A Hike Up the Wilderness Trail

A friend of mine and I recently hiked up this trail located off the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It’s trailhead is the largest along this highway. The highway is a great drive with steep climbs and descents and a switchback towards the east end. The fall leaf peepers love it. The speed limits are reduced to minimize collisions with moose (neither of you are going to do well in a collision).

I found many cyclists along this highway, some with panniers. Climbing those grades, some miles long, requires superb fitness. I’m still wrestling with short 12% climbs. Miles of 5% grade are far more difficult.

We started our hike with the hordes but they fell off after a couple of miles. We finally made our way up to Franconia Falls where we met a few people enjoying the water rushing through the glacier-strewn boulders. We also watched as some teenage boys leapt from the rocks into the deeper pools.

We took in all that nature had to offer: the views, the sound of rushing water, and the absence of the noise of modern life. I go into the back country not only for the exercise and views, but to clear my head. The wilderness is a great stress reliever (well, as long as you are adequately prepared). Of course, as many of you know, I also go in to document our natural environment.

At the start of our return we lunched on a log and later found pizza for dinner before returning to our homes. Doing this with a friend made it all the more enjoyable!


Can Renewables Save Us?

According to an article in The New York Times, electric vehicles, while green, are not without greenhouse gas and other environmental problems. Many power-plants still burn coal or natural gas, and mining the metals poses health threats and environmental degradation.

See: http://www.carboncounter.com to calculate vehicle emissions under different situations.

Post-industrialization to Neo-industrialization

Originally published December 16, 2016

Update: It turns out that sails for ocean-going ships will be coming back, though far different than those of those fast clipper ships. See the New York Times.


Looking at my shoot of Boston’s tall ships in 1980 (I took these with a Yashica TL-Electro SLR, which I still have, using Kodak reversal film) got me to thinking about ways of cutting back on petroleum. As I have

Boston, Tall Ships The Juan Sebastian Elcano, 1980 Boston, Tall Ships
The Juan Sebastian Elcano, 1980

discussed in earlier posts, climate change is not the only reason for cutting back on petroleum. Although we have plenty of oil now, scientists have noted that petroleum and other natural reserves will be in shorter supply and increasingly expensive over the coming decade, forward.

One solution for ocean ships would be new designs using both solar and wind power (with solar panels embedded in their sails). Although these ships would need larger crews, and could not be as large as current ocean-going ships, they could be larger than their 19th century clipper counterparts. Though this is not economically viable now, it will be as oil depletes, leading us to what I call neo-industrialization (a period of scaled back production using mostly/only-renewable resources).

I will talk more about this in a later post. In the meantime, perhaps you would share your own ideas on this topic.

What If the Whole World Went Vegan?

As you read this, think about the climate you’re leaving for your children and subsequent generations. Give them a chance to live full, quality lives. And by the way, extend your own.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/what-would-world-look-if-everyone-went-vegan

Grafton Notch State Park

Grafton Notch State Park is located near the Sunday River ski area and the New Hampshire border. I recently made an exploratory trip there looking for some open valley areas so I could take some mountain shots. Unfortunately, since the area is heavily forested (as is true throughout Maine) the best views are from Route 26 that cuts through the park. The max temperature was around 80o F. There was a threat of afternoon showers and since it was a weekday there were few people in the area. Although black fly season is upon us I had no problems with them (though I wore light colors, had repellent, and a head net); it was pretty nice. I’m also happy to say I hiked the Appalachian Trail (well, about a mile). I photographed with my medium format film camera.

Grafton Notch State Park

I’m planning a return trip in the near future to hike up a couple of the lower summits to get some shots of the Grafton Notch and the mountains. Park signs indicated that bears are prevalent on the trails and that hikers should make noise prior to trail rises or curves so as not to spook a bear. If confronted by a bear, it’s best to hold your ground, make noise, and spread your arms (the same applies to mountain lions in Rock Mountain National Park). It’s also good to have bear spray, which is now on my list. If all else fails, you are supposed to use whatever is at hand and fight the bear–yikes!

If you’ve been to this park please leave me a comment about your experience. As always, you can find more of these photos at my on-line gallery.

One Morning at River Point Conservation Area

A friend told me about bird banding being conducted by the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) here in Portland, so I stopped by to have a look. The feature attraction was a Northern Saw-whet Owl resting in a tree just above the entry path to the preserve. These birds are just passing through, on their way to Canada. They seem to be pretty comfortable around people.

