Tag Archives: nature

Seattle sidetrip: Hiking in North Cascades National Park

I HEAR THEM as soon as I get out of the car. Waterfalls. Across the valley are 7000ft saw-toothed mountains, flecked with melting glaciers. The roar of those long streams of meltwater carries for miles.

After an hour of dodging potholes on a partially unimproved Forest Service road, I’m damn happy to be standing up straight, about to get my pack on my back and get up into the mountains.

Read the rest of the story online at Matador Trips.


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Best parks in Seattle

Seattle has some incredible parks, which is why I find it so hard to get any work when I’m visiting the Emerald City. If you have similar problems when you travel, consider meeting rooms for hire, to get your clients (and you!) away from distractions and to a quiet, conducive work space. In fact, the Warwick Hotel, just downtown, has meeting rooms available, putting you in easy reach of these parks by bus or car–or even on foot. This way, you can get your work done in a professional setting before venturing out to explore.

1. Washington Park and Arboretum

This park is expansive, covering 230 acres northeast of Downtown, so my favorite way to take it in is to combine cycling and walking. I love speeding down the Arboretum’s green hills and hiking the trails at the park’s northern end, which snake through forests and marshy islands.

There are a few hidden swimming and picnicking spots, but I also like having a snack while watching the kayakers on Lake Washington paddling through the lilypads around the I-5 overpasses.

Getting there: Rent a bike at Recycled Cycles, head across the Montlake Bridge and through the parking lot of the Museum of History and Industry. A trailhead starts here, but you’ll have to walk your bike through the marsh trails.

Avoid biking on Arboretum Drive, as you’ll snarl traffic and piss off a lot of drivers. Instead, there are paved roads throughout the park that are closed to vehicles.

Read the rest online at Matador Trips.

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A treeless future

Last night I attended an event to mark the bicentennial celebration of St. Tammany Parish. I contributed to a book on the parish’s history, which was unveiled last night. The huge piles of books made me think that maybe the event could have profited from using an outside document storage company!

The book and its photos are beautiful, and I noticed the predominant color is green. The front cover is a photo of the leafy St. Tammany Trace, my favorite spot to cycle in this part of Louisiana. There are incredible aerial shots of rivers and bayous lined with thick vegetation and of wetlands.

Trees are what I love most about visiting St. Tammany. The concrete of New Orleans wears on me, and when I visit my parents across the lake, I’m struck by how saturated the landscape is with green. It’s almost blinding. I’m always spotting turtles, hummingbirds, deer, rabbits, and possums when I drive around. I think the “natural”/country setting of the parish is what draws so many people to it.

On the way to the event, I passed a new shopping mall. A vast, clear-cut eyesore of parking lots and chain restaurants and offensively large box stores. I noticed numerous wooded lots for sale. Inevitably, when those are sold, all the trees will be cut down, because apparently you can’t build a damn house unless you clear-cut the entire property.

It depressed me that as we honored the history of this beautiful area, we ignored the rampant expansion that’s taking place, that’s degrading much more than just the atmosphere of these small towns. It seems like an incredible oversight on the part of the parish. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s hypocritical to honor the past while failing to protect the green spaces that make the parish special.


Filed under Environment and Nature

Cascade Pass time lapse

Sam and I backpacked the Sahale Arm above Cascade Pass in the North Cascades a few weeks ago. On our way down the mountain on day 2, we made coffee and had breakfast at the pass while some impressive fog rolled in. I took this video over a 35 minute period. You can see the wind rattling the camera–the whole scene was pretty epic to behold. Watch as we get eaten by fog as Andrew Bird serenades, from his fantastic (and appropriately named) album, Weather Systems.

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On the bayou

I’d never realized how magical springtime is until I started gardening. Now that the weather’s warm the seedlings I planted have sprouted and the blueberries are getting ripe and there’s this sense of possibility in all those green bunches in the garden.

And then there are times when the whole experiment fails miserably…like when the deer decide the eggplant are going to be their dinner, or when three weeks of torrential rain kills the tomatoes. So, usually, the effect that growing my own food has is that I develop a sense of awe for what farmers do.

This weekend I went kayaking on Cane Bayou, a skinny stream cutting between Fontainebleau State Park and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The cypress trees thin out not far from the boat launch and the marsh grass takes over. I passed alligators, snakes, jumping fish, egrets, wild irises, and even the remains of the Native American shell midden I’m writing about for Inside Northside.

I didn’t take a camera along, though, because my dad recently donated his iPod to Lake Pontchartrain and I figure it’s better, sometimes, to look hard and hold those images with your mind, rather than trying to frame it all through the lens.

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Five Essential Rules for Low-Impact Hiking and Camping

If you’re like me, spring has you ready to hit the trails with a backpack and a notebook. Check out these five tips for low-impact hiking and camping before you go:
1. Stay on the trail.

Especially when mud puddles or photographs are involved, it’s sometimes tempting to wander off the trail. The long term effect is to create new paths that carve up formerly pristine areas. Not only does this look ugly, but it can hurt fragile plants and, over time, denude landscapes. Better to get your shoes a little dirty or sacrifice that perfect photo.

Read the rest of the story online at Matador Sports.

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Kayaks and hair metal

Despite having shipped my shiny bicycle from Seattle and tooling around on it a couple times, I hadn’t been on a serious ride since…September? Ruptured spleens will do that to you.

Blinky Superflash: The best of 80s hair metal.

I joined up with the local bicycle club here and–now that the air is no longer cold enough to rob unsuspecting people of their phalanges–I went on a ride Saturday. The description online noted the route is “slightly hilly,” the meaning of which is quite different in south Louisiana than in western Washington state. I have a feeling that if I ever face an actual hill again, I will be quite frightened to go down it. Flashbacks may ensue.

Anyway, the ride was perfect. I did about 30 miles at a very reasonable pace, which isn’t much of a feat for big bike heads but was just what I needed to feel comfortable on the bike again and get some exercise and fresh air. The ride consisted of some pleasant creek crossings and plenty roadkill sightings. Being on a bike brings you startlingly aware of a lot of things you otherwise may not notice in such detail: terrain, the curves and cracks of a road, the fresh-manure smell of the country air, the gentle flow of small rivers, and the snarl of smashed possums.

There were a few busy highway crossings, and I was happy to have my fantastic tail light, the Blinky Superflash, which maker Planet Bike named after history’s most underrated hair metal band from the 1980s. Or so you would think.

One thing I didn’t expect when I became self-employed is that I’d forget holidays like MLK Jr. Day exist to the rest of society. When I remembered it was a holiday, I delightfully gave myself a day off. It’s fun to surprise yourself this way. A MeetUp.com group I joined hosted a kayaking trip near Pearl River. The weather and the company was pleasant, although I’m paying for the 8 mile paddle with some pretty sore shoulders today. For all the years I’ve lived in the New Orleans area, I had never paddled the rivers and bayous around here until recently–and probably didn’t realize they exist. How lucky we are that they do.

Cypress knees remind me of gnomes.


Filed under Cycling and Bike Culture, Travel