Sunday, November 29, 2009

Grand Staircase Escalante

It's December and you know what that means. Time to plan a spring hiking trip out West!  This year we're thinking it'd be nice to do more exploring of Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah.  I've poked around the perimeter a few years back and loved it. Hiking the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon and Calf Creek Falls made for two days of my life I'll never forget.  Now it's time to backpack into the heart of it and have some more.

But before any trip comes the second best part - the planning. I'm thinking a good map is essential for this remote area, something like Escalante Canyons - Trails Illustrated Map # 710 should do. And then there is the book. The Book has to not only recommend good backpacking possibilities but also give a bit of history to the area.
Hiking from Here to WOW: WOW Guides Utah Canyon Country : 90 Trails to the Wonder of Wilderness seems to fit the bill.

Let the planning begin!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Adventures in Mass Transit: The Road Warrior Takes the Train

Despite my reputation for loving a long drive, if it were anywhere near cost effective to take the train to and from Gloucester  I'd be happy to do so.  At present though, the most I can justify is when I only need a ride one way. I suppose the thrill will wear off over time but perhaps the thrill of being a road warrior wasn't so much the driving, as the going places. Getting on the train in one town, and getting off in a totally different one without making any further effort seems magical. Almost as magical as say, Magic Thursday back in Mystic ( trash placed on the curb Thursday before work, disappeared by nightfall).

The one, or maybe it's two, hiccups in the Gloucester to Mystic route is the cost. The commuter rail from Gloucester to North Station costs $9.25. Then there is a $2.00 ticket to get from North Station to Back Bay on the Orange line. The cost for Amtrak (which incidentally is only a little more than half the total milage) costs
$28.00. Total cost $39.25. To drive it, takes about half a tank of gas and one cup of coffee - doesn't even have to be a good one. The second drawback is the whole North Station - to the Orange Line - to Bay Back part. It's not really so much that it's inconvenient. Really it only adds about 20 minutes to the whole thing, the real issue on this is just that it's dumb. Even after doing it a few times I haven't been able to stop myself from getting worked up about how stupid it is to not have trains go to the same station. Amtrak trains coming from the North end at North Station, while Amtrak trains coming from the South, end at South Station. And those two are approx. 1.1 miles apart. To get from one to the other you either have to take a cab (which is a total mass transit cop out), walk (being sure to take a good map Streetwise Boston Map, or take the Orange Line subway. This really takes you to the Back Bay Station, one stop down the line from South Station. There is no subway going between the two major train stations. Who planned, or didn't plan this? And why wasn't it fixed as part of the big dig?

But aside from that, it's really pretty cool that you can get around without a car. That you can read a book, sleep, sight-see or people watch and get through one of the most congested places in the US without having to drive.  Tuesday I will board the train in Gloucester, get off at North Station, take the Orange line to Back Bay, and take Amtrak to Mystic, where I'll just walk on down RT 27 to work. Just like magic (with a little bit of grumbling somewhere in the middle).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From Sheep to Fish: What Scientists can learn from ethnohistory

Recently I picked up a book about sheep ranching in Navajo Country and began thinking about the recent protest by fisherman in Gloucester, Mass, and Orange Beach, Alabama against National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) new policies intended to prevent overfishing and help stocks recover.

The book, Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) focuses on the 1930s government instituted plan of livestock reduction in response to devastating overgrazing. The government plan was, according to the author, Marsha Weisiger, based upon scientific reality and was well-intended but when implemented without the input and cooperation of the people most effected was doomed to failure. Animosities created then between government representatives and tribal members stand in the way of the creating a continuing cooperative policy to work with the land.

Reading the newspaper articles and especially the comments relating to the Gloucester, Mass protest the parallels are obvious.NMFS maintains that their policy is based upon scientific reality and is intended to preserve stock. The fisherman insist the science is flawed but really focus on how the new policies will kill the smaller fisherman, i,e. the culture of the local fisherman. Carrying banners reading "National Marine Fisheries Service: Destroying Fisherman and their Communities Since 19??" they protest the end of their way of life.

Weisiger concludes her book stating that "conserving the range was not simply an ecological problem; it was a cultural one, too...[government officials] lost sight of the fact that a truly sustainable relationship with the natural world requires an ethical relationship with the land, with those who people it, and with the cultures that give it meaning."  Isn't it past time the fisheries problem was looked at as more than a ecological problem?

There are obvious strong, vibrant cultural, and associated cultural meanings that must be taken into consideration if a true solution to the fishery problem is to be reached.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Trustom Pond, Rhode Island

Hiking during hunting season always poses a dilemma. Do you want to risk your life, especially as you'll be wearing a hideous orange vest (don't even bother worrying about your underwear)or do you want to play it safe and 'hike' through town? Trustom Pond offers another alternative. It's a short walk, roughly 3 flat miles along nice wide paths. The main path takes you to two separate overlooks on Trustom Pond, the only pond remaining in Rhode Island without shoreside development. There are lots of birds to look at and it is pretty. At the southern most point the pond is separated from the ocean only by the narrowest of land spits that must be breached even during really high tides. In summer, I'd be tempted to swim out. Something about the place just called for a small bit of wildness.