Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Hope for Animals and Their World"

This morning, I developed a pesky migraine headache and even though the weather cleared later into a lovely day, I did not feel well enough to go for a hike. By around 5PM, I did finally feel a little better, so I went to a local park and alternated running and walking 3/4 mile laps through the woods around Echo Lake. I did four laps, two running and two walking, for a total of 3 miles - basically a 5K. It was warm and a little humid, but still a very pretty late summer day. Even though the calendar and the Equinox says fall, it is still really summer here for a bit longer.

I've been reading a great book by Jane Goodall, the dedicated and passionate conservationist. It is named "Hope for Animals and Their World," and was also written in part by two other authors. It is about how endangered species are being rescued from extinction, often at the last possible moment. Each species discussed is written about in the form of a separate chapter as a case study, for a total of about 40 species. Of course, this is a small subset of all possible endangered and vulnerable species of animals and plants.

I really recommend this book. It is sobering and also inspirational to think that many species still alive today are only in existance because a small number of individuals decided that something that to be done. They organized enough financial help and political will to litterally pull species away from the brink. Just a few examples in this country are the California condor, the black footed ferret, and the whooping crane. I saw the magnificent condors soaring above the Grand Canyon in 2000, and it was simply amazing - beyond words, really. They had been extinct in the wild, and now were roaming free again.

Species affected by human kind go extinct for many reasons: over hunting, habitat destruction, introduced disease and competitor species, pollution, and climate change. But animals and plants also become extinct because of human apathy. The people discussed in this book were not apathetic - they decided that a given species would not become extinct on their watch, and they did something about it. I very much recommend this book if you are interested in our natural world, and the plight of the fellow species who inhabit it with us.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Walk Way Back in Time

Just years after the founding of the Jamestown Settlement, the English founded the Henricus Settlement further up the James River. This weekend, there was living history and exhibits there. This interesting place is adjacent to the Dutch Gap hike that I blogged about last year.
Part of the display is an American Indian village
All of the comforts of home inside an Indian lodge
Not only did you have to make all your own clothing, you had to kill and skin the deer, and tan its hide
A colonial soldier on guard duty
No electric ranges or mix-masters in those days. They were baking some kind of bread in the dutch oven, and cooking stew over the fire
Ye olde blacksmith shop
This home was about 50% larger than a typical colonist's home
Turkey in a pen
Tobacco curing in a shed. Indians' revenge? While this is the crop that made Virginia rich, today it gives us lung cancer.
Hospital building. Anyone all upset over today's health care debate should see the wonderful medical implements of the 17th century on display here - and listen to the descriptions of the advanced medical care of those days. We have it pretty good, folks!
The settlement is right on the James River.
Exact replica of the Godspeed. Settlers from England traveled 144 days on this 88 foot long ship. I cannot even imagine.
Small railing gun on the Godspeed
Colorful Colonist
View from today's short hike a little ways into Dutch Gap Conservation area. Go here for lots more photos from my hike here last year

Stalking Eagles and Panthers in the Queen City

A week ago (9/13) we were in Charlotte to catch the Philadelphia Eagles game against the Charolotte Panthers in beautiful Bank of America Stadium. Go Eagles!

While not a hike strictly speaking, we did walk many a mile in downtown Charlotte, enjoyed a great symphony concert with an amazing young pianist, Yuja Wang, playing the Beethoven "Emperor" piano concerto - if not one of the most magnificant pieces of music ever composed, certainly one of the most magnificant musical compositions by a deaf person - and had a great time at the game.

Here are some photos from the weekend.

Presbyterian Church where "Stonewall" Jackson once worshipped, near a beautiful city park.

The park had these great ceramic bird houses, several of which are shown below.

The Fourth Ward had a great walking tour with many beautiful restored homes.

A mile or so from this area was a beautiful little park called the Green. It had many scenic features, as well as a fabulous restaurant recommended by a local: Ratcliffe on the Green.

All roads lead to Charlotte

We watched little kids having a blast getting wet in this fountain

There were many signs like this with the names of famous authors made from distances to various points - very cool!

An imposing panther guards Bank of America Stadium, home of the Charlotte Panthers.

Pregame festivities included a huge American flag and a flyover by four jet fighters.

The Eagles prepare to snap the ball. The Eagles prevailed 38-10. Go "Iggles!"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Follow the Clues

I'll try something a little different this time. I will give clues, and see if you can figure out where I was yesterday.

Clue # 1: I didn't go for a hike, but was on my feet for 5.5 hours, and walked many miles - although at a much slower pace than my normal walking pace. At the end of this, my legs and feet felt as though I had done at least a half marathon.
Clue # 2: I spied this extremely endangered Cuban crocodile, but I wasn't in Cuba. Close but no cigar.
Clue #3: I watched golden lion tamarins at play for about a half hour, but I wasn't in the Atlantic Coastal forests of Brazil.
Clue #4: I saw a giant anteater and her six month old baby, but I wasn't in Central or South America.
Clue #5: I explored the rain forest and saw many facinating creatures and plants on the land and in water, but I wasn't in the Amazon watershed. In fact, I was only about 110 miles from Richmond.
Clue #6: I saw three giant pandas, but I wasn't in China.
I'm sure by now you have figured out that I was at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. I have not been at this excellent zoo in over three years, and enjoyed seeing it again. For one thing, I have never seen the beautiful Asian Trail exhibit that opened in the fall of 2006. It has amazing and roomy habitats for a number of Asian animals, all of which are endangered or vulnerable. These include giant and red pandas, Asian small claw otters, clouded leopards, fishing cats, and sloth bears.
Zoos are somewhat controversial. I have read articles very critical of them and of their conservation mission. But I think they have come a long way since the days of warehousing as many animals as possible into dank and small concrete cages. This zoo has a lot of habitats are are spacious enough and with enough natural features that many times, the animal inside is not visible. It also seems to do a lot with endangered species, including research, captive breeding, and reintroduction. It contains at least two species that are extinct in the wild - if zoos didn't exist, these species would be totally extinct. And for many people, the only wildlife that they will see - much less the exotic species from foreign lands - will be in a zoo. Maybe this will give people the sense of wonder at the tremendous and amazing diversity of nature, and an appreciation for the natural world that they would not otherwise have.
I also just enjoyed the atmosphere of Washington, my favorite city (other than the slimy and destructive politics). In particular, I loved seeing so many people out for walks and runs along the Potomac River. It is a wonderful city for this type of activity, and has so many beautiful sights and views. In a week, I have several Team in Training friends who will be participating in the Nation's Triathlon here. GO TEAM!