Wish we were there: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

November 6, 2012

You got the Tweet?

Miter Basin, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California; photo by Kristin Glover, NPS (public domain)

Miter Basin, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California; photo by Kristin Glover, NPS (public domain)

Photo from NPS employee Kristin Glover, at Miter Basin.

We should go see for ourselves, no?

If you go today, vote before you go.  This is one of the areas to be opened to energy exploration — oil and gas drilling or other mining — under Mitt Romney’s “energy plan” and the GOP National Platform.

More:


What does Superstorm Sandy tell us about how to vote? Is disaster aid “immoral?”

October 29, 2012

Is it immoral for the federal government to coordinate disaster responses, and to provide aid for disasters, especially during and after superstorms like Sandy?

SUOMI view of Hurricane Sandy, early October 29, 2012 - NASA image

Caption from NASA: This night-view image of Hurricane Sandy was acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite around 2:42 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:42 Universal Time) on October 28, 2012. In this case, the cloud tops were lit by the nearly full Moon (full occurs on October 29). Some city lights in Florida and Georgia are also visible amid the clouds.
CREDIT: NASA/Suomi NPP – VIIRS/Michael Carlowicz

I was troubled when GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called for cuts to disaster forecasting and especially our volcano monitoring systems, in 2009. I’ve been troubled by slams at NASA and NOAA with calls to cut budgets for orbiting satellites used to forecast storms and floods and other disasters, from the GOP.

And, with Sandy bearing down on the U.S. Northeast, Middle Atlantic and New England states (where older son Kenny lives in building that is, we hope, about 20 feet above sea level), I’ve been troubled by memories of calls for cuts to FEMA in the Republican presidential primaries.

Correspondent James Kessler tracked down a transcript from a campaign event in June, a presidential candidate cavalcade broadcast by CNN, with John King as moderator/anchor.  Look at this exchange:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Can you imagine how different the world would be today had Americans shared that view in 1936, or 1940, or 1942?  Immoral to do what is necessary to preserve the future, because we have to borrow to do some of it?

Has Romney changed his position in the last 24 hours?  I predict he will change it very soon, if he hasn’t already flip-flopped on it.  Of course, he may double down on crazy, and stand pat.   What do you think a rational patriot would do in this case?  [At about 1:00 p.m. Central Time, I heard an NPR radio news report — Romney urges private contributions to the Red Cross.  Meanwhile, President Obama has been working all morning to make sure the disaster response from the federal government is coordinated with affected states.] [Ha! But within hours, Romney has taken the almost-opposite position again.  World land speed record for flips on an issue?]

I erred, perhaps.  I had thought Mitt Romney the most capable and sober of the GOP candidates for president, and I urged by GOP friends to support Romney if they had no chance of completely recovering their senses by November.  Now I realize that, on the GOP side, “most capable” should be “most nearly capable,” and still means “incapable.”  And “sober” means nothing at all.  Perhaps worse, he’s still the best of the GOP lot this year.  Even worse, he has a chance to win.

Can we blame Romney?  Yes, we can blame people who reject science and don’t think of consequences past election day.  Yesterday Greg Laden offered a long post on what we should have learned from the “Storm of 1938″ and the remnants of Hurricane Irene that slammed the Northeast in 2011, “What you need to know about Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy”:

Here’s the thing. Imagine that a storm like Sandy came along in either of two years; 70 years ago or 35 years ago. Sandy is much larger and contains much more energy than the ’38 storm, or for that matter, of any known storm of the North Atlantic (we’ll get to that below). If Sandy hit the region in the 1930s, it would have been without warning, and it would have been prior to the reconstruction of seawalls and the development of flood mitigation measures inland that have happened in recent decades. Sandy, in ’38, would kill tens of thousands and destroy thousands of structures. That would be an average Sandy, a Sandy not being as bad as the most dire predictions we are considering today as the storm begins to take a grip on the eastern seaboard.

A Sandy of 35 years ago would have been predicted. The ability to see hurricanes coming was in place, but not as well developed as it is today. We would have seen Sandy coming, but her massiveness and extent, and her exact trajectory, would probably have been unknown. But at least there would be warning. Many of the seawalls and flood mitigation systems would have been in place, but the overbuilding on barrier islands and other vulnerable coastal regions would have been at or near a peak. With evacuations, Sandy would not kill 10s of thousands… probably only hundreds. But the number of buildings destroyed would be unthinkable. Most of those buildings are now gone or shored up. A Sandy in 1975 would have left some very interesting coastal archaeology for me to have observed during my trips to the shore in the 1980s. Very interesting indeed.

