever made.  She founded the non-profit Blue Legacy in 2008 and was named a National Geographic “Emerging Explorer” the same year.  Very cool.  The fact that she is carrying on her family’s legacy is not as shocking to me as the fact that she is based in D.C. of all places! It is non-profit mecca, but the Potomac isn’t exactly an inspiring water body. (hmm, I may still be too over-elated to be out of the beltway to look at this clearly.)

(image source: google images)

Spring trip

22 April 2011

Billy Baroo

5 October 2009

Tucked away on MacArthur Blvd in Potomac, MD is the super enjoyable Billy Goat Trail. It’s a much-loved potent little hike—short but physically fun and visually rewarding.  I had been once last foliage-splendored fall, and this past weekend, with the leaves on their last breath of summer verdure, was just as marvelous.  Only a few minutes out of town, but surrounded once again by non-city trees and non-city birds, I was revived. The sun at its apex in a fiercely blue sky diamond’d the river, luring us as we climbed the ramparts for the best views from the top.  What fun it is to spring from boulder to boulder, and oh the agony of misjudging! Wildlife sightings included a Great Blue Heron roosting atop a green-leafy tree and a fat water snake, who surfed his way down a cascading lock to pop up camouflaged by froth downstream and then slither into a crack in the lock wall, causing a scampering of skittish amphibians along the way. 

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Next up…Old Rag…Happy Hiking, Courtney.

All the small things

12 September 2009
South African November rains spurred the emergence of millions of tiny velvet mites

South African November rains spurred the emergence of millions of tiny velvet mites

You must turn over a painted turtle to see the underside of the scutes for which this species is named.

You must turn over a painted turtle to see the underside of the scutes for which this species is named.

Northern California, a gooey little red-bellied newt

Northern California, a gooey little red-bellied newt

The hallowed and heralded and trophied Big Five: the rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant. Importantly ecologically as top predators or bulk grazers, these megafauna are for centuries what have pulled tourists to Africa—historically to hunt with guns and today with Nikons.  The original magic was that these were the animals that were difficult to track and get a clean shot; these were the beasts that motivated days and weeks of tent life and trailblazing, and a sighting was the ultimate, adrenaline reward to an arduous adventure. Nowadays, the fitness demanded to view the Big Five is demonstrably less, but can still be shockingly difficult and it does carry with it a similar rush of biochemicals and fun.  The Big Five are what people want to see, but not seeing them is a usual outcome and so people are disappointed and their guides don’t get the Big Tips.

Thus was created the Little Five: the rhinoceros beetle, the antlion, the red-billed buffalo weaver, the leopard tortoise, and the elephant shrew. When a guide hasn’t found you a lion on a morning game drive, and guests’ necks are aching from twitching at birds, she can stop the vehicle in a nice patch of sand, easily locate an indicative stadium-trap, and fish for an antlion by pushing with a twig a few crystals of sand into the pit.  She can tell you how this mimics an ant who has fallen down the slope to be caught by the open pincers of the patient antlion, so he’ll emerge to prey. And perhaps that afternoon the breeding herd of ellies have crossed into Zimbabwe and so instead a guide will detour to the massive baobab to show the centuries-old red-billed buffalo weaver colony, a restless cacophony as well as a seemingly impossible feat of architecture and endurance.  The Little Five were thought up as a way to fill empty spaces on game drives, yes, but they are also as a way to intrigue guests in microfauna, and the miniature worlds that make Africa such a buzzing, dizzying, vivacious continent.

I love the little things. The point is something along the lines of smelling the roses—because little things take more time to appreciate. Most of us are so used to observing the world at landscape-scale that it requires some time to adjust brains and eyeballs just to create the capacity to notice the little things.  It takes a bit of homework, because little things are often not as readily accessible. This new outlook breeds curiosity and extends to an intrigue in the little intangible things in life—a greater understanding of the complexity of human behavior, for example.  Perhaps somehow we can translate the idea that elephant dung is not a mere dismissal but in fact an entirely dynamic little ecosystem to the notion that there might be a deeper and very meaningful level to something we might have similarly dismissed.

There is simply nothing as majestic as the heavy-tusked African elephant, but her little rival the elephant shrew is perhaps, out of the ten animals I have mentioned, the most difficult to find. I still haven’t seen one. It will be an awesome prize when I do.

Caught in the act outside Jo'berg
Caught in the act outside Jo’berg

Ithaca the gorgeous

21 August 2009
A coo at Kingbird Farm

A coo at Kingbird Farm

I’m in Ithaca for the week. Hard to call it work, but technically that’s the reason. For this project, we are interviewing local farmers, agriculture practitioners, and Cornell researchers, ultimately to result in a 12 minute film depicting the local food movement in the Finger Lakes area.  From its humble beginnings several decades ago to the innovations of today and the lofty visions of tomorrow, we will tell this story, and highlight the unique connections and relationships that form the foundation of the movement and differentiate it so drastically from the agribusiness model. Very soon, both the case study I’ve written and the film we’re working on as a team will be available on the AgricultureBridge website, and, I think, worth checking out. One of the most profound and unique ways we can connect to the earth and sun is to reconnect with our food and who is growing it. It is not only the barrage of E.coli scares that has fueled a countermovement that aims to reestablish transparency on the supply chain, but a larger desire to diminish the temporal and geographical distance between the farm and the table. Direct connections are life-enriching—go to your farmers’ market, and have a conversation with a vendor about her sweet corn or his homemade blueberry pie or whatever looks particularly beautiful that day, and see if it’s not true!


21 August 2009
my spot

my spot

One of my favorite places on the planet, this haven in northern California is owned and operated by my college roommates‘ parents, who, having traveled to over 300 countries, know just a thing or two about life and how to make it most pleasant. Originally used by the Pomo indians for healing and relaxation, the naturally carbonated water is a time-tested magical elixir. Springing from the very core of the earth, it is ninety degrees Fahrenheit, and can be imbibed directly from the source. In fact, a very cool picture in the lobby shows a dapper Mark Twain doing just that. (The resort has a storied history, drawing frequent visits from luminaries such as Jack London and Wavy Gravy.)  Bathing in water as effervescent as champagne softens both skin and outlook, and the impeccably clean accommodations and massive bunches of fresh flowers nearly everywhere ease the daily transitions. The park-like resort grounds are set in 700 acres of montane wilderness,and hiking trails lead to special natural treasures including a verdant waterfall grotto. I have a favorite spot, a fallen tree that suspends above a creek, where I sit for hours, taking pictures and thinking–no paths lead here, go find your own!

I cherish every season at Vichy–summer for its intense dry heat; fall for the coppers and golds of the vineyards surrounding; winter for the solitude and hot stone massages; spring for the hills of velvet green.