Saturday, June 28, 2014

LAKE POINT EXPEDITION!

The Lake Point Conference Center, near Russellville, Arkansas, was an ideal location for the 2014 Teacher Conservation Tour, sponsored by the Arkansas Forestry Association ( www.arkforests.org )

A wheelchair accessible walking trail encircles the grounds of Lake Point, and make it an ideal location for a stroll along the shores of Lake Dardanelle, at any hour of the day or night.

As one can tell by a look at the website for Lake Point --- www.atu.edu/lakepoint --- it is a part of the Arkansas Tech University, also located in Russellville, Arkansas.

This photo shows that wildlife enjoys a sunrise walk along the lake, as well as human beings!

One can see the flat-topped Mt. Nebo, in the distance, on the opposite side of Lake Dardanelle.

The building where our group met, had a large center meeting space/common area, which was surrounded by private rooms on two separate floors, in a U-shaped arrangement, around the common area.

The large two-story windows looked out onto Lake Dardanelle, and a patio.

The dining hall was in a building adjacent to where our lodging was located.

That room also had large windows that took advantage of the magnificent view of water and mountains.

Arkansas Tech University students who are studying to be hospitality professionals run the food service and hotel management aspects of the conference center.  I would give the students who created this beautiful dessert an A+ !!

All the meals were buffet style, with plenty of healthy food groups to choose from,.

I convinced the chef to pose in this photo of one of sandwich lunch buffets.  Their kitchen also supplied the "picnic" lunches for us, when our group was away on field trips at a distance from the conference center.

I was impressed with some of the garnishes for the meals, such as this fish.  It was especially appropriate because our after lunch exercise involved working with Arkansas Game and Fish employees to study the fish that were in the adjacent lake!

This "blooming onion", with its special color touches, was a garnish I had not seen before.

All our meals had lovely table service, with cloth napkins, tablecloths, nice china, flatware, centerpiece, and pretty desserts!

The buffet service enabled people to create their sandwiches in the way that best suited their likes/dislikes, and food preferences.

One of our supper meals was held outdoors, and was the traditional favorite of grilled hamburgers, chicken, and hot dogs!

The outdoor pavilion was set up with red checkered tablecloths, which added to the festive mood!

One of our group activities was each person putting a colored fingerprint on the "Thanks" tree card that was to be sent to the speakers to our group.  This is also a reminder to me to say THANKS to all the presenters, van drivers, industry sponsors, city officials, leader Rob Beadel, and  the Arkansas Forestry Foundation who made this conference possible!

We are so blessed to live in a state with so much natural beauty, and with citizens who are working to preserve that beauty, while at the same time providing jobs to keep our economy moving forward.  So here are my thoughts regarding the 2014 Teacher Conservation Tour:  "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." (from Philippians 1:3).  This past week gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia

Friday, June 20, 2014

PACIFIC COAST DUNES EXPEDITION!

One of the instructors/guide for a recent Road Scholar ( www.roadscholar.org ) program I attended in the town of Eureka, California, was Jenny Hanson.  The right side of this collage shows her using her "broomstick handle" hiking stick to point out a particular plant she is teaching us about.  Her tee shirt identified her as a Coastal Naturalist, and she has been a Road Scholar instructor for over five years.  According to her website, she is a Naturalist and nature guide for the Redwood Coast, and does work for other groups/individuals, in addition to her work with Road Scholar.  She was a delight to have leading our group expedition through the sand dunes!

Jenny had arranged for our group to visit the Lanphere Dunes, that are a part of the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in Humboldt County, California ( www.fws.gov/refuge/humboldt_bay/ ).  Since the Lanphere Dunes are such a fragile ecosystem, access is restricted.  However, guided tours are regularly available, and one can download a visitors' permit application, from the website. 

In between dune complexes, forests can grow, because they are sheltered from the wind.  This photo shows our group going single file through the narrow trail, that would lead us to the ocean. 

This photo shows the largest species growing in this particular forest, which is a subspecies of the lodge pole pine, called Beach Pine.  Appropriately, the trail we are on is called the "Beach Pine Trail"!

Jenny pointed out this large "opened out" area within the forest, and explained that it was a result of a "blowout", when a severe windstorm hit the area, and blew over several trees in the forest a few years back. 

After hiking through the dense forest for a short distance, we came out of it, but still could not see the ocean, although we could hear the waves, and knew it was nearby.  All we had to do was climb up the sand dune shown in the photo.  As we soon found out, walking in deep sand is much more tiring that walking on a "regular" hiking trail!

Our guide told us to shove the toe of our shoes into the sand, when we were trying to go up a sand dune.  We were assured we would get massive amounts of sand accumulation inside our shoes, and we did!

However, once we made it to the ocean side of this pristine dune, the effort it took to get there was worth it!  I am so accustomed to seeing glossy magazine beach advertisements that show symmetrical rows of lounge chairs, tables, and umbrellas, that I had forgotten that what I saw before me, was a beach that had the same appearance now, as it did when the Wiyot Indians fished here, prior to the Europeans. 

