Outdoor Exploration: Glacier National Park (October 2014)

This weekend, I went up to Glacier NP and the surrounding area for the day to see some fall colors!

Park map

Unfortunately, the Going-to-the-Sun road was close right before Logan Pass, but we were still able to make it pretty far. My friend Kasey and I entered in West Glacier, like always, and headed up past the Triple Arches, where we had this view:

Mountains!

Mountains!

More mountains!

More mountains!

Next we headed down the Loop Trail and scrambled along some boulders across a waterfall!

Kasey wandering around along the river.

Kasey wandering around along Mineral Creek

We stopped along the road on the way back to the entrance:

Kasey along McDonald Creek.

Kasey along McDonald Creek

Trail of the Cedars

Trail of the Cedars

One last stop in the Southern part of the park: Lake McDonald. Check out my post on Instagram below!

Off the end of the dock!

Off the end of the dock!

Loading

The last best place. Lake McDonald, Glacier NP. {#nofilter#iphoneography#montana}

View on Instagram

After heading up the Inside North Fork Road (which was mostly dirt/gravel) -

Flathead National Forest on the way to Polebridge

Flathead National Forest on the way to Polebridge

-  we stopped in Polebridge – one of the smallest towns I’ve ever seen. The lending library was the size of a mailbox and the one cafe they had was shut down for the winter season.

Polebridge Merchantile - the only open store!

Polebridge Merchantile – the only open store!

After the off-road drive to Columbia Falls, we headed to Whitefish for dinner – and stopped at the lake, of course.

Stand-up-paddleboarder on Whitefish Lake.

Stand-up-paddleboarder on Whitefish Lake.

Last stop – sunset on Flathead Lake at Finley Point State Park. Because what could be better to conclude a Western Montana day?

Sunset on Flathead Lake

Sunset on Flathead Lake

*All photos are my own, except the map.

Obama Designates More Wilderness

President Barack Obama has used his pen to again expand protected lands under the 1906 Antiquities Act. Except this time, he helped protect the ocean.

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Through his presidential power, he has extended the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the central Pacific Ocean by hundreds of thousands of square miles, reports the Washington Post. This extension comes on the heels of President George W. Bush’s initial dedication in 2009. Obama technically dedicated this expansion in June, but Sept. 25 marked his designation for this area as the largest marine reserve in the world.

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

President Obama’s main reason for this conservation is to preserve deep-sea coral reefs and marine ecosystems that are extremely affected by issues relating to climate change (like ocean acidification). Another includes protection from off-shore mining. This area is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and is home to many wildlife refuges. Commercial fishing has been banned to protect the wildlife and coral.

Grey reef sharks protected by the National Monument status

Grey reef sharks protected by the National Monument status

This is not Obama’s first designation, nor will it likely be his last. He has been criticized throughout his term for legally bypassing Congress to designate these government-owned public lands. The argument by the GOP stands that Obama is making the National Parks Service spend money they don’t have.

Last year, he designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, which I was able to visit in June – and it is stunning.

Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument from my trip in June 2014

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument from my trip in June 2014

The other 12 monuments dedicated by Obama throughout his two terms include the following:

  • Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, New Mexico (March 2009)
  • Fort Monroe Nat. Mon., Virginia (Nov. 2011)
  • Fort Ord Nat. Mon., California (April 2012)
  • Chimney Rock Nat. Mon., Colorado (Sept. 2012)
  • Cesar E. Chavez Nat. Mon., California (Oct. 2012)
  • First State Nat. Mon., Delaware (March 2013)
  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers Nat. Mon., Ohio (March 2013)
  • Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Nat. Mon., Maryland (March 2013)
  • Rio Grande del Norte Nat. Mon., New Mexico (March 2013)
  • San Juan Islands Nat. Mon., Washington (March 2013)
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Nat. Mon., New Mexico (May 2014)
  • Expansion: Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument (June-Sept. 2014)

Environmental groups, conservationists and private citizens have all praised Obama for his actions over the past few years, and I have to agree with them. I grew up going to wilderness areas and still enjoy spending my vacations there, and if they aren’t protected, we will have nowhere to retreat in the future.