Mr. Laden always offers a good view of science, and his history is good here, too.

We can learn from the past.  FEMA is charged with learning from past disasters.  It’s a function of federal government we would be foolish to forego.  “Austere” shouldn’t mean “stupid.”

What do you think?  Is it immoral for the federal government to provide disaster assistance?

More:


Why a campfire? (reprise)

October 26, 2012

It was more than five years ago I originally posted this?  Heck, I won’t even add links or a “More” section at the bottom.  I deserves to be repeated though, I think, especially in an election year when we wish we could gather more people around a campfire.  Here goes:

Training adult Scout leaders always produces a few puzzled looks, and occasional passionate, fearful rebukes, when I note that a campfire gives a boy or a girl an opportunity to play with fire.

No, I don’t mean, exactly, that we should let kids play with fire.  There are rules — what’s burning must be in the fire pit, is the chief rule.

There is some primal need to watch a fire, to study it, to experiment with it, and finally just to watch it go. If you camped as a kid, you probably know what I mean.

Camp fires are universal.  This one was outside Bangalore.

Camp fires are universal. This one was outside Bangalore.

Every kid needs to do that.  It’s a part of growing up.  It’s a necessary memory for healthy and sane adults.

Start a fire, and a kid will get a stick and poke the burning logs and, especially, the red-, yellow- and white-hot coals after the fire burns a while.  They’ll start the stick on fire, put it out, and light it again.  They’ll pull the stick out of the fire and watch the flame consume the stick.  Kids will experiment with different things on the fire, to see whether, how fast, and how they burn.

Just keep it in the fire pit.

A Scoutmaster can tell which kids have been camping. A Scoutmaster knows which kids have been able to sit around a campfire and play with fire in that way.  Kids who know fire are more mature, generally, more relaxed about the excitement of the stuff, and much more careful with it.  Scouts who have dabbled in the campfire respect fire for what it is and for what it can do, good and bad.

What you’ll remember 20 years later, or 30 years, or (God bless me!) 40 years, and I hope 50 and 60 years, is the watching of the fire as the flames die down to a red and pulsing bed of coals.

You’ll remember some of the stories — Freddy Jonas’s often-told story of racing down the Champs Elysee in horse-drawn carriages, bribing the driver of the other carriage to go slower to win the race; the story of Rulon Skinner, the best non-swimming canoe instructor on Earth, and the big canoe race in which his opponent finally tipped Skinner’s canoe, and then yelled “snake!” to appeal to Skinner’s other great fear; the night the bear invaded the camp at Ben de la Tour, a bear later found to have antlers and four hooves.  You’ll remember the s’mores, and you’ll forget how messy they are.  You’ll remember the time you waited for the cobbler to cook after someone forgot to start the charcoal, or the the time the story got so good you forgot to take the cobbler off the fire, and how the Dutch oven had to be thrown away because it never would come clean.

You may remember that little fox at Camp Carter, sneaking just beyond the light of the fire and carefully circling every chair, looking for something good to eat, to steal.  Or that stupid porcupine that, now that you think of it must have been rabid, heading straight for the fire there in the only stand of Ponderosa pine in Utah County, up Payson Canyon.  And that will trigger the story of the night the fire wouldn’t start in the Catskills, and what seemed like hundreds of giant porcupines convened in bacchanalian festivities while campers dared not sleep, in their tents.

Someone will mention retiring U.S. flags, and you’ll remember the retirement ceremony for the flag from the widow of the veteran, how she insisted that you promise the flag would be burned completely and honorably, and warned “he’ll be watching!”  You’ll remember the mass flag retirement after the lifting of the burn ban at Wisdom, and how you suddenly realized lots of flags put out lots of toxic fumes — but somebody ad libbed a part to the ceremony to add time to let the fumes clear, and no Scout noticed (you hope!).

We haven’t even gotten to the singing.

