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National Parks Revisited on Their 100th Anniversary

Denali National Park, AlaskaThis is the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. What a wonderful bipartisan step that was to institutionalize a process for creating and maintaining national parks throughout the country. They are enjoyed each year by millions of domestic and international visitors. We have been emulated by nearly every other country on earth.

In my second book, Saving the Places we Love, I provide numerous stories on the (more…)

My Favorite Places – Lake Elkhorn Outcrop Offers a Journey to the Center of the Earth

Rock outcroppings offer us a peek at the normally hidden, inner world of our planet. In the Maryland Piedmont good outcrops are few and far between. In Howard County they occur along the major rivers that border the county. Good exposures to the inner workings of the earth can also be found in the quarries at Savage (gabbro), Marriottsville (marble), and Old Ellicott City (granite). Collectively these outcrops provide us with a record of a long history of plate tectonic movements driven by major thermal convection cells deep in the mantle of the earth.

 

The black gabbro outcrops along the eastern edge of our county are remnants of oceanic (more…)

Zion National Park

zion rimOne of the most visited and loved national parks in this country is Zion in southwest Utah. It is so beautiful that it is flooded by Americans and people from many other countries. It is so admired that one cannot drive into the park on many days throughout the spring, summer, and fall because of limited parking. When this happens, you have to (more…)

Top Ten, Kid-friendly, Camping Grounds in Maryland

tent at nightimeWhat makes a campground kid-friendly? It often is a place that is easy to get to and has the basic, easily accessible and well maintained facilities. Some campgrounds have many more amenities, play areas, and access to trails and water bodies, but the most important aspects to me are places that are quiet and relaxed and where a family can go to explore the great outdoors.

I have camped at private and public sites all across Maryland. We are so lucky to have such a broad variety of natural habitats from the coast to the mountains. I have selected a few sites here that are spread around the state and all of which deserve your attention. Go out and explore the closest ones first and then expand out if you like. Many people just find one they like and keep going back. Do what you can to help preserve and maintain these treasures and be sure to let me know what you think. (more…)

The National Trail System

Appalachian-TrailCan you imagine exploring a mountainous region without a good trail system? It would take far longer to find your way through the mountains or to find the tallest peak. You might even wander around lost for weeks trying to find your way in and out.

Fortunately, today there is a great system of trails throughout the country, and in many cases good apps for finding your way. For the most part, they are well marked and maintained, largely by volunteers. For example, the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail is maintained by 6,000 volunteers in small clubs all along the way. This is true for many (more…)

More Ways to Enjoy Winter

IMG_4906When we actually have a winter, instead of getting cabin fever, I like to get outside and embrace the weather. After all, many people live in more northern climates and they seem to do just fine. In fact, I think that is the answer. If you are used to cold weather and lots of snow, you learn how to enjoy it. That certainly was the case on my winter travels this year to Colorado and Maine.

I spent two weeks in Boulder in December. The first week was (more…)

Lessons from a City Park – a guest post by Julie Dunlap

800px-East_Rock_from_SSS_Hall,_October_17,_2008Most people ascend East Rock for the views. Atop the 366-foot basalt cliff, they can admire office towers, steeples, neighborhoods, and harbor views of New Haven, Connecticut, and, on a clear day, glimpse Long Island Sound. But for me, climbing the stony Giant Steps Trail recalls my first heady night in graduate school, when new friends suggested a moonlit hike in a city park. That dark scramble, more than the starry summit vista, filled me with wonder and freedom as only an outdoor adventure can do.

The 427-acre East Rock Park originated as a naturalistic landscape in 1884, designed by Donald Grant Mitchell as a respite from (more…)

Threats to the Blue Ridge Mountains – guest post by Mark Southerland

Mary Julia Pjordani on treeEight acres on the south side of Sugar Mountain in western North Carolina, remain in my family from the first permanent Scotch-Irish (and Welsh) settlement of the mountain by my ancestor Martin Banner and his brothers in 1848. Our family, as well as our adjacent relatives, retain most of the land in its natural state of forest and streams. As a result the biodiversity of the land remains such that 13 species of salamander can be found on it, enough for me to complete a doctoral dissertation on their communities. (Photo of salamander on tree -Plethodon jordani). This homestead remains our connection to the natural and cultural history of one of the most beautiful regions in the United States, the southern Blue Ridge mountains.

The forces threatening this and other southern Appalachian ecosystems include (more…)

Where I went this summer – A guest post by Tim Bechtel

In addition to the need for all of us to take an interest in restoring our favorite places, it will be increasingly important for good science to be done to understand these natural system so we know what to do. Here is a good example of scientists and students studying an area in order to recommend to citizens and governments alike on what we can do to help restore the area’s groundwater. 

The Gottesacker (God’s Acre) Plateau on the border of Austria and Germany

by Tim Bechtel, Prof. of Geoscience at Franklin & Marshall College

alps 2The Gottesacker (God’s Acre) Plateau on the border of Austria and Germany is a very high alpine karst (limestone) terrane. It receives abundant rainfall, but is a rocky desert because the water soaks right in and flows underground in a system of caves and conduits, to emerge in large springs in the Kleinwalsertal valley below. Because the water soaks in and flows to the springs very rapidly there is little opportunity for the (more…)

The National Trail System

(Excerpt from Saving the Places We Love)

Maine Geo Hike 1107 023Can you imagine exploring a mountainous region without a good trail system? it would take far longer to find your way through the mountains or to find the tallest peak. You might even wander around lost for weeks trying to find your way in and out. Fortunately, today there is a great system of trails throughout the country and, in many cases, good apps for finding your way.

For the most part, these trails are well marked and maintained largely by volunteers. For example, the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail is maintained by 6,000 volunteers in small clubs all along the way from Georgia to Maine (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/). This is true for many of the trails that crisscross our country. Thanks to all of you who help maintain these trails. (more…)