Happy Hundred!

Today, August 25, 2016, is the 100th birthday of the founding of our country’s National Park  Service (NPS).   On this day in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill into law to create an organization to care for the National Parks.  The mission for the NPS was “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

At that time we had just 12 national parks including our first, Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 under President Ulysses S. Grant.  Today we have over 400 national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House all managed by over 20,000 National Park Service employees and rangers.

In honor of the NPS’s 100th birthday, Google has put together an INCREDIBLE collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. PLEASE click on the following link from your Google Chrome browser to experience five great national parks: Bryce Canyon, Kenai Fjords, Carlsbad Caverns, Dry Tortugas and Hawaii Volanoes.  Start by DIVING IN to the Dry Tortugas 🙂

The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks


How many national parks have you visited?


It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane … It’s the Perseids!

perseidWAAAAAY cooler than a bird or a plane …. a meteor shower!!   This summer’s Perseid meteor shower is expected to be more prolific than most.  The Perseids occur regularly in August as Earth’s revolution passes through the dust and debris left behind by 1992’s Comet Swift-Tuttle (This comet with its elongated elliptical orbit won’t pass by Earth again until 2126!) Most Augusts you can be expected to see around 50 meteors per hour.  This year, astronomy experts are predicting 150-200 meteors per hour!

The best viewing will be after midnight, after our waxing moon sets and the sky is darkest. I have already been treated to a view of a few of the early meteors so it is not too soon to start watching.  Take any opportunity you have starting NOW to patiently watch the night sky. However, the Perseid light show is expected to peak after midnight on Thursday (8/11) until dawn on Friday (8/12).  I plan to go to bed early and set my alarm for around 2:00am. It’s summer!  Why not?

Find the darkest place you can away from light pollution.  The best way to view is to lie on your back and look straight up.  I grab a lawn chair and a pillow 🙂  The more sky you can see (less trees!) the better.  Try to watch with family or friends to make it fun.  Give your eyes at least 30 minutes or so to adjust to the darkness.   If anyone gets a great photograph(s) please share.

Must Read…TIPS for VIEWING!

If you miss the chance to get outside and see with your own eyes this spectacular event, you can check out NASA’s UStream video footage later…

Link to NASA Video of Perseids

I wonder what a meteor shower looks like from the ISS?

Cookie’s Second Clutch Hatches!!

Most of you will remember my surprise discovery of a second clutch of eggs from Cookie in early June.

I was hoping that the babies would hold out and hatch the first week we were back to school but unfortunately the toasty warm incubator in the Caldwell laundry room/snake nursery was too ideal an environment. So excited that we have FOUR Amelanistic (red albino) babies and Four Okeetee already.  2 more eggs to go!!  Stay tuned and let me know if you are interested in adopting a baby corn snake. 

Yellowstone National Park!

IMG_3966Fellow Fiver, Maddie, and her family enjoyed special vacation time at Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago! Sadly the little baby bison above, Maddie reports, had a broken leg.   It looks like “Mom” was shedding her winter coat.  Check out the cool hot spring photo.  I wonder what is making the water that reddish-brown color?

IMG_4040 That bird of prey that Maddie captured in the camera lens is an Osprey.  An expert fisherman!  Is that a trout?

Thank you Maddie for sharing these great pictures!!

Nature Notes from the Northwoods

Grab a map and zoom in on the eastern Minnesota/Canada border.  There is a pristine region called the BWCA Wilderness.  (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) This remote area of over 1 million acres is loaded with 1,100 + glacial carved lakes. The placid lakes are connected by short portages through the woods and gentle streams where river otters play and beavers build dams.  The protected region allows no powered boats and is peppered with hundreds of remote campsites only accessible by canoe or kayak.  It is an area ideal for week(s) long canoe/camping trips that recreate the travels of our nation’s early explorers and the French Voyageurs. Here we can be detached from modern conveniences and experience our connection to the natural world.

This folk song celebrates the Minnesota Northwoods. It is one of many songs we sing while paddling.  It was performed beautifully by our LC 5 music students last spring   …  🎼”Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose wanders at will. Blue lake and rocky shore I will return once more …”🎼.

My family has returned to a unique YMCA family wilderness camp here for 17 years, Camp du Nord.

Here are a few photos of this special area where wild wolf packs can be heard howling at night.  Loons call.  Black bears beat you to the best berries, bald eagles fly by and the glow of the Northern Lights competes with the peaceful beauty of the Milky Way at night.

No technology in the BWCAW … This belated blog comes to you as I leave through the town of Ely, MN.