Lanphere Dunes was the first dune restoration project on the West Coast, and began in 1980.  As a result of the restoration efforts, one can see the various stages of dune formation---waveslope, foredune, herbaceous and woody swales, coniferous and riparian forest, freshwater swamps and marshes,  brackish marshes, salt marshes, and intertidal mudflats. 

Thanks to Jenny, I have a whole new appreciation of sand particles!  She is holding in her hand two capful's of sand----one that she took from the top of a small sand swell, and one she took from the bottom of the same swell.  With the magnifying glasses she provided, we could see the difference in the size of the sand particles in the two containers. 

Jenny explained that the dune shape is determined by the size of the sand particles.  The small, fine grained sand is more readily blown by the wind, which causes the coarser grain sand to be left behind to form the crest.

In this photo, Jenny is own her knees to test the strength of the vegetation in front of her.  She explained that this vegetation serves as an obstacle to trap the moving sand grains.  The wind then starts to affect the mound of sand by eroding sand particles from the windward side and depositing them to the leeward side, causing the dune to "migrate" inland.

This photo is here to remind me to say "THANK YOU" to Road Scholar for providing the listening devises for all of our hikes.  The system calls for the guide to have a  microphone that transmits her words to all of us who were wearing receivers (equipped with an earpiece), so that we could hear what the guide was saying, even though we were several feet away from their physical location.  This was especially helpful for me, since I tend to wander around taking photos while the guide is speaking!  The earpiece enables me to multitask---listen, learn, walk, and take photos!

After spending adequate time on the beach adjacent to the ocean, we started our trek back to our vehicle, which of course, meant more sand dune climbing!

Once we got to the top of the sand dune, we saw that it was a VERY steep descent to get back to the forest trail.  To assist with the descent, a "Dutch Sand Ladder" had been installed.  You can see the top ropes of the sand ladder on the right side of this photo.  The treads have been covered up by blowing sand.

A Dutch Sand Ladder is a cable or rope ladder with rungs (usually made of wood) lying on a sandy slope to allow persons to ascend or descend with minimal erosion. 

The bottom end of a sand ladder is anchored and the top end is designed for easy disconnection so that the ladder can be lifted up, to shake loose any sand that has accumulated in the rungs. 

The ability to be easily maintained and reset makes sand ladders useful trail features for steep sand dunes, where permanent structures are impractical. 

When one's eye sees this image, it probably just looks like a gray square.  However, it is actually millions and millions of sand particles.  Jenny had our group stop, and concentrate on looking down at the movement of the sand.  For the first time in my life, I noticed individual sand particles creeping across the surface in front of of me, creating a wave, that was actually visible to the naked eye!

When I looked in my Bible concordance for verses that had the word "sand", I realized that Hebrews 11:12 is now more meaningful to me, since I had this "close encounter" with sand!  It says "Therefore, from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude---innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore."  The verse refers to God's promise to Abraham that he would give him descendants as innumerable as the sand.  And just as each individual sand particle is a part of a bigger plan, so each individual human being is a part of a bigger plan---God's plan!  Knowing this gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

COASTAL REDWOODS EXPEDITION!

This photo shows my hiking buddies and me, at the base of a "humongous" coast redwood tree that our group witnessed, on a recent visit to Redwood National and State Parks ( www.nps.gov/redw ) .  We were part of a Road Scholar program ( www.roadscholar.org ) called "Hiking the Redwoods in Northern California". 

During the six days that the program lasted, I took hundreds of photos of redwood trees, but none of the photos I took could portray the sheer awesomeness of being in the presence of these magnificent creations!  And apparently, I am not the only person who has had this feeling.  Famous writer John Steinbeck wrote this about them:  "The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always.  No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree.  The feeling they produce is not transferable.  From them comes silence and awe.  It is not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color that seems to shift and vary under your eyes; no, not like any trees we may know , they are ambassadors from another time."

One thing that made this particular Road Scholar program so special, is that our guides for the hikes through the redwoods, were Jerry and Gisela Rohde, who literally "wrote the book", on hikes within the California coast redwood groves.  I bought a copy of their book at the Visitor's Center for the Redwoods National Park, and was able to have them autograph it, and be photographed with it!  The book is entitled Best Short Hikes in Redwood National and State Parks, and is available at Park Visitor Centers, as well as online at www.amazon.com .  So even though you may not have the benefit of actually getting to hike with the Rohdes, you can at least benefit from their wisdom and experience, by purchasing their book!

A reader may wonder why someone from Arkansas would travel so far, just to see some big trees?  One of our Road Scholar instructors, Jenny Hanson, is holding the National Geographic Magazine ( www.nationalgeographic.com )from December/2012, that partially explains the answer to this question.  I had the delightful experience of attending a program in Fayetteville, Arkansas, sponsored by the University of Arkansas Division of Student Affairs Distinguished Lecture Series  last fall.  The speaker was acclaimed National Geographic photographer Michael "Nick" Nichols.  Mr. Nichols showed photos and videos taken during the two weeks he was commanding the team of climbers, equipment specialists, and photographers who produced this amazing fold-out magazine insert of a forest giant.  Immediately upon returning home from the Nichols lecture, I googled "hiking California redwoods" on the Road Scholar website, and the information came up that there was indeed such a program, scheduled for June 8 - 13, 2014.  All it took was a phone call, and my dream was on its way to becoming a reality!

