Category Archives: Hiking

Monarch Migration

Monarchs Every Fall season, millions of Monarch butterflies migrate south from Canada to winter in warmer climes. The Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to southern California, while those east of the Rockies return to Mexico. The two populations are separate and distinct to their regions, never mixing unless by the hand of man. The Monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south, and when they gather together it is an impressive display.

I was hiking around on the southern end of Folly Beach – near Charleston, South Carolina – when I happened upon a large gathering of Monarchs. This alone was beautiful, but something else rather interesting caught my eye. Several of them featured a small round disc on the lower portion of the wing. Turns out it is a polypropylene tag that the University of Kansas uses to monitor the migration patterns of Monarchs.

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A quick web search, and I discovered a wealth of information about these fascinating little creatures on MonarchWatch.org. They also have a blog, and according to a recent post, this year will be the smallest migration since 2004 due to excessive drought.

Images courtesy of MonarchWatch.org.

Monarch_Migration Monarch_Tagging

I still remember as a child collecting caterpillars, poking holes in the metal cap of a glass jar, and impatiently waiting until the day when a beautiful butterfly would emerge from its papery pupa. The transformation was nothing short of amazing. As an adult, I am equally impressed by this fragile creature’s ability to annually navigate what has become increasingly challenging obstacles, all on paper-thin wings.

Nevada: Viva Las Wilderness

There are so many beautiful and wild areas in the state of Nevada, and yet many Americans are not aware. Fortunately, there are people who are passionate about protecting these unique areas, despite significant challenges in the form of development, water rights, and numerous other interests.

Here’s a great video from the folks at Nevada Wilderness Project (NWP). A few memorable quotes from the video:

“Wilderness is a place for relaxation and sanity…a place where I have always gone to get my bearings.”

“I love politics, and I love sleeping in the dirt.”

“As Americans we have the right to petition our government for change.”

“When it is about protecting your backyard wilderness, and protecting what’s best about America, we feel like that is one of the finest kinds of patriotism around.”

May the force be with you, NWP!

Air Stream Ranch: Freedom of Expression is Not Free

Air_Stream_Ranch

Alongside the eastbound lanes of Interstate 4 in Dover, Florida, an individual by the name of Frank Bates buried eight Airstream travel trailers nose-down. It is not far from Tampa, and I often pass it on the way to Orlando and beyond. I finally decided to pull over and take a picture of this creation because it might not be there for much longer. Hillsborough County code inspectors and several of Gates’ neighbors want it gone.

When it comes to ART, our tastes, perspectives, and emotions vary; or, as some of us like to say, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” There are certain elements of design, whether contrived by humans or nature, that we can all generally agree on as beautiful. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I am sure you have been in an individual’s home and wondered if the aesthetic gene went missing in them. Of course, as long as their taste, or misplaced taste, is confined to their personal space then no harm no foul. But when it enters public domain then we have some issues.

Even though I side with Hillsbourough County in this case, I truly appreciate the vision and motivation that manifested in Gates to the point where he took a nondescript and unused area of his personal property and created public amusement. There are so many people that fall prey to laziness or ineptness that they never pursue freedom of expression. Even though “freedom of expression” is a contradiction.

The problem is – there is no true freedom of expression in public domain unless permission to express is first obtained. Otherwise, you suffer the consequences, however small or large they may be. Gates may have gotten his way if he had pursued appropriate actions and received approval. He thought since it was on his land that he could do whatever he so chose. But just like when you don’t pay your property taxes, you quickly find out how far the boundaries, or limitations, of personal property extend.

Gates was bold and creative. He demonstrated good form but bad execution; or is it the opposite? I side with the law because people would otherwise express themselves in distasteful ways far beyond what looks like art. No matter the intentions, I think so many of us enjoy people like Gates who give the system a little test every now and again. By sheer presentation, those Airstreams seem to be giving the law a little bit of the old fuck you. Obviously, they got the message.

Brooker Creek Preserve

Feather Based on a tip from Tampa I Am, I decided to take a little stroll out at Brooker Creek Preserve this past Saturday. It sounded nice enough, and with its close proximity to downtown Tampa there was hardly any cause to consider it a huge commitment (even if it meant sacrificing precious weekend hours). Just throw the word, “preserve” into the same sentence with outdoors and hiking, and I am apt to be sold. Plus, how can one not be grateful for a morsel of land in the Tampa Bay area devoid of condos and mini porches with a compromised view?

Upon pulling into the parking lot, it seemed to be a nice enough place. I could hear some trigger-happy people popping off shots from their pistols somewhere in the distance, but aside from that there was relative calm. The boardwalk, albeit short, is quite nice, and the education center and corresponding facilities are obviously well-funded. The displays along parts of the trail are creatively composed and informative, but then they, well, just end.

Beyond that is the 4-mile wilderness trail, which I did in full, and while it held my observance I doubt I would ever do it again. Don’t get me wrong, there is subtle beauty in the pines and palms, but the trail was a road, and the pines had obviously been harvested not that long ago.

As further encroachment ensues land management becomes even more important and challenging. That is why I really am appreciative for places like this and would fork over additional tax dollars to protect more of the same. The diversity of wildlife, and the knowledge that one day those pines will be old growth is heartwarming. But it felt a little like being thankful for dissatisfaction. I wanted more!