Coral at Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge

Coral at Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge

President Obama is not yet on the Wilderness Society’s list of “Great Conservationist Presidents,” but he is surely in the running now.

Outdoor Exploration: Canmore, Alberta (Canada)

During the Under Western Skies conference, I stayed with my cousins Erin and Jon in Canmore, about 100km along the Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary.

View of Ha Ling peak from Jon and Erin's backyard!

View of Ha Ling peak from Jon and Erin’s backyard!

When I arrived after driving through snowy Canadian National Parks (Kootenay and Banff), I was not surprised that the cloud cover was impeding their view of the mountains. However, when I went with Jon to take their dog Siku for a walk, the mountains emerged.

Siku - Jon and Erin's dog!

Siku!

It snowed for the next couple of days, dumping almost a foot of fresh powder in the area. My cousin Erin, who is a kindergarten teacher, had to have an emergency garden harvest with her students at school that day! The pictures were very funny – bundled up children walking around in snow holding harvested carrots.

We took a walk downtown and along the Bow River one night when the snowfall stopped.

Me and Erin along the Bow River in downtown Canmore - view of Rundle Peaks in the background.

Me and Erin along the Bow River in downtown Canmore – view of Rundle Peaks in the background.

On Thursday, finally, the snow stopped, and the sky was less dark, although still a little cloudy. You can see the tallest point –  Mount Rundle  – peeking out below.

Rundle Peaks - still a bit cloudy

Rundle Peaks – still a bit cloudy

Since the sun was out over the next few days, Jon and I took a hike up to Grassi Lakes in Canmore. I can’t do the scenery justice with words, so you will have to see for yourself:

Me and Siku at the top of Grassi Lakes!

Me and Siku at the top of Grassi Lakes!

Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes

Pretty perfect reflection.

Pretty perfect reflection.

So, I pretty much want to move to the Canadian Rockies someday, and Canmore convinced me of that! I’ll keep you all posted on that, I’m sure..

*All photos are my own.

Outdoor Exploration: Banff, Alberta (Canada)

On my drive to and from the Under Western Skies conference, I was able to stop in Banff.

Banff National Park Map

The first day, it had started snowing, so I couldn’t see the mountains AT ALL. Here is a photo from the Bow River from Monday September 8th, and one from the Banff National Park museum:

Bow River in Banff

Bow River in Banff

Snow!

Snow!

I visited it again on the way home, 6 days later, and was greeted by big and beautiful mountains.

Cascade Mountain from the streets of Banff

Cascade Mountain from the streets of Banff

Mount Rundle from the streets of Banff

Mount Rundle

Here are some more photos from the drive through the national park:

Banff

Castle Mountain near the border of Alberta-British Columbia

Castle Mountain near the border of Alberta-British Columbia

I wasn’t able to make it to Lake Louise, but am hoping to the next time I go up to Alberta!

My chipmunk friend!

My chipmunk friend!

**All photos (except map) are my own.

Practice What You Preach: People’s Climate March 2014

As an environment-lover, I am not perfect. None of us are. But when 300,000+ people attend the People’s Climate March in NYC, they shouldn’t do stuff like this:

Like I said, I am not perfect. Montana overall has a horrible recycling program, so I try to reuse what I can, avoid buying beverages in plastic bottles, and avoid take-out containers if at all possible, since they don’t usually biodegrade.

The march was a community of people who believe that the US government and the UN, which is set to have a climate summit in NYC, aren’t taking enough of a strong stance on climate and environmental issues, specifically climate change and renewable energy. Mashable reports what is to be expected from the meeting:

At the summit, the U.S. is expected to announce several new initiatives to help developing countries increase their resilience to climate change and reduce their emissions, as well as tout the progress made domestically in cutting emissions in recent years, according to the White House.

Don’t get me wrong: there were thousands of tweets and photos about how great this is, and I agree (see the tweets here). But this raises the age old question that most critics ask – do environmentalists practice what they preach?

My biggest problem with this photo, as you all know if you have been following my blog, is that bottled water isn’t sustainable or necessary. How many reusable bottles do we all have? How many water fountains are in public areas in NYC? How many businesses and restaurants will fill up said reusable water bottles for free?

WE HAVE TO DO BETTER.