For decades, I have had a poster of the redwoods hanging in my house, similar to the photo on the left, with the quote saying "The starting points of human destiny are little things".  During this Redwoods Road Scholar program, I learned just how true that is!  The photo on the right side of the collage shows the tiny seed (about the size of a tomato seed) and cone, that serves as one of the starting points of a coast redwood.  ( The tree can reproduce itself in more than one way, which I will explain later).

This photo shows me starting to count the rings on a fallen redwood, that would tell its age.  Needless to say, I did not finish my counting, for fear of being left behind by my hiking buddies!

The Save-The-Redwoods-League was founded in 1918 to stop clear cut logging and preserve remaining old growth redwoods.  One way this group funded their conservation efforts was through private donations, where the donors could have a memorial plaque placed on a park bench or within a particular grove of trees.  For this reason, maps of the hiking trails usually show the location of various memorial plaques along a route, so that the hiker will know if they are on the right trail.  This photo also illustrates the other reason I wanted to go to this program in California---to see my son, whose nickname is "Grove"!

This photo shows Jerry Rohde pointing out a fallen redwood that has become a natural "planter box" of sorts, providing the growth medium for a variety of additional plants that have taken root, since the tree fell over.  This phenomena explains why it sometimes appears as if  trees in a redwood grove have been planted by humans, because they are in a straight line.  The actual reason is that the trees have grown on top of a decaying, fallen redwood!

In this photo, Jerry is standing at the base of a redwood tree, where the original tree (shown in the center without bark) has been damaged, but new "sprouts" have arisen from the base of the damaged tree.  This phenomena is even mentioned in the Bible (Job 4:7) that says: "For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease, though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground."

You may have seen photos of a tree in California that one can drive their car through ( for a fee, of course!).  However, there are "tunnel trees"  along the hiking trails of Redwood National and State Parks that you can WALK through, without paying an additional fee!

This photo shows me standing in a type of redwood tree called a "goose pen" tree.  I saw trees similar to this when I attended a Road Scholar program in Southern Illinois last fall.  The trees in Illinois were Cyprus trees, which is in the same family as the coast redwood tree.

Not all of our time in the Redwoods National Park was spent looking upward at the tree canopy.  Sometimes, we saw interesting creatures on the forest floor, such as this slimy Banana Slug.  We saw several of these critters, which averaged about six inches in length. Glass or plastic reproductions of them are a popular souvenir item, for sale in area gift shops.

This goose pen tree is a familiar landmark along one of the trails, and reminds one of a tripod with its three large openings, that come together into a single tree trunk about thirty feet from its base.

This photo of the Dyerville Giant tree trunk shows the remains of a redwood that originally was as tall, as a football field is long!  In fact, the hikers shown in the photo, will be able to follow it beside the hiking trail for about 200 feet, before the path turns to complete its loop. 

This photo shows Gisela Rohde telling our group about the "albino" redwood, that is growing out of the left side of the parent redwood.  In order to survive, the albino redwood must join its roots to the roots of a normal redwood, usually the parent tree, from whose base it has sprouted. 

An albino redwood cannot produce chlorophyll, so it has white foliage, which shows up more readily, when contrasted to the neon pink color of my shirt sleeve.  There are only about sixty known examples of albino redwoods, and their locations are not publicized, for fear of the harm that can be done by over visitation of us humans!

Many coastal redwood trees have both gigantic and small burls on their sides.  These burls have been popular among wood carvers for making bowls and furniture.  However, cutting of burls is against the law within the parks!  While I was attending the Road Scholar program, the local newspaper had a story about a man who had just been convicted of "burl poaching", and was awaiting sentencing.  The penalties can include jail time and heavy fines.

In this photo, Jerry Rohde is telling us about the symmetrical holes shown in this old growth tree trunk, that was logged before the area came under the protection of the National/State Park Service.  The holes were hacked out by a team of loggers and were used to hold the "scaffolding" that would be assembled up the sides of the tree, to facilitate chopping it down.  These practices were common before the days of mechanized logging. 

Today's modern lumber mills practice sustainable forestry, and the National Park Service is working to rehabilitate sites that were damaged due to logging.  This photo was taken at the large lumber mill in Scotia, California. 

Our Road Scholar group was treated to a visit by some Bird Rehabilitators with the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center.  The bird in this photo is the Northern Spotted Owl, and is completely oblivious to the fact that it represents a species that was the flash point for controversy in the 1990's.  It is listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, with the stated reason that it was losing its old growth habitat due to logging.  As a result of a court order in 1991, logging in National Forests containing the northern spotted owl was stopped .  After the ruling, timber harvests in the Northwest were reduced by 80%, decreasing the supply of lumber and increasing lumber prices.  The controversy pitted loggers and saw mill owners against environmentalists, and as a result, the logging industry started the Sustainable Forest Initiative.  The goal is for all of God's creatures to be able to live together on this beautiful planet we call Earth!  This will help maintain what I call the "Sustainable Smile Initiative", so that we can all enjoy "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia