Becoming a Naturalist

I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
–John Muir


As a youth I had a dream of becoming an astronaut.  I even made a T-shirt with the space shuttle on it using acrylic paint–I wanted to be the first man on Mars.  I grew up more in high school and thought that I wanted to be a Jack Kerouac or a Christopher McCandless. Continue reading “Becoming a Naturalist”

Climate and Weather

Climate is what we expect,
weather is what we get.
     – Mark Twain


The sky darkens as a mass of thick, low clouds sweep across the sky.  Winds blast frigid air through the city and flurries fly violently with every gust.  The snowstorm unloads more than a foot of snow in only a few hours Continue reading “Climate and Weather”

Enjoying Nature in All Seasons

You can’t get too much winter in the winter.
     — Robert Frost

White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

I usually wait for a day when temperatures are bearable but not too warm–25 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t bad–and when there is a fresh coating of snow.  The fresh coat of snow helps identify trails, tracks, and scats which otherwise may have been obscured by weathered snow or melted away on a warm day Continue reading “Enjoying Nature in All Seasons”

Summer Home


At age fourteen I packed up some belongings and went to work at a Boy Scout summer camp in the Laurel Highlands–two thousand acres of Northeastern forest with a three hundred acre man-made lake.  That summer while teaching youth about nature, I hiked the trail around the lake many times with friends. Continue reading “Summer Home”

Leave No Trace: Plan Ahead and Prepare: Tick Talk

Leave No Trace Series
View from behind Buttermilk Falls

After making a few wrong turns on roads winding next to cornfields and cows in rural Pennsylvania, my girlfriend–Kathleen–and I pull in to the small parking lot at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area.  The early April sun is unusually hot today and there is little escape from the heat as many trees are only pushing out flowers and showing swelled leaf buds, ready to burst into green.

Continue reading “Leave No Trace: Plan Ahead and Prepare: Tick Talk”

Leaving No Trace

Leave No Trace Series


Take only photographs; leave only footprints.
     –Sierra Club dictum

The snow has all melted and warm air fills the nostrils.  It is finally Spring!  Time to lace up the hiking boots, waterproof the tent, put air in the bike tires, and get outside again.

There are some great advantages to spending time in the outdoors:  the fresh air is not only wonderful but it can have benefits for the mind and body as trees release healthful chemical aerosols; physical activity is good for the body and mind and sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D; park entrance fees and camping fees are considerably less than other attractions and hotels or resorts (sometimes free!).  However, before entering the wilderness, there are some things every responsible outdoorsperson should know–outdoor etiquette.

Continue reading “Leaving No Trace”

How How to Kill a Wolf An Undercover Report from the Idaho Coyote and Wolf Derby

For some reason, the necessities of one species outweigh the survival of another.

D.K. Leung

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Ocean, Mountain, Forest

Sean and Brigette at a large Sitka Spruce.
Sean and Brigette at a large Sitka Spruce.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
— John Muir

A blue Western sky opens for us as we leave Spokane, heading west.  I met Sean and Brigette while working at a Boy Scout camp in Northern Idaho, and I was staying in the Spokane area ever since camp ended.  Sean and Brigette are a couple of months pregnant, but are a young and active couple.  Both are genuinely good people.

We make our way across the state of Washington to Brigette’s family home southeast of the Seattle-Tacoma area.   Continue reading “Ocean, Mountain, Forest”

Sand, Salt, Sun and Birds

Land Hermit Crab (Coenobita clypeatus).  This hermit crab lives in a variety of shells and may be seen walking beaches and climbing trees.  Florida Keys, Florida.  Jan, 2011.
Land Hermit Crab (Coenobita clypeatus) crawling under mangroves.

We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.
     –E. O. Wilson

It is January, but the hot sun bakes the coral beaches of the Florida Keys.  Humidity is constant except when a rare breeze sweeps by.  Clouds are an unfamiliar sight here, and when they arrive they drop rain and quickly move on.  My bare feet sit in the warm Atlantic water off of Lower Matecumbe Key as my eyes scan the sky for one of the island’s top predators, the osprey. Continue reading “Sand, Salt, Sun and Birds”

A Great Sand Dune

Wild Nature Stories

It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.
–Robert W. Service

One of my favorite things to do as a child was play in the sandbox on a summer day.  I did many other things, like ride bikes and tromp around on the nearby railroad tracks and even turned a refrigerator box into a mini-house.  However, my green plastic, turtle-shaped sandbox was always sitting on the back patio baking in the summer sun.  I would pluck ants from the lawn every so often and watch them struggle in a funnel of sand I made.  Then I would go back to get some more and that ant would be gone.  A few years ago–on a cross-country road trip with two good friends–I had a chance to play in the sand box again, but this time I was the little ant in the…

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