I did have the chance to spy a pygmy rattler; although, I was not quick enough to capture a picture. I also picked up this turkey feather (see picture), and spotted a small buck cruising through the trees. In each case, I am glad they have room to roam.

Cypress Knees Julia Forest

Cashiers, North Carolina

It has been an awfully long time between posts, but the slings and arrows of work and life have had my typing fingers focused on other items. However, these same hands did manage to steer me in the direction of Cashiers, North Carolina this past weekend for a long overdue visit to a very special place I first came to know as a small child.

Despite the fact that the southeast is experiencing a drought of which I have not seen in my lifetime, the fall colors were still quite beautiful, and it was invigorating to get out on the trail and do some exploring.

I took a walk down memory lane by choosing to do the Chimney Top Trail that starts right out of High Hampton. I used to do this trail quite frequently with my parents, so it was nice to reflect upon those simpler times.

Instead of the pungent smell of sagebrush that I grew accustomed to living out west for almost ten years, my nose was greeted with the deep organic smell that is indicative of the Appalachian Mountains. It is said that the Appalachian Mountains are the oldest in the world, so needless to say they have had adequate enough time to develop their fine vintage aroma.

The trail is a mere 1.6 miles with a little scrambling across some granite faces at the top. The views are subtle and beautiful, and the whole jaunt makes for a relaxing day. Best of all, if you are in the area during peak fall season you’ll find that this path is far less traveled by.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great_Basin_2 I always wanted to visit Great Basin National Park, but distance, time, and alternate plans had a tendency of getting in the way. My recent departure from Reno-Tahoe, however, finally afforded me the opportunity to pay this substantial piece of Nevada a visit.

You always hear the term “Great Basin” used to describe the state of Nevada. I thought I more or less understood what it meant, but it turns out I didn’t. When I heard the term my mind would immediately flash to wide open places and large expanses of land; but I never really included water into that equation. I know it seems obvious considering the use of the word “basin,” but because much of Nevada is seemingly dry to the naked eye, I didn’t think about it 3-dimensionally.

Great_Basin_Diagram What is really occurring is the flow, and sometimes trickle, of water both over ground and underground to a central and internal source. What is unusual about the Great Basin is that it has no external outlet. In other words, it does not lead to the sea. Instead, water eventually evaporates, giving itself up to the atmosphere, returning again to the earth at some later date.

I always knew this was the case with the Truckee River, as it carried water from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, but I just never thought of it in larger terms. I did not know that it incorporated the entire state of Nevada, as well as parts of Utah, California, and Oregon. It is huge!

There_Is_No_More_Water I of course learned all of this at Great Basin National Park. I also developed a larger appreciation of what the ramifications of Las Vegas growth means to Nevada’s most precious resource. As the city reaches further and further out into the Great Basin, they are slowly but surely depleting a confined water system. It may be large, but it is not infinite, and it is connected to many different environments and communities that depend on it.

Great Basin National Park is a popular stop off for those who are interested in exploring Lehman Caves and climbing Wheeler Peak. I actually did neither. But I did go hiking, and I found this most incredible tree. I’ve seen my fair share of trees, including the Giant Sequoias, some of the oldest Bristlecones, and the large Live Oaks of the south, but I have never come across such a peculiar configuration of rooted wood in my life. We spent some time together.

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Marlette Lake

Marlette Lake is situated above the East Shore of Lake Tahoe between Spooner Summit and Sand Harbor.

What is most notable about Marlette is the fact that it has been a source for trout fishing since 1887 when it was first stocked with Cutthroat Trout.

Today, it is still used as a source for Rainbow Trout eggs, which are gathered during spawning season in tiered gates that run into the south end of the Lake. They are then transplanted in both Lake Tahoe and Walker Lake.

Fishing is allowed on the Marlette Lake, but you must use barbless hooks. If you get lucky, it is catch and release.

Marlette is also a popular area for mountain biking and hiking, and you will often see people circling the Lake to access the Flume or Rim Trail. Keep in mind that biking is only allowed on even days, so if you are planning a hike you might want to do it on an odd day. 

Regardless, it is beautiful, especially in the fall when the aspen leaves turn a vibrant gold and yellow. 

Megee Creek

Megee Creek is a beautiful high Sierra hike located 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, CA.

My wife and I chose this particular hike for our Labor Day Weekend retreat because of our previous year visit. We had been very impressed by the diverse geology, incredible profusion of wildflowers, and impressive high alpine views. However, we only made it 3 miles in before we had to turnaround.

This year we had 3 days, backpacks, and no one else to dissuade us from making it all the way to Big Megee Lake, which is situated at 10,500 feet, and 7 miles up a fairly grueling climb.

We followed the twists and turns of Megee Creek up and up, and it was not long before we became oblivious to the heavy loads we carried on our backs because of the beautful views. We eventually made it to Big Megee Lake and setup camp alongside its shores.

The next day we slept in, waiting for some high Sierra howling winds to subside, and eventually got out of the tent, fixed breakfast, and prepared for a day hike over Megee Pass.

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