I was put in mind of the power of the campfire with a remembrance from Real Live Preacher writing at High Calling:

I remember how worried we were the first time we tried to set one of those brush piles on fire. We nervously stood before a ten-foot high, fifteen-foot wide mound with a can of lighter fluid and a couple of matches. I squirted a modest amount around the bottom of the pile and stood back while Michael threw the match. That’s when we discovered that it’s surprisingly difficult to set things on fire. Now I marvel at stories of people casually throwing cigarettes out of their cars and setting whole forests ablaze. Michael and I had a hard time starting fires even when we used diesel fuel and a blowtorch.

It takes about five hours to burn a giant pile of brush and cedar, so Michael and I would start a fire, then sit on the tailgate of the brown pickup truck and talk while we kept an eye on it. Apart from the searing heat and looking like chimney sweeps, it was fun. I’m always looking for guilt-free reasons to sit around and talk with friends. I don’t suppose I’ll ever have as good an excuse as I did back then.

A guilt-free reason to sit around and talk with friends?  A campfire is an automatic reason — guilt only obtains if there’s a ban on burning where you’re making the fire.

Carl Buell painted another one that took my breath away the first time I saw it.  Go see it. (I’m asking permission on this one; it may take a little while. Posted below with permission.)

That’s not a photograph, you can tell because it so well preserves what you remember — better than any photograph ever could —  it preserves what you remember from that campout up in the San Franciscos the night the sky was so blue so late and you could see the whole moon from the earthglow — or was it in New Mexico?  Probably not Colorado because there aren’t any mountains — oh, but if he’s looking east, it could have been south of Pueblo . . . no, maybe near Albion in the Sawtooths . . . Buell works in the east; it’s probably up in Maine . . . but he lived and painted in Marin County.

Didn’t he perfectly capture that night?

 

Campfire, by Carl Buell.  Copyright Carl Buell, all rights reserved; used with permission


Night skies at Yosemite, in time-lapse

September 6, 2012

Yosemite National Park, watching stars, with time-lapse photography.  The only way life gets better than this is to go there and film it yourself.  Yosemite Nature Notes 19.

Description from Nature Notes:

Yosemite’s vast acreage and remote location protect some of the darkest night skies in the country. Astronomers, photographers and city dwellers flock to the park to take advantage of this unique opportunity to view planets, stars, and galaxies.

Producer is Steven M. Bumgardner, and it features, inter alia, an interview with Shawn Reeder, whose time-lapse work I’ve highlighted before.

For classroom use, some topics and questions to pursue:

  • For geography, where is Yosemite N.P.?  Flying commercially, which airport is the best to get to the park?

    President Teddy Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir at Overhanging Rock, Glacier Point, Yosemite

    President Teddy Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir pose at Overhanging Rock at the top of Glacier Point, near which the men camped in a hollow and awoke to five inches of snow in 1903. National Park Service image

  • Map reading and orientation:  In the time-lapse sequences, you can frequently see lights streaking across the sky.  Those are commercial airliners — can you tell what airport they are headed to, or from?  Can you tell which ones are coming, which going?
  • Science:  What star formations do you see in these photographs that you can see from your house?  What star formations are not visible from your house?
  • Government:  Who signs the checks that pay the rangers pictured in the film?  For which agency do the work, in which branch of which government?
  • People in the film discuss light pollution from nearby cities.  Is there an agency in the federal government who has jurisdiction over light pollution?  How about an  agency in the state government?  What are the rules on light pollution for cities around Yosemite?
  • Can you identify the landmarks, the cliffs, rocks, mountains and rivers, portrayed in the film?  (Students might use a USGS topographical map, California state tourist promotion maps and websites, National Park Service databases, Google Earth, Google,  and a wide variety of other sources.
  • Who was president of the U.S. when Yosemite was set aside as a National Park, and what were the controversies surrounding it?
  • Who was John Muir?  Who was Frederick Law Olmsted?  What were their roles in the history of Yosemite?
  • Who lived in Yosemite, if anyone, before the Spanish missions were established in California?  When were the missions established?  How did the U.S. gain possession of the Yosemite Valley?

Photos from just another day at Denali . . .

August 15, 2012

 

Interior Dept photo, America's Great Outdoors, Denali National Park and Preserve

Interior Department photo, America’s Great Outdoors, at Denali National Park and Preserve; photo caption from AGO said, “We’re not sure it’s possible to take a bad photo up there!”  Click for larger view.

More:

Update:  Interior tweeted another photo later today.

Denali Wildflower, U.S. Department of Interior

From the U.S. Department of Interior Tweet: This morning we gave you an amazing shot of #Denali. Would you believe this one is from the same place? Whether large or small, beauty in Denali is everywhere you look. #Alaska

Can someone identify the flower?

 


“Does it get better than this?” U.S. flag and Denali

August 10, 2012

Instagram from the Department of Interior, yesterday:

U.S. flag and Denali on an almost-clear day; Department of Interior photo, August 2012 - public domain

U.S. flag and Denali on an almost-clear day; Department of Interior photo, August 2012 – public domain

usinterior Tweeted, “Does it get any better than this?”

Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley, is the highest point in North America, 20,320 feet (6,194 m) above sea level.  Measured base to peak, it’s the tallest mountain on land on Earth — Everest and other Himilayan peaks rise from a very high plateau.  Denali is high enough that it makes its own weather.  Finding a day when the mountain is not almost completely obscured by clouds is rare, locals say.  Finding an almost-clear view, with blue sky in the background, is a cause for photographer excitement.

You’ll notice straight-line clouds in the sky — condensation trails from passenger jets.  I wonder how many flights bend a little to get a better view of the mountain for passengers?  Do big airlines even do that anymore?

Nice shot.  I could learn to like Instagram with more photos of this quality.

Better, it would be nice to be there, taking these shots.

More, including the controversy over the mountain’s name:


Yosemite time-lapse tour

July 25, 2012

From Project Yosemite, a series of cool time-lapses, from one of the coolest spots on Earth, Yosemite National Park.

Details on the film, and how to track down the artists and see more, from Project Yosemite’s Vimeo site:

A collaborative project by Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty. What started as an idea turned into an ongoing adventure to timelapse Yosemite in an extreme way.

We were complete strangers before it all started, but after we met on Vimeo our idea came into sight, and then began the challenge to make numerous trips to YNP where we would capture the beautiful landscape it offers for visitors every year.

We invite you to watch our video in hopes you’ll witness Yosemite like never before.

Project Yosemite

Yosemite HD

This video is a collaboration between Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty. All timelapses were shot on the Canon 5D Mark II with a variety of Canon L and Zeiss CP.2 Lenses.

Project Yosemite Website: projectyose.com
Facebook Page: facebook.com/projectyose
Contact info: info@projectyose.com

Thanks to Dynamic Perception for their motion controlled dolly and continued support!

Dynamic Perception Website: dynamicperception.com

Track: Outro
Album: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Artist: M83
Site: ilovem83.com
Publishing: emimusicpub.com
Licensing: bankrobbermusic.com

This whole project has been an amazing experience. The two of us became friends through Vimeo and explored a shared interest in timelapsing Yosemite National Park over an extended period of time. We’d like to expand this idea to other locations and would appreciate any suggestions for a future project.

Project Yosemite was featured as a main story on Yosemite National Park’s Spring Newsletter.: yosemitepark.com/timelapse-sprnews-2012.aspx

To view this in 2K, visit: youtu.be/OwFbjJasW3E
Be sure to change the quality settings to ‘Original’.

Twitter:
twitter.com/#!/SheldonNeill
twitter.com/#!/delehanty

Facebook:
facebook.com/sheldon.neill
facebook.com/delehanty

Behind The Scenes: vimeo.com/35223326
By Dalton Runberg

Our hearts go out to the families of Markus Praxmarer who lost his life while climbing Half Dome on September 19th, 2011 and Ranger Ryan Hiller, who was crushed by a tree January 22nd 2012. They will be missed. (A photo of Ranger Ryan Hiller can be found to the right, above the statistics counter)

Generalized geologic map of the Yosemite area....

Generalized geologic map of the Yosemite area. (USGS image) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yosemite National Park is spectacular, and much photographed than other great natural places of beauty.  How much does it benefit from being in California, closer to many people with good cameras and great photographic skills, to an extent that more distant, spectacular parks like Glacier N.P., Yellowstone N.P and Big Bend N.P. do not benefit? How does that affect management of the parks? How does that affect how people view their own local adventure areas?

Will Project Yosemite be back with more?

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