I will get off my soapbox now. It is great that this many people all over the country are marching in protest of slow governmental action. That is what grassroots movements are for. Even the Obama administration has enacted new rules to help with US emissions, according to the Natural Resource Defense Counsel. These include changing fuel economy standards by 2025, implementing clean-air standards for fossil-fuel power plants, and phasing-out harmful industrial chemicals present in car air conditioners.

For more info, check out the Climate Action Plan and a couple of blog posts I have done about this very subject.

But the next step is actually implementing these things yourself. It is awesome that some action is being taken by the US government and others around the world. However, if you are going to take part in a grassroots movement, you have to try harder, and lead by example.

Recycle. Drink tap water. And for goodness sakes – don’t throw your trash on the ground.

Outdoor Exploration: Kootenay National Park (Canada)

On the way to and the way back from my Under Western Skies conference, I drove on highway 93, therefore passing through Kootenay National Park.

Kootenay National Park Map

Kootenay National Park Map

Luckily, I missed the snow by a couple hours on the way there, so I was able to take a few short hikes. This one was to Olive Lake: notice how clear the water is!

Olive Lake

Olive Lake

Olive Lake

Olive Lake

Next, I drove through the park taking some pictures while stopping at pull-outs along the side of the road. This park is one of the smallest surround the Banff area, around 500 square miles), the mountain views are GORGEOUS.

Overlook point in Kootenay

Overlook point in Kootenay

Overlook Point along Highway 93

Overlook Point along Highway 93

Columbia Lake Overlook

Columbia Lake Overlook

I stopped by a picnic area to take some photos of the Vermillion River – still stark blue even though it was starting to get foggy.

Vermillion River

Vermillion River

Lastly, I took a short hike to Numa Creek to see this waterfall – at this point I was near the continental divide and the British Columbia/Alberta border, so it was starting to snow. When I continued on to Banff, it was still snowing. Check out that post on Friday.

Numa Creek

Numa Creek

**All photos (except the map) are my own.

Oculus Rift and Acoustic Ecology at Under Western Skies

During the Under Western Skies conference, I attended a presentation by Dr. Garth Paine, interim director and associated professor at the School of Arts Media and Engineering at Arizona State University.

UWS logo

He works on acoustic ecology projects – using Oculus Rift technology to provide visual and auditory ecological experiences to those who can’t make it into the wilderness. This particular project is called the “Listen” project.

“The Listen project will offer creative answers to these questions by utilising innovative surround sound recording techniques, multimodal sensing and data fusion and new Internet streaming technologies that will allow individuals to undertake virtual, immersive sound walks through the remote wilderness of the Southwest deserts of the USA from anywhere in the world.”

An example of the Oculus Rift vision goggles I was using.

I tried it. Unfortunately, I could not wear my glasses while wearing the view finder, so my visual experience was hindered. However, this made the audio even better and more important. When I was wearing the Oculus Rift view finder and the headphones, I could move my head all around and experience different sounds when looking at different areas in the simulation.

For example, when I looked down where my feet should be, sound was muffled. In the grasses, I heard insects. When looking at the river, I heard the water flowing. While looking at the sky, I could hear the wind.

Paine took me through three different landscapes in Arizona throughout his demonstration. He focuses on UNESCO Biosphere Reserves:

“They differ from world heritage sites in that they encourage active community participation and are ideal locations to test and demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainability. The Man and Biosphere program was initiated by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in the 1970s as a practical tool to deal with some of the most important challenges of our time: “how can we reconcile conservation of biodiversity and biological resources with their sustainable use”.”

He and his team, including Dr. Sabine Feisst whom I also met at the conference, has also worked with the National Parks Service, creating visualizations for Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. 

With these visualizations, all you need is your computer and some headphones. Check out the Joshua Tree NP experiment here! (Since I love Joshua Tree so much):

Screenshot from the Joshua Tree visualization

Screenshot from the Joshua Tree visualization

Paine hopes that he will be able to make further connections with Google, as Google uses street view for tours of parks. However, Google does not have the audio component yet.

I’m probably not the only one who has never heard of acoustic ecology. According to Wikipedia, it is “is a discipline studying the relationship, mediated through sound, between living beings and their environment.”

Next time you want an outdoor experience form your computer, check out this project!