The staff from the BRI were there to capture song birds so they could record their vital signs along with any prior banding information. Birds without bands were then banded. Aside from showing the birds to us lay folks, the birds were quickly released to minimize stress. Bird banders have to have a federal and state license to capture and handle birds. Here’s a rare Warbler that they were excited to find:

Golden-winged Warbler on its way to Canada.

You can see more of these captures at my on-line gallery

Reorganized Blog Pages

I have updated and reorganized some of my pages on this blog into a four-part essay in order to present a better flow to my thoughts on industrialization, climate change, and health. So, if you’ve read them in the past, you might peruse them in the new order; they might provide some new insights. Start here, then click on the header tabs for the subsequent three parts.

Some images of our environment from prior posts, below.

The White Waters of Essex County

I recently visited friends from Rochester, New York who rented a farmhouse in the Adirondack Mountains State Park. This is the largest park in the lower 48, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks, combined. Its boundary is shown on maps by a blue line that includes both public and private lands. The Adirondacks are geologically active and continue to rise.

This was my longest trip since the pandemic began.  Traveling from Maine through New Hampshire and Vermont, the Green Mountains in the latter provided the more picturesque views as I wound my way through. Crossing the lower end of Lake Champlain on the bridge of the same name, I entered Essex County, New York, and made my way up to Elizabethtown, making the trip from Portland in about five and a half hours with two stops.

After lunch we did some exploratory hikes and had grandiose plans to shoot sunrises and the Milky Way, but alas, we were thwarted by clouds. We also had two days of spring snows, sometimes approaching white-out conditions. The result was fewer photos than planned. Most of the snow was gone a day after it ended, however.

View from Otis Mountain (cell phone shot)

As it turned out, the best photography opportunities were the surging white waters from the melting snow and ice flowing down the mountains, shown in the following video and photo.

A cloudy day shortly before sunset.

We also saw several beavers in the area that, as you might expect, had been busy. You can see some of their work below. We thought the photo showing the downed tree across the stream was felled by the beavers to provide a bracing structure for their dam building materials. They seem pretty smart—perhaps they have civil engineering degrees from M.I.T.! We also found trees that can grow on boulders!

As we were driving along I decided I wanted to photograph the falls on Giant Mountain. And wouldn’t you know it? I left my long lens back at the farmhouse, thinking I wouldn’t need it on this foray. Instead, I shot the falls with my shorter zoom lens, then I tightly cropped the photo. As a result, it’s not super sharp but, not too bad.

Down Giant Mountain

However, the best part of the trip was getting together with friends after 15 months of lock down.

You can see a few more photos from this trip at my online gallery.

What experiences might you have had in the Adirondacks?

Cal Tech’s JPL’s Deep Space Network (Hold the Baloney)

Cal Tech’s JPL’s mission’s control room for the Deep Space Network

After reading my Earth Day 2021 post you might be wondering how on “Earth” NASA keeps track of all the probes way out there in space. We know that boats, cars, and airplanes need constant course corrections. So, how is this done with deep space probes and landers? It all happens at Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California where I had the opportunity to visit in 1986. I was there just as the very first close-up images of Halley’s Comet (see the video here) taken by the deep space probe, Giotto, were being displayed on the internal monitors. Those images would later be enhanced before sending them out to the media.

After that, our guide met our group and showed us around the facility’s technical equipment, including the Deep Space Network’s (DSN) mission control room, shown above. Looking much like an air traffic control radar room, it’s here the controllers monitor the probes, not with radar but with radio communications. Just as with all the manned spaceflight missions, they use the three antenna stations located at Goldstone, Southern California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia. Together, these enable constant communication with the probes as the Earth rotates.

Communication is a bit tricky since commands have to be issued well ahead of time, depending on how far out the probe is. At the time of this writing a round trip signal to Voyager 2, now located outside our solar system, takes 1.47 days. Consequently, commands have to be timed within micro (or nano?) seconds so any course course corrections don’t send the probe off its intended path. This is done with computers since they are much better than humans at dealing with microseconds or less. There is, however, a digital atomic clock (based on the radioactive decay rate of Cesium) on the wall for human reference. It has an accuracy of +/- 1 second every 3 billion years, so you don’t have to reset it too often.

If you would like to check out the current communications state of the DSN (including those with Perseverance), updated every 5 seconds, click here. You can also see the video landing of Perseverance on Mars here.


During this time of declining trust of science and increasing acceptance of superstition and unsubstantiated beliefs, Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit might help you discern what’s